In recent years, there has been an increasing interest in Biblical end-times prophecies. Among these prophecies are several that refer to a latter-day ruler who will control the world. Although referred to by many names in the Bible, this leader is commonly known as The Antichrist.
Speculation as to the identity of the Antichrist is at a high pitch. Many prominent leaders and politicians have been alleged to be the Antichrist. Recently, a nationally syndicated radio talk show host, Michael Medved, asked for callers’ opinions on whether Barack Obama is a “Lightworker,” an enlightened spiritual being who will help lead us to the next level. To his surprise, most callers instead believed that Obama was the Antichrist. This was based on his charisma, his meteoric rise, and his ability to influence massive audiences to follow him with little more than pretty speeches.
Many people do not know what the Bible actually says about the Antichrist. Does Barack Obama (or Hillary Clinton or George W. Bush, two other popular candidates) actually fit reality?
When people think of the Antichrist, they think of the Book of Revelation. In reality, the word “antichrist” is not found in Revelation at all. The only two verses which refer specifically to the Antichrist are 1 John 2:18 and 4:3. The first verse says that the Antichrist is coming in the “last hour” and will be preceded by other “antichrists.” The second verse says that spirits who do not confess that “Jesus Christ has come in the flesh” are the “spirit of the Antichrist,” which is “already in the world.” Other verses in 1 and 2 John refer to antichrists who deny that Jesus is the Christ and the incarnate Son of God (1 John 1:22 and 2 John 1:7).
From these verses, we learn that there is one Antichrist of the last days, but there are also other, smaller, antichrists, who serve the Antichrist. These antichrists are characterized by denying the divinity of Jesus Christ. They are literally against Christ. Their purpose is to deceive people and pave the way for the Antichrist. As the end approaches, we can expect the number of antichrists to increase. Jesus Himself said that we would see “many” who claim to be the Christ in order to deceive as many people as possible (Matthew 24:5, 24-26; Mark 13:6, 21-22; Luke 21:8; John 5:43).
The first detailed reference to the Antichrist is in Daniel 7. In this chapter, Daniel explains a dream of different beasts. The four beasts represent worldwide empires. The first three beasts are widely believed to represent the Egyptians, the Medo-Persians, and the Greeks respectively. The fourth beast represents the Roman Empire (7:23). It’s ten horns represent ten kingdoms (7:24). The little horn represents the Antichrist and its “eyes of a man” represent his intelligence.
The little horn becomes larger than the other horns. The little horn profanes and blasphemes God. He persecutes the saints, the people of God, and even prevails against them at first. His rule will last for “a time, times, and half a time” (7:25). This is understood to mean one year plus two years plus half a year for a total of three and one half years.
A similar passage in Revelation is one of the Bible passages most closely associated with The Antichrist. Beginning in chapter 13, John describes a “Beast from the Sea” that is given power by the Dragon, Satan (Rev. 12:9). This Beast captivates the world and everyone whose name is not in the Book of Life of the Lamb, those who are not Christians, eventually worship him. When they worship the Beast, they are also worshipping Satan. The Beast blasphemes God and makes war on the saints who do not worship him. John says that God grants the Beast 42 months to continue his blasphemies (13:5). This is equal to the three and one half years foretold by Daniel.
The sea in these passages may refer to the gentile nations, that is, nations other than Israel. This may indicate that the Antichrist will arise from the gentile world. The seven heads and ten horns refer to kingdoms. The seven heads refer to monarchies that ruled the known world: Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome, and the future kingdom of the Antichrist. The ten horns are kingdoms that make up the Antichrist’s world empire.
In verses 13:3 and 13:12, John alludes to a mortal wound that the Beast will receive. The Antichrist, in an apparent reflection of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, will be healed after having received a mortal wound. Seeing this charismatic leader revived from the dead will undoubtedly inspire many people around the world to worship him as a god.
In the latter half of chapter 13, John describes another beast. The second beast leads the religion that worships the Beast from the Sea. He performs miracles, such as calling down fire from Heaven. This beast is also a deceiver who power is derived from the first beast, who in turn derives his power from Satan. The second beast creates an image of the first Beast for his followers to worship. This image can speak and kill those who refuse to worship it.
Revelation 13:16-18 contains one of the most famous passages of all the Bible’s end-time prophecies. John says that after the first Beast is healed, the second beast will cause all people, rich or poor, to receive a mark on either their right hand or their forehead. Without this mark, no one will be able to buy or sell. This would quickly render opponents of the beastly government destitute. The mark contains either the mark, the number of the beast or his name. John reveals that the number of the beast is 666.
As there has been much speculation on the identity of the Antichrist, there has also been much speculation on the meaning of the number 666. It is very likely that none of the speculative theories about the number are correct and that its meaning will only be clear when God chooses to reveal it. One theory that is most likely correct, as far as it goes, is that the number is a contrast to the number seven, which in the Bible symbolizes perfection and completeness. The number six falls short of perfection, just as man continually falls short of perfection. The repetitive six symbolizes sin and the coming judgment.
