6. The False Messiah

Throughout the entire history of humanity, Satan has been engaged in a war against the kingdom of God on earth. During Old Testament times this battle was focused upon Israel as the chosen people of God, and in New Testament times his attacks and deception were extended to also include the Christian church. The persecution and spiritual blinding of dispersed (and partially restored) Israel still continues because Satan knows that, according to God’s promises, Israel is destined to be restored and spiritually revived in their land to play a very important role in the future world after the second coming of the Messiah.

The final objective of Satan’s war is the establishment of a satanic new world order which will be controlled by a false world messiah – the Antichrist. From God’s perspective, this spiritual war will culminate in the final conquering and destruction of the satanic powers, and in the establishment of a Messianic reign of peace with Jerusalem as world capital. The powers of darkness will be utterly broken and all their supporters condemned to hell.

This very old conflict started in the Garden of Eden where Adam and Eve were deceived by the devil to heed his advice and thereby rebel against God. During the thousands of years before the coming of Christ there were times when not only the pagan nations were blinded by Satan to worship idols, but large-scale apostasy also occurred in Israel as God’s people. At times it appeared as if the entire Israel would be conquered and destroyed in the fierce battle which was fought for their souls. Even Elijah almost surrendered against the onslaughts and said: “Lord, they have killed Your prophets and torn down Your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life. But what does the divine response say to him? I have reserved for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal” (Rom. 11:3-4).

The Lord often intervened to ensure that a believing remnant would be preserved in Israel. In the New Testament church there is also a relatively small group of true disciples of Jesus who found the way through the narrow gate, and through the grace of the Lord they persevere on this way. But the battle continues since we are living in a world which lies in the sway of the Evil One (1 John 5:19). Satan is the god of this age who blinds the minds of people (2 Cor. 4:4). Jesus calls him the ruler of this world (John 14:30). Through the spirit of the false messiah, many people in Israel and in the church become untrue to the true Messiah (1 John 4:3). In the end-time the false messiah will be revealed as a person who will rule the world for seven years in association with the false prophet.

The false messiah in Daniel

Daniel 9 contains a description of 70 year-weeks in Israel’s divine history, in which two messiah’s play 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. ... 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 [a total of 69 weeks]. ... And after the sixty-two 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. ... Then he [the false messiah] 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).

In this Scripture the divine history of Israel, from the end of the Babylonian exile to the beginning of the Messiah’s reign, is placed within the framework of 70 year-weeks. In this context, a week (or year-week) denotes a period of seven years (Lev. 25:8). Seventy year-weeks refer to a period of 490 prophetic years of 360 days each. In verse 24 it is clearly stated that at the end of this period the measure of Israel’s sin will be full. The iniquity of the nation will then come to an end and everlasting righteousness will subsequently prevail. After these 70 weeks Israel will be fully reconciled with God and serve Him wholeheartedly (Jer. 31:34; 32:38-40).

From the going forth of the command to restore Jerusalem until the cutting off of the Messiah, 69 year-weeks would have elapsed (Dan. 9:25-26). Since 1 Nisan 445 BC when King Artaxerxes granted permission to Nehemiah to rebuild Jerusalem (Neh. 2:1-8), 69 year-weeks (483 prophetic years) had indeed elapsed until the crucifixion of the Messiah on 14 Nisan, 32 AD. All that remains after this date in Israel’s divine history as a people until the dawning of the Messiahs reign of peace, is seven years – the 70th year-week of Daniel which will be introduced by Israel’s covenant with the false messiah.

With the birth of Jesus the Messiah did come to Israel, and there was certainly the possibility that the kingdom of the Messiah could have been established for them if they had accepted Him as Messiah-King. But that did not happen, and the Messiah was rejected and “cut off” (Dan. 9:26). “He came to His own (Israel), and His own did not receive Him” (John 1:11). Through this act of rejection, God’s watch in the divine history of Israel stopped ticking. Consequently, there was a very long gap between the 69th and 70th year-weeks, in which mainly Gentile people were invited into the spiritual kingdom of God, which was nowhere on earth established as a physical reality (John 18:36).

