Who is the Antichrist?
March 19, 2000
Daniel 11 is an amazing chapter of Scripture. It contains a detailed preview of world history broken into two parts. Verses 1-35 were prophecy to Daniel but are history to us. These verses contain over 100 specific predictions that have already been fulfilled. They mostly describe war and intrigue in the Greek empire following the death of Alexander the Great. Verses 21-35 describe the actions of a “contemptible person” we know from history as Antiochus IV Epiphanes. His atrocities against the Jews are also delineated in Daniel 8.
Beginning in verse 36 we come to a section that was prophecy to Daniel and is still prophecy to us today. The last ten verses of Daniel 11 describe events that have no parallel in world history. Since the early days of the Christian church, most expositors have seen in these verses a description of the final end-time ruler known as the Antichrist.
Who is the Antichrist?
Before we go any further, let’s lay out a brief description of what we mean by the term “the Antichrist.” The Antichrist is a man who will appear on the world scene in the Last Days just before the return of Jesus Christ to the earth. Described in both the Old and New Testaments, he will be the very incarnation of evil cleverly disguised as a dynamic, charismatic, visionary leader. He will astound the world with his solutions to human problems.
His empire will span every continent and his rule will be the most demonic individual the world has ever experienced. He will rise to world domination by declaring himself a Man of Peace but will later plunge the world into global war. Eventually his true character will be revealed. He will be opposed to Jesus Christ and will offer himself to the world as the savior of humanity. He will control the global economy and force his followers to receive a mark on their hands or their foreheads. Most of the world will willingly follow him. To use a biblical phrase, they will “believe a lie and be damned.” Those who do not receive the mark will be hunted down and many will be killed. For a short period of time he will become the most powerful man on earth. At the apex of his power he will launch an all-out attack on Jesus Christ at a place called Megiddo in the valley of Jezreel in the central region of Israel. That battle is known in the Bible as Armageddon. His reign of terror will come to a sudden end when he is destroyed by the Lord Jesus Christ as he returns to the earth to set up his kingdom.
The Bible says the number of his name is 666. Throughout history there have been many attempts to explain that number. All have failed. We can say two things about it with certainty:
1) Since seven is the number of divine perfection, 666 represents Satan’s attempt to counterfeit God. 666 stands for the best man can do. The Antichrist will be the end result of secular humanism—man wholly apart from God. He will be the true anti-Christ: both against him and in place of him.
2) That number will be understood by those living in that day. “This calls for wisdom. If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is man’s number” (Revelation 13:18).
The arrival of the year 2000 has brought renewed interest in this topic. Newsweek magazine reported on a poll conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates in October 1999. When Americans of all religions and those having no religion were asked, “Do you believe that the world will end, as the Bible predicts, in a battle at Armageddon between Jesus and the Antichrist?” 40% answered Yes and 42% said No. Of those who answered Yes, the following question was asked, “Do you believe the Antichrist is on Earth now?” Answer: Yes 47%, No 31%, Don’t know 22%.
“The Further Perfection of Extreme Evil”
The April 2000 issue of Wired magazine contains a provocative article by Bill Joy, cofounder of Sun Microsystems. The article is called “Why the Future Doesn’t Need Us.” Mr. Joy says that technology is moving ahead so rapidly that in the not-too-distant future we will have robots and computers that can think for themselves and replicate themselves without human supervision. Just a few short years ago this was called Science Fiction. Today it is sober reality. In the 20th century the weapons of mass destruction were in the hands of only a few nations because the raw materials were both rare and expensive. But the advent of computer technology has placed enormous power in the hands of 16-year-old kids who don’t shave yet but know how to hack into a sophisticated computer site and shut it down for hours or days. And that’s truly just child’s play compared with biotechnology, cloning, advanced robotics, tinkering with the genetic code, and dazzling advances in artificial intelligence. Someday soon cancer may be wiped out, the aging process reversed, and worn-out body parts replaced with silicon substitutes. In the Brave New World just ahead of us, we may live to be 200 but surrender any vestige of personal privacy in the process.
In the Brave New World just ahead of us, we may live to be 200 but surrender any vestige of personal privacy in the process. </h6 class=”pullquote”>
Ponder these words by Bill Joy:
I think it is no exaggeration to say we are on the cusp of the further perfection of extreme evil, an evil whose possibility spreads well beyond that which weapons of mass destruction bequeathed to the nation-states, on to a surprising and terrible empowerment of extreme individuals.
Nothing in the article references the Antichrist but his use of the word “evil” is telling. The same technology that makes modern life so pleasant is also paving the way for “the further perfection of extreme evil” in the days to come.
