"Attributes & Timing of the Antichrist"
I am going to address two separate issues related to the antichrist here. (Note: Even though John says that there are "many antichrists" [1 John 2:18], I also believe the Bible talks about one specific antichrist, also called "the beast", who will rise to power on earth in the End Times. That is who I am referring to when I use the term "antichrist.") First, why couldn't he have come sooner? There have been countless people over the years who predicted that a certain person was the antichrist, and obviously they all turned out to be wrong. I present very specific and very concrete evidence that indicates that it is likely that we are now within a narrow time frame in which the antichrist will appear. Second, what are the attributes of the antichrist?
Before I continue, I want to make one very important point. When interpreting visions and prophecies in Scripture, one can never be completely confident and mistakes are relatively easy to make. I do realize that it is entirely possible that everything I am presenting here could be wrong. However, in order for that to be the case, I think there would have to be far too many coincidences. I also believe God has led me in this direction, and if I am right about that, He obviously wouldn't steer me the wrong way.
Why couldn't the antichrist have come sooner?
A common argument against this type of discussion is, "people have been thinking the antichrist is about to come for the last 2000 years, so what makes you think you have a better chance of being right?" There are a number of reasons, which I will list and discuss in this first section. As time has passed and more people have interpreted the Scriptures, more specific details have been discovered that make it impossible for the antichrist to have appeared at any time in the distant past.
"He will confirm a covenant with many for one 'seven.'" - Daniel 9:27a, NIV
Based on context, the "many" is a reference to Israel. The antichrist could not have formed a covenant with Israel while it was not a nation, which was the case from 70 AD until 1948.
"And they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led away captive into all nations. And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled." - Luke 21:24, NKJV
Jerusalem was returned to Jewish control in 1967. Before then, this part of the prophecy could not have been fulfilled.
"Now the number of the army of the horsemen was two hundred million; I heard the number of them." - Revelation 9:16, NKJV
When John wrote this, there weren't even 200 million people on earth, much less could he have imagined an army ever being that large. But John is very specific about the number, which lets us know that the events of the End Times could not have taken place until fairly recently. It wasn't until the last few decades that such a large army became possible--most likely in China.
Now for a few more generalized parts of prophecy...
Though this is far from a certainty, from the perspective of someone living over 2000 years ago seeing a vision of our present-day life, this description could describe moving cars/traffic. Of course, cars didn't exist and there wasn't so much traffic until recent decades.
The shields of his mighty men are made red,
The valiant men are in scarlet.
The chariots come with flaming torches
In the day of his preparation,
And the spears are brandished.
The chariots rage in the streets,
They jostle one another in the broad roads;
They seem like torches,
They run like lightning. - Nahum 2:3-4, NKJV
Similarly, such rapid transportation as is described in Daniel was not possible until fairly recently. Up until the last 100 years or so, there was virtually no advancement in the speed of transportation.
"...many shall run to and fro..." - Daniel 12:4b, NKJV
Just thinking about the hectic lifestyles so many people live today, have we ever before seen such a strong example of many "running to and fro" in their daily lives?
"...and knowledge shall increase." - Daniel 12:4c, NKJV
Knowledge has certainly increased within this generation. According to research studies, the total store of human knowledge is now doubling every eight years. 80% of all the scientists who have ever lived are alive today. Every minute they add 2000 pages to man's scientific knowledge, and the scientific material they produce every 24 hours would take one person 5 years to read. About a half-million new books are published every year. Computers and other new technologies have significantly helped with the recent increase in knowledge as well.
"You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains." - Matthew 24:6-8
The common argument is that we've always had these things, but let's look at it in closer detail...
No period has witnessed the escalation of wars as has the 20th century. The Red Cross has estimated that over 100 million people have been killed in wars since the 20th century began. Up until 1914, war had never been universal, but in both World Wars, total war was waged. Since World War II, the war that was supposed to make the world safe for democracy, there have been numerous major wars as well as hundreds of rebellions and revolutions. The death toll in conflicts since the end of World War II has now topped 23 million. More recently, in 1993, a record 29 major wars were fought.
The World Health Organization estimates that one-third of the world is well-fed, one-third is under-fed one-third is starving.
