One of the great mysteries concerning bible prophecy and the end times is the national identity of the Antichrist. This is an important topic because it will eventually aid the last days generation of Christians in the correct identification of the Antichrist. Fortunately, the Bible provides us with several details regarding the nationalistic origins of this sinister personality.
His Roman Nationality
Although much debate surrounds his national identity, the Book of Daniel clearly states that the Antichrist will come from among the people whose armies destroy the Temple.
“A ruler will arise whose armies will destroy the city and the Temple.” Daniel 9:26 (NLT)
The City and the Temple referenced in this passage were destroyed in A.D. 70 by Titus and the Roman legions, but Titus was not the ruler referenced in this verse. Daniel 9:27 describes the ruler as one who will make a seven-year treaty with Israel, put an end to the sacrifices and offerings, and set up a sacrilegious object that causes desecration. These are events that will be fulfilled in the life of the Antichrist. According to Daniel, the Antichrist will come from among the people who destroyed the Temple. Therefore, we can be certain that the Antichrist will come from among the Roman people.
However, coming from among the Roman people does not automatically mean that the Antichrist will be of Italian heritage or Roman ethnicity. It simply means he must come from among those people who were part of the Roman Empire at that time. From an ethnic standpoint, this leaves the door open to countless possibilities. The Roman Empire covered most of the known world in its day, and Roman citizenship was extended to many non-Italian peoples. So how do we interpret this passage?
Most likely, Daniel 9:26 is a reference to the power base from which the Antichrist will operate. The Book of Daniel clearly states that the final world empire before the establishment of Christ’s Millennial Kingdom will be a resurrected form of the Roman Empire. In all likelihood, the Antichrist will be the ruler of this revived Roman Empire which will “devour the whole earth,” and in this way, Christians will be able to identify him as the Antichrist.
Is the Antichrist Syrian?
Daniel Chapter 8 provides us with further clues in regard to the life and times of the Antichrist. In it, the angel Gabriel explains Daniel’s vision of a Ram and Goat as events relating to the Greek Empire of Alexander the Great. In a claim verified by history, Gabriel states that following the death of Alexander, the empire will be divided into four parts. From one of those four parts, the Antichrist will arise:
“The shaggy male goat represents the king of the Greek Empire. The four prominent horns that replaced the one large horn show that the Greek Empire will break into four sections with four kings, none of them as great as the first. At the end of their rule, when their sin is at its height, a fierce king, a master of intrigue, will rise to power. He will become very strong, but not by his own power. He will cause a shocking amount of destruction and succeed in everything he does. He will destroy powerful leaders and devastate the holy people.” Daniel 8:21-24 (NLT)
Daniel Chapter 11 provides an in-depth examination of the history of the breakup Alexander’s empire, describing historical events relating to the King of the North and the King of the South. The latter part of the chapter describes the Antichrist, identifying him with other historical figures who have held the title “King of the North.” This, along with the passage cited above, clearly links the Antichrist to the Northern Kingdom of the divided Greek Empire. This kingdom was ruled by one of Alexander’s generals, Seleucus, who ruled the areas of Syria, Mesopotamia, and Persia. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that the Antichrist will in some way be linked to this geographic area of the Middle East.
Isaiah Chapter 10
In addition to Daniel 8, the prophet Isaiah also offers some interesting insight concerning a “king of Assyria”:
“After the Lord has used the king of Assyria to accomplish his purposes in Jerusalem, he will turn against the king of Assyria and punish him – for he is proud and arrogant. He boasts, ‘By my own power and wisdom I have won these wars. By my own strength I have captured many lands, destroyed their kings, and carried off their treasures. By my greatness I have robbed their nests of riches and gathered up kingdoms as a farmer gathers eggs. No one can even flap a wing against me or utter a peep of protest.” Isaiah 10:12-14 (NLT)
Although not directly identified by Isaiah, this king of Assyria bears a striking resemblance to the Antichrist. Both the Book of Daniel and the Book of Revelation describe the Antichrist as proud and arrogant, boasting arrogantly and blaspheming God Himself. His boast that “no one can even flap a wing against me or utter a peep of protest” also fits the description of the Antichrist as given in the Book of Revelation:
“They worshiped the dragon for giving the beast such power, and they worshiped the beast. ‘Is there anyone as great as the beast?’ they exclaimed. ‘Who is able to fight against him?’” Revelation 13:4 (NLT)
Isaiah 10, coupled with Daniel 8, lends support to the idea that the Antichrist will somehow be connected to political power in this region of the world.
Is the Antichrist Jewish?
Is the Antichrist Jewish? Although there is no definitive answer, two Bible verses provide us with good reason to believe he will be. The first appears in the Book of Genesis when God prophesies the coming of Israel’s Messiah and Satan’s Antichrist.
