The ongoing political turmoil in Syria and Iraq is highly significant from a prophetic point of view. According to the Bible, the Antichrist will arise from the region of the ancient Assyria or Babylonia (the present Syria and Iraq). He will be the modern King of the North, and will act decisively to fill the power vacuum which was brought about by the rejection of existing leaders and their governments. He will restore order from the chaos, even if only temporarily. From his home base to the north and northeast of Israel he will further expand his power-base – first to the entire Middle East, then to Europe, and then globally.
In a world which suffers because of poor and unconvincing leadership, this dynamic person will capture the imagination of all people and be heartily welcomed everywhere. The red carpet will be rolled out for him and he will soon be entrusted with the highest position in world politics. John says: “And he was given authority over every tribe, tongue, and nation” (Rev. 13:7).
According to Isaiah, the end-time Assyrian will establish a large power-block by removing existing boundaries between nations, dissolving governments, and taking control of the economies of various countries (Isa. 10:12-14). Daniel says that the King of the North will exalt himself above all religions, even above the true God. He will have power over the financial treasures of the nations, and wage major wars to destroy his adversaries and to further expand his kingdom (Dan. 11:36-44). But his dominion will not last very long and his end will come quickly (Dan. 11:45). That will happen when the true Messiah returns (Rev. 19:19-20).
The false messiah will initially come as a prince of peace. For him to be accepted in this capacity, his coming should ideally be preceded by the wide prevalence of wars, political instability, revolutions and anarchy. That will allow him the opportunity for decisive intervention in the destiny of nations by establishing new authority structures and determining his own laws for the securing of peace and unity. Israel as well as the entire Arabic world are at present experiencing intense turmoil and are eagerly awaiting the coming of a messianic figure to guide them out of the present chaos and poor leadership into a better future.
It is obvious that we are now living in the period shortly before the end-time appearance and political takeover by this prince of peace. His initial power-base will be in the Middle East where he will be closely associated with the Muslim Arabs and Jews, but he will soon assume a world-transforming role and usher in his new world order.
Conditions for his revelation
There are a few conditions which the Antichrist will have to meet in order to be generally accepted – regionally as well as globally. He will not emerge from democratic, multiparty elections in one or other country. By this way he will not succeed in quickly gaining wider acceptance in a multinational context in order to bridge the deep political and religious rift between rival Islamic factions, and also between Jews and Arabs.
The false messiah will rather appear on the scene as an exalted religious figure, and on this basis attain general acceptance. This capacity will allow him to become a highly successful diplomat and peace-maker, as he will have the ability of backing up his actions by astounding supernatural signs and wonders. From this point of view he can, to Islam, be no one less than the expected Imam Mahdi – the great Muslim prophet who is descended from Mohammed and destined to bring peace and unity to a world in turmoil.
From a biblical point of view he will not only be accepted as Saviour by Islam, but also by members of other faiths – including the Jews! It will call for clever manipulation and convincing deception on his side to simultaneously comply with the messianic expectations of all the hostile and diverging religions of the world. Will that at all be possible?
According to Revelation 13, the entire world will indeed be united behind one leader, worship him, and establish an international power-base for him. John says: “And all the world marvelled and followed the beast [the Antichrist] ... and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him? ... And he was given authority over every tribe, tongue, and nation. And all who dwell on the earth will worship him” (Rev. 13:3-8).
The coming world messiah will, right from the start, claim to be of Jewish descent in the royal family of David. This claim will ensure that Israel will accept him as Messiah, and also conclude a covenant with him (cf. John 5:43). But from one of his two parents he will also have to prove descent from a Muslim family associated with the descendants of Mohammed. That will immediately render him acceptable to Islam. He and his personal assistant (the false prophet) will, according to the Bible, perform great signs and wonders (2 Thess. 2:7-9; Rev. 13:12-13). These signs will be used to substantiate their claim that they were sent by God – the universal God of all faiths – to bring peace to the world.
These two leaders will appear at a very critical moment to avert a threatening third world war, thereby also averting an international economic collapse. Oil will again be freely supplied and the high prices will be drastically reduced. A panic-stricken international community will not find it hard to accept, honour, and even worship such leaders.
One of the important functions of the world messiah will be to grant Israel the right to rebuild the temple on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem (Dan. 9:27), without affecting the existing Muslim mosques in the vicinity. The two faiths will be established as sister religions, and a highly deceptive peace will prevail among Jews and Muslims. Each of them will use their own messianic titles for the same leader, and bow down before him in adoration.
In the new religious family, room will also be made for the other faiths. The Eastern religions have a strong belief in reincarnation, and the Antichrist will use this superstition to prove to them that, to the Hindus, he is a new incarnation of Krishna and Vishnu, and to the Buddhists he is a new incarnation of Buddha. He will give full recognition to these and all other faiths.
In a very short time, an agnostic world will discover a new motivation for spirituality, and it will be so ecumenical and inclusive that it will form the basis for a worldwide mystical brotherhood. All of them will accept, follow and worship the same leader. He will also become the political, economic and military ruler of the world, thereby reviving the absolute authority that was characteristic of the ancient world empires.
