The Spirit of Antichrist

The Swedish dissident pastor Fredrik Sidenvall’s paper on “Confessing the Faith in an Anti-Christian Culture,” which was delivered on his behalf at the recent Congress on the Lutheran Confessions in Minneapolis offered a fascinating Biblical and Confessional study of what is meant by “Antichrist.”

In Lutheran usage, it is not some political figure who seizes power before the last days, such as End Times enthusiasts are always trying to identify. Though the last days will indeed involve the reign of an antichrist, there are actually many of them throughout history, as the Epistle of John indicates, and they arise WITHIN the Church.

They also have different marks. An antichrist will be a “man of lawlessness”; he will be a “destroyer of truth”; and he will offer a “new gospel.”

With these criteria and others, the Reformation identified the papacy as antichrist. Sidenvall argues that today, those who best fit those criteria are LIBERAL THEOLOGIANS.

I would add that St. John says that the antichrist will deny that Jesus has come in the flesh. To my knowledge, popes have not done that. But liberal theologians–the neo-gnostics, those who distinguish between the “Christ event” and the historical Jesus, and the rationalists who reject the Incarnation–do make that very denial.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Larry

    “what is meant by Antichrist”: I hope this is not too eschew, I was just thinking of this on my way to work this morning before I saw the post.

    1. Does AC aligned with a person or mostly
    2. an office (e.g. the Pope versus a particular Pope)
    3. How does “antichrist” entail operate with/within or not denominations/confessions?
    4. Are denominations how the dragon turns against the children of the woman, believers, once he found he could not kill the Child (Christ) and finds he cannot destroy the woman (usually seen as the church) and thus goes after her children? Rev. 12 I think. That last part has always been a point of wondering to me.
    5. And did some of this turn about during the Reformation which marks a particular period in the Christian faith, a big turning point if you will.

    Thanks for any input,

    Larry

  • Larry

    “what is meant by Antichrist”: I hope this is not too eschew, I was just thinking of this on my way to work this morning before I saw the post.

    1. Does AC aligned with a person or mostly
    2. an office (e.g. the Pope versus a particular Pope)
    3. How does “antichrist” entail operate with/within or not denominations/confessions?
    4. Are denominations how the dragon turns against the children of the woman, believers, once he found he could not kill the Child (Christ) and finds he cannot destroy the woman (usually seen as the church) and thus goes after her children? Rev. 12 I think. That last part has always been a point of wondering to me.
    5. And did some of this turn about during the Reformation which marks a particular period in the Christian faith, a big turning point if you will.

    Thanks for any input,

    Larry

  • sg

    Here is anti christian thinking:

    “When antichoicers say “God has a plan for your [fetus]!” they’re trying to trick women. Trick women into thinking that God always plans for a fetus to be born. Or that God plans for their specific fetus to be born, and the woman is going to mess up that plan. But God is smarter than that! He knows us; He knows what choices we will make in this life. God’s plans coincide with the choices we will make. God would not put, say, the future curer of cancer inside a woman who plans to abort if she ever gets pregnant.

    “So don’t think that you can’t make your own choice because ‘God has a plan.’ God’s plans work with you, not against you. Whether you abort or carry to term, God walking the path with you.”

    http://prochoicechristian1.blogspot.com/2010/04/god-has-plan-for-all-fetuses.html#comment-form

    So where would a young woman get such ideas?

    Not from faithful catechesis, but maybe from “antichrist” thinkers.

  • sg

    Here is anti christian thinking:

    “When antichoicers say “God has a plan for your [fetus]!” they’re trying to trick women. Trick women into thinking that God always plans for a fetus to be born. Or that God plans for their specific fetus to be born, and the woman is going to mess up that plan. But God is smarter than that! He knows us; He knows what choices we will make in this life. God’s plans coincide with the choices we will make. God would not put, say, the future curer of cancer inside a woman who plans to abort if she ever gets pregnant.

