The Rise, Reign and Ruin of the Antichrist
March 18th, 1984 @ 8:15 AM
THE RISE AND REIGN AND RUIN OF THE ANTICHRIST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Thessalonians 2:3-12
3-18-84 8:15 a.m.
And once again welcome to the great multitudes of you who share this hour on radio. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Rise and Reign and Ruin of the Antichrist. This is the last message in the section on the beginning of the end of the world. Next Sunday morning we shall begin with the second section on the end time, and it will be entitled The Second Coming of Christ. And the first message will be entitled The History of the Doctrine of the Return of our Lord. This morning: The Rise and Reign and Ruin of the Antichrist.
In 2 Thessalonians chapter 2, 2 Thessalonians chapter 2, we are going to read a part of verse 3 and 4 and verses 7, 8, and 9. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, chapter 2 of 2 Thessalonians, verse 3: “There shall come a falling away, and that man of sin will be revealed, the son of perdition; he opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshiped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple as God, showing himself that he is God” [2 Thessalonians 2:3-4]. Verse 7: For the mystery of iniquity doth already work”; this is not something that is not pertinent to us, it is already beginning, “only He who prevents will prevent until He be taken out of the way” [2 Thessalonians 2:7]. That is the Holy Spirit in the church of God: until the church people be raptured to heaven [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17]. Then after that rapture “shall that wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of His mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of His coming: even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders” [2 Thessalonians 2:8-9].
This text that I have just read concerning the Antichrist is but one in a long, long series in the Holy Scriptures concerning the end time and the appearance of this remarkable man.
I am overwhelmed when I read the Bible at how oft and over how many thousands of years is this man described. He’s described in Daniel chapters 7, 8, 9, 11, and 12; in Matthew chapter 24; in John chapter 5; in  Thessalonians chapter 2 that we just read; in [1 John 2:22], and 2 John 7, and in Revelation chapters 6, 11, 13, 17, and 19. Spanning thousands of years, somehow the Word of God was constrained to reveal to us this ultimate and final masterpiece of Satan.
In Daniel chapter 7, verse 7:
After this I saw in the night visions, and behold a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly . . . it had ten horns—ten kings
I considered the horns—that succession of ten kings
and, behold, there came up among them another little horn…
and, behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of a man—
intelligence, shrewd wisdom—
and a mouth speaking great things—worldwide authority.
I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints—
with the people of God, nations and peoples who loved the Lord—
And he prevailed against them;
And he shall speak great words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and a times and a dividing of time.
[Daniel 7: 25]
That’s a characterization of the great Tribulation, the last three and a half years.
Daniel chapter 8, verse 9, “And out of one of the horns came forth a little horn,” here he appears again, “and it waxed exceeding great” [Daniel 8:9].
even to the host of heaven; and it cast down some of the host of the stars to the ground, and stamped upon them [Daniel 8:10].
Yea, he magnified himself [Daniel 8:11].
And a host was given him, and it cast down the truth to the ground; and practiced, and prospered [Daniel 8:12].
Understand, O son of man: for at the end of the time, at the time of the end shall be the vision [Daniel 8:17].
In the latter time . . [Daniel 8:23].
Isn’t that unusual? The Lord is speaking to this prophet-statesman Daniel about 600 BC and yet He is talking to Daniel about what’s going to happen at the end of the world. Evidently God intends for us to know something in these revelations. “In the latter time . . . a king of fierce countenance, and understanding dark sentences”; he uses falsehood and dissimilation to carry out his purposes. This king shall rise:
And his power shall be mighty . . . and he shall destroy wonderfully, and shall prosper, and practice, and shall destroy the mighty and the holy people.
And he shall magnify himself in his heart, and by peace shall he destroy many.
He’s coming peaceably, Daniel chapter 9 verse 26:
And the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and unto the end war is determined.
Verse 27: And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease.
That’s where you get your three and a half years; and three and a half years [Revelation 12;14], forty-two months [Revelation 11:2], 1,260 days [Revelation 11:3], a time, times and half a time, time, times and a dividing of time [Daniel 7:25], it comes from that prophecy.
In the eleventh chapter of the Book of Daniel, “But he that cometh shall do according to his own will” [Daniel 11:16]. That’s why they call him the willful king, “And none shall stand before him” [Daniel 11:16]. He shall come in peaceably, peaceably, and obtain the kingdom by flatteries [Daniel 11:21]:
And they shall set up the abomination that maketh desolate.
