JUST as there are constant speculations on when Jesus Christ will return, there are as many speculations as to who the antichrist will be. Leading contenders these days are Saddam Hussein, the President of Islamic Iraq, Bill Gates, the young leader of our technological tower of Babel in the computer industry and the world’s richest man, and Mahmoud Abbas, the leader of the Palestinians who is likely to succeed Yassir Arafat. Mahmoud, whose original name is Abu Mazen, is indebted to the occultic seer, Nostradamus, who predicted extra-biblically in the 16th century that the most evil man on earth is called Mabus, which bears a close resemblance to his name.
However, such speculations are not new but as old as the Church. In AD 40, barely ten years after the crucification of Jesus, the Emperor Gaius ordered his image to be set up in the temple in Jerusalem although this was not eventually carried out. AD 64 saw Emperor Nero as the incarnation of lawlessness when he savagely persecuted the Christians in Rome. So wicked was Nero that the church fathers were certain the last antichrist would be a resurrected Nero.[see Rev 17:9,10; 13:3]
Since then, we have not run out of candidates for the title. Other nominations include Caligula, Pope John XII, Friedrich Barbarossa, Archbishop Laud, Napoleon, Kaiser Wilhelm, Mussolini, Hitler, Stalin and even Martin Luther, to name a few. But all those mentioned fell short to Antichus IV, Seleucid king of Syria, whose title Epiphanes meant “lord of heaven”. In 167 BC, he set up an image of the Olympian Zeus in the temple at Jerusalem, referred to as “an abomination of desolation” in Dan 8:13; 9:27; 11:31 and 12:11.
What does antichrist really mean?
The term antichrist [Greek: antichristos] means “a substitute Christ” or “opponent or rival of Christ”. The word appears only in the Johannine Epistles of 1 John and 2 John. A synonymous term pseudochristos [false messiah] is found in the Olivet discourse in Matt 24:23 and Mark 13:21.
The early Church interpretated the antichrist as an individual who will embody human evil in its totality and lead the pagan nations in a final battle on God’s people. In the 16th century, the Protestants believed that the antichrist referred to an institution or body of people such as the Roman papacy. At the same time, the antichrist was also understood as a principle or system of opposition to God. The present concept of the antichrist as a world political ruler claiming to be divine was revived only in the 19th century.
What the Bible says about the antichrist?
The Bible describes the antichrist as the most wicked political, financial and religious genius of all time [Dan 8:23]. The titles accorded to him include the little horn [Dan 7:8], stern-faced king and master of intrigue [Dan 8:23], the deceiver of Israel who comes in his own name [John 5:43], the man of lawlessness and the son of perdition [2 Thess 2:3], the beast of the sea [Rev 13:1] and the beast of the Abyss [Rev 17:8]. He will be an arrogant blasphemer of God [Dan 11:36,37; Rev 13:6] and a power-obsessed idolater who will honour his war machine by worshipping “a god of fortresses” [Dan 11:38]. He will appear as the second person in the hellish trinity as Christ is in the heavenly trinity.
The antichrist is likely to be a Jew from the tribe of Dan [Gen 49:17; Deut 33:22; Jer 8:16]. This could be the reason the tribe is excluded from the 144,000 in Rev 7:5. He will come from the revived Roman Empire that is pictured as the fourth beast from which the little horn will rise [Dan 7]. The current frenzy to make Europe as one entity is likely the fulfilment of the revived Roman Empire, represented by the feet of part iron and part clay in Dan 2. The European Union indeed comprises strong and weak nations in which “the people will be a mixture and will not remain united, any more than iron mixes with clay.” [v. 43]
The antichrist’s rise to his position of world-wide authority will be empowered by Satan [Rev 13:2]. He will make a seven-year peace treaty with Israel that will give her people a false sense of security but after 3 ½ years, he will turn against them. The antichrist will be assassinated but Satan’s healing of his fatal wound, a resurrection of some sort similar to that of Jesus, will propel him to divine acclaim [Rev 13:3,4]. He will commit the abomination of desolation in the temple in Jerusalem [Dan 9:27; Matt 24:15-22] and persecute those who do not worship him [v.7,8]. His accomplice, the false prophet, will force loyalty to the antichrist through economic cut-off by a mark on the right hand or forehead of everyone, without which no one can buy or sell. [v.16,17].
Before long, “the king of the South” and “the king of the North” will rebel against the antichrist but he will defeat them and successfully invade the Middle East as well [Dan 11:40-43]. “But reports from the east and the north will alarm him” [v.44] and he will cause the armies of the nations to fight a final battle against God’s people at Armageddon in Israel. There, he will be defeated by Jesus Christ who returns to earth to reign [Zech 14:3-9; Rev 16:16; 19:19]. The antichrist and the false prophet will then be cast into the lake of fire [Rev 19:20].
