The Antichrist: One who is to come; a political leader who will falsely set up a covenant with Israel and lead the world during the tribulation.
"Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour." - 1 John 2:18
One visit to your local Christian bookstore should be enough to convince you of the immense interest in end time events. An issue that continues to intrigue much of the Christian community is the identity of the Antichrist.
Is he alive today? Is he in power somewhere in the world? Which nation will usher this seemingly dauntless leader onto the stage of world affairs? These are just a few of the questions many have sought to answer about this person. Several writers have developed intricate numeric schemes in an effort to identify either his name or his identity. Others have approached the subject from the standpoint of current world events.
The Bible, however, teaches that when the Antichrist comes onto the scene, there will ultimately be no doubt about his identity. His deeds and doctrine will eventually expose him to the world.
In his epistles and the book of Revelation, the apostle John made it clear that many people would come along in the spirit of antichrist. But there will come a day when one world leader will rise to power who will be the embodiment of evil, one who is empowered and directed by the devil himself. This will be the Antichrist. The benchmark by which these false prophets were to be tested concerned their attitude toward the incarnate person of Jesus Christ. Their refusal or failure to acknowledge that Jesus had come in the flesh would expose the spirit of antichrist, according to John. Therefore, if we take our cue from John, we can assume (accurately) that antichrists have come and gone since the day John penned his letters.
In the book of Revelation, John refers to the final and ultimate antichrist as the Beast. The Beast will be the embodiment of the entire spirit of antichrist. He will have supernatural power and global influence.
The Beast first appears as a political leader, who will make a covenant with Israel and assume world leadership. Later he takes on the role of a religious leader who is worshiped. Supported by his sidekick—the False Prophet—the Beast will deceive the world. He, his prophet, and Satan will form an unholy trinity to rule all of creation.
A Closer Look
Although we derive much of our thinking about the Antichrist from the descriptions of the beasts found in Revelation 13, the word Antichrist appears only in the epistles of John. As discussed earlier, John’s reference was more pointed to a false doctrine than to a particular person. However, because of the interest in the “person” or “persons” described in Revelation, a brief look at the connection between John’s idea concerning antichrist and the beasts described in Revelation is essential.
Two meanings go along with the prefix anti. The first carries the thought of “instead of” or “a substitute.” A better way of putting this would be “false Christ.” The second meaning is probably the one most often thought of—”against,” or “against Christ.” If you are antisomething, then you are against it. This, I believe, is the more accurate meaning of the term used in John’s epistles.
The latter definition lends itself to the description of the first beast in Revelation 13:1, “I stood on the sand of the sea. And I saw a beast rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name.” Scripture says this first beast will set himself up in direct opposition to Christ, falsely pledging to give Israel the land, bringing about peace for the first three and one-half years of the tribulation period. For this reason, many evangelicals believe this first beast to be the Antichrist.
The description of the first beast—especially the ten horns and seven heads—has led many to conclude that the first beast will be a political leader. He will achieve worldwide control through his plan for peace. This ruler will be in this position for the entire seven-year tribulation period.
Who Will He Be?
Will he be resurrected from the dead, as many believe because of the reference to a fatal wound that has been healed? No one knows, and our most educated guesses are just that.
In direct cooperation with the first beast is a second beast known as the False Prophet, who will assume a place of leadership in the religious community that rightly belongs to Christ. Reference to this second beast is found in Revelation 13:11: “I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb and he spoke like a dragon.”
There is much to be learned about the False Prophet from the description in Revelation 13:11–17. The description that he had two horns like a lamb but spoke like a dragon signifies his religious role. The word dragon has been used as a name for Satan; thus, the False Prophet is described in terms such that he will look like a lamb (Christ) but speak like a dragon (Satan). The role of this second beast is to support the first beast—the political leader. The authority that this False Prophet claims is derived from Satan and the political leader. His role is to cause the inhabitants of the earth to worship the first beast, thus fulfilling the third part of the false trinity.
Many words have been used to describe or define antichrist(s) or the Antichrist. One that comes to mind most often is the deceiver. Based on further study of Scripture, we can see that there will be an onslaught of false teaching that will cause many to form a new world religion. Those drawn to this new theology will be deceived into believing Satan’s lies, as taught by antichrists (those who teach against Christ) and the False Prophet who deceives those who listen to his lies.
As the religious leader of this time, the False Prophet will gather credibility among the earth’s peoples by performing great and miraculous feats. Although all who believe in the only true and living God recognize His ability to perform miracles, many forget that (within limitations) Satan can also perform miracles. With power derived from Satan, the False Prophet is able to induce the inhabitants of the earth to worship the Beast, thus deceiving them with false teaching.
In addition to the use of miracles, the False Prophet will require everyone to wear the mark of the Beast on the hand or forehead as a sign that he or she has worshiped the Beast. Many have speculated on what the mark will be, with the most common thought being some use of the number 666. Again, this is speculation at best, and I will leave those studies to others. Suffice it to say that Scripture says there will be a mark, and whatever that mark is, it will be placed on everyone who worships the Beast. Without it, Scripture says the right to buy and sell would be prohibited.
The false religious system that will eventually come into being will be a clever, but nonetheless false, imitation of the divine Trinity. In his unholy schemes, Satan desires to be worshipped as God, the Father, with the first beast (the Antichrist) assuming the place of Jesus Christ and the second Beast (the False Prophet) taking the place of the Holy Spirit.
What application can be made concerning things that are yet to come? Perhaps that question overwhelms you and causes you to fear what is to come. If that is where you are, I urge you to consider solemnly your position in Christ and rest in His absolute control of future events.
Although the descriptions found in Revelation and in other places through the Bible that deal with the end times can be frightening, our trust in Christ is our ultimate weapon against fear. If you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, your future is secure.
Adapted from “Charles Stanley’s Handbook for Christian Living,” 1996.