    “So don’t think that you can’t make your own choice because ‘God has a plan.’ God’s plans work with you, not against you. Whether you abort or carry to term, God walking the path with you.”

    http://prochoicechristian1.blogspot.com/2010/04/god-has-plan-for-all-fetuses.html#comment-form

    So where would a young woman get such ideas?

    Not from faithful catechesis, but maybe from “antichrist” thinkers.

  • David

    sg @2,
    I think this is a very clear example of just what Dr. Veith is saying about lawlessness. Liberal theologians are taking stands just like the one you cited in which man is the center and God is working with man, not for man while man by and large works against God. To say that our choices are always God’s will is a clear rejection of the law and sin. It is in the law that God’s will is revealed; the law that we routinely break. The law that the antichrist dismisses.

  • David

    sg @2,
    I think this is a very clear example of just what Dr. Veith is saying about lawlessness. Liberal theologians are taking stands just like the one you cited in which man is the center and God is working with man, not for man while man by and large works against God. To say that our choices are always God’s will is a clear rejection of the law and sin. It is in the law that God’s will is revealed; the law that we routinely break. The law that the antichrist dismisses.

  • Tom Hering

    We might also identify the spirit of Antichrist as being present among politically-conservative American evangelicals who, in the name of church growth, remove the crosses from their sanctuaries, and never speak of sin or Christ’s sacrifice in their sermons – in order not to offend sensitive “seekers.”

  • Tom Hering

    We might also identify the spirit of Antichrist as being present among politically-conservative American evangelicals who, in the name of church growth, remove the crosses from their sanctuaries, and never speak of sin or Christ’s sacrifice in their sermons – in order not to offend sensitive “seekers.”

  • David

    Is it too much of a stretch to say that the “spirit” of the anti-christ is anywhere false doctrine is taught or the gospel is hidden? I think the reason that the papacy was seen as the anti-christ during the Reformation was because the gospel had disappeared at that point as Christians were taught to work out or pay for their salvation and the saving work of Christ disappeared.

    I also kind of wonder along with Larry @1 if Lutherans in particular have a certain tendency to identify the anti-christ since we have an example in our confessions of doing such (The Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope). I don’t think it’s wrong, as Christians speak the truth, but I’m just curious if other denominations are as sensitive towards it as Lutherans are.

  • David

    Is it too much of a stretch to say that the “spirit” of the anti-christ is anywhere false doctrine is taught or the gospel is hidden? I think the reason that the papacy was seen as the anti-christ during the Reformation was because the gospel had disappeared at that point as Christians were taught to work out or pay for their salvation and the saving work of Christ disappeared.

    I also kind of wonder along with Larry @1 if Lutherans in particular have a certain tendency to identify the anti-christ since we have an example in our confessions of doing such (The Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope). I don’t think it’s wrong, as Christians speak the truth, but I’m just curious if other denominations are as sensitive towards it as Lutherans are.

  • Carl Vehse

    With these criteria and others, the Reformation identified the papacy as antichrist. [Fredrik] Sidenvall argues that today, those who best fit those criteria are LIBERAL THEOLOGIANS.

    From the Misssouri Synod website:

    The New Testament predicts that the church throughout its history will witness many antichrists (Matt. 24:5,23-24; Mark 13:6,21-22; Luke 21:8; 1 John 2:18,22; 4:3; 2 John 7). All false teachers who teach contrary to Christ’s Word are opponents of Christ and, insofar as they do so, are anti-Christ.

    However, the Scriptures also teach that there is one climactic “Anti-Christ” (Dan. 7:8,11,20-21,24-25; 11:36-45; 2 Thessalonians 2; 1 John 2:18; 4:3; Revelation 17-18). . . Concerning the historical identity of the Antichrist, we affirm the Lutheran Confessions’ identification of the Antichrist with the office of the papacy whose official claims continue to correspond to the Scriptural marks listed above.

    Lutherans with a quia subscription to Confessions hold to the statement, “the Pope is the very Antichrist” (Smalcald Articles, Part II, IV.10).

    Rev. Sidenvall’s paper, if properly Lutheran, made this distinction between the antichrists and the Lutheran position on the Antichrist clear.