Modern science seems to have eliminated the fear of plague, but today we are on the verge of a deadly scourge that could kill more people then have ever been killed in all the pestilences yet known to man--it is the plague of AIDS. Current estimates are that 30 to 40 million people around the globe are infected with HIV/AIDS. However, AIDS is not the only modern plague to afflict mankind. Virtually unheard of among our ancestors, over 100 different kinds of cancer now kill over 5 million people every year. Even the common bacteria that causes pneumonia, children's ear infections and many other every day diseases are evolving into forms untreatable by all known medicines, threatening a chilling post-antibiotic era where even the simplest infections could quickly escalate into fatal diseases.
The World Almanac tells us that there were only 21 earthquakes of major strength between the years 1000 and 1800. But between 1800 and 1900 there were 18 major earthquakes. In the next 50 years, between 1900 and 1950, there were 33 major quakes, and between 1950 and 1991 there were 93 major earthquakes, almost tripling the number of the previous half century, and claiming the lives of 1.3 million people around the world. Granted, some of the increase can probably be attributed to increased population and better earthquake records, but I doubt that can explain the fact that the increase is so significant and so sudden.
Are things really worse now than they've ever been before? I think "yes" is a very plausible answer to that question.
"Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God." - 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4, NKJV
The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the filthiness of her fornication. And on her forehead a name was written: MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. - Revelation 17:4-5, NKJV
The antichrist will arise on the heels of a sharp falling away of the world, the nation, and perhaps the church itself into great apostasy. With the incredible lack of moral values in today's society and all the corruption that goes on, that certainly could fit the present time.
Paul also addresses this idea in his second letter to Timothy:
But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! - 2 Timothy 3:1-5
While this prophecy is too general to be foolproof, it certainly sounds like the world we live in today. We are seeing all of these things occurring like never before, and there doesn't appear to be a turnaround in sight.
Returning to specifics...
The antichrist will arise at the twilight of a 490-year renaissance of Christianity.
"Seventy 'sevens' are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy." - Daniel 9:24
There has been some debate as to what this means exactly, but general consensus is that the "sevens" mentioned in Daniel refer to seven-year periods. Thus, seventy sevens would equal a period of 490 years.
Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses on the door of a church in Wittenberg, Germany, formally beginning the Protestant Reformation on October 31, 1517. If we use that date as the start of the renaissance of Christianity, then the 490th anniversary came on October 31, 2007. The Bible indicates that the Rapture will take place not long after that period of 490 years.
It is important to note that some interpretations of this passage of Scripture attribute this to the 490 years preceding the death of Christ. While that interpretation could be correct, I think it misses a few important details. Daniel 9:27 says that this person will confirm a covenant with Israel for 7 years, which Jesus did not do. That same verse also refers to this person creating the "abomination of desolation," which could not pertain to Christ. Finally, there is the matter that I will address more fully after this next session, and that is that God made it very clear to Daniel that these words were not intended for him or his time, but for a future time--a time near the end. It is entirely possible that God allowed both time frames to fit into this prophecy, so that it could have an alternate meaning in the past before the true meaning would be revealed near the end.
This next point really surprised me when I read it, and it's not something that seems to get much attention. Either the people who wrote this particular article have picked up on something others have missed, or they are mistaken in their interpretation of this particular idea. However, if they are correct, it has an amazing correlation to the present time.
The antichrist will be preceded by an aggressive war-monger who will forcefully depose two Middle Eastern governments.
"While I was observing, behold, a male goat was coming from the west over the surface of the whole earth without touching the ground; and the goat had a conspicuous horn between his eyes. And he came up to the ram that had the two horns, which I had seen standing in front of the canal, and rushed at him in his mighty wrath. And I saw him come beside the ram, and he was enraged at him; and he struck the ram and shattered his two horns, and the ram had no strength to withstand him. So he hurled him to the ground and trampled on him, and there was none to rescue the ram from his power. ... The ram which you saw with the two horns represents the kings of Media and Persia. And the shaggy goat represents the kingdom of Greece, and the large horn that is between his eyes is the first king." - Daniel 8:5-7, 20-21, NAS
When you factor in that the armies from this "kingdom of Greece" come to the Middle East by air or sea from the far reaches of the globe, it is reasonable to conclude that it is symbolic of the modern-day unrivaled power of the world, the United States. This corresponds directly to the great harlot nation symbolically dubbed 'Babylon' in Revelation 17-18, which describes the sudden demise of that government, also, only in greater detail.
