Recently, I introduced a new series based on my book, End Times and the Secret of the Mahdi: Unlocking the Mystery of Revelation and the Antichrist. In this series, we examine current events in light of end-times prophecies, and we address how to live confidently in these turbulent times.
During this age of global terrorism, it seems we often don't know who our enemy is. Many politicians cannot even bring themselves to utter the words "radical Islam," let alone understand that many Muslims actually don't want "peace" nor "democracy."
We've forgotten one of the oldest adages of conflict: know your enemy.
When studying the end times, that adage also applies.
In the Book of Revelation, we meet the enemy, the Antichrist, at the dawn of the Great Tribulation. Through a detailed vision, the apostle John describes the backdrop to the Antichrist's rise:
- Revelation 6:1 to 8:5 records the opening of the seven seals, which ushers in a time of unprecedented death and destruction.
- Revelation 8:6 through Revelation 11 describes the seven trumpets of judgment, which announce scene after scene of further devastation.
- Revelation 12 then introduces the Dragon, who symbolizes Satan. The enormous red dragon has seven heads and ten horns, representing his immortality and powers.
The first four seals each summon forth a rider on horseback. The first rider comes on a white horse, symbolizing the false promise of peace. This is the Antichrist, arriving on the world scene. During times of terror, he will pose as a champion of peace, a master diplomat, a broker of treaties.
He will be Satan's most impressive and frightening creation. John calls him "the Beast," and describes him in symbolic terms: "I stood on the sand of the sea. And I saw a beast rising out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, with ten crowns on his horns, and blasphemous names on his heads" (Rev. 13:1).
Clearly, the Dragon fashions the Beast in his own image. The Beast will have his father's distinctive traits, except for immortality. He will only seem to be immortal and all-powerful, deceiving the world and causing millions to worship him.
Just as Jesus is the full expression of God the Father in human form, the Antichrist will be the full expression of Satan in human form.
During his reign, the Antichrist will make a formal covenant with Israel for seven years. He will permit Israel to restore the Temple that was destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D., as well as revive the old traditions of Judaism, including animal sacrifices.
But halfway through that 7-year period, the Antichrist will display his treachery and abrogate the covenant. At the altar where the Jewish priests make sacrifices, the Antichrist will set up "an abomination that causes desolation" and defile the Temple.
The Antichrist will demand that he, and he alone, be worshipped.
Satan Preparing the World
But Revelation isn't the only end-times prophecy among the major monotheistic religions. Christianity, Judaism and Islam devote significant attention to end-times prophecies, and those prophecies share many similarities. They focus largely on events near Jerusalem; they predict the coming of a Messiah; and they see a Final War.
Despite those similarities, there are major differences between biblical prophecies and the prophetic passages of the Quran. One of the most significant differences is the central figure of the Imam Mahdi (Mahdi means "the Guided One").
Muslims view the Imam Mahdi as a savior who will lead a revolution to establish a global empire, the final Caliphate. The Mahdi will rule the earth as the rightful successor to the Prophet Mohammed.
The Islamic global empire will not be based on peace or love; instead, it will be an earthly militant kingdom under the banner of Islam, which people either will accept or be killed.
Interestingly, the Mahdi bears a striking resemblance not to the biblical Christ, but to the biblical Antichrist.
When you study Islamic eschatology, you discover that the Mahdi has all of the power and authority of the Antichrist. Both the Mahdi and the Antichrist possess supreme political and religious authority. They will be worshiped as the head of a one-world religion. Like the Antichrist, the Mahdi will establish his capital in Jerusalem and rule the world from there.
The Bible says that the Antichrist will target Jews and Christians for destruction; Islamic eschatology says the Mahdi will wage war against Jews and Christians. Those who oppose the Antichrist will be executed; those who oppose the Mahdi will be executed. Like the 7-year covenant that the Antichrist will make with Israel, the Mahdi will make a 7-year agreement with the "Romans"—that is, the nations of Europe.
Why are there so many striking similarities?