From Napoleon to Sam Donaldson
The question before us is simple. Who is the Antichrist? Throughout history many names have been suggested. If you would like to do a fascinating study, get on the Internet and type the word “Antichrist” in a search engine. You will find thousands of sites representing all possible points of view, some biblical, some anti-biblical, some satirical, and many that are just plain weird.
Here are a few people who have been nominated as the Antichrist. Most of the names are self-explanatory.
Roman Emperor Nero
The Pope (each pope individually and the papacy as an institution)
Charlemagne (conquered much of Europe, tried to reestablish the Roman Empire)
Franklin Delano Roosevelt
John F. Kennedy
Henry Kissinger (A very popular candidate 25 years ago. Don’t hear his name mentioned much nowadays.)
Aleister Crowley (One of the fathers of modern Satanism. His nickname was the Beast and 666. Several rock bands, including the Beatles, refer to him in their music or on their album covers.)
King Juan Carlos of Spain
Uday Hussein (He is Saddam Hussein’s son and they say he makes his father look like a Boy Scout.)
Sun Myung Moon
Sam Donaldson (I cannot explain this but I saw his name on a list. You’ll remember this the next time you see him on television.)
Bill Gates (Why not? He’s the richest man in the world. Think about this the next time your computer crashes.)
Prince Charles (Someone has written a book putting forth his name. The book is called The Antichrist and a Cup of Tea. Clever title.)
George W. Bush
Barney the Dinosaur (Not a serious suggestion but there are several websites devoted to this idea. It has something to do with the red dragon of Revelation 12.)
Other names could be added to that list. The only thing we know for sure is that every guess so far as has been wrong. By definition we can’t know in advance who the Antichrist will be because he will not appear to be an evil person at first. It’s not as if he’s going to run for office with the slogan, “I’m the Antichrist. Vote for me.”
Speculation may be fun but it is useless and possibly dangerous, especially if it leads us to fixate on trying to identify the Antichrist ahead of time. Our focus should be on Jesus Christ.
Laying speculation aside, what can we know about the Antichrist? Daniel 11:36-45 tells us a great deal about his character, his career, and his ultimate collapse.
I. His Character
The king will do as he pleases. He will exalt and magnify himself above every god and will say unheard-of things against the God of gods. He will be successful until the time of wrath is completed, for what has been determined must take place. He will show no regard for the gods of his fathers or for the one desired by women, nor will he regard any god, but will exalt himself above them all. Instead of them, he will honor a god of fortresses; a god unknown to his fathers he will honor with gold and silver, with precious stones and costly gifts. He will attack the mightiest fortresses with the help of a foreign god and will greatly honor those who acknowledge him. He will make them rulers over many people and will distribute the land at a price (Daniel 11:36-39).
These verses tell us a number of important facts about what kind of man the Antichrist will be:
- He is arrogant and self-willed.
- He never stops talking and boasting about himself. Daniel 7 makes this point emphatically when it emphasizes the “little horn” who makes big boasts. The Antichrist will be the ultimate egomaniac.
- He is a blasphemer.
- He is deceptive, ruthless, and utterly devoid of integrity.
- He is outspoken in his public opposition to God.
- He will initially be very successful.
- His reign is limited by God. The “time of wrath” in verse 36 refers to the last half of the seven-year Tribulation period. Note that even though the Antichrist has enormous power, he can only do what God permits him to do.
- He rejects his own spiritual heritage. Verse 37 says he has no regard for the “God of his fathers.” This expression has led some to think he must be Jewish. However, Daniel 7 says he comes out of the fourth beast, which represents the Roman Empire, and Revelation 13 pictures the Beast (a symbol for the Antichrist) arising out of the sea of the Gentile nations. I lean to the view that he is a Gentile but the Bible isn’t explicit on this point. Whatever spiritual background he comes from, he rejects it totally.
- He opposes all organized religion.
- He will set himself up as a god to be worshiped. This is the “abomination of desolation” that takes place at the mid-point of the Tribulation when he will stop the sacrifices in the rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem and will proclaim himself to be God (see 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3).
- He has no regard for the desire of women. This ambiguous phrase in verse 37 has been interpreted in various ways. It may mean that the Antichrist has no natural desire for woman, i.e., that he is homosexual. That shocking thought helps us understand the evil forces behind the modern Gay Rights movement. If this interpretation is true, it means that the way is being paved for the Antichrist to rise to power as a practitioner of moral perversion.
- He worships military might. Verse 38 mentions a “god of fortresses,” the only time this expression occurs in the Bible. His bloodthirsty character allows him to ruthlessly kill millions of people in his drive for world domination.
- His power will come from Satan. This explains the “god unknown to his fathers” in verse 38. He will deceive the world with the help of Satan who will empower him to work miracles that will astound millions.
- He will conquer many nations.
- He will richly reward those who follow him. For a short period of time he will appear to be the savior the world has yearned for. But the “Man of Peace” will soon reveal his true character.
