The Emerging Dispensation of the Antichrist

Prof. Johan Malan, Middelburg, South Africa (May 2008)

(Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version, unless otherwise stated).

As the end of the church dispensation draws nearer with every passing day, increased tension is building up between the old Christian dispensation which is systematically phased out, and the antichristian new world order which is in a process of replacing it. The tension arises from bigger pressure for the termination of the old order’s principles, thought patterns and traditions, to make way for the paradigms and practices of the emerging new order.

It is impossible to correctly discern world events without taking into account their deeper spiritual motivation. Since creation and the Fall there were two spiritual kingdoms that competed with one another for control over humanity – they are the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan. This struggle intensified in the church dispensation after the first coming of Christ.

All people who are born again belong to the unseen kingdom of Christ which is not of this world (John 3:3; 18:36). The Lord Jesus “delivered [them] from this present evil age” (Gal. 1:4). Paul says that by His grace God “has delivered us from the power of darkness and translated us into the kingdom of the Son of His love” (Col. 1:13). The minds and hearts of all unsaved people are blinded by the god of this world (Satan) to ensure that they would not easily understand and accept the gospel of Christ (2 Cor. 4:4). These spiritually blind people are his henchmen who are used to deceive many other people to keep them away from the kingdom of Christ. Both these kingdoms are now preparing to reveal themselves with a view to exercising sole control on earth.

Only a small minority of evangelical Christians act as advocates of the ‘old’ Biblical style of living which is rapidly disappearing in emerging postmodern societies. These witnesses for Christ are becoming increasingly conscious of the fact that they are sojourners and pilgrims in a changing world which, to a large extent, lies under the sway of the wicked one (1 Pet. 2:11; 1 John 5:19). The final transition will occur when the Lord catches away the evangelical believers who are the light of the world, thus allowing the Antichrist to be revealed and to implement the kingdom of darkness with all its vile characteristics.

Intensified deception

We are living in a time of intensified deception in preparation for the imminent revelation of Satan’s kingdom under the leadership of the Antichrist. The main objectives with spiritual deception throughout the ages were the opposing of the Triune God, the spiritual derailing of true believers, the total blinding of Satan’s followers and the end-time revelation of the Antichrist as the man of sin. An international culture of sin will be established under his leadership:

“Let no one deceive you in any way, for that day will not come except the apostasy comes first – that is, unless the [predicted] great falling away of those who have professed to be Christians has come – and the man of lawlessness (sin) is revealed, who is the son of doom, who opposes and exalts himself so proudly and insolently against and over all that is called God or that is worshipped, [even to his actually] taking his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming that he himself is God... For the mystery of lawlessness – that hidden principle of rebellion against constituted authority – is already at work in the world, [but it is] restrained only until he who restrains is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one (the Antichrist) will be revealed and the Lord Jesus will slay him with the breath of His mouth and bring him to an end by His appearing at His coming. The coming [of the lawless one, the Antichrist] is through the activity and working of Satan, and will be attended by great powers… and lying wonders – and by unlimited seduction to evil and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing because they did not welcome the Truth but refused to love it that they might be saved. Therefore God sends upon them… a strong delusion to make them believe what is false, in order that all may be judged and condemned who did not believe the Truth, but instead took pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thess. 2:3-12 The Amplified Bible).

The big falling away of the last days will lead to the revelation and international acceptance of the Antichrist as world leader and world messiah. He will actively promote sin and lawlessness. After his leadership has been firmly established he will act in extreme arrogance by declaring himself to be God. When Christ returns he will encounter this deceiver on earth and immediately destroy him, his followers and his government.

The fact that the Antichrist will appear on earth and rise to a position of authority shortly before the second coming of Christ, clearly indicates that the kingdoms of God and Satan will be visibly revealed on earth in close succession. First, the heavenly Bridegroom will take away His bridal congregation, after which the man of sin will be revealed without any resistance. Seven years later he will be destroyed during the public appearing of Jesus Christ on earth.

Satan’s kingdom follows a highly deceptive strategy to ensure that the transition from the church dispensation to the dispensation of the Antichrist’s government will be as smooth and acceptable as possible. It is the major objective of Satan and the Antichrist to ultimately be worshipped as God. For this reason the Antichrist will be revealed in such a way that people will initially think he is the true Christ. That will ensure great public support to him in the traditional Christian world.

A strong interfaith and multireligious movement will first have to be established on earth since the Antichrist also intends to be accepted as universal messiah of all faiths. An important preparation for this is the proclaiming of the God of the Bible as the God of all faiths. People should belief that Yahweh, Allah and Brahma are the same God. After this idea has been accepted it will be easy to present an interfaith Messiah to the world.

