Nov 17, 2012

The Origin of Antichrist

Tony GarlandBy Dr. Tony Garland

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Q. I've often heard prophecy teachers say that in every generation Satan has someone that he is grooming for the possibility to become the Antichrist. However, today I was reading a piece on a Facebook page which states that "Satan will someday impregnate a Roman woman who will give birth to Satan’s seed who is going to be the Antichrist." If this is true then would that not defeat this idea of Satan grooming [preparing] someone in every generation to take on that role?

A. One of the unfortunate aspects of eschatology (the study of the last things) is how it suffers at both the hands of its detractors and its proponents. Of all the areas of God's Word, it seems to labor under this "double curse" as it were.

On the one hand, detractors spiritualize many of the passages which clearly predict future events which have not come to pass in history—or they propose imprecise fulfillments in a vain attempt to reposition that which has yet to transpire back into the past (e.g., preterism which posits fulfillment of Antichrist-related passages in an earlier Roman Caesar such as Nero). These views wind up convincing some believers that studying a futuristic interpretation of Daniel or Revelation (and related passages) is passé since fulfillment has already occurred. Thus, churches which hold such views spend very little time teaching these books as they are generally viewed as only having devotional value.

On the other hand, proponents of prophetic teaching sometimes go beyond the clear teaching of Scripture to promote ideas which are highly speculative—as I believe is the case here. The problem with this approach is that the line between what can clearly be discerned from Holy Writ and that which is personal opinion (conjecture) is not generally made clear. Since these conjectured ideas are often somewhat sensational—and the example here seems to fit such a description!—damage to a proper understanding of God's Word once more suffers. People who get exposed to sensational teaching, over time, becoming disillusioned with the study of prophecy leading to the sad result of "throwing the baby out with the bath water."

Our challenge is to take prophecy seriously by not spiritualizing it away while also steering clear of sensational speculation. This "middle ground" position is greatly needed in our day in order to restore a right understanding and appreciation of this much-maligned portion of the Scriptures.

The idea of a Satan-inspired seminal origin for the Antichrist is mentioned by Dr. Fruchtenbaum in his excellent book, "Footsteps of the Messiah": [1]

If the Seed of the Woman is Messiah, the seed of Satan can only be the Antichrist. From this passage [Gen. 3:15], then, it can be deduced that Satan will counterfeit the virgin conception and will some day impregnate a Roman woman who will give birth to Satan's seed who is going to be the Antichrist. The woman herself may not be a virgin, but the conception of Antichrist will be through the supernatural power of Satan. By this means, the Antichrist will have a supernatural origin. Another passage dealing with this is II Thessalonians 2:9... The Greek word translated working is the word energeo, which means "to energize." His coming, then, will be brought about by the energizing of Satan... A time is coming when the situation of Genesis six [Gen. 6:4] will be repeated. A fallen angelic being, this time Satan himself, will impregnate a Gentile woman of Roman origin who will then give birth to Satan's son. The end-product will be a counterfeit god-man. [2]

Although I've personally learned an immense amount from Dr. Fruchtenbaum and his writings, I would depart from his interpretation here. It is my view that one simply cannot make a clear case for this provocative idea on the basis of Scripture. There is much one could say, but for one thing, the "seed of Satan" need not refer to physical offspring, but rather spiritual children (Mat. 13:38; John 8:41-43; Acts 13:10; 1 Jn. 3:10). Dr. Fruchtenbaum's deduction, in my view, goes considerably beyond the evidence. Even those who uphold an angelic interpretation of the events of Genesis 6:4, as I do, would not find unambiguous evidence for a Satanically seminal origin of Antichrist.


The Origin of the Antichrist

Regarding the origin of Antichrist, it appears we are told precious little about his initial appearance on the stage of history. His birth need not be physically unique. He may well begin his career as nothing other than a satanically inspired (or perhaps indwelt) man (Dan. 9:27). What we do know is that he incurs a deadly wound (Rev. 13:3) after which he then arises from the Abyss (Rev. 11:7; 13:3). Scripture associates his heightened demonic empowerment and effectiveness more with his surprising rise from the Abyss than his birth. This restoration and empowerment appears to take place at the mid-point of the tribulation (Rev. 11:3; Rev. 13:5). It is at his restoration and rise from the bottomless pit and victory over the two previously-unstoppable witnesses of God (Rev. 11:7) that he garners the adulation of the world (Rev. 13:4; 17:8).

In my view, the idea that in every generation Satan is grooming a candidate as the possible Antichrist would be even more speculative than the Satanic seminal proposal above. I know of no Scriptural support for this idea.

As teachers of God's Word, we need to be careful not to "go beyond the text" (Ps. 131:1). Especially in the area of eschatology which is complex and already suffers the scorn and derision of skeptics. A good rule of thumb is this: the more unusual an idea, the greater the requirement that it be unambiguously supported by clear statements in Scripture. Where an unusual idea lacks clear Scriptural support, we would be better served keeping it to ourselves until such time, if ever, when we can provide due Scriptural evidence.

What rule have we, by which to judge of such matters, but the divine word? If we venture to go beyond that, we shall be miserably in the dark. When we pretend to go further in our determinations than the word of God, Satan takes us up, and leads us. [3]


[1] I cite this passage from Fruchtenbaum in my commentary on the Book of Revelation so that readers are made aware of it. Unfortunately, I neglected to clarify that I myself do not endorse this view. I intend to rectify this in a future revision.

[2] Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, The Footsteps of the Messiah (Tustin, CA: Ariel Press, 1982), 215-216.

[3] Jonathan Edwards, On Knowing Christ (Carlisle, PN: Banner of Truth Trust, 1993, 1839), 274.