The Coming Anti-Messiah

Blaine Robison, M.A.

Published 23 September 2007; Revised 29 October 2015

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Sources: Bibliographic data for research sources may be found at the end of the article. Unless otherwise indicated Scripture quotations are taken from the NASB Updated Edition (1995). Click here for Abbreviations of Bible Versions.

Terminology: In order to emphasize the Hebraic and Jewish nature of Scripture and its central figure I use the terms Tanakh (Old Testament), Torah (Law), Besekh (New Testament), Yeshua (Jesus), and Messiah (Christ).

END NOTES: Citation numbers in brackets refer to sources or comments in the End Notes Section.

The person of the Anti-Messiah is well known among Christians as the chief human opponent of God in the last days. His identity is a profound mystery. The Lord gave the first insight into the end-of-the-world ruler to Daniel, then hundreds of years later to the apostles Paul and John. The various prophecies employ different titles and names for the coming adversary, such as Little Horn, Prince, Abomination of Desolation, Anti-Messiah, Man of Lawlessness, Son of Destruction and Beast, but they all point to the same person and his totalitarian regime.

The Prophecy of Daniel

(See my Notes on Daniel for detailed commentary on the passages listed below.)

The Little Horn

The Lord revealed to Daniel the panorama of world empires from his time to the end of the age. It began with a vision of four beasts, each of which represented different kingdoms and the fourth beast with ten horns crushed the preceding three beasts (Dan 7:4-7). The horns represent “kings” and in the vision of the fourth beast a “little horn” grows up among the ten kings (7:8). The beast with ten horns, as in Revelation, represents a kingdom that will subjugate the entire world (7:23). The “little horn” represents the one to come who will gain power over the other “horns” and rule the beastly kingdom (7:24). While the powerful “horn” may be initially "little” his words are boastful (7:8, 11) and he backs up his words with action, supplanting three of the kings who apparently oppose his rule.

The word “beast” refers to a wild animal, which implies that the Little Horn and his reign have no regard for the Creator or the nobler virtues that were meant to characterize those created a little lower than angels. The Little Horn begins at once to speak against God (7:25; 11:36) and attempts to impose changes in laws that have their basis in Scripture or confer some benefit to the people of God (7:25). He even orders the calendar changed (since it is based on Scripture) which might include eliminating Saturday and Sunday as days of the week or abolishing all religious holidays. He eliminates provisions in laws that benefit the saints or religious institutions. He may also attempt to expunge from every statute any quotation from Scripture or any reference to the God of Israel. Such an irrational legal undertaking would take many months to complete, but his hatred for God will not allow there to be any reminders of the Creator. However, changing the laws are not enough to satisfy the beast-ruler’s hatred, so he commences a global war against God’s people to destroy them (7:21, 25).

The Prince

The book of Daniel reveals another significant designation for the coming Anti-Messiah. In 9:26-27 Daniel speaks of a Prince who makes a covenant or treaty with “many” for one week, but in the middle of the week he puts a stop to sacrifice. He is of the same origin as the "people" who destroy Jerusalem and the temple.[1] Israel is to be the chief beneficiary of the treaty, which allows building a temple or safeguarding a temple already built. Other nations would likely be signers to acknowledge Israel’s right to the sacred site disputed by Moslems. The term of the treaty, “one week,” equals seven years, though why there should be a limitation is unclear.

This interpretation is not without its problems. First, if "week"[2] is a metaphor for "seven years" then why is the word "days" in 12:11f in reference to the same period taken literally? Second, it is a puzzle that the focus on the prophecy of the coming Messiah should abruptly change to referring to a different coming ruler with the same title, an “Anti-Messiah.” Third, the Hebrew text is not totally clear on some words as evidenced by interesting differences in translation of the major versions.[3]

Daniel’s prophecy of the Prince to come was the subject of much discussion and debate among early church fathers (generally about how to compute the 70 weeks), who generally believed that the entire section of Daniel 9:24-27 pertained to the first coming of the Prince of Peace, the Jewish Messiah, and the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.[4] Historicist commentators, such as Matthew Henry, Robert Jamieson and John Wesley, likewise believed that Titus, who led the Roman army against Jerusalem and represented the world power, was the one referred to by Messiah's title, the Prince, because he was sent by God as an instrument of judgment. Even with these difficulties Daniel’s prophecy of a coming Prince is consistent with the apostolic revelation of the Anti-Messiah.

