Politics & Prophecy: A Lawyer’s View of the End Times
Part 4 – The Conquest of Evil
by Gerald R. Thompson
We have mentioned the Antichrist so many times in our discussion so far that, in a way, we already know him. However, we have to examine the particular texts dealing with him most directly, to get a more complete picture of this important figure in biblical prophecy. Since we have some familiarity with him, it gives me the opportunity to start in Daniel rather than Revelation, because as we will see, the Antichrist is not just a N.T. character. For example, we have already seen him in Isa. 14. But in Daniel, he is a central character of the whole book.
The Twin Visions of the “Little Horn”
Dan. 7:1-28 (summary) – We have here another succeeding kingdoms vision of Daniel (similar to Dan. 2), this time of four kingdoms preceding the kingdom of Christ, each described as a different kind of beast. In Daniel’s vision, these four beasts each come out of the sea (i.e., from the Gentile nations).
The first beast looked like a lion with eagle’s wings, which was then set on two feet like a man and a man’s mind was given to it. The second beast was a bear, raised on one side and having three ribs in its mouth. The third beast was a leopard with four wings on its back and also having four heads. The fourth beast was terrifying and strong, with iron teeth, and it trampled what was left with its feet. The fourth beast also had ten horns, with another little horn rising up that plucked three of the first horns out by their roots, and the little horn had the eyes of a man and a mouth speaking great things.
This was followed by a vision of the Ancient of Days sitting on His throne in judgment. The books were opened, and because of the words spoken by the little horn, the fourth beast was killed and burned with fire. The first three beasts had their dominion removed, but their lives were prolonged for a while. Then the son of man came, and was given dominion and a kingdom, that all people, languages and nations should serve him. His kingdom is everlasting, and will not be destroyed.
Daniel is told, as part of the vision, that each beast is a kingdom, that the little horn will make war against the saints, but when the Ancient of Days arrives, the little horn will be defeated, and the saints will possess the kingdom. Daniel is also told that the horns are all kings, and the little horn will put down three kings, “change the times and the law,” and be given authority for 3½ times. But the court will sit in judgment, his dominion will be removed, and he will be destroyed.
Analysis: This vision follows the pattern of Rev. 17 and Dan. 2, namely, an historical overview of the beast kingdom in the timeline of world history, juxtaposed with a description of what the final version of the Satanic kingdom will look like when it arrives. But here, the focus is on the leader of the kingdom, the Antichrist. Thus, we have two views of the Antichrist presented together: 1) how he fits in with certain known emperors in the history of the world; and 2) how he will come to power in the final version of the Satanic kingdom.
The entire purpose of the vision is to provide information about the future. When the vision was given, only the first beast had arrived, though the second would come yet in Daniel’s lifetime. For us, the first three beasts are all past. But these are all merely historical backdrop – context, if you will – to present a more complete picture of the Antichrist who is yet to come. The purpose of the vision is not to tell us about the past, nor will it have been fulfilled in the past. The past is merely context – but context with clues – and that is all.
The first three beasts are clearly identified as Babylon, Medo-Persia and Greece. The lion with wings should immediately suggest a similarity with the iconic statues found in ancient Babylon of winged lions. The whole bit about being set on two feet and given a man’s mind is a patent reference to Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, being made like a beast and then having his right mind restored. Dan. 4. The four headed and four winged leopard is a dead giveaway for Greece, which split into four parts after Alexander died.
Medo-Persia is the bear, raised on one side because the alliance between Media and Persia was unequal – Persia was the stronger. The three ribs probably denote conquests of the empire – Medo-Persia conquered Babylon (Iraq), Egypt and Lydia (Eastern Turkey). The three ribs also probably foreshadow the final beast kingdom, since we are told just three verses later that the Antichrist will uproot or conquer three kingdoms from the eventual Caliphate.
The fourth beast has commonly been identified with Rome, but beginning in v. 7, there is a mention of the fourth beast having ten horns, which immediately suggests a still future kingdom, as historical Rome never had ten kingdoms or kings. Plus, the ten horns are not ten kings who rule one after the other in succession, but all at the same time in the final beast kingdom. So it is irrelevant how many emperors historical Rome had in succession for purposes of identifying the fourth beast.
The purpose of this vison is not to identify all important world empires. It only identifies those empires which are important to the identification or background of the Antichrist as a man.
