In the process of time some words are inclined to change their meaning. There are examples of this in the Authorised Version. Look at 1 Thess.4:15. “For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.” Prevent? In 1600 the word Prevent meant “go before”. There is an old Anglican prayer, “Prevent us O Lord in all our doings by Thy most gracious favour.” The meaning is “Go before us O Lord.” So in this case the word has undergone a dramatic change in meaning through four centuries.
But this post is about the Antichrist. And this is where another important change has come about. In these days we use the prefix “anti-“ to denote that which is against something else. But the true meaning of the Greek word, according to Lexicons is “that which stands in the place of another”.
There was a certain man of King Herod’s family who was known as Antipater. The word Pater is still used for Father, so on today’s understanding, this man would have been “against his father”. But as understood in Herod’s day, it simply means “he who has come in the place of his father.” That makes sense.
In John 1:16 we read “Of his fulness we have all received, and grace for grace.” The Greek text reads Grace anti Grace. Obviously it cannot mean “grace against grace.” No, it means “grace in the place of grace.” Here the picture is “grace” taking the place of “grace” like the manna fresh each morning, new grace for each new day.
In Luke 11:11 we read, “If a son shall ask bread of his father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent?” Greek text reads “a serpent anti a fish”. The AV gives the correct meaning. “A serpent in the place of a fish.”
With that short prologue, let us now consider the word Antichrist. Churches, and the majority of Christians think of the Antichrist as a man who comes against Christ. Not so. It means “one who comes (stands, promotes himself) in the place of Christ.” The importance of that must not be lost.
Matthew 24:5 “For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.” Early history records the fulfilment of this, according to Adam Clarke’s Commentary –
- Josephus says, (War, b. ii. c. 13,) that there were many who, pretending to Divine inspiration, deceived the people, leading out numbers of them to the desert, pretending that God would there show them the signs of liberty, meaning redemption from the Roman power: and that an Egyptian false prophet led 30,000 men into the desert, who were almost all cut off by Felix. See Acts 21:38. It was a just judgment for God to deliver up that people into the hands of false Christs who had rejected the true one. Soon after our Lord’s crucifixion, Simon Magus appeared, and persuaded the people of Samaria that he was the great power of God, Acts 8:9,10; and boasted among the Jews that he was the son of God.
- Of the same stamp and character was also Dositheus, the Samaritan, who pretended that he was the Christ foretold by Moses.
- About twelve years after the death of our Lord, when Cuspius Fadus was procurator of Judea, arose an impostor of the name of Theudas, who said he was a prophet, and persuaded a great multitude to follow him with their best effects to the river Jordan, which he promised to divide for their passage; and saying these things, says Josephus, he deceived many: almost the very words of our Lord.
- A few years afterwards, under the reign of Nero, while Felix was procurator of Judea, impostors of this stamp were so frequent that some were taken and killed almost every day. Jos. Ant. b. xx. c. 4. and 7.
More recent history has much to say about individuals who have claimed divinity or divine ordination. But the most notable example of this may be found, written clear for all to see, in The New York Catholic Catechism, “The Pope takes the place of Jesus Christ on earth…by divine right the pope has supreme and full power in faith and morals over each and every pastor and his flock. He is the true Vicar of Christ, the head of the entire church, the father and teacher of all Christians. He is the infallible ruler, the founder of dogmas, the author of and the judge of councils; the universal ruler of truth, the arbiter of the world, the supreme judge of heaven and earth, the judge of all, being judged by one, God himself on earth.”