The Apostle John was the writer who introduced the idea of antichrist into the Christian theology (I John 2:18,22; 4:3; II John 1:7). Ever since, the church has engaged in numerous attempts to identify some specific historical figure as being the one to which John referred.
Interestingly, however, John states emphatically that there were many antichrists already existing at the time he wrote. With that noted, it is difficult to see why the church has promoted the idea of one future historical figure as the only antichrist to which John pointed.
Additionally, John also explains that all deniers of Christ are antichrist, which makes perfect sense. "Anti" means in opposition to. Now, the word denier would seem to imply a person, but I would suggest that any influence which diverts mankind from the truth which Jesus taught is antichrist. Such influences derive from human thoughts and assumptions, so Christ denial is certainly a human activity.
A denial of Christ, in our typical church understanding, is often assumed to be a rejection of Jesus as a historical figure or of the validity of His story as presented in the scriptures. That is one form of denial but perhaps not the most significant.
In the verses preceding his introduction of the antichrists, John proclaims that those who claim Jesus must walk as He walked and must love their brother. With that in mind, I ask whether a failure to embrace what Jesus taught and demonstrated in His life is not a much more damaging denial of Christ than merely failing to acknowledge His literal history.
Who is actually better off- the one who accepts Jesus as the historical God-man who died and rose again but fails to emulate Jesus' mode of living, or the skeptic or agnostic who practices a life style reminiscent of Jesus. Some would suggest that such is impossible, because they assume that human nature disallows living sacrificially apart from being transformed by right religious belief. Many non-believers would challenge that contention, so each of us is left to observe and draw our own conclusion.
It is undeniably true that Jesus taught a life style that is in marked contrast to what humanity typically embraces, no less so in our society than in other non-Christian ones. The message of humility, happiness apart from riches, brotherhood, equality, peace, and self sacrifice taught and exemplified by Jesus runs counter to many of our cultural norms and assumptions and therefore finds little emphasis in the message of the typical church.
Nevertheless, it is difficult to see how a failure to strongly support and demonstrate the mode of living that Jesus represented can be defined as a less important denial of Jesus than the assertion by a skeptic that Jesus never lived or that God even exists. If both forms of denial are admitted, most of us can look in the mirror to identify the antichrist.