Forum Class for December 5, 2004
Every decade or so certain currents of fear sweep the western world about the possibility that we are now in the time of the end when a great world ruler, the Antichrist, will come to power. Of course we are nearer that time now than ever before, and it could well be upon us in our generation. The Greek word antichristos appears only in the writings of the Apostle John, in fact only in his epistles. He speaks of the many antichrists who are the forerunners of the antichrist (1 John 2:18, 22; 2 John 7, 1 John 4:3). The word antichrist can mean "instead of Christ," that is a counterfeit messiah, or it can mean "one opposed to Christ, but assuming His role." Probably a combination of the two meanings in correct. In the Bible, the theme of the seed of the serpent opposing the seed of the woman begins in Genesis (3:14-15) and continues throughout the entire Bible. It is a complex and enigmatic subject.
There have been many diabolical and cruel world leaders during the past 2000 years beginning with several of the Caesars (such as Nero) and including men like Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin and Saddam Hussein. Evil men do not necessarily appear to be evil in their time, but can seem to be saviors and benefactors widely and enthusiastically hailed by the populace, as Hitler was in his early days of power. While such men have indeed come under the full control of Satan, so also have their constituents, else they would not succeed in doing such damage in the affairs of men. The cooperation of the masses is required to give them unquestioning, blind allegiance.
Rather than referring to the final antichrist by that name, both Jesus and Paul spoke of a "man of sin" or a "lawless one" who would dominate much of the world at the close of our present age. Chapter One of 2 Thessalonians speaks of the coming of Christ to earth again in power and splendor, all aspects of his return being clumped together in terse, concise language. Paul next urges the Christians in Thessalonica (Greece), in the first century, not to be unduly alarmed by current events in the Roman Empire, or by rumors to the effect that the Day of the Lord had begun:
"Let no one deceive you in any way; for that day will not come, unless the rebellion (apostasia) comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the (Third) Temple of God (in Jerusalem), proclaiming himself to be God. Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you this?"
Bible scholars are divided somewhat regarding the interpretation of this passage. Some think the word apostasia should be taken literally. The clearest indication that the time is at hand will be the falling away from the church of many, or even most, professing Christians. Alternately, professing Christendom as a whole will become almost fully apostate, that is, synonymous with the harlot church of Revelation 17.
Another widely held interpretation is that it is the departure or rapture of the true church that allows the antichrist to be revealed, because the restraining power of the Holy Spirit in the present age is exercised primarily through the church. The removal (rapture) of the church at the beginning of the end-time period is known as the pre-tribulation, pre-millennial view of eschatology. It is reasonable to suppose that the Lord will return for his church at a time of intense pressure on believers causing many to abandon their faith and at a time when the church's witness has been rendered mostly ineffectual. Paul's discussion continues,
"And you know what is restraining him (the man of sin) now so that he may be revealed in his time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains it will do so until he is taken out of the midst. And then the lawless one will be revealed, and the Lord Jesus will slay him with the breath of his mouth and destroy him by his appearing (epiphaneia) and his coming (parousia). The coming of the lawless one by the activity (energeian) of Satan will be with all power and signs and wonders of falsehood, and with every deceit of unrighteousness in those who are to perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. On account of this God will send upon them a working of error (or delusion, for example a continuous barrage of propaganda), to make them believe what is false (literally the lie); so that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness."
According to careful interpretation of this passage, the God the Holy Spirit (present in the world through the Body of Christ, through the minority of true Christians acting as salt and light), is the restraining force in every generation preventing the appearance of the antichrist. The removal of the true church leaves only an apostate church on earth. After the calling out of the bride of Christ, there is no longer any force restraining Antichrist, so he is free to appear---accompanied by a widespread and universal propaganda to the effect that the world is about the enter a great golden age of peace and prosperity. Incredible deception and even great supernatural miracles will accompany the rise to power of this final incarnation of evil in a human being. When "the full number of the gentiles has come in" to the church (Romans 11:25), Israel will once again become the center of the stage for God's view of history, as she was before "the times of the gentiles" began in the Babylonian Captivity period (~600 BC).
