This is one of the questions I’m asked most often – especially in recent years.
For centuries, the overwhelming majority of those who have studied bible prophecy have claimed the Antichrist will come from a revived Roman Empire headquartered in Western Europe. But recent events in the Middle East, such as the rise of ISIS, have led some people to question that claim. They say the Antichrist will be a Muslim headquartered in the Middle East. Could this be true? Let’s examine what the Bible says.
The Muslim Antichrist Belief
Those who believe the Muslim Antichrist vary in the reasons for their belief. But the two most common reasons I encounter are these:
1) Similarities between Islamic and Christian end time prophecies, and
2) A belief the Bible says the Antichrist will come from the eastern rather than the western wing of the ancient Roman Empire.
So let’s take a look at these.
Islamic End Time Prophecies – The Koran does not contain end time prophecies, but the Hadith does. The Hadith is a collection of Muhammad’s teachings. Muslims generally believe these are valuable teachings, but not direct revelations from Allah. According to the Hadith, a ruler known as the Madhi will emerge in the last days. Muslims believe this man will rule the world for seven years and rid the earth of all evil prior to the Day of Judgment. What’s more, they say Jesus will return to earth and support the Madhi’s rule during this time.
Does any of this sound familiar? It should. After all, the Bible’s end time prophecies predict the rise of an Antichrist who will rule the earth for seven years just prior to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. And during the Tribulation, the Antichrist will be aided by a false prophet. When you study the texts side-by-side, it appears the Muslim Messiah and the Christian Antichrist are one and the same. At least, that’s the claim made by many believers in the Muslim Antichrist theory.
But there’s a big problem with this line of thinking. It gives the same divine authority to both the Bible and the Hadith, and that’s a big mistake. The Hadith is not divinely inspired. Its “prophecies” resemble the Bible’s because many of Muhammad’s ideas came from Judaism and Christianity – two of the major religions of his time.
Only the Bible has a flawless track record when it comes to fulfilled prophecy. The Hadith doesn’t. Therefore, I have no reason to believe the Hadith is divinely inspired. And if it’s not divinely inspired, why should I rely on it for insight into future fulfillment of bible prophecy?
The Eastern Wing of the Ancient Roman Empire – Much better arguments for a Muslim Antichrist are made by those who base their beliefs on the Bible—the Word of God. According to the Bible, the Antichrist will come from a revived version of the Roman Empire (Daniel 2, Revelation 17). Many supporters of the Muslim Antichrist theory believe the Bible says the Antichrist will come from a revived form of the eastern rather than thewestern wing of the ancient Roman Empire.
The eastern and western portions of the Roman Empire formed in A.D. 285. In that year, the Emperor Diocletian divided the empire into two parts – one governed in Rome (West) and the other governed in Constantinople (East). When Rome fell to invaders in A.D. 487, the power seat of the ancient Roman Empire shifted eastward to Constantinople (in modern day Turkey).
Many supporters of the Muslim Antichrist theory believe it’s this eastern portion of the Roman Empire that will re-emerge in the end times. They point to chapters 8 and 11 in the Book of Daniel, which foretell the rise of both the Antichrist and the tyrannical rule of the Assyrian king, Antiochus Epiphanes. Citing these passages, they make a case for an Antichrist of Assyrian descent.
What the Bible Says About the Antichrist
Despite these claims, here’s what the Bible says about the Antichrist:
1) He will sign a peace treaty with Israel – The Tribulation will begin when the Antichrist signs a peace treaty with Israel (Daniel 9:27). This will be a treaty placing the national security of Israel in the Antichrist’s hands. Is it realistic to think Israel will make such a pact with a Muslim leader?
2) He will proclaim himself to be God – The Bible says the Antichrist will enter the Temple in Jerusalem at the mid-point of the Tribulation and declare himself to be God (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4). He will demand worship. Such a claim would go against the teachings of the Koran, which says “there is no god but Allah” (Sura 9:129). While it’s possible the Antichrist will only identify with the Muslim faith and not be a strict adherent, it’s unlikely a true Muslim would claim to be God.
3) He will worship a god of fortresses – The Bible says the Antichrist “will worship a god of fortresses, a god unknown to his forefathers” (Daniel 11:38) This suggests the Antichrist will be an idolater who worships a newidol. Not Allah. Not Baal. But a god unknown to previous generations.
4) He will come from the Italian peninsula – The book of Daniel says the Antichrist will come from among the people who destroy the Temple. History clearly reveals who that was. In A.D. 70, Titus and the Roman legions marched into Jerusalem to put down a Jewish insurrection. In doing so, they destroyed the Temple and enslaved the Jewish people, taking them away in chains to the farthest corners of the empire.
This means the Antichrist will come from Rome. Supporters of the Muslim Antichrist theory reject this idea. They claim the Roman legions were composed of Syrians and local people who identify today as Muslims (Daniel 9:26). However, this just isn’t true. Titus and the legions he commanded were composed of Italians and Roman citizens acting under the full authority of Rome. Regardless, the seat of power that conquered Jerusalem was located in Rome, not Assyria. So the Bible is crystal clear in regard to where the Antichrist will come from. He will come from Rome.
Now, could he be a Roman citizen of Assyrian heritage? Possibly. But remember, the rule of the Assyrian king Antiochus Epiphanes (a forerunner of the Antichrist) is one of the reasons some believe the Antichrist will be of Assyrian descent. Yet Antiochus Epiphanes was Greek, not Assyrian. So if the idea of a Muslim Antichrist is built on the Daniel 11 description of Antiochus Epiphanes as an Assyrian, that claim is built on faulty ground.
What’s the Truth?
So with all these conflicting viewpoints, what’s the truth? The answer should be clear. The Bible is the truth. You can count on the Word of God and the fulfillment of all bible prophecy. What you can’t count on is any particular human interpretation of bible prophecy prior to its fulfillment.
To illustrate, let’s examine some past fulfilled prophecies. This will show just how difficult it can be to understand specific prophetic details ahead of time.
Before the first coming of Jesus, some scriptural teachers claimed the Messiah would come from Bethlehem (John 7:42) while others said “no prophet comes from Galilee” (John 7:52). Of course, we know from hindsight, the Messiah came from Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), came out of Egypt (Hosea 11:1), and Galilee was filled with glory (Isaiah 9:1). Prior to Jesus of Nazareth, it was difficult to see how one man could fulfill all of these prophecies. Yet it happened – just as the Bible foretold.
Oftentimes, we show a tendency to read news headlines into the Bible rather than taking the Bible for what it says. The rise of Islam in recent years only increases the speculation of an Islamic Antichrist. But until he arrives on the world scene, no one can know for sure every characteristic of the Antichrist. Perhaps he will be an Italian Muslim from Syria. But perhaps not. We just don’t have enough information to know.
Nevertheless, we can be absolutely sure bible prophecy will be fulfilled to the last letter. In the meantime, a literal interpretation of scripture indicates the Antichrist will come from the Italian peninsula, not the Middle East. And the Bible’s statements that the Antichrist will establish a peace treaty with Israel (Daniel 9:27), proclaim himself to be God in the Temple (2Thessalonians 2:3-4), and worship a god of fortresses unknown to his forefathers (Daniel 11:38) strongly indicates the Antichrist will NOT be a Muslim. Any claim that he must be, rather than he might be, is not from the Bible, but from men.