There are certain verses the church fathers used to demonstrate their belief that the Antichrist would claim to be the Jewish Messiah that I believe are valid, and there are others that I think are inconclusive, and probably shouldn’t be considered proof texts for the argument. I will begin with a number of passages that make a good case that the Antichrist will present himself as the Jewish Messiah, and I will conclude this chapter by discussing some of the verses that I don’t think are being used responsibly to bolster the case.
He shall regard neither the God of his fathers nor the desire of women, nor regard any god; for he shall exalt himself above them all. (Daniel 11:37)
This verse is an important piece of the puzzle, because it is one of the few that argues not just that the Antichrist will be accepted as the Jewish Messiah, but that he really will be Jewish and not simply a pretender. This verse is interpreted in different ways, depending on a person’s preconceived notions about the ethnicity of the Antichrist. If one has a view other than the Jewish Antichrist view, the phrase, “God of his fathers,” must be interpreted to refer to “gods,” plural—i.e., pagan deities as opposed to “God,” singular—i.e., Yahweh. Even certain Bible translations have the g in “god” as lowercase, and feature an s at the end (making the word “gods” and not “God”) to make it seem as if Yahweh is not in view here. I have heard commentators say things like: “In the Hebrew, ‘elohim’ is plural in this case,” but such statements are either ignorant of Hebrew grammar or dishonest.
Take Arnold Fruchtenbaum’s statement on this verse, for example: “Any student of Hebrew would see from the original Hebrew text that the correct translation should be ‘the gods of his fathers’ and not the ‘God of his fathers.’”1
This is simply not true.
Dr. Michael Heiser is more than “any student” of Hebrew, having a PhD in Hebrew Bible and Semitic languages. He points out the fallacy of Fruchtenbaum’s statement by saying flatly that “elohim can be either singular or plural depending on context.”2
Heiser goes on to give examples of how to determine whether “elohim” is singular or plural. He says the word “elohim” or “god” in Hebrew is a lot like the word “sheep” or “deer” in English; it can be singular or plural, depending on the situation. For example, in the sentence, “The sheep are lost,” we know that the usage of “sheep” is plural. However, in the sentence, “The sheep is lost,” we know that “sheep” indicates the singular.
The same is true with “elohim” in Hebrew; that is, we cannot determine whether it is supposed to be plural or singular without looking at the context.
Dr. J. Paul Tanner, also a Hebrew expert, agrees with Heiser and adds another point in favor of this being a reference to Yahweh in his class notes on Daniel 11: “The Hebrew term Elohim can be translated as ‘God’ or ‘gods.’ While either translation is grammatically correct, we should observe that the expression ‘the God of his fathers’ is a commonly used phrase in the OT to refer to Israel’s covenant God, Yahweh, who had long associated Himself by covenant with the ‘fathers’ of the nation.”
Tanner goes on to reference a number of instances when the Hebrew phrase, “God of his fathers,” refers to Yahweh: Genesis 31:29, 46:1, 3; Exodus 3:16; 2 Kings 21:22; 1 Chronicles 28:9; Jeremiah 19:4; and Daniel 2:23.
There are more verses than these, too, including: “Now when he was in affliction, he implored the Lord his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers” (2 Chronicles 33:12, emphasis added).
Think of how damaging that point is to Fruchtenbaum’s argument. He says that “any student” of Hebrew would know that “elohim” is plural in Daniel 11:37, yet in other instances in Scripture, the same phrase is translated as singular, where it is quite clear that Yawheh, not pagan gods, is in view, while, conversely, the Hebrew phrase is never used to refer to pagan gods!
Joel Richardson, author of The Mideast Beast and a proponent of the Islamic Antichrist theory, somewhat ironically agrees with the idea that this phrase is speaking about Yahweh and not pagan gods, though he is trying to make the case that the Antichrist will be a Muslim. He asserts that when Scripture says “he” will not regard the “God of his fathers,” it is a reference to how an Islamic person’s lineage ultimately would go back to Abraham through Ishmael.
This, too, would have problems, because, like Fruchtenbaum’s view, it is unprecedented. There is no indication of any usage of the phrase “God of his fathers” in the Bible to refer to anyone except Jews.
The “fathers” are a very distinct group of people when used in this context. Often, they are even named as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The very idea that multiple “fathers”—plural, not singular—are in view in this phrase is an argument against this idea because, in Richardson’s view, there is only one father who could be said to be part of Ishmael’s lineage, and that is Abraham. So, the phrase “God of his Fathers” could not be theologically accurate.
Abraham’s son Isaac is how the patriarchal covenant line progresses—not thorough Ishmael. It is highly doubtful, then, that Scripture would use the phrase “God of His fathers” to refer to someone outside the covenant line of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Another common verse used by the church fathers to suggest that the Antichrist would be received by the Jews as their Messiah—which I agree with—is found in John 5:43: “I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive” (John 5:43).
