IS THE ANTICHRIST ALIVE TODAY?
(Second article in a series based on the book, Out of the Abyss … can the number of the beast be solved, 666?)
One of the most captivating verses found in the book of Revelation (and there are a lot of such verses) has been frequently overlooked, minimized, and sometimes even ignored. Why has one of the most astounding visions of John as recorded in the “Revelations from Jesus Christ” been, for all practical purposes, swept under the prophetic carpet? Especially when it is one of only two visions in Revelation where the messenger actually explains the mystery of the vision to John; yet, the enlightenment has been relegated to virtual obscurity by many students of prophecy.
Anything labeled a mystery in Scripture is a yet undisclosed secret that can’t be understood until/unless it’s revealed; and then explained by God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit through a prophet or apostle, or by an angel. However, once revealed, it’s no longer a mystery … the listener or reader can now comprehend the meaning; although it may take a pretty good dose of wisdom.
The answer to why this passage (two verses) has been inadvertently and sometimes deliberately brushed aside comes in the form of a barricade, an obstacle that is almost too huge to overcome. And that barrier can be described in just a few words: The Antichrist must be a modern-day man. Reasonable, of course. Logical, yes. Correct, no! Although there are other vital component parts of Scripture in order to understand from where the Antichrist originates and, therefore, his identity, the best starting point in this journey is the passage that has been unfortunately demoted in its significance. We ended last week’s article with this very passage. Here it is again:
“Why are you so amazed?” the angel asked. “I will tell you the mystery of the woman and of the beast with seven heads and ten horns on which she sits. The beast you saw was once alive but isn’t now. And yet he will soon come up out of the bottomless pit and go to eternal destruction. And the people who belong to the world, whose names were not written in the Book of Life before the world was made, will be amazed at the reappearance of this beast who had died” (Revelation 17:7-8, words in italics for emphasis).
*Note: if you have a little extra time, see if you can find the other mystery revealed in Revelation. Hint: it was revealed directly by Jesus, rather than one of the angels.
If anyone, from an ardent student of Bible prophecy to someone who only has a casual interest, isn’t willing to objectively examine, reexamine, then scrutinize these verses again, then most likely they will also experience much difficulty with other significant passages dealing with the Antichrist (such as Daniel Chapters 7 & 9, II Thessalonians Chapter 2, Revelation Chapter 13, and the remainder of Revelation Chapter 17).
Saying it another way: To hold tightly to the notion that the Antichrist is or must be a man born in the last generation that experiences the Rapture is tantamount to saying that Revelation 17:8, the following verses of Revelation 17, and several other companion passages such as Revelation 13, have virtually no bearing on or relevance to the Antichrist; which, of course, is absurd. I don’t mean to be or sound too harsh; in fact, if you’ve read my book, Out of the Abyss, you’ll see that my objective was not to correct the mainstream prophetic profile of the Antichrist just for the sake of correction. Rather, I wrote “outside of the box” with the intention of showing that most of the prophetic puzzle had, indeed, been skillfully assembled by so many (well-known) students/teachers of prophecy. But, that a few pieces had been mistakenly fitted … those pieces dealing with the Antichrist. Then for the reader to decide which was the better fit.
The Incredible Impact of Revelation 17:8
As stated in my book, it was just the first ten words of Revelation 17:8 that shook me with the seismological force of a 9.0 (spiritual) earthquake. “The beast you saw was once alive, but isn’t now….” (New Living Translation). In the New American Standard we read, “The beast that you saw was, and is not….” The King James Version reads very similar to NAS. The Complete Jewish Bible reads, “The beast you saw once was, now is not….”
These astonishing words—once was alive, but isn’t now—launched the angel’s unraveling of the mystery of the scarlet beast and the woman who sat on the beast that John had just witnessed. The vision was over, and now the angel is explaining to John what he had just seen, by starting with a brief, but earth-shaking, biography of the beast.
Thus, it’s crucially imperative that we see the absolute certainty of what’s going on in this passage.
– The vision itself was seen in the present tense/time by John on the Sabbath day, from the island of Patmos.
– To make certain that John and, therefore, his readers, fully understood the biographical and biological status of the life and existence of this beast (man), the angel carefully begins by telling John that this beast—who we know is the Antichrist—had once been alive (on the earth), but was no longer alive.
LET’S STOP HERE!
To bolster what you’ve just read, permit me to quote an excerpt from Out of the Abyss, found on pages 115-116. “At the time of the vision, the beast is past tense, ‘was once alive but isn’t now.’” Then, “The implication is staggering. To restate the problem: I and many others have missed the monumental relevance of the past, present, and future tense existence of this beast.” And finally, “And so, to repeat: The beast (Antichrist) that John observed had once been alive but was no longer alive; the beast had already died when John saw the vision.”
