I am curious to learn from you folks out there.
I grew up in a church tradition that did not emphasise or focus on the ‘end times’, so I am a bit weak on theological eschatology. However, I did grow up in the American Bible Belt and read a couple of the Left Behind books when I was in middle/high school, so, I must admit that I have a highly skeptical view of an eschatology that includes ideas of the Rapture or the AntiChrist or some sort of globalist conspiracy. (Apologies if I have not used ‘globalist’ in its correct context!) Also, I can’t help but see Nicholas Cage or Kirk Cameron in my mind’s eye when these sorts of things are discussed, and I can’t decide if that’s helpful or unhelpful.
However, I really am curious to know where this eschatological narrative/interpretation has it’s roots? I’m assuming it’s in Revelation, but I was wondering if there were other books in the Bible that support this view?
And, specifically, I am also thinking of the concept of the THE AntiChrist (…as opposed to antichrists. I’ve read a number of 16th century reformers in my studies, and I know that they commonly refer to antichrists in the world, which generally refers to those who would oppose the true Gospel as they saw it.).
Do/can we know if it’s going to be an actual person that we’re to keep watch for? (A bit like the concept of the Messiah, but in reverse.) And, if it’s a real person, how do we know what he/she/they will be like?
Thanks in advance for helping me think through some things!
@KMac That is a great question. I think this is a topic that takes lots of study to form an opinion on. What I’ve included below are some of my own notes as well as some resources that I find helpful. Hopefully they help you begin to think through it. The Book of Daniel and the Book of Revelation are the main two sources where people go when talking about the Antichrist - if by Antichrist we mean an individual. But as you will see below, this can be understood as symbolic and there is a question of timing.
I think we can begin, as you already did, by acknowledging that John is clear in his letters that there are many people who would qualify as Antichrist. However, Revelation mentions the Beast - who appears to be a specific type or embodiment of the spirit of the Antichrist. To begin to understand why there is so much disagreement over how to understand the identity of the Beast in Revelation, I think we start with the fact that there are four common ways or frameworks for interpreting Revelation, with much variety within each group:
1 - Futurist - the idea that most of Revelation will occur at the end of history right before the return of Christ
2 - Partial Preterist - most of Revelation was fulfillment by the events surrounding the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD and now we only await the return of Christ and new heavens / new earth
3 - Idealist - Revelation has no historical fulfillment - it is instead a depiction of the great struggle that is ongoing in every generation between God’s Kingdom and evil world empires
4 - Historicist - each section of Revelation represents a different portion of history - so we could break history into chunks of a few hundred years and correlate them to Revelation (Roman Empire, Muslim invasions, Papacy) - this view is not common anymore
The way you interpret Revelation obviously has a huge influence on how understand the Antichrist in Revelation. The historicists may view the Antichrist as a Pope from the Middle Ages. The futurist will likely believe the Antichrist is going to rise up at some point - perhaps from a renewed Roman Empire. The partial preterist will argue for Nero or another Roman emperor. The idealist will say there is no historical person - rather it is just a symbol for all powerful persecutors of the Church.
Most of what follows is from more of a partial preterists bent - other than Steve Gregg’s book which goes through all of the views. I do not think you need to fall strictly into one camp and, as I said in another thread, this topic is complicated! If I had time to study it more right now I’m sure I would learn something new every week.
Hope this is not information overload Christ grant you wisdom as you study.
Hank Hanegraaff Article
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 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” (1John2:22–23 NIV). 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” (2John7 NIV). 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.
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 Jerusalem and the temple, but the persecution of the apostles and prophets who penned the Scriptures and formed the foundation of the Christian church of which Christ Himself was the chief cornerstone. Thus, Nero and the great tribulation he instigated are the archetypes for every antichrist and tribulation that follow before we experience the reality of our own resurrection at the second coming of Christ.
