First Feature of His Religion
The religion that the Antichrist will impose on the whole world is described in Daniel 11.
36 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.
37 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.
38 But in his estate shall he honour the God of forces: and a god whom his fathers knew not shall he honour with gold, and silver, and with precious stones, and pleasant things.
39 Thus shall he do in the most strong holds with a strange god, whom he shall acknowledge and increase with glory: and he shall cause them to rule over many, and shall divide the land for gain.
The Antichrist will speak marvelous things against the God of gods (v. 36). He will revive the lies first told by Satan in the Garden of Eden.
1 Now the serpent [Satan] was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?
2 And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden:
3 But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.
4 And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:
5 For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.
The net that the serpent laid for Eve was woven with three separate strands of falsehood.
- When God warned that disobedience to His command would bring death, He was lying (v. 4).
- By seeking forbidden knowledge of good and evil, man himself could become as a god (v. 5).
- God's rule against seeking this knowledge was an attempt to keep others from developing their divine potential and becoming His equal (v. 5).
These three lies implied a fourth, which was the most preposterous of all: that God is not as great as He says He is. If man can rise to His level, God cannot be infinite. Rather, He must be a finite being, perhaps one who has evolved from something more primitive. The devil probably believed this lie himself, or he would never have conceived and nourished his ambition to displace the Most High—an evidently impossible goal if God's power and wisdom were truly boundless. The same lie will surface again when the Antichrist begins his campaign to destroy all vestiges of true religion, revering the God of heaven.
Second Feature of His Religion
Neither shall he regard the god of his fathers (v. 37). Since Scripture often speaks of the Jews as descended from their "fathers" and particularly from their fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, many commentators view the phrase "god of his fathers" as evidence that the Antichrist will be a Jew. They are seeking support for an idea that can be traced back to the early centuries of the church. But this old idea has no foundation elsewhere in Scripture, and the only foundation here depends on a strained reading of the text. When seen in a proper light, the reference to the Antichrist's fathers provides no clue as to his race or religion. Earlier, the angel delivering this message compared Antiochus with his "fathers," using this very word, although Antiochus was a non-Jew (v. 24).
The true meaning of the prophecy in question is the exact opposite of the meaning usually drawn from it. When examined in context, the statement that the Antichrist will not revere the god of his fathers reveals that he will not be a Jew. The prophecy gives us a list of deities that the Antichrist will refuse to recognize. It says that he will recognize neither the God of gods, the god of his fathers, the desire of women, nor any other god. The list clearly treats the god of his fathers as different from the God of gods. If his fathers' god was not the true God, his background will not be either Jewish or Christian.
What possibility is left? If he comes from northern Iraq, he will probably be a Muslim. Someone might object, "Do not Muslims worship the same God we do, although in an improper way?" No, the being they worship is the same as ours in name only. Both are known as God. But in their character and in their dealings with man, they show themselves to be different. The Muslim god is not a God of love, for instance, and makes no pretense of being a God of love.
Scripture’s choice of Antiochus to serve as a type and picture of the Antichrist leads us not to the conclusion that the Antichrist will be a Jew, but rather to the conclusion that he will be a gentile who hates the Jews.
Third Feature of His Religion
He will not regard the desire of women (v. 37). This enigmatic prophecy has brought forth a spate of fanciful interpretations.
A common one is that the Antichrist will shun a pagan deity beloved especially by women. Yet, so construed, the prophecy hardly fits modern reality. What pagan deity with a following mainly among women will be important enough in the days of the Antichrist to warrant a place in Biblical prophecy? None of the religions with a strong worldwide following today offer a full-blown polytheism, of the sort espoused by the ancient Greeks and Romans.
Another common interpretation is that although the Antichrist will at one stage in his career be allied with the Catholic church, he will not practice or encourage Mariolatry. "The desire of women" means, accordingly, the one venerated by Catholic women. Yet it is doubtful that Catholic women worship Mary more ardently than do Catholic men.
The interpretation favored by the majority of conservative commentators is that "the desire of women" is Jesus Christ. The name supposedly refers to the desire of every Jewish woman in Daniel's day to bear the Messiah. This interpretation is untenable for many reasons.
- Few Jewish women today are filled with hope of the Messiah's coming. Even fewer, perhaps none, fervently desire to be His mother. And the desire to bear the Messiah has rarely been any more prevalent among Jewish women than it is today. Like people everywhere, the Jewish people as a whole have, throughout much of their history, been preoccupied with worldly affairs.
- Nothing in the context limits "women" to some Jewish women. The natural sense of the word widens the view to all or very many women.
