THE ANTICHRIST OF DANIEL 9 ???

INTRODUCTION

    It is quite common in this modern era to find the majority of church congregants in wait for the antichrist as the man of evil or lawlessness who will usher in the tribulation period. Yet, for many Christians, the preteristic outlook on key passages relating to antichrist’s advent renders a much clearer and accurately Biblical interpretation which places an entirely different perspective on the future of this man of evil, his advent and the future of the world and the church in general. This essay will defend the latter of these interpretations, attempting to demonstrate that the “prince,” as perceived by many to be future antichrist in Daniel chapter 9, is in reality the Lord Jesus Christ who returned spiritually in judgment to destroy the very people who denied Him during His life and ministry.

This essay will proceed as follows. First, a modernistic understanding of Daniel chapter 9 will be established in order to ensure due process in the evaluation of this topic. Secondly, Matthew 24 will be addressed to see if a link can be established regarding antichrist and his destruction of Jerusalem. Next, the nature of antichrist will be evaluated from the books of 1 and 2 John, which will result in a clarification of the identity of this man of sin. Finally, Daniel chapter 9 will be critically evaluated in an effort to demonstrate that there is no exegetical warrant for the conclusions of some theologians conclusion that antichrist is found in the text.

MODERN SURVEY

     As previously mentioned, theologian and laymen alike in this modern era perceive that a future antichrist will arise to usher in a period of tribulation like never seen before on the face of the earth. The basis for such an understanding is found in the book of Daniel. For example, Jack W. Hayford proclaims, “National Israel will enter into a covenant with the future little horn, the Roman prince (7:8; 11:36) or Antichrist for seven years (Daniel’s final or Seventieth Week). In the middle of the week, the Antichrist will break the covenant and demand that the blood sacrifices, restored by Israel in the last days, must cease. He will then set up his image in the Jewish temple and require worship.”[1]

This view of a pending antichrist in the modern era is not limited to Hayford, but instead, is very common in the typical study Bible, as noted by W.A. Criswell when he proclaims that the “‘prince who is to come’ is the beast from the sea (8:23–27, note), and the “little horn” of 7:8 is the Antichrist. After making a covenant with Israel for one week, or seven years, he will break it in the midst of the week, cause sacrifice to cease, and destroy the city of Jerusalem and the temple between the sixty-ninth and the seventieth weeks.”[2] Or, one could look to the comments of E.D. Radmacher when he proclaims of Daniel 9.26 that “The prince who is to come may be a reference to the Antichrist.”[3]

Finally, Warren W. Wiersbe proclaims the following regarding Daniel 9.26 and its connection to future antichrist with these words, “The “prince who is to come” (v. 26) is the Antichrist, who will make a covenant with the Jews to protect them for seven years. After three and one-half years, he will break the covenant and usher in a terrible time of trouble for the world. That final seven-year period climaxes with the return of Christ, the defeat of His enemies, and the establishment of His kingdom on earth (Matt. 24:29–31; Rev. 19).”[4] Interestingly, Warren cites as a proof-text for this view Matt 24.29-31, which when taken in a literalistic sense, does seem to relay a future and pending destruction of a future people. Yet, is it exegetically appropriate to view Matt 24 as pertaining to a generation other than the one which Christ was addressing during His ministry? This issue will be addressed in the following section. However, one thing that can be concluded from a brief survey of the modernistic approach to Dan 9 is that many believe that such destruction is still future to this current generation.

MATTHEW 24, FUTURE ANTICHRIST AND TRIBULATION

     As previously noted, some commentators believe that the text of Matt 24 is intimately connected to the text of Daniel chapter 9, verses 24-27. Yet, is this a valid claim? A survey of the Matt 24 text informs the reader that it is not. First, in addressing the text of Matt 24, the 23rd chapter cannot be discounted and proves valuable to set the tone and context for the Matt 24 discussion. Throughout the Lord Jesus’ discourse in chapter 23, the Messiah rebukes the leaders of Israel for their hardheartedness and sin. This rebuke takes the fashion of “seven woes” (Matt 23.13, 15, 16, 23, 25, 27 and 29) and is immediately followed by the Lord’s pronouncement of corporate judgment on the nation as a whole. Importantly, the Lord Jesus gives His listeners a “time-text” by which they can understand the then future tribulation, where He in verse 36 proclaims that “all these things will come upon this generation” (Matt 23.36, ESV).

Immediately after this proclamation, the Lord Jesus removes Himself from the temple (Herod’s Temple), and continues His discourse with His disciples. As Jesus sits atop the Mount of Olives, He addresses three questions which the disciples inquire about, namely, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age?” (Matt 24.3, ESV). Jesus’ response is clarifying for the present discussion, “See to it that no one leads you astray” (Matt 24.5, ESV).