After Nero committed suicide in AD 68, the Roman empire had its first civil war since the time Mark Antony died in 30 BC. In the span of time from June in AD 68 to December in AD 69, Roman experienced the ‘year of the four emperors’, in which Galba, Otho and Vitellius all rose and fell from the position of Caesar. Finally Vespasian, the first of the Flavian dynasty, took the throne in AD 69. His son Titus finished the destruction of Jerusalem. Many believed that Rome, the beast, had died and that this civil war would spell its end, but it did not – it survived. (Rev 13)
4 Views Revelation
Illusions to Daniel in Revelation
Michael the Arch Angel Rises (Revelation 12:7 / Daniel 12:1)
Let the wrongdoer continue wrongdoing (Revelation 22:11 / Daniel 12:10)
1,260 days / 42 months / 3.5 years (Revelation 11:2-3/13:5 & Daniel 7:25/12:7)
Times, Times and Half a Time in Daniel and Revelation
This period is equivalent to 1,260 days or 3.5 years. It appears both in Daniel 7:25 and 12:7. This period of time appears to be entirely separate from the 70 weeks of years, which conclude with the spread of the Gospel to the Gentiles.
In Daniel 7, it mentions one king that humiliates three kings at the end of a succession of ten kings. During the Jewish wars Nero died and the ‘year of the four emperors’ occurred – when four kings ruled in succession, the first three subdued by the fourth. That fourth king would be Vespasian and his son Titus, who was the one who actually sieged the city. He did indeed bring an end to the power of the holy people as the old covenant age ended and the Church age began.
This number occurs again in Revelation 11:2-3/13:5 in reference to the same period of time.
Daniel 7-12 One View
7 - Daniel has a vision of 4 beasts - Babylon, Persia, Greece (splits in 4) & Rome (has 10 horns). In Rome’s year of the 4 emperors, a little horn uproots the first three (Vespasin/Titus) and persecutes the Holy Ones for a time, times and half a time. Then the Ancient of Days gives the Holy Ones the kingdom.
8 - Daniel has a vision of Alexander the Great’s conquests and Antiochus Epiphanes (a little horn from 1 of 4 winds - Seleucid dynasty) desecrating the temple for 2300 mornings / evenings before it is restored.
9 - Daniel prays that God save Israel because of His compassion; not their righteousness. He has a vision - 69 weeks until Messiah is cut off. The coming prince (Vespasian/Titus) will destroy the city and sanctuary in a time of tribulation. Mid-70th week sacrifice will end. Then the desolator will be destroyed.
10 - An angel tells Daniel that since he humbled himself, God heard his prayers and that the visions are about the last days. One with human likeness appears to Daniel. He says he must fight the prince of Persia and soon the prince of Greece. But before he goes he will share the truth.
11 - Daniel is told of the rise of Greece & its division into 4 kingdoms (2-4), battles between Ptolemy and Seleucid (5-20), the persecution of Antiochus IV Epiphanes (21-35), the rise of the Caesars (36-39) and the time of the end (40-45) (battle king of South (Egypt) and king of North (Syria) and rise/fall of Nero).
12 - At that time there will be a time of great tribulation. Those written in the book will escape. Many who sleep will awake to eternal glory or shame. The wise will shine. The end of these things will come after a time, times, and half a time - when the power of the holy people is shattered. The wicked will act wickedly, but the wise will understand. From the time the sacrifice is abolished to the end will be 1,290 days. Blessed are those who reach 1,335 days. Seal these things up and go your way. You will rise to your destiny at the end of days.
One Way of Understanding Revelation
There will be a second coming of King Jesus at the end of the Church Age, but many events in Revelation occurred ‘soon’ after John’s prophecy was given with the devastation and destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. The fact that John was told not to seal up his vision (whereas Daniel was told to seal it – since it would not happen for many years, is one reason to lean towards this view…).
Revelation appears to have two book ends – chapters 1-3 and 20-22. Chapters 1-3 are prophetic messages to actual churches in the first century warning them of the judgment of God upon them and chapters 20-22 are a retelling of Christ’s victory and a metaphorical depiction of the Church that looks forward to a new heavens and new earth.
