Covenant Protestant Reformed Church, Ballymena, Northern Ireland
The main point missed by the preterists in Matthew 24 is simply this: Christ’s disciples asked Him about two events:
1. The destruction of the Temple (which later occurred in 70 A.D.).
2. The end of the world.
"And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to shew him the buildings of the temple. And Jesus said unto them, 'See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.' And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, 'Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world'?" - Matthew 24:1-3This the preterists vehemently deny. Chilton is representative: "it cannot be made to fit into some 'double-fulfilment' scheme of interpretation."
Chilton’s protest notwithstanding, we have shown that the phrase "end of the world" (v. 3) refers elsewhere to the end of all things (Matt. 13:39-40; 28:18-20). Given this truth it is the contention of the Reformed Amillennialist that in Matthew 24 we have the blending of two events (the destruction of the Temple, and the end of the world), and the use of typology.
The conflagration of A.D. 70 is an historical type of the end of the world. All these things were fulfilled upon that generation as to their historical type, but not in reality or exhaustively. This is Anthony A. Hoekema’s position, who describes the passage as an "intermingling" of language appropriate to A.D. 70 and Christ’s Second Advent. The language of Matthew 24 has a Jewish flavour. Christ speaks "in terms which had local ethnic and geographic colour. We are not warranted, however, in applying these predictions only to the Jews, or in restricting their occurrence only to Palestine." Kim Riddlebarger, another Amillennialist, agrees:
The destruction of the temple, cataclysmic as that would be, was not the end of the age, nor did the Lord return in A.D. 70 … [In Matthew 24] the Bible does not teach a coming of Christ in judgment which is invisible and localized to Jerusalem. Christ’s Coming is the Day of Judgment on the nations when the inhabitants of the earth, great and small, cower in fear.The Great Tribulation with the abomination of desolation [spoken of by Daniel, the prophet] was fulfilled in its type in A.D. 70. At that time the Romans did indeed desecrate the Temple. Cornelis Venema points out, that just as Daniel’s original prophecy of the abomination of desolation had a double fulfilment (in Antiochus Epiphanes and in A.D. 70), so we can expect a further fulfilment of this prophecy as well: "According to this understanding, the tribulation which characterizes the circumstances of the faithful church in the interim period will reach its most intensified expression in the period preceding his second coming."
It is simply absurd to teach that everything in Matthew 24:1-34 was neatly fulfilled in its entirety in A.D. 70. The sorrows (birth pangs) of verse 8 did not bring forth the Christian church out of her Jewish womb, rather these earthquakes are the groaning and travailing (in birth pangs) of the creation described in Romans 8:22, which passage has in view the bodily resurrection of the saints on the Last Day. The signs set forth in Matthew 24, although many of them (war, famine, earthquake, persecution, false teachers, apostasy, etc.) characterized the period before A.D. 70, continue throughout the New Testament age. They continue to be signs to us. The Coming of the Son of Man has not yet occurred. It was not merely a coming of Jesus in judgment upon Jerusalem. It will be as visible as lightning (v. 27), the inhabitants of the world will "see" it (v. 30); it will be cataclysmic (v. 29) and audible ("with a great sound of a trumpet"). It will involve the gathering of the elect (v. 31). None of this occurred in A.D. 70. The preterist exegesis of Matthew 24 is no less absurd than the premillennial dispensationalist twisting of I Thessalonians 4 where a "shout," "the voice of the archangel" and "the trump of God" (v. 16) can be interpreted to mean a secret, silent, pre-tribulationist rapture!
Excising the Preterism from Key Eschatological Figures
The preterist teaching that Nero was the Beast is wishful thinking. Since Gentry looks for a world in which "external persecution must gradually fade away" and "for a day in history when evil will be reduced to negligible proportions" Antichrist must not be allowed to loom on the horizon to spoil his postmillennial dream. Simon Kistemaker points out the difficulties with the preterist argument concerning the number 666:
As Hendriksen points out, numerology gets one nowhere, because "the Apocalypse is a book of symbols; it is not a book of riddles!"First, to arrive at the number 666 as the numerical value of Nero’s name, one has to add the name Caesar … Only when one adds an extra letter n to the name Nero, resulting in Neron Caesar, is the full number 666 achieved. But then one has to resort to the Hebrew spelling of Neron Caesar.
Revelation 13:18 teaches that the number 666 is the number of a man. This could be translated the number of man, since Greek has no indefinite article. The absence of the article underlines the essential nature of the beast. He is thoroughly human and his kingdom is anthropocentric. This gives us a valuable clue, not to identifying who exactly the Antichrist will be, but to understanding his nature. Hoeksema gives a good explanation of the number. Seven is the number of God’s covenant, and six is one short of seven:
Another argument used in favour of Nero’s being the Antichrist is that he is the sixth king of Revelation 17:10. Writes Chilton, "The first five Caesars were Julius, Augustus Tiberius, Caligula and Claudius. One is: Nero, the sixth Caesar, was on the throne as St. John was writing the Revelation." Kistemaker shows this line of argument to be highly dubious: "There are at least nine different ways of counting these Roman emperors, and a lack of consensus is evident."The world with all its fullness, with all its powers, but without God, under the influence of sin – that is the symbolism of the number six … [The Beast] is the climax of the development of the Man of Sin. It is the kingdom of man, of the creature, without God, without the seven.
The first Beast from the sea is the political aspect of Antichrist. The second Beast is ecclesiastical, the false church, which serves the first Beast. The meaning is clear. Political Antichrist will be aided and abetted by an apostate ecclesiastical body that calls itself (falsely) the Church of Christ. The second Beast is not Israel, for Israel is not Christian in any sense. She never identified herself with Christ. She openly repudiated Him. The second Beast looks like a lamb (i.e., like Christ) and speaks like a dragon (i.e., like Satan). This is the false church, whose heretical teachers look like Christians, call themselves Christians, but who spew forth the doctrines of devils to deceive the people (Rev. 13:11; I Tim. 4:1).
Preterism’s "trump card" for identifying the Antichrist as Nero is the chronological element. The Beast had to be a figure of the first century because the book of Revelation makes clear that the events described in the book would occur shortly after they were written. Christ was only coming quickly (in judgment upon Jerusalem) in the first century. Now He comes slowly. The "time texts" do not pose a problem for the Reformed Amillennialist. Jonathan Edwards points to some Old Testament time texts which are relevant to this debate. For example, in Haggai 2:6-7 God declares that he would shake the heavens and the earth in "a little while." This was fulfilled in Hebrews 12:26, over 500 years later. As Mathison writes, "The Old Testament prophets regularly used terms implying ‘nearness’ to describe events which did not occur for centuries." In addition, if Revelation was exhaustively fulfilled in A.D. 70 and was written before Nero’s death in A.D. 68, it had relevance only for a few years. To modern Christians it has nothing to say. We are now left completely in the dark as to what the future might bring. Prophesy ended with A.D. 70. God has told us nothing except that there will be a Second Advent in our future at the very end, but since this is preceded by no signs, we have no indication when that will be.
Our contention is that this prophecy has abiding relevance to all of history. It shows how Christ is realizing the divine decree concerning all things for the good of His Church and with a view to His Second Advent. Christ is coming quickly. He was coming quickly in the first century. Throughout history He has been on the way. He is coming quickly today. He is preparing all things for His Coming. There is no delay, only a seeming delay (II Peter 3:9). All the elect must be gathered, the wicked must fill up the cup of their iniquity, Christ’s sufferings in His body, the Church must be completed (Col. 1:24). This takes time. From our perspective it requires a lot of time. We see the signs of His Coming and with outstretched necks we look for that glorious day (Luke 21:28).
Covenant Protestant Reformed Church, Ballymena, Northern Ireland
The covenant spoken of by Daniel (Daniel 9:27) was confirmed by Christ during his first advent. He confirmed the convenant with many by His death. The 70 weeks were fulfilled in the first advent of Jesus. The period of His ministry was the 70th week; this was the period of fulfillment of the covenant (7 x 10). The one who fulfills the convenant is not Antichrist, but Christ. It is Jesus the Messiah who puts an end to all Old Testament sacrifices and oblations by His one sacrifice of Himself on the cross in the midst of the 70th week (cf. Heb. 10).
The Correct, Scriptural Interpretation
A. In opposition to the premill view, there are two basic objections as a whole:
1. First, they can give no proof that the weeks are definite periods of 7 years each.
a. Often, the premill is quite dogmatic about this, but wrongly.2. Secondly, the passage does not indicate in any way that the 70th week is separated from the preceding 69 by a huge span of time.
b. The fact is that nowhere in Scripture does the term week mean "7 years."
a. If you think of it, this is a very bold bit of eisegesis (reading into a passage something that is not by any stretch of the imagination there).
B. Positively, what the 70 weeks are:b. To be sure, the 70th week follows the 69th week, but at once.
1. Gabriel tells Daniel of one period of 70 weeks.
a. Literally, it is 70 "sevens" (the Hebrew word for week).
b. 70 is a symbolical number.
1) The premill will object to our taking the number symbolically; he will insist that it be taken literally.
a) Our reply to the premill is: "Do that. Take it literally. Then you have a period of 490 days." But the premill does not want to take it literally, for he wants to make it 490 years.
c. The 70 weeks are the period of time from the command to rebuild Jerusalem to Jesus Christ, as the period of the fulfilment of the covenant. In this period, the covenant (7) will be fulfilled (10).b) In addition, we point out that prophecy of the 70 weeks is given to Daniel as a vision (v. 23: "consider the vision"). A vision is characterised by symbolism.2) Seven is the number of the covenant of God with His people; 10 is the number of fullness (7 x 10). 70, therefore, symbolizes the fulfilment of the covenant of Jehovah, the covenant with Abraham and his seed.