That said, the point here is that there will only be a relatively narrow window of time between when the antichrist becomes identifiable in the public view and the beginning of the great tribulation. Therefore, when you see this war-mongering leader of, I believe, the United States, then you can be sure that the antichrist is or will soon be in view. Before then, it is doubtful that sufficient evidence can be found to identify him, even if he is a well-known figure, but when you see the U.S. conquer two Middle Eastern countries, well, the antichrist should be easy to find.
(end quote from www.scatteredsheep.com)
Those who like and those who dislike President Bush would pretty much all agree that he could be described as an "aggressive war-monger," as this article puts it. Regardless of that, though, what cannot be disputed is the fact that Bush has forcefully deposed two Middle Eastern governments (the Taliban in Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein in Iraq). Does that mean Bush was the leader immediately prior to the antichrist's reign?
"Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away." - Matthew 24:33-35, NIV
Jesus clearly states that "this generation" will not pass away until the events of the End Times occur. Which generation is that? Many people who were alive back in Biblical times thought Jesus meant their generation, but obviously that was not the case. God made it very clear to Daniel that these words were not for him or his time, but for a time in the future. God says to us through Daniel that the true meaning of these prophecies would be concealed until the End Times are near:
"But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end; many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase." - Daniel 12:4, NKJV
He replied, "Go your way, Daniel, because the words are closed up and sealed until the time of the end." - Daniel 12:9, NKJV
God gave similar words to His prophet Habakkuk:
"For the vision is yet for an appointed time; But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie." - Habakkuk 2:3a
"This generation" most likely refers to the generation since Israel became a nation in 1948. It is uncertain exactly what the length of a generation is, but I think 70 years is most likely, meaning these events will take place before 2018. 40 years, 80 years, 100 years, and 120 years are other possibilities (though if everything else I have said is correct, the 40-year mark has obviously already passed). Where do the most likely figures of 70 and 80 come from? A combination of common sense (the average lifespan is a little over 70 years) and the Bible:
The days of our lives are seventy years; And if by reason of strength they are eighty years... - Psalm 90:10a, NKJV
Strictly looking at the facts, the Rapture could not have occurred before Jerusalem was returned to Jewish control in 1967. Assuming the idea about the 490-year period is correct, that narrows the time frame even further, because the Rapture could not have occurred prior to late 2007. Factoring in the idea that "this generation will not pass away" and if that generation began in 1948, then these prophecies must be fulfilled by 2018 (or possibly 2028, depending on the length of a generation). Thus, we have a very narrow time frame between 2007 and 2018 for the return of Christ.
"No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man." - Matthew 24:36,38-39, NIV
We can't forget this passage. No one knows the day or the hour except for God Himself. However, He gave us all of these prophecies for a reason, so that when the time is near, those who believe would be able to realize that. While the exact day and hour will remain unknown, God wants us as believers to realize when the time is near, and the evidence is very strong that we are now very close to the return of Christ.
So, if the time of the Rapture is near, who could the antichrist be? I will address that question in the next section.
"And all the world marveled and followed the beast." - Revelation 13:3b, NKJV
"All who dwell on the earth will worship him..." - Revelation 13:8a, NKJV
The antichrist will be a great unifier who effectively appeals to people across traditional lines of division. He will have strong charisma and a personality that will appeal to people to such a degree that ordinary differences will not keep them from supporting him. One way or another, he will have a way of getting people to do what he wants.
"He shall be different from the first ones..." - from Daniel 7:24, NKJV
The antichrist will be generally different or unique amongst politicians. Though non-specific, he will be (or at least will appear to be) a new breed, unlike any before and a standout in the realm of politics.
"And in his place shall arise a vile person, to whom they will not give the honor of royalty; but he shall come in peaceably, and seize the kingdom by intrigue." - Daniel 11:21, NKJV
"He shall enter peaceably, even into the richest places of the province; and he shall do what his fathers have not done, nor his forefathers: he shall disperse among them the plunder, spoil, and riches; and he shall devise his plans against the strongholds, but only for a time." - Daniel 11:24, NKJV
The antichrist will not come from royalty and will arise to power upon the promise of peace, intriguing people as he rises. The second verse, if I am not reading too much into it, seems to indicate an attitude of socialism in dispersing the wealth.
