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The Emerging Antichrist
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By David Sheldon

August 28, 2020

As we consider what we read in the Bible about the end-times, we have many questions about the person called the Antichrist. What will he be like? When will he appear on the scene? Will he only be known during the end time tribulation? Or could he be known beforehand?

This study will draw our attention to three main texts of Scripture pertaining to the end times and the Antichrist. Ultimately, we will be trying to answer: At what point in time will the Antichrist be revealed and in what capacity? This question is extremely important in our day if we believe we are approaching the end times. We will first look at Daniel 9:24-27 which talks about the last seven years of this present world. Then, Matthew 24:15-21 which is Jesus’ prophecy where He speaks of an event in the last seven years which is called the “abomination that causes desolation”. Finally, we will look at 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 which tells of the final apostasy, the man of lawlessness and a temple. We will focus on how the man of lawlessness relates to the apostasy.

One of the things we must always remember is that even though future prophecies are God’s truth written down beforehand – there are only certain truths that are conveyed. In other words, God’s prophecies are not a full history. We only have those things He has chosen to reveal. We should attempt to ascertain what He has told us and leave speculation for – well – speculation. But we do wish to understand what is revealed in the Word of Truth! God must have a reason for giving it to us!

To begin, we learn of the term “antichrists” foremost through the Apostle John:

18 Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us. 1 John 2:18-19 NASB

The Apostle John says antichrist (singular) is coming but many antichrists (plural) have already appeared. The plural term ‘antichrists’ refers to the people associated with teachings that deny Jesus (the True Messiah given to the Jewish people). The singular term ‘antichrist’ refers to one particular person. To gain more insight on this one Antichrist, we look at Daniel 9 where he is referred to as the “prince who is to come.”

24 “Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy place. 25 So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress. 26 Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined. 27 And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.” Daniel 9:24-27 NASB

This text speaks of a time line of events that will occur for the Jewish people and the holy city, Jerusalem. The period of time in which God accomplishes these activities is said to be “seventy weeks”. Is this actually seventy weeks? ‘Weeks’ in the Hebrew language is literally the word ‘sevens’ and can be a somewhat generic term. So, we have “seventy sevens,” but is it a seven of days or of years?

We can know by looking at what is states about the first 69 weeks (separated from the 70th week) which have already occurred. They were the events leading up to the first coming of Jesus Christ. They were 69 ‘seven year’ periods. Taking it this way, leads us specifically to the first coming of Jesus the Messiah! Thus, we can conclude it is speaking of 70 ‘seven year’ periods with the final “week” also being a 7-year period. (Revelation 11, 12 & 13 also refer to time frames of 1,260 days, 42 months or 3 ½ years, which are all equal to half of 7 years in God’s prophetic calendar.)

The Antichrist Makes a Covenant

During this final seven-year period, there are a number of things mentioned that will occur. First, the Antichrist will make a covenant with the Jewish people, initiating the seven-year period. After 3 ½ years, he will break that covenant by interrupting the Jewish sacrifices and grain offerings and instigating an abomination which causes the Jewish people to make desolate (flee).

The final 7 years will begin with a covenant that the Antichrist makes with “the many.” Has this covenant already been made? There has been no such covenant that anybody is aware of which begs the question, when will it be made? Scripture does not say exactly when, but according to Daniel 9:27, it will happen sometime after “the people of the prince who is to come” destroy the city and the sanctuary. That already took place when the Roman General Titus besieged and ransacked Jerusalem and destroyed the temple in the year 70 A.D. Therefore, we can assume this is still a future event as of now, but Israel has indeed become a nation once again so it could happen anytime!

The Antichrist will make a Covenant

Scripture does not tell us much about the nature of this covenant, but from the context we might wonder if it has something to do with the Jewish people being allowed to reinstitute sacrifices. The important point is that all these events have to do with the Antichrist. (Concurrent with Daniel 7:7-8, 11, 19-26; & 11:36-45 which also speak of end-time events.)

