The Seal of Approval … Identity of Antichrist
It’s time to once again declassify and decode the identity of Antichrist. To once again lift the veil of secrecy and mystery that modern-day students of prophecy have imposed on this infamous figure; called a ruler and king by the prophet Daniel, the man of lawlessness by the apostle Paul, Antichrist by the apostle John, and a beast by John, the author of Revelation.
Although volumes have been written about this notorious tyrant, the prevailing premise is that the identity of the man who would dare be anti-Christ cannot be known until after the Rapture, at the outset of the seven-year Great Tribulation. As I have quoted in past Eye of Prophecy articles, some scholars have dismissed and even ridiculed the notion that the Antichrist’s identity was meant to be known before the Rapture with the statement: “If anyone thinks they know the identity of Antichrist, then they have missed the Rapture!”
But we can know … we should know! Why can I make such a bold assertion? It’s really quite simple: Because Scripture not only encourages such a discovery, it actually challenges us to figure out who the prophets and apostles are referring to. That he was not just a future tense despot to the prophet Daniel, but a present tense ruler during the Apostle Paul’s lifetime and a past tense Monarch shortly before the book of Revelation was penned.
This week’s article will revisit in summary fashion my book, Out of the Abyss … can the number of the beast be solved, 666? As well as past Eye of Prophecy articles entitled: Modern Day Antichrist; Antichrist … Is He Alive Today; Reappearance of the Beast; The Number of the Beast; The Beast and His Name … published consecutively between 9-7-13 and 10-5-13. If you’re really interested, if you truly want to dig into the Biblical and secular references to this man of sin, then I would encourage you to get a copy of the book and read the Eye of Prophecy articles. Out of the Abyss is available on-line through Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
Let’s begin with a remarkable well-known verse sometimes quoted in my past writings on the beast of Revelation, but one that bears repeating: “Wisdom is needed here. Let the one with understanding solve the meaning of the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. His number is 666” (Revelation 13:18). In ancient Greek manuscripts the number 666 is actually written out … six hundred, sixty-six.
What does this verse say and mean to you? Are there any restrictions identified or conditions imposed on the reader, whether a Christian reading it in the first century or in this current generation, that directly state or remotely imply that the calculation (through wisdom and understanding) of the meaning of the number applies only to those alive after the Rapture? The verse unambiguously challenges the reader of that time to, “solve the meaning of the number of the beast.” And when that is unscrambled, the identity of the beast will be revealed; because, “It’s the number of a man.”
As further evidence and incentive that the identity of Antichrist was meant to be known (solved) by first century believers and all believers thereafter, an extraordinary command was given by one of the angels at the very end of the phenomenal series of visions witnessed by John, as recorded in the very last chapter of Revelation. Says John, “Then he instructed me, ‘Do not seal up the prophetic words in this book, for the time is near’” (Revelation 22:10).
Hold that thought, as we will return to this captivating but puzzling command. First we need to examine identical instructions found in the Old Testament, but in reverse of the one give to John in Revelation.
The Angel to Daniel: “Seal up the book…..”
Just one other place in the Bible do we find similar language of sealing prophecies … those given to Daniel. Only the directive is in reverse of what the angel told John. “But you, Daniel, keep this prophecy a secret; seal up the book until the time of the end….” (Daniel 12:4).
Since end-times prophecy made its resurgence primarily in the 1960’s, Bible scholars have frequently and accurately explained that the instruction to Daniel (seal up the book) was necessary because fulfillment of the vast majority of Daniel’s visions wouldn’t take place until the, time of the end. Several, but not all, students of prophecy correctly place the beginning of the time of the end as the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Messiah Jesus, i.e. the New Covenant that birthed the Church. Which will culminate in the Rapture, then the beginning of the Day of the Lord—Tribulation, Second Coming of Christ at the end of the Tribulation, followed by the Millennium.
The first part of Daniel’s visions (the four beasts from the sea … a similar vision to the statue dream given to Nebuchadnezzar), actually began to unfold during his lifetime—referring to the Medes/Persian (2nd beast) conquest of Babylon (1st beast). Yet, it would be hundreds of years before the third and fourth beasts emerged as world powers … Alexander’s Greece and the Roman Empire. After Alexander’s empire was split into four parts, then before and during the rise of Rome, some (partially or fully) of Daniel’s prophecies came to pass … those found in chapters 2, 7, 8, 9, and 11. But the most important, the most prominent, and the most spectacular prophecy came to pass when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey and was hailed as the Messiah. (Daniel 9:24-25). Daniel’s prophecy of this event came to pass on the very day predicted by the Word of God.