Three points must be noted at the outset of an evaluation of this text. First, Jesus is informing His disciples of the destruction of the then standing temple in Jerusalem, as noted in verse 2 via the Lord’s comments, which prompted the disciples inquiry. Second, it must be noted that the context of such discussion is not regarding the “end of the world,” but rather, the “end of the age” as noted in verse 3. This is vital when one considers the Lord’s previous discussion with the Jews in Matt 23, and when one considers the OT shadow fulfillment of Jesus’ role as the perfect sacrificial Lamb of God in the course of His ministry. In reality, when these facts are coupled together, it becomes clear that the “age” in question is the age of Judaism, which was rendered obsolete by the finished work of Christ; with the consummation of such work taking place in A.D. 70 with the destruction of the temple, the very heart of Judaism.

Finally, it must be noted that the Lord Jesus, while answering the inquiry of His followers in Matt 24, continues throughout the discourse to utilize the second person plural “you.” Meaning, there is no audience shift between verses 1-34 of the chapter, thus implying that the events which follow are to be understood in light of  Matt 23.36 and “this generation” (c.f. 24.34). Hence, when the Lord states that “you will hear of wars and rumor of wars,” or, “they will deliver you up to tribulation,” these words must be understood as pertaining to the generation to which He is speaking to, namely, His first century audience which was engulfed in Second Temple Judaism.

THE ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION

     In Dan 9, verses 26-27, the text speaks of the “desolations” which are decreed, desolations which cause an abomination of the holy place. This “abomination of desolation” is likewise noted in the text of Matt 24.15 as an indication of the passing fulfilment of the Daniel prophecy.  As previously noted, it is unwarranted for one to view the audience of tribulation in Matt 24 as any other than the immediate audience to which the Lord spoke, which would mean that the “abomination of desolation” would have to be a first century event which was localized in the area of Jerusalem. And this seems to be the case from the context. First, it’s helpful to note that this abomination and tribulation is a localized event. Verse 16 informs the reader that they can escape judgment by fleeing Judea. Likewise, one was not to return to acquire the possessions of his home (v 17), nor turn back to Judea to retrieve his cloak (v 18). Verse 20 indicates that Sabbath regulations are still in effect as well, with all of the previous points supporting a local and not global event.

Luke’s parallel account of this discourse relays the same points to the reader,[5] with one major difference, namely, that he describes that abomination which causes desolation. In Luke 21.20, the text reads as follows, “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near.” When the text of Luke is coupled with that of Matt 23 and 24, and when the second person plural is considered, it becomes increasingly likely that the “abomination” is that of the Roman armies of the first century,[6] who, led by Titus, surrounded Jerusalem, destroyed the city, killed and enslaved its occupants and destroyed and plundered the temple.[7] Hence, the coming of the Son of Man as noted in Matt 24.29-31, was actually a judgment coming and not a coming in physical fashion, which would make the “prince” who brings destruction and desolation in Dan 9.26-27, none other than the Lord Jesus Christ.

Sun, Moon, Stars and the Coming of Jesus

     One of the more problematic issues for some regarding the above interpretation of the “abomination of desolation” is the text which immediately follows, namely, Matt 24.29-30 which reads, “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (Matt 24.29-30, ESV). Many commentators note that this event is an event of history which leads to global destruction, however, that does not fit with the context of Jesus’ immediate audience. Instead, this language should be viewed in light of its apocalyptic nature; language used elsewhere in the OT as a description of judgment.

Matthew 24.29 is an allusion to Isa 13.10 and Joel 2.10, with the first reading speaking to the destruction of Babylon, and the second the destruction of Judea. Meaning, this was common, but not literal language used to describe pending destruction on a naturalistic scale; language which every first century Jew would have recognized as noted by Carr when he proclaims, “Such figurative language is frequent with the Hebrew prophets; it implies (1) the perplexity and confusion of a sudden revolution . . . and (2) the darkness of distress as Ezek. 32:7, 8.”[8] Meaning, the language utilized by Christ in Matt 24 fits the pattern of judgment language previously utilized and likewise fits in to the dynamics of context and audience relevance previously discussed.

