In Christian eschatology, the Antichrist is a person or other entity who, beginning as a pseudo-Christ, soon becomes the embodiment of evil, and utterly opposed to God, Jesus Christ, and the Christian church. The name "Antichrist" is mentioned only in the New Testament book of 1 John; but many Christians identify this Antichrist with the Beast, who appears in the Book of Revelation. The Antichrist is variously understood as being a consummately evil system of government or religion, the incarnation of Satan, a son of Satan, or a human being under the liege of Satan. The English word, Antichrist, is anglicized from the Greek, and literally means instead of Christ.

Sometimes the term antichrist (lowercase "a") is used to refer to any false messiah or prophet. In this usage it may refer to one accused of preaching falsely about God, Jesus, or Christianity in general, and who is seen as a corrupter of Christian religion.

In Islam, a figure comparable to the Antichrist is ad-Dajjal, foe of the Mahdi, who will be defeated by Isa, the Islamic interpretation of Jesus, in an apocalyptic battle at the end of time.

Table of contents
1 In the New Testament
2 The expected role of the Antichrist
3 In popular mythology
4 Identity of the Antichrist

In the New Testament

The only book in the Bible that literally uses the term, antichrist, is 1 John: "Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son." (1 John 2:22 ESV; see also 2:18, 4:3, 1:7) However, related ideas and references appear in many places in the Bible and various apocrypha, so that a more complete biblical portrait of the Antichrist has been built up gradually by Christian theologians and folk-religionists.

In the "small apocalypse" of St. Paul, in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12, a "man of sin", "the son of perdition" is expected to set himself up in the temple of God, on the false pretense that he is God himself. This portrait of the Antichrist is reminiscent of the acts of Antiochus Epiphanes, who around 170 BC commanded Jews to sacrifice pigs on the altar, four times a year on the Shabbat, in tribute to him as the supreme god of the Seleucids. Paul appears to be warning his readers by this allusion to events in the past, to anticipate similar trouble in the future. Some Christians believe that the events warned of in this passage have already taken place soon after Paul warned of them. Many others believe that the Antichrist has yet to appear.

The expected role of the Antichrist

Christian denominations disagree on what will happen in the end times, and the role that Satan and the Antichrist will play. Among those who expect the Antichrist to arise in the future, there is a general consensus that sometime prior to the expected return of Jesus, there will be a period of "trials and tribulations" during which the Antichrist, inspired by Satan, will attempt to win supporters, and will kill anyone who refuses to worship him ("receive his mark").

In this view, an event termed the "White Throne Judgment" will take place, at which time both the living and the dead will be resurrected, some for everlasting life, and some for everlasting death. All those who worship God and Jesus will be admitted to the presence of God; but everyone who would not repent of their sin will be sent to an outer darkness. Finally, the "Dragon" (often interpreted as Satan), the "Beast" (often interpreted as the Antichrist) and the "false prophet" (interpreted in many ways) who compels the world to worship the Beast, and all who received his mark, will be cast into a lake of fire together with death and Hell. These views are based on controversial passages in the Apocalypse of John, more commonly known as the Book of Revelation.

In popular mythology

The Antichrist is a central figure in many popular movies with occult themes, such as Rosemary's Baby, and the The Omen series. In the movie, The Seventh Seal, the idea of the Antichrist is tangentially referred to as a child conceived without a soul, whose birth will signal the end of all life. The Antichrist is a central figure in the Left Behind series of books and movies; in this series the Antichrist figure is named "Nicolae Carpathia."

Identity of the Antichrist

Many people, or even nations or movements, have been thought by some to be the Antichrist. The Roman emperor beginning with Nero, sometimes together with the four emperors who succeeded him in the year following his suicide, until the elevation of Nero's general Vespasian to emperor, have been interpreted from very early times, either alone or collectively as the Beast of the Apocalypse.

In this tumultuous period, superstitious fear and mob violence grew against Christians, and the Roman wars against the Jews intensified (C.E 66 - 70), ending with the destruction of the Temple in C.E. 70 under the command of general Titus (later emperor), and the maniacal slaughter of the Jews who were living at Jerusalem. According to tradition, Nero ordered the crucifixion of St. Peter and the beheading of St. Paul. Both Jewish and Christian literature survives, referring to Emperor Nero as the Antichrist. A more detailed descripton of this interpretation can be found in the entry on the Book of Revelation.

Another idea that began appearing early in the history of the Christian church, is the opinion that the Antichrist will be an apostate priest or Christian secular ruler, perhaps a Pope or other high leader of the Christian church, or a pretender to the Papacy. Some Christian sects have made it an issue of faith to identify the Bishop of Rome and the papal system as the Antichrist. Virtually all popes have been called the Antichrist by their enemies, and many popes have applied this title of "Antichrist", "son of perdition", or "man of sin", to their enemies as well. Even St. Peter, the first Pope according to Roman Catholic tradition, was called "Satan" by Jesus according to the Gospel of Matthew chapter 16, the same chapter of the gospel in which Peter is told by Jesus, "on this rock [Greek: petra] I will build my church".

Bellarmine gives in full the theory set forth by the Greek and Latin Fathers, of a personal Antichrist to come just before the end of the world and to be accepted by the Jews and enthroned in the temple at Jerusalem -- thus endeavoring to dispose of the Protestant exposition which saw Antichrist in the pope. Bellarmine's interpretation, in modified form, is now accepted by most premillennial dispensationalists.

After the reforms of Patriarch Nikon to the Russian Orthodox Church of 1652 a large number of Old Believers held that Peter the Great was the antichrist.

Identifying the Antichrist has become a hobby of the internet age, and a body of literature in its own right.

Various numerological methods of calculating the number of the name of the Beast ('666' in most manuscript sources, '616' in a minority), and other methods are used to identify the Antichrist before he has the chance to lead astray. A nice example is the case of Adolf Hitler, where numbering the letters A=100, B=101, etc, produces H+I+T+L+E+R=666.

Candidates for the Antichrist have been men in virtually all positions of public influence, the most frequent modern candidates: Napoleon Bonaparte, Adolf Hitler, and various Popes. Some have taken seriously the suggestion made by the Left Behind series, that the Antichrist may be the Secretary-General of the United Nations. Since the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attack, the theory has become popular that either Osama bin Laden or Saddam Hussein is possibly the Antichrist.

See also: Great Apostasy; end times; Whore of Babylon; Number of the Beast (numerology)