In John 5, when Jesus is speaking to the Jewish leadership about their rejection of Him, He makes several claims about His role during the end times. He says that He will raise the dead in the last days, and that He is the one who will ultimately judge everyone in that day. If John 5:43 is a reference to the Antichrist, then it means that the Jewish leadership, who rejected Jesus, will accept the Antichrist. If that is true, then this would argue strongly that the Antichrist must at least claim to be Jewish in order to be accepted as the Jewish Messiah.
I will suggest several reasons Jesus means the Antichrist here and not some other Messianic pretender when He says “another.” For one thing, the “receiving” spoken of here is clearly being compared to the type of reception that Jesus wanted from the Jewish leadership for Himself. The word for “receive” in the Greek here is lambanō, which is often used in the following context: “But as many as received [lambanō] Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name” (John 1:12).
Another reason the Antichrist is probably in view in John 5:43 is that it seems unlikely Jesus would point to one specific person as being the one they would receive instead of Him—unless it was the Antichrist.
We know that there is no record of a false messiah who was received by the leaders of the Jews or by any other Jews of this exact time period, though there were false messiahs who would turn up in the coming centuries. In my opinion, however, none of these messianic claimants were significant enough or widely accepted enough to warrant a singling-out of one over another by Jesus. It would seem that the “one they would receive” is not only exceptional in some way, but the phrase suggests the sense of the “one” being the last one they would receive because of the way that this was spoken. The fact that Jesus was concerned that the people of Israel would receive a false messiah in the last days is clearly seen in Matthew 24: 5 and 24.
The view that the Antichrist is in view in John 5:43 is accepted by many conservative scholars, including one who even adds the name “one who comes in his own name” to the list of the names of the Antichrist.3
“One who comes in his own name” is an appropriate name for the Antichrist that has a lot of supplemental scriptural support. The idea of coming in his own name could be a reference to the Antichrist being said to exalt himself above the name of God (2 Thessalonians 2:4; Daniel 11:36). This is in direct contrast to the attitude of Jesus, who came in the “name of the Father,” and it is almost certainly the reason Jesus words this phrase the way He does in John 5:43—that is, to indicate to the Jewish leadership and to us that the Antichrist is in view.
This verse does not explicitly show that the Antichrist will be ethnically or religiously Jewish, but it does say that the Jews will “receive” the Antichrist. One could argue that, of all the Messianic prophecies the Jews might be able overlook, they would never accept a Messiah who was not Jewish or who did not at least claim to be.
Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; But in the middle of the week He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. (Daniel 9:27a)
Here in the last verse of Daniel chapter 9, we have a reference to the Antichrist making some kind of covenant with many people. This verse gives weight to the thesis that the Antichrist will claim to be the Jewish Messiah. Even until very recently, I’ve assumed that this verse was referring to a “seven-year peace agreement.” It has become so common for people to refer to this verse as a peace treaty of some sort that I confess I sort of took it for granted.
However, there is no reason to think this covenant is speaking of a peace treaty. In all the Bible versions I have available to me though Bible software and the Internet (a considerable number), the word “peace” is not mentioned or even implied. In addition, I suggest that whatever this covenant is that the Antichrist makes must be a covenant that was already in place, based on the underlying Hebrew text.
I believe this verse is referring to the Antichrist trying to fulfill the modern Jewish expectations of a “new covenant” that the Messiah will make in the last days. This concept is detailed in many places in the Old Testament, but a notable one is in Jeremiah 31:31, which states: “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.”
Both Christians and Jews believe this verse is messianic, but their two views of this “new covenant” are vastly different. The Jews believe this means that when the Messiah comes, He will reconfirm the covenant they already had; that is, the Messiah will make it possible for them to once again abide by the laws given by Moses, especially regarding the daily sacrifices in the temple. The Jewish view of the phrase “new covenant” is no more than a renewed national commitment to abide by God’s laws.
Uri Yosef, PhD, a Jewish scholar concludes his paper called “Will the Real New Covenant Please Stand Up?” this way: “It is evident that Jeremiah’s use of the term שׁהָ דָחֲ ריתִבְּ , a new covenant, does not involve the replacement of the (eternal) Torah by the New Testament. Rather, it signals a renewal of the original Sinai Covenant.”4
JewsForJudaism.org states: “Jeremiah’s ‘new covenant’ is not a replacement of the existing covenant, but merely a figure of speech expressing the reinvigoration and revitalization of the existing covenant.”5
Keep in mind that Uri Yosef and the writers of the article in JewsForJudaism.org, like many Jewish people, would agree that this renewing of the Mosaic covenant will happen when the Messiah comes. They believe that one of the ways He will do this—probably the most important way—is by reestablishing the sacrificial system.
Interestingly, this is exactly what Daniel 9:27 states with the words “he shall ‘confirm a covenant’” (New King James Version, NKJV). This phrase, “confirm a covenant,” is very interesting, and the Hebrew words are apparently difficult to translate into English. Note a sample of how differently it is translated in popular versions of the English Bible:
NET Bible (NET): “He will confirm a covenant.”