Next, it should be noted that the “sign of the Son of Man” appears in Heaven, and not on earth. This is speaking not about the second coming of Christ, but rather, to His enthronement. First, previous to His crucifixion, the Lord informed the Jewish council that they would see His enthronement next to the “right hand of power” (Matt 26.64).[9] It is hear reminded that Jesus was speaking to the high priest at that time, indicating to him that he would witness the event. This enthronement language is explained by Kenneth Gentry where he writes, “Christ’s personal presence on earth is not needed for the expansion of His kingdom. All of this kingdom expansion will be directed and blessed by the ever-present Christ, Who is now enthroned as King at the right hand of God, ruling and reigning over the earth.”[10] Gentry’s words comport with the text of both Dan 2.31-45 and 7.13-14 regarding the timing and nature of Christ’s reign (c.f. Acts 2.29-36).

Jesus likewise told this same Jewish audience that they would see the Son of God “coming on the clouds of Heaven” (Matt 26.64, ESV). This language is similar to that of Matt 24.30, which is properly interpreted as a citation of Dan 7.13, which envisions Christ not descending to earth, but rather, ascending to Heaven to be enthroned beside the “Ancient of Days,” as Morris notes when he states that “Tinsley and others think this means a going to God (as in Dan. 7:13).”[11]

In addition to the above noted Daniel citation, the “coming on clouds” language of Matt 24.30 likewise declares judgment (as does the Dan 7 divine court setting), as noted in Isa 19.1 where the Lord “is riding on a swift cloud and comes to Egypt” for the destruction of that people. Interestingly, the Lord’s coming in Isa 19 was of a spiritual nature and not a physical nature, which is the same sort of coming in Matt 24 (a ‘coming’ in judgment – not the second physical coming). Finally, this section of Matt 24 “bookends” with that of Matt 23.36, where in verse 34 of the chapter, the Lord Jesus proclaims, “Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place” (Matt 24.34, ESV). Thus, clearly there is no hint of “future antichrist” in the pages of Matt 24, and in reality, when the overall context of Matt 23-24 is evaluated, the destruction of Jerusalem comes not by the hand of a man of evil, but rather, the Prince of Peace, where the Lord takes out His vengeance upon apostate Israel who just days later, crucified Him on the cross at Calvary.

THE NATURE AND IDENTITY OF ANTICHRIST

     Despite the modern understanding of a future, singular antichrist, the Scriptures relay a much different message. An evaluation of the Scriptural evidence regarding this topic is helpful in ascertaining the true nature of antichrist, who is not a single individual, but rather, many. To begin, this term is only utilized five times in the entirety of Scripture. 1 John 2.18 utilizes this term twice, once in the singular (ἀντίχριστος) and once in the plural (ἀντίχριστοι), with verse 22 also utilizing this term. Next, 1 Jn 4.3 uses this term once, with 2 Jn 1.7 closing out the Biblical uses of ἀντίχριστος. Regarding this term, Louw-Nida defines antichrist as follows, “one who is opposed to Christ . . . The term ἀντίχριστος appears to have become increasingly equivalent to a proper name as the personification of all that was opposed to and contrary to the role and ministry of Christ.[12]

This definition of “antichrist” is far from how the term is utilized today, with many expecting an almost supernatural incarnation of evil itself, and, Louw-Nida is not alone. John Anderson, in his Exegetical Summary of 1 John, states the following when the broad history of commentaries is considered, “It refers to a principle of being against Christ. ‘Antichrist’ is not a single individual, but is a single opposition that has a succession of occurrences until Christ comes. It is the personification of a principle shown in various antichrists. The many antichrists are varied oppositions, each started by some person who had a following.”[13]

In dealing with this issue, while it must be noted that Anderson’s commentary does offer alternative views of antichrist, it is also noted that these other views do not comport with John’s utilization of this term. Meaning, the apostle in his first epistle states that antichrist is not simply a single individual, but rather, many people (1 Jn 2.18), with the individual who denies that Jesus is the Christ being antichrist (v 22). Antichrist is likewise the one who does not confess that Jesus is from the Father according to chapter 4, verse 3, and is likewise one who does not confess that Jesus came in the flesh, that is, was incarnate (2 Jn 1.7).

These descriptions are very helpful in that they help to fill in the gaps of the nature and identity of antichrist. Antichrist is not a single person, but rather, a spirit or heart attitude that is present in the unbeliever. Moreover, considering the occasion of John’s first epistle, and the frequency of his use of the term ἀντίχριστος, it is reasonable to suggest that the spirit of antichrist in its specific form, and the singular usage of this term in verse 18 (you heard that antichrist was coming), is interconnected to the proto-Gnosticism that he was combating in the epistle itself.[14] Hence John’s introduction of the physicality of Christ the God-man in the opening of the epistle (vs 1-3). This gnostic denial of the humanity of Christ fits well with the concept of antichrist, with the leader of such movement possibly being referred to in the singular in Jn 2.18. Nevertheless, a Biblical evaluation of the text demonstrates that antichrist is not in reality a specific individual, but rather, a spirit, understanding or concept that multiple individuals possess, even into this modern era.

