The purpose of this book is to reintroduce and expand upon the earliest view of the church regarding the Antichrist, a view I believe has been almost totally forgotten in recent years and one that, if true, means the deception of Satan in the end times will be far more potent that many of us have ever imagined.
My acceptance of this view didn’t come lightly; in fact, you might say I came to it kicking and screaming. This is not just because I had previously been teaching another approach to the subject of the Antichrist—and many of you will understand how hard it can be to change what you have been publicly teaching—but also because I honestly didn’t want the early church’s beliefs to be true, for reasons I will soon discuss. However, the more I considered the idea, the more the Bible seemed to come alive. Passages that had once been obscure and difficult suddenly made perfect sense to me. Realizing I couldn’t ignore this view as a possibility, I began the journey of trying to test the hypothesis.
I have written two books in preparation for this one: a verse-by-verse commentary on the book of Daniel and a commentary on Revelation 17 and 18. I initially had no plans to publish either of them as books. I had mainly wanted to study these sections of Scripture with this “new” thesis in mind to see if it could withstand the kind of scrutiny that can only come by spending a great deal of time on every single verse in question. Three years later, I am now satisfied that this view is correct. I genuinely hope this book will restart the conversation that those early church fathers began many years ago.
The interpretation of the Bible is something we should approach with godly fear and humility. Because of that, I try to err on the side of caution and avoid any type of sensational interpretations while consistently applying a “face-value” hermeneutic. That simply means that, once I’ve done my best to determine the meaning of a text using contextual, theological, literary, grammatical, and historical analysis, I take it at its face value. Rather than trying to argue away its meaning, I reconcile it to the rest of the Word of God and sit under its judgment.1 If I believe that aspects of a passage are unable to be known with certainty, I will acknowledge this, and I do so quite often in this book. I hope this commitment to a sound method of interpretation will be readily apparent.
For the sake of clarity, I would like to begin by outlining the basic thesis of this book, so that readers can know in clear terms what I am claiming (as well as what I am not). I hope to demonstrate that the Antichrist will attempt to present himself as the Jewish Messiah and that he will try his best to appear as if he is instituting what Jewish believers know as the Messianic Age and what Christians know as the millennial reign. I hope to show in detail that his actions, according to the Bible, all seem to point to this conclusion.
Premillennial Christians and Jews have remarkably similar views as to what the world will look like during the earthly reign of the Messiah. Both Christians and Jews are awaiting the destruction of the enemies of God to occur in a great battle (Isaiah 13:6–22, Revelation 19:11–21), to be followed by the Messianic Age, an age in which the following is expected to occur:
I will submit that everything we know about the Antichrist, such as his destruction of the enemies of Israel in Daniel 11:40–45, his seven-year covenant, his rebuilding of the temple and starting the daily sacrifice, his eventual stopping of the sacrifices and sitting in the temple to accept worship, his making Jerusalem the capital of the world, even his promotion by the False Prophet (who, I will argue, claims to be Elijah) points to the conclusion that his goal is to deceive the world into believing that the Messiah has come, that the Messiah is in fact God, and that He deserves the worship of the world. I will argue for this view in great detail and give special attention to objections that will inevitably come up.
I will also argue that the little-known eschatological (end-time) beliefs of the Jewish theologians, according to the Talmud and other rabbinic writings, seem to encourage Jews to accept as Messiah a man with the exact characteristics of the Antichrist. Similarly, I will argue that Islamic beliefs about the end times will cause Muslims to play a very important role in the Antichrist’s rise to power.
Just to make it clear: I am not totally sure whether the Antichrist will claim to be Jesus, though I do lean toward thinking he will (see chapter 10, “Will the Antichrist Claim to be Jesus?”).As I see it, there are two possibilities regarding this issue:
Because I’m not able to confirm my beliefs about this as conclusively as I would like, I have written this book in a way that allows for both possibilities..
Finally, one of the main criticisms I have received when talking with my peers is the accusation that this view is anti-Semitic. I take particular exception to this, because I love the Jewish people with my whole heart. I mourn when I read about the centuries of struggles and injustice that they have endured, and I rejoice when I read about their triumphs and victories. In my eight years of public ministry, I have always been an ardent defender of the Jewish cause, and some of my refutations of Jewish conspiracy theories have even been featured on Israeli national radio. I pray for and support Israel and the Jewish people, and I can assure you that anti-Semitism is as foreign to me as any other type of religious or ethnic discrimination.
The acceptance of the Antichrist as Messiah will not be limited to Jewish people by any means. In fact, Scripture tells us that this deception will affect the entire world (Revelation 13:8). It is true that the last-days events will play out in a decidedly Jewish context and many Jews will be taken in by it, but a faithful remnant of Jews and Christians will heed the warnings of Scripture and the testimony of the two witnesses and be saved. The threat of being seduced by the Antichrist is not a Jewish issue, but an issue the entire human race must face. I hope this book will help prepare all of us for it and further the cause of Jesus Christ.
Then if anyone says to you, “Look, here is the Christ!” or “There!” do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand. (Matthew 24:23–25)