A new and increasingly popular view is that the Antichrist will be an Assyrian. This conclusion is arrived at by a few passages in Isaiah, primarily Isaiah 10, and one passage in the book of Micah. I want to look closely at these passages as well as what the proponents of this view say about them to show you why I think this view is artificially contrived.
As in the case for the Roman Antichrist, even though I don’t agree that the Bible makes this claim specifically, I don’t necessarily have a problem with this idea theologically. I don’t think the Bible is specific as to which ten-leader nation or coalition of nations the Antichrist comes from, and whether the Antichrist comes from Assyria or is ethically Assyrian makes little difference to the thesis of this book. The people making this claim, however, are using it to support the idea that the Antichrist will be committed to the religion of Islam—something I don’t agree with. Even if the verses we are about to study were referring to an Assyrian Antichrist, which I strongly believe they are not, they still would not prove that the Antichrist was a religious Muslim.
With regard to the Islamic Antichrist view, I will be quoting extensively from Joel Richardson, who, I believe, is the most intelligent and articulate advocate for this view. I respect Mr. Richardson greatly, both as a fellow brother in Christ and as a researcher, and I hope my referencing his work on this will be seen as a compliment to him, because I consider his writings on the theory to be the best.
Let’s first look at the passages used to support the Assyrian Antichrist view from the book of Isaiah. The context of Isaiah is extremely important for our discussion, so I will spend a few moments describing the issues the prophet was dealing with and writing about in his day.
Isaiah wrote when Israel was being threatened with destruction from the Assyrian king Sennacherib. Isaiah warns that this king, whom the prophet occasionally refers to as “the Assyrian,” will capture and carry off the ten northern tribes, in addition to many cities in the Southern Kingdom, but that the city of Jerusalem would not fall and that God would come to His people’s aid. All of this happens in the book: Sennacherib does indeed conquer the Northern Kingdom, as well as many cities in the Southern Kingdom. He even sets up a siege of the city of Jerusalem. But, as promised, God protects the city by sending an angel, who destroys 185,000 of the Assyrian soldiers surrounding the city and causes the rest of the army to flee, never to threaten Israel again. In addition to relating this judgment of Sennacherib, Isaiah also tells us that, later, the king himself is killed by his own sons. The Assyrian empire goes into sharp decline shortly after that and is eventually conquered by Neo-Babylon. The rest of the book of Isaiah is focused on warning Judah that although it was spared from the Assyrians, it would be captured by the empire that would come after the Assyrians: the Babylonians.
More than any other book, Isaiah is peppered with prophecies concerning the Messiah and the millennial reign. This is probably because Isaiah was giving the Northern and Southern Kingdoms terrible news: God had decreed that they both were going to be conquered, though at different times. So, the Lord made sure to include several references to the ultimate victory of the Jewish people in the kingdom of the Messiah. This pattern is seen throughout Scripture. Often, the most magnificent prophecies of Israel’s future glory are given to Israel at a time when things look the most hopeless and they need the most encouragement. God wants Israel to know that, though things look bad at present, they will all work out in the end.
Since the book of Isaiah includes prophecies of the near future interwoven with prophecies of the distant future or “end times,” there is much speculation as to which prophecies are which. Do the prophecies of the Assyrian have a near or distant fulfillment, or, as is so often the case in Scripture, is it a combination of both? While I agree totally with the concept of “types” of the Antichrist in Scripture, and even that Sennacherib is one of those types, a close look at the claims of Assyrian Antichrist proponents will make it clear that the prophecies of the Assyrian in Isaiah were never intended to give the reader any information about the nationality—let alone, the religion—of the Antichrist.
Joel Richardson, in his book, Mideast Beast, repeatedly tells his readers that the book of Isaiah says that the Messiah will defeat “the Assyrian”:
“God’s promise was that a military leader would be born from the line of David who would deliver all of God’s people from “the Assyrian.” The problem, however, is that this never occurred in history.”1
“This passage declares that the Messiah will deliver Israel from the Assyrian.”2
“So despite the numerous references throughout Isaiah to the Messiah destroying the king of Assyria in the land of Israel, historically this deliverance never occurred.”3
Richardson believes there are prophecies that say the Messiah will defeat “the Assyrian,” and since this obviously has never happened, these passages must refer to the end times.
