William Greider, former assistant managing editor of The Washington Post, writes:
"The decayed condition of American democracy is difficult to grasp ... Symptoms of distress are accumulating freely in the political system and citizens are demoralized ... A climate of stagnant doubt has enveloped contemporary politics, a generalized disappointment that is too diffuse and intangible to be easily confronted ... This dissonance ... is so discomforting that many naturally turn away from its implications ... In place of meaningful democracy, the political community has embraced a ... culture of false appearances ... [It] responds to the public's desires with an artful dance of symbolic [and vacant] gestures - hollow laws that are emptied of serious content in the private bargaining of Washington. Promises are made and never kept. Laws are enacted and never enforced. When ordinary people organize themselves to confront the deception, they find themselves too marginalized to make much difference."
There is, as a result, an almost palpable yearning within today's electorate to be rescued from all this; a desire for some kind of Arthurian figure to step forward and put an end to it.
Max Mell, a contemporary poet, has said that underneath the thin cosmopolitan surface of today's modern Western World [i.e., the Euro-based, white civilization of Western Europe and North America] lie all the "old heroes" still - Parsifal, Guinevere, Roland, Lancelot, Barbarossa, Tristan, Isolde, etc. They are implanted far too deeply in our collective memory to ever be rooted out by the fleeting fashions of modernity, secularism, and democracy - and who, like Arthur (the "once and future king" - the Resitiutor Orbis), stand ready to re-emerge and rescue us from the chaos and confusion of this present evil world. And there are more people than most would care to admit (many of whom are passing themselves off as Christians) who are calling us to embrace the concept of leadership that these old "warrior kings" represented - a kind of messianic leadership based on nobility of character, charisma and the ability to "get things done."
Indeed, many of the Christian men and women who are crying out for such leadership hold the concepts of what we today call "democracy" in utter contempt. To their mind, messianic leadership - not democracy - is the ideal. To such people, the messy and disordered condition of "politics as usual" - with all its sordid, back room deal-making and compromises - is a disgusting and vulgar thing, made all the more loathsome by people like Bill and Hillary Clinton and the radical feminists, militant homosexuals and effete multiculturalists who surround them.
Americans are looking for a Resitiutor Orbis who stands ready to rescue them from the chaos and confusion of this present evil world.
The longing for such a messiah rests on the bedrock of Western tradition, a tradition which the secular elites can hide and gloss over, but one which they have utterly failed to stamp out; it is far too deeply embedded in the Western psyche - so much so that British writers Norris J. Lacy and Geoffrey Ashe can write that such a messiah has been -
"... persistently imagined and hoped for - a new Constantine who will ... end civil strife and [the] usurpation [of political power by the moneyed elite] ... [who will] defeat ... [Christendom's] ... enemies, and bring back peace and prosperity."
And not only that, but - as Carolly Erickson, a professor at the University of California at Santa Barbara, writes -
"... one who [like Arthur] dwells in the circle of the miraculous."
There is, however, a dark and foreboding side to all this that goes beyond the heroic to the demonic: first, it is the product not of Biblical Christianity, and - when taken to the extreme - is precisely that which produces the David Koreshes and the Jim Joneses of our world, and it goes a long way in explaining the death-like embrace of Hitler and the German people - one with the other - as they careened towards their final destruction in the waning days of World War II.
For those Christians who look for such a solution - maybe, just maybe - they'll get it, and a lot more than they had originally bargained for. The Bible says:
"Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time." (1 John 2:18; cf. I John 2:22; I John 4:3; 2 John 1:7)
And so we now at last come to one of the most primeval nightmares of the Christian West: the Antichrist.
In the study of prophecy, evangelicals of course lay a great deal of stress on the Second Coming of Christ. But in doing so, we as evangelicals often forget - though the world doesn't (a quick perusal of its movies and books would confirm this fact) - that there is another coming that is almost as momentous as that of Christ's. In both the Old and New Testaments we are told of a MYSTERIOUS and TERRIBLE person who shall be revealed in the "Last Days." He is known variously in the Scriptures as the "King of Babylon" (Isa. 14:4), the "Little Horn" (Dan. 7:8; 8:9), the "Prince that shall Come" (Dan. 9:26), the "Man of Sin" (II Thess. 2:3-8), the "Son of Perdition" (II Thess. 2:3-8), the "Antichrist" (I John 2:18), and the "Beast" (Rev. 13:1).
