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Daniel (2010)

The Antichrist

Daniel  11:36-45

Lesson audio

There is perhaps no personality in the Bible more mysterious and important as the Antichrist. In a curious way he is introduced to us here in Daniel, chapter 11. Let's begin by examining the Scripture.

Who is this?

Some of the wise will stumble, so that they may be refined, purified and made spotless until the time of the end, for it will still come at the appointed time. "The king will do as he pleases. He will exalt and magnify himself above every god and will say unheard-of things against the God of gods. He will be successful until the time of wrath is completed, for what has been determined must take place. He will show no regard for the gods of his fathers or for the one desired by women, nor will he regard any god, but will exalt himself above them all. Instead of them, he will honor a god of fortresses; a god unknown to his fathers he will honor with gold and silver, with precious stones and costly gifts. He will attack the mightiest fortresses with the help of a foreign god and will greatly honor those who acknowledge him. He will make them rulers over many people and will distribute the land at a price. "At the time of the end the king of the South will engage him in battle, and the king of the North will storm out against him with chariots and cavalry and a great fleet of ships. He will invade many countries and sweep through them like a flood. He will also invade the Beautiful Land. Many countries will fall, but Edom, Moab and the leaders of Ammon will be delivered from his hand. He will extend his power over many countries; Egypt will not escape. He will gain control of the treasures of gold and silver and all the riches of Egypt, with the Libyans and Nubians in submission. But reports from the east and the north will alarm him, and he will set out in a great rage to destroy and annihilate many. He will pitch his royal tents between the seas at the beautiful holy mountain. Yet he will come to his end, and no one will help him.

(Daniel 11:35-45 NIV)

Antiochus Epiphanes

The argument that this passage must refer to Antiochus Epiphanies is very simple: it's a continuation of the first 35 verses. But there are some significant problems with this view:

·         The prophecy does not agree with the career. For example, he never conquered Egypt.

·         The prophecy itself refers to the "time of wrath" or "time of the end." These are generally recognized to refer to the day of judgment and the coming of Christ. Those events clearly have not yet happened.

·         In chapter 12, we shall see that these events are connected to the resurrection of the dead --- which also has not happened yet.

·         Finally, the central figure of this particular passage is neither the "King of the North" or "King of the South." It would seem logical, therefore, that the passage refers to someone else.

Looking around through prophecy, most scholars agree this passage refers to the Antichrist. In particular we see some similarities with the Antichrist as described in section Thessalonians, chapter 2. Let's take a look at that passage:

Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already come. Don't let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God's temple, proclaiming himself to be God. Don't you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these things? And now you know what is holding him back, so that he may be revealed at the proper time. For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming. The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness. But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter. May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.

(2 Thessalonians 2:1-17 NIV)

As you can see, we have quite a bit of information about the Antichrist. There are other passages, particularly in first John, which mention the Antichrist but the major knowledge of the Antichrist in history to come is found in Revelation. The Antichrist is identified with the beast of Revelation. There is some dispute about that identification, but that is the opinion of a great majority of the scholars.

Candidates for the Job

There are two primary views about the Antichrist. The first, associated with the post-millennial and amillennial views of Revelation, hold this to be a figure in history. It is clear from Revelation that the Antichrist is associated with Rome. Many scholars conclude that he might also be Jewish, and this is given rise to any number of speculative answers concerning this person in history. There are literally hundreds of candidates who have been proposed to be the Antichrist. However, most scholars hold that the most likely candidate for Antichrist is the Pope. This breaks down into two views: one says it's some particular pope, the other says it's just the Papacy.

The second view, associated with the pre-millennial view of Revelation, holds that this figure is yet to come. Because of the ecumenical nature of premillennialism, this figure is usually not identified with the Pope but is seen as someone who is in Rome, ruling and showing the characteristics of the Antichrist, but not within the church.

Obviously, these two views are not easily reconciled, nor will we attempt to reconcile them today. Instead we shall attempt to give you the clues by which you might recognize the Antichrist when he comes, both in terms of his characteristics and the sequence of events which will occur in his arising.

Recognition

What is a "person?"

One of the difficulties of this passage is that we can't tell whether we are dealing with one individual or, as in the case of the Pope, a succession of individuals. We might begin with the asking of the question, "just what does it mean to say a person?"

·         Please note first that a person doesn't necessarily have to have a body. We see that God is in three persons, two of whom have no body. Sherlock Holmes is a person; but he is not possessed of a body. So it could be that the Antichrist is a series of bodies which taken together are seen as a person --- such as the Pope.

·         The Pope is such a person in the same sense that the King of England is such a person. If you would recall, the King of the North and the King of the South in the first part of this chapter are persons composed of multiple bodies in a sense.

·         The key to identifying a person is -- personality. Can we say what this person is like? If we can, we may be able to spot him in real life.

Personality of the Antichrist

We know something about the personality of the Antichrist. In particular, this section of Daniel and chapter 2 of Second Thessalonians give us his key characteristics. Here's what we have from Daniel:

·         He exalts himself above every God. We might take this to mean that he denies the existence of God, or any form of religious system. More likely, it holds that he is superior to such a system. A contemporary example of this would be those individuals who believe that science explains everything, and any form of religion must fit into their particular system of science and metaphysics.

·         He says "unheard of things" about God. This could apply to any number of people today; after all, anyone with a "brilliant theory" about God can have a hearing today. Because we have rejected the concept of absolute truth, we hear all kinds of nonsense about God. So this aspect of the personality would also apply to a large number of people.

·         He honors the "God of fortresses." Perhaps we might take this to mean that he believes military power is supreme; as Mao Tse-Tung would put it, "power grows out of the barrel of a cannon."

