The Bible gives many clues on how to identify the Antichrist, but if your life depended on recognizing him when the time comes, would you be able to? Find out how to consider the Antichrist question biblically and free yourself of any anxiety you may have over failing to identify him when he comes and suffering the grave consequences.
The Antichrist Prophecy
Apart from the rapture and Christ's second coming, the Antichrist is probably the most well-known Bible prophecy topic to Christians. Even the rapture itself relates back to the Antichrist for most Christians who believe the rapture will save them from the Antichrist's clutches.
The Antichrist is definitely not to be taken lightly. He will head up a new one-world government that holds captive the entire world. This headship is the same ruling position that Satan offered to Jesus when he tempted him (Lk 4:5-7). For the last 3½ years of this age, God will allow Satan to take full authority over all nations and give it to the Antichrist (Rev 13:7, 2).
His rule begins with him hunting down every person, not just believers (Rev 12:13). He will torture everyone into taking the Mark of the Beast without which they will not be able to buy what they need (Rev 9:1-12=Rev 13:16-18). He will also go to war with the nations that resist his rule. More than one-third of the world population will be killed in the war with Asia that results (Dan 8:24=Dan 11:44=Rev 9:13-21). Given this total control and subjugation, his iron rule will bring a form of peace and prosperity. Jesus and Paul predicted this deceptive "peace and safety" would be in place right before great destruction from God comes and brings the end of the Antichrist' reign (Mt 24:38-39; 1The 5:3).
Given how horrific this man will be, there is a lot of speculation about who he is (today) or how to identify him when he comes. The Bible tells us certain identification details that seem to make this possible. But not every Antichrist theory drawn upon a Bible passage is reliable.
That's why I have collected seven of the most common Antichrist theories that I am asked about.
Myth #1: "The Antichrist' is the Bible's Name For Him"
This global ruler during the Great Tribulation is most commonly referred to by Christians as "The Antichrist." Yet that moniker is itself a myth.
It turns out that the Bible never actually uses that title for him in any prophecy of the coming end-time king of the world.
John's letters use antichrist to refer to a “spirit of antichrist” that was already present in those who opposed or denied Christ. But the end-time prophecies use such titles as the Man of Sin, Son of Perdition, Lawless One (2Th 2:1-8), Little Horn (Dan 7:8), Coming Prince (Dan 9:26), (Willful) King of the North (Dan 11:36) and the Beast (Rev 13:1-10), among others.
Although I am aware of this naming problem, I'm not picky about it. I go with the flow. A good writer knows that to get your real points across, it is best to use the terms that your audience expects and understands. That's what I'll do in this article as I do in all my writing.
Myth #2: "The Antichrist Will Be Popular or Charismatic"
Have you ever tried sharing your pick for Antichrist with others when he is not well-liked, handsome and charismatic? Most people have a hard time imagining an unattractive man winning over the whole world. Certainly, if he is going to be a devil, he had better be devilishly handsome! Right?
However, the Bible nowhere describes the Antichrist as physically appealing. The little physical description we have of him points to the opposite. He will be disfigured with a blind right eye and withered right arm (Zec 11:17). Since this man is said to die and come back to life, this disfigurement may be a result of his death and resurrection before coming to power.
How he comes to power is the key here. If he was going to be democratically elected, charisma and popular appeal would seem to be required.
However, the Bible paints quite a different picture of how the Antichrist takes control of the world. There won't be a vote and people won't care what he looks like; they will care whether he can fix a broken post-Wormwood world. (Keep reading through Myth #5 below for details.)
Myth #3: "The Antichrist Will Sign a Public Peace Treaty With Israel"
A top persistent myth about the Antichrist is that before Satan is kicked out of heaven and begins his great wrath with the Abomination of Desolation, the Antichrist must make a peace treaty with Israel. This is (loosely) based on what Daniel said about the Antichrist making a seven-year pact:
Daniel 9:27 (HCSB) — He will make a firm covenant with many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and offering. And the abomination of desolation will be on a wing of the temple, until the decreed destruction is poured out on the desolator.”
Notice that the verse does not say “covenant with Israel.” It only says “covenant with many,” whatever that means. You can look from Genesis to Revelation and you will not find a single verse that says the many is Israel or Israel makes a treaty with the Antichrist (nor the Antichrist making a "peace treaty" with anyone, either). Consequently, it is quite amazing that this theory has become as popular as it has, lacking a single explicit verse of support.