Isaiah describes this extraordinary and marvelous being in Isaiah 14 with remarkable grace and elegance, and shows how this proud possessor of world power - who in titanic arrogance will think himself to be the equal of God - shall at last be cast down: the Kingdom of the Dead will rise in commotion at his arrival; specters will hurry to meet him; and princes shall bow down before him -
"... thou shall take up this proverb against the KING OF BABYLON [i.e., the Antichrist], and say, How hath the oppressor ceased! The golden city [i.e., Babylon] ceased! Hell from beneath is moved for thee to meet thee at thy coming: it stirreth up the dead for thee, even all the chief ones of the earth; it hath raised up from their thrones all the kings of the nations." (Isaiah 14:4-9)
In general, there have been several diverse views of the doctrine of the Antichrist. These views can be classified into four categories:
That he is to be a "Roman Prince" of Gentile origin - the leader of the last great form of GENTILE WORLD POWER.
That he is to be a Jew - the leader of an apostate Israel.
That he is the Pope, or that "system of things" summed up in the form of the "Papacy."
That rather than being a person, Antichrist is best understood in spiritual or allegorical terms as an "institution" or "principle" of evil.
The early Church believed that Antichrist was to be a person, the embodiment of human blasphemy and wickedness - a Roman Prince; indeed, almost all the early Christian literature of the Age of Persecution (33-312 A.D.) singled out the Antichrist as just such a prince. [Please see J. Trachtenberg, The Devil and the Jews (New York; World Publishing House, 1943; Yale University Press), pg. 224.]
But with the acceptance of Christianity by the Roman Emperor Constantine, and the increasing identification of the Church with the Roman state, it became ever more embarrassing to both the Roman state and the Roman Church to continue to allow Christian doctrine to picture the Antichrist as a "Roman Prince."
A solution to this difficult problem was finally adopted by the Papacy: over the years it gradually shifted the onus of Antichrist from off the back of Rome and on to the Jews. THE IDEA OF ANTICHRIST AS A JEW IS THE CREATION OF THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH and is traceable in its embryonic form to the early Fifth Century A.D., and specifically to the writing of Jacob of Serug. As a mature hypothesis, this doctrine was fully developed and finalized by Thomas Acquinas (perhaps the Roman Church's greatest scholar) and Albertus Magnus. Both devoted considerable attention in developing this theme and it is in Catholic tradition and doctrine that this concept found its greatest acceptance.
Today, however, while the Catholic Church continues to hold to a greater or lesser degree to such doctrine (as do many Post-Millennialists), evangelical-fundamentalists have rejected this doctrine as unscriptural and Catholic in origin. J. Dwight Pentecost writes:
"He (Antichrist) is a GENTILE since he arises from the sea (Revelation 13:1) and since the sea depicts the Gentile nations (Rev. 17:15), he must be of Gentile origin. He rises from the [legacy] of the Roman Empire, since he is [to be] a ruler of the people [civilization] who destroyed Jerusalem (Dan. 9:26). He is to be the head of the last form of GENTILE [not Jewish] world dominion." (Rev. 13:1)
During the Reformation, however, the onus of Antichrist - like a boomerang - returned to the Roman Catholic Church, this time with a vengeance. Dissidents within the Roman Church, and among the leaders of those Protestant bodies which broke off from Rome, began to look upon the Pope himself and the institution of the Papacy as Antichrist - and it was all too natural and understandable for them to do so, given the nature of the struggle they found themselves engaged in at the time. Indeed, the arguments in favor of this view are ingenious and plausible, but they are hard to reconcile with the Word of God. This view has tended to make of the Antichrist a "system" (the Papacy) rather than an actual person. But such views are disproved by the Word; the Scriptures plainly teach that the Antichrist is a PERSON. Furthermore, the Word also teaches that the Antichrist will deny the deity of Christ. The Apostle John writes:
"Who is a liar, but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist that denieth the Father and the Son." (I John 4:3)
While we are certainly not attempting here any defense of Catholicism, the Papacy has never done so! The Church of Rome has always confessed: "I believe in God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord." However false and impious the claims of the Papacy, it has always recognized its subordination to God, and the Pope's highest claim is that he is merely the "Vicar of God," and not that he is God Himself - which claim the Antichrist will most definitely make (at least after the "Abomination of Desolation"):
"... He (Antichrist) will exalt himself and magnify himself above every god.” (Dan. 11:35-37)
"... So that he as God sitteth in the Temple of God showing himself that he is God." (II Thess. 2:4)
While there are many Protestant commentators who insist that the Papal System itself is described in Revelation 17, under the figure of a "Woman" arrayed in "purple and scarlet color," and decked with "gold and precious stones and pearls," it is also true that most of these same men admit that this Woman is not a picture of the Antichrist as such, but of the apostate Christian religious system which will appear in the Last Days and which will be supported by the Beast (i.e., the Antichrist) during the first half of the tribulation and prior to the "Abomination of Desolation. While there are many things in the history of the Church of Rome and in the conduct of her Popes that foreshadow the Antichrist, yet it is clear from these and other Scriptures that the Pope (and / or the Papal System) is not the Antichrist, and that these Scriptures can only be fulfilled in the person of some individual that is yet to come.
