Villain of the Ages
The world has seen its share of evil rulers, and more will arise before the Lord raptures His church. Then the vilest of all will appear—the one called Antichrist.
Many people want to know about leaders on the world scene—the men and women whose faces they see regularly online and on television. What are these people really like? Are they kind, caring, and patriotic? Or are they cold, calculating, and self-serving?
The Bible describes a future ruler who will be the most heinous world leader in the history of the universe. Studying the passages in chronological order progressively unfolds for us the person and character of the Antichrist.1
In the first year of the reign of Babylonian King Belshazzar (553 BC), God gave the prophet Daniel a vision of five world empires: Four are represented by beasts from the sea; and the fifth is the Messiah’s Kingdom, given to “One like the Son of Man” (Dan. 7:13) for “the saints of the Most High” (v. 18).
The latter phase of the fourth kingdom will be controlled by an arrogant, blasphemous king who is represented by a “little horn.” Daniel saw “another horn, a little one, coming up among them, before whom three of the first horns were plucked out by the roots. And there, in this horn, were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking pompous words” (v. 8). The vision emphasizes the arrogant behavior of the fourth kingdom and especially its final king (v. 20).
After watching this ruler prevail in his war against the saints (v. 21), Daniel asked an angelic bystander (probably Gabriel, 8:16) to explain the meaning of this beast and the little horn. He was told this kingdom “shall be different from all other kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, trample it and break it in pieces” (7:23). Scripture seems to indicate this fourth kingdom will be a revived form of the Roman Empire.
This final Gentile king “shall subdue three kings. He shall speak pompous words against the Most High, shall persecute the saints of the Most High, and shall intend to change times and law. Then the saints shall be given into his hand for a time and times and half a time” (vv. 24–25).
This king is the Antichrist, and he will rule the entire earth for the final three and a half years of the future seven-year Tribulation. His blasphemous arrogance will far exceed that of any other figure in history and is especially directed at God Most High. He will persecute Daniel’s people (the Jewish people) until his worldwide dominion is taken away by God Himself.
God then gives worldwide dominion, in the form of an everlasting Kingdom, to Israel—the saints of the Most High.
In addition to being arrogant, the Antichrist will be deceitful. In 551 BC, two years after receiving the first vision, Daniel received a second vision that amplified the first. Again, a “little horn” arose, but this one appeared in the third Gentile empire (Greece, 8:21). Daniel was told “the vision refers to the time of the end” (v. 17). This Greek little horn is intended as a prototype of the little horn in the previous vision. He is also arrogant, but this vision emphasizes his deceitfulness.
The angel Gabriel described this ruler as “having fierce features, who understands sinister schemes. His power shall be mighty, but not by his own power; he shall destroy fearfully, and shall prosper and thrive; he shall destroy the mighty, and also the holy people. Through his cunning he shall cause deceit to prosper under his rule; and he shall exalt himself in his heart” (vv. 23–25). Ascribed to this prototype of the Antichrist are the words sinister, cunning, and deceit.
He is further described in a message to Daniel in 536 BC (10:21—12:4) as “a vile person” who will “seize the kingdom by intrigue” (11:21). Also, “after the league is made with him he shall act deceitfully, for he shall come up and become strong with a small number of people” (v. 23). He and the kings who serve with him “shall be bent on evil, and they shall speak lies at the same table; but it shall not prosper, for the end will still be at the appointed time” (v. 27).
History reveals this description applies to Antiochus IV Epiphanes, a notoriously cruel and despicable ruler who massacred thousands of Jewish people and desecrated Israel’s Temple more than 360 years after Daniel received the message. The revelation underscores the reliability of God’s prophetic word to Daniel and gives us a historical example of what the little horn of Daniel 7 (Antichrist) will be like.
The Antichrist is introduced at the outset of the Tribulation as a type of knight in shining armor who goes out “conquering and to conquer” (Rev. 6:2). He rides on a white horse and receives a crown and will probably be hailed by Israel and the world as a hero when he makes a covenant with Israel (Dan. 9:27).
But halfway through the seven years his true nature emerges. In addition to being pompous, arrogant, and deceitful, he will be “the man of sin” (“lawlessness,” NASB; 2 Th. 2:3).
“Lawlessness” (Greek, anomia) describes people who reject God and His principles (rules and laws) and do as they please. Daniel was told this man will “intend to change times and law” (Dan. 7:25). The apostle Paul said he “opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God” (2 Th. 2:4). This rejection of God and His laws has already begun, but it will be exacerbated when the Antichrist rises to power.
Interestingly, the New Testament indicates potential antichrists exist in every generation (1 Jn. 2:18–19). Since Satan does not know God’s timetable, he always has a candidate available. When Christ opens the first seal of judgment and the Antichrist rides in (Rev. 6:1–2), the Day of the Lord will begin (chaps. 6—19). It is an extended period of time that includes the seven years of Tribulation, return of Jesus to judge the earth and reign for 1,000 years, and the final judgment of Satan and all unbelievers.
Revelation 13 provides the final description of this man of lawlessness. The features are similar to the little horn of the fourth empire in Daniel’s first vision. But here the horn becomes the beast. He is given authority for 42 months (“time and times and half a time,” Dan. 7:25; cf. Rev. 12:6, 14).
It is here, at the Tribulation’s midpoint, that the true nature of the rider on the white horse is revealed. He is the ultimate tool of Satan: “The dragon gave him his power, his throne, and great authority” (13:2; cf. 12:3, 9, 13).
The Antichrist arrogantly blasphemes God, persecutes the saints, and plies his deceits. Now he will go a step further: He will set himself up as God, utilizing the authority of Satan and the deceptive work of the second beast—the false prophet (13:11–18).
Like Antiochus Epiphanes, the Antichrist will try to force everyone to worship him (v. 8). A seemingly fatal wound will be healed, an image constructed in his honor will be animated, and every person on Earth will be compelled to receive his “mark” (vv. 12–16). This unholy trio will attempt to deceive the entire world and compel universal worship of the Antichrist and Satan.
The Antichrist’s arrogance, authority, and lawlessness will grow throughout the Tribulation, through deception at first. But his character will become increasingly obvious as he consolidates control. While he rules, the Lord will heap judgment upon judgment on the earth until the planet is nearly destroyed and one half of Earth’s population perishes. Then God will “consume” the Antichrist himself “with the breath of His mouth and destroy [him] with the brightness of His coming” (2 Th. 2:8). God ultimately judges evil and gives the kingdom of the saints of the Most High to its rightful King, the Lord Jesus Christ—forever.
Three applications stand out from this study: (1) Since the Antichrist will not be revealed until the beginning of the Day of the Lord, it is fruitless to try to identify him today. (2) Since Jesus will rapture His church before the Day of the Lord begins, it is foolish to worry about the Antichrist. (3) And since world events are never beyond God’s control or outside His plan, no matter how bad things get, it is faithless to fret over wrongs that are not yet righted. God will take care of everything in His time. And His time is always perfect.
- The actual word Antichrist appears five times in Scripture: 1 John 2:18 (twice); 2:22; 4:3; 2 John 1:7.