Now, I’m going to ask that you, and hopefully many others, will take pause and ponder the stunning implication of this passage. Is there any doubt what you just read, and what the text is saying? Do the words convey a clear picture of the “status” of the beast when John saw it in the vision; thereby, disclosing an irrefutable certainty that this beast had already been born, had already lived on the earth, and had already died? If not, then what other explanation might there be? Do the words in this verse allow for certainty in the comprehension of what the angel is telling John; or at best, can we only speculate what they might mean?
What are the words saying to you?
To further assist in the understanding of what’s transpiring in this vision and in the ensuing explanation by the angel, keep in mind that the scarlet beast itself is a symbolic image of a man, as subsequently and distinctly explained in this chapter. However, the words used by the angel to reveal the meaning of the imagery are NOT symbolic in any way. A fundamental rule of literature: You don’t explain symbolism with symbolism. Rather, the angel’s description is simply a matter-of-fact announcement that the beast is a man (the angel uses the masculine pronoun “he” … will come up out of the bottomless pit) and that this man was (past tense) once alive, but isn’t now (present tense at the very moment that the angel is explaining the vision to John).
How Then Can the Beast possibly be a Modern-Day Man?
As said, it’s a gigantic obstacle to overcome, meaning to somehow wrap your mind around a more supernatural explanation as to where the Antichrist comes from and who he is; rather than the natural view of a man born and raised in the final generation of the Rapture and Tribulation.
Admittedly, I still shake my head in wonder when I think about it. BUT IT’S TRUE! Because that’s precisely what Revelation 17:7-8 is telling us. And, because I’m convinced that the text is so overwhelmingly clear, I would issue a (gentle) challenge to anyone, including the most perceptive student of prophecy: What other explanation is there except the plain meaning that this man (Antichrist) had already died before—not during and not after—John saw the vision of the beast?
Normally we shouldn’t belabor any given point we want to emphasize. But I’m going to make an exception to that rule by referring to another section from Out of the Abyss. As amazing as it may seem—an evil man who died (long ago) but who will return from the Abyss (Rev. 17:8)—guess what the angel told John just before unfolding this mystery to John? The angel said, “Why are you so amazed?” Meaning that Jesus (via the angel) wanted John to view this vision as matter-of-fact certainty; one that makes perfect sense when placed in the context of all revelations prior to this vision, as found in previous chapters of Revelation, as well other books of the Bible (like Daniel) that preceded this specific revelation. And now, a certainty even for our generation, by comparing all these passages with a working knowledge of first century history.
Here is the excerpt from Out of the Abyss (page 271): “There is no question; the meaning of the verse is as irrefutable as anything can be. The beast had already died before John received this revelation. How else can the passage be understood? Is there any other way to see or read this verse? If some can’t let go of a contemporary Antichrist, then what will they do with this verse … and all the other passages that help refit the prophetic puzzle?
“John didn’t see the vision in the future; he saw it in the present—that hour of that day. The beast is past tense … no longer alive when John saw the vision. The beast isn’t born and doesn’t die in the future; he’s already dead. When will the beast become future tense? Correct: When he reappears from the Abyss. At the beginning of the Tribulation, the world will be amazed at the reappearance of the beast that had died. Will the beast die during the Tribulation? No, he died even before John saw him from Patmos.”
Here’s one way possible reaction to what the Lord wants us to grasp as the plain meaning of this text: “Oh, okay. I get it. I’m amazed, but I why should I be amazed. Because he arose from the dead, Jesus Christ, our true Messiah, will return one day. Why not his counterfeit, anti-Christ counterpart also reappearing?” That’s what Revelation 17:8 tells us, “he will soon come up out of the bottomless pit … and the people who belong to this world … will be amazed at the reappearance of this beast who had died.”
In our next article, we will talk about the reappearance of the beast. I will also state his name for the first time. Of course, those who’ve read Out of the Abyss already know his identity!
Things to Ponder
– I know it’s hard to let go of the more natural and logical idea that the Antichrist will be a modern-day man. And there are a few other key Bible passages that are thoroughly treated in Out of the Abyss, with each passage strong enough to stand alone in support of what is now a historical figure identified as Antichrist. Do you see, however, the impact of Revelation 17: 7-8 as a starting point that that could lead to a complete revision of who the Antichrist is and where he comes from?
– Aside from being Biblically incorrect as to the potential identity of a modern-day Antichrist, is there any adverse effect or, perhaps, embarrassment in characterizing a world leader, such as the President of the United States, as the future Antichrist?
