It is generally assumed that the antichrist, the man of lawlessness, and the beast in Revelation 13 all refer to the same end time enemy of God.
What is the basis for this assumption?
Are there any reasons to believe they are not the same?
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Tau's answer explains why the antichrist may be synonymous with the man of lawlessness and the beast described in Revelation 13. I would add to that as the question also asks:
Are there any reasons to believe they are not the same?
There are some reasons to believe they are not the same.
First, the term antichrist is not used anywhere other than 1 and 2 John. Although not using the word does not mean they are not the same, the fact that the authors of Revelation and Thessalonians failed to use the word is a reason to believe they are not the same.
Another reason is the antichrist was already in the world:
Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour. (1 John 2:18 NKJV)
Not only is the antichrist already in the world, there are many. This means that antichrist is not a singular entity.
The Greek word “antichrist” is ἀντίχριστος. It is a compound word made from ἀντί and Χριστός. The key to the meaning is ἀντί which is opposite, corresponding to, off-setting, in place of [anti]. An example of how Jesus used the word:
just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for (ἀντὶ) many. (Matthew 20:28 NKJV)
Jesus gave His life as a ransom ἀντί - in the place of many. The antichrist is anyone that tries to take the place of Christ.
The description of the man of lawlessness and the beast indicate they are trying to take the place of Christ: they meet the definition of “antichrist.” At the same time, it is possible they are not the same entity. It is possible they are different entities and that there will be more than one antichrist in the world, as when John wrote in the letter.
The "Beast" and the Antichrist have been interpreted as being one in the same because from the days of the Early Church Fathers, they have been considered as one and the same.
Even prior to the writing of Revelations, the Apostle Paul says,(2 Thess. 2:8-9 KJV)
And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: 9Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders,
This directly parallels the book of Revelations, which says,(Rev. 19:20 KJV)
And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone.
Hippolytus(170-235) states in "On Christ and Antichrist Ch. 47)
the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them, because they will not give glory to Antichrist. For this is meant by the little horn that grows up. He, being now elated in heart, begins to exalt himself, and to glorify himself as God, persecuting the saints and blaspheming Christ, even as Daniel says, I considered the horn, and, behold, in the horn were eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things; and he opened his mouth to blaspheme God. And that born made war against the saints, and prevailed against them until the beast was slain, and perished, and his body was given to be burned.
He freely interchanges "Beast" and "Antichrist", having learned from Irenaeus, who learned from Polycarp, who sat under the Apostle John and was appointed Bishop of Smyrna by John. Irenaeus himself in Book V, Chpt. 30, interchanges "Beast" and "Antichrist", recognizing they are one in the same.
In conclusion: The Early Church Fathers understood the "Beast" to be the "Antichrist", not only from Paul's writings but as those closest to John in sucession taught the same. The "Beast" is a prophetic interpretation of the one called "Antichristos", who from Christ, Paul, John, Irenaeus, Hippolytus, and others have taught that "evil one" who is to come.
The only place in scripture that the word “antichrist” (or “antichrists”) appear in scripture is in 1 John and 2 John:
[1Jo 2:18, 22 NLT] (18) Dear children, the last hour is here. You have heard that the Antichrist is coming, and already many such antichrists have appeared. From this we know that the last hour has come. ... (22) And who is a liar? Anyone who says that Jesus is not the Christ. Anyone who denies the Father and the Son is an antichrist.
[1Jo 4:3 NLT] (3) But if someone claims to be a prophet and does not acknowledge the truth about Jesus, that person is not from God. Such a person has the spirit of the Antichrist, which you heard is coming into the world and indeed is already here.
[2Jo 1:7 NLT] (7) I say this because many deceivers have gone out into the world. They deny that Jesus Christ came in a real body. Such a person is a deceiver and an antichrist.
John specifically identifies anyone who misrepresents the Christ Jesus in a prophecy or false teaching is the antichrist. John appears to be referencing more general predictions:
[Mat 24:5, 11, 24 NLT] (5) for many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am the Messiah.' They will deceive many. ... (11) And many false prophets will appear and will deceive many people. ... (24) For false messiahs and false prophets will rise up and perform great signs and wonders so as to deceive, if possible, even God's chosen ones.
[Mar 13:6, 21-22 NLT] (6) for many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am the Messiah.' They will deceive many. ... (21) "Then if anyone tells you, 'Look, here is the Messiah,' or 'There he is,' don't believe it. (22) For false messiahs and false prophets will rise up and perform signs and wonders so as to deceive, if possible, even God's chosen ones.
