Chapter 8

Will the Antichrist Be a Roman?

Despite what many of us have been taught, Scripture does not teach us that the Antichrist will come from Rome. Nevertheless, I believe that he could come from Rome or a European Union-type of organization. Although this is possible, I hope to demonstrate that it is not taught in Scripture. In fact, I’m not sure whether Scripture tells us exactly which kingdom or kingdoms the Antichrist comes from other than that it will be a nation or nations with ten rulers, three of which he will “subdue” on his way to power (Daniel 7:8, 24). This nation (or nations) is outside of Israel, and is probably in the west, because Antichrist fights with the kings of the north and south as well as with people from the east (Daniel 11:40–45). Other than that, I don’t think we are told exactly where Antichrist will originate.

Further, even if I believed that the Antichrist will be Roman, it would not detract from the thesis of this book at all. A Jewish leader could rise in the ranks of an organization such as the European Union or almost any other nation, especially if he is as skilled as the Antichrist will apparently be. So, to restate the initial point: Though I am about to explain why I don’t think Scripture teaches that the Antichrist will be a Roman, I don’t see any problem, theologically or otherwise, with that idea, and I would not be surprised if he did come from a European nation or coalition of nations.

Three places in Scripture are used to propose that the Antichrist will be Roman: Daniel 2:40–49, 7:7–28, and 9:26. While other passages reiterate that a tenfold leadership will be a part of the Antichrist’s home kingdom, these are the only passages used to suggest that the ten-king nation or kingdom from which he comes will have characteristics of the ancient Roman Empire.

The first two passages, Daniel 2:40–49 and Daniel 7:7–28, should be considered a set since they are essentially combined to formulate the revived Roman Empire idea. At the heart of this teaching is a tradition that Daniel 2—which details a vision given to Nebuchadnezzar of a statue made of many metals that symbolize successive nations (Rome being the last of these)—is a mirror image of a vision given to Daniel in chapter 7, in which he sees four beasts coming out of the sea. The last beast Daniel sees in his vision is clearly the kingdom of the Antichrist. So proponents of this teaching reason that if the last empire in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream is Rome, then the last beast that Daniel sees, which is clearly speaking of the Antichrist’s kingdom, must be Rome as well. There is no indication in Scripture that we are supposed to assume that these two chapters are speaking of the same events; in fact, myriad reasons that strongly refute this idea are selectively overlooked by commentators. Many scholars with a wide range of prophetic opinions reject the notion of Daniel 2 and 7 describing the same thing. Some of these include G. H. Lang, Geoffrey R. King, David Pawson, Charles Cooper, Hanoch ben Keshet, Dr. Noah W. Hutchings, Dr. Henry M. Morris, and Irvin Baxter, Jr.

In addition to the argument that Daniel 2 and 7 are essentially the same, the revived Roman Empire idea is suggested because of what I believe is a misunderstanding of Daniel 2 regarding that last part of the last kingdom that Nebuchadnezzar sees in his dream (the feet, toes, and legs of iron).

Refuting these two ideas that have given us the concept of the revived Roman Empire will take some time. A detailed study of Daniel 2 and Daniel 7 is required to fully understand that this view is not taught in Scripture. However, including that study here would make this chapter more than thirteen thousand words long when the average word count per chapter is about four thousand words, I have included an exposition of those chapters in the appendix section of this book. If you are interested in such a study, I encourage you to check out the appendix now and come back to this chapter after you are finished.

The People of the Prince to Come

One other verse in Scripture is used to argue for a Roman Antichrist, and it is Daniel 9:26:

And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing. And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed.

In context, this verse is a prophecy of a destruction of the city of Jerusalem and the temple. It is almost universally believed to be a prophecy of the destruction of the city and temple by the Roman general Titus in AD 70. The word “prince” in the phrase “the people of the prince to come” is often taken to be speaking of the Antichrist; in other words: “There is a prince to come far in the future, but he won’t be around at the time of the destruction of the temple in AD 70; only his people will, and they will destroy the temple.” Therefore, this is often taken as a way to determine the nationality of the Antichrist. Most people who hold to this view see the Antichrist as Roman, since the Romans destroyed the temple in AD 70, and the verse says “the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary.”

It should also be remembered that if indeed Daniel 2 or Daniel 7 isn’t speaking of a so-called revived Roman Empire, then this verse would be the only verse in the Bible that suggests a Roman nationality for the Antichrist.

