The Bible tells us that Satan, the great deceiver, is working to counterfeit the ministry of Jesus Christ. For centuries now, he has been positioning himself to take the place of the Son of God, ultimately planning to mimic the second coming of Jesus!
The Greek word translated as antichrist can mean either “against Christ” or “taking the place of Christ.” As it turns out, Satan does both. In his campaignagainst God, Satan paints an ugly picture of Him and then tempts God’s children to sin, knowing that, by separating them from God, he inflicts pain on their Creator and Savior. In the Old Testament, we read about Satan tempting Job through tribulation. He manipulated the weather, incited violence, and inflicted painful and debilitating diseases, blaming all of the disasters on God ( Job 1:6–2:8). Job’s experience gives us a preview of the antichrist’s end-time activity against God.
Satan also attempts to take the place of Christ. Jesus predicted that “false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect” (Matthew 24:24). The apostle Paul’s second letter to the church at Thessalonica identifies a false christ who appears at the end of time, using the miracle-working power of Satan to impersonate Jesus. Let’s identify the characteristics of this antichrist, and then look for him in the final book of the Bible—the book of Revelation.
the antichrist will appear before Jesus comes
“Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God” (2 Thessalonians 2:1–4, NKJV).
This passage has a lot to unpack. First, notice the context: “concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Antichrist individuals and institutions have appeared throughout history; the apostle John wrote that many antichrists had appeared even in his time, during the first century ad (1 John 2:18–22; 4:1–3; 2 John 7). But the passage in 2 Thessalonians 2 describes the final and ultimate manifestation of the antichrist, who will appear just before “the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
The “man of sin” mentioned in the passage is more than an incredibly evil person. He
“exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, . . . showing himself that he is God” (verse 4, NKJV). It was Lucifer, later known as Satan, who
said in . . . [his] heart:
“I will ascend into heaven,
I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; . . .
I will be like the Most High” (Isaiah 14:13, 14, NKJV).
The “man of sin” is a manifestation of Satan himself. Notice also that he is called “the son of perdition” (2 Thessalonians 2:3, NKJV). The Greek word translated as perdition means “destruction,” and this will be a key marker when we look for the antichrist in the book of Revelation.
the antichrist will be destroyed at Christ’s coming
The Bible continues in 2 Thessalonians 2: “You know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming” (verses 6–8, NKJV).
The man of sin will be destroyed by the brightness of Christ’s coming, confirming that this lawless one appears in the final moments of the age. Until then, there will be some restraining power that holds the man of sin in check, but the restraint will be “taken out of the way.” The Bible says, “You know what is restraining [him],” but then it doesn’t tell us what it is! We will find out what the restraining power is when we compare this with the book of Revelation.
Continuing in 2 Thessalonians, the Bible gives the man of sin a new title—“the lawless one”—emphasizing that this nefarious adversary thinks he is above the law: “The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved” (verses 9, 10, NKJV). Here we see that Satan will perform false miracles to deceive those who have not accepted “the love of the truth.”
In summary, here is what we have learned so far: First, just before the second coming of Christ, God will remove some kind of restraining influence, which will allow Satan to operate as the man of sin. Second, the man of sin will use miracles to deceive the world. Third, the man of sin will be destroyed by “the breath” of Jesus’ mouth and “the brightness of His coming.”
the beast of Revelation 19
Moving now to the book of Revelation, we find that it presents the second coming of Christ in chapter 19. Jesus, the “King of kings and Lord of lords,” is portrayed symbolically as a rider on a white horse, and He “judges and makes war. . . . Out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations” that oppose Him (verses 11, 15, 16, NKJV).
Revelation 19 also identifies the leader of those opposing nations. He is called “the beast,” and he leads “the kings of the earth, and their armies” as they “make war against Him who sat on the horse” (verse 19, NKJV). The beast and his sidekick, “the false prophet,” use signs and miracles to deceive “those who had received the mark of the beast.” But Jesus, at His coming, defeats the beast “The beast was captured” and “cast alive into the lake of fire” (verse 20).
Let’s take a moment to note the similarities between the beast and the man of sin in 2 Thessalonians 2.
- Both are present when Jesus returns.
- Both actively oppose Christ.
- Both use signs and miracles to deceive unbelievers.
- Both are destroyed at Christ’s second coming.
It is clear that the beast and the man of sin are the same individual—the final manifestation of the antichrist.