Identifying the fourth beast as the Roman empire past and/or future is not supported by the evidence. There are too many parallels with Revelation to ignore – the fourth beast is different from all the rest; it has ten horns, a new horn (a man) utters great boasts; God sits in His judgment seat and the books are opened; the beast is slain and given to the burning fire; the Son of Man (Jesus) comes and receives His everlasting kingdom; and all the nations serve him. How can any of this possibly refer to the Roman empire, or any past kingdom?
The fourth beast in Dan. 7 is the beast kingdom of Rev. 17. That the little horn is the Antichrist is confirmed in Daniel’s description of his activities, which parallels Rev. 17 and Rev. 13 exactly. What we learn that is new is that the Antichrist – the little horn – arises after the ten kings of the caliphate nations, and then he uproots (conquers, or subdues) three of the initial ten kings. There is a very strong possibility that these three kings are Egypt, Libya (Put) and N. Sudan (Cush), since Daniel later informs us the Antichrist will subdue these very nations. Dan. 11:43.
We also see in v. 25 that the Antichrist will rule for 3½ times – not 7 years, roughly corresponding to the 42 months noted in Rev. 13:5.
Dan. 7:25 indicates the Antichrist will make “alterations in times and in law.” In other words, he will change the calendar or the way that certain events are observed in the calendar, and change the system of laws governing nations. Here, we could expect something like the imposition of Shariah law, the institution of prayers five times daily facing east, and the observation of a non-Western calendar and/or a lunar-based calendar, such as, e.g., the Islamic calendar.
Rome (the civil empire) and Roman Catholicism (the supposed apostate church) have never adopted whole calendars or systems of law contrary to what the world has already known and is holding them in reserve to foist them on everyone when they come to power. Islam – yes, that is exactly what they want to do. But the Romans – there is nothing for them to overthrow, or radically change. The Western calendar (Gregorian calendar ) is the Roman calendar, and many of the laws of Western culture came from Roman law.
Verse 23 says the fourth kingdom will devour “the whole earth” and tread it down and crush it. This is similar to the language in Rev. 13:3 and 13:8, which say the whole earth will follow the Antichrist and worship him, and Rev. 13:7, which says the Antichrist will have authority over “every tribe and people and tongue and nation.” Altogether, identification of the Antichrist as the little horn is pretty clear cut.
When it comes to identifying the Antichrist, it is apparent that Rome is irrelevant. The Antichrist will not come from Rome or be a European. Rome is never mentioned in the vision as pertaining to the background of the Antichrist. What is the relevance of the other three kingdoms? Well, Babylon and Medo-Persia are today Iraq and Iran. What about Greece, you say? Funny you should ask …
Dan. 8:1-27 (summary) – In chapter 8 we have Daniel’s vision of the ram and the goat. It takes place in Susa, in the province of Elam (i.e., Iran). Daniel sees a ram standing on the bank of a canal, having two horns, one higher than the other. The ram charged west, north and south, and became great. Let’s cut to the chase – the ram is Medo-Persia (Iran). The two horns again refer to Media and Persia, with Persia being the greater of them (the higher horn). The ram conquers west, north and south from the border of Iran, meaning, Babylon (Iraq) and Turkey (west), the Balkans (north), and Israel and Egypt (south).
Next, a male goat comes swiftly from the west across the earth, having a conspicuous single horn. The goat struck the ram and broke its two horns, and cast the ram down. The goat grew in strength, but when it was strongest, the single horn was broken off and four horns grew up in its place pointing to the four winds of heaven. Again, this should sound familiar. The goat is Greece, the large horn is Alexander the Great, he conquers Medo-Persia, and dies at a young age. Then the kingdom is divided among four successors, who each have a division of the empire going in four directions.
At this point in the vision, surprise, a little horn came out of one of the four horns of the goat. It grew exceedingly great towards the south, the east, and the glorious land. It grew even to the host of heaven, and threw some of the stars in heaven down to the ground. It even grew as great as the Prince of the heavenly host.
Then, the regular burnt offering was taken away from the Prince of the host and his sanctuary was overthrown. The little horn will take over a host and the burnt offering “because of transgression.” The little horn will throw truth to the ground and prosper. Finally, Daniel is told that the time it takes from the time the burnt offerings are taken away until the time the sanctuary is restored will be 2,300 days. Occurring sometime in this interval will be the “transgression that makes desolate.”
Analysis: In keeping with the biblical pattern, this vision consists of two views of the Antichrist presented together: 1) how he fits in with certain known emperors in the history of the world; and 2) where he will come from when he rises to power in the final version of the Satanic kingdom.
