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From its beginning the Christian Church has anticipated the eventual arrival of Antichrist (1 John 2:18). The earlier prophecies of Daniel had shown believers that the Antichrist would be the final ruler of the final form of their Roman Empire; that is, the fourth empire from Babylon to rule the Holy Land (Daniel 7:23-28). The stature of this person described in the Bible is awesome:
  "he will be different from the previous [rulers], he will speak out against the Most High,
...he will intend to make alterations in times and in law"
Daniel 7:24 
(See The Antichrist).
He is the "man of lawlessness, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, ...the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and lying wonders, with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish" (2 Thes.2:3,4,9,10).
He is "Belial", Satan's counterpart of Messiah (2 Cor.6:15).
He is the "Beast that comes up out of the Abyss" (Rev.11:7).
The whole world will worship him (Rev.13:4).
He will have "authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation" (Rev.13:7).
This is the one who receives from Satan the authority which the true Christ refused to accept (Mat.4:8,9; Revelation 13:7,8). This Antichrist, with his ten subordinate rulers, is also described as destroying Rome (Rev.17:16, a real problem for Protestants who equate the Pope with Antichrist).

Antiochus IV Epiphanes  
Daniel's prophecy in chapter 8 uses Antiochus IV Epiphanes ('god-manifest'), symbolised as the "small horn", as an type of the ultimate Antichrist (8:23-27). Under the Hellenistic Syrian (Seleucid) oppression of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, Israel's rebuilt Temple was desecrated as Daniel had prophesied (Daniel 11:31).
In December 167 BC a sow was sacrificed on the great altar of this Temple as the climax of sacrilege after an image of Zeus had been erected in the holy place. This was, as Jesus later interpreted (Matthew 24:15), in foretaste of the final desecration of that same place. In December 164 BC, after the rebellion of the Hasmoneans, the Temple was rededicated, an event that is still celebrated annually in Judaism today in  the Festival of Lights or Chanukah.  

It is fairly well known that the Bible also identifies Antichrist by the cryptic number 666 (Revelation 13:18). Graffiti on the walls of ancient Pompei illustrate this use of a number as code for a person's name. (One scribble reads, "I love her whose number is 545"; reported in Bouquet 1953:117).
Why would John use a code? For the same reason that he, in the same writing, refers to the city of Rome as a "mystery" harlot, "Babylon the Great", seated on seven hills (Rev.17:9), and not the least that he was writing from the vulnerability of a Roman prison. (Interestingly, a coin of Emperor Vespasian showed Rome as a woman seated on seven hills; Bouquet 1953:132).
The earliest Christian understanding of this code-number, which John said needed sophia or 'understanding' to calculate, was emperor Nero Caesar (Beckwith 1967:401,402). Just as Daniel used the "little horn" prophecy (8:23-27) of Antiochus IV as a foretaste of Antichrist (8:23-26), so John uses Christians' common knowledge of Nero Caesar at that time as a type of the coming "Beast". The wide-spread rumour at the time that the dead Nero would return with the Parthians to destroy Rome made this illustration especially vivid.  

From Angel to Demon  
The early part of Nero's reign was full of promise. His first speech to the Roman Senate (54 AD) heralded the dawn of a new Golden Age. His public image was one of generosity and kindness. He forbade contests involving bloodshed, ended capital punishment, reduced taxes, improved the legal position of slaves, and gave money to help the Jews. He even traveled Greece, honouring its ancient cities while dressed as an ascetic, barefoot and with flowing hair. But, in the theatres mimes and pantomimes were used to ridicule Christianity. And soon, Nero became the monster that history remembers!
He erected a colossal gilded image of himself in the awesome 200 acre Golden House palace which he constructed in the area cleared by the terrible fire of Rome which he blamed on the Christians. As his reign crumbled he committed suicide, but for years afterwards the stories continued to circulate that Nero would return.
In Scripture the actual term 'Antichrist' is only used in the writings of John. His use indicates that the first Christians expected Antichrist to arise in the "last hour" from nominal Christianity (1 John 2:18). This accords well with the early positive aspects of his career in the Nero-analogy above as a world leader, Daniel's report of the "covenant with the many" (Dan.9:27) in Israel (with its hidden dual-meaning), as also the association of a great Christian "apostasy" at the time of his revelation of himself (2Thes.2:3).

Instigator of
the Ultimate Terror
Jesus spoke many words which were not written down, but those that are written were selected and recorded by the wisdom of the Holy Spirit for our sakes. Concerning the sacrilege of Antichrist, Jesus said: "for then there will be a great tribulation,
  such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever shall" Matthew 24:21.
He said this about the end of our age – that is, after the gospel that He preached has been given as a witness to all nations. Jesus said that this worst of all times in earth history would then begin by a sacrilegious event in the holy place (Matthew 24:14,15 See The Ultimate Clone). He instructed His disciples that this event is the sign to believers to trigger a sudden and unprecedented evacuation from the district surrounding Jerusalem.
This event in the holy place would initiate the time that He described as the world's worst of all times – past, present, or future! – but this is the prelude to His return!

Prelude to Christ's Return  
This sacrilegious event in Jerusalem, that Jesus gave as the sign of the sudden start of this time, is described in more detail by the apostle Paul. He writes about it in order to calm the Thessalonian Christians from any alarmism about Christ's imminent return. This had apparently been caused among them by a lying letter under Paul's name (2 Thes.2:1-5;3:17). He adamantly asserts that even statements through spiritual gifts, or apparent apostolic authority, that the time for Christ's return had already come, are not to be believed (2:2). The coming of Jesus for His people would not come until the Antichrist first appears, in the Temple, showing himself as "god" (2:4).
This ultimate act of blasphemy must first occur before Christ comes, and it is this event that is the beginning of the time of "great tribulation." By the apostle Paul's statement then, as by Jesus also, in His call for His disciples to urgently flee from the  Jerusalem district at that time, Christians will certainly witness this event and the period it inaugurates. This understanding was also the view of the Church in its history as the Didache illustrates (Did.16).
It took Christianity until the 19th century teachings of John Darby of the Brethren before the idea gained ground that good Christians would be spared this time by an earlier gathering to Christ (a rapture), dividing the return of Christ into two parts.
The book of Revelation gives us a wider perspective on this event. This time of ultimate horror on earth is described as:
"Woe to the earth and the sea,
because the devil has come down to you,
having great wrath, knowing that he has only a short time."
Revelation 12:12.
Behind the visible event on earth is a spiritual event! The earthly manipulator/operator of this time of terror is Satan himself – "having great wrath".
  Thank God this time is "short"!  

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