First Thessalonians, Chapter 4, describes the first of two aspects of the second coming of Christ:
"But we would not have you ignorant, brothers, concerning those (Christians) who are asleep (have died), that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming (parousia) of the Lord shall not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command (to wake the dead), with the archangel's call (to deliver and revive the nation Israel), and with the sound of the trumpet of God (to call together the living saints). And the dead in Christ will rise first; then we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words."
Like the great passage concerning the resurrection of the dead in 1 Corinthians 15, this text says that God will grant all Christians, living and dead, their resurrection bodies at the same time. These new redeemed, glorious, sinless bodies will be like that of Jesus, most likely capable of space and time travel. When a believer dies he leaves earth's one-dimensional time frame and enters eternity. All other believers, regardless of when they die, meet in eternity at the same point, namely the event known as the first resurrection. In the experience of every Christian death is identical to this coming of Christ for his church. This is made clear by the Apostle in 2 Corinthians 5. (See http://ldolphin.org/time.html for a discussion of time and eternity).
The return of Christ has two aspects: his silent, unseen return for his church and his coming in glory with his church seven years later. Both aspects of his second advent are combined as one event in 2 Thessalonians 1, and in 2 Peter 3. This difference in the two aspects of Christ's return is reflected in the Greek text of the NT by the use of different words. Parousia is from the word para meaning with or alongside of, and ousia, being, hence being with, "coming and remaining with" someone. (See Matthew 24:3,27,37,39; I Thess. 4:15, 5:23; II Thess. 2:1; James 5:7,8; II Peter 1:16,3:4; I Cor. 15:23). Epiphaneia from epi and phaino means a shining forth. (This word is used in I Tim. 6:14; II Tim. 4:1,8; Matt. 24:27, II Thess. 2:8; Titus 2:13). Both words are combined in II Thess. 2:8. Jesus will destroy the man of sin by his "appearing" and his "coming."
In the Olivet Discourse, recorded in Matthew 24 and Luke 21, Jesus outlined for his disciples the major events that would precede the second aspect of his second coming, namely his visible unveiling (apokalupsis) to the world as true Messiah and rightful King of Israel. After speaking to them about the future destruction of the Second Temple then standing across from the Mount of Olives where they were seated, the disciples asked,
"Tell us when will this be, and what will be the sign of your appearing (parousia = presence, that is a period of time when he was back on earth, encompassing seven years) and of the close of the age?"
Jesus answered them, "Take heed that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, `I am the messiah,' and they will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not alarmed; for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places: all this is but the beginning of the sufferings. Then they will deliver you (disciples) up to tribulation, and put you to death, and you (Jews) will be hated by all nations for my name's sake. And then many will fall away, and betray one another, and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because wickedness is multiplied, most men's love will grow cold. But he who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached (once again this time by the 144,000) throughout the whole world, as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
"So when you see the desolating sacrilege spoken of by the prophet Daniel standing in the Holy Place (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains; let him who is on the housetop not go down to take what is in his house; and let him who is in the field not turn back to take his mantle. And alas for those who are with child and those who give suck in those days! Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a sabbath. For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. And if those days had not been shortened, no human being would be saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. Then if any one says to you, `Lo, here is the Messiah!' or `There he is!' do not believe it. For false messiahs and false prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. Lo, I have told you beforehand. So if they say to you, `Lo he is in the inner rooms,' do not believe it. For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west so will be the coming (epiphaneia) of the Son of man. Wherever the body is there the vultures will be gathered together.
"Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken; then will appear the sign of the Son of man (the Shekinah, or cloud of glory) in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory; and he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates.
"Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away till all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away but my words will not pass away. But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. As were the days of Noah, so will be the coming (parousia) of the Son of man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they did not know until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of man. (Luke's gospel adds here mention of the days of Lot). Then two men will be in the field; one is taken and one is left. Two men will be grinding at the mill; one is taken and one is left. (Luke adds mention of two men in the same bed, one taken and one not, indicating that this event occurs world-wide when some are awake and working and others asleep at night---Ray Stedman). Watch therefore for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this, (Israel my brethren), that if the householder had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have watched and not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you must be ready; for the Son of man is coming at an hour you (Israel) do not expect..."
Bible scholars refer to the end-time period as "the tribulation period." From the book of Daniel that we know this period encompasses just seven years of history on earth. The mid-point of this period is when the man of sin enters the Holy Place in the new Third Temple in Jerusalem, setting in motion a terrible time of world upheaval known in the Old Testament as the time of Jacob's trouble (see Jeremiah 30). The last half of the 70th week of Daniel is also called in the New Testament "the great tribulation." Ray Stedman notes that during this entire seven year period Jesus will on earth, with his church, but invisible. One example of this secret presence is given in Revelation 14:1 where the Apostle John sees "the Lamb standing (present tense) on Mount Zion with the 144,000..." This incident occurs during the tribulation period. (The 144,000 are Jewish followers of Jesus during the tribulation period who are charged with communicating the gospel to the world after the departure of the church during the tribulation period). Evidently the majority of the people on earth are unaware of the secret presence of Jesus on earth except for the commotions resulting, "where the body is there the vultures are gathered together." At the close of the last half of the seven year period of terrible world suffering, nuclear holocaust, plague, famine and natural disasters that Jesus unveils himself visibly from the summit of the Mount of Olives as described in Zechariah 14. The same event is described also by John in Revelation 19:11ff. This is the time of the Lord's coming with his saints.
The problem of the antichrist is more complex than the simple appearance at the close of our age of a world-dictator, because during the end-time period spoken of in the Bible there are not one but two major world rulers who seem to fit the description of the man of sin. Various commentators call one or the other of these individuals the antichrist. No doubt both men on stage will be brilliant, eloquent, charismatic and powerful. The Bible describes them both as "wild beasts." John writes in Revelation 13,
"I saw a beast rising out of the sea (the sea symbolizes the gentile nations in Scripture), with ten horns and seven heads, with ten diadems upon its horns and a blasphemous name upon its heads. And the beast that I saw was like a leopard, its feet were like a bear's, and its mouth was like a lion's mouth. And to it the dragon (Satan) gave his power and his throne and great authority. One of its heads seemed to have a mortal wound, but its mortal wound was healed, and the whole earth followed the beast with wonder. Men worshiped the dragon, for he had given his authority to the beast, and they worshiped the beast saving, `Who is like the beast, and who can fight against it?' And the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for 42 months (3.5 years); it opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling, that is, those who dwell in heaven (the true church). Also it was allowed to make war on the (tribulation) saints (on earth) and to conquer them. And authority was given it over every tribe and people and tongue and nation, and all who dwell on earth will worship it, every one whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb that was slain. If any one has an ear, let him hear: If any one is to be taken captive, to captivity he goes; if anyone slays with the sword, with the sword must he be slain. Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints.
"Then I (John) saw another beast which rose out of the land (Israel); it had two horns like a lamb and it spoke like a dragon. It exercises all the authority of the first beast in its presence, and makes the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose mortal wound was healed. It works great signs, even making fire come down from heaven in the sight of men; and by the signs which it is allowed to work in league with the beast, it deceives those who dwell on earth, bidding them to make an image (eikon) for the beast so that the image of the beast should even speak, and to cause those who would not worship the image of the beast to be slain. Also it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both slave and free, to be marked on the right hand or on the forehead, so that no one can buy or sell (economic controls) unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name. This calls for wisdom: let him who has understanding reckon the number of the beast, for it is a human number, its number is six hundred and sixty-six."