DANIEL 9.26 AND THE PEOPLE OF THE PRINCE TO COME

     One of the bedrocks of the futurist position comes by way of Dan 9.26 and its use of “the people of the prince to come,” with the futurist believing that this future prince is antichrist. The author of this essay has in the past dealt in length with the fulfilment of the entirety of the Daniel 70 weeks’ timeline,[15] hence, this fulfillment is presupposed in this section. In noting this, it is almost universally accepted outside of critical scholarship that verse 25 is speaking about the coming Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, as noted by D.A. Carson when he states;

Critical scholarship, setting the writing of Daniel in the context of the second century BC, sees the period in view as intended to stretch from the sixth century to the time of Antiochus Epiphanes (the four hundred and ninety years being understood either in round terms, or literally and, perhaps, mistakenly). But from the perspective of the NT, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that the Anointed One (25) is fulfilled in Jesus Christ whose coming brings atonement and the end of guilt.[16]

     While widely accepted that verse 25 is indeed speaking of the advent of the Messiah (“the anointed one, a prince” who puts an end to sin and transgression, atones for iniquity and brings everlasting righteousness, c.f. 24), there is wide dispute regarding the “prince” in verse 26 of the text which reads as follows, “And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing. And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary” (Dan 9.26, ESV).

As Edward Hindson notes, “The prince of verse 26 is the Antichrist, and his people are the Roman people.”[17] But, is a view such as this exegetically warranted? Meaning, the Lord Jesus is identified in verse 25 of Dan 9 via the terms “anointed one, a prince,” yet, in verse 26, where these two terms are once again utilized side-by-side, the futurist identifies the second use of “prince” as an unqualified, previously unmentioned future antichrist, with no exegetical basis to do so. Instead, the classical understanding of this verse fits the text much better, as Ferguson notes, “This event, mysterious to Daniel, becomes clear in the light of the Gospels. The Messiah would be crucified. During this same period of sevens, Jerusalem and the rebuilt temple will be destroyed. The entail will be “desolations” (v. 26).[18]

Moreover, verse 27, as previously noted, speaks to the “abomination of desolation,” which according to Matt 24, is contextually placed in the generation to which Jesus was speaking, thereby prohibiting the text of verse 26 to be speaking about a still future antichrist. Hence, the text of Daniel 9.24-27 fits much better into the paradigm of a completed fulfilment of the events, rather than what many believe to be a pending, future fulfilment of the events foretold.

CONCLUSION

     So many issues have not been touched on in this essay. The interpretation of the Daniel seventy weeks’ timeline has been presupposed and not defended. Likewise, this essay has dealt more with popular futurist belief, and therefore has not addressed the more remote belief that the Daniel timeline progresses to the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes. Likewise, 2 Thess 2 has not been dealt with in this essay. However, the basic structure of the preteristic argument for the complete fulfilment of Dan 9.24-27 has been defended, and with that defense comes clarity as to the nature and identity of antichrist. Despite popular interpretation, antichrist is not identified in Dan 9.26-27, nor are the events of Matt 24 related to him. Moreover, John’s use of “antichrist” in his epistles strays far from popular, with John addressing issues of Gnosticism that were prevalent and disruptive to his first century audience. Hence, the author of this essay feels justified in proclaiming that the Book of Daniel does not deal with antichrist in a futuristic perspective, yet it does deal with the “spirit” of antichrist as defined by John.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Anderson, John L. An Exegetical Summary of 1, 2 and 3 John. Dallas , TX: SIL International , 2008.

Buck, D.D. Our Lord’s Great Prophecy and its Parallels Throughout the Bible Harmonized and Expounded. New York, NY: Miller, Orton and Mulligan, , 1856.

Calvin, John. Commentary on Acts: Volume 1. Grand Rapids, MI: Christian Classics Ethereal Library, 1995.

Carr, A. The Gospel According to St Matthew, with Maps Notes and Introduction, The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1893.

Carson, D.A. Daniel New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1994.

Criswell, W. A. Believer’s Study Bible. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1991.

Crossway Bibles. ESV Study Bible. Kindle. Good News Publishers/Crossway Books, 2009.

Ferguson, Sinclair. The Preachers Commentary: Daniel. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers , 1988.

Gentry, Kenneth. He Shall Have Dominion: A Postmillennial Eschatology. Tyler, TX: Institute of Christian Economics, 1992.

Hayford, Jack W. Spirit Filled Life Study Bible. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1997.

Hindson, Edward E. and Woodrow Michael Kroll. KJV Bible Commentary . Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1994.

