Written in 2013.
Joel Richardson has written a book called Mid East Beast – ‘The scriptural case for an Islamic Antichrist.’ In this book he questions the view that the Antichrist comes out of a ‘revived Roman Empire’ in Europe (i.e. the EU) or a ‘One World Government’ brought about by globalism (the New World Order). Instead he puts the seat of the end time Beast in the Middle East and says that he arises out of the revival of Islam. He also says that the Mark of the Beast (Revelation 13) is a not physical mark without which you cannot buy or sell but is a spiritual mark of allegiance to Islam.
He says the Islamised countries of the Middle East will come together in the war of Gog and Magog as prophesied in Ezekiel 38-9 which he sees as the same battle as Armageddon (Revelation 16 and 19) and the other end time battles to be found in the Hebrew prophets (e.g. Zechariah 12-14). He ties all this up with present developments in the Middle East, in particular the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood and Islamist groups who want to bring radical Islamic rule to the nations of the Middle East.
These are some of the issues raised by his book.
The location of the Beast
‘And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation. All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.’ Revelation 13.7.
On the basis of this scripture prophecy teachers have said that the Antichrist must have worldwide dominion. David Reagan wrote: ‘The final Gentile empire will unite the world politically, socially, economically and spiritually. Every nation will be included.’ (‘The Gentiles in Prophecy’) Joel Richardson disagrees with this by pointing out that the use of the word ‘all’ in scripture is sometimes a hyperbole or exaggeration. For example Luke Ezra 1.2: ‘Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: All the kingdoms of the earth the Lord God of heaven has given me.’
Citing other verses which use this figure of speech he asks: ‘Using a bit of common sense we already know the answers to the following questions, but in light of the verses above let’s ask the obvious: Did Caesar literally tax the whole world (Luke 2.1-3)? Did every last man, woman and child in Judea and Jerusalem get baptized in the Jordan River (Mark 1.15)? Did Nebuchadnezzar or Cyrus literally rule over the entire earth (Daniel 2.36-38, Ezra 1.2)? Was the Gospel preached to the whole literal earth during the lives of the disciples (Romans 10.18)? We know that the answer to each of these questions is ‘No.’ It is like saying ‘the whole world watched the Super Bowl on Sunday.’
He points out that in the verses that speak of the whole ‘earth’ such as Revelation 13:3- 4, 13:8, 13:12, 13:17 and 17:8, the word for ‘earth’ is the Greek word ‘ge‘, which often refers to ‘a country, land enclosed within fixed boundaries, a tract of land, territory, region’. The region he locates for the antichrist to come out of is the Middle East region familiar to the prophets. These are the surrounding countries to Israel and Jerusalem, which is the focus of the end time conflict (see Zechariah 12.2, 14.14, Joel 3.11-12). There is one factor, which is common to these countries – the religion of Islam.
In Daniel 2 and 7 we have the revelation of four empires which are represented by the image seen by Nebuchadnezzar in his dream interpreted by Daniel and the vision Daniel has of four beasts coming out of the sea. These are generally interpreted to speak of the Babylonian, Persian, Greek and Roman empires which succeed each other and rule over Israel. According to Daniel and Revelation there will be another beast who will come out of the fourth beast in the last days of this age, which will be ruled by the Antichrist. In the book of Revelation 17, John wrote of seven kings, one that ‘is’ and one that ‘has not yet come.’ The ‘one who has not yet come’ is the ‘beast’ or antichrist. The one that ‘is’ is the Roman Empire that existed at the time of John when he wrote Revelation.
On this basis commentators have related the coming Antichrist to something that comes out of the Roman Empire. One common view is that the European Union is the region the Antichrist comes from. The EU came out of the Treaty of Rome and brings together a number of countries of the former Roman Empire. The EU at the present time is in a state of crisis, with an economic problem caused by the Euro currency and the problems caused by mass migration into Europe. We also see Britain seeking to leave the EU after the Brexit vote. So does this discount the possibility that the Antichrist comes out of Europe or does all this mean Europe is looking for a strong leader who will rescue it from its crisis and that this one will be the Antichrist?