And the king shall do according to his own will; and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god . . . and shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished . . .
[Daniel 11: 31, 36]
Until God’s purposes for judgment be past.
In the twelfth chapter of Daniel, here it is again, verse 1:
And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time [Daniel 12:1].
But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end [Daniel 12:4].
And the abomination that maketh desolate is set up [Daniel 12:11].
Now when I turn to Matthew, in the apocalyptic discourse of our Lord, here I meet that same Antichrist again. Verse 15, Matthew 24:15:
When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the Holy Place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:)
shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this present time, no, nor ever shall be.
And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.
[Matthew 24: 21-22]
I meet him again in John 5:43: “I am come in My Father’s name, and ye receive Me not: if another shall come in his name,” referring to the Antichrist, “him ye will receive.”
In this 2 Thessalonian letter that is a background text for this morning, 2 Thessalonians chapter 2, verses 1-11 [2 Thessalonians 2:1-11], what had happened to cause pause to write this second chapter was this: in the first Thessalonian letter, Paul had written of the rapture, and of the second coming of Christ [1 Thessalonians 4:13-17], and of the day of the Lord [1 Thessalonians 5:2], and of the tribulation that should follow [1 Thessalonians 5:3].
Now what had happened in Thessalonica after Paul preached the gospel there, and after he wrote the first Thessalonian letter about the coming of Christ and about the tribulation [1 Thessalonians 4:13-17, 5:3], there became a heavy persecution upon the Thessalonian Christians [2 Thessalonians 1:4]. And they thought that the day of the Lord had come, and they thought that they were already in the tribulation [2 Thessalonians 2:1-3]. Not only were they thinking that themselves because of the persecution that had fallen upon them [2 Thessalonians 1:4], but they were further mislead by a forged letter, as from the apostle Paul [2 Thessalonians 2:3]. That’s why Paul writes this second Thessalonian letter.
And in that letter he says one: the day of the Lord will not come until first the Antichrist be revealed [2 Thessalonians 2:3]. Number two: the sure sign of the tribulation period will be the day of the Lord, the appearance of the Antichrist [2 Thessalonians 2:3]. And three: Paul calls that Antichrist “that man of sin,” and he calls him “the son of perdition,” the son of damnation [2 Thessalonians 2:3].
God has a Son who redeems the world. Satan will have an incarnate son who will damn the world. And Paul calls him “that wicked,” ho anomos [2 Thessalonians 2:7]. The word for “law” is nomos. “A” is a privative, a negation in Greek. And anomos means “the lawless one.” When he appears, that will be the sign of the great tribulation [2 Thessalonians 2:3].
Now we continue through the Bible. The apostle John is the one that uses the descriptive word, “Antichrist.” And he uses it five times. In 1 John 2:18, he uses it twice. In 1 John 2:22 he uses it again. In 1 John 4:3 he uses it. And in 2 John1:7, he uses it. In these passages John says there are many antichrists that have come [1 John 2:18]. In the scriptural times there have been Pharaoh of Egypt, Nebuchadnezzar of Babylonia, and Antiochus Epiphanes of Syria, and Nero of Rome. And beyond Scripture times there has been Alaric the Visigoth; there has been Attila the Hun. There is Genghis Khan the Mongol; there has been Tamerlane the Muslim; there has been Adolf Hitler the Nazi-German. There have been many antichrists.
But the Antichrist is yet to appear. And he does so in the revelation of God, in the sixth chapter of the Book of the Revelation. In Revelation 6:1, “And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals, and I heard, as it were the voice and the noise of thunder, one of the first zoa,” in the King James Version you have that translated “beasts.” That’s no good at all, that’s a cherubim, one of the cherubim, that’s a cherub, “I heard one of the four zoa,” one of the four living ones, one of the four cherubim, “I heard that one saying, Come and see” [Revelation 6:1]. Verse 2:
And I saw, and behold a white horse:
and he that sat upon him had a bow;
and a crown was given unto him:
and he went forth conquering, and to conquer.
Because in Revelation 19:11, Christ is seen coming from heaven riding a white horse, many identify this first seal rider [Revelation 6:2] on a white horse as Christ. Nothing could be further from the truth. The two riders have nothing in common except they both ride a white horse.