After His resurrection Jesus commanded His disciples to proclaim the gospel to all people on earth (Mark 16:15). That refers to the times of the Gentiles, not the times of Israel, in which the Gentile nations would get the opportunity to be saved. Individual Jews can also be saved during this time, but Israel as a nation would remain in a rejected and dispersed state among the Gentiles. That would continue to be the case until the end of the church dispensation, when Jerusalem and Israel will be restored and the last generation progresses until the 70th week of Daniel takes effect: “Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled” (Luke 21:24; cf. Rom. 11:25).

We are now living in the time of the progressive restoration of Israel and Jerusalem; consequently, the 70th year-week of this nation’s divine history can start any time. According to Daniel 9:27, this year-week will commence when the prince of a future kingdom (the Antichrist or false messiah), will conclude a covenant with Israel and many other nations. His entry into the world scene will probably coincide with a big war (the Russo-Arab invasion of Israel – Ezek. 38 & 39), and he will claim credit for the victory. At a critical moment he will come to Israel’s rescue as a self-imposed prince of peace, and he will also be praised by the international community for averting a possible third world war as well as a threatening global economic collapse.

These highly dramatic events will have a decisive influence on the Jewish people, their government and their religious leaders. To further increase the excitement, this ‘saviour’ will claim the throne of David by means of his deceptive ‘proof’ that he is a descendant of David. Israel will enter into a covenant with him in which they will accept him as the promised Messiah. He will also grant them the right to rebuild the temple and to reintroduce the sacrificial service, as that would ensure their continued rejection of Jesus as the Lamb of God.

During the festivities which will mark the inauguration of the false messiah, a spiritual revival will occur in which 144 000 Jews will dissociate themselves from their government’s treaty with Satan’s “angel of light” and instead accept Jesus Christ (Yeshua Ha Mashiach) as the true Messiah. They will openly take a stand against the false messiah, and that will give rise to them being severely persecuted. The false peace wrought by the Antichrist will only last for 3½ years. In the middle of the year-week of seven years he will enter the Holy of holies in the rebuilt temple and declare himself to be God (2 Thess. 2:4; cf. Dan. 11:36). An image of him will be placed in the temple, and all people forced to worship him and his image (Rev. 13:14-15). At that stage he will abolish Israel’s national religion and its sacrificial service: “...in the middle of the week he shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering” (Dan. 9:27).

Because of the desecration of the temple through forced idolatry, Israel will revoke their covenant with him and reject him as their messiah. In reaction to this dramatic move, the Antichrist will be infuriated and order the genocide of all Jews. On that day Jews will have to flee for their lives without losing a moment to get away from the false messiah and his forces (Matt. 24:15-22). Daniel refers to this terrible time of trouble which will befall Israel. People will be panic-stricken, not knowing what to do. Some of the Jews will recognise the false messiah in the hope of securing peace, safety, and economic advantages from him. Others will reject him and face harsh persecution:

“And forces shall be mustered by him [the false messiah], and they shall defile the sanctuary fortress; then they shall take away the daily sacrifices, and place there the abomination of desolation [an image of the false messiah]. Those who do wickedly against the covenant he shall corrupt with flattery; but the people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits. And those of the people who understand shall instruct many; yet for many days they shall fall by sword and flame, by captivity and plundering. Now when they fall, they shall be aided with a little help; but many shall join with them by intrigue [spies of the false messiah]. And some of those of understanding shall fall, to refine them, purify them, and make them white, until the time of the end; because it is still for the appointed time” (Dan. 11:31-35).

The false messiah in Revelation

We read the following on the false messiah and his co-ruler in Revelation 13:

The false messiah: “Then I stood on the sand of the sea. And I saw a beast rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name. Now the beast which I saw was like a leopard, his feet were like the feet of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. The dragon gave him his power, his throne, and great authority. And I saw one of his heads as if it had been mortally wounded, and his deadly wound was healed. And all the world marvelled and followed the beast. So they worshiped the dragon who gave authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him? And he was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and he was given authority to continue for forty-two months. Then he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven. It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation” (Rev. 13:1-7).