1) Understanding the 70 weeks is not a matter of computing dates and figures.
2) We are basically uninterested in juggling dates and figuring calendar years.
2. This one period of 70 weeks ends in an event in which, according to verse 24, six things are realized, the finishing of transgression, etc.3) That it happens to be about 575 years is irrelevant.
a. All of these occur during the first advent of Christ Jesus (from His incarnation through His resurrection and ascension).
b. The 70-week period terminates in the first advent of Christ, so that the whole period is from our standpoint past, not at all future.3. The breakdown of the 70 weeks in detail:
a. The period begins with the going forth of a command to build Jerusalem (v. 25).
1) This is the decree of Cyrus that Judah may return to Canaan in 537 B.C.
2) See Isaiah 44:28 and Isaiah 45:13.
3) This was a crucial juncture in Israel’s history and a wonderful manifestation of God’s faithfulness.
a) Israel is desolate, doomed.
b. 69 weeks takes us to Christ Jesus, "Messiah Prince" (v. 25).b) God then, amazingly, orders Cyrus to give Israel deliverance, life from the dead.
1) This period is divided into two parts: 7 weeks and 62 weeks.
2) The 7 weeks are the period of the troublous building of Jerusalem.
a) Under Zerubbabel, Ezra, Nehemiah.
b) This takes us to about the time of the end of the Old Testament canon.3) The 62 weeks are the period between the testaments.
4) The 69 weeks takes us up to "Messiah Prince."
a) The premills argue over which event in the life of Christ is meant.
b) It is natural to understand verse 25 to refer to the coming of Messiah, that is, His birth.
(1) When Jesus was born, "Messiah Prince" appeared.
c. Then, the 70th week follows, the "one week" of verse 27.(2) "Where is he that is born King of the Jews?" the wise men asked, at the occasion of Jesus’ birth.c) The 69 weeks, therefore, extend from Cyrus’ decree to the birth of Jesus.
1) It is the period of the life and work of Jesus Christ that belongs to His first advent, inclusive of the resurrection, ascension, and perhaps, the outpouring of the Spirit.
4. Objections against this interpretation of the 70th week by the premill.2) The period of Jesus’ ministry was the 70th week, the period of the fulfilment of the covenant (7 x 10).
a. Basically, there are two objections; both concern verses 26-27.
b. First, the premill points out that Messiah is cut off after the 69th week (v. 26) and before the 70th week (v. 27): the same thing, he says, is true of the destruction of the city by the people of the prince.
1) The latter, all agree, refers to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans under the general, Titus, in A.D. 70.
2) The premill argues that both the death of Jesus and the destruction of Jerusalem occur before the 70th week, not in it, according to the passage.c. In close connection with this first objection, the premill maintains that verse 27 ("he shall confirm the covenant") refers to the Antichrist and to a covenant which he will make with Israel at the end of the world, when the 70th week will finally come.
d. Our answer to these objections:
1) It is true that the death of Messiah comes after the 69th week (v. 26); it is not the case, however, that the text says that it occurred before the 70th week.
5. The truth of verses 26-27:2) The one who confirms the covenant in verse 27 is not Antichrist, but Christ: He does this, not in the future, but in the past (from our present standpoint).
a. The cutting off of Messiah and His having nothing (as it is in the original Hebrew) is the crucifixion of Jesus.
b. This occurred in the 70th week, which 70th week is the "one week" of verse 27; it is exactly the death of Messiah that makes that week the 70th week, that is, the week of the fulfilment of God’s covenant.
c. The first part of verse 27 refers to the Messiah, Jesus:
1) The meaning of verse 27 will be clearer from a more faithful translation than that given in the King James Version: "And he shall confirm the covenant with many, one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and upon the wing of abominations [is] the one making desolate and unto completion and it is determined it shall be poured out on the desolate."
2) It is Jesus the Messiah who confirms God’s covenant, "one week."
3) It is Jesus the Messiah who puts an end to all Old Testament sacrifices and oblations by His one sacrifice of Himself on the cross in the midst of the 70th week (cf. Heb. 10).
4) If one asks concerning the rest of the 70th week, it is that which belongs to the first advent of Jesus following His death, namely, the period of His resurrection, ascension, and the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost. One could make a good case, on the basis of the passage, for the contention that the end of the 70th week is the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. It was then that the new covenant as the fulfilment of the old covenant was definitively manifested.d. Proof of this interpretation, as opposed to that of the premill:
1) It is exegetically incorrect to make "he" in verse 27a to refer back to "prince" in verse 26, and thus to come to the conclusion that the reference is to Antichrist.
a) The fact is that the subject of the phrase in verse 26 is not "the prince," but "the people of the prince," that is, the Romans who destroyed Jerusalem in A.D. 70.
b) The one, main subject of the entire prophecy is "Messiah Prince" and it is, therefore, to Him that "he" refers in verse 27a.2) Verse 27 speaks of someone confirming a covenant.
a) The premill explains this to mean that the Antichrist will, in the future, make a covenant with the nation Israel.
b) But as the King James Version shows, verse 27 does not use the Hebrew word that means "make;" rather, it uses a word that means "to confirm;" the reference is not at all to the making of a new covenant but to the confirming of an already existing covenant.
(1) Jesus, "Messiah Prince," did exactly this by His first advent: He confirmed the covenant with many.
(2) The covenant is God’s covenant with Abraham and Israel, the covenant Israel violated, as Daniel bitterly lamented in his prayer, the covenant which Daniel nevertheless besought God to keep.
6. In conclusion:(3) Jesus did confirm this covenant by His death and in the conformation revealed it in its full reality as including not only the elect of the Jews but also of the Gentiles.
a. The 70 weeks are fulfilled in the first advent of Jesus.
b. The covenant of Jehovah has been confirmed—for the many elect of all nations.
c. All of the blessings of the covenant, the benefits mentioned in verse 24, have been obtained by Messiah and are now freely dispensed to God’s people.
Another Interpretationd. We and all believers live in the enjoyment of that fulfilled covenant and its spiritual blessings, in the new dispensation.
A. Another interpretation of the 70 weeks given by some Reformed amillennialists is the following.
The 70 weeks are the entire period from the command to build Jerusalem to the second advent of Christ, including the present age:
- From Cyrus’ decree to the first advent is 7 weeks;
- From the first advent to the appearance of Antichrist in the future is 62 weeks;
- The 70th week is the brief period in the future during which Antichrist will reign and which ends with Christ’s return.
B. This interpretation is wrong for the following reasons:
1. Like the view of the premills, this interpretation supposes that verse 27a ("he shall confirm the covenant") refers to the Antichrist. Everything said above against the premill explanation of verse 27 holds against this explanation.
2. It does injustice to the plain meaning of the last part of verse 25. By building the street and the wall of Jerusalem in troubled times, Gabriel does not refer to the gathering of the church but to the literal rebuilding of Jerusalem after the return of Judah from captivity.
3. The most serious and obvious error of this interpretation is its distortion of the statement in verse 26 that Messiah shall be cut off and have nothing. According to this interpretation, this has to be the destruction of the church by Antichrist at the end of the world ("after threescore and two weeks …"). In fact, the text is speaking of the cutting off of the Messiah personally, that is, Jesus’ death on the cross.
4. The translation of verse 25 is correct as we have it in the King James Version.
Covenant Protestant Reformed Church, Ballymena, Northern Ireland
Holy Scripture forewarns the church of Jesus Christ that she will suffer great tribulation in the days that lie ahead. Tribulation is suffering that a man endures because he confesses Jesus Christ by word and by life. It is suffering inflicted on the members of Jesus' Church by the ungodly, unbelieving men who persecute them.
In the future, there will arise a great kingdom headed by a mighty leader which the Scriptures name Antichrist (Rev.13; II Thess. 2:3-12; I John 2:18). This man and his kingdom will gain the allegiance, for a time, of all the nations of the world. Because this world power is motivated by hatred for God and God's Christ, it will persecute the church of God. This coming persecution will be the worst that the people of God have ever experienced in all the history of the world. This persecution will be the "Great Tribulation."
Jesus Himself foretold all of this in Matthew 24, as He answered the disciples question, "... when shall all these things be, and what shall be the sign of thy coming and of the end of the world?" (v. 3). In verse 21, He said, "For then shall be great tribulation such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be." As is true generally of what Jesus says in this chapter, He refers, first, to the destruction of the city of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 by the Romans and to the suffering that it brought on the inhabitants of Jerusalem. But at the same time, Jesus refers to the event of which the destruction of Jerusalem was a type, namely, the affliction of the church in the days that immediately precede the return of Jesus from heaven and the end of the world at His second coming. It is a characteristic of prophecy that the prophet foretells one great event, which is nevertheless made up of a type and a reality, a typical fulfilment of the prophecy and a final "real" fulfilment. That Jesus, in Matthew 24, prophesies a great tribulation at the very end of world history is evident from the fact that He is answering the disciples' question, "what shall be the sign of thy coming and of the end of the world?" This is also evident from the fact that in verse 29-30 Jesus states that the tribulation will be followed immediately by astounding catastrophes in the heavens and by the literal, personal return of Jesus Christ in the clouds of heaven.
