(A dear friend pointed out this week that my next “Israel Watch” would be no. 666. Aside from closing in on my 13th year having the privilege of writing this weekly piece, the implications of the number are obvious. How could I not write about…Antichrist?!!)
The Man of Perdition
I could have skipped this number of “Israel Watch” and gone straight to no. 667. Kind of like building managers that don’t have a 13th floor, but go on to 14, 15, and so on.
But redeemed people don’t live with superstition. We are confident in Christ that He and not evil run the show. So it is that I will depart somewhat from the normal tone of this column to write about that man who already has had much ink generated about him.
I won’t have much groundbreaking information to share, and I despise speculating about “who he is.” I once gave a talk about Israel and just before the Q&A I said that I don’t discuss the Antichrist, mark of the beast, that sort of thing. The first question was from a woman who said, “Do you think the Antichrist is alive today?”
I’m also struck by how many arguments are generated among Bible prophecy enthusiasts over the Man of Sin, the one the Bible speaks a bit about, and who will play a central role in history.
The very great Henry M. Morris, father of the modern creationism movement, was a wonderful Bible scholar. Of the Antichrist, he wrote:
“Again and again He [Christ] urged us to watch and be ready for His return. He did not tell us to watch for the Antichrist or the revival of Rome’s empire or a great apostasy or a great revival or a world government or anything else—just for Him!”
I think this is sound advice. Hear Dr. Morris again:
“In the late years of the apostolic period, Christians were already concerned about the coming of Antichrist, the great ‘man of sin’ whom Paul wrote about (II Thessalonians 2:3). John warned, however, that they should be more concerned with the many antichrists who had already come. The original language in John’s comment actually says that ‘we know there is ‘a last hour,’ rather than ‘the last time.’ Whenever a church or a Christian ministry allows antichrists to compromise its ministry, it signals a last hour for that ministry.
An antichrist is not a ‘false Christ,’ though these also are enemies, but rather one who denies, or dilutes, the union of true humanity and full deity in Jesus Christ. ‘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 2:22). Thus one mark of an antichrist is questioning the deity of Christ.
However, it’s not wrong to do some study on this subject, so long as we realized becoming obsessed is counter-productive to a healthy Christian life.
Most of us can remember some of the names thrown around in the last several decades as being a potential Antichrist.
Hitler. Stalin. Mussolini. As I’ve written in this space before, many years ago in my life as a book editor, a man sent me a heavily documented manuscript identifying the Antichrist as…Prince Charles.
Prince Charles isn’t the Antichrist. Further, we can’t be sure that he has been born yet. He might not be alive at this moment.
I subscribe to the view that we are living in the general time of Christ’s return. I anticipate it every day. I do this primarily because news about Israel is heating up as never before. I believe many Old Testament passages indicate that the great final prophecies will begin to rollout when Israel faces intense pressure in the very last days.
The name “antichrist” is mentioned only handful of times in the New Testament, primarily in the letters from John. In 1 John 2:18, the man of sin is mentioned specifically:
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.
Paul wrote this in 2 Thessalonians 2:
Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him,
2 That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.
3 Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;
4 Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.
Many interpretations say that he is mentioned in Daniel. My purpose here is not to argue those passages, but to point out that even though Antichrist is a key figure in history, the Bible doesn’t give much detail about him.
We know from Scripture that he is coming and in the last days. But what of his character or even his appearance? We know little. We can only speculate about much of it.
When I was a teenager and watching “A Thief in the Night”-type movies in church, he was portrayed in films as a coolly menacing guy with red eyes in private.
It appears that he will be a human man to whom Satan gives him his power. I believe he will be an initially charming, pleasant, assuring presence. Sir Robert Anderson wrote a fascinating treatment of the subject, The Coming Prince, in 1894.
He wrote this:
“’WHAT is it that all Europe is looking for?’ – the words are quoted from a leading article in the Times newspaper, on the recent finding of Agamemnon’s tomb. ‘What is it that all Europe is looking for? It is the KING OF MEN, the great head of the Hellenic race, the man whom a thousand galleys and a hundred thousand men submitted to on a simple recognition of his personal qualities, and obeyed for ten long years…The man who can challenge for his own the shield of Agamemnon, now waiting for the challenge, is the true Emperor of the East, and the easiest escape from our present difficulties.’ 1. The Times, Monday, 18th December, 1876. The realization of this dream will be the fulfillment of prophecy.”
Anderson rightly states that people are almost longing for a figure that will “take away their problems.” And yet he also analyzes the difficulties in being dogmatic about antichrist’s identity:
“’If the book of Daniel might be read by itself no question whatever could arise. ‘The Coming Prince’ is there presented as the head of the revived Roman empire of the future, and a persecutor of the saints. There is not a single statement respecting him that presents the smallest difficulty. But some of the statements of St. John seem inconsistent with the earlier prophecies. According to Daniel’s visions the sovereignty of Antichrist appears confined to the ten kingdoms, and his career seems limited to the duration of the seventieth week. How then can this be reconciled with the statement of St. John that “power was given him over all kindreds and tongues and nations, and all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him ‘?”
The truth is, I don’t think we can speak with authority on the identity of the coming Antichrist unless we see him revealed. In other words, if you were alive during that time and you had knowledge of the Bible, you’d realize that this dynamic new leader being interviewed on CNN is…the guy.
Prior to that, we are only speculating. And so that brings us back to the proposition that we are to be looking for Christ, not Antichrist.
My heart rests when I think of it that way.