Worse, it ignores and contradicts the plain evidence we do have for who the “many” are. If you look in Revelation 17, you will find another mention of the Antichrist making a trade or deal with many, and this time it tells you how many there are and who they are:
Revelation 17:12-13, 16-17 (HCSB) 12 The 10 horns you saw are 10 kings who have not yet received a kingdom, but they will receive authority as kings with the beast for one hour. 13 These have one purpose, and they give their power and authority to the beast. 16 The 10 horns you saw, and the beast, will hate the prostitute. They will make her desolate and naked, devour her flesh, and burn her up with fire. 17 For God has put it into their hearts to carry out His plan by having one purpose and to give their kingdom to the beast until God’s words are accomplished.Article continues below...
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“The many” are rulers, but not the kind you are used to. They are not public figureheads like presidents or prime ministers. Instead, they are the power players who pull the strings behind the scenes. What the Bible says here about them I think matches and supports the rumors of the “Illuminati” who supposedly run a shadow government and plan to establish a very non-shadow New World Order. (I know that's a conspiracy theory and I'm not a believer in most of them, but any the Bible confirms, those I believe.)
Illuminati or not, Revelation 17 says ten powerful “kings without kingdoms” are going to be instrumental for the Antichrist taking power. The deal they make with the Antichrist is to use their power to get the Antichrist into power in exchange for finally getting public authority as kings in his new global kingdom. In addition, they must use their power beforehand to get rid of the prostitute Mystery Babylon the Great) who is riding the Beast (preventing him from doing what he wants).
Another error is the assumed public nature of this coming seven-year pact. Nowhere does it say that it is publicly known. I think it is unlikely that the ten rulers are going to publicize their plan with the Antichrist to take out the most powerful nation on earth who stands in their way. Nor their plan to afterward take over the world and make the Antichrist world king.
Regarding Paul's warning of peace and safety before destruction (1 Thessalonians 5:1–3), that has to do with the one-world government of the Antichrist. This will bring peace and safety until God ends the Tribulation with the rapture and his wrath.
In conclusion, watching for an Antichrist "seven-year peace with Israel" is simply not a way to identify the Antichrist. Nevertheless, the Antichrist will still bring peace to the Middle East. It's just that he'll do it through war, "destroying wonderfully" (Dan 8:24) instead of through peace treaties. He'll accomplish this by conquering and ruling the whole world (Rev 13:7). You may remember learning in history about the Pax Romana ("Roman peace"), or the relatively long period of peace among the conquered nations of the Roman Empire. Imagine the "Pax Antichrist," if you will, that will result across the whole world under the Antichrist's reign. It would put an end even to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Especially when you factor in how everyone with the mark of the beast then seems to lose their free will (Rev 16:9, 11).
Of course, the only true, non-forced peace between Israel and the Arabs will come with Christ's millennial reign when both peoples have the Holy Spirit poured out on them as Joel prophesies (Joel 2:28-29). The whole world will learn God's peaceful ways and learn war no more (Isa 2:4; Mic 4:3) in the Millennium.
Myth #4: "The Antichrist Cannot Be Identified Before the Rapture"
It's good to get this myth out of the way early if we're trying to understand how to identify who the Antichrist is. Some say you simply cannot. This idea is partly based on the assumption that the rapture comes before the Great Tribulation. The thinking is that we will be out of here before the Antichrist even makes his supposed “peace treaty with Israel.” The public peace treaty is the way most Christians expect to identify the Antichrist. So if they will not be here anymore when it happens, they naturally assume they cannot identify the Antichrist if he were already alive in person today.
Yet in Revelation 13 we are given a detailed profile of the Antichrist, albeit in the form of some mysterious riddles. One of them is a picture or calling card of the Beast that has turned out to be surprisingly literal (a beast like that exists today as the heraldry of the world's most prominent prince).
The other riddle is the infamous Number of the Beast or 666. When you put all the verses mentioning it together, the picture emerges that this “666” is the “number of the name” of “a man” that you must “count” or “calculate” from “his name.” The text even gives the number 666 as three letters, not three numbers. The letters are chi, xi, stigma and they have the values or gematria of 600, 60 and 6.
