Antichrist, Armageddon, and the Second Coming of Christ
by John Walvoord
Christianity by its very nature is a faith based on the historic past, the present work of God in the world, and a predicted glorious future. The history of the world as recorded in Scripture makes clear that God is working in our world to carry out His eternal purposes. Central in this is the work of salvation through Jesus Christ, who in history died on the cross for our sins and rose again. The result of this is that people today, as they put their trust in Christ, experience a supernatural new birth and an experience of walking in fellowship with God. The Bible also, however, is a book about the future, and about one-fourth of the Bible was prophetic when it was written. It is obvious that God intended that we should know something about the future. Though prophecy leaves many questions unanswered, it is also clear that God has given us all the facts we need to prepare for the future that the Bible predicts will ultimately take place.
Unfortunately, a great deal of confusion exists in the interpretation of
prophecy. Most of this is occasioned by the fact that people hesitate to
accept prophecy as a literal prediction of future events.
If a prophecy which is written in plain language is not interpreted literally, it opens the door to dozens of views as people guess as to what it might
possibly mean. The history of prophetic fulfillment, however, is that God
fulfills prophecy literally and about half of the 1000 prophecies of the Bible
have already been literally fulfilled. This gives us reason to believe that the
predictions which have not yet been fulfilled will have a literal fulfillment
rather than some other interpretation.
Of major importance in prediction is the fact that Christ is coming again just
as literally as He came the first time. All the major orthodox doctrinal
statements of Protestantism, Roman Catholicism, and Greek Orthodoxy
contain a statement to the effect that Jesus Christ is coming again to judge
the world. This is a literal prediction and was considered to be so in church
history. Confusion has arisen, however, because having accepted this as
literal, many try to interpret in a non-literal sense the prophecies of events
preceding Christ's return, as well as the events that follow. If interpreted
literally, however, the prophecies of Scripture yield a consistent and
intelligent picture of what God is doing in the world and things will ultimately
work out for His glory.
Central in predictions of the future is the second coming of Christ and the
events that will precede it. The most important character of preceding events
is often called the Antichrist, or the future world ruler who will dominate the
world before Christ comes again. He will be "anti" in the sense of against
Christ and instead of Christ.
Armageddon is an English translation of the mount of Megiddo, a
geographic location in northern Israel which will be the center of the final
great world war. Antichrist, Armageddon, and the Second Coming of Christ
are central to the predictions which will bring the great climax of the world
when Christ returns. According to Scripture, the events preceding the
Second Coming are catastrophic and world-shaking and form a dramatic
prelude to the return of Jesus Christ. If the return of Christ is near, it is
entirely possible that our present generation of people will experience what
the Bible predicts for the end time.
In approaching these tremendous themes, it is important to have in mind the
chronological development of major events as they occur in the end time,
beginning with what is called the rapture of the Church.
First the Rapture
The next major event in the prophetic sequence is the rapture of the Church.
The term "rapture" refers to the catching up of the church and its removal
from earth and arrival in heaven, a major event of the future described
graphically in I Thessalonians 4:13-18. Though many confuse the issue by
trying to link the rapture to the Second Coming of Christ, actually this is an
entirely different event as the details of the prophecy make clear. The rapture
occurs some years before, and the period between the rapture and the
Second Coming is one of the most dramatic prophetic periods in the entire
history of the world.
If every true believer is suddenly and instantaneously taken out of the
world, it obviously will have an important impact on the world because many
Christians are in prominent places and their sudden disappearance will call
for an explanation. Many will follow a powerful delusion and believe some
explanation of the rapture other than the departure of believers in Christ.
However, many others will come to terms with the Lord and recognize that
the rapture is a tremendous event.
Romans 11:25 specifically mentions how Israel's eyes will be opened.
According to this verse, "I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery,
brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a
hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles have come in." In other
words, in the present age it is difficult for a Jew to understand that Christ is
the Messiah, but when the rapture occurs, this blindness will be lifted. While
many will persist in unbelief, no doubt a great number will be saved. Because
Israel has representatives in almost every country and every language, once
they are saved they will become the missionaries to the world with the truth
of Christ's salvation much as they were in the first century after Pentecost.
The rapture will, however, mark the end of our present day of grace in which
the Church, consisting largely of Gentiles, has flourished, and will begin the
time of the day of the Lord when God deals directly with human sin and
divine judgment. Instead of dealing with the church combining Israel and
Gentiles, God will deal in a special way with both Gentiles and Israel as
separate people with somewhat different destinies.