Louw, Johannes P. and Eugene Albert Nida. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains. New York, NY: United Bible Society, 1996.

Mauro, Philip. The Seventy Weeks and the Great Tribulation: A Study of the Last Two Visions of Daniel, and of the Olivet Discourse of the Lord Jesus Christ. 1921.

Morris, Leon. Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 3, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries . Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1988.

Radmacher, Earl D, Allen, Ronald Barclay and H. Wayne House. The Nelson Study Bible: New King James Version. Nashville, TN: Nelson Publishers, 1997.

Wiersbe, Warren W. With the Word Bible Commentary. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1991.

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         [1] Jack W. Hayford, Spirit Filled Life Study Bible, electronic ed. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1997), Da 9:26.

         [2] W. A. Criswell, Believer’s Study Bible, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1991), Da 9:26.

         [3] Earl D. Radmacher, Ronald Barclay Allen, and H. Wayne House, The Nelson Study Bible: New King James Version, (Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers, 1997), Da 9:26.

         [4] Warren W. Wiersbe, With the Word Bible Commentary, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1991), Da 9:26.

         [5] “Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are inside the city depart, and let not those who are out in the country enter it, 22 for these are days of vengeance, to fulfill all that is written. 23 Alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! For there will be great distress upon the earth and wrath against this people. 24 They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive among all nations, and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” (LK 21.21-24, ESV)

         [6] Buck promotes that view when he states, “The retreating Romans will soon return with a still mightier force, and overflow the land with desolation and death, as the prophet Daniel has foretold.” D.D. Buck, Our Lord’s Great Prophecy and its Parallels Throughout the Bible Harmonized and Expounded, (New York, NY: Miller, Orton and Mulligan, 1856), 129.

         [7] As Mauro notes, “Indeed, so far as we are aware, all expositors agree that it foretells the exterminating judgment of God, which in due time was executed by the Roman armies under Titus, by whom the city was overwhelmed as ―with a flood‖ (a figure often used for an invading army), and the city and the land were given over to the age long desolations which had been determined in the counsels of God.” Philip Mauro, The Seventy Weeks and the Great Tribulation: A Study of the Last Two Visions of Daniel, (1944), 26.

         [8] A. Carr, The Gospel According to St Matthew, with Maps Notes and Introduction, The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1893), 185–186.

         [9] Jesus’ being exalted to the right hand of the Father is symbolic of His current glorification and exaltation, as John Calvin notes when he proclaims, “He being therefore exalted by the right hand of God The right hand is taken in this place for the hand or power, in like sort as it is taken everywhere in the Scripture. For this is his drift, to declare that it was a wonderful work of God, in that he had exalted his Christ (whom men thought to be quite destroyed by death) unto so great glory … For these words, to “sit at the right hand of God,” import as much as to bear the chief rule, as we shall afterward more at large declare …The Lord said unto my Lord. This is the most lawful manner of ruling, when as the king (or by what other title so ever he be called) doth know that he is ordained of God, therefore David pronounceth that the commandment to reign was given unto Christ by name … he is made Lord of heaven and earth, which sitteth at the right hand of God.” John Calvin, Commentary on Acts: Volume 1, (Grand Rapids, MI: Christian Classics Ethereal Library. 1995), 72-74.

         [10] Gentry, Kenneth, He Shall Have Dominion: A Postmillennial Eschatology, (Tyler , TX: Institute of Christian Economics , 1992), 119.

         [11] Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 317.

         [12] Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains, (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 542.

         [13] John Anderson, An Exegetical Summary of 1, 2, and 3 John, (Dallas, TX: SIL International, 2008), 70.

         [14] “It is customary to understand 1 John as a response to the rise of an early form of Gnosticism. This was a religious mysticism that pirated Christian motifs to propagate an understanding of salvation based on esoteric “knowledge” (Gk. gnōsis). According to this view, redemption is through affirming the divine light already in the human soul, not through repentance of sin and faith in Christ’s death to bring about spiritual rebirth. Writings widely publicized in recent years, like the Gospel of Thomas and Gospel of Judas, for example, were products of Gnostic writers.” ESV Study Bible, (Kindle. Good News Publishers/Crossway Books, 2009).

         [15] For a full exposition of the authors views on this topic, which a from a partial-preteristic standpoint, see the following: http://reformed-apologetics.webs.com/danielsseventyweeks.htm

         [16] D. A Carson, New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1994), 758.

         [17] Edward E. Hindson and Woodrow Michael Kroll, KJV Bible Commentary, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1994), 1652.

         [18] Sinclair B. Ferguson and Lloyd J. Ogilvie, Daniel: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1988), 187.