Abomination of Desolation

Daniel prophesied that halfway into the "week" period, the mysterious ruler would commit a shocking sacrilege in the Jerusalem temple and forbid continued worship of God there (9:27; 11:31; cf. 12:11). The sacrilege or abomination of desolation is not really a title of this ruler, but the description of a repugnant political and idolatrous decision. From the text the exact nature of the offense is unclear, but Jews believe the prophecy has already been fulfilled. When Antiochus IV ("Epiphanes") conducted his reign of terror over Jerusalem and the holy land, 168-165 B.C., he forbade all Jewish religious practices, such as circumcision, possessing and teaching the Scriptures, sacrifices, Sabbath observance, and feast days, on pain of death. He also had a statue devoted to Olympian Zeus erected in the temple and swine were sacrificed on the altar in place of the Jewish sacrifice, an abomination which desecrated the Temple. Later the Maccabees defeated the forces of Antiochus, then recaptured and rededicated the temple, an event memorialized by the festival of Hanukkah.[5] Consequently, Jews have traditionally viewed this heinous act as a fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy (cf. 1Macc 1:54; 6:7).

However, Yeshua repeated the revelation given to Daniel regarding the abomination of desolation as an anticipated event (Matt 24:15; Mark 13:14).[6] Daniel’s prophecy clearly states that the abomination follows the arrival and death of the Messiah. While the actions of Antiochus may have paralleled Daniel’s prophecy, Yeshua indicated that the fulfillment of the abomination of desolation lay in the future. Further, the Romans had no interest in using the temple for idolatrous worship as Antiochus and in A.D. 70 destroyed the city and the temple. Daniel’s report of the coming ruler and his prophesied activities must of necessity, then, be associated with the Anti-Messiah yet to come. the question remains whether this prophecy can be fulfilled without the temple being rebuilt in Jerusalem. See my web article Rebuild the Temple?

The Rival Kings

In chapter eleven Daniel is given a long chronicle of a future conflict between the "King of the North" and the "King of the South." While much of the narrative prophesies the constant strife between the Seleucid Empire ("king of the north") and the Ptolemy Empire ("king of the south"), there are some verses that seem particularly relevant to the Anti-Messiah and thus exhibit the dual character of "near and far" fulfillment so common to biblical prophecy. The King of the North will commit an abomination in Jerusalem that exceeds any blasphemy committed by the ancient Greeks or Romans. He will "magnify himself above every god" (11:36)[7], "speak monstrous things against the God of gods,"[8] demonstrating not only his rejection of the "gods of his fathers" (11:37), i.e., the religion of his family, but his repudiation of the "gods" of any other religion.[9]

The King of the North will not only reject the religion of his fathers, but also the "desire of women" (11:37, KJV, NKJV, NASB), which has been variously interpreted. Some interpret the Hebrew phrase as "desire for women," meaning that the King rejects biblical conventions of sexual behavior ("follow the lust of women" DRA), which was not uncommon among many ancient world rulers.[10] However, other versions translate the phrase as a person or god desired by women (CEV, NCV, NIV, NLT, RSV, TEV). The context of the phrase favors an allusion to gods worshipped by women as a contrast to the gods of the fathers. Another possibility is that the "desire" refers to the common dream of Jewish women to be the mother of the Messiah, and therefore the denial of the Jewish Messiah is consistent with the beast-ruler’s rejection of true religion (cf. 1Jn 2:22; 4:3). The King will also "honor the god of fortresses," perhaps reflecting his idolatrous greed for power. He spares no expense to build up his military forces to attain invincibility against attack (11:38f).[11] The King eventually establishes a headquarters in the land of Israel and it is there that he finally meets his end (11:45).[12] All of these points of description are consistent with the character of the beast in Revelation.

The Prophecy of Paul

In 2 Thessalonians (see my commentary) Paul is entirely consistent with the revelation to Daniel, but adds new details, the first of which is calling the beast-ruler the "Man of Lawlessness" and the "Son of Destruction." The titles reveal much about his character and the nature of his reign. The coming of the Man of Lawlessness is preceded by and causes "apostasy" (2:3). The Greek word means rebellion or abandonment in a religious sense (cf. Acts 21:21) (BAG). The word “lawlessness” as applied to this evil personage does not mean abandonment of governmental laws, but Torahlessness or a rejection of God’s commandments. Just as Daniel was told the King of the North would forsake the "gods of his fathers," so too there will be a great turning away from true faith and God’s boundaries for morality (cf. Matt 24:12; 2Pet. 3:3f). Of course, the apostasy does not just affect Christianity and Judaism, but all of society and culture. When the Man of Lawlessness assumes power all religion will be set aside to worship him.