Then shortly after Messiah’s crucifixion and resurrection, the ruler of Daniel 7 & 9, the one whose armies would destroy Jerusalem and the Temple (Daniel 9:26-27), arrived on the scene of history. As carefully detailed in Out of the Abyss, this ruler was the Man of Lawlessness depicted by Paul, and would be the beast of Revelation who would reappear from the Abyss during the Great Tribulation.
For more dramatic effect in my book Out of the Abyss, and as progressively developed in the Eye of Prophecy articles on Antichrist, I intentionally delayed naming the Antichrist to build both a historical case and contemporary suspense as to his identity. But now, as a reinforcement to those who have read the book or articles and to any reader of this article who has not, I will plainly state his identity.
The Ruler of Daniel, the Man of Lawlessness, and the Beast of Revelation most often referred to as the Antichrist is the Roman Emperor, NERO.
Intrigued? Puzzled? Surprised? Amazed? Dumbfounded? So was I when I first realized that the Antichrist had already lived and died before John saw the spectacular visions of Revelation. That, however, the beast-king would reappear from the Abyss at the outset of the Tribulation.
Why Seal Daniel’s Visions
The reason that Daniel was told to “seal” his book was because nearly all of the prophecies weren’t germane to his generation, nor to many generations after Daniel. Obviously, the sealing of Daniel’s book wasn’t meant to be a literal fastening commonly used in those days, especially by kings and officials who wanted their documents to be tightly guarded for both privacy and safety until they were to be opened (unsealed) and read. For one thing, much of Daniel’s book was a journalistic record of past and present events that occurred during Daniel’s decade’s long sojourn in Babylon.
Rather, the sealing of Daniel’s visions was a metaphorically practical way of saying that it would do Daniel and those keenly interested in his prophecies no good to try to figure them out until the majority of the prophecies had been fulfilled. And did you know: Nearly all of Daniel’s prophecies were fulfilled by the end of the first century. In fact, the only ones not yet fulfilled were those pertaining to the ruler (little horn) and the ten horns/kings of the tribulation period, which are presented in remarkably similar fashion in Revelation 17. Once the majority of the prophecies came to pass, then the remaining (Tribulation) predictions would be much easier to grasp, particularly when expanded upon later by Paul and by John of Revelation.
Thus, after the Roman destruction of the Temple in 70 AD and certainly following the book of Revelation, Daniel’s prophecies were effectively unsealed.
Yes, the sealing of Daniel’s book has been an oft-quoted and elucidated passage by modern Bible scholars. But not so the similar, yet opposite instructions to John in Revelation. The command to, “not seal up the prophetic words in this book…” has seldom been mentioned or explained by Bible teachers (including me at one time). Yet, it has as much, if not more, significance than the directive for Daniel to seal his book.
The Angel to John: “Do not seal up the prophetic words in this book.”
Paraphrasing, Daniel was told to place his writings in storage. John was instructed to do just the opposite. Why would the angel even mention such a thing, i.e. advising John not to seal up the prophetic words of this book (Revelation)? There had to be a reason for such a command. First century believers, especially Jewish believers who were well-versed in the writings of the Old Testament prophets, would have immediately made the connection of the angel’s admonition to John as a striking contrast to the instructions given to Daniel.
To identify the association between Daniel’s sealing and John’s no-sealing is to fully grasp the meaning of and reason for the angel’s warning to John. And what is that meaning?
The astounding significance of and for the need not to seal (withhold, keep to himself, temporarily set aside, or postpone for a later time) ANY PART of the book of Revelation is that all of the revelations given to John were immediately appropriate to the believers of that day. In fact, we can with a great deal of assurance and authority carry this a step further and state: The revelations and understanding of the visions were applicable first and foremost to the Christians of the first century. Because if Jesus could/would imminently come for his bride (the Church) at any time, then all of the end-time Biblical prophecies would begin to unfold immediately. Therefore, ALL of the revelations given to John were applicable to all Christians of that time and should be openly read, taught, and disseminated throughout the Roman Empire.
With, however, the need to codify references to the Antichrist to protect Christians from further persecution and death; hence, the encoding of the beast’s identity through the Hebrew method of counting and numbering with their alphabet (Gematria) in Revelation 13. Also to partially obscure the identity of the beast (Nero) in Revelation 17, by what effectively was a puzzle or riddle of the seven kings … five fallen, one reigning, one soon to reign, but briefly, then an eighth king (the beast himself) who was one of the seven.
That is why the angel told John not to seal up the prophecies of Revelation; because they were to be understood by and applied to those believers alive at that time. Unlike the prophecies of Daniel which were some 90% for the mostly distant future—the centuries leading to and including the first advent of Messiah Jesus—the disclosures to John of Patmos were undeniably relevant to his readers because Jesus could rapture his Church at any moment.
