WATCH OUT FOR THE ANTICHRIST
Dr. Charles Franklin DeVane, Jr., Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
February 24, 2013
14 But when you see the abomination of desolation standing where he ought not to be (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 15 Let the one who is on the housetop not go down, nor enter his house, to take anything out, 16 and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. 17 And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! 18 Pray that it may not happen in winter. 19 For in those days there will be such tribulation as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, and never will be. 20 And if the Lord had not cut short the days, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he shortened the days. 21 And then if anyone says to you, Look, here is the Christ! or Look, there he is! do not believe it. 22 For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect. 23 But be on guard; I have told you all things beforehand.
There is not a day that goes by when God could not speak to us and say, “See, I told you so.” That’s because everything God has ever said, everything He is saying now by His word and His Spirit, and everything He will say when we see Him face to face is absolute truth. Actually, there was a day when Jesus said this very thing. The third section of the Olivet Discourse, recorded in Mark 13:14-23, concludes with this very statement, “See, I told you so.” A better translation might be “Watch Out” (the third of four appearances of this imperative, ref. vs. 5, 9, 23, and 33), Jesus said, “Because I’ve told you the truth about what’s going to happen.” Just what is going to happen? The Antichrist is coming!
The “abomination of desolation” is a “he” (the ESV seems to be the only major English translation that gets this right), not an “it.” And, “he,” apparently, is the antichrist. The name “antichrist” is not mentioned in this text, it is not mentioned in the book of Daniel or the book of Revelation. As a matter of fact, it is only found four times in Scripture, three in 1 John and one time in 2 John. An “antichrist” is anyone who is against Christ, or opposes Christ, or seeks to replace Christ in any ways or means. Since Jesus said that anyone who is not for Him is against Him (ref. Matthew 12:3), this leaves room for a lot of antichrists in history and in our present world.
But prophetic Scripture seems to suggest that there is a singular antichrist who is particularly abominable to Heaven and brings about desolation on earth. This person, or organization of persons, embodies, or leads, or otherwise exemplifies a blasphemous resistance to the worship of God and a hatred for God’s people. The Bible reveals that this antichrist will be revealed just before the revelation of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ, on the other hand, in this sermon said the antichrist will be revealed just before the destruction of the Temple (ref. vs. 1-4 and keep in mind that this is the main focus and context of Jesus’ sermon). Yet Daniel’s prophecy, on still another hand, which coined the phrase “abomination of desolation,” was actually fulfilled in the second century before Christ. So just who is the antichrist, and how can we “watch out” for him?
The Antichrist came before Christ.
A careful study of this part of Jesus’ sermon would also have to include a close look at the book of Daniel (ref. 9:27, 11:31, and 12:11). The Old Testament exile prophet is the first to introduce us to the “abomination of desolation.” Jesus makes him something to watch out for in His sermon, and Mark records it with a parenthetical note that we’d better put our minds in high gear. In other words, this is complicated stuff.
To unlock the identity of this antichrist requires a key from the Old Testament (Daniel), the Apocrypha (2 Maccabees), and a good academic book which records the history of the world between the Greek dynasty of Alexander the Great and the rise of the Roman Empire. Daniel predicted the rise of an ungodly king who would invade Israel, take over the Temple, stop the regular sacrifices and worship of God, and put forth the “abomination of desolation.” Maccabees records a successful Jewish revolt against this ungodly oppressor which ushered in a brief time of independence before the occupation of Rome. And Greco-Roman history details how Alexander’s kingdom was divided into fourths before being reconstituted under the iron grip of Rome. These prophecies and histories converge around a singular, detestable, repulsive man named Antiochus IV Epiphanies.
Antiochus IV Epiphanies ruled one-fourth of what would become the Roman Empire. He invaded the neighboring section which included Palestine in the second century BC. Upon encountering the Jews, he persecuted the people, blasphemed God, took over the Temple, put up an idol of Zeus, and sacrificed a pig, spilling swine blood all over the sacred altar of God. That was the “abomination of desolation.” That makes him the antichrist, in living color. That’s who Daniel was talking about.
But who is Jesus talking about? Remember, even the most specific of prophecies can point to more than one event (ref. Hosea 11:1/Matthew 2:15). Jesus, and all Jews who loved and revered the book of Daniel, would have understood the significance of Antiochus IV Epiphanies. Yet our Lord, speaking in this section of the Olivet Discourse around AD 30, plainly preached to “watch out” for such an abominable antichrist just before the destruction of the Temple. A generation after Jesus’ sermon, and approximately ten years after Mark’s writing, he came.