Satan has already penetrated most of the big denominations and their theological seminaries with this false theology. They now believe the lie that God is the God of all faiths. Much progress has also been made to deprive Jesus of His uniqueness and divine attributes so that the Antichrist can reveal himself in the name of Christ as the universal Messiah of all faiths.

Satan and his accomplices have succeeded in estranging the Christian world and its churches so far from the Bible as the divinely inspired and inerrant Word of God that he can easily deceive them into believing virtually anything. Many of them are so deluded that they do not even believe in the existence of the devil or the Antichrist. This, together with the discrediting of the Person and attributes of Christ, will cause deceived people to accept the Antichrist as “the Christ.”

Satan’s agents have cleverly disguised themselves: “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transformed himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works” (2 Cor. 11:13-15). The Lord Jesus has warned us against them: “Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, I am the Christ, and will deceive many” (Matt. 24:4-5).

The deception will continue until the rapture has occurred and the false messiah has been revealed without resistance. He will almost immediately enjoy worldwide support and soon join all faiths into his alliance of world religions.

The first resurrection and catching away of the saints

The Lord Jesus will make the first move in the implementation of His prophetic programme for the last seven years before His second coming by taking His bride to heaven (John 14:2-3). At the moment when the trumpet of God sounds, all the deceased believers will rise from their graves, receive glorified bodies and be caught up together with the living saints to meet the Lord in the air:

“For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:16-17).

Paul describes the same event as follows to the Corinthians: “Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed – in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed” (1 Cor. 15:51-52).

On this occasion only the righteous dead will be raised from their graves: “Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years” (Rev. 20:6). The unsaved dead will remain in their graves until after the millennium when the final judgement will take place (Rev. 20:5,11-15).

The rapture is also, within the framework of the final generation of this dispensation, described as an escape from the coming tribulation period of seven years: “Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:36).

The children of God are a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19), and as such the light of a dark world and the salt of a corrupt earth (Matt. 5:13-14). The hour of spiritual darkness can only take effect after they have been removed from the world. Then, the Antichrist can be revealed without opposition and all the sinners who were not worthy to escape the tribulation can be punished by God. As in the days of Noah and Lot, believers have to be removed from the disaster area of divine judgements before the wrath of God can be poured out upon an evil generation (Luke 17:26-36).

The rapture will be the formal end of the church dispensation, after which God’s plan with Israel will be further fulfilled. Israel, as God’s special witnesses in their own land, was phased out during the first generation after the crucifixion of Christ and their scattering among the nations. During that time, the church was phased in as the special witnesses of Christ among the nations. Now, in the last generation before the second coming of Christ, Israel is restored to their land in preparation for their spiritual restoration as God’s special witnesses, while the church should prepare to be phased out by way of the rapture.

The 70th year-week of Daniel

The coming tribulation period of seven years, starting after the rapture, can only be correctly understood if it is considered within the framework of Israel’s year-weeks. In Daniel 9:24-27, Israel’s divine history from the end of the Babylonian captivity until the dawning of the Messiah’s reign is discussed within the context of 70 year-weeks. During this time, two messiahs will fulfil a prominent role – the true Messiah and the false messiah:

“Seventy weeks are determined for your people and for your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sins, to make reconciliation for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the Most Holy. Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince, there shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublesome times. And after the sixty-two weeks [that is, after 7 plus 62 weeks] Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself; and the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end of it shall be with a flood, and till the end of the war desolations are determined. Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; but in the middle of the week he shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, even until the consummation, which is determined, is poured out on the desolate” (Dan. 9:24-27).

The 70 year-weeks are associated with the following events:

·       At the beginning of the 70 year-weeks, in 445 B.C., King Artaxerxes ordered the Jews in exile to return to their land and rebuild Jerusalem and the temple (Neh. 2:1-9).

·       The initial restoration of the city and sanctuary would be completed after 7 year-weeks.

·       During the subsequent 62 year-weeks, Jerusalem was further extended and inhabited during troublesome times.

·       At the end of 69 (7+62) year-weeks, in April 32 A.D., the Messiah was rejected and crucified in Jerusalem.

·       Because Israel has rejected the Messiah, God’s divine plan for them has been temporarily suspended while the gospel was preached to the Gentiles in the entire world. During this time, Israel was dispersed among all nations (Luke 21:24).

·       The end-time restoration of Israel in their land started in 1948, and the declaration of Jerusalem as the eternal and indivisible capital of Israel followed in 1980.

