I am NOT asking the similar question "Why is the second beast of Revelation called the Antichrist?" Rather, my question is specifically, when was the first connection made between the two--equating one of the beasts in Revelation with THE Antichrist--and if known, who made the connection?

I am looking for a firm connection here. For example, Justin Martyr spoke of "the man of apostasy, who speaks strange things against the Most High". This is a clear reference to Revelation 13, but he never uses the title "Antichrist".

Does Irenaeus, writing between about 175 and 185 AD make the connection? If so, was there someone before him?

  • So you want the first-ever usage of the word Antichrist when it was tied to the horseman? Are you assuming Justin Martyr is not talking about an antichrist figure when he uses the "man of apostacy" name?
    – Steve
    Nov 8, 2014 at 17:26
  • There might be language barriers here regarding the use of the work antichrist.
    – user3961
    Nov 8, 2014 at 17:27
  • Steve, I was asking for the first explicit connection between 1 & 2 John, wherein there are many antichrists 1 John 2:18, and one of the beasts (or maybe horsemen) of Revelation. Justin Martyr is indeed talking about someone with an antichrist spirit, but he doesn't seem to state explicitly there is only one Antichrist (capital A). Nov 10, 2014 at 17:58
  • Fred, the word is indeed interesting. In a quick review, I would say that of all the times "anti" is used in the Septuagint and NT, it does NOT mean "against", but rather "in place of" (or "because"). IMHO, thinking of "in place of Christ" in 1 John 2, in particular, yields more fruit in that we don't need to be reminded of those things that are overtly and obviously "against" Christ, but rather the subtle things that we substitute "in place of" Christ. Nov 10, 2014 at 17:58

4 Answers 4


Reading the new testament texts within a systematic eschatology, readers could conceivably equate the 'antichrist' of the Johannine epistles with either of the beasts from the Revelation, or the 'man of lawlessness' from Paul, but this is purely reader inference; such connections are not made explicit within these individual texts (e.g. the author of 1 John does not make any verbal references that he has 'the beast' of Revelation in mind).

The earliest known use of the term 'antichrist' outside of the Johannine epistles comes from a letter from Polycarp, a student of John, to the church in Philippi. He wrote some ten or fifteen years after the Johannine epistles, but clearly is working within the teaching represented by 1 and 2 John. With corroborating material from Polycarp's fellow student of John, Ignatius, the context of each of these three men's letters highly suggests 'antichrist' was originally used to describe some manner of docetism.

That I can find, Irenaeus was the earliest one to explicitly connect 'antichrist' to the beast of Revelation. In his Against Heresies, written around 180 AD, Irenaeus says the following:

Such, then, being the state of the case, and this number being found in all the most approved and ancient copies, and those men who saw John face to face bearing their testimony; while reason also leads us to conclude that the number of the name of the beast, according to the Greek mode of calculation by the the letters contained in it, will amount to six hundred and sixty and six. (5.30.1)

We will not, however, incur the risk of pronouncing positively as to the name of Antichrist for if it were necessary that his name should be distinctly revealed in this present time, it would have been announced by him who beheld the apocalyptic vision. For that was seen no very long time since, but almost in our day, towards the end of Domitian's reign. (5.30.3)

Here 'the name of the Antichrist' is identified with some passage of 'the apocalyptic vision'. Irenaeus is talking about the 'name of the beast' from Revelation 13.16-18. Contextually, Irenaeus is clearly talking about the first beast, from the sea, not the second beast, from the earth.

Other points in this chapter of Irenaeus' book also equate 'the Antichrist' with the first beast of Revelation, such as applying Revelation 13.5 or 17.8 to him.

