Scattered within its pages, the Bible provides signs or clues about the person known as the Beast—or to some, the Antichrist—who will dominate the world scene during the last several years before Christ's return. Because we believe that time to be just ahead, it follows that this evil man will soon make his debut—or has done so already. Do we know enough of biblical prophecy to identify him when he appears?
The Bible, of course, gives us neither a name nor a set of vital statistics. Even his racial and/or national origins are a matter of conjecture, although the Bible calls him the "King of the North," a title last held by Rome. What Scripture offers to the student of prophecy is a jigsaw puzzle of prophesied behaviors and characteristics, as well as clues to his motivations and temperament through various types. Assembling and pursuing the evidence about this coming, enigmatic figure holds all the suspense of a good mystery.
Because of the knowledge explosion over the past several decades, Christians today have the ability to learn a great deal about the various men throughout history who have been types of the end-time Beast. Many volumes containing the histories and biographies of these Beast-like prototypes line the shelves of libraries and bookstores. It takes only a little study to discover the traits and motivations that the ultimate human ruler will share with these types.
Why should we take the time and effort to do this? It will be to our advantage to recognize him before or as soon as he rises to prominence and to identify him to others to prepare them for the unprecedented tumult of the prophesied Great Tribulation and Day of the Lord—tumult the Beast will catalyze. Moreover, the sooner we identify him, the better able we will be to anticipate and, if possible, counter the effects of his policies and actions.
One of the paramount, biblical keys to this man of unbridled ambition is that he will be fundamentally militaristic. The Beast will be a man of war—a formidable, almost invincible general and conqueror. We will see that Scripture verifies that martial zeal and prowess are among the foremost characteristics of all those who have been types of the Beast.
Napoleon and His Ilk
Renowned British historian Paul Johnson, who has a talent for detecting the central character and the prime motivations of the people he chooses to write about, has recently written a biography of Napoleon Bonaparte. A colorful, controversial figure, Napoleon made a huge impact on European history, certainly, and some of the effects of his actions and policies are still being felt today. In his slender volume, Johnson pegs Napoleon, his character, and motivation in the conclusion to a chapter titled, "Master of the Battlefield":
Thus from 1799 to the end of 1809 Bonaparte seemed invincible and strode the landmass of Europe like a colossus. . . . What is clear from the story of the seven coalitions [formed among European nations opposing Napoleon] is that Bonaparte remained, from start to finish, a military man. As such, he enjoyed extraordinary success. Where he failed was as a politician, and still more as an international statesman. His failure was so complete that it eventually involved his military ruin, too. (Napoleon, Viking, New York, 2002, p. 72)
Herbert Armstrong taught that Napoleon was the fifth head of the Beast, and in this regard, the life of Napoleon becomes quite instructive. Napoleon is an outstanding example of extreme militarism.
Napoleon originated from among the minor nobility on Corsica, where he was born. In 1779, when Napoleon was ten years old, the governor of Corsica sponsored him to attend a preparatory school for a year before attending the French royal military academy in Brienne, where he studied for five years. Following this, he spent a year at an officer's school in Paris. From that point on, except for brief periods of relative peace, Bonaparte was engaged in warfare until his exile to St. Helena in 1815.
If we add these years together, Napoleon was immersed in war in one form or another—either in training or on campaigns—for 36 years. In 1821, only six years later, he died on St. Helena. All but sixteen years of his life—his first ten and his last six—he spent engaged in war. Bonaparte's martial life represents an authentic model of the end-time Beast.
He is not alone. Many of history's Beast-like conquerors had similarly long and intense military careers.
The Bible calls Nebuchadnezzar "the head of gold" (Daniel 2:37-38), the archetype of all world rulers. Like Napoleon, he spent the bulk of his life at war. It is likely that he had spent his formative years fighting under his father, Nabopolassar, and while still a young man, he was given command of the armies of Babylon in 609 BC, five years before he ascended the throne. He was the victorious commander of the army that defeated Pharaoh Necho at Carchemish in 605 (see II Kings 23:29; II Chronicles 35:20). While subduing Egypt in 604, he heard of his father's death and hurried back to Babylon to secure his throne. During his reign, he defeated Egypt twice more and Judah four times, and enjoyed many other conquests. Of these others, he conducted a 13-year siege of Tyre between his seventh and twentieth years on the throne. Nebuchadnezzar's armies were in the field almost continuously, expanding his empire, until his death in 561 BC.
When Alexander—later to be called "the Great"—was about eighteen, his personal valor won the battle at Chaeronea for the Macedonians (338 BC). His father, Philip of Macedon, was killed only two years later. Energetically, Alexander put down his opposition and was chosen by his soldiers to command the Greeks against Persia in 334 BC. In one campaign in 333, he conquered most of Asia Minor, then he subdued Syria, Tyre, Palestine, and Egypt before 331 was out. After two years of consolidation, he defeated Bactria, and by 327, he had crossed the Indus River and penetrated as far as the Jhelum River in Kashmir, where his discontented troops forced him to turn back. He was planning more grand military campaigns when he died in Babylon at thirty-three in 323 BC. He had spent most of his life at war.