"He will cause astounding devastation and will succeed in whatever he does." - Dan 8:24b, NIV
The antichrist will be very successful in whatever he does, though that success may not be completely of his own making, as this next point addresses.
"His power shall be mighty, but not by his own power." - Daniel 8:24a, NKJV
"And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary." - Daniel 9:26b, NKJV
"And after the league is made with him he shall act deceitfully, for he shall come up and become strong with a small number of people." - Daniel 11:23, NKJV
This would seem to indicate that the antichrist will have powerful supporters helping him rise to power, and he will have friends in high places well before these ten political leaders cause great destruction on his behalf. The destruction these conspirators will cause is obviously the culmination of long-term planning and preparation, indicating the level of their loyal devotion to this man over a course of time well in advance of the great tribulation they will spark. This no doubt has something to do with their master's unbroken pattern of success, also.
"The king will do as he pleases." - Daniel 11:36a, NIV
In line with the last point, this verse indicates that the antichrist will do whatever he wants, not answering to a higher earthly power. A U.S. President with lots of friends in high places would be in a very good position to do just that.
"And in the latter time of their kingdom, when the transgressors are come to the full, a king of fierce countenance, and understanding dark sentences, shall stand up." - Daniel 8:23, KJV
"And in the latter time of their kingdom, when the transgressors have reached their fullness, a king shall arise, having fierce features, Who understands sinister schemes." - Daniel 8:23, NKJV
"Through his cunning he shall cause deceit to prosper under his rule; and he shall exalt himself in his heart. He shall destroy many in their prosperity." - Daniel 8:25a, NKJV
The indication here is that his remarkable resume will not only be a product of a lot of behind-the-scene support from his rich and powerful disciples, but also be underscored by a lot of underhanded dealings. He will be a man who doesn't play by the rules, but who is shrewd, cunning, deceitful, and well-connected enough to get away with it. His life will likely show a pattern of successes attained through non-traditional (perhaps deceitful) ways. The last verse also indicates that his rule and perhaps his flawed economic policies will destroy those who have prospered, which is a common effect of socialism's "spread the wealth around" concept.
After these things I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was illuminated with his glory. And he cried mightily with a loud voice, saying, "Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and has become a dwelling place of demons, a prison for every foul spirit, and a cage for every unclean and hated bird! For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich through the abundance of her luxury." - Revelation 18:1-3, NKJV
"The kings of the earth who committed fornication and lived luxuriously with her will weep and lament for her, when they see the smoke of her burning, standing at a distance for fear of her torment, saying, 'Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! For in one hour your judgment has come.'" - Revelation 18:9-10, NKJV
"And the merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her, for no one buys their merchandise anymore. ... The merchants of these things, who became rich by her, will stand at a distance for fear of her torment, weeping and wailing, and saying, 'Alas, alas, that great city that was clothed in fine linen, purple, and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls! For in one hour such great riches came to nothing.'" - Revelation 18:11, 15-17a, NKJV
Where will the antichrist come from and what is "Babylon"? Some believe it to be Rome or the Catholic Church, but I don't think either of those ideas are correct, especially based on verses 3 and 11. Consider how many things the United States imports from all around the world, and imagine how rich we make other parts of the world because of those imports. When we combine that idea with our nation's wealth and the fact that the morals of our nation are deteriorating so rapidly, I think it is very likely that this passage is talking about the United States.
"...and [he] shall intend to change times and law." - from Daniel 7:25, NKJV
"...and he cast truth down to the ground. He did all this and prospered." - Daniel 8:12b, NKJV
These verses offer further evidence that this man will believe only in his own rule of law over others. He won't consider rules to matter beyond the extent of how they might interfere with attaining his own objectives. He won't see anything wrong with taking advantage of the law or ignoring the truth.
