Who is the Antichrist?
Daniel's Seventy weeks ended with the crucifixion. Of that there can be no doubt. The “clock” did not stop at the beginning or the middle of the week, in order to resume in the future. Those who invented this “gap theory” in the 1800's simply did not have a good knowledge of history.
The rise of “The Antichrist” is based upon a faulty understanding of the term itself. Many books have been written in the past 150 years prophesying or speculating about certain candidates for the position of Antichrist. There was the German Kaiser of World War I, then Mussolini and Hitler. When they all were overthrown, men turned to other political figures such as Henry Kissinger or Prince Charles. Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev is still a favorite candidate for Antichrist, with his prominent birthmark on his forehead like the “mark of the beast.”
I have no desire to defend any of these men in any way, for they are all rulers of Babylon and not the Kingdom of God. But regardless of how evil they may be, none of them by themselves is “The Antichrist.”
Antichrist and Beast
It often surprises people to learn that the term “Antichrist” is not even found in the book of Revelation.
John’s Revelation speaks only of various “beasts.” The book is, in many ways, a continuation and enlargement of the book of Daniel. The “beasts” in Daniel 7 and 8 are nations and empires. The first “beast” was Babylon, pictured as a “lion” (Dan. 7:4). The second was Persia, the “bear” (Dan. 7:5). The third was Greece, the “leopard” (Dan. 7:6). The fourth was a nameless beast with “iron teeth,” (Dan. 7:7) identified as Rome.
These empires are pictured in the Bible as “beasts” and are characterized by their carnivorous appetite to “eat” other beasts (nations) in order to grow and expand. In other words, they are militaristic and have a desire to kill anyone getting in their way. Many of the rulers of Babylon have a beast's HEART.
This is illustrated in Daniel 4:16 with King Nebuchadnezzar,
16 Let his mind be changed from that of a man, and let a beast’s mind [heart] be given to him.
When this prophecy was fulfilled, the king became like a beast and was eating grass for “seven times.” In Scripture, “all flesh is grass” (1 Peter 1:24). Again we read in Psalm 103:15, “As for man, his days are like grass.” So Nebuchadnezzar was given the heart and mind of a beast, and he began to eat grass, which in turn represented the flesh of mankind. God gave him grass to eat instead of flesh, so as to avoid outright cannibalism. Yet the prophetic meaning is the same.
Many Antichrists in the Last Days
As for “antichrist,” the term is as unknown in the book of Daniel as it is in Revelation. Only John uses the term, and then only in his letters. It appears four times in 1 John and once in 2 John. John tells us in 1 John 2:18,
18 Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have arisen; from this we know that it is the last hour.
The “last days” technically began at the Cross, for that event had ended the Passover Age, which had begun with Israel coming out of Egypt at Passover. So from John's perspective in history, the Pentecostal Age was the “last hour.” From our current perspective, of course, we are in the “last hour” of the Pentecostal Age. It is the beginning of the Tabernacles Age.
So it is not surprising that we would see many “antichrists” arise during the ages of Passover and Pentecost. The problem is that people are looking for a single powerful world figure to arise in the context of “the great tribulation.” A fanciful picture has been painted, which has blinded Christians to what is actually already happening around them. In large part, it is because they are still looking for Daniel's Seventieth week to begin, when, in fact, it was completed in 33 A.D.
Usurping the Place of Christ
Another major difficulty arises because the term Antichrist is usually defined as being against Christ. The Greek term anti literally means “in place of,” rather than “against.” The word is used in Matt. 2:22,
22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judean in place of [Greek, anti] his father Herod, he was afraid to go there...
Archelaus was the son of King Herod, who came to the throne after his father had died. Archelaus did not rule against his father, but in place of Herod. This is the strict meaning of anti, and so an antichrist is one who rules in place of Christ.
Insofar as the strict Greek meaning of the term, then, antichrist is a neutral term. However, it has a negative connotation in its biblical usage because it normally means that someone has usurped the place of Christ, rather than “filling in” for Him. A usurper is one who rules as if the throne were his own, rather than doing the will of the lawful King who is in authority over him.
