My thesis in my first post in this series of five stated that “God is good by giving us a record of past events that act as harbingers of future events, thereby helping us to prepare for them.” The harbingers I wish to discuss today uphold that thesis and nicely offset each other: antichrist and Christ.
In all of these Biblical, historical harbingers, two things are happening which accentuate God’s goodness to mankind. One, the historical event (or reality, like the glory within nations) is actually revealed to us in the Old Testament. And two, that event is either clearly spoken of in the New Testament as a harbinger or there are strong intimations to that effect. Thus, God is not trying to trick us. He is actually giving us plenty of information and it’s up to us to pay attention and connect the dots.
In the Scriptures, the actual term antichrist is only used five times, all by the Apostle John in his first two epistles. It refers to one who opposes Christ; who desires to replace Christ. He wants all the glory that only Christ Himself is worthy of. And most of the time, it refers to one specific person yet to come in the history of the world.
By John’s one use of the term in its plural form, we understand also that there have been, and yet will be, many persons who embody the spirit of that one great antichrist to come. They will act like him in many ways, and so are considered antichrists. John writes: “Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come” (I Jn. 2:18).
It is also important to understand that many characters in Scripture have more than one term used to identify them. Hence, the antichrist is also described as “the man of lawlessness [or sin]” (II Thess. 2:3), “the lawless one” (II Thess. 2:8), and “the beast” (Revelation).
This character is, of course, most despicable. We know he is coming because God has told us so in the New Testament. But to add to that testimony, He has given us at least one harbinger in the Old Testament; a real character in history who resembles the antichrist. He was a ruler in the Seleucid kingdom in the second century B.C. and his name was Antiochus IV Epiphanes.(1,2) He is revealed to us in the book of Daniel as follows:
Out of one of them [one of the four horns of the goat representing the Grecian
kingdom] came another horn, which started small but grew in power to the south
and to the east and toward the Beautiful Land. It grew until it reached the host of
the heavens, and it threw some of the starry host down to the earth and trampled
on them. It set itself up to be as great as the commander of the army of the LORD;
it took away the daily sacrifice from the LORD, and his sanctuary was thrown
down. Because of rebellion, the LORD’s people and the daily sacrifice were given
over to it. It prospered in everything it did, and truth was thrown to the ground.
A few chapters later, there is even a more detailed description of this king --- see Daniel 11:21-45. It is really amazing because Daniel revealed these detailed historical snippets a few hundred years before they actually took place. One section described Antiochus like this:
The king will do as he pleases. He will exalt and magnify himself above every
god and will say unheard of things against the God of gods (Dan. 11:36)
He was notoriously wicked and blasphemous. And in this, he pictures the great antichrist(3) to come whom the Apostle Paul described in II Thessalonians as follows:
He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God
or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming
himself to be God. (II Thess. 2:4)
The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with how Satan works.
He will use all sorts of displays of power through signs and wonders that serve
the lie, and all the ways that wickedness deceives those who are perishing.
(II Thess. 2:9, 10)
What can we say? Not the sort of guy anyone would want moving in next door. Thankfully, the Lord Jesus will destroy him at his coming (II Thess. 2:8). And thank God we know this evil one is coming so we have a chance to prepare ourselves and not be deceived by him.
The Coming of Christ
Now, on to my second harbinger for today, the coming of Christ to this earth. The point here is simple. God coming to earth in the person of the God-man, Jesus Christ, two thousand years ago, is a wonderful harbinger of Him coming back to earth again. Not only do the Scriptures plainly say He is coming back, but the whole concept of the earth being made as a habitation for man (Is. 45:18) and Christ becoming a man forever (Rev.1:13; 14:14), bodes well for the idea that He will spend eternity very much attached to us humans on the new earth. He, the God-man, will be the wonderful Lord of the new creation.
The first coming of Christ was not only the most amazing thing that ever happened in human history --- God taking on human flesh (John 1:14), the incarnation as it’s called --- but it also culminated in the lowest point in human history. There was a popular song which played on the radio many years ago entitled, “One of Us.” It asked the question three times, “What if God was one of us?” Well, it was a provocative song and amazingly the question has a definitive answer. God not only made all humans in His image but He, Himself, in the second person of the Trinity, took on the robe of humanity. And to my understanding, there is no hint in Scripture that He will ever take it off. Therefore, when He comes back --- and He will --- He’ll be coming to earth as the God-man. “This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). That point of His return will be the high point in human history where the restoration of all things will be at hand. But the low point had to come first, and that we saw when human hands crucified the Lord of glory, the One who became one of us. Can you imagine? He comes here and all He does for His thirty some years on earth is always please His heavenly Father (Jn. 8:29) and goes about doing good constantly (Acts 10:38). And yet hateful people contrive a reason to kill Him, and they succeed. What a story! And of course, I’m not making this up nor could I have made it up. This story could only be concocted by the divine mind. It was what He needed to do to redeem fallen mankind and a broken world.
So, there we have it: two more harbingers. The ultimate antichrist to come is foreshadowed for us in a notoriously evil king who reigned on earth before the time of Christ. And the coming of the God-man, Christ, to walk the earth the first time bodes well for his returning again to do the same thing. What was will be. God is good.
(Bible verses quoted are from the NIV.)
3 The great antichrist to come, as I understand it, is also directly spoken of in the book of Daniel. He is part of the fourth great kingdom that arises on earth. See Daniel 7:15-27. It seems to clearly be the time of the end of the world because it’s the time when this ultimate antichrist is finally judged and when the saints will receive the kingdom --- see vs. 18, 22, 26, 27.