The Antichrist next door

Proximity to a target often removes its appeal, especially when antichrists are involved. Perhaps Michele Bachmann dissed her Lutheran denomination’s … Continued

Proximity to a target often removes its appeal, especially when antichrists are involved. Perhaps Michele Bachmann dissed her Lutheran denomination’s notion of a papal Antichrist through friendships with Roman Catholics. A pervasive goodness in the Holy See has long since replaced the Borgia papacy’s backdrop to Martin Luther’s childhood and apocalyptic sneers.

However, what hasn’t changed is the biblical text that underpinned Luther’s gloomy accusations. Our organization recently hosted the Verbum Domini exhibit at the Vatican, and like it or not, the Antichrist prediction is in papyrus, vellum and paper copies of the Bible stretching back 2,000 years. It is part of the Christian story, as Christiane Amanpour’s recent ABC special revealed (Dec. 21, 28). Her journey through ancient religions ended not in Jerusalem or Rome, but a Kansas City shopping center much in prayer about the end times—25,000 young believers gathered at the International House of Prayer on December 30.

While millions paid homage this season to the miraculous birth in the Christian story (“Christ’s mass”), many want distance from the supernatural “stuff” as Michael Reeves notes in Christianity Today. He shares about overhearing someone referring to him as a Bible scholar but one who also “loves that Trinity stuff.” As if it “was embarrassing,” or a secondary part of the Christian message. On the same score, what do we make of “that Antichrist stuff?”

The Bible’s Antichrist “stuff” is indeed unsettling and inspires horror movies like “The Omen.” One of the texts in the Green Collection (which supplied the items for the Verbum Domini exhibit) is a German “national treasure,” The Antichrist and the Fifteen Signs of Doomsday (1470). I recently highlighted it on NBC’s Charlotte Today on the eve of the alleged Mayan apocalypse.

In The Antichrist and related texts, the first five signs involve ocean levels and bizarre behavior of sea animals. Others include stars falling, earthquakes, rocks and mountains colliding, blood in plants, disoriented people, bones coming to life, and an all-consuming fire and Last Judgment—the doom of the evil impostor. Not a pretty picture.

Jesus of Nazareth said, “But about that day or hour no one knows (Matthew 24: 36),” and the Fifth Lateran Council (1516) condemned priests’ senseless attempts to predict “the coming of antichrist or the precise day of judgment.”

St. John’s “Book of Revelation” affords the most direct warning: “It [The Antichrist] also forced all people, great and small, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hands or on their foreheads, so that they could not buy or sell unless they had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of its name. This calls for wisdom. Let the person who has insight calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. That number is 666 (Ch. 13).”

Leaders from Hitler and Stalin to popes and U.S. presidents have been called Antichrist candidates. Nazi and Russian pogroms seem more plausible criteria than loose connections to some of the biblical signs, such as the papal residence on “seven hills,” Gorbachev’s “mark on his forehead” efforts at “world peace,” and six letters in each part of Ronald Wilson Reagan (666). This is silliness. Even Michael Dukakis and Prince Charles made some lists. Perhaps more plausible signs suggested are the ominous steps toward one-world currencies and government, and growing legislation against Christian beliefs (Daniel 9 and Rev. 19). Even here it gets a bit thorny—ask Rick Warren. His Syria trip drew harsh Antichrist accusations, buttressed by his endorsement of the Council of Foreign Relations and the P.E.A.C.E. acronym in his Purpose-Guided curriculum.

Flannery O’Conner suggests Nietzsche as Antichrist because his aim was to destroy belief in God. Authors Jeremy Reiss and Bernard McGinn disagree, arguing for Antichrist as an imaginary tradition ensconced in art and legend.

Jesus doesn’t give this “imaginary” option: “Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Do not follow them . . . . There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea (Luke 21).” The same historic figure of the Christmas story forecasts an historic evil of scary proportions.

Against the backdrop of a slain mother’s arsenal amassed for a proverbial doomsday, Rev. Steve DeNeff reflected on the Newtown massacre before his Indiana congregation, “In modern society a schism exists between championing reason and our self-reliance and the stark reality of our vulnerability. Children ask ‘How far can we run to escape evil?’ Not far enough.” But the same text that recognizes evil and an ensuing apocalypse also shares that we can resist evil and ultimately outlast it—with hope in God’s eminent triumph with those holy ones fighting evil.

The Antichrist is a xylographic block book, a medium that assisted illiterate masses by having prominent illustrations of the accompanying text, and remains on Germany’s Kulturgüterliste (held in the Woffenbuttel Library). The pictures and text represent the Antichrist’s deceitful life, destructive evil actions, ultimate demise (Rev. 19), and the ensuing “New Jerusalem” and “New Eden” (Rev. 21-22). A facsimile is displayed at the Passages exhibit in Charlotte, NC, and the real one will be on occasional display when the Green Collection opens its national museum in Washington, D.C.

And in this German national treasure we find depicted that proximity lessens anxiety about apocalyptic evil, even when it’s the real thing—and that’s the painted and prophesied charm of the Antichrist.

Jerry Pattengale serves as Executive Director of the Green Scholars Initiative, the research and scholarship arm of the Green Collection, one of the world’s largest collections of rare biblical items. He also is Assistant Provost, Indiana Wesleyan University; Distinguished Senior Fellow, Baylor University’s Institute for Studies of Religion.

  • XVIIHailSkins

    “A pervasive goodness in the Holy See has long since replaced the Borgia papacy’s backdrop to Martin Luther’s childhood and apocalyptic sneers.”