·       The scene is now set for the 70th year-week of Daniel, when the false messiah will conclude a covenant with Israel and the nations.

·       In the middle of the 70th year-week, the Antichrist will order the immediate termination of sacrifices in the rebuilt temple and declare himself to be God in the Most Holy. He will also set up an image of himself and force all people to worship it. Because of this, Israel will revoke their covenant with him and be forced to hastily flee for survival from Jerusalem.

·       At the end of the 70th year-week, the true Messiah will come, destroy the false messiah and his forces, and save the remnant in Israel – physically and spiritually. After this, the millennial reign of the Messiah will be instituted and everlasting righteousness will prevail in Israel, as envisaged in Daniel 9:24. All Israelis will serve the Lord wholeheartedly and be His special witnesses on earth (cf. Jer. 31:33-34; Zech. 8:23).

The seventy year-weeks do not refer to seasonal or lunar years but to 490 prophetic years of 360 days each (cf. Rev. 11:2-3, 12:6 and 13:5 in which the two halves of the week are indicated as 42 months and also as 1260 days, which means that every month has 30 days). Prophetic years cut across seasonal and lunar years and are used to arrive at three exact dates. The first one is the crucifixion of the Messiah after 69 year-weeks, the second one the profaning of the temple by the Antichrist in the middle of the 70th week when he will declare himself to be God, and the third one at the end of the 70th year-week when Christ will return to destroy the Antichrist and his wicked empire.

No exact indication is given on how long the gap between the 69th and 70th year-weeks will be; consequently, we cannot make a mathematical calculation of the date for the rapture. The moment when the 70th year-week commences with a covenant between the Antichrist and Israel, there will be a clear basis for the scheduling of end-time events within the framework of one year-week. At the end of that period the whole Israel will be saved and everlasting righteousness will prevail in Christ’s kingdom.

Exactly 69 year-weeks (483 prophetic years) have expired since King Artaxerxes gave the Jews permission to rebuild Jerusalem on 1 Nisan 445 B.C. (Neh. 2:1-9), until the crucifixion of the Messiah on 14 Nisan 32 A.D. Prof. J.M. Schepers of the Rand Afrikaans University indicated in an article (The date of Jesus’ crucifixion prophesied centuries earlier, 1984) that 483 prophetic years of 360 days each add up to 173 880 days. When that number is divided by 365¼ it equals 476,06 seasonal years on our Gregorian calendar. On this calendar, the 69 year-weeks elapsed between 23rd March 445 B.C. and Friday, 11th April 32 A.D. – the day on which Jesus was crucified. All that remains after this date in Israel’s divine history before the dawning of the Messiah’s millennial rule is seven years – the 70th year-week of Daniel which will be introduced the day when Israel concludes a covenant with the false messiah.

The rejection and crucifixion of the Messiah caused a break of unspecified length in Israel’s divine history. Messiah was “cut off” (Dan. 9:26; cf. Isa. 53:8), which means that Israel, through their unbelief, deprived themselves the opportunity of entering Messianic times. The suspension of the further progression of Israel’s divine history was the direct result of the rejection of the Messiah. Jesus told the Jews that their house (Jerusalem) would be left to them desolate because they would not accept their Messiah and King (Matt. 23:37-38). Because of that, He would leave them until they accept Him at a future time as their promised Messiah: “For I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Matt. 23:39).

In the meantime Israel would be scattered among the nations. Jesus said, “[You will be] led away captive into all nations. And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled” (Luke 21:24). That clearly implies that Israel as a people will, in the last days, be restored in the land which God gave to their fathers: “This says the Lord God: Surely I will take the children of Israel from among the nations, wherever they have gone, and will gather them from every side and bring them into their own land” (Ezek. 37:21).

At the beginning of the 70th year-week of Daniel, which will immediately precede the second coming of the Messiah, Israel will conclude a covenant with the false messiah. Jesus warned them against this decision: “I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive” (John 5:43). It is obvious that the interruption in the 70 year-weeks followed upon the rejection of the Messiah, and it will continue until the day when the restored Israel will conclude a covenant with the Antichrist. Then, the count-down of the final year-week before the coming of the Messiah will begin.

The deceiving of orthodox Jews

Orthodox reforms in Israel are committed to the continued rejection of Jesus Christ as the Jewish Messiah, and will obviously suit the false messiah plan of action. He will pose as Israel’s Messiah-King, and allow the rebuilding of the temple as well as the reintroduction of animal sacrifices. By reviving these sacrifices, orthodox Jews will patently reject the once for all sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.