Antiochus IV, surnamed Epiphanes, was king of Syria from 175-164 BC. Part of the history and prophecy concerning the King of the North in Daniel 11 is based on his twelve-year reign. It was against his despotic, barbaric rule that the Jews under the Maccabees revolted and won their autonomy. After four campaigns against Egypt (171-168 BC), he turned his wrath on Judea, taking Jerusalem by assault in 167, slaughtering a large number of its inhabitants, abolishing the Temple worship, and imposing Greek religion and culture on the Jews. While attempting to put down the subsequent Jewish insurgency, he fought wars against Parthia, Armenia, and Elymais in Elam. Like other types of the Beast, Antiochus spent a great deal of his reign in warfare.
Other historical types of the Beast include Julius Caesar (100?-44 BC), Justinian (AD 483-565), Charlemagne (AD 742-814), Otto the Great (AD 912-973), Charles V (AD 1500-1558), as well as the more recent Giuseppe Garibaldi (AD 1807-1882), Benito Mussolini (AD 1883-1945), and Adolf Hitler (AD 1889-1945). All of these, with the possible exception of Justinian (who conquered through excellent generals), were military men and strategists.
What does Scripture say about the Beast? Regarding the King of the North, a type of the Beast, Daniel 11:36-39 characterizes him:
Then the king shall do according to his own will: he shall exalt and magnify himself above every god, shall speak blasphemies against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the wrath has been accomplished; for what has been determined shall be done. He shall regard neither the God of his fathers nor the desire of women, nor regard any god; for he shall magnify himself above them all. But in their place he shall honor a god of fortresses; and a god which his fathers did not know he shall honor with gold and silver, with precious stones and pleasant things. Thus he shall act against the strongest fortresses with a foreign god, which he shall acknowledge, and advance its glory; and he shall cause them to rule over many, and divide the land for gain.
Obviously, this is a man who regards the military and warfare as a kind of religion, conquering, ruling, and pillaging in the name of his "god of fortresses." The remainder of the chapter narrates what he does: attack, overwhelm, overthrow, plunder, destroy, and annihilate. The Beast is obsessed with war.
In Revelation 13:4-7, describing the Beast from the Sea, John writes:
So they worshipped the dragon who gave authority to the beast; and they worshipped the beast, saying, "Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?" And he was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and he was given authority to continue for forty-two months. Then he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven. It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation.
Revelation 13 covers similar ground to what appears in Daniel 11. The Beast is not given this authority carte blanche, but will earn a great deal of it with his own abilities and the force of his personality, as well as with the energy and aid that the Dragon, Satan (Revelation 12:9), gives him. Of course, God makes all of this possible to bring about the end—so that all will work out according to His plan (see Revelation 17:17).
Nevertheless, the Beast is so formidable in battle that the whole world is convinced that he is invincible—"Who is able to make war with him?" Humanly, they are correct: No country or confederation can match him, and he ends up dominating "every tribe, tongue, and nation." What power! He will be able to hold that power only by military means.
Revelation 17:11-14, the angel's explanation to the apostle John of verses 1-10, adds more detail:
And the beast that was, and is not, is himself also the eighth, and is of the seven, and is going to perdition. And the ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have received no kingdom as yet, but they receive authority for one hour as kings with the beast. These are of one mind, and they will give their power and authority to the beast. These will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings. . . .
Revelation 19:19-20 picks up the thread of the story:
And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army. Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshipped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone.
The Beast reigns but a short time, but in that brief period, he gathers tremendous military power—provided by the ten rulers who use him as a front man for their predatory purposes. He uses this power to conquer everything in his path. He even thinks that he is powerful enough—with the combined armies of all mankind at his back—to take on Jesus Christ when He returns to earth!
What arrogance! And as it turns out, what folly! This is the mind of a man who places all his bets on his abilities as a military genius.
Martial to the End
At the end of Daniel's vision concerning Medo-Persia and Greece, a short passage describes both the type (Antiochus Epiphanes) and the antitype (the end-time Beast):
And in the latter time of their kingdom, when the transgressors have reached their fullness, a king shall arise, having fierce features, who understands sinister schemes. His power shall be mighty, but not by his own power; he shall destroy fearfully, and shall prosper and thrive; he shall destroy the mighty, and also the holy people. Through his cunning he shall cause deceit to prosper under his rule; and he shall magnify himself in his heart. He shall destroy many in their prosperity. He shall even rise against the Prince of princes; but he shall be broken without human hand. (Daniel 8:23-25)
To the end, the Beast is a fighter and a dogged, cunning strategist, who believes that he can win on any battlefield. He is a proud man who thrives on military victories and the adulation and riches those victories bring, and who delights in utterly destroying his enemies and imposing his will upon the conquered.
These scriptures suggest that the Beast is not necessarily a politician (though he will be adept at political manipulation), but a man who loves war. In this age of do-nothing diplomacy, he will be one whom many will accuse of being rash and too quick on the trigger, but his victories will put down any dissent from that quarter. He will urge swiftness, decisiveness, and overwhelming force. Like many of the past types of the Beast, he will enforce his own terms—probably terribly harsh ones, if history is any guide—on those he subdues.
Keep these clues in mind when watching for the rise of the Beast.