David understood that he ruled in the throne of God (Christ), and he attempted to rule according to the divine law. He prayed and asked God how to rule by the Divine will instead of his own. David ruled in place of Christ. By contrast, King Saul rebelled against God and treated the throne as if he could rule as he pleased. King Saul, then, was technically an antichrist, a usurper.
But the most important prophetic example of an antichrist in the Bible is found in Absalom, the son of David, who usurped the throne of David for a season. Absalom became the most important antichrist in the Old Testament, and yet he is virtually unknown to modern prophecy teachers.
David and Absalom
2 Samuel 15-18 tells us the story how Absalom the usurper became an anti-David. He disagreed with David’s policies and thus stole the hearts of the people (15:6). He was soon crowned king in Hebron while David was king in Jerusalem (15:10). Moreover, Absalom sent for Ahithophel, David’s counselor and friend. Ahithophel joined the conspiracy, but later hanged himself (17:23).
Ahithophel’s betrayal was the cause of great heartbreak for David. He spoke of his friend many times thereafter in the Psalms, as, for example, in Psalm 55:12-14,
12 For it is not an enemy who reproaches me, then could I bear it; nor is it one who hates me who has exalted himself against me, then I could hide myself from him. 13 But it is you, a man my equal, my companion and my familiar friend. 14 We who had sweet fellowship together, walked in the house of God in the throng.
This entire conspiracy of Absalom against David with the help of David’s friend Ahithophel was a major prophetic type of the New Testament story and the conflict between Jesus and the temple leaders.
David = Jesus
Absalom = chief priests
Ahithophel = Judas
The conspiracy began in Hebron, which comes from the Hebrew word chebar, “association,” and chabar, “fellowship, friendship.” In other words, the conspiracy came from the City of Friends. And so Jesus prophetically called Judas “friend” in Matt. 26:50 when He was betrayed with a kiss.
We know also that the old name of Hebron was Kiriath-arba (Josh. 15:54). This was the hometown of Judas Iscariot, because Iscariot is the Greek form of Ish-Keriath, “man from Keriath,” i.e., one from Keriath-arba.
For this reason, in the days leading up to Pentecost, the disciples discussed the problem of replacing Judas, according to David’s prophecies of Ahithophel. Acts 1:15 and 16 says,
15 And at this time Peter stood up in the midst of the brethren (a gathering of about one hundred and twenty persons was there together), and said, 16 Brethren the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus.
Take note that Peter understood clearly that David had prophesied of Judas in the story of Absalom’s revolt. The people had no doubt discussed this fully while in the upper room, and they knew that David’s statements concerning Ahithophel had prophesied of Judas. In Acts 1:20 Peter quotes David:
20 For it is written in the Book of Psalms, “Let his homestead be made desolate, and let no man dwell in it” [Ps. 69:25]; and “His office let another man take” [109:8].
Peter applied these prophecies to Judas, who, like Ahithophel, had hanged himself a few weeks earlier (Matt. 27:5). This shows us that the disciples by this time fully understood the nature of the conflict between Jesus and the temple leaders over the right to the Scepter of Judah.
Understanding this prophetic connection is one of the most important keys to understanding the idea of antichrist. Absalom was an anti-David in his day. A thousand years later, the temple leaders were anti-Jesus. Both were antichrists, because both usurped the throne of the one that God had called and anointed (christened) to rule in His throne.
When David was overthrown, he left Jerusalem without a fight and made a sacrifice on the top [rosh, “summit, head, or skull”] of the Mount of Olives (2 Sam. 15:32). Likewise, Jesus went to the same location, the “place of a skull” (Matt. 27:33) and fulfilled the Old Testament type with the final Sacrifice for the sin of the world. He was crucified “outside the gate” (Heb. 13:12) and “outside the camp” (Heb. 13:13), and by law this meant 2,000 cubits outside the city walls. That was the summit of the Mount of Olives, where also the ashes of the red heifer were also kept. Those ashes had to be kept “outside the camp” (Num. 19:3), where they could be accessed by those who were ceremonially unclean.
So the place where David sacrificed when being overthrown by Absalom is the same place where Jesus made His final Sacrifice when His throne was usurped by the chief priests.
