Today’s Reading: Revelation 13.
(Context: An extremely detailed prediction of the coming Antichrist and False Prophet.)
Some of the oldest and most prominent Biblical prophecies speak of the coming Antichrist. Daniel 9:27 refers to the coming Antichrist as “the Desolator“. This term took on a two-fold meaning in the Maccabean Era, almost 200 years before the coming of Christ. Christians refer to this era as the Intertestamental Period while Jews refer to it as the Second Temple Period. Basically the Maccabean’s, as a family line, revolted from Rome and sought to have independence again in Israel. It was successful for a time, until the coming of Antiochus Epiphanes IV, known in Jewish and Christian tradition as the “abomination that causes desolation”, thus the name “Desolator”. As a Roman General he entered the Temple in Jerusalem and desecrated it, like any general would a foreign god’s temple. The difference? This is no “god”, but the Creator of the world, and He does not take lightly to such affronts.
Antiochus Epiphanes IV was not Antichrist, though. He was the foreshadow of another, like Isaac and David were of Jesus. He represented the future terror the Jews would endure, similar yet monumentally more devastating than the first.
Jesus used the reference to Antiochus, which all Jews would’ve recognized immediately, to reference the coming Antichrist:
“So when you see the abomination [that causes] desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let the one who is on the housetop not go down to take what is in his house, and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a Sabbath. For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short.” (Matthew 24:15-22)
This prophecy is specifically for Jews, and more pointedly for those living in Jerusalem. Prophecy implies that in the middle of the Tribulation, as it leads into the Great Tribulation (the 2nd 42 months, according to the Jewish Calendar), Antichrist will stand in the “holy place”, which is the area where sacrifices take place in the Temple. Jesus was predicting a future event, basing off of what the readers already knew–the desolation of the temple in 167 BC by Antiochus (that is why Jesus said: “let the reader understand”, for Daniel’s foresight was a dual-prophecy). He warned them of imminent danger and told them how to react. Revelation 14 is about those Jews that will survive, and will heed Jesus’s warning.
In Revelation 13 we finally get a full description of Antichrist, called “the beast” and of his main general and priest, the “false prophet“.
I find it fascinating how prophecy went from vague and mysterious to clear and descriptive. For centuries the Christian world has looked for Antichrist, and have found any number of possible culprits, yet God has continued to show mercy on the earth, extending salvation for now 2,000 years! In our day and age we are also looking for Antichrist, using this passage among others to define him.
Why do we look for him? That we might urgently warn the world of the coming doom and destruction predestined for it. The dragon (Satan) will one day soon give his entire power to the beast, and the world will be forever changed because of it. Pure evil will be among the nations of this world, in human form. Will they recognize him? Are we informing them?
[Note: I would like to recommend a very scholarly yet powerful book on the recognition of Antichrist in these modern times, according to Biblical and Islamic prophetic tradition. It is called “The Islamic Antichrist” by Joel Richardson. He also has recently put out another book, a more detailed account of his study of Islam’s Eschatology and the Biblical reasons as to why Antichrist will come out of Islam. It’s called “Mideast Beast: The Scriptural Case for an Islamic Antichrist“. These two books might make good Christmas gifts!]