Today, we live in a very troubled world. The economic, social, political, and religious institutions of many countries are in chaos. This upheaval has created among many a tremendous increase in interest as to what the Bible reveals about the future. One particular prophecy that has engaged many is about the second coming of Jesus Christ. A prominent view that has emerged regarding Christ’s return, which has been fueled by a continuing stream of books and films, is the conviction that the war of Armageddon will come and a rapture of believers will occur. After that, the Antichrist will then appear in Jerusalem, demand to be worshipped, and revered as a god, and quickly ascend to the position of supreme world dictator during the tribulation. For many, this idea has become a cornerstone of the Christian faith.
My friend, this belief presents a very sobering and arresting challenge to the believers. If we look carefully into the Bible, we will find examples indicating that it does matter how we view Bible prophecy.
One clear example is found in Luke 21 where Jesus warned the Jews about the coming invasion of the Romans into Jerusalem. Jesus said:
“But when you will see Jerusalem surrounded with armies, then know that the desolation is near, then let them which are in Judea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not those who are in the country enter her…..And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led away captive into all nations and Jerusalem will be trodden down until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.” Luke 21:20-24 (KJV/NKJV)
To the Jews that were living at that time (during AD 68 to 70), this was a very important prophecy because the Roman army later surrounded Jerusalem and the Jews who understood the words of Jesus fled from the city and were saved. Those who did not correctly understand this prophecy stayed in the city to be trapped by the Roman army and died in the siege that followed.
Another example is found in the book of Isaiah Chapter 53, verses 1 to 3. The prophet Isaiah foretold that the Jews would reject the very one whom they looked for, the Messiah. If the Jewish people had correctly understood the Old Testament prophecies which indicated that their Messiah would have to suffer and even die before he could reign as king, then they would not have crucified Jesus. Tragically, most of the Jews did not understand Bible prophecy correctly. They expected the Messiah to overthrow the Romans in their day and then establish the kingdom in Israel (Luke 19:11). Their wrong understanding of prophecy caused them to reject Jesus Christ!
Will we repeat history? Will we fail to take the prophets literally and seriously? Is there even a faint possibility, that Christ himself could be mistakenly identified as the Antichrist? Certainly from these two previous examples we can see how necessary it is for us to have a correct understanding of Bible prophecies. This is even more important now since we live in the time where we are expecting for Jesus Christ to come and establish the Kingdom of God on earth. No one desires to be in the position where he or she will reject Jesus when he comes because they misunderstood of the prophetic events related to his second coming.
Before we examine the ideas of the future Antichrist theory, let us look at what the scriptures teach regarding the return of Jesus. The Bible describes several specific events which Jesus, acting under God’s authority, will accomplish when he returns to the earth. It is important to note and understand these events. The five most important events are:
1) THE MILITARY DEFEAT OF RUSSIA
In Ezekiel Chapters 38 & 39, and Zechariah Chapter 14, both prophets foretold, in attempt at world domination, the invasion of the Middle East by a confederated army of nations under the direction of Russia. Though Russia is not mentioned specifically, the locations that are given (Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal) directly correspond to the geographical area of Russia at the time Ezekiel wrote. According to the prophecy, Russia will attack the nation of Israel. This attack will ignite the world into World War. Russia and their confederated army will assume that they have taken control over the Middle East. But then the Lord Jesus Christ and his faithful immortalized saints will manifest themselves at an embattled Jerusalem in great power. They will confront the confederated army of the Russians and will then destroy them.
2) A NEW COVENANT TO BE MADE WITH ISRAEL
Following the destruction of the Russian’s confederated army, the Jews in Israel will realize that it was Jesus (the Messiah) who saved them from certain annihilation and will recognize him for the first time as their true Savior (Zechariah 12:7-14). A new covenant will then be made by Jesus with the Jews (Jeremiah 31:31 to 34; Romans 11:25-27). The Jewish people will accept Jesus as their King, and will embrace his means of salvation (Ezekiel 37:21-28).
3) THE REBUILDING OF THE TEMPLE IN JERUSALEM
In Ezekiel Chapters 40 through 48, Christ will supervise the building of a Temple in Jerusalem, to act as a House of Prayer for all nations. (Isaiah 56:7; Isaiah 66:20-24). The animal sacrifices will again be offered by the people (Zechariah 14:20,21).
