The older dispensational view has been that the Antichrist will be a Gentile from a revived Roman Empire. However, in the last few years, the idea of a Muslim Antichrist has been popularized by writer Joel Richardson.
In this blog post, we are going to see which view stacks up best with the evidence. Those of you familiar with my website are probably aware of what direction I am going to take this, namely, that the Antichrist will not be Muslim but will be a non-religious man from the revived Roman Empire.
However, I must resist the temptation to look for reasons that refute the Muslim Antichrist position. My goal should be to look at the text, and find out what it actually means. This, I believe, will in fact have the effect of refuting the Muslim Antichrist view. That said, we will start with the most detailed text which describes the Antichrist’s personality.
36 “And the king shall do as he wills. He shall exalt himself and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak astonishing things against the God of gods. He shall prosper till the indignation is accomplished; for what is decreed shall be done. 37 He shall pay no attention to the gods of his fathers, or to the one beloved by women. He shall not pay attention to any other god, for he shall magnify himself above all. 38 He shall honor the god of fortresses instead of these. A god whom his fathers did not know he shall honor with gold and silver, with precious stones and costly gifts. 39 He shall deal with the strongest fortresses with the help of a foreign god. Those who acknowledge him he shall load with honor. He shall make them rulers over many and shall divide the land for a price. (Daniel 11:36-39)
First off, it says that the Antichrist exalts and magnifies himself above every god. He pays no attention to the gods (or God) of his ancestors. The text takes pains to emphasize that he doesn’t pay any attention to any god, but magnifies himself in their place. The text emphasizes repeatedly that the Antichrist has no interest in any deities other than himself:
- “magnify himself above every god”
- “shall pay no attention to the gods of his fathers”
- “magnify himself above all”
- “shall not pay attention to any other god”
So far, the Muslim Antichrist theory is not fairing so well. But we can’t stop there. The text goes on, saying that he does serve a god!
It says that he serves the “god of fortresses” instead of conventional deities. The passage makes clear that this “god of fortresses” was not honored by the Antichrist’s ancestors. On the Muslim Antichrist view, this would require that the Antichrist’s parents would not be Muslim themselves, since he doesn’t serve the same god that his parents do.
But what is the “god of fortresses”? It is not a normal object of religious devotion, as the passage seems to repeatedly rule that out. Context would seem to imply that “god of fortresses” is akin to the phrase “god of war,” but with an important difference. “God of war” implies an allegiance to warfare. But the Antichrist has an allegiance to “fortresses.” Fortresses are used for defense, not attacking.
In his commentary on Daniel, Dr. J. Paul Tanner makes this about Antichrist:
"In place of Yahweh God, the antichrist...will put his stock in military might...The word 'strongholds'...is commonly used in the Old Testament...of a fortified military defense." (emphasis mine)
Therefore, the Antichrist is preoccupied, and worships, military defense. He will apparently spend a lot of money on defense, since it says he honors this god with “gold and silver” and “precious stones and costly gifts.”
The passage goes on, saying that the Antichrist “shall deal with the strongest fortresses with the help of a foreign god.” His ability to attack other defensive structures (i.e. fortresses) would reinforce the idea that this is not a conventional deity, but a simple preoccupation with defense. That this god of fortresses is somehow related to military strength is borne out in the following verses. Daniel 11:40-45 describe the Antichrist’s response to an invasion of his territory, and his ensuing conquests. The Antichrist’s defensive prowess is also implied in Revelation 13, where it says:
4 And they worshiped the dragon, for he had given his authority to the beast, and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast, and who can fight against it?” (Revelation 13:4)
The text does say that a “foreign god” helps him as he attacks these other fortresses. This is difficult to interpret on any view, because we know that there is only one real God. All the others don’t exist (Isaiah 44; 1 Corinthians 8). This could mean one of two things. Perhaps the foreign god refers back to the “god of fortresses.” In this case, the abstract concept of military defense is helping the Antichrist achieve his military victories. Or it could refer to Satan. As we saw with the Revelation verse above, the world worships Satan and the Antichrist, because Satan gave his authority to the beast. Then perhaps the “foreign god” refers to Satan.
I don’t know Richardson’s view on the “god of fortresses,” nor do I wish to misrepresent him. But in any case, the “god of fortresses” doesn’t seem to be Allah, as that would work against the idea that the Antichrist has no conventional religious affiliation.
The Apostle Paul also talks about the behaviors of the Antichrist in 2 Thessalonians 2. This is a very central passage about the Antichrist, as it provides commentary on Matthew 24 and contains no symbolism. It also refers back to Daniel 11:36-39, and provides commentary on that passage as well.
Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, 2 not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. 3 Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, 4 who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God. (2 Thessalonians 2:4)
Here, Paul refers back to Daniel 11, saying that the Antichrist “opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship.” However, Paul says that he does this to such an extent that he sets himself up in God’s temple, “proclaiming himself to be God.” In the more literal NASB, the Antichrist sits in the temple, “displaying” himself as if he is God.
4 who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God.
Again, a Muslim Antichrist does not fit with this passage. As fierce monotheists, Muslims do not claim to be God. And the examination of Daniel 11:36-39 seems to indicate that he starts off with no religious affiliation, and doesn’t even serve the god(s) of his parents.
Notice, I am not commenting on the ethnicity of the Antichrist. Religion and ethnicity are not the same thing. Perhaps the Antichrist is of Middle-Eastern descent. I will leave that to another blog post. But for now, we can be sure that the Antichrist has no religion other than himself, as well as a preoccupation with military defense.