Paul says in 2 Thessalonians that the very process of revealing the Antichrist would be accompanied by “all power and signs and lying wonders” (2 Thess. 2:9). In the book of Revelation John begins to describe these power, signs, and wonders using terms that make them sound frighteningly familiar, especially to our generation.
“And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men,
“And deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast, saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, that had the wound by a sword, and did live.
“And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed.”
Fire from Heaven
For centuries people have believed that the wonders and miracles the Antichrist will perform would be strictly supernatural in origin, coming directly from the Dragon himself. These wonders, however, only might have appeared to be miracles to a first-century prophet having visions of them, as they might to anyone living before the age of advanced technology. Now that the Twenty-first Century is upon us, certainly we can see that many of the things that would have seemed to be miraculous even a hundred years ago are today common place. If you could be transported back to the days of the Apostle John and take with you only those things that technology has made possible during the last thirty years, they would seem like wonders and miracles far beyond anyone’s comprehension. For instance, in the above prophecy John mentions that the Antichrist will have the ability to make fire come down from heaven. At first this may conjure up visions of Elijah calling down fire upon the troops that threatened to take him back to the king. But is this really what the Bible means? Will the Antichrist be able to supernaturally materialize devouring firestorms that can destroy his enemies? I think not.
What is more likely is that this is a prediction of the miraculous military power that the Antichrist will have at his disposal. The weapons of fire that we have become so familiar with in our lifetime certainly might seem to be supernatural to a first century man. Can you imagine living in an era of swords and spears and witnessing artillery or rocket fire for the first time? A missile fired from an F15 fighter at a great distance would travel so fast it might appear to be supernatural fire coming from God. Today, the U.S. sends fire down upon its enemies using unmanned drones with high resolution cameras and hellfire missiles. The drones often cannot be seen or heard before the missile suddenly explodes. Soon, the Antichrist will control all such weapons to eliminate opposition wherever it may arise. Incredibly, this prophecy is now coming true through the military capabilities of the final world empire even before its leader arises. For the first time, the technological weapons of our generation are bringing about the very capabilities necessary to fulfill the prophecies in Revelation dealing with the Antichrist and his power.
The Antichrist will command the world’s armies with so much support in the advanced Western world that using the military option to destroy his enemies will not even be debated. In that day it will not be a “partly strong and partly divided” alliance that a terrorist or a rogue nation will meet. The kingdom of the Beast will be so united behind the man of sin that anyone daring to stand in his way will be mercilessly destroyed.
Not surprisingly, this will be one aspect of the Antichrist’s personality that his followers will actually admire. The world has been terrorized by extremists and militarists for far too long. Even now the world community is calling for a strong leader who will stand up against renegade nations and terrorist groups and bring them under control. The rapid victories of the Western Alliance over the armies of Iraq and Afghanistan were only a small foreshadowing of things to come. Once the empire consolidates its power over the entire world, no nation or group will be able to stand in opposition. The very man who will turn out to be the most godless and evil person in history will also inspire his followers by ruthlessly destroying his enemies. The quickest way the Antichrist could create world-wide acclaim would be to swiftly strike out against anyone daring to oppose his “peaceful” new world order. It may even turn out that the Antichrist will rise to power on the heels of an international crisis—one in which a terrorist group or a terrorist nation will be holding the world hostage with nuclear blackmail.
In Revelation chapter 13 we are told that one of the seven heads of the seven-headed, ten-horned beast will appear to be mortally wounded just before the Antichrist arises. Could this catastrophe be a nuclear terrorist attack on one of the countries of the Western Alliance—particularly on one of the G-7 nations? This idea is not as far-fetched as it sounds. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, four of its former republics now have independent nuclear forces. Though the CIS has tried to assure the world that the weapons remain under strict control, uncertainty still remains.
Back in 1992, Edith Lederer of the Associated Press reported,
“With the Soviet collapse, the possibility of buying ready-made weapons or components, and the experts to put them together, increases the likelihood that new members will join the nuclear club.
‘The most frightening potential is…through the former Soviet Central Asian republics, into the Indian subcontinent, into Indonesia,’ said Paul Beaver, publisher of Jane’s Defense Weekly’”
Lederer also predicted correctly that the most significant short-term threat comes from the Middle East Arab nations, particularly Iran. She made this prediction years before Iran started enriching uranium to make fissile material for a bomb. In addition, since the CIS central Asian republics are Muslim countries, collaboration with other Islamic nations was a likely scenario. Nuclear proliferation and terrorist threats to use such weapons could consolidate the Western Alliance around a one-world government and a single leader faster than any other conceivable threat.
In the book One Point Safe by Andrew and Leslie Cockburn (Doubleday, 1997), they argue that there has been many instances where nuclear materials have been stolen from Russian facilities or intercepted while being shipped by trains or trucks. This has resulted in a black market for uranium and the knowhow of making nuclear weapons, which has spread the nuclear threat to the most renegade nations and groups.
