Question: "Who is Maitreya? Is Maitreya the antichrist?"
Answer: Maitreya is usually attributed to the name used in Buddhism for “a Buddha yet to come,” though the origins of Maitreya are unclear and disputed. Although there is no scriptural evidence that the antichrist will come in the form of such a person, there are similarities between them. Maitreya is allegedly a bodhisattva, the term for one who lived on earth and was destined to become enlightened one day, or who came close to enlightenment, and after death moved on to one of the Buddhist heavens, which one can reach through meditation. One of the supposed roles of a bodhisattva is to guide those on earth who are ready for his teaching. It is believed that this particular bodhisattva, Maitreya, will return at a crucial time. The Bible speaks of the antichrist as one with supernatural power to influence others (Revelation 13:4-8) and will be able to convince millions that he is “enlightened,” so much so that they will follow his teachings.
The prophecy of this future Buddha is found in the canonical literature of all Buddhist sects. Teachings on Maitreya may diverge somewhat according to these various Buddhist traditions. The Buddhist Maitreya is depicted sitting on a throne, waiting for his time to come. He supposedly will arrive when Buddhist teaching has been lost, and teach the pure teachings of Buddhism (the dharma).
Maitreya has been adopted by other belief systems, including the occult organization founded by Mme. Blavatsky in the 1800s, the Theosophical Society. Theosophists consider Maitreya to be a World Teacher and a Christ. Theosophy was one of the forerunners and foundations of the modern New Age movement; therefore, teachings on Maitreya are found in several New Age-based groups today.
Because Maitreya has been adopted by many groups, the teachings on Maitreya do not always agree. However, most non-Buddhist groups teach that Maitreya will unify all religions through his teachings and rescue humanity from economic and other crises by teaching a universal brotherhood. Many names are given to Maitreya, including the Christ, the Messiah, Krishna (a Hindu god), and Teacher. Some Muslims believe that Mohammed was Maitreya and some Bahai’s believe that their main prophet, Baha’u’llah', was Maitreya; therefore, both of these groups believe Maitreya has already appeared.
One group well known for promoting the coming of Maitreya is Share International, founded and run by a man named Benjamin Creme (born 1922). In the past, Creme has made claims that Maitreya would appear and broadcast a message via television (in 1982 and 1997), garnering much publicity for himself. When these predictions failed, many lost interest in Creme’s pronouncements and organization.
Speculating on whether or not the antichrist will claim to be Maitreya seems rather fruitless; Maitreya is not a real person, but part of mythical beliefs. It is possible that the “beast” of Revelation 13:11-15 (the word “antichrist” is not in the book of Revelation) could be someone who claims to be Maitreya, or whom others perceive as Maitreya. However, since God’s Word does not give us information on who the beast is, it is best to be assured of one’s salvation so that, whoever the antichrist/beast turns out to be, one can find peace and safety in eternal life through faith in Christ.