  • Carl Vehse

    With these criteria and others, the Reformation identified the papacy as antichrist. [Fredrik] Sidenvall argues that today, those who best fit those criteria are LIBERAL THEOLOGIANS.

    From the Misssouri Synod website:

    The New Testament predicts that the church throughout its history will witness many antichrists (Matt. 24:5,23-24; Mark 13:6,21-22; Luke 21:8; 1 John 2:18,22; 4:3; 2 John 7). All false teachers who teach contrary to Christ’s Word are opponents of Christ and, insofar as they do so, are anti-Christ.

    However, the Scriptures also teach that there is one climactic “Anti-Christ” (Dan. 7:8,11,20-21,24-25; 11:36-45; 2 Thessalonians 2; 1 John 2:18; 4:3; Revelation 17-18). . . Concerning the historical identity of the Antichrist, we affirm the Lutheran Confessions’ identification of the Antichrist with the office of the papacy whose official claims continue to correspond to the Scriptural marks listed above.

    Lutherans with a quia subscription to Confessions hold to the statement, “the Pope is the very Antichrist” (Smalcald Articles, Part II, IV.10).

    Rev. Sidenvall’s paper, if properly Lutheran, made this distinction between the antichrists and the Lutheran position on the Antichrist clear.

  • Layman Rick

    In 1 John 4:2-3 and 2 John 7, the apostle says that the spirit of the antichrist denies that Christ has come in the flesh (the Greek word is sarx). Christ was without sin, but doesn’t sarx refer to the weakness of the first Adam’s nature? Hebrews 4:15 says that “we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.” However, the papacy teaches that Mary was without sin, and that Jesus’ inherited his human nature from Mary. Isn’t that a denial that Jesus has come in the true flesh of the first Adam, i.e. the /sarx?

    I’m only a layman and certainly no Greek scholar, but I’ve got a Greek Bible, and I’ve been wondering about this issue for some time. Also, 1 John 4:5-6 clarifies the apostle’s earlier statement. Thanks for your thoughts in advance.

  • Layman Rick

    In 1 John 4:2-3 and 2 John 7, the apostle says that the spirit of the antichrist denies that Christ has come in the flesh (the Greek word is sarx). Christ was without sin, but doesn’t sarx refer to the weakness of the first Adam’s nature? Hebrews 4:15 says that “we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.” However, the papacy teaches that Mary was without sin, and that Jesus’ inherited his human nature from Mary. Isn’t that a denial that Jesus has come in the true flesh of the first Adam, i.e. the /sarx?

    I’m only a layman and certainly no Greek scholar, but I’ve got a Greek Bible, and I’ve been wondering about this issue for some time. Also, 1 John 4:5-6 clarifies the apostle’s earlier statement. Thanks for your thoughts in advance.

  • fws

    the lutheran confessions say the office of the pope is the antichrist and the roman catholic church does not deny that christ has come in the flesh. what about that fact? dr veith, i assume that you must be missing something important here….

  • fws

    the lutheran confessions say the office of the pope is the antichrist and the roman catholic church does not deny that christ has come in the flesh. what about that fact? dr veith, i assume that you must be missing something important here….

  • Daniel Gorman

    Larry@1 asks,

    1.Does AC aligned with a person or mostly
    2. an office (e.g. the Pope versus a particular Pope)

    The Papal office is a mark that the occupant is the very Antichrist: “For Paul also predicts, 2 Thess. 2:4, that Antichrist will sit in the temple of God, i.e., he will rule and bear office in the Church.” Apology to the AC,

    The Papal kingdom is a mark of the very Antichrist, “Besides, this definition, not of the Church of Christ, but of the papal kingdom, has as its authors not only the canonists, but also Daniel 11:36ff. [Daniel, the prophet, represents Antichrist in this way.]” Apology to AC, Of the Church.