At the same time we do have to note that the Roman Empire also went into the Middle East and eventually divided into the western empire with Rome as its capital and the eastern empire with Constantinople (modern Istanbul) as its capital. So it is possible that the one who ‘has not yet come’ could be something that arises in the east, the part which is now Islamic.
Daniel 8.23 speaks of a king who shall arise ‘having fierce features, who understands sinister schemes.’ Most interpreters link this one with the Antichrist. According to the text he arises out of ‘their kingdom’ in the latter days. In the context ‘their kingdom’ is the region of the Greek and Persian empires. Neither of these empires went into western Europe, but did go eastwards into the lands that are located in the heartland of Islam today.
In chapter 5 of the book of Zechariah we read about a vision that Zechariah was given of a flying scroll and a ‘wicked woman’. An angel tells Zechariah that ‘This is the curse that is going out over the whole land’ at the appointed time (5:3,11). The woman has a measuring basket representing ‘wickedness’ (Zechariah 5:5-7). She is then taken with the basket to build a house for it ‘in the land of Shinar’ (Babylon). (Zechariah 5:8-11). This ‘curse’ is described as a ‘woman’ who would be set up in ‘Babylon’. The Babylonian Empire encompassed the area, which is today the regional epicentre of Islam. Additionally, one intriguing aspect to this is that the word for ‘curse’, and even how it is pronounced, is the Hebrew word ‘alah’.
Joel Richardson connects Zechariah 5 with Babylon in Revelation 17. He points out that the name Babylon, written upon the forehead of the ‘woman’ in Revelation 17, comes from the Hebrew word ‘Babel‘, which means ‘confusion (by mixing)’. Islam is a mixture of Bible stories learned from Jews and Christians with the existing religion of Arabia. Mohammed took the god Allah from the 365 gods worshipped on the Kaaba stone in Mecca and proclaimed that he was the one true God, the same God that Jews and Christians worshipped. When Jews and Christians rejected this he turned against them and wrote passages in the Koran which call for the subjugation of Jews and Christians.
Joel Richardson concludes that the worship of Allah in the region of the Babylonian Empire and the acceptance of Islam by the overwhelming majority of the population of the Middle Eastern countries is a sign that this region is the seat of the Antichrist.
The Mark of the Beast
‘He 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. Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: His number is 666.’ Revelation 13.16-18.
The most common interpretation of what this means is that the Antichrist will cause a literal mark to be placed on people without which they will not be able to buy or sell. According to an article on the Rapture Ready website. http://www.raptureready.com/soap/rose16.html ‘The Antichrist will proclaim himself to be God, set up his image in the temple and force all to worship him. He will also require everyone to receive a mark embodying the number 666, without which no one will be able to buy or sell.’
Joel Richardson disagrees with this view and says that the Mark of the Beast does not have to be a literal mark or number tattooed onto the hand or forehead. He writes: ‘The Mark of the Beast is very likely a spiritual mark just as the mark of Christ upon the elect is spiritual. Revelation 7.3 and 14.1 speaks of those who have the seal of God on their foreheads. Most interpreters see this as a spiritual sign of allegiance to the Lord and ownership by Him. So why should not the mark of Revelation 13 also not be a spiritual mark?’ He points out that the head and the hand are often used in scripture as to denote allegiance to God by the believer in the head (mind) and the hand or arm (action). See Deuteronomy 6.5-8.
Acceptance of Islam means denying the God of the Bible and the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. According to Islam, anyone who believes that Jesus is the Son of God, who became man for us and died on the cross for the sins of the world, is committing the worst of all possible sins called ‘shirk‘. In Islam, this is an unpardonable sin that Allah will never forgive. In Christianity believing this is the way to salvation and eternal life. Islam teaches that Jesus is a created being, one of the prophets, but not the Son of God and that He did not die on the cross and rise from the dead.
This qualifies Islam as an ‘antichrist’ according to 1 John 2.18-23 ‘Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us. … Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son. Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also.’ See also I John 4.1- 3 and 2 Peter 2.1.
