2 Thessalonians 2:4 and the Antichrist

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There have been many different theories about the origins of the Antichrist, but the two most commonly held views today are that he will arise out of either Europe or the Middle East.[1] The latter view naturally believes that the Antichrist will be a Muslim since this is the predominant religion in that region today as it has been for more than a millennia. This fact makes it hard for many Christians to think that the Antichrist could from the Middle East because a Muslim could not fulfill the requirements of 2 Thessalonians 2:4.

This verse says, “He [the Antichrist] 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.” Another passage that is brought into the debate is Revelation 13:4, 8, and 15. These verses teach that the Beast (the Antichrist), his image, and Satan will be worshiped by the inhabitants of the earth.

These verses allude to Daniel 11:36 which says, “He will show no regard for the gods of his fathers or for the one desired by women, nor will he regard any god, but will exalt himself above them all.” Revelation 13:4, 8, 15 add to this by saying, “People worshiped the dragon because he had given authority to the beast, and they also worshiped the beast and asked, ‘Who is like the beast? Who can wage war against it’…All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast—all whose names have not been written in the Lamb’s book of life, the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world…The second beast was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that the image could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed.”

Prophecy teacher David Reagan believes that this behavior of the Antichrist proves that he cannot be a Muslim. He says, “A person would have to cease being a Muslim in order to believe that any man could be God. I believe the bizarre behavior of the Antichrist described in 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4, where it states that he will proclaim himself to be God, rules out any possibility that the Antichrist might prove to be a Muslim.”[2]

Do these verses prove that the Antichrist cannot be a Muslim? In this article, we will examine the belief that the Antichrist will claim to be God, and we will see if this is incompatible with the Islamic Antichrist theory.

Daniel 11:37-38

The first passages mentioned above to be examined is Daniel 11:37-38. Do these verses teach that the Antichrist will be homosexual or that he will have no god at all? This is important to know since a Muslim Antichrist would worship Allah and would not be a homosexual. Also, is the phrase “God of his fathers” incompatible with an Islamic Antichrist?

There have been different interpretations of this verse. First, in this passage, the Hebrew Elohim ab (God of his fathers) is used and is repeated throughout the Old Testament. Every time it appears it is a reference to the Lord (Yahweh, the Hebrew word translated as Lord in many English translations).[3] This has caused some to argue that the Antichrist will be a Jew.[4] This is not an impossible interpretation and does not contradict the Islamic Antichrist theory since he could be an apostate Jew who follows Islam.[5]

There is another possibility. The Jews are not the only people descended from Abraham, the son of Abraham since he had more than one son, the most famous being Ishmael. Many of the Arab peoples trace their ancestry back to Ishmael, and Islam came from the Arabs. This phrase then does not exclusively mean that the Antichrist must be a Jew descended from Isaac. The phrase can also be associated with the Arabs who descended from Ishmael. The God of Abraham would still be the God of his [the Antichrist] fathers.[6] This argument, although it does not prove that the Antichrist will be a Muslim, shows that the phrase “God of his fathers” is consistent with an Islamic origin of the man of lawlessness (whether he be a Jew or Gentile).

Verse 37 also teaches that the Antichrist will show no regard for the one desired by women. This has been interpreted by some that the Antichrist will be a homosexual. However, it is highly unlikely that this is the meaning of the verse. The most plausible interpretation is that he will not worship any god that women worship (see here for more). However, there is another possible meaning that also fits a Jewish context: the one desired by women is Jesus Christ. John Walvoord says:

“Although Daniel is not specific, a plausible explanation of this passage, in light of Daniel’s Jewish background, is that this expression, the desire of women, is the natural desire of Jewish women to become the mother of the promised Messiah, the seed of the women promised in Genesis 3:15.”[7]

The same verse continues by saying that the Antichrist will not accept any god, but will exalt himself above every single one of them. This seems to point to the conclusion that he will be an atheist. However, verse 38 adds that he will worship one god: a god of war. Some take this as he will love war so much that he worships it.[8] This is a possible understanding, but it is not the only interpretation.

