WHO IS THE ANTICHRIST?
Prophecy Series Part 7
One of the questions that has dominated the thoughts of many is who is the world leader the Bible prophesies as the Anti-Christ? There are over a hundred verses in the Bible that describe him. and more than twenty-five titles are given to him. His most popular title is Anti-Christ: one who will set himself up as the false Christ, the ruler of the world. The Bible says he will be the most unbelievably cruel leader the world has ever known. Take the world’s worst of the worst in recent history – Germany’s Hitler, China’s Mao Za Tong, Russia’s Stalin, Italy’s Mussolini, Cuba’s Castro, combine them all together and they will pale in comparison to the unthinkable cruelty of the one known as the Antichrist. Is he alive today? Is he Jewish? Is he Gentile?
For a number of years many people have tried to predict who they think the Anti-Christ is. Adolf Hitler, not surprisingly, comes up often. But there have been many through the years: Stalin (the atheistic leader of the former Soviet Union was known for his political intrigues, brutal assassinations, and desire to conquer the world under the banner of Godless Communism), Krushchev, Mussolini. In the 60’s John F. Kennedy was a popular candidate. During the Democratic convention in 1956 he received 666 votes. He was also elected president then shot through the head, something the Bible says will happen to the Antichrist. Russia’s Michail Gorachev made the list partly because some believed the red mark on his head was the mark of the beast.
The truth is, no one knows; not even Satan himself. Only God knows because only God is in charge. That means Satan has had to have someone in the wing to be the Anti-Christ every generation. He doesn’t even know when the rapture is going to take place! Jesus said,…be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect Him (Lk. 12:40). The late respected prophecy expert Tim LaHaye reminds us that only after the rapture of the Church will the world know exactly who the Anti-Christ will be. In other words, you don’t want to know who it is. If you do know, then that means you’ve been left behind! The good news is, we the Church, will not be present when the Anti-Christ makes his debut.
So, why talk about the Antichrist? Well, outside of Jesus Christ, the most important figure in Bible prophecy and human history is the Antichrist. As a boy growing up, I was a Boy Scout. Our motto was: “Always be prepared.” God tells us the future so that we will be prepared. Many are unprepared when it comes to Bible prophecy. They lack discernment. They do not know or want to know that one day the Satan will be represented on earth by a man who personifies evil. So they live in fear or delusion and/or both. The Bible says God has not given us a Spirit of fear, but of love, power, and a sound mind (discernment). Warren Wiersbe put it this way, “The purpose of Bible prophecy is not for us to make a calendar, but to build character.”
This morning we’re going to look at a number of passages that will help put all this in perspective for us.
- The Restrainer is removed. Before the Antichrist steps into his role as the world’s worst
leader of all time, the Bible teaches the Lord Jesus is going to return for His Church in the air – this is the rapture we spoke about earlier (1 Thess. 4:13-18). Paul makes reference to the same thing in his second letter to the Thessalonians saying the Antichrist will be revealed when the Restrainer is removed. “And now you know what is holding him back (the man of lawlessness v.3), so that he may be revealed at the proper time. For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue until he is taken out of the way” (2 Thess. 2:6-7). The next sign before the Anti-Christ is revealed will be God removing, the one who holds… “back the man of lawlessness.” He is commonly called the “Restrainer” (NAS). Who is the restrainer Paul is talking about here? There have been a number of possible answers given. But the only one that fits the Bible is the Holy Spirit’s work of restraining evil through the Church; He is the only one with the sufficient power ( i.e. supernatural strength) to hold back Satan. It fits the role Jesus said He would have on earth after Jesus ascended to the right hand of the Father (John 16:8-11). His removal means the rapture of the Church (John 14:16 with you forever Eph. 1:14 a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance). So before the man of lawlessness is revealed, the restrainer will be removed and the Church will be raptured. It is believed there may be as many as 70 Million people who will be raptured from the US alone!
When this happens, a torrent of evil will devour the world like the breaking of a dam. Many, many people are going to suddenly realize their need for Christ. Even though the restraining ministry of the Holy Spirit be removed, His redeeming ministry will continue. Many people will turn to Christ.
Revelation 7:9 says those will be saved after the restrainer is removed and the tribulation begins will be a great multitude that no one could count.
