As the Church reflects on the Second Coming of Jesus Christ in the last weeks of ordinary time and in the first weeks of Advent, the subject of âthe Antichristâ will inevitably come to the surface.
It is a teaching of the Catholic Church which is very mysterious, and the biblical references do not shed much light on the situation.
Yet the Church has an official teaching on the Antichrist, explained in detail in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
Before Christ’s Second Coming, the Church must go through a last test it will shake the faith of many believers. The persecution that accompanies his pilgrimage to earth will unveil the “mystery of iniquity” in the form of a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the cost of apostasy from the truth. The supreme religious deception is that of the Antichrist, a pseudo-messianism by which man glorifies himself in place of God and his Messiah who came in the flesh.
As with all aspects of Jesus’ Second Coming, each age believed they were living in the “last days.”
Saint Thomas Aquinas underlines in his Summa Theologiae that the early Christians believed they were living at the “end of time” and that the Antichrist was near, if not already there in the form of the Roman Emperors.
[I]It is impossible to determine how many such calamities will immediately precede the Day of Judgment or the coming of Antichrist, since even in the days of the early Church, the persecutions were so bitter, and the corruption of errors were so numerous, that some eagerly awaited the coming of the Antichrist as near or imminent.
This is why the Church even mentions that the deception of the Antichrist has been active since the first coming of Christ.
The deception of the Antichrist is already beginning to take shape in the world whenever it is claimed in history that the messianic hope which can only be realized beyond history through eschatological judgment. The Church has rejected even altered forms of this falsification of the coming kingdom under the name of millennialism, notably the âinherently perverseâ political form of secular messianism.
As with the last days of this world, we will not know for sure whether the Antichrist is present in the world or not. In many ways he has come before and has been with us for centuries.
Throughout this final test of faith, the key is to remain closely united to Jesus Christ, not wavering in our belief, but confident that he will lead us to our final abode. We may never know who the Antichrist will be, but we do know Jesus Christ and can follow him.