In 2000 Francis X. Gumerlock wrote a book titled The Day and the Hour. The subtitle was “Christianity’s Perennial Fascination with Predicting the End of the World.” The book tells about people who attempted to set a date for the coming of Christ and the end of the world (or end of the age) going all the way back to the first century. In more than 350 pages it lists numerous predictions by self-proclaimed prophets, charlatans, and even sincere people who tried to set a date. If that book had been published in 2018, it might contain perhaps twice as many pages.
The people who believed those false prophets were forgetting that Jesus said, “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Matthew 24:36). If we believe in Jesus, we should believe what He said.
Unfortunately, there is a new prediction for this month. A certain false prophet is saying that April 23 this year will be the rise of the antichrist and the beginning of seven years of tribulation. (He also predicted it would happen on September 23 and the October 1 of last year.) He bases his prophecy on politics, numerology, astrology, taking Revelation 12:1-2 out of context, and some completely bogus astronomical predictions. There is no giant rogue planet named Nibiru. The Sun, Moon, Jupiter, and stars will not align in the way the false prophet is saying. Anyone promoting this idea is either ignorant, trying to gain fame, or trying to make money.
What is the real problem here? These false claims that supposedly come from Christians make all Christians look foolish in the eyes of unbelievers. That makes it difficult to teach the truth of the Gospel to skeptics and seekers. Also, some Christians are duped by these false prophets into giving money that could better be used to share the true message of Christ.
Recently several people have raised questions about antichrist ruling the world. These people had been exposed to denominational programs promoting the idea that Christians believe that an antichrist is about to take over the world and rule from David’s throne in Jerusalem.
We have repeatedly pointed out that Jesus did not promote a physical kingdom and He was not concerned about the kingdoms of this world. Jesus made it very clear that He was not establishing an earthly kingdom when He said, “Give to Caesar (earthly government) what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s” (Matthew 22:21).
So what does the Bible say about the antichrist and what about the number that is associated with him?
The word “antichrist” is used only five times in the Bible and all five uses are in the two epistles of John. The word “antichrist” is not found in the book of Revelation. According to John anyone who denies that Jesus came in the flesh is an antichrist (1 John 2:22 , 4:3, and 2 John 7). In other words “antichrist” refers to anyone who denies that God became human and dwelt among us (John 1:14). Historically there have been many antichrists, not just one (1 John 2:18).
Also it is important to note that John does not associate a number with an antichrist. The number 666 is found in Revelation 13. The meaning is unclear, but perhaps it is the symbolic number for a Roman emperor.
Jesus addressed lukewarm Laodicea in a letter recorded in Revelation 3:14-22. In verses 15 and 16, Jesus told the congregation in that city that they make him sick because of their lukewarmness. There are many reasons for this lukewarmness. One of them appears to have been their compromise with religious pluralism.
An article in the March/April 2017 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review describes the apparent history of the church in that city. The archaeological artifacts found there give evidence of great financial prosperity in the city. There are also columns and tablets showing a collection of religious symbols from different faiths. One column has a menorah, a lulav (palm branch), a shofar (ram’s horn), and a cross. The Christian cross extends from the Jewish menorah and seems to connect the Laodicean church to the synagogue.
In the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he addressed all of the churches in that region, including Laodicea. Paul primarily argued against the way many Christians were returning to following the laws and restrictions of the Old Testament. He wrote these rebuking words:
“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ, and are turning to a different gospel—which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ” (Galatians 1:6, 7 NIV).