An important step towards rebuilding the temple was the reestablishment of Israel’s Sanhedrin council. The group consists of 71 prominent rabbis and considers itself as the highest ruling religious authority in the land of Israel. The Sanhedrin reformed on the 13th of October, 2004, for the first time in over 1600 years, but they do not enjoy official recognition in the land. They announced in 2005 that one of the tasks they are employed in is locating the exact site on which Herod’s Temple (the Second Temple) once stood. This will allow final planning for the rebuilding of the Temple.

Rabbi Chaim Richman, one of the prominent members of the Sanhedrin, said that the rebuilding of the temple would be of great significance in strengthening the cultural and religious identity of the Jewish people. He denounces the government’s policy to withdraw from parts of Jewish land, thereby relinquishing Israel’s dream of full restoration. The Sanhedrin seeks ways to strengthen the roots of Jewish religion by uniting Israel around the Torah and the temple service. To them, this is the only way forward.

The Sanhedrin have also set themselves the task of choosing the modern state of Israel’s first king, for they are entirely opposed to Israel’s present democratic government. Earlier in the years they also sent a letter to every nation on earth, warning that the world is nearing a catastrophe, and that the only way to bring peace on earth is through the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem. The Sanhedrin believes that through the rebuilding of the Temple, the Jewish people can bring the presence of God back into this world. They often quote Isaiah 2:1-4 to substantiate this claim.

Beginning of the last year-week

An important dispensational change will be introduced by the revelation of the Antichrist shortly after the rapture. In order to successfully implement this transition from the point of view of the kingdom of darkness, a preparatory stage of widespread spiritual deception is needed. The interfaith philosophy (religious globalism) should be firmly established, to the extent that all religions on earth will accept the self-proclaimed world messiah who will suddenly appear on the scene – each regarding him as the fulfilment of their own messianic expectation:

·       At that stage, nominal Christians will, in consequence of the postmodern deconstruction of the image, person, divine attributes and atoning death of Jesus Christ, be so deceived that they will regard Him as a mere prophet who is on an equal level with the messiahs of other religions. He will be viewed as a member of a spiritual hierarchy from which the leaders of all religions emerged, and thus as one of the many forerunners for the coming of the cosmic Christ of all faiths. When the false Christ of all faiths (the Antichrist) is revealed, he will be accepted and worshipped as the Christ (Matt. 24:4-5). They will truly think that he is Jesus Christ who returned in a slightly different image.

·       Jews will fully accept the coming Christ (Messiah in Hebrew) because he will be Jewish in origin, conclude a covenant with them and give them the right to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. That will be a fatal mistake, but they will definitely accept the false messiah because of their strong desire to rebuild the temple (Dan. 9:27; John 5:43). Due to the strong influence of multireligious thinking in the world it will not unsettle them when their “Messiah” also concludes a covenant with Islam and other faiths.

·       Islam expect the return of Jesus Christ, son of Mary, who is mentioned 97 times in the Qur’an. They don’t regard him as God or the son of God, but as a slave of Allah and a forerunner to his brother, Prophet Mohammed. According to them, he will elevate Islam to the position of sole world religion and kill all those who refuse to accept the dominance of Islam. He will act in collaboration with the Imam Mahdi of Islam and rule the world for seven years before it will be judged.

·       Hindus will accept the coming Christ as an incarnation of Krishna who, in his turn, was an incarnation of their god Vishnu. They will also refer to him as the Kalki Avatar – the White Horse Avatar. He will achieve the final victory over evil in the world and also destroy the apocalyptic snake. The expectation or all religions will be fulfilled in him, as he will be a world messiah to all of them to drive away the darkness of all suffering and evil. Under his rule there will be peace and unity on earth.

·       Buddhists expect the appearing of the fifth Buddha, who will be known as the Maitreya Buddha. There are also other tittles assigned to Maitreya Buddha in the Buddhist eschatology, of which the Christ is one of the most important. The leader of a Buddhist organisation in England, Benjamin Crème, wrote a book titled The Reappearance of the Christ and the Masters of Wisdom. In this book he says that there will soon be a world messiah in whom the expectations of all religions will be fulfilled. He will be the Maitreya Buddha to the Buddhists, Krishna to the Hindus, Jesus or the Imam Mahdi to the Muslims, the Messiah to the Jews and Jesus Christ to the Christians.

In view of these facts it is evident that the whole world will be spiritually united behind the same leader, and follow him in awe (Op. 13:3). Satan will empower him to do great miracles (2 Thess. 2:8-10; Rev. 13:2). His appearance will be as an angel of light (cf. 2 Cor. 11:14-15) and also as the rider on a white horse, symbolising peace (Rev. 6:2). He will appear in the Middle East during a threatening world war. He and his co-ruler, the false prophet, will claim credit for the victory after God has destroyed the enemy forces on the mountains of Israel (cf. Ezek. 39:2-6; Rev. 13:11-13).

