Type "Is Obama" into Google and one of the top three suggested searches will always be "the Antichrist?" If the Web had existed in Ronald Reagan's day, you'd have gotten the same result for him and (likewise for Mikhail Gorbachev).
Hot Antichrist-on-Antichrist action.
So clearly there is a huge chunk of the world waiting for someone to come along and fulfill the old biblical prophecy: A charismatic leader will fool the whole world, rise to power, institute a worldwide dictatorial regime and (finally) bring about the Apocalypse. There exist entire religious sects who keep a sharp eye out for the smooth talking sign of the End Times who will trigger the destruction of everything we know and love.
You skeptics can laugh, but know that many Americans who vote in 2012 will be doing it based on which of the two candidates is least likely to be the Antichrist.
This man is not basing his vote on sound fiscal policy.
The Only Problem Is ...
The Antichrist is mentioned only four times in the Bible, and each time he's described the same way:
"Many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the Antichrist." (2 John 1:7)
Yep: The Antichrist is anyone who doesn't believe in Christ. The "anti" is basically being used the same way it's used when we say someone is "anti-war." So anyone who wants to accuse Richard Dawkins of being the Antichrist is actually entirely correct, and what's more, he'll agree with you.
Man, antichrists get all the fine bitches.
Actually Came From:
There are characters in the Book of Revelation who will help usher in the End of Days: for instance, there is a False Prophet, who looks like a lamb and talks like a dragon (figuratively, we're assuming). And then we have "The Beast" from Revelation 13, which is described as "coming out of the sea" with 10 horns, seven heads, 10 crowns and other body parts that do not even resemble a human body accidentally.
The Beast we're talking about is the beast on the right.
The beast is who is associated with the number 666, by the way. It wasn't until the second century that some dude named Saint Irenaeus started calling it the Antichrist, borrowing the term from another part of the Bible that wasn't referring to it. But even that did very little to change the fact that The Beast would have a hell of a time getting elected to public office since it looked like ... well, a motherfucking beast.
If Napoleon Dynamite wrote a fan-version of Narnia.
It wasn't until the Middle Ages that the Antichrist was portrayed as a guy rather than a huge multiheaded monster. Thus the Antichrist, as a figure in pop culture and cheap-shot accusation was born. Countless novels (like the worldwide bestselling Left Behind series) and movies have helped push the concept to where it is today.
So to summarize, millions are awaiting what they believe is the fulfillment of an ancient biblical prophecy that is in reality cobbled together from at least three different characters from the Bible, with a little bit of Rosemary's Baby for good measure.
Hell is a place of eternal torment, a realm of unrelenting suffering for all sinners, heretics and unbelievers. It is a land of fire and brimstone arranged into nine circles and filled with imps and demons who deal out cruelly ironic punishments for all of eternity. Ruling over all of it is Satan, who probably sits on a throne made of skulls or something.
We'd be more impressed by an armchair of femurs.
The Only Problem Is ...
Of all that, the only part you'll find in the Bible is the fact that Hell sucks and that there is fire (from passages like Matthew 13:42: "And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.")
And ... that's as specific as it gets.
Actually Came From:
As usual, artists and writers took those vague descriptions and ran with them. The understanding of hell as a fiery subterranean cavern full of lava and demons shoving flutes up your ass for eternity owes its popularity largely to the medieval double-team of Dante and Hieronymus Bosch.
Dante's Inferno popularized the idea of hell as a nine-level first-person-shooter. He pioneered the concept of contrapasso, the idea that prisoners of hell are subject to ironic tortures related to the sins that brought them there. Like the "flatterers," who spent their lives bullshitting, and were forced in hell to "wallow in shit" for eternity.
Then the Dutch artist, Bosch, came along and painted it.
Image #558 in our "pictures to stare at while on acid" series.
As for Satan being the ruler of hell, that's a misconception we can probably blame on John Milton. In Paradise Lost, Satan famously bitched: "Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven." But there's a reason why God cast Satan and his minions into hell instead of Wisconsin: Hell sucks for everyone including imps and demons. According to 2 Peter 2:4: "God did not spare the angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them into chains of darkness to be held for judgment."
That's right, chains and prisons ... for them. No iron fortresses, no fiery thrones, no mention of Satan ruling the cell block ... all of that is from the Bible's extended universe and fan fiction.
"And then, Boba Fett and Jesus Christ flew off on their divine jetpacks to fight the Nazis."
To see what else you are so wrong about, check out 6 Things From History Everyone Pictures Incorrectly and 5 Fictional Stories You Were Taught in History Class.
And stop by Linkstorm to find out whether or not Santa Claus was a saint or a creepy pedophile.
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