English Standard Version (ESV): “And he shall make a strong covenant.”
King James Bible (KJV): “And he shall confirm the covenant.”
Young’s Literal Translation (YLT): “And he hath strengthened a covenant.”
Notice that it isn’t just the words, but their core meaning, that vary. In the NET translation, “he” is confirming an already existing covenant; in the ESV, “he” makes a new strong covenant; in the KJV, “he” confirms the covenant, suggesting it is the Mosaic covenant; and in the YLT, “he” is strengthening an already-existing covenant. Of the nineteen versions of the Bible I checked, eleven have the Antichrist confirming or strengthening an already-existing covenant as opposed to making a new covenant altogether.
The obvious question is: Which one is right? I will add a discussion about the details of this linguistic problem in the footnotes,6 but I believe the original Hebrew expresses a confirming or strengthening of an already-existing covenant. The idea of the covenant being strengthened comes from the fact that the Hebrew word sometimes translated “confirm” carries the meaning of making something strong. I would even suggest that this covenant was meant to be understood as the covenant, i.e., the Mosaic covenant. Some translations, like the KJV, even render the word “a” as “the,” which suggests a reference to a particular, preexisting covenant. Contextually, that must be the Mosaic covenant.
There seems to be confirmation that we’re on the right track with this idea, because the second part of Daniel 9:27 says, “But in the middle of the week He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering,” as if to suggest that it is obvious that the covenant being strengthened began by starting the daily sacrifices. This verse is contrasting these two ideas; it’s like the verse is saying: “he confirms the covenant [which started the daily sacrifices], but then [three and a half years later] he stops the sacrifices.” The words presuppose that the reader understands the covenant began with the daily sacrifices restarting.
If this is speaking of the Antichrist trying to fulfill the Jewish expectations of Jeremiah 31’s “New Covenant,” then the singling out of the daily sacrifice here and in other places where this event is mentioned is pretty interesting, because, to put it simply, without the daily sacrifice it is very difficult, if not impossible, to truly keep the Mosaic covenant. It is the first and most important of all sacrifices to the Jews, it made daily atonement for their collective sin, and it’s believed that this sacrifice must start again for God’s blessing to rest in its fullness on the Jewish people. In the Jewish mind, the reinstatement of the daily sacrifices is tangible proof that the Messiah has come and Jeremiah 31:31 has come true.
If this scenario is true, the idea that the Antichrist will announce a seven-year covenant, as opposed to announcing an eternal covenant, is absurd. He would not say, “Hey, everyone, I’m the Messiah, and now you have a new covenant, but it’s really not eternal; it’s only going to last seven years.” Here again, I think we are victims of modern Bible prophecy teaching. Scripture never says that he will say that he is setting up a seven-year covenant; it only says that the covenant will last seven years. In fact, according to a lengthy study on grammar by the Pulpit Commentary, linked in the footnotes, the underlying Hebrew suggests this, too. That study concludes by translating that part of the verse this way: “The covenant shall prevail for many during one week.”7
So, it seems clear that the seven-year time frame will not be announced to the people who are agreeing to it. The Antichrist will in all probability say that this will be an eternal covenant. The mentioning of the seven years is therefore just God telling us how long this false covenant will really last. Note also that Scripture says it will continue to last the entire seven years. It won’t go away at the midpoint. Only the daily sacrifices will be taken away, a point we will discuss at length later in the section on the “Abomination of Desolation.”
I believe the covenant the Antichrist makes is an argument in favor of the case that he will claim to be the Jewish Messiah. The Jews are wholeheartedly expecting the Messiah to do the exact thing Daniel 9:27 is saying the Antichrist will do—that is, confirm a covenant and start the daily sacrifices. We can be sure that whoever does this will be looked at as the Messiah by the Jews as well as by many Christians, who may see this as the beginning of the millennial reign of Christ.
Not too many places in Scripture discuss this person who will come to be known as the False Prophet, but the information we do have about him strongly supports the idea that the Antichrist will claim to be the Jewish Messiah.
I am convinced that the False Prophet will claim to be Elijah the prophet.
Most of us know that the prophet Elijah, who was carried up to heaven in a whirlwind, was prophesied to come back to prepare the way for the Messiah.
“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. (Malachi 4:5)
The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord; Make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” (Isaiah 40:3)
The idea of Elijah coming back is so important in Jewish religious culture, it is hard to imagine that any Messiah figure could be considered by the Jews unless he had a sidekick who claimed to be Elijah.