The world messiah will recognise and praise the followers of all religions and unify them under his name. Freedom of religion will be promised to all of them, on condition that they recognise him as their common messiah. All deceived people will gladly comply with this condition as, to them, it will be the most noble expression of globalism and peaceful coexistence in the world. Israel will be highly pleased with their new-found Messiah as he will seemingly have saved them from a war of annihilation which Russia, Iran and other Muslim countries will have waged against them (Ezek. 38–39). The Jews will hurriedly rebuild the temple in Jerusalem and reinstitute the Old Testament sacrificial service. In doing so they will reconfirm their national rejection of the Messiahship of Jesus as well as His sacrifice on the cross. That will perfectly suit the Antichrist. Israel will not see the coming Christ as the second coming of Jesus Christ of Nazareth but as the first coming of the true Messiah. This will be a serious misjudgement and pave the way to the conclusion of a covenant with the kingdom of Satan.

Israel’s salvation during the tribulation

The true church as the temple of the Holy Spirit will be gone when the Antichrist is revealed – then there will be nobody who can warn Israel and the nations against the takeover and domination by the Antichrist. Early in the tribulation period, shortly after the revelation of the Antichrist, God will begin with the spiritual restoration of Israel by pouring out His Spirit upon a representative group of 144 000 Jews from all twelve the tribes of Israel (Rev. 7:1-8). That will be the first group of Jews that will be saved within a national (Israeli) context after the church dispensation.

This revival will be the beginning of the spiritual awakening of Israel – a process that will only be concluded seven years later at the coming of the true Messiah. The salvation of the entire remnant will be the fulfilment of the following prophecy: “And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; and they will look on Me whom they have pierced; they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn” (Zech. 12:10).

Before the final salvation of Israel has occurred, the majority of them will have died during the great tribulation (the second half of the seven years), after which the remnant will be severely tested: “And it shall come to pass in all the land, says the Lord, that two-thirds in it shall be cut off and die; but one-third shall be left in it: I will bring the one-third through the fire, will refine them as silver is refined, and test them as gold is tested. They will call on My name, and I will answer them. I will say, This is My people; and each one will say, The Lord is my God” (Zech. 13:8-9).

The 144 000 Jews who will be saved shortly after the beginning of the tribulation period by receiving Jesus Christ as the true Messiah, will immediately express themselves in opposition to the mainstream of modern thinking. That will lead to a serious confrontation with the false messiah (the Antichrist) and also put them in conflict with the vast majority of Jews who have concluded a covenant with this impostor. That will lead to the persecution of the Messianic Jews and those who are saved under their ministry, as they will all reject the Antichrist.

During the first half of the tribulation, God will raise up two special witnesses who will be mightily used by Him to proclaim the truth and refute the enemies of the Lord (Rev. 11:3-12). These two witnesses will act in the spirit and power of Elijah (cf. Luke 1:17). Their message and work will have a world-wide impact. The Antichrist and his followers will be furious about their actions as these men of God will reveal all the evil of the false messiah and his regime. During that time, sin and lawlessness will assume extreme proportions everywhere in the world – also in Israel. Jerusalem will spiritually be called Sodom and Egypt (Rev. 11:8). The gay movement will, as in Sodom of old, enjoy great support while idolatry, as in ancient Egypt, will be strongly revived by worshipping the image of the Antichrist. These developments will be the inevitable consequences of the rejection of Christ and His atoning death for our sins.

When the Antichrist rises to the summit of his power in the middle of the tribulation period, he will fight against the two witnesses and kill them. But their ministry will then be concluded, and the Lord will raise them from the dead after 3½ days, when they will ascend to heaven.

Persecution during the tribulation

Since there will be relative peace and unity on earth during the first 3½ years of the Antichrist’s government, this time will mainly be characterised by spiritual intimidation and deception – force will not be commonly used. But in the middle of the tribulation period the most severe physical persecution of all time will begin. That will happen after the Antichrist has declared himself to be God in the rebuilt temple in Jerusalem. The Lord Jesus warned Israel against this turn of events because He had the foreknowledge that orthodox Jews would only then discover that they have followed and worshipped a false messiah. They will repeal their covenant with him, after which they will hastily have to flee to the mountains as the Antichrist will act in great fury against them. But the Lord will intervene to prevent the Antichrist from killing all Jews:

“Therefore when you see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (whoever reads, let him understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let him who is on the housetop not come down to take anything out of his house. And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes. But woe to those who are pregnant and to those with nursing babies in those days! And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath. For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, never ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved” (Matt. 24:15-22).

