Small Group Leader Guide

Step 1. Introduce the Session

5 minutes

Antichrist, the end times emperor, that son of perdition who is said to come in the last days to take over the world and persecute the people of God.


  • Conduct a brief survey of heresy confronting the early Church
  • Achieve a basic understanding of Gnosticism and its first-century ascent

Step 2. Watch the Video

33 minutes

CONTENT SUMMARY (with timestamps)

  • False Prophets Abound (02:45)
  • Who is Antichrist? (08:09)
  • Top Antichrist Theories (10:35)
  • Theory #1: Backslidden Messianic Jews (10:42)
  • Theory #2: Gnosticism (11:40)
  • Theory #3: Future Antichrist (18:43)
  • Top Candidates for Antichrist (19:26)
  • Cerinthus (19:42)
  • Nero (22:34)
  • The Papacy (23:51)
  • Hitler (25:47)
  • Zechariah 11 (28:16)
  • The End of the Antichrist (31:45)

Step 3. Discuss

15 minutes

Leaders: You might like to split into smaller groups at this stage so everyone has a chance to respond honestly. Don’t feel like you have to hurry through all these questions; they are simply conversation starters.

Q. What did you find most helpful or most challenging in this lesson? Any surprises?

Q. Writing in the early 60s AD, when John declares it “is the last hour” (1 John 1:18), we understand the early Church was anticipating the prophesied end of the Old Covenant age, the Mosaic Law and the temple rites. This was soon fulfilled by the day of the Lord judgment of Israel at the hands of Rome in 70 AD. “Last hour” would be confusing if it somehow referred to a span of 2,000 years following, though this is often taught. This lesson makes the point: False teachers were springing up everywhere and apostasy was growing in the first century.

How has your journey through the Prophecy Course helped you better understand the trials facing our brothers and sisters in early Church?

Step 4. Report Out [OPTIONAL]

15 minutes

Leaders: If you're a team of leaders taking a class through the course and you broke into small groups in Step 3, regroup at the end and ask each small group to report out on their small group discussion. What were their ah-ha's? What did they struggle with?

Close with prayer.




(1 John 2,4, 2 John 1, Zechariah 11, various)

Nero Caesar, Adolf Hitler, numerous Catholic popes, members of the British monarchy, Martin Luther, Henry Kissinger, Aleister Crowley, Mikhail Gorbachev, and several recent US presidents; what do these have in common? They have all been accused of being the Antichrist, the end times emperor who is said to come in the last days to take over the world and persecute the people of God (unless, of course, they’ve already been raptured up!) But what does the Bible really teach about the Antichrist?


  • Conduct a brief survey of heresy confronting the early Church
  • Achieve a basic understanding of Gnosticism and its first-century ascent


When I first began pulling together the curriculum for the Prophecy Course Bible study, I knew one of the lessons would be on the Antichrist, tribulation, and the mark of the beast (666); all of it. I was naïve enough to believe this could all be accomplished in one half-hour lesson!

As I began to study the Antichrist, I got way more than I bargained for. I gathered all the scriptures people use to make their case for our biblical boogeyman. That included:

Yet, as I researched these passages, I found these scriptures speak of different events. Are all these characters one and the same? No, absolutely not.

“Antichristos,” occurring only in the Johannine (jōˈhanən) epistles—specifically first and second John—refers to a group forwarding false doctrine, specifically “denying that Christ has come in the flesh.” In Revelation, John never once uses the term to describe the beast that arises from the sea, and he certainly would have if these were the same character. Further study of the “beast” shows us both Daniel and John use the term to describe reprobate nations, their kings and the fallen angelic forces driving them.

What about Paul’s son of perdition, the man of lawlessness in 2 Thessalonians? There was, in fact, a lawless Zealot leader who literally took his seat in the Temple, exalting himself over Israel and even the objects of worship; the Jewish historian Josephus goes into great detail on this! But if we don’t know our history, we can make the exegetical mistake of waiting for a prophetic future that was fulfilled 2,000 years ago.


False Prophets Abound

During the first century, messianic fervor was mounting among the Jews. In his 70-Week Prophecy, almost 600 years earlier, the prophet Daniel delivered an exact timeline for the Messiah’s arrival. As the New Testament opens, that timeline was nearing its end (cf. Luke 12:56, per Jesus, “…how is it you do not discern this time?”) Throughout His ministry, Jesus warned to, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” (Matthew 7:15) In His famous Olivet Discourse, where He prophesies the judgment of Israel and the destruction of Jerusalem, Jesus says,

“Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. […] For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, and will lead astray, if possible, even the elect. (Mark 13:6,22, Matthew 24:4-5,24)

The disciples were warned: remain diligent and alert against a plague of heresy from within.


