The beast

The temple of God was a physical structure that was originally built by King Solomon around 1000 B.C in the city of Jerusalem (1 Kings 7:51). When the southern kingdom of Judah was taken into captivity, King Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the temple of God and left the city of Jerusalem lying in ruins for 70 years (2 Kings 25). After the Israelites captivity was over, a remnant of Jews returned to Jerusalem and rebuilt the temple. It was finished on March 12, 516 B.C. (Ezra 6:15). Eventually, the second temple was rebuilt by King Herod. Begun in 20 B.C., Herod’s new structure towered 15 stories high. The high sanctuary was built on the site of the former temples of Solomon and Zerubbabel (Herod’s Temple, KJSB, p. 1360). This final temple was operational during Jesus ministry on Earth, but was demolished by the Romans in 70 A.D. Since then, the Jews have not had a temple to worship in or been able to offer sacrifices to their God.

It says in Revelation 11:19, “And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament: and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail.” It can only be assumed that the temple of God that is opened in heaven is a a physical structure because it says the ark of his testament, a physical container where the tablets with the Ten Commandments were to be kept (Exodus 25:16), is seen inside the temple. Jesus talked about his body being the temple of God and warned the Jews, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19). The Apostle Paul also referred to a believer’s body as the temple of the living God (2 Corinthians 6:16). It is possible that after the church is raptured, a new type of physical structure will be used for worshipping God in heaven. The Apostle Peter described Christ as the corner stone and believers as living stones and said that we “are built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ “1 Peter 2:5).

After the temple of God is opened in heaven, it says in Revelation 12:1, “And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars: and she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.” The description of the woman about to give birth is a sign of the birth of Israel’s Messiah. John went on to say, “And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up to God, and to his throne” (Revelation 12:5). Although this appears to be a reference to Jesus’ ascension into heaven after he was resurrected from the dead, it may also be a reference to antichrist’s birth and his fake resurrection. John recorded, “And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy. And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority. And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast” (Revelation 13:1-3).

John identifies the dragon that gives Antichrist his power and authority as Satan (Revelation 12:9). After the woman brings forth a man child, John said he was caught up or in the Greek harpazo (har-pad’-zo) which means to seize or take by force (G726) unto God and to his throne (Revelation 12:5). Then, John said, “And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days. And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the devil, and Satan which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him” (Revelation 12:6-9).

The expulsion of Satan from heaven seems to be related to the world’s complete rebellion against God during the Great Tribulation. Although heaven rejoices over the defeat of Satan, John said, “Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time” (Revelation 12:12, NKJV). Satan’s primary objective during the Great Tribulation is to replicate Jesus’ ministry on Earth, except that he will use force (a rod of iron) to gain the cooperation of his kingdom’s citizens. The beast, also known as Antichrist, will be given 42 months (3 1/2 years) to accomplish the task of getting everyone on Earth to worship Satan instead of God. John said, “And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven. And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given to him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations. And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 12:6-8).

The critical distinction between the saints or 144,000 servants that have the seal of the living God in their foreheads (Revelation 7:2-3) and the rest of the world during the Great Tribulation is that the saints will be protected from Satan’s influence and will not worship the beast as required. John indicated that the beast will be allowed to make war with the saints and will overcome them, meaning he will be allowed to defeat and kill them in a battle that could be a type of holy war similar to the crusades of the middle ages. John notes that a second beast will arrive on the scene that “exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence, and causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed” (Revelation 13:12, NKJV). Perhaps, in an effort to root out all the saints that are hiding from him, the second beast “causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name” (Revelation 13:16-17, NKJV).

Antichrist

Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians was primarily a follow-up to the one he had previously sent them. The topic of Christ’s return remained the central focus of Paul’s communication. Apparently, the Thessalonians were convinced that Jesus was going to return at any moment. Paul told them, “Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, that ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of the Lord is at hand” (2 Thessalonians 2:1-2). Paul wanted the Thessalonians to understand that the rapture was only one of a series of events that would take place during the end times. He explained, “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God” (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4).

Antichrist’s appearance on the religious scene will be evident by his impersonation of God. This will only be possible because God will remove his Holy Spirit from Earth and allow Satan to be in full control of the world during the Great Tribulation (2 Thessalonians 2:7). Paul told the Thessalonians, “And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, and all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish: because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved” (2 Thessalonians 2:8-10). Paul indicated that Antichrist would be successful in establishing his kingdom on Earth because of a deliberate rejection of God’s word. Because unbelief will become the norm, Paul told the Thessalonians, “for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thessalonians 2:11-12).