Daniel said the following about the actions of the Antichrist in the middle of the week of seven years: “In the middle of the week he shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate” (Dan. 9:27). “And forces shall be mustered by him, and they shall defile the sanctuary fortress; then they shall take away the daily sacrifices, and place there the abomination of desolation… Then the king shall do according to his own will: he shall exalt and magnify himself above every god, shall speak blasphemies against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the wrath has been accomplished” (Dan. 11:31,36). “There shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation [of Israel], even to that time. And in that time your people shall be delivered” (Dan. 12:1).

The Lord Jesus referred to this display of power by the Antichrist in the middle of the tribulation period, when he will defile the sanctuary with an abominable idol. That will be the big sign to Israel to flee in a hurry from Jerusalem and surrounding Jewish territories, as all available forces will be used to pursue and obliterate them.

An intensified struggle between the kingdoms of God and Satan, as described in Revelation 12:6-17, will be the major cause for the beginning of the 3½ years of great tribulation during the reign of the Antichrist. The devil will be cast out from heaven, where he still has access to the throne of God to accuse Christians after he has successfully tempted and seduced them – he is the accuser of our brethren. Revelation 12:6-17 describes events which take place in the middle of the tribulation period, between the 3½ years of false peace and the 3½ years of great tribulation. The first five verses of this chapter supply background information on earlier events, since the coming war between God and Satan will be the culmination of a struggle which started when Lucifer and a third of the angels were cast down from heaven because they revolted against God and wanted to rule in His place. The following big crisis in this battle was when Satan worked through Herod and used him in an effort to kill Jesus shortly after His birth. In the coming tribulation, another effort will be made to kill Jesus in order to rule in His place. It will all start with a war which will be waged in heavenly places:

“And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer. So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to death. Therefore rejoice o heavens, and you who dwell in them! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time” (Rev. 12:7-12).

From this moment onwards the devil will pour out great wrath upon those on earth. He will force people to worship himself and the Antichrist, and to blaspheme the God of heaven. A military dictatorship will be instituted to act swiftly and merciless by killing all people who refuse to worship the Antichrist and his spiritual father, Lucifer (Rev. 13:4,15). The Antichrist will be greatly empowered by Satan to fulfil his new role: “And the dragon gave him his power, his throne, and great authority” (Rev. 13:2).

This new turn of events will induce the Antichrist to declare himself as God in the temple in Jerusalem. Paul says he is “the son of perdition who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshipped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God” (2 Thess. 2:3-4). He will also set up an image of himself in the Holy of Holies and issue a decree which will force all people to worship the image. Those who refuse to do so will summarily be executed (Rev. 13:15).

The Jews will refuse to accept and worship the false messiah in his new capacity as self-proclaimed God, and revoke their seven-year treaty with him. This will result in a Jewish genocide being declared by the Antichrist, forcing all Jewish to quickly flee for survival from Jerusalem – probably to Petra south of the Dead Sea. They will have to pray that their flight would not occur in winter, that there would not be pregnant women or those who are nursing babies, as such circumstances would delay their flight and give the Antichrist and his forces opportunity to catch up with them and kill them. They will also have to pray that their flight would not take place on the Sabbath, when orthodox Jews are only allowed to walk less than two kilometres. That will be a critical time for survival.

True Christians everywhere in the world – those who will be saved after the rapture – will refuse to worship the Antichrist as God. That will subject them to intensive persecution and summarily execution. The fact that they will overcome the beast by the blood of the Lamb does not mean that they will physically prevail over him, but that he will not be able to force them into worshipping him. They will not love their lives to the death, which means that they should be prepared to die as martyrs rather than worshipping the Antichrist. “It was granted him to make war with the saints and to overcome them” (Rev. 13:7).

In the middle of the tribulation period the Antichrist will use the false prophet to enforce his number system upon all people, without which they will not be able to buy or sell (Rev. 13:16-18). The right to receive this number will be subject to signing an oath of allegiance in which the recipient agrees to worship the Antichrist and his image. This will be a blasphemous act against God and His Son, Jesus Christ, by which their authority will be rejected. People who do that will sell their souls to the devil and later share his eternal condemnation in the lake of fire:

“If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. And he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment ascends for ever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name” (Rev. 14:9-11).

