A Beast by any Other Name … Is Still a Beast
We need to know, before we go! This curious but simple little challenge to believers in Jesus Christ concluded last week’s article; but it’s also meant for unbelievers … those who unfortunately will be left behind when the Lord takes his people from this earth. Since Israel’s amazing victory in the Six-Day War of 1967, the resurgence of end-times prophecy has motivated millions all over the world to passionately look up and long for the imminent return of Messiah. We’ve not seen such anticipation since the first century. The Kingdom of God on earth to include Israel’s complete restoration and redemption is near, very near.
Likewise, the apocalyptic intrigue concerning Messiah’s antithesis, the Antichrist, has intensified exponentially; so much so that several past (e.g. Adolph Hitler) and present world leaders have been targeted as the Antichrist, including an American President or two. With regard, however, to the actual identity of the Antichrist, the prevailing premise of nearly all Bible prophecy scholars is that no one can know for sure until he actually appears on the scene.
There is, however, really only one thing that the Bible tells us we cannot know and, thus, should refrain from any conjecture whatsoever: the date when Christ returns. Jesus, himself, asserted no less than three times, “For you do not know the day or hour of my return” (Matthew 24 & 25).
Although the Bible unequivocally declares that no one (including several misguided prophecy buffs who have tried and failed) can predict the exact time of the Rapture, Scripture is equally emphatic that we can “solve” the identity of the Antichrist. In fact, John of Revelation issues a challenge to believers to do just that. Read the verse with me, and ask yourself if the words mean anything other than what they say.
“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).
The language here is unambiguous; to the extent that the vast majority of prophecy students do agree that the number and name of the beast can (eventually) be known—but not until after the Rapture! But the fact remains that this stimulus to know was given not just to those alive at the Rapture, but first and foremost to the 1st century Christians who enthusiastically awaited the soon return of Messiah Jesus at any hour of any day. In fact, that first century group could very well have been the generation of the Rapture.
The book of Revelation was written to them, not to us! Of course Revelation is applicable to today’s generation, but only because we’re still waiting for the Rapture that triggers the awesome Day of the Lord. The first century Christians were meant to decode the identity of the beast right then and there, and so are we! Otherwise there would have been no reason at all for Scripture to include this last verse of Revelation Chapter 13; in which the angel exhorts John and all readers to unscramble the meaning of the beast’s number, which is tantamount to deciphering the identity of the beast, because the number is the number of a man.
The reason that contemporary scholars maintain that we can’t know who Antichrist is until after the Rapture, is because they subscribe to the logical, but inaccurate, supposition that the Antichrist will be a modern-day man born in the age that experiences the Rapture.
A Depiction of the Rapture
Daniel’s Prophecies—Temporarily Sealed; John’s Revelations—Immediately Applicable
As intimated in my article, The Seal of Approval (published 11-15-14), prophecy students cannot use the parallel principle that the identity of the Antichrist has been sealed or hidden in the same fashion that Daniel’s prophecies could not effectively be understood until the last days had begun. The fact is: The beginning of the last days commenced with the birth of Jesus. From that point through the final revelation of Jesus Christ as recorded in the book of Revelation, ALL of Daniel’s prophecies were unsealed and ALL of John’s prophecies were, therefore, totally relevant to the first century Christians … including calculation of Antichrist’s identity.
Why else would the angel have instructed John: “…Do not seal up the prophetic words in this book, for the time is near” (Revelation 22:10). The time is near was another way of saying that Jesus’s return was imminent; therefore, the entire book of Revelation was uniquely pertinent to the believers (and unbelievers) of the first century.
We must think retroactive and grasp this obvious fact: Jesus could have returned in the first century … Christians expected that he would. For this immanency to have been a reality, the Man of Lawlessness would need to be a first century man to, immediately after the Rapture, begin his beastly reign of terror as depicted in Revelation. Which is exactly what John tells us in Revelation 17:8 … that the man had already lived, had died, but would reappear from the Abyss. Moreover, this man was one and the same as the ruler of Daniel 9:26-27, whose armies would destroy Jerusalem and the Temple … which historically is none other than Nero; who hand-picked two Roman Generals (Vespasian and Titus) to lead several Roman Legions against Israel, some fifteen years after Paul wrote about the man of lawlessness.