The context seems to imply that he will worship a god. The passage even says that he will honor this god with precious gifts, and will even be aided by this god. We know from 2 Thessalonians 2:9, Revelation 13:2, and Daniel 8:24 that the Antichrist will be aided by Satan. And who desires to be worshiped? That’s right, Satan. This verse teaches us that the Antichrist will reject the God of the Bible, and every other god except one – a god of war. This is not inconsistent with either a European or Muslim Antichrist.

2 Thessalonians 2

It is 2 Thessalonians 2:4 that is the center of attention when discussing this topic. Paul teaches that the Antichrist will claim to be God when he sits in the Temple. The first thing we must understand is that there is simply no way that the Antichrist will claim to be the God of the Bible since we know that he will speak blasphemies against God (Daniel 7:25; 11:36; Revelation 13:6). If he claims to be God, then he will be talking bad about himself. But, could he not claim to be another god. The common objection to an Islamic Antichrist is that Muslims will never worship a man. Three different ways have been attempted to show that 2 Thessalonians does not contradict the Antichrist being a Muslim.

First, Joel Richardson, in his book Mideast Beast, gives us a unique interpretation of 2 Thessalonians. He states that to understand this passage we need to understand the meaning of the Temple in God’s eyes. Ezekiel 43:6-7 says, “While the man was standing beside me, I heard someone speaking to me from inside the temple. 7 He said: ‘Son of man, this is the place of my throne and the place for the soles of my feet. This is where I will live among the Israelites forever.’”

Jeremiah 3:17 says, “At that time they will call Jerusalem the throne of the Lord, and all nations will gather in Jerusalem to honor the name of the Lord. No longer will they follow the stubbornness of their evil hearts.” The Temple was considered to be God’s throne on earth. “[T]he Temple was viewed as the earthly location from which the governmental authority of God was extended to the earth.”[9] Scholar Sam Storms adds to this:

“That taking one’s ‘seat’ in the temple or ‘sitting’ therein is figurative for the exercise of authority or the spread of one’s influence can be seen from a brief survey of other New Testament uses of this language and imagery (see especially Matt. 23:2; 26:64; Acts 2:30-36; Heb. 1:3; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2; Rev. 3:21), as well as the fifteen occurrences in Revelation where ‘sitting on a throne’ is metaphorical for assuming a position of authority.”[10]

The fact that the Antichrist will sit in the Temple means that, by sitting on God’s throne, he (the Antichrist) will claim that he is equal to, or even better than the God of the Bible. This does not necessarily have to mean that he will claim to be some god from the heavenly realms. This fits perfectly with the fact that Daniel and 2 Thessalonians mention that the Antichrist will exalt himself above everything that is worshiped. He will claim to have higher authority than any deity of any religion.[11]

Richardson, in another book, gives us a possible second interpretation – the Antichrist will claim to be divine, and Muslims will worship him. In this interpretation, the Antichrist will not demand worship until well after he has been accepted as the Mahdi (the Islamic savior whom Richardson identifies as the Antichrist). This would probably occur halfway through the Tribulation. Richardson says,

“The imams, mullahs, sheiks, and ayatollahs – all of the world’s Islamic leadership – will have already given their allegiance to the Mahdi. To deny him after this point would be the ultimate shame for Islam. It would come at a time when Islam will experience its greatest rush of vindication and fulfillment. In the midst of all of this incredible elation, to suddenly declare and acknowledge that an absolute-evil charlatan has deceived the entire Islamic world would simply be unthinkable. Once the deception has taken place, it will be impossible to undo.”[12]

Muslims attempting to kiss the Black Stone. Source: wikipedia.org

We also must remember that the False Prophet will be performing great and miraculous signs to deceive the world into worshipping the Beast. So, those who are following the Mahdi/Antichrist will have already been deceived with signs and wonders. It will be difficult to all of a sudden get millions of people to renounce a man who has conquered the world for Islam and who clearly seems to have the blessing of Allah.[13]