If there were such prophecies in Isaiah stating that the Messiah would defeat the Assyrian, I would have to agree with Richardson that there must be an Assyrian component to the Antichrist. But, as we will see, there isn’t a single verse in all of Isaiah that says the Messiah will defeat the Assyrian; Richardson and others come to this conclusion in an extremely roundabout way.
The first thing that Richardson does to try to explain what he means by saying that the Messiah is said to destroy the Assyrian is point to Isaiah 7:14–20, which he uses to establish that there is a dual prophecy in certain sections of Isaiah that deal with the Assyrian. That passage begins with words that are familiar to Christians as partially a prophecy of Jesus’ birth. But, as Richardson correctly points out, in the original context, these words are also a prophecy of a child in Isaiah’s day who was to be a sign that the Assyrians were going to destroy much of Israel.
Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel. Curds and honey He shall eat, that He may know to refuse the evil and choose the good. For before the Child shall know to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land that you dread will be forsaken by both her kings. The Lord will bring the king of Assyria upon you and your people and your father’s house—days that have not come since the day that Ephraim departed from Judah.
And it shall come to pass in that day
That the Lord will whistle for the fly
That is in the farthest part of the rivers of Egypt,
And for the bee that is in the land of Assyria.
They will come, and all of them will rest
In the desolate valleys and in the clefts of the rocks,
And on all thorns and in all pastures.
In the same day the Lord will shave with a hired razor,
With those from beyond the River, with the king of Assyria,
The head and the hair of the legs,
And will also remove the beard. (Isaiah 7:14–20)
The idea that this prophecy, in addition to being about the birth of Jesus, is also about a child as a sign of Israel’s impending destruction is more clearly described in the next chapter.
For before the child knows how to cry out, “My father” or “My mother,” the wealth of Damascus and the plunder of Samaria will be carried off by the king of Assyria. (Isaiah 8:4)
Richardson wants to apply all of this prophecy, not just the virgin birth idea (7:14), to the Messiah in order to have a basis for saying that He will have some application to the Assyrian. There are a number of problems with this. The first is that, even if we allowed that every word of this prophecy was to be applied to Jesus in the end times, it still is not saying anything about the child defeating the Assyrian. In fact, it is quite clearly saying that the Assyrian empire will be victorious over the northern tribes. The child in this prophecy is doing nothing but acting as a sign that the destruction of Israel is imminent. There isn’t a single aspect of this prophecy that gives the reader the idea that the child is to defeat the Assyrians. Yet, Richardson says of this passage that “the fuller context is the coming of the Messiah to break the Assyrian.”4 How can a prophecy that a child will be a sign of the destruction of Israel by the Assyrians be evidence that the child will destroy the Assyrians? The point of this passage is that the Assyrian armies are a judgment from God and they will be victorious, not defeated.
The second problem with this idea is that the destruction of the northern tribes of Israel is to occur before this child is able to talk (Isaiah 8:4). Obviously, there is danger in applying too much of this prophecy to Jesus, because there is nothing even remotely close to a fulfillment of this in the days after Jesus’ birth. There was no attack from the long-dead Assyrian empire on the northern tribes before He was able to talk. Such a preposterous notion forces us to recognize what scholars have long known: The prophecy of the virgin birth In Isaiah 7:14, like so many other prophecies of the Messiah that have an original context, have a limit as to how much of that context we can apply to Jesus. For example, Matthew 2:14–15 states that when Joseph, Mary, and the infant Jesus came back to Israel from Egypt, where they had fled to escape Herod, it was a fulfillment of Hosea 11:1, which says: “When Israel was a child, I loved him, And out of Egypt I called My son” (Hosea 11:1)
Here, the original context is speaking about Israel, but Matthew tells us it is also a picture of Jesus. We know to stop short at that verse and not apply the rest of Hosea 11 to Jesus, because the next verse begins: “As they called them, So they went from them; They sacrificed to the Baals, And burned incense to carved images” (Hosea 11:2).
So unless we are willing to say that Jesus made sacrifices to Baal, we would have to admit that there is a limit to how much of a messianic prophecy found in another context can apply to Jesus.
To conclude my main point on this: There is no mention of the Messiah defeating the Assyrian in Isaiah 7–8, no matter which way we look at it.