4) JESUS WILL SIT AS KING OF THE EARTH
Jesus will establish Jerusalem as the capital of his world-wide government and will sit on the throne of his father David. The Kingdom of God will be restored, as it was in the past with Jesus Christ as the King. (2 Samuel 7:8-16; Luke 1:32,33; Ezekiel 21:25-27; Acts 1:6).
All nations will come to Jerusalem as the source of God’s teachings and will learn His ways. Christ will overthrow all existing nations and force them to be subject to his rule or they will perish if they refuse. (Jeremiah 3:17; Isaiah 60:12; Zechariah 14:16-19)
5) PEACE WILL BE RESTORED ON THE EARTH
Once Jesus has established himself as King over the earth, the earth will be given a new look with universal peace, justice, equity, and joy throughout a millennium. The nations will not learn of wars anymore (Micah 4:1-5).
WHAT DO THE CHURCHES TEACH?
When we compare these five events which Jesus will accomplish at his return (according to the Bible), with five things “the Antichrist” will supposedly do (according to the teachings in Christianity today), the resemblance is impressive. Christian leaders’ and the believers are teaching of the coming of a man (“the Antichrist”) who with satanic powers will rule the world for 7 years. They claim his initial act will be to defeat Russia when it invades Israel. They believe he will then form a special agreement or covenant with the Jews guaranteeing them peace and security. Part of this agreement will allow the Jews to rebuild their temple in Jerusalem and begin to again offer animal sacrifices. They further teach that “the Antichrist” will establish his headquarters in Jerusalem, claiming to be God on earth, and require all people throughout the world to worship him and follow his teachings. Finally, these leaders state that once “the Antichrist” has taken control of the earth he will establish peace in all nations.
Notice the exact parallels between the Bible’s description of what Jesus will do when he returns, and the anticipated acts of “the Antichrist”. This false teaching contains within it the distinct possibility of a disastrous outcome for the millions of Christians who believe it now, or who will be led to believe it in the near future.
VIVID IMAGINATION OF THE EVENTS WHEN CHRIST RETURNS:
The Christian leaders and the believers are eagerly expecting the rapture will occur at any moment. They are not even looking for the return of Jesus to the earth before the 7 year reign of “the Antichrist”. Consequently, when Russia soon attacks Israel as the leaders expect, they will begin to declare to both their followers and the rest of the world that “the Antichrist” will soon emerge. Christian circles throughout the earth will proclaim their strong warnings when they witness the sudden destruction of Russia in Israel. Furthermore, when it is learned that the “Antichrist” has established a special covenant with the Jews, has called for the temple to be rebuilt and begins to set up his government with Jerusalem as its capitol, the believers of all churches will move with panic because of their strong belief that the rapture should have taken them away from the trouble, but it never happened!
Newspapers, radios, and televisions in every city will carry the stories of the mysterious occurrences in Israel. They will describe how the Russian army has been destroyed by an unknown force, and how the leader of the victorious army has declared himself to be king over the whole earth. At the same time the media will also carry the united appeal of the Christian leaders as they frantically warn their followers and all others to resist the man in Jerusalem who claims to be from God. They will label him “the Antichrist” and sternly rebuke any who would follow him, warning that their end will be certain death.
The united efforts of the Christian leaders will generate a high degree of resistance towards Jesus when he establishes his throne in Jerusalem. His appeals to the world that he is in fact the Son of God who has returned from heaven, and his attempts to prove his authority by using his miraculous power will be met by stiff opposition from the church leaders. The pastors, priests, and papacy will join forces to denounce him, claiming that he possesses satanic powers, which enable him to perform his miracles. For the first time in the history of the Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Protestant, Baptist, and other churches, the leaders will publicly unite together, declaring that the man in Jerusalem must be opposed. Inevitably, the followers of these leaders will confidently join in the opposition. Very likely others who have spent little time reading the Bible or attending church will be easily influenced when they witness events they cannot explain (e.g. the sudden destruction of the Russian army), especially if the Christian leaders are all declaring the same thing: “Reject the impostor, he is the Antichrist!”
IMPOSSIBLE? IT HAPPENED ONCE BEFORE!!
When Jesus returns to the earth and is mistakenly identified as being “the Antichrist”, it will not be the first time he will be rejected by the very people who claim to be looking for his coming. There is a powerful lesson to be learned from the reasons that led to the denial and crucifixion of Jesus by the Jews when he came the first time.
