What Does the Bible Say About the Antichrist, False Prophets, and Beasts?
The New Testament warns many times about evil people who will try to lead Christians astray.
They are called "false prophets," "false teachers," and many other names.
Regardless of the name, their intent is to deceive Christians for personal gain
or because of hatred for the gospel.
The term "antichrist" is used only in the Letters of John. The emphasis is
on a person or persons who oppose Jesus and deny that He is the Messiah, the
Christ, the Son of God:
Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the
antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come.
22 Who is the liar? It is whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a person is the antichrist—denying the Father and the Son. (NIV, 1 John 2:18, 22)
7 I say this because many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist. (NIV, 2 John 7)
False Prophets, False Teachers
Wolves in Sheep's Clothing
Jesus warned about people who pretend to be His followers but teach a
15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.
16 You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles?
17 In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit.
18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.
19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
20 Thus you will know them by their fruits. (NRSV, Matthew 7:15–20)
A good fruit tree bears good fruit. In the same way, a good person will act
and speak in ways consistent with Jesus' teachings. A thorny bush may have
pretty flowers, but it produces thorns that can pierce and tear skin. In the
same way, an evil person may put on the appearance of holiness, but he or she
will speak and act in ways opposed to the things Jesus taught. These evil people
are like wolves who disguise themselves as harmless sheep to deceive and exploit
There are many warnings in the New Testament about false teachers of one kind
or another. For example, the apostle Paul warned:
17 And now I make one more appeal, my dear brothers and sisters. Watch out for people who cause divisions and upset people’s faith by teaching things contrary to what you have been taught. Stay away from them.
18 Such people are not serving Christ our Lord; they are serving their own personal interests. By smooth talk and glowing words they deceive innocent people.
19 But everyone knows that you are obedient to the Lord. This makes me very happy. I want you to be wise in doing right and to stay innocent of any wrong. (NLT, Romans 16:17–19)
14 We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming.
15 But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, (NRSV, Ephesians 4:14–15)
Man of Lawlessness
The lawless one of 2 Thessalonians 2:3-10 is similar to the antichrist.
The three beasts of the book of Revelation are often associated with the
antichrist, particularly the beast from the earth (Revelation 13:11-14).
Within the Christianity there are a number of popular teachings
and beliefs that are inconsistent with the teachings of Jesus and His disciples. These are some examples:
- Prosperity gospel: A claim that God wants us to be wealthy,
and financial wealth and physical health will
result from faith (Matthew 6:24, Luke 6:24-25, Luke 12:15, 1 Timothy 6:10)
- Seed money: A claim that financial wealth and other blessings will
result from monetary donations to a particular ministry or church (Matthew
7:15-20, Acts 8:18-21, 2 Peter 2:3)
- Cheap grace: A belief that profession of faith is all that God requires
for salvation; no change of sinful behavior is necessary (Matthew 7:21-23,
John 14:21-23, Hebrews 10:26-31, James 2:14-24)
- Prejudice: A belief that discrimination and persecution directed at a
particular group of people is justified or even required by God (Matthew
5:43-48, 22:34-40, Matthew 7:1-5, Romans 14:10-13, 1 Corinthians 4:3-5)
- The ends justify the means: A belief that sinful actions are justified
in pursuit of an objective of supposed overriding
importance (Matthew 4:8-10, 16:26, 1 Peter 1:13-16, 1 John 2:3-6)
How to Avoid Being Deceived
The age of the Internet
with blogs, websites, social media, news sites, and chain emails has made it
incredibly easy for anyone or any group to distribute their ideas to the whole
world, no matter how false and perverted those ideas may be. Sadly, we see
hatred and prejudice disguised as Bible teaching. We see political propaganda
represented as church teachings. Some preachers look and sound holy, but they
are really just soliciting contributions to enrich themselves. We are constantly
being manipulated to believe and act in ways opposed to the things Jesus taught.
false teachings and scams are not new. They were a problem even in Biblical
times. The apostle Paul warns us to not become cynical, but to "test" all ideas
to see if they are really true and good:
15 See that no one pays back evil for evil, but always try to do good to each other and to all people.
16 Always be joyful.
17 Never stop praying.
18 Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.
19 Do not stifle the Holy Spirit.
20 Do not scoff at prophecies,
21 but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good.
22 Stay away from every kind of evil. (NLT, 1 Thessalonians 5:15–22)
Fortunately, we have at least four ways to test ideas and distinguish what is
good and true from what is evil and false:
1. Jesus' Teachings
Jesus' Sermon on the Mount (Matthew Chapters 5-7) is the primary
reference for what it means to believe and live in the way God intends. Jesus
taught peace and goodwill among people in accordance with the purposes of God.
The values Jesus and His disciples taught are often the opposite of worldly
values: kindness and respect for all people instead of power; humility instead
of status; honesty and generosity instead of wealth; self-control instead of
self-indulgence; forgiveness instead of revenge.
To evaluate any idea or action, we can first evaluate whether it supports or
opposes the principles Jesus taught.
There is more information in these articles on our website:
What Does the Bible Say About Christian Values and Christian Life?,
The Greatest Commandment and the Parable of the Good Samaritan,
Jesus' Teachings, as Told in the Gospels,
What Does the Bible Say About Love?
A well-formed conscience gives us an instinctive sense of right and wrong. It
protects us from being influenced by evil ideas (Romans 2:14-16, 2 Corinthians
4:2, 1 Timothy 1:18-20, Titus 1:15).
3. Wisdom and Good Judgment
We can stop and think carefully about any idea or course of action instead of
being influenced by impassioned appeals. Are we deceiving ourselves (Matthew
7:21-23, James 1:22-26)? Are our desires and passions becoming more important
that doing what is right (Galatians 5:19-24)? Are we falling into "the ends
justify the means" trap of assuming a supposed good end result can justify wrong
actions (Matthew 4:8-10, 16:26, 1 Peter 1:13-16, 1 John 2:3-6)?
What are the motives of someone urging us to believe or do something? Is it
morally acceptable? Is it
really true? How can we find out? What is evidence? Who benefits? Who will be
hurt? Will the results be consistent with Jesus' teachings?
Difficult decisions often require persistent prayer to determine God's will. The
answer, when it comes, may be in a form radically different than what we
expected, and we must be alert to that possibility (Deuteronomy 3:23-27, 2 Corinthians
12:7-9). Sometimes, the answer must come from within ourselves and
persistent prayer will help us find that answer. We may need a new attitude or a
different way of looking at things (Matthew 5:8, Romans 2:1-5, 1 John 4:7-8), or
we may need to make amends with someone (Matthew 6:14-15).
There is more information in this article on our website:
What Does the Bible Say About Prayer?
Identifying the Antichrist and Other False Teachers
At various times in history one group or another has tried to turn Bible
teachings into propaganda by proclaiming the identity of the antichrist. Those
who have been so named include the Roman emperors Caligula, Titus, Nero and
Claudius, Muhammad (the prophet of Islam), popes, Protestant theologians,
political leaders, and many other individuals. However, the Bible does not give
any clues about the identity of the antichrist and discourages speculation
(Matthew 7:1-5, Romans 14:10-14, Romans 14:10-14).
The real lesson of the
Bible is that we must be well-informed about what is right and what is wrong,
and be prepared to resist any opposing message (Matthew 24:4-5, 23-24, James
4:7, 1 Peter 5:8-9).