Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Barack Obama and the Antichrist

Since the spring an email has been circulating which raises the ominous question of whether Barack Obama is a sinister figure whose coming was prophesied in the Bible. One version of the email says this:

“According to The Book of Revelations the anti-Christ is: The anti-Christ will be a man, in his 40s, of MUSLIM descent, who will deceive the nations with persuasive language, and have a MASSIVE Christ-like appeal…. the prophecy says that people will flock to him and he will promise false hope and world peace, and when he is in power, will destroy everything. Is it OBAMA??”

This is hardly the first effort to associate a current historical figure with the Antichrist. Many people who lived during the dark days of the second world war identified Mussolini or Hitler as the Antichrist. In more recent times, leaders ranging from Mikhail
Gorbachev and Saddam Hussein have been fingered as the Antichrist. One common denominator in all of these theories is a complete ignorance of the biblical usage of the term “antichrist” as well as the original context of the Book of Revelation. Here are some vital facts to bear in mind regarding these subjects:

Fact #1: The Bible identifies as “antichrist” anyone who denies the truth about Jesus Christ. There are only four passages in the Bible which use the term “antichrist,” and all of them are found in the epistles of John. And in these passages he expliclty defines as “antichrist” those who deny that Jesus is the Son of God who came in flesh.

  • “Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour” (1 John 2:18).
  • “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” (1 John 2:22).
  • “Every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world” (1 John 4:3).
  • “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” (2 John 7).

Fact #2: The Bible says that there have been many such “antichrists” since the time of the first century.
In 1 John 2:18 John says: “Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared.” There were indeed many heretics in early church history who denied the fundamental doctrines of Jesus’ incarnation, crucifixion, and bodily resurrection. The “Antichrist” is not a single phenomenon of the twenty-first century. There were many antichrists from the days of the apostles.

Fact #3: The Book of Revelation was written about events that were to be fulfilled in the immediate future.
While it is quite common for “prophecy experts” to scan the front pages of today’s newspaper for connections with the last few pages of the Bible, the reality is that the Book of Revelation was written about specific events in the immediate historical context of the first century. In the first and last chapters of Revelation, the apostle John clarified this basic context. “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants the things that must soon take place” (Rev. 1:1). “The time is near” (Rev. 1:3). “And the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent his angel to show his servants what must soon take place” (Rev. 22:6). “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near” (Rev. 22:10). The further we get into the twenty-first century, the farther we move from the events written about in Revelation.

Fact #4: The Book of Revelation does not say anything about the “Antichrist.”
While it is commonly assumed that the book of Revelation contains warnings concerning the “Antichrist,” that term is never used in the book. It is sometimes argued that the Antichrist is depicted in a vision recorded in Revelation 13, which describes a “beast rising out of the sea.” This beast has seven heads, ten horns, and ten diadems, representing cunning and power (13:1-2). One of its heads seemed to bear a mortal wound, but the beast miraculously recovers (13:3). This beast is worshipped by the world, and makes war against God’s people for 42 months (13:5-8). And finally, it is described in numerical terms: “Let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666” (13:18).

Presumably, the email circulating regarding Obama is based on this text, although frankly, there is simply nothing in the text that remotely suggests anything about a Muslim leader in his 40s! More importantly, there would be zero relevance to a first century context if Revelation 13 were describing Barack Obama. There is, however, an obvious identification with this beast and the first century: imperial Rome, personified by the infamous emperor Nero.

In AD 64 the city of Rome was engulfed in a massive fire, for which Nero received much of the blame. In an effort to divert guilt away from himself, Nero instigated a persecution against Christians, which lasted 42 months. Further, Nero demanded worship as a god, casting himself as the god Apollo. The Roman Senate eventually had enough of Nero’s madness and issue an arrest warrant. Not wanting to fall into Senate hands, Nero committed suicide by stabbing himself in the throat (while lamenting what a great artist the world was losing!). Upon his death, the empire went into convulsions, as three different contenders for the throne came and went. A general named Vespasian marched on Rome and began a new dynasty as the first emperor unrelated to the Caesars.

These details match perfectly the teaching of Revelation 13 about a power which seeks worship, persecutes God’s people, and recovers from a near-fatal blow. And the clincher is the number 666. Ancient alphabets often used letters to symbolize numerals (like Roman numerals, for instance). When Nero’s name is transliterated from Hebrew to Greek, it is spelled like this: NRWN QSR. These letters add up to, you guessed it, 666.
N = 50, R = 200, W = 6, N = 50
Q = 100, S = 60, R = 200

Some Greek manuscripts record the number as 616 rather than 666. This is because Nero’s name transliterated from Latin to Greek adds up to 616.

The beast of Revelation, imperial Rome personified by Nero, has long since found its place on the ash-heap of history.I personally disagree with the political beliefs of Barack Obama, and I did not vote for him for president (I wrote myself in!). However, as a Bible teacher I am very concerned any time the Scriptures are twisted. Further, when these types of modern-day speculations prove untrue (as they always do), in the minds of many people it is the Bible that looks foolish since they do not know how to discriminate between what Scripture actually says and what people say that it says. That should be of great concern to all Christians.

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