To fully understand the prophecies dealing with the rise of the Antichrist, we must first recognize that Revelation chapter thirteen undergoes a significant transition beginning with verse eleven. The shift from the first beast to the second beast of Revelation relates to a complete change in the focus of John’s vision. In the first half of the chapter he is primarily concerned with looking at the empire as a whole, whereas in the last half he specifically zeros in on its leader. In the first part (Rev. 13:1-10), John sees the Antichrist in much the same way Daniel describes him: as an important feature within the total surreal image of the Empire-Beast. Both John and Daniel describe the Antichrist simply as a “mouth” speaking great things within their primary visions of the final world empire. In this respect, the coming leader is somewhat obscured within the overall symbolism that describes the fourth world power.
The Leader of the Empire
Starting with verse 11 in Revelation 13, however, John’s vision shifts from the empire as a whole to the Antichrist specifically, and he begins to have the clearest view of the man of sin found in the entire Bible. This is how he describes the Antichrist’s rise to power:
“And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spoke like a dragon.
“And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them who dwell on it to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed.”
It is very important to understand this major transition within Revelation 13. Verses one through ten describe the rise of the final world empire, whereas verses eleven through eighteen describe the final world leader. Those that have misinterpreted the first half of the chapter to be a description of the Antichrist instead of the empire also have misinterpreted the last half. In this regard, some have contended that the first 10 verses deal specifically with a political leader who will arise to lead the world (i.e., the Antichrist), while verses 11-18 refer to a future “religious” leader they identify only as the “false prophet”. This second name comes from a statement in Revelation 19:20 that describes the beast along with an individual called the false prophet as being cast alive into the lake of fire after Jesus comes.
However, as we will soon discover, the correct interpretation for Revelation 19:20 is one that relates the beast to the entire empire and the false prophet to its leader—the Antichrist—and not to two separate leaders, one political and one religious. Any other interpretation will run into problems with other verses and lead to confusion. Thus, verse 11 of Revelation chapter 13 begins a discussion of the final ruler of this empire, who will, as John says in verse 12, “exercise all the power of the first beast (i.e., the empire) before him”. If the first beast was the leader and the second beast was a religious figure, how could the religious leader control all the power of the political leader? This interpretation simply would not make sense. The second beast must be the leader of the empire, who controls all the world at the end.
Thus, if the first beast of Revelation 13 is rightly identified as the empire and the second beast as its leader, then everything fits together perfectly, even with the prophecies in Daniel. Notice how the symbolism of this prophecy helps to describe and distinguish the second beast (the Antichrist-Beast) described in Rev. 13:11-18 from the original first beast (the Empire-Beast) described in Rev. 13:1-10. The Antichrist is said to come out of the earth as opposed to coming from the sea, from which the empire originates. As is discussed in previous sections on the New World Order, the empire arises out of a raging sea, which is said to be many “peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues” (Rev. 17:15) whereas the leader comes out of the empire after it arises. This is similar to the way in which the prophet Daniel saw the beast with 10 horns arise first (the empire) and its leader arise afterwards as the “little horn” among the 10 (Dan. 7:8). Therefore, in all of these prophecies the empire is predicted to first arise as a fragmented entity (“partly strong and partly broken”; Dan. 2:42) made up of nations in some kind of coalition (i.e., the feet of iron and clay of Nebuchadnezzar’s image) and the leader is then predicted to arise secondarily as a man speaking great things who ascends to power over the entire empire.
The False Christ
What is interesting, however, is that the second beast is seen to have two horns like a lamb, but his speech is like that of a dragon. The only other character in the entire Bible who is said to appear like a lamb is Jesus himself. In the book of Revelation the Lord is continually described as the Lamb who appears to have been slain. Jesus is seen to be God’s sacrificial lamb who took away the sin of the world through the giving of his own life. The fact that the Antichrist is also described to look like a lamb is significant and must not be overlooked. All the evidence of prophecy tells us that the final world leader will be deceptively evil. In other words, his evil will be covered by a facade of goodness and an aura of peace.
It appears that the hero worship of the Antichrist and his own proclamation of deity will both come as a result of the world believing him to be some kind of savior. Perhaps, in the same way as so many would-be messiahs have done throughout history, the Antichrist will think of himself as the fulfillment of the Second Coming of Christ. However, his outward image of appearing to be someone worth following will be radically contradicted by his words and actions. The message that he proclaims will be one of Satan and not of God. It will be anti-God and anti-Christ. That’s why the speech of the Antichrist is described to be like that of the dragon—he is the Devil’s agent, and he will do as his master wishes.
