“Apocalypse” Part 4: “Antichrist”

“Apocalypse” Part 4: “Antichrist” March 9, 2022

Is Vladimir Putin the antichrist? Yes, and no.

Photo by Jack Moreh on Freerange

Who is the Antichrist?

When I was young, it seemed like Christians were always trying to answer the question, “Who is the Antichrist?”  Ronald Regan (who has six letters in each of his three names and survived a gunshot) was a possibility. Mikhail Gorbachev (who had the Hebrew letter vav dripping blood on his forehead) was another noteworthy candidate, along with the shah of Iran. So was every leader that emerged in the Middle East, as well as every pope.

Today, people are still trying to figure it out. Most recently, I heard that Jesus secretly predicted the name of the Antichrist. In Luke 10:18, Jesus said “I was watching Satan fall from heaven like lightning.” Of course, he was really speaking Aramaic and not the Greek of our New Testament. Supposedly, if you translate lightning from heaven from the Greek back into Aramaic, you get Barack Obama.

Seriously, all politics aside, this is just bad scholarship on so many levels. The most striking of which is the fact that Jesus was using the past tense, not the future, so He couldn’t have been talking about the Antichrist anyway. So, let’s quit trying to point the finger at somebody that we suspect might be the living Antichrist, and let’s see what the Bible has to say.


The Beast

Revelation 13: 1-4 gives a vivid, although symbolic, description of the man we call the Antichrist:

And the dragon stood on the sand of the seashore. Then I saw a beast coming up out of the sea, having ten horns and seven heads, and on his horns were ten diadems, and on his heads were blasphemous names. And the beast which I saw was like a leopard, and his feet were like those of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. And the dragon gave him his power and his throne and great authority. I saw one of his heads as if it had been slain, and his fatal wound was healed. And the whole earth was amazed and followed after the beast; they worshiped the dragon because he gave his authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast, and who is able to wage war with him?” 

 You can find more on the Antichrist, or Man of Lawlessness, in 2 Thessalonians 2:2-12, but for today’s purposes, we’ll stay with the narrative as it continues in Revelation 13. In his arrogance, the Beast (Antichrist) who is empowered by the Dragon (Satan) blasphemes God and makes war against the saints. Then another beast (false prophet) arises, performing great signs and making a religion about the worship of the Antichrist. Verses 16-18 tell of the mark and number of the beast:

And he causes all, the small and the great, and the rich and the poor, and the free men and the slaves, to be given a mark on their right hand or on their forehead,  and he provides that no one will be able to buy or to sell, except the one who has the mark, either the name of the beast or the number of his name.  Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for the number is that of a man; and his number is six hundred and sixty-six.

The Mark of the Beast

Along with the identity of the Antichrist, people have been trying to figure out both the mark and number of the beast since the John put pen to paper. Many portray the mark as being the number 666 on a person’s hand and forehead—visible to the naked eye. Others think it has a more symbolic meaning. What kind of mark or number could enable people to buy and sell, without which they can’t transact commerce? When social security numbers first came out, people were convinced that this was the mark of the beast. Then, when credit cards came out it was the same. Now people are talking about microchip implants with the same concern.

Preterists believe that the book of Revelation is all about the Roman persecution of Christians. They say that the identity of the Antichrist, the mark, and the number of the beast, are all obvious to those who study history. A man’s name can have a number because many of the ancient numerical systems were based on letters (take Roman numerals, for example). Using the system called Gematria, in which letters represent numbers and vice versa, we find that the name “Caesar Nero” is, in fact, 666.

Nero was the first emperor of Rome who sought to stamp out Christianity. The Roman historian Tacitus even called the emperor cruel. He declared the innocence of those put to death by crucifixion, beheading, burning alive, and attacks by wild animals for the amusement of onlookers. The apostle John was himself boiled in oil before his exile to Patmos. It was under Nero’s persecution that Peter suffered martyrdom by inverted crucifixion, and that Paul was beheaded.

As to the mark that allows buying and selling—Preterists say that this is Roman coin, which bore the image of Caesar Nero on its face. Without this coin in your hand (there’s no difference in Greek between “in” and “on”), and without it preoccupying your thoughts, you couldn’t buy or sell. In other words, unless you engaged in worship of the emperor and his government, you were toast—literally.

While preterists make a good point here, they’re only partly correct. It seems clear to me that John was writing about Nero and Roman coin. But they miss the mark when they stop there and neglect to look at the future. Futurists, on the other hand, are also wrong when they see only prophecy and not also history. History repeats itself, and John is saying in Revelation that the antichrists of the present and future are just like Nero.


God Wins!

So, preterists believe that the Antichrist, false prophet, and the false religion were all in the past. Futurists look for a literal unfolding of prophetic events in the time to come. The good news for both is that no matter which way you look at it, Revelation declares that (as my New Testament professor Tommy South put it), “God wins!”  While these nasty characters wage war against the Lamb, He overcomes them “because He is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those who are with Him are the called and chosen and faithful (Rev. 17:14).” 

When preterists and futurists ask me to settle the debate for them, I tell them that they’re both right—about the once and future Antichrist. Yet they miss the boat entirely if they fail to see Revelation’s application for today. 1 John 2:15-18 warns about not a person called The Antichrist, but a spirit of antichrist:

 Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.

Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour.


Is Vladimir Putin the Antichrist?

So, is Vladimir Putin the Antichrist? Yes, and no. According to 1 John 2:15-18, Putin is certainly an antichrist. In his violation of national sovereignty, his attack on unarmed civilians fleeing from violence, and his distortion of the truth, he is definitely anti-Christ. In his greed and his lust for power, in his boastful pride, he styles himself an emperor as Nero did. As such, he stands against the spirit of everything Christ represents. But is he THE Antichrist—the leader of the one world government during the seven-year Great Tribulation period before the Millennial reign of Jesus upon this earth?

I don’t think John’s Apocalypse actually predicts such an end-time scenario, as the Left Behind novels would have us believe. As a preterist, I believe John’s book is about the plight of Christians during the first-century Roman persecution. And as a historicist (I embrace both views), I see the fulfillment of Revelation across the scope of human history. As many antichrists have risen, many more will rise.

So, beware anything that would leave its mark in your head (thoughts) or your hand (actions). Don’t be deceived by the world and its grasping desires—for it is by these that the spirit of antichrist works against you. Instead, overcome by the blood of the Lamb. Remember the message and hope of Revelation—God wins! Be firm and be faithful.


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