Children, it is the last hour! As you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. From this we know that it is the last hour. (1 John 2:18)
As a child of the late 1960’s and 1970’s, my imagination was enamored by the Satanic scares of the period. There were movies like Rosemary’s Baby, The Exorcist, The Omen, etc. I watched anything Satanic every chance I’d get. I didn’t get any chances at my house, because my mother believed, rightfully, that my young mind should not be filled with that corruption. But I was an intelligent and manipulative pre-teen and teenager and always had friends whose parents were less diligent in their child’s viewing habits, and it was there that I got my Satan movie fix.
The antichrist was very real in my pre- and early-adolescent life. But, even more than movies, it was the Church that gave power to the antichrist. It was adult leaders who showed us documentary-type movies in youth groups, warning of young people - like ourselves - who were carried away by Devil worshipers. They even showed us a program on “cult deprogrammers” who would work to reclaim the soul of some poor slob too caught up in the grip of the Devil. Mind you, I was Presbyterian. Can you imagine if I was in one of those holy roller churches?
Sadly, these well-meaning church youth leaders had a flawed understanding of the antichrist. The antichrist is without any real supremacy accept that which we give it, through our own warped imagination. Martin Luther in the early sixteenth century called the Pope the antichrist. Other church leaders throughout the centuries have called dictators, false theologians, and those they believe are defying God’s law, antichrists. Antichrists were humans who where acting in a way against the will of the one true God.
The word “antichrist” only appears in the NRSV version of the Bible in just four places: Here, in 1 John 2:18 and again in 2:22; 1 John 4:3; and, in 2 John 1:7. There are other words for the Devil that are used in Revelation etc., but the word “antichrist” is almost never used. The definition for the word “antichrist,” according to the Analytical Greek Lexicon, is “Christ’s adversary in the end-times.”
By that definition, any one of us who sins, is an antichrist. Rather than focus on the Devil, it is important that we focus on teaching “Children” to be Christ’s advocates, rather than Christ’s “adversary.” Rather than empowering Satan in the minds of imaginative children, we should accept the call to teach our children the joy of Christ’s power over evil, sin, and death. Christ’s light is the true power, and nothing else can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.