A horse in Scripture is always a symbol of war and of victory. A sacred white horse always accompanied the Persian army. And Napoleon, as you know, rode a white horse. But the difference, the difference is between the rider of the white horse in Revelation 6 which is the first seal—the opening of the first seal, the revelation of this great tribulation period—the difference between the rider of the white horse in chapter 6 [Revelation 6:2], and the rider in chapter 19 who comes from heaven on a white horse, which is the Christ [Revelation 19:11], the differences are vast.
Here’s one: the rider in Revelation 6 is not named. He doesn’t have a title [Revelation 6:2]. The rider in Revelation 19 which is the Lord Christ is called “The Lord of Lords, and the King of Kings” [Revelation 19:16]. Number two: the rider in Revelation 6 [Revelation 6:2], as in Revelation 13:11, comes out of the earth. The rider out of Revelation 19, which is Christ, comes out of heaven [Revelation 19:11]. Number three: the rider in Revelation 6:2 has a crown given him. The rider in Revelation 19 already possesses many diadems [Revelation 19:12]; in Greek a diadem is a crown of royalty. In Revelation 6 this rider has a stephanos, a crown of war and of bloodshed [Revelation 6:2]. The crowns are altogether different.
Number four: the rider in Revelation 6 is followed by the red horse of war and the black horse of famine and the pale horse of death [Revelation 6:4-8]. But in Revelation 19 the Lord Christ is followed by the saints of heaven, dressed in pure white robes [Revelation 19:14]. Number five: the rider in Revelation 6 takes peace from the earth. He’s the earth’s military dictator [Revelation 6:2]. The rider in Revelation 19 brings hope and peace to mankind; He comes bringing the millennium [Revelation 20:1-3].
Number six: in Revelation 6, it is Christ who opens the seals [Revelation 6:1]; He is not one of the riders when the first seal is broken. It would be almost impossible mixture of symbols for such a thing to be. Christ opens the seal in chapter 6 and therefore it would be unusual if He, opening the seal, if He was the rider in the first seal [Revelation 6:2]. Number 7: the rider in Revelation 6 is Satan’s masterpiece, the earth’s last and final dictator [Revelation 6:2]. The rider in Revelation 19 is the Lord Christ, our Savior who comes forever and ever [Revelation 19:11]. So in Revelation 6, the rider of the white horse, who is followed by war and by famine and by death [Revelation 6:2-8], this is the Antichrist for which the whole world is to look as the sign of the beginning of the tribulation [2 Thessalonians 2:3].
Now in Revelation, verse 2, in chapter 11, “And the holy city, Jerusalem, shall be tread under foot forty and two months” [Revelation 11:2]. There’s that time period again, “And I will give power unto My two witnesses, and they shall prophesy,” and here’s that same time period:
A thousand two hundred and sixty days.
And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast—
that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them.
And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom, where also our Lord was crucified.
[Revelation 11:3, 7-8]
Now he is described intimately in chapter 13, Revelation 13:1-10. I don’t have time to read it. There is one world political system, and he heads it; there is one world military system, and he leads it; there is one world monetary system, and he controls it [Revelation 13:3-5]. In Revelation 13:17 you can’t buy or sell without the mark of the beast. There is one world religious system, and he is its object of worship [Revelation 13:8]. In Revelation 13:6, “And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, and them that dwell in heaven.” That’s one of the most unusual little asides about this. He’s Satan incarnate, and he blasphemes “them that dwell in heaven.”
In chapter 12, the chapter just before, there was war between him and Michael and Michael’s angels. And Michael and his angels overcame the beast and threw him out of heaven [Revelation 12:7-9]. And down here on the earth he blasphemes Michael and his angels up there in heaven [Revelation 12:7-9].
In this chapter 13, the chapter closes with verse 18 with the words, “The number of the beast is the number of a man; And his number is 666” [Revelation 13:18]. Now you listen to me. With all the stuff that goes on about trying to identify that man, you will not know who he is until he appears. Now, he may be alive today, but you’ll not know him until he is revealed. His number is 666. When that time comes, you’ll know who he is and what the number 666 stands for.
What we can know from this identification is the number of the fullness of God is ‘7,’ you know that from the Bible. And the number of the fallen man, who falls short of the goodness and holiness of God is ‘6.’ He was created on the sixth day [Genesis 1:26-27]. His opportunities and his oppositions and his blasphemies against God is often represented by the number ‘6’.
