Why Identify the Antichrist?

“You have heard that antichrist is coming,” wrote the inspired apostle long ago. (1 John 2:18) How intriguing those words are! For centuries, people have pondered their meaning. Who is the antichrist? When will he come? What will he do when he does come?

THE list of those charged with being the antichrist is a long one. In the past, those labeled “antichrist” included Jews, the Catholic papacy, and Roman emperors. For example, when Emperor Frederick II (1194-1250) chose not to join a Crusade on behalf of the church, Pope Gregory IX named him the antichrist and excommunicated him. Gregory’s successor, Innocent IV, excommunicated him again. In response, Frederick declared Innocent to be the antichrist.

The apostle John is the only Bible writer to use the word “antichrist.” In two of the letters bearing his name, the word appears five times, in both the singular and the plural. The verses in which the word appears are listed in the box on the next page. From these verses, we can see that the antichrist is a liar and a deceiver, bent on destroying a person’s relationship with Christ and with God. Accordingly, the apostle urged his fellow Christians: “Beloved ones, do not believe every inspired expression, but test the inspired expressions to see whether they originate with God, because many false prophets have gone forth into the world.”​—1 John 4:1.

Jesus too warned against deceivers, or false prophets, saying: “[They] come to you in sheep’s covering, but inside they are ravenous wolves. By their fruits [or, works] you will recognize them.” (Matthew 7:15, 16) Was Jesus also warning his followers against the figurative antichrist? Let us see how we can identify this vicious deceiver.