    The Papal doctrine that human services justify is a mark of the very Antichrist, “Thus the Papacy also will be a part of the kingdom of Antichrist if it thus defends human services as justifying. For the honor is taken away from Christ when they teach that we are not justified gratuitously by faith, for Christ’s sake, but by such services. . . Daniel 11:38, indicates that new human services will be the very form and constitution of the kingdom of Antichrist” Apology to AC, Human Tradition in the Church

    Contempt of women is a mark of the very Antichrist, “Therefore this law concerning perpetual celibacy is peculiar to this new pontifical despotism. Nor is it without a reason. For Daniel 11:37, ascribes to the kingdom of Antichrist this mark, namely, the contempt of women.” Apology to AC, Marriage of Priests

    Sacrifice of the Mass is mark of the very Antichrist, “Baalitic worship inheres in the domain of the Pope, namely, the abuse of the Mass, which they apply, that by it they may merit for the unrighteous the remission of guilt and punishment. And it seems that this Baalitic worship will endure as long as the reign of the Pope, until Christ will come to judge, and by the glory of His advent destroy the reign of Antichrist.” Apology to AC, The Mass

    3. How does “antichrist” entail operate with/within or not denominations/confessions?

    LIBERAL THEOLOGIANS reject the sound doctrine of the Apology of AC regarding the marks of the Antichrist and seek closer ties to the Papal dominion. In return, the Pope claims LIBERAL THEOLOGIANS as part of his dominion even when they reject every article of the Christian faith.

    4. Are denominations how the dragon turns against the children of the woman, believers, once he found he could not kill the Child (Christ) and finds he cannot destroy the woman (usually seen as the church) and thus goes after her children? Rev. 12 I think. That last part has always been a point of wondering to me.

    The early church fathers did not and the Evangelical Lutheran Church does not use the book of Revelations to establish church doctrine. I suggest you first examine the book of Daniel and the Pauline epistles for the marks of the very Antichrist and then read Revelations.

    5. And did some of this turn about during the Reformation which marks a particular period in the Christian faith, a big turning point if you will.

    There was a general recognition among Protestants that the Pope and his dominion fulfilled all the marks of the Antichrist.

  • Daniel Gorman

    Larry@1 asks,

    1.Does AC aligned with a person or mostly
    2. an office (e.g. the Pope versus a particular Pope)

    The Papal office is a mark that the occupant is the very Antichrist: “For Paul also predicts, 2 Thess. 2:4, that Antichrist will sit in the temple of God, i.e., he will rule and bear office in the Church.” Apology to the AC,

    The Papal kingdom is a mark of the very Antichrist, “Besides, this definition, not of the Church of Christ, but of the papal kingdom, has as its authors not only the canonists, but also Daniel 11:36ff. [Daniel, the prophet, represents Antichrist in this way.]” Apology to AC, Of the Church.

    The Papal doctrine that human services justify is a mark of the very Antichrist, “Thus the Papacy also will be a part of the kingdom of Antichrist if it thus defends human services as justifying. For the honor is taken away from Christ when they teach that we are not justified gratuitously by faith, for Christ’s sake, but by such services. . . Daniel 11:38, indicates that new human services will be the very form and constitution of the kingdom of Antichrist” Apology to AC, Human Tradition in the Church

    Contempt of women is a mark of the very Antichrist, “Therefore this law concerning perpetual celibacy is peculiar to this new pontifical despotism. Nor is it without a reason. For Daniel 11:37, ascribes to the kingdom of Antichrist this mark, namely, the contempt of women.” Apology to AC, Marriage of Priests

    Sacrifice of the Mass is mark of the very Antichrist, “Baalitic worship inheres in the domain of the Pope, namely, the abuse of the Mass, which they apply, that by it they may merit for the unrighteous the remission of guilt and punishment. And it seems that this Baalitic worship will endure as long as the reign of the Pope, until Christ will come to judge, and by the glory of His advent destroy the reign of Antichrist.” Apology to AC, The Mass

    3. How does “antichrist” entail operate with/within or not denominations/confessions?

    LIBERAL THEOLOGIANS reject the sound doctrine of the Apology of AC regarding the marks of the Antichrist and seek closer ties to the Papal dominion. In return, the Pope claims LIBERAL THEOLOGIANS as part of his dominion even when they reject every article of the Christian faith.

