E. J. Strange, Bridgwater
IN the last paper a short reference was made to the anti-Christ as one of a trinity of evil to be manifested in the latter day after the rapture of the Church. So much is said in the Scriptures about this sinister personage that it seems well to devote a whole paper to a consideration of the subject. It should at the outset, however, be remembered that there is diversity of interpretation and, where wise and godly men have differed, one should refrain from dogmatic assertions.
For the purposes of this study we shall consider first of all the Titles of the Anti-Christ, as revealing his character. We shall note how in each case they indicate an attribute diametrically opposed to the attributes of Christ. The attributes of Christ give us the sum of divine perfection ; the attributes of the Anti-Christ are the sum of devilish iniquity. We note that the most important attribute of our Lord as a man is His spotless purity : " In Him is no sin " . . . " He knew no sin " . . . " He did no sin." In contrast, the Anti-Christ is spoken of as " the man of sin, the son of perdition " (2 Thess. 2). Sin, which came into the world at the fall and which has blighted the whole history of humanity; sin, which brought its trail of sorrow and death ; sin reaches a terrible climax in the latter day and finds its embodiment in a man, so that he, a real human being, is nevertheless called " the man of sin " and, because of that, " the son of perdition," a title nowhere else found except in relation to the traitor, Judas Iscariot.
In 2 Thess. 2, the Anti-Christ is also spoken of as " that lawless one " whom the Lord Jesus shall slay with the breath of His mouth. A lawless person is one who recognizes no form of restraint, either human or divine. However bad men may become, there, is usually some restraining influence. If conscience is seared, the law of God disregarded, and the law of man flouted, (here is still the restraint of fear, the fear of the sword which the ' minister of justice ' bears not in vain. Here, however, is one who knows no restraint. Absolutely lawless, the Anti-Christ stands out in the sharpest contrast to Him who could say to God, " Thy law is within my heart."
These titles are clear and unmistakable in their reference to the Anti-Christ, but there are others about which there may be differences of view but which seem to me to speak of the same person. It would be as well to enumerate them :—
(1) The beast (Rev. 13)—see previous paper.
(2) The little horn (Dan. 7).
(3) The desolator (Dan. 9).
(4) The wilful king (Dan. 11).
(5) Man of the earth (Psa. 10).
(6) Lucifer (Isa. 14).
(7) Another who comes " in his own name " (Jn. 5).
(8) Prince of Tyrus (Ezek. 28).
It may be objected that some of these titles refer to historical characters. Thus Daniel's prophecies are said to refer to the Syrian, Antiochus Epiphanes, against whom Judas Maccabaeus revolted ; Lucifer is the name given by Isaiah to the king of Babylon, whilst the Prince of Tyrus was a ruling potentate of the time in which Ezekicl was writing. All this is no doubt true, but a careful reading of these passages will show that certain things are predicated of these persons which could not apply in their entirety to the historical persons quoted. They may be regarded as prototypes or fore-shadowings of the terrible Anti-Christ, who is to be revealed in his time.
As " the man of the earth " he is contrasted with the Heavenly Man, the Lord from heaven. As ' the wilful king,' he is seen in opposition to Him who is the King of kings, and yet came not to do His own will, but the will of Him that sent Him, and will in the end Himself be subject that God may be all in all. As proud Lucifer and the self-exalting Prince of Tyre, how utterly opposed is he to Him who is meek and lowly in heart, and who humbled Himself to the death of the cross. The Anti-Christ is ' the desolator '—he makes desolate ; Christ in the beneficence of His reign will cause even the desert to blossom as a rose.
Let us now consider the origin of the Anti-Christ. It would appear from Dan. 7 and Rev. 13 that his origin is political rather than religious, although many believe that he will be an apostate Jew. The "God in heaven that revealeth secrets" made known to Nebuchadnezzar what should be in the latter days. In his dream the king saw a colossus whose brightness was excellent and whose form was terrible (Dan. 2). When, however, the counterpart of this vision is given to Daniel, the man of God, he sees the Gentile dominions in the forms of fierce ravening beasts (Dan. 7). Little difficulty is experienced in the vision of the first three beasts, for the story of these Gentile empires has passed into history. The fourth l>east is undoubtedly representative of the fourth great empire of the Mediterranean (the Great Sea), i.e. the Roman. It was under Roman dominion that Messiah was cut oil (Dan. 9. 26). As this people is spoken of as " the people of the prince that shall come," we are justified in saying that the Anti-Christ will have his origin in the Roman Empire, a view corroborated by Dan. 7, where the little horn springs up among the ten horns of the fourth beast, The difficulty with which one is faced is that the Roman Empire itself was shattered by the invasions of barbarian hordes, yet it is spoken of as existing in the latter day. The inference from these prophecies and also from the reference in Revelation to the deadly wound that was healed, is either that the Roman Empire will literally be revived or that there will arise a confederacy of ten great powers which will have all the characteristics of the old Roman Empire.
It should be noted from 2 Thess. 2. 8, 9, that the Anti-Christ has his manifestation (apocalypse or unveiling) and coming (parousia), both terms being used of the return and manifestation of our Lord. The manner of his manifestation is in all kinds of power and signs and wonders of falsehood. " The varieties of his manifested power and signs and wonders, all have falsehood for their base, and essence, and aim." (Alford). The power he will exhibit is " after the working of Satan," that is, he is energized by the great adversary. There is a parallel passage in Matt. 24, where the Lord Jesus says : " For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders ; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect." We must be warned against assuming that signs and wonders are necessarily evidence of spirituality or of the power of God. A very apposite passage is found in Deut. 13. 1-3 : " If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, ' Let us go after other gods which thou hast not known, and let us serve them'; thou shall not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams."
The Course of the Anti-Christ upon earth is described in Rev. 13 as being characterized by : Defiance of God, oppression of the saints of God, and authority over all nations. This will be the world's super-man who imposes his peace on the world, who " opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped ; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God." (2 Thess. 2. 4)."
In our last paper, reference was made to the end of the Anti-Christ. In his utter madness and pride, " he stretcheth out his hand against God, and strengtheneth himself against the Almighty. He runneth upon Him, even on His neck, upon the thick bosses of His bucklers." (Job IS. 25, 26). In Dan. 8, we read that he shall "stand up against the Prince of princes" and in Dan. 11, " he shall come to his end, and none shall help him." The final drama of this terrible period of the world's history is unfolded in Rev. It*. John has first a vision of the armies of heaven led by the One who is Faithful and True, whose name is the Word ol God, and King of kings, and Lord of lords. Oh, the wonder of I his vision I How it should make every loyal Christian heart rejoice! Then John sees the armies of the earth led by the beast and the kings of the earth. They are gathered for the express purpose of making war against the returning Christ. The Lord Jesus once asked the question, " When the Son of Man cometh, shall He find (the) faith on the earth ?" (Luke 18. 8). Here is the answer. Instead of faith, He finds a hostile world, led by its chosen wilful king. The Issue of this conflict cannot be in doubt for a moment. The last two verses of the chapter graphically describe this : " And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought wonders before him, with which he deceived them that had the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone. And the rest were slain with the sword of Him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of His mouth : and all the fowls were filled with their flesh."