Beast Rising

To identify the Antichrist, we must depend on what the relevant scriptures say about him, his methods, and his agendas

Dinosaur Toy - Photo by Hannah Pemberton on Unsplash
The subject of the “Antichrist” raises many questions. Who is he? When will he appear? How will we recognize him? What is his “mark”? In popular preaching, he is a global political leader who uses military might to subjugate other nations. But if Satan is truly clever and cunning, why would he do the very things that so many of us expect? - [Photo by Hannah Pemberton on Unsplash].

Over the centuries, the church has heard a multitude of predictions and theories about the “Antichrist.” He has been identified with the Roman emperor, the Pope, Napoleon, Hitler, Stalin, and numerous other political figures. And in many cases, excellent arguments were made in support of the proposition. Nonetheless, not one of these candidates ever became the world-dominating “Beast from the sea.”

Complicating the matter are the several terms used for this figure in the New Testament, including Antichrist, Man of Lawlessness, and Beast, and possibly the “abomination of desolation.” Do they all refer to the same individual or thing?

The term “Antichrist” only appears in two of John’s letters, and nowhere in the book of Revelation. Is it even the correct label for this man, biblically speaking? Are we certain John has the same figure in mind that Revelation labels the “Beast from the sea,” or that Paul calls the “Lawless one”?

UNEXPECTED INTERPRETATIONS


The language used by the New Testament to portray this figure is drawn from the Hebrew Bible, especially the book of Daniel and its vision of the “little horn that was speaking great things.” But Paul and John do not simply quote passages from the Old Testament. They interpret and reapply them it in the light of what God has done in the death and resurrection of Jesus, often IN UNEXPECTED WAYS.

In Revelation, for example, the promise that the Messiah will “rule the nations” with his iron rod is modified so that now he is the one who will “shepherd” the kings and nations of the earth. The call for Ancient Israel to become a “kingdom of priests” is reapplied to the men from “every nation” who are “redeemed by the blood of the Lamb” – (Exodus 19:5, Revelation 1:4-6, 5:6-12, 12:5).

The task of identifying the “Beast” is complicated, and if there is any hope of acquiring the correct understanding, we must seek it in Scripture. We will not gain insight into him or it from news headlines or popular opinions.

This subject becomes more relevant with each passing day. If we fail to heed what Jesus and the apostles say about the matter, we may find ourselves deceived by the Antichrist when he does appear.

Even now, according to Revelation, the “Beast is ascending from the sea.” When John describes this creature’s arrival, he uses a participle in the Greek present tense, signifying ongoing action. Thus, it is in the process of “ascending” from the Abyss/Sea.

Revelation interprets the Beast’s “seven heads” as “seven mountains,” which, in turn, represent seven kingdoms. But they are successive, NOT concurrent realms. Already in the first century, five are “fallen” – they are in John’s past - one exists, and the final or “seventh” realm is “not yet come” - (Revelation 17:8-11).

In chapter 13, John uses the characteristics of the “four beasts ascending from the sea” in the book of Daniel to describe what for him is ONE ENTITY. In Daniel, the “four beasts” represent four successive kingdoms. But John sees only one “Beast,” and he lists their animal characteristics in reverse order from Daniel as if John is looking back over the history of world empires.

OLD STORY


For that matter, Daniel links the World Empire of his day to the “land of Shinar,” the ancient kingdom of the Sumerians where Babylon originated, the place where the first attempt was made to unite all peoples under one government - (Genesis 11:1-9, Daniel 1:2).

Thus, this is an ancient story. What the Bible pictures is not a one-time event that will occur just prior to the end of the age. It is a transhistorical agenda that has been underway since the beginning of civilization.

Prophecy teachers who previously identified this beastly system with the Roman Empire or the government of Nazi Germany were not entirely wrong. Past efforts to install regional and global empires are part of a centuries-long process.

So, how do we identify the final empire, the “seventh kingdom”? First, we must bear in mind Christ’s repeated warning that “no one knows the day or hour of the coming of the Son of Man.” As he told his disciples - “It is NOT for you to know times and seasons, which the Father has left in his own authority.”

But we are not completely in the dark. Whether Jesus, Paul, or John has the same figure in view, there are certain characteristics common to their several descriptions.

Deception, LAWLESSNESS, apostasy


To begin with, all three men link this figure to deception and apostasy. Jesus warns of coming “deceivers” who propagate false information about the “end,” thereby “troubling” many. And these deceptions cause many to apostatize – “Then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.”