20 years later, while writing the believers in Corinth, between 53-54 AD, Paul addresses the threat of false teachers confronting the early Church:

12 “But what I do, I will continue to do, that I may cut off opportunity from those who desire an opportunity to be regarded just as we are in the things of which they boast. 13 For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. 14 And no marvel, for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. 15 Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves as the ministers of righteousness, whose end shall be according to their works.” (2 Corinthians 11:12-15)

In the mid-60s AD, while speaking to the elders of Ephesus, Paul foresees they will face false teaching arising from within their own ranks:

29 “For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. 30Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. (Acts 20:29-30)

Prior to being martyred by Nero between 64-65 AD, while imprisoned in Rome, Paul writes in his first epistle to Timothy:

“Now the Spirit speaks expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and teachings of demons; (1 Timothy 4:1)

In 1 Timothy 6:20-21, Paul calls Timothy to,

20 “Guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane and idle babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge— 21 by professing it some have strayed concerning the faith.

And in his second letter:

3 “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but after their own lusts, having itching ears, they shall heap to themselves teachers; 4 They shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned aside to fables.” (2 Timothy 4:3-4)


Possibly martyred side-by-side with Paul, Peter also wrote of apostasy. In the years leading up to his death, Peter writes from the “church at Babylon” (an allusion to Rome; 1 Peter 5:13):

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. (2 Peter 2:1)

In Peter’s second epistle, he continues to expand on this group of apostates who have entered the Church. It seems these backslidden “believers” have turned from the transformative truth of the Gospel and have opted instead to return to their lusty pursuit of the flesh.

18For, while speaking out arrogant words of no value they entice by fleshly desires, by indecent behavior, those who barely escape from the ones who live in error, 19 promising them freedom while they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by what anyone is overcome, by this he is enslaved. 20 For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. 21 For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them. 22 It has happened to them according to the true proverb, ‘A dog returns to its own vomit,’ and, ‘A sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire.’” (2 Peter 2:18-22)


Known for being the shortest book of the Bible, Jude's letter mirrors 2 Peter 2, witnessing to infiltration by those who pursue the lusts of the flesh and deny the Father and Son:

“For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ. (Jude 1:4)

Throughout the last days of the Old Covenant period, we see a plague of apostacy, heresy and persecution confronting the early Church. Heresy—a theological cancer springing up from within—perverted the clear teaching of the Gospel and took on twisted forms. It is this same heretical corruption the apostle John seems to address in his epistles.


Who is Antichrist?


Likely written around 62 AD to an unnamed church in Asia Minor, John’s audience has suffered division and abandonment. As he counsels, notice John’s references to antichrist; this is a present reality his readers are experiencing, just as we’ve seen in our previous examples.

18 “Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore, we know that it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.” (1 John 2:18-19; remember the false Christs and false prophets of Matthew 24:23-25.)

From verse 19, it seems members of this congregation abandoned the faith, deserting the Church and drawing others after them. In verse 22, John zeroes in on exactly what he means when he says “antichrist” (antichristos, Strong’s 500):

“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)

John writes these things concerning those “who seduce you” (1 John 1:26). He is confronting an active threat by those who would undermine this body of believers. Now John defines the difference between true believers and false:

1 “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. (1 John 4:1-3)

Here we not only see a definition of what it means to be anti-Christ, but we also catch a glimpse of what it means to be in Christ. In his second letter to this church, John doubles down on his definition of antichrist:

“For many deceivers have entered into the world, those who do not confess Jesus Christ has come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist. (2 John 1:7)

Throughout John’s three epistles, the author drives home several key themes including admonition to reject false teachings, how to identify true believers, and encouragement to stand firm in the faith.


Top Antichrist Theories

Next, let’s briefly discuss the top theories surrounding the identity of John’s antichrists.

Theory #1: Backslidden Messianic Jews

One theory around the exodus of non-believers abandoning the faith says these may have been Jews who drew back from the New Covenant teachings of Jesus to return to the familiar Old. Well, maybe. If these were indeed Jews who fell away from the teaching that the promised Messiah had arrived, it is feasible John is trying to counter it by reassuring “Jesus Christ has come in the flesh.” (1 John 4:2, 2 John 1:7) However, this theory doesn’t fully explain the licentiousness we find in Peter and Jude’s accounts. Trading the New Covenant out for the Old would certainly trade a higher moral call with one lower (see the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5-7), but a moral call remains, nonetheless. Even so, since these letters weren’t written to the same local bodies, we must allow for variances between heretical expressions; lasciviousness in Peter’s and Jude’s defectors doesn’t mean it was necessarily found in Paul’s or John’s.