One of the signs, therefore, of the imminent coming of Jesus Christ and of the end of the world will be a future "Great Tribulation."
The people who will endure suffering in the great tribulation will be the believers, the true and faithful members of the Church of Jesus Christ. Jesus calls them "the elect" in Matthew 24:22: "for the elect's sake those days will be shortened." The elect are those persons whom God has eternally chosen in Jesus Christ out of all nations, Jews and Gentiles, to be members of Jesus' Church and to enjoy God's gracious gift of salvation. They show themselves in the world as those who testify of Jesus Christ and keep the commandments of God (Rev. 12:17).
Scripture does not comfort the true Church of the elect child of God by promising us that we will not have to go through the distress of the last days. What the Lord said to the early Christian Church of Smyrna holds for the Church also at the end of the ages. Christ told the church that persecution was impending. The persecution, instigated by the Devil himself, would be severe, for the believers would be imprisoned and some would die. "Ye shall have tribulation," Christ told the Church. Their consolation was not that they would escape tribulation, but that the sovereign Christ is Lord also of persecution and that He rewards His people with heaven's life and glory, when they faithfully endure tribulation. The Word of Christ to the Church in the world, then and now, is the announcement that she will have tribulation, and the solemn call to her to be faithful in that tribulation, even unto death (see Rev. 2:8-11).
It is not at all strange that the Church will pass through great tribulation at the end of the ages. The people of God have suffered persecution for Christ's sake in all ages. Hebrews 11:23-26 says of Moses that his choice to ally himself with the people of God was, by virtue of that fact, a choice "to suffer affliction." It was true already in the Old Testament that to show oneself as a child of God meant bearing "the reproach of Christ." Hebrews 11 continues with a description of the tribulation of Old Testament believers: "mockings and scourgings ... bonds and imprisonment ... destitute, afflicted, tormented ..." (vv. 36-38). It is the same regarding the church of the New Testament. Jesus describes the lot of the Church in the world always in John 16:33: "In the world ye shall have tribulation." Paul preached to the newly established churches that "we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22). To Timothy, Paul wrote, "all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution" (II Timothy 3:12). The great tribulation of the Church at the end will not be a new thing. Its only exceptional characteristic will be its severity, its greatness.
Some might suppose that the church does not have tribulation in our time, at least, not the Church in the United States. But this is a mistaken notion. If the Church purely preaches the gospel of God's gracious salvation in Jesus Christ alone and condemns every form of man's attempt to save himself, whether by his own saviours or by his own good works or by his alleged free will, the Church will be hated today. If the Church insistently calls men to a holy life and condemns all unholiness as God does in the Bible, the Church will be reproached today. For example, if the Church condemns as sin all divorce, except that due to adultery of one's mate (Matthew 5:31-32); all remarriage while an original partner lives (Mark 10:11-12; Luke 16:18; I Cor. 7:39); all revolution against the civil government (Rom.13:1-7); all abuse of the worker by the employer (I Peter 2:18-25), the Church will experience great tribulation in A.D. 2000, as she did in A.D. 70.
Why must the people of God, the church, endure the great tribulation at the end of the world? One can just as well put the question this way: Why must the believing church always enter the kingdom through much tribulation (Acts 14:22)? She must! But why?
Suffering tribulation is a necessity, first, because the Devil's hatred for God is always directed against those who love and worship God. The Devil, with those men whom he has blinded (II Cor. 4:3-4), makes war on the true Church. This warfare will climax at the end of the world in the Great Tribulation (see Rev. 12). In all times, and also at the end, the only way in which the Church can escape the persecution is the way of denying Christ and worshipping the Devil (see Rev. 13:4, 15).
Suffering tribulation is a necessity, secondly, because of the sovereign will of God. God leads the church through tribulation. He does so for the church's good. By tribulation, God chastises His beloved children (Heb. 12:1-14). He tries the Church, so that she may be purified and made ready for her eternal home with Him (I Peter 1:7). Thus, the tribulation of the church serves the glorifying of God. The church is faithful in tribulation, sealing her confession of God's glory and grace with blood. Therefore, the church must not desperately long to evade tribulation. She ought to consider it a privilege and a gift from God to suffer for Christ's sake (Philippians 1:29).
Although we know that we will suffer in the approaching tribulation, we are not terrified. The little flock of Christ is comforted by the assurance that the Great Shepherd will be with her in the deepest depths of the valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 23:4). She trusts the sovereign grace of God in Christ to keep her faithful in the hour of trial. And all the while she has her hope securely fastened on Christ's return and the life and glory which she will then enjoy forever. In addition, the Lord has promised to shorten the days of the tribulation for our sakes (Matt. 24:22). He, and not the Devil, will rule at that time, and He will cut short the oppression of His people by His personal, bodily coming in the clouds of heaven (see Matt. 24:29-30; II Thess. 1). When the Great Tribulation comes upon the Church, she will know that her redemption is at hand.
It is important that the Church now live in the awareness of the coming tribulation and its severity. It must not fall upon her unexpectedly. The Church must be prepared. The practical purpose of the Holy Spirit revealing the great tribulation to the Church in Scripture is that we may prepare ourselves. We do this by taking heed, more and more, to the Word of God, the Scriptures; by being diligent and fervent in prayer to God for His Holy Spirit and grace; and by removing our hope from all things earthly and setting it on our Lord Jesus Christ and His coming.
Covenant Protestant Reformed Church, Ballymena, Northern Ireland
The fact remains that God is always God, and all creatures always execute His will. Willingly or unwillingly, all are servants of the Almighty. They have a work to do. When their work is finished, the end of time is reached. And because Antichrist shall "fill the measure of iniquity," the dispensation in which he appears must be the "last hour."
The most complete picture of Antichrist we find in Revelation 13, in comparison with Revelation 17; and it is to this picture that we would call the attention of our readers more particularly in this pamphlet. Briefly we shall attempt to describe Antichrist, as presented in Revelation 13:
1. In his political power.
2. In his spiritual influence.
3. In his worship, image and sign.
His Political PowerHistorically, the appearance of Antichrist must be explained from the fact of the fall of the human race in Adam, and from this other fact that God has anointed His King over Zion, Who is ordained Heir of all things, Lord of lords and King of kings, and Who will subject all things under Him in the name of God. Man was originally an office-bearer of God, and anointed one, a king-servant. Through the Fall he became the devil's office-bearer. He proposes to rule in the name of Satan. When, therefore, God sends His Anointed into the world, fallen man reveals himself as antichrist.
The derivation of the name Antichrist is not quite certain. It may signify one that opposes the Christ of God; it may also mean the Counter-christ, one who claims to be Christ and acts accordingly. Materially it makes no difference which of these two interpretations of the name one may choose. For Antichrist is both: a Counter-christ and Christ's opponent. Fallen man, who proposes to rule over the world in the name of the devil and press all things in the service of iniquity, must proclaim himself a Christ, a king; and as such he must necessarily oppose the Christ of God. This also explains why the antichristian power assumes the form of a kingdom and its king, with universal political power.
Even in the old dispensation, this antichristian power was in the world and exerted itself to frustrate God's counsel with respect to the coming of God's Christ in the world. But in its true character, the power of Antichrist does not become manifest till after the incarnation of the Son of God, His crucifixion, resurrection, and exaltation at the right hand of God. In the new dispensation the Antichrist is the Counter-christ, indeed, that opposes Christ for the purpose of replacing Him.
In Revelation 13 we find this antichristian power pictured first of all as a universal world-power.This aspect of Antichrist is represented by the beast that rises up out of the sea. The beast has the general appearance of a leopard, but it has the feet of a bear and the mouth of a lion. It has seven heads and ten horns. Upon his head are found names of blasphemy; on its horns there are ten crowns. One of its heads reveals the scar of a deadly wound that has been healed. It receives its power and authority from the dragon, that is, the devil. And all the world admires the beast.
The first question that arises is: what is the meaning of the sea out of which the beast arises?
No one disputes the fact that here, as usual in the book of Revelation, we deal with symbolism. The various elements of this symbolic picture may not be interpreted arbitrarily, according to our own imagination and fancy, but must be explained in the light of Scripture. The Word of God usually interprets its own symbols. This is also the case here.
If we consult Daniel 7:2-3, 17 and Revelation 17:15, we shall find that the storm-swept sea is a picture of the nations of the world, moved by sin from within, swept by the revelation of the wrath of God from heaven, restless with wars and revolutions, troubles political and economic, always giving birth to new kingdoms and kings, forms of government and dictators, alliances and federations.
In Daniel 7:2-3, we read:
"Daniel spake and said, I saw in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of the heaven strove upon the great sea. And four great beasts came up from the sea, diverse one from another."And this is explained in verse 17:
"These great beasts which are four, are four kings which shall rise out of the earth."It is evident that by "the earth" is here meant the nations of the earth. The storm-swept sea, therefore, represents the nations as they give rise to new kingdoms and their kings.
And the same conclusion we reach on the basis of Revelation 17:15:
"And he saith unto me, the waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are people and multitudes and nations and tongues."The sea out of which the first beast arises represents, therefore, the restless nations of the world, swept by the storms of war and revolution and disturbances of every kind.