The Day of the Lord
According to I Thessalonians 5:1,2, when the rapture occurs it begins a new
period of time called "the day of the Lord." This is a familiar term in the Old
Testament and applies to any period of time during which God dealt in direct
judgment of Israel. This is described, for instance, in Isaiah 13:1-22 and is
characterized as "a cruel day, with wrath and fierce anger" (Isaiah 13:9). The
book of Joel almost entirely addresses this subject; it speaks of many days
of the Lord as, for instance, in chapter 1, when the invasion of locusts
causes starvation. Many descriptions of the day of the Lord go beyond
what occurred in the Old Testament, for instance, Joel 2:30-3:3 with the
verses that follow describe this terrible time of judgment which is still in the
future. The day of the Lord beginning at the rapture will continue even
through the thousand-year reign of Christ when there still will be direct
judgment of open sin against God, fulfilling the prediction that Christ will
rule with an "iron scepter." There will be a display of "the fury of the wrath
of God Almighty" (Revelation 19:15). The major events of the judgment of
God, however, may not be immediately fulfilled after the rapture but will
gradually increase as the period between the rapture and the Second
Coming is fulfilled.
Revival of the Roman Empire
The book of Daniel provides a broad prediction of how God is going to deal
with the Gentile world, beginning with Babylon in the time of Daniel about
600 B.C. and continuing through the empires that followed, that of Medo-
Persia, Greece, and Rome. The predictions of Babylon, Medo-Persia, and
Greece have all been literally fulfilled and are now part of the historic past.
The Roman empire, however, which was in power at the time of the first
coming of Christ, is still a continuing part of God's purpose. It continued for
many centuries after Christ and then eventually disappeared, but, according
to Scriptures, will be revived in the end times.
Daniel 7 pictures the four empires as ferocious beasts, with Babylon
depicted as a lion, Medo-Persia as a bear, and Greece as a leopard. The
fourth empire is described in different terminology in Daniel 7 as follows:
After that, in my vision at night I looked, and there before me was a fourth
beast-terrifying and frightening and very powerful. It had large iron teeth; it
crushed and devoured its victims and trampled underfoot whatever was left.
It was different from all the former beasts, and it had ten horns (Daniel 7:7).
The Roman empire literally fulfilled the picture of a beast with great iron
teeth, crushing and devouring everything before it. Its well-disciplined
soldiers went into countries that were unprepared to fight. The soldiers then
conquered the country, carried off the able-bodied men as slaves, left a
detachment of soldiers to collect taxes, and moved on to the next country.
As the greatest empire of the past, it was ruthless in its destruction of
whatever opposed it. Most of Daniel 7:7 has already been fulfilled.
The final statement in verse 7, however, states, "it had ten horns." Nothing
in history corresponds to this, and Bible expositors have been struggling for
centuries to explain this prophecy that has not been fulfilled.
But Daniel 7:24 reveals that "The ten horns are ten kings who will come from
this kingdom." How can this be explained in view of the fact that the Roman
empire today is non-existent? In order to understand this period, one has to
recognize that the Old Testament described the events leading up to the
first coming of Christ, but then many Scriptures skip from the first coming to
the Second Coming and omit reference to what we call the present age of
This is brought out in Christ's message in Nazareth, recorded in Luke 4:17-21, The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found
the place where it is written: "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has
anointed me to preach the good news to the poor. He has sent me to
proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to
release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." Then he
rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of
everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying
to them, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing. "
This is a significant illustration of the absolute accuracy of Scripture. Christ
here is quoting from Isaiah 61:1-2, which predicts His coming to the world
and ministry to those in need. He quotes Isaiah 61:2, including the
expression, "to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." He does not quote the
last part of the verse, "and the day of vengeance of our God." The point is
that His first coming proclaimed the Lord's favor but the last part of the verse
deals with His Second Coming and judgment on the world. Here, as in many
other cases, the present age is not in view. While Old Testament Scriptures
deal with the time of judgment preceding the Second Coming, they do not
anticipate that the Roman empire will go out of existence for many centuries,
only to be revived in the end time in the form of these ten kingdoms.
Scripture does not indicate exactly when this will happen, but as soon as the
rapture occurs, the ten kingdoms are in the background and apparently the
formation of the ten-kings power bloc will come together either just before or
just after the rapture. The fact that the European Union is friendly today,
geopolitically speaking-that is, the major players are not at odds with each
other-provides fertile soil for producing a united Europe, which would fulfill,
at least in part, this prophecy.
What is happening in Europe is especially prophetically significant. For
centuries the major countries of Europe, particularly Great Britain, France,
and Germany have been engaged in war. Usually when one war ends,
regardless of who wins, the countries immediately begin to prepare for the
next war. This has been going on for several hundred years. Suddenly, after
World War 11, this process stopped because all these countries now have
the atomic bomb and the capacity to completely destroy the other countries.
