In this Scripture passage, we witness the rise of the antichrist, who will come into great power during the tribulation period. With your Bible still accessible, consider the following insights on the biblical text, verse by verse. The below points about the antichrist will help us understand what he is, what he will do, signs and events around his rise to power, and ultimately his goal.
What and Who is the Antichrist?
1. A beast – I saw a beast rising out of the sea (13:1): Revelation pictures the antichrist as a beast 32 times. The image points to the brutal, bloody, uncontrolled, and wild character of this diabolical dictator. It also contrasts the antichrist from Christ, who is most commonly called the Lamb. The Lamb saves sinners, but the beast persecutes and executes the saints. The Lamb is gentle, whereas the beast is ferocious. The Lamb is loving, but the beast is heartless and cruel.
2. A Gentile – This beast “rises out of the sea” – The sea refers to the Gentile nations (Revelation 17:15), indicating that the antichrist will be a Gentile. “Anti” can mean “instead of ” or “against” or “opposed to.” So “antichrist” can mean “instead of Christ,” “against Christ,” or “opposed to Christ.” The antichrist is the “man of lawlessness,” the “son of destruction,” who will lead the world into rebellion against God (2 Thessalonians 2:3-10; Revelation 11:7) and deceive multitudes (Revelation 19:20).
3. Great Power – “With ten horns and seven heads” (13:1): We have seen that because animals use horns as weapons (Genesis 22:13; Psalms 69:31), horns eventually became symbols of power and then of dominion, representing kingdoms and kings.
4. Roman Revival – Comparing this text with Daniel 7:16-24, we conclude that the antichrist will rise up from ten kingdoms that will constitute a revived Roman Empire, the final form of Gentile world power before Christ returns.
Some Bible expositors say the seven heads are the principal rulers of the antichrist’s revived Roman Empire. Others suggest that the seven heads may be successive world empires — Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome, and the antichrist’s revived Roman Empire. Still others say the seven heads represent seven mountains (Revelation 17:9). A mountain can symbolize a kingdom (see Daniel 2:34-45). This may be a veiled reference to Rome, which was built on seven hills (Revelation 17:18). All these views support the idea that antichrist’s kingdom will be a revived Roman Empire.
5. Global Power – “With ten diadems on its horns” (13:1): The ten diadems, or crowns, point to the dominion of the antichrist’s kingdom, which will eventually embrace the entire globe.
6. Will Blaspheme – “and blasphemous names on its heads” (13:1): These point to the antichrist’s character — he will have a mouth full of blasphemy (Revelation 13:5-6) and will exalt himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped (2 Thessalonians 2:4).
7. Great Army – “The beast was like a leopard” (13:2): Much of the imagery in this verse is from Daniel 7. The leopard was known for swiftness, cunning, and agility (see Daniel 7:6). This imagery in Daniel represents Greece under Alexander the Great, which had a swift, cunning, and agile army. Such will be the case with the antichrist as he comes into world dominion.
8. Fierce – “its feet were like a bear’s” (13:2): The bear in Daniel’s account refers to Medo-Persia (Daniel 7:5), well known for its strength and fierceness in battle (Isaiah 13:17-18). Such strength and fierceness will certainly characterize the antichrist and his forces.
9. Powerful Words – “Its mouth was like a lion’s”(13:2): The lion in Daniel’s account refers to Babylon (Daniel 7:4), with lion-like qualities of power and strength. Babylon was known for its ability to move quickly (like a lion). Such qualities will characterize the antichrist.
A comparison of Revelation 13:2 with Daniel 7 reveals that the final world empire of the antichrist — a revived Roman Empire — will be rooted in all the previous empires. It will unite in a single kingdom the evil and power that characterized all the previous kingdoms.
10. Satan – “To it the dragon gave his power and his throne and great authority” (13:2): The ultimate source of the antichrist’s power is Satan.
11. Resurrected Dead? – “Seemed to have a mortal wound” (13:3): Some Bible expositors believe this mortal wound refers to the pagan Roman Empire, which died in the past but will be revived in the end times. Others say a historical character of the past, such as Nero, Judas Iscariot, Mussolini, Hitler, or Stalin, will come back to life and fulfill the role of the antichrist in the end times. Others say the antichrist will actually be killed and then resurrected. Still others say that perhaps the antichrist will be severely wounded, and Satan will supernaturally heal this wound. Perhaps he will simply appear to be killed, though he really is not, and through satanic trickery will appear to be resurrected.
The revived Roman Empire view seems unfeasible because Revelation 13:12 specifically refers to “the first beast, whose mortal wound was healed.” The “first beast” is the antichrist. Then, in Revelation 13:14, we find a parallel reference to “the beast that was wounded by the sword and yet lived.” This verse is interpreted most naturally as referring to a person — not a reincarnation of a past person, but a unique anti-God person of the future.
