By Kim Riddlebarger
Perhaps no subject broached by contemporary Bible prophecy teachers engenders more speculation and less sound Biblical exegesis than does the subject of Antichrist. This is certainly due to the mysterious nature of the subject itself, as well as to the fact that no other aspect of Bible prophecy lends itself so nicely to speculation regarding the identification of one specific individual who will become the very personification of evil and the archenemy of Jesus Christ and his gospel.
“Pin the tail” on the Antichrist is not merely an evangelical fascination. Indeed, such speculation has gone on almost from the beginning of Christianity. Irenaeus (130-200) argued that Antichrist would be a Jewish born, satanically inspired, usurper of God’s true glory, who would appear in the Jerusalem temple in connection with an end-times great apostasy. (1) The Protestant Reformers, of course, universally identified the papacy with the Antichrist, the Apology of the Augsburg Confession (1540) stating that “the papacy will also be a part of the kingdom of Antichrist if it maintains that human rites justify (XV.18).” The Westminster Confession (1647) contends that the Pope is “that antichrist, that man of sin, and son of perdition, that exalteth himself in the church against Christ, and all that is called God (XXV.6).” Rome, not to be outdone, has returned the favor, contending that antichristic Protestant “heresies have swept down from the North, where Calvin, Wycliffe, Luther and legions of Protestants are ravaging the flock of Christ.” (2)
But there is no doubt that much of contemporary speculation has taken the concept of identifying the Antichrist to new extremes. One of my favorite possessions is a booklet passed on to me by my grandmother, entitled The Time of Jacob’s Trouble (1939), wherein the author attempts to demonstrate that the revived Germany under Hitler in the pre-World War II years is the supposed last-days ten-nation confederacy predicted in Revelation 13. Of course, the author very deftly demonstrates how Mussolini is the false prophet and how Italian imperialism in Ethiopia is proof that Rome is the great harlot of Revelation 18 and compatriot of the German beast. I can still remember the fear instilled in me as a child, when I heard, one preacher declare that Antichrist was then living somewhere in the Middle East, probably still a child playing stickball in some crowded dusty street, awaiting the day when he would be possessed by the devil and allowed to wreck havoc on the world after the rapture. Continue reading