Let’s move on to other evidence Richardson offers to support this most important claim that the Messiah is said to defeat the Assyrian. He quotes an obvious messianic prophecy in Isaiah 9:
But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined.… For the yoke of his burden, and the staff for his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian. For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult and every garment rolled in blood will be burned as fuel for the fire. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this. (verses 1–7)
Richardson says, “This passage declares that the Messiah will deliver Israel from the Assyrian in the same manner that Gideon in Judges 8 delivered Israel from the Midianite armies.”5 That’s quite a claim. Is this really telling us that Jesus will destroy the Assyrian? There is obviously no mention of the Assyrian or even Assyria in this passage. How is Richardson coming to this conclusion?
Before I answer that, let’s consider this passage in context. As I have pointed out, it was pretty horrible news that the prophet Isaiah was told to deliver: God asked him to tell Israel that He was mad at them, and that He was going to send the Assyrians to wipe out the Northern Kingdom. The prophecy we just read tells of a future Israel in which the Messiah will rule with strength and justice. There will be no more conquering of Israel by its enemies when the Messiah begins His reign. This prophecy is clearly meant to be an encouragement to Israel in light of the fact that God is saying through Isaiah that it is about to be conquered.
Richardson essentially says that since this prophecy about hope for a future peace comes in close proximity to other chapters warning of Israel’s destruction by Assyria, this is a prophecy of the Messiah defeating Assyria when he comes, despite there being no mention whatsoever of the Messiah defeating Assyria. This same method of interpreting Scripture is also applied to Isaiah 10 in order to come to the Assyrian Antichrist view. Here how another author describes the basis for the idea that the Antichrist will be an Assyrian based on Isaiah 10:
But there is a catch! Immediately after the Assyrian invades Israel in Isaiah chapter 10 we are introduced to the Messiah on earth! [in the next chapter] That is to say, Jesus Christ sets up his everlasting throne in Jerusalem. In other words this passage also predicts a future event. The Assyrian will once again invade Israel, and then Jesus Christ will come back to earth to defeat the Assyrian and to rule forever!6
We can see from these words that the mere proximity of a chapter about the Assyrian to another chapter about the messianic kingdom is proof that the Messiah will destroy the Assyrian, despite no evidence in the text itself for such a scenario. This fits the definition of eisegesis (reading one’s own ideas into the text).
There is simply no mention of the Messiah defeating the Assyrian in Isaiah 9:1–7, and there no evidence that this is the author’s intent. If we were to apply this method of interpretation to other passages, we would have many contradictory proof texts for the origin of the Antichrist in Scripture. For example, later on in the book of Isaiah, when Assyria is out of the picture and Babylon is the main threat God is warning about, we find similar prophecies of hope in the future messianic kingdom directly after warnings of Judah’s destruction by the king of Babylon. Are we to also assume that the Antichrist is a Babylonian? With only minor adjustments, using this method of interpretation, I could make a rock-solid case that the Antichrist must be an Egyptian. Warnings of various judgments followed by prophecies of the redemption of Israel is one of the most common motifs in the prophets’ words. Unless the text offers a reason for us to think we are to apply wholesale the immediate context of the prophet to the prophecy of the Millennium that follows it, we shouldn’t do it—unless we don’t mind the myriad contradictions it creates.
The final section in Isaiah that Richardson appeals to is Isaiah 10. This is a chapter in which God tells His people that after He has used Sennacherib to destroy the Northern Kingdom and humble those in Jerusalem with famine, He will destroy Sennacherib as well. Then, after the Lord has finished His redeeming work of chastisement toward His people, He will punish the Assyrian: “When the Lord has finished all his work against Mount Zion and Jerusalem, he will say, ‘I will punish the king of Assyria for the willful pride of his heart and the haughty look in his eyes’” (Isaiah 10:12).