II. His Career
At the time of the end the king of the South will engage him in battle, and the king of the North will storm out against him with chariots and cavalry and a great fleet of ships. He will invade many countries and sweep through them like a flood. He will also invade the Beautiful Land. Many countries will fall, but Edom, Moab and the leaders of Ammon will be delivered from his hand. He will extend his power over many countries; Egypt will not escape. He will gain control of the treasures of gold and silver and all the riches of Egypt, with the Libyans and Nubians in submission. But reports from the east and the north will alarm him, and he will set out in a great rage to destroy and annihilate many (Daniel 11:40-44).
These verses describe a series of military maneuvers that will take place during the last few years of the Tribulation. Keep in mind that in Daniel geography is figured from Jerusalem as the starting point, the “King of the South” refers to an end-time ruler who leads an alliance of armies that may include present-day Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and other North African nations. The “King of the North” could come from Syria, Turkey, Russia, or one of the regions of the former USSR. As the Antichrist tries to consolidate his power, he will face serious opposition. In the process he invades and conquers Israel, the “Beautiful Land.” Toward the end of the Tribulation, he will hear rumors from the east, which would include Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, India, all of Southeast Asia, China, Korea, and Japan. Perhaps this should be connected with the vast army from the east mentioned in Revelation 16.
These verses give us a very compressed account of what we might call the Armageddon Campaign. What we refer to as the “Battle of Armageddon” is really a military campaign involving many armies, many battles, and hundreds of millions of soldiers. The various battles will range over a vast area of land and sea but will center in the Middle East. Armies from the north and east (roughly Russia and China) will move against the Antichrist, causing a bloodbath previously unknown in human history. Revelation 14 describes blood flowing as high as a horse’s bridle, a stream that in places would be four or five feet deep. As the mightiest armies on earth converge on Israel, the stage is now set for the final act in human history.
III. His Collapse
He will pitch his royal tents between the seas at the beautiful holy mountain. Yet he will come to his end, and no one will help him (Daniel 11:45).
As the Antichrist prepares to go to war, he sets up his military headquarters near Jerusalem (the “beautiful holy mountain”) between the Mediterranean Sea and the Dead Sea. The final battle will take place on the plains of Jezreel in central Israel near a crossroads called Megiddo. Visitors to that area can see a mountain formed across the centuries by the successive settlements built one on top of another. The Hebrew term for “Mountain of Megiddo” is Har Megiddo, which comes into English as Armageddon.
Verse 45 tells us nothing about how the Antichrist will be defeated. Evidently his end will be sudden, swift, and unexpected. This fits with the picture given in other passages in Daniel regarding the suddenness of Christ’s coming. It is like …
The Rock that hit the Statue in Daniel 2
The Court that passes judgment in Daniel 7
The end that comes without human power in Daniel 8
The end that is decreed in Daniel 9.
Daniel 7:11 adds this important fact. After the “little horn” (who is the Antichrist) is judged, he is cast into the blazing flames. 2 Thessalonians 2:8 describes the final end of the Antichrist this way: “And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming.” Ponder the scene for a moment. Millions of soldiers are moving toward the Middle East, armed with the very latest high-tech weaponry. They have more than enough firepower to destroy the earth several times over. And they fully intend to use their arsenals on each other. But at the last second something happens. Perhaps there is a sign in the sky that catches the attention of the combatants. Suddenly the armies of unregenerate men cease fighting each other and join together in a final assault on the Lord Jesus Christ. As the Lord begins descending from heaven, the order is given to fire away. Rockets, missiles, atomic warheads, laser beams and particle beams all fly straight toward the figure on the white horse. But before they can reach their mark, the Lord Jesus Christ opens his mouth and literally blows them all away.
The battle is over before it starts. Men run for cover but there is nowhere to hide. The great day of judgment has come and no one can escape. The apostle John gives us this vivid description of that moment:
I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean (Revelation 19:11-14).
Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to make war against the rider on the horse and his army. But the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who had performed the miraculous signs on his behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped his image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur (Revelation 19:19-20).
The message is clear. You can’t take on God and win. You can fight him if you like, but as the wise man said, your arms are too short to box with God. The only way to be on the winning side is to be on God’s side. Every other side is a loser.
The message is clear. You can’t take on God and win. </h6 class=”pullquote”>
Three Final Questions
Let’s wrap up this study with three final questions:
1) Is the Antichrist alive today? I do not know and do not think anyone knows. All speculation on that point is useless. Until he is revealed, no one will have any idea who he is.
2) If he is alive today, does he know that he is the Antichrist? No, probably not. If he is alive today, he is simply a man of the world—arrogant, ambitious, ruthless, calculating, and yet witty and personable, possessed of a dazzling personality that charms and disarms his harshest critics. His “career” as Antichrist will begin when Satan possesses him in a final attempt to overthrow God.