I don’t think this verse is talking about the nationality of Antichrist—or anyone else’s nationality, for that matter—though it should be noted that I do think Antichrist is in view in the next verse. My opposition to the normal futurist interpretation is not because I am not a futurist—I obviously am—but it is only because I believe there is a much more logical explanation for this verse.

The phrase, “the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary,” conveys what actually happened in AD 70. Not Titus, but his people—that is, the people under his command—destroyed the city and the temple. In almost any other sacking of any other city by the Romans, there would be no need to make this distinction. After all, if Titus or any other general ordered this to happen, he would be responsible for it, and Scripture would be right to put the blame on him. But the events of that day made it necessary for Scripture to describe the destruction of the temple and city as not being by Titus, but instead by his people.

According to Josephus, who was literally present and part of the court of Titus at the destruction of the city and temple, Titus did not order the temple destroyed. He had wanted to turn it into a temple for the Roman gods. But his people destroyed it anyway. It would be one thing if this were only briefly mentioned by Josephus, but instead, Josephus describes in many ways the mob-like destruction of the temple and city despite Titus’ repeated orders for the destruction to stop.

For example, Josephus quotes Titus in a meeting with his generals about what to do with the temple. This was because the Jews were using the temple as a citadel for a kind of last stand. Josephus says:

But Titus said, that “although the Jews should get upon that holy house, and fight us thence, yet ought we not to revenge ourselves on things that are inanimate, instead of the men themselves;” and that he was not in any case for burning down so vast a work as that was, because this would be a mischief to the Romans themselves, as it would be an ornament to their government while it continued.

Then, after Titus was informed that, despite his orders, the soldiers set fire to the temple, Josephus describes the following scene:

And now a certain person came running to Titus, and told him of this fire, as he was resting himself in his tent after the last battle; whereupon he rose up in great haste, and, as he was, ran to the holy house, in order to have a stop put to the fire…. Then did Caesar, both by calling to the soldiers that were fighting, with a loud voice, and by giving a signal to them with his right hand, order them to quench the fire. But they did not hear what he said, though he spake so loud, having their ears already dimmed by a greater noise another way; nor did they attend to the signal he made with his hand neither, as still some of them were distracted with fighting, and others with passion. But as for the legions that came running thither, neither any persuasions nor any threatenings could restrain their violence, but each one’s own passion was his commander at this time.

Josephus offers still more descriptions of the events of that day:

But as the flame had not as yet reached to its inward parts, but was still consuming the rooms that were about the holy house, and Titus supposing what the fact was, that the house itself might yet he saved, he came in haste and endeavored to persuade the soldiers to quench the fire, and gave order to Liberalius the centurion, and one of those spearmen that were about him, to beat the soldiers that were refractory with their staves, and to restrain them; yet were their passions too hard for the regards they had for Caesar, and the dread they had of him who forbade them, as was their hatred of the Jews, and a certain vehement inclination to fight them, too hard for them also.

Moreover, the hope of plunder induced many to go on, as having this opinion, that all the places within were full of money, and as seeing that all round about it was made of gold.… And thus was the holy house burnt down, without Caesar’s approbation.

If the Scripture had said that the prince—that is, Titus—destroyed the temple, it would have been factually inaccurate. Instead, it says “the people of the prince” destroyed it. I hope you can now see why this is an important distinction.

The “to come,” as in “the people of the prince who is to come,” is therefore from Daniel’s perspective, as this prince (Titus) was almost five hundred years in the future at the time he wrote. But for us looking back, that prince to come has already come…and gone.

A note on the Hebrew word “prince”: Though the word can mean “general,” “leader,” “king,” or indeed a literal “prince,” as in a “son of a king,” it is interesting that at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem, Titus’ father Vespasian was the emperor, making Titus a literal prince who would soon become emperor himself, as well as a general of an army. This means that Titus would fulfill every possible meaning for the Hebrew word “prince.”

The argument against this idea would be that the next verse, which talks about the Antichrist, starts with the word “he.” Those who would argue this point would say that the “he” must point back to the “prince” in the previous verse, but there are significant problems with that idea.

“Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week” (Daniel 9:27, emphasis added). There are really only two good possibilities from a grammatical perspective about the antecedent for the “he” in verse 27, though you likely will not hear either of them in a commentary on this passage. The possibilities offered in most commentaries will be first that the best antecedent for “he” is the “prince to come” of verse 26. This will be stated by the average futurist. And though I don’t agree with the average futurists about the grammar here, it should be noted that I do agree with the reason they are trying to make this claim; that is because they think that this last verse is a future event and the person we will soon read about is the Antichrist.

