Joel Richardson in his book Antichrist: Islam’s Awaited Messiah argues that the Mahdi will be the Antichrist of the Bible and that the Muslim Jesus will be be the False Prophet of the Bible who serves the Antichrist and his purposes. Both will be destroyed when the true Jesus returns at the end of the Tribulation.17 The true Jesus will be viewed by Muslims as the Dajjal, or the Islamic Antichrist.
As proof of his thesis, he points repeatedly to the “amazing similarities” and “amazing parallels” between the biblical Antichrist and the Muslim Mahdi.18 He points out that both are pictured as an unparalleled political, military and religious leader who will come on a white horse and who will team up with a false prophet to conquer the world, and institute a one world religion.
The Bible says the Antichrist will change the laws and the times. Richardson asserts that the Mahdi would do just that, instituting Sharia law and imposing the Islamic calendar.19 Likewise, the Bible says the Antichrist will behead those who resist him, and Richardson spends an entire chapter emphasizing that execution by beheading is one of the cardinal characteristics of Islam.20
Richardson even points out that there is a Hadith passage that states the Mahdi will make a covenant with the Romans through a Jewish intermediary and that the covenant will be for a period of seven years, just like the seven year covenant the Bible says the Antichrist will make with the Jewish people.21
The Similarities Between Islamic and Biblical Prophecies
I personally find nothing startling or surprising about these similarities. As I have already pointed out, Mohammed got most of his ideas concerning the end times from discussions with Christians and Jews. And these ideas were later embellished by his followers who were even better acquainted with biblical prophecies concerning the end times. Furthermore, the one who inspired Mohammed and his followers, namely Satan, was an expert on Bible prophecy!
Nor am I impressed with the similarities he points out. It is only natural that the Mahdi, like the Antichrist, should be viewed as a great leader who will conquer the world and institute a one world religion. The assertion that the Mahdi will return on a white horse is, of course, borrowed directly from Scripture, as is the idea of the False Prophet.
As for the laws and the calendar, whoever the Antichrist may be, it is certain he will change the laws by instituting a totalitarian system devoid of individual rights, and he will most certainly change the calendar because the calendar followed by most of the world dates from the birth of Jesus.
The point about beheading is flimsy evidence at best. Beheading is not a unique characteristic of Islam. It was one of the stellar characteristics of the French Revolution, and is just the type of horror the Antichrist would institute, regardless of his nationality or religion.
And as for the seven year covenant, the Mahdi makes it with the Romans (which Richardson says should be interpreted as Christians). It is not a covenant with the Jewish people, as the Bible prophesies.
Richardson’s End Time Scenario
According to Richardson’s end time scenario, the Mahdi and the Muslim Jesus (the False Prophet) will unite the whole Islamic world, reviving the Ottoman Empire.22 They will conquer Israel and establish the headquarters of the Caliphate in Jerusalem. Their rule will come to an end with the Battle of Gog and Magog that is portrayed in Ezekiel 38 and 39, which will occur at the end of the Tribulation, when the Lord Jesus Christ returns. And, again, when Jesus returns, the Islamic world will view the true Jesus as the Dajjal, or the Islamic Antichrist.
One glaring problem with this scenario is that Islamic eschatology teaches that the Dajjal, the Antichrist, will come first, and his appearance will signal that the Mahdi is about to arise.23 Richardson’s scenario puts the appearance of the Islamic Dajjal at the end of the Tribulation instead of at the beginning. And so, I ask, “If some person arrives on the scene claiming to be the Mahdi before the appearance of the Dajjal, why would he be accepted by Muslims?”
Contradictory Concepts of the Mahdi
Nor is it likely that any person claiming to be the Mahdi would be immediately accepted by the whole Islamic world. The reason is that the concept of the Mahdi is one of the key elements in Islamic eschatology that separates the Shi’tes from the Sunnis.24
The Sunni branch of Islam believes that Mohammed’s successor, Abu Bakr, selected in 632, rightfully took his place as the leader of the Muslim world. The Shi’ites, on the other hand, believe that Mohammed’s successor should have been a blood relative and not just a person selected on the basis of Islamic piety or politics. Abu Bakr was Mohammed’s father-in-law. The Shi’ites favored Ali ibn Abi, the prophet’s cousin and son-in-law. Ali ultimately became the fourth successor of Mohammed, reigning from 656 to 661.
After the death of Ali, his heirs were overcome by a military leader named Mu’awiya Umayyad, who proceeded to establish the Umayyad Dynasty centered in Damascus. Shi’ites refused to recognized his leadership since he was not a blood relative of Mohammed. They looked, instead, to the surviving heirs of Ali for their leadership.
The blood line of Mohammed through Ali became extinct in 873 A.D. when the last Shi’ite Imam, Muhammad al-Mahdi, who had no brothers, disappeared within days of inheriting the title at the age of four. The Shi’ites refused to accept that he had died or been killed, preferring to believe that he was merely “hidden” and would one day reappear. This event is referred to in Shi’ite theology as “The Great Occultation” (the hiding).25 This boy was the Shi’ite’s Twelfth Imam, and he is the one they expect to return as the Islamic Mahdi. The Sunnis strongly reject this concept, particularly since many Shi’ites teach that the Twelfth Imam will declare that the Shi’ite version of Islam is the orthodox version.
Islamic historian Timothy Furnish has summed up the difference between the two groups over the Mahdi by observing: “For Shi’ites he has already been here, and will return from hiding; for Sunnis he has yet to emerge into history: a comeback versus a coming out, if you will.”26
The Madhi being heralded by Ahmadinejad is the Twelth Imam. If he were to suddenly appear, he would be rejected by Sunnis, and the Sunnis constitute 90% of all the Muslims in the world.