Chapters 6-11 are a description of the time between Jesus’ death and the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Chapters 12-19 are a retelling of the same period of time, but zoomed in on the Jewish war. That these two sections are a retelling of the same story is evident from the fact that both end with a very similar benediction, they both contain the 144,000 and they both contain the 42 months / 1,260 days from Daniel chapters 7/12. While Daniel’s 70 weeks ended when the Gospel was opened to the Gentiles, the prophecies concerning the end of the Jewish covenant were not fulfilled until the Jewish war and destruction of the temple, which Jesus predicted.
Letters to the Seven Churches (3): Encouragement and exhortation for the churches in Asian Minor at the time of writing
Seals / Trumpets (6-11): Destruction of Jerusalem by Rome in 70 AD, martyrdom of the saints under Nero and the saving of the Christians in Jerusalem from the tribulation (through their flight to Pella)
Beast / 7 bowls / harlot (12-19): Retelling of 6-11 using imagery of the plagues of Egypt and clarifying the identity of the beast as Nero and the harlot / Babylon as Jerusalem. The harlot is clearly Jerusalem, since a pagan nation could not commit adultery, having never been covenanted with God. (Chapters 7 / 14 both describe God’s protection of the 144,000 during the tribulation and chapters 11 and 19 contain identical songs of worship as God establishes His kingdom)
Millennium (20): After Christ conquers Satan on the cross and binds him, the martyred saints will reign in heaven and the Gospel will spread throughout the church age (symbolically 1000 years). At the end of the church age, satan will once again be released to impede the progress of the Church, but Christ’s second coming will lead to his downfall and the end of the material universe / death itself.
The New Creation (21-22): The Church, Christ’s bride, is described in symbolic imagery that has an ultimate fulfillment in the new heaven’s and new earth that God will create at the end of the ages.
@KMac Here is an example of a futurist interpretation of Revelation in action in the news just today. It is a common view, as I’m sure you’re aware already, that there will be a one world government that will persecute Christians. This example may be a bit extreme (and a bit amusing) - not all futurists think that technology will be used as the mark of the beast. But it is an example that popped up just today.
@SeanO! Amazing. Thank you so much for the start! Very glad to have the 4 views on how to interpret Revelation as well as the identification of the Beast. Very helpful. (Just out of curiosity, do you have a lot of this stuff in digital note form? I’m always so impressed how you churn so much information out in a very small space of time!) Also, fascinating article from the Beeb. Thanks for that snippet as well. Off to do a bit of thinking now…as well as sleeping.
What would be the view that others on here subscribe to and why?
@KMac I have this particular information in digital note form, yes. At some point in what feels like the very distant past I decided to summarize the Bible chapter by chapter in a document (a very helpful exercise - never realized how much I skipped over sometimes). Afterwards, I just started adding in notes about troublesome passages as well as some devotional thoughts and it grew. Occasionally a question pops up that is related to what I have in that document, but most of the time I have to write an original reply or quote another Connect thread I previously answered.
Sean covered this so well, so I won’t add anything here. If you wanted an example of a ministry that upholds the Futurist viewpoint, this might be worth a look? https://www.heraldofhope.org.au/
Disclaimer: I don’t endorse them at all, form your own opinion.
@matthew.western@KMac Here is an excellent commentary from the Idealist perspective as well. The review I included also has a definition of ‘recapitulation’, which is the idea that Revelation repeats the same series of events a few times in the middle sections (as I said in my own view).
First, it is idealist. That is, it argues that the major visions of Revelation set out a general pattern of spiritual realities and spiritual war applicable throughout the period from Christ’s first coming until the Second Coming.
Second, it is recapitulationist. That is, it understands the cycles of judgment with the seals, the trumpets, and the bowls as not referring to three chronologically successive series of events, but traveling over some of the same ground from three different points of view. Each of the cycles culminates with the Second Coming and the Final Judgment. In addition, it understands the section from 12:1-14:20 or 12:1-15:4 as similarly looking over the whole interadvent period and culminating in the Second Coming (14:14-20).
Finally, it is amillennialist. It understands the reign of the saints in 20:4 as a description of the saints’ fellowship with Christ’s reign during the intermediate state.
