Posts Tagged ‘AntiChrist’

Where Does AntiChrist Come From: East or West?

April 4, 2011 2 comments

Over the last few months I have become aware of the “controversy” regarding the location of the AntiChrist:  East (Grecian / Syrian) or West (Rome).  I first heard the common (and popular) view, as from John MacArthur and many others, that the antiChrist comes from the Roman Empire and therefore European (a king from the west).  After all, Daniel 9 mentions the “people of the prince who will come” who destroy Jerusalem — the Romans.  S. Lewis Johnson’s Daniel series, however, brings out some interesting features of the texts and evidence that the antiChrist is the Syrian aka the “King of the North,” as I blogged here.

One of the key points for the Western AntiChrist view is the identities of the two “little horn” figures in Daniel 7 and Daniel 8.  The standard view is that these are different characters:  the “little horn” in Daniel 7 is said to come out of the Roman Empire (west), whereas the “little horn” in Daniel 8 comes out of the third kingdom (Greece); also much of Daniel 8 appears to describe the actions of Antiochus Epiphanes in the 2nd century BC.  Since one account has a “little horn” coming out of the fourth kingdom, and the second account out of Greece, it is said that these cannot possibly be referring to the same person.

However, as we all know, the Roman Empire covered vast territory, both in what is now Europe as well as the Middle East.  Rome (the fourth kingdom) conquered Greece, and so such statements as found in Daniel 7 and 8 present no conflict when we realize that the third kingdom was included (as a subset) within the fourth kingdom.

Furthermore, the reference in Daniel 9:26 does not necessarily mean that the people who destroyed Jerusalem in 70 A.D. were Roman (Italians).  As noted in this article (“From where the Antichrist will come“), Josephus tells us that the people involved were predominately Syrian.  It was customary for Rome to conscript soldiers from their conquered territories, which in this case meant Syria.

Time and again throughout the Old Testament, God speaks of a certain person who will come against His people Israel, who will be defeated by God at the end, and without exception he is described as from the north (Greece/Syria) not the west.  This individual is described as “the Assyrian” or “the Assyrian king” in Isaiah (see Isaiah 14:24-27), as the “King of the North” in Daniel 11-12, and as “Gog, of the land of Magog” in Ezekiel 38-39.  Ezekiel 38:17 asks:   Are you he of whom I spoke in former days by my servants the prophets of Israel, who in those days prophesied for years that I would bring you against them? The only text which might indicate a western antiChrist is that statement in Daniel 9:26 about the people of the ruler, related to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.  Yet Daniel’s prophecies continue to further discuss the “King of the North.”

As I first mentioned in this blog, the only reason that modern prophecy buffs think that Ezekiel’s war is a separate event that happens sometime before the main Armageddon is because of the idea of the western-Roman AntiChrist, from that description in Daniel 9:26.  Yet the verses immediately following Ezekiel 38:17 clearly describe the same event as Armageddon, and the whole idea of Ezekiel’s war being a different event is a relatively new idea (since sometime in the 20th century).

In a sermon series through Joel, S. Lewis Johnson noted Joel 2:20, which speaks of “the northerner,” and that this could well be a reference to the anti-Christ and his armies in the final day.  Of special note is the fact that locust plagues in Judah almost always come from the south or southeast, not from the north.  I followed up with a word study (from Johnson’s suggestion here) on all the references to the term “northerner” and “north,” to find that indeed many verses in the OT prophecies speak of the last days enemy as one from the north — not west as is popular thinking today.

Here is a sampling of additional references that well establish Israel’s history, that in ancient times invaders came from the north.  In many of these verses, the prophecy has a near-term sense with respect to the ancient armies of Assyria and Babylon, but in many cases the prophet also zooms out to the distant future (of which the near-term prophecy is but a type, an example):

Jeremiah 46:20 has interesting reference to the future, as does Jeremiah 50:3.  The verses immediately following in Jeremiah 50 clearly refer to other events associated with this judgment, events that did not occur in the 6th century BC.

