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We have been studying the Tribulation Period. It is a series of three judgments that will take place on earth sometime in the future – the seals, the trumpets the bowl judgments (each one worse than the one before).
Last week, we saw an angel blowing the seventh trumpet. When the angel blew that trumpet, we heard some loud noises in heaven and saw some heavenly beings falling down and worshiping God but we did not see any terrible judgments on the earth.
Last week we learned more about five characters who will play a role in the Tribulation Period – a giant red dragon (Satan), a pregnant woman (Israel), a baby boy (Jesus), Michael (the Archangel) and the woman’s other children (represents not physical Israel but spiritual Israel defined as “those who keep God’s commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus” (12:17).
Some would identify these children with the 144,000 mentioned earlier in the book. When we come to Revelation 13 we see three distinct characters. There is the dragon and two other beasts (a beast from the land and a beast from the sea). No artist has done complete justice to John’s description but Ted Larson gives one picture from digital art.
Symbolism in the Chapter
Last week we saw that Revelation 12 begins a highly symbolic section of Revelation. Most of us who pride ourselves on being biblical literalists and interpreting the Bible literally are not used to interpreting symbols. That is why apocalyptic literature is so hard for many people to understand. Revelation 13 is also very symbolic.
Revelation 13 describes a dragon standing on the shore of a sea but it is NOT a literal red dragon. Dragons are found in mythology. They are not real.
Revelation 13 describes a beast that John saw but it is NOT a literal beast. It is talking about a person. He is called a man in 13:18 but he will act like a wild animal.
What kind of animal? He is described as three different animals. He will look like a leopard but he will have feet like a bear and a mouth like a lion. Instead of calling this a beast, it would perhaps be better to call this individual a monster.
Revelation 13 describes seven heads on this individual but that is NOT literal. There will not be an individual who comes on the international scene with seven heads. That sounds like a freak from a monster movie (grotesque seven-headed monster). It is a monster you will not see on Halloween. Revelation actually describes another seven-headed monster and it is Satan (12:3)
Revelation 13 describes ten horns on this individual’s head but that is NOT literal. This man will not walk down the street with ten horns on his head. People would run from that hideous looking individual but instead they worship this individual. Satan was also said to have ten horns (12:3).
Revelation 13 describes a beast coming out of the sea but this is NOT a literal sea. The sea is symbolic. In apocalyptic literature the sea is symbolic of evil. That is why in the new heaven and the new earth we are told that there will be no more sea (22:3).
Revelation 13 describes people taking the mark of this individual on their forehead or in their hand but that may NOT be literal. We will talk next week about what it might symbolize.
Today we want to answer two questions: Will there be a future end-time world ruler called an Antichrist and if so, what will he be like? Let’s start with the first question.
Will there be a Future Antichrist?
Will there be a future totalitarian ruler called the Antichrist or is that just a great delusion? It may be a shock to some people but not everyone believes that there will be a future literal Antichrist. Preterists, like R.C. Sproule and Hank Hanegraaff, do not believe there will be a future end-time individual Antichrist.
The word is used only found five times in the Bible in four verses (I John 2:18, 22; 4:3; II John 1:7) and John defines it a little differently. John says that antichrists have already come (I John 2:18). They are not future but present. They were around two thousand years ago. He was already in the word in John’s day (4:3).
According to John, anyone who denies that Jesus is the Christ is the antichrist (2:22). John says that everyone who does not acknowledge Jesus is from God is the spirit of the antichrist (4:3). He says anyone who does not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh is the antichrist (II John 7). He describes the antichrist in his day as a false teacher found within the church.
Is John denying that there will be a future Antichrist? I don’t think so. Has there ever been a person in history who has fulfilled Revelation 13? Many aspects of the chapter have already been fulfilled.
This individual is called a man (13:18) and is described as a ruler. There have been plenty of rulers throughout history who have been very popular with the masses. There have been plenty of rulers throughout history who have spoken blasphemous words.
There have been plenty of rulers throughout history who have waged war against the saints. Many have persecuted and killed Christians. But no ruler in history has ever been given authority “over every tribe, people, language and nation”.