    You lost me very early in this one.

  • commonsense4commongoodcom

    The answer to the lead off question is because the AntiChrist is embodied in the Corporate Right who is always lurking in the shadows of Congress plotting to steal the heart, soul and MONEY of America and all Americans! That, and the path and means to that end, is the living AntiChrist.

  • tony55398

    The Antichrist can be people such as Hitler, Muhammad, Stalin, Mao, or Atheism, it could be a movement, a general defection from Christianity and an increase in immorality.

  • Madame_DeFarge

    If the Antichrist didn’t exist, we’d have to invent him.

  • DRJJJ

    Secularization of church and state certainly hasn’t done us any favors- turn on the news! When we teach our kids they’re all just animals, don’t be suprised when they act like animals! Put another way, when we invite hell into our country, don’t be suprised when all hell breaks loose!

    Time Magazine interview with Einstein in his 50s:
    To what extent are you influenced by Christianity? “As a child I received instruction both in the Bible and in the Talmud. I am a Jew, but I am enthralled by the luminous figure of the Nazarene.”

    Do you accept the historical existence of Jesus? “Unquestionably! No one can read the Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates in every word. No myth is filled with such life.”

    Do you believe in God? “I’m not an atheist. I don’t think I can call myself a pantheist. The problem involved is too vast for our limited minds. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many languages. The child knows someone must have written those books.”

    The general revelation of a God through the micro and macro symphony/complexity of nature (there is a painter behind this painting) the fullfilled prophecy in the Bible (100s and scary accurate), the life of Christ & his followers (they cleared forests to cruxcify Christians in the 1-2 century & nobody dies like this for a hoax) the near death experiences of millions (see the light), the sense of right/wrong built into all of us (sense of justice), the eye witness testimony to Christ (takes one eyewitness to condemn a man to death today) the miracle of the Bible (see the dead sea scrolls for example-hasn’t changed in over 2500 years) just to name some evidence! It’s the intellectually honest world view folks and there’s room for one more!

    Is there light and darkness-no brainer, turn on the news!

  • perryneheum

    The fearful, weak-minded and uneducated among us are ever amenable to belief in supernatural balderdash.

  • perryneheum

    The fearful, weak-minded and uneducated among us are ever amenable to belief in supernatural balderdash.

  • SODDI

    Like you christians are so “moral”.

  • afilv

    It’s amazing how many more or less educated people today believe in the literal reality of the incoherent ravings of men who lived 2000 years ago and were completely ignorant of any science pertaining to the world and the beings in it.

  • SimonTemplar

    It’s amazing how those who consider themselves to be intellectually superior to everyone else can make such broad and sweeping generalizations about people they don’t even know.

  • roselew

    Let him who is without sin cast the first stone. Maybe we need to go back to the idea that sin and evil really do exist in our world and proceed from there. Peace.

  • mttwls

    Yeah, but how many antichrists can dance on the head of a pin?

  • badcrosbys1

    Doesn’t Jesus have to be alive and real for the Anti-Christ to be alive and real…?

  • tianyisun

    Funny how many people who believe in the anti-Christ condemn radical Muslims believe that they will get the 70 virgins after their suicide bombing.

  • Hooville1

    According to the Bible, Jesus returns after the scourge of the Anti-Christ ( who by the way is never portrayed as the Pope: only someone from Rome).

  • Hooville1

    Isn’t Muslimism false?

  • natsera

    This article didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me, because there seemed to be intimations that the author actually believes in an anti-christ. And as a rational, educated person, to me this is nonsense. But it is interesting to get a historical perspective. And no, I can’t see a pervasive goodness in the Holy See, either, because I am all too aware of Catholic doctrine on contraception and abortion killing and maiming women who may not even be Catholic, and I attribute much of the overpopulation and poverty issues in Catholic third world countries like the Philippines to that doctrine as well. So Christian mythology is interesting, but not when it comes to ruining lives.

  • SkyBon

    Catholic church has killed hundreds of thousands of people in the name of religion. That is a shitload more than all school shootings or other crime combined. Religion should just go away and not pollute our lives.

  • OldUncleTom

    Hooville, declaring Islam, or any religion, false, or true for that matter, assumes facts not in evidence.

    You can believe in sacred oak trees, but your belief does not make sacred oak trees a fact.

  • yeahwecool

    Text teaches that the spirit of anti-Christ is all ready here. That which is ‘against’ Jesus Christ. Against what? The fact that he is the lamb of God sacrificed as a sin substitute for ALL mankind. And the very manifestation of ‘God’ in the flesh, Immanuel, God with us.

  • Who Is Jesus?

    Much more important is to believe Christ for who He said He is. Was He a liar? Was He a great man? Are His teachings to be followed in your own life? If He isn’t a liar, and if He was a great man, and if you decide that yes, His teachings should be followed in your own life than remember that he taught He was the Way the Truth and the Life. No one can enter into heaven except by Him. His work on the cross. You have to decide. Was He God?
    So make a choice today. If you want to serve the devil, than serve him. But make a choice today, now before its too late. Choose Christ and have your sins forgiven, and your soul cleansed and considered worthy to enter into heaven.
    Jesus said it was a narrow road and few who enter into heaven. But if you come to Him by simple faith, the Holy Spirit will come into your heart, your sins will be fogiven, and you are 100% guaranteed that you will spend the time after this physical life with God in heaven. Christ guarantees it.

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