Who is the Antichrist?
The people of the world are currently desperate for a savior who will rescue them from all their self-inflicted problems. The threat of war, economic uncertainty, terrorism, disease, and the seeming meaninglessness of life are all preparing humankind to accept what will be its last great human emperor, which the Bible describes in vivid detail. Of this preparation, historian Arnold Toynbee observed: "By forcing on mankind more and more lethal weapons, and at the same time making the world more and more interdependent economically, technology has brought mankind to such a degree of distress that we are ripe for the deifying of any new Caesar who might succeed in giving the world unity and peace."
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Some may try to deny it, but the history of humanity has demonstrated that people will readily turn themselves over to anyone with answers to their problems, even to the point of worshipping them as their savior. First came the Egyptian kings who brought the people order and prosperity, and for their efforts, they were regarded as sons of gods. Afterwards, Alexander the Great appeared in history, and for his accomplishments he was granted divine kingship from his followers, and eventually worshipped after his death.
Full blown emperor worship began in 29 B.C. at Ephesus through Julius Caesar, with Caligula (A.D. 37) being the first emperor to allow the veneration of a living Roman Caesar. Those coming after Caligula (e.g. Domitian) saw political value from being deified and had no problem extracting worship from their citizenry. And the interesting thing about that worship is that it was freely given to the emperors by the people; a gift for having given them peace and economic assistance. William Barclay states: "The extraordinary fact is that emperor worship was not imposed on the Roman Empire from above; it grew from below."
Examples continue right into the 20th century with dictators such as Adolf Hitler, about whom the German people composed hymns that deified his abilities. It's sad but true: history speaks to the fact that people will readily follow and even worship a leader who delivers on their promises of peace and prosperity.
As for the future, certain New Age teachings proclaim the coming of a world ruler who appears to exemplify human perfection. Levi Dowling, in his book Aquarian Gospel of Jesus Christ, writes: "But in the ages to come, man will attain to greater heights . . . And at last, a mighty master soul will come to earth to light the way up to the throne of perfect man."
The Bible clearly describes a coming world ruler who will make all others that have come before him pale in comparison. The traditional name given him is Antichrist, with the name coming from the Apostle John: "Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour" (1 John 2:18).
The prefix "anti" in the Greek can be defined in one of two ways. The most common meaning is as an indicator of something that is the exact opposite of the suffix that follows it. But, the second definition surprisingly can mean "another", "replaced by another", or "instead of". The coming Antichrist fits both of these definitions. He will at first seem to be "another" Christ; a savior that the world willingly welcomes and follows because of the apparent goodness that he brings about. Soon afterwards, however, he will reveal his true nature and display that he is actually the polar opposite of the true Messiah, Jesus Christ.
A tracing of the Antichrist through Scripture begins in the book of Genesis. In God's curse handed down to Satan through the serpent in the garden of Eden, the first allusion to Antichrist is given: "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel" (Genesis 3:15). In this verse, God speaks about two seeds: the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman. The seed of the woman can be followed through Scripture and is found to be a godly line that results in the nation of Israel, which in turn gives birth to Jesus Christ. The seed of the serpent can be traced as well and be found to result in the Roman nation (cf. Daniel 9:26; Revelation 17), which will one day deliver the Antichrist.
The Bible is quite clear as to when the Antichrist will appear, what he will do, and what his destiny will be. Regarding when the Antichrist will be made known, the Apostle Paul writes that the coming tribulation period spoken about in the Bible (cf. Daniel 9; Matthew 24; Revelation 4–18) will not come about until the Antichrist is revealed: "Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God" (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4).
Paul also teaches in the same passage that there will be an event that will unleash the Antichrist upon the earth: "And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way" (2 Thessalonians 2:6-7). Many theologians believe this event will be the rapture of the Church. The Church's removal from the earth permits the Antichrist to be unveiled and begin his worldwide campaign of conquest.
Speaking about the Antichrist's crusade, the Apostle John writes about a vision he is given in Revelation that describes it: "Now I watched when the Lamb opened one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures say with a voice like thunder, 'Come!' And I looked, and behold, a white horse! And its rider had a bow, and a crown was given to him, and he came out conquering, and to conquer" (Revelation 6:1-2). It should be noted that the white horse signifies a conquering ruler and the bow with no arrows telegraphs the thought that the Antichrist will win his campaigns mostly through peace rather than via war in the beginning.
Tracing the building of the Antichrist's earthly kingdom through Scripture (cf. Daniel 7:8-11, 7:19-26, 9:24-27, 11:36-39, 11:40-45; Revelation 13:1-8, 17:1-13) reveals that he will take possession of a ten nation confederacy that will represent a revived Roman empire. Seven of the nations will willingly give themselves over to him, while three will be subdued. The Antichrist will also sign a false peace treaty with the nation of Israel (cf. Daniel 9:24-27) and appear to bring peace to the Middle East. This and other actions prompt the world to marvel at his prowess: "Who is like the beast, and who can fight against it?" (Revelation 13:4).
However, the Antichrist's false peace soon evaporates when, in the middle of his seven year reign, he enters a rebuilt temple in Jerusalem and declares himself to be God, showing himself to be someone "who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God" (2 Thessalonians 2:4; also cf. Matthew 24:15). The Antichrist will demand worship from all humanity and will execute any who do not bow down and worship him (cf. Revelation 13:15). It is at this point that the true Creator responds to the challenge and begins to decimate the Antichrist, his kingdom, and all who follow him. This will be the period referred to by Christ as the Great Tribulation (cf. Matthew 24:21).
The Great Tribulation culminates in the battle of Armageddon when Christ returns, puts an end to the Antichrist's reign, and assigns him to eternal destruction: "And the beast [the Antichrist] was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had done the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur" (Revelation 19:20).
The Antichrist's destiny is fixed and certain, as is every person's who chooses to follow a false messiah instead of the only true One. Because each new day brings humanity closer to the time when the Antichrist will be set loose upon the earth, it is critical that those who have not yet put their faith in Jesus Christ do so and escape the time of the Antichrist's rule: "now is the day of salvation" (2 Corinthians 6:2).
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