3) How should all of this effect us today? In the end this is the most important question. I do not think the Bible gives us this information simply to tickle our fancy so that we can play a parlor game called Name the Antichrist. It’s far more important that we take this teaching seriously and use it for our own profit. So how should we respond to the truth about the coming Antichrist? Here are five answers to that question:
A) Brace yourself. The worst evil is yet to come. No matter how good the world seems to be in terms of technology, the moral compass is pointing in the wrong direction. The modern Unholy Trinity of Tolerance, Diversity, and Pluralism is paving the way for an outbreak of evil beyond anything we have yet seen.
B) Be alert. The Last Days will be a time of confusion and spiritual delusion. Don’t be sucked in by the spirit of Antichrist that is already in the world. That spirit tries to make us think that sin isn’t really sinful and that there is no such thing as right and wrong. It also seduces us into silence when we ought to be speaking out.
C) Be Bold. This is no time for compromise. In the days to come we will see persecution grow worse as those who know Christ are ridiculed for their faith. That is happening already in many places around the world. This week I received a message from one of our missionaries serving in a distant land. The missionary wrote to comment about the spiritual warfare in that country and the pressure Christians are facing from the followers of other religions. Christians in that area are a tiny minority and it therefore takes great courage to follow Christ openly. Here is part of what the missionary wrote (with the words slightly changed for security reasons):
I’m sure that I have mentioned some of the work going on among the __________tribe in some of my newsletters—the tribe that was dying out at the rate of 10,000 per year. Now there are 40,000 believers, and the mortality rate has been markedly reduced through our Community Health work but persecution has just struck. I would ask you and the church family to pray that their faith may not fail, but that they will continue to boldly proclaim the Good News. Recently one entire village of 32 believed and took the step of baptism. They also took their idols and burned them outside the village. The consequence is that the headman of the village has been severely beaten and thrown in jail along with a couple of the local evangelists. The headlines in a local newspaper were as follows: “3 Held on Charges of Tribal Conversions.”
Stories like that are coming in from all over the globe. All these things are a sign that as Satan’s kingdom is being plundered, he is fighting back with all his infernal might. God bless those baby Christians in a faraway land who followed Christ openly and now are paying a heavy price. May God give us the same kind of bold faith to stand up for Jesus no matter what it costs.
D) Be encouraged. The Antichrist will rise and fall and then Christ will return to set up his kingdom on the earth. Even the Antichrist is an instrument in God’s hand. He can do nothing without God’s permission. When his time on earth is up, he will be utterly destroyed.
Even the Antichrist is an instrument in God’s hand. He can do nothing without God’s permission. When his time on earth is up, he will be utterly destroyed. </h6 class=”pullquote”>
E) Come to Christ. There never has been a better day to become a Christian. Eventually the whole world will have to make a choice—Christ or Antichrist. Why not come to Christ now? Today is the day of salvation. If you believe that Jesus is the Son of God, then run to the cross. Lay your sins on Jesus. Believe that he died for you and that he rose again on the third day. Open your heart to him. Trust Christ as your Lord and Savior. Then no matter what the future holds, you will have nothing to fear.
This week one of our women gave a testimony at an evangelistic luncheon. Although she went to church as a child, she became an atheist, then an agnostic, then a follower of Druidism. When Christians witnessed to her, she was not interested in coming to Christ. Then one day a friend posed a simple question that changed her life: “Isn’t Jesus enough for you?” As she thought about it, she realized that Yes, Jesus was enough for her. Then and there she trusted Christ as her Savior and her life was wonderfully transformed.
That’s the power of Jesus Christ. Those who come to him receive eternal life. They discover that Jesus is indeed enough.
To all my Christian friends, I declare that these are great days to be alive. We have nothing to fear from the Antichrist and his evil plans. It is the Lord’s will that we should be delivered from the wrath to come. And for those who don’t know Christ, and for those who aren’t sure, this could be the best day ever if it is the day you come to Jesus. I pray that you will take these words to heart and reach out with the empty hands of faith and lay hold of Christ as your Savior and Lord. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if a sermon on the Antichrist helped you come to the living Lord Jesus Christ? If you don’t know him, run to the cross right now before it is too late.
Heavenly Father, we thank you for the Word of Truth given to us many centuries ago. We have seen it fulfilled before our eyes and we believe that what is not yet fulfilled will come to pass in your own time and according to your good plan. Help us to see the Spirit of Antichrist that is already in the world. Strengthen our faith and make us bold for Jesus Christ. May we never be ashamed to live for him for he was not ashamed to die for us. Give us a spirit of encouragement and deep joy that comes from knowing that you are in control of all things. In Jesus’ name, Amen.