We could spend quite some time talking about Jewish traditions regarding Elijah—things like setting out a chair for him during circumcision ceremonies or putting out a cup for him at the Passover meal. Even the Havdalah, a hymn that concludes every Sabbath, makes reference to Elijah’s return: “Elijah the Prophet, Elijah the Tishbite, let him come quickly, in our day with the Messiah, the son of David.”8
We are given strong evidence that the False Prophet will claim to be Elijah because the only prophetic “sign” he is specifically mentioned to do is call down fire from heaven (Revelation 13:13).
This apparent miracle is crucially important. To anyone else in the world, calling down fire from heaven would be a neat trick but nothing more. But to a Jew, a prophet calling down fire from heaven is almost the same as declaring himself to be Elijah, the only prophet to perform such an interesting action, which he did three times. Combine this with the fervent Jewish expectation of Elijah’s return, and it’s easy to see that by this one act, the False Prophet is setting himself up as Elijah. Once the False Prophet has convinced the people that he is Elijah, he will be expected to point to the true Messiah. These miracles appear, then, to be a means by which to fulfill his primary duty of promoting the Antichrist (Revelation 13:12).
It is interesting that, around the same time in Jerusalem, the two witnesses, one of whom may very well be the real Elijah, will be able to stop the rain (Revelation 11:5). Stopping the rain is another major miracle Elijah performed. If one of these witnesses is Elijah, I wish I could say that he will be getting more attention than the fake one (the False Prophet). But, based on the joyful reaction of the people of Jerusalem when the two witnesses are killed, it seems that it is not to be. The people in Jerusalem celebrate and give gifts to one another when the two witnesses are killed (see Revelation 11:10).
It may seem that the two witnesses have the False Prophet out-“Elijahed,” because they throw fire around and stop the rain as Elijah did, whereas the false Elijah is only calling down fire from heaven. However, there are some interesting reasons to believe that the False Prophet will do one of the other major miracles of Elijah—probably the most impressive of all: seem to raise someone, namely, the Antichrist, from the dead. I will explain this in detail later in the chapter about “Jewish Eschatology” (see chapter 5), but if the False Prophet does raise the dead, call down fire from heaven, and point to the Messiah, then it will be a very strong deception indeed for any Jew waiting for Elijah.
So, the acts of the False Prophet seem to be his attempt to pass himself off as the long-awaited, returning Elijah. Since we know the False Prophet uses his powers for the sole purpose of directing people to the Antichrist, it seems obvious that he is therefore going to claim that the Antichrist is the Messiah.
And he shall plant the tents of his palace between the seas and the glorious holy mountain. (Daniel 11:45, NKJV).
This verse comes at a very interesting time in the book of Daniel—right after the Antichrist has defeated most of the enemies of Israel, like Egypt and an Arab coalition. (We will talk more about this in chapter 3, “The Wars of the Antichrist.”) The verse also comes right before the abomination of desolation and the beginning of the persecution that follows it (Daniel 12:1). So the Antichrist setting up his palace tents here occurs right around the midpoint of the seventieth week of Daniel.
This verse, like the others we’ve been looking at, helps bolster the case that the Antichrist will seek to present himself as the Jewish Messiah. One of the reasons is because of the placement of his headquarters, which I believe this verse is saying will be in Jerusalem, right in front of the rebuilt temple.
The version I quoted above is from the NKJV, the one I am primarily using for this book. But if we were to only look at the NKJV translation of this verse, it would be easy to miss the location of the Antichrist’s headquarters, because it gives the impression that he sets up his palace tents between the Mediterranean Sea and the glorious holy mountain (speaking of Mt. Zion in Jerusalem). This would lead us to believe that the site is at some location between Jerusalem and the Mediterranean Sea. However, the NKJV has a very different translation of this verse than the original KJV, and it is one of the few occasions when I feel the NKJV, though trying to improve upon the KJV, includes a big mistake. I submit that the translators probably included this error more because of their personal beliefs rather than because of the underlying Hebrew meaning.
This is how the original KJV renders this verse: “And he shall plant the tabernacles of his palace between the seas in the glorious holy mountain” (emphasis added).
This translation offers a totally different placement for the Antichrist’s palace tents: “between the seas in the glorious holy mountain.” This translation is agreed upon by a number of very good modern translations, like the NET Bible and the International Standard Version (ISV), as well.
The phrase “between the seas” is a reference to the Mediterranean Sea and the Dead Sea—a point that is also footnoted in the NET Bible. If you look at a map of Israel, you will find that Jerusalem is located in between the Dead Sea and the Mediterranean Sea.
The KJV says the palace tents will be “in” the holy mountain, whereas others translate this word as “facing” the holy mountain (ISV) or as being “toward” the holy mountain (NET). Either way, the intent seems to be that the palace tents are very close to the Temple Mount.
Below are a few translations of this verse; note that if the first part of the verse (about the palace tents being between the seas) is meant to be understood as Jerusalem, then the second part of the verse (about being in or facing the holy mountain) gives further clarification as to where, specifically, in Jerusalem Antichrist will set up his headquarters. In other words, the two parts of this verse actually work together to give very specific information about the location of the headquarters of the Antichrist.
