For all you wonderful people who think Barack Obama might be the Antichrist…
I taught a small group on end times beliefs about four years ago. During our examination of Revelation, we inevitably stumbled upon the passages believed to describe the Antichrist. Immediately questions arose: who is he? When will he come? Will he start the tribulation? Will Christians be raptured before then? Boy, could I feel a headache coming on! I’ve said in this post how much I hate popular forms of eschatology for this exact reason. So, this time around, I decided to have a little fun:
“Oh, the Antichrist is already here.”
“What!! Who is it?”
“It’s Oprah Winfrey.”
Then I took them to the only place in the Bible where the term “antichrist” is mentioned: the epistles of John, specifically 1 John 2:18-19. What I love about these two verses is the fact that John says there were many antichrists who had come – most of them were part of the church at that time before they left it. So, if John is using the term correctly, we must assume that “antichrist” does not mean “Antichrist” in the popular sense of one rival messiah sent to deceive the world. So what does it mean?
Well, “Christ” means “Messiah” – that’s obvious enough. It’s the “anti-” part that we get wrong. We assume that “anti-” means “in opposition to” or “antagonistic” – like anti-abortion. But it doesn’t. In means “in place of,” “instead of,”or “substitutionary.” So, “antichrist” means “in place of Christ.” 1 John 2:22 goes even further by saying that anyone who denies not only the Son, but also the Father, is acting as an antichrist.
So, why Oprah? Well, it actually doesn’t have anything to do with Eckhart Tolle. It has to do with Oprah’s power and cultural influence. Like most media figures, Oprah often establishes her influence outside of Christianity and many people look to her for answers about life’s deeper issues. She’s one of the most popular and well-recognized individuals in our nation and often serves as a cultural substitute where spiritual issues are concerned.
In that sense anything can be antichrist – government officials, sports figures, musicians, teachers, world leaders, philosophers, and even preachers. Any person that others may substitute for Christ is, in some sense, antichrist. That list includes Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan. And it could include John McCain just as much as Barack Obama. That doesn’t necessarily mean they are wrong or unworthy of admiration. But I think it’s safe to say that they aren’t God. And to subsitute them for God inapproriate.
In most cases, the problem is not with the “Oprahs” of the world but with those who substitute their wisdom for a deep relationship with God. Notice that John didn’t write to the “antichrists” of his time, but rather to the people who gave them undue authority and influence. And that’s the key. Anyone can warn about the “Antichrist” of the Left Behind Series, but what are we doing about those who give to others the influence that only Christ should have? People succumb to “antichristism” when Jesus is their savior in doctrine but in matters of life, Oprah (or anyone else) is their lord. The only time people look for substitutes is when what they have isn’t satisfying their deeper needs. Don’t blame Oprah, people. We Christians alone share the burden for “wandering” spiritual seekers. It just so happens that Oprah has a some spiritual advice for people now. But, for her followers, her cultural influence eclipsed the practical aspects of Christianity long ago. Eckhart Tolle just made Christians stand up and take notice.