- If applied to a man, the name "desire of women" suggests that he is the object of their carnal affection. Scripture would not give Christ a name with unseemly connotations.
Another interpretation, which many readers find most natural, is that the Antichrist will lack a normal interest in women. Yet his forerunner, Antiochus, was a degenerate womanizer. Furthermore, the grammatical construction disallows changing “desire of women” to “desire for women.” In parallel instances, such as Haggai 2:7 and 1 Samuel 9:20, the noun following "desire of" is the source and not the object. What the prophecy is clearly saying is that the Antichrist will disregard something that women desire.
The only convincing interpretation notices that "the desire of women" appears in a list of spurned deities. It is therefore evident that the name refers to something else the Antichrist will refuse to worship. The name might signify either a god that women desire or the desire of women to be gods. The interpretation that best fits the prophet's message views the oracle as a prediction that the Antichrist will not regard the desire of women for supreme godhood.
Long ago, sin entered the human race through woman's desire to be godlike in her knowledge of good and evil. That desire has never been extinguished. The fire of self-worship still burns in the hearts of all women who refuse to worship the true God. Yet while recognizing the pride of women, we should not minimize the pride of men. The male heart is also prone to divine aspirations. After all, the future claimant of supreme deity will be a man, not a woman. But the Book of Daniel is concerned not to leave the wrong impression. To avoid suggesting that men are worse than women, the book adds a little reminder that apart from the grace of God, every woman is also an incorrigible egotist with a lurking desire to take over command of the universe.
The current most visible manifestation of woman's estrangement from God is the drive for so-called women's liberation. At issue between feminists and Christians is not whether women are equal to men. The Bible says that in Christ "there is neither male nor female" (Gal. 3:28). A woman is of course equal to a man in value, ability, civil rights, and eternal privileges. At issue rather is whether a woman ought to be like a man, whether she should be seeking to exchange a woman's God-ordained role in the home and church for a man's role.
Imagine what feminists will think when the Antichrist sets himself up as the supreme god and denies equal billing to any goddess! They will regard the exclusion of women from the highest flights of conceit as discrimination. Whatever hope he offers them of attaining a lesser degree of godhood will hardly satisfy their ambition. Yet he will ignore their objections. That is, as the oracle says, he will not regard the desire of women.
Fourth Feature of His Religion
He will honor a god of forces (v. 38). The Hebrew word corresponding to "forces" is ma'uzzim (singular, maoz). Elsewhere in the Old Testament, the singular form is normally translated "strength." For example,
. . . The joy of the LORD is your strength [maoz].
. . . The LORD is the strength [maoz] of my life; . . . .
Thus, the expression "god of forces" might be rendered "god of strengths." But unlike the more common words for strength, this one specifically denotes a strong thing or place, such as a rock or a fortress. In a typical modern translation, Daniel 11:38 says, "But in his place he will honor the god of fortresses." The usual interpretation is that instead of worshiping any supernatural deity, the Antichrist will worship military might. In other words, he will have virtually a religious zeal for accumulating weapons and waging warfare. Yet this interpretation cannot possibly be correct, for the same verse goes on to say that the god of fortresses will be one whom the fathers of the Antichrist did not know. No generation and no lineage have been free of men devoted to armament and conquest.
What then is the true identity of the Antichrist's god? The answer depends on recognition that the world lies in Satan's control, and thus it must be through Satan's patronage that the Antichrist will rise to the highest pinnacle of power. To secure Satan's favor, he will be obliged to meet the requirement that Christ shunned. Satan told Jesus,
6 . . . All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it.
7 If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine.
8 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Get thee behind me, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.
It is clear that the title "god of forces" for the sole deity that the Antichrist will recognize and worship must be a veiled reference to none other than Satan.
What exactly are the strong things, the forces, that Satan governs? A recurrent teaching of Scripture, including the Book of Daniel, is that Satan is the head of an organized host of wicked angels. Elsewhere in Scripture, Satan is given titles similar to "god of forces." He is the prince of the power of the air (Eph. 2:2), a ruler of the darkness of this world (Eph. 6:12). The title "god of forces" is consistent also with one of Daniel's major themes: namely, the angelic realm. A few verses earlier, in chapter 10, the book reveals that Satan has powerful lieutenants with the rank of prince. Now the view expands to take in other forces who do his bidding.