The Antichrist will forcefully establish the kingdom of God on earth, and mercilessly proceed to obliterate everything and everybody who is associated with the kingdom of God. The destruction of Jews and Christians will be high on his agenda. But these acts will only be a means to a an end as he will deploy all possible forces to fight against the true Christ and His heavenly army when He sets foot on the  Mount of Olives in Jerusalem at the end of Daniel’s 70th year-week (Zech. 14:4-5). According to Biblical prophecies, the Antichrist will know that Christ will return at the end of that year-week to destroy Stan’s world empire and establish His own kingdom in its place.

The Antichrist will do everything possible to prevent this take-over by Christ, and that will be the most important motivation to muster international military forces in the Middle East. Special demons will be assigned to instigate the kings and government leaders of the world to protect their new world order against a triumphant take-over by Christ. John says:

“And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs coming out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty… And they gathered them together to the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon” (Rev. 16:13-16).

In the ensuing confrontation great calamity will befall the evil forces who will be foolish enough to challenge the One who has all power in heaven and on earth:

“Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He himself will rule them with a rod of iron… Then I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the birds that fly in the midst of heaven: Come and gather together for the supper of the great God, that you may eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, both small and great. And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army. Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshipped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone. And the rest were killed with the sword which proceeded from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse. And all the birds were filled with their flesh” (Rev. 19:11-21).

The divine judgements that will befall the powers that will be deployed in Israel and also in and around Jerusalem to fight against the true Messiah are also described by Zechariah: “And this shall be the plague with which the Lord will strike all people who fought against Jerusalem: Their flesh shall dissolve while they stand on their feet, their eyes shall dissolve in their sockets, and their tongues shall dissolve in their mouths. It shall come to pass in that day that a great panic from the Lord will be among them. Everyone will seize the hand of his neighbour, and raise his hand against his neighbour’s hand” (Zech. 14:12-13).

That will be the end of the Antichrist and all his deceived followers. The everlasting lake of fire is awaiting them, from which there will be no escape.

The present situation

In view of the final objective of Satan and the Antichrist to wage war against Christ, by which they will try to perpetuate their evil regime, we should be able to understand the nature of spiritual deception as it is unfolding right now in the world. Under the guidance of a Satanic spirit of deception there is an international campaign to discredit the Lord Jesus by denying His deity, His divine attributes, the meaning of His atoning death on the cross, His resurrection, ascension and second coming. Lies and brainwashing of this nature will simplify matters for the Antichrist to appear as a counterfeit Jesus and to continue deceiving the world.

The end-time deceivers also deny the existence of a devil and hell, as well as the idea of a personal Antichrist. In consequence, there is no expectation of an Antichrist or a great tribulation, and therefore also no literal battle of Armageddon. They are paving the way for the Antichrist to reveal himself as the Christ of all faiths and to unite the world under his banner of a new world order, thereby promising peace, prosperity and harmony to all people on earth.

People who don’t interpret biblical prophecies literally, and who do not unconditionally believe in the virgin birth, deity, crucifixion and resurrection of the Lord Jesus, will remain behind at the rapture and become victims of the coming false Christ’s deception. Another characteristic of such people is that they do not have a clear testimony of salvation – they believe that they were saved through predestination, infant baptism, church membership and a good life. In this way they render proof that they don’t really understand the gospel of the cross, and have not yet accepted it by faith. They easily entertain doubts on their spiritual life and also on the Bible as the inspired Word of God, all because they do not have the testimony of the Holy Spirit that they have been born again (cf. Rom. 8:16).

Such people will regard the lies of the Antichrist as truth. Because of persistent exposure to the spirit of deceit they will later fully endorse the lies of Satan (2 Thess. 2:7-12). They will be among the big mass of people who will follow the beast in amazement (Rev. 13:3-4). They will also receive his number, without fully realising that an oath of allegiance to the Antichrist will commit them to worshipping him as God. That will seal their future fate in the lake of fire (Rev. 14:9-11).

Confess the true Christ

In this time of intensified attacks on the Person and work of the Lord Jesus, evangelical believers should clearly confess their faith in Him. In the light of the statement: “The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Rev. 19:10), we conclude this article with a biblical testimony of who Jesus Christ really is. The future of all people on earth depends on their relationship with Jesus Christ – they are either for Him or against Him. Those who do not confess the great truths about Him are in a real danger of following another Jesus (2 Cor. 11:3-4) and bringing upon themselves the judgements of the true Jesus. During this time of great falling away from the truths of God’s Word it is important that we should convincingly confess the uniqueness, deity and glory of our Lord:

·       I believe that Jesus Christ was, as a human being, conceived by the Holy Spirit in the virgin Mary (Matt. 1:20), and is therefore both Son of God and Son of Man. The angel Gabriel told Mary that the Son who was to be born would be great and called the Son of the Highest (Luke 1:32). With His birth in the house of David He only temporarily put off His heavenly glory (Phil. 2:7), but did not relinquish his essential deity (Col. 2:9). After His ascension He was highly exalted and given a name which is above every name (Phil. 2:9-11). At His second coming He will come in power and majesty as the King of kings and Lord of lords (Rev. 19:16).