The Anti-Messiah is the "Son of Destruction," a Hebrew idiom meaning one who is destined to be destroyed (cf. Rev 17:8). In context the title may derive from the fact that he causes much destruction and will suffer the ultimate destruction of hell (2:8; cf. Rev 19:20). To be a "son of" also says something of his character. In the Bible and Judaism a man is normally identified as the son of his father. However, the Hebrew word ben can be used in the broad sense of possessing the characteristics of someone. In the wider context of end time prophecy the title may also allude to Abaddon, the angel of the abyss (Rev 9:11). The Hebrew name Abaddon means destruction and the corresponding Greek title Apollyon means destroyer. Since the Anti-Messiah is actually a demonic spirit that arises from the abyss (Rev 17:8), calling him the Son of Destruction suggests a link with Abaddon.

The Man of Lawlessness will arrive because of the activity of Satan (cf. Rev 13:1) who will perform miraculous signs in order to deceive the public (2:9). Without engaging in any date-setting Paul declares that the Man of Lawlessness will appear before the Parousia and the Day of the Lord (2:1ff).[13] Thus, Paul tells the Thessalonian congregation that before Yeshua comes to gather and resurrect the saints and to punish the wicked, the Man of Lawlessness must come first.[14] Paul shares this bad news, not to discourage or mock the Thessalonian believers, but to reassure them that Yeshua had not already come, that they didn’t need to fret about Yeshua coming at any moment, and that when Yeshua did come He would do justice for His faithful disciples by destroying their enemies (1:6-10).

Paul repeats the prophecies of Daniel and Yeshua about the beast-ruler’s self-idolatry in "the holy place," with an added detail. The Anti-Messiah will take "his seat in the temple of God" (2:4). In other words, he won’t just set up a statue of another deity as Antiochus did, or erect an idol of himself, but the Anti-Messiah will sit in the Holy of Holies of the Jewish temple as a declaration of his divinity. It is a wonder that the holy God does not strike him down at that instant, for there could be no greater blasphemy.

Perhaps the most controversial portion of Paul’s treatise on the Anti-Messiah is 2:7 where he speaks of a restraining action going on and someone being "taken out of the way." For pretribulationists, the Christian Church acting as salt and light is restraining the "mystery of lawlessness" (and therefore the Man of Lawlessness) and must be removed (along with the Holy Spirit) in order for the full activity of Satan to take place and for the Anti-Messiah to appear. After all, if the Anti-Messiah came while the Church was in the world, then Christians would point him out and he would not succeed in fooling anyone.

However, God will send a “deluding influence” (2:11), which, combined with the public distrust of followers of Yeshua, would override any of their efforts to expose the Anti-Messiah. Moreover, the presence of the Holy Spirit and the Church has not prevented previous world dictators from appearing in history nor the persecution of God’s people by those same despots. In addition, the presence of the Holy Spirit and the Church down through the centuries has not significantly diminished the working of evil around the world, as evidenced by the persistence of wars, racism, totalitarian regimes, genocide, slavery, feudalism, poverty, and all the works of the flesh by sinful humanity. So, why should the Holy Spirit be suddenly removed so this last despot can make his appearance?

Actually, Paul makes no explicit reference to the Holy Spirit in these verses. Paul only refers to the Holy Spirit once in 2 Thessalonians (2:13), in which he speaks of the sanctifying work of the Spirit. While the Holy Spirit may depart individuals (cf. Num 14:42f; Josh 7:12; Judg 16:20; 1Sam 16:14), the whole notion that any part of God’s universe could ever be void of His Spirit, which is His presence, is utterly impossible. There simply is no Scriptural evidence that God’s Spirit ever has or ever shall literally depart in any partial or complete sense from any part of His universe, especially the earth (cf. Ps 139:7-12). And wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, God’s grace and mercy are available.

Moreover, the concept of removing the Holy Spirit is devastating to the Good News of salvation, which asserts the indispensable role of the Holy Spirit in conviction of sin, justification, regeneration, sanctification and other spiritual graces. The report of apostolic ministry detailed in Acts also demonstrates that successful ministry depends utterly on the work of the Holy Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit how could the Father expect anyone to be convicted of sin when the angel proclaims the "eternal good news" for the last time (Rev 14:6f)? Without the Holy Spirit what is left is "another good news" which would rely on legalistic works to achieve salvation.

The prophecy in 2 Thessalonians 2:3-12 is not about the leaving of the Holy Spirit, but the coming of the Anti-Messiah, and 2 Thessalonians 2:7 confirms the prophecy of Revelation 11:7 that the beast will come from the abyss. The original Greek of 2 Thessalonians 2:7 says, “to gar mustērion ēdē energeitai tēs anomias monon o katechōn arti eōs ek mesou genētai. Alfred Marshall, NASB-NIV Parallel New Testament in Greek and English, renders the sentence as "only the restraining (or the restraining one) just now until out of the midst it comes." Marshall’s translation is also confirmed by J.P. Green, a staunch advocate of the King James Version. Green’s Literal Translation of the Bible, renders the verse, "For the mystery of lawlessness already is working, only he is holding back now, until it comes out of the midst."