The second beast fits well the man predicted by Jesus in John 5:43 who is also the false shepherd of Israel spoken of by the prophet Zechariah (11:15-17). Jesus said of this man, "I have come in my Father's name and you (Jews) would not receive me. Another will come in his own name, him you will receive." This leader is also described as like a lamb, that is a counterfeit to the real Lamb of God. He is to be a religious leader-while the first beast is a military leader. This becomes more evident from studying the rest of the Book of Revelation where the first beast is a likened to a Roman Caesar leading the western nations centered in Europe. The last and final form of the revived Roman Empire and its rulers is that foreseen in Daniel 2 and 7. In summary, the end-time period is marked by the presence of a great and powerful military leader in the West and an outstanding religious leader in Israel who works in league with him.
"Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they were defeated and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world---he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him." (Revelation 12:7-9)
In the Old Testament (and during the end time when the church is not the central focus of God's activity in the world), God's way of looking at the world is with Jerusalem as the center of the earth. Israel dominates the world-stage and the goyim or gentile nations are on the periphery. Directions in the OT are referenced to Jerusalem, the great sea is the Mediterranean, the salt sea is the Dead Sea and so on. The last week of years in Daniel's prophecy of Israel's 70-week history is the seven-year tribulation period just described, the prophet says,
"And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one (Messiah) shall be cut off, and shall have nothing; and the people of the prince who is to come (i.e. the Romans), shall destroy the city (Jerusalem) and the sanctuary (the second temple). Its end shall come with a flood (both in AD 70 and in the end-time), and to the end (when Christ returns) there shall be war; desolations are decreed. And he (the prince that shall come) shall make a strong covenant with many for one week (seven years); and for half of the week he shall cause sacrifice and offering (in the Third Temple) to cease; and upon the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator" (Daniel 9:26,27).
From this passage it can be seen that the future great world ruler of the West, the first beast, will succeed in making an international treaty with Israel for seven years guaranteeing some sort of Middle East peace settlement with the Arab nations and the western nations. This will occur after the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem and the restoration of temple sacrifices which will be interrupted only when the man of sin (the false prophet) steps into the Holy Place and declares to the world that he is God. Israel's participation in a mid-east peace treaty with the antichrist is called her covenant of death in Isaiah 28:15.
The fact that the number of the beast is 666 always arouses much speculation in every generation. Six is the number of man in scripture and three the number of God, so 666 symbolizes man proclaiming himself to be God in contrast to the Son of God who became a man by means of the incarnation. According to scriptures there is no way of anyone identifying the antichrist ahead of time. He can not be revealed until the departure of the church, when the Restrainer allows him to come forth.
Daniel lived and wrote in the Sixth Century B.C. while the prophet was in Babylon with his people during the 70 years' captivity following the destruction of the first temple and the city by Nebuchadnezzar. In Daniel (Chapter Two) he interprets a dream of Nebuchadnezzar in which the king saw a great image with head of gold, breast and arms of silver, belly and thighs of bronze, legs of iron, and feet of iron and clay mixed together. In the dream a great stone cut out without hands smashed the image, the stone then became a great mountain that filled the earth. Daniel told Nebuchadnezzar that he was the head of gold ruling over the first great gentile world empire, Babylon. Next, he said, would come Medo-Persia followed by Greece, then Rome. The legs represent the two divisions of the old Roman empire represented up to 1917 in our century by the Kaisers of Germany and the Czars of Russia. The feet represent the last period of western civilization. Iron is symbolic of military and industrial might and clay symbolizes the weak form of government by the people (as opposed to a strong central monarchy).
The smiting stone is God's Messiah. He will set up enduring his kingdom breaking down all other kingdoms in the process, in the days of the last ten kings (the ten toes). So caught up in his own sense of power and self-importance was Nebuchadnezzar when Daniel told him the meaning of his dream that he ordered a great statue of himself erected (all of gold) and he ordered all in his nation (including the Jews) to worship the image. This event is very much suggestive of the image of the beast described in Revelation 13 which will be set up in the Third Temple in Jerusalem in the end-time by Antichrist.