The “Little Horn” of Daniel’s Visions

January 13, 2011 Comments off

From studying Daniel with S. Lewis Johnson, I have learned of the different views concerning the identification of the “little horn” in chapters 7 and 8.  The “standard” explanation of the text, as taught in the Scofield Bible as well as by popular present-day teachers (for instance, John MacArthur and others associated with the Masters Seminary) is that the “little horn” in chapter 7 is the AntiChrist, but the same character in chapter 8 is Antiochus Epiphanes.  The position is well summarized by John MacArthur:

But you must keep a distinction for this reason. The little horn in chapter 7 comes out of the Roman Empire. The little horn in chapter 8 comes out of the Greek Empire. And so they are to be kept distinct. One is the antiChrist, and the other is one that prefigures the antiChrist. Now all of the commentators who study the Bible, with almost little or no exception, see this individual as a man named Antiochus. Antiochus Epiphanes. He was the eighth ruler of the Seleucids from General Seleucus’ area. And he reigned from 175 to 164 before Christ, BC, in what is known as the intertestamental period. The Old Testament shut down at 400 BC. The New Testament picked up at AD, the time Christ. In those 400 years, you have a Biblical time of silence. And it was in that time that this Greek power dominated the land of Israel. And at that time, this man Antiochus rose to a place of prominence.

That sounds fine at first glance — how can the same “little horn” come out of two different empires?  But S. Lewis Johnson brings out several more details from the relevant texts of scripture, to support an understanding of the same little horn.  As to the difficulty of each horn coming from a different empire, we also understand that Greece (third kingdom) was included within the overall fourth kingdom of Rome.  The Romans borrowed, or carried forward, the strengths of the Greeks:  their literature, their intellectual skills.

Scripture itself, though, adds additional support.  The interpretation itself, given by Gabriel later in chapter 8, tells us (in verses 17, 19 and 26) that the vision (just given) concerns the last days.  Consider verse 19,  “what shall be at the latter end of the indignation, for it refers to the appointed time of the end” and verse 17, “that the vision is for the time of the end.”  Johnson notes that the Hebrew word translated “the indignation” is a technical term used elsewhere in the Old Testament to describe the Great Tribulation period, the special time of trouble for Israel — a word also used in Isaiah 10:24-25 and  26:20, in Ezekiel 21:31 and Daniel 11:36.  Antiochus Epiphanes, obviously, did not come at the time of the end.  In keeping with our understanding of Old Testament types (illustrations or examples), it is clear that Antiochus is a type, a foreshadowing of the future AntiChrist–but not the primary reference in Daniel 8.

Another strong indicator concerning the Grecian origin of the AntiChrist comes from Revelation 13. In Revelation 13:2 the beast is described as “like a leopard.”  The leopard is a reference to Daniel 7, the third kingdom (Greece).

From the book of Daniel we can understand that the prophecy hype about a European antiChrist, and a 10 nation confederacy in the European Common Market, is somewhat misguided.  As S. Lewis Johnson pointed out earlier in the Daniel series, that ten nation group is worldwide, not something focused solely within the western world or confined to Europe specifically.  We can also look for the AntiChrist to arise from the Middle East, rather than from Italy (Rome).

Mark Hitchcock: Preterism series

June 18, 2010 Comments off

Recently the name Mark Hitchcock came up again (through a question on Dan Phillips’ blog) — one of the better Bible prophecy teachers.  I had briefly looked at his church website last year, and enjoyed a general prophecy message that sounded solid enough.  From the recent inquiry, I learned a few more things: Mark Hitchcock is “4.5 point Calvinist,” and he does teach Calvinist soteriology, as in a recent Ephesians study.  This was good to hear, as sermons on prophecy don’t necessarily indicate one’s understanding of the doctrines of Grace.  Mark Hitchcock also does not hold to the “gutless grace” of the non-Lordship salvation group, and has been described as part-way between Ryrie and John MacArthur.

Hitchcock’s church site, Faith Bible Church (Edmond, OK),  has a good selection of online sermons going back to 2004, and among the offerings are series on the prophets, dispensationalism, and preterism.  I’ve been listening to the 8-part series on Preterism (from 2006), and so far it’s quite informative.  Like Don Greene, who has a good paper concerning Matthew 24 and problems with Preterist interpretation, Hitchcock deals with partial or moderate preterism, the belief of a few prominent men including R.C. Sproul, Hank Hennegraff, Gary DeMar, and Kenneth Gentry.