At no time have “all inhabitants of the earth worshiped the beast”. At no time in history were people forced to receive a mark on their rights hands or foreheads in order to buy and sell. Furthermore, this individual will be alive when Jesus returns, (Revelation 19:19-20), so he has to be an end-time figure.
John is not denying in I John & II John that there will be a future coming end-time Antichrist. He simply says that there were manifestations of the Antichrist or forerunners of the Antichrist in his own day which he calls “the spirit of the Antichrist (4:3). They were many “antichrists” in John’s day will foreshadowed a future end-time Antichrist.
Six Reasons for Believing in a Future Antichrist
1) Daniel believed there would be a coming Antichrist (Daniel 7:8, 20-25).
2) Paul believed there would be a coming Antichrist (II Thessalonians 2:4).
3) John predicted there would be a coming Antichrist (Revelation 13).
4) Jesus predicted there would be a coming Antichrist (Mark 13:14; Matthew 24:15).
5) The early church believed there would be a coming Antichrist.
The notion of a coming future Antichrist goes all the way back to the second century (e.g., Hippolytus, Irenaeus, Tertullian). Augustine, one of the most important church fathers in history, quotes II Thessalonians 2 and in the fourth century stated, “No one can doubt that he wrote this of Antichrist”.
6) Jews in the first century believed there would be a coming Antichrist.
This was not limited to the church. The Jews believed this. We know it from the Pseudepigripha (Psalms of Solomon 2:29; 17:3; Apocalypse of Baruch 40:1-3; Ascension of Isaiah 4:2-8; Sibylline Oracles 3:63-74).
The evidence is overwhelming that there will be a future end-time ruler called the Antichrist. It is a biblical term. The word “Antichrist” is in the Bible. He is called many names in Scripture. Paul calls him “the man of sin” (II Thessalonians 2:4). Daniel calls him “the little horn” (Daniel 7:8).
John calls him “The Antichrist” in I John and “the Beast’ in Revelation 13:1. What will this person be like? We will use Revelation 13 and other passages in Scripture to answer this question. Let’s look at his personal qualities.
Characteristics of the Antichrist
1) He will be Respected
People will not think of him as a bad or evil person. They will not see him as demon-possessed or the perfection of evil. Believers may think this but not everyone else. The world will look at him as a great leader. People will love him and praise him (Revelation 13:4).
The Antichrist will be popular even in other countries. He will have mass appeal. Time magazine will declare him “The Man of the Year”. There will be a cult of personality around him, as there was to many dictators throughout history (Hitler, Stalin).
2) He will be Gifted
The Antichrist will be a very charismatic leader. He will have a magnetic personality. He will be a good politician and a great diplomat. That is one thing many have said about Bill Clinton. Bill Clinton was a master politician.
Even people who hated him agree with that. The Antichrist will have great leadership ability. He will be a military genius. He will go forth “conquering to conquer” (6:2).
He will be very good at public speaking. He will have a mouth that speaks great things (Daniel 7:20). Revelation 13 talks about the mouth of the beast. He will have a mouth like a lion (13:2). Adolf Hitler was very good at public speaking.
He held audiences spellbound and he used that as part of his propaganda campaign. The Antichrist will be a good orator. He will be comfortable talking in front of a camera. He will be good at public speaking and great debater.
3) He will be Influential
His influence will be worldwide. It will extend to “every tribe, nation, language and race” (13:7). This individual will be powerful. He will be so powerful that no one will want to go to war with him (13:4). If no one wants to go to war with him, he must be the leader of a country with a strong army.
The Book of Daniel says that he will worship the god of fortresses (11:37). He will be so powerful, he will almost be invincible. Someone tries to kill him and he comes back to life. You can see his power from his description.
Daniel had a vision of four different terrifying animals in Daniel 7. He had a vision of a lion, a bear, a leopard and a fourth animal that was more ferocious than the previous three. John’s vision is different. John sees one animal which combines all of the characteristics of Daniel’s four animals.
The beast of Revelation is more terrifying than any of Daniel’s four animals. The Antichrist will be a combination of Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Adolf Hitter and Nebuchadnezzar all rolled up into one.
4) He will be Arrogant
Power corrupts. The more power people have often goes to their head and the Antichrist will be given a lot of power. He will have influence over “every tribe, nation, language and race” (13:7) and that will go to his head. He will think he is a god and demand that people worship him (13:4, 8; II Thessalonians 2:4).
