Prophecy Studies - No. 7
The Antichrist will be a world leader in the end times. When we looked at the series of world empires Daniel prophesies will dominate and oppress Israel during the Times of the Gentiles (Daniel Chapters 2 and 7), we saw that the final world power will involve a revival of the old Roman Empire, but in a more fragmented, unstable form. There will be a loose alliance of nations, pictured by the image's ten toes or iron mixed with clay, and by the ten horns on the fourth beast. The nations of Europe will be bound together in a federation that will come to dominate world affairs. The dictator who will rule over this “United States of Europe” as the seven-year Tribulation period begins, is a personage commonly known as the Antichrist. He is the subject of this study.
It is helpful to consider how dictators come to power. They do not simply walk in and take over. There has to be some reason why people are willing to surrender authority to one man. The Oxford Dictionary defines a “dictator” as “one who assumes absolute power in seasons of emergency.” In other words, there is some crisis situation that the present leadership is failing to deal with adequately. At that point, a person steps in who seems to hold a solution. Adolf Hitler is an example. He came to power during the Depression years of the 1930's, offering the people of Germany an answer to their economic woes. And the ongoing conflict in the Middle East is just such a situation. No one seems to have an answer. As historian Arnold Toynbee has said, “We are ripe for the deifying of any new Caesar who might succeed in giving the world unity and peace.”
The one who will offer such a peace in the last days is Satan’s counterfeit Christ. He is known variously in Scripture by such descriptive titles as: “the little horn” (of Dan. 7:8), “the man of sin,” II Thess. 2:3), and “the beast” (of Rev. 13:1).We often speak of him as the Antichrist--which is not inaccurate. However, the Bible uses this term more generally, to represent the motivating force in the heart of this man and others as well. The Apostle John says, “Every spirit that does not confess that Christ [Messiah] has come in the flesh is not of God. That is the spirit of Antichrist which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world” (I Jn. 4:3; cf. 2:22).
The word Antichrist has two important meanings. “Anti” means both in place of, and also against. And this kind of spirit has always been around, but it will be personified during the Tribulation by one man. He will offer himself as Israel’s Messiah in place of Christ. And, because of his satanic hatred for Christ, he will violently oppose and fight against any who seek to follow Him.
The first passage we shall consider on this subject is Second Thessalonians, Chapter 2:1-8. In vs. 1 the Antichrist is called “the man of sin,” or in some versions “the lawless one” (as in vs. 8)--meaning he rejects God’s righteous standard.
1) What other phrase is used to describe him in vs. 1?
2) Whom does Jesus describe as another person with the same inner nature (Jn. 17:12)?
INSIGHT: In the King James Version, they are each called “the son of perdition.” “Son of,” in ancient times, meant having the nature of..., or destined for...by nature. When Jesus says, “Broad is the way that leads to destruction” (Matt. 7:13), it is the same Greek word as that translated “perdition.” Putting these facts together, we learn that, by their sinful fallen natures, both Judas and the Antichrist are men destined for eternal ruin.
3) What blasphemous thing does this “son of perdition” do (II Thess. 2:4)?
4) Where does this individual get his power (vs. 9)?
INSIGHT: With the church already taken to be with Christ, only unbelievers will be left on earth at the beginning of the Tribulation. Yet there will be many who will turn to Christ and be saved during this period (Rev. 7:9, 13-14).
5) Does this mean that those who purposefully rejected Christ before the rapture will have another chance to be saved after? (Why? vs. 10-12?)
6) What will happen to this evil personage? And when (vs. 8)?
INSIGHT: Someone had been telling the Thessalonian Christians that Christ had already raptured His church, and they had missed it--that they had been left behind to face the terrible suffering of the Tribulation (vs. 1-2). Paul assures them this is false, saying that must involve a final apostasy and the unveiling of the Antichrist (vs. 3). Satan might want to usher in this evil day, but he is being “restrained,” and cannot do it until the Restrainer is removed (vs. 6-7).
Opinions vary as to the identity of the “Restrainer.” Most likely it is the Holy Spirit indwelling and working through the church. As John says, “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (I Jn. 4:4). The Spirit of God will still be active in the Tribulation (because individuals will be born again), but His restraining work will be done when the church is caught up to be with Christ. Then evil will sweep the earth like a massive flood.
