That is a marvellous question, one that has the potential to burst the whole End Times hype approach to the Bible and Christianity like the abnormally inflated balloon full of hot air that it is.
Why do so many who supposedly revere and respect the Bible demean it by treating it as thought it is the sort of vague fit-all pseudoprophecy of the sort that prognosticators have always come up with so that no one could ever say they were wrong, always vague enough that something would fit? This fundamentalist approach, rather than honoring the Bible, makes it into the sort of “prophecy” that Woody Allen famously parodied with his prediction “Two nations shall go to war, but only one shall win”.
Also, as a great post on Experimental Theology noted (which I drew attention to a while back), all this Left Behind nonsense assumes that the antichrist is clever enough to deceive the whole human race, but not to read the Book of Revelation and do a few things differently to at least try to avoid ending up at the fate predicted. As that post puts it:
So you have to figure, on the eve of the battle, that he might think back on his whole life, where each step has been predicted in perfect detail, and wonder, “Hmmmm. Maybe I shouldn’t fight this battle tomorrow on the plains of Armageddon. Seems like a bad idea. Maybe I should, well, CHANGE TACTICS! Fight the battle somewhere else. Like Boise, Idaho.”
So why doesn’t the Bible just say “The antichrist’s name will be Barack Obama, and I’m telling you in advance so that Christians won’t try to prevent his election and thus screw up the prophecies and delay the rapture”? Because it doesn’t actually make any of the sorts of long-term predictions that are sometimes claimed. It certainly applies texts with the benefit of hindsight to new situations. But the only seemingly precise “prophecies” that (more or less) consistently get things right are those in the Book of Daniel, and that’s the very reason for dating the book not in the time of the Persian Empire, but the time of the Maccabean Revolt, up until which time it follows the course of events with increasing detail, and after which it predicts the end of the world and the final resurrection. So-called “Bible believing Christians”, in their utter disrespect for the Bible, force the Bible to be “right” by inserting in such places leaps into the distant future that are not mentioned in the text (which they supposedly wish to adhere to), and treat phrases like “at that time” as if they were the equivalent of “fast forward”.
The irony in it all is that the author of Revelation did tell readers who the Beast was. It gave a code that early Christian readers could and did crack, but the Roman authorities would in all likelihood miss. He who had ears to hear heard, but since then, Christians who can’t believe the Bible wasn’t written directly for them continue to misread, misconstrue, and misinterpret. And they do so because of an egotism and a prideful certainty about “what the Bible means” that are perhaps more directly and more obviously at odds with the Bible’s teaching than all their End Times speculation.