@matthew.western@KMac For the futurist position, you might find this commentary more representative of a legitimately well thought position than the link provided. Ligonier recommended it even though their basic position is more partial preterist and this book is more futurist, so I figure it must be good if someone who disagrees still recommends it.
Honestly, all I can say is ‘it’s complicated’, and ‘it depends’.
I’ll try and be diplomatic.
I grew up with the Futurist viewpoint, but have not studied any of the other views at all.
The reason I say is ‘it depends’ is because the starting point you have is what ending point you arrive at with prophecy.
The first questions to even consider in my mind is
What your viewpoint on Replacement theology. Has God finished with Israel, or has God put them aside temporarily during the church age. Refer to Daniel’s 70 weeks prophecies, and the ‘4 beasts’ = world empires. Also the statue prophecy in Daniel is interesting - Babylonian, Persian, Greek, Roman, and then the last one is the iron mixed with clay - which futurist viewpoint would say is the European Union. The great rock that appears and destroys the statue (all kingdoms) is Christ in his millennial kingdom.
What is your view on Genesis. If you are 6 day litteral creationist, then probably a short time frame of history seems logical. If you are day-age or other views, then I don’t know. When sharing the Gospel, I try and ignore the Creation vs Evolution debate (that is How God created), and ask people Did God create. The first 4 words in Genesis declares that God exists, and he created. It declares that Stephen Hawking is wrong - in his notion of a self creating universe.
So, with prophecy I’m in the ‘err, I"m not sure’ camp. Having grown up with a litteral interpretation of Revelation, and a viewpoint that God has put the nation of Israel aside for a time during the church age, and that God will restore Israel.
I’ll take Sean’s very good advice, and change my mind slowly. Let me say this, I’m enjoying learning from the Bible Project - and I like how in their videos they explain how certain areas could be interpreted in different ways.
To whet your appetite on the futurist viewpoint, the anti Christ is a literal person, who will arise from a revived Roman Empire (European union), and a one world government and one world currency, and people won’t be able to buy or sell without ‘the mark of the beast’.
I do think as soon as any ministry gets into saying ‘this current historical event = this specific Bible prophecy’ - it does tend to get into ‘setting a date for Christs return’ which I think gets into speculation and starts to become unhelpful. I rest in the fact that God has history in his Sovereign control - I don’t worry about things outside of my control, and I wonder if too much strong debate in this area could sidetrack from sharing the Gospel.
In 2 Thessalonians, written 2000 years ago, they were worried they’d missed Christ’s return, and Paul was writing to reassure them they hadn’t.
Also, I understand that there was much speculation that Hitler was the anti Christ. You can certainly understand that as his ‘final solution’ was to eliminate the Jews. You could also understand that any person living during either World War 1 or II might think that it was close to the end.
just my 2 bobs worth. I think I’ve thought about it enough for me, and now mostly ignore it. i hope that is a helpful summary…
Wow, this is like playing the game of frogger on level 50:grin: . Don’t know when to jump .
Sometimes I think of that show “Are you smarter than a fifth grader?” And judging by how much I can actually help my fifth grader with their homework… sometimes- no I am not😅. (Parents who have had to deal with common core may know exactly how I feel)
Yet at the same time I think that we’ve allowed “un-common” core to enter the eschatology of the bible as well at times in that suddenly it seems you need 6 doctorates just to scratch the surface.
I am not saying that this is not a complicated topic (as many are) but that some of it could be better served by a fifth grader. Kinda like Jesus saying unless we come as a little child.
I’ve also spiritually speaking grew up on the left behind series of books and movies. If anything, I thought they were a good read, while the movies were kinda cheesy. But my denomination at the time supported in a way this theory of how the end could/would play out.
As a brand new believer, I didn’t know any thing else nor knew there was multiple interpretations on the timing, the person of the anti- Christ, Israel etc etc.
I’ve since changed my view on the timing of the rapture (we can discuss that at a later forum) and I still hold to the anti- christ being BOTH spiritually and physically speaking of individuals AND one person in the not too distant future.