The second element in the vision that draws our attention is the symbol of the wild beast. The beast in Scripture is representative of the political world-power, the king or ruler and his domain. Of this there can be no doubt in the light of Daniel 7:17, where the four beasts are interpreted as four kings that shall arise out of the earth; as well as on the basis of verse 23 of that chapter, in which verse the fourth beast is called the fourth kingdom upon the earth that shall be diverse from all kingdoms.
A king and his kingdom are inseparable. When the question is asked whether the Antichrist shall be a person or a power, we may probably answer: both. He shall be a world-ruler, a mighty person or genius, in whom all the world shall trust, and whom the whole world shall admire; but he is not to be separated from the kingdom over which he shall have dominion. Nor must the term be taken in too narrow a sense of the word. In modern times, men like Mussolini and Hitler were not kings in the literal sense of the word, but they were world-rulers nevertheless, and, in fact, exercised far more power than many a king.
That in the book of Revelation John beholds not merely one beast but a combination of beasts (leopard, bear, and lion) most probably points to the fact that the world-power of the last days will be a culmination of other historic world-powers that have existed in the past. However this may be, the picture of the wild beast in the vision teaches us that the ultimate manifestation of Antichrist will assume the form of a political world-power, a kingdom and its ruler or government.
The seven heads that appear on the beast represent so many different manifestations of the antichristian world-power in the course of history, some of which existed in the old dispensation, one of which was existing at the time of the vision, while the last one represents a world-power that must still be realized. Of this there can be no doubt in the light of the explanation given us in Revelation 17:9-10:
"The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sitteth. And there are seven kings: five are fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come; and when he cometh, he must continue a short space."It is evident that the seven heads are seven historical representations of the antichristian world-power, as these empires appear and disappear in time.
Nor would it seem impossible to determine from the text which empires are meant. Certain it is that the sixth of the seven heads represents the Roman empire, for "five are fallen, and one is." It was the Roman empire that existed at the time when John received the vision. If, then, from the standpoint of the vision, we figure backwards and ask what world-powers existed before the Roman, we find that: the latter was preceded by the Greek-Macedonian power, established by Alexander the Great, the he-goat of Daniel 8; the Greek-Macedonian empire superseded the power of the Persians and Medes, the bear of Daniel 7; the Persian dominion followed the mighty world-power of Babylonia, with Nebuchadnezzar as its most glorious ruler; and before the Babylonian empire there was the power of Assyria with its capital in Nineveh.
As to the fifth head, there may be room for difference of opinion as to whether it refers to Egypt or to the kingdom of mighty Nimrod in the land of Shinar (Gen. 10:8-11). Various considerations would seem to lead to the conclusion that the latter is meant. Egypt, indeed, appears in Scripture as the house of bondage, bent upon the destruction of the holy seed; but it is hardly reckoned with the great world-powers. On the other hand, the kingdom of Nimrod stands at the very beginning of the history of the world-powers, and the Assyrian empire is represented in the Bible as developing directly from it, for "out of that land went forth Asshur and builded Nineveh" (Gen. 10:11). Besides, we read in Revelation 13:3 that one of the seven heads on the beast was wounded, or "as it were wounded to death." This expression can most properly be explained as referring to the confusion of tongues, which was the deathblow to the earliest attempts to establish a universal world-power in the land of Shinar. The added information that his "deadly would was healed" then refers to the fact that in the end of time, in the day of Antichrist, the division into nations will be overcome for a season and all the nations of the world will unite into a strictly universal world-power. The attempt that failed in the land of Shinar shall then succeed for a short time.
For all the nations of the world ultimately shall unite, though it be only for a brief space of time, around the antichristian banner. Even the heathen nations shall give their power to the beast. This is symbolized by the crowned horns that appear on the beast of Revelation 13. The horn in the Bible is symbol of royal and political strength. Thus the psalmist uses the figure in Psalm 89:17:
"For thou art the glory of their strength; and in thy favour our horn shall be exalted."According to the symbolical meaning of the number 10 in Scripture, the ten crowned horns represent a fullness of royal and political strength, and in this instance the reference is to the whole of those powers that exist outside of the pale of nominal Christendom, the nations that live on "the four corners of the earth" and that are called Gog and Magog in Revelation 20. Not from their midst, but from the nominally Christian world, in Europe and America, shall the Antichrist arise. There shall be the centre and throne of the antichristian kingdom, as might be expected. But the pagan rulers shall unite with it and give their power to the beast for a season.
The union, however, shall not be permanent. The difference between paganism and (anti) Christianity shall soon assert itself. After a season the heathen nations shall rise against the centre of anti-christendom, and there will be a world-war in the strictest sense of the word.
But, for a time, the ideal of Babel, that could not be attained in the land of Shinar, shall be realized and all the nations of the world shall give their power to the beast. All this is clearly taught us in Revelation 17:12-13, 16:
"And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet but receive power as kings one hour with the beast. These have one mind and shall give their power and strength unto the beast ... And the ten horns which thou sawest upon the beast, these shall hate the whore, and shall make her desolate and naked and shall eat her flesh and burn her with fire."For God hath put in their hearts to fulfil His will and to agree and give their kingdom unto the beast, until the ultimate form of the antichristian world-power from its political aspect shall be the universal and final consummation and culmination of all the historic world-powers in the past, realized for a time by the voluntary federation of all the kingdoms of the world, in which even the nations of heathendom, God and Magog, shall have a place.
His Spiritual InfluenceWe read that the beast receives his power from the dragon.
This must, of course, be understood, not in the absolute sense of the word, for all power belongs to God only, and without Him even Antichrist has no power. It must rather be understood in the spiritual sense of the word. Antichrist is the servant of the devil and does his will. In Antichrist the devil appears to realize his own dominion, and through him Satan is prince of this world indeed.
In the antichristian empire, all do Satan's will ... except the saints.
The beast, therefore, is said to have a mouth to speak blasphemies against God, His name, and His tabernacle and them that dwell in heaven. And all admire and worship the beast, except the saints. For these it shall be a time of persecution and of great tribulation.
This spiritual aspect of the antichristian world-power is pictured to us more particularly in the second beast and its activities. This second beast has its origin in the earth, it has horns like a lamb and it speaks as a dragon. It is very closely related to the first beast, so that it must not be conceived of as a second power, next to that of the first beast, but rather as another aspect of the same antichristian world-power. The first and second beast belong together. They constitute a unity.
This is evident from the text in Revelation 13:11ff. The whole purpose of the second beast is in the maintenance and acknowledgment of the power and authority of the first. He exercises all the power of the beast before him, that is, as his servant (v. 12). He causes men to worship the first beast; he persuades men to make an image for the first beast; and he causes that all who do not worship the image to be killed. He causes all men to receive the mark of the beast in their right hand or on their foreheads, and decrees that no man be able to buy or sell save those that are distinguished by the mark as worshipers of the beast. The first beast could not exist, its power and influence over men would be inconceivable, without the activities of the second. The first and second beasts together constitute the antichristian world-power, and they must be interpreted as two aspects of it, both of which are indispensable to its existence and authority.
Nor does Scripture leave us in the dark with respect to the identity of this second beast. It is not another kingdom, but merely the spiritual-ethical aspect of the antichristian dominion. This is evident from the fact that it rises, not out of the turbulent and restless sea, but out of the stable and quiet earth; science and philosophy do not flourish in times of war and upheavals, but are furthered in the quiet study of peace-time. It is evident, too, from the fact, that this second beast does not have the appearance of a wild monster, but rather that of a lamb. And, lastly, let us notice that this second beast speaks and emphasizes his speech by doing great signs and wonders. He functions through speaking, preaching, and teaching, and thus he persuades men to worship the first beast and to make an image for him. Nor can there be any question about it that this second beast is the same as the false prophet mentioned in Revelation 19:20:
"And the beast was taken and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image."All these data lead to the same conclusion; namely, that this second beast represents the power of false prophecy, the intellectual, spiritual, moral aspect of the antichristian world-power. It is the power of false philosophy, agnosticism, atheism, modernism; of false religion without Christ, as preached from many a pulpit today; of false science, that is, science and all its results and inventions pressed into the service of sin, occupied with the wisdom of men, which is natural, earthly, devilish. And it works miracles by which men are deceived and induced to follow after the first beast and to worship him and his image—miracles, therefore, not in the service of God, but in the service of the devil.
In our day of mighty inventions, of steam and electricity, of modern conveniences, of telephone and telegraph, of television and radio, we begin to understand what these signs and wonders will be. Who can say what the future will still bring of these miracles, that witness of the power of Man and shall be used as the credentials of the antichristian power? Who would deny the possibility of a literal fulfilment of Scripture in Revelation 13:13:
"And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men"?They will be the days when even the very elect would be deceived were it not that the days were shortened!
His Worship, Image and SignFor men will be seduced, by the influence of this second beast, to worship the first beast. His teaching is universally accepted. The power of his miracles is entrancing and charms the lovers of this world. The beast supplies them with all the modern utilities, conveniences, and luxuries of life. It is due to this second beast, in no small measure, that the antichristian kingdom is all that can be desired by the natural man. Men, therefore, in that age of antichristian prosperity and glory, shall worship the beast voluntarily. All men wonder after the beast!
And it is not at all inconceivable that this worship shall actually be offered to one person, the personal Antichrist, at the head of the antichristian kingdom.
Let a man arise endowed with the power of a universal genius, who is able to create a condition of world-prosperity, and men will be glad to forget that they believed in democracy, and to hail this "world-saviour" as their lord and worship him as their god! Hitler in Germany and Mussolini in Italy were national illustrations of the truth of this statement.