Accordingly, engaging in warfare would not help any of the countries
involved-even if they won-because they would suffer terrible losses in the
process. Facing this realistically, the countries of Europe decided to form an
economic union and they established the Common Market. Having
established friendly relationships with each other on an economical basis,
many have for years predicted the coming together of a United States of
Europe. Steps in that direction-including implementing a common currency-
have already taken place. Accordingly, the situation described at the rapture
of ten nations banded together is something that could occur at any
time and is strategic evidence that the rapture of the church could be near.
The Rise of the Antichrist
When false teachers taught the Thessalonian believers that they were
already in the day of the Lord, Paul had to correct this. He argued in 2
Thessalonians 2 that they were not in the day of the Lord period after the
rapture because the man of lawlessness had not appeared. 2 Thessalonians
Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to
him, we ask you, brothers, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by
some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that
the day of the Lord has already come. Don't let anyone deceive you in any
way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of
lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction.
His work is further described in 2 Thessalonians 2:4: "He will oppose and will
exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he
sets himself up in God's temple, proclaiming himself to be God."
The "man of lawlessness" is another reference to the one who is also called
the Antichrist. The word "antichrist" is mentioned four times in the
Scriptures (I John 2:18,22; 4:3; 2 John 7). As used by John, it applies to
anyone who is opposed to Christ and is a false leader. The term has been
used to describe the end-time ruler because his activities are so obviously
anti-Christ, and he is Satan's substitute for Jesus Christ as King of Kings,
Lord of Lords, and God. However, the book of Revelation and other
passages of Scripture outside of the Johannine epistles never used the term.
The Antichrist appears on the scene as the conqueror of the ten-nation
revival of the Roman empire. According to Daniel 7:8, a little horn comes up
among the ten horns and uproots three of them, which signifies that he has
conquered three of the ten countries. From there on, although Scriptures do
not explain the reasons, he is regarded as the ruler of all ten nations. In other
words, he takes over as the dictator of the revived Roman empire. From this
position he rises to power gradually until finally he becomes the world ruler
of scriptural prophecy.
2 Thessalonians 2:14 offers remarkable evidence that the rapture of the
church occurs before the end-time prophecy. Paul is demonstrating that they
are not in the day of the Lord as false teachers have taught them, because
the man of lawlessness has not appeared. When will the man of lawlessness
His full revelation comes in the middle of this last seven years of end-time
prophecy when he claims to be God. But he will be revealed earlier than that,
when he makes the covenant of Daniel 9:27 for seven years leading up to the
second coming of Christ. In order to have this position of power, he has to
be the one who conquers the Roman empire and becomes the head of the ten
countries. This must occur, therefore, more than seven years before the
Second Coming. If he has to appear before the day of the Lord can begin, it
should be obvious that the day of the Lord will begin more than seven years
before the Second Coming. This automatically disposes of counter-opinions
which put the rapture at the Second Coming or during the Great Tribulation
or at the beginning of the Great Tribulation or the beginning of the seven
years, for the man of lawlessness will be revealed more than seven years
before the Second Coming. Accordingly, the rise of the Roman empire will
become a very important factor in determining how soon the rapture of the
church may take place.
One of the great passages of prophecy in the Old Testament is found in
Daniel 9:24-27, which predicts that there will be seven times seventy years of
Israel's prophetic future. While it is very complicated and various theories
have arisen about it, if it has to be fulfilled literally, the last seven years are
still future. The first 69 sevens, or 483 years, were fulfilled just before the
crucifixion of Christ when the Messiah was cut off. But the last seven years
has never been fulfilled, and it will become an important element of the
chronology of the end times.
In Daniel's revelation of the seventy sevens, or 490 years of Israel's
prophetic future, a ruler will come on the scene during the last seven years
that lead up to the Second Coming of Christ. He is described in Daniel 9:26 as
"the ruler who will come." The same verse refers to the people of the ruler
who destroyed the city in 70 A.D. But the ruler is a future ruler who at the end
time does not destroy the city but does take control. According to verse 27
he will confirm a covenant with many for one seven. These are the last seven
years of Israel's future. The covenant that the ruler imposes
on Israel is a covenant of peace attempting to solve the problem of Israel in
relation to the world around her.