Since the early 1990s, we now know that Pakistan and North Korea both obtained their nuclear weapons knowhow from rogue scientists operating covertly out of the former Soviet Union. Once that knowledge got out, it inevitably continued to spread to other dangerous nations. The Pakistani nuclear scientist, Abdul Qadeer Khan almost single handedly worked with other rogue nations to teach them the secrets of nuclear technology. Today Iran is likely only a year or so away from having the ability to build nuclear weapons. And at the same time these nations have developed ballistic missile technology that will allow them to launch atomic warheads at any targets within thousands of miles from their borders.
North Korea and Iran have repeatedly threatened Israel and the U.S. with nuclear destruction. Terrorist nations like these don’t have to overtly launch nuclear missiles at their enemies. If they did, they could easily be tracked back to their sources and result in their own total annihilation. Instead, they can arrange for secret delivery of the weapons to terrorist groups or even transport the warheads using standard shipping vessels to major coastal cities. Once a GPS-enabled detonator within the bomb senses the correct coordinates, these weapons could be automatically timed to destroy the neighboring city and potentially kill millions of people. Only one such attack on a major Western world city would cause an international crisis and a probable economic collapse. It also would instantly create a police state throughout the world to prevent any further attacks. A strong leader would have ample opportunity to rise to power on a global basis and unite the world against the nuclear threat.
The statement that Daniel makes concerning the Antichrist saying that “by peace he shall destroy many” could have a startling fulfillment if this were the case. How ironic it is that the Antichrist’s rise will seem to be for peace, while at the same time he will become one of the most devastating militarists and persecutors of people in history. Even the book of Revelation makes the observation, “Who is able to make war with him?” (Rev. 13:4). No one will be able to stand against the coming leader of the final world order!
The Image of the Beast
Not only will the military might he commands be unsurpassed, but the Antichrist will also have at his disposal the most technologically advanced wonders of all time. The Apostle John tells us that he will make an image to the beast that had the deadly wound. Remember how the prophet Daniel describes that King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon made a huge statue of a man after he had the vision of the future course of world history? He wrongly reacted to the gift of knowledge from God by making an idol which was expressedly against the Lord. He even forced the people of Babylon to bow down and worship the image on the threat of death.
John says the man of sin will do the same thing to the people of the final world empire. It may be that the Antichrist will so recognize his place in Biblical prophecy that he too will attempt to create a type of commemorative idol. However, there’s a curious difference between Nebuchadnezzar’s statue and the Antichrist’s image of the beast. In Rev. 13:15 it says that he will have power to give life to the image of the beast. John predicts that the image will actually appear to be alive to the people!
How is this possible? Will the Lord somehow allow Satan to give supernatural creative powers to a man? Though many people stand by the position that the image of the Beast will literally come to life, I take the opposite point of view. For one thing, it is clear that only God has the power to give the gift of life. The Bible plainly tells us that it was through Jesus that everything came into being (Col. 1:15-17), and the book of Genesis states unequivocally that all life originated by the Lord’s hand. Therefore, the creation of an image that seems to have a life all its own must have an explanation other than that of a man having life genesis abilities.
Before our generation it might have been very hard to come up with alternative explanations for this prophecy. However, during the same time frame as other major prophecies of the end are being fulfilled, such as the rebirth of Israel as a nation, technology has made possible at least two mechanisms wherein John’s prophecy of the image could come true. The first and simplest explanation is that video broadcasts of the image of the beast along with its leader the Antichrist will be required to be accompanied by saluting or worshiping as a sign of allegiance to the empire. Since TV broadcasts can be seen worldwide almost instantly, all parts of the empire would be required to pledge their allegiance or suffer the consequences. This technology has become possible only during the last 60 to 70 years; thus, again the empire is seen to give birth to the very things that the Antichrist is predicted to make use of during his reign.
A second possible explanation for how this prophecy might be fulfilled also may become technologically feasible in the near future. Soon, technology may finally allow the means to fashion an “image” that for all intents and purposes would appear to be alive. This is not some inspired personal prophecy. It’s merely an educated forecast based upon the current state of computer technology.