    4. Are denominations how the dragon turns against the children of the woman, believers, once he found he could not kill the Child (Christ) and finds he cannot destroy the woman (usually seen as the church) and thus goes after her children? Rev. 12 I think. That last part has always been a point of wondering to me.

    The early church fathers did not and the Evangelical Lutheran Church does not use the book of Revelations to establish church doctrine. I suggest you first examine the book of Daniel and the Pauline epistles for the marks of the very Antichrist and then read Revelations.

    5. And did some of this turn about during the Reformation which marks a particular period in the Christian faith, a big turning point if you will.

    There was a general recognition among Protestants that the Pope and his dominion fulfilled all the marks of the Antichrist.

  • fws

    Daniel @9

    Excellent! thanks for reminding us that the Lutheran church does not establish doctrine from the antelegominous books of the bible (those books that are doubtful as part of the cannon and were not universally accepted by the church because apostolic authorship was suspect and/or they did not always follow the analogy of faith).

    thanks also for pointing to the reasons protestants called the pope antichrist. this is by far the point. those points are all very very weighty and touch at the heart of the holy gospel.

  • fws

    Daniel @9

    Excellent! thanks for reminding us that the Lutheran church does not establish doctrine from the antelegominous books of the bible (those books that are doubtful as part of the cannon and were not universally accepted by the church because apostolic authorship was suspect and/or they did not always follow the analogy of faith).

    thanks also for pointing to the reasons protestants called the pope antichrist. this is by far the point. those points are all very very weighty and touch at the heart of the holy gospel.

  • Larry

    Mr. Gorman,

    Thank you very much for that extremely helpful response. And I’ve just begun in my learning about what constitutes cannon vs antelegominous books, etc… Coming from an evangelical background (baptist then Reformed) that’s an epiphany for me.

    I have to give FWS credit and thanks for tweaking my interest and beginning on this one a few topics back, so I’ve been reading Sasse and others on that issue.

    Some big “eye opening” epiphanies for me, given my reformed background have been (if its any help to others with similar background wrestling with this):

    1. antelegominous vs homologoumena, as FWS said well in the reformed world the bible is views “flat”.
    2. that changes the “weight” of say Revelation and as you well advise go back to Daniell et. alli. first.
    3. This in turn changes the basics of the sacraments for one, especially how one understands them. e.g. in Calvinism I would have went with his definition in which the definition of a ‘sacrament’ is reduced to the lowest COMMON elements, Calvin explicitly said this. As opposed “in context” per sacrament.
    4. The church is constituted by the Scriptures not vice versa.
    5. Apostolic succession is succession of the orthodox doctrine, not “hand to head” passed down annointing, nor “trail of blood” (a disavowed baptist even by most baptist theory once attempted not all that functionally different from Rome).

    And a whole host of other things I won’t enumerate here.

    If I might take a left turn for a moment on this as its been asked ‘how can Lutherans reach out further to the heterodoxies out there. First it takes some time and the reason this is so is why I’ve said before that for those of us coming out of evangelical/reformed to Lutheran confessions a BIG part of it is an ENTIRE paradigmic framework shift in thinking. That means, also, that the evangelical/reformed person MUST be honest and admit he/she functions from a paradigmic structure themselves. I think that’s why Lutherans, wrongly, get caricatured. Easy example: most Baptist will caricature Luther on his famous “James epistle of straw” statement out of ignorance from so many directions. First, most don’t have a clue what “of straw” means, it has no modern context. But more deeply the whole antelegominous vs homologoumena is foreign to them and the “flat bible” is the rule of the day. It takes the individual to be willing to understand “I have a paradigm” that may or may not be right from which I “interpret” pretty much all of Scripture, rightly or wrongly. Our paradigm of American “Christianity” really is not the majority report either spatially across the globe nor temporally as to the historic church, at best it’s a teeny tiny infinitesimal insignificant wrought with heterodoxy – blip on the redemptive history radar. That the kingdom of Christ will ultimately involve A King and not elected presidents is almost shocking to American religion. And much much much more. Another paradigm shift component for example is the term “sign”. To a Calvinist he uses philosophies definition, I’ve heard it a thousand times by reformed theologians of all stripes, “a sign is a representation of a reality that is absent”. Versus Luther using a theological definition of “sign” meaning “a sign of the actual reality BEING present”. It reminds me of Luther’s well heard warning/advice in the introduction to his commentary on Romans in which he says we have to have clear and true definitions of words like grace, faith, etc…before we can understand Paul correctly. Or put another way it’s a paradigm/structural shift/change. In this case not just from evangelical/reformed to Lutheran thinking per se, but in reality and truth from fallen religious paradigms into the true faith paradigm.