Considering the grammar and word definitions are critical to a correct understanding of this verse. The verb normally translated in standard versions as "taken out of" is ginomai, which means to come to be, to become or to originate (BAG). When the English word "taken" is used to translate ginomai in the rest of the Besekh it is normally in the sense of an event taking place. If Paul wanted to convey the notion of taking "away" the Greek word airō, which does include that meaning, would be more appropriate. The word translated as "way" in standard versions is mesos, which means midst, middle, or center (BAG). The only other translation of mesos as "way" in the Besekh is Colossians 2:14 where it is used in the sense of taking out of everyone’s sight or out of the midst of everyone (and there airō is used instead of ginomai). If Paul wanted to convey taken out of "the earth" then he would more likely have used one of two words for earth, or oikoumenē, but it makes no sense for him to use mesos for that purpose.

It is difficult to believe that the rabbinic trained apostle Paul would speak of this theoretical leaving in such a clumsy manner as implied by standard English versions. Interpreters of 2:7 need to carefully consider the literal rendering of the Greek, which asserts that rather than people being taken out of the world to heaven, the spirit of the Anti-Messiah is being restrained in the abyss and one day will be released to possess the future man of sin (cf. Rev 11:7; 13:11; 17:8).

 

The Prophecy of John

The Anti-Messiah

The only apostolic writings that use the title “Anti-Messiah” are John’s first and second epistles. The Greek word antichristos is formed by adding the preposition “anti” to christos. “Anti” has three meanings, (1) the opposite of something, (2) in place of something to indicate equivalence and (3) on behalf of someone as Judah sought to take Benjamin’s place in prison (Gen 44:33) (BAG). Christos is the Greek form of the Hebrew word "Messiah." Thus, an anti-messiah is someone who seeks to take the place of the true Messiah. The English prefix "anti" means "against" or "in opposition to," giving the word its connotation of being an adversary of Yeshua. John may have actually coined the title “Anti-Messiah” for the coming beast-ruler (1Jn 2:18), although he may have merely been echoing Yeshua’s warning that “false Messiahs” (pseudochristos, Matt 24:24) would appear. Thus, the Anti-Messiah would be merely the last one in a long line of pretenders to the Messiah’s throne.

The chief characteristic of anti-messiah is denial that Yeshua is the Messiah and the Son of God (1Jn 2:22; 4:3; 2Jn 1:7). However, John is not talking about the reaction of the world to the Good News. He mentions that the “anti-messiahs” went out "from us" (1Jn 2:19). John’s explanation seems to echo Daniel’s prophecy that the beast-ruler would turn away from the "gods of his fathers," but John does not apply this similarity to the Anti-Messiah in the sense of his being Jewish. If the Anti-Messiah follows the pattern described by John of the "anti-messiahs" who had originally affirmed the divinity of Yeshua and then turned away from the faith, then the Anti-Messiah could be from a Christian tradition, if he has any religious roots.

John also says that many anti-messiahs had already appeared and the spirit of the anti-messiah was in the world (1Jn 4:3), because of which he believed he was living in the "last hour" of the last days. (See my article Spirit of Anti-Messiah for more on this topic.) Unfortunately, false messiahs have continued to appear down through history (see the Wikipedia article List of Messiah Claimants). False messiahs as consummate politicians hold out the promise of peace and safety (cf. 1Th 5:3) and yet never fulfill expectations. False messiahs typically deny God's expectations in Torah and live as if they're accountable to no one. Eventually, though, their lives come to nothing and pass from the contemporary scene only to face God for their arrogance and presumption.

The Beast of Revelation

(See my Commentary on Revelation for the passages mentioned below.)

In the Torah tradition of two or three witnesses establishing a fact (Deut 19:15), the book of Revelation essentially echoes Daniel’s vision of the beast to come. This does not mean that John borrowed from Daniel, but that God showed John what He had shown Daniel. In Revelation the beast represents both a world-wide oligarchy and its head of state. The beast, who arises from the abyss, is placed in power and sustained by Satan (13:1-3). The beast's reign lasts forty-two months (13:5).

The beast's power and activities represent global reach and domination as no previous dictator has ever possessed. In his hatred of God he carries out a devastating war against the people of God (11:7; 12:13-17; 13:7). Yeshua had once asked if He would find the faith on the earth when He returned (Luke 18:8). Revelation gives the answer. The beast’s strategy is not revealed, but he will probably dissolve the legal standing of every Christian and Jewish congregation, denomination and religious organization in every country, order their assets confiscated, arrest congregational leaders, impose economic sanctions on believers and then begin systematically exterminating them. The genocide of Jews during the World War II era will pale in comparison to the Christian and Jewish casualties of the beast’s reign of terror. Thus the name great tribulation.