Another passage that deals with the Antichrist’s appearance and rule is Revelation 13:1-18. John’s introduction to this person comes in the form of a vision. But many of the details parallel what we read of the same individual elsewhere.
7) “The sea” in this vision could represent what, according to the way the symbol is used elsewhere (compare Isa. 57:20)?
INSIGHT: This is reminiscent of Daniel’s vision of the fourth of four beasts (which also arise out of the sea). (See Daniel 7:7-11 and vs. 23-27.) The Beast of Revelation 13 appears to be the “little horn” of Daniel 7:8, who will rise to power out of the nations of the world, at a time when they are in chaos and crisis. He will dominate the revived Roman Empire, and from that power base seek the mastery of the earth.
8) Who is it that gives “the Beast” his power (Rev. 13:2; compare 12:9)?
INSIGHT: In vs. 3, John says, “I saw one of his heads as if it had been mortally wounded, and his deadly wound was healed. And all the world marveled and followed the beast.” The seven “heads” (vs. 1) may simply picture various power blocks struggling for supremacy within his empire, as some suggest. However the “deadly wound” is spoken of again in 13:14, and it seems to be a wounding of the Beast himself. Perhaps Satan will engineer some kind of counterfeit resurrection for the Antichrist, which will cause wonder and amazement.
9) How long will his terrible blasphemy continue (vs. 5)?
INSIGHT: This refers to the latter half of the seven-year Tribulation. For awhile, the Antichrist will even gain the upper hand over those who turn to Christ in this time (vs. 7). However, finally victory is still assured to these (Rev. 15:2)--though victory will be at the cost of martyrdom (Rev. 12:11; 17:6). Multitudes will pay for their stand by being killed.
10) What will happen to the Beast (vs. 4-5, and vs. 8) that parallels what Paul describes in Second Thessalonians?
INSIGHT: Beginning in vs. 11, a second important personage is described, a second “beast” who will make his appearance during the Tribulation. Elsewhere, he is described as “the false prophet” (19:20) and he directs worship to the Antichrist (13:12-14). He somewhat counterfeits the ministry of John the Baptist pointing to the true Christ.
11) What special project will the false prophet direct? And what will become of it (Rev. 13:14-15)?
INSIGHT: This is the abomination that brings desolation, predicted centuries earlier by Daniel (Dan. 9:27). An idol image of the Antichrist, set up in the holy place of the Jewish temple (Matt. 24:15), will signal the end of the covenant he makes with the Jews allowing them to worship, according to Old Testament law. Those Jews that are appalled at this blasphemy and resist, will be in mortal danger.
INSIGHT: The Antichrist’s original power base is European--the revived Roman Empire. (This could well include Canada and the United States, whose roots are European.) He is quickly accepted as the leader of the world, receives world-wide adoration, and gains global domination (vs. 3, “all the world followed the beast;” and vs. 8, “all who dwell on the earth will worship him”). He is the final Gentile world ruler of the Times of the Gentiles.
12) How will the false prophet arrange for the Antichrist to control the trade and commerce of the earth (vs. 16-18)?
INSIGHT: The technology is already available to do this and have a “cashless society,” by inserting a tiny computer chip under the person’s skin. This idea has some things to recommend it. (No need to worry about stolen wallets or lost credit cards!) But it will give the ability of those who control it to have absolute power over all the earth’s population. Personal freedom will virtually cease to exist. It is probably just a coincidence, but it is startling to realize that the Bible calls the Antichrist “the man of sin,” and the number by which the government identifies each of us is called our Single Identification Number, (in Canada, our Social Insurance Number) or SIN Number!
13) What if Canada introduced this system? (Would you get the computer chip inserted if it were voluntary? What if it were compulsory?)