David remained in exile for an unknown period of time. This exile is a type of Christ’s ascension to heaven where He must remain until the second coming. David’s return to the throne in Jerusalem, then, is a type of the second coming of Christ, in which He will reclaim His throne.
When David returned, there was a final battle against the army of Absalom. Absalom fled, but his long hair got tangled in the branch of a tree. (His hair was his source of pride, so prophetically speaking, Absalom’s pride was his downfall.) 2 Sam. 18:15 says,
14 Then Joab said, “I will not waste time here with you.” So he took three spears in his hand and thrust them through the heart of Absalom while he was yet alive in the midst of the oak. 15 And ten young men who carried Joab’s armor gathered around and struck Absalom and killed him.
This prophesies of the second coming of Christ, wherein those Jewish leaders who usurped both the throne and the birthright of Jesus will receive judgment. Though Christian Zionists seem to think that the Jews will rule the earth under Jesus (“David”), the death of Absalom proves otherwise. Christ has no intention of promoting the usurpers to high positions in His government.
In fact, Christian Zionists today are playing the role of Judas and Ahithophel once again by assisting the usurper-antichrists in their scheme to take the throne and birthright from the true Christ. This is perhaps the most damaging result of Dispensationalist teaching. It has prepared the Church for its role as modern Judas.
As this conflict plays out the third time in modern history, the only real difference is that the conflict is no longer focused upon the Scepter but upon the Birthright. For a more complete study of this, see chapters 6 and 7 of my book, The Struggle for the Birthright.
When we know the prophetic story of Absalom, the usurper, we can see that he is the classic type of antichrist. This conflict between Christ and antichrist is foundational to the understanding of the entire New Testament narrative. It also explains Jesus’ parable of the usurping vineyard keepers in Matt. 21, where Jesus puts words in their mouths in verse 38, “This is the heir; come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.” This clearly shows that the religious leaders of Judaism were and are still the “antichrist” of the New Testament.
Absalom knowingly usurped the throne from David, knowing full well who his father was. In fact, it was because Absalom KNEW his father that he directed his revolt against him. Thus, in the fulfillment of this prophetic type, the chief priests also knew who Jesus was—and because of this they usurped His throne.
It was NOT a case of mistaken identity. It was a case where they recognized who He was, but they disagreed with Him and coveted His throne for themselves. They wanted a messiah who would deliver them from the bondage of Rome. What they got was a Messiah who would deliver them from the bondage of sin. This did not fit their idea of a messiah, and they knew that they would lose their jobs if the people declared Him to be the Messiah. So they crucified him, not realizing that they were fulfilling the Scriptures even in this.
The disciples understood these events perfectly. Peter quoted from the Psalms to indicate that Judas needed to be replaced. The only way he could have known the connection between Judas and Ahithophel is if he knew the rest of the story—Absalom’s revolt and usurpation of David’s throne.
Neither the Zionist army of “Absalom” nor the Christian Zionist “Ahithophel” will rule in the Davidic Kingdom to come. It will be ruled by those who remained loyal to the true “David” who is Jesus Christ in His second appearance. Of course, as long as the final battle remains in the future, there is still time for Christians to repent and to stop supporting modern Absalom.
John’s Description of Antichrist
Absalom was “the” antichrist of his day, and his supporting army were antichrists. When this story was re-enacted in the New Testament, one may refer to Caiaphas as “the” antichrist, because he was the leader of the priests—that is, the high priest—who decided to usurp the throne. The question is how this will replay in the third enactment surrounding the second coming of Christ. Will there be an individual Antichrist, or a collective antichrist?
John continues, saying,
19 They [antichrists] went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out in order that it might be shown that they all are not of us. 20 But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know.
John was being deliberately vague here, as we see in the next verse,
21 I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it, and because no lie is of the truth.
In other words, John is telling his readers that he has told them the meaning of this in person (verbally), so he does not need to spell it out for them in writing. The question is why? Why is it better not to commit the truth to writing? Was it because if the writing fell into the wrong hands, people could be persecuted for it and even put to death?
Even so, John continues his description in theological terms:
22 Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son. 23 Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also.