There's little doubt to me that Satan is preparing Muslims to accept the Antichrist as their leader. When this counterfeit "savior" arises to impose his bloody reign, Muslims will be well-prepared to welcome him as their long-promised Mahdi.
But Satan hasn't been preparing Muslims alone; for centuries he's been preparing the world for the Antichrist. Today, he is persuading masses of people—including many Christians—that all religions ought to shed their differences.
The idea of universalism grows ever stronger—the idea that it doesn't matter what you believe, as long as you are sincere; there are many paths to God, and a loving God wouldn't turn anyone away.
Those sentiments sound reasonable according to worldly wisdom, but it doesn't come from God's Word. It comes from Satan. In our fascination with end-times prophecy, we forget that the spirit of the Antichrist is already among us.
The Antichrist with a capital "A" hasn't been revealed, but antichrists with a small "a" are all around us, spreading false teaching. As the apostle John wrote, "...as you have heard that the antichrist will come, even now there are many antichrists. By this we know that it is the last hour" (1 John 2:18).
Anyone who teaches that Jesus is one of many ways to God is an antichrist. Anyone who denies Jesus' claim to be the only way to the Father is an antichrist.
The false religion of the Antichrist is not some future religion that will arise during the End Times. It is with us today. It infects the church and pervades our culture.
The Victory Is in Christ Alone
Universalism will feed right into the Antichrist's schemes for a one-world, false religion. But in the end, he will turn on that false religious system and destroy it.
Ultimately, the Antichrist will view the false religious system, not as an ally, but as a competitor. He'll want the whole world to worship him alone. His alliance with the false religious system will last only as long as he benefits.
But he will be faced with opposition. In Revelation 11, we meet two witnesses who proclaim the Gospel. Though Scripture doesn't identify these witnesses, they have all the earmarks of Moses and Elijah. They will give testimony for three and a half years, but then the Beast will overpower and kill them. The corrupt government of the Antichrist will leave their corpses in the public square of the great city, where also our Lord was crucified.
Why will these witnesses warrant execution? Because they will preach God's message. And by simply speaking the truth, they torment the people of the earth.
Today, we see an ever-rising intolerance toward the truth. If you compromise the message of Jesus, the world will love you. But if you proclaim Jesus without compromise, the world will hate you.
After the bodies of the witnesses lie abandoned for three and a half days, God will breathe life into them again, and they will come to their feet. Everyone around the world will be struck with terror.
Then the people will finally give glory to God. But they are still unrepentant; it is out of their terror that they give glory to God in order to appease Him.
Up until the end times—through thousands of years of human history, sin, and rebellion—God has been patient. Despite the human race blaspheming and rejecting Him, and despite the ungodly persecuting and killing His people, God has withheld His judgment and wrath.
For now, God continues to entreat people to repent, and to receive His Son, Jesus. But when the day of wrath comes, there will be no second chances.
The apostle Peter wrote: "The Lord is not slow concerning His promise, as some count slowness. But He is patient with us, because He does not want any to perish, but all to come to repentance" (2 Pet. 3:9).
Today, the window of salvation is still open—but for how long? God's patience will come to an end. Let no one assume that He will tolerate rebellion forever.
Although the scenes of Revelation are disturbing, in the end, God and His people will prevail. Through the Antichrist's schemes, God will destroy the false religious system—just before He destroys the Antichrist himself.
So don't lose hope. None of the trials to come can separate us from God's love and His plan for us.
As Paul reminds us: "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? ... No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us" (Rom. 35, 37).
Therefore, we should spiritually prepare ourselves. Revelation's central message is not the end of this world, but the glorious unveiling of the New Heaven and the New Earth.
That does not leave us in despair. It lifts our spirits and ignites our passion to witness for Christ.
I'm more excited today about God's prophetic Word than at any other time in my life. These are great times for sharing the saving knowledge of our victorious Lord Jesus. I'm grateful to be living in these exciting days.
Michael Youssef, Ph.D., is the founder and president of Leading the Way with Dr. Michael Youssef, a worldwide ministry that leads the way for people living in spiritual darkness to discover the light of Christ through the creative use of media and on-the-ground ministry teams. Youssef was born in Egypt.
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