The second possibility is that the antecedent for the “he” in verse 27 is the “anointed one” of verse 26, i.e., Jesus. This is usually put forth by preterists, and despite it being nearly impossible from a grammatical perspective, they put this forth because they believe that verse 27 is not a future event. It also puts the preterists in the precarious position of having to defend why Jesus would do the horrible things that the next few verses say this person does.

If we were to just consider this verse from a grammatical perspective, not a theological one, we would have to conclude that “people,” as in the “people of the prince to come,” is the antecedent for “he.” Note the following quote from a study of this passage that brings out this point:

With regards to the above Passage the subject noun is “People” (the ones destroying) and the parsed Hebrew word ישׁחית 7843 (ishchith-shachath) “He shall destroy” is used as a Hebrew hiphil, verb, imperfect, 3rd person, masculine, singular and, is completely acceptable in Hebrew with the use of the singular subject noun “People”, whereas the translated word “People” in the above Passage is implied to be acting as a single unit—therefore a singular noun and, not a plural noun, receiving a 3ms verb.

In addition, the Hebrew word “shachath” must also be translated as “He shall destroy” and not just simply as “shall destroy” unless the “HE” is either implied or articulated—written or verbally spoken because, the Hebrew word “shachath” is used in this Passage as a Hebrew hiphil, verb, imperfect, 3rd person, masculine, singular.

Dan. 9:26 …and the people of the prince that shall come (He) shall destroy the city and the sanctuary…

Therefore, if the subject noun in the above KJV, et. al., Passage is the singular “People” (and it indeed is) and it receives the corresponding 3rd ms verb “He shall destroy” then by legitimate Hebrew and English grammatical standards who must the “HE” of Dan. 9:27 be (and He shall confirm…)?

Does consistent contiguous grammatical standards dictate that the “HE” of Dan. 9:27 be the same preceding antecedent singular subject noun “People” (the ones destroying) or can we just simply arbitrarily choose to substitute a different subject noun in the place of “people” – in this case the “a coming prince”?

The study concludes this way:

Once again, any attempt then to “substitute” an alternate and arbitrary subject noun (a coming prince) for the HE of Dan. 9:27, even if we assume a theoretical gap, other than the clearly grammatically defined antecedent “People”, the HE of Dan. 9:26, is to simply ignore all Hebrew and English grammatical rules merely to fit a theory.

If we are going to go down that slippery slope where we ignore grammatical rules and standards simply to fit our theories then there is little hope of ever arriving at the truth of Scripture.1

In other words, if the “he” of verse 27 is supposed to look back at anything, it must look back to the “people.” But the problem with that is that it makes no sense. This brings us to the last good possibility for the antecedent for the “he” of Daniel 9:27…

There is none.

I wrote former Moody Bible Institute professor Charles Cooper about this, and this was his response:

This is what I am convinced the text is actually intending. The “he” of verse 27 does not have an antecedent which drives scholars mad. They force the Hebrew to say something I don’t believe it intended. The he of verse 27 does not look backwards, it points forward to a character not identified in the previous verses. This has caused [many problems]. It will continue.

I believe the “he” of verse 27 does speak of the Antichrist, so I have no reason to argue this point other than the fact that it is wrong to say the “prince to come” in verse 26 is also referring to the Antichrist. The “he” in verse 27 just comes out of nowhere. But, as I will suggest, we are given all the tools we will ever need to determine who the “he” is, because literally every aspect of the “he” here is described by Daniel in at least triplicate in other places in his writings when referring to the Antichrist.

Many futurists, including myself, have concluded that there is a gap of two thousand-plus years between the sixty-ninth and seventieth weeks of Daniel 9. I believe there is no other option but to see the sixty-ninth week ending at the second temple destruction and the last week beginning after another temple is built, an event that, as of July 2014, has not yet occurred. If this is true, then it also would explain the out-of-nowhere nature of the “he” at the beginning of verse 27. That is, it comes out of nowhere because the context of this verse is far removed from the previous verse, chronologically speaking. It’s not as if the “he” would be unrecognized, though, as Daniel seems almost fixated on the Antichrist figure in Daniel 7, 8, 11, and 12, where he describes in detail the Antichrist’s actions. So we are not left to guess as to who the “he” is in this verse.

In conclusion, only three passages in Scripture suggest that the Antichrist will be Roman. And while that idea is not harmful to the thesis of this book in the least, I feel that if we are to be the best watchmen we can be, we need to see that the modern interpretations of these three passages have serious problems, and there are much better, more hermeneutically consistent alternatives.