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.”1
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: to seemingly raise someone, namely, the Antichrist, from the dead. 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 the Antichrist is the Messiah.
Joesph Telushkin. Jewish Literacy. (New York: William Morrow, 2001).