In the person of the Antichrist resides the culmination of a whole spiritual trajectory of fallen humanity and its rebellion against God. He is the ultimate manifestation of mankind’s desire to live without God. This desire is not strictly atheistic, that is, a complete and total rejection of the idea of God. The spirit of antichrist has long been at work in the world. It is both coming and yet currently at work in the world (cf. 1 John 4:3).
Humanity is created by God for the good. Existing as a created and contingent creature, humanity must receive the good from outside of itself. To participate in good it must receive the good, and the source of all Good is God.
At some point, concentrated in Western Europe, humanity began to purportedly free itself from the confines of God (to be specific: the Holy Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit). Again, this was not, in total, a blatant rejection, it was, and is, more nuanced than that. Alexander Solzhenitsyn observes, We turned our backs on the Spirit and embraced all that is material with excessive and unwarranted zeal. This new way of thinking, which had imposed on us its guidance, did not admit the existence of intrinsic evil in man nor did it see any higher task than the attainment of happiness on earth. It based modern Western civilization on the dangerous trend to worship man and his material needs. Everything beyond physical well-being and accumulation of material goods, all other human requirements and characteristics of a subtler and higher nature, were left outside the area of attention of state and social systems, as if human life did not have any superior sense. That provided access for evil, of which in our days there is a free and constant flow. Merely freedom does not in the least solve all the problems of human life and it even adds a number of new ones (Harvard Address).
Following the 1500s, many expressions of Christianity began to relate to the Gospel in terms of almost strictly earthly living and practicality. Christianity was useful only in as much as it was compatible with or added something of “value” to contemporary worldly living. The good became not so much seeking that which is from above but creating a “socially just” earthly existence.
Christianity was, the cult of progress professed, only an innovation of men, after all. True heavenly life was slipping from the earth. A fundamental precept of antichrist was germinated, tended, grown, and firmly established: humanity may work good on its own, and even find a new salvation through its own powers. The pursuit of the “good life” in an exclusively mundane and base sense emerged as the greatest goal of humanity. In reality it is the pursuit of the “goods life.”
This basic principle is common to all modern paths, no matter the seeming diversified names they bear – democracy, communism, socialism, and so forth. The European West has preached the gospel of material salvation with fervor for the past few centuries. There is nothing greater than material well-being. A “good” person is no longer one who is seeking God above all else. In fact, one may be good and nice without God.
Antichrist is the concentrated corporate desire of humanity to replace the God-Man, Jesus Christ. St. John Maximovich says, Antichrist is a man who desires to be in place of Christ, to occupy His place and possess what Christ should possess. He desires to possess the attraction of Christ and authority over the whole world.
But, Antichrist is a nice guy. He will personify humanity’s deep desire for goodness – a niceness – devoid of God. This “goodness” that excludes God will seemingly be achieved in Antichrist. He will be tolerant and offer equality (at least in the beginning). St. Ephraim the Syrian describes the nice coming of the Antichrist, The most despicable one will come as a robber, in a manner such as to deceive all: he will come as one humble, meek, a hater (as he will say of himself) of unrighteousness, despising idols, giving preference to piety, constant, gracious to all … But together with all this he will work signs and miracles and dreadful spectacles with great authority; and he will use sly means to please all, so that the people will quickly fall in love with him. He will not accept bribes, speak with anger, show a gloomy countenance, but with a decorous exterior he will take to deceiving the world, until he has become king (On the Antichrist).
St. John Maximovich elaborates, He will be very intelligent and endowed with skill in handling people. He will be fascinating and kind. Fascinating, intelligent, kind, he will be merciful — he will act with mercy and goodness; but not for the sake of mercy and goodness, but for the strengthening of his own authority. When he will have strengthened it to the point where the whole world acknowledges him, then he will reveal his face.
He will be a seeming philanthropist. He will be spiritual. He will have a mighty gravity about him. He will show humanity that it can have great “supernatural” power and be its own master. He will allow forms of Christianity to be, as long as they acknowledge him. He will be an ecumenist. He will bring an apparent unity between the many voices of Christianity, and moreover the many religions of the world. Finally, everyone will be nice and tolerate one another.
Compromise will become the new and most exalted virtue, even within “Christian” groups (yes even Orthodoxy!). There will be numerous well sounding justifications to compromise the standard of Truth and right teaching.
St. John further elucidates, The search for compromise will be the characteristic disposition of men. Straight-forwardness of confession will disappear. Men will cleverly justify their fall, and gracious evil will support such a general disposition. There will be the habit of apostasy from truth and the sweetness of compromise and sin in men.
Antichrist will kindly accept everyone just the way they are. There will be no cruel standards of Truth.
Together with the falling away from life will be a weakening of moral life. There will be an exhaustion of good and an increase of evil, instructs St. John.
Antichrist will do superbly nice things, all without God. Humanity will love him because he seemingly proves that a progress of solely human effort is possible. Hope will stir. Men will laugh at and scorn the heavens. Hearts will swell, for desire will seem to be fulfilled. Humanity is great and good in and of itself. It no longer needs the God-Man for it has become the man-god.
Since he is able to fill the stomach of humanity – material need and desire – he will be lauded as a savior.
As soon as his power is sure the mask of niceness will be removed. Exclusively materialistic and humanistic niceness and philanthropy always end in totalitarian slavery. The Twentieth century makes this clear. Mankind blindly forges its own chains of destruction and bondage in the hopes that maybe, just maybe, they will bring elusive freedom. Niceness in and of itself, detached from God, is but a sad and cheap charade of true goodness. We are being trained to swallow it whole.
The nice spirit of antichrist is already at work in the world. Antichrist will be nice. You will be mean and a hater if you chose to withstand him and his spirit. Those who stand for Truth will be villainized as extremists and radicles; fanatics who do not understand how to be nice.
Secular niceness has its end in utter evil. It has the same fate as the swine rushing madly into the deep waters (cf. Mat. 8:28ff).
“God may be fought: that is one of the meanings of the modern age; but He may not be conquered, and He may not be escaped: His kingdom shall endure eternally” (Fr. Seraphim Rose).