The Time When the Antichrist Will Appear

In another lesson we have examined the following prophecy concerning the Antichrist.

1 Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him,

2 That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.

3 Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;

4 Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.

2 Thessalonians 2:1-4

The inaugural event in the day of Christ will be the rapture of the church, here described as "our gathering together unto him" (v. 1). The wording of the passage leaves uncertain whether the man of sin, the Antichrist, will appear before or after the rapture. Which is correct depends on whether the word "first" (v. 3) gives the sequential position not only of the previous event, the falling away, but also of the next event, the revealing of the Antichrist. If the sense of "first" carries over to the next clause, we infer that the Antichrist will appear before the rapture. If he comes while the church still resides in this world, we should be able to recognize him, because Scripture gives us many clues as to his identity.

Vision Described in Daniel 8

For example, one of the visions of Daniel the prophet reveals his place of origin. We will examine this vision in some detail.

In the third year of the reign of king Belshazzar a vision appeared unto me, even unto me Daniel, after that which appeared unto me at the first.

Daniel 8:1

The date of the vision is twelve years before the fall of the Babylonian Empire (1). Babylon was taken by the Medes and Persians in 539 BC.

And I saw in a vision; and it came to pass, when I saw, that I was at Shushan in the palace, which is in the province of Elam; and I saw in a vision, and I was by the river of Ulai.

Daniel 8:2

Shushan was later a royal city of the Persians (2). In Esther's day, it was the king's main place of residence.

The Ram

In his vision by the river of Ulai, Daniel saw supposedly tame animals behave like ferocious beasts.

3 Then I lifted up mine eyes, and saw, and, behold, there stood before the river a ram which had two horns: and the two horns were high; but one was higher than the other, and the higher came up last.

4 I saw the ram pushing westward, and northward, and southward; so that no beasts might stand before him, neither was there any that could deliver out of his hand; but he did according to his will, and became great. . . .

Daniel 8:3-4

The angel who later came and interpreted the vision set aside all guesswork as to the meaning of the ram by explicitly identifying it as Medo-Persia.

20 The ram which thou sawest having two horns are the kings of Media and Persia.

Daniel 8:20

The development of the ram's horns, the higher coming up last, correctly pictures the history of the great empire that supplanted the Babylonian. At first the Medes were dominant over the Persians, but after these closely related peoples formed a single nation, the Persians quickly became dominant over the Medes.

The ram pushed in three directions—west, north, and south (v. 4). Indeed, the Medes and Persians pushed westward to conquer Babylon (539), northward to conquer Lydia, in Asia Minor (547), and southward to conquer Egypt (525) (3). The vision mentions the conquest of Babylon first to underscore Medo-Persia's role as successor of Babylon. Although on the western edge of the Persian Empire, Lydia lay well north of the Persian heartland. To reach Asia Minor, the armies of Persia had to march northward through Mesopotamia (4).

The Goat

Next in the same vision Daniel saw approaching from the west a he-goat bearing a single horn between the eyes.

5 And as I was considering, behold, an he goat came from the west on the face of the whole earth, and touched not the ground: and the goat had a notable horn between his eyes.

6 And he came to the ram that had two horns, which I had seen standing before the river, and ran unto him in the fury of his power.

7 And I saw him come close unto the ram, and he was moved with choler against him, and smote the ram, and brake his two horns: and there was no power in the ram to stand before him, but he cast him down to the ground, and stamped upon him: and there was none that could deliver the ram out of his hand.

8 Therefore the he goat waxed very great: and when he was strong, the great horn was broken; and for it came up four notable ones toward the four winds of heaven. . . .

Daniel 8:5-8

Later, the divine messenger informed Daniel that the goat represented Greece.

21 And the rough goat is the king of Grecia: and the great horn that is between his eyes is the first king.

Daniel 8:21

Initially, when it bore a prominent horn in the forehead, the beast moved so swiftly that it did not even touch the ground (v. 5). This phase of the goat's career represents the rapid conquests of Alexander.

Subsequently, after the he-goat subdued the ram (vv. 6-7), the great horn was broken and replaced by four others, all notable in themselves (v. 8). The meaning is that Alexander's empire would be divided into four parts after his death.

The successors of the great horn appeared "toward the four winds of heaven" (v. 8). In other words, the four Grecian kingdoms emanating from Alexander's empire would completely surround the land of Israel.

The Last Horn

Then in his vision Daniel saw the emergence of another king.

9 And out of one of them came forth a little horn, which waxed exceeding great, toward the south, and toward the east, and toward the pleasant land.

10 And it waxed great, even to the host of heaven; and it cast down some of the host and of the stars to the ground, and stamped upon them.