Daniel had other visions of world empires that would follow his time, for example the visions recorded in Chapter 7 are very similar to those seen by John and recorded in Revelation. From the description of the fourth terrible beast of Daniel Chapter 7, (symbolizing the Roman empire), we find that a future great Roman leader will arise, "And he shall speak great words against the Most High, and think to change the times (calendars) and the laws; and the saints shall be given into his hand for a time, and times and the dividing of time" (3.5 years, the last half of the tribulation period).
A very important fulfilled prophecy of Daniel is given in Chapter 8. It concerns a struggle between a ram and a he-goat, symbolic of the overtaking of the Persians by the Greeks. The he-goat had four horns, representing the division of the Greek empire between four generals upon the death of Alexander the Great:
"The he-goat grew very great and when he was strong, the great horn (Alexander) was broken, and replacing it came four notable horns towards the four winds of heaven. And out of them came forth a little horn, which grew exceedingly great, toward the south, and toward the east, and toward the pleasant land (Israel). And it grew great (ascending) even to the host of heaven (the angelic host); and it cast down some of the host of heaven (the angels) and of the stars to the ground, and stamped upon them. He magnified himself even up to the prince of the host; and the continual burnt offering was taken from him, and the place of his sanctuary was overthrown. And the host was given over to it together with the continual burnt offering by reason of transgression, and truth was cast down to the ground, and the horn acted and prospered. Then I (Daniel) heard a holy one speaking; and another holy one said of the one that spoke, `For how long is the vision concerning the continual burnt offering, the transgression that makes desolate, and the giving over of the sanctuary and host to be trampled under foot?' And he said to him, `For two thousand and three hundred evenings and mornings; then the sanctuary will be restored to its rightful state.'"
Historically the details of this prophecy were fulfilled when a cruel Syrian ruler, Antiochus Epiphanes, (his name means the illustrious one), a Seleucid, profaned the temple in Jerusalem in 168 B.C. by offering a sow upon the altar and murdering many of the Jews in an attempt to wipe out their religion. Antiochus Epiphanes is called a "type" of antichrist because Daniel was given an explanation of his visions by the angel Gabriel who told him that a "king of fierce countenance," like Antiochus Epiphanes would arise at the end of the days. Gabriel said,
"Behold, I will make known to you what shall be at the latter end of the indignation; for it pertains to the end of the appointed time of the end. As for the ram which you saw with the two horns, these are the kings of Media and Persia. And the he-goat is the king of Greece; and the great horn between his eyes is the first king. As for the horn that was broken, in place of which four others arose, four kingdoms shall arise from his rule, but not with his power. And at the latter end of their rule, when the transgressors have reached their full measure, a king of bold countenance, one who understands riddles, shall arise. His power shall be great, and he shall cause fearful destruction, and shall succeed in what he does, and destroy mighty men and the people of the saints. By his cunning he shall make deceit prosper under his hand, and in his own mind he shall magnify himself. Without warning he shall destroy many; and he shall even rise up against the Prince of princes (Jesus); but by no human hand, he shall be broken. The vision of the evenings and the mornings which has been told is true; but seal up the vision, for it pertains to many days hence" (Daniel 8:20-26).
Some Bible scholars take this man to be the Roman beast, others the last king of the north and still others, the beast out of the land (the false prophet). Since both beasts in Revelation 13 are fully possessed and controlled by Satan it is perhaps not too important which one is labeled the antichrist, though usually commentators regard the last Roman ruler rather than the false prophet (the counterfeit messiah of Israel) as the antichrist. The latter individual is subservient to the former.
