There is not just one antichrist. The apostle John said, “It is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour” (1 John 2:18). From this text we can see that there is an Antichrist who is associated with the last hour, but there are also many such antichrists who have been in the world since the time of the apostles.
Surprisingly, considering all the fascination and conjecture that surround this subject, the word “antichrist” only appears four times in the Bible, all of them in the letters of John. The Greek word for antichrist can mean either against Christ or taking the place of Christ. The Biblical concept appears to be a combination of the two; anti-christian tyrants who were strictly pagans such as Nero or Diocletian do not seem to fit the description.
John said, “They (the antichrists) went out from us, but they were not of us: for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us” (1 John 2:19). This verse shows that antichrists have some relationship with the Christian Church, but do not continue in fellowship with the true Christians.
John also wrote, “Many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist“ (2 John 7). Antichrists will profess belief in Christ, but they will insist that Jesus did not come as a real human being, that He was different from us so we cannot live like He did . In other words, the antichrist excuses sin.
Paul picks up this theme, describing the antichrist with the names, “the man of sin”, “the son of perdition” and “the lawless one” in 2 Thessalonians 2. He informs us that the “day of Christ (the Second Coming)… will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God” (2 Thessalonians 2:4).
In this text we see that the antichrist “sits as God in the temple of God”. The New Testament temple is the Church (Ephesians 2:21), so the antichrist sits in the Christian Church, contending that he is God on earth. This immediately brings to mind the papacy, which for centuries has insisted that the Pope takes the place of Christ on earth, as, for example, pope Leo VII who, in his pastoral letter “The Reunion of Christendom” of June 20, 1884, asserted that “we (the popes) hold on this earth the place of God Almighty”.
The papacy as the antichrist is in harmony with Daniel 7, where the “little horn” that persecutes “the saints” is clearly the Medieval papacy, and with Revelation 13, where the beast from the sea that makes war on the saints is the papal Roman Catholic Church of the Middle Ages. Although many Catholic people, including popes and leaders, were sincere people who did many good things, Satan was able to use the institution of the papacy to bring false doctrines into Christendom that gave a distorted picture of God. And the abuses of the crusades, the inquisition and the religious wars of the Medieval period were a disgrace to the name of Christ.
However, Paul goes on in 2 Thessalonians 2 to show that besides the antichrists of the past, there will be a final Antichrist just before the Second Coming of Christ: “The lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming” (v. 8). The Antichrist will work miracles to deceive those who do not believe: “The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders” (v. 9).
This description of the final Antichrist by Paul fits perfectly with the description of the “beast from the bottomless pit” in Revelation. Like the “lawless one”, this beast is part of the Roman Catholic system, being the eighth in a series of final “kings” (popes?) . In Revelation 19 this “Beast”, like the “Man of Sin” of 2 Thessalonians 2, is present at the Second Coming. Both are described as using miracles to deceive the unbelievers, both are said to be going to perdition, and both are destroyed at Christ’s coming. From these comparisons it is obvious that “the Beast” and “the Man of Sin” are the same individual—the last day Antichrist.
The fact that he “ascends out of the bottomless pit” shows that he will appear during the fifth trumpet, when the bottomless pit is opened. This happens during the world war that will occur during the first portion of the Time of Trouble.
A full picture of the Antichrist requires a lot of comparisons of various scriptures. For more details and scriptural support see sections 11: Satan’s Impersonation of Christ, 16:13 The Unholy Trinity, 17:6-8 The Beast that Was and Is Not and Yet Is, 17:9-11 The Seven Heads and Appendix 7 in The Book.
<![if !supportFootnotes]>  <![endif]> The Gnostics of the second century believed that the physical was evil and that Jesus therefore was a spirit being. Many Christian denominations since then have taught that Jesus had a human nature (“flesh”) different from ours, so that it is impossible for us to live as He did. But the book of Hebrews teaches, “Both He who sanctifies (Jesus) and those who are being sanctified are all of one…Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same… in all things He had to be made like His brethren… (Jesus) was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” Hebrews 2:11,14,17,4:15. The point that John was making about the antichrist spirit and teaching is that it excuses sin by making Jesus a superhuman who lived a perfect life because of His divinity rather than someone like us who lived a perfect life because of His complete dependence on His Father and the Holy Spirit.