So, the restrainer here, I think clearly refers to the work of the Holy Spirit restraining evil through the Church. Followers of Christ have stemmed the tide of evil throughout the centuries. The Church is the salt and light of the world. In fact, history clearly demonstrates that Christians have done more to hold back evil in our world than we have any idea. Slavery was abolished due to Christians in England, then America (William Wilberforce 1833 The Movie: Amazing Grace). The basis of American law is founded on Biblical morals. Many of our greatest colleges were founded as Christian schools and from those schools came some of the greatest men and women who shaped America to be a great nation. In the West, Christians build the first hospitals. Many of which bear the names of great Christians. Relief organizations originated from Christian founders (Salvation Army, Red Cross). No other religion has had such an incredible impact on the world for good.
Warren Wiersbe writes, In spite of its weakness and seeming failure, never underestimate the importance of the Church in the world. People who criticize the Church do not realize that the presence of the people of God in this world gives unsaved people opportunity to be saved. Lot, of Sodom and Gomorrah in the OT, was not what I would call a highly dedicated follower of God, but his presence in Sodom held back the wrath of God. The presence of the Church is delaying the revealing of the Anti-Christ and the coming of God’s judgment.
So, the restraining ministry of the Holy Spirit (the Church) will be removed, then….
- The Anti-Christ is revealed. Don‘t let anyone deceive you in any way, for the day will not
come until. . .the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He will oppose and will exalt himself and over every living thing that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God (Vv.2-3; see also 8; 9-12). After the apostasy and widespread rejection of God’s Word by so called believers, then the rapture will take place and this is the removal of the restrainer. Following these things, then Paul says the Anti-Christ will be revealed. Only Paul calls him the man of lawlessness. The Apostle John is the one who calls him the Anti-Christ (1John 2:18).
He has about 25 different names in the Bible. Other than Jesus, he is the most important figure in Bible prophecy. Respected Bible scholar Dr. Harold Willmington describes this future world leaders dictator: Since the days of Adam, it has been estimated that approximately 40 billion human beings have been born upon our earth. Four and one-half billion (8 billion plus now) of this number are alive today. However, by any standard of measurement one might employ, the greatest human (apart from the Son of God Himself) is matters of ability and achievement is yet to make his appearance on planet earth. of this number are alive today. All point to his character and certain doom. Paul tells us a number of characteristics about the Anti-Christ in this passage. I am going to combine them with some other passages that help paint a clearer picture of him.
- He will emerge as a charismatic leader. Charismatic in that he will sway the world
with his mouth. In accordance with the work of Satan…counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders,…every sort of evil that deceives (2 Thess. 2:9-10). The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise authority for forty-two months…he was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation (Rev. 13:5,7b; see also Dan. 7:8, 25) He will have great oratory skills that will unite the world in three ways: economically, spiritually, and politically.
If there is any historical figure who fits as a prototype of the Antichrist the best, it was Adolf Hitler. Hitler was a man of incredible charisma, and great oratory skills. Chuck Colson, in his well known book: Kingdoms In Conflict, describes Hitler’s masterful ability to manipulate the heart of his followers. Solemn symphonic music began the set-up. The music stopped, a hush prevailed, and a patriotic anthem began and from the back, walking slowly down the wide aisle, strutted Hitler. Finally, the Furhrer himself rises to speak. Beginning in a low, velvet voice, which makes the audience unconsciously lean forward to hear, he speaks his love for Germany…and gradually his pitch increases until he reaches a screaming crescendo. But his audience does not think his rasping shouts excessive. They are screaming with him.
When the Antichrist appears on the scene, he will be so winsome people will flock to him like flies on honey. People will be saying, A”Finally! The leader we’ve been looking for!”
- He will be extremely cunning. Dan. 7:8 pictures him as a little horn that will rise
inconspicuously to power in the European Union. There will be ten kings (The Group 10) who are the ten toes of Dan. 2’s statue or the ten horns of Dan. 7’s horrible beast. When these ten rulers come into power, the Anti-Christ will take over three not by war but by clever political manipulation. Daniel reiterates this in id Dan. 11, He will invade the kingdom when its people feel secure, and he will secure it through intrigue (Dan. 11:21). He will be a political genius, a masterful diplomat, a cunning manipulator.