The last major passage in Daniel relevant to the antichrist is found in the closing verses of Daniel 11. All the prophecies up to verse 35 of Chapter 11 have been accurately fulfilled in history but not the verses beginning with 36. Thus Bible scholars like to call the entire age of the church the great parenthesis since this is one of several instances recorded in the Bible where the continuous thread of the history of Israel's redemption can be seen to have been interrupted by a long delay. This interval is also the time between Daniel's 69th and 70th week when the prophetic clock with regard to Israel has been stopped. Chapter 36 of Daniel, in historical context, deals with long wars between the Seleucids (kings of the North) and the Ptolemies of Egypt (the kings of the South). These kings succeeded Alexander the Great after his death in Babylon at age 33. Long drawn out wars and conflicts (330-63 BC) were fought to and fro across the holy land by men who were unconcerned about God's ultimate purposes for Israel. Finally the Roman Empire came into being and began to exercise sway over the holy land in time for the first advent of Messiah. There is yet to come one last great king of the north who appears to be a Syrian ruler in league with Russia, and one last king of the south, an Egyptian military ruler. The end-time events associated with the beginning of the last war in the Middle East seem to be described beginning with verse Daniel 11:36:
"And the king (i.e., the king of Israel, the second beast) shall do according to his will: he shall exalt himself and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak astonishing things against the God of gods. He shall prosper till the indignation is accomplished, for what is determined shall be done. He shall give no heed to the God of his fathers (Elohim), or to the one beloved by women (Messiah?); he shall not give heed to any other god, for he shall magnify himself above all. He shall honor the god of fortresses (the military power of the west), instead of these; a god whom his fathers did not know he shall honor with gold and silver, with precious stones and costly gifts. He shall deal with the strongest forces by the help of a foreign god (the first beast); those who acknowledge him he shall magnify with honor. He shall make them rulers over many and shall divide the land (of Israel) for a price (i.e. to obtain peace with the Arabs). At the time of the end the king of the south (Egypt) shall attack him (the king of Israel), but the king of the north shall rush upon him like a whirlwind, with chariots and horsemen, and with many ships; and he (the king of the north) shall come into the countries and shall overflow and pass through. He (the king of the north) shall come into the glorious land (Israel). And tens of thousands shall fall, but these shall be delivered out of his hand: Edom and Moab and the main part of the Ammonites (Jordan). He (the king of the north) shall stretch out his hand against the countries, and the land of Egypt shall not escape. He shall become ruler of the treasures of gold and of silver, and all the precious things of Egypt; and the Libyans and the Ethiopians shall follow in his train. But tidings from the east and from the north shall alarm him, and he shall go forth with great fury to exterminate and utterly destroy many. And he shall pitch his palatial tents between the sea (Mediterranean) and the glorious holy mountain (Jerusalem); yet he shall come to his end with none to help him."
That the Syrians/Russians will invade Israel and be destroyed by direct intervention of God, is described in Ezekiel Chapters 38 and 39. Whether this occurs at the beginning of the tribulation or in the last half is disputed by some Bible scholars. Some well-qualified scholars believe this invasion will occur in the first half of the tribulation period. My own conviction (and the view of Ray Stedman) is that this "Gog and Magog" invasion falls in the last half of the tribulation period. Ezekiel says God will rain fire on both Moscow and the coastlands (a term for the Japhethetic western world nations, or the continents) at that time-nuclear exchange seems to be the probable scenario.
The events described in the closing verses of Daniel 11 evidently bring an intervention by the western European nations who invade Israel at the time the Russians sweep through into Egypt. An invasion from the east is also described in scripture. These events are the tidings that concern the last king of the north so that he entrenches himself between Jerusalem and the Mediterranean where he meets his final end. The so-called battle of Armageddon is really a series of campaigns in the final war culminating in one last great battle on the plain of Esdraelon inland from the port of Haifa (Revelation 16). During the last attempt by world leaders to self-destruct, Jesus will bring this war to a close before the total destruction of the human race. He will return in open power with the armies of heaven behind him at the time of earth's most desperate hour. ("Unless those days were shortened no human being would be saved, but for the sake of the elect, those days will be shortened"). Many scholars believe the approaching second coming of Christ will cause cosmic disturbances and that the human armies on earth invading Israel will believe this to be an alien invasion from outer space. They will cease fighting one another and all unite to fight against the Lord. This is consistent with the Biblical view that unregenerate men actually hate God more than they do one another. In the view of a secular world, God is man's ultimate enemy.
"And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies gathered to make war against him who sits upon the horse (Jesus) and against his army. And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had worked the signs by which he had deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with brimstone. And the rest were slain by the sword of him who sits upon the horse, the sword that issues from his mouth; and all the birds were gorged with their flesh" (Revelation 19:19-21).
