Who is the Antichrist? (Part 1)

What the Bible says about the religious characteristics of the Antichrist.

It’s an election year, which means it is time for people not only to speculate about the next President, but also about which candidate might be the Antichrist. We have seen this time and time again, regardless of the candidates or their political affiliation. In the 1960s, Protestants worried that John F. Kennedy, a Catholic, could be the Antichrist. During the 1980s, at the height of the Cold War, end-times authors wondered if Ronald Reagan might be the Antichrist. In 2016, some labeled Hillary Clinton the Antichrist, after saying the same about President Barack Obama before her. More recently, a book called The Fourth Beast: Is Donald Trump the Antichrist? released in 2016, and the internet is filled with blog posts and YouTube videos asking similar questions.

To be fair, this is not just a phenomenon for election seasons. Since its inception, the Church has been quick to assign that notorious designation to its own high-profile leaders. During the Protestant Reformation, for instance, both Martin Luther and Pope Leo X were labeled as the Antichrist, despite being on opposing sides of those theological battles.

So who is the Antichrist?

I’d like to begin a series of articles on the subject, each one offering a unique way to identify him based on Scripture. This week we’ll focus on the religion of the Antichrist. In coming weeks, we will examine the conquests of the Antichrist, the politics of the Antichrist, and last of all, the end of the Antichrist.

Before we begin, I should clarify that, biblically, antichrist is a general term that speaks of anyone who “denies that Jesus is the Christ” (1 John 2:18 and 2:22; 1 John 4:3; 2 John 1:7). This is antichrist with a lower-case a.

At the same time, biblical prophecy speaks of a specific end-times figure who will fulfill that title like no other. This figure is the “little horn” of Daniel’s vision (Dan. 7:8); the “King of the North” who conquers many (Dan. 11:36-45); the “man of lawlessness” of Paul’s writings (2 Thess. 2:1-12); and the “Beast” of John’s visions (Rev. 13:1-10). This is the capital-A Antichrist.

Now, let’s talk about the Antichrist’s religion.

A New Religion

Daniel prophesies about a “King of the North” whose reign of terror will take place during “the time of the end” (Daniel 11:40), around the Great Tribulation (Daniel 12:1). This King, we are told, will worship “a god whom his fathers did not know” (Daniel 11:38). He will not be Christian by religious identity. He will not be Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, or New Age. Nor will he belong to any religion that we now recognize. 

People often label American politicians as the Antichrist, but 85 percent of members of the United States Congress at least claim to be Christian, and so have every U.S. President. The Antichrist, in contrast, won’t even pay lip service to Christianity. In fact, he will blaspheme our God openly (Rev. 13:5-6).

The Antichrist’s “god”

When the Antichrist comes, “He shall honor the god of fortresses” (Daniel 11:38). By the help of this “god,” he will advance militarily (Daniel 11:39), so most likely he worships some sort of “god of war.” This would agree with Revelation 13:4: “Who is like the beast, and who can make war against it?” Whenever the Antichrist comes, he will display a Satanic blending of military, political, and religious ambition.

“Satanic blending” is really the right phrase. The Antichrist will lead the world to worship Satan (Rev. 13:4). Putting together what we learn from Daniel and John, the Antichrist will worship a new god: a god of fortresses, a god of war.

This “god” is Satan.

This probably doesn’t mean that the Antichrist will come out and say, “Let’s worship the devil!” Fortunately, overt devil worship is rare, but it’s hardly new. And besides, devil worship likely wouldn’t be persuasive in our society. It’s far more likely that this Antichrist will honor Satan—his “god of war”—with a more honorable title. Perhaps he will even consider the names Satan or Devil as blasphemous slander for his so-called deity. Either way, it’s clear that the world will feel enlightened to learn of this new “god.”

The Antichrist’s Self-Exaltation

At the same time, the Antichrist will lead the world to worship…himself! This “man of lawlessness” will take “his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God” (2 Thess. 2:3-4). Suddenly, this “Christ” figure begins to sound like the Second Person of the Trinity—simultaneously worshiping and being worshiped.

The resemblance intensifies in Revelation 13:3, which describes the Antichrist using the metaphor of a beast: “And I saw one of his heads as if it had been mortally wounded, and his deadly wound was healed. And all the world marveled and followed the beast.” Can you think of anyone else in history who died and rose again? Even the most resistant “Beast-Worshipers” will feel compelled when they witness such a resurrection. They may even claim that this is the “true Christ,” who died and rose again—maybe even offering forgiveness of sins! Worship services will sprout up around the world, giving glory to this new deity and his resurrected representative. Perhaps they will even label this form of worship “church.”

Recently, we saw intelligence agencies and the media speculating that Kim Jong-Un, North Korea’s dictator and a persecutor of Christians—and a man who also claims to be a god—may have been gravely ill. Today, Kim Jong-Un seems to have recovered. It’s not hard to imagine North Korean propaganda presenting this as a miracle that points to his divinity. Whether the future Antichrist literally dies and rises again, or whether it’s more of a resuscitation like the “recovery” of Kim Jong Un, this miracle will cause the world to marvel—and worship (Rev. 13:4).

The Antichrist’s False Prophet

If resurrection wasn’t enough to get people to “church,” the third member of this unholy Trinity—the False Prophet—will unleash his own bag of tricks. 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…” (Rev. 13:13-14).

Right now, such a fireworks display is hard to imagine because we live in a secular culture. But when the False Prophet comes into power, our secular worldview will be quickly displaced by a supernatural one. People will no longer doubt that supernatural power exists. The presence of the supernatural world will be abundantly clear. They simply will have to discern which supernatural powers are worthy of worship.

Over the next few weeks, we will explore additional characteristics of the Antichrist. As we do, let us keep in mind that the best way to discern the counterfeit is to intimately know the real thing. We don’t worship a new god, but the Ancient of Days. Not a “god of war,” but a God who shed His own blood for us. Not an unholy beast who wants to mark us, but a Holy Spirit who has sealed us until the Day of Redemption.