Jewish Eschatology and the Anti-Christ
In 2 Thessalonians 2:3, we see a description of an individual that parallels one given by Daniel, and repeated again in Revelation. "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; ".
This person, the "man of sin", or "son of perdition", is the same one referred to by Daniel when he speaks in chapter 9, 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, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make [it] desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate."
Jesus makes reference to this passage in Mat. 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:)".
John, in Revelation 13:1, says; "And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy."
In each of these instances, we see a description of the person commonly known in Christian circles as "the anti-christ", or false christ. This is an individual that, according to scripture and prophecy, will rise to power at the end of the last days, and begin exerting influence and power over the entire world. He and his kingdom (power, principality) are the target of the wrath of God poured out in the 21 judgments depicted in Revelation, and the time of the "tribulation" and "great tribulation".
Considering the number of references that are made in scripture to this "beast", and the obvious connections made between he and the devil, it seems pretty obvious that any student of prophecy and scripture would be able to recognize him when he begins to show his ugly face, and also know that what comes next is bad news, so he is someone (thing) to be avoided at all costs.
Scripture also shows us, though, that this individual is going to be not only allowed to rise to his position of power, but that in many respects he will be assisted in that rise, and will be given great faith and credence by many people, not the least of whom is Israel.
How can that be, you might say. The people of Israel have been led by God for millennia, and they are His people, and He is their God. He has talked to them, and warned them. Won't they, of all people, be able to recognize this bad boy when he comes around?
Recently, I got to pondering on the question of just how it is that, with all the warnings given in prophecy, the Hebrews could arrive at a point of accepting him, and even assisting him in his devilish endeavors. As I searched for an answer, something I had read some time ago came back to mind, so I revisited the subject, and it suddenly dawned on me how it all fit together.
I had read a brief letter of response by a Jewish rabbi to a question posed by a Christian concerning why the Jews did not "accept" Jesus Christ as Messiah. In that response was the core of understanding, unique to Jewish theology, that began to explain and tie together (in my mind) the prophecies of Daniel, Jesus, Paul and John.
For many millennia, the Jewish people have understood that God was their deliverer, and have formed a particular view of how and by whom God will deliver His people. Essentially, this is their understanding of "messiah". In Jewish thought and practice, messiah can come in various persons, and various times, to effect various "deliverances". To them, there is not just one messsiah, and in no way would that messiah ever be God Himself. To quote from Rabbi Chaim Richman, "...we believe that the messiah, sent by G-d Al-mighty, is not G-d, but a human being - ... the greatest leader and wisest teacher who ever lived. He will put his extraordinary talents to use to precipitate a worldwide revolution which will bring perfect justice and harmony to humanity." To Rabbi Richman and many Orthodox Jews, the messiah they expect will do things that are not only visible, but testable, in accordance with certain rigorous "proofs" established by scripture. Among those proofs are the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem, restoration of the Jewish Sanhedrin, and re-establishment of the sacrificial system. Paramount to accomplishing these tasks will be the establishment of Israel as a place of peace and safety, with all nations according to Israel a pre-eminence in religious matters.
Right here we begin to see how the beast, the anti-christ, will be able to work his spite and devious ways among the people of Israel. They are expecting a person who will be capable of doing these things. In Dan 9:27 we see: "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,...".
Several things immediately jump out. First, this messiah figure will make a covenant with the people (Israel). In this covenant, one of the things promised and secured by the A/C will be safety and peace, whereby he will insure that the nations surrounding Israel and that had been attacking it will no longer be doing so. This covenant, or peace treaty, will be for 7 years (one week). In the middle of the week, or after 3.5 years, he will cause the "sacrifice and oblation" to stop. This certainly indicates that the Temple has been rebuilt, since no sacrifice outside of the Temple can be made, and has allowed the re-institution of the sacrificial system. It would be reasonable to assume that if the Temple has been rebuilt, and the sacrifices begun, then the Levitical priesthood has also been reestablished, and would also presuppose a theocratic governmental system as opposed to democratic... hence the "new" Sanhedrin. In 1967, after Israel defeated the Arabic nations so soundly, recaptured Jerusalem and the West Bank/Golan Heights areas, Gen. Moshe Dayan ceded to the Arabs under the control of Syria the portion of Jerusalem where the Temple had once stood. Known as the Temple Mount, this area is also of prime religious significance to the Islamics. They believe that it was here that Abraham offered up his son Ishmael (not Isaac) as a sacrifice to God, and also here that Mohammed received the Quran from God. Considered to be the second most holy site in Islam, the Arabs have sworn to keep and protect the area at all costs. Currently located in the middle of the Temple Mount is the Mosque of the Golden Dome, said to cover the exact spot of Abraham's sacrifice and Mohammed's revelations.