The subject of Antichrist is not exhausted by any means by the above brief discussion. There are a number of types of Antichrist in Scripture. For example A.W. Pink discusses Nimrod as a type of Antichrist in his book Antichrist (Kregel Publications 1988). Nimrod founded Babylon and Ninevah in what is today the nation of Iraq. Nimrod was responsible for introducing the powerful system of religious error which later diffused throughout the world and still greatly affects our modern cultures. The Assyrians of this fertile crescent area are noted throughout history for their violent hatred of Israel. Saddam Hussein (who likens himself to a new Nebuchadnezzar) is also rebuilding ancient Babylon, the city, in our time. In Revelation Chapters 17 and 18 Babylon is not merely a city, but an entire global religious and an economic world view (weltaungshaung) based on the Babylonian Mystery religion of Nimrod. My belief is that "Mystery Babylon the Great" is both a literal city and also a symbol of all false (apostate) religion and false commerce and trade existing at the end of the age.
Perhaps the most important thing to remember about the various antichrists down through history is that they are fully instruments of God. God will allow evil to find a full and consummate expression in the final antichrist and his followers as the age closes. The reason for this is the stubborn refusal of men to respond to the truth about God as He really is. When men refuse the truth, God gives them over the lie that they can be their own gods and masters of their own fate. Scripture clearly teaches that man can not set dates for the commencement of these events nor the time of return of Jesus. However the structuring of the stage-sets in the Middle East the last century surely indicates that these events may well unfold in the next few years. Whether soon or many long years away Christians should remember the high calling of Jesus and the rich inheritance offered to them by His gracious love and full provision for their lives now and forever.
by Lambert Dolphin, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org,
Web Pages: http://ldolphin.org/,
Originally written July 5, 1984. Revised 2/10/87, 3/21/89, 9/6/90.
See also Ray Stedman's "The Coming Man of Sin," http://pbc.org/dp/stedman/misc/fate002.html
by Dr. Renald Showers
In 1 Thessalonians 1:10 we read, "And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come." What does the phrase "the wrath to come" mean?
I wish I could show you what the Greek language says here. Let me give you a very literal translation: "the wrath, the coming." Notice that Paul uses the definite article "the" twice in there. And many Greek scholars pointed out the reason he does that is because he's referring to a very specific, unique period of intense wrath, that is so unique-because of the intensity of God's wrath being poured out-that it's in a class all of its own, totally distinct from any past outpourings of God's wrath in previous history. It's going to be-and again, scholars recognize this-an incredibly unparalleled intensity of God's wrath being poured out upon the earth for a particular period of time.
And most scholars that I've researched are of the conviction that he's referring to that beginning seven-year phase of the future Day of the Lord that will be the unparalleled time of an outpouring of God's wrath through seal judgments, trumpet judgments, and bowl judgments. Paul is saying here that Jesus, through a mighty act of power (I take it, through the Rapture), will carry out the deliverance that He's already granted to us and provided for us as Christians from that future Day of the Lord wrath here on planet Earth.
The implication is that the way He will deliver us from that is by removing us from the earth by Rapture before that seven-year phase of God's wrath of the future Day of the Lord will begin. To me that implies a pre-tribulation Rapture: that the Church will be removed before this period of time of unparalleled wrath of God is poured out upon the face of the earth.
Now, another significant passage which bears on this (that is, the relationship of Church saints to this future time of wrath), is in this same letter: 1 Thessalonians 5:9.
Now, if you were to look at the opening verses in this chapter, you would find that Paul is talking about the future Day of the Lord. Let me just read some of those verses. 1 Thessalonians 5, beginning with verse 1: "But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you, for yourselves know perfectly [The Greek says really "accurately"] that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they [Paul is putting "they" in a different category from himself and the believers. He's referring here to unbelievers.] shall say, Peace and safety [When the unsaved people of the world think they have finally established peace and safety in the world] then sudden destruction comes upon them [In other words, they're going to get the opposite of what they believe they have], as travail [literally, as the birth pang] upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape."