The angel’s command to John was in direct contrast to Daniel being told to seal up his book; because it couldn’t be fully comprehended until Messiah had come, and until more revelations had been given that would effectively unseal Daniel’s prophecies … meaning they could now be understood by the very first generation of Christians. If, indeed, the identity of the Antichrist couldn’t be confirmed until the Rapture occurred, John would have been told the same thing as Daniel, i.e. seal up the prophetic words. In other words: Don’t bother to try to figure out the number (identity) of the beast, because it isn’t possible until (much) later. Yet, John was told just the opposite, which paraphrasing means: The time (of Messiah’s return) is near, so these revelations are for you to know and understand right now.
For that matter, why would John urge the Christians of his time to (with wisdom and understanding) ascertain the meaning of the number of the beast, if the identity of Antichrist couldn’t be known until after the Rapture? What’s the point? After the Rapture took place, it would be entirely too late for the Christians to “solve the meaning of the number of the beast…” It would be irreversibly irrelevant by that time for two reasons: (1) the Christians would already be in heaven. (2) The beast would have already been recognized and followed by many left behind, without the need to determine his identity by interpreting his number. Remember: those who take the mark of the Beast will have a choice for his mark to be embedded in their forehead or right hand; but also the option of taking the number OR the name of the beast (Revelation 13:16-17).
Figuring out the name of the beast by astutely applying the number of the beast (through Hebrew gematria) was meant to be done as soon as a first century Christian read the book of Revelation. That’s why the number was given in the first place. Nero’s name contains four letters; the equivalent number of his name is three digits, 666. A diabolically convenient fit on one’s forehead or hand, don’t’ you think?
And, why would the angel even bother to explain (reveal) the mystery in John’s second and final vision of the beast found in Revelation 17, unless the origin and identity of the beast should and could be known? Listen to the words of the angel to John: “I will tell you the mystery of this woman and of the beast with seven heads and ten horns on which she sits” (Revelation 17:7). Then, the angel proceeds to do just that.
When a mystery is revealed in Scripture (and there are several), it no longer is a mystery. It is meant to be fully grasped, even though the unveiling of the beast was (for the safety and welfare of first century Christians, as much as possible) realized without naming names—such as the seven kings being the first seven Roman Emperors, and with more strong clues such as, “the beast you saw was once alive and isn’t now” (Nero).
Let’s continue our examination of the last two names assigned to this Man of Lawlessness.
Fifth Title: The Beast
When the term man of lawlessness is used by Paul, it is with direct reference to this evil man’s revealing (II Thessalonians 2:3); meaning the initial disclosure of the man who was the ruler foretold by Daniel, whose armies would destroy the Temple. But also as the subsequent little horn king who would exercise authority over ten kings, whose kingdoms would be yielded to him during the seven-year tribulation. As covered in last week’s article, this revealing of the lawless one took place when Nero assumed the throne through a secret anarchistic plot to overthrow (successfully) his step-father, the Roman Emperor Claudius.
The Apostle Paul was executed during Nero’s reign before John wrote the book of Revelation, and the Lord had not disclosed to Paul that Nero would return as the beast of Revelation. The term used in Revelation is that the beast would reappear, and the world would be utterly amazed at this sudden, startling, supernatural-like return (Revelation 17:8). This is a counterfeit replica of the First and Second Advent of Messiah Jesus.
The Greek words for reveal and appear are quite different. The Greek word for reveal or revealing is apokalupto, transliterated into the English … apocalyptic. The word means to uncover, to unveil, and to make known what was concealed or unknown. The Greek word for appear or appearance is horao, a very common word most often translated: to see, or seeing, to look, to appear, or having appeared.
An analogy is utilized in my book Out of the Abyss to amplify the difference between these two concepts.
Every four years we elect a new United States President. When the votes are tallied, the media reveals to us the candidate with the most electoral votes. Thus, the identity of the new President is revealed. That night or perhaps the following day, we see the newly elected President when the President appears on television. Hence, the winning candidate makes his appearance as President-elect. (Page 195).
