- Figures of Antichrist:The Apocalypse and Its Restraints in Contemporary Political Thought
1. The Antichrist and the Katéchon in Early Christianity
The history of the Antichrist follows the history of Christ like a shadow.1 This statement is far from banal, not only because of its consequences but also because Christianity as currently presented typically denies that a figure like the Antichrist could be a cause for concern. When confronted with the Antichrist, with Satan in person, the current reaction of many Christians is one of "dialogue." That this may be interpreted, in terms of the doctrine of the Antichrist, as a sign of his proximity passes unnoticed among Christians of goodwill in this day and age. But the devil is never so near as when he is denied or when, following the dictates of what is "politically correct," we start negotiating with him under names that change to suit the occasion. It is a different matter with regard to the historical phenomena that are only indirectly related to Satan, phenomena that help to hold him as far off as possible, but this eventuality can be appreciated only by those who know the devil, not by those who deny him.
Some initial comments of a semantic nature are indispensable and, in virtue of the very pregnancy of the term "antichrist," they lead straight to [End Page 53] theological considerations. Antichrist is a synonym of Satan, with the difference that the functional noun "anti-christ" contains a direct indication of the relationship of Satan to Christ; it is the inevitable consequence of the conflict between Satan and Christ. That consequence can only be negation or opposition. The devil, as soon as he encounters Christ, automatically becomes "anti-," which does not imply a personal antipathy—the devil is not a person so much as the principle that parasitically destroys the person—but expresses the consequence of the demystification brought about by Christ: his mask once removed, the devil reveals his true face as Adversary, as "anti-," and the first figure against whom he directs this being "anti-" is necessarily the one who has unmasked him, that is, the Christ. The Greek prefix "anti-" in itself indicated the desire to take someone's place and, consequently, to go against that person; and it is this latter meaning that prevails in the modern prefix. Satan's intention becomes clear when we perceive the perfect convergence between the two nuances of meaning: taking Christ's place in order to go against him and going against Christ in order to take his place. Initially Satan tries out on Christ his old ploy of temptation, and this marks the start of the Son of God's public mission. The conflict is first and foremost a conflict between two functions, between two opposing logics. If Christ were to yield, he would at once fail in his mission from the Father, becoming the antichrist of himself, canceling out his own function and making the very notion of antichrist pointless. Christ does not yield, but this does not mean that his victory has been secured once and for all. He has confirmed his mission, but once this has got under way, all are called to enter into his figure, into his saving function, to become "Christ," which implies that the devil will repeat his temptation with everyone called by Christ. And as Christ is present this time, yielding to temptation marks out the person who yields as antichrist; and, since it is hard to resist temptation, there will be a growing number, not to say a multitude, of antichrists. From the start the word is revealingly characterized, structurally, by its plural form. While we do not have numerous "christs," because to follow Christ means to be as he is and to enter in to be part of him, by which act all the faithful become part of the body of Christ, which is the Church, anyone who becomes the "anti-" of Christ introduces the germ of plurality and discord, because from that moment on he is the "anti-" of the others. The antichrist introduces the poison of the "anti-" into the world, not that it was...