The Old Testament prophet Daniel also offered some additional clues about the Antichrist. Daniel 8:23-26 refers to a fierce king who will arise in the “latter time.” He will be mighty by power other than his own. His reign will be characterized by deceit and hostility, not only to the people of God, but also to God, “the Prince of princes,” Himself. In the end, the king will be destroyed as God intervenes.
In the next chapter, Daniel says that “the people of the prince who is to come,” the Antichrist, will destroy the city, Jerusalem, and the sanctuary, the Jewish Temple (9:26). This occurred when the Romans under Titus razed Jerusalem and the Temple in AD 70. Therefore, Daniel indicated that the future Antichrist would be a descendant of the Romans.
Daniel goes on to say in verse 27 that the Antichrist will make a treaty (covenant) with Israel (the many) for one week. In this passage, the word “week” is commonly understood to mean seven years. The treaty will be broken in the “middle of the week” or three and one half years later.
Daniel alludes to the Antichrist again in 11:36-45. This passage follows up a detailed prophecy that was fulfilled by Antiochus Epiphanes, a Roman ruler of Palestine. Antiochus was a prototype of the Antichrist who defiled the Jewish Temple by placing a statue of the Roman god, Jupiter, upon the altar. Daniel tells us that the king will not only blaspheme, but will place himself above God. The passage also refers to an end-time battle mixed with some details of campaigns of Antiochus. The king will enter Israel, the “Glorious Land,” and will camp between the Dead Sea, the Mediterranean, and the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
The Apostle Paul also addressed the Antichrist in 2 Thessalonians 2:3-12. Paul refers to him as the “man of sin,” “the lawless one,“ and the “son of perdition.” Paul reiterates the claim that the Antichrist will exalt himself above God and defile God’s Temple. Paul also confirms that the Antichrist’s power is from Satan.
Paul also tells us that even though the spirit of lawlessness is already at work, the man of sin will not be revealed as long as God restrains him. When God’s restraining influence is removed, the man of sin will come to deceive those who reject the truth of Jesus Christ (John 14:6). Those who accept the lie rather than the truth will be condemned.
The Apostle John echoes other Biblical claims that the Antichrist, as well as many antichrists, are coming (1 John 2:18, 22). Paul states that a way to know antichrists is through their denial of Jesus Christ and his status as the Son of God the Father. He stresses this warning yet again in 1 John 4:3 where he states, “Every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world.” A similar warning is given in 2 John 1:7.
After examining what the Bible says about the Antichrist, we can draw several conclusions. The first is that the Bible does not give enough clues to identify the Antichrist before he takes the world stage. The Bible says very little about his background or identity and then speaks only in very general terms. We can assume that the Antichrist will not be conclusively identified until he assumes the mantle of world ruler and begins fulfilling prophecy. The identity of the Antichrist will become increasingly obvious as prophetic events unfold.
A second conclusion is that while the Antichrist has not been conclusively shown to be physically on the world stage at the present time, the spirit of the Antichrist has been in the world since shortly after the time of Christ. The spirit of the Antichrist came into the world to deceive and deny the deity of Jesus Christ. The spirit of the Antichrist is obviously Satan and his minions. These satanic and demonic spirits gain when people are deceived and do not accept salvation through Christ.
Additionally, there are numerous warnings in the Bible that there are a multitude of antichrists who also deceive and deny. These antichrists might work through influential politicians, leaders, writers, filmmakers, and celebrities, among others, who deny the deity of Christ and are instrumental in causing others to be deceived as to the true nature of Jesus Christ. These lesser antichrists have also been hard at work in the world since the resurrection of Christ and will probably contribute to the “falling away” that precedes the arrival of the Antichrist (2 Thessalonians 2:3).
Finally, and most importantly, we can be assured that the Antichrist and antichrists will roam free only as long as God allows them. The Antichrist will not burst onto the scene until God removes his restraining influence (2 Thess. 2:7). When he does arrive, he will only rule for his appointed time (Revelation 13: 5, Daniel 7:25) and will then be judged by God. The end of the story is that the Antichrist and his false prophet will be captured by Christ’s heavenly forces after their satanic army is routed after the Battle of Armageddon. Their punishment is to be dropped into the lake of fire (Rev. 19:20). Satan, the spirit of the Antichrist, is first bound and thrown into bottomless pit for a thousand years (Rev. 20:2-3). After his release, Satan will lead another failed rebellion against God, after which, he too, will be condemned to the lake of fire (Rev. 20:7-10).
Followers of Christ should not fear the Antichrist. Instead, we should study the Bible so that we will not be deceived by the numerous antichrists who roam the world. Paul points out that the word of God is the “sword of the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:17), a potent defensive weapon against deceit, as well as an offensive weapon with which to wage war against the spirit of the Antichrist.
James-Fausset-Brown Commentary, Bible Explorer 4, 2006 Wordsearch
Mathew Henry Concise Commentary, Bible Explorer 4, 2006 Wordsearch
Daniel 7:1, 8, 17, 19, 20-21, 24
Matthew 24:5, 24-26
Mark 13:6, 21-22
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