Manual on the Millennium

Manual on the MillenniumManual on the Millennium is Dr. Maslin’s first book, published in 2014.  To see the Table of Contents and passages covered, as well as ordering information from your favorite bookseller, click on one of the following links:

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CHAPTER ELEVEN

THE ANTI-CHRIST

All of my life I have heard wild speculations of the identity of the Anti-Christ, all the way from F.D. Roosevelt to Henry Kissinger and many dictators in between. I have even heard mentioned other people that are active today as the Anti-Christ. I will not do them the disservice of mentioning their name. Many people have sought to display their superior understanding of prophecy by constructing a composite view from Daniel’s prophecy, Paul’s “man of sin,” and the beast or false prophet of John’s vision in Revelation to reveal the identity and characteristics of the Anti-Christ, even to the point of predicting a resurrection of their favorite Anti-Christ. All of this reminds me of the cynical saying: “my last Anti-Christ just died.”

Incidentally, this is not the first time someone has built their future predictions on a promised resurrection. Joseph Franklin Rutherford, Jehovah’s Witness leader in a book published in 1920, “taught that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob would be resurrected in 1925 to be made the visible and legal representations of the new order of things on earth.” (from the book Millions Now Living Will Never Die. This statement is recorded by Ralph Woodrow in His Truth Is Marching On.( p.15) Dwight Wilson, in his book Armageddon Now! , traces the history of many mistaken identifications based on a supposed prophetic foundation. His sources are “premillenarian books and periodicals which are primarily the food of the laity rather than the clergy.” (p.12) Let us notice some of the special identifications. “Speculation on the Antichrist has included Napoleon, Mussolini, Hitler, and Henry Kissinger.” (Dwight Wilson, p.216) The Reformation reformers held that the papacy was the Anti-Christ. Some have narrowed the speculation by arguing that the Anti-christ must be Jewish .

This has led to Wilson’s conclusion that “The premillenarians history, however, is strewn with a mass of erroneous speculations which have undermined their credibility. Sometimes false identifications have been made dogmatically, at other times only as probabilities or possibilities, but the net result has always been the same- an increased skepticism toward premillennialism.” (p.216)

Here is another strange identification: “The Antichrist and Sadat appear to be cast in one and the same role.” (p.49) This was her opinion,after several pages of making a case for Anwar El Sadat of Egypt (Mary Stewart Rolfe, When Your Money Fails, p.141-149)

Oliver B. Greene, in Bible Prophecy, goes to great length to expound and describe his doctrine of the Anti-Christ and finally comes up with his identification when he says: “In so far as I am personally concerned I believe that Judas Iscariot was the devil incarnate and that he will return to this earth as the Antichrist, the Man of Sin, ‘son of perdition!’ He will not be called ‘Judas’ but will be called by some or all of the many names given to him in Scripture.” ( p.233, 234)

Even he must have cause to wonder whether he is correct because he says: “I do not ask others to accept what I have just declared on the grounds of the Scriptures I have given, but in my own heart I believe it!” (p.233)

In a pamphlet distributed by the Christian Missionary Society of Phoenix, Arizona the author makes a case for Nero Caesar being the anti-Christ and in typical fashion concludes: “So it seems probable that the Anti-Christ is going to be Nero Caesar, (although we do not say for sure) who will ‘ascend out of the bottomless pit’ and become the world ruler for a period of 3½ years before the rapture of the church.”

This author is anonymous. No date. No page numbers. The Biblical Identity of the Beast (Anti-Christ of The Book of Revelation!!! The Soon Coming World Ruler. Notice the typical hedging- “it seems probable,” “although we do not say for sure”. The author does make an identification of the anti-Christ by name but for some reason does not give his own name.

These are enough examples of the ridiculous. Let us turn our attention to some relevant discussions . A discussion of “the man of sin” may throw light on this subject. So, let us see what others have said: Ladd treats the language of Thessalonians in this case as a metaphorical description of the “man of lawlessness” usurping God’s place in the demand to worship him. This was evident in the Roman emperors. He also identifies the hindering power or restraint as the principle of law and order exercised by the Roman Emperors as the restraining power. It is difficult to see how they could fit both roles.