11 Yea, he magnified himself even to the prince of the host, and by him the daily sacrifice was taken away, and the place of his sanctuary was cast down.

12 And an host was given him against the daily sacrifice by reason of transgression, and it cast down the truth to the ground; and it practised, and prospered.

13 Then I heard one saint speaking, and another saint said unto that certain saint which spake, How long shall be the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, and the transgression of desolation, to give both the sanctuary and the host to be trodden under foot?

14 And he said unto me, Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed. . . .

Daniel 8:9-14

In due time the four horns were replaced by another at first "little" but eventually "exceeding great" (v. 9). In its arrogance, it rose to heaven and cast down some of the stars (v. 10). Also, it cast down the sanctuary of God and took away the daily sacrifice (vv. 11–12). The angel furnished Daniel with a lengthy explanation.

17 . . . But he said unto me, Understand, O son of man: for at the time of the end shall be the vision. . . .

19 And he said, Behold, I will make thee know what shall be in the last end of the indignation: for at the time appointed the end shall be.

20 The ram which thou sawest having two horns are the kings of Media and Persia.

21 And the rough goat is the king of Grecia: and the great horn that is between his eyes is the first king.

22 Now that being broken, whereas four stood up for it, four kingdoms shall stand up out of the nation, but not in his power.

23 And in the latter time of their kingdom, when the transgressors are come to the full, a king of fierce countenance, and understanding dark sentences, shall stand up.

24 And his power shall be mighty, but not by his own power: and he shall destroy wonderfully, and shall prosper, and practise, and shall destroy the mighty and the holy people.

25 And through his policy also he shall cause craft to prosper in his hand; and he shall magnify himself in his heart, and by peace shall destroy many: he shall also stand up against the Prince of princes; but he shall be broken without hand.

Daniel 8:17, 19-25

It is evident that the last horn was the main subject of Daniel's vision. On the basis of the information provided by Daniel 8 and other prophecies, three interpretations of the last horn have gained wide support.

1. He is the second-century-BC Syrian ruler, Antiochus Epiphanes. The chief argument on behalf of this interpretation is that Antiochus was, as prophecy requires (v. 9), an offspring of the Grecian goat. He was a king of the Seleucid dynasty, which for centuries ruled one of the four kingdoms rooted in Alexander's empire. From their capital city, Antioch in Syria, the Seleucids ruled a wide region of Mesopotamia. Among Syrian domains in Antiochus's day was the land of Palestine. The chief goal in his policy toward the Jews was to assimilate them into the prevailing Greek culture of the empire, but many Jews stubbornly clung to old ways. Therefore, beginning in 169, Antiochus sought to curtail the practice of Jewish religion. He desecrated the Temple in Jerusalem and rededicated it to Zeus. He put many Jews to death for such offenses as circumcising a baby and observing the Sabbath. Yet all these measures failed. His cruel persecution of the faithful provoked a bloody revolt, which, under the leadership of Judas Maccabeus, finally succeeded in liberating the Jews from Syrian control.

The first interpretation of the last horn is favored by all commentators who regard Daniel as history rather than prophecy.

2. The last horn is a major ruler during the time of the end, but not the Antichrist. This view emerged many years ago in conservative circles and won the endorsement of some well-known writers.

3. The last horn is the Antichrist. Early expositors were almost unanimous in holding this interpretation. As Jerome says concerning Daniel 8,

Most of our commentators refer this passage to the Antichrist, and hold that that which occurred under Antiochus was only by way of a type which shall be fulfilled under Antichrist (5).

Also a great many modern expositors believe that the Antichrist is the chief subject of this chapter (6).

Proof that the Last Horn Is Not Antiochus

In his portrait drawn by the vision and its interpretation, the last horn differs in many respects from the Antiochus of ancient Syria.

1. The last horn started small but grew in size until he became "exceeding great" (vv. 9-10). How then can it be Antiochus? He did not greatly extend his territory by conquest (7). Moreover, he was at the outset one of the principal rulers in the Mediterranean world.

2. The last horn cast down the sanctuary (v. 11). Although Antiochus desecrated the Temple, he did not actually wreck the buildings (8). He did not do them any appreciable physical damage. A few years later, when the Temple was restored to ceremonial use, it had to be cleansed of all remnants of idolatry, and the marks of neglect and misuse had to be repaired, but the structure itself did not need to be rebuilt (9).

3. The 2300 days (v. 14) do not fit the period during Antiochus's reign when the Temple lay desolate (10).

4. The ruler to come will understand "dark sentences" (v. 23). The rendering "dark sentences" suggests mysteries in the realm of the occult. But the Hebrew word chidah means simply "riddles" (11). Scripture uses the word to denote its own difficult and puzzling sayings (Psa. 49:4; Prov. 1:6). Hence, the revelation that the last horn will be expert in solving chidah is likely a warning that he will be a discerning student of Biblical prophecy. He therefore cannot be Antiochus, who, so far as any historian knows, was wholly ignorant of the Hebrew Scriptures.

Rather, the one who will understand dark sentences is the Antichrist. In his knowledge and understanding of God's program for the future, he will greatly excel many believers, to their shame. Yet although he will comprehend that prophecy anticipated many aspects of his coming and career, the Antichrist—that is, the man himself in that portion of his own thinking still distinct from the thinking of the evil spirits controlling him—will not necessarily believe that the Bible is correct in predicting his ultimate downfall.

5. Gabriel revealed to Daniel that the vision would be fulfilled "at the time of the end" (v. 17). Surely, the time of the end did not begin thousands of years ago during the Seleucid era. In fact, the angel set the fulfillment far in the future, saying, "for it shall be for many days" (v. 26). He was even more specific. He placed the vision during "the last end ['latter portion' (12)] of the indignation" (v. 19). In other words, the vision pertains to the last 3 1/2 years of the Tribulation.

Proof that the Last Horn Is the Antichrist

The perfect agreement between the portrait of the last horn in Daniel 8 and the portraits elsewhere of the Antichrist establishes beyond any reasonable doubt that they are the same person.

1. Virtually all conservative expositors accept that the eleventh horn in Daniel's previous vision, recorded in Daniel 7, is the Antichrist.

1 In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon Daniel had a dream and visions of his head upon his bed: then he wrote the dream, and told the sum of the matters.

2 Daniel spake and said, I saw in my vision by night, and, behold, the four winds of the heaven strove upon the great sea.

3 And four great beasts came up from the sea, diverse one from another.

4 The first was like a lion, and had eagle's wings: I beheld till the wings thereof were plucked, and it was lifted up from the earth, and made stand upon the feet as a man, and a man's heart was given to it.

5 And behold another beast, a second, like to a bear, and it raised up itself on one side, and it had three ribs in the mouth of it between the teeth of it: and they said thus unto it, Arise, devour much flesh.

6 After this I beheld, and lo another, like a leopard, which had upon the back of it four wings of a fowl; the beast had also four heads; and dominion was given to it.

7 After this I saw in the night visions, and behold a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth: it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it: and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it; and it had ten horns.

8 I considered the horns, and, behold, there came up among them another little horn, before whom there were three of the first horns plucked up by the roots: and, behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things.

9 I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire.

10 A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him: thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened.

11 I beheld then because of the voice of the great words which the horn spake: I beheld even till the beast was slain, and his body destroyed, and given to the burning flame.

12 As concerning the rest of the beasts, they had their dominion taken away: yet their lives were prolonged for a season and time.

13 I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him.

14 And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed. . . .

20 And of the ten horns that were in his head, and of the other which came up, and before whom three fell; even of that horn that had eyes, and a mouth that spake very great things, whose look was more stout than his fellows. . . .

25 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 times and the dividing of time.

Daniel 7:1-14, 20, 25

This eleventh horn in Daniel 7 emerges from the beast representing the fourth in a succession of four kingdoms. After the horn speaks great words, the Ancient of Days with a bodily presence—that is, Christ—comes to sit in judgment on the world (vv. 8-10). He then destroys both the horn and his kingdom (v. 11). We infer that both exist at the time of Christ's return. It follows that the horn from the fourth beast must be the last world ruler, the Antichrist.

His career matches in detail the career of the future ruler presented in Daniel 8. Prophecy clearly expects us to recognize the two rulers as the same end-time figure.

  1. Each will begin as a little horn (compare Dan. 8:9 with Dan. 7:8).
  2. Each will grow to be large horn (compare Dan. 8:9 with Dan. 7:20).
  3. Each will become great by enlarging his territory in three directions. Daniel 7 pictures the Antichrist's three-pronged campaign of conquest as a little horn uprooting three other horns (v. 8). Daniel 8 states explicitly that the last horn will push toward the south, the east, and "the pleasant land" (v. 9). The last name (literally, "the pleasant" or "the desire," or "the glory") refers to the land of Israel (Jer. 3:19; Dan. 11:16, 41) (13).
  4. Each will wage war against the saints (compare Dan. 8:24 with Dan. 7:25). So also will the last horn of the goat (Dan. 8:24).

2. All dispensational commentators agree that Daniel 9:27 speaks of the Antichrist.

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, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.

