There are only a few passages in the Bible that describe the Antichrist, a man who will appear in the last days and lead many people into deception. However, this hasn’t prevented a whole mythology from developing around him.
I can remember seeing Barack Obama speak on television at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. He talked about living in unity as Americans, about how we need to set aside our political and cultural differences and embrace one another as equals. “Even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us, the spin masters and negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of anything goes. Well, I say to them tonight, there’s not a liberal America and a conservative America; there’s the United States of America!”
It was the greatest speech I had ever seen by a candidate for state senate, and as the crowd rose to its feet in a display of adulation unseen during the rest of that week, I remember thinking two things distinctly: one, that Mr. Obama was going to be our next Democratic president; and two, that he had an Antichrist spirit.
Five years later, when I met the scary pastor, during one of our first visits we got to talking about politics. And he repeated to me, almost word for word, the story I’ve just told you. “When I saw that speech, I turned to my wife and said, ‘That man has an Antichrist spirit, and he’s going to be our next president.’”
Why would we both think that?
Nowhere does it say in the Bible that the Antichrist will be the greatest orator that ever lived. Nowhere does it say that TIME Magazine will name him their Man of the Year and that People will declare him the Sexiest Man Alive. Nor will you find any references to him bringing peace and unity, working to renew a broken world, or rekindling hope among a people who are lost and afraid.
In fact, the Bible really doesn’t have a lot to say about this person. The writers of the Gospels for some reason thought it would be more pertinent to focus on Jesus. However, this has never stopped well-meaning pastors and conservative leaders from declaring various things to be “the work of the Antichrist,” and growing up in the Evangelical subculture the following are just a few of the many things that at one time or another I heard labeled as the Antichrist:
– World peace
– Tolerance of other people / ideas / religions
– The Israeli / Palestinian peace process
– Liberal politics / theology
– The Roman Catholic Church
– The Lion King (the opening scene in particular)
– Any movie with talking animals
– Islam / Buddhism / Hinduism
– The push for unity between Christian denominations
– Social justice (feeding the poor, protecting the environment)
– The Gospel
I hope by now the point is obvious: if you want to create an army of people who are not like Jesus, the easiest way to do it is to shame them into thinking that the things Jesus valued are demonic.
Peace, justice, and corporal acts of mercy are all good things; and anyone who does these things is doing the work of the Lord. But dangerous end-times theology twists our perceptions, causing us to exalt what is evil and fear what is good (Amos 5:20). Rather than making the Antichrist the foundation of our eschatology, we should be looking at Jesus, the true Prince of Peace. Jesus, who prayed for his Church to be one just as he was one with his Father (John 17:22). Jesus, for whom those who fed the poor and comforted the sick and imprisoned were comforting him (Matthew 25:31-46).
Let’s work for an end to warfare, for an end to financial and military and spiritual oppression, for a world where people are no longer sold or abused or enslaved, in the confidence that in fighting for justice we are fighting for Jesus.