I like Dr. Warfield’s identifications better. Warfield is a theologian who always makes sense and he offers his views in discussion notes of II Thessalonians 2:1-12. I will only summarize his findings. He is the scholar; I am only the pastor-writer. He notes that this prophecy has its roots in Daniel and is full of illusions to the apocalyptic discourse of our Lord. There, the Apostasy, the revealing of the “man of sin,” and the coming of the Lord are brought together. They are not declared to be consecutive. These events must come to pass before the return of Christ. This was to happen in the generation living at that time. The identification of the Roman emperor or a line of emperors are possibilities for this “man of sin.” This is supported by the time period in which it must happen. He also reasons that the emperor was the embodiment of persecuting power, and as such, he fits the description of “a man of sin,” the son of perdition. It is easy to see it fulfilled by the actions of the Roman emperors. He sees the restraining power as the Jewish state, as evidenced by their role in history at that time. The Apostasy was the Great Apostasy of the Jews hastening to their final destruction, soon to come to pass in the destruction of Jerusalem.

I respect Dr. Warfield and his writings. I admire him for clear and unwavering statements of truth, unpopular with dispensationalists, but nevertheless true. I can find no reason not to accept his findings and identifications. (Biblical Doctrines, p.608-613)

John is the only New Testament writer to use the term “anti-Christ” (I John 2; 18,22; 4:3 and II John 7). There is no reason to relate this to Daniel’s prophecy and characterization of Antiochus Epihanes. If fulfilled, the details do not need to be repeated. There may be parallels and similarities but there is no need to project these details into future events, nor try to make a composite picture of Anti-Christ from Paul, John, and Daniel. It is improper to snatch Scriptures here and there and interject them into a passage that does deal with a future anti-Christ. John acknowledges a Christian tradition that existed concerning the appearance of a person- anti-Christ. He does not add to that speculation but emphasizes that there are many anti-Christs among them. I believe he has reference to the Gnostics whose beliefs and actions identify them as enemies of the Gospel and disruptor of the Christian fellowship. They were leaders of a dangerous movement, which, if it prevailed, would have overthrown the Christian faith. They denied the deity of Christ on one hand and denied His humanity on the other. There are many counter-parts in every age. John relates his concept of the anti-Christ as essentially a false idea- an untrue belief- any idea or person in history that denies God revealed in Christ. That may be why many of the reformers identified the papacy as the anti-Christ. The communism which has fostered so much atheism could be characterized as anti-Christ. The Islamic movement today is anything but Christian and could easily fit the same characterization. The same could be said of the naturalist-humanist religion which dominates the media, education and much of government. Their anti-god world view has captured our public educational system and expresses that world-view in forced evolutionary teachings and every area of our lives.

To many, Paul’s writing to the Thessalonians about 50-55 A.D. gives the clearest description of the anti-Christ as the “man of sin.” The dispensationalists do make this identification and see him sitting in the “temple” during “the Great Tribulation.” There are problems with this view and they center on the meaning of “temple” or naos, which, most certainly, refers to the people of God. Everywhere it is used it has this significance, not the sacred sanctuary of the Jews. Dr. A.J. Gordon, writing of this, says, “There is no undisputed instance in the New Testament where this word ‘Naos’ is applied to the Jewish Temple.”

Fletcher points out that Paul identifies the Naos as the church when he calls it “God’s temple” in I Corinthians 3:16 and that it was possible to defile this temple, just as it is possible to defile our bodies, which as believers we are the temple of the Holy Spirit. If defiled, the defiler would be destroyed; and the “man of sin” would appear in the professing church and be destroyed. (Fletcher, The Millennium p.37)

So we have various explanations of the restraining power; the Holy Spirit (Dispensationalism); the Roman Empire (Ladd); the Jewish state (Warfield). We have the same variety of interpretations concerning the one taken out of the way; the Holy Spirit (Dispensationalism); the Jewish state (Warfield). For “the man of sin”: the Roman Emperor (Warfield); a future person during the Great Tribulation (Dispensationalism). One thing is sure, if the dispensational interpretation is the correct one, then the Second Coming cannot take place at any time, as they profess to believe.

Now that we have considered the opinions of others on this subject, let us attempt to proceed to build a systematic treatment of this subject from the Scriptures. We will approach it not from speculation but in examining two main passages. I will make no attempt to relate Daniel’s prophecy and characterization of Antiochus Epiphanes, the Old Testament type of the anti-christ, to any future anti-Christ. Since the prophecy has been fulfilled, the details do not need to be repeated. There may be future similarities, but there is no need to project the details into future events.

What John has to say: He describes a terrible “beast” in Revelation 13, but does not call the beast anti-Christ. In fact he describes in his vision two separate beasts, but fails to call either of them anti-Christ. Why? Simply because they do not fit his characterization from his earlier letters. The beast of Revelation is clearly identified as a contemporary, not as a future figure. The beast may well be a type of a future anti-Christ and there may be similarities but that does not justify the identity of the two.

