One of the difficulties for Christians in apologetics is that they have to know a lot about many religions and cults, but the religions and cults only have to know about Christianity. The growing threat from Islam reminds the Christian of this very thing. That is why I was glad to receive a book exposing Islamic beliefs (and deceptions) and read it with great interest. It is a 2009 book, The Islamic Antichrist by Joel Richardson.
Richardson’s purpose, however, is not simply to inform believers regarding Islam, but to propose that the coming antichrist will actually be a Muslim called the Madhi, the messianic figure of Islam, and that his empire will not be western but eastern. Although I would recommend the book to become better informed about Islam, I could not agree with Richardson’s thesis about the antichrist. First, I will try to explain his reasoning, which at times can be confusing, and then will explain why I am not convinced of his proposition. While giving good information about Islam, Richardson’s understanding of prophecy seems shaded by it and therefore sees Islam behind every prophetic bush. I will allow his own words to inform us about Islam, and then I will take time to respond to his view on an Islamic antichrist.
Richardson seems to do a thorough job of explaining, quoting, and footnoting sources from Islam. He takes time to give some history of Muhammad and the writing of the Qurʹan (which Muslims believe is inspired) pointing out how Muhammad himself didn’t know what happened to him and even believed he might have been demon possessed (chapt. 11, “The Dark Nature of Muhammad’s Revelations”). Besides the words of Muhammad in the Qurʹan, Muslims have the Sunna, a record of sayings, customs, teachings, and examples from Muhammad. These are equally important to Muslims. The Sunna contains two types of sources: the Hadith literature is the collection of oral sayings of the prophet handed down over the years. The Sirat literature is basically biographical (chapt. 2, “The Sacred Texts of Islam”).
Other interesting chapters of the book are “The Mahdi: Islam’s Awaited Messiah;” “Islam’s Ancient hatred for the Jews;” “Islam and the Goal of World Domination;” “Understanding Dishonesty and Deceit in Islam;” and “The Great Apostasy, Terror, and Islam’s Conversion Rates.” All of these give good information regarding the real nature of Islam. Richardson shows how lying and deception are virtues in Islam if it helps the cause of Jihad or promotes Islam or even if it protects Muslims from harm or embarrassment. He also believes that America is accepting the lie that Islam is basically peaceful rather than understanding that all Muslims are obligated to participate in world-wide domination, whether it is by repopulation of enemy countries, or fighting under the black flags of Jihad and beheading infidels.
Richardson quotes Mawlana Sayid Abul Ala Mawdudi, an Islamic scholar writing,
Islam is a revolutionary faith that comes to destroy any government made by man. Islam doesn’t look for a nation to be in a better condition than another nation. Islam doesn’t care about the land or who owns the land. The goal of Islam is to rule the entire world and submit all of mankind to the faith of Islam. Any nation or power that gets in the way of that goal, Islam will fight and destroy. In order to fulfill that goal, Islam can use every power available every way it can be used to bring worldwide revolution. This is Jihad.1
Richardson then quotes Aduallah al-Araby, in his book The Islamization of America, describing an interfaith meeting where an Islamic cleric said, “Thanks to your democratic laws, we will invade you. Thanks to our religious laws, we will dominate you.”2
Will the antichrist be Islamic?
I will try to explain Joel Richardson’s view that the antichrist is not a westerner, as is widely believed among conservative prophetic scholars, but is a Muslim and that his ten nation coalition described in the Bible is made up of Islamic nations, not European.
First, however, Richardson writes, “Among the Major Signs, the most anticipated and central sign that Muslims await is the coming of a man known as ‘the Mahdi.’ In Arabic, al-Mahdi means ‘the Guided One.’ He is also sometimes referred to by Shiʹa Muslims as Sahib Al-Zaman or Al-Mahdi al-Muntadhar, which translated mean ‘the Lord of the Age’ and ‘the Awaited Savior.’”3 Richardson also says,
Throughout the Islamic world today there is a call for the restoration of the Islamic caliphate. The caliph (khalifa) in Islam may be viewed somewhat as the Pope of the Muslims. Muslims view the caliph as the vice regent for Allah on the earth. It is important to understand that when Muslims call for the restoration of the caliphate, it is ultimately the Mahdi that they call for, for the Mahdi is the awaited final caliph of Islam. Muslims everywhere will be obligated to follow the Mahdi.4
Jihad is the conflict that leads up to the coming of the Mahdi (p. 25). Faithful Muslims must begin that war so that Mahdi will return, ending the conflict by final domination of the entire world. These faithful Muslims will carry black flags with the words “There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his Messenger” (p. 26). Mahdi will plant a white flag in Jerusalem when the destruction of Israel and the domination of the world is complete (p. 27).