[Act 20:29-30 NLT] (29) I know that false teachers, like vicious wolves, will come in among you after I leave, not sparing the flock. (30) Even some men from your own group will rise up and distort the truth in order to draw a following.
[1Ti 4:1-3 NLT] (1) Now the Holy Spirit tells us clearly that in the last times some will turn away from the true faith; they will follow deceptive spirits and teachings that come from demons. (2) These people are hypocrites and liars, and their consciences are dead. (3) They will say it is wrong to be married and wrong to eat certain foods. But God created those foods to be eaten with thanks by faithful people who know the truth.
[2Ti 3:1-6 NLT] (1) You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. (2) For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. (3) They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. (4) They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. (5) They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that! (6) They are the kind who work their way into people's homes and win the confidence of vulnerable women who are burdened with the guilt of sin and controlled by various desires.
[2Ti 4:3-4 NLT] (3) For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. (4) They will reject the truth and chase after myths.
[2Pe 2:1 NLT] (1) But there were also false prophets in Israel, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will cleverly teach destructive heresies and even deny the Master who bought them. In this way, they will bring sudden destruction on themselves.
This is in no way at all congruous with Paul's "man of sin/lawlessness" or any of the beasts of Revelation. Paul's man is more likely a reference to Simon the Sorcerer/Magician, though it seems conflated in places with the Emperor insisting to be worshiped as a god:
[2Th 2:3-12 NLT] (3) Don't be fooled by what they say. For that day will not come until there is a great rebellion against God and the man of lawlessness is revealed--the one who brings destruction. (4) He will exalt himself and defy everything that people call god and every object of worship. He will even sit in the temple of God, claiming that he himself is God. (5) Don't you remember that I told you about all this when I was with you? (6) And you know what is holding him back, for he can be revealed only when his time comes. (7) For this lawlessness is already at work secretly, and it will remain secret until the one who is holding it back steps out of the way. (8) Then the man of lawlessness will be revealed, but the Lord Jesus will kill him with the breath of his mouth and destroy him by the splendor of his coming. (9) This man will come to do the work of Satan with counterfeit power and signs and miracles. (10) He will use every kind of evil deception to fool those on their way to destruction, because they refuse to love and accept the truth that would save them. (11) So God will cause them to be greatly deceived, and they will believe these lies. (12) Then they will be condemned for enjoying evil rather than believing the truth.
[Act 8:9-11 NASB] (9) Now there was a man named Simon, who formerly was practicing magic in the city and astonishing the people of Samaria, claiming to be someone great; (10) and they all, from smallest to greatest, were giving attention to him, saying, "This man is what is called the Great Power of God." (11) And they were giving him attention because he had for a long time astonished them with his magic arts.
The Greek word, “antichrist”, means “one who is opposed to Christ”. Therefore, strictly speaking, the New Testament only has four places where this idea is explicitly expressed, all in John’s epistles:
Sea Beast of Rev 13
The description of the sea beast in Rev 13 never mentions "antichrist" but is associated with "antichrist" because it is part of the "beast trinity" in the book of Revelation. The beast trinity form a coalition that need not delay us here other than to observe that there are three beasts whose description matches the divine trinity.
Beast from the abyss: (Rev 11:7, 12:1-17, 17:8) This beast is the seven headed dragon, namely the devil or Satan (12:9 & 20:2), of 12:3, who comes from and is thrown back into the abyss (20:3). The fact that this beast is mentioned in 11:7 without further explanation, suggests that it has already been introduced (in 9:1, 11 and 8:12) - a consistent pattern elsewhere in Revelation. A comparison of 12:9, 13 with 8:10, 13, 9:1 - fallen from heaven to earth - lends weight to this view. Isa 14:12 and Eze 28:8, 13-17 records in allegorical form the origin of Satan in heaven, his decent to earth and his ambition to be worshipped like the Most High. See “Satan”.
Beast from the Sea: (Rev 13:1-10) This is Revelation’s most notorious and blasphemous beast whose distinguishing mark is administered by the land beast on the forehead or hand (13:17, 20:4) of the wicked. This beast is the one usually intended when The Beast is mentioned without further explanation (eg, 16:13, 19:20, 20:10 etc). The close parallels between Dan 7 and Rev 13:1-8 strongly suggest the same power. See also “Abomination of Desolation”.