For example, Goliath was one of six sons. He was six cubits tall, and the head of his spear weighed six hundred shekels [1 Samuel 17:4-7]. Or take Nebuchadnezzar’s image. It was sixty cubits high. It was six cubits broad, and there were six kinds of instruments that played when the people were commanded to bow down [Daniel 3:1, 5]. Six is the number of a fallen man, and seven is the number of the fullness of God. And this man is named ‘666’ [Revelation 13:18], falling short of the glory, and the blessing, and the sovereignty, and the goodness, and the grace, and the love of God [Romans 3:23].
Now the occasion of his rise to power, now remember in that sixth chapter, the opening of the first seal, he is coming on a white horse, a victory and promise of peace [Revelation 6:2]. Daniel 11:21 says, “He shall come in peaceably, and obtain the kingdom by flatteries.” He rises to power on the platform of peace, prosperity, and rest. “I have the solution to all the world’s problems,” he will say.
The cry of Israel today and if you’ve been there you’ll see it from one side of the nation to the other, the cry of Israel today is for peace, for rest from their enemies. And the cry of the world is for solution to their insoluble problems. A European statesman recently said in the United Nations, “Give us a man who will solve the problems of our world, and we will follow him, if he be the devil, himself.” Dag Hammarskjold, the past secretary general of the United [Nations] says, “We have tried so hard and failed so miserably. Our problems are beyond us.”
And I want to tell you something about America. There is coming a day in the not too distant future when America is going to be thrown into impossible, insoluble chaos. You can’t live in debt, I don’t care who you are, without a day of reckoning. A church can’t do that; a corporation can’t do that; a bank can’t do that; a business can’t do that. And the American government can’t do that. And we’re going in debt at the rate of billions and billions and billions of dollars every year, and the day is coming when we’re going to have chaos in this land. And if we have chaos in America, imagine what chaos and despair will cover the face of the world. That day is soon coming.
Our politicians are not able to solve our problems. And international conflicts are not capable of solution, whether it be by a socialist, the communist, or the democratic governments. The earth is looking for a man who can solve the conflicts on our planet, and mankind is looking for a super “somebody” to solve our tragic differences. They’re not looking to God; they’re looking for a man.
And the Scriptures say that composite superman will appear on the world scene before the days of the tribulation [2 Thessalonians 2:3]. The Scriptures describe him and I’ve written a condensation of it, a summarization of it:
He will be intellectually superior with superhuman wisdom.
He’ll be politically astute.
He’ll be an economist of the highest order.
He will be a politician; shrewd, adroit.
He will at first be a special friend to the Jewish race.
He will be versatile in his political gifts.
He will be a consummate flatterer.
He will be a super strategist.
He will possess the genius of Nebuchadnezzar, Xerxes, Darius, Alexander, Caesar, and Napoleon, and all the rest of the antichrists of the world. He will be endowed with an irresistible and fascinating personality, like the devil who is an angel of light [2 Corinthians 11:14].
And he will promise to bring to mankind its golden age. He will appear with the credentials of never-varying success. And I don’t care what nation or what people, everybody is overwhelmed by success. This man Hart, right now, I never heard of him until recently. And goodnight alive because of his recent success, he’s been catapulted into one of the great political leaders of our nation, already.
In Revelation 17:13, “The kingdoms of the world shall give their power and strength to that man.” He will seek to solve the problems of the earth by unsanctified human resources, by human culture, science, philosophy and government, not God but the political process government.
Now in Revelation 13:11-18 and Revelation 17:1-18, he is sustained by the religious leader. We’ll have one church that supports and sustains the world dictator. Revelation 17:3, 7, the scarlet harlot rides on the back of the [first] beast. Revelation 13:12, “This false prophet causeth the earth and all that are therein to worship the beast.” Let me tell you something: had Nebuchadnezzar—when he built his golden image [Daniel 3:1-7]—had Nebuchadnezzar made it a matter of worship, he would have succeeded. What happened to Nebuchadnezzar was, he made it a political thing. And he failed.
