Who is the Antichrist?
Questions such as this, and inquiries about who the Beast of Revelation is, or when will the great tribulation come upon us, are questions that always seem to lie just below the surface of the consciousness of many…especially those troubled Christians who have acquired their negatively slanted view of what the Bible teaches from those who would use the scriptures to frighten and control others; teachers such as Herbert Armstrong. Armstrong gained much of his following by presenting to a somewhat biblically illiterate audience what appeared to be astounding truths, heretofore not understood, about what the Bible had revealed to him regarding the fulfillment of the frightening prophecies found in the Bible in books such as Revelation.
The answers to these questions can be found if one is willing to do a little research and digging…with an open mind, not trying to force round facts into square holes, nor allowing those who would frighten us to do our thinking for us. Gary DeMar, for example, in his outstanding book (which I just finished reading), “Endtime Madness,” does an excellent job in researching the above questions and many more, and arriving at very substantive and biblically sound conclusions. Hank Hanegraaff, of “The Bible Answer Man,” also has done an admirable job in his short article, “Who is the Antichrist?” in the Sept/Oct 2005 issue of “The Plain Truth” magazine. Hold on! I know…many of us are leery of anything published by anyone associated with the Worldwide Church of God. This is understandable, but this hesitancy may also cause us to cut ourselves off from a valuable source of information.
Because Hank Hanegraaff gave his blessings to the Tkaches, and has had problems within his own organization regarding the misuse of his authority, many of us might be tempted to dismiss anything he has written. But truth is truth, no matter who writes it. Hank has been right on in his teaching that tithing is old covenant, and on many other subjects. And I believe that he is right on in his article in the current Plain Truth.
Because I believe his article is so much on the mark, I have chosen to post it, as I doubt that there are very many readers out there who subscribe to the Plain Truth. Actually, I find the Plain Truth to be one of the best religious magazines out! And Hank’s article is an example of why. In what other magazines will you find such a sound, pertinent article? Not many, I dare say.
Without further ado, be prepared to find out just “Who is the Antichrist?”
Who is the Antichrist?
By Hank Hanegraaff
For centuries Christians have speculated about the identity of the Antichrist. Likely candidates have included European monarchs and popes of the Roman Catholic Church. Major international crises of the 20th century provided other prime suspects such as Adolf Hitler, Mikhail Gorbachev, Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. American president George W. Bush and British prime minister Tony Blair have also surfaced on the lists of prophecy pundits.
So, who is the Antichrist? Rather than joining in this sensationalistic game of pin-the-tail-on-the-Antichrist, Christians need only go to Scripture to find the answer. The apostle John exposed the identity of the Antichrist when he wrote, “Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the Antichrist – he denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also” 1 John 2:22-23.
In his second epistle, John gives a similar warning: “Many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the Antichrist” (2 John 7). John did not reserve the title “Antichrist” for any one particular individual; rather, he taught that anyone who denies the incarnation, messianic role or deity of Jesus is the Antichrist.
John did indicate in the book of Revelation, however, that one individual would personify evil in a unique way as the ultimate archetype of all the types of Antichrist. Instead of referring to this individual as the Antichrist, John referred to him as “the Beast.” So, who is the Beast of Revelation? Again we must properly interpret Scripture to find the answer.
First, John explains to his first-century readers that with “wisdom” and “insight” they could “calculate the number of the beast, for it is man’s number. His number is 666” Revelation 13:18. It stands to reason, therefore, that the individual John had in mind must have been alive during the first century. No amount of wisdom or insight would have enabled first-century Christians to identify a far-future individual.
It would have been cruel and dangerously misleading for John to suggest to first-century Christians that they could identify the Beast if, in fact, the Beast was a 21st century institution or individual.
Furthermore, an examination of the historical context in which John was writing reveals that John was appealing to a widely used method of associating each letter of the alphabet with a corresponding numerical value. This process is known as gematria. According to gematria, six hundred sixty-six is the sum value of the Hebrew letters (not recognizable to the Roman authorities of John’s day), spelling the name of the first-century Roman Emperor whom the great 19th-century biblical scholar Milton Terry called “the veriest incarnation of wickedness”: Nero Caesar.
Accounts of Nero’s life, most notably that recorded in The Twelve Caesars by second-century Roman historian Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus, identify Nero as a desperately wicked individual who grossly violated each of the Ten Commandments through a long litany of disgusting demonstrations of depravity. Included among his appalling atrocities were his castration of a young boy named Sporus whom he then married publicly, his persecution of the Christians whom he had dressed in tar jackets and put on stakes and then burned at night to light the streets, his demand to be worshiped as God, and the brutal murders of some of his closest family members, including his mother Agrippina, his wives Octavia and Poppaea and Poppaea’s young son, Rufrius Crispinius, whom Nero had drowned during a fishing trip for allegedly playing childhood games in which he pretended to be the Emperor.
Finally, Nero is rightly identified as the Beast of
Revelation – the archetypal Antichrist – because of the unique and horrible quality of the “great tribulation” he
ignited. The horror of the great
tribulation included not only the destruction of