There has been considerable difference of opinion among Bible students as to which of the two "beasts" of Revelation 13 is the Antichrist. On the one side are those who regard the first beast as the revived Roman empire with the Antichrist as its head, and the second beast as the False Prophet—the third person in the Trinity of Evil. On the other side are those who view the first beast as the revived Roman empire with a man (a Gentile) energized by Satan as its political head, and the second beast, the Antichrist (a Jew) as its ecclesiastical or religious head, thus making the Antichrist and the False Prophet one and the same person, The advocates of these two views are about equally divided. Eminent names might be cited on either side. We shall not here quote from the writings of others, but will give as concisely as possible our own reasons for identifying the Antichrist with the first "beast" of Revelation 13. We write now for the student, not the popular reader.
In the first place, to regard the Antichrist as limited to the religious realm and divorced from the political seems to us to leave out entirely an essential and fundamental element of his character and career. The Antichrist will claim to be the true Christ, the Christ of God. Hence, it would seem that he will present himself to the Jews as their long-expected Messiah—the One foretold by the Old Testament prophets—and that to apostate Christendom, given over by God to believe the Lie, he will pose as the returned Christ. Therefore, must we not predicate as an inevitable corollary that the pseudo Christ will usher in a false millennium and rule over a mock messianic kingdom? That this conclusion is fully borne out by Scripture we shall show in a moment.
Why was it, (from the human side) that, when our Lord tabernacled among men, the Jews rejected Him as their Messiah? Was it not because He failed to fulfill their expectations that He, would take the government upon His shoulder and wield the royal scepter as soon as He presented Himself to them? Was it not because they looked for Him to restore the kingdom to Israel there and then? Is it not therefore reasonable to suppose that when the Antichrist presents himself to them that he will wield great temporal power, and rule over a vast earthly empire? It would certainly seem so. Happily we are not left to logical deductions and conclusions. We have a "Thus saith the Lord" to rest upon. In Daniel 11:36—a Scripture upon which all are agreed concerning its application—the Antichrist is expressly termed "The King (which) shall do according to his will." Here then is unequivocal proof that the Antichrist will exercise political or governmental power. He will be a king—"the king"—and if a king he must be at the head of a kingdom.
In the second place, if the Antichrist is to be a perfect counterfeit of the true Christ, if he is to ape the millennial Christ as set forth in Old Testament prophecy—for, of course, he will not ape the "suffering" Christ of the first advent—then it necessarily follows that he will fill the role of king, yea, that he will reign as a, King of kings, as Satan’s parody of the Son of Man seated upon "the throne of His glory." That the Antichrist will also be at the head of the religious world, that he will demand and receive Divine honors is equally true. Just as in the Millennium the Lord Jesus will "be a priest upon His throne" (Zech. 6:13) so, we believe, the Antichrist will combine in his person the headships of both the political and religious realms. And just as the Son of Man will be the Head of the fifth world-empire (Dan. 2:44) so, we believe, the Man of Sin will be the Head of the revived fourth world-empire (Dan. 2:40).
In the third place, to make the Antichrist and "the False Prophet" one and the same person is to involve us in a difficulty for which there seems to be no solution. In Revelation 19:20 we read "And the Beast was taken, and with him the False Prophet that wrought miracles before him. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone." Now if the "False Prophet" is the Antichrist, then who is "the Beast" that is cast with him into the lake of fire? The Beast here can not be the Roman empire, for no member of the human race (as such) is cast into the Lake of Fire until after the Millennium (see Revelation 20), That "the Beast" is a separate entity, another individual than the "False Prophet" is also clear from Revelation 20:10—"And the Devil that deceived them was cast into the Lake of fire and brimstone, where the Beast and the False Prophet are." In this last quoted Scripture, each of the three persons in the Trinity of Evil is specifically mentioned, and if "the Beast" is not the Antichrist, the Son of Perdition, the second person in the Trinity of Evil, who is he?
In the fourth place, what is predicated of the first "Beast"’ in Revelation 13 comports much better with what is elsewhere revealed concerning the Antichrist, than what is here said of the second "Beast." In proof of our assertion we submit the following:
Points of resemblance between the first Beast of Revelation 13 and the Man of Sin of 2 Thessalonians 2 —
1. The first Beast receives his power, seat, and great authority from the Dragon, Revelation 1-3:2. Compare 2 Thessalonians 2:9—"Him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders."
2. "All the world" wonders after the first Beast, Revelation 13:3. Compare 2 Thessalonians 2:11,12—"And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie; that they all might be damned" etc.
4. The first Beast has a mouth "speaking great things" Revelation 13:5. Compare 2 Thessalonians 2:4—"who exalteth himself above all that is called God."
5. The first Beast makes war upon the saints Revelation 13:7. Compare 2 Thessalonians 2:4—"Who opposeth all that is called God," that is, he will seek to exterminate and obliterate everything on earth which bears God’s name.