Interestingly the Dome of the Rock mosque which stands on the site of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, has an inscription around the dome which proclaims Allah as the only one God who should not have a son. It says that Jesus is his messenger and not the Son of God and says that those who believe God as ‘three in one’ should ‘cease’. So there is already an antichrist inscription in the holy place where once the Temple to the Lord stood.
Joel Richardson argues that worship of Allah causes a person to receive a spiritual ‘mark’ which identifies him or her with Islam and submission to Allah and his prophet. This he equates with the ‘mark of the beast.’
One objection to this view is that such mark should be visible if it is required in order to buy or sell. In answer to this Joel Richardson says: ‘When it comes to the conditions that exist in many Islamic nations for Christians, Dr. Labib Mikhail, a former professor from the Faith Mission Bible College in Cairo, Egypt, states that one reason why people are forced to embrace Islam is because of the poverty they will assuredly find them- selves in if they do not. If you don’t embrace Islam you may not find a job; you may not find an apartment, and you’ll be in financial trouble.’
He goes on to describe how this works out in Muslim-dominated countries. ‘Christians are often treated as a second-class citizen or worse. Many cannot work or own a business, or even find a place to live. As Muslims become more radical in their beliefs and practices, this type of treatment is getting worse, not better. In many parts of the Muslim world Christians are being threatened either to convert to Islam or face execution. In other parts they suffer daily discrimination. When we begin to understand the dire social and economic conditions that Christians are increasingly facing in Islamic nations we begin to understand that as radical Islamists take over these countries, Christians who refuse to submit to Islam both in mind (forehead) and in deed (right hand), will not be able to buy or sell, or are targeted for execution. As bad as this situation is now, it is only going to get worse as Islamic fundamentalism takes over more of these countries.’
Another item that Joel Richardson draws attention to is the fact that the word translated ‘number’ in Revelation 13:18 is ‘arithmos’ which does not only mean number. It can also mean ‘multitude’ and is used frequently in scripture to refer to a group of people. He writes, ‘This is significant because it therefore means that the Greek text could be understood as ‘the multitude of the beast: for it is the multitude of a man.’ He writes, ‘The multitude of a man refers not to a personal Antichrist, but rather to Mohammed, the founder and prophet of Islam. If you cannot acknowledge Mohammed, you cannot become a Muslim. Thus, ‘the multitude of the Beast’, which is the multitude of a man, are they who receive the Mark of the Beast and are therefore destined for destruction. This contrasts with the great multitude, which is the multitude of the Lamb (Rev 7:17, 14:4) that receives the seal of God upon their foreheads (Rev 7:3, 14:1) and are therefore destined for redemption (cf Eph 4:30)’.
The War of Gog and Magog
There is no hiding the fact that Islamist forces in the Middle East wish to eliminate Israel and take control of Jerusalem. Abed Shehade, a Salafist (radical Islamist) leader in Jordan said recently, ‘Netanyahu be prepared, the army of Mohammed is coming for you.’ In Psalm 83 we read of surrounding nations that say ‘Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation, that the name of Israel may be remembered no more.’ In Ezekiel 38-9 we read of predominantly Islamic nations that attack with the aim of eliminating Israel.
According to many commentators on prophecy, the War of Gog and Magog (Ezekiel 38- 9) is an invasion of Israel led by Russia with Muslim Middle Eastern allies in the last days. Often this is placed before or at the beginning of the Great Tribulation. According to this view the power of Islam will be broken as God is seen to destroy Islamic armies. The Antichrist will then arise out of the ‘revived Roman Empire’ (Europe or the UN / New World Order). He will bring in a seven year peace treaty in Israel and the Jewish people will rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem. This will be defiled by the Antichrist with ‘the abomination of desolation.’ The peace treaty will break down as events lead to the final conflict and the return of the Messiah.
Joel Richardson disagrees with this view and puts the war of Gog and Magog at the end of the tribulation period. He locates Magog in the region of modern day Turkey and points to Gog as an Islamic leader who comes out of this region.