The beast’s secretary of religion imposes a drastic public policy. He requires everyone, without exemption, to be marked (13:16-17), thus ensuring that worship of the Anti-Messiah will be more than just a religious ritual. Of course, people could only be forced to conform if there were severe penalties identified for noncompliance, probably death and forfeiture of all property to the State. In ancient times branding or marking was used to brand disobedient slaves, soldiers defeated in battle, or devotees of a particular god. The beast’s marking signifies loyalty, not servitude, and discredits the pretribulation view of the Rapture. If the saints are gone, there is no need to mark the population.

Marking an entire population has no historical precedent, although Jews have been singled out in history for marking. It’s important to understand that the mark of the beast is not instituted until the Anti-Messiah actually reigns. After all, the mark of the beast is the beast’s mark. The marked citizen is given the choice of having the mark on the hand or forehead. Perhaps the more zealous of the Anti-Messiah’s devotees will opt for the forehead. There is no reason not to take the mark of 666 literally. Too many people have succumbed to hysteria and paranoia over supposed “marks,” needlessly worrying about the impact on their salvation, and in so doing tacitly deny what Scripture actually says. It is impossible to receive this mark accidentally or without knowledge of its purpose and God will make sure His saints are not deceived about the true mark of the beast when it comes. The word for mark in Revelation amounts to a permanent visible engraving on the skin, like a tattoo. The marked person becomes an idol reflecting his or her god, the beast, and in so doing is marked for death.

Government propaganda will insist that the purpose of marking is not to restrict access to the marketplace but to insure the security of the global economic system. Since a significant concern of people living in the last days is safety (cf. 1Th 5:3), people will gullibly accept marking as the ultimate security defense. Obviously, anyone who would refuse to take the mark must be an enemy of the State and a danger to public safety.

The visible effect of marking has significant economic consequences, restricting who is allowed to engage in or benefit from commerce, whether at the wholesale level or the retail level. Denying access to the marketplace will be an important part of the beast’s war against the saints. Of course, to restrict economic privileges will require sophisticated secret surveillance to counter the barter system that would naturally arise among the saints, perhaps even neighborhood watch groups to spy on their neighbors. The text adds further information about the mark. The choice is given of being branded with the beast’s name or the number equivalent of his name, which implies that the mark will be visible. It might be in the form of a bar code that could be read by optical scanners. No one will be able to hide his or her choice to take or not take the mark from neighbors, friends and family.

The good news of Revelation is that the beast's reign will be brought to a disastrous conclusion by the personal return of Yeshua (19:11-20). The mother of all battles will take place at Armageddon, pitting the international armies of the beast against the King of Kings leading the armies of heaven. There will be no contest. The true King will strike down the beast's armies with a great sword resulting in a horrific blood bath (cf. 14:20). The Anti-Messiah and his false prophet are not killed but cast alive into the lake of fire. So, in the end the grand plan of Satan fails and the last obstacle to the establishment of Messiah's Kingdom is finally removed. Praise the Lord!

Speculations

Candidates in History

So, who is the Anti-Messiah? Over the centuries various individuals have been nominated. Commodianus in the 3rd century believed that Nero would be raised up from the dead to be the Anti-Messiah.[15] Athanasius in the 4th century accused then-reigning Emperor Constantius of being Anti-Messiah for supporting the Arian heresy.[16] Beginning in the late Middle Ages, dissenters, such as the Waldenses, accused Church authorities, including Cardinals, Bishops and priests, to be guilty of corruption and harboring the spirit of Anti-Messiah.[17] A century later Franciscan monks made a more specific claim that the Anti-Messiah would sit on the throne of the Papacy.[18]

The anti-papal rhetoric actually helped to create a climate of unrest that provided fertile soil for the Protestant Reformation. Since the time of Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation many have believed that a Pope was or would be the Anti-Messiah.[19] The preface to the KJV has statements that indicate that this was the belief of 17th century Anglicans, and John Wesley, founder of Methodism, asserted that the Roman papacy was the beast.[20] It was not until the latter half of the 20th century that most Protestants gave up the notion that the Anti-Messiah would be a Pope.[21] Dave Hunt may reflect a shift in the belief of the Pope’s role in the end times, at least by some Protestant futurists, when he asserted that a future pope would be the false prophet.[22]

Many scholars since the time of the church fathers have proposed various world leaders as candidates for Anti-Messiah, such as Mohammed, Luther, Pope Benedict IX, Napoleon, Kaiser Wilhelm (during World War I), Hitler (during World War II) and Mussolini (in between). In 1989 Robert W. Faid identified Mikhail Gorbachev as the Anti-Messiah.[23] Various prophecy “experts” have also designated many other world leaders and prominent persons, including Kurt Waldheim, Willy Brandt, Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands, Henry Kissinger, Saddam Hussein, King Juan Carlos (of Spain), President Clinton, Prince Charles, Bill Gates and President Obama. One only needs to search the Internet to find a multitude of theories about the identity of the Anti-Messiah.[24]

Jewish Anti-Messiah?