Thus, when examined closely in the contextual references to Christ and Antichrist, we find a clear indication that the Antichrist will first be revealed as the Man of Lawlessness (ruler-king of Daniel whose armies would destroy the Temple); then return (reappear) as the beast-king of the Tribulation period. There is, however, one astounding verse in the New Testament passages about Antichrist in which both Greek words are used. It is a verse that many scholars (including me at one time) have overlooked with regard to the significant impact of what is being said. It is found in the same passage covered in great detail last week concerning the man of lawlessness, the thrust of which is the secrecy of the lawlessness and what/who restrained this secrecy and the Man of Lawlessness, himself (Nero).
“Then the man of lawlessness will be revealed, but the Lord Jesus will kill him with the breath of his mouth and destroy him by the splendor of his coming” (II Thessalonians 2:8).
Yes, you read that right! The verse means exactly what it says. There are two distinct events presented in this stunning verse: (1) Jesus, himself, will kill this man. Remember, the passage is not about the beast; rather about the man of lawlessness as revealed by Paul. (2) The Lord will (also) destroy the man when Jesus returns … by the splendor of his coming. The killing and the destroying are not the same occurrence; for one thing they are separated by the all-important connective word, and. Furthermore, two separate distinct words are used, kill and destroy. Although destroy can include death, it is much more than that. It is final conquest, domination, and destruction of one’s enemy, whether the adversary is actually killed or not.
When the time came for the man of lawlessness to be revealed—which happened when Nero became Caesar—Christ would subsequently kill him. Then at the second coming of Christ (the Greek word is epiphany which is a form of horao only used with a divine emphasis and connotation, i.e. Jesus the Son of God), Christ would ultimately destroy this man. Which is the fate of the beast when he and the false prophet are thrown bodily (alive) into the Lake of Fire (Revelation 19:20).
There are examples in the Bible where God intervenes sovereignly in the lives of individuals or groups by “striking them down.” Because some cross a line that should not be crossed at a specific time for a particular reason, God will prematurely end their lives. In my book Out of the Abyss, I give five examples from Scripture, but there are many more than five.
Thus, we have the unmistakable evidence that the beast had already lived and died as the man of lawlessness before John prophetically witnessed his reappearance from the Abyss as described both in Revelation 13 and 17.
The Historical Life and Death of the Man of Lawlessness … And His Subsequent Return
Again we ask: Why isn’t just the term Antichrist used throughout Scripture in allusion to this man? Why the other appellations? In further response to that question, please permit me to again quote from Out of the Abyss. But first to highlight the questions: Who does Jesus kill? Answer: the man of lawlessness. When is the lawless one killed and why? Let’s examine the evidence.
Paul’s description as the man of lawlessness points to the soul or persona of the man. Simply put: the man is unruly, anarchistic, uncontrolled, ungovernable … in short, outside the God-given laws of morality and nature. After Daniel’s … reference to this man as a king or ruler or little horn, and our Lord’s reference to false messiahs, Paul was the first to introduce this man.
The term antichrist refers directly to the spirit of this depraved man; in fact, the apostle John equates the Antichrist to the spirit of antichrist. Then John defines what this spirit represents or does: it denies God the Father, and God the Son as Messiah.
It is the spirit of a human being that is regenerated or made alive, when that person accepts Christ as Savior. Then the Holy Spirit bears witness with the redeemed spirit that we are children of God. The spirit of Antichrist remains forever spiritually dead; as does the spirit of every person who denies that Jesus is the Christ….
The bestial image of Revelation vividly depicts the physical nature (body) and corporeal deeds of this man, and all that entails. We still use a beast in modern language to expound the exploits of an individual. We might say, “He fought like a beast!” Or we might reduce the beast-like qualities to a specific animal and say, “She had the strength of a lion!” The soul and spirit of a person expresses all that is evil or good through the flesh or bodily presence of the individual. (Pages 204-205).
A reminder: When Jesus kills this man, the man is referred to (by Paul) as the man of lawlessness. “…The Lord Jesus will kill him with the breath of his mouth…” is an expression demonstrating that Jesus would orchestrate (arrange) Nero’s death.