– Is there, in fact, any other way to apply or interpret the words of Revelation 17: 7-8? I ask this because before, during, and after the research and writing of Out of the Abyss, I was my own strongest critic. Meaning, I constantly challenged the accuracy of this disclosure given to me, i.e. that the beast of Revelation was a ruler who had died even before Revelation was written, but who would return as a ruler once again. Yet, through the entire project of Out of the Abyss, these verses and all the other passages continued to fit perfectly into the puzzle, which eventually silenced my harshest critic … me!
Having read your book, Out of the Abyss, I am aware of who you have identified as the one who will reappear as the antichrist. (I’d like to see it again tho, and am anxiously awaiting your next article.) In response to your question regarding modern world ‘rulers’, such as the President of the United States, being identified as a contemporary pre-trib antichrist: Does not Scripture identify this man as a king; a ‘ruler’ with the implication that his power then, was more or less absolute? Yes? Well, something else to consider then would be that there is no ‘ruler’ who ‘rules’ today in the post-modern era who possesses anything comparable to the power wielded by the actual rulers of John’s day when he recorded the revelation of Jesus Christ. Scripture identifies this man as already having been a king, before he died. This does not fit with the contemporary theory which calls for a man suddenly appearing and then arising to a position of authority. Now, when the antichrist does, in fact appear, he WILL rise to a position of world dominance, but, if this man was a KING before this occurred, wouldn’t people be able to recognize that and know it? It is as you have pointed out that Scripture makes clear: People will be amazed at the appearance of this man, and NOT because he was (or was not, as the contemporary antichrist argument implies) a king, but because “The beast you saw was once alive but isn’t now. And yet he will soon come up out of the bottomless pit…” I would suggest that in light of the truth, fingering POTUS or any other present ‘world leader’ (there really isn’t a real WORLD leader at present, is there?) as the antichrist would be an obvious case of mistaken identity, and thus a cause for embarrassment. Having said this, I would suggest also that this being the case does not detract from the knowledge that at present, there is a ground swell of antichrist-like sentiments, the ‘spirit’ of antichrist, as it were in many national governments. I wonder if you would agree with this?
Some good observations and analysis! Concerning the “spirit” of Antichrist, I’m sure you already have, but you might want to take another look at the following verses: I John 2:18-23 and I John 4:1-3. In these verses, the apostle John defines who or what an antichrist is, i.e. “Anyone who denies the Father and the Son is an antichrist.” Thus, the term antichrist is a general expression and description of ANYONE who rejects or refuses to acknowledge that the God of the Bible is the true and living God; and that his Son, Jesus Christ, is the only way of salvation (the Way, Truth, and Life).
But then, the apostle John goes a step further, by explaining that such a person (meaning essentially all unbelievers, both rulers and common folks alike), “…has the spirit of the Antichrist, which you heard is coming into the world and indeed is already here” (I John 4:3). This is an astounding statement! Notice that spirit is with a lower case “s”. As opposed to the upper case Spirit (meaning Holy Spirit) mentioned elsewhere in this passage and throughout Scripture. Moreover, this verse says, “the spirit of the Antichrist.” The definite article “the” references the actual Antichrist himself. Then comes the most astonishing phrase of all, “…which you heard is coming into the world and indeed is already here.”
This is extremely important to grasp. The only verse that refers to the spirit of Antichrist directly connects the spirit to the man himself, the Antichrist. And, anyone to denies God and the truth about Jesus has that same spirit of Antichrist. But there is only one Antichrist, and, according to John, this Antichrist (and his spirit) had already arrived! Thus, the “spirit” of the Antichrist has been present since the Antichrist, himself, first arrived on the scene of history, then died, only to reappear as the beast of Revelation. Adolph Hitler undoubtedly possessed the “spirit” of Antichrist, but so did and does everyone else in the world who has rejected the Gospel of Christ. Which is why those left behind after the Rapture will so easily embrace the Antichrist … they bear the same spirit as the actual Antichrist does.
What John is telling the first century Christians (and any successive generations in case Jesus hadn’t returned yet) is that the “man of lawlessness” described by Paul, and the beast of Revelation as described by John of Patmos had already existed (is already here). And this Antichrist was the first to possess the “spirit” that would blatantly and flagrantly deny, reject, and otherwise rebel against the only truth that would save mankind, i.e. death, burial, and resurrection of the true Christ. Since then, all who reject the truth essentially exhibit this same “spirit”, i.e. “the spirit of the Antichrist.”
Hope this helps with your questions.