Finally, there have been the views of Antichrist as a "principle" or "institution" of evil. These are the views generally held by most theologians in the liberal Protestant Church and even in some segments of the so-called neo-evangelical Church. Indeed, these views have proven to be especially attractive among Christian authors who wish to maintain some semblance of genuine Christian faith hand-in-hand with a liberal-critical view of Scripture origins - in other words, by those who deny the literal and inerrant interpretation of the Scriptures. But it is simply not possible for those who believe in a literal interpretation of the Scriptures to hold such views and at the same time to make them square with the Scriptural identification of Antichrist as a person (which a literal interpretation of the Scripture demands) rather than as a "principle" or "institution."
Today, most serious students of the Word accept the early church's view of the Antichrist. There is, as Dr. Robert Duncan Culver has suggested, almost universal agreement among them that:
"... a final PERSONAL Antichrist (of Gentile origins) shall appear near the close of the present age who will become master of the world and who will be destroyed by Christ at His coming."
It is thus their view that the Antichrist is to be the head of the last form of GENTILE WORLD POWER - depicted in Daniel's dream image (Daniel 2) as the feet of iron and clay - the final form of the fourth great Gentile empire: the Roman! IT IS THIS FINAL FORM OF THE FOURTH GREAT GENTILE POWER (THE ROMAN) THAT IS KNOWN IN THE SCRIPTURES AS PROPHETIC BABYLON. But the Scripture is even more specific. In Daniel chapter 7, this final form of Gentile world power is indicated as a head with ten horns (depicting a group of nations) over which an eleventh nation rises and eventually dominates. IT IS AS LEADER OF THIS ELEVENTH NATION THAT ANTICHRIST IS KNOWN AS "KING OF BABYLON."
The cornerstone of the Doctrine of the Antichrist is II Thessalonians 2:1-12. There are many other passages which speak of the Antichrist, but all are unintelligible in the absence of this key passage. Just as Revelation 20 is the cornerstone of the Doctrine of Resurrection and Judgment, so is II Thessalonians 2 the cornerstone of the Doctrine of the Antichrist.
In addition to II Thessalonians 2, there is another key test concerning the Antichrist hardly less important than II Thessalonians 2. It is Daniel 7:20, 24-25. These verses say that ten horns representing ten kingdoms (over which sit ten kings) shall arise in the final stage of the fourth GENTILE kingdom. These ten horns correspond to the ten toes of Daniel's dream image in Daniel 2 [Please also see Revelation 17:12-18]. A little (i.e., younger) horn shall arise from among the original ten and it is out from this horn that Antichrist shall appear. This little horn represents both the kingdom out from which the Antichrist shall come and the Antichrist himself (in the same fashion that the original ten horns represent both kings and the kingdoms over which they sit). This is the common view.
Almost all interpreters - Jewish, evangelical, and men of about every kind of persuasion concerning "last things" (eschatology) agree that this is some kind of consummate Antichrist. Liberal Christianity and Reform Judaism think Daniel 7 was written at the time of Antiochus Epiphanes (about 165 B.C.) and that the author of Daniel supposed that Antiochus -- the sacrilegious, anti-Semitic tyrant of Syria (and descendent of the Greek general, Selussis, Alexander's brilliant lieutenant) who desecrated the Jewish Temple -- would be the final wicked oppressor before the coming of the Messiah's victorious Kingdom, with the Jews as his elite.
