The second great development which will occur during the interval between the rapture of the saints at the coming of the Lord to the air, and their return in power and glory with Him to earth, will be the rise and manifestation of Antichrist, or The Man of Sin. Even in the apostle's days the "spirit of antichrist" (1 John 4:3), was working. And it still works, assuming varied forms, and employing varied instruments, all against Christ, many of them in imitation of Him and His works. But the personal Antichrist of whom we read so much in both Old and New Testament Scriptures, has not yet been revealed, nor can he be, while the Withholder is present on earth (2 Thess. 2:6-8). All attempts to explain away the prophecies regarding this mysterious Being, by references to the Church of Rome, or the Roman Pontiff, are futile. He will not be a mere ecclesiastical pretender, shorn of temporal authority, like the Pope, but the acknowledged Head and Kaiser of the revived Roman Empire with its ten kingdoms, embracing the greater part of Europe. As his name Antichrist implies, he will be "against Christ." All the descriptions given of him show, that morally he will be a direct contrast to the Son of God. Christ was the brightness of the Father's glory, the express image of His Person (Hebrews 1:3), God manifested in the flesh (1 Timothy 3:16). Antichrist will be the representative of Satan, the incarnation of all his deceit and subtlety, and possessed of all his powers (2 Thess. 2:9). Christ sought not His own glory (John 8:50), but humbled Himself (Philippians 2:8): Antichrist will exalt himself, and demand to be worshipped (2 Thess. 2:4). Christ was the truth (John 14:6): Antichrist will be the lie (2 Thess. 2:11).
By miracles and wonders Jesus of Nazareth was approved of God as the chosen Messiah of Israel (Acts 2:22), but they received Him not. By miracles and wonders, the prophet of this Super-man from hell will deceive all who dwell upon earth whose names are not written in the Lamb's Book of Life, and thus command their homage for his master's image (Revelation 13:15). The authority once offered to the Lord Jesus by the tempter, but refused (Luke 4:5-7), will be accepted by Antichrist who in return with his prophet (Revelation 13:2), will convert the world to Satan and seek to further his claims and establish his worship; the last great travesty of the Three-One God in their relations and operations. The Son revealed the Father (John 1:18) and received from Him all authority (Matthew 28:18). The Spirit came forth from the Father and the Son (John 15:26) to testify of Christ and to lead the hearts of saints Godward in worship (Romans 8:15; Ephesians 2:10). Antichrist and his prophet (see Revelation 13:14) [Note 1: Some expositors regard the Second Beast of Rev. 13 as the Antichrist, and the former the Emperor of the Roman world.] will proceed from the devil and act for him, gathering sinners against God into Satan's net for their destruction. Many who refused to believe the truth and to be saved by grace will without question believe THE LIE of Antichrist and be damned in consequence (see 2 Thess.2:11, 12). Such will be his connection with apostate Christianity.
Politically he will be the head of the revived Roman Empire (see Daniel 7; Revelation 13) with its ten kingdoms. The prophet's vision of the beast arising out of the sea may be taken to mean that he will be elected by the popular vote of the masses who ebb and flow as the tides of the sea. All attempts to name the man or adjust the kingdoms of his empire are for the present impossible. When the appointed hour has come, the MAN and the EMPIRE will both appear. Revolutions and wars have suddenly produced new empires and their emperors before and will do so again. To forecast how is only folly. Our business is not to prophesy, or to seek to be wise beyond what God has revealed; least of all to guess and speculate. God has told us all that He has seen needful to inform us of the course of this world in order that we might be kept separate from it and from its spirit and politics which will have their full development under the coming MAN.