Now, notice the contrast: verse 4, "But you, brethren," Notice, he's been talking about "they," the unbelievers, sudden destruction is going to come upon them-the Day of the Lord. But by contrast, "you, brethren, are not in darkness that that day should overtake you as a thief."
In other words, you're not going to be overtaken by the "thief in the night" phase of the Day of the Lord, which is characterized by darkness. "You're not going to be caught in that," he's saying to the Christians, to church saints. Why won't they be caught in it? He tells us why in verse 9: "For God has not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ."
Now, what wrath of God? Well, since in this passage, in the context, he's talking about the future Day of the Lord that's going to bring sudden destruction upon the unbelievers upon the face of the earth, it seems very obvious by context he's talking about the future Day of the Lord wrath. And therefore, he's saying to Church saints, those people who have trusted Christ as Savior since the Church began on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2 right up to the present day, he's saying to Church saints, "God hasn't appointed you to that Day of the Lord wrath, instead, He's appointed you to obtain salvation." And in this context the salvation is deliverance from future Day of the Lord's wrath.
And then he says that salvation comes to us by our Lord Jesus Christ. He's provided it for us. How? Verse 10, "who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him." What he's saying is what's going to be involved in our salvation: it doesn't matter whether you've already died as a believer or whether you're going to be alive as a believer in the future, we all-the dead believers and the living believers-are going to live together with Christ.
And then he says, in verse 11, "therefore, comfort yourselves together and edify one another, even as also you do." He's saying, comfort and build each other up with this truth, that you've not been appointed to the Day of the Lord wrath; instead, God has appointed you to be saved from that future Day of the Lord wrath and He's able to do that because of what Christ did for us when He died on the cross. And instead of our destiny being that Day of the Lord wrath, our destiny as Christians is to live together with the Lord Jesus. And Paul says that should be a comforting truth that will edify or build us up.
Note something intriguing about this: the wording that Paul uses here at the end of verse 10 and verse 11 of 1 Thessalonians 5-"we should live together with Him, wherefore comfort yourselves, edify one another"-are almost parallel to what Paul says at the end of 1 Thessalonians 4, which is the most extensive passage in all the Bible on the Rapture of the Church.
At the end of verse 17 of Chapter 4, after talking about how the dead Christians will be resurrected and then they and the living Christians together will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air, he says, "so shall we ever be with the Lord." Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 5:10, our destiny is to live together with the Lord.
Coming back to 4:18, after talking about our being caught up in the Rapture to meet the Lord, so we'll ever be with Him, he says, "Wherefore, comfort one another with these words." By parallel, in 1 Thessalonians 5:11, after saying we're not appointed to the Day of the Lord wrath, instead we're appointed to be saved from that through Christ so that we can live together with Him he says, "Wherefore, comfort yourselves together."
Very parallel. And many scholars that I researched on this said this language is parallel to 1 Thessalonians 4, which is dealing with the Rapture of the Church.
So the whole implication seems to be that the way in which we will be saved or delivered from the future Day of the Lord wrath is by the Lord Jesus coming out of Heaven before this seven-year period of God's wrath or the future Day of the Lord will begin. The Lord will come from Heaven. He will, by Rapture, remove the Church saints from the face of the earth for the purpose that we can be together with Him, which, by the way, is parallel with John 14 where Jesus said, "In my Father's house are many mansions, if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you, and if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself," and here's the purpose of this coming to receive us, "so that where I am there you may be also." Again, the idea is, "so you can live together with Me."
All these passages seem to be referring to the same thing:
the Rapture of the Church. And so in light of that, I'm convinced
Paul is teaching here in 1 Thessalonians 5 that Church saints
will not even enter into that future period of the Day of the
Lord wrath which will last for seven years here on planet Earth.
And the way in which we will not enter into it is by being raptured
out of the world by the Lord Jesus before the seven-year Tribulation