It is conspicuous that all faiths are awaiting a world messiah who will wield religious, political and military power on an international level. He will not only be worshipped, but also be the active ruler of the world who will take military revenge on his enemies. He will establish a “forced” peace. People will not be able to dwell in relative safety and survive economically without honouring his laws and monetary rules (Rev. 13:16-18).
False peace before great tribulation
According to the Bible, the world messiah will conclude a seven-year covenant with Israel and the nations (Dan. 9:27). During the first half of the year-week, all nations will have the freedom to continue worshipping in their synagogues, temples, mosques, churches and cathedrals, on condition that they accept the new world leader as their religious and political head. They will all have to acknowledge him as their only mediator to God.
For a relatively short time of 42 months the coming leader will bring peace, security and prosperity to a disrupted and divided world, and his global leadership will be largely uncontested. Then, suddenly, great calamity will erupt: “For when they say, Peace and safety! then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labour pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape” (1 Thess. 5:3). There are indications in the Bible that towards the middle of the seven-year period uprisings will occur against the rule of the Antichrist, and that he will sustain a mortal wound during an assassination attack (Rev. 13:3,12). But his deadly wound will be healed and he will subsequently act in great fury against his opponents.
The last 42 months of the Antichrist’s rule are described as a “great tribulation” (Matt. 24:21). The false peace which the one sitting on the white horse of Revelation 6 will have established on earth will suddenly be followed by the red horse of war, the black horse of famine and food rationing, and ultimately the pale horse ridden by the death angel.
This period of 3½ years (42 months or 1260 days) will commence when the Antichrist declares himself to be God in the rebuilt temple in Jerusalem, and also set up an image of himself in the temple (2 Thess. 2:4; Rev. 13:15). He will institute a military dictatorship and order the killing of all people who are disloyal to him by refusing to worship him as God. Among these people will be a large number of Israelis, and he will order the extermination of all Jews. Israelis will have to hastily flee to the mountains for survival (Matt. 24:15-22; Rev. 12:13-14).
The 42 months of the great tribulation will, apart from the Antichrist’s reign of terror, also be a time of divine judgements upon the earth. Overwhelming famines, pestilences, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions will occur, while burning fragments of heavenly bodies will strike the earth with devastating consequences (Rev. 6:12-17; 16:1-21).
At the end of the last 42 months of the Antichrist’s rule the disasters and judgements will be unprecedented in severity. Satan certainly knows about the predicted destruction of his antichristian new world order when the true Christ will descend from heaven. Demons will be sent out across the whole earth to instigate the nations to send heavily armed troops to Israel to fight against Christ and His heavenly army (Rev. 16:13-16).
The multinational mustering of forces will lead to the short but decisive battle of Armageddon when the enemies of Christ will be destroyed (Rev. 19:19-21). God’s judgement by way of a great plague will inflict the enemy forces, causing their flesh to dissolve while they still stand on their feet (Zech. 14:12-13). Satan will then be bound in the bottomless pit for the whole duration of Christ’s thousand-year reign of peace (Rev. 20:1-6).
Deception reaches new heights
It is important to realise that we are faced with two big spiritual realities: the one is the kingdom of God and the other the kingdom of Satan. Both are offering the world a God to worship – the true, Triune God (1 John 5:7), and the false god of this age (2 Cor. 4:4). Both are offering a Christ to the world – the true Christ (Matt. 16:6), and the Antichrist (1 John 2:18). Both offer strong spiritual support – the one through the Holy Spirit (John 16:7-8), and the other one through a satanic spirit of error (1 John 4:4). Both of them offer the nations a new world order of peace and prosperity – that is Christ’s thousand-year reign of peace, and the Antichrist’s seven-year treaty with Israel and the nations.
Satan’s power of deception is so great that he and his minions can even pose as angels of light and representatives of the true God (2 Cor. 11:13-15). They have succeeded in distorting the biblical Jesus, His message of salvation and the working of the Holy Spirit to such an extent that many members of Christian churches are completely deluded and even spiritually ruined (2 Cor. 11:3-4; 2 Pet. 2:1-2). Deceived believers are unaware of the fact that they are following a false Jesus who is proclaimed with a view to introducing them to Satan’s kingdom.
We should consider the serious warning of the Lord Jesus in this regard: “Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, saying, I am the Christ, and will deceive many... [they will] show great signs and wonders, so as to deceive, if possible, even the elect” (Matt. 24:4-5,24).
Throughout the church dispensation, Christians had to contend against Satan’s spirit of error and deception. So much more now, in the end-time, shortly before the revelation of Satan’s kingdom under the leadership of the Antichrist, do we have to resist the escalating wave of spiritual deception. The Holy Spirit Himself warns us against this process of apostatising:“Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons” (1 Tim. 4:1). We are on the threshold of the revelation of Satan’s kingdom under the rule of the Antichrist. Events in the Middle East clearly indicate that this moment is near. But first the bridal congregation of the true Christ has to be removed as she is withholding the revelation of the false christ (Luke 21:36; 2 Thess. 2:6-8).