The Antichrist Causes an Abomination

Just 3 ½ years after the inception of the covenant by the Antichrist there are two events that occur. The first is him putting a stop to “sacrifice and grain offering”. There is not a lot of detail about these sacrifices and offerings. After that, it states that “on the wing of abomination, will come one who makes desolate.” It has been noted by many interpreters of Scripture that “the wing of abomination” seems to be a rather obscure statement. Some have translated it as “overspreading” of abomination and others have said it refers to the “wing” as the temple mount and not the temple itself. But it should be noted that it does not specifically say ‘temple’. It does mean, generally speaking, that the Antichrist does something that is contrary to the Jewish worship of God in a place that had been set apart for that purpose. He will offend the Jewish people by instigating something that is an abomination to them. We learn more of this abomination in Matthew 24. As Jesus is sitting on the Mount of Olives explaining to His disciples the course of the future until His return, He tells about this abomination:

15 “Therefore when you see the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), 16 then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains. Whoever is on the housetop must not go down to get the things out that are in his house. Whoever is in the field must not turn back to get his cloak. 19 But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! 20 But pray that your flight will not be in the winter, or on a Sabbath. 21 For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will. Matthew 24:15-21 NASB

Mark speaks of the event as well, “But when you see the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION standing where it should not be (let the reader understand), then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains.” Mark 13:14.

We learn that this abomination will be “standing where it should not be” according to Mark and “standing in the holy place” according to Matthew. What is the “holy place?” Again, what we first need to realize is that it does not say “temple.” Jesus does not use the term ‘temple’ when referring to this abomination just like Daniel does not use that term. There are places other than a permanent temple where sacrifices and grain offerings took place in the Old Testament. There is Moses tent of meeting (Leviticus 6:14-18, where the term “holy place” is applied to the court of the tent of meeting). In its technical use, the holy place referred to the outer tabernacle just outside the veil that separated it from the holy of holies in the tabernacle or temple. (See Hebrews 9:1-5). The thing to remember is this: it is not necessary to have a permanent and fixed temple, as some might believe, for what is to take place as “the abomination that causes desolation” to be fulfilled.

Between Daniel 9, Matthew 24, and Mark 13, one thing is certain. The Antichrist will do something that is an abomination to the Jewish people causing them to flee. What does take place – is standing in that place where it should not be – and is not welcomed by the Jewish people. Also apparent from the context of Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 24, is the fact that the Abomination is toward the end of this present evil age.

The Beginning of Great Tribulation

With the occurrence of the Abomination, comes a definite change of pace. We pick up with verse 21 of Matthew 24. Notice what Jesus says:

“For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will. 22 Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short.” Matthew 24:21-22 NASB

Jesus says, “For then there will be great tribulation”. That is, after the Abomination has occurred, on its heels will be a sequence of events that cause great suffering and difficulty from then up until Jesus’ second coming. The Antichrist will do all the things spoken of him in Daniel and Revelation and follow through on his quest to dominate the world and persecute the Jewish people and the saints of God. It is well worth reading the entire chapter of Matthew 24 to fully grasp an understanding of what Jesus is saying. Picking up in verse 29, we read what happens after the seven-year tribulation period.

29 “But immediately after the tribulation of those days THE SUN WILL BE DARKENED, AND THE MOON WILL NOT GIVE ITS LIGHT, AND THE STARS WILL FALL from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 30 And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the SON OF MAN COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF THE SKY with power and great glory. 31 And He will send forth His angels with A GREAT TRUMPET and THEY WILL GATHER TOGETHER His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.” Matthew 24:29-31 NASB

After the tribulation, the events of the sun and moon being darkened, stars falling, and the powers of heaven shaken culminate in the Second Coming of Jesus Christ and the gathering together His elect with the sound of a great trumpet. (See 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18)

So, the Antichrist will be revealed before Christ’s second coming. You might think that sounds rather vague – the Antichrist will be made known before Christ returns. At what point before? We will gather more information about a timeline of how he will be revealed as we look at 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4. In this text, he is referred to as the “man of lawlessness.” As you read, pay close attention to something he is linked to.

“Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, 2 that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. 3 Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, 4 who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God. 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4 NASB

Did you notice Paul says two specific things will occur before the day of the Lord? He says, “For it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed”. The apostasy and the man of lawlessness being revealed both happen before Christ’s second coming.

At this point, we should make note of what Paul says concerning the second coming of Christ. He calls it “the day of the Lord.” In the Old Testament, the phrase “the day of the Lord” (verse 2) sometimes refers to a specific day, i.e. 24-hour period. But at other times it refers to a short period of time where the Lord is carrying out certain judgments. In this text it means a specific day, the day of His return. Paul is reminding the Thessalonians of the day of the Lord’s return and the saints being gathered together unto Him. What a blessed event that will be for the saints of God! Because that event has not yet occurred, the brethren are still to be on the lookout for the events Paul says will precede it, namely the apostasy and the man of lawlessness being revealed.