The first half of the seven years is marked off as a special time. There is some
debate among scholars as to what events take place, but a probable solution
is that it will introduce a temporary time of peace for Israel during which
Israel can relax from its present military preparedness and rely upon this ruler
to defend them. However, this will be interrupted, according to Ezekiel 38 and
39, by an invasion from the north of six countries. All of these countries are
named except the country from the far north, which is probably one or more
of the states formerly in the Soviet Union. Because they are largely Moslems,
they would love to attack Israel, and this is in prospect for this period. As
Ezekiel 38 and 39 make clear, however, God intervenes and by a series of
catastrophes wipes out the invaders.
The attack is an attempt to weaken the power of the ruler of the ten nations
because he is Israel's protector. But when the invaders are defeated, their
bodies scattered throughout the land, it tends to enhance the power of the
ruler of the ten nations and makes it possible for him to extend his power
over the whole world in the middle of the last seven years. This is anticipated
in Daniel 9:27: "In the middle of the 'seven' he will put an end to sacrifice and offering." Apparently he will take over as ruler over the entire world.
Revelation 13:5 confirms that his rule will extend for 42 months and will climax
with the second coming of Christ.
This period of three and a half years which is the climax of the preceding
events to the Second Coming is described in Scripture as the Great
Tribulation. Daniel 12:1 describes it as "a time of distress such as has not
happened from the beginning of nations until then." It is predicted that
resurrections will follow of both the righteous and wicked. Daniel, like many
Old Testament prophets, does not describe the period between the two
comings of Christ. Actually, according to Revelation 20:11-15, the wicked will
not be resurrected until after the millennial kingdom.
When Christ answered His disciples concerning the end times, He described
the same period in Matthew 24:21, "For then there will be great distress
unequal from the beginning of the world until now-and never to be equaled
again." This is a specific period of time beginning three and a half years
before the Second Advent and concluding with the second coming of Christ.
The common tendency to blur this with the natural troubles which have beset the human race from the beginning is not justified by the description which the Scriptures give marking this period as a special time of limited duration.
The period of this end time is pictured in Revelation 6:1-19:10. Many
expositors think this extends over the entire seven-year period, but others
find that it is primarily fulfilled in the Great Tribulation of the last
The details given in the book of Revelation concerning the Great Tribulation are unfolded first in the seven-sealed manuscript which describes terrible judgments on the world, including the destruction of one-fourth of the world's population (Revelation 6:7,8). This is followed by another series of seven called trumpets. As these are sounded, devastating judgments will descend over the world, a period described in Revelation 9:14 as "the great
tribulation." In the sixth trumpet, a third of the world and its population will
be destroyed (Revelation 9:15). This is followed by a series of seven bowls
of judgments which will be poured out on the world.
In Revelation 16, these are devastating judgments on the entire world. The final one will be an earthquake and the graphic portrayal describes the total destruction of much of the world and its population. Revelation 16:18-21 records this devastating situation that will destroy all the nations of the world and most of the people who are surviving to that point:
Then there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder and a
severe earthquake. No earthquake like it has ever occurred since man has
been on earth, so tremendous was the quake. The great city split into three
parts, and the cities of the nations collapsed. God remembered Babylon the
Great and gave her the cup filled with the wine of the fury of his wrath. Every
island fled away and the mountains could not be found. From the sky huge
hailstones of about a hundred pounds each fell upon men. And they cursed
God on account of the plague of hail, because the plague was so terrible.
Armageddon, in connection with the final judgments of Revelation 16, is
mentioned in verse 16, "Then they gathered the kings together to the place
that in Hebrew is called Armageddon." Armageddon is the English
equivalent of the mount of Megiddo, a geographic location in northern Israel
located not too far from the
Mediterranean Sea. It is not a very high mountain, perhaps 800 feet in
elevation. To the east of this, however, is the broad valley that extends
through some 14 miles and extends to several other valleys, which is
described in Revelation 16:16 as the central marshaling place for the final
great war that will be underway in the months just before the Second
Actually, if all the Scriptures concerning end time events are put together,
the war will extend all the way up and down the nation Israel for some 200
miles from the Mediterranean Sea all the way to the Euphrates River and
millions of men will be engaged in mortal conflict. On the very day of the
Lord's return, there will be house-to-house fighting in Jerusalem.
According to Zechariah 14:1-4, the nations will be fighting for power:
A day of the Lord is coming when your plunder will be divided among you. I
will gather all the nations to Jerusalem to fight against it; the city will be
captured, the houses ransacked, and the women raped. Half of the city will
go into exile, but the rest of the people will not be taken from the city. Then
the Lord will go out and fight against those nations, as he fights in the day
of battle. On that day, his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of
Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west,
forming a great valley, with half of the mountain moving north and half
When the nations see the glory in the heavens which will be the sign of the
Second Coming, they will forget their differences and unite to fight the army
from heaven. This is why Satan will have arranged for them to be there. The
war will be interrupted and brought to an abrupt end by the Second Coming
The Second Coming of Christ
As the Scriptures have abundantly demonstrated, catastrophic judgments
will lead up to the second coming of Christ before this event happens. The
coming of Christ brings to a dramatic close these events as described in
I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose
rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows
but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the
Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white
horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Out of his mouth comes a
sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. "lie will rule them with an
iron scepter." He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God
Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF
KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.