Daniel says that he will “exalt and magnify himself above every god” (11:36-37). Other rulers have done this. King Nebuchadnezzar built an huge image and required everyone to worship him or be thrown into a fiery furnace (Daniel 3:1-7). He will be a big boaster (13:5; Daniel 7:8, 20-21).
5) He will be Intolerant
People will not have to give up their religion, so long as they acknowledge the authority of the Antichrist. The Antichrist will be a persecutor of the saints (Daniel 7:21, 25; Revelation 13:7). He will wage war against God’s people. He will wage war against the woman’s other offspring (12:17). He waged war against the two witnesses and killed them (11:7).
6) He will be Irreverent
The Antichrist will be a blasphemer. He will be disrespectful to God. He will mock the Bible. He will not just utter proud words, he will utter blasphemies (13:5). He will opened his mouth “to blaspheme God, and to slander his name and his dwelling place and those who live in heaven” (13:6). He will not just exalt himself above all gods, he will blaspheme the true God (Daniel 7:25;11:36).
He will not just say some things against God, he will actually go in and desecrate the temple. He will commit what Jesus called “the abomination of desolation”. Antiochus Epiphanies attacked Jerusalem in 168 B.C., went into the temple and offered a pig on the altar, erected an altar to the temple of Zeus and destroyed all copies of the Bible.
7) He will be Deceptive
He will be a wolf in sheep’s clothing. He will not come to power saying, “I am the Antichrist vote for me”. Hitler also came to power through a democratic process. He did not say “vote for me and I will kill six million of our citizens”. Politicians often promise one thing but do another when they are in office. He will declare himself a man of peace but will later turn into the Beast and plunge the world into global war.
He will claim to be a friend of Israel but will really be an enemy of Israel. He makes a covenant with the Jews and then breaks it. He will claim to be tolerant but will actually be very intolerant, demanding that people worship him. He will claim to be respectful of other religions but then he will go in and desecrate the Jewish Temple (Daniel 9:26-27; Matthew 24:15-18).
The Fate of the Antichrist
Let’s summarize the biography of the Antichrist. The Bible says that he will rise to power from obscurity and quickly become the most powerful man in the world. He will have power over “every tribe, nation, language and race.” He will have absolute power (the coming fuehrer). His power will come from Satan himself. His power and authority will be given to him by Satan himself. There is only one catch.
His term will be short. He will rule for forty-two months (Revelation 13:5; Daniel 7:25). It will be characterized by incredible arrogance, blasphemy of God and persecution of God’s people and of the nation of Israel. He will be destroyed by Jesus himself at the Second Coming (Revelation 19:19-20; II Thessalonians 2:8) and his fate will be the lake of fire. He will be thrown alive into the Lake of Fire (Revelation 19:20).
1) The Power of Satan
Satan has incredible power. It is all delegated power. God has allowed him to have control over the world. He is called “the god of this world”. He is called “the prince of the power of the air”. Satan will turn that control over to the Antichrist. He will not just have political power. He will have demonic power. He gets his power from the dragon (12:2) He will be empowered by Satan himself. The dragon gave him three things – power, throne and great authority. How is that possible?
We know from Romans 13 that God has all authority but he delegates some authority to Satan. He allows Satan to do certain things and Satan can delegate his authority to anyone he wants to. He offered that authority to Jesus but he rejected it (Luke 4:5-7). The Antichrist will accept the offer that Jesus refused. The Antichrist will receive his power from Satan, just as Adolf Hitler was empowered by Satan himself.
2) The Sovereignty of God
Even Satan has a leash. His control is not absolute. God is in complete control of everything he does and everything the Antichrist does. He limits the power of the Antichrist to only forty-two months. That is less than one term as President of the US. There are a lot of bad things that he will be allowed to do but he will only have forty-two months to do it. His time will be limited.
3) The Patience of the Saints
When the Antichrist has absolute control over the earth and demands to be worshiped it will be a terrible time to be a believer. Believers will be martyred. Many will go hungry or suffer economically. It will be very difficult to be a believer during the second half of the Tribulation and that is why John has the exhortation in 13:9-10.