However, the worship of Antichrist will also be compulsory. He brooks no opposition. The antichristian spirit is very "broad-minded"—on condition that you worship the beast and his image. They that refuse to bow the knee to this universal idol shall suffer persecution. Once more the sword of the world-power shall be turned against the saints of Christ. They shall be killed. And, besides, they shall be allowed no room in that empire of Antichrist. Social and economic outcasts they shall be. Pariahs in the literal sense of the word they shall be made. For they shall not be allowed to buy or sell unless they worship the beast and his image! How easily these things can be literally realized may be seen, for example, in the power of the labour unions in many places, where you will not be able to employ or to find employment unless you agree to wear the union badge and stamp your goods with the union label.
The second beast takes care that no one escapes, that all that refuse to worship the first beast are exposed! There will be no hiding from his vengeance. In his day men will be compelled openly to profess whether they are for or against Christ. The lines of demarcation will be clearly drawn. This will be accomplished by "the image of the beast."
For, the second beast "deceiveth them that dwell on the earth, by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword and did live. And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed. And he causeth all both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads; and that no man might buy or sell, save he that had a mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name."Exactly how this image of the beast and this mark on the right hand or forehead of his worshipers will be realized, it is impossible to predict. It is not only very well possible, of course, but also in our day entirely conceivable that in the age of Antichrist there will be a literal image of the beast, which men will meet everywhere and will be forced to acknowledge and before which they will be expected to bow down in worship. It is not at all below the dignity of modern heathendom to return to the worship of an image. Think of the statue of the goddess of Reason in l' Eglise de Notre Dame in Paris at the time of the French Revolution! And how easily can we, in our days of badges and buttons, conceive of the literal realization of the mark in the right hand or forehead, of which the text in Revelation 13 speaks!
Yet, it is of minor importance whether or not we are able to determine just what form this image and mark will assume. Of far more significance is the purpose they must serve. For this purpose is, evidently, to expose publicly them that refuse to worship the beast and make them the objects of persecution. The image shall speak! And by his speaking he will cause all that refuse to worship the beast to be killed. Again, it is a minor question in what form this image will speak. It is no longer inconceivable that the realization will be a literal fulfilment of the text. But it will speak! Literally or figuratively, it matters not, the image shall surely speak. It will record to the beast your every whisper, your secret thoughts and inclinations with respect to the antichristian power. It will reveal your Yes or No, your for or against. There will be no possibility of escape.
And the mark will speak for itself. Not to wear the antichristian badge will surely expose you as one that is not of antichrist, but of Christ. And antichrist is no respecter of persons! Rich and poor, bond and free (and does this suggest, to say the least, that communism will not be the ultimate form of society?), small and great alike shall be required to show the mark of the beast. Failure to show it will mark one as an outcast, vainly seeking a place where he may buy his daily bread!
Then it will no longer be possible to serve God and Mammon, even in outward appearance. A time of great tribulation it will be for the saints in Christ Jesus. But at the same time it will be a period in which the lines shall be very clearly drawn. It will then be seen, once more, who fear the Lord and who do not fear him. And it will be given of grace to the saints in the cause of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer with Him!
And the saints shall have the victory!
Antichrist must fail. His ultimate and complete failure is already sealed. For Christ hath overcome the world and is seated at the right hand of God, clothed with all power and authority in heaven and on earth. The rule and ravings of Antichrist will be but for a season. The chapter tells us that he has power to continue forty and two months. This power is given unto him by God. The period of forty and two months is, evidently, the same as that of twelve hundred and sixty days, three and a half years, time and times and half a time, mentioned elsewhere in the book of Revelation. As a symbolical indication of time it refers to the whole of the new dispensation. The period during which the "woman" (the church of the new dispensation) is nourished in the "wilderness" is, according to Revelation 12:6, a thousand two hundred and threescore days; and the same period is indicated in verse 14 of that chapter as "time and times and half a time." It is clear that this is the same period as that which is indicated by forty and two months, for forty and two months are twelve hundred and sixty days, or three and one half years.
It is, therefore, the period of this entire dispensation, though it may have a more literal fulfilment in the end.
All through this dispensation Antichrist is in the world, although in his full power he will become manifest only in the end of time. And it is not impossible that in the fullness of his power he will continue only three and one half years or forty and two months in the literal sense of the term. However this may be, he shall fail. His time is limited. He shall be cut off.
According to Revelation 17:16, the end of the antichristian empire shall be marked by that universal world-war between the central antichristian powers and the nations that live on the four corners of the earth, for the ten horns, representing the pagan powers, shall hate the whore and make her desolate. And it is on the scene of this desolation that the Lord shall come on the clouds of heaven to consume His enemies by the breath of His mouth and to judge all the nations of the earth.
That Antichrist shall fail is also indicated by his number, or the number of his name, the number six hundred threescore and six. A thousand and one interpretations have been offered of this number, which the reader may find in the commentaries on this passage. They are, many of them, proof of much learning, and they are characterized by great ingenuity. Usually they interpret the number of the beast as if it were a puzzle that was offered to be solved. The best known of these interpretations, dating back to the time of the early church-fathers, and still accepted by many interpreters of Holy Writ today, is that which finds in the number 666 the Greek letters that spell the word Lateinos, and apply the number of the beast to the Roman emperor, or according to others, to the Pope. The letters of the Greek alphabet have numerical value. In order, the letters that spell the word Lateinos represent the following numbers: 30, 1, 300, 5, 10, 50, 70, 200. And the sum of these numbers is 666.
But against this interpretation there are many weighty objections. The chief of these objections is that it appears to be a juggling with the terms of Scripture in order to reach a preconceived explanation. The name "Lateinos," whether referring to a particular Roman emperor, to the Roman empire itself, or to the Pope, was before the mind of the interpreter; and the number 666 was, quite arbitrarily, dissolved into those numbers that would correspond to the letters of that name! If thus we begin to juggle with the terms of Holy Writ, there is no end of possible interpretations. The number 666 may readily be dissolved into other combinations of numbers so as to spell a different name. Irenaeus already hesitated between the names Teitan and Lateinos, and preferred the former. Besides, the Greek form of the name "The Latin" is not Lateinos, but Latinos, so that the word-and-number puzzle does not even check! No wonder that Alford could write: "Even while I print my note in favour of the Lateinos of Irenaeus, I feel almost disposed to withdraw it. It is beyond question the best solution that has been given; but that it is not the solution, I have a persuasion amounting to certainty."
It seems to me that we must heed the introductory words of Revelation 13:18:
"Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast."And these words must not be read as if they were equivalent to: "Here is a puzzle. Let him that is ingenious solve it." Wisdom and understanding take into consideration the light of the Word of God in general in order to interpret a particular passage. And it is certainly in harmony with the Holy Scriptures in general to read into the numbers a symbolical significance. That the number 666 has a symbolical meaning is all the more to be expected because it occurs in the book of Revelation.
If we apply this rule, we find that six is the number of the earthly creation with a view to time. Four is the number of the earth with a view to its extent. Scripture speaks of the four winds and of the four corners of the earth. But six is the number of the earth and all earthly things from the viewpoint of their development in time. It is the number of creation-week. It is the number of our week of toil and labour without the Sabbath. It therefore represents clearly the idea of labour without rest, of effort that is not crowned, of exertion that ends in ultimate failure, of time without eternity! The number six, therefore, stands for all the efforts of man in time to find rest in the merely earthly things.
That this number is repeated three times and multiplied by the number 10, and by 10 times 10, indicates in the first place the completeness of this effort of man to bring the things of this "world" to their highest possible development, for the number 10 always indicates a fullness; and, in the second place, that man strives repeatedly, in the course of history, to reach the rest to establish their ideal of the kingdom of man, and repeatedly fails. For he is mere Man. And the number of man is always six. Without Christ, man is limited to that number six. The seven, the final Sabbath, the true rest, he never reaches. Antichrist is from below. And his efforts are always limited by the number six and are, therefore, doomed to fail.
But the saints in Christ Jesus, who have the patience, who do not worship the beast and his image but are faithful even unto the end, although in this world they may seem to fail, reach the number seven, the eternal Sabbath, the rest that remaineth for the people of God! For they seek the city that hath foundations, whose builder and maker is their God! And they shall never fail or be ashamed, for their "Joshua," the Captain of their salvation, has gone before and shall surely lead them into the eternal victory of the heavenly Canaan.
Covenant Protestant Reformed Church, Ballymena, Northern Ireland
IntroductionWhat is Antichrist? In these last days, this ought to be a burning question. Who is the Antichrist? How can a lover of Christ identify him? What will he look like? How will he behave? Where will his headquarters be located?
If you are expecting here an identification of a man or men who are Antichrist, you will be disappointed. If you are expecting a prediction as to how many years before Antichrist arises, you will not find it here. We hope to be faithful to the Reformed tradition of sober exegesis of God's Word and careful maintenance of the Reformed faith. (Besides, a desire to identify the Antichrist has often sidetracked the church from the important present calling she has regarding Antichrist's spirit. To see what we mean by this, read on to the end.)
The confessions of Reformed churches say very little about Antichrist. Except for passing references, one finds very little on eschatology (the doctrine of the last things) in the Reformed confessions, and nothing in The Three Forms of Unity (Heidelberg Catechism, Belgic Confession and Canons of Dordt) about Antichrist. This is not due to lack of firm positions on eschatology at the time the confessions were written (between AD 1563 and 1619) but to this, that eschatology was not one of the vital issues of the Reformation.