To the Jews, the presence of this mosque is an abomination, and it represents the major stumbling block to their rebuilding of a temple.
The Jews also recognize from prophecy that one of the signs of Moshiach (Messiah) is that he will cause the Temple to be rebuilt, and daily sacrifices and oblations to begin anew.
One of the predicted events of the end time that will herald the arrival of Messiah is that "Jerusalem will be compassed about" by enemies, under attack and in imminent danger of total destruction. This Messiah they expect will then intervene on behalf of Israel, and cause (either by military defeat or political negotiation) the enemies to suddenly withdraw, leaving Jerusalem and Israel in a condition of relative peace and safety.
Let's look again at Daniel 9:27: "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,...". The "he"
referred to here is a direct reference to the preceeding verse, where we see: and the people of the
prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary;. Notice the "prince that shall
come", whose people (race, nation) will destroy the city (Jerusalem) and the Temple. This person,
the he, shall be a leader (prince) of a nation(s) that are representative of great power and
influence, as were the Romans when the Temple was destroyed in 70 AD. We find more information
about him in Daniel 11, where Daniel is describing the succession of kingdoms that will control the
earth and all that is in it. At the end of the succession, Daniel describes the final leader, or
king, by saying:
Dan 11:21 And in his estate shall stand up a vile person, to whom they shall not give the honour of the kingdom: but he shall come in peaceably, and obtain the kingdom by flatteries.
Dan 11:22 And with the arms of a flood shall they be overflown from before him, and shall be broken; yea, also the prince of the covenant.
Dan 11:23 And after the league [made] with him he shall work deceitfully: for he shall come up, and shall become strong with a small people.
Dan 11:24 He shall enter peaceably even upon the fattest places of the province; and he shall do [that] which his fathers have not done, nor his fathers' fathers; he shall scatter among them the prey, and spoil, and riches: [yea], and he shall forecast his devices against the strong holds, even for a time.
From this description we begin to see that this individual will not be one that, superficially at least, could be expected to be a great leader. The indication is that he will not be "honored" by or with a kingdom, having apparently been passed over for consideration. Through various means of wile, chicanery, flattery and machinations, though, this person will rise to a position of leadership over a nation (or group of nations). Using his newfound power and the political/economic/military strength of his new kingdom, he will then overthrow or defeat those who stand in the way of his goals. He will then make a covenant (Dan. 9:27), or treaty (league, Dan. 11:23) with the Israelites, and "become strong" or honored with them. Because of this honor, he will be allowed peaceful entry into all the best (fattest) places of the province (Israel). Going back, again, to Dan. 9:27 we see the obvious inference that he has caused the Temple to be rebuilt, and sacrifices to be reinstituted.
No wonder, then, that the Israelites will look upon him as Moshiach, for he has delivered on what they expect Messiah to do!
Using the one week understanding of Daniel to be 7 years, it then becomes apparent that "in the midst of the week", or after 3.5 years, this false messiah will turn on the Jews, taking over the Temple, and causing an end to the sacrifice and oblations. He then (apparently) declares himself as God, commits a desecration (abomination) in the Temple, and continues this until the "consummation", or end of the period (another 3.5 years) at which time "that which has been determined" is poured out on the "desolation". This is a reference to the outpouring of Gods wrath and judgments as shown in Revelation with the 21 judgments.