The false prophet: “Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon. And he exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence, and causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men. And he deceives those who dwell on the earth by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who was wounded by the sword and lived. He was granted power to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed. He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or 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 it is the number of a man: His number is 666” (Rev. 13:11-18).

Daniel’s description of five world empires

The symbolism in Revelation 13 is similar to that found in Daniel 7, in which the Babylonian Empire is depicted as a lion, the Medo-Persian Empire as a bear, the Greek Empire as a leopard, and the Roman Empire as a vicious animal with ten horns on its head. That means that characteristics of all four of these empires will be revived in the end-time empire of the false messiah. His fifth world empire will therefore not only constitute a revived Roman Empire, but also a revival of all the evil characteristics of the Babylonian, Medo-Persian, and Greek Empires. When the beast’s empire is fully-fledged it will reveal the following characteristics:

·      The Antichrist will follow the tradition of the Babylonians who deified their kings. He will declare himself above all that is called god and even challenge the authority of the God of heaven. He will cause an image of himself to be erected in the temple at Jerusalem and force all the citizens of his global empire to worship the image. Those who refuse to do so will be cast into the fiery oven of persecution. He will make relentless attacks on the Jewish state and try to annihilate all its citizens.

·      As in the Medo-Persian Empire, he will trample upon all the nations, make an end to their independence and incorporate them into his own empire. He will establish a merciless dictatorship and rule over his global kingdom with the irrevocable and unchangeable laws of the Medes and the Persians. He will also order the eradication of the Jewish nation.

·      The Greek Empire was depicted by Daniel as a leopard with four wings. It operated highly mobile armies characterised by skilful military manoeuvres that enabled them to carry out their attacks with speed and efficiency. The Antichrist will revive these tactics in his well-disciplined armies. He will be able to deploy airborne striking forces practically overnight in any part of the world. An anti-Jewish policy also reigned supreme in the Syrian province of this empire. The Greek dictator, Antiochus Epiphanes, was a fanatical hater of the Jews and as such also a type of the Antichrist.

·      The fourth beast with its ten horns and teeth of iron had a terrible appearance. This is symbolic of the brutal, ruthless and intransigent attitudes by which the Roman Empire made its authority and sovereignty felt. During the invasion of Israel and the siege of Jerusalem, hundreds of thousands of Jews were gruesomely murdered, crucified upon trees and sold as slaves, while many of the survivors were taken as captives of war to other parts of the empire. An even more devastating war of annihilation will be waged against Israel by the Antichrist during the great tribulation.

The description in Daniel 7 ties up with Daniel 2:31-45 in which the same world empires are depicted as a great image which was revealed to Nebuchadnezzar in a dream. The head of the image was of gold (Babylonian Empire), its chest and arms of silver (Medo-Persian Empire), its belly and thighs of bronze (Greek Empire), its legs of iron (Roman Empire), and its feet partly of iron and partly of clay (the end-time, restored Roman Empire of the Antichrist).

The Roman Empire was never conquered and subjected by another world empire, and that explains the fact why only four world empires are mentioned since the time of Nebuchadnezzar, and that these four will be revived as part of the end-time empire of the Antichrist. Although the Roman Empire ceased to exist as a political entity in the 5th century AD, the influence of Europe continued throughout the centuries, leading to the colonisation of large parts of the world by European nations. In the end-time, the ancient Roman Empire with its strong European base will be revived and again become the major power block in the world. This is already happening.

It is also significant that the Roman Empire gained control over the territories of the preceding three empires, i.e. the Babylonian, Medo-Persian, and Greek Empires, and for that reason the revival of the Roman Empire will also constitute a revival of these other world empires. All indications are that the Antichrist’s future world government will be controlled from the Middle East, from a region that formed part of all four of the previous world empires.