We already know from our discussion of the Abomination of Desolation – clearly referred to in this vision – that this vision was not fulfilled with Antiochus IV Epiphanes. Plus, Daniel is plainly told the vision pertains to the end times in v. 17 (“the time of the end”), v. 19 (“the appointed time of the end”), and v. 26 (“many days from now”).
Let us now interpret the rest of the vision. The little horn is the Antichrist. Even though Antiochus did not completely fulfill this prophecy, he was still a type of its ultimate fulfillment. Thus, what we know about Antiochus can tell us something about the Antichrist. One of the things we know is that Antiochus came from (and ruled over) the Seleucid division of the Greek empire, one of the four horns of the goat. The Seleucid division consisted of western Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, and major portions of Iraq and Iran.
Thus, it is likely that the Antichrist will come from this same region of the world. In other words, not a European, not a Jew, and from what is today most likely a Muslim nation. Now, if this is not what we are supposed to take away from this vision, then what is it for? Most certainly, the little horn came out of one of the four horns of the goat. If not the Seleucid horn, then which one? Remember, the Antichrist is called the Assyrian in Isa. 14 – and this is not for nothing.
The little horn grew great like Jesus, causing stars (angels) to fall from heaven. See? It’s the same story throughout the Bible. The little horn grew towards the south, east and Israel (the glorious land), which are all directions from the Antichrist’s point of origin. If you start in Syria, where do those directions take you? To Egypt, Iraq & Iran, and Israel. If you reverse the directions measuring from Israel, the Antichrist will come from the north and west (western Turkey is a prime suspect, along with Syria).
Finally, as we know, the Antichrist will commit the Abomination of Desolation, taking away the daily sacrifices and overrunning the Jewish temple.
Then we are given the time period of 2,300 days from when the sacrifices are taken away until the sanctuary is restored. Actually, if you just forget all about the day-year theory and forget about looking for fulfillment in the past, the prophecy isn’t very cryptic. (Scholars have tried for centuries to find a 2,300 year or 2,300 day period in the past that would fit this prophecy, and there just isn’t one.)
If you take the 2,300 days literally, it is roughly ten days shy of 6 years and 4 months according to the modern calendar. Within that time period, the Antichrist will stop daily sacrifices in the temple, commit the Abomination of Desolation, overrun Jerusalem for 42 months, then Jesus will return, Armageddon will occur, and the temple will have to be repaired, rebuilt or at least partially rebuilt, in order for the sanctuary to be restored. Whether daily sacrifices will start up again is an open question. The Bible simply says it will take 2,300 days for all these things to occur. Someone remind me – what’s the big mystery again? See Appendix C for how I think this will sort out.
The Man of Lawlessness
2Th. 2:1-12 (summary) – This text is a strong confirmation of what we have already learned about the Antichrist. The Antichrist is here described as the man of lawlessness and the son of destruction (v. 3). That it is the Antichrist we are talking about is made clear in v. 4, where he is said to oppose and exalt himself over every other god or object of worship, and will take his seat in the temple proclaiming himself to be God. This is a clear reference to the Abomination of Desolation, so the Antichrist is in view.
After a couple of cryptic verses (vv. 6-7) which I will discuss in a minute, we are told in v. 8 that the lawless one will be revealed, who Jesus will kill with the breath of His mouth at the appearance of His coming. This is consistent in every way with our discussion of Armageddon, the fact that the Antichrist will be killed at the Second Coming by Jesus personally with a sword coming out of His mouth (a figurative sword, i.e., His breath, or a word of command). Rev. 19:15.
At this moment you might recall Eph. 6:17 (the sword of the Spirit is the word of God), Heb. 4:12 (the word of God is sharper than a two-edged sword), and Rev. 2:12 (“The words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword”).
This backdrop tells us clearly what the imagery is: Jesus merely shows up, gives a command (a word, or a breath), and it is as if a sword comes out of His mouth to do its work. This sword is the breath of God, or the word of God (since Jesus is God), and here the word of God has a double meaning, for it is both the person of Jesus and what He says. All the different imagery pieces of Jesus being the logos and the Word, even Gen. 1 when God spoke and it was so, all come together to reinforce each other. It is the same picture, described from different perspectives.
Finally, 2Th. 2:9-12 tell us that the coming of the Antichrist is by the activity of Satan, accompanied by false signs and wonders (the activities of the False Prophet), confirming things we already know. We also read that the followers of the Antichrist will be strongly deluded so they will be condemned for taking pleasure in unrighteousness, and not only will it happen this way, but it will happen this way because God wants it so. The delusion will be sent from God. The Antichrist will deceive, but God will delude. Which I take to mean God will allow the nations to believe the lies of Satan, and He will let them believe Satan’s lies willingly.