Nevertheless, the Reformers themselves had a good deal to say about Antichrist, not systematically, but throughout the whole of their writings. A treatise of Martin Luther written shortly before his death in 1546 was entitled, "Against the Roman Papacy; an Institution of the Devil." Luther began the holy tirade thus: "The Most Hellish Father, Saint Paul III, in his supposed capacity as the bishop of the Roman church ..." (Luther's Works [Fortress Press], vol. 41, p. 263). In that treatise he says that the pope is "the head of the accursed church of all the worst scoundrels on earth, a vicar of the devil, an enemy of God, an adversary of Christ, a destroyer of Christ's churches, a teacher of lies ... a brothel-keeper over all brothel-keepers and all vermin, even that which cannot be named; an Antichrist ..." (Ibid., pp. 357-358).
In Calvin's treatise of 1544 entitled "The Necessity of Reforming the Church" (Selected Works of John Calvin, vol. 1, part 1, Tracts [Baker, 1983]), Calvin says, "I deny that See [i.e., the Roman Catholic's throne of authority; BLG] to be Apostolical, wherein nought is seen but a shocking apostasy—I deny him to be the Vicar of Christ, who, in furiously persecuting the gospel, demonstrates by his conduct that he is Antichrist ..." (pp. 219-220).
The Westminster Confession, Presbyterian creed of the next century, includes an article in which it boldly identifies the pope as Antichrist.
As heirs of the Reformation and as those told to discern the signs of the times, we, too, are concerned with the Antichrist. We will consider, then, Antichrist's identity, his purpose and method, our calling to oppose him, and his certain destruction.There is no other head of the church but the Lord Jesus Christ. Nor can the pope of Rome in any sense be head thereof; but is that Antichrist, that man of sin and son of perdition that exalteth himself in the church against Christ and all that is called God (25:6).
General DescriptionScripture teaches Antichrist to be a political, religious, individual, yet to come in the future (as of this writing), who is opposed to God and God's Christ and God's church. Although the only places in Scripture the name Antichrist is used are I and II John (I John 2:18, 22; 4:3, II John 7), the Bible is replete with instruction regarding the reality we call Antichrist. The key passages are Daniel 7-8, 11; Matthew 24; II Thessalonians 2; and Revelation 13, 17 and 18—where Antichrist is referred to as a beast, a little horn, a false Christ, that wicked one, and the man of sin.
Antichrist: A False ChristAntichrist's name gives us indication of what he is. He is Antichrist As every Jew knows, the name Christ is simply the Greek translation of the Hebrew Messiah, whom the Jews expected to come in God's name to save them. The Messiah, or Christ, is the one anointed by God and qualified to carry out a certain work in God's name. Christ's work is to redeem God's people from sin and death by His own death, and to renew God's creation as a creation of righteousness and peace. The man Jesus of Nazareth (died circa AD 33) is this Christ. He is God's anointed, the servant of Jehovah. He is qualified to do the work of redeeming God's people and renewing creation. The confession of the church down through the ages is, "Jesus is the Christ."
Antichrist is a false Christ, according to Matthew 24:24. He claims to be anointed by God with the Holy Spirit and claims to be qualified to do the work in God's name of redeeming God's people and renewing the creation. But he is not. He is a liar. His claims are false. He is a false Christ.
Antichrist: Opposed to Christ and to GodA little word study may help to understand the prefix "anti" in the name Antichrist. Just as antivenom is given to counteract the venom of a snake bite, and antiseptic is used against infection, so Antichrist is against, is opposed to, Jesus Christ. This tells us the essence of what Antichrist is: he is opposition to God's Christ. He is opposition to Christ personally; he is against Christ's Church; he is against Christ's Word, Holy Scripture. Furthermore, because Christ's mission is to show the name of Jehovah God to men by showing Himself to them (see John 17:6, John 14:8-9 and Revelation 13:6), Antichrist is opposed to God Himself.
So, although the Antichrist will leave the impression that his motivating force is love, concern for humanity, and pity for the oppressed, what drives Antichrist is not love but hatred. The one motivating force in his life is opposition to Jesus Christ, opposition to all that He stands for, and to all that stand for Him.
Antichrist: In Place of ChristThe name Antichrist also indicates substitution. Antichrist opposes Jesus in order to supplant Him, to take His place as Christ. Although the English language does not often use the prefix "anti" to mean substitution, it is a common use of the preposition in the Greek language. When Scripture says that Jesus died "for His people," one of the prepositions used is anti indicating that He died as a substitute for His people. This is the secondary meaning of the preposition anti.
Antichrist purposes to be "in the place of," or "a substitute for" Jesus the Christ.
II Thessalonians 2 points out how Antichrist comes as an impostor of the Christ from God, and how there is a striking outward similarity between Antichrist and Christ. Will Jesus Christ be revealed some day? So will Antichrist (vv. 3, 8). Will Christ be in God's temple? Antichrist will sit there also (v. 4). Is Christ God? Antichrist will claim to be (v. 4). Did Christ support His claim to be God with signs and wonders? Antichrist, too, will perform signs and wonders (v. 9). Christ has a kingdom; so will Antichrist. Christ comes by the power of the Spirit; Antichrist will come by the power of a spirit, who is the devil himself.
Does it surprise anyone, then, that, in the Middle Ages, Antichrist was called the "ape of Christ?" He comes in the place of Christ, making himself out to be Christ. In every way mimicking Christ, Antichrist will propose to be Christ. Antichrist is Satan's counterpart to Christ. Jesus was God's choice to establish His kingdom, redeem His people, renew creation; Antichrist is Satan's choice to establish his kingdom, gather in as many people as he can, and subject all to himself. All of God's plan hinges on the works of Jesus, the Christ; all of Satan's plans hinge on the working and success of Antichrist.
Antichrist: An Individual PersonAlthough there is difference of opinion among Reformed students of Scripture regarding this, it is not difficult to see why many believe that Antichrist will be one man.
A reality that stands opposed to Jesus, but also that claims to be the Christ, the anointed of God, must be a man, as Christ was a man, a man in whom they put their trust, a man to whom the people can look for deliverance from their miseries. How can something claim to be Jesus, the man, and not be a man himself? Supporting this logic, II Thessalonians 2 seems to make this plain. Antichrist is "that man of sin" and "the son of perdition" (v. 3); he shows "himself that he is God" (v. 4); he is "that Wicked [one]" (v. 8).
Antichrist will be a definite individual, a particular human being. A single individual of outstanding ability and extraordinary power will arise, who is opposed to Jesus Christ and claims to be the Christ.
It is significant that Antichrist will be a man. Antichrist will not be some strange creature, unrecognisable to you and me, some foreigner, a man from Mars or another solar system. Antichrist will not be a stranger to humanity. Indeed, he will be the final and full development of man, of the human race. You will know him well, for his nature will be your nature. Man always has and always will claim equality and identity with God (witness the insane ravings of the Shirley MacLaines and others today). This man's claims will be believable; he will be one of us.
Antichrist: A Political PowerRevelation 13 gives further instruction about Antichrist, teaching that his kingdom will be both a political and an ecclesiastical empire. The vision of Revelation 13 must be read in the light of Revelation 12, where the dragon cast out of heaven, identified as the devil and Satan, pursues the woman (who represents the church of Christ) in the new dispensation.
The dragon is angry because the woman's man-child, Jesus Christ, is caught up into heaven before the dragon can devour him. Now he spits his poisonous black bile on the woman, persecuting her, making war with her seed! He hates and tries to devastate the church.
In chapter 13 we have the appearance of two beasts which are the product of the dragon in chapter 12—his creation and servants ("... and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority;" v. 3). This first beast is a wild animal which arises out of the sea. It looks like a leopard, but its feet are like bear's feet and its mouth like a lion's. Its seven heads and ten horns make us think of the dragon himself in chapter 12:3, where he was pictured with seven heads and ten horns. The heads of the beast are full of blasphemy. And one of the heads has a scar from a wound now healed. After the beast has risen from the sea, the whole world worships this beast, while it spews out blasphemies against God and makes war with the saints and overcomes them.
This is the same beast that Revelation 17:3 refers to, where it is described as scarlet in colour, ridden by a great whore. If you study the vision in Revelation 13 in connection with Daniel 7, you will see that the vision of Revelation 13 is based on that of Daniel 7, and that the beast of Revelation 13 is the beast of Daniel 7. John's beast from the sea is a combination of the leopard, bear, lion, and indescribable fourth beast of Daniel 7, whose ten horns give rise to one horn that speaks great, boastful things, and makes war with the saints and prevails!
What does this beast from the sea represent? Antichrist! But Antichrist as a world government, a political power, the likes of which this world has never seen. The origin of this beast is the sea, which represents the restless nations and peoples of the earth. Isaiah 57:20 teaches, "The wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose water cast up mire and dirt." If more is needed, Revelation 17 tells us that "the waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples and multitudes and nations." Little doubt is left when we see that the beast has horns and crowns. In Scripture horns are symbolic of power, and crowns of ruling authority. Besides, Revelation 13:2 says that the beast has power and a throne and great authority; and verse 7 says that he has power over all kindreds and tongues and nations. If any question remains, Daniel 7 says that the four beasts are four kings; and Revelation 17 says the beast from the earth is a king. The centuries of division and separation on this earth will end in one world government. The Antichrist is a political reality, a new world order, a global unity.