In contrast to suggestions that a Gentile will be the Anti-Messiah some have thought a Jew would fill the role. Irenaeus and Hippolytus believed that the Anti-Messiah would come from the tribe of Dan,[25] based on Genesis 49:16f where Jacob prophesied, “Dan shall judge his people as one of the tribes of Israel. Dan shall be a serpent in the way,” and Jeremiah 8:16 where the Lord says, “From Dan is heard the snorting of horses; at the sound of the neighing of his stallions the whole land quakes; for they come and devour the land and its fullness, the city and its inhabitants.” Given the omission of Dan from the tribal roll call in Revelation 7:4-8 and the remarkable parallel of the beast’s activities in Revelation to these two prophecies, Irenaeus’ deduction is not unreasonable. In recent times Rev. Jerry Falwell was quoted by the Associated Press as saying that the Anti-Messiah would be Jewish.[26] After being criticized for his comment, he insisted that he had no intention of creating an offense among Jews, for whom he has the greatest respect. Nevertheless, the AP correctly stated Rev. Falwell’s belief.[27]

As one might expect, any suggestion of a Jewish Anti-Messiah brings charges of antisemitism, just as claiming that a Pope would be the Anti-Messiah has been labeled as Catholic-bashing. Obviously, no one wants to claim the Anti-Messiah as a relative. David Brickner insists that biblical references to the tribe of Dan are misinterpreted. Moreover, biblical evidence of a Jewish Anti-Messiah is lacking because the image in Daniel of a beast with horns is never applied to Israel and the “people of the ruler to come” in Daniel 9:26 would of necessity be Gentile as the destroyers of Jerusalem and the temple. In addition, the origin of the beast from the sea in Revelation speaks of a Gentile nation, whereas “the land” is often used as a metaphor for Israel.[28] Theoretically, the Anti-Messiah could be from any other country and still be Jewish, but in the final analysis no one can prove conclusively the national origin or ethnicity of the Anti-Messiah.[29]

The Feared Conspiracy

There are some evangelicals who associate the seven-headed beast in Revelation with the Group of Seven (G7) industrialized nations (U.S., Japan, Canada, Britain, England, Germany and Italy) and the ten horns with the European Union countries.[30] Thus, the organization is already in place awaiting the final member who will rule the world. Other national or international organizations are thrown into the conspiratorial mix, including the Trilateral Commission, Council on Foreign Relations, the United Nations, World Council of Churches, etc, whose emphasis on globalism amounts to a planned replacement of national sovereignty. And, every installation of identification and security measures, such as Social Security cards, a national identification license, baby footprinting, gun control laws, etc., as well as advancements in computers and communications technology and international trade, are all feared and denounced as instruments of the Anti-Messiah.

Among some groups paranoia has replaced sound biblical exegesis. The fact that the G7 became the G8 with the addition of Russia and that the EU increased to 15 nations is ignored. However, according to Revelation 17:12 the ten horns are ten kings or rulers who are contemporaneous with the beast-Anti-Messiah and cede total control to the Anti-Messiah. In addition, it makes more sense that the ten kings would represent the entire world, not just Europe. In fact, that there is no mention in Revelation of any specific nation associated with the seven heads and ten horns (and the fact that the numbers don’t add up) leaves the “G7/EU-as-the-beast” theory without any biblical evidence to support it. Arguments from silence are always problematic. And, the real power to orchestrate international developments to prepare the way for the Anti-Messiah resides not in New York or Rome, but in that unseen realm where principalities and powers, under the leadership of Satan, plot their final campaign.

So Who is the Anti-Messiah?

The chief fallacy of all the soothsayers who have prophesied the identity of the Anti-Messiah is that they have never provided (nor can they) the biblical proofs of identity. When a world figure can and does carry out the specific actions prophesied then one could say the Anti-Messiah is present. In addition, the Scriptures offer no definitive “triggering event” that absolutely guarantees that the revelation of the Anti-Messiah comes next. The Lord and the apostles described the character and actions of the Anti-Messiah so that the saints would remain alert and not be caught unprepared (Matt 24:42; 1Th 5:6). Anyone, then, who makes a prediction as to the identity of the Anti-Messiah is a false prophet with an over-active imagination (cf. Jer 23:16).

