It’s in the Bible, 1 John 2:18, NIV. “Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour.”

Note: In this verse, God is speaking to the early Christian church. Obviously, the word hour is used in a figurative sense. The same Greek word is often translated as “time;” in fact, that is how the King James Version of the Bible translates it in this same verse. God is stating that humanity is living in the last time, the last era, the last period of Earth’s history. God is reminding the early church believers of a prophecy they had already heard—namely, that the antichrist was going to come.

God also says that in addition to the coming of “the” antichrist—a special antichrist—there were many other antichrists already in existence during the era of the early church. It’s in the Bible, 1 John 2:18, 19, 26, NIV. “Even now many antichrists have come. . . . They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us. . . . I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray.”

Note: The Greek word used here for “antichrist” can have two meanings. First, it can mean “against Christ,” in the sense of someone or some power who opposes Christ and His work. Second, the word can mean “instead of Christ,” signifying a person or power who takes the place of Christ—a counterfeit Christ.

According to God’s Word, these antichrists in the early church were counterfeit Christians who had split away from the body of true believers. They were deceivers who had not really experienced a genuine gospel conversion. They were liars who denied that Jesus was the promised Messiah. It’s in the Bible, 1 John 2:22, NKJV. “Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son.”

“For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist” (2 John 1:7, NKJV).

And the Bible also warns us, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1, NKJV).

Antichrists are not atheists. They are not pagans waging a war against Jesus. They are individuals who are preaching a gospel, but it is not the true gospel. It is a “different gospel.” It’s in the Bible, 2 Corinthians 11:4, 13-15, NIV. “For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough. . . . For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. Is it not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness.”

Jesus cautioned the church about the deceptive work of these counterfeit prophets. It’s in the Bible, Matthew 7:15, 21-23, NAS. “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. . . . Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’” Even though these false apostles claim to be Christians; even though they can perform signs and miracles, including casting out demons in the name of Jesus, Christ declares that He does not know them. Because of their lawlessness, their disregard for God’s holy law, they cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus further warned that during the period leading up to His second coming, antichrists would try to impersonate Him, claiming to be the returned Messiah. It’s in the Bible, Matthew 24:4, 5, 23-26, NIV. “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. . . . At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect—if that were possible. See, I have told you ahead of time. So, if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the desert,’ do not go out; or ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it.”

Just before the second coming of Jesus, there will be a manifestation of the great and final antichrist, the antichrist who “is coming” (1 John 2:18). It’s in the Bible, 2 Thessalonians 2:3, 4, NIV. “Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.”

In this profound prophecy of last-day events, the Bible says that there is going to be a rebellion, an apostasy, a great falling away from the faith. In conjunction with this apostasy, the “man of lawlessness”—also known as “the antichrist” and the “man of sin”—will be revealed. This great antichrist will set himself up in God’s temple and counterfeit the ministry of Jesus.

What will happen to this antichrist, and how will we recognize him? It’s in the Bible, 2 Thessalonians 2:8-10, NIV. “And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming. The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refuse to love the truth and so be saved.”

The way to avoid being deceived by the coming great antichrist and his counterfeit miracles is to have a love of the truth. That same truth will protect us from the deceptions of the other lesser antichrists. And where is the truth to be found? It’s in the Bible, Psalm 119:160, NIV. “All your words are true; all your righteous laws are eternal.”