THESE SAME LIBERALS THINK THAT THE AUTHOR OF DANIEL WAS MISTAKEN. It should, therefore, come as no shock that most evangelicals (as well as most Orthodox Jews) reject the thesis that this passage has anything (directly) to do with Antiochus and that it relates directly and specifically to the Antichrist (the false messiah).
There are in addition to these two main passages many other passages which shed additional light on this man of sin: Ezekiel 28:1-10; Daniel 7:7-8; 21-23; 8:23-25; 9:26-27; 11:36-45; Revelation 13:1-10; 17:8-14. A synthesis of the truths contained in these verses reveal the following (please see J. Dwight Pentecost, Things to Come; Robert Duncan Culver, Daniel and the Latter Days; and Sir Robert Anderson, The Coming Prince). The synthesis is organized into three parts:
Part 1 lists those general characteristics which accrue to the Antichrist before he is manifested through the Treaty with Death and Hell by which he will guarantee Israel's security (in other words, those characteristics which will accrue to him before the beginning of the Seventieth Week).
Part 2 lists those characteristics which describe his personality during the first half of the Seventieth Week and before the Abomination of Desolation.
Part 3 lists those characteristics through which he is fully manifested as the Son of Perdition during the second half of the Seventieth Week - the "Great Tribulation:"
He will appear in the Latter Days.
He will appear before the Day of the Lord - which is to say, before the Rapture and the Resurrection.
His "SATANIC" manifestation (specifically, his manifestation as the Son of Perdition and the Beast) will (and is) being hindered by the Restrainer. It should be noted in this connection, however, that the SATANIC manifestation of the Antichrist will occur only after the Abomination of Desolation, which itself occurs midway through the Seventieth Week.
He is a GENTILE (not a Jew) since he arises from the sea (Revelation 13:1) and since the sea depicts the GENTILE nations (Rev. 17:15), he must be of GENTILE origin (please see J. Dwight Pentecost, Things to Come, pg. 332). Robert Duncan Culver writes, "... the Scripture leads us to believe that ... the suffering of ... (God's people) will be brought about by a great, evil king of a GENTILE nation ..." [Robert Duncan Culver, Daniel and the Latter Days (Chicago; Moody Press, 1954) pg. 85.]
He will arise from within the boundaries of Western Civilization, since he is a ruler of the people (civilization) which destroyed Jerusalem. [(Daniel 9:26) - i.e., Graeco-Romanism or "The West."]
More specifically, he will arise from an "eleventh" kingdom which is heir to the heritage of the original ten which themselves represent the final form of the fourth great GENTILE empire [cf. Dan. 7:7-8; 20-24; Rev. 17:9-11].
He will be a political leader. (please see verses above plus Rev. 13:1 and 7:12)
He will be a great communicator or orator and will be renowned for his persuasiveness; he will "look the part" of a great leader. (Dan. 7:8, 20; 8:23), he will practice subtlety and will have a secret love for "craft" - i.e., witchcraft. (Daniel 8:25)
He will promote himself as Israel's champion. (Dan. 9:27)
He will oppose the Northern Confederacy (a group of nations to the north of Israel which will array themselves against Israel in the "Latter Days") [Ezek. 38:1 - 39:25; (cf. Ezek. 38:15; 39:2) Dan. 11:40; Joel 2:1-27 (cf. Joel 2:20) Isa. 10:12; 30:31-33; 31:8-9].
He will put his trust in military power. Dan. 11:38).
He will oppose the "desire of women" (Dan. 11:37); while there are some who insist that this particular verse refers to the desire of women to "bring forth the Messiah," such an interpretation requires an inordinate amount of convolution and seems to imply that women are more desirous of this than men. The more likely interpretation is the "common sense" one - i.e., that he will oppose the "modern-day" desire of women to seek "equality" with men in the world of business and politics.
He will deceive God's people (i.e., the Christians) by posing as their champion (apparently by appearing to promote their religious desires and political programs) in the same fashion that he deceives Israel. [(Rev. 17:3; please also see Matt. 24:24].