ISV: “When he pitches his royal pavilions between the seas facing the mountain of holy Glory…”.
NET: “He will pitch his royal tents between the seas toward the beautiful holy mountain…”.
KJV: “And he shall plant the tabernacles of his palace between the seas in the glorious holy mountain…”.
This makes contextual sense as well, because this setting up of the palace tents occurs just before the Antichrist enters the temple and declares himself to be God. We can tell this by seeing that verse Daniel 11:45 is connected to 12:1, a fact often overlooked because of the chapter break. This means that Antichrist is in exactly the right place at exactly the right time. He sets up his palace tents at the Temple Mount just before he enters the temple to declare himself God.
The latter part of this verse describes the Antichrist being killed. But again, because of the chronological connection to Daniel 12:1—which describes the beginning of a great persecution, using the same language Jesus used in Matthew 24 when talking about the persecution of the Antichrist after the abomination of desolation—we can surmise that this is the point when the Antichrist is killed, only to be resurrected again (the head wound that was healed in Revelation 13). We will discuss this exact moment in detail in later chapters, because I believe this point, just after the wars of Antichrist, when he is killed and resurrected, is directly linked to modern Jewish expectation of the so-called “Messiah ben Joseph,” and is crucial to understanding how the Antichrist will deceive people at this time.
But for now, I only hope to make the point that if the Antichrist is said to make his capital in Jerusalem, in view of the Temple Mount, right after destroying the enemies of Israel, then it is strong support for the idea that the Antichrist is here attempting to fulfill two of the most important Jewish Messianic expectations: namely, that, at his strongest, when the whole world has been conquered by him, he makes Jerusalem the capital city of the world. This would seem to be fulfilling the non-negotiable expectation that Jerusalem will be the capital city of the world in Messianic times (Isaiah 2:1–4) as well as the belief that the Messiah will be ruling from the very temple itself (Isaiah 18:7). In other words, the Antichrist will be trying to fake the millennial reign of Christ (a point we will discuss in great detail in later chapters).
Who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. (2 Thessalonians 2:4)
The Antichrist sitting in the temple and declaring himself to be higher than God is mentioned in several places in Scripture (see Matthew 24:15 and Daniel 8:11). This gives us circumstantial evidence that supports the thesis that the Antichrist will claim to be the Messiah.
The rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem is obviously a prerequisite for this event. (However, it should be noted that a more simple structure like a tabernacle would suffice, as the Greek word Paul uses in 2 Thessalonians 2:4 is naos, referring to the sanctuary, not necessarily the temple—though it could be the sanctuary in a rebuilt temple. For simplicity, as well as because I think it is the most likely option, I will refer to the structure as a “temple.”). A rebuilt temple and the restarting of the sacrificial system in Jerusalem are very important parts of messianic expectations for the Jews, who believe that one of the two main ways to tell whether a person is really the Messiah is whether the temple system is revived by him.9
In addition, rebuilding such a structure on the Temple Mount, which is currently occupied by one of the holiest sites in Islam, the Dome of the Rock, would almost inevitably start a major war with the Muslim nations that surround Israel. I will suggest in detail later that Islamic eschatology dictates that all Muslims fight this particular war, which they believe will be preceded by a man claiming to be the Jewish Messiah and the location of the Ark of the Covenant.
Once that war is initiated, it will cause the other main event Jews believe must happen for a man to validate his messianic claims: fight an epic war with the enemies of Israel and be victorious over them. In other words, the rebuilding of the temple sets the stage for the Antichrist to validate his Messianic claims to the Jews and everyone else. I will discuss this in detail in chapter 3, “The Wars of Antichrist.”
It’s important to take a step back and consider that the mere idea of the Antichrist sitting in a Jewish temple presupposes him giving a kind of legitimacy to the Jewish religion. When he does this, the temple will be “defiled” and the daily sacrifices that apparently will have been going on for some time will stop.10 The fact that the daily sacrifices are stopped at this point is often used to promote the idea that the Antichrist will sit in the temple simply for the purpose of blaspheming Yahweh and disrespecting the temple, as if to say to everyone that the Jewish religion is untrue. I would take exception to this idea and suggest another interpretation of the so-called abomination of desolation.
The abomination of desolation, the event that occurs in the middle of the seventieth week of Daniel, will indeed be the height of blasphemy, because the Antichrist’s exaltation of himself as God is untrue. It was not blasphemy for Jesus to claim to be divine, as the Pharisees believed, because He was, in fact, God. However, it will be blasphemy and an abomination when the Antichrist makes the same claim. I suggest that the defiling of the temple occurs not because the Antichrist is claiming that God is bad or presenting any other type of overt, verbal blasphemy, but because he claims to be God.
This event and related Scriptures show that the Antichrist is actually carrying his Messianic theology of the first three and a half years to its logical conclusion with the abomination of desolation. He would not ostensibly be disrespecting the Jewish religion; he would be attempting to be seen as fulfilling it.