“Lord, is it I?”
Rev 13:18 gives us a clue on the identity of the antichrist: the number 666, a man’s number. Numerous theories have been offered to interpret this number. However, the secret of the cipher is kept so well that at best, we are only speculating. This is as expected, since 2 Thess 2:7,8 says that “the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed”. Therefore, all efforts to identify the antichrist through the numerical equivalents of 666 will be futile until the day the Holy Spirit departs from the earth.
Instead of speculating on the identity of the antichrist as someone from without whom we fear or dislike, let us focus our attention to the antichrist that is from within. The apostle John warns us against “many antichrists” from within the Church in the last days [1 John 2:18,19] whose spirit is not from God [1 John 4:1-3]. To this, F.F. Bruce in his book, A Mind for What Matters offers an excellent advice: “The spirit of antichrist will be strengthened if we allow ourselves to be seduced by it and to foster it in our hearts, it will be diminished and weakened if we individually watch for every manifestation of it within ourselves, cast it out and wage unceasing war against it, confessing Jesus as Lord and Christ, not in word only but in deed and in truth.”
Our Christian Response To Y2K
by Edmund Ng
The Technical Problem
The millennium computer bug better known as Y2K is the result of programmers, in the pioneer years of computer technology, allotting two-digit codes instead of four to date years in an effort to save precious memory space. It means that the year 2000 will now be simply read by the computer’s Basic Input-Output System, operating system, software packages and the embedded microchips as 1900, resulting in incorrect software processing and hardware malfunctioning.
As our reliance on computers and embedded microchips these days is so widespread ¾ ranging from quartz watches, microwave ovens, vehicles, lifts, utilities, navigational and medical equipment to nuclear arsenals ¾ it is impossible to foresee the magnitude of the potential disruptions when the year turns 2000. President Bill Clinton of the United States in his address to the National Academy of Sciences on July 14, 1998, reportedly said that “All told, the world-wide cost will run into tens, perhaps hundreds, of billions of dollars ¾ and that’s the cost of fixing the problem, not the cost when things actually go wrong.”
It is widely admitted that the world in general is running out of time to fix the Y2K problem. Toh Kim Chye, Managing Director of Unidata Sdn Bhd and Joint-Chairman of the now-defunct National Y2K Taskforce, and some IT experts, further caution that the problem is not just one big “crash” but a persistent one both before and after January 1, 2000. (See following articles Y2K Snapshots and Be Prepared, Advises Computer Expert)
Of greater concern is not what is known and can be fixed but rather what is unknown or accidental. This includes the human reactions in anticipation of what can possibly happen. In particular, the mob-effect withdrawal of cash and liquidation of securities can collapse the financial system or lead to hyperinflation as governments print more money to head off bank runs. Furthermore, the last-minute rush to stock up essential food supplies will aggravate shortages and social unrest.
To further complicate matters, huge space storms are expected to hit earth around the turn of the century, according to the United States Defence Department. (U.S. Government Computer Times Periodical, Oct 1998) The Director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Environment Centre said that the storms could damage or knock out satellite transmissions, hamper navigation systems, cut electric power and bring down telephone systems.
The prospects of a global crisis are serious enough to warrant the British Government to warn each family in the United Kingdom to stock up at least two weeks’ of supplies (The Observer, Dec 11, 1998). The warnings of the American Red Cross are even more alarming. However, it is the numerous Christian agencies in the West which link the Y2K issue to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ that are being accused of over-blowing the matter to a level of insanity [Time Magazine, Jan 18, 1999].
The article in Time further reported that the proliferation of millennial doomsayers had left the mainstream denominations uneasy. For instance, the bishops of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America are said to have issued a pastoral letter to declare that the third millennium should be welcomed with hope and not panic. In Bible College of Malaysia’s Newzette, Rev. Ng Kok Kee cited the caution of the Assemblies of God Board of Administration that the body of Christ should not fear needlessly but use wisdom in matters relating to the Y2K problem.
Indeed, many experts in the IT industry have played up the situation with alarmist tactics for the purpose of commercial exploitation. The issue facing us today is whether the Malaysian society which is technologically less reliant on computers than the industrialised countries and not threatened by severe winter conditions, will run equal risk of a Y2K crisis in the months ahead. For this, we cannot totally depend on the comforting or alarmist reports of the news media or Internet..