So the key factor in identifying these antichrists is in their confession that Jesus is the Christ/Messiah. John implies that those antichrists were claiming to know the Father—that is, Yahweh, the God of the Old Testament—and yet those same people denied the Son. John tells us plainly that one cannot have the Father without the Son, and thereby he refutes the claims of Judaism.
Likewise, Absalom’s army consisted of genealogical Judahites who had rejected David as King. David was the rightful heir to the throne, and David therefore carried the scepter given to Judah. The revolt split the kingdom into two parts, each claiming to be the legitimate tribe of Judah. The majority followed Absalom, but the minority who remained loyal to David were the real Judahites.
This situation was repeated in the New Testament. There were true “Jews” and false “Jews.” Paul speaks of this distinction in Romans 2:28 and 29, saying,
28 For he is NOT a Jew who is one outwardly, neither is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. 29 But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men but from God.
The name Judah means “praise.” Paul was making the point that there were two sets of people who were laying claim to citizenship in the tribe of Judah. The majority of them based their claim on circumcision. The Christian minority, however, based their claim on heart circumcision, where their “praise” (Judah status) was “not from men but from God.
Who is a Jew?
Herein is revealed the second major controversy in the first century that has carried over into modern times. Which group has the legitimate claim to being the tribe of Judah? Is it the group that rebelled against King Jesus, or the ones who remained loyal to Him, such as the disciples and all other converts to Christianity?
We know John’s view, of course, for he tells us plainly that one must recognize the Son as the King. All others “went out from us.” It appears that a number of Judean Christians in the first century had left the Christian community and had joined the revolt against Rome from 66-73 A.D. They had not really understood the prophecies of Daniel in regard to the fourth beast (Rome), nor did they believe that God required them to submit to the divine judgment that had been decreed in the days of Jeremiah.
In their rejection of God’s judgment upon them for the sins of their forefathers, they were found to be in rebellion against God Himself. The majority of these Judeans (“Jews”) had never come into fellowship with the Christian believers; but evidence shows that many Christian Judeans left the fellowship to fight the Romans. These are the ones who “went out from us, but they were not really of us.” In spite of their earlier confession of Jesus as the Christ, they were more loyal to Absalom than to David—that is, they were more loyal to the temple priests than to Jesus.
Hence, they were “antichrists,” because they supported those who denied that Jesus was the Christ.
The divine law makes it clear that being a member of any tribe of Israel was a legal matter, rather than purely genealogical. A pure blooded Judahite, for example, might lose his citizenship in the tribe if he violated the law of sacrifice and was unrepentant. Lev. 17:3 and 4 says,
3 Any man from the house of Israel who slaughters [sacrifices] an ox or a lamb or a goat in the camp or one who slaughters it outside the camp, 4 and has not brought it to the doorway of the tent of meeting to the Lord before the tabernacle of the Lord, bloodguiltiness is to be reckoned to that man. He has shed blood and that man shall be cut off from among his people.
In other words, the law trumps genealogy. One guilty of this sin could not present his pure genealogy in his own defense before the court of God. His genealogy was irrelevant. If guilty, he lost his citizenship in the tribe. He was excommunicated (exiled) and lost his place in the kingdom.
This law was fulfilled in the New Testament in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. He was crucified “outside the camp.” Anyone who did not apply the blood properly to the “tabernacle” (or temple) was to be “cut off from among his people.” In 1 Cor. 3:16 we are told that “you are the temple of God.” Thus, in applying this law under the New Covenant, the blood of Jesus Christ must be presented to the temple which is our body. If not, the person was excommunicated and was legally no longer a Judahite.
In the New Testament, the priests offered up the sacrifice of the Lamb of God on the top of the Mount of Olives, “outside the camp.” The law prophesied that they were to do so. If the Romans had done this, instead of the priests of Aaron, the prophecy would have failed, and we would still be dead in trespasses and sins. For this reason Peter clearly said in Acts 2:36, “God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom YOU crucified.” This is repeated in Acts 4:10 and in many other passages.