Some of Mark Hitchcock’s presentation was familiar, from Don Greene’s paper, including the point about the context for Matthew 24 in the verses at the end of Matthew 23 — and Jesus’ strong words to the Jews, that “you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord’.”  Obviously the Jews did not repent in A.D. 70, so that event could not have been the time of Christ’s Second Coming, even any “cloud coming” or “judgment coming.”

Where I found Hitchcock’s Preterism series especially helpful was its explanation of the preterists’ view of the book of Revelation.  Everything I had previously seen online, including from Don Greene as well as the pre-trib website, dealt with the Olivet Discourse, and so this supplied a lot of details concerning other preterist ideas.  This 8-part series includes an overview of Revelation plus a few extra sessions discussing the preterist idea of Revelation 13, the claim that the beast was Nero.

Now for a few highlights, from my notes through Hitchcock’s Preterism series:

Preterists emphasize “Reader Relevance” with the claim that the prophecies given in the Olivet Discourse and Revelation had to have meaning for the 1st century generation, and therefore fulfillment in their day.  A good response here:  what about Isaiah’s prophecy concerning the virgin birth of the Messiah, 700 years before it happened?  How was that one relevant to people in Isaiah’s day?  What about the prophecy in Genesis 3:15, written down by Moses 1400 years before the Messiah came?  By such “reader relevance,” we could not have any biblical prophecies for anything beyond a few years.

In reference to Reader Relevance, Preterists cite the High Priest Caiaphas as a case of one who was told by Jesus that he would see the Son of Man coming — and therefore Jesus must have been talking about a judgment coming in 70 A.D.  It turns out, from biblical archeology findings, that Caiaphas didn’t even live until 70 A.D., but had died some 20 years previously anyway.  Caiaphas will see the Son of Man coming, certainly — at the future Second Coming, as one of the “every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord.”

Did Jesus’ disciples ask Jesus two or three questions at the beginning of the Olivet Discourse?  Mark Hitchcock makes a good case that, really, the disciples were only asking one question.  When Jesus mentioned the temple being destroyed, their only point of reference was Zechariah 14, and so they associated Jesus’ words about the destruction with God’s deliverance of Israel, and His return, with one single future event.  Of course Jesus knew that these were two separate events (the destruction of the temple in A.D. 70, then the future Second Coming), so He told them the signs associated with His return.

Preterism and the Book of Revelation

Whereas Mark Hitchcock sees the seven sealed scroll as a “scroll of doom,” and John MacArthur has described it as the “title deed to the earth,” preterists claim that this scroll is God’s bill of divorce to the nation Israel.  Throughout the overview of Revelation, the Preterists have an extremely obvious anti-Israel bias.

Preterists interpret numbers in a very inconsistent way, and don’t even follow their own made-up rules.  Their overall “rule” is that very large numbers are only symbolic, but small numbers are literal — but then in Revelation 11 they flip-flop and say that the two witnesses are symbolic of a small body of Christians remaining in Jerusalem to testify against it.

Inconsistent hermeneutics:  as just one example of the many inconsistencies, how Preterists treat the period of 3 1/2 years. Any normal Bible reader, just reading the book of Revelation, would notice the descriptions of a period of time that is 3 1/2 years, also called 42 months, both in Revelation 11 and Revelation 13 — and reasonably conclude that both are talking about the same 3 1/2 year time period.  But the Preterists claim that the 3 1/2 years in Revelation 11 happened from 67 to 70 A.D., but the 3 1/2 years in Revelation 13 occurred from late 64 to 68 A.D.  And the events that they say “fulfill” Revelation 11 and Revelation 13 were only “about” 3 1/2 years.  Approximations don’t cut it when we are dealing with the exactness of God, who has shown great precision in past dating such as the amazing prophecy (Daniel 9) concerning the first 69 weeks.

This series has much more interesting information, a good resource on this subject — and I plan to listen to quite a bit more from Mark Hitchcock’s teachings available online.