There is much speculation about the identity of the Antichrist. Some of the more popular targets are Vladimir Putin, Prince William, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and Pope Francis I. In the United States, former President Barack Obama and current President Donald Trump are the most frequent targets. So, who is the Antichrist, and how will we recognize him?
The Bible speaks of a mysterious character called the antichrist, the false Christ, the man of lawlessness, or the beast. Scripture doesn’t specifically name who the antichrist will be, but does give us several clues as to what he will be like. By looking at the different names for the antichrist in the Bible, we gain a better understanding of the kind of person he will be.
The name “antichrist” is only found in 1 John 2:18, 2:22, 4:3, and 2 John 7.
The Apostle John was the only Bible writer to use the name antichrist. Studying these verses, we learn that many antichrists (false teachers) will appear between the time of Christ’s first and Second Coming, but there will be one great antichrist who will rise to power during the end times, or “last hour,” as 1 John phrases it.
The antichrist will deny that Jesus is the Christ. He will deny both God the Father and God the Son, and will be a liar and a deceiver.
1 John 4:1-3 says:
“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this, you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming and is now already in the world.” (NKJV)
By the end times, many will easily be deceived and embrace the antichrist because his spirit will already dwell within the world.
MAN OF SIN
In 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4, the antichrist is described as the “man of sin,” or “son of perdition.” Here the Apostle Paul, like John, warned believers about the Antichrist’s ability to deceive:
“Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.” (NKJV)
The NIV Bible makes it clearer that a time of rebellion will come before Christ’s return and then the “man of lawlessness, the man doomed to destruction” will be revealed. Eventually, the antichrist will exalt himself above God to be worshiped in the Lord’s Temple, proclaiming himself to be God. Verses 9-10 say that the antichrist will do counterfeit miracles, signs, and wonders, to gain a following and deceive many.
In Revelation 13:5-8, the antichrist is referred to as “the beast:”
“Then the beast was allowed to speak great blasphemies against God. And he was given authority to do whatever he wanted for forty-two months. And he spoke terrible words of blasphemy against God, slandering his name and his dwelling—that is, those who dwell in heaven. And the beast was allowed to wage war against God’s holy people and to conquer them. And he was given authority to rule over every tribe and people and language and nation. And all the people who belong to this world worshiped the beast. They are the ones whose names were not written in the Book of Life before the world was made—the Book that belongs to the Lamb who was slaughtered.” (NLT)
We see “the beast” used for antichrist several times in the book of Revelation.
The antichrist will gain political power and spiritual authority over every nation on earth. He will most likely begin his rise to power as a very influential, charismatic, political or religious diplomat. He will rule the world government for 42 months. According to many eschatologists, this time frame is understood to be during the latter 3.5 years of the tribulation. During this period, the world will endure a time of unprecedented trouble.
A LITTLE HORN
In Daniel’s prophetic vision of end days, we see “a little horn” described in chapters 7, 8 and 11. In the interpretation of the dream, this little horn is a ruler or king, and speaks of the antichrist. Daniel 7:24-25 says:
“The ten horns are ten kings who will come from this kingdom. After them another king will arise, different from the earlier ones; he will subdue three kings. He will speak against the Most High and oppress his saints and try to change the set times and the laws. The saints will be handed over to him for a time, times and half a time.” (NIV)
According to many end times Bible scholars, Daniel’s prophecy interpreted together with verses in Revelation, specifically point to a future world empire coming from a “revived” or “reborn” Roman Empire, much like the one in existence at the time of Christ. These scholars predict the antichrist will emerge from this Roman race.
Joel Rosenberg, author of end times fiction (Dead Heat, The Copper Scroll, Ezekiel Option, The Last Days, The Last Jihad) and non-fiction (Epicenter and Inside the Revolution) books about Bible prophecy, bases his conclusions on extensive Scripture study including Daniel’s prophecy, Ezekiel 38-39, and the book of Revelation. He believes the antichrist won’t appear to be evil at first, but rather a charming diplomat. In an interview on April 25, 2008, he told Glenn Beck of CNN that the antichrist will be “somebody who understands the economy and the global sphere and wins people, a winsome character.”
“No commerce will be done without his approval,” said Rosenberg. “He will be … seen as an economic genius, a foreign policy genius. And he will emerge out of Europe. Because Daniel chapter 9 says, the prince, who is to come, the antichrist, will come from people who destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple … Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 A.D. by the Romans. We are looking for someone of a reconstituted Roman Empire …”
In the Gospels (Mark 13, Matthew 24-25, and Luke 21), Jesus warned his followers of terrible events and persecution that will occur before his Second Coming.
Most likely, this is where the concept of an antichrist was first introduced to the disciples, although Jesus does not refer to him in the singular:
“For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.” (Matthew 24:24, NKJV)
Is the Antichrist alive today? He could be. Will we recognize him? Perhaps not at first. However, the best way to avoid being deceived by the spirit of the antichrist is to know Jesus Christ and be ready for his return.