Theory #2: Gnosticism

The most popular explanation among covenantal scholars nods toward Gnosticism, a syncretistic religious framework that emphasizes esoteric knowledge as the path to transcendence. Though there were varying flavors of Gnosticism (from the Greek gnōsis, “knowledge,” Strong’s 1108, and sometimes referred to as proto-Gnosticism to differentiate it from modern-day Gnosticism), its predominant idea can be reduced to four words: spirit good, matter bad. A blend of Greek dualism and Eastern mysticism, in the Judeo-Christian flavor of Gnosticism, YHWH—the wrathful, vindictive God of the Hebrews—is not the perfect Creator of everything; just our broken material universe. This God of the Old Testament is actually a deluded demiurge (a creator, not thee Creator), adrift and ignorant of His origins from the higher Supreme Being. Since evil, suffering and death exist, these are seen as evidence of God’s shortcomings.

In their disdain for the material, and since only spirit matters, early adherents of Gnosticism usually fell into one of two camps. Some shunned all material pursuits, withdrew from the world, and chose to live as religious ascetics (as seen in Colossians 2:8,20-23). In stark contrast, other Gnostics threw off the shackles of moral restraint, taking up whatever vices suited their liking. In their striving for spiritual illumination, Gnostics sought all manner of secret “knowledge” by mystic or occultic means. James 3 speaks into the origin and fruit of heretical ideology:

14 “But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such ‘wisdom’ does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.” (James 3:14-16)

It is John’s repeated emphasis that “Jesus Christ has come in the flesh” that seems to rebuke a strain of Gnosticism known as Docetism (from the Greek dokeĩn, “to seem,” derived from dókēsis meaning “apparition” or “phantom.”) Since all flesh was considered evil and corrupt, variants of this Gnostic error taught either 1) Jesus was one hundred percent spirit like the Father and therefore walked as an avatar without an actual flesh-and-blood body, or 2) He was a normal man who received the Christ spirit at His baptism “in the form of a dove” (Matthew 3:16) and when He “gave up the Ghost” upon His death at the cross (Matthew 27:50), the Christ spirit left Him. (Some even say this Christ spirit left Jesus before He shed any blood, as we’ll see in a moment when we discuss one of Gnosticism’s early leaders.)

The first error misses Jesus’ humanity, the need for final flesh-and-blood atonement and the intimate nature of the blood covenant Jesus struck at the Last Supper. This form of Docetism considers Jesus’ crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension to be nothing more than spiritual illusion. Yet we know the Word took on flesh (John 1:14), became tired (John 4:6), slept (Luke 8:23), thirsted (John 4:7, 19:28) and could be touched (John 20:27). According to 1 Corinthians 15:17, if Christ did not die on the cross and raise again, we are still dead in our sins (cf. Romans 6:23).

The second error overemphasizes Jesus’ humanity at the cost of His identity as part of the Triune Godhead. Here Jesus is simply an ascended master who attained higher levels of knowledge, rising to the level of receiving the Christ spirit. According to Gnostic thinking, it was this spirit that allowed Jesus to work miracles during His ministry. Yet Jesus’ divinity is assured; He accepted worship (Matthew 2:2, 14:33, 28:9, John 20:28), claimed oneness with the Father (“Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am,” John 8:58), and the disciples agreed: “…from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God.” (Romans 9:5) In His prayer from Gethsemane, Jesus prayed, “And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.” (John 17:5)

So, when John says the liar is the “one who denies that Jesus is the Christ,” he continues to drive the point home: Antichrist is anyone “who denies the Father and the Son” (1 John 2:22, 4:2). This was a problem new to the first-century Church! Certainly, there were false Messiahs prior to and following Jesus’ first coming, but once the true Messiah was revealed to the earth in power and authority, those who deny Him deny not just Him but He who sent Him; the Father as well. This was a contemporary problem for the early Church (“is in the world already,” 1 John 4:3, 2 John 1:7), just as it remains a problem for the Church 2,000 years later.

