The Antichrist

Rainer Wagner

Scripture predicts the appearance of a great world ruler: the Antichrist. What can we know about him? An analysis.

The tremendous catastrophes of the end times bring terror upon the nations (Luke 21:25). As is often the case in history, people will then call out for the “strong man” to free them from their distress. But since they don’t repent and come to God, they adopt a different savior and redeemer than Jesus: the Antichrist.

The Bible doesn’t call this ultimate world leader “Antichrist”; it calls him “the beast.” But, taking the false teacher mentioned in John into account, the name has become the standard (1 John 2:18, 22). While the strong men of the past were leaders of individual nations, this one is a world leader. He commands the last great world empire. Like the previous empire, he comes from the sea (Rev 13:1). The sea is a metaphor for the world of nations (Ps 65:7).

The world empire is also called a beast. All previous empires had had an intrinsic animal character (Dan 7:3), but this final one is a monster (vv. 7-8). The predatory nature of the prior empires was terrible, but what comes next is demonic. The final beast is the counter-Christ of a godless world. Like Christ, he too will die and then live again (Rev 13:3). As Christ is honored by the Holy Spirit, the Antichrist will be provided with a false spirit (v. 12). The Antichrist will gather a confederacy of ten kings around himself (Rev 17:12-13). He has a Minister of Propaganda, the second beast (v. 11). This beast takes on the Antichrist’s power and rallies mankind behind him (vv. 12, 14). It sets up an image of the Antichrist and ensures that mankind worships it (v. 15). Those who refuse to engage in this idolatry perish.

This false prophet causes mankind to be marked with a sign of belonging to the Antichrist (Rev 13:16). Anyone who evades it faces a complete economic boycott (v. 17). His livelihood is withdrawn. The symbol of the beast is the number 666. There appears to be a mysterious satanic trinity to this label. Luther called the devil “God’s ape.” He can’t do anything of his own; he only mimics what God has done.

This demonic trinity emerges as follows: 1. Satan, as the devilish father of lies (John 8:44). The Bible also calls him the “old serpent” with regard to people’s seduction (Rev 20:2). 2. The Antichrist, the “son of perdition” (2 Thess 2:3). As Jesus received power from the Father (John 13:3), the Antichrist receives his from the Devil (Rev 13:2). As Jesus rose after three days, the Antichrist rises again from his fatal wound (Rev 13:3). 3. The false prophet, as an anti-Spirit (Rev 13:11ff.). As the Holy Spirit glorifies Jesus (John 16:14), this anti-Spirit makes the Antichrist great (Rev 13:12). Just as the Spirit seals believers (Eph 1:13b), so the false prophet seals godless humanity with the symbol, the number of the Antichrist (Rev 13:16).

Parallel to the Antichrist’s power, there is another ungodly power. She is called the Whore of Babylon (Rev 17). The metaphor of the Whore is that of the adulterous woman (Hos 1:2), who “sitteth upon many waters” (Rev 17:1), which is certainly an image of the world of nations. This means that she is over the peoples for a long time. She commits fornication with the world’s rulers (Rev 17:2). Instead of complying with God, she adheres to the secular authorities. Like a whore, she becomes rich through her clients’ wages. She persecutes and murders the true believers (Rev 17:6).

She entertains artists and craftsmen, and even merchants became rich through her (Rev 18:20-24). Inwardly, she has become filled with demons (Rev 18:2). For a long time, she also dominates the world empires and the Antichrist. She rides the beast (Rev 17:3). There is a clash between the Antichrist and the whore, and at some point the Antichrist will overthrow her. He and his vassals will begin to hate her (v. 16). The Antichrist will no longer tolerate any greatness besides himself. He will take her friends from her, “make her desolate (disown her) and naked,” and finally “eat her flesh” and destroy her completely (Rev 17:16).

Her sympathizers will be unable to help her, but will despair over her fate, because their livelihoods have also been destroyed (Rev 18:17-18). Even though their destruction was caused by the Antichrist, God’s guidance was behind it (Rev 17:17). Heaven rejoices at Babylon’s demise (Rev 18:20).

What historical reality is hidden behind these end-time rulers? We don’t have the final answer. It’s important to stay close to Jesus, so that we won’t fall victim to these ungodly powers, in the event that the Church is still on earth during these times.

The Antichrist has many forerunners. They claimed divine worship for themselves, and tried to bring the whole world under their influence. There were such forerunners as the Roman emperors, through the sometimes terrible popes of the Middle Ages, to Napoleon, Hitler, and Stalin. It was always important for the believers to be especially close to God during these times, and to wait patiently for His help (Rev 13:10).

Views on the final Antichrist differ. From Joachim of Fiore (1135-1202), who is venerated as having attained heaven by the Catholic Church, to Luther, Johann Albrecht Bengel, and many Bible scholars of our day, people have seen the Antichrist in the pope. He is thought to be the last world ruler to revive the Roman Empire.

Some interpreters of the Bible see a resurrected Roman Empire in the European Union. Even Otto von Habsburg, heir to the Austrian throne and influential European politician, saw the European Community as a revival of the Roman Empire. In his book Die Reichsidee (“The Idea of the Commonwealth”), he evaluates it quite positively. Today, other Bible interpreters see similar developments in Islam. The church that gives its heart to ideologies and the world, instead of belonging to Jesus, is most definitely a spiritual whore.

A second interpretation sees unbelieving Israel in the whore. It lives scattered among all peoples, initially persecuting the Church of Jesus, and exercising great political influence. The Antichrist will make an end of it.

Still others see the Antichrist as the godless, dictatorial state in general. German theologian Erich Schnepel saw the self-idolizing state in the Antichrist. For a long time, it allows itself to be ridden by worldly culture, which it views as a whore. But when it comes to the question of power, it also throws her off.

In all the terrible developments of the last portion of the end times, it’s comforting to know that we have the ultimate Good Shepherd in Jesus. He leads us through “the valley of the shadow of death” (Ps 23:4) to glory. Jesus says, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand” (John 10:27-28). 

(Excerpt from the book Handbook of Salvation History, unavailable in English.)

Midnight Call - 08/2020

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