He points out that Ezekiel 39.17-20 speaks of a ‘sacrificial meal’ for ‘birds of every kind’ to come and eat the flesh of the armies of Gog and Magog when they are destroyed. Revelation 19.17-18 also calls for the birds to come and eat the flesh of the armies destroyed at Armageddon. This makes a link between the battle of Gog and Magog prophesied in Ezekiel and Armageddon in Revelation.
At the end of Ezekiel 39 in verses 21-29 we read that when the Lord intervenes to destroy the armies coming against Israel, the Holy Spirit is poured out on the house of Israel as a result of which ‘the house of Israel shall know that I am the Lord their God from that day forward… And I will not hide My face from them anymore; for I shall have poured out My Spirit on the house of Israel,’ says the Lord God.’ Ezekiel 40-48 then describes the Lord being present with his people and the building of the Millennial Temple which will be His seat of government during the Millennium. This implies that Gog and Magog is the last battle before the Millennial reign of the Messiah and therefore happens at the time of the return of the Messiah to the earth. On this basis Joel Richardson argues that Islam will not be defeated before the final period of the Great Tribulation. Instead it will be the driving force of this time of trouble and that the Antichrist comes to power out of Islam.
Current developments in the Muslim world.
Significantly radical Islamists are looking for the Mahdi to come, the expected end-time messiah who is to cleanse and restore the Islamic faith to its original purity, unify the Moslem world and usher in a seven-year golden age just before the end of the world. They hope that under his influence they will take control of governments in Muslim majority countries and enforce fundamental Islam on the peoples, as well as exporting it to the rest of the world. Because of this those who take the Islamic Antichrist view, see the one who claims to be the Mahdi as the coming Antichrist.
Western nations encouraged ‘the Arab Spring’ in the hope that replacing the dictators like Mubarak, Gaddafi and Assad will bring about democratic societies with governments that would bring freedom and justice to the Arab peoples. What in fact happened was the takeover of this process by the Muslim Brotherhood and radical Islamists with the end goal of creating an Islamic ‘caliphate’ that would span the Middle East.
In the original caliphate, the ‘caliphs’ (this word means the successors to Mohammed) ruled over the Middle East after Islam spread to the region following the death of Mohammed. At the height of their power they ruled over an empire that spread to North Africa and most of the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal) and in the East through Central Asia toward India and China. Islam was imposed as the religion to be obeyed at the point of the sword. Jews and Christians, as ‘people of the book’ were permitted to keep their religions, but as ‘dhimmi’ peoples, subjected to the Muslims and forced to pay the ‘jizya’ tax in order to be ‘protected’ by the Muslims.
Now we have seen the rise of ISIS and other Islamist terror groups seeking to impose their radical version of Islam on people. The world has been shaken by the outburst of savagery coming from Islamist terrorists around the world. Kidnappings, bombings, rape and sexual slavery, massacres of thousands of people have taken place in the name of Islam by terror groups ISIS, Boko Haram, al Shabaab, the Taliban and al Qaeda. They all have in common a hatred of the west and a determination to impose Islamic fundamentalism and Sharia law on the people under their control. From the areas under their control they want to spread terror to their neighbours with the ultimate goal of establishing an Islamic Caliphate through which their rule is imposed on the whole world.
The results of this are terrible. Around the world we see people suffering because of the activities of Islamic terror. Intense Christian persecution is coursing through Muslim-majority nations from one end of the globe to the other. From the Ivory Coast to Nigeria, from Sudan and Ethiopia, to Tunisia, Gaza, Lebanon, Jordan, Pakistan, Iran, Malaysia, Indonesia, Tanzania, the Maldives, Bangladesh and elsewhere, Islamic persecution is showing no sign of slowing down in the coming days. Christianity faces being wiped out of the ‘biblical heartlands’ in the Middle East in the face of mounting persecution. Converts to Christianity from Islam face being for their faith. Across the world 200 million Christians are ‘socially disadvantaged, harassed or actively oppressed for their beliefs.’ A high percentage of these are living in Muslim countries.