Believe it or not, Gnosticism is still alive and well in our world today, peddled in bestselling books like The Da Vinci Code and by popular Hollywood films like The Matrix and The Lego Movie. In our movie examples, God is represented as a law-heavy universal dictator (the demiurge) who threatens death if the rules aren’t followed (Lego Movie’s President/Lord Business whispers, “Let’s take extra care to follow the instructions (or you’ll be put to sleep)” and Matrix’s Architect threatens to pull the plug and delete your program.) Eventually, the heroes of both movies, Emmet (the Jewish word for “truth”) and Neo (“neos,” Greek for “new”), transcend their fabricated realities through death and return to life, becoming super-powered Christs in their own right. This transcendence is assisted by female love interests, Wildstyle and Trinity, who each bring special knowledge to their heroes. Wildstyle’s real name is even revealed to be Lucy, an obvious play on the name Lucifer, literally “light-bringer.” In Gnostic-inspired Luciferianism—and to some degree, its theological cousin, Satanism—Lucifer is the angel who fell by breaking the Father’s rules in his attempt to bring heavenly wisdom to humanity (cf. Genesis 3 and the apocryphal books of Enoch.) This angel of light is often represented as a female avatar named Sophia, meaning “wisdom.” The Truman Show, Pleasantville and How to Train Your Dragon 3: The Hidden World are other examples of movies pushing Gnostic ideology, and we find this thinking in many New Age, Eastern and pagan religions today.

Theory #3: Future Antichrist

This theory still awaits fulfillment in a future villain who has been looming right around the corner for the past 2,000 years. This antichrist figure scaffolds together a patchwork of unrelated scriptures taken out of context to arrive at a solitary dictator who emerges as the head of the New World Order, a Gog-Magog confederacy bent on destroying God’s people. Though the world turning on God’s people just before Jesus’ Second Coming may, in fact, be how it goes (Revelation 20:7-10), a single global tyrant isn’t actually pictured anywhere in Revelation. Nor in 2 Thessalonians. Nor in Daniel.


Top Candidates for Antichrist

As I mentioned at the beginning of this lesson, over the centuries, there have been many candidates unfortunate enough to be branded with the antichrist moniker. First, we’ll start with public enemy number one, then we’ll work through a few (dis)honorable mentions.


The apostle John opens his gospel, bringing Jesus’ identity into sharp focus: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1) Throughout his gospel, John was intentional to reinforce Jesus’ humanity and His divinity. As the last of the four gospels to be written, John also had the greatest opportunity to address the errors confronting the young Church, including Gnostic heresy.

As a first-century contemporary to John and a leader of the early Gnostic movement, Cerinthus certainly might have been on his mind when John wrote his epistles. (Receiving the account from one of John’s students, Polycarp, Church father Irenaeus tells a story of John running out of a Roman bathhouse declaring, “Let us fly, lest even the bathhouse fall down, because Cerinthus, the enemy of the truth, is inside!”) Though none of Cerinthus’ writings have survived, Irenaeus gives us our earliest snapshot into his teachings:

“Cerinthus, again, a man who was educated in the wisdom of the Egyptians, taught that the world was not made by the primary God, but by a certain Power far separated from him, and at a distance from that Principality who is supreme over the universe, and ignorant of him who is above all. He represented Jesus as having not been born of a virgin, but as being the son of Joseph and Mary according to the ordinary course of human generation, while he nevertheless was more righteous, prudent, and wise than other men. Moreover, after his baptism, Christ descended upon him in the form of a dove from the Supreme Ruler, and that then he proclaimed the unknown Father, and performed miracles. But at last Christ departed from Jesus, and that then Jesus suffered and rose again, while Christ remained impassible, inasmuch as he was a spiritual being.” (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 1.26.1.)

Yeah, so, obviously Cerinthus’ theology was a hot mess: God isn’t really God, no virgin birth, and Jesus’ identity wasn’t thee Christ (the promised Messiah), but He was indwelled by a “Christ spirit” at His baptism until His suffering prior to His crucifixion. In contrast, John declares in 1 John 5:6, “This is he who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood.” John is refuting this Gnostic idea that Jesus’ sacrifice was human only. He is making the point: Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, and Christ Jesus was born of water and of the blood He shed on our behalf.

Finally, Irenaeus also specifically writes that John sought, “By proclamation of the Gospel, to remove that error which, by Cerinthus, had been disseminated among men.” (Antiquities, 3.11.1.)


Nero has often been thought to be the Antichrist, or at least a type leading to a future one, and with good reason. His cruelty and depravity, when combined with his war against the Christian saints following the Great Fire of Rome in 64 AD (lasting about 3½ years, until his death in 68) seems to fit—if one conflates John’s beast of Revelation with the antichrists of his epistles, that is.