Here I want to go back and focus on the Antichrist as the lawless one. The Antichrist is not “anti-Christ” because he will be the man who would not be saved, but because he will be the man of lawlessness. God will not punish or condemn people because of unbelief, but because of wickedness. The nations will rage against God because of the constraints of His rule, not because they will protest God’s savior. The world will not be judged for its failure to accept Christ, but for its refusal to obey God’s law. Are you starting to see a pattern here?
Now let’s pick up vv. 6-7. “And you know what is restraining him 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 out of the way.” Too much ink has been spilled on misinterpreting these verses, most of it suggesting God is going to change the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the end times. Yeah, I don’t see it in these verses either.
Let me offer a simple explanation: Satan is eager to get on with his plans. He would rather reveal the Antichrist sooner than later. But God does things when the fulness of time runs its course (Luk. 21:24; Rom. 11:25; Gal. 4:4; Eph. 1:10). “The mystery of lawlessness is already at work” simply means that Satan has had things in motion for a long time – since the beginning. He has been fomenting a world religion hostile to God ever since Gen. 3, but especially since Babel.
We have already seen that at some point in the future, Satan will be cast down a second time (Rev. 12), and this is when he will be unleashed, as it were, and allowed to bring his plans to fruition by stirring up trouble in the whole earth (i.e., the Tribulation). The one who restrains it (Satan’s plans) now, and who will be taken out of the way, simply refers to an agent of God, probably an archangel, who is making sure Satan doesn’t get started too early, and who will only unleash Satan when God commands it.
This text additionally confirms that the Church will go through the Tribulation. It’s funny that these verses should be cited by dispensationalists as evidence for a pre-Tribulation rapture when the whole import of vv. 1-4 is that the Second Coming, the translation of the saints (i.e., the Rapture) and the Day of the Lord will not occur until after the “rebellion” (i.e., inauguration of the beast kingdom) comes first, the Antichrist is revealed, and he commits the Abomination of Desolation. I don’t know how it could be said any plainer.
Rev. 13:1-10 (summary) – As we come to this text, everything in it should now be familiar. There is a beast (the first beast) rising out of the sea, signifying that it is from the Gentile nations. It has ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on the horns and blasphemous names on its heads. Clearly, this is the beast kingdom of the Antichrist, the beast kingdom of Rev. 17, showing its relationship to seven prior world empires orchestrated or controlled by Satan (the seven heads), which in its last phase has ten national leaders who will form a confederacy of evil (the ten horns and ten crowns).
The beast looks like a leopard, with the feet of a bear and a lion’s mouth. Again, this is a clear reference to Dan. 7, where the leopard, bear and lion all refer to Greece, Medo-Persia and Babylon, respectively. The inference is that this beast partakes of the nature of those prior three kingdoms in some particular way, that is, more so than rest of the seven historical empires. It likely means the beast empire will come swiftly (like a leopard), trample many (feet of a bear), and roar loudly (mouth of a lion).
The beast kingdom is given the power, throne and authority of the dragon, Satan. One of the heads of the beast seemed to be fatally wounded, but it healed, and this amazes everyone. Again, this comes right out of Rev. 17, referring to the fact that one of the prior kingdoms in the line of seven before mentioned, will revive in the end times and surprise everyone because no fallen kingdom has ever revived like this before. This will cause the whole world to follow the beast kingdom and worship both Satan and the beast kingdom.
In v. 5, the beast is given a mouth to utter great blasphemies against God for 42 months. This is the Antichrist – the individual mouthpiece for the beast kingdom. The Antichrist blasphemes God and His dwelling, that is, the heavenly places and those who live there (Jesus, who sits at the right hand of God). Blasphemy is essentially slander against God – not merely saying things that are insulting to religion, but things that are false about God, and which impugn God’s reputation. Blasphemy is telling lies about God. And the Antichrist will be very good at telling these lies.
Then the beast kingdom and the Antichrist are permitted to persecute Christians and conquer them. They are given authority over every tribe, people, nation and language, and everyone on earth will worship them except for the saints whose names have been written in the Book of Life. Verse 10 ends with, “Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints.” Again, nothing new here. Just a confirmation that the saints of God will endure much in the Tribulation – most or all will be killed, and probably suffer terribly, until Christ returns and puts things back in order.