What will the world be like just before the second coming of Christ? Our Lord emphasized the enormous potential of global deception at that time.
In answer to the disciples’ urgent question: “What will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” (NKJV, Matt. 24:3), our Lord warned them: “Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many…. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many…. For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect” (Matt. 24:4-5, 11 22). Note the emphasis on the words “false” and “deceive” in our Lord’s answer.
One moment after the rapture of the church, every surviving religious leader in the world will be a false one. Yes, millions of good gospel tracts, books and recorded messages will still be here—but all born-again Christians will be gone. Human reflectors of the light of the world will be in heaven with their Savior. Suddenly, the worst person the world has even seen will introduce himself to the people of Israel, and will offer to them hope for security and military victory in the midst of a world that hates them. That person is the Antichrist. He is the one of whom the Lord Jesus spoke: “I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive” (John 5:43).
So the true Christ knows about the future Antichrist? Of course! In fact, our Lord will actually launch him into his seven-year career on planet Earth: “Now I saw when the Lamb [Jesus] opened one of the seals; and I heard one of the four living creatures saying with a voice like thunder, ‘Come and see.’ And I looked, and behold, a white horse. He who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer” (Rev. 6:1, 2).
The significance of Daniel’s prophecy
At first, the Antichrist will pose as Israel’s friend, and millions of Israelis will put their trust in him. But then, three and a half years later, his true character as Satan’s masterpiece will be revealed. How can we understand this?
Our Lord explained: “ ‘When you [Jewish disciples] see the “abomination of desolation,” spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place’ (whoever reads, let him understand)… ‘Then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be’ ” (Matt. 24:15, 21). There it is!
The command is clear: “Understand” … “Daniel the prophet” (Matt. 24:15). What a tribute to that faithful servant of God who had died nearly 600 years earlier. The Lord had told Daniel: “Seal the book until the time of the end; many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase…and none of the wicked shall understand, but the wise shall understand” (Dan. 12:4, 10).
At this point we can truly identify with Daniel himself. With curiosity bordering on desperation he cried out: “My lord, what shall be the end of these things?” (Dan. 12:8). Fuller revelation was to come in the next four verses, as we shall see, God willing; and later through Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi and, still later, through the New Testament—especially the capstone of all prophecy, the book of Revelation. But the foundation of God’s teaching concerning the final Antichrist was laid in the book of Daniel.
Let us say of Daniel’s book what Peter said of Paul’s letters: “Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless; and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation—as also our beloved brother Paul [and Daniel], according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures” (2 Pet. 3:14-16).