A god-opposing tyrant and ruler, the final opponent of good, believed to emerge in the final days of civilization. The Antichrist is held to be the supreme religious deception offering people an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth. This pseudo-messianism involves the glorification of man in place of God and of his Messiah come in the flesh. A modified belief holds that the Antichrist is a seductive agency who works by signs and wonders and seeks to obtain divine worship.
This belief dates back to Jewish apocalyptic literature, but probably has its roots in the mythological and speculative idea of the final battle between God and the Devil, originating in Persian eschatology. The idea of the Antichrist itself emerged in the 2nd century BC in the Book of Daniel. Christianity took over from Judaism these ideas which are reflected in certain passages in the Bible (Revelations 11 and 13). In Christian interpretations hostile to Judaism, the Antichrist was associated with a (false) Messiah (prophesied by Judaism as the awaited Messiah), in opposition to the true Messiah (of the Christians). Belief in a final opponent of the Messiah survived in later Judaism in descriptions of the legendary persecuting king Armilus, as had been the case with respect to the Roman Emperor Nero. From the 12th century, encouraged by Franciscans, the Antichrist or his forerunner was identified with every ecclesiastical, political, national or social opponent as a standard phrase of opprobrium. In particular, the belief that the Pope of Rome was the Antichrist became of widespread historical importance. This idea was further developed during the time of Luther and contributed significantly to his opposition to the Pope, becoming an article of faith. The institution of the papacy, not individual popes, were identified with the Antichrist. Following the Reformation this idea gradually receded into the background, although maintained by Protestant scholars. Pascal entitled one of his Pensées "against Muhammed" and presented the Prophet of Islam as the anti-thesis of Christ. The Antichrist myth has had a potent influence on belief, theology, literature, politics and art.