God’s Covenant with Ishmael
Another problem with Muslim unity is that the whole idea is contradictory to one of the promises God made in His covenant with Ishmael (Genesis 16:10-12). In that covenant, in which God promised that the descendants of Ishmael would be greatly multiplied and would be given all the land east of Israel, God also stated that the Arab peoples would be like wild donkeys for they would always be in conflict with each other.
As Jacob Prasch has pointed out in his writings on this subject, this aspect of the covenant with Ishmael has been manifested throughout history to this day through the internecine wars between the Arabs.27 They fought each other for centuries in pre-Islamic Arabia. Mohammed believed that he could unite them through the advocacy of a monotheistic religion, but he failed. Sunis and Shi’ites have hated and warred with each other since the 8th Century. Consider the modern day war between Iran and Iraq, and the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, with the intent of conquering all the Middle East.
Prasch sums up the problem of Arab unity by declaring, “The curse of Genesis prevents Islamic unity from developing a united empire over-running the West.”28 He further observes: “…the greatest Islamic Empire was strategically dominated by Ottoman Turks who subjugated the Arab Moslems as serfs and slaves…”29
The Extent of the Antichrist’s Kingdom
One of the most peculiar aspects of Richardson’s end time scenario is his insistence that the Mahdi’s revived Ottoman Empire will be a regional one and not a worldwide one as is claimed in both Islamic and biblical prophecy.
In order to sustain this totally revisionist interpretation of end time prophecy, Richardson goes to great pains to deny the clear meaning of Revelation 13:7 which reads as follows: “And it was given to him [the Antichrist] to make war with the saints and to overcome them, and authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation was given to him.”
Let me ask you a question: What more would God have to say to convince us that the Antichrist will have a worldwide kingdom?
Yet, Richardson tries to dismiss this verse as nothing but hyperbole. He does so by quoting Daniel 5:18-19 where it says that Nebuchadnezzar, was feared by “all peoples and nations and men of every language.” Richardson then asks, “Did every single nation in the earth fear Nebuchadnezzar?”30 My answer would be, “Yes, all nations that were aware of him.” That’s all the statement means in its context.
Richardson then quotes 1 Kings 4:34 which says that men of all nations came to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, “sent by all the kings of the world, who had heard of his wisdom.” He then asks derisively, “Was Solomon’s wisdom so impressive that not a single king in all the earth failed to hear of it?”31 That’s not what the verse says. Read it again. It says the kings who had heard of his wisdom sent representatives — not all kings.
Context determines meaning, and the context of Revelation 13:7 clearly means that the Antichrist kingdom will be worldwide, not just a regional coalition of Muslim nations. His attempt to limit the kingdom of the Antichrist to a regional area is reminiscent of the attempt of Genesis revisionists to limit the worldwide flood of Noah to the Middle East.
Furthermore, the worldwide nature of the Antichrist’s kingdom is affirmed in Daniel 7:23 where the prophet states that the Antichrist will “devour the whole earth and tread it down and crush it.” Richardson ignores this verse.
The Revived Ottoman Empire
Richardson’s claim that the final Gentile empire of the Antichrist will be the revived Ottoman Empire forces him to deal with Nebuchadnezzar’s vision of Gentile kingdoms, recorded in Daniel 2:31-45. The traditional interpretation of that vision is that its succession of empires ends with the Roman and that it is the Roman Empire that will be revived in the end times and provide the platform from which the Antichrist will arise.
To accommodate his thesis, Richardson argues that the Roman Empire continued to exist in the form of the Byzantine Empire until 1453 when it fell to the Ottoman Empire. It is therefore the Ottoman Empire, which ceased to exist in 1923, that will be resurrected in the end times, and not the Roman Empire, and thus the Antichrist will arise out of the revived Ottoman Empire.
The first problem with this interpretation is that it denies the historical fact that the Roman Empire ceased to exist in 476 with the collapse of Rome. What was left of the empire in the East, which is referred to by modern historians as the Byzantine Empire, was Roman in name only, reminiscent of The Holy Roman Empire that existed in the Germanic areas of Europe from 800 to 1806, a political entity that Voltaire characterized as “neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire.”32
Another problem is that Nebuchadnezzar’s dream does not provide for the insertion of the Ottoman Empire. The head of gold stood for the Babylonian Empire; the chest of silver for the Medo-Persian Empire; the thighs of bronze for the Greek Empire; and the legs of iron for the Roman Empire. The feet of iron mixed with clay represent the final Gentile empire out of which the Antichrist will arise. The traditional interpretation has been that the feet stand for a revival of the Roman Empire.
But if the Ottoman Empire is to be inserted into the picture following the Roman, where is the symbol of it? Do the feet represent both the Ottoman Empire and its end time revival? There just are not enough body parts to provide symbols for both the Ottoman Empire and its revival.
The same problem occurs when you consider Revelation 17:10-11. In this passage the Apostle John is told that there are seven kings or empires to be considered in world history and that “five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; and when he comes, it must remain for a little while. And the beast which was and is not, is himself also an eighth, and is one of the seven, and he goes to destruction.”
At that point in history, the five fallen would have been Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persia, and Greece. The one existing would have been the Roman. The one to come would be the revival of the Roman, out of which the eighth and final empire, the worldwide kingdom of the Antichrist would arise.
If you insert the Ottoman Empire into this list, where does it fit? If it is the seventh, then its revival would be the eighth, and there is no place left for the final worldwide empire of the Antichrist. I suspect this is the reason that Richardson insists that the revival of the Ottoman Empire will be the final empire out of which the Antichrist will arise, and that it will not develop into a worldwide empire, as both Islamic and biblical prophesies specify. There just are not enough empires mentioned in Revelation 17 to include the Ottoman Empire, its resurrection, and its evolution into the final worldwide empire of the Antichