Q. Will the Antichrist be a Jew?

A. By the “Antichrist,” we, of course, are referring to the key person of the tribulation period, the seven years of unprecedented horror upon the earth to occur after the rapture of believers. This individual will wield unrestrained power over the people of the world, will do Satan’s work during this time and, during the second half, will inflict great persecution on God’s chosen people, the Jews.

The key Scripture passages dealing with the Antichrist are as follows:

Ezekiel 28:1-10; Daniel 7:7, 8, 20-26; 8:23-25; 9:26, 27; 11:36-45; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-10; Revelation 13:1-10; and 17:8-14. In these passages we do not find the title “Antichrist”-this title is commonly used for this tribulation ruler because he will be against and “in place of” Christ. The names used in Scripture for the Antichrist are the “little horn” (Dan. 7:8; 8:9), the “king of fierce countenance” (Dan. 8:23), “the prince that shall come” (Dan. 9:26), the willful king (Dan. 11:36), “the man of sin,” “the son of perdition, that Wicked one (2 Thess. 2:3-8), “the beast” (Rev. 13:1- 10) and others. I should point out that the word “antichrist” does appear in First and Second John, but these references generally have to do with people in John’s day who were opposed to Christ and the Lord’s work, not the specific ruler of the tribulation period.

Who will the Antichrist be, and where will he come from? These questions have been asked by Bible students down through the centuries. Attempts have been made at identifying him, but to no avail. I believe that we as believers will not know who the Antichrist is until after the Rapture. Second Thessalonians 2:3-10 indicates that the “man of sin” will not be revealed until the Holy Spirit is taken out of the earth, and this will occur when the believers are raptured. But even though we won’t know who the Antichrist is, this man might be living today! In fact, there is a very good possibility that he is, in view of the present world situation. We’re about at the place where people would accept anybody who was charismatic enough and would promise peace- whether from Heaven or Hell.

But do you see that it is rather futile to speculate as to who he is? This has been done before, only to the embarrassment of those who did it. I heard of one pastor whose ministry was hurt after World War II because he had insisted that Mussolini was the Antichrist. Others have maintained that a man such as Henry Kissinger must be the Antichrist, and they have come up with “proof” based on numbers assigned to the letters in his name that add up to 666! This was just a few years ago; we don’t hear as much about this theory now. The early church believed that Nero was the Antichrist. Many in Christendom down through the years have believed that the pope would be the Antichrist. Still others have held to the position that Satan would raise up somebody from the dead, such as Judas Iscariot.

Will he be a Jew? Some Bible scholars believe he will be. They base their position on Daniel 9:27; 11:37 and John 5:43. The first passage states, “And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week.” The idea of using this passage to prove that the Antichrist is a Jew is that in order for the covenant to be made with the Antichrist as the long-awaited Messiah, he would have to be a Jew to be accepted as such. The problem with this idea is that we do not know that they will regard him as Messiah. Instead, they might go into a covenant with him as a military victor who saved them from the Russian armies (see Ezek. 38).

The second passage reads, “Neither shall he regard the God of his fathers, nor the desire of women, nor regard any god: for he shall magnify himself above all.” The idea here is that the phrase “God of his fathers” indicates his supposed Jewish ancestry. But there is a problem-the Hebrew word for God is none other than Elohim, which can refer either to the true God or to false gods. If it had indicated a common Jewish expression, the phrase “Jehovah of his fathers” would have been likely. Various translations and revisions have rightly used the word “gods” instead of “God,” such as the New Scofield Reference Bible.

The John passage states, “I am come in my Father’s name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive.” But this does not indicate that they will be accepting him as Messiah as such. In fact, the phrase “in his own name” might indicate the opposite. Furthermore, our Lord may have been ref erring not to one individual in particular, such as the Antichrist, but rather to their tendency to seek glory from others instead of Him. And if it is indeed the Antichrist Jesus referred to here, we must remember that all, not just Jews, will revere him.

Bible students who believe that the Antichrist will not be a Jew use Revelation 13:1 and 17:15 in support of their position. The first passage states that the Beast will “rise up out of the sea.” And since the sea depicts in Scripture the Gentile nations (see second passage), this would indicate that the Antichrist will be a Gentile in origin, along with the relationship he has to the revived Roman empire.

Closely related to the Beast is the false prophet, who is said to arise “out of the earth” (Rev. 13:11). This might indicate that the false prophet will be a Jew, in contrast to the Antichrist himself, who is a Gentile and comes “out of the sea.” However, it is not seen to be a strong support.

Some Bible teachers have noted that two supposed “types” of Antichrist in the Old Testament were both Gentiles. One is Nebuchadnezzar, who built his gold image. When the three Jews refused to worship, they were cast into the fiery furnace but preserved by God, just as the Jews will be preserved during the Tribulation. The other type is Antiochus Epiphanes, who persecuted the Jews and defiled the temple by offering a pig on the altar.

We cannot find in the Scriptures a definite word that the Antichrist will be a Jew (or a Gentile), but I feel that what we do have recorded for us favors the view that he will be a Gentile.

Do you have feedback or a Bible question to submit? Send to nolson@garbc.org, or mail to Norman A. Olson in care of the Baptist Bulletin, 1300 N. Meacham Rd., Schaumburg, IL 60173-4806.

Reprinted from the Baptist Bulletin (September 1988).
©1988 Regular Baptist Press. All rights reserved. Used by permission.