Paul describes both “the apostasy” and “the man of lawlessness” using a definite article – the. This means they are unique in their setting. Since they are right before Christ’s return, it probably means they are the final significant ones. The question now is: Why are they linked together? Let’s examine some of the information Paul gives us in this passage.

The Kind of Apostasy

In Greek, the word “apostasy” means either a religious or political “falling away” from a previously held position, i.e. a defection. In this case it is probably religious in nature. In our text this is said to be something that is “coming” in the future. It is not something that is already present and reaffirmed. Why do we say it like this? It is because a Jewish apostasy has already occurred by their rejection of their promised Messiah two thousand years ago. They have already fallen away, so Paul could not be talking about a future “Jewish apostasy”. Is Paul speaking of an apostasy by the man of lawlessness? Verse 4 says “he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as God”. This describes the Antichrist’s true character rather than some act of apostasy.

If the apostasy is not the falling away of the Jews or the Antichrist, then who is this talking about? There are some clues in another phrase of our passage. Paul says the Antichrist will “take his seat in the temple of God.” What kind of seat and what kind of temple is Paul referring to?

The Kind of Seat

There was a “mercy-seat” in the Jewish temple which was the place on the top of the arc of the covenant where the blood of atonement was sprinkled one day a year. (See Exodus 25:17-22; Leviticus 16) That mercy-seat is altogether different than what is described here.

If the “seat” is not a literal one, i.e. a throne, what does it mean? We need to consider “seat” as a figurative seat. In Greek, the idea of “seat” can mean the position to exercise authority or rule. In the Old Testament we have a similar idea. Originally addressing the King of Babylon, in Isaiah 14:13,14 speaks of a “sitting” when it says, “But you said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, and I will sit on the mount of assembly…I will make myself like the Most High’ (NASB). And in Ezekiel it says:

“The word of the LORD came again to me, saying, 2 ‘Son of man, say to the leader of Tyre, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD,
‘Because your heart is lifted up
And you have said, ‘I am a god,
I sit in the seat of gods
In the heart of the seas’;
Yet you are a man and not God,
Although you make your heart like the heart of God”
Ezekiel 28:1-2 NASB

Accordingly, ‘seat’ in 2 Thessalonians 2 is best understood as a position of authority. Notice that the man of lawlessness “displays” himself as something in this seat. He positions himself in the temple of God and displays himself as being God. It is a show and usurping of authority that only belongs to God! He is the Antichrist. In the Greek language the prefix ἀντί (anti) can mean “against” or “in the place of,” i.e. substitute. He displays himself, substitutes himself, in a position that only God should rightfully have.

So, the Antichrist positions himself in authority in God’s temple. This definitely begs another question: In what kind of temple does the Antichrist position himself?

The Kind of Temple

Let’s look closer at the word “temple” in the New Testament. The same Greek word (ναὸς) is used in different ways. It is used to describe the literal temple in Matthew 23:17 – …which is more important, the gold, or the temple that sanctified the gold? NASB It is used to describe Jesus in Matthew 26:61 when He says about Himself: “I am able to destroy the temple of God and to rebuild it in three days.” But then, in I Corinthians 3:16, Paul uses temple to refer to the entire church as God’s people. “Do you not know that you (plural) are a temple (ναὸς) of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” NASB And, again, in Ephesians the church is being built into a holy temple, “in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord,” Ephesians 2:21. Therefore, the context is critical for the meaning of the word temple (ναὸς).

The passage in 2 Thessalonians 2 is no different. The context gives us great insight as to the kind of temple in which the Antichrist takes his seat. The letter to the Thessalonians is immersed in Paul’s concern of the church being deceived and falling away. He tells the church, in chapter 2, of a mystery of lawlessness and God giving a certain people over to judgment. We pick up in verse 5:

“5 Do you not remember that while I was still with you, I was telling you these things? 6 And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he will be revealed. 7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way. 8 Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming; 9 that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, 10 and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. 11 For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, 12 in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness.” 2 Thessalonians 2:4-10

Notice what Paul says in verse 11, “God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they believe what is false.” Who is the “them” that will believe what is false? Is it the world of people? Is it the Jewish people? The previous verse gives the answer, which says “because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved.” In what place do people receive the love of the truth? It is the visible church. The people – in the church – did not actually receive the love of the truth so as to be saved! Because they never actually received the love of the truth God gives them over to a deluding influence in a place where it should never happen. It is in the visible church that the one who is in accord with the activity of Satan, the lawless one, will come with deception and false wonders.