So at the very least, it is at least possible that this individual is alive today. Let's take a look at what Second Thessalonians has to say:

·         We see him as "man of sin" also translated as "man of lawlessness." This is a man who ignores or defies the law; most probably it means one who defies what is described as the natural law. It is very common today to deny the existence of natural law; the absurdity of which is given in the fact that most of us do feel that murder is a crime. But this person would fit in very well today with the idea that each of us defines his own reality and his own morality.

·         We are told that he takes his seat in the Temple of God. This would seem to imply that at least outwardly the person is associated with the church. If you believe this person is the Pope, this is fairly obvious. As we shall see from the sequence of events coming up next, it is highly likely that he is a person in authority over the church.

·         Finally, we see that this man exalts himself to the point of being God. To the best of my knowledge, no one successfully maintains this status. A look at Revelation gives you more detail on this. The disturbing fact is this: many will trust this man as if he is God. We need to take warning about this.

Sequence of Events

We can recognize someone by their characteristics, their personality, or by their achievements. If I claim to be a great opera singer, I should be able to belt out a very sound aria. So let's look at the sequence of events that accompanied this man's rise to power:

·         First, there is the apostasy. Apostasy means denying the faith; it is not the same thing as heresy, which is not the same thing as being mistaken. Being mistaken is something that happens to all of us; the chance that your teacher is right about each and every little detail of theology is exceedingly slim. Heresy is the denial of particular doctrines which are essential to the faith; for example, the relationship between Christ and God the father. Apostasy denies the central fact of the faith: that Jesus is the Christ, who died and rose again for our salvation. If this person is the Pope, these events are yet to come. If this person is within the faith, it is unlikely that he is in power now.

·         We also know that "that which restrains him" must be removed before he can come. There are a number of interpretations about this; the most modern one is that we are talking about the Holy Spirit. In my humble opinion, this is incorrect --- for it appears that the Holy Spirit has no choice about it, which seems absurd. As you would suspect this is a futurist view, and the more recent opinion holds that it is not the Holy Spirit but the gifts of the Holy Spirit that restrained the man of sin. This conforms very well to the idea that the rapture occurs before the Antichrist is revealed, which is a main principle of the premillennialist interpretation of Revelation. The classic view, held from the earliest days of the church, is that this refers to the Roman Empire![1] Both Chrysostom and Augustine held that the Roman Empire would have to fall before Christ returned, based on these passages. Jerome tells us that this is the traditional interpretation of the church, dating back to the apostles.

·         The "man of sin" is revealed, not discovered or created. If you will, events bring him to our notice. So it is entirely possible that he is living today, just that we don't recognize him yet. If you accept the classic view that the Roman Empire must fall first, you could see this person as the Pope. The final End of the Roman Empire did not occur until 1453 A.D., at the fall of Constantinople. This is generally taken as the date the Middle Ages end. It is very close to the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. The post-millennial theory holds that this is when the man of sin was revealed as being the Pope. The revelation is the fact that he opposes the faith based upon the Scriptures, and in papal infallibility sets himself up as God.

·         We should expect to see "signs and wonders" from this person. For those who think this is the Pope, we can see signs and wonders such as people being healed by touching relics of saints. If you want the Protestant side of this, there any number of faith healers on the television airwaves today. If you see this as a futurist, this could mean the signs and wonders being done by science, viewed as evidence of the Bible must be false.

·         This we accompanied by God sending a "deluding influence" or "powerful delusion." One candidate for this delusion is the theory of evolution.

·         This person is going to be slain by the "breath of Christ". Older scholars held that this came in the Reformation; this refers to the influence of the Scriptures newly translated into common languages. Futurist views here hold when Christ comes he will slay the Antichrist, and that this is rather figurative.

·         Finally, the last event in this sequence, is the Day of the Lord. This refers to the return of Jesus Christ; Seventh-day Adventists to the contrary notwithstanding, this event has yet to occur.

What should we do about these things?

Let's take a look again at second Thessalonians Chapter 2 for some advice from St. Paul.

Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already come. Don't let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God's temple, proclaiming himself to be God. Don't you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these things? And now you know what is holding him back, so that he may be revealed at the proper time. For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming. The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness. But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter. May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.

(2 Thessalonians 2:1-17 NIV)

It would be comforting, I suppose, to be given some prescription like anointing things with holy oil. Paul does not do that; rather, he gives us some simple instructions:

·         First, remember that you are loved by God. Remember the relationship you have with him. If you stand in that relationship, you cannot be deceived by the Antichrist. You know that God is love, and that God loves you. The "God of fortresses" is not superior to the God of love.

·         Remember that you are saved. You are saved by the sanctification of his Holy Spirit; you are saved by faith; and you are saved by the preaching of the Gospel to which you listened.

·         Therefore, you should stand firm in the teachings and traditions of the church. You should be able to say, "our God, and the God of our fathers." He is "our God" because we have worked out ourselves nation in fear and trembling. He is the "God of our fathers" because we have examined that which has been learned by previous generations and make it our own. It is not blind obedience to tradition; rather, it is accepting the truth found in the past.[2]

·         Finally, we are to pray. We are to pray for comfort, for the coming of the antichrist will bring tribulation to the true church. We are to pray for hope, so that we may firmly know that our Lord will return and put an end to the Antichrist. We are to pray for strength; we're going to need it in times like that.



[1] The thought was that the Roman Empire, bringing universal peace, made the spread of the Gospel much easier.

[2] It bothers me much that our congregation proudly proclaims that we have only one tradition at Eastside – which is that we have no traditions.

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