Muslims see Jesus as a prophet but not as their messiah or Mahdi(Muslims do not believe Jesus died on the cross, but lived and was taken to heaven at a later time). They believe he will return in the last time and convince the world that Islam is the true religion and turn Christians to Islam (chapt. 6, “The Muslim Jesus”).
These facts about Islamic eschatology are fascinating and important in order to understand Islam (the author adds more details as well). Richardson, however, because these beliefs are so universal in a universal religion, believes that this Mahdi and this Muslim Jesus will actually be fulfilled in the Biblical antichrist and false prophet. That is, the Biblical antichrist will portray himself as the Muslim Mahdi and the whole Islamic world will follow him. Richardson also believes that the Biblical false prophet (of Rev. 13) will pretend to be the Muslim version of Jesus who will support the Mahdi and also cause the Muslim world to follow this deception (chapt. 5, “Comparing the Biblical Antichrist and the Mahdi,” and chapt. 6, “The Muslim Jesus”).
To support his conclusions, Richardson spends time explaining Gog and Magog of Ezekiel 38 & 39 as the antichrist and his confederates. (chapt. 10-”The Revived Islamic Empire of the Antichrist”). Having posited that, he describes the nations in Ezekiel 38 as Islamic nations—which, of course, they are. He doesn’t entertain the view (at least not here) that the battle of Gog & Magog happens before the battle of Armageddon. He does say,
Prophecy teachers and Bible scholars have different opinions regarding the identification of Gog and his coalition of nations. The majority position for the past few decades, however, has been that the invading army of nations described in Ezekiel 38 and 39 is not the army of the Antichrist, but another army led by another world leader. I personally reject the idea that Gog is anyone other than the Antichrist.5
To support this claim Richardson uses the reference to Gog & Magog in Revelation 20:8 after the millennium to try to say that antichrist couldn’t be in both places a thousand years apart. But, of course, that would also be a problem for his view as well. Also in support of his view, Richardson claims that after the Roman empire ended, the fifth kingdom is the Ottoman Empire which makes up the ten nation confederation of the antichrist. He rejects the idea of a “Revived Roman Empire” or of a European ten nation confederation.
He warns that we should not read our current situation into the Scripture as, he thinks, the past generation has done (which, of course, he is obviously doing).
No, the antichrist will be western
As I have said, I am not convinced of Richardson’s view, novel though it may be, and must stick with the majority view on this. Here are my reasons why.
- 10 toes, 10 horns. When Daniel sees the great image in chapter two, the legs are of iron which is the Roman Empire (to which even Richardson agrees). The ten toes (2:40-44) are mixed with iron and clay because they are attached to the legs of iron. Also, in chapter seven, Daniel sees the four beasts, the fourth of which is the Roman Empire described as a terrible beast having ten horns. The ten horns are on the Roman beast. The little horn who is the antichrist comes up out of these ten horns (7:19-25). This is much more a picture of a revived Roman Empire than a middle-eastern Islamic Empire.
- The people of the prince. In the great prophecy of Daniel’s 70 weeks (Dan. 9:24-27), the antichrist will sign a covenant with Israel which he will later break (vs. 27). Before this, Daniel depicts the destruction of Jerusalem by saying, “and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary” (vs. 26). The Romans destroyed the city in 70 AD. Here the antichrist is called the prince that shall come and his people are those that destroyed the temple. They were (and will be) Romans.
- King of the north. Daniel 11:36-39 is one of the most graphic descriptions of the antichrist and his hatred for Israel. In vss. 40-45 a king of the north is described coming into the land to fight against him. The antichrist destroys this northern king (whom most see as Gog and Magog) and then becomes the victor.
- The God of his fathers. Daniel 11:37 says that the antichrist will not “regard the God of his fathers.” This has been traditionally taken to mean that the antichrist is Jewish. Though some have doubted that this is clear from the verse, Rolland McCune writes, “Racially or ethnically, it appears that the Antichrist is Jewish. Daniel notes that he will have no regard for the ‘[elohim] of his fathers’ (Dan 11:17). If this is taken in its Old Testament sense of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—the God of Israel—then this would indicate that the Antichrist has a Jewish background.”6 If this is the case, an Islamic Mahdi doesn’t fit Daniel’s description of the antichrist.