The Antichrist came after Christ.
Remember that before Jesus gave this “watch out” warning, He issued the first two regarding false messiahs and intense persecution. Antiochus IV Epiphanies put himself in the place of God, persecuted God’s people unto death, and set up the abomination of desolation. So did the Roman General and Emperor Titus.
Titus was in charge of 70,000 Roman soldiers despatched to quell a Jewish rebellion in Jerusalem from AD 66-70. During the siege a large number of Jews and Jewish Christians (apparently heeding Jesus’ advice) fled to Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the earth, which is one reason the gospel spread so far and so fast (ref. vs. 10). Then, at the end of the battle, Titus placed a Roman insignia (proclaiming Caesar as Lord) above the entrance to the eastern gate to the city (the “messianic” entrance), persecuted and killed as many Jews as he could get his hands on, and blasphemed God by looting and burning the holy Temple. It was, without a doubt, the “abomination of desolation” Jesus was talking about in verse 14.
Antiochus IV Epiphanies was no friend of Jehovah and Emperor Titus was no friend of Jesus. Both men put themselves in the place of God. Both men persecuted the people of God. Both men violated the Temple of God. Both men blatantly blasphemed the name and the holy worship of God. Both men were the antichrist. And, they are not alone.
The Antichrist will come before the return of Christ.
The prophecies of Daniel and the preaching of our Lord Jesus Christ take into full account the double vision of Antiochus IV Epiphanies and Emperor Titus. Furthermore, a faithful interpretation of Scripture must bring in a third party. Remember, Matthews’ addition to Mark’s account of the Olivet Discourse tells us that Jesus said these thing to point to the destruction of the Jewish Temple in AD 70, plus the events that will “be the sign of [His] coming and of the end of the age” (ref. Matthew 24:3).
So, just as Antiochus IV Epiphanies came in 167 BC, and just as Emperor Titus came in AD 70, so there will arise another antichrist just before the SC (second coming) of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Based upon Jesus’ words in Mark 13, my years of experience as a student of Scripture, and a careful observer of history, I’m now going to tell you who I think is the next antichrist.
I don’t know.
Some say that before the next great antichrist can come, the Jews will have to rebuild their Temple, so that the antichrist can violate it. This would make literal sense, but it would also obscure the transition from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant and deny the fact that today it is not national Israel, but the New Testament church, who are the people of GOd. The before mentioned antichrists came near the end and at the very end of the Old Covenant, which certainly could suggest that a New Covenant interpretation and application is necessary for the new antichrist.
New Covenant Christianity has no Temple nor synagogues, only the Body of Christ expressed by the church. Therefore, before Christ comes again, the antichrist will violate the church and seek to destroy her, blaspheme God, and attempt to take His place. It seems to me there is an evolved whole world system of governments, financial institutions, media, alternative religions, and aggressive atheism that has been doing this for about a generation or so, with an ever increasing pace. And do not discount the recent historical and present attacks against the church by Maoist China, Stalinist Russia, radical Islam, and the rest of the secular West.
So if you are looking for an antichrist who is a world ruler, you’ll have to wait a while for the glorious return of Christ. If you are looking for a world system, perhaps a revived Roman Empire, which is opposed to Christ and His church, then welcome to our present world. And, watch out!
Watch Out for the Antichrist
Jesus did not bother to name the antichrist for us, neither did any other biblical prophet or writer of Scripture. But He did tell “the elect,” or true believers chosen by God, what to do if we think we are living in the day of the antichrist. Run!
If you or someone you love is part of a false church or religion preaching a false gospel offering false salvation, then run! Get away, get out, or get them out if at all possible. Watch out for the false christs and false prophets of false religions.
If you or someone you love is unequally yoked with a person or partnership that is against Christ as Lord and Savior, then run! Christians who are married to non-Christians have an obligation to stay and try to redeem their spouse (ref. 1 Corinthians 7). Christians also have an obligation to befriend non-Christians in a effort to show them common and saving grace. But if you are in a relationship or partnership with a person or entity that is hostile to Christ and Christianity, you’d better flee, or warn the person who is to flee from the certain wrath to come.
As Mark wrote, “let the reader understand” (ref. vs. 14). Think deeply and seriously about the antichrist and any and all persons who are critical or opposed to orthodox, evangelical, biblical Christianity. If you are not influencing them for Christ, they will influence you against Christ. As John said (ref. 1 John 2:18), many antichrists have come and will come. Watch out for the antichrist!