INSIGHT: The number 666, which symbolizes the Antichrist, may be the most famous number in history. By assigning a number value to each of the letters of the alphabet, some have tried to figure out his identity. For instance, in the opening paragraph of his novel War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy has one of the characters identify Napoleon as the Antichrist, by working out the number of his name. Then, in 1941, a pamphlet was published which showed if you call the letter “A” 100, “B” 101, “C” 102, and so on, you reach the total 666 with the name “Hitler” (H=107 + I=108 + T=119 + L=111 + E=104 + R=117). But this is silly! Who says that “A” must be equal to 100, and not some other number? In any event, John wrote in Greek, not English.
What we do know is that seven is often the number of completeness and perfection (as the seven days of creation, and the seven days making up a complete week). And a “trinity” of sevens would be a fitting symbol for Almighty God. Six is “the number of a man” (vs. 6), created on the sixth day, in the image of God, but less than God. A trinity of sixes (666) might relate to man’s final attempt (motivated by Satan) to replace God--a temptation he originally held out to Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:5, “you will be like God”).
The beast reappears in Revelation Chapter 17:1-13, where we are given another dimension of the Antichrist’s evil rule.
14) Whom does John see riding on the Beast, in Revelation 17:3)?
15) And what is the name of this individual (vs. 5)?
16) What do the waters represent from which she rises (vs. 1, 15)?
17) In the Bible, what is meant by spiritual “adultery” and “harlotry” (or prostitution) (Jer. 3:6, 9, 13-14)?
18) To whom does the wealth really belong that is being showered upon these “lovers” (Ezek. 16:16-20)?
INSIGHT: This world religion will grow in power to the point where it threatens to dominate and control the Antichrist himself (pictured by the harlot riding upon the Beast, vs. 3).
INSIGHT: Babylon was the centre and origin of the first false religious system that ever existed (at the tower of Babel, Gen. 11:1-9). There was unbelief before this, but not in such an organized way. The purpose of the multitude gathered a Babel is expressed in Genesis 11:4, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” Since God had told man, after the flood, to multiply and fill the earth (Gen. 9:1) this was an act of rebellion. The words, “whose top is in the heavens” may be rendered “whose top is unto, or devoted to, the heavens.” The purpose of the tower was the worship of heathen gods associated with the stars. Babylon is the origin of star worship and astrology (cf. Isa. 47:1, 12-13).
The Bible tells us that Nimrod founded Babel, or Babylon (Gen. 10:8-10). Ancient legends may suggest some helpful details augmenting the biblical record about him, explaining more of the significance of this early rebellion. We are told that the wife of Nimrod was Semiramis I. The high priestess of the Babylonian religion, she bore a son named Tammuz, whom she claimed was miraculously conceived. Semiramis presented him to the people, hailing him as the promised deliverer (cf. Gen. 3:15). Centuries later, one of the gods worshiped by the idolatrous Israelites was Tammuz (Ezek. 8:14).
Babylon (which is modern-day Iraq) will figure prominently in the events of the last days. Shortly after he came to power in 1979, Saddam Hussein started rebuilding the city of Babylon, including its ancient temples and the palace of Nebuchanezzar. Then he began holding an annual “Babylon Festival.” A poster advertising this event shows Hussein standing beside another person-- Nebuchadnezzar, Babylon’s greatest king. The now deposed and executed Hussein saw himself as a latter-day Nebuchadnezzar. A great theatrical pageant was put on as part of the Babylon Festival. As it ended participants bowed before a woman representing Ishtar, the supposed wife of Tammuz. As the mother goddess of Babylon, she was credited with bringing the city back.
19) What kind of wickedness will the religion of the Antichrist promote (Rev. 17:6)?
20) How will this ancient religion and it’s city come to an end (vs. 16-17; 18:7-8)?
21) How complete will the final destruction of Babylon be (Isa. 13:19-20)?
22) Two things happen in the context which reveal the time when Babylon with its false religion will be destroyed.
a) It is accompanied by what (Isa. 13:9-11)?
b) Then what happens (Isa. 14:1-7)?
INSIGHT: These events are coming. They rest upon the sure Word of God. But Christians need not fear. We have a prior appointment with Christ!
23) What focus should believers have (I Thess. 1:10a)?
23b) To what can we look forward in the future (II Tim. 4:8)?
23) And what should we be doing, meanwhile?
¤ Tit. 3:11-13
¤ I Thess. 1:9b