ISIS controls the Syrian city of Raqa, where they have provided a list of 12 rules which Christians must follow in order to continue living in their homes and receive ‘protection.’ These are basically along the lines of the ‘dhimmi’ rules mentioned above, with the jizya tax being required to be paid and Christians warned on pain of death not to rebuild or repair any churches destroyed by Muslims or to ‘put on display a cross or anything from their book, anywhere on Muslims’ path or markets.’ Reports are coming in of ISIS destroying all the churches in Mosul and cutting off water supplies to Christian villages.
As well as the suffering of their direct victims, there are social and environmental problems multiplying because of Islamic militants. Polio is spreading because the Pakistani Taliban has been killing aid workers for trying to save lives with ‘un-Islamic’ polio vaccines. Nigeria faces famine in areas controlled by Boko Haram, because most of the farmers in the north are threatened by Islamist attacks seeking to impose Sharia Law upon all. In Somalia al Shabaab has prevented food aid and medicine from reaching starving people in areas under their control. In Syria, Islamic rebels have beheaded Christians in front of a cheering crowd while issuing an ultimatum to convert, leave, or die for their Christian faith.
In the west many of our political and religious leaders say that all this is a deviation from true Islam, which they say is a ‘peaceful religion’ which has been hijacked by extremists. The pope has endorsed this view, saying, ‘Authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Quran are opposed to every form of violence.’ According to al- Islami.com website, ‘Islam is in fact a religion that promotes peace and understanding among people of all faiths, and it strongly prohibits all forms of violence and aggression against all people regardless of their faith or race.’
There are many Muslims who do live in peace with their neighbours and should be treated with love and compassion by Christians. Often they are the chief victims of the savagery of Islamic jihadis. However it is simply not true to say that Islam and the Quran are opposed to every form of violence. Mohammed’s life, practice and teaching in the Quran, the Hadith and the Sunna of Islam are full of violence and intolerance towards opposition to Islam. There is very clearly a connection between the teaching of the Quran and the ideology and actions of Islamic terrorists.
All of these things happening do identify Islam with the spirit of antichrist. So will the final Antichrist come out of Islam or is Islam an antichrist? Clearly there are aspects of the Islamic society which line up with the prophecies of the beast. At the same time it has to be said that there are some things which do not. Joel Richardson’s view does mean taking a non literal view of certain aspects of Revelation, in particular the beast having power over every tribe and nation as stated in Revelation 13.7-8 and the literal mark of the beast being imposed without which people cannot buy or sell (Revelation 13.16-18).
In the 20th century we have seen societies come and go and manifest some characteristics of Antichrist – Nazi Germany, Soviet and Maoist Communism. These had demonically inspired rulers who were possessed by ‘a strong delusion that they should believe the lie’ (2 Thessalonians 2), persecuted Christians and Jews and deprived ‘enemies of the state’ of their ability to function economically (Revelation 13). They set up images of their leaders which became like false gods to be worshipped.
Could it be that the Islamists are producing another ‘antichrist’ system, which will give way to the final antichrist, who emerges out of the EU or the UN? Or, given the fact that they are situated in the region which surrounds Israel and Jerusalem, the focus of the Bible’s prophecies of the end of this age, does the end time beast indeed rise out of the Middle East?
We should watch and pray, knowing that all of these events do herald the soon coming of the Messiah Jesus who will return in power and glory to bring an end to all of this conflict and distress and judge the world in righteousness. Those who repent now of their sins and believe in the one way of salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ will enter into the joy of His kingdom. The prophet Isaiah spoke of a day coming when the Messiah will reign over the world from restored Jerusalem and cause all wars and conflicts to cease on the earth. ‘In that day Israel will be one of three with Egypt and Assyria – a blessing in the midst of the land, whom the Lord of hosts shall bless, saying, ‘Blessed is Egypt My people, and Assyria the work of My hands, and Israel My inheritance.’ Isaiah 19.24. To have a part in the coming kingdom of God we must now repent of our sins and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ / Messiah, who died as a sacrifice for our sins on the cross, was buried and rose again from the dead to give eternal life to all who believe in Him.