In the fifth place, that the second "Beast" is not "the Man of Sin" appears from the fact that the second Beast causeth the earth to worship the first Beast (Rev. 13:12), whereas the Man of Sin "exalteth himself" (2 Thess. 2:4), and compare Daniel 11:36—"And he exaltheth himself."
Again; it has been generally recognized by prophetic students that our Lord referred to the Antichrist when He said, "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). If the one here mentioned as coming "in his own name" is the Antichrist then it is certain that the second Beast of Revelation 13 cannot be the Antichrist for he does not come "in his own name." On the contrary, the second Beast comes in the name of the first Beast as is clear from Revelation 13:12-15. Just as the Holy Spirit—the third person in the Holy Trinity—speaks "not of Himself" (John 16:13) but is here to glorify Christ, so the second Beast—the third person in the Evil Trinity—seeks to glorify the first Beast, the Antichrist.
If it should be objected that the second Beast is represented as working miracles (Rev. 13:13,14) and that as the Man of Sin is also said to come "after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders" (2 Thess. 2:9) therefore the second Beast must be the Antichrist, the answer is, This by no means follows. The power to work miracles is common to each person in the Trinity of Evil. Just as God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, each perform miracles, so does the Dragon, the Beast, and the False Prophet. Three things are said in connection with the second Beast which correspond closely with the work of the Holy Spirit. First, "he maketh fire come down from heaven" (Rev. 13:13), compare Acts 2:1-4. Second, "he had power to give life unto the image of the Beast" (Rev. 13:15), compare John 3:6—"born of the Spirit." Third, he causeth all both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads" (Rev. 13:16), compare Ephesians 4:30—"Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption."
Finally; the second Beast is clearly subordinate to the first Beast. But would the Jews receive as their Messiah and King one who was himself the vassal of a Roman? Was not this the very reason why the Jews of old rejected the Lord Jesus, i.e., Because He was subject to Caesar and because He refused to deliver the Jews from the Romans!
In the sixth place, as we have seen, in Daniel 11:36 the Antichrist is termed "the king" and if a king he must possess a kingdom, and can there be any doubt as to the identity of this kingdom? Will not Antichrist’s kingdom be the very one which Satan offered in vain to Christ? namely, "all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them" (Matthew 4:8). That the kingdom of the Antichrist will be much wider than Palestine appears from Daniel 11:40-42—"And at the time of the end shall the king of the south push at him (the Antichrist): and the king of the north shall come against him (the Antichrist) like a whirlwind, with chariots, and with horsemen, and with many ships; and he (the Antichrist) shall enter into the countries, and shall overflow and pass over. He (the Antichrist) shall enter also into the glorious land, and many countries shall be overthrown; but these shall escape out of his (the Antichrist’s) hand, even Edom, and Moab, and the cider of the children of Ammon (compare other Old Testament prophecies concerning these three powers). He (the Antichrist) shall stretch forth his hand upon the countries: and the land of Egypt shall not escape." From this Scripture it is also clear that the Antichrist will be at the head of a great army and therefore a political ruler as well as a religious chief.
In the seventh place, it is generally agreed among those students of prophecy who. belong to the Futurist school that the rider upon the four horses of Revelation 6 is the Antichrist. If this be the case then we have further proof that the Antichrist and the Head of the revived Roman empire is one and the same person. This may be seen by comparing three Scriptures. In Revelation 6:8, of the rider on "the pale horse," we read, "His name that sat on him was Death and Hell followed with him." In Isaiah 28:18, those who will be in Jerusalem during the Tribulation period are addressed by Jehovah as follows: "And your covenant with Death shall be disannulled, and your agreement with Hell shall not stand." What "covenant" can this be except the one mentioned in Daniel 9:27 where we read of the Roman Prince (the Head of the revived Roman empire) confirming the covenant with the many for seven years. Now reverse the order of these three passages, and what do we learn? In Daniel 9:27 we learn that the Head of the Roman empire makes a "covenant" with the Jews. In Isaiah 28:18 this "covenant" is said to have been made with "Death and Hell." While in Revelation 6:8 the rider on the pale horse (which it is generally admitted is the Antichrist) is named "Death and Hell." Hence, from whatever angle we approach the subject it is seen that the Antichrist is the Head of the fourth world-kingdom.
Finally, we wish to call attention to the employment of the definite article in connection with the two "Beasts" of Revelation 13. Wherever we read of the Beast, it is the Antichrist who is in view. In 13:1 we read, "And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy"—this is the empire itself with its seven mountains and ten kings (see 17:9, 12). But from 13:2-8 it is always "the Beast," the Head of the empire, the Antichrist. So in 19:20 and 20:10. The Antichrist is termed The Beast in contradistinction to Jesus Christ who is denominated "The Lamb."