Daniel 9:27

Here, we learn that the Antichrist will bring a halt to sacrifices in the Temple. Likewise according to Daniel 8:11, "by him [the last horn of the goat] the daily sacrifice" will be "taken away."

3. The prophet Ezekiel states that Israel will someday fall under the sway of a "profane wicked prince" (Ezek. 21:25), who will rule until God puts an end to iniquity and gives the throne to him "whose right it is" (Ezek. 21:27). The rightful king of the world is Christ, and the king He will supplant is the Antichrist. Thus, the Antichrist must be the one Ezekiel identifies as the prince of Israel. The same title fits the last horn in Daniel 8, for he will push toward the pleasant land and presumably add it to his own possessions.

4. The same last horn will magnify himself "even to the prince of the host" (Dan. 8:11). The prince of the host is obviously God, for the text goes on to speak of "his [the prince's] sanctuary." The only end-time figure who will set himself up as a god superior to all other gods, even the God of heaven, is the Antichrist. His crazy self-exaltation is the subject of many prophecies.

And the king shall do according to his will; and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvellous things against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished: for that that is determined shall be done.

Daniel 11:36

3 Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;

4 Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.

2 Thessalonians 2:3-4

The Dispensational Break

While telling the story of the Jewish nation, every oracle in the Book of Daniel passes directly from antiquity to the time of the end. No remark calls attention to the gap between these two periods. In chapter 8, the gap appears to fall between verses 8 and 9.

The gap here is much wider than usual. On the earlier side, history stops at the emergence of the four Grecian horns. The ancient Roman Empire, which appears in several other visions of Daniel, is overlooked completely. Why? Because any reference to the Roman Empire would be irrelevant to the main objective of the oracle. Hence, any such reference would tend to confuse rather than to enlighten us. The oracle is designed primarily to show where the Antichrist will arise.


  1. Ed Rickard, Daniel Explained (n.p.: The Moorings Press, 2014), 192.
  2. Edwin M. Yamauchi, Persia and the Bible (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1990), 280, 293.
  3. Yamauchi, 101, 103, 105, 109.
  4. The northward direction of march is evident in Yamauchi’s map of the Persian royal road to Asia Minor. See Yamauchi, 177.
  5. Jerome, Commentary on Daniel, trans. Gleason L. Archer, Jr. (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1958), 87.
  6. S. P. Tregelles, Remarks on the Prophetic Visions in the Book of Daniel, with Notes on Prophetic Interpretation in Connection with Popery, and a Defence of the Authenticity of the Book of Daniel, 6th ed. (London: Samuel Bagster and Sons, 1883), 83, 140; George W. Davis, The Patmos Vision: An Exposition of the Revelation of Jesus Christ (Los Angeles: McBride Printing Co., 1915), 199; W. C. Stevens, The Book of Daniel: A Composite Revelation of the Last Days of Israel’s Subjugation to Gentile Powers, revised ed. (New York: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1918), 207–208; Arthur W. Pink, The Antichrist (Swengel, Pa.: Bible Truth Depot, 1923; repr., Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel Publications, 1988), 96–98; William L. Pettingill, Simple Studies in Daniel, 6th ed. (Findlay, Ohio: Fundamental Truth Publishers, [5th ed., ca. 1933]), 78, 109; J. Charleton Steen, God’s Prophetic Programme as Revealed in the Book of Daniel (London: Pickering & Inglis, n.d.), 73; Arthur Petrie, The Message of Daniel (Harrisburg, Penn.: Christian Publications, 1947), 88–90; Philip R. Newell, Daniel: The Man Greatly Beloved and His Prophecies (Chicago: Moody Press, 1951), 118; Louis T. Talbot, The Prophecies of Daniel in the Light of Past, Present, and Future Events, 3d ed. (Wheaton, Ill.: Van Kampen Press, 1954), 153; J. Dwight Pentecost, Things to Come: A Study in Biblical Eschatology (Findlay, Ohio: Dunham Publishing Co., 1958), 332.
  7. D. S. Russell, The Jews from Alexander to Herod, vol. 5 of The New Clarendon Bible: Old Testament (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1967), 31–34.
  8. James A. Montgomery, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Book of Daniel, The International Critical Commentary (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1927), 383.
  9. 1 Macc. 4:36–40.
  10. Rickard, 213–214.
  11. Francis Brown, S. R. Driver, and Charles A. Briggs, The New Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon with an Appendix Containing the Biblical Aramaic (n.p., 1906; repr., Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Publishers, 1979), 295.
  12. Leon Wood, A Commentary on Daniel (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Publishing House, 1973), 222.
  13. Ibid., 213; Edward J. Young, A Commentary on Daniel (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1949; repr., Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1972), 170.