Then I go on to say in Out of the Abyss:
When Jesus, with his divine rightful authority, killed Nero, he eliminated the very soul of this wicked man from the face of the earth, at that specific point in time (68 AD), for a very explicit purpose, with a unique twist to a twisted man. Jesus would preserve Nero’s body for the precise plan of sealing the final destruction of Antichrist … bodily in the lake of fire. Yes, I did say, “preserve!” (Page 205).
Then an entire chapter of my book concentrates on the Abyss—what it is, where it’s located, and the fact that the beast of Revelation would reappear from this bottomless pit; witnessed by John as the beast arises from the sea (Revelation 13), and then seen by John a second time as a scarlet beast upon which a woman sits (Revelation 17).
To counter the notion that a modern-day Antichrist would be killed during the Tribulation, here’s another excerpt from Out of the Abyss:
Why would Christ kill the beast half way through the tribulation, when the man hadn’t yet demonstrated his dark side or hadn’t yet begun his reign of terror? Only for the man to come back from the dead a few days later; then for Jesus to clinch the man’s final destruction in the lake of fire? Yet this is the contemporary view, minus the part about Jesus killing the man of lawlessness. As indicated, this dramatic fact has often been overlooked in the composite evaluation of Biblical passages on Antichrist.
Please understand: Jesus kills the man of lawlessness! That’s exactly what the Bible says. This divine preemption is a substantial departure from the normal cycle of life and death in the human race, including the evil, ugly act of murder.
Only God gives or creates life and only God has the divine right to preemptively take life, if he chooses. Moreover, God extended this capital punishment privilege to society as a means of dispensing justice and as a deterrent to murder…. (Page 205).
Recall, the beast had already died when John first observed it in Revelation. And before that Paul tells us that Jesus would kill this man—the beast of Revelation. If Jesus directly intervened by killing the man of lawlessness, then this man (later called the beast) could not be assassinated during the tribulation as we understand and define the term murder. (Page 206).
To repeat: The mainstream present-day explanation is that a modern-day Antichrist will be killed (some say his death is faked, but Revelation 13 indisputably tells us that it’s a fatal wound, i.e. death) at the hands of a Jew, or perhaps by a member of his inner circle. There are several theoretical scenarios presented by various scholars, but not one that I know of factors in II Thessalonians 2:8—that Christ, himself, will kill the man of lawlessness.
Continuing in Out of the Abyss:
Expressing it another way: Jesus did not kill the beast; he killed the man of lawlessness. Although the man of lawlessness and the beast are one and the same (Nero), this is not a contradiction. Why … because the Holy Spirit, through Paul, is telling us when the beast would be killed. The beast would be killed by Christ while the beast was the man of lawlessness, before he reappeared as the beast! As the beast, Nero will be cast into the Lake of Fire, alive. (Page 206).
We are more accustomed to the final victory that Christ will have over Antichrist in the epic battles of Armageddon, as summarized in the second half of II Thessalonians 2:8, when Christ returns. Consequently, we often overlook the first half of this verse and/or try to make it the same event as the second half of the verse. The words are crystal clear: Jesus kills the man of lawlessness. THEN at his second coming, Christ (finally) destroys this man of lawlessness who is now the beast who reappears from the Abyss.
There is no redundancy whatsoever taking place in II Thessalonians 2:8. Paul is telling us that, in addition to killing the man of lawlessness, Jesus also destroys him when the man reappears as the beast of Revelation (tribulation period); although Paul was not privy to the return of this man from the Abyss as the beast. The Antichrist’s designation as the beast would come a few years later when John saw the extraordinary visions recorded in Revelation. But Paul knew when and how this man would eventually be shattered. His final destruction would be accomplished by the splendor of Messiah’s “glorious appearance!”
Neither Daniel nor John of Revelation tells us that the king-beast will be killed during his seven-year reign. When the beast initially appears to John in Revelation 13, the first thing John sees is that one of the seven heads of the beast (the same seven heads which are the same seven kings of Revelation 17, discussed in these articles) had already recovered from a fatal wound. Because John saw this beast in real (present-tense) time, it’s obvious that the beast had already been dead, which was later confirmed in spectacular fashion by John’s second vision of the beast … and the beast you saw was once alive, but isn’t now. (Revelation 17:8).