In view of these facts it is obvious why the Antichrist is depicted as a composite beast with symbols derived from all four world empires, i.e. a mouth of a lion, the feet of a bear, the body of a leopard, and a head of a ferocious animal with ten horns on its head (Rev. 13:1-2). He will, therefore, not only revive the Roman Empire but at the same time also the Babylonian, Medo-Persian and Greek Empires. All four of them were strongly focused upon the Middle East and, among others, tried to annihilate Israel. When the Antichrist and his empire will be destroyed, all his predecessors who were conquered and assimilated by the Roman Empire, will also be finally destroyed. This fact is in agreement with Daniel 2:44-45, where the great image which represents all four of these empires, will be destroyed at the same moment when it is struck by the Rock (Jesus Christ), who will establish His own kingdom in the place of these kingdoms.

Daniel 7:11 refers to the destruction of the Antichrist during the second coming of Christ. In this verse the prophet describes the fourth beast with the ten horns on its head, and another little horn (the Antichrist) that arose among them (Dan. 7:7-8, 20-21). The ten horns refer to the Roman Empire which will be restored in the end-time during the rise of the Antichrist (the little horn), after which this empire will be destroyed by Christ, bringing an end to the times of the Gentiles. After that, Christ’s kingdom, in which Israel will play a major part, will be revealed and established on earth.

Daniel 7:12 contains an interesting reference to the first three beasts of Daniel 7 – the lion (Babylonia), the bear (Medo-Persia), and the leopard (Greece). The NKJV says that “their lives will be prolonged for a season and a time”, but the NIV rendering comes closer to the basic meaning: “The other beasts had been stripped of their authority, but were allowed to live for a period of time.” That seems to suggest that the first three had physically lost their authority, but that their spirit and nature (their anti-God and anti-Israel ideology) lived on in their conquerors. Their final destruction will be concurrent with the destruction of their ultimate representative, the Antichrist, at the end of the tribulation period.

At the time when the European Union represents most of the Mediterranean countries, as well as those in the Middle East and North Africa, the Antichrist will arise from within the boundaries of the ancient Roman Empire and consolidate three of the Empire’s provinces (or countries) under his personal control (Dan. 7:8). Those will probably be Arab countries to the north and northeast of Israel, among which will be Syria and Iraq. This development is evidenced by the fact that, from Israel’s point of view, the Antichrist will also be known as the “Assyrian” and “king of the north” (Isa. 10:12-14; Dan. 11:31-45). We can anticipate the future extension of the European Union into the Middle East in order to strengthen its economic interests by the inclusion of oil-producing states, and also by trying to bring peace to one of the politically most volatile regions on earth.

Turkey has already applied for EU membership, while America’s gradual withdrawal from the Middle East also forces other countries in this region to look to Europe for military protection and development aid. The military involvement of EU countries in the liberation of Libya has paved the way for strong economic and diplomatic ties between Arab countries and Europe in the new geo-political dispensation which is presently emerging.

Various factors are prompting the revival of the ancient world empires. It is evident that elements from all four of the previous world empires are awakening from the dust of an almost forgotten past. It is also evident that a serious power vacuum is prevalent in this region, as well as ominous economic problems which are largely the consequence of poor government.

Isaiah says: “Therefore it shall come to pass, when the Lord has performed all His work on Mount Zion and on Jerusalem, that He will say, I will punish the fruit of the arrogant heart of the king of Assyria, and the glory of his haughty looks. For he says: By the strength of my hand I have done it, and by my wisdom, for I am prudent; also I have removed the boundaries of the people, and have robbed their treasuries; so I have put down the inhabitants like a valiant man. My hand has found like a nest the riches of the people, and as one gathers eggs that are left, I have gathered all the earth; and there was no one who moved his wing, nor opened his mouth with even a peep” (Isa. 10:12-14).

The false messiah will have no trouble in removing the boundaries between nations to implement his policy of globalisation. He will also succeed in obtaining control over the world economy, thereby assuming great authority. To this end he will have the full collaboration of the deceived political leaders of his time: “The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have received no kingdom as yet, but they receive authority for one hour as kings with the beast. These are of one mind, and they will give their power and authority to the beast” (Rev. 17:12-13).

Israel and the nations will be heavily persecuted – like never before in world history. They will only be saved from the end-time Assyrian’s global force and reign of terror by the Lord’s intervention (Isa. 10:23-25; Mic. 5:4-6).

