Revelation 13:1 – Is the Antichrist an empire or a single individual?

Problem: Some interpreters argue that the Antichrist is a symbol for the evil of human empires in rebellion to God. In defense of this interpretation, they point out that he is described as the combination of Daniel’s images for the world empires (Dan. 7:5-6).

Solution: While John does use imagery of the nations to describe the Antichrist from Daniel 7 (e.g. the leopard, lion, bear), this was probably due to the fact that he represents and rules the nations. However, this figure also fulfills the imagery about the “little horn” (a single person) from Daniel 7:8 and 7:25 (“this horn possessed… a mouth uttering great boasts… He will speak out against the Most High and wear down the saints of the Highest One… they will be given into his hand for a time, times, and half a time”). This is similar to how Nebuchadnezzar was called the “head of gold,” because he represented the Babylonian Empire.In addition to Daniel 7, Jesus expected the Antichrist to be an individual person in Mark 13:14, using the masculine singular for “standing where it should not be.” Osborne writes, “Perhaps the first NT reference to a coming Antichrist is found in the Olivet discourse, where Jesus speaks of the abomination of desolation as a person (Mark 13:14), using the masculine participle (hestēkota, standing) in contrast to the neuter (bdelygma, abomination) that it modifies.”[1]The apostles seem to believe that the Antichrist would be a single individual as well. Paul expected a single individual in 2 Thessalonians 2:4 (“the man of lawlessness”). So did John in 1 John 2:18, where he distinguishes the Antichrist from “many Antichrists.”

[1] Osborne, Grant. Revelation. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic. 2002. 493.

And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy. (Rev 13:1)”

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