It was necessary that Jesus be crucified, for this was part of the divine plan. Without it, we could never leave the house of bondage to sin, for He was our true Passover Lamb. The real question is what we do with His sacrifice. Do we apply His blood to the lintels of our “house” (forehead)? Do we bring His sacrifice to the temple of our body? If the Sacrifice of Christ is not appropriated, then our genealogy cannot help us to retain our citizenship in Judah. Law trumps genealogy.
For this reason, those genealogical Jews of Judah who violated this law of sacrifice have been “cut off from among their people.” Legally speaking, they are not Jews at all—at least not in the sight of God—regardless of what men on earth may call them. This is why Paul defines a “Jew” in Rom. 2:28, 29 in legal terms:
28 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly... 29 But he is a Jew who is one inwardly...
John speaks of this again in Revelation 3:9, where he strongly disputes with those who claim to be Jews on the basis of their genealogy and their right standing with the temple priests:
9 Behold, I will cause those of the synagogue of Satan, who say that they are Jews, and are not, but lie—behold, I will make them to come and bow down at your feet, and to know that I have loved you.
The fact that the Judean Christians were in the minority is not relevant in deciding who is and who is not a Jew—that is, of the tribe of Judah. The relevant factor is if a person has followed the Lion of the Tribe of Judah or the usurpers who claim the scepter for themselves. Those who follow the usurpers do not recognize that Jesus was the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. So they do not apply the blood of His sacrifice as the law demands. Hence, they are cut off from the tribe, at least until such time as they comply with the law of sacrifice.
Those believers in Jesus Christ are the ones God recognizes as the genuine tribe of Judah, along with those of all other ethnic groups who join the tribe by fulfilling the law of sacrifice and accepting Jesus Christ as the Lamb of God and King of Judah. What men call “the church” is really the Tribe of Judah. The tribe itself did not begin at Pentecost, nor should it be said that the Church replaced Judah. There was no replacement as such. The disciples in the upper room, along with the converts that came later were the ones not cut off from the tribe. These appropriated the blood of the Sacrifice to their own “temple” of their bodies, and on that basis they retained or became citizens of Judah.
The rest were cut off from the tribe, even though they continued to hold on to the name unlawfully and have been known to the world as “Jews.” But one must always distinguish between men’s definition and God’s definition. They are not the same. This may be confusing to many, but keep in mind that this is the whole point of the dispute between Absalom and David. Men must decide which king is the anointed one (“Christ”). Judging by the support which the Jews receive from evangelical and Pentecostal Christianity today, it is plain that the answer is not as clear as it may seem.
This dispute is part of the context in which the question of antichrist arises. The dispute between David and Absalom is the dispute between Christ and antichrist, and no small part of that dispute centers around the right to be called a “Jew” (Judahite).
The only other biblical reference we have to antichrist is found in the second epistle of John, verse 7,
7 For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist.
We see here that “the antichrist” is also “the deceiver.” It is a collective noun that refers to “many deceivers,” that is, “those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh.” Thus, the Antichrist is a collective body of people, not a single man as it was in the days of Absalom. Absalom was an Old Testament type, but it is fulfilled in the New Testament as a collective body of people. And in the final fulfillment today, it is the same.
Knowing the biblical conflict is the only way that one can come to a reasonable understanding of Daniel’s Seventy Weeks. The Dispensationalist idea of a strong leader “Antichrist” ruling during a seven-year tribulation is based upon the assumption that the seventieth week of Daniel has yet to be fulfilled, that Jesus was crucified in the middle of the week, stopping God’s prophetic “clock,” and the insertion of an interim Dispensation of Grace during which the Church is given opportunity to come to Christ.
It assumes that the Church is not Judah, and assumes that the Jews are Israel. There are so many wrong assumptions that it is almost impossible to cover all of them in a single book. To make matters more difficult, since Dispensationalism has now been ingrained into Christian culture after a century and a half of teaching, the burden of proof has shifted to us to disprove it.
To know the biblical definition of antichrist, along with the story of David and Absalom, is one of the great keys that can apply “eye salve” to our eyes (Rev. 3:18), so that we may see what the Bible really says about these things. In that way we may know how to join David’s army and not inadvertently be part of the army of Absalom or play the role of Ahithophel who betrayed David.