Responding to Ron Rhodes’ The 8 Great Debates of Bible Prophecy
Debate 6: Ron Rhodes asks, ‘How Are We to Understand the Antichrist?’
In this debate Ron Rhodes asks a series of 5 questions which I answer here.
Who Restrains the Antichrist?
In 2 Thessalonians 2:6-7 Paul writes, ‘And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way.’ This cryptic message was no doubt meant to guard against openly speaking about the current emperor who stood between Domitian becoming the emperor and fulfilling the prophecy of Daniel.
The ‘mystery of lawlessness… already at work’ was the environment created by the Caesars that would allow for the expected Antichrist to have full expression. Consider how Nero had already behaved brutally toward the Church and Vespasian who had miracles accredited to himself. Then his son, Titus, ruled brutally as the Caesars often did. He was the Emperor who, by way of being in power, was restraining the Antichrist from manifesting himself.
Titus’ untimely death gave way to Domitian, his brother. As I mentioned in my previous post, Domitian went so far as to be addressed as “dominus et deus noster”, which translates, “Our Lord and God”. The saints, of course, refused, which resulted in violent persecution.
Is the Antichrist a Muslim? Is the Antichrist a Jew or a Gentile?
The initial Antichrist manifestation was expected in the 1st century. As such, that Antichrist could not have been a Muslim, as Islam had not yet come into existence. Neither was he a Jew. Instead, he was the gentile Roman Emperor Domitian. This is verified by Daniel’s prophecy which aligns an leader, known as ‘the little horn’ and ‘the 11th horn’, with the period of Roman rule. It was also verified historically by the Church who lived through his persecutions.
Having said that, any belief system that is contrary to Christ is of the spirit of the Antichrist. Therefore, they have always had the potential to produce an Antichrist figure just as Rome and, later, the papal system did.
Will the Antichrist Be Killed and Resurrected?
(This question is answered along with the next question.)
What Is the Mark of the Beast?
‘Also it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name. This calls for wisdom: let anyone with understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a person. Its number is six hundred sixty-six’ (Rev 13:17-18).
When reading Revelation, you always have to remember that you are involved with interpreting symbolism. The mark of the Beast therefore should not be considered as something literal. Bizarrely, many forget the symbolic nature of the book and come up with all sorts of fanciful literal notions.
Symbolically speaking, being marked on the right hand or forehead symbolized what one did and how one thought. This imagery alludes to the tying of phylacteries (boxes of scripture) on the arm and head in the Old Testament. These were to be ‘a sign on your hand and … a symbol on your forehead’ (Deut. 6:8) to help remember God’s word. Paul teaches that the world is under the Prince of the power of the air. One way that Satan controls humanity is through the Beast, who enforces his thoughts and practices onto society.
For all the attention that the Mark of the Beast gets, it’s worth noting that just as there is a mark on those who follow the Beast, Revelation also says, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.” This is a picture of a seal that is put on the foreheads of God’s servants, which echoes the scripture that says that ‘we have the mind of Christ’.
Calculating the Mark of the Beast 666
6 = man
3 = God
666 = Man setting himself up as God
666 = ‘number of the beast…is the number of a person’ (variant 616)
666 = Neron Kaesar (Greek)
616 = Nero Kaesar (Latin)
Six hundred sixty-six depicted ‘the number of a person’. Using numerology, John indicated a person by way of the number 666. Remember that John wrote as a prisoner so this was no doubt cryptically depicted so as to avoid appearing anti-Roman. However, he said that those in the churches who had wisdom would be able to determine who it referred to. This, without doubt, was Emperor Nero. This is later confirmed by the variant 616 in the Latin translation, which calculates as the same person.
However, Nero had been dead a while, so the number would have symbolized a type of ‘resurrection’ or ‘reincarnation’ of Nero. John appears to have toyed with what had been a popular belief that Nero had not died. So, in Nero the Beast had died and in Domitian he was resurrected. Though both are manifestations of the Beast, and both are Antichrists, technically Domitian was the first to be termed ‘the Antichrist’.
The person it pointed to was clearly Domitian, who was extremely brutal toward the Church just as Nero had been. However, the Beast is understood to also manifest throughout the Church’s lifetime as one of her enemies. This has been particularly evident wherever tyrannical Antichrist governments have been established by certain world leaders and popes. And, this will continue until Christ’s return.
This is clearly in contrast to Ron Rhodes’ Dispensationalist view that understands the Antichrist to be someone who exists only after the Church has been raptured and who therefore has nothing to do with the Church.
Responses To Ron Rhodes’ ‘The 8 Great Debates of Bible Prophecy’:
- Bible Prophecy: Literal or Allegorical
- Toppling Dispensationalism
- Israel is Saved or Judged, not Replaced or Distinct
- The Signs of the Times – Do Current Signs Point to Prophetic Fulfillment? – PART 1
- The Signs of the Times – Do Current Signs Point to Prophetic Fulfillment? PART 2 – Israel
- The Signs of the Times – Do Current Signs Point to Prophetic Fulfillment? PART 3 – Middle East, European Union, Globalism?
- The Signs of the Times – Is America in Bible Prophecy?
- The Signs of the Times – Can We Know When the Ezekiel Invasion Will Occur? PART 1 – Israel regathered from Many Nations
- The Signs of the Times – Can We Know When the Ezekiel Invasion Will Occur? PART 2 – Russians and Muslims to Invade Israel on Horseback?
- When Will The Rapture Occur?
- Taking Issue with Futurism – Interpreting Revelation Part 1
- Daniel’s Seventieth Week and the Book of Revelation – Interpreting Revelation Part 2
- Babylon, the 144000 and The Two Witnesses – Interpreting Revelation – Part 3
- Who is the Antichrist? – Part 1
- Who is the Antichrist? – Part 2
- Who is the Antichrist? – Part 3
- Who is the Antichrist? – Part 4
- The Millennium
- Prophetic Events and Their Timing