Paul goes on to say, He will oppose and exalt himself over every living that is called God… (V. 4) The idea here is he will maneuver himself by his own sly cunning into a position of power. It will be accepted because he will make it look like he is doing the world a sacrificial favor. He will bring seeming peace and stability to the economic and political world. The perpetual crisis in the Middle East will no doubt be the stage of his debut. He will deceive the nation of Israel into agreeing to a seven-year peace covenant with him in which he will promise to protect Israel from Gentile threats (Dan. 9:27). He will be convincingly cunning.
- He will declare himself God. …he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming to be
God (V.4). This will happen three and one-half years after he signs the covenant with Israel (Dan. 9:27). Rev. 13:8 goes on to say the whole world will worship him. When he sets himself up in the new temple and calls himself God, this will be the “abomination of desolation” Jesus said would happen (Matt. 24:15). We think, “How in the world could this happen?” It will. And that is when the eyes of the nation of Israel will suddenly be opened that he is not the true Christ. Further…
- He will be immoral. He will…try to change the set times and the laws (Dan. 7:25) says
he’ll change Jewish festivals and laws and meaning he’ll make immorality acceptable in the name of
religion. He won’t reject Judaism outright as much as he’ll try to replace it. Because he will declare
himself to be God he will set out to attempt to prove it by changing laws God has put in place.
In the early days of the French Revolution, new leaders tried this very thing. They tried to control the masses by changing everything that grew out of Christianity or Christian tradition. They set up a new calendar that in which the years were numbered from the date of the revolution instead of the birth of Christ. The tried to change all the Christian Churches to “temples of reason.” They actually tried to replace the seven-day week with a ten-day week. Their extreme actions of hostility toward God anticipate the same actions of the coming world ruler.
Seeing the dramatic shifts of morality in the world today, it is not hard to see one man could bring greater changes in law. Issues such as the redefinition of marriage, gay marriages, abortion, the destruction of the family are all shifting setting the stage for the Antichrist.
- He will be cruel. He shall…persecute the saints of the Most High (Dan.
7:25, KJV, see also Rev. 13:7). It will not be obvious at first but will become evident. The word for persecute literally means to “wear out.” The same word is used of wearing out of garments and a slow, painful, cruel, torturous wearing down of the people of God. Hitler was a picture of this in his concentration camps.
As true as this is, God will have a chain on him. He will have no power but the power God allows him to temporarily exercise. He was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them. And he was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation (Rev. 13:7).
How can all this happen? I came across these sobering and stinging words of Dr. David Jeremiah that I though I’d share with you. …it is the Church itself that paves the way for the delusion to come. Because there is no teaching on prophecy in most evangelical Churches, people are unprepared for what is to come. It will be very easy for the Anti-Christ to move into that vacuum of knowledge and deceive the inhabitants of planet earth. But it doesn’t end there. Paul finishes with the best news. The Lord Jesus Christ will return! …the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of His mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming (2 Thess. 2:8).
One final question before we finish. Is the Antichrist slinking around in the world somewhere even as I speak? I believe it is very possible. In, Signs of the Coming Christ, author Gary Fraizer writes: Somewhere at this moment there may be a young man growing into maturity. He is in all likelihood a brooding, thoughtful young man. Inside his heart, however, there is a hellish rage. It boils like a caldron of molten lead. He hates God. He despises Jesus Christ. He detests the Church. In his mind there is taking shape the form of a dream of conquest. He will disingenuously present himself as a friend of Christ and the Church (the ultimate apostate). Yet. . .He will, once empowered, pour out hell itself on the this world. Can the world produce such a prodigy? Hitler was once a little boy. Stalin a lad. Nero was a child. The tenderness of childhood will be shaped by the devil into the terror of the antichrist.
I realize this is not comforting. It is disturbing. But God does not tell us the future to waste our time, but to make the most of our time. Our task is not to be anxiously looking for or be worried about the coming world ruler, the Anti-christ. Instead, we are to be looking for the blessed hope and appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13). Jesus told us in this world we’d have trouble, but we are to take heart because He has overcome the world (John 16:33). Giving our lives to Christ is the only place we’ll have peace and the guaranteed promise that when He comes for His Church at the rapture, “that daring air rescue” as Dr. David Jeremiah calls it, we will personally be saved from experiencing the days of unrestrained evil of the Antichrist.