Our Christian Response
The fact is no one knows the eventual outcome will be a mountain or a molehill. To brush off the potential risks with “no-big-deal” assurances of over-confidence or denial of the dangers can be as bad as sensationalising the issue. Proverbs 22:3 and 27:12 doubly emphasised that “The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it.” Hence, to prepare and be mistaken is not disastrous, but not to prepare and be wrong will not be good stewardship of our Christian cause. This is because the Y2K problem presents the Church with unique opportunities.
An article in the December issue of Charisma magazine calls us to pray, prepare and proclaim. Prayer is the mitigating factor in any potential crisis. The American Prayer Track of the A.D.2000 & Beyond Movement have been on “red alert” praying about the Y2K issue. Their national prayer co-ordinator, Alice Smith, is quoted in the article as saying, “They’re feeling it and sensing it. It’s a crisis.” This is a time for faith, not fear.
Physical planning does not indicate a lack of faith. Joseph’s food storage project for Egypt is an excellent example of prudent and godly contingency planning. In like manner, churches can be mobilised to biblically respond to the Y2K potential crisis. In times of need, if we can provide not just for ourselves but also for the community the basic necessities of life, we can impact society in a big way. As Jesus fed the 5,000, should we be prepared to help the community the same way if Y2K were to hit with severity?
Y2K could provide Christians the greatest opportunity for evangelism. When a potential disaster is looming, people are very open to the gospel. The same article reported that Mission America, the greatest evangelistic outreach in American history, is being planned for this year.
Whatever the case, we must not allow any potential disaster make us lose sight of our number one agenda in the Great Commission. Unless God has spoken clearly to us individually, Christians should not “store up food and drinking water in the mountains” as Rev Ng stated in Newzette. Disaster situations give the Church the best opportunity to minister hope and practical help to the community. If Christians head for the hills, how do we reach out to the unsaved in their time of need? We are living in a strategic hour of the Church! The question is whether we will seize such opportunity for God’s kingdom.
Church leaders must also awaken their congregation to be concerned and prayerful without causing any panic over an eventuality which can turn out to be a national crisis or just temporary glitches. Above all, if we are physically prepared to reach out to the community with practical help, Christians must be taught how to blend our efforts with evangelism. In addition, believers must be motivated to witness to the lost by making the most out of the uncertainties in the run-up to the year 2000. On a collective basis, churches can also play an advocacy role through the media and the relevant authorities to mitigate the potential consequences of disaster.
Lastly, it must said that the Word of God clearly commends us to take diligent efforts to prepare for future needs. Proverb 6:6 says “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise!” However, let us remember that whatever physical preparations we undertake are a temporary measure and more for the purpose of reaching out to the community. As children of God, we are under His watchful protection and providence. So we must always maintain our unshakeable trust in God and seek Him for personal direction, “for the Lord gives wisdom, and from His mouth come knowledge and understanding. He holds victory in store for the upright, He is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, for He guards the course of the just and protects the way of His faithful ones.” [Prov 2:6-8] Surely, God will do great and mighty things in our midst when we trust and seek Him to face the Y2K issue as we enter the new millennium.
A Sign from Heaven?
TWO years ago, a Brazilian lady by the name of Silvania was delivered from the crutches of cancer and near-death after 5 days of prayer by the pastor of a local church. Some time later, oil started oozing out of her hands when she was praying. The sweet smelling liquid was analysed to be pure olive oil.
Six months later, gold dust started coming out of her head. A metal analysis company has found that the gold dust actually comprises platinum and pure gold that are totally individual in nature like snowflakes. They have rounded edges indicating that they are not cut by machine. Cut edges will be sharp or serrated.
Whenever Silvania prays for others, anointing them with the oil and gold dust, the people feel the awesome presence of God and they start to weep. [For eyewitness accounts of this, see Error! Bookmark not defined. at the Internet.] A member of our NECF Research Commission-Eschatology [End-Time Watch Committee] was in Israel recently and he took back some of the gold dust placed upon him by Ruth Heflin, pastor of the Revival Glory Church in Virginia. Ruth had Silvania with her in her recent Christian camp.
It seems the same phenomenon is reported in countries like Switzerland and South Africa. Some people see this as an inexplicable manifestation of the biblical incidents where certain individuals like Moses had “radiant faces” after meeting God.
Are these manifestations another sign from heaven in the last days spoken of by Jesus in Luke 21:11? If they are so, we should be encouraged by the physical reality of God in our midst. However, it is the Lord we are seeking and such miraculous phenomenon must not be sought-after as an end by itself. Our walk with God is by faith rather than by sight.