    Thanks again very much,

    Larry

  • Larry

    Mr. Gorman,

    Thank you very much for that extremely helpful response. And I’ve just begun in my learning about what constitutes cannon vs antelegominous books, etc… Coming from an evangelical background (baptist then Reformed) that’s an epiphany for me.

    I have to give FWS credit and thanks for tweaking my interest and beginning on this one a few topics back, so I’ve been reading Sasse and others on that issue.

    Some big “eye opening” epiphanies for me, given my reformed background have been (if its any help to others with similar background wrestling with this):

    1. antelegominous vs homologoumena, as FWS said well in the reformed world the bible is views “flat”.
    2. that changes the “weight” of say Revelation and as you well advise go back to Daniell et. alli. first.
    3. This in turn changes the basics of the sacraments for one, especially how one understands them. e.g. in Calvinism I would have went with his definition in which the definition of a ‘sacrament’ is reduced to the lowest COMMON elements, Calvin explicitly said this. As opposed “in context” per sacrament.
    4. The church is constituted by the Scriptures not vice versa.
    5. Apostolic succession is succession of the orthodox doctrine, not “hand to head” passed down annointing, nor “trail of blood” (a disavowed baptist even by most baptist theory once attempted not all that functionally different from Rome).

    And a whole host of other things I won’t enumerate here.

    If I might take a left turn for a moment on this as its been asked ‘how can Lutherans reach out further to the heterodoxies out there. First it takes some time and the reason this is so is why I’ve said before that for those of us coming out of evangelical/reformed to Lutheran confessions a BIG part of it is an ENTIRE paradigmic framework shift in thinking. That means, also, that the evangelical/reformed person MUST be honest and admit he/she functions from a paradigmic structure themselves. I think that’s why Lutherans, wrongly, get caricatured. Easy example: most Baptist will caricature Luther on his famous “James epistle of straw” statement out of ignorance from so many directions. First, most don’t have a clue what “of straw” means, it has no modern context. But more deeply the whole antelegominous vs homologoumena is foreign to them and the “flat bible” is the rule of the day. It takes the individual to be willing to understand “I have a paradigm” that may or may not be right from which I “interpret” pretty much all of Scripture, rightly or wrongly. Our paradigm of American “Christianity” really is not the majority report either spatially across the globe nor temporally as to the historic church, at best it’s a teeny tiny infinitesimal insignificant wrought with heterodoxy – blip on the redemptive history radar. That the kingdom of Christ will ultimately involve A King and not elected presidents is almost shocking to American religion. And much much much more. Another paradigm shift component for example is the term “sign”. To a Calvinist he uses philosophies definition, I’ve heard it a thousand times by reformed theologians of all stripes, “a sign is a representation of a reality that is absent”. Versus Luther using a theological definition of “sign” meaning “a sign of the actual reality BEING present”. It reminds me of Luther’s well heard warning/advice in the introduction to his commentary on Romans in which he says we have to have clear and true definitions of words like grace, faith, etc…before we can understand Paul correctly. Or put another way it’s a paradigm/structural shift/change. In this case not just from evangelical/reformed to Lutheran thinking per se, but in reality and truth from fallen religious paradigms into the true faith paradigm.

    Thanks again very much,

    Larry


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