A Biblical View of the Antichrist

A BIBLICAL VIEW OF THE ANTICHRIST

Joshua Wu [1]

Craig Koester notes that “identifying the antichrist with figures of one’s own time became especially common from the twelfth century onward. Examples included Pope Gregory IX (1241) and Innocent IV (d. 1254) as well as the Emperor Frederick II (d. 1250). During the sixteenth century, many Protestants came to identify the papal office itself with the antichrist. Later candidates have ranged from the emperor Napoleon to modern American presidents.”[2] Speculation as to the identity of the antichrist will not be undertaken in this paper, but instead, the parameters of what will be discussed are determined by what Scripture has to say.

In our endeavour, we must be careful not to over focus on the antichrist, as the central theme of the Scriptures is not him/it, but our Lord Jesus Christ. Herman Hoyt rightly points out that “there are … [those] who want to major on this area of prophetic truth to the exclusion of other precious truth, and thus become lopsided.”[3] Despite this, we must not retreat to the other extreme whereby we do not care to know about what the Bible has to say regarding the antichrist.

What this paper intends to do is to provide a succinct introduction to what the Bible says about the matter, first off, by addressing some preliminaries, before delving into an examination of key passages which make explicit and implicit reference to the antichrist. Subsequently, this will be followed up with positive takeaways.

 

A) Preliminaries

The most crucial starting point would be to define “antichrist” since it will be used throughout this paper. The word “antichrist” comes from the Greek word “antichristos” (αντίχριστος) which is “made up of two words: the prefix anti- [G473], “acting in the place of” and “opposed to” + christos [G5547], “Christ.””[4] Simply put, the antichrist is “the adversary of the messiah”[5] or “an opponent of the Messiah.”[6]

According to Louw and Nida, “the term . . . appears to have become increasingly equivalent to a proper name as the personification of all that was opposed to and contrary to the role and ministry of Christ.”[7]

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When did John write Revelation

[Articles in the Multiple Views series are intended to present various views held by Christians, in an objective and unbiased manner]

“Who wrote Revelation is relatively certain. Although not everyone agrees, the most ancient evidence points to the Apostle John. When the apostle John wrote Revelation is far less certain. Unlike books today, no one placed copyright dates in copies of biblical texts! To decide the approximate date when this biblical text was written, scholars compare what’s inside the book with what was happening in the world outside the book. In the case of Revelation, that process results in two primary possibilities.” [1]

 During the reign of Emperor Nero  During the reign of Emperor Domitian
  • Ruled the Roman Empire, AD 54-68.
  • After a fire in Rome, a rumor circulated that Nero had started the fire.
  • According to the ancient historian Tacitus, “To get rid of this report, Nero accused and inflicted exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, the ones called Christians.”
  • This persecution seems to have been limited to the regions around Rome, but it likely affected attitudes toward Christians beyond Rome.
  • Ruled the Roman Empire, AD 81-96
  • Domitian reportedly declared himself to be divine during his lifetime.
  • According to the ancient historian Suetonius, “Domitian issued an encyclical in the name of his governors that declared ‘Our Master and our God bids that this be done.’”
Evidence 1: An ancient inscription

  • A fifth century version of Revelation in the Syriac language refers to the book as “the Revelation given by God to John the Gospel-writer, on the island of Patmos where he was banished by Emperor Nero.” It is possible that this ascription preserves an earlier tradition.
Evidence 1: The testimony of Irenaeus

  • The second-century writer Irenaeus of Lyons – a student of Polycarp, who knew the apostle John – reported that John wrote Revelation while in exile during Domitian’s reign.
Evidence 2: Persecution of Christians

  • It seems that Christians may have been in the early stages of a time of persecution when John wrote Revelation (1:9; 2:2-3; 2:9-10; 2:13; 3:8-10).
  • Nero instigated the first imperial persecution of Christians in AD 64; this persecution lasted until Nero’s death in 68.
Evidence 2: Worship of the Roman emperor

  • Hints can be found throughout Revelation that Christians may have been coerced to worship the emperor (13:4; 13:14-17; 14:9; 15:2; 16:2; 19:20; 20:4).
  • Nero was never worshipped as divine in his lifetime.
  • Worship of the emperor does seem to have occurred during Domitian’s reign, in the AD 80s and 90s.
  • Coins from Domitian’s reign refer to Domitian as “father of the gods.” An idol of Domitian may have been constructed in the city of Ephesus.
Evidence 3: The temple in Jerusalem

  • If Revelation had been written in the AD 90s, it seems that John might have mentioned the fall of the Jewish temple that occurred in AD 70.
  • The wording of Revelation 11:1-2 suggests to some scholars that the temple of Jerusalem was still standing when John wrote this book.
Evidence 3: The church of Laodicea

  • The description of Laodicea’s self-sufficiency may reflect a time in the AD 80s when the Laodiceans rebuilt their city with no outside assistance after an earthquake (Revelation 3:17).

 

Source: Rose Guide to End-Times Prophecy (2011)

[1] Rose Guide to End-Times Prophecy (2011), p.225

Four Ways Revelation is Viewed

[Articles in the Multiple Views series are intended to present various views held by Christians, in an objective and unbiased manner]

“The Book of Revelation takes its name from the Greek word found in 1:1, apokalypsis (637), an unveiling, uncovering, or disclosure … Written largely in what has been termed apocalyptic genre, not surprisingly Revelation has yielded the greatest number of divergent interpretations of any NT book.” [1] Today, this article will present an overview of four of the most predominant views which have cropped up.

 Perspectives How Revelation is Viewed
A) Futurist
  •  Revelation is a prophecy primarily about the future end of the world and years leading immediately to the end
  • All or nearly all of Revelation is yet to occur
  • Held to by dispensational premillennialists and some historic premillennialists
B) Historicist
  •  Revelation is a prophecy about church history from the time of John to the end of the world
  • The events in Revelation are viewed as symbolic descriptions of historical events throughout church history

Note: Some futurists understand the Seven Churches (Revelation 1-3) in a historic manner, treating each church as descriptive of a particular era of church history

C) Idealist
  • Revelation is a non-historical and non-prophetic drama about spiritual realities
  • Revelation is viewed as “… hyper-allegories or esoteric parables designed to simply illustrate the ongoing conflict between God and Satan, good and evil, the Church and the world.” [1]
  • Seemed to have originated among ancient Alexandrian theologians, who frequently spiritualised and allegorised biblical text
D) Preterist 
  • Revelation is a prophecy which was fulfilled primarily in the first century AD
  • This view “stresses the immediacy of the book’s message.”
  • Strand #1: Partial Preterism – views most of Revelation as fulfilled in the first century although the final chapters of Revelation describe future events to occur at the end of time
  • Strand #2: Full Preterism – views the return of Jesus described in Revelation 19 as spiritual and occurred in AD 70 when the temple of Jerusalem was destroyed.
  • Typically held to by amillennialists or postmillennialists

Note: Christians throughout church history have understood full preterism to be a heresy

 

Source: Rose Guide to End-Times Prophecy (2011)

[1] Hebrew Greek Key Word Study Bible NIV (1996), p.1447