The text presents an apparent contradiction. The angel presenting the oracle says in one breath that the Antichrist will not honor any god (vs. 36-37), and in the next breath that he will honor a god of forces (v. 38). Help in reconciling these two assertions comes from the next title used for Satan. He is called "a strange god" (v. 39). As used here, the term implies a god unrecognized by the principal religions of mankind—as it says, "a god whom his fathers knew not" (v. 38). Construing the term in this way clarifies the statement that the Antichrist will not honor any god. The statement must be looking only at the traditional pantheon. The view excludes Satan, who, under his own name and in his own person, has never been a general object of worship.
The oracle proceeds to illuminate Satan's role in the regime of the Antichrist, but, unfortunately, the KJV offers a garbled translation. The subject of "acknowledge" is not "he," the Antichrist, but the word wrongly translated "whom." The oracle should read,
And he will do this [that is, honor his god with precious things] in the fortresses of forces with an alien god: any who acknowledge him [the alien god] he [the Antichrist] will greatly honor, and he will make them rule over many, and the land he will divide for a reward.
The phrase "with an alien god" can be viewed as modifying "forces." Thus, the forces occupying the fortresses where the Antichrist will honor his god will also give this god their allegiance.
The oracle reveals that the Antichrist will award wealth and power only to those who are willing to acknowledge Satan. Since the description of the Antichrist's religion precedes the account of his conquests, we infer that his worship of Satan will begin early in his career, before he usurps power over three kingdoms. But whether his alliance with diabolical power will be public knowledge then, we cannot tell. It is likely that until the world acclaims him as ruler, he will hide his Satanism from all but his closest confederates.
Fifth Feature of His Religion
He will exalt himself above all gods (v. 37). Not only will he present himself as a god to be worshiped, he will, in the last stage of his career, forbid his subjects from worshiping any other god except presumably his own, Satan.
The Book of Revelation prepares us to recognize the Antichrist by his name.
18 Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.
The words, "Here is wisdom," wherever they or similar words occur in Scripture, signal a riddle. But is not the meaning obvious? The numerical value of the Beast's name (in Revelation, the Antichrist is called the Beast) will be 666. The number 666 is expressed by three Greek letters, the ones with values 600, 60, and 6. Yet for some reason the obvious meaning embarrasses many commentators. They evidently feel that a plain riddle of this sort would compromise the dignity of Scripture. Or perhaps they are reluctant to see a specific prophecy here lest they be forced to see other prophecies as specific also, when they would rather think that the Bible offers only a highly generalized picture of future events. So, they try to patch another meaning onto the text. They say that the three letters are merely symbolic. The first and last are the first and last in one spelling of Christ. The middle has a serpentine shape, revealing that the person characterized as 666 will be a false Christ, a very serpent.
But let us assume that prophecy provides this riddle to give us real help in identifying the Antichrist. How can we determine the numerical value of a modern name? Scripture suggests in two ways that we should look at its customary Greek spelling.
- The name of Jesus sets a precedent. His name as it is spelled in the Greek New Testament is Iasous. Every Greek letter has a numerical value. Therefore, it is a simple matter to evaluate His name. When the letters are viewed as numerals, the sum is 888. Eight, being seven plus one, is the number of superabundant perfection, whereas six, being seven minus one, is the number of falling short.
- The verse in Revelation giving the value of the Beast's name is written in Greek and expresses this value in Greek letters.
If we wished to find the numerical value of a modern name, how would we proceed? To obtain the customary Greek spelling, we would consult a Greek newspaper or some other source of news coverage written in Greek. Although the letters in modern Greek have lost their numerical significance, they are the same as in ancient Greek, so we may resort to their original values to compute the overall value of a modern name.
By this test, I am aware of no eligible candidate on the world scene today whose name equals 666. But I must attach a word of caution. If the Antichrist is now alive on the earth, any attempt to find him by computing the numerical value of names belonging to current world figures is probably futile, for two reasons.
- It is likely that the Antichrist will not attract much attention until after the Rapture.
- The name with value 666 may not be a given name, but one he assumes after rising to prominence. Notice that prophecy tells us not only the number of the name, but also something about its content. From God's perspective it will be blasphemous (Rev. 13:1). We therefore think it likely that it will be a name he deliberately assumes to exalt himself. If so, he will in this respect resemble his forerunner and type Antiochus Epiphanes. Antiochus also claimed to be divine, but his original name gave no hint of his pretensions. It was not until the peak of his career that he claimed the title declaring his deity. He called himself Theos Epiphanes. Theos means "god" and Epiphanes means "become visible" or "manifest." Likewise, the Antichrist may not give himself the name that God calls blasphemous until events have moved well beyond the Rapture.
© 2007, 2012 Stanley Edgar Rickard (Ed Rickard, the author). All rights reserved.