Everyone loves a good villain. One of my favorites is the Joker. Dubbed the Clown Prince of Crime, he is Batman’s greatest foe. This psychotic maniac has a penchant for chaos and violence. His unpredictability offsets Batman’s systematic approach to fighting crime.
Another of my favorites is Lord Voldemort. He is a dark wizard who terrorizes the wizarding world. He finally meets his match when he tries to kill an infant (Harry Potter) and the spell backfires. He encounters Harry several times as Harry grows older, but is eventually overcome.
The Greatest Villain Ever
Dispensationalism boasts the greatest villain ever. It teaches that the Antichrist will be revealed after the Rapture. He will make and break a covenant with Israel. In addition, he will claim to be God and require the world to take his mark (i.e. worship him). And he will ruthlessly persecute those who don’t.
After the first half of the Tribulation, Antichrist will be killed. But he will rise again and be possessed by Satan during the Great Tribulation. However, he will be defeated when Jesus returns to establish His millennial kingdom.
Botching the Beast
Daniel dreams of four beasts arising from the sea (Daniel 7). The beasts represent kingdoms that will arise in succession – Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome. The fourth beast is especially troubling. It has ten horns, plus a little horn that speaks blasphemy and persecutes the saints.
Dispensationalists claim the little horn is Antichrist. By doing so, they insert a gap of at least 2,000 years into Daniel’s dream! They also ignore historical context.
When interpreting the Bible’s symbols, it is best not to miss the forest for the trees. In other words, don’t get so caught up in details that you miss the big picture. Daniel dreamt an empire would arise that blasphemed God and persecuted His people. That dream was fulfilled by the actual, historical Roman Empire.
Massacring the Man of Lawlessness
Paul reassures the Thessalonians that Jesus will not return until “the man of lawlessness is revealed” (2 Thessalonians 2:3). This man will “set himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God…He will use all sorts of displays of power through signs and wonders” (2:4, 9). But “Jesus…will destroy [him] by the splendor of his coming” (2:8).
Dispensationalists declare the man of lawlessness to be Antichrist. By doing so, they again ignore historical context. Paul says this man will exalt himself at the temple. But how can he since there is no temple? Whatever Paul is talking about must have happened before A.D. 70.
Josephus uses similar language to describe the Jews’ revolt against Rome (A.D. 66 – 73), including the atrocities committed at the temple. In addition, v 8 is ambiguous. It can refer to the coming of Jesus or the man of lawlessness. Therefore, it is best to find the fulfillment of Paul’s words in the destruction of the temple and events associated with it.
Botching the Beast – Again!
In Revelation 13, John has a vision like Daniel’s dream. He sees a beast rising out of the sea. This beast has features of the four beasts Daniel saw. It speaks blasphemously, leads the world astray, and persecutes the saints.
Dispensationalists identify this beast as (you guessed it!) Antichrist. By doing so, they ignore not just historical but also literary context. The beasts in Daniel’s dream represent actual, historical kingdoms. So does the beast in John’s vision. John’s beast corresponds with Daniel’s fourth beast – the Roman Empire.
Roman emperors in the first century forced citizens to worship them as gods. Pledging allegiance to the empire meant offering sacrifices to the emperor. Any who refused were brutally treated as enemies of the state. So John is seeing not a future Antichrist, but the Roman Empire personified by its emperors.
Overlooking the Obvious
The Bible does speak of Antichrist. John mentions him four times in 1 & 2 John. These are the only references to Antichrist in the entire Bible. When we let the Bible speak for itself, a different picture emerges:
- “Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come.” (1 John 2:18)
- “Who is the liar? It is whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a person is the antichrist.” (1 John 2:22)
- “Every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.” (1 John 4:3)
- “Many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist.” (2 John 1:7)
Isn’t this simpler? John defines the Antichrist as anyone who denies Jesus – specifically, that He is God in human flesh. And he emphasizes that many antichrists have already come. He leaves no room to imagine a future, singular Antichrist.
Annihilating the Antichrist
The Antichrist has been annihilated. Let us rid ourselves of stupidity and nonsense. Instead of identifying the “mark of the beast” or decoding “666” (Revelation 13:16-18), let us worship Jesus with purity of doctrine and perseverance in the face of persecution. This is how we truly resist the spirit of antichrist.
Whom have you heard identified as “Antichrist”?
(This is part of a series on Bible prophecy. Subscribe by e-mail to receive my next post!)