One of the key themes in end-time Bible prophecy concerns the appearance on the world stage of a nefarious world leader most often referred to as the Antichrist. This “man of sin” (2 Thess. 2:3) will arise at some point after the Rapture of the church, and will have authority over all nations during the Tribulation period preceding Christ’s glorious Second Advent.
He will also display himself as being God (2 Thess. 2:4), and will be worshipped by all those who do not belong to the one true God (Rev. 13:8). In Revelation 13:2, we are told something very intriguing concerning this mysterious character. We are told that “the dragon gave him his power and his throne and great authority.” Of course, the dragon is none other than Satan (Rev. 13:9). What is clear from this is that the Antichrist’s authority, power, and throne are derived from the great enemy of God – the devil. Indeed, Paul tells us that the coming of the man of sin is “in accord with the activity of Satan…” (2 Thess. 2:9). Yes, the Antichrist is Satan’s man – Satan’s diabolical counterfeit to the true King, Jesus Christ. Yet, in all of this, what exactly is Satan after? What is the underlying motivation behind this satanic plan to subjugate humanity under the authority of a satanic prince?
Before answering these questions, it is critical that we understand the very meaning of the term Antichrist, for in the very meaning of this term we can perceive the great satanic ambition that is at work here. Perhaps surprising to some, the term “antichrist” is actually only found in two books of the Bible – 1st and 2nd John. It is certainly fitting that it would be John that would use this word, as this particular Apostle seems to be quite keen on highlighting contrasts. For example, he refers to “the Spirit of truth” and the “spirit of error” (1 John 4:6), those who are “from the world” and those who are “from God” (1 John 4:5, 6), “light” and “darkness” (1 John 1:5 – 7), the “Spirit of God” and the “spirit of the antichrist” (1 John 4:2 – 3), and of course, Christ and antichrist (1 John 2:22).
So what is the meaning of the term antichrist and how does this meaning help to elucidate Satan’s underlying motivation in bringing his man of sin onto the world stage? According to Strong’s Concordance of the Bible, the term “antichrist”, can mean either against Christ or instead of Christ. The late J. Dwight Pentecost, a noted scholar and author, indicates that in the five usages of the word antichrist/antichrists by the Apostle John (1 John 2:18; 1 John 2:22; 1 John 4:3; 2 John 7), the idea clearly seems to be that of opposition rather than exchange – that is, against Christ rather than instead of Christ (J. Dwight Pentecost, Things to Come, Zondervan Publishing House, 1964, p. 338). We can see an example of this in 1 John 2:22 and 2 John 7:
22 Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son.
7 For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist.
Clearly, both of these passages speak of opposition to Christ rather than standing in the stead of Christ. They speak of the denial of Christ and the incarnation. This is opposition! The specific context of John’s writings pertains to a threat that was facing the church of his day in the form of an ancient heresy that denied the incarnation of Christ. Such a denial was anti-Christ. It was against Christ. John warned that many antichrists had already come (1 John 2:18). Yet in the very same verse, he also warns that an antichrist (singular) is coming. It is this coming antichrist that many students of prophecy have equated with the Beast of Revelation 13:1 – 10, and the “man of sin” of 2 Thess 2:3 – 12 and that most commonly goes by the identification of Antichrist.
Yet, the idea of instead of Christ is not to be forgotten. First of all, there is a second beast in Revelation 13 known as the false prophet. Indeed, Pentecost notes that while the first beast will be in direct opposition to Christ, the second beast will assume a place of leadership in religious affairs, a place that rightly belongs to Christ (Pentecost, 339). He notes that the antichrist philosophy of Satan, referred to by John, will find its culmination in the two beasts (Pentecost, 338 – 339). Furthermore, Paul tells us that the man of sin will oppose and exalt himself above God (that’s opposition) yet also display himself as being God (that’s instead of).
What is to be said of all of this? Quite simply this: The satanic strategy in staging the Antichrist is to oppose God’s order of things and to replace that order with his own counterfeit one. He wants to oppose and resist God, and he ultimately wants the place of God. This ambition of Satan’s will find expression in the kingdom of the Antichrist, as the two beasts of revelation govern the affairs of this world in opposition to God, and seek to replace God’s order of things with their own satanic agenda. And we must not forget that Satan himself will be worshipped during this time (Rev. 13:4), receiving the adulation his prideful and wicked heart has always wanted. The kingdom of the Antichrist will represent the earthly manifestation of the great satanic ambition to dethrone God from the affairs of man, and to be worshipped – along with his Antichrist – in the place of God and His Son Jesus Christ. Satan’s ambition is to oppose the rule of God, and to assert his own rival order of things in place of God’s established order.