Using “wisdom” (Rev 13:18) which Daniel was told would be available in the end times (Dan 12:10), we can understand 666 and use it to identify who might be the Beast. As you can imagine, not many names are going to work out (without forcing or contrivance) to exactly that sum. Of course, we tend to deceive ourselves in these matters judging from all the Antichrists candidates that have been named in history. So it is best to leave anyone we identify using the 666 formula as only a “potential candidate” and not be dogmatic about it until a prophet comes to confirm it. The coming of 144,000 prophets is indeed prophesied before Wormwood, before the Great Tribulation and way before the rapture. (If you never thought of the 144,000 before as prophets, what would you call people who meet Jesus, are filled with the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, sealed with protection to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom and other messages they receive from three angels (Rev 7; 14:1-13)?)
Myth #5: "The Antichrist Comes to Power By Counterfeiting Jesus' Second Coming"
Although the Antichrist obviously will use force to take over part of the world, the question needs to be asked as to how he gets the rest to go along? Most Christians would say he does it through the deception of presenting himself as the returning Jesus. They expect he will somehow fulfill the prophecies of the Second Coming. Others say the Jews will perceive him as Messiah of the First Coming, giving him a very powerful endorsement. However, the Bible does not indicate anything like that.
Most simply, the Bible says the Antichrist comes not pretending to be Jesus, the Son of God. He goes for a much bigger lie, namely that he is Jesus' father, God himself:
2 Thessalonians 2:4 (HCSB) — He opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he sits in God’s sanctuary, publicizing that he himself is God.
This appears to be the “strong delusion” that Paul refers to later in that same chapter:
2 Thessalonians 2:10-11 (HCSB) — and with every unrighteous deception among those who are perishing. ⌊They perish⌋ because they did not accept the love of the truth in order to be saved. 11 For this reason God sends them a strong delusion so that they will believe what is false
For someone to prove he is God through the miracles of a powerful false prophet is an unprecedented trick. It will convince many, but not all. There are, of course, those who simply do not want God to be real and around to tell them what to do. That will never change. These people, therefore, need a special motivation to listen and submit. The Mark of the Beast specifically mentions that nobody will be able to buy or sell unless they agree to worship the Antichrist. And we know what most will need to buy first: food.
You see, the rise of the Antichrist is found at the 5th trumpet (Rev 9). Naturally, this would be right after the 4th trumpet (Rev 8:12) which describes the last of the calamitous effects of the Wormwood rogue planet (named in Rev 8:10). This Wormwood is the next event described in Revelation that has not been fulfilled yet. The destruction caused by Wormwood begins at the 6th seal with eclipses, shooting stars, and a global earthquake so great that every mountain and island is moved out of its place (Rev 6:12-17). It goes on with the first four trumpets bringing meteorite showers, as asteroid strike in the ocean, tsunamis, poisoned fresh waters and a hazy “nuclear winter” style sky (from all the ash and debris thrown up into the stratosphere).
Now you understand how the Antichrist is able to get everyone, even the godless rebels, to submit. People will be cold, starving, and shell-shocked after the Wormwood-caused disasters. They will need a bailout that includes all the basic necessities of life (much like New Orleans needed after Hurricane Katrina). Unfortunately, when a catastrophe is global and complete, there is nobody who can help that is not also in great need. That help must come from God himself, or someone can pawn themselves off as a close substitute. The Antichrist will appear as God and have the powers to bring security and sustenance to what's left of the world population.
But we must not forget that as bad as this Wormwood catastrophe sounds, it will apparently be tame in comparison to what the Antichrist will do. This seems to be what is intended by how his rise is called the first of three woes on the earth.
Revelation 8:13 (HCSB) — I looked again and heard an eagle flying high overhead, crying out in a loud voice, “Woe! Woe! Woe to those who live on the earth, because of the remaining trumpet blasts that the three angels are about to sound!”
Myth #6: "The Antichrist Must Be a Jew"
This myth goes along with the previous one about the Antichrist making a treaty with Israel that brings peace and allows them to build the Third Temple. The thinking is that he must be a Jew to be sympathetic to the Jews. They also base it on when Jesus said, "I have come in My Father's name, and you do not receive Me; if another shall come in his own name, you will receive him" (John 5:43). Because Jesus said the Jews will accept the Antichrist, people wonder how that could happen with a Gentile. The Jews ought to know the Messiah must be a Jew, right?