As the King of Babylon (Isa. 14:4 - please see Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scripture, Vol. 6, pg. 186) he will make (or "cause to prevail") a defense pact with Israel which will be directed against the Northern Confederacy. (Dan. 9:27)
The Northern Confederacy - together with a southern confederacy of nations) will make war with him in the Middle East (Ezek. 28:7; Dan. 11:40, 42) and in the ensuing conflict he will defeat these confederations (Ezek. 37-39). [Please see chapter 6; please also see J. Dwight Pentecost, Things to Come, pgs. 326-340.]
He will be opposed by three nations in the ten nation confederacy; he will eliminate the leadership in these countries and bring them under his power. (Dan. 7:8, 24)
After his defeat of the Northern Confederacy and the establishment of his absolute power over the ten confederated nations, he will seek to extend his domination over the whole world. (Rev. 13:8)
He will seek to promote the extension of his power through alliances (Dan. 8:24; Rev. 17:12) and through the promotion of "world peace." (Dan. 8:25)
He will appear as the champion of the Harlot or Great Whore of Revelation 17 (which is to say, Apostate Christianity) who will everywhere promote him in his quest for world dominion (Rev. 17:3)
He will appear as Israel's champion. (Dan. 9:27)
He will receive a "deadly wound" from which he recovers. (Rev. 13:3; 17:10)
He will become energized by Satan and will receive satanic power so that now he will be able to perform "wonders" and "miracles." (Ezek. 28:9-12; Rev. 13:4; Ezek. 28:2; Dan. 8:25)
He will claim absolute power and will demand to be worshipped as a deity; all pretense to democratic forms of government will be abandoned. (II Thess. 2:3, 9-12; Rev. 13:8)
He will reveal himself finally as the great adversary of the Church and Israel, and will seek to destroy both of them - those who "keep the commandments of God" (i.e., the Jews) and those "which have the testimony of Jesus" (i.e., the Christians) [Rev. 12:7, 9, 12b, 14, 17; 13:7; Dan. 7:21, 25; 8:24]. Robert Duncan Culver writes,
"The Antichrist will seek to destroy God's people, especially the Jews, thus bringing on the 'Great Tribulation'. [But] I [also] feel that when Jesus speaks of the 'elect' as coming into a great trial ... the sufferers of the trials are not [only] Jews as such. He quite obviously is [also] referring to His disciples, to Christian believers, who will be living on earth when, at last the sad events just before the end of the age shall come." [See Matt. 24; Luke 21; Mark 13; please also see Sir Robert Anderson, The Coming Prince.]
Because he will now demand to be worshipped, he will turn even on the "Apostate Church" (i.e., the "Harlot Church" as opposed to the real church) so that he may rule unhindered - indeed, it is axiomatic that those who seek absolute power will never share that power with anyone else; they inevitably destroy all competitors (real or only imagined) and the perceived closeness of any previous relationships has mattered little to these kinds of men as Ernst Roehm [Hitler's chief of the SA (Sturmabteilung)] found out to his horror with regard to Hitler on the infamous "Night of the Long Knives" in 1936. (Rev. 17:16-17)
He will establish himself as the head of Satan's lawless system. (II Thess. 2:3)
He will seek to change all laws and customs (as the Jacobins attempted to do after the French Revolution). [Dan. 7:25]
Finally, there is the question which arises from the Biblical reference to the number 6-6-6 (Rev. 13:18) in reference to the Beast (Antichrist). The number should more properly be read not as six hundred and sixty-six, but as a SERIES OF THREE SIXES: 6-6-6.
The Scripture makes it plain that this number has reference specifically to the name of the Beast - and Antichrist does not become the Beast until after the Abomination of Desolation which - again - occurs midway through the Tribulation period. Thus, the name to which the number 6-6-6 refers may not be actually appended to the Antichrist until after the Abomination of Desolation - rendering it useless for Christians to identify the Antichrist using this number until after the Abomination of Desolation. The practice of taking a new name is a common practice in "sacring" - a practice which many western monarchs used and one which the popes continue to practice, even today.
One final note of caution. The author does NOT take a position with regard to the ACTUAL IDENTITY of the Antichrist and believes that it can be very dangerous to do so. The "acid" test as to the identity of the Antichrist concerns the Treaty with Death and Hell. Only one person, and one person only, will "cause this treaty to prevail" - and that one person is the Antichrist. The treaty will be in the form of a "Defense Pact" and will be directed against the Northern Confederacy. [Please see Sir Robert Anderson, The Coming Prince (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1894) with introduction by President Grey of the Moody Bible Institute.]