The book of Isaiah gives us a picture of this judgment of the Assyrian twenty-six chapters later:
Then the angel of the Lord went out, and killed in the camp of the Assyrians one hundred and eighty-five thousand; and when people arose early in the morning, there were the corpses—all dead. So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed and went away, returned home, and remained at Nineveh. Now it came to pass, as he was worshiping in the house of Nisroch his god, that his sons Adrammelech and Sharezer struck him down with the sword; and they escaped into the land of Ararat. Then Esarhaddon his son reigned in his place. (Isaiah 37:36–38)
Proponents of the Assyrian Antichrist view try to make the case that this judgment of Assyria is not yet complete. But, from a Biblical perspective, there is no doubt that the destruction of the 185,000 Assyrian soldiers and the murder of Sennacherib by his sons, as well as the eventual desolation of the Assyrian empire are considered God’s judgment against “the Assyrian,” because Jeremiah refers to God’s judgment of the Assyrian as a past-tense event in his day: “Therefore thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: ‘Behold, I will punish the king of Babylon and his land, As I have punished the king of Assyria’”– (Jeremiah 50:18, emphasis added).
Richardson makes the case that, despite Jeremiah and Ezekiel saying that the judgment of the king of Assyria in Isaiah 10 is complete, it can’t be fulfilled, because Isaiah 14 says: “I will break the Assyrian in My land, And on My mountains tread him underfoot. Then his yoke shall be removed from them, And his burden removed from their shoulders” (Isaiah 14:25).
He says that since Sennacherib wasn’t killed in Israel, but back home in Assyria by his sons, there must be a future fulfillment in which some other Assyrian man is killed, but this time in Jerusalem. This is answered with a simple study of the grammar of the passage. This is not a reference to the king of Assyria being “broken,” but rather to the fact that the “burden” of the Assyrian yoke was forever broken on the day that God killed 185,000 Assyrians and they left Israel for good. The NET Bible translates the passage this way: “I will break Assyria in my land, I will trample them underfoot on my hills. Their yoke will be removed from my people, the burden will be lifted from their shoulders” (Isaiah 14:25, emphasis added).
The endnotes explain that the pronouns are collective singular, meaning they likely refer to the nation and not the king. The actual Hebrew word sometimes translated “the Assyrian” is simply “Ashshuwr,” which is ambiguous because it can mean Assyria or Assyrian. So this is not a reason to deny that God has not fulfilled His judgment on that nation or that king. It should also be noted that the prophecies of Assyria’s past-tense judgment are spoken of in Ezekiel 31: 3–17, which reiterates the very elements described in Isaiah 10. The fact is that shortly after this prophecy of the destruction of Assyria was given, its capital, Nineveh, the largest city on earth at the time, became a desolate wasteland, fulfilling precisely what God said He would do; there is no reason to say that He is waiting to do it again.
Richardson also asserts that Isaiah 14 proves that the destruction of Assyria must be in the future, because it says that Assyria’s yoke will be removed from Israel when God judges it. Richardson makes the case that since the Babylonians who came after the Assyrians controlled Israel as well, the yoke was never really removed. Again, he is reading too much into the text. Isaiah 14:25 isn’t saying that all yokes that have ever been or will ever be will be removed when He destroys Assyria; it only indicates that the Assyrian yoke will be removed. This seems to be quite clear from the phrase “their yoke will be removed from my people” in reference to the Assyrians.
We have seen that there is absolutely no reference in the book of Isaiah to the Messiah defeating the Assyrian; there are only references to Assyria being used by God to destroy Israel, and then to God destroying Assyria when He is through with it, which He did in glorious fashion. We have also seen that most of the ways people force the idea of the Messiah defeating someone called the Assyrian in the end times is by pointing out that certain messianic prophecies appear in close proximity to chapters about Assyria. We have also seen that the references to “the Assyrian” in the book are references to Sennacherib, references that do not require a future double fulfillment.
Micah 5:5 provides the best hope for anyone wanting to say the Antichrist is an Assyrian, in my opinion. But, as I plan to show, it is a false hope. It is no surprise that Micah mentions “the Assyrian,” since he wrote at the exact same time as Isaiah, during the period when Assyria was threatening Israel. Sennacherib was public enemy number one in his day, and this fact is evident throughout his writings.