The beast that leads “the kings of the earth” to war against Jesus in Revelation 19 is also described in Revelation 16, where he organizes the battle by sending out miracle-working evil spirits to those same “kings of the earth . . . to gather them to the battle.” “They gathered them together to the place called . . . Armageddon” (verses 13, 14, 16, NKJV).
the beast of Revelation 17
In Revelation 17, Jesus sends an angel to help the writer, John, understand more about the beast and the battle of Armageddon. The angel first shows John a seven-headed scarlet beast that is almost identical to the seven-headed beast from the sea, described in Revelation 13. A careful study of Revelation 13 shows that the beast from the sea symbolizes the apostate and coercive union of church and state that ruled during the Dark Ages. The scarlet beast of Revelation 17 is the future version: a coercive global government controlled by apostate religion that will emerge during the last days.
The angel focuses John’s attention on the seven heads of the scarlet beast. These heads are a series of seven kings, followed by an eighth king, who is also called “the beast” (verses 9–11, NKJV). This beast “will ascend out of the bottomless pit and go to perdition” (verse 8; see also verse 11, NKJV). It is a little confusing because Revelation 17 presents the beast as both a coercive religiopolitical system—the scarlet beast—and the eighth king, who is also called “the beast.” What is important to notice is that this eighth king (the beast) is “going to perdition.” In the Bible, only individuals go to perdition, not nations or governments. Additionally, this verse provides a direct link with the man of sin in 2 Thessalonians “the son of perdition.”
As we continue in Revelation 17, we again see that the beast leads the kings of the earth to make war against Christ: “Ten kings . . . receive authority for one [symbolic] hour as kings with the beast. . . . These will make war with the Lamb” (verses 12, 13, NKJV). This is the same beast who organizes the kings of the earth for the battle of Armageddon in chapter 16 and then leads them to fight against Jesus when He returns to Earth in chapter 19.
the attack of the antichrist
Fighting against Jesus when He returns doesn’t mean that there will be rockets and howitzers aimed at Him as He descends from heaven. Turning to Revelation 11, we see how the beast will make war against Christ. Chapter 11 portrays the faithful followers of Christ as “two witnesses” who will give the final invitation to accept Jesus in the midst of great tribulation. When the two witnesses “finish their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit will make war against them, overcome them, and kill them” (verse 7, NKJV). The antichrist makes war against Jesus by attacking His faithful followers, just as Satan tried to destroy Job in the Old Testament.
You may be wondering why anyone would want to be on Jesus’ side if they are going to be killed by the beast. It is true that the end-time Tribulation will be tough for everyone. But this passage in Revelation 11 is very symbolic and probably refers primarily to a complete death to self-centeredness and self-reliance, followed by a “resurrection” of faith that will be a powerful witness to the world: “The breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. . . . And [they] gave glory to the God of heaven” (verses 11, 13, NKJV).
when will the bottomless pit be opened to release the beast?
A careful reading of this passage gives a hint as to when the antichrist will appear. “The beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit will make war against [the two witnesses]” (verse 7). The bottomless pit symbolizes the chaos and destruction that will characterize the time of great tribulation. Satan would love to ascend from the bottomless pit right now, but he is being restrained. Here is Revelation’s sequence of events:
- In Revelation 7, John sees “four [probably evil] angels to whom it was granted to harm the earth and the sea” (verse 2, NKJV). But then he sees “another angel ascending from the east having the seal of the living God” who commands the four angels, “Do not harm the earth, the sea, or the trees till we have sealed the servants of God on their foreheads.” Those who were sealed were “one hundred and forty-four thousand” (verses 2–4, NKJV).
- When the sealing of the 144,000 is finished and the four angels are released, the next thing we see is fiery disasters falling on the earth, the sea, and the trees (Revelation 8:7–9, NKJV). The harm has arrived.
- The resulting chaos and destruction open the bottomless pit (Revelation 9:2, NKJV).
- The beast, called an angel in Revelation 9, now appears. “The angel of the bottomless pit, whose name . . . in Greek . . . [is] Apollyon” (verse 11, NKJV).
- He leads a terrible “locust” army that is a combination of military technology and demonic influence (verses 3–10, NKJV).
The name for the angel from the bottomless pit—Apollyon—is from the same root word as the word translated as “perdition,” which is the destination of the beast in Revelation 17 and the title of “the man of sin . . . the son of perdition” (2 Thessalonians 2:3, NKJV).
As you can see, the Bible uses many terms to describe the antichrist, but in the end, the antichrist has a singular goal: he is focused on harming God’s children. However, God will not allow the antichrist to appear until His special messengers, the 144,000, have been sealed. They are then prepared to counter the lies and deceptions of the antichrist and help a great multitude escape from the slavery of Satan’s kingdom of Babylon. Together, the sealed of God and the great multitude will take their place in God’s eternal family.
In these waning hours of Earth’s history, God is eager for everyone to accept the salvation He offers. “The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light” (Romans 13:12, NKJV).
David Lackey writes from Washington State.