We emphasize the point in the preceding paragraph because there is often the impression that Antichrist will simply be a religious figure. Scripture makes clear, however, that Antichrist will be a political power.
This political power will be a worldwide power. The beast has ten horns and ten crowns, representing fullness of power and authority over the nations of the world. Verse 3 says that all the world wondered after the beast. Verse 7 says that he has power over all kindreds and tongues and nations. And verse 8 says that all that dwell on the earth shall worship him (all, of course, except those whose names have been written in the Lamb's book of life).
But it is a worldwide power that is the goal of, and embodiment of, all previous world powers. This is brought out in Revelation 13 in two ways. Follow along carefully as we look at this important point. First, the beast of Revelation 13 has the characteristics of a leopard, a bear, and a lion, so that, even though it is the final development of Daniel 7's fourth beast, it somehow embodies the other three as well.
The four beasts of Daniel 7, almost all agree, represent four great world kingdoms:
- Babylon headed by Nebuchadnezzar;
- Medes and Persians led by Cyrus;
- Greece and Macedonia under Alexander the Great, and, finally,
Secondly, that Antichrist's is a worldwide kingdom is also the meaning of the seven heads of the beast described in Revelation 17.
The 7 heads of the beast are 7 kingdoms—five of them had already fallen, one of them (Rome) was still standing (at the time John wrote this prophecy about AD 95), and one yet to come. The five which have already passed out of existence were:
- the Assyrian,
- the Babylonian,
- the Media,
- the Persian, and
- the Greek kingdom.
We see, therefore, one beast with seven heads. And now the Spirit teaches us that the great kingdom of Antichrist, as the embodiment of these former kingdoms, succeeds where the other kingdoms ultimately failed, achieving its goal of world dominance. Nations cease their warring; the planet is united; the world is one. And that world belongs to Antichrist.
The healing of the wound in Revelation 13 points to the success of Antichrist. We must not fail to see the significance of the healing of the wound.
One of the heads of this beast had a "deadly wound that was healed." The explanation of this is that in the time of Nimrod, at the tower of Babel, there was an attempt to unite all men into one great world power. God frustrated this attempt by dividing the men and women into different races with different colours and languages, so that they were forced to separate. Races have remained separate ever since. All their efforts to be united have been frustrated up to this point. At the end, Antichrist will succeed.
This, we believe, is what II Thessalonians 2 speaks of when it says, "he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way." That is, "He that restraineth, will restrain ..." There is something or someone that restrains, hinders, impedes, the Antichrist from coming; but in the end, that hindrance will be taken out of the way so that the Antichrist can succeed in uniting all the kingdoms and nations of the world into one.
One must be blind and deaf not to detect this happening today. In a way that has never happened before, that was impossible before, nations are holding hands and talking peace. Walls are coming down. Economies are becoming more and more interdependent. The union of all the world into one is on the horizon. One day soon the sun will rise on a united world, and Antichrist will be its bright and morning star.
Antichrist: An Ecclesiastical PowerBut Antichrist is not only a beast from the sea. The second part of the vision in Revelation 13 further reveals him as another beast, one arising from the earth. This beast serves the first beast, wielding the power of the first beast, making all the world worship the first beast, and showing that without it the first beast is nothing. And the point of the vision is that the reality of Antichrist is two cooperating powers, the one political, the other, ecclesiastical.
The beast that arises out of the earth looks like a lamb. It had two horns of a lamb, but it was a beast. So immediately we understand the nature of this beast; it is a deceptive creature—a ferocious beast disguised as a gentle lamb. The horror is that this beast masquerades as Jesus Christ, who is THE Lamb of God. This beast, too, is powerful, for it has horns. However, the power of this beast is not political or military. Rather, its power is the power of persuasive speech. It speaks like a dragon, persuading the world to worship the first beast, to build an image of the first beast, and to bow down to it.
It is plain that this beast represents false religion. Preaching and teaching, makin men worship something or someone. But this is false teaching and lying preaching. That's evident from the fact that this beast looks like a lamb, looks like Jesus Christ and all that Jesus Christ represents, but in actuality is a beast. He claims to speak like Jesus, but has the foul breath and fiery speech (in the eyes and nostrils of God) of a dragon.
This beast will not arise from Hinduism or Buddhism or any other pagan religion; he will arise out of Christianity itself. Few Christians would believe a Ghandi's claim to be Christ. When one looks at Revelation 19:20, that becomes obvious. There, in the passage that describes the defeat of Antichrist, we read that the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that worked miracles before the beast. This second beast represents false Christianity, the apostate church that calls itself "the Church of Christ" (we mean by this designation the broad "church," and do not intend it to be confused with a certain denomination of that name).
The work of the second beast is the service of the first, the cooperating with the Antichristian world government. What is that service? It is causing all the world to worship the first beast. He will call all men and women of the world to bow down to the first beast, who is the "Saviour of the world." Now the prophecy of Revelation 17 comes to pass: the kings of the earth commit fornication with the whore, the false church.
If one asks what he should look for in the days to come, we say this: There will be political union; all nations will be gathered together into one mighty empire. This is the first beast. There will also be religious union, joining all the religions and religious empires of the world. The powerful ecumenical movement of today, led by the religions of Christianity, will in the end fully succeed, swallowing up all the other religions of the world. You may expect to see one man over it all. Antichrist.
Antichrist's PurposeWhy in the world would anyone work such deceitful effrontery? Why such effort in a sham kingdom? Why would any man with that kind of worldwide sovereignty even want his kingdom identified with Christ, labelled with the name of God?
To ask these questions is to answer them. Antichrist's purpose is to destroy the saints, God's elect. And here we get to the heart of the matter. The man Antichrist, indwelt by Satan's spirit, is opposed to God and opposed to Jesus His Christ. With a hatred that can be traced back to the fall of the angels prior to Genesis 3, he despises God and God's cause in Jesus. But he cannot touch God because God cast him out of heaven, according to Revelation 12; and he cannot touch God's Christ, because Jesus was caught up into heaven. So the only thing that remains for him to do is to breathe his fire on the seed of the woman, the Church of Christ. Revelation 12 describes this church as the "remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ." In Matthew 24 they are described as the "elect" of God.
The devil knows that to attack the Church is to attack Jesus, the Christ; and to do damage to the body of Christ is to inflict damage upon Christ. He also knows that, because the members of the church are the chosen of God, eternally loved by God (Deut. 7:6-8), to destroy them is equivalent to defeating God. So the objects of his fury are the beloved of God.
His worldwide empire will be less an inflating of his ego than an attempt to see come to pass his millennia-long dream of defeating God and God's purpose in the woman's Seed. In his mind, the promise of God that the Serpent's head would be crushed must never be fulfilled. He must have the victory over and defeat God. To defeat God's people is to defeat God.
He desires to have you, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ—the elect of God. And if that is true, you must know how he works. You must understand his methods.
Antichrist's MethodsAntichrist goes about his business by speaking the lie. II Thessalonians 2 says that he comes "with all deceivableness of unrighteousness." Revelation 13:12 says, "and he spoke as a dragon ..." Revelation 17 tells us that he was a false prophet, a prophet being one whose calling it is to speak and to teach. The armies of the world may have guns and tanks and bombs to bring people into submission; but the power of speech and ideas is a mighty power. In his initial attempts to destroy the cause of God, the devil used a serpent to deceive the woman with crooked speech: "You will be like God." Now he uses a "dragon" who speaks crafty, lying words.
His speeches will be heard by millions who will hang on his persuasive rhetoric. The content as well as the form of his speech will attract. Like most false prophets, he will even be sincere and passionate. But he is a liar. He adds dashes of truth to the mix, so that his lie tastes like truth. He will use all the right catchwords, using the language of the church, even throwing in a Bible text or two. But he is the ultimate Liar, and will deceive many.
He will use every tool available: school teachers, politicians, news broadcasters, artists, musicians, scientists and doctors, lawyers and businessmen. All will be pressed into the service of Antichrist to deceive men. But especially he will use those whose calling it is to persuade and to teach—men who claim to be preachers of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
What is this message that has such power to deceive? What is it that is preached by the now-apostate churches once rooted in true Christianity, that stirs up mankind to this ecumenical worship? What gospel will attract the hordes of men and women? What good news will knit the souls of such diverse peoples and nations and tongues?
The gospel of Antichrist is humanism—the happiness of man, the glory of man, the peace and prosperity, the health and wealth of man. The number of the beast, do not forget, is 6-6-6, the number of man.
But we remind you, the Antichrist deceives. He will not tip his hand by declaring publicly, "I am the Antichrist." He will not claim that there is no God, no Christ, no salvation, and that the message of the Bible is a lie. But he will say, "I am your Messiah; you are God; and an earthly life of peace and prosperity, of health and happiness—that is salvation." (Shirley MacLaine has comrades and consorts in the Rastafarians of Jamaica, whose word for "divine" is "I-vine"!). The distant rumblings of Antichrist's thunder are growing louder.