Well, Satan is smart. He’s not going to fall into that mistake twice. When this great dictator appears, the false prophet who heads the church is going religiously to cause all of his people to accept that final ultimate dictator [Revelation 13:12]. The trinity from hell worked together: the dragon imitates the work of the Father; the beast, the Antichrist, imitates the work of the Son; and the false prophet imitates the work of the Holy Spirit. The false prophet magnifies the beast [Revelation 13:11-14]. This is the world after the rapture [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17], and this is the world at the beginning of the tribulation [Revelation 16:13-16].
Now we’re going to look at the change of direction in the victorious beast, the victorious Antichrist. First: his change of direction toward the Jew. At first, for the first three and a half years of the tribulation, he is their defender, their peacemaker, and their champion [Daniel 9:27]. The race of Israel is enamored by his magnificent promises of support for the development of the state of Israel and for its capital city of Jerusalem. Then he deceives Israel. In the midst of the week, after the first three and one-half years, he breaks his covenant with them and becomes their mortal enemy [Daniel 9:27]. And he attempts to drown Israel and the saints in total war.
Number two: his change toward the false prophet who heads the one world church and the world system of religion. He turns to destroy the scarlet woman who rides on his back. He’s tired of her pretenses. Isn’t that amazing? In Revelation 17:16, “And the beast shall hate the whore,” she’s called a scarlet whore [Revelation 17:4], a false religion. “And the beast shall hate the whore, and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire” [Revelation 17:16]. Isn’t that an amazing thing?
Now his change toward the political world, his change toward the Jew, his change toward the false system of religion, now his change toward the political world: he dramatically turns from a course and a pursuit of peace to one of war and annihilation [Daniel 9:27]. Because of his very real and great popularity and because of his unlimited success like Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 4, he becomes infatuated with his own glory and turns from peace to oppose and oppress all who dare denounce him [Daniel 4:4]. He sets himself forth as God; that’s the passage you just read, 2 Thessalonians 2:4. And the tragically disillusioned world is plunged into total war that the Scriptures call Armageddon [Revelation 19:17-19]. Now we have to conclude. The tragic and catastrophic end of the Antichrist is in Revelation 19:20:
And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone—
And chapter 20, verse 10—
And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.
All man-made solutions fail. The only and ultimate answer to the problems of mankind is in God alone. And we are waiting and watching and preparing for the return of our Lord [Titus 2:13]. We’re helpless before death. We are helpless before sin. We are helpless before the conflicts that rage over this world and will increasingly drown it in blood. Our hope lies in Christ. There is no other answer and there is no other hope. But we have an assured promise in the coming of our blessed Lord [Revelation 22:20].
Lift up your heads, O burdened hearts,
The King is on His way,
The signs long spoken of are here,
He may come back today!
Men’s hearts are failing them for fear,
Writ large across the page,
We read of rumors, wars and death,
The passing of our age.
But, lift up your heads, O burdened hearts
He may come back today,
The signs long spoken of are here,
The King is on His way.
Amen! What a glory, as we face the dissolution of our own lives, the dissolution of our own bodies, the inevitable and inexorable death that reaches out its arms to embrace us. And as we face the insoluble solutions of the conflicts of the world, what a peace, and what a joy, and what a gladness, and what an assurance to know that Jesus is coming again [John 14:2-3; Acts 1:10-11].
He is coming, victor over Death and the Grave [1 Corinthians 15:55-57]. He is coming to be Ruler over all the earth [Ephesians 1:21]. He is coming to bring peace to the warring nations of the planet. He is coming to bring to us everlasting life [John 3:16, 10:27-30] and a glorious millennium, and an eternal world, and a New Jerusalem [Revelation 21:1-22:21], our ultimate and final hope.
Why anyone wouldn’t be a Christian, I cannot understand. Why give our lives to despair, and to darkness, and to death, and to hopelessness, and to helplessness? Why give ourselves to the insoluble when all we have to do is just turn, and there is our living Christ, our great and reigning King—live in our hearts, our best Friend, stand by us in death, raise us to Himself in glory [1 Corinthians 15:22-23]. It’s a wonderful thing what God hath done for us in Christ Jesus.
And that’s our appeal to your heart today. In a moment when we sing our hymn of invitation, in the balcony round, on this lower floor, down an aisle, down a stairway, “Pastor, this is God’s day for me and I’m on the way. I’m coming to God. I’m accepting Christ” [Romans 10:9-10]. Or, “I’m putting my life here in this dear church.” Or, “I’m recommitting my whole heart and life to Him.” A thousand times welcome. God blesses you as you come, while we stand and while we sing.