Beast from the Land (or Earth): (Rev 13:11-17) This third beast completes the unholy trinity and is called from the land to help the dragon fight the woman by assisting the sea beast, 12:17, 13:1, 11. In Rev 16:13, 19:20, 20:10, this land beast is also called the false prophet as can be seen by comparing 19:20 with 13:13. As the false prophet, the land beast acts as a counterpoint to the (true) two prophets of 11:10. The land beast is mentioned by name just once - otherwise only by pronoun. The land beast creates a sea beast like organization called the image to the beast that is used to help enforce (under death threat) worship of the sea beast and its image.
In the case of the sea beast, we have the following points that make it like a false Christ:
Thus, a more accurate title for the sea beast might be pseudochrist as per Mark 13:6 and Luke 21:8.
Man of Lawlessness in 2 Thess 2
The man of lawlessness in 2 Thess 2:3ff is also associated with the sea beast because both of them such similar characteristics:
They are all not exactly the same but they work together and have one goal: to deceive MANY.
The 1st beast of Revelation 13= the false Christs (the antichrist) that arise to deceive.
The 2nd beast of Revelation 13 = the false prophets that arise to deceive and that preach the false Christs. They perform outward signs of supposed inward realities in behalf of their "another Jesus" who is not the Christ. They use "wonders"...flattery for person's admiration in mind.
Matthew 24:23-25 KJV (23) Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. (24) For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. (25) Behold, I have told you before.
They work together to deceive many.
Many false prophets come in His Name (supposedly in the authority of “Jesus”) saying that their “Jesus” that they preach is the true Christ and shall deceive many. The “Jesus “that they preach though is really “another Jesus” the antichrist (the instead-of-Christ) and not the true One…the true Christ.
Matthew 24:3-5 KJV (3) And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? (4) And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. (5) For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.
The antichrist is the 1st beast of Revelation 13 that the dragon uses to make war with the people of God.
Revelation 12:17- 13:1 KJV (17) And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.
Satan in this war against us has his “son” being preached also in order to deceive many (the sand of the sea= many people) into thinking this is the real Son that they hear.
Yet, this “son” is “another Jesus” who is not the real Christ but is the “antichrist”…the instead-of-Christ.
There are many antichrists being preached today….as the beast rises up out of the “sea” of them. It only takes one “Jesus” to deceive each of us though into thinking this is the one true Christ. Yet, there are many “another Jesuses being preached today to deceive multitudes of different people into thinking that the “Jesus” that they follow is the true Christ.
These are the last days….the last week…the last 7…as there are 7 heads.
Upon his 7 heads is the name (singular) of blasphemy as the many false prophets are calling their false Christs that they are preaching “Jesus” in these last days (last 7).
They come in His name “Jesus” and are saying that their “Jesus” that they are preaching is the true Christ (I am the Christ) yet he is not.
(13) And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy.
It rises up out of the sea….as there are many antichrists being preached by the many false prophets (the 2nd beast).
1 John 2:18 KJV (18) Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.
Again, the 2nd beast of Revelation 13 is the false prophet (and there are many of them) that act in behalf of his “Jesus” that he is preaching. He comes up out of the earth….that is, he is earthly-minded.
Revelation 13:11-12 KJV (11) And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon.
The “Jesus” he preaches has his “deadly wound” healed. That is, the “daily” sacrifice of the true Jesus Christ (the Lamb slain) is stopped in those who wonder after and worship their “jesus” the antichrist. There is no keeping of the "daily" sacrifice of the Lamb slain when one follows after the false prophets and their "another Jesus". It is "healed".
(12) And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed.
These false prophets mind earthly things ( preaching for money’s sake in order to get what to eat, drink and wear). They walk as the enemies of the cross of Christ (as His daily sacrifice is ceased out of the lives of those they deceive) and their collective end is destruction from off this earth as they perish in their mortal bodies.
Philippians 3:17-19 KJV (17) Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample.
The “Jesus” that they preach is one of war (who can make war with the beast?) as they fight among themselves in many divisions over the doctrines and commandments of men that support their brand of "Jesus" they are preaching . Their “Jesus” that they preach is not the Lamb slain but a predator that brings war among those who are following after the many different "Jesuses".
We must keep the “daily” sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ (the Lamb slain) in our mortal bodies so that His eternal life is made manifest in our outer mortal flesh giving us His life here in this earth.
Yet, their “Jesus” …the first beast…has his “deadly wound healed”. The keeping of the “daily” sacrifice of the Lamb (the Lamb slain) is stopped in those who wonder after and worship their “Jesus” that they preach. The wound is healed.