What I mean is that the two main actions that Antichrist takes at the abomination event are in line with Christian theology. Christians agree that the Messiah is also God and that animal sacrifices should be stopped when the Messiah comes. This is standard Christian theology that can be demonstrated from the Scriptures. In fact, there is even a Jewish rabbinic tradition stating that when Messiah comes, sacrifices will cease.11 In addition, even though a modern Jew would argue passionately that the Messiah, when He comes, will not be God but rather only a man, he could no doubt be convinced of his error on this point by the same Old Testament Scriptures that Christian evangelists use to convince Jewish people that the real Messiah, Jesus, was in fact God and sacrifices should cease. This would especially be true if the person showing the Jews those Scriptures was also able to raise the dead and call down fire from heaven as the False Prophet will be able to do.
I submit the possibility that what the church father Ambrose said is true: “Antichrist will attempt to prove from scripture that he is the Christ.”
Further evidence that the Antichrist is actually reinforcing his claim to be the Messiah with the abomination event can be seen by the two other actions he takes at that point. Revelation 13:14–15 states that the Antichrist sets up an image of himself. We know from other passages in Scripture that this image will be set up in the temple.12 The people of the world will apparently be forced to worship this image under penalty of death. The institution of this necessarily involves a worldwide or semi-worldwide pilgrimage to Jerusalem; if people are supposed to choose between worshipping the image or being killed by it, they must, it would seem, be physically present to do so. I would also argue that at least one way of worshipping will be the offering of gold, silver, and precious stones (Daniel 11:38 and Revelation 18:12, to be discussed in later chapters), which further suggests that people who worship the Antichrist must go to Jerusalem to do so.
I contend that the reason the Antichrist sets an image of himself in the temple is related to his messianic claims. He is trying to make it look like he is fulfilling a very important prophecy about the true Messiah.
Isaiah 60:3–22 and 18:7 and Zechariah 14:16–18 say that when the Messiah comes, he will rule the world from the temple and cause all the nations to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to offer praise and worship. The problem the Antichrist will face in attempting to falsify this prophecy is logistics. He is not able or willing to sit in the temple to receive worship for extended periods of time; he apparently has other things to do, based on what Scripture says about his career after this event. So the image he sets up is a kind of stand-in for him. He gets to have all the legitimacy of seemingly fulfilling one of the most important aspects of messianic prophecies, while not actually having to be physically present at the temple.
This also argues against the aforementioned belief that the abomination event is somehow an attempt to distance himself from Judaism. If all the people are forced to go to a Jewish temple to worship him, it can be reasonably assumed that he is forcing people to conform to Judaism in some way.
Something else that happens at the abomination event that seems to support the idea that the Antichrist is bolstering his Messianic claim and not diminishing it is the persecution that begins at that exact time. Apparently, not everyone in Israel will see the abomination as blasphemy at all; in fact, many will see his declaration to be God as scriptural truth.
Jesus said in Matthew 24:15–21 that the abomination will spark the greatest persecution the world will ever see, and that it is of the utmost importance for people to leave Jerusalem very quickly when they see it occur if they want to escape the persecution.
We can assume that many who believe the Antichrist’s claim to be God will be the people who do the actual persecuting. The Antichrist apparently will tell everyone that it will then be time to do away with those who are not on board with his program. Though it goes without saying that many Gentiles will be a part of the group of people who worship the Antichrist, we seem to forget that the Bible implies that the vast majority of Jews will, too. Zechariah 13:8–9 says that only one-third of national Israel will repent in the end times. Therefore, it can be reasonably argued that many of them will, like many of the Gentiles, worship the Antichrist. If almost two-thirds of the Jews in Jerusalem will worship the Antichrist, then this warning to flee Jerusalem at the point when the Antichrist demands worship can only mean that Jerusalem will have embraced the Antichrist in the vast majority. Apparently, there will be enough adherents to the Antichrist’s theology that those who don’t follow it must leave Jerusalem if they want to save their lives.
In conclusion, the idea that the Antichrist will claim to be the Messiah is supported by everything we know about the abomination of desolation, including: the Antichrist’s declaration of himself as God after a major victory over the enemies of Israel; the stopping of the daily sacrifices; the setting up of an image to be worshipped by the world; and the great persecution that has its epicenter in Judea.
I will now show two examples of verses used by the church fathers to bolster their case that the Antichrist will claim to be the Jewish Messiah that I believe are inconclusive, and therefore do not use when arguing this case. I am spending time on these verses because I believe those who use these verses to support this view are doing so irresponsibly and draw unnecessary criticism to the hypothesis when doing so. However, for our purposes, discussing these verses is profitable because it brings up some interesting points that that should be addressed.
As we have already seen, many of the church fathers believed that the Antichrist would come from the tribe of Dan. The verse often used to support this belief is found in Genesis 49, which describes Jacob gathering his sons around him before his death in order to “tell [them] what shall befall [them] in the last days.”