When Paul said that there would be great deception accompanying the rise of the Antichrist certainly he had in mind this contradiction of appearing to be good while actually being evil. Daniel also hinted that this would be the case when he said of the Antichrist,
“And through his policy also he shall cause deceit to prosper in his hand; and he shall magnify himself in his heart, and by peace shall destroy many…”
Daniel says that the man of sin will cause the destruction of many people not by open wickedness, but by peace. When he comes, the Antichrist will rally the people of the world behind him with incredible speed. He will do this not entirely by force, but more significantly, through promises of world peace. Imagine a one-world government the purpose of which is said to free the nations from the threat of nuclear war and liberate its citizens from the constant fear of terrorism and lawlessness. What could possibly make a better platform to endear the hearts and minds of people fed up with this evil world?
Almost everyone wants peace. To appear to be against the hope of world peace would quickly earn a person the label of a “nut”, if not worse. When the Antichrist comes, he will appear to be the greatest cause for peace a Christ-rejecting world has ever seen—a savior of sorts—a person to be followed and, yes, even worshiped!
The Timing of the Antichrist’s Rise
There is one significant question that has not been answered. Although we may now be able to imagine in our minds what the Antichrist will be like and even some aspects of what will happen when he appears, we still don’t know the relative timing of his coming with respect to other events. In studying end-times prophecy, it is always important to keep the overall picture in focus. Especially when concentrating on one particular event, it is easy to get so isolated from other prophecies that wrong conclusions can result that may not fit with the Bible as a whole.
For those who have attempted to identify the Antichrist as simply the latest evil leader to arise in a troubled world, they have fallen directly into this trap. On one hand they realize that the man of sin will be a tremendous leader and exceedingly wicked in his ways, but they lose sight of the fact that the Bible provides us with more exacting details—information which above all else does not allow loose interpretations.
When we studied Daniel’s prophecy of the Seventy Weeks (see the sections on Israel), there was one particular verse that provided the overall framework for the chronology of the last days. Although this verse was buried within the prophetic description of Israel’s future, it nonetheless contained important information concerning the rise of the Antichrist. The final verse of Daniel chapter nine says this:
“And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week; and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolator”
The events within this one verse describe perfectly the major events of the Antichrist’s reign, and they also correlate perfectly with other major prophecies dealing with him. This prophecy describes the final seven-year period (which is divided into two 3-1/2 year segments) and is actually marked in time by the actions of the Antichrist. In other words, each event within Daniel’s Seventieth Week can be related somehow to what is prophesied to occur as a consequence of the Antichrist’s leadership.
Thus, in the above prophecy we are given details concerning the beginning, middle, and end of the Antichrist’s kingdom. In the beginning it says that he will sign a treaty with many nations, probably to set up the new one-world government. At the midway point he will suddenly stop the sacrifices in the rebuilt Jewish temple (see the chapters on Israel and on the wars of the end) and proclaim himself to be God in the Holy of Holies. This “abomination”, as the Lord calls it, will rapidly cause the entire world to become a desolate wasteland of destruction. Daniel finishes the prophecy by saying that the judgment of God will ultimately be poured out upon he who caused the desolation.
If we couple this prophecy with what was said in “Daniel’s Vision of the Four Beasts” (see previous sections), we have all the information necessary to identify the Antichrist when he arrives. In that section, we found that the “little horn” will uproot three of the first ten horns in his ascent to power. Adding this information to what is contained in the above prophecy we find that after the Antichrist conquers three of the ten countries of the alliance he will then sign a world-wide peace treaty establishing his empire. Don’t miss the significance of these events—they mark the initial actions of the Antichrist in the world and will ultimately help identify him when he arises.
With this in mind, the timing of his coming must correspond to the start of the final seven years of the history of this age—or the last seven years before Christ returns. Before that period begins his identity will remain effectively hidden by the restraining influence of the Holy Spirit. Thus, any speculation on our part concerning who the Antichrist might be would be pure foolishness. Right now we couldn’t identify him even if we wanted to, because the Lord has simply not yet allowed him to be revealed.