My credentials are i’m a high school dropout, convict, who was saved in jail and just happened to come across a book on prophecy while incarcerated. God had just saved me and “accidentally” this book happened to be 1 of my stack of books that I thought were all scifi.
God opened my eyes to His Word in a major way, so I read that whole book in just 4 days along with the bible every day.
That was 23 years ago and I still read the bible every day and I started with prophecy as my first biblical subject and it’s still one of my favorites (most the time).
I have looked into most of the major theories with what I feel is an open heart and a teachable spirit. That’s one thing I believe comes easier to those who did not grow up in a church tradition which everyone taught the same exact thing from your grandma to your pastor to your church to your denomination etc…
Sometimes it’s much harder to unlearn something that’s been taught all your life that could be wrong.
We must always have the right to be wrong and teachable while standing on our current convictions and best level of revelation. Differentiating between what we believe to be true vs what we think could be true.
Hehe, so true. My 15 year old asks me questions that I struggle to answer. Honestly, I read Sean’s first post in detail to understand what the different views were, and then started to use the phrase ‘futurist viewpoint’ in sharing my own perspective.
I think this below is partially true, but goes with any field of knowledge - but as the old saying goes, it takes an expert on the topic matter to explain it in everyday terms.
Have you heard the saying ‘Jargon is the language of simple minds’? It’s very hard to explain it if it’s not clear in your own mind first. I work in IT, and my answer to ‘how does the internet work’ would be very different depending on who was asking. How I explain to my mum would be very different to how I explain to my co-worker. It just happens I’ve done Info Technology for a living for a while, and I have so much assumed knowledge that I forget. If I have a junior trainee straight from high school and I say oh just do this, go there and do that and plug this in, test this and let me know when it’s fixed - and I get a completely blank look. I have to check myself, and go back and build the foundation - otherwise my words are useless to them, there is no transfer of knowledge, the junior does not grow in their role, and I am not helping myself or the team to grow.
There is the issue in some churches, where people tend to speak ‘Christianese’ - terms like justification and sanctification mean nothing whatsoever to a first timer to church.
I listen to Ravi Zacharius on ‘Let my people think’ podcast and on youtube messages (and the other RZIM speakers) and some of the time I have a hard time keeping up with his train of thought. I love how he, and many other RZIM speakers take time to understand the questioner, their field of expertise, and be sure to answer as plainly as possible.
The core message of the Gospel is fairly simple, the message that God exists and created us, Man fell into sin, Jesus is the promised Messiah, is God in the flesh, was crucified and died in our place, and rose again on the third day, and now lives and intercedes on our behalf. It’s been said that John 3:16 is the Gospel in a nutshell. Our hope is in the resurrected Christ. (I really hope that I’ve done it justice here).
We are all equal before God - I like what it says in 1 Corinthians 13 - the great love chapter. Paul says if he could speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have all knowledge, and understand all mysteries, and have enough faith to be able to remove mountains, but have not love - it is like a sounding gong or a clanging symbol.
Verse 8 says, knowledge will pass away, tongues will cease, but love will never fail.
As you said exactly, we need an open and teachable heart, this is very important, and it is a journey. Thankyou for sharing how you became a Christian.
Sorry Kathleen, to go off topic slightly. I hope this is a helpful post…
I think you are asking the right questions but you are going to have to step outside of your comfort zone, Your answers are not in the Bible but they did inform the writers of the Bible. To be clear I am not suggesting that the Bible is wrong or tainted or that the current 4 view are wrong just incomplete.
I am reading material by Michael Heiser that has some very interesting thoughts. This book:
will certain add to the conversation and will certainly turn yours gears.
Here is a book that will address your question(s) more directly.
@Jimmy_Sellers I would be cautious of Heiser’s work. I agree that historical context is important, but I think Heiser is really reaching on this one. He refers to the story of the Apkallu and the book of Enoch - both extra-Biblical sources - to claim that the Church has missed a major purpose of Jesus’ coming to earth for the last two thousand years.