When Jacob comes to Dan, he says: “Dan shall be a serpent by the way, A viper by the path, That bites the horse’s heels So that its rider shall fall backward” (Genesis 49:17).
Some assert that this verse points to the Antichrist by linking it to Genesis 3:15, which describes the curse given to the serpent in the Garden of Eden: “And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel.”
However, I am not convinced that a clear case can be made for linking these two verses, if for no other reason than the fact that the serpent biting the heel of a horse, causing the rider to fall backwards (Genesis 49) seems distinctly different from the serpent bruising the heel of the seed of the woman (Genesis 3). The seed of the woman is widely understood to be Jesus Christ.
Genesis 49:17 is an interesting verse, especially in light of the “last-days” remark in 49:1. There are also other interesting prophecies about Dan, such as in Deuteronomy 33:22, which may ultimately be shown to be related to the Antichrist. However, some of the early church fathers might have been too overeager in their attempts to apply Genesis 49:17 to the Antichrist; I feel it would be irresponsible to be dogmatic about the view that the Antichrist will come from the tribe of Dan. I suppose I wouldn’t be surprised if the Antichrist came from the tribe of Dan, as it is, so far as I can tell, a possibility, but I don’t think that one can make a clear enough case from the Scriptures to call it a likelihood.
There are many interesting things to discuss regarding the topic of the lineage of the Antichrist, so, before we move on to the next verse, I want to take some time to explore this issue.
Jewish expectations are that the Messiah will be from the line of David (who was of the tribe of Judah). The Encyclopedia Judaica says that “the rabbis agree he is of Davidic lineage (based on Hos. 3:5 and Jer. 30:9).”13 The Jewish Encyclopedia adds that being from the Davidic line is “essential to the Messianic mission,”14 and asserts that the reports that the Messianic pretender of the second century, Bar Kokhba, was from the Davidic line.
An example of how non-negotiable this idea that the Messiah will be from the line of David is to the Jewish people can be demonstrated in the attempts of historic false messiahs to at least claim to be from the line of David. We have already mentioned Bar Kokhba, but Sabbatai Zevi, the widely accepted false messiah of the seventeenth century AD, also claimed to be of the Davidic line,15 though he offered no proof of the claim.
It is difficult to overemphasize how ingrained this idea is in Judaism, and it seems unlikely, therefore, that the Antichrist could make any claim to be the Messiah without some evidence that he was of the Davidic line.
It is interesting that, due to historic circumstances, most Jews today have no way of telling which tribe they are from. The possible exceptions to this are the tribes of Levi and Judah. Those claiming to be of the tribe of Levi (the priest class that often features the last name “Cohen”) historically have had very restrictive rules concerning marrying within the tribe. This has led to a unique opportunity for genetic research that has demonstrated quite conclusively a very specific genetic distinction among those claiming to be descended from Levi. The distinction has come to be known in genetic research as “Y-chromosomal Aaron.”
Proof of lineage within the tribe of Judah is less about genetic research and more about an argument from history. The ten northern tribes were conquered and scattered by the Assyrians before the Babylonians conquered the Southern Kingdom. It was primarily Judah and Dan that were taken captive and exiled to Babylon (Dan was more or less absorbed into the Southern Kingdom prior to the Babylonian exile). Since modern Judaism is derived from the Babylonian exiles, the case might be made that all modern Jews, in a sense, derive from Judah and Dan. However, this claim is rather difficult to substantiate, because, in many places, Scripture notes that representative communities from most of the other tribes resided in Judah before and after the exile.16
Despite this, the more important factor with regard to making a messianic claim seem genuine is proving that one is from the line of David. Many people have claimed to be descendants of David, offering various proofs. However, David Einsiedler from the Jewish Geological Society, after reviewing the best evidence for these claims in an excellent article entited “Can We Prove Descent from King David?” concludes:
All we need is good evidence and records that go back that far and give convincing proof of our claim. So far, available records cannot do it. Some individuals rely on tradition and faith to back their claim. More power to them. The rest of us may have to wait for that promised descendant—the Messiah.17
This is an interesting remark expressing the Jewish belief that when the Messiah comes, He will reveal information about the tribes of Israel. Many Jews believe it will actually be the prophet Elijah who will somehow reveal information about the genealogy of the Messiah, proving Him to be from the line of David.
One final point of interest regarding the end-times tribal awareness of at least certain Jews concerns the enigmatic 144,000 Jews who are sealed by God during the Day of the Lord judgments. We know from Revelation 7:4–8 that these Jews will be chosen from each of the twelve tribes of Israel—with the possible exception of Dan, who is not mentioned.