What John does have to say about anti-Christ is found in I John 2:18, 22 and 4:3, and in II John v.7. Here is the same author as Revelation 13 writing from an earlier period. In these scriptures he uses such phrases as “even now there are many antichrists… he is antichrist that denieth the Father and the Son… this is that spirit of antichrist… this is a deceiver and an antichrist.” He acknowledges a Christian tradition that existed concerning a personal anti-Christ. He does not try explain or defend such tradition but asserts his own concern about the false teachers among them. He simply claims that there are many antichrists among them. The evidence points to a reference to the gnostics who did conform to his description of antichrist. Their beliefs and actions identify them as enemies of the gospel and disruptors of the Christian fellowship. They were leaders of a dangerous movement which if it had prevailed would have overthrown the Christian faith. They denied the deity of Christ on one hand and denied His humanity on the other hand.

John relates his concept of the antichrist as essentially a false and dangerous idea. It was any idea or person in history that denies God revealed in Christ. It was not the spirit of honest doubt but the willful propagation of error in the face of plain truth. The spirit of heresy has to be embodied in a person and thence to a dangerous movement.

Let us examine what Paul has to say on this subject. Keep in mind that he does not discuss this idea in other places of his writings. In writing to the Thessalonian believers, ( II Thess. 2:1-10) about 50 A.D., he gives the clearest description of Anti-Christ as a person. But he does not use the word. There are several similarities to John. Both recognize the reality of a present anti-christian spirit with the deceivers. Both treat a problem of rebellion and apostasy. Both recognize a future antichrist with some vagueness. John refers to the doctrine and then applies it to a present situation. He does not affirm or deny a future antichrist at the end of history. Paul’s message is unclear to an extent because we do not have the oral instruction he mentions in II Thessalonians 2:5. The Thessalonians had the key to interpretation of this passage, which we do not possess. There are some identifying words that may help us understand what he meant in this passage.

(1) Revolt, as described in in verse 3. He describes it as a “falling away” which may refer to the revolt of the Jews from Roman domination or a religious falling away and world -wide increase in evil, such as he describes in II Timothy 3. Again, we need to know all about 2:5 for a clear picture.

(2) Man of lawlessness, as described in verse 3. Again, we need to know all about the oral instruction he mentions in verse 5 to get a clear picture. What we do know is that what Paul describes is similar to Daniel’s description in Daniel 11:36, which originally described the activities of Antiochus Epiphanes, who profaned the temple of God by setting up an altar of Zeus in the holy place and forced Greek paganism upon the Jewry. This prophecy was fulfilled in 176-164 B.C. He might have had in mind the attempt of Caligula to set up a statue of himself in the temple in Jerusalem. Or he could have had in mind Nero’s claim to deity. The “man of lawlessness” was a personal figure who would have all the evil characteristics of the historical figures, Antiochus Epihanes and Caligula.

(3) Son of perdition, as described in verse 3. Some of the speculators claim that this refers to Judas, raised to life again. This is a Hebrew idiom that is concerned with the ultimate doom of the lawless one. The same word is used in Hebrew 10:39.

(4) Mystery of lawless one or iniquity, as described also in verse 7. This could represent the Roman Empire or a Roman Emporer. Some identify this description as that of Judaisim or some leader in Jerusalem.

(5) What restrains as described in verse6. Some identify this as a person in which the Holy Spirit is the restraining force. More likely it refers to some constituted government and those who administer it. In a specific sense, it refers to the Roman government. In the earliest days of Christianity the Romans did protect the Christians from Jewish violence. Others identify the restrainer as the mother church in Jerusalem.

(6) Temple, as described in verse 4. I am sure that dispensationalists view this as a rebuilt temple in Jerusalem with re-instituted sacrifices. Others view it as a spiritual temple of which Paul described the gathered believers in the Corinthian church. (I Cor.3:16)

Conclusions: This is a reference to a great event which would come before the final advent which the Thessalonians were expecting immediately. This great advent was the overthrow of Judaism and destruction of the Holy City and the temple which was fulfilled in 70 A.D. Even an early fulfillment does not rule out the possibility of another such personage at the end of history,when God will remove the restraining power and Satan is loosed for a little season. Satan is incarnate in an evil person and it has been so throughout history. He is active in all anti-god movements and anti-Christian movements. Even now we are experiencing a war on Christians in our own country. The war is aided by the media and secular government.

The Lord has something better for us to do than to speculate about the identity of the last antichrist. Speculation about certain persons may sensational, but later embarrassing. Just be ready in your Christian life and service. And most of all, make sure that you have received Christ as your Lord and Saviour because He is going to win in the end.

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