(18) (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: (19) Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.)
The 2nd beast of Revelation 13 is the false prophet…the wicked one….whose PRESENCE among us is in accordance with the working of Satan (with his “son” that is being preached by them) with all power (the handwriting of church dogmas that may think in their own minds are true) and signs (performing outward signs of supposed inward realities) and lying wonders and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that PERISH from off this earth as they do not receive the love of the truth that they might be saved.
2 Thessalonians 2: KJV (9) Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, (10) And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.
They believe and love and practice THE lie…the same lie of the serpent from the beginning…as they perish. They think they have “peace and safety” in their doings but there is no peace.
(11) And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: (12) That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
All that “dwell upon the earth”….that is, on the earthly wisdom of envy, strife, wrath, hatred of one another, contentions, etc…. whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain (as they cease from the keeping of the “daily” sacrifice of our Lord in their mortal bodies)…are found worshipping “another Jesus” (whose deadly wound is healed) that is being preached by the 2nd beast…the false prophet.
Revelation 13:8-10 KJV (8) And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. (9) If any man have an ear, let him hear. (10) He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity: he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints.
The two Jesuses are highlighted here in the account of Barabbas….that is, Jesus “Barabbas” which means “son of the father”. One is released while the other real Jesus is destroyed.
One is Jesus the true Christ…the Son of the Father….and the other is “another Jesus” the “son” of the other “father” (Barabbas) that many false prophets are working in accordance with.
Matthew 27:20-23 KJV (20) But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitude that they should ask Barabbas, and destroy Jesus. (21) The governor answered and said unto them, Whether of the twain will ye that I release unto you? They said, Barabbas.
If we choose the “Jesus” that the church rulers are using persuasive, deceptive words to support, then the Prince of Life is being extinguished out of our own lives. His eternal life never is made manifest as the keeping of His “daily” sacrifice (the Lamb slain) is ceased out of our own lives.
(22) Pilate saith unto them, What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ? They all say unto him, Let him be crucified. (23) And the governor said, Why, what evil hath he done? But they cried out the more, saying, Let him be crucified.
The Holy One and the Just is being denied while the other is being chosen. This other “another Jesus” being preached by false prophets is a “murderer”…an insurrectionist….a robber. He is a wild beast…and not the Lamb slain.
The Holy One is the Prince of Life that is being “killed” out of the lives of many when they choose the wrong Jesus to receive. God has already raised Him from the dead so that we might have His life now in this earth. We must listen to the witness of the biblical saints who were eyewitnesses of the real Jesus who is called the Christ. Through ignorance and listening to the wrong people do we choose the wrong one.
Acts 3:14-17 KJV (14) But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you; (15) And killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses.
Through faith in His name does He make our mortal bodies (this “man”) strong in this earth for all who know us to see. He gives us His eternal life now in this earth.
(16) And his name through faith in his name hath made this man strong, whom ye see and know: yea, the faith which is by him hath given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all. (17) And now, brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers.
But many, many receive “another Jesus” (the receiving of the 1st beast) whom the false prophets (the 2nd beast) are preaching.
2 Corinthians 11:3-4 KJV (3) But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. (4) For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.
When “another Jesus” is being followed, then the whole earth (the outside nations) speaks blasphemy of God and His holy Name and His tabernacle and them that dwell in Heaven. A “mouth” was given him….as the mouth of the outside world blasphemes because of the preaching and following after “another jesus”...the 1st beast who is not the true Christ.
Revelation 13:5-6 KJV (5) And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months. (6) And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven.
The false prophets deliver us up to be afflicted and kill us as they are not preaching the true Jesus the true Christ (the Lamb slain which multitudes are not following after and keeping His daily). His eternal life is not being made manifest in the flesh of His people because of the massive deception going on. They take the real Jesus out of the lives of many by use of guile found in their mouths, and kill Him (Matthew 26:4).
You shall be hated of all nations for His NAME’s (the name of “JESUS”) sake.
This is the “mouth” that blasphemes God and His holy Name that the nations use when they see and watch the behavior of earthly -minded worshippers of false Christs…. Of “another Jesus” that the false prophets are preaching. The nations hate us for His Name (Jesus) sake as they call their false Christ "Jesus" also...the name of blasphemy upon the heads of the 1st beast of Revelation 13.
Matthew 24:9-11 KJV (9) Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake. (10) And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. (11) And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.