It doesn’t take too much insight today to see where the computer revolution is heading. Before long, both the programs that tell the computer what to do and the microprocessors which run the systems will be so advanced and fast that computers will literally appear to have lives of their own. Artificial intelligence research is progressing to the point of creating computers that can communicate and respond to humans in ways that simulate human responses. Interacting with one may become much like it was for the astronauts working with Hal in the movie “2001, A Space Odyssey”—no terminals required for simple interactions, no cryptic codes to remember, only casual conversation with a machine able to “understand” and respond “intelligently”. Years ago, Popular Computing magazine stated,
“[T]he Fifth-Generation Computer will be able to learn, associate, infer, and understand. With no keyboard, the machine will be able to understand spoken language and perform whatever function you ask of it, gleaning needed information from a ‘knowledge bank’ or from other computers it may be in contact with. It will act more like an intelligent assistant than a machine…”
In an article entitled, “Who Needs Humans Anyway?” the Economist reviewed a book by Geoff Simons called “Are Computers Alive?” In it he said that “computers are going to challenge one’s view of oneself as ‘human’, ‘intelligent’, ‘conscious’ or simply ‘alive’ at a very basic level, as their capabilities increase.” The Economist added, “Mr. Simons is saying not so much that computers and robots could evolve to the status of an alternative life form but that they are already in effect alive”.
Although it has been proven by the mathematician Gödel that attaining true artificial intelligence equivalent to the human mind is not achievable using standard computer construction and algorithms (The Emperor’s New Mind, Roger Penrose, 1989), simulating intelligent interactions through ever-more rapid processors and sophisticated software is possible. Now, it is becoming commonplace to communicate with computers and while it still is obvious when we are interacting with a machine, the technology is improving dramatically every year. Already major companies have installed computerized operators to take routine telephone queries. Many of these computer interactions are still primitive and frustrating, but soon talking to one will be indistinguishable from speaking with a live operator—the computer will “understand” your words and respond in a human-sounding voice with logical and typical statements.
Kevin Warwick at Reading University predicted that computerized machines or robots will become more intelligent than humans sometime within the next few decades (March of the Machines, Century, 1997). Roger Penrose actually believes that human intelligence is created not through typical electronic circuits, but through the formation of stable quantum interactions within the brain’s structure. He thinks this is done using the complex neural connections combined with the microtubule structures within each cell to cause electrons to become “entangled” in quantum uncertainty. In Penrose’s view, this creates the ability to think of novel things that computers with standard silicon circuits never will be able to do.
Amazingly, a new approach to computing is taking shape that may actually be able to create an intelligent machine like nothing possible before. Quantum computing is a new field that may achieve the goal of artificial intelligence through the strange properties of quantum entanglement using electrons, light, or individual atoms. D-Wave Systems, Inc., has actually commercialized the first quantum computer to perform very specific calculations (The Economist, What is a quantum computer?, May 16th 2013). Future systems are predicted to be able to solve problems that would take standard computers eons to solve, such as breaking complex encryption codes and solving other mathematical equations. If Roger Penrose is right about the human brain using quantum waves to create intelligence, then a future quantum computer might suddenly become self aware with abilities far beyond current computer technology. The image of the beast in Revelation could turn out to be a Skynet-like intelligent computer similar to that envisioned in the Terminator movies. But instead of destroying the world, it will be used to ensure that the Beast’s subjects follow the empire and the Antichrist.
The driving force to create the necessary awe and wonder surrounding the computer is already in place. The Apostle John tells us, however, that this wonder will quickly turn into something much more ominous. He says that the people of the empire will become so enthralled with their creation that they will literally begin to worship it. During the time of Nebuchadnezzar the worship of a false god merely involved constructing some kind of statue and bowing down in obeisance. Today, that kind of overt idol worship is against the character of the Western mind. However, we now have a type of idolatry which is unlike anything the world has ever seen. Since the early days of the industrial revolution “technology worship” has taken the place of graven images. Oh yes, we still worship the works of our hands, but instead of making a golden calf, the world now bows down to science and all the technological wonders it produces. Computers, tablets, and iPhones have replaced the traditional carved images as our idols. The “living” image of the Empire-Beast will betray the true evil nature of its creator: pride, arrogance, and the coveting of the things we create. When computer technology reaches its apex, the world will voluntarily bow down in their hearts to what will be regarded as the ultimate accomplishment of mankind.
Before our day no one could have foreseen how John’s prophecy would be fulfilled. The electronic abilities that have arisen in our generation were not even thought of before the middle of the last century. Even a standard personal computer, which has been an incredible aid in writing these words, would seem impossible or miraculous to a first-century prophet. In fact, there was a time not too long ago when we surely would have been accused of being witches or children of Satan were we to have such devices. The technology that has become common place today, as recently as our grandparents’ time would have appeared to be an unbelievable wonder.
I have no doubt that the image of the Beast will be part of the massive computer system that is tying every part of the globe together into one gigantic network. It will be built on the internet, but become far more pervasive in everyone’s life. It will control, surveil, and demand allegiance from all the Antichrist’s subjects. On the surface, it will seem to be a friendly and indispensable system—virtually a living organism which will be looked upon as the means to bring all the diverse cultures of man together under one governing body. No matter what the differences may be in culture or language between nations, they will all be able to interact with this “beast” in virtually the same manner. And what will the people of the empire do with this electronic wunderkind? The answer to that question involves one of the most fascinating aspects in the study of end-times prophecy.
Next: see The Mark of the Beast