Yet that is assuming the Jews think the Antichrist is Messiah. As we already covered, the Antichrist won't bother trying to convince people using Bible prophecy that they should accept him. He will come in his own name (whatever name it will be adding up to 666) as God, not as the Messiah of the Jews. The Jews will accept him for the same reason everyone else will: necessity. Once they do, they will be under the Mark of the Beast and deluded into believing God is already here to the point that they would fight to defend his kingdom. There is even a prophecy showing that Judah will be part of the Beast's armies and fight against their real Messiah at his return:
Zechariah 14:14 (ESV) — Even Judah will fight at Jerusalem. And the wealth of all the surrounding nations shall be collected, gold, silver, and garments in great abundance.
The Bible does not say Antichrist will be a Jew nor does he have to be a Jew to accomplish anything he is prophesied to do.
Myth #7: "The Antichrist Must Be Arab"
If the Antichrist is not of the Jews, maybe then he is Arab?
This is a more recent theory that has become a popular fad. As a Christian, you may not have encountered it unless you rub elbows with Messianic Jewish/Hebraic believers. I became aware of it through a Messianic teacher on a radio interview. He claimed to have thousands of hours of study of Middle East history from which he concluded that the Bible teaches that the Antichrist will come from Syria. He taught that the Antichrist is alive today in the personage of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad.
The troubling thing is that even after hearing two separate radio show interviews by him, never did he address how Bashar fulfills the identification requirements of Revelation 13, the most important passage on the Antichrist in the Bible. He instead focused on other prophetic chapters from Isaiah (10, 14, 30, 31) and Daniel (11). While interesting and provocative, his theory almost exists only in a vacuum from Revelation. Not surprisingly, Bashar al Assad does not add up to 666. Very few names do.
The other big problem with this theory is that Daniel says that the Antichrist is “of the people...who will destroy the city and sanctuary” (Dan 9:26). History shows that the Roman Empire was the “people” who did this. Daniel says the prince comes from these same people. In other words, he's European, just like his chief type Antiochus Epiphanes IV, a Greek, was (despite revisionist history to the contrary claiming he was Syrian).
Daniel 8 also points to a European Antichrist. It says the “Little Horn” will emerge from a land that is situated so that the Antichrist will have to move southeast in order to take the beautiful land, or Israel (Dan 8:9). Reversing that, it would mean he comes from a land northwest of Israel. If you draw a line northwest from Israel, you go through Greece (where Antiochus Epiphanes came from) and Western Europe, until you end in Great Britain. Syria is north of Israel, so it does not fit. The Antichrist is not likely to be Syrian, but he could very well be a Brit.
Myth #8: "The Antichrist Will Be Muslim"
This is another theory that is more popular among Messianic believers. Oddly enough, it identifies the religion of the Antichrist. It's no wonder why this is popular now. How about this: "Just as the first readers of Revelation were influenced by current events (to conclude that Emperor Nero was the Antichrist), so are readers today. Islam is on the rise and has many Bible believers, both in Judaism and Christianity, worried. We naturally look for the Antichrist in what we already consider the present evil. But that is not the safest way to go about interpreting prophecy.
As a result, some of the evidence for this theory can be downright laughable. One teacher suggests that the word for “Allah” in Arabic is found in a Greek manuscript of Revelation 13 where 666 is written. Arabic in the Greek? It's a bold claim that has persisted since it takes someone with access to and understanding of Greek NT manuscripts to debunk. To see the video teaching this claim or a sound debunking of it, visit this page http://barthsnotes.wordpress.com/2009/07/06/islamic-anti-christ-claim-revisited/.
However, the main problem with this theory is in the fact already shown that the Antichrist is going to prop himself up as God (2Th 2:4). That's not very compatible with the belief of Muslims that Allah is God. If you want the best verse on the “religion” of the Antichrist, here it is:
Daniel 11:37 (HCSB) — He will not show regard for the gods of his fathers, the god longed for by women, or for any other god, because he will magnify himself above all.
Daniel 11:37 (NIV2011) — He will show no regard for the gods of his ancestors or for the one desired by women, nor will he regard any god, but will exalt himself above them all.
Daniel 11:37 (ESV) — He shall pay no attention to the gods of his fathers, or to the one beloved by women. He shall not pay attention to any other god, for he shall magnify himself above all.
He believes in nothing but himself. Notice this is the same same thing that Paul told the Thessalonians, he will magnify himself as God with complete disregard for all other gods (which would include Allah). Can you be Muslim and say you are God instead of Allah?