Irenaeus wisely observed, “It is therefore more certain, and less hazardous, to await the fulfillment of the prophecy, than to be making surmises, and casting about for any names that may present themselves, inasmuch as many names can be found possessing the number [666] mentioned; and the same question will, after all, remain unsolved…. We will not, however, incur the risk of pronouncing positively as to the name of Antichrist; for if it were necessary that his name should be distinctly revealed in this present time, it would have been announced by him who beheld the apocalyptic vision…. But he indicates the number of the name now, that when this man comes we may avoid him, being aware who he is: the name, however, is suppressed, because it is not worthy of being proclaimed by the Holy Spirit.”[31]

Speculation will no doubt continue until the time when the real identity of the Anti-Messiah is revealed and the mouths of false prophets are shut. Moreover, if the identity of the Anti-Messiah could be determined, what could one do about it? Many would no doubt advocate some form of armed opposition. Yet, to take up arms to oppose something that God has ordained, and indeed something that could be viewed as necessary to His plan, puts one in the unenviable position of being opposed to God. No, it is better to wait for the revelation of the Anti-Messiah and while waiting try to save as many as possible from sharing his eternal destiny.

Research Sources

BAG: Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. trans. W.F. Arndt & F.W. Gingrich. The University of Chicago Press, 1957.

BDB: The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon. London: Oxford University Press, 1907. Reprinted by Associated Publishers and Authors, Inc., 1981. Online at BibleHub.com.

Brickner: David Brickner, Future Hope. Purple Pomegranate Productions, 1999.

LITV: J.P. Green’s Literal Translation of the Bible, Hendrickson Publishers, 1987.

Gregg: Steve Gregg, ed., Revelation, Four Views: A Parallel Commentary. Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1997.

Kohlenberger: John R. Kohlenberger III, The Interlinear NIV Hebrew English Old Testament. Zondervan Pub. House, 1987.

Marshall: Alfred Marshall, NASB-NIV Parallel New Testament in Greek and English. The Zondervan Corporation, 1986.

Miller: Stephen R. Miller, Daniel. The New American Commentary, Vol. 18. Broadman and Holman Publishers, 1994.

DSB: Henry Morris, The Defender’s Study Bible. World Publishing Co., 1995.

NASBEC: NASB Exhaustive Concordance. Foundation Publications, 1998.

Sevener: Harold A. Sevener, God’s Man in Babylon. Chosen People Ministries, 1994.

TWOT: Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. 2 vols. R. Laird Harris, ed. Moody Press, 1980.

Wesley: John Wesley (1703-1791), Notes on the Bible. Wesleyan Heritage Publishing, 2009. Online.

End Notes

[1] The word "people" ostensibly refers to the Romans who devastated Jerusalem in A.D. 70 (cf. Luke 19:41-44). The Hebrew word in Daniel 9:26 for "people," is ‘am (Kohlenberger 4:472), which can mean “kinsman” (on the father’s side), but generally refers to any group whose relationship may be based on a variety of factors, such as ethnic, family, religious, military or political ties (TWOT 2:676). Thus, it is problematic to define the national or cultural origin of the Anti-Messiah based on this verse.

[2] The Hebrew word shabua (SH-7620) literally means a period of seven days (BDB).

[3] E.g., the DRA imposes Catholic replacement theology on Daniel 9:26, “And after sixty-two weeks Christ shall be slain: and the people that shall deny him shall not be his. And a people, with their leader, that shall come, shall destroy the city, and the sanctuary: and the end thereof shall be waste, and after the end of the war the appointed desolation.” Young’s translation has the ruler to come destroying the people (cf. Dan. 7:25) instead of the people of the ruler destroying the city (Jerusalem). Some translations seem to infer that the ruler to come would be someone who would arrive shortly after the Messiah’s ministry was completed on earth, rather than a figure at the end of history (CEV, DRA, NLT, TEV). In addition, most versions have the “people” (however translated) destroying the city, but the Hebrew verb is actually third person masculine singular, “he will destroy” (Kohlenberger 4:472).

[4] See Jerome’s summary of the views of prominent early church fathers in Jerome’s Commentary on Daniel, trans. Gleason Archer, (Baker Book House, 1958), 94-110. Hippolytus represents a minority viewpoint that the completion of the seventieth week still lay in the future, though certainly not allowing a secret rapture of the saints before the seventieth week even begins, as advocated by dispensationalists.

[5] The tale of invasion and terror is recounted in 1 Maccabees 1:20-64.

[6] The parallel section in Luke 21:20 does not repeat the prophecy of the abomination of desolation, but includes the destruction of Jerusalem, the dispersion of Jews into the nations and the power of the Gentiles over Jerusalem “until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled” (Luke 21:24).