When the heavens break open with the glory of Christ and He begins His
descent to the world to take over, it is clear that this will be a time of judgment on the world. Earlier in chapter 19, the wedding feast is mentioned, referring to the fellowship of Christ and the church in heaven. The Scriptures record that there will be a terrible feast at this time, the slaughter of the great armies gathered there in the Holy Land, which will be destroyed by Christ. In the process, the world ruler called the beast and the false prophet who has
supported him will be captured, and they will be cast alive into the fiery lake
of burning sulfur (Revelation 19:20), the final place of judgment for the demon
world and for the unsaved.
According to Matthew 25:41, the lake of fire was prepared for the devil and
his angels but it also will be the place of final judgment for those who follow
Satan instead of believing in Christ. Scriptures distinguish between the lake
of fire and sheol in the Old Testament and hades in the New Testament; these
terms are used sometimes to describe the grave itself and other times the
state of people after the grave. Sheol and hades are viewed, however, as
temporary. In the final resurrection of the wicked, recorded in Revelation
20:11-15, hades will be emptied and those in hades at that time who are
unsaved will be cast into the lake of fire, their permanent place of judgment.
As far as the Scriptures reveal, the beast and the false prophet will be the first
to be cast alive into the lake of fire. It is most significant, however, that at the
end of the thousand years when the devil is also cast into the lake of fire, the
beast and the false prophet will still be there and "They will be tormented day
and night for ever and ever" (Revelation 20:10). The beast and the false
prophet will not be destroyed by the lake of fire, they are predicted to receive everlasting punishment along with that of the devil.
The Second Coming itself will dramatically demonstrate the power of Christ.
The heavens will be ablaze with the glory of God compared to lightning
shining from east to west as described in Matthew 24:27. The heavens will be
filled with the glory of Christ as He returns to earth accompanied by all the
saints and angels who are in heaven. The church will be included in that
dramatic procession, having been raptured earlier and taken to heaven before
the tribulation. Now they will return to be with Christ forever.
It will be the most dramatic moment in the entire history of the world as Christ
manifests His true authority which was hidden when He first came, but which
will now be displayed to the entire world. As mentioned previously,
according to Zechariah 14, He will return to the Mount of Olives from which
He ascended, and when He does, it will be split in two from east to west,
forming a great valley down to the Jordan River (Zechariah 14:4). Apparently
the whole topography of the Holy Land will be changed and Jerusalem will be
elevated, as indicated in Zechariah 14:10, and other changes will take place in
the Holy Land. The judgment, which will begin with the casting of the world
ruler and the false prophet into the lake of fire, will continue as all the armies
that are gathered against Christ will be easily put to death along with their
beasts (Revelation 19:17-21). Other judgments will follow, including the
judgment and binding of Satan (Revelation 20:1-3).
Matthew 25:31-46 predicts the judgment of the nations of the Gentiles still
living in the world. The sheep and the goats represent the saved and the lost
and the separation will take place several days after the Second Coming. This
should support the concept that there will be no rapture or resurrection on
the day of the Second Coming itself. The resurrection of those who died
during the Tribulation period who are mentioned in Revelation 20:4-6 also
occurs after the Second Coming. The sheep-goat separation of Matthew 25
comes after the Second Coming, and if there had been a rapture, obviously
the separation would have already taken place.
Clearly mentioned six times in Revelation 20, a millennial kingdom follows in
which Christ will reign on earth and bring justice and righteousness to bear
upon the world situation. The climax will come at the end of the millennium
with the new heaven, new earth and New Jerusalem, and the beginning of
It would be impossible for any writer of fiction to describe a scene of greater
significance or more sweeping events affecting the entire world than the
period after the rapture of the Church. While the present world may seem to
be one in which God is not dealing with sin and correcting the evil that does
exist, it is clearly portrayed that in God's time and in God's way, every sinner
will be brought into judgment. The only way of escape from the righteous
judgment of God will be the grace of God provided in salvation through Jesus
Christ. If there ever was a generation that should be considering the claims of
Christ and the desperate need of every soul to be saved and forgiven by faith
in Christ, it is the generation that is now living that may soon be plunged into
these end-time series of events after the rapture takes place.