His origin seems to be obscure; he is called a "little horn" (Daniel 7:8) and may probably issue from some petty State, but by Satanic power and popular favour he will rise to the highest pinnacle of earthly greatness and have power given him "over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations" (Revelation 13:7). His influence will be very great. The ten kings of the future Roman world will agree to give him their kingdoms and power (Revelation 17:13-17). He wears a royal diadem (see Revelation 13:1) which belongs to Christ by right and title alone (Revelation 19:11-16). His connection with the [*Note 2—see below] Jewish people, who will be again in the land is especially the subject of Scripture prophecy. The Lord Jesus came in His Father's Name but was rejected; the Antichrist will come in his own name and be received as Messiah even as the Lord foretold (John 5:43). He will make a covenant with them for seven years (Daniel 9:27), but in the midst of it, at the end of three and a half years, he will break the covenant and become a persecutor. All who refuse to worship him and receive his mark will be slain. This will be the period of "The Great Tribulation," during the latter half of Daniel's seventieth week. Amid their fearful sufferings, an elect remnant of Israel (Daniel 12:1; Matthew 24:22) will be saved in the flesh and preserved for millennial blessing upon earth. When the great oppressor is in the zenith of his power, when he has gathered the armies of Europe around Jerusalem and is about to strike the final blow, then in a moment the heavens will cleave asunder and the glorified Son of Man will go forth in power and glory, accompanied by all His saints and angels (2 Thess. 1:7) to take the Great Rebel red-handed, and cast him alive into the burning lake. His feet will stand on the mount of Olives (Zechariah 14:3-4) and His earthly people awakened, the veil no longer blinding their eyes, shall own Him as the Messiah—King and welcome Him as their Deliverer. O how that sight will wring their hearts with anguish, as they see as in a moment all the past. The marks of the Cross—the pierced hands and feet—will remind them of Golgotha, and looking upon Him whom they have pierced, they will mourn (Zechariah 12:10). But the fountain opened on that day (Zechariah 13:1) will cleanse them, and they shall find as Joseph's brethren did in the day that he revealed himself to them, that all their hatred and rejection of Him has not turned His heart away from them or cooled His love for them.
The question has often been asked—"Will the Church, or any part of it, be upon earth during the period of Antichrist's reign and of The Great Tribulation?" There will be saints upon earth during that period. Some of them will be slain, and others will be preserved, as the three Hebrew youths were in the midst of the fire. But they will not be of the Church, the body of Christ, the out calling from Jew and Gentile of this present age. They will be of God's ancient people or as they are named in Daniel 12:1, "The Children of Thy people;" an elect remnant who will not be deceived by Antichrist's subtleties or his prophet's devices to lead them into allegiance to the false Christ. Their sufferings are described by the prophets; their prayers for vengeance on their enemies are recorded in the Psalms; and the nature of their testimony is described in Revelation 11:4—all of which go to show that they are not the saints of this day of grace. Those who will be slain for their testimony are of the same spirit as is seen by their prayer (Revelation 6:10). The days of their tribulation will be shortened, [*Note 3 below] else none would be saved from death (Matthew 24:22), so terrible will be the ordeal through which they must pass. "It is even the time of Jacob's trouble, but he shall be saved out of it" (Jeremiah 30:7) and pass into the kingdom of the true Messiah, the Prince of Peace, under whose benign sway Israel shall blossom as the rose.
[*Note 2—The Seventy Weeks and Antichirst: Before the events which come within the scope of the Seventieth and yet future week of Daniel 9:24-27 can be fulfilled, the present dispensation will have reached its close, the Jewish people will be again in their land, the ten kingdoms of the Roman earth will have come into existence, and their Kaiser will be in power. The "covenant" or treaty made by him with the" majority" of them may be the occasion of their national autonomy, and a guarantee of their liberty to worship the God of their fathers, in their newly built temple in Jerusalem. But when half the period is reached—three and a half years—their Protector turns Persecutor, tears up the treaty as ''a scrap of paper," demands worship to his image set up in, or on their temple, and then begins the great Tribulation.]
[*Note 3—The second half of the Seventieth week will not, it appears, run its full course. So terrible will be the experiences of that time to the faithful remnant of the Jewish people in their land, that in answer to their cry "How long" (Dan. 8:13, 14), God intervenes and answers "unto 2300 days," which is 220 days short of seven years. The latter half of the week will therefore be "shortened" some seven months].
From The Second Advent of the Lord Jesus, with Subsequent Events in Heaven and on Earth by John Ritchie. 3rd ed., enl. Kilmarnock, Scotland: John Ritchie, .