"...a fourth beast [the antichrist's government], dreadful and terrifying and extremely strong; and it had large iron teeth. It devoured and crushed and trampled down the remainder with its feet; and it was different from all the beasts that were before it. ... [It] was different from all the others, exceedingly dreadful, with its teeth of iron and its claws of bronze, and which devoured, crushed, and trampled down the remainder with its feet." ... "The fourth beast will be a fourth kingdom on the earth, which will be different from all the other kingdoms and will devour the whole earth and tread it down and crush it." - Daniel 7:7,19,23, NAS
"And he will destroy to an extraordinary degree and prosper and perform his will; He will destroy mighty men and the holy people...he will destroy many while they are at ease." - Daniel 8:24-25, NAS
The antichrist will be as aggressive and cunning as necessary to accomplish whatever he sets out to do. He will arise from within this fourth beast, a great nation with unrivaled wealth and power like former great empires (such as Babylon and Rome). This kingdom certainly could be the United States, since it is a kingdom that is very "different from all the other kingdoms" of the past and, at least for the moment, we continue to have unrivaled wealth and power.
"And there, in this horn, were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking pompous words. ... I watched then because of the sound of the pompous words which the horn was speaking..." - Daniel 7:8b, 11a, NKJV
"...namely, that horn which had eyes and a mouth which spoke pompous words, whose appearance was greater than his fellows." - Daniel 7:20b, NKJV
"And he shall exalt himself in his heart." - from Daniel 8:25, NKJV
"There was given to him a mouth speaking arrogant words and blasphemies, and authority to act for forty-two months was given to him." - Revelation 13:5, NAS
The antichrist will be extraordinarily proud and boastful, a mega-megalomaniac who truly believes in his own superiority. He won't be able to see any faults about himself. It is noteworthy to realize is how effective his boasting will be: People will be mesmerized by his grandiose boasts. He will speak arrogant words and will be given authority for 3 1/2 years--the right amount of time that a U.S. President could be in office should something catastrophic happen near the end of his presidency.
"I am afraid, lest as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds should be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear this beautifully. ... For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their deeds." - 2 Corinthians 11:3-4, 13-15, NAS
The antichrist will appear/claim to be a Christian, though he won't actually be a Christian. Under the guise of being the two witnesses of Revelation 12, the antichrist and his fake-techno-miracle-working partner, the false prophet, will woo the world into believing that the God of the Bible is even on their side in their slaughter of the saints.
"He will confirm a covenant with many for one 'seven.'" - Daniel 9:27a, NIV
He will confirm a covenant with “many” (the Jewish people in Israel, as I discussed earlier), which will likely involve the establishment of a Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. This can only be done by signing a peace treaty between Israel and the Muslims. It seems reasonable to believe that someone with a background in both Islam and Christianity (at least by appearances) would have the best chance of accomplishing that exceptionally difficult task.
"I was considering the horns, and there was another horn, a little one, coming up among them, before whom three of the first horns were plucked out by the roots. And there, in this horn, were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking pompous words." - Daniel 7:8, NKJV
"And out of one of them came a little horn which grew exceedingly great toward the south, toward the east, and toward the Glorious Land." - Daniel 8:9, NKJV
The frequent use of the term "little horn" to describe the antichrist indicates that he will rise from relative obscurity, from a briefly-held position of power somewhere in the lower or middle levels of politics which he will hold before the tribulation and his subsequent ascent to power.
Interpretations of prophecies in Scripture are always subject to error. God caused them to be intentionally vague because they had to be. Think about it: How crazy would believers begin to act if we had been given a specific date for Christ's return? God knew there was no way that would turn out well, so the prophecies He gives us had to be somewhat vague.
However, they are still specific enough and contain enough details to give us reasonable confidence that we are in fact very close to the Rapture and the End Times. God makes it very clear throughout these prophecies that the true meaning of His words would be sealed up until the end, but He also makes it very clear that, when the end is near, those who are wise would be able to understand those words.
If all of the interpretations I have given here (most of which came from various websites which I have credited below) are indeed accurate, then the Rapture will occur in a fairly narrow window within the next 10 to 20 years--most likely toward the earlier end of that time frame. More significantly, the antichrist will arise (or perhaps has already arisen) from relative obscurity upon the strength of friends in high places, arrogant boasts, and deceitfulness. He will appear to be different from all who have come before him, unifying people like never before. He will become the leader of a powerful nation that likewise is like no kingdom that has come before, and this will all take place shortly after the previous leader of that nation deposed of two Middle Eastern governments. I believe that all these signs are pointing at one man with such uniformity as we have never seen before.
List of Sources:
..and, of course, the Bible: the inspired Word of God.