The reality of the kingdom of antichrist in the last days is an indisputable fact. The Scriptures, especially the book of Revelation, picture to us the rise, establishment, and inglorious end of this kingdom. All Reformed Christians, indeed, all evangelical Christians, albeit with differences, acknowledge the truth of Scripture concerning the antichrist. Since to us who live in the last times this is an important subject, it is worthwhile to examine that kingdom in the light of Scripture, and also attempt to fit present-day events into that Scriptural perspective.
It is impossible to begin to summarize all that the Scriptures teach about the rise and fall of the anti-Christian kingdom. But a few main lines should be drawn on the basis of God’s speech to His church, which we find most clearly in certain parts of the book of Revelation. If we piece together some of the data found in the book of Revelation, then we find that the kingdom of antichrist comes about by way of gradual development. Especially under the figure of the two beasts in Chapter 13 we obtain an understanding of this kingdom. A careful interpretation of this passage shows that there are two aspects to this kingdom. The first is political, so that the antichrist (be he an individual or not—the Scriptures do not tell us) arises from the sea of the nations of this world, and develops such power that the deadly wound of Babel is healed, and he is able to bring into his fold all the nations of the world, so that there is world unity, at least in the outward sense of the word. In order to do this, the antichristian power dominates the lives of men, both actually and spiritually; that is, he is able to control and use the powers of science, education, philosophy, and even religion to accomplish this unity, so that, at least for a time, there is an actual and viable unity in the world.
It is important, moreover, to remember that this world unity shall include those nations which have been historically under the influence of the gospel, and therefore may be called nominally Christian; in fact, it is out of these nations that antichrist shall arise. But his kingdom will also include those nations that Scripture terms Gog and Magog, that is, those nations which have been for the most part removed from the history of the world and outside the pale of Christendom. The achievement of this unity will be an astounding feat, for never has it been a reality in the world since the effort of Babel, which God in His wisdom disrupted by the confusion of languages. Though many attempts have been made throughout the history of the world to bring about a world kingdom, the devil has never been successful in this purpose. But the kingdom of Antichrist will achieve total domination, a rule so complete that according to Scripture, it will be impossible to buy or sell without his approval, so that one’s very life will be dependent on that kingdom.
Now the Scriptures also picture to us the fall of that kingdom of antichrist under the divine wrath and judgment of God. Of this we read in many places, cf.Revelation 16:10-16, 19:11-21, and Revelation 20:7-8. God comforts His people with the assurance that the number of this kingdom is after all the number of man, 666, and that under His controlling power it can never stand or accomplish the destruction of the church and kingdom of God. While the aspect of the destruction of this kingdom of antichrist is important from this viewpoint of comfort, and while it is important also from the standpoint of understanding that the unity of this Kingdom is never a complete and permanent unity, it must not be allowed to detract from the fact of that unity, which the Scriptures always picture as a reality, and a terrifying one at that.
Consider that there have been repeated attempts by the greatest nations of the world to effect this unity; attempts which have been made over thousands of years of history; and attempts which have always been dismal failures. But the Antichrist will succeed. Just imagine: He will take the nations of the world, disparate and diverse as they are, and weld them into a working coalition which for a time he will be able to maintain, until it will become plain that God is using this kingdom to realize His kingdom. Such is the Scriptural reality of the coming of this kingdom.
But if it is so, are there any evidences of its advent? How does it come about? We must be careful in attempting to answer this question to remember that the antichristian kingdom will not come about overnight; we will not wake up some morning to read in the newspaper that antichrist has achieved world domination, and then wonder how, it could have happened while we weren’t looking. God does not work thus in history, as He has taught those who have eyes to see; rather, the events of history develop and unfold slowly and gradually, and build up toward the climax He has intended in His counsel. While it is also true that there may be some Scriptural warrant for asserting that the events of the last times will move quickly and with increasing rapidity, the history of the last times will not be principally different from the history of the entire New Dispensation out of which it develops. This means that God’s people, who know and believe the reality of the antichristian kingdom as He has revealed it in the Bible, can see the development of that kingdom. Though this does not mean that we must suddenly issue forth with a spate of predictions (against which Scripture also warns), it does mean that we should be evaluating present events in the light of what we know to be the truth. When we do so, then it becomes plain that the antichristian kingdom is not only a reality somewhere in the distant future, but is also a growing, approaching, and increasing reality.
For example, we need only point to a few recent events in the history of the world to show this. Why do the actions of one nation have global consequences? Why is the whole world watching to see what the United States will do about the Panama Canal? Most observers agree that the Canal has little strategic value in our nuclear age, and even its economic value is decreasing with the coming of ships too large to pass through it. Why then all the excitement and debate? Again, why are the superpowers of the world so vitally interested in the Mid-East, so that even now the United Nations has installed a peace-keeping force in Lebanon? And why has the attention of the world been focused upon Africa, particularly the Ethiopian conflict and the Rhodesian and South African problems? What business do the United States and Russia have in interfering (as some see it) in the internal affairs and politics of a third country or continent? And why the recent uproar over some exotic weapon called the neutron bomb, which kills people but creates only limited physical destruction, and which is therefore a very important strategic weapon in Europe?
Though at first glance none of these events seem to have much in common, in reality they do. Marshall McLuhan has observed that we are living today in a “global community.” By this he meant, and rightly so, that the nations are so interdependent upon each other politically, militarily, and economically that the world has become like a small community in which everyone depends on everyone else. It is perhaps not possible for a layman to define what precisely constitutes these interrelationships; in fact, it is often doubtful whether the so-called experts understand the world situation. But I would suggest that this is due exactly to the complexity of this interrelationship, so that it is impossible to separate and define the intricate connections between various nations. Nor is it really necessary to try to explain all the ramifications and implications of this “global community.” But this does not mean that Christians must therefore simply ignore world events, confusing though they may be; we must be aware of what is taking place around us, so that we see and recognize the signs of the times.
What conclusion must we then draw from all of this? First, that the events of the world are important to us as Christians, not because we are of this world, but because we are in it. They touch us as Christians, and more specifically, as Christians living in the last times. Second, we must see that even now the kingdom of antichrist is gradually becoming a reality. It is not here yet, and it will not come tomorrow; but the way is being prepared for it, through the increasing interdependence and growing unity of the nations of the world. And finally, we must be aware that this is one of the signs of the times. The events and movements of the world are not merely political or military, or economic, but spiritual as well, for they are motivated by the spirit and power of antichrist, who is even now in the world. And these events are telic, that is, they are means toward an end, the end of the realization of God’s kingdom in Christ. Though they seem to militate against Christ’s kingdom, and though that is certainly the intention of the powers of evil, the comfort of the Christian as he views the signs of the times is that God is King, and that He uses all things, also the advent of the antichristian kingdom, to serve the purpose of the salvation of His people in the kingdom of His Son.