The following is the Foreword I wrote for J.D. King’s book The Beast of Revelation: Unraveling the Mystery. There’s a major shift taking place in eschatology in the broader Christian community. If the shift takes hold, we could see a major change in the way Christians understand eschatology. The Beast of Revelation will help get the message out to those often unreached by Reformed Theology. –Gary DeMar
If there’s one thing we can count on it’s predictions about end-time events. The second thing we can count on is that most of them (maybe all of them) have not stood the test of time. There is a long history of prophetic speculation. Some prophecy writers were very specific by pointing out the year when Jesus would return to wrap up things in a spectacular way. Edgar C. Whisenant claimed he had found 88 reasons why the “rapture” would be in September of 1988. When I debated him in early September of 1988, he told me that if he was wrong it meant the Bible was wrong. Ouch!
As a result of an admitted “miscalculation,” Whisenant revised his prophetic calendar by one year. His new book assured us that the “rapture” would take place in 1989. The fact that you are reading The Beast of Revelation: Unraveling the Mystery by J.D. King is prima facie evidence that Mr. Whisenant was very wrong.
Harold Camping assured us that some form of an eschatological end would take place in 1994. Hal Lindsey described the 1980s as the “terminal generation.” He argued in his 1970 bestseller The Late Great Planet Earth that the “rapture” would take place within 40 years of Israel becoming a nation again in 1948. The late Chuck Smith held a similar view.
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It was in 1926 that Oswald J. Smith wrote Is the Antichrist at Hand? The following copy appeared on the cover: “The fact that this book has run swiftly into a number of large editions bears convincing testimony to its intrinsic worth. There are here portrayed startling indications of the approaching end of the present age from the spheres of demonology, politics, and religion. No one can read this book without being impressed with the importance of the momentous days in which we are living.”
Remember, this was 1926 and the prophesied antichrist was Benito Mussolini. Mussolini was later captured, tried, and executed by firing squad with his mistress, Clara Petacci on April 28, 1945. There has been a parade of antichrist candidates before and after Smith wrote his book all claiming the Bible for their certainty. This has worked to keep Christians on the edge of prophetic anticipation. Like so many before him, history had proved Smith wrong. But Smith did something few prophecy writers ever do. He admitted he was wrong. John Warwick Montgomery writes that “Smith himself tried to buy up all the remaining copies of the book to destroy them.”
William Edgar, a professor of apologetics at Westminster Theological Seminary, recounts the time in the 1960s he spent studying in L’Abri, Switzerland, under the tutelage of Christian apologist Francis A. Schaeffer (1912–1984):
I can remember coming down the mountain from L’Abri and expecting the stock market to cave in, a priestly elite to take over American government, and enemies to poison the drinking water. I was almost disappointed when these things did not happen.
I could recount hundreds of examples of well-intentioned Bible teachers through the centuries whose articles and books no longer hold up given the passage of time. Unfortunately, many Christians aren’t aware of this history. Those who are aware of prophetic speculation often argue that “this time it’s different.”
When trying to interpret the Bible, the first principle to follow is a simple one: What does the text say? J.D. King makes this point by listing the verses that use the term “antichrist.” Reading these four passages is an eye-opener for many people. For many, it’s the first time they encountered the biblical definition of “antichrist,” that there were many of them alive in John’s day, and their existence was evidence that it was the “last hour” of John’s time, most likely the lead up to the destruction of the temple and judgment of Jerusalem that took place before their generation passed away (see Matt. 24:1–3, 34; Luke 21:20, 24; 17:22–37).
When I speak on the topic of Bible prophecy, I often ask the audience this question: Which book of the Bible uses the word “antichrist” more than any other New Testament book? Most people say, “the book of Revelation.” While Revelation does not use the word “antichrist,” John points out that there were antichrists persecuting Christians of that time (Rev. 2:9; 3:9).
There were also beast-like beings. Often the description of a “beast” in the Bible is related to power, either religious or political, and most often a combination of both. Daniel mentions “four great beasts” (7:1–8). Following the description of these beasts, the reign of the Ancient of Days is described (7:9–28). This shows that these beasts were nothing when compared to the overruling authority and power of God. These conquered beasts and their kingdoms no longer exist. God’s kingdom is “forever” (Ps. 145:13; Dan. 4:3; 7:14, 27).
The apostle Paul mentions “savage wolves” (Acts 20:29) that would enter the church at Ephesus. These were beaten back by faithful church leaders who were “to shepherd the church of God” (21:28). This approach is no different for today’s churches. The beasts of Revelation 13 were neutralized by “the lamb” who was “standing on Mount Zion” (14:1). It’s time we stop fixing our attention on antichrists and beasts and place our faith in “the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29). Yes, the lowly lamb defeats all beasts!
Are there beasts today? Most certainly. What’s the remedy? Certainly not cowering in the corner and waiting for an eschatological rescue. We should always be on the lookout for religious and political beasts and act accordingly. James writes, “Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). Such resisting requires an active faith and confidence that God is in the Satan-crushing, beast-busting business (Rom. 16:20), and that includes any beast that might be roaming around today. Today’s beasts—religious and civil—must be confronted in obedience to God’s revealed will and the application of God’s Word to every area of life.
Understanding the Bible on this issue is critical. J.D. King has done a wonderful thing. He has put the antichrists and beasts in biblical perspective. That’s the needed first step. The Beast of Revelation: Unraveling the Mystery will help you take that first step. It’s possible that what you read may be new to you. That’s OK. Be a Berean (Acts 17:11). Put his work to the test by searching the Scriptures to see whether what he writes fits with the biblical record and do the same with others who seem to be fixated on antichrists and beasts rather than Jesus Christ and the Lamb.
DeMar covers topics related to (1) the time texts, audience reference, and prophetic signs that are described by Jesus in the Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24; Mark 13; Luke 21), (2) the claim made by James Hamilton that preterism is based on the historical works of first-century Roman-Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, an eyewitness to the destruction of Jerusalem that occurred in AD 70, (3) the meaning of Jesus’ use of ‘this generation,’ and (4) John Murray’s (1898–1975) interpretation of Matthew 24–25, accepted by Waldron.Buy Now
John Warwick Montgomery, “Prophecy, Eschatology, and Apologetics,” Looking into the Future: Evangelical Studies in eschatology, ed. David W. Baker (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2001), 366.
See Colin Duriez, Francis Schaeffer: An Authentic Life (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2008), 42.
William Edgar, “Francis Schaeffer and the Public Square” in J. Budziszewski, Evangelicals in the Public Square: Four Formative Voices on Political Thought and Action (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006), 174.