The Antichrist will make a Covenant

So, in what kind of temple does the Antichrist seat himself? He seats himself amongst those who call themselves the people of God (or “temple”).

The Nature of the ‘Revealing’

Now, you may be wondering how will this all come about? How will such a man of lawlessness place himself in authority within the visible church? We go back to 1 John 2:18-19 (mentioned in part one of this study) to learn something specific about THE Antichrist:

18 Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us. 1 John 2:18-19 NASB

John says ‘many antichrists’ (speaking of people, not simply ideas) have appeared. Where did such people appear? They appeared in the church because it says “they went out from us.” They went out from the church, proving they were not really Christian. They were apostates. They were not who they claimed to be. The same will be true of the Antichrist. He is the man of lawlessness and the son of destruction as Paul calls him in verse 3. Interestingly, the term “son of destruction” is only used elsewhere in reference to Judas Iscariot (John 17:12), the one who looked like a disciple but was really a traitor. However, there is one major difference between the ‘many antichrists” and the final Antichrist. THE Antichrist, the man of lawlessness, does not leave the visible church. Rather, he works from the inside of the temple. He gets away with it because his ways are that of the “mystery of lawlessness” or iniquity (verse 7). Three and a half centuries ago Thomas Manton, the great Puritan pastor and prolific writer, explains this mystery of iniquity extremely well (concerning 2 Thessalonians 2):

“What is the mystery of iniquity? I answer- The design of usurping Christ’s kingdom, and his dignities and prerogatives over the church, to countenance the kingdom of sin and darkness, under the mask of piety and religion. Surely it is something, quite contrary to the gospel, which is the ‘mystery of godliness.’ I Timothy 3:16. So that this mystery is such a course and state design as doth frustrate the true end and purpose of the gospel, and yet carried on under a pretense of advancing and promoting it.”

The Antichrist will appear to be advancing and promoting the gospel of Jesus Christ! However, he does this only for his own purpose of advancing himself. He wants to reign in the visible church as if he is sovereign, rather than submit to the authority of the church’s head, Jesus Christ. He will employ the lingo of salvation and truth only to supplant it. He works against Christ as a self-exalted substitute. What looks like and defines itself as the faithful headship of Christ Jesus and the true gospel – is imitated and swapped for something that is different – by this man.

Does the visible church allow such a thing? In fact, they welcome him. Because they did not actually receive the love of the truth and believed the lie, they are in a growing state of apostasy. And it is Antichrist who gives them the lie they want to hear. He places himself in a position of control and influence in the visible church, and by stealth, preaches/teaches a different gospel and a different Christ as if it were the true. It will be religious and seamless. His followers in the church succumb to him and willingly submit to him. They inwardly despise the actual Lordship of Jesus Christ, the Head of the true church, and settle for the fake.

What greater slap in Jesus’ face could Satan attempt to pull off than to use Christ’s own name and the visible church to establish submission to the Antichrist? But the antichrists and the powers of darkness now have their man and fidelity to Jesus Christ means nothing to them. With the entire powers of darkness behind him, he is permitted to supplant or usurp the place of God in the lives of those who are in apostasy in the visible church. Remember this is all according to God’s sovereign plan of judgment. God will finally remove His restraint and allow this real and final Antichrist to take charge and take over – for the purpose of final judgment.

This deception and who the Antichrist is will be revealed to the true church! The churches sure foundation is the truth of Scriptures concerning the person and work of Jesus Christ, its head. The subtle and slow eating away at the foundation by the apostates and the Antichrist may go unnoticed for a time by Christians. God’s sheep will ultimately recognize what is taking place. The Lord warned His future sheep of the subtly and the power of those deceptions when He said, “For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect. 25 Behold, I have told you in advance.” (Matthew 24:24-25 NASB)

What Thomas Manton detailed about the mystery of iniquity and that which is contrary to the gospel, is clearly in the visible church today! It is increasing at an unprecedented rate and in great deception! Its’ rapid growth is beginning to almost seem overwhelming. (See our articles on Apostasy and some of our book reviews!) And it may do us well, to not pay too much attention to the apostatizing of individual churches or within a denomination, as bad as that is. Rather, we should be amazed that one person alone might end up being the centerpiece of a widespread final apostasy.

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