However, there is third view concerning 2 Thessalonians 2 that Walid Shoebat, the former terrorist turned Christian, holds to. He believes that 2 Thessalonians 2:4 is not a difficulty for the Islamic Antichrist theory. He believes that Muslims worship the Black Stone, Muhammad, and will worship the Mahdi when he comes. He says concerning the Black Stone (a stone that is currently in Mecca, Saudi Arabia): “Islam teaches that every Muslim must get his sins cleansed by venerating the Black Stone at least once in their lifetime, since the Black Stone is black due to it taking away the sins of Muslims. From a biblical definition—not only do Muslims deify Muhammad, they also deify the Black Stone—this idol takes the position of Jesus Himself, since only Jesus can remit all sin…Al-Tirmidhi, one of the greatest Muslim commentators notes ‘many years ago, the Black Stone was, ‘whiter than milk’; it was only later that it became black as it absorbed the sins of those who touched it.’”[14]

Shoebat continues: “Like Mohammed, the Mahdi is exalted by Islam to be above all of creation, and is claimed by Islam to sit in the Temple of God in Jerusalem. Mahdi in Islam has titles that belong only to God. Now, let’s examine [2] Thessalonians 2 that Reagan [his opponent in his article] uses as evidence to write-off for Islam. Antichrist ‘opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God, or that is worshiped; so that he as God sits in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God’ ([2] Thessalonians 2:4). The Mahdi, like Muhammad, exalts himself above all that is called God. In other words, he gives himself titles that only belong to God. The [2] Thessalonians 2 text is perfect and no serious mind can deny— it does match Islam’s deification of a man.”[15]

Naturally, Muslims claim that they do not worship the Black Stone or Muhammad (although there is evidence that they do pray to Muhammad). This is considered blasphemy in “official” Islamic doctrine. However, this claim does not prove anything. People who worship money never actually admit that they so do. Just because they say they do not worship money does not mean that they do not do it. Biblically speaking, bowing down to and kissing the Black Stone (which is believed to be a meteorite) and thinking that it takes away your sins is blasphemy towards Jesus Christ and is idol worship. This means that, according to the God of the Bible, Muslims do not worship only one god.

Conclusion

From the book of Daniel, we learn that the Antichrist will have a god, and we learn from both Daniel and 2 Thessalonians that he will exalt himself above everything else. The belief that the Antichrist cannot be a Muslim since they would never worship a man does not hold up under scrutiny. This article looked at a few different interpretations of 2 Thessalonians 2:4. In my opinion, any one of these three is possible. However, I believe that most likely a mix between the first and third interpretations is best supported by the available evidence. In any case, it is clear that this passage does not prove the Islamic Antichrist theory wrong, but is consistent with it.

[1] This is a revised edition of an article originally published on April 26, 2013.

[2] David R. Reagan, “The Muslim Antichrist Theory,” http://christinprophecy.org/articles/the-muslim-antichrist-theory/

[3] Joel Richardson, Mideast Beast, (Washington D.C.: WND Books, 2012), 126.

[4] John C. Whitcomb, Daniel (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1985), 154.

[5] Daniel 7 and Revelation 13 teach that the Antichrist will come out of the sea. The sea was a symbol for Gentile nations. This makes it more likely that the Antichrist will be a Gentile and not a Jew. However, Whitcomb (p. 154) thinks that he could be a Jew raised in a Gentile nation. This is possible for the reasons given in the text above.

[6] Richardson, 127.

[7] John Walvoord, Daniel: The Key to Prophetic Revelation (Chicago: Moody, 1989), 274. Richardson, 127-128.

[8] Leon Wood, A Commentary on Daniel (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1973), 307.

[9] Richardson, 133.

[10] Sam Storms, Kingdom Come (Ross-shire: Mentor, 2013), 529.

[11] Famous Bible scholar F.F. Bruce, in his commentary on 1 and 2 Thessalonians (Word Biblical Commentary. Waco: Word Books, 1982, 169), that 2 Thessalonians 2:4 may simply be “a graphic way of saying that he [the Antichrist] plans to usurp the authority of God.”

[12] Joel Richardson, The Islamic Antichrist (Los Angeles: WND Books, 2009), 180.

[13] Richardson, Antichrist, 180-184.

[14] http://revelation2-7.com/prophecy/antichrist/walid-shoebat-challenges/

[15] Ibid.

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