Performing miracles, Antichrist will establish himself and validate his claim as God's anointed. This is the emphasis of II Thessalonians 2. Men have always performed miracles to establish their authority, presenting them as the credentials of their divine appointment. Moses did in Egypt. Elijah did on Mount Carmel. Jesus Christ and His apostles did. So will Antichrist. Revelation 13:13 says that the second beast "doeth great wonders ..." and verse 14 that "he deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast." Matthew 24:24 indicates the same thing: "For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect." This is the teaching of II Thessalonians 2:9, "even him whose coming is after the working of Satan, with all power and signs and lying wonders ..." The works of Antichrist will be the works of Satan, who has power beyond the natural ability of man.
Nor will these be fake miracles. These will not be just magic tricks of talented men like Harry Houdini and David Copperfield, but amazing deeds that simply defy explanation in human, scientific terms. Buttressing the claims of Antichrist will be nothing less than the superhuman power of the devil himself.
The Church's Calling: Oppose Antichrist PresentlyThe critical danger for the church today is exactly the reality called Antichrist. There is a danger that the church, as it were, posts a lookout to scan the horizon for Antichrist, so that the lookout can warn the people of God when the enemy has arrived and sound the warning to give battle. In the meantime the church is busy with its own legitimate work, but supposes that the Antichrist is of no danger presently. That is precisely what Antichrist wants the church to believe.
God's call to His people is to oppose the Antichrist now. We are not saying here that the Christian's calling is to be ready to oppose Antichrist when he comes, urgent as that calling is. We are saying that our calling and the calling that we urge you to carry out is this: Oppose the opposer of Jesus Christ presently. Not someday, but today.
It is possible to oppose him now, for he is present now. Before you race ahead to find us naming names, or identifying persons and churches, let us explain. I John 2:18 does not say, "Antichrist shall come" but "Antichrist comes ..." That is, there is a process of Antichrist coming all down through the history of this world. This process involves the coming of many Antichrists (in the plural). Thus, Matthew 24 can warn of "false Christs" and can say that many shall come in Jesus' name saying, "I am Christ." This also explains how Paul can say in II Thessalonians 2 that the mystery of iniquity is working. Even as Paul wrote that letter, the mystery of iniquity was active in the world, preparing the way for the final Antichrist and his work.
Recognizing Antichrist's "spirit"Even in the old dispensation there were Antichrists, like Nimrod, Nebuchadnezzar, Antiochus Epiphanes, and others. But especially in the New Testament since Christ's ascension, Antichrist has been coming. The great Antichristian kingdom with its mighty head will not appear ex nihilo, out of nothing, but will be the result of a long and gradual development. And that long and gradual development is, and has been, the work of the spirit of Antichrist, the spirit of Satan himself, laying the groundwork, preparing the way, making ready for the revelation of the man of sin, the son of perdition.
Was it wrong, then, of the Reformers to say that the pope was Antichrist? If the Reformers meant that the pope at that time, Pope St. Paul III, or another, was the personal Antichrist, the man of sin, the final culmination of the Devil's work in this world, they were mistaken. He did not complete the picture the Scripture draws. But one may not dismiss the Reformers as wild-eyed fanatics. Consider: the pope is and was also a political figure. That is no less plain today than it was in Luther's day. Then already the pope laid claim to the right to crown kings and invest them with the authority to rule the world. Today, the Vatican has its ambassadors in almost every nation of the world, and even we, the United States, send our own representatives to the pope. The pope is a political head.
Rome has always embodied the Antichristian spirit and principles: a headship that is in a man, a pope, a hierarchy; an authority of tradition in addition to the one Word of God; a salvation by works in addition to faith and grace; a worship of another (Mary) in addition to the worship of the one alone in whose name we find salvation (Acts 4:12).
A Present StruggleThe struggle of the people of God against Antichrist has always been and will always be a present struggle. The call to oppose Antichrist must always be given in the present imperative. Whether in the future the church's children (your children and my children) are able to withstand the Man of Sin, the Son of Perdition, depends, to a great degree, on the success of the battle we wage against his spirit today.
The second beast is working; his labour is under way. We are not referring to specific persons, or particular institutions and churches. We are referring to the spirit of our age that rejects God and God's Word, and promotes with all of its power, MAN. The purpose of education today is man's welfare; the purpose of science is man's pleasure; the goal of entertainment is the good life for man. Hedonism says it all. The world is crowded with Antichrists presently. No, look not only on the horizon for Antichrist. Look about you. Oppose him today.
The Manner of OppositionWe do not oppose him with guns and tanks and bombs. We do not try to prevent his coming or overthrow it when it comes by political power plays. We oppose him in a spiritual manner, in the same way Jesus Christ opposed him during His ministry, and in the way Jesus taught His disciples to oppose him in theirs—by faith and the powerful Word of the gospel. We oppose all that opposes Jesus Christ. We oppose humanism that exalts man and promotes the cause of man and man alone.
This is why Reformed believers from the beginning have maintained that it is necessary for them to maintain good, Christian schools in which their children are educated. The world inculcates its young with humanistic values and humanistic goals, and we must have no part of that mis-education.
We oppose humanism from the pulpits of our churches, and put out those ministers and elders who would preach and teach this kind of a gospel. In this way we oppose Antichrist today.
We oppose hierarchical church government. Hierarchy in the church (the rule by a few "holy ones," or by an intellectual elite, from the top down) is Antichristian in spirit and purpose. That is one main reason the Reformers were opposed to the pope. Audaciously, he set himself up as Vicar of Christ, head of the church, whose word no priest or bishop or counsel, much less layman, could question. We oppose Antichrist today by opposing hierarchy—a lordship of man, a setting aside of the Word of God and the replacing of it with the word and will of man.
We oppose the ecumenical mania, rife today in the churches. There are powerful winds blowing—hurricane force winds—blowing across the churches to bring them together into one, large church body. Robert Schuller, world-acclaimed pastor of one of the largest Reformed churches in America, calls the church world: "It is time for Protestants to go to the Shepherd [i.e., the pope] and say, What do we have to do to come home?" (Los Angeles Herald Examiner, September 19, 1987).
The bottom line, the common denominator, that summons all together is the goal of a world in which man will have earthly peace and prosperity. It seems that the only "heresy" in the minds of most churchmen today is the questioning of the ecumenical movement [concerned with establishing or promoting unity among churches or religions]. There is even a widespread notion abroad, showing itself also in Reformed circles, that all the pagan religions are legitimate, nothing other than the expression of the universal religious feelings of mankind that probably find their best expressions in Christianity. Witness the Protestant preachers praying with Muslims. The basis for that is humanism. The church of Christ today opposes Antichrist by giving battle to those notions and ideas prevalent in the church today.
We oppose Antichrist by opposing all heresy in the church. Heresy, or false doctrine, is nothing less than opposition to Jesus Christ, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. How often does not Jesus warn His disciples of those wolves in sheep's wool who will misrepresent the truth to draw men away from Jesus? But how much concern is there today for fighting heresy, exposing false doctrine for what it is—Antichristian in spirit and purpose, paving the way for the man of sin himself who will deceive many?
Opposing heresy, we promote the truth. The people of God who have a heart for God's Christ and Christ's church take the offensive in this battle against Antichrist. Promote the gospel of Jesus Christ. Promote biblical church government. Promote the proper, Presbyterian form of church government. Promote the proper manner of church union and reunion—on the basis of the truth of the gospel of God.
Finally, we do battle with Antichrist in ourselves. For Antichrist has an ally in my own sinful nature. Here is humanism in its basic form—in my own heart. Here is the false doctrine of salvation by the works of man, right here in my own proud breast. Here is hierarchy, the rule by a few—by me. Right here in my own heart I find sympathy with the notion that salvation comes by faith and by works. In myself is the lie in its crudest form—"Ye shall be as God."
When the saint fights Antichrist in his heart, with his heart, God will give him the strength to oppose Antichrist when he is revealed in the last day, at the end of which he will be destroyed utterly and completely.
Antichrist's Certain DestructionAntichrist will succeed in deceiving many. By his earthly successes and charm, Antichrist will deceive millions. The ungodly world, as well as many in the churches, will fawn over him. Those who do not will not only be mocked, they will be killed.
And for that, the wicked will be damned. This is the teaching of II Thessalonians 2:10-12. Even their deception is a judgment of God upon them; when Antichrist comes, God will send a strong delusion that they should believe a lie. The reason for this is that they did not receive the love of the truth that they might be saved. They heard the gospel, understood the truth, but rejected it. They will perish with the Antichrist.
But in the end, Antichrist will be destroyed. God's people will be saved by sovereign grace, through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth. And Antichrist will be destroyed.
The religious Antichristian empire will be destroyed by the political Antichristian empire. For a time he uses the whore; in the end he turns on her (Rev 17:16). The political empire breaks up into the battle of Armageddon: the kingdom of the beast (the Western, "Christianised" nations) against the kingdom of the east (the pagan, non-Christian nations). In the middle of that battle, Jesus Christ will return to destroy the Antichristian kingdom, consume Antichrist with the spirit of His mouth, destroy him with the brightness of His coming, and begin the judgment.
Jesus Christ reigns!
There will be no struggle by Jesus Christ with Antichrist. In a moment of time, where the entire history of the world climaxes, Christ in an instant will destroy the man of sin.
Therefore, do not fear!
The truth of the Antichrist is dreadful. The church must suffer under him, too. But we are not to fear for a moment. And when you see the Antichrist in the future, be not in terror. For in that darkest hour the world has ever known, we will be doing the same as we have all our lives, waiting "with uplifted heads" for the coming of Jesus Christ, who will redeem us from all distress.