Paul’s introduction of the man of sin, whom he also referred to as the son of perdition (2 Thessalonians 2:3), emphasized the uselessness of Satan’s attempt to overthrow God’s kingdom. Paul referred to Jesus’ second coming when he said that the Lord would consume Antichrist with the spirit of his mouth, and destroy him with the brightness of his coming (2 Thessalonians 2:8). The Apostle John described the scene of Antichrist’s defeat in Revelation 19:11-16. Afterward, John said, “The beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone. And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh” (Revelation 19:20-21).

Endurance

Jesus Christ’s return will coincide with Satan’s final attempt to ruin God’s plan of salvation. At that time, the Nation of Israel will become the focus of a man known as the Antichrist. What this man will try to do is to trick people into believing that he is the Savior of the World. The key to his plot is a treaty that will ensure the safety of God’s people for a specific period of time that is referred to by Bible scholars as the Great Tribulation. Antichrist’s vow to take care of the Israelites will result in a betrayal that involves the desecration of God’s temple (Matthew 24:15). When that occurs, Jesus warned his followers to run for their lives because they would face opposition to their faith that was beyond most people’s capability to endure (Matthew 24:16-22).

Jesus described the break up of God’s kingdom in the context of a home that was being broken into by a thief and suggested that some people would be taken captive by Satan because they were unaware that Antichrist was deceiving them (Matthew 24:24). Jesus said, “Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come” (Matthew 24:40-42). The Greek word translated taken, paralambano means to receive near that is associate with oneself (in any familiar or intimate act or relation)” (3880). This word suggests that being taken involves an acceptance of someone as a friend or companion, perhaps as an alternate to someone else. Jesus was probably referring to the acceptance of Antichrist as a personal savior or collectively as Israel’s Messiah. The apparent fifty-fifty division of the population could mean that half of the people will not be taken in by the Antichrist’s trickery because they have been chosen by God to withstand Satan’s attempt to overturn his plan of salvation (Revelation 7:3).

The point Jesus made in his lesson of the faithful and unfaithful servants was that endurance was necessary to withstand the evil influence of Antichrist (Matthew 24:48-50). Jesus indicated that the greatest fear of the Jew should be to be identified as a hypocrite and cast into hell with Satan and the rest of his cohorts (Matthew 24:51). The Apostle Paul outlined a method for resisting the devil and warned Christians about the evil spiritual forces that are presently attacking believers in Christ. He said, “Finally, my brethren,  be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (Ephesians 6:10-13).

Imposters

In what is now referred to as the Olivet discourse, Jesus revealed signs of the end of the age in which non-Jewish believers would be integrated into the kingdom of God. As he began to focus on the Great Tribulation, Jesus warned his disciples that imposters would try to deceive the Jews into thinking their Messiah had arrived. He said, “And then if any man shall say to you, Lo, here is Christ; or lo, he is there; believe him not: for false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall shew signs and wonders to seduce, if it were possible even the elect. But take ye heed: behold, I have foretold you all things” (Mark 13:221-23). The Greek word translated seduce, apoplanao, which means “to lead astray” (G635), seems to suggest an evangelistic effort that is not based on the New Testament of the Bible. It could be that the Jews will one day realize they missed their opportunity to receive God’s salvation and will try to obtain salvation through some other means. Jesus’ comment “I have foretold you all things” was probably meant to be a type of line in the sand that marked the end of divine revelation. At the conclusion of his Olivet discourse, Jesus didn’t intend to say anything more about his return to Earth and didn’t want there to be any confusion about whether or not he had left anything out.

The primary reason Jesus warned his followers about imposters that would try to lead them astray was because of the Antichrist’s role in deterring the Jews from inheriting the kingdom of heaven. The term antichrist was introduced around the end of the first century by the Apostle John in his first general epistle to believers. John’s objective was to expose false teachers and give believers assurance of salvation. John said, “Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time” (1 John 2:18). John went on to say, “Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son” (1 John 1:22). John’s reference to the last time was probably not meant to suggest that Jesus’ return was imminent, but that the ministry that Jesus launched was coming to a conclusion. John was the last survivor of the original twelve apostles and was probably nearing the end of his life when he wrote his general epistles. One thing that is certain from John’s message was that before the end of his ministry, it had already become common knowledge that someone known as “antichrist” was going to try and take the place of Jesus as the savior of the world. The imposter will likely have a similar appearance to Jesus as being a compassionate leader, but will deny the authority of God and will try to usurp his power.