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spirit of antichrist

In popular literature we have become accustomed to thinking of “antichrist” as a specific person. In the apostle John’s first letter he wrote of many antichrists. For example, in 1 John 2 he wrote,

Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour.

1 John 2:18 ESV

John tells his readers that many antichrists have come. He’s writing this in the late first century and he’s dealing with the first Christological heresy. The very first Christological heresy was not a denial that Jesus is God, but a denial that the Son of God is truly human. This is opposite what we experience today. Often today many insist that Jesus was merely a man and could not be God, but in the first century the memory of the miracles Jesus performed was very real and so when it came to those who claimed to be his followers, they could not deny his deity. They also could not understand how God could become human (who can?) so they denied he did so. This group became known as the Docetists, from the Greek word “dokeo” which has the idea of appearing to be or seeming to be. They claimed the Son of God only seemed to have human flesh, and so he only seemed to suffer physically and die. John addresses them directly in his second letter:

For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist.

2 John 1:7 ESV

When we hear the word “antichrist” this is not what comes to mind, yet this is the word John uses to describe those who are opposed to the truth of Jesus Christ. This suggests that the spirit of antichrist is found wherever opposition to the truth of Jesus is found. Today, a spirit of antichrist is widespread.

When God made his promises to Abraham, the promises centered on a singular promise: to bless all the nations of the world (Genesis 12:1–3). When Israel left Egypt we’re told a “mixed multitude” went with them (Exodus 12:38). This multiethnic group became part of Israel at Mount Sinai when God gave them the covenant. We know that Moses married an African woman and that Aaron’s grandson Phinehas’ name means “black,” indicating his dark complexion, suggesting that Aaron’s son also married an African woman. The prophets predicted that one day the nations would come to know the Lord. Matthew records that this is the reason Jesus moved to Capernaum which is in Galilee—an area populated heavily by Gentiles, by those of other nations (Matthew 4:12–16). When Jesus instructed his disciples after his resurrection, he told them to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:16–20). A few years later when many non-Jewish followers of Jesus were being added to what had been a very Jewish church, the apostles and elders met in Jerusalem to figure out what to do about it, and whether it were a problem. James spoke up and declared that the addition of Gentiles to the people of God is what the prophets had been talking about when they said things like what Amos said, that God would “rebuild the tent of David that has fallen” (Acts 15:12–21). Whenever the prophets spoke like this, James said, they were speaking of a multi-ethnic people of God.

Today there are many antichrists. An antichrist is anyone who opposes the truth of Jesus. The truth of Jesus is that God in Christ is creating a multiethnic church, that in Christ we are brothers and sisters, regardless of skin color or cultural expression. The truth is that all people are made in the image of God. God in Christ is drawing men and women from every tribe and language and people and nation. Therefore, to hate or to look down on or to think less of a group of people for their skin color or for their cultural expression or for their national origin, to fail to value the rich diversity in this world, is to oppose the work of God in this world. Racism is the spirit of antichrist.

Our nation has long held the spirit of antichrist. This does not mean that many good things have not come about through our nation. Yet our nation was founded with a principal understanding that an entire people group could be subjugated and bought and sold as chattel. This spirit continues on in the form of racism and bigotry.

Consider the recent killing of Ahmaud Arbery, a young man of 25 who was jogging a couple months ago when he was accosted by two armed men. In the end Arbery was shot and killed. That alone is shocking and horrifying, but what has followed is just as shocking and horrifying. Video footage has been posted that shows Arbery checking out a construction site. The implication is clear: being on a construction site looking around justifies killing him (never mind the fact that many men would—and have—done the same thing). If a person’s first instinct when a black man is killed is to wonder what he was doing wrong that would justify taking his life, we are seeing the spirit of antichrist at work.

God loves all tribes and languages and peoples and nations. This is why he promises to save people from every tribe and language and people and nation. His mission is to bless all nations on earth through Jesus. To fail to love what God loves is sin. To hate what God loves is sin. To love what God hates is sin. If John were alive today and wrote to churches in America, he would warn them against the heresy of racism and would point out that many antichrists have come.

Let’s spend time in prayer today, praying for our nation. Let’s pray for justice. Let’s pray for churches all over this country to demonstrate the spirit of Christ and to reject the spirit of antichrist. Let’s pray and ask God if there is any discrimination or prejudice against others somewhere deep within our hearts. Let’s pray for those in our church who feel the impact of Arbery’s death in ways I cannot, for I’ve never had to warn my children that jogging could result in armed men threatening their lives. Let’s pray for peace and justice and for the glory of God to be revealed through his multiethnic church. Let’s pray that through us, through his people, the character of God would be revealed. Let’s pray that God would continue to grow our church in rich diversity, that we may reflect his glory to a world being harmed and lied to by racism—by the spirit of antichrist.