It is unlikely that the antichrist will actually be resurrected, but he may give the appearance of having been resurrected. Satan has supernatural abilities (John 12:31; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 2:2), but he is not powerful enough to resurrect people from the dead. Only God can create life (Genesis 1:1, Genesis 1:21; Deuteronomy 32:39); the devil cannot (see Exodus 8:19). The devil has great power to deceive people (Revelation 12:9). He is a master magician and a superscientist.
With his vast knowledge of God, man, and the universe, he is able to perform counterfeit miracles (2 Thessalonians 2:9). Some theologians believe Satan may be able to perform limited “grade-B” miracles. But only God can perform “grade-A” miracles. Only God can fully control and supersede the natural laws He Himself created. Satan will likely engage in a grade-B miracle in healing the wounded (but not dead) antichrist, or engage in some kind of masterful deception, or perhaps a combination of both. In any event, the antichrist will appear to be resurrected from the dead. 2 Corinthians 4:4 informs us that Satan can blind peoples’ minds. If Satan pulls off some kind of counterfeit resurrection, he may blind people’s minds so that they accept this as an indication of the antichrist’s power and deity and subsequently worship him.
If the antichrist only appears to be dead but is not genuinely dead, a scenario suggested by Bible scholar Walter Price becomes viable: The apostle Paul was stoned in Lystra, and the citizens “dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead” (Acts 14:19). While in an unconscious state, Paul “was caught up into Paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter” (2 Corinthians 12:4)… At the same time he was thought to be dead, his spirit was caught up into the third heaven and there received a profound revelation from God. This same thing, in reverse, will happen to the Antichrist. The Antichrist…will be no more dead than was the apostle Paul. But just as the citizens of Lystra thought Paul was dead, so the Antichrist will be thought dead.1 Just as Paul’s spirit departed from his body and was taken to heaven, where he received further revelations, so the antichrist’s spirit may depart from his body and be taken into the abyss, where Satan will offer the world’s kingdoms to him. The antichrist’s spirit will then return from the abyss (Revelation 11:7), re-enter what appears to be a dead body, and thereby give the appearance of a resurrection from the dead. Mark Hitchcock suggests that while his spirit is in the abyss, the “Antichrist probably receives his orders and strategy from Satan, literally selling his soul to the devil, and then comes back to earth with hellish ferocity to establish his world domination over a completely awestruck earth.”2
12. World-Wide Attention – “The whole earth marveled as they followed the beast” (13:3): This event will no doubt make headlines around the world. Internet videos of the event will go viral. Television reports of the event will be shown around the clock.
13. Worshipped – “They worshiped the dragon” (13:4): During Christ’s three-year ministry, Satan tried to persuade Him to fall down and worship him (Matthew 4:9). Before that, Lucifer (Satan’s original name) sought to put himself in the place of God (see Isaiah 14:12-17; Ezekiel 28:11-19). Satan will finally have what he has yearned for—worship. They worshiped the beast… “Who is like the beast?” (13:4): This contrasts with believers, who say to God, “Who is like you, O Lord?” (Exodus 15:11).
Major Characteristics of the Antichrist
1. The genius of the antichrist. Scripture reveals that the antichrist will be a genius in intellect (Daniel 8:23), commerce (Daniel 11:43; Revelation 13:16-17), war (Revelation 6:2; Revelation 13:2), speech (Daniel 11:36), and politics (Revelation 17:11-12).
2. The antichrist mimics Christ. Christ is God (John 1:1-2; John 10:36), and the antichrist will claim to be God (2 Thessalonians 2:4). Christ did miracles (Matthew 9:32-33; Mark 6:2); the antichrist will mimic such miracles (Matthew 24:24; 2 Thessalonians 2:9). Christ is crowned with many crowns (Revelation 19:12); the antichrist is crowned with ten crowns (Revelation 13:1). Christ rides a white horse (Revelation 19:11) as does the antichrist (Revelation 6:2). Christ was resurrected (Matthew 28:6); the antichrist will appear to be resurrected (Revelation 13:3-14). Christ is a member of the holy Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 13:14), but the antichrist is a member of an unholy trinity—Satan, the antichrist, and the false prophet (Revelation 13).
Cross-References for Further Study of the Antichrist
Application for Christians
1. Who is like the Lord? People will worship both the devil and the antichrist, saying, “Who is like the beast?” (Revelation 13:4). We, however, proclaim with the Scriptures, “Who is like you, O Lord?” (Exodus 15:11). The Lord declares, “There is none who can deliver from my hand” (Isaiah 43:13). The true God is incomparably great.
2. Test all things. We ought to consistently test all doctrines and religious ideas against Scripture. Even today, the spirit of antichrist is at work promoting heretical doctrine (see 1 John 4:1-3; 2 John 1:7). Scripture often warns against being deceived by false doctrine (Matthew 7:15-16; Matthew 24:4-11; Acts 20:28-30; 2 Corinthians 11:2-3; 2 Timothy 4:3-4). We protect ourselves by testing all teachings against Scripture (Acts 17:11; 1 Thessalonians 5:21).