The motivation for a new order of things apart from God’s rule was born in the distant past within the heart of Satan, who initiated the first known rebellion against divine authority! This adversary of God is widely believed to be one and the same with the “Lucifer” mentioned in Isaiah 14 of the King James Version of the Bible. Concerning Lucifer, Isaiah 14 states:
12 How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! 13 For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: 14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. 15 Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.
Note the phrases used in this passage: “I will exalt my throne above the stars of God,” “I will ascend into heaven,” and “I will be like the most High.” While Isaiah 14 in its entirety seems to, in the immediate context, deal with an earthly king, it is obvious that the rebellious ambitions laid out in this passage could ultimately derive only from Satan. Many also feel that Ezekiel 28:11 – 19 refers to Satan when it refers to the “anointed cherub who covers” (v. 14) whose heart was lifted up because of his beauty (v. 17). Ezekiel describes this anointed cherub as “blameless” since the day that he was created, until “unrighteousness” was found in him (v. 14 – 15). The rebellion and sin described in Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28 clearly reflect Satan’s pride and ambition. Satan’s ambition is to dethrone God and establish his own system of worship in the place of God’s.
Jesus testified of Satan’s fall in Luke’s gospel when He stated, “I was watching Satan fall from heaven like lightning” (Luke 10:18). This implies a definite moment where Satan, through revolt against God’s established order, fell from heaven. He was not alone in his rebellion, as several heavenly angels followed his lead. Thus, a rival kingdom and assembly was established consisting of Satan and the angels that fell with him. It is this fall of Satan that gave rise to a great conflict in which the kingdom of Satan has been struggling against the kingdom of God for control of heaven and earth.
Satan is inferior to God, and in fact has been defeated by Christ and His redemptive work. Nevertheless, this great conflict between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan can clearly be seen in numerous events throughout history (and events prophesied to come), including events recorded between Genesis 3:15 and Revelation 20:10. These would include the temptation and failure of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden (Genesis 3); the conflict between Cain and Abel (Genesis 4:1–16); Noah’s Flood, which followed the unholy alliance between the “sons of God” and the “daughters of men” (Genesis 6–9); the episode at the Tower of Babel; King Herod’s attempt to kill the newborn Messiah (Matthew 2:16–23); Satan’s temptation of Jesus Christ (Matthew 4:1–11); and several others. The Kingdom of the Antichrist to come represents yet another attempt by the Prince of Darkness to dethrone God and replace the divine order of things with his own satanic, self-seeking, self-exalting order of things.
A careful study of 2 Thessalonians 2 reveals that the actions of the Antichrist closely resemble the stated ambitions of Lucifer in Isaiah 14, including his goal to “be like the Most High”:
3 Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, 4 who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God.
Notice the striking parallels between Lucifer’s ambition in Isaiah 14 and what the Antichrist does in 2 Thessalonians:
Lucifer: I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God (Isaiah 14).
The Antichrist: Who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship (2 Thess.).
Lucifer: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation (Isaiah 14).
The Antichrist: he takes his seat in the temple of God (2 Thess.).
Lucifer: I will be like the Most High (Isaiah 14).
The Antichrist: displaying himself as being God (2 Thess.).
Clearly, the stated ambition of Lucifer in Isaiah 14 finds expression in the person of the Antichrist in 2 Thessalonians. The great satanic desire to oppose God and replace God can be detected in the actions of the person of the Antichrist. However, God is not mocked! Scripture is clear that both the Antichrist and Satan will meet their doom. The Antichrist’s brief day of apparent triumph will be brought to a swift end at the glorious Second Advent of the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Thess. 2:8).
It would be fitting to conclude by considering the attitude of Christ Jesus, which is in wonderful contrast to the prideful, self-exalting attitude of Antichrist. Rather than exalt Himself, Christ humbled Himself to the point of death on a cross (Phil. 2:5 – 11), a death that secured eternal redemption and forgiveness from sin for all who will believe in Him. And “For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Amen.