It must be remembered that before Jesus began his ministry the Jews in Israel were not completely ignorant as to the nearness of the coming of their Messiah. On the contrary, there were several reasons why more than a few of the people expected their Messiah soon to reveal himself. First of all there was Daniel’s 70 weeks prophecy (Daniel 9:24-27), which stated the coming of the “anointed one” would be approximately 490 years (70 weeks of years multiplied by 7 days per week), after the decree to rebuild Jerusalem. Many of the Jews were well aware that in 456 BC, this very command was given by Artaxerxes. Secondly, almost everyone in Israel would have heard of the wise men who visited Herod at the time Jesus was born, looking for the infant who was to become the king of the Jews. They so convinced Herod the Messiah had been born that he ordered every male child two years old and under, in the area of Bethlehem, to be put to death in an attempt to destroy Jesus. Thirdly, the message of John the Baptist had spread throughout the nation. He urged the people to be baptized for the forgiveness of their sins and taught that another would come after him who would be far greater than himself.
Following his baptism by John, Jesus journeyed throughout Israel preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom of God and healing the various diseases and infirmities of the people. His fame quickly spread throughout the nation because of the authority with which he spoke and the wonderful miracles he performed. The four gospels record two separate incidents when he fed over 4000 men, plus women and children, from a small amount of food; three different occasions when he raised a person from the dead; and numerous times when the lame were made to walk, the blind were given sight and the dumb were able to speak. It is little wonder that the Jews began to look toward Jesus as being the long expected Messiah spoken of by their prophets. If the comments of the people, as recorded in the Bible, are examined, it is evident they recognized this man from Nazareth was more than a prophet. On several occasions they referred to him as the Son of David and at other times were quoted as saying, “Never was anything like this seen in Israel.”
Why then did the Jews reject the very person who had brought hope and healing to Israel and instead cry out for the release of a rebel who himself was also a murderer? The answer can be found upon a close look at the incidents that occurred in the last week of Jesus’ life before his crucifixion.
Following his entry into Jerusalem when the people hailed him as their king (Luke 19:38) and eagerly expected the establishment of his Kingdom (Mark 11:9-10), Jesus spent several days in the city teaching the people and his disciples. There is every indication that he continued to do this right up to the night on which he was betrayed by Judas. During these last few days spent in Jerusalem the entire city would have become aware that Jesus was there. The stories of the marvelous works he had performed would have been talked about in every home and on every street corner. There was hardly anyone in Jerusalem at that time who had failed to hear of this exceptional man.
But then, overnight, the people turned against Jesus. Ignoring the kindness, love, dedication, and mighty work shown to them for the past 3-1/2 years they turned their backs on him and sought his death. The reason for this sudden betrayal is clearly indicated in Matthew 27:20 –
“The CHIEF PRIESTS and THE ELDERS persuaded the people to ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus.”
Mark records in chapter 15, verse 11 –
“The CHIEF PRIESTS stirred up the crowd to have him (Pilate) release for them Barabbas instead.”
Responding to the cries and appeals of their religious leaders the people chose to reject their Messiah. Who in Israel would have believed it possible?? Had they been familiar (as they should have been) with the Old Testament prophecies concerning the need for the sacrifice and suffering of the Messiah before he acquired his Kingship, the Jews might not have acted so quickly. But their dependence upon the religious leaders for direction led them to denounce their Savior.
And what of today? Because of the popularity and general acceptance of the “future Antichrist” theory, Christians everywhere are being prepared to follow in the same footsteps as their Jewish counterparts at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion. Most of today’s Christians have come to rely solely either on their leaders or on their own claim of being possessed by the “holy spirit” for an understanding of the prophecies concerning the return of Christ and read their Bibles only to learn of the moral standards to be upheld in their life. It is serious warning that the “future Antichrist” theory will inevitably cause the people to reject Jesus, a tragic of mistaken identity as the Antichrist.
My friend, the signs of the times today prove beyond any doubt that Jesus Christ will soon return to establish the Kingdom of God on earth in order to fulfill His Father’s promise. The rebirth of the nation of Israel, the return of the Jews to their land, the buildup of Russia’s power, the decline in morals of the people, and endless world problems are all pointing to the end of this age.