And I heard the number of those who were sealed. One hundred and forty-four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel were sealed: of the tribe of Judah twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Reuben twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Gad twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Asher twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Naphtali twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Manasseh twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Simeon twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Levi twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Issachar twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Zebulun twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Joseph twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Benjamin twelve thousand were sealed. (Revelation 7:4–8)
Somehow, the tribal identity of at least these Jews is known at this point. It could be that these men did not know their tribal identity before they were sealed. In other words, perhaps only God knew which tribe these men were from. This is very possible, and I tend to lean toward that conclusion. However, it could also be that Jewish tribal identity will somehow be common knowledge in the last days. This seems logical, because if the temple sacrifices are instituted again, as they will be in the first half of Daniel’s seventieth week, at least the members of the tribe of Levi would have to be identified in order for them to function as priests. This could happen quite easily through a combination of certain records being discovered and genetic research, as Einsiedler was quoted earlier as saying.
I don’t want to make any firm conclusion on this point about the 144,000, as I’m not sure that we can, based on Scripture. I only submit that Jewish tribal knowledge will once again be understood in the time of the 144,000 and in the Millennium.18 Whether that knowledge comes to light before the 144,000 are sealed is an open question, but if it does, then it would be very easy for the Antichrist to prove his tribal identity, whatever it may be.
“You shall die the death of the uncircumcised by the hand of aliens; For I have spoken,” says the Lord God. (Ezekiel 28:10)
This verse is often used to prove that the Antichrist will be Jewish; there are some pros and cons for accepting that idea.
First, we need to understand the context. Ezekiel 28 is often grouped with Isaiah 14, because both passages share a similar pattern. They begin with a proclamation of the impending judgment of an earthly king: the king of Babylon in the case of Isaiah and the king of Tyre in Ezekiel. In both passages, it becomes apparent that this also should be taken as a prophecy of the future judgment of Satan himself.
In Ezekiel 28, phrases like “you were in Eden, the garden of God” and “you were the anointed cherub who covers; I established you; You were on the holy mountain of God” seem to go beyond the scope of anything that could, even allegorically, be explained only by having the king of Tyre in view. Similar phrases like “how you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning” and others force a similar conclusion in Isaiah 14. In almost every case in these two passages, the same phrases that cannot be attributed to the earthly kings also happened to be aspects of either Satan or the Antichrist in other places in Scripture.
In both of these passages, Satan as well as the Antichrist is in view. This is probably because, when proclaiming the defeat of Satan by God, it is appropriate to include a discussion of the Antichrist’s defeat—because the Antichrist seems to be the primary agent through which Satan attempts his end-times coup. In Ezekiel 28, the idea that the Antichrist is in view seems likely by the use of phrases like that found in verse 2, which says: “Because your heart is lifted up, And you say, ‘I am a god, I sit in the seat of god’” (see also 28:6 and 28:9). This corresponds to the Antichrist claiming to be God and sitting in the temple of God (2 Thessalonians 2:4; Isaiah 14:13; Matthew 24:15; Daniel 8:9–11, 11:36).
This brings us to verse 10, which says: “You shall die the death of the uncircumcised by the hand of aliens.” This verse is used to argue that the person in view must be a circumcised (Jewish) person if he was being threatened with being killed as an uncircumcised person is killed. The addition of “by the hand of aliens” seems to add further weight to this argument.
While I find this interpretation to be a genuine possibility, partly because it appears in such an interesting context, I am wary of endorsing it. Although the term “death of the uncircumcised” only appears here in Scripture, and is therefore difficult to analyze, the general idea seems to be a prominent one four chapters later in Ezekiel 32, where the Egyptian Pharaoh is told that he will die in the “midst of the circumcised.” Additionally, the phrase, “by the hand of aliens,” elsewhere in Ezekiel refers to the Babylonians. In both cases, it is clear that the person being spoken to is not Jewish.
Even though I lean toward dismissing this verse, the reason I’m not too quick to do so is that, after careful study of all of the occasions in which similar phrases are used in Ezekiel, I am convinced that the various proclamations of judgments on these specific nations have aspects that demand an eschatological fulfillment for them to be completely fulfilled. In other words, the nations involved in this series of judgments in Ezekiel where we find this “uncircumcised” motif will not be completely judged until the end times. Therefore, I’m not sure if the references are literal, given the possibility that in the end times, the Antichrist might actually force all nations that serve him to be circumcised. That would not just be in line with the Jewish view that in the end times all nations will be monotheistic servants of Yahweh, but it would also be in line with the apparent pilgrimage to the temple the Antichrist institutes.
In conclusion, I will not add my voice to those claiming dogmatically that Ezekiel 28:10 is a reference to a Jewish Antichrist. However, I think that this section of Scripture is very interesting, especially because it seems clear that the Antichrist is in view. In addition, this series of prophecies in Ezekiel must be seen as a double fulfillment, with the completion of the judgments occurring in an eschatological context. Therefore, I do think this verse may give support to the Jewish Antichrist theory, even if not in the usual way suggested.