Alas, John doesn’t use the word “antichristos” a single time in Revelation and he certainly would have if these two characters were one and the same. When John writes of the beast of Revelation, throughout his Apocalypse he speaks to the reprobate, beastly nation of Rome, its kings and the fallen spiritual princes influencing the nation from behind the scenes. The beast of Revelation imagery pulls heavily from Daniel 7’s fourth beast. Whereas Daniel receives an incremental forecast from his current beast, Babylon, to its future successors—John finds himself dealing with the final, aggregated beast, the Roman Empire.

Other honorable mentions surrounding Nero (often taught as types or substitutes) are Antiochus IV Epiphanes, Pompey the Great, Caligula and Domitian.

The Papacy

In the early 1500s, Martin Luther and the Reformers cast the Catholic Church as the beast of Revelation, making the Pope (Leo X, at the time) the Antichrist. Referring to the predominance of the papacy in his 1537 Smalcald Articles, Luther declares,

“This teaching shows forcefully that the Pope is the very Antichrist, who has exalted himself above, and opposed himself against Christ, because he will not permit Christians to be saved without his power, which, nevertheless, is nothing, and is neither ordained nor commanded by God.” (Smalcald Articles, II.)

Little over a hundred years later, the Westminster Confession (1646) and the London Confession of Faith (1689) would both share this language:

“There is no other Head of the Church but the Lord Jesus Christ: nor can the Pope of Rome, in any sense be head thereof; but is that Antichrist, that man of sin and son of perdition, that exalteth himself in the Church against Christ, and all that is called God.” (London 26; Westminster 25.6.)

Protestant leaders over the past several centuries—including big names like Melanchton, Wycliffe, Zwingli, Calvin, Knox, Wesley and Spurgeon—have continued to sing this same song, and this language remains in these confessions to today.

Beside Pope Leo X, and pretty much every pope since, popes John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis I have enjoyed the dubious honor of receiving the most recent papal-antichrist speculation. However, 1) since no popes have denied Jesus Christ as having come in the flesh, and 2) since John speaks of a contemporary problem confronting the first-century Church—about 250 years before Catholic Christianity became the state-sponsored religion of the Roman Empire under Theodosius—the papacy is probably not what John was writing about.


On September 19, 1846, on the Mountain of La Salette, an apparition of a “beautiful lady” appeared to two French children, Maximin Giraud and Mélanie Calvat. Attributed to the Virgin Mary, the vision foretold judgment by famine if the people didn’t stop their blaspheming and return to church. The Blessed Virgin then gave each child a secret the other could not hear. Though the Marian apparition told Maximin and Mélanie to not share their secrets with anyone, both children wrote their secrets to Pope Pius IX five years later in early July 1851, under heavy prompting. The letters lived in the Vatican archives until 1999.

Maximin’s secret comes the closest to prophetic fulfillment, foretelling French apostacy and maybe vaguely, the rise of Hitler (a monster), but veers off into an ecumenical dream announcing the nations of the earth will be converted to Catholicism by the year 2000. Regarding this “monster,” Mélanie’s secret was more specific:

“Lastly, hell will reign on earth. It will be then that the Antichrist will be born of a Sister, but woe to her! Many will believe in him, because he will claim to have come from heaven, woe to those who will believe in him!

“That time is not far away, twice 50 years will not go by.” (The Authentic Message of La Salette, 2007.)

According to Mélanie, this great tribulation and the Antichrist would emerge by 1946. Even if we place “hell on earth” as World War II and therefore the time of birth for the Antichrist, the war ended in 1945; this Antichrist would be nearing his 80s today. But maybe the Antichrist was Hitler; after all, his mother was Catholic (“born of a Sister.”) That meshed better with Maximin’s prophecy, though it still doesn’t account for Maximin’s global conversion to Catholicism that never happened.

In the end, both children grew into adulthood but struggled in life. Maximin died by age 39 and Mélanie fell into delusions of grandeur, which included hearing voices, witnessing fabricated miracles, and claiming childhood experiences like “playing with the child Jesus and leading animals in a religious procession.” (Castellano, 2007.)

Leading up to and throughout World War II (1939-1945), Bible teachers favoring the futurist position on the beast and the false prophet of Revelation identified these as Hitler and Mussolini, respectively. Following their deaths, however, this teaching was largely recognized to be false and was quietly abandoned.