“From now on, you and the woman will be enemies, and your offspring and her offspring will be enemies. He will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” Genesis 3:15 (NLT)
Later on, when Jacob is blessing his sons, he makes this prophecy about Dan:
“Dan will govern his people like any other tribe in Israel. He will be a snake beside the road, a poisonous viper along the path, that bites the horse’s heels so the rider is thrown off.” Genesis 49:16-17 (NLT)
This reference to a serpent striking a heel may indicate that the Antichrist will be a Jew from the tribe of Dan, but it isn’t certain and many reasonable people are divided on this issue.
In addition to this reference to the tribe of Dan, the Book of Daniel points out that the Antichrist will worship himself above all else:
“Neither shall he regard the God of his fathers, nor the desire of women, nor regard any god: for he shall magnify himself above all.” Daniel 11:37 (KJV)
This passage is often referenced by those who believe the Antichrist will be of Jewish heritage. The fact that he will have no regard “for the God of his fathers” is viewed as a reference to the monotheistic God of the Jews.
Adding further fuel to speculation that the Antichrist might be Jewish is the following passage from the Book of Revelation:
“Then I saw another beast come up out of the earth. He had two horns like those of a lamb, and he spoke with the voice of a dragon.” Revelation 13:11 (NLT)
This verse states that the Antichrist will “come up out of the earth,” a biblical phrase often associated with the promised land and the Jewish people. Throughout the Old Testament, the earth is used as a symbol for Israel, while the sea is used as a symbol for the Gentile peoples:
“And now in my vision I saw beast rising up out of the sea. It had seven heads and ten horns, with ten crowns on its horns. And written on each head were names that blasphemed God.” Revelation 13:1 (NLT)
The verse above is a reference to the Antichrist’s kingdom, which as stated before, will be a revived form of the Roman Empire – thus emerging from among the Gentile people. But all the authority of this kingdom will be exercised by “the beast from the earth” referenced in Revelation 13:11:
“He exercised all the authority of the first beast. And he required all the earth and those who belong to this world to worship the first beast, who death-wound had been healed.” Revelation 13:12 (NLT)
The first beast, whose “death-wound had been healed,” is the revived Roman Empire. The Book of Daniel clearly states that this world empire will re-emerge in the last days, thus becoming healed of its mortal wound. But the one who rules it will “come up out of the earth.” Could this be a reference to the Antichrist’s Jewish heritage?
Will the Jews Accept the Antichrist as Messiah?
All the speculation surrounding the Antichrist’s possible Jewish heritage lends itself to another question: Will the Jews accept the Antichrist as their Messiah? Many believe that the following statement by Jesus is really a prophecy that the Jewish people will accept the Antichrist as their Messiah:
“I am come in my Father’s name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive.” John 5:43 (KJV)
The Antichrist would have to be Jewish in order to be accepted by Israel as the Messiah. Many believe this scripture points to a specific person in the future who will “come in his own name” and be accepted as the Redeemer of Israel.
It is an absolute certainty that the Antichrist will arrive on the world scene as the ruler of a revived Roman empire. However, it is less certain whether or not he will be of actual Italian descent or some other ethnic background. Several scriptures offer the possibility that he could be Assyrian, Greek, or Jewish. But none of them offer us the definitive statement contained in Daniel 9:26.
So how do we rectify these seemingly contradictory prophecies concerning the Antichrist’s nationality? Is he Roman? Italian? Jewish? Assyrian? Greek? He doesn’t necessarily have to be exclusively one or another. He could be an Assyrian Jew born and raised in Italy, or any number of possible combinations. We don’t know for certain, but history indicates that each of these prophecies will be harmonized when the Antichrist finally appears.
Two thousand years ago, the seemingly contradictory prophecies of the first coming of the Messiah were all harmonized in the life of Jesus Christ who was a Nazarene born in Bethlehem who came out of Egypt. With the benefit of hindsight, we can see how this was possible, but for the Jewish scholars who lived before the birth and ministry of Jesus, these prophecies were a topic of intense debate. Would the Messiah come from Nazareth, Bethlehem, or Egypt? The answer, of course, was all three.
In similar fashion, a debate continues today in regard to the prophecies of the Antichrist and his national identity. But no matter how much we speculate on the ultimate meaning of the scriptures, we won’t know the absolute truth until God’s appointed time. As such, it is wise to study these prophecies and teach them to others, so that Christians of the Antichrist’s generation will be able to positively identify him based on sound Scriptural evidence.
May the Lord Jesus Christ, upon His Return, find us actively engaged in teaching these truths to others. Until then, live with a patient and enduring faith that His Return is soon upon us.