·       I believe that Jesus Christ is God. Every tongue will confess that He is Lord (Phil. 2:11). John said that He is “the true God and eternal life” (1 John 5:20). Paul said that He is “our great God and Saviour” (Titus 2:13), while Thomas exclaimed in amazement: “My Lord and my God1” (John 20:28). He is truly Emmanuel – God with us.

·       I believe that the Lord Jesus has an eternal self-existence as God. It was only during His incarnation that He emptied Himself and took the form of a servant (Phil. 2:7-8). As God He exists from all eternity, and could therefore say, “Before Abraham was, I AM” (John 8:58). He is the eternal I AM (Ex. 3:14) who said to the Jews, “If you do not believe that I AM, you shall die in your sins” (John 8:24; Modern King James Version).He emptied Himself

·       I believe that Jesus Christ is one with the Father and the Holy Spirit. He Himself said, “I and My Father are one” (John 10:30). John said, “For there are three who bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one” (1 John 5:7). I believe that Jesus is the Word [Logos] who is both God and man. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:1,14).

·       I believe that the Lord Jesus, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, is the Creator of the world (Heb. 1:2). “All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made” (John 1:3). Paul said, “He is the image of the invisible God… For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth… And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist” (Col. 1:15-17).

·       I believe the Lord Jesus is also the recreator who quickens and regenerates lost sinners who receive Him as their Saviour. We are alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 6:11). At His coming He will give imperishable resurrection bodies to all believers (1 Cor. 15:22; Phil. 3:20-21). After the final judgement He will create new heavens and a new earth, and could therefore say, “Behold, I make all things new” (Rev. 21:5).

·       I believe that the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross was a ransom for the sins of all humanity, i.e. all tribes, tongues, peoples and nations on earth, and that it offers us the only way of reconciliation to God (John 1:29; 2 Cor. 5:19; Eph. 1:7). “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). I also believe that after Jesus Christ died on the cross and rose from the grave He ascended to heaven where He intercedes for us and also prepares for us a place in His Father’s house (John 14:2-3; Heb. 7:25).

·       I believe the Lord Jesus will come again and take us away to grant us entry into the eternal glory of His kingdom which He has prepared for us. At the marriage supper of the Lamb we will again, through Holy Communion, remember His death on the cross to atone for our sins. If we follow Christ now on the way of the cross by denying ourselves and daily taking up our cross in a hostile world, we will one day reign with Him as joint heirs of His kingdom (Rom. 8:17; 2 Tim. 2:12). Then, the fight of faith will be over and Christ’s faithful witnesses will share in His triumphant revelation (Col. 3:4).

Should we fail to know and confess the Lord Jesus in this way, we run the risk of rendering Him one of many messiahs of human origin, to deny His deity, belittle the meaning of His crucifixion, and eventually accepting a false Christ in His place (John 5:43). The deity and unique position of the Lord Jesus are denied in the emerging new world order in which all religions are regarded to be equal. Christ is viewed as equal to Buddha, Krishna and the messiahs of other religions, and that paves the way for the Antichrist to come in the name of Christ and present himself as the cosmic Christ of all religions.

If we wish to remain true to Jesus Christ we will have to resist the contemporary spirit of compromise which is strongly at work all over the word. The Lord promised to remove those who resist the spirit of the Antichrist while contending for the truth (Luke 21:36; 2 Thess. 2:6-8).

Many people have received the power of delusion to believe Satan’s lies, because they have rejected the knowledge of truth. In so doing they have given the god of this world (Satan) the opportunity to blind their minds “lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them” (2 Cor. 4:4). After Jesus Christ has taken away the true church, the unbelieving world will enthusiastically follow the universal messiah of all faiths, and also accede to his request to receive his number and to worship him as God (2 Thess. 2:4; Rev. 13:3-4). By then, Satan’s multireligious new world order will have been fully revealed.

While the spirit of error will be freely working in the world after the rapture, true believers in heaven will behold the glory of the Lord and sing His praises, because “He comes to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe” (2 Thess. 1:10). Maranatha!