This Islamic Antichrist theory is very popular now so you will probably hear many convincing arguments for it, more than I can address in this article. Here are some further links of study to help you cope with this current Antichrist fad:
Bonus Myth: The Antichrist Must Be a Prince
This idea comes up mostly when you talk about Prince Charles as an Antichrist candidate. People assume that since Daniel speaks of the "prince of the people who shall come" (Dan 9:26) that Prince Charles (or any other candidate who is currently a prince) better become Antichrist before his queen mother or king father dies (making him king) or he can no longer fit the Antichrist description.
However, this overlooks a few things. First, the word used by Daniel for prince "nagid" (נגיד) does not specify a prince. It means more broadly a "leader, ruler or prince." Second, other prophecies of the Antichrist talk about a king, such as Daniel's end-time "King of the North" (Dan 11:40-45). The word used for "king" in those passages "melek" (מֶלֶךְ) is pretty specific. Out of 2523 instances of the word in the KJV, it's translated 99.8% of the time as "king." In modern Hebrew, the same word is still used for "king."
Therefore, one could better argue that someone like Prince Charles must ascend to the throne as king before becoming the Antichrist. However, I would not argue either he must be a prince or a king off of grammatical proofs like this. I don't generally find grammatical arguments reliable. For me, the two words cancel each other out grammatically or perhaps both are true. The man who becomes Antichrist may be most famous as a prince who later becomes king. This would fit Prince Charles if Queen Elizabeth dies before the end times begin. Or the point is he's a civic (not religious) ruler of any/either kind at the time he becomes the Antichrist. With the very specific identifying characteristics in Revelation 13 about the computation of his name and the beastly icon used by the Antichrist, we really don't need to know if he is a prince or a king. It's superfluous.
The Easy Way to Identify the Antichrist
It's no surprise that the Antichrist is the focus of so much interest and speculation among believers. Speculation always brings with it lots of misinformation and myths. I've addressed several popular ones here, but there are many others that may confuse you and take your peace. Anxiety comes to many on this topic because we fear that if we do not study enough and find the right answer when the end times come, we will pay dearly for our ignorance or misunderstanding of Bible prophecy.
I can relieve that anxiety by reminding you of a few things you probably already knew but forgot. God does not expect you to be a Bible scholar and to figure out who the Antichrist is and who he is not. You don't have to worry about sorting out fact from fiction yourself. If he is alive today (which I think he is) then his future empowered nemeses, the coming Elijah of the time right before the Day of the LORD (Mal 4:5), the two witnesses (Rev 11:3-6) and the 144,000 (Rev 7; 14) are alive, too. God must send them all out in different ways to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom as a witness before the end can come (Mt 24:14). As delivered to them by the three angels of Revelation 14, they will also bring us this message:
Revelation 14:9-10 (HCSB) 9 And a third angel followed them and spoke with a loud voice: “If anyone worships the beast [Antichrist] and his image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, 10 he will also drink the wine of God’s wrath, which is mixed full strength in the cup of His anger. He will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the sight of the holy angels and in the sight of the Lamb,
It is easy to mistake that passage as a warning to the reader. But it's not. That passage is a prophecy of a future warning that will go out to the entire world (through the 144,000).
That warning will appear sometime before the Antichrist arrives, in time for you to escape him. Upon hearing it you will be able to use the Bible to verify that what they say is consistent with God's word. You can prove that the instructions given along with that warning on how to escape are from God and trustworthy. If you have the faith to follow them (and not what your religion might tell you to do instead) you will find yourself safe from the Antichrist and everything else that the Bible says is coming in the final years of this age.
Obviously, if God is providing such a clear warning from a prophet about the Antichrist's mark that is coming:
- You do not have to be a Bible scholar to understand it
- You do not have to be smart enough to identify the Antichrist. It will be done for you.
- Pretty much all you will need is to not be living in a cave and God will make sure everyone hears the warning message.
If it is so simple and clear, won't everyone heed the warning so that the Antichrist has nobody left to deceive? No, since the three angels warnings are disseminated through God's (human) prophets, space will be left for reasonable doubt. Remember, when Moses was sent to Pharaoh, even though he worked multiple signs and miracles, Pharaoh, his court and the Egyptians under him still doubted and did not believe. Imagine how few will believe today given the healthy skepticism towards any claims of anything supernatural like prophecy.
The key is to make sure that you are not one of those who lack faith when the time comes. Jesus said to "pray that you have the strength to escape all these things that are going to take place" (Lk 21:36). If you make that prayer and continually ask God to help you have faith (without which it is impossible to please him (Heb 11:6)) you will be in good shape to not only know who the Antichrist is when he comes but to escape him, too.
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