This particular passage also dovetails neatly with Jesus' description found in Matthew 24. In verse 4, Jesus warns the people to "not be deceived". In verse 15, He says "When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place,", referring to the false messiahs entry into the Temple at the 3.5 year mark. In vss. 16-20, Jesus tells the people to flee, and in vs. 21 tells of the "great tribulation", referring to the final judgments of God that will be poured out on the earth, the beast and his kingdom, and all who live. In 1Th 5:3, we also see: "For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape." Notice particularly the reference to "peace and safety", which will be the hallmark of what the anti-christ is offering to the Jews via a treaty
In Revelation 13:11, we also see a description of a "beast", which is a second beast, like unto the first, but apparently with a different function. This beast has the power to make all the people of the earth "worship the image" of the first beast (the anti-christ), and to do other things on behalf of this first beast. In Rev. 19, we see this same "beast" referred to as a "false prophet". It does appear that this "second beast" or false prophet, will be someone associated in the religious (primarily) realm, and by whose words and leadership the first beast (anti-christ) is given a place of honor. While it is hard to imagine, it is more than possible that this second beast/false prophet will be a leader of the Jewish religion, probably a highly-respected Rabbi, or one who has been elevated (after the Temple has been built) to the position of High Priest within the Temple. With the centuries of tradition and belief (as explained by Rabbi Chaim Richman, above) concerning how to recognize Moshiach, it is not a far step to believe that this Jewish religious leader will fall hook, line and sinker for the false messiah.
I will leave you with this, which I find to be most fitting:
1Th 5:4 But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.
1Th 5:5 Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.
1Th 5:6 Therefore let us not sleep, as [do] others; but let us watch and be sober.
Two Messiahs or One?
As I have continued to ponder this seeming dilemma, I have come across some writings from the Jewish tradition that bear on the question, and also go far to explain "how this can happen."
There is some Talmudic literature that presents the case that there will be, during the final days, TWO messiahs, each having a specific task to complete. One is called Moshiach ben David, the other Moshiach ben Yosef.
Moshiach ben Yosef, according to Rabbi Hai Gaon (Succah 52a) will become a leader of the Jewish people, and will reach out to non-Jews and begin the preparations for final redemption. According to Kol HaTor, ch. 2, this Moshiach ben Yosef will die before he completes the process.
In Gemara-Succah 52:A, a period of darkness will envelope the earth, and all of the nations surrounding Israel will descend upon it, particularly Jerusalem. When the situation seems hopeless, Moshiach ben David will appear, and will resurrect Moshiach ben Yosef, and the process of redemption will then be completed by both.
Rav Chaim Vital says that the two are actually one, appearing in two different scenarios. Balak 203b in the Zohar concurs in this opinion.
How does all this play in the antichrist question? In Revelation 13, John describes his vision of a beast arising from the sea, and then makes note that one of the heads "...as it were wounded unto death, and his deadly wound was healed..." This passage has given rise to the notion that the antichrist, at some point in time of his rise to power or while in power, will be killed....most speculate that it involves an assassination by a head shot. While apparently dead, the a/c will be brought back to life, or resurrected, which will cause the entire world to take note, and "...wonder after the beast..." resulting in multitudes worshiping him. This apparently happens at the mid-point of the tribulation period, and is a result of satan actually entering into the person who is the antichrist and taking full and complete possession of him.
According to numerous Jewish traditions, they expect a messiah who will die, then be resurrected.
Since they missed the first (real) one, I expect they will be really looking for and eager to
accept this one, even though false.
Of even greater interest (to me) is that in Islamic eschatology, there is a "messiah" called Mahdi who dies...and then is brought back to life by the arrival of a helper, who they call "Issa"...which just happens to be the Islamic name for Jesus! Read this study about the parallels between Jewish, Christian and Islamic eschatology.
Of interesting note here is that I posted this study to a prophecy forum. Within a few days, I was attacked (on the forum) most vehemently by a number of Jewish "antimissionaries" who characterized all of the quotes and references as "lies". I (along with others) asked them to then post their versions of the relevant references for comparison. They never did.