[7] It has been pointed out by historians that Antiochus did not fulfill the characteristics described in Daniel 11:36-45. Specifically, Antiochus did not exalt himself above every god, but worshipped the gods of his fathers (the Greek pantheon). The prophecy of this passage more properly refers back to the “little horn” of Daniel 7 and the anticipated ruler of Daniel 9:26, none other than the Anti-Messiah of the apostolic writings (cf. Rev. 13:4, 14). Miller 305f.

[8] Cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:3f; Revelation 13:5f.

[9] The Hebrew word for "gods" in the phrase “gods of his fathers” (11:37) is Eloah. Eloah is actually singular, but sometimes a singular noun is treated as a collective noun and translated in the plural. Eloah occurs 57 times in the Tanakh (NASBEC 1361) and in only six of those verses does Eloah refer to a heathen deity (2Kgs 17:31; 2Chron 32:15) and four of those six occur in Daniel 11:37-39. The rest of the occurrences refer to the God of Israel. Thus, some commentators would translate the phrase as "God of his fathers," implying the Anti-Messiah would have Jewish ancestry (so Young and Whitcomb as noted by Miller, Daniel, op. cit., 307). Brickner, Executive Director of Jews for Jesus insists that the Hebrew should be translated "gods" (137). Indeed, the context of the two warring kings in Daniel 11 and their destruction and plunder of the Beautiful Land make it unlikely in the extreme that the King of the North represents a Jewish Anti-Messiah.

[10] Fourteen out of the first fifteen Roman emperors were homosexuals. (William Barclay, The Letter to the Romans, Westminster Press, 1975; p. 32.)

[11] Cf. Revelation 13:4.

[12] Cf. Zechariah 12:3; Revelation 11:2, 16:13.

[13] The Parousia of the Lord includes the gathering and resurrection of the saints (1Thess. 4:15) and the Day of the Lord is the day that Yeshua comes to punish the wicked.

[14] Moreover, Yeshua does not gather and resurrect the saints until the end of the appointed period of the Anti-Messiah’s reign, because in 1 Thessalonians 2:8 Paul says that Yeshua slays the Anti-Messiah at His Parousia.

[15] The Instructions of Commodianus, 61. Online.

[16] History of the Arians, Part VIII, 77. Online.

[17] See The Noble Lesson which was written in the language of the Waldenses in the year 1100. Online.

[18] The accusation was made by Joachim of Fiore, who published a long commentary on Revelation called “Exposition on the Apocalypse” about 1200 (Henry Alford, The New Testament for English Readers [Lee, Shepard, and Dillingham, 1875], II, 349). Almost a century later Petrus Iohannis Olivi (1247-1298), published a commentary on Revelation espousing similar views. (Petrus Iohannie Olivi: Selections from the Apocalypse Commentary (Online).

[19] Gregg 31.

[20] Wesley, comment on Revelation 13:1.

[21] The belief in the Pope as the Anti-Messiah is apparently still an official doctrine of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. Online.

[22] Dave Hunt, A Woman Rides the Beast, Harvest House Publishers, 1994; p. 465.

[23] "Gorby the Antichrist," Harper’s Magazine, January 1989, 24.

[24] A pretribulationist website lists the many candidates in the modern era that have been proposed for the title of Anti-Messiah.

[25] Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 5, 30:2; Hippolytus, Treatise on Christ and Antichrist, 14-15.

[26] Brickner 43.

[27] Rev. Falwell asserted that he was not being dogmatic, since there are other sincerely held views among Christians on the identity of the Anti-Messiah. However, he points out that his opinion had been the common belief during the patristic period. His response was found at the Internet: http://www.falwell.com/press%20statements/prsarchives/prsanti.htm (accessed 23 Sept 2007). That page no longer exists. Any appeal to early church fathers who believed the Anti-Messiah would be Jewish needs to carefully consider the context of replacement theology and prejudicial sentiments against Jews prevalent in the Church of that time. (Jerry Falwell went to his eternal reward in May 2007.)

[28] Brickner 137.

[29] In the view of this writer the prevailing anti-Jewish sentiment in the world makes it incomprehensible that a Jew could be elected President of any country outside of Israel, let alone be welcomed as ruler of the entire world.

[30] The European Union (EU) was established on November 1, 1993, when the Treaty on European Union was ratified by the 12 members of the European Community (EC)—Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, and Spain. While Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg continue to act in some capacities as a single economic entity within the EU, known as the Benelux Economic Union, the EU admitted three more members in 1994—Austria, Finland, and Sweden.

[31] Against Heresies, Book 5, 30:3-4.

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