Sole ruler

During the last half of the tribulation, referred to as “the great tribulation”, the Antichrist will be a sole ruler and military dictator on earth, who will use maximum power to enforce his authority. No earthly power will be able to challenge him, as to him will be “given authority over every tribe, tongue and nation” (Rev. 13:7). There will not be a single nation with a sovereign government, and all of them will be compelled to heed his military decrees. Political disloyalty will not be tolerated, and rulers who implement different policies will be summarily removed (Isa. 10:13).

The Antichrist will be a modern Nebuchadnezzar who will rule the planetary citizens of his global empire with an iron fist. The characteristics of other well-known military dictators of historical times, e.g. Nimrod, Alexander the Great, Nero, Hitler, and Stalin, will, in a surpassing way, be reflected by his actions.

After the time of false peace has expired, 3½ years of great tribulation will follow which will, spiritually speaking, be the darkest time in the entire world history. The satanic triumvirate of the dragon, the Antichrist and the false prophet will then make their final move in a bid to end the power of the Triune God (the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) on earth and to kill their remaining followers. The false messiah will claim the position of God by arrogantly declaring himself in the temple in Jerusalem to be God: “...the man of sin [will be] revealed, 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).

Daniel also warned against this end-time God-man who will, through the most intense deception, exalt himself to becoming a king and God to the world community to determine their destiny: “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. ... He shall regard neither the God of his fathers ... [but] he shall honour a god of fortresses” (Dan. 11:36-38).

The false messiah will pretend to be God and demand the loyalty of all people. But it will be obvious that he is acting deceitful as he will still recognise an authority above himself, i.e. the god of fortresses, who is Satan. It is Satan who instigates evil dictators to conquer fortresses and to achieve their political and religious objectives through the use of force and intimidation.

Revelation 13:3-4, 8 clearly confirm this religious takeover by the false messiah, and also the fact that all deceived people on earth will follow and worship him. Through the mediation of the false prophet, who will also work great signs and wonders to deceive people, the beast will place an image of himself in the rebuilt temple in Jerusalem, and force all people to forsake their own beliefs and to worship him only as God (Rev. 13:14-15).

Such an absolute form of religious slavery requires that the alliance of false world religions which functioned during the first half of the tribulation under the universal messiahship of the Antichrist, be dissolved and declared null and void. Only then can all people be forced to worship the beast as God. According to Revelation 17:16, there will be a violent end to organised world religions when they become obsolete.

Apart from the political and religious power of the Antichrist, the world’s economic power will also be used by him to control and enslave humanity in all spheres of life. Through the introduction of a computerised, cashless economy, the buying and selling transactions of all economic active people on earth will be controlled (Rev. 13:16-18).

It is evident from Revelation 13 that numbers or codes will be allocated to people, without which they will not be able to buy or sell. No cash will be in circulation. The system of electronic funds transfer (EFT) will only be accessible to people who have “the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name” (Rev. 13:17). That means that a formal oath of allegiance will have to be taken towards the Antichrist as the god and king of this world, before a personal identity number (PIN) will be allocated to applicants. However, by doing so they will be selling their souls to Satan, as they would recognise the political, religious and economic status of the Antichrist by taking the oath. They will then be consciously associated with the beast.

The eternal night of God’s judgement will befall those who take the oath of allegiance to the false messiah by accepting and worshipping him: “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. 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 forever 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 military campaigns of the Antichrist will not only be aimed at earthly targets, since the biggest military force the world has ever seen will be deployed in Israel against a heavenly army: “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 [Christ] and against His army” (Rev. 19:19). This mobilisation of forces will lead to the dreaded battle of Armageddon (Rev. 16:14, 16), in which the true Christ and the false christ will meet face to face: “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 worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone” (Rev. 19:20).

The faithful remnant in Israel who respect God’s Word and who will consequently have the ability to discern, will resist and reject the false messiah when he declares himself to be God. They will be severely persecuted during the final 42 months of great tribulation, and will have to flee to the wilderness in an effort to survive. However, at the coming of the true Messiah they will witness the condemnation of the false messiah and the false prophet, be fully reconciled with the true Messiah and subsequently share in all the blessings of His millennial reign.