At his birth and especially at his resurrection from the dead, our Lord was revealed as the Son of David, Son of Man, and Son of God. In the very last days of the Tribulation, he will reappear as the King of all kings, the Lion from the Tribe of Judah to rescue Israel from annihilation and the world from complete chaos and catastrophe.
His evil antithesis, Nero, was initially revealed as the man of lawlessness. Messiah Jesus struck him down for heinous crimes/sins that crossed the divine line of God’s toleration. Yet, Christ will permit him to bodily reappear from the Abyss with the spirit of (the) Antichrist to deceive the world through this lie of what Nero will boast as a Satan-empowered, yet self-resurrection from the grave.
A Sculpture of Nero
As summarized in Out of the Abyss:
Moreover, it would make all the sense in the world for the respective advents of the true Messiah and false messiah to occur within a very close proximity of time, but in a manner that God chose. Jesus, who is the way, truth, and life because he perfectly fulfilled the Law of Moses arrived on the scene first. Then came the man of lawlessness who would seek to pervert and destroy this way, truth, and life. Nero arrived on the scene of humanity only some three and a half years after Jesus ascended to heaven. Nero will be allowed to reappear some seven years before Messiah returns, but Nero’s ultimate authority during that time will be for three and a half years. Thus, Christ will have the final say in the matter. Yeshua is the First and the Last. (Page 208).
Sixth Title: Antichrist
Well, not much more needs to be said. The very word says it all. The purpose of these three articles is to show that each and every name of Antichrist serves a prophetic purpose. Only the Apostle John employs the term, Antichrist, in I John. Yet, the other five designations of Antichrist are not merely arbitrary terms (for the sake of variety) to characterize this contemptible man. Rather, they were given to Daniel, Paul, and John of Revelation at the appointed time in history to clarify how, when, why, and from where this man would originate. Thereby, with a healthy dose of wisdom and understanding, we can accurately determine the actual identity (who) of this little horn, king, ruler, man of lawlessness, and beast, known the world over as Antichrist.
Nero was born shortly after Jesus returned to heaven. He rose to power through a sequence of lawless events. With his earthly body preserved in the Abyss, he will be allowed to return; but not to actually duplicate the resurrection of Christ … not in the fashion of the true Messiah and Christians rising from the dead. Only God possesses the power of resurrection. Nevertheless, the reappearance of the Antichrist Beast will resemble and mock the very foundation of the Christian faith … the miraculous resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. This return from the grave (Abyss) will be the lie that billions of people will believe during the Tribulation, to the extreme of actually worshipping this unholy beast of a man.
Though there will be no Roman Legions or a Revived Roman Empire as such; “Hail Caesar!” will reverberate throughout the post-Rapture world.
“The beast you saw was once alive but isn’t now … yet he will soon come up out of the bottomless pit … the people who belong to this world … will be amazed at the reappearance of this beast who had died.”
A final summary quote from Out of the Abyss:
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 this passage be understood? … If some can’t let go of a contemporary Antichrist, then what will they do with this verse…?
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.
Things to Ponder
I realize how unfathomably difficult it is to wrap our minds around the concept of a 2000 year old Roman Emperor reappearing on Planet Earth. But we also know that with God, all things are possible. Christ arose from the grave and so will millions upon millions of believers at the Rapture. Would it be any more difficult for God to revive Nero shortly after his death, place him in the Abyss, allow him to return from this prison of darkness, and then give him and Satan authority to resume his Antichrist agenda for a few short years on this earth?
Didn’t God transport Elijah alive directly to heaven in a flaming chariot?! Didn’t God split the Red Sea and stand the water up on two sides like walls?! Didn’t God provide the Hebrews food from heaven (manna) for forty years?! Didn’t God … go ahead, fill in more blanks!
After all is said and done, “…the essence of prophecy is to give a clear witness for Jesus (Revelation 19:10).
For those who have not placed their trust and destiny in the sacrificial death of Messiah Jesus, know now and after the Rapture that Christ is greater by far than Satan, Antichrist, and the False Prophet. Though it will cost you your life, please choose Jesus over Nero. Your reward will be everlasting life in heaven. If you choose the mark of the beast, your destiny will be sealed in the Lake of Fire, alongside of the false messiah.
“He who is the faithful witness to all these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon!’ Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20).