The passage in question is another prophecy of the Millennium, another encouragement to the people of Israel that one day they would not have to deal with being continually conquered, a day when the Messiah would rule Israel with an iron rod. The difference between this passage and the others we looked at in Isaiah is that Micah actually mentions the phrase “the Assyrian” within the millennial context. In other words, the phrase “the Assyrian” is not just near a chapter about the Messiah; it’s actually in the same chapter and context, therefore, it gives us a much better reason to consider whether we should expect an Assyrian in an end-times context. The passage reads:
But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
Though you are little among the thousands of Judah,
Yet out of you shall come forth to Me
The One to be Ruler in Israel,
Whose goings forth are from of old,
Therefore He shall give them up,
Until the time that she who is in labor has given birth;
Then the remnant of His brethren
Shall return to the children of Israel.
And He shall stand and feed His flock
In the strength of the Lord,
In the majesty of the name of the Lord His God;
And they shall abide,
For now He shall be great
To the ends of the earth;
And this One shall be peace.
When the Assyrian comes into our land,
And when he treads in our palaces,
Then we will raise against him
Seven shepherds and eight princely men.
They shall waste with the sword the land of Assyria,
And the land of Nimrod at its entrances;
Thus He shall deliver us from the Assyrian,
When he comes into our land
And when he treads within our borders.
Then the remnant of Jacob
Shall be in the midst of many peoples,
Like dew from the Lord,
Like showers on the grass,
That tarry for no man
Nor wait for the sons of men.
And the remnant of Jacob
Shall be among the Gentiles,
In the midst of many peoples,
Like a lion among the beasts of the forest,
Like a young lion among flocks of sheep,
Who, if he passes through,
Both treads down and tears in pieces,
And none can deliver.
Your hand shall be lifted against your adversaries,
And all your enemies shall be cut off. (Micah 5:2–9, NKJV, emphasis added)
The Assyrian Antichrist proponents would say that the fact that Micah mentioned the Assyrian in the context of the Millennium is clearly proof that Messiah will defeat “the Assyrian” in the end times, and that the Antichrist is an Assyrian.
However, there are quite a few problems with this interpretation, the first being that it is almost certainly not Micah’s intention to give a prophecy of a future attack of an Assyrian in the Millennium. Rather, he is essentially saying, “Yes, it’s really terrible for us right now, being attacked by the Assyrians, but keep in mind that when the Messiah comes, everything will be different. And should the Assyrians try to invade our land at that time, we would totally prevail over them.” This interpretation is not wishful thinking on my part. The NET Bible translation of this passage highlights Micah’s hypothetical intention:
He will give us peace.
Should the Assyrians try to invade our land
and attempt to set foot in our fortresses,
we will send against them seven shepherd-rulers,
make that eight commanders.
They will rule the land of Assyria with the sword,
the land of Nimrod with a drawn sword.
Our king will rescue us from the Assyrians
should they attempt to invade our land
and try to set foot in our territory. (Micah 5:5–6,7 emphasis added)
The reason Micah, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, uses the Assyrians as an example of people who wouldn’t be able to attack Israel when the Messiah comes is tied to the reason this message of hope was given in the first place. The people of Israel were being so terribly destroyed by the Assyrians, it seemed that the promises of God would never come true. It would be like saying to the Jews in Nazi Germany: “In the Kingdom Age, if Hitler tries to harm us, we will defeat him with the help of the Messiah.”
Another massive problem for the Assyrian Antichrist proponent using Micah 5:5 is that this is clearly a reference to events within the millennial reign itself, which would preclude this having anything to do with the Antichrist, who is thrown into the lake of fire never to come out again (Revelation 19:20, 20:10). The Antichrist’s destruction occurs before the Millennium even begins, making it impossible for this to refer to the Antichrist. By contrast, Satan is thrown into the “bottomless pit” at the beginning of the Millennium, and is let out at the end for one last deception, in which he gathers people and nations to march on the beloved city in a very unsuccessful campaign. But, after that, he is thrown into the lake of fire, the place where the Antichrist has apparently been the whole time (Revelation 20:1–10, 19:20). If we absolutely had to link the reference to an Assyrian in Micah 5:5 to a future event, we would be limited to it being a reference to Satan or one of the people he recruits to march on Jerusalem at the end of the Millennium. There is no theological scenario that allows for the Antichrist to cause problems during the Millennium; and therefore, there is no possibility that the Assyrian in Micah 5:5 refers to the Antichrist.
This concludes our study on the references to the Assyrian in Isaiah and Micah. I hope that I have presented some reasons to doubt the recent theory that Scripture teaches that the Antichrist will be an Assyrian.