Zechariah 11

There are some who teach that Zechariah 11 has a future antichrist in view. Written by the prophet between 520 and 518 BC while under the Babylonian exile, this prophecy speaks of the judgment of Israel; not the planet. Found in this passage:

  • Many in Israel will be sold into slavery following this judgment (as happened in 70 AD, v5);
  • Jewish civil war, self-inflicted famine and cannibalism (seen during the siege of Jerusalem, 70 AD, v6-9);
  • God’s covenant with His unfaithful covenant people will be broken, per the destruction of the Temple and the termination of the Mosaic rights (70 AD, v10-11);
  • The Lord will be sold for 30 pieces of silver (the cost of a slave in those days), a price that is then cast “to the potter in the house of the Lord” (around 30 AD, v13, cf. Matthew 26:15, 27:5-8); and finally,
  • A worthless shepherd takes his seat over Israel who will exploit them and lead them astray (v15-17).

Of course, it’s this worthless shepherd who gets saddled with the antichrist label. But did you notice? The rest of the Zechariah 11 prophecy had first-century fulfillment! Hint: If everything else had first-century fulfillment, it’s highly likely the worthless shepherd arose around this time as well.

Some Bible scholars have suggested the worthless shepherd might be Rome, hovering over subjugated Israel. Others point to the Jewish religious elite, as they rejected their Messiah and claimed, “no king but Caesar” (John 19:15). However, like the other shepherds in Zechariah 11, I believe this foolish shepherd is an individual, not a nation or people group. This prophecy is shared from the first-person perspective of the Good Shepherd; He is the one declaring judgment. There are three shepherds cut off in verse 8; probably the three warring leaders of the Jewish rebellion responsible for destroying Jerusalem from within her own besieged walls: Simon bar Giora, Eleazar and John of Gischala.

That leaves us with the remaining shepherd, the foolish, who seems to be raised up in response to the low value placed upon the Good Shepherd. Some say this foolish shepherd might be Barabbas, selected for freedom over Jesus, though history doesn’t say how Barabbas ever shepherded anyone, let alone the wayward nation of Israel.

There was, however, a Jewish leader who arose following 70 AD who led the nation into destruction again. In 132 AD, Simon bar Kokhba (coke-bah) led another Jewish revolt (aptly named the Bar Kokhba Revolt) against the Romans. As with the Jewish-Roman rebellion in 66, early success emboldened the nation. Over the next two years, many Jews lauded Bar Kokhba as the long-awaited Messiah, imagining he would lead Israel in throwing off the yoke of Roman rule. Alas, in 134, Roman legions swept across Judaea, killing, scattering, or enslaving all they crossed. With the Jewish uprising soundly quelled and Bar Kokhba dead, Israel’s misplaced messianic hopes died with him. Disillusioned, the Jewish nation’s belief in the messianic prophecies became spiritualized, reducing them to figurative ideals. Bar Kokhba was branded a false messiah, even being labeled a “Son of Deception” in the Jewish Talmud.


The End of the Antichrist

Of the two anti-Christian threats that face the Church throughout every age—heresy and persecution—heresy is the threat that emerges from within. John’s antichrists are those who deny the Jewish Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth, incarnated in the flesh. In his epistles, I believe John was confronting local Gnostic heresy, led by his adversary, Cerinthus. John’s tact was to reinforce the truth of Jesus’ identity and ministry, which John later carried through to his own gospel account.

The Antichrist is not found by knitting together Paul’s son of perdition, John’s beast of Revelation, Daniel’s prince who confirms the covenant with many, nor Zechariah’s foolish shepherd. John makes it clear: the early church was being confronted by many antichrists, not just one man. We continue to deal with antichrists today, whether Gnostic, New Age, pagan or otherwise. The spirit of antichrist exalts self, denies Jesus as Savior and Lord incarnate, and therefore denies the Father.

In the words of Paul, let us continue to study, and in doing so, show ourselves approved unto our Father, unashamed, and rightly dividing the Word of Truth. (2 Timothy 2:15)

After all, it is the Truth that sets us free.



Anderson, Paul N. “Antichristic Errors: Flawed Interpretations Regarding the Johannine Antichrist.” Published in Text and Community, Essays in Commemoration of Bruce M. Metzger, Vol. 1; edited by J. Harold Ellens, Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press, November 2007, pp. 196-216. “Introduction To 1 John.” Bible Lessons International. 2013.

Castellano, Daniel J. 2007. “The Authentic Message of La Salette.”

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