I am sure Heiser has some interesting points, but his approach sets off all of my conspiracy theory radars.I would just be careful. The New Testament never clearly points out this connection, so I think Heiser is unwarranted in reading it into the text.
Also, I can’t find reviews of Heiser’s work or even comments by well known scholars or ministries - N. T. Wright, Gospel Coalition, Ligonier… If you know of any that might be helpful.
Reversing Hermon is a groundbreaking work. It unveils what most in the modern Church have never heard regarding how the story of the sin of the Watchers in 1 Enoch 6-16 helped frame the mission of Jesus, the messiah. Jews of the first century expected the messiah to reverse the impact of the Watchers’ transgression…
How the writings of Peter and Paul allude to the sin of the Watchers and present Jesus as overturning the disastrous effects of their sins against humanity
In several contexts the Apkallu are seven demi-gods, sometimes described as part man and part fish, associated with human wisdom; these creatures are often referred to in scholarly literature as the Seven Sages . Each sage has an association with a specific mythic King. After the seventh sage and king, a deluge (see Epic of Gilgamesh) is said to have occurred. Records list further sages and further historic king pairings. Post-deluge, the sages are considered human, and in some texts are distinguished by being referred to as Ummanu , not Apkallu .
Heavy on Speculation, Light on Exegesis - Aitken
I came into this book expecting to enjoy it after being delighted by Heiser’s previous book, “The Unseen Realm”, but instead I was fairly dissappointed. The exegesis is, to put it lightly, a stretch - we’re asked to assume that Matthew’s inclusion of four women in his chronology is because each convolutedly represents some sin in first Enoch (of which there are not four), while the more likely explanation that Matthew is focused on include the Gentiles in the people of God is dismissed without argument (despite being a theme which occurs throughout the gospel.) Similarly, the key to the transfiguration and Jesus’ famous “on this rock” statement is, apparently, the fact that it occurred near Mount Hermon - a fact which we’re told underlies the gospel writers’ whole theology and yet is not mentioned by a single one, while Revelation 12 is interpreted through some sort of astrological lens which, after a number of leaps of faith, apparently yields a date of exactly September 11, 3 BC for Jesus’ birth. (It is of course odd that the early church fathers seem to have completely missed the various “clear allusions” the book so clearly sees.)
Agreed! The Prince of the Power of the Air (as Paul calls it) is always at work, and will be until he is finally expelled. I still think the incarnation of Jesus can still be denied in today’s world, but maybe it looks more like a denial of the historicity or relevance of the Gospels/Bible in modern life. What do you think?
@Jimmy_Sellers and @SeanO, the Heiser angle is one I’ve never heard of, so thanks for making me aware of that! Jimmy, what’s one thing about Heiser’s approach you find interesting, and have you found his arguments changing your own thoughts about the subject?
@SpiritfilledBerean, thanks for sharing your perspective and a bit of your story! I’m fascinated by book on prophecy that found its way into your stack. Amazing how God works! (Which book was it, by the way?) And would you say that book influenced how you read and interpreted certain portions of prophecy in the Bible?
@matthew.western, thank you so much for your thoughtful and insightful reply! I think tying this subject to the interpretation of prophecy in general is a very helpful place for me to begin. And I find myself right there with you on the attempt to interpret current events and characters through the Futurist lens. I find that when we start to do that, it, in effect, dehumanises either an individual or the people involved. Especially when we’re dealing with the Antichrist or Beast…as soon as we give an individual that label, that person is no longer human but pure evil. That doesn’t mean that Futurists (for lack of a better title) are wrong about it - they could be very right! - it’s just not a path I myself want to go too far down at the moment.
I have felt the same way and have commented that we are getting to a point in some churches that you need a PhD just to go to preaching.
Your comparison of the how we have complicated the basic of faith with those of common core teaching methods is spot on. We have taken the 3 r’s, readin’, 'ritin and 'rithmetic of educations and overly complicated them and we have taken Jesus loves me and turned into Jesus loves me if…we jump through all the hoops.