- Gog & Magog. The nations of Ezekiel 38 & 39 are definitely Islamic. Richardson criticizes older writers for seeing this as Russia, Moscow, etc., due to name similarity, a view which has been corrected many times by men of my view. Interestingly he quotes Matthew Henry and Josephus as examples, showing how far back the old view goes. At any rate, no one argues with the fact that the nations following Gog are from the middle east and above. But there is no evidence that Gog is antichrist. That is pure conjecture. This is the king of the north, and is defeated long before the antichrist is defeated at Armageddon.
- The harlot of Rev. 17. John describes a harlot riding upon a beast (who is the antichrist). The beast has 10 horns (his ten nation confederation). These 10 nations “receive power as kings one hour with the beast” (vs. 12). For the first three and a half years the antichrist and his confederates use the woman and then discard her. For the second three and a half years a new religion is established with the beast, the false prophet, the image, and the 666. Many have believed that this harlot is the Roman church, not that the antichrist himself is the Pope or the Catholic Church personified. This religious system that deceives the world is this Roman-based Church which the antichrist uses to come to power. In such a case, the ten nations and the beast upon which she is riding extend wherever she extends, which means that the antichrist’s western confederation exists wherever this western Church exists (many would say all of Europe, as well as North and South America).7
- Antichrist, not AntiMahdi. I think an important point to make is that the apostle John gives us the title of “antichrist” in his first epistle (2:18). The antichrist will pretend to be Christ. I know that “anti” can mean “against” as well as “instead of.” The point is that he will be a false Christ. Even Jesus warned that “many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many” (Matt. 24:5). But an Islamic antichrist would not say this. In Richardson’s view the false prophet is the one who would say that he is Jesus Christ.
- Premillennial writers. This point would not come first, but it should be mentioned. Many prophetic writers have held to the common view that the antichrist is western and that the ten nation confederation is western. Many of these writers wrote long before world powers were aligned in any specific way. In his historic work, Things To Come (1958), J. Dwight Pentecost, in dealing with the antichrist and his ten nation confederation, quotes from these men holding the same view: Lewis Sperry Chafer, C.I. Scofield, Edward Dennett, Arno C. Gaebelein, Sir Robert Anderson, S. P. Tregelles, William Kelley, Harry A. Ironside, G. N. H. Peters, E.J. Young, Walter Scott, Roy Aldrich, and F. C. Jennings. Again, this would not matter against plain Biblical teaching, but it is a strong testimony that many men who believe in a literal interpretation of the Scripture hold to a western antichrist and confederation.
- Historical naiveté. Richardson himself says, “In America, we are infamously America-centric. As American Christians we read into the Bible our own American experience.”8 Also, “We must not read our assumptions or modern events into Scripture. We must allow Scripture to speak for itself.”9 Yet when commenting on Jesus’ words that those who kill you will think they do God a service, Richardson says, “Islam, however, fits Jesus’ prophecy perfectly.”10 So he is doing this very thing. It is always tempting to see the fulfillment of prophecy in our own circumstances though other circumstances in history probably fit much better than our own. I think if I had been a German Christian in the 1930s I would surely have thought Hitler was the antichrist, and maybe Himmler the false prophet. But it wasn’t so. Sure, we have thought that Russia would be the king of the north, and maybe it still will be. But we will not know until it happens. That’s what makes the second coming of Christ imminent.
And So . . .
I will say again how much I profited from Richardson’s knowledge of Islam and his careful documentation of its beliefs. His view on an Islamic antichrist is his view, and maybe that of many others. I think he is reading too much into the Scriptures that describe the antichrist. He may not be looking for the rapture but I am. And when the church is gone and the end time events begin, we will be praising God for His sovereign working of His mighty plan, and we will rejoice when we see it happen. Maybe that will be in our life-time with events as we now know them and maybe not. It could be a hundred years from now with totally different events. But either way, the church will always say with John, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Rev. 22:20).
- Joel Richardson, The Islamic Antichrist (Los Angeles: WND Books, 2009) p. 144.
- Ibid. p. 145.
- Ibid. p. 21.
- Ibid. p. 24.
- Ibid. p. 83.
6.Rolland McCune, A Systematic Theology, vol. III (Detroit: Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary, 2010) 373.
- See McCune, p. 374, and also J. Dwight Pentecost, Things To Come, p. 324.
- Richardson, p. 190.
- Ibid. p. 86.
- Ibid. p. 192.