Likewise, Paul instructs the Thessalonians not to be “troubled” by disinformation about the “day of the Lord.” It will not come until the “apostasy” occurs and the “revealing of the man of lawlessness.” Similarly, John identifies the false teachers that are active in his churches as “antichrists,” forerunners of the final “Antichrist” who will come in the “last days” - (Matthew 24:4-8, 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4, 1 John 2:18-22).

And according to Jesus, false prophets will appear using “great signs and wonders” to deceive “even the elect.” Likewise, the “man of lawlessness” will employ “great power and lying signs and wonders” to deceive many.

And in the book of Revelation, the “false prophet” uses “great wonders” to cause many to “pay homage to the Beast” - (Revelation 13:11-15).

And Jesus warns further that because of the spread of “lawlessness, the love of the many will grow cold.” In Thessalonica, Paul warns not only of the future “man of lawlessness,” but states that the “mystery of lawlessness” is already at work in the world. Moreover, John attributes the rise of “many antichrists” in his churches to the “spirit of antichrist” that is active in the world.

IN THE CHURCH


When Jesus warns that the “love of many will grow cold” due to “lawlessness,” he is not speaking about humanity in general, but specifically TO HIS DISCIPLES. “False prophets” are intent on deceiving “the elect.”


Church interior - Photo by Mateus Campos Felipe on Unsplash
[Photo by Mateus Campos Felipe on Unsplash]


Similarly, the “man of lawlessness” appears in the “sanctuary of God,” a phrase Paul applies consistently to the church. Likewise, John’s concern is about the “many antichrists” that are operating in the church.

And in the book of Revelation, the “Dragon” and his earthly minions wage war against the “saints,” “those who have the testimony of Jesus,” and NOT against other nation-states or modern Israel.

MISSING POPULAR ASSUMPTIONS


Neither Jesus, Paul nor John states that the Abomination of Desolation, the Man of Lawlessness, the Antichrist, or the Beast from the sea will be a global political leader who wages military campaigns against other nations. He may be, but that is not their concern. Their focus is on how events will affect the church.

Consistently, the picture in the New Testament is of a figure who deceives and CAUSES BELIEVERS TO APOSTATIZE.

And in Revelation, also consistently, the Beast “wages war” against the church, the “saints,” the men and women “who follow the Lamb wherever he goes.” But there are differences between the several passages.

For example, neither John in his letters nor Paul assigns any geographic location or limitations to this figure, other than to state that he is in the “world.” But in his initial warnings to his disciples, Jesus focuses on what they will see and hear in Judea and Jerusalem.

Yet, the book of Revelation makes clear that Satan’s effort to destroy the “saints” is global. Thus, for example, he will gather the nations “from the corners of the earth” that then “ascend over the breadth of the earth” to attack the “camp of the saints.” And the “mark” and “number” of the “Beast” are mentioned only in Revelation.

ECONOMIC SANCTIONS


In addition to the “mark of the Beast,” one element that is unique to Revelation is the use of economic pressure against those who refuse to “pay homage” to the “Beast” - “No one could buy or sell except those who had the mark of the Beast.”


Dollar 100 - Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash
[Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash]


What this economic war will look like is hinted at in the seven letters to the “churches of Asia,” and especially to Smyrna. That congregation refuses to compromise with the surrounding society, causing it to suffer “tribulation and poverty.” And in that society, it is difficult for any believer to participate in its economic system without compromising with its idolatrous practices.

So, where does this leave us? First, because the rise of the “Beast” is a transhistorical process and an ever-present danger, we must always be on guard. Even more so because we do not know how close we are to the end of the age. The threat is real and constant.

Second, we must always be on guard for deceptions that originate within the church, for THAT is where the “Antichrist” and the “Man of Lawlessness” will appear.

Third, since the agents of Satan can employ “signs and wonders” to accomplish their nefarious purposes, the manifestation of supernatural miracles is NO guarantee that any individual, church, or ministry is from God.

Fourth, however small it may begin, the Antichrist program will become global in scope, especially as it targets Christians wherever they are found.

And we must remember that the “whole world order is lying” in the hands of Satan, the “god of this world,” who has “blinded the minds of unbelievers” so they may not hear and heed the gospel. The “Dragon” is not sending his “beast” to deceive an already deceived world, but to misdirect, mislead, and cause the followers of Jesus to abandon the “faith of Jesus Christ.” His target is the church - (1 Corinthians 4:4, 1 John 5:19).



Comments

POPULAR POSTS

Destruction of Babylon

Kings of the East