That this beast had already lived and died before John was given the visions of the beast in Revelation, but that this same beast king would reappear from the Abyss. That coupled with the wording of Daniel 9:26-27, resulted in a phenomenal conclusion that the Antichrist beast would also return to the earth (in duplication of Messiah’s 2nd coming), but not until the Tribulation began very shortly after the Rapture.
Because the Rapture and subsequent return of Christ could (and in the eyes of first century believers) probably would take place in their lifetime, the Antichrist had to already have been a first century man to instigate and commence his Tribulation reign of terror that would begin very soon after the Rapture.
(Please read the above paragraph again). We need to wrap our minds around this fact and let it sink in. Rephrased: Christ could have chosen to Rapture the believers at any moment. If he had done so, then the remainder of Daniel’s and Jesus’s and Paul’s and John’s prophecies including, but not limited to the Antichrist, would have begun to unfold soon thereafter … within days or weeks. Thus, the Antichrist MUST HAVE ALREADY BEEN ON THE SCENE.
Which is exactly what the angel told John in Revelation 17.
A Stunning Disclosure … The Antichrist Will Not Be a Modern-Day Man
Said the angel to John: “Why are you so amazed?… I will tell you the mystery of this 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 this world … will be amazed at the reappearance of the beast who had died” (Revelation 17:8, italics for emphasis). The Greek word for soon means momentarily, but more so it means abruptly or suddenly.
In November, 2008 (almost to the day of today’s article), this passage absolutely stunned me; even though I had read the verse along with the rest of Revelation many times. All of John’s visions, including this one, took place in the present (time). After seeing the beast for this second time, the angel revealed the “mystery” of the beast to John. It was another extraordinary disclosure of the beast’s identity to go along with his number (six hundred, sixty-six) presented earlier in Revelation Chapter 13.
The incredible fact was/is: The Antichrist-beast had lived before John saw this vision of him. But at the time of the vision on a specific Sunday (Revelation 1) on a specific day in John’s life, the beast was no longer alive. But he would return from the Abyss (bottomless pit) and this return (reappearance) would utterly amaze the world’s inhabitants. This and other passages regarding the Antichrist was thoroughly explained in Out of the Abyss, along with historical first-century church and secular records.
All of the pieces of the prophetic puzzle fit perfectly, leading to the inescapable conclusion that the Antichrist was none other than the Roman Emperor Nero!
Returning to the (un)sealing of the Book of Revelation, the breathtaking relevance of this command to John was that ALL of the mysteries of Revelation could be understood by believers of that time, including the identity of the Antichrist. It was not necessary to wait until future generations to understand these mysteries including the number of the beast and his biographical history up to that time.
The identity of the beast could, would, and should be known by the (any) generation alive when the Rapture occurred followed by the immediate appearance (reappearance) of the beast. Consequently, would you (also) agree that the Christians of the first century could have been that very generation? If so, then they and all generations to follow had the Biblical tools to solve the clues and ascertain the identity of Antichrist BEFORE the Rapture, not afterward.
Once again: Nowhere in Revelation does John state or even imply that the identity of the beast could only be decoded or known until after the beast actually appeared on the scene. Moreover, Chapter 21 in Out of the Abyss meticulously explains II Thessalonians Chapter 2; that the “revealing” of the Man of Lawlessness took place when Nero unlawfully usurped the title of Roman Emperor and began a rebellion against God and Christianity during his lifetime. Additionally, the often overlooked verse eight of this chapter was clarified. That Jesus actually kills the Man of Lawlessness (Antichrist, beast) and then destroys him. That killing and destroying are not the same thing. That the death (killing) of Nero took place in 68 AD, but his final destruction in the Lake of Fire will not take place until the end of the Tribulation, after he returns from the Abyss. I also spend a great deal of space in the book on the Abyss, itself.
All of which leads to the crystal clear conclusion: The Antichrist cannot be a modern-day man born and raised in today’s world nor any generation to follow. The words of Revelation 17 are unmistakable: the beast had already lived and died BEFORE John saw it/him in his vision. “The beast you saw was once alive but isn’t now.”
Daniels’ prophecies could not be comprehended by his generation, which is why the angel instructed him to seal them … meaning set them aside until the actual events took place. Not so with John’s visions as recorded in Revelation. They were to be (with wisdom and understanding) grasped right then and there. The Lord through John wanted the believers of the seven churches and all Christians of that day to know, beyond any reasonable doubt, that Nero was the beast of Revelation; the revealed Man of Lawlessness presented by Paul; the ruler whose armies destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple of Daniel in Chapter 9; the little horn of Daniel Chapter 7 who would “suddenly appear” on the scene and take over the ten horns (kings), the same ten kings of Revelation 17. All this, and more is carefully documented through Scripture and history in Out of the Abyss and to a lesser extent in the prior Eye of Prophecy articles.