  • Mark, you said, "… 'antichrist' was originally used to describe some manner of docetism." Well-said! This is exactly the underlying issue I had with the Antichrist/Beast connection – 1 & 2 John seem to be describing something other than one of the Revelation beasts waging war against the saints, a war so physical that we need to be warned against taking up arms ourselves. Thanks. Nov 10, 2014 at 18:26
  • So according to this answer, who first said the Antichrist = the beast of Revelation? And which beast did they identify with the Antichrist?
    – user13992
    Nov 10, 2014 at 19:05
  • 1
    @FMS Irenaeus appears to have been the earliest to explicity connect the term 'antichrist' to any of the villains of the Revelation. I'll edit the answer to clarify what he said. Nov 10, 2014 at 19:39
  • Irenaeus does not seem to feel a need to justify or explain the Beast/Antichrist connection, so I suspect that by the time of his writing the connection is already "common knowledge". Nov 11, 2014 at 2:03

St. Victorinus, an ecclesiastical writer and a Church Father who flourished about 270, and who suffered martyrdom probably in 303 under Diocletian, in his Commentary on the Apocalypse, identifies the Antichrist with one of the seven heads of the red dragon [cf. Rev 12:3].

From the Twelfth Chapter

  1. And there appeared another sign in heaven; and behold a red dragon, having seven heads. Now, that he says that this dragon was of a red colour— that is, of a purple colour— the result of his work gave him such a colour. For from the beginning (as the Lord says) he was a murderer; and he has oppressed the whole of the human race, not so much by the obligation of death, as, moreover, by the various forms of destruction and fatal mischiefs. His seven heads were the seven kings of the Romans, of whom also is Antichrist, as we have said above.

Further reading


Justin Martyr (c. 100 – 165 AD, Dial. c. Trypho, cxx. 14, 15), who wrote before Irenaeus, mentions the Martyrdom of Isaiah, an earlier Christian writing with an apocalypse section (chapter 4). In it the author ties together the writings of Paul, Daniel, the Gospels and Revelation with the Belial/Beliar tradition to describe an evil antichrist type ruler. 1 John 2:18 says that christians were already expecting antichrist before John contrasted the idea by saying there were already many antichrists and a spirit. The church historian Eusebius (Theophania IV.35) confirms that the apostles were expecting an antichrist which Jesus spoke of (John 5:43) and it was the same one Paul spoke of (2 Thes 2:3).

1Jn 2:22 Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son.

4:6. And all that he hath desired he will do in the world: he will do and speak like the Beloved and he will say: "I am God and before me there has been none." 7. And all the people in the world will believe in him. 8. And they will sacrifice to him and they will serve him saying: "This is God and beside him there is no other."

You can't read the Ascension of Isaiah without noticing the allusions to Revelation, John's letters, the Gospels, Paul, Daniel and Belial.

  • Missing is the explicit connection; BUT I agree with your analysis and wholly appreciate the references to other early literature. Nov 10, 2014 at 18:17
  • This description of the already-and-not-yet antichrist from 1 John is virtually identical to that of 2 Thessalonians 2: 3-7. Beale, G. K.; Gladd, Benjamin L. (2014-10-06). Hidden But Now Revealed: A Biblical Theology of Mystery (p. 234). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition. Mar 30, 2015 at 22:59

It was John the Revelator–the same who authored The Revelation–but he doesn't say it in The Revelation.

"Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; [...] *Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ?* He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son." (1 John 2:18-22)

"And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world..." (1 John 4:3-6)

"For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist." (2 John 1:7)

John very strongly emphasized in his epistles that an antichrist is a deceiver and would lead people away from worshiping Christ.

And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth [...] And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him [...] And he doeth great wonders [...] And deceiveth them that dwell on the earth [...] and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed... (Revelation 11-17)

John made it clear that any who would deceive the people and have them worship anyone but the Saviour was Antichrist. The second beast used great wonders and power to force the people of earth to worship the image of the beast or be killed, and caused all to receive the mark of the beast-a symbol of their worship.

This beast is textbook antichrist. The connection would not have required explanation at the time The Revelation was given to the church.

  • 4
    The original question seems to be wanting an explicit connection between "the antichrist" of 1 and 2 John with "the beast" of Revelation. This answer connects them externally by reader inference. It doesn't actually demonstrate that John equated the two. Nov 8, 2014 at 21:38

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