Which is why Jesus told John at the spectacular beginning of Revelation when John saw the risen Christ before he saw any visions at all: “Write down what you have seen—both the things that are now happening and the things that will happen” (Revelation 1:19). Revelation contained more than just things that would come; which, as already alluded, Christians in that day believed would come shortly. It included visions pertaining to things already taking place … which by default would include recent past events that dovetailed with current events of that time.
Because it has been 3 ½ years since Out of the Abyss was published and over a year since the Eye of Prophecy articles on Antichrist, I felt compelled to reintroduce and re-emphasize the remarkable disclosures that help refit the pieces of the prophetic puzzle regarding the identity of the Antichrist. Starting with the amazing FACT (according to Revelation 17) that the Antichrist beast had already been born and died before John received the revelations of this evil man. That he would reappear from the Abyss; that by default logic he couldn’t ascend from the Abyss until he had first been placed there (by Christ).
But mostly in this article to expand on these short, simple, but amazingly profound verses in the first and last chapters of Revelation.
First Chapter: Jesus told John, “… to write down what you have seen, both the things that are now happening and the things that will happen.” Why wouldn’t the Lord have just said, write down what he had seen, and leave it at that? There was a reason Jesus added the following words. Reason: Because he wanted John and all first century believers and Christians thereafter to understand explicitly that Revelation was not confined just to future events … events that could begin any hour or day after John’s visions were over. Other than the first three chapters of Revelation including the letters to the seven churches, most Christians and even Bible scholars think in terms of the remainder of Revelation applying exclusively to future events. NOT SO.
There are several past tense occurrences in Revelation, such as the five kings who had fallen, and most amazing—the beast who had already lived and died, who—as I demonstrate in past writings—was one of those five kings who had died … Nero.
Last Chapter: That’s why the angel instructed John not to withhold or postpone or delay the announcement and distribution of the book of Revelation (all part of “sealing” a book). Because, in fact, ALL of Revelation was applicable immediately to all believers and nothing in the book was hidden from meaning and none of the mysteries were left unrevealed. This all was relevant to and part of the equally valid truth that Jesus could return any day.
The fact in the first century was: THE BEAST HAD ALREADY BEEN REVEALED. Now it was just a matter of when the Rapture would take place, which would initiate and shift into high gear all of the ensuing prophecies of the beast’s reappearance and all of the Tribulation events depicted in Revelation.
Conversely, with the prophet Daniel and his visions, he was repeatedly told that the visions were for a future time … nothing whatsoever imminent about these prophecies. Such as, “…you must understand that the events you have seen in your vision relate to the time of the end” (Daniel 8:17). But with the New Testament Saints everything was imminent, beginning with the Rapture and continuing (immediately) with the return of the beast who had died and all prophesied events thereafter.
Do you see the difference between Daniel’s time and John’s time? Does this help explain the divine rationale between instructing Daniel to seal his prophecies, but for John to unseal what had been revealed to him (don’t seal the words)? And why those specific instructions were even given to Daniel and John.
Things to Ponder
The specific purpose of this article is to know beyond any doubt that we are meant to know the identity of the beast of Revelation, just as the first century (and a few centuries after that) Christians knew. It is recorded both in secular and church history that many early Christians believed that Nero would, in fact, return as the Antichrist beast of Revelation. This amazing belief was prevalent for the better part of four hundred years after the Lord’s ascension to heaven.
All I’m doing is refitting the prophetic puzzle that had correctly been assembled in the years of the early Church. I’m not reinventing the wheel. Rather I’m using the same wheel of prophecy used by the early believers in their journey through the annals of Biblical events pertaining to the last days. And these last days began with the birth of Jesus. We are currently in the last of the last days.
“Indeed, the Sovereign Lord never does anything until he reveals his plans to his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7).
Revelation’s prophet is John of Patmos. The early Christians understood John’s prophecies were meant for them. They weren’t even thinking about future generations no more than we would if we fully expected something to happen in our lifetime. They understood that Nero was the beast, but not until he had died; because Revelation wasn’t written until after Nero’s death, nor was the apostle John’s term of Antichrist used. Nor could they match up the ruler (Antichrist) of Daniel until Nero died and his armies vanquished Jerusalem and the Temple.
But they could (and did) match Nero with the Man of Lawlessness that Paul introduced to them. Once Nero died and Revelation was written, they knew for sure who Nero was. Because Paul said that Jesus would kill the man of lawlessness (II Thessalonians 2:8). Then John told them that the beast would return from the abyss. Later, they understood that Daniel’s prophecy applied to Nero, because in 70 AD the very generals personally selected/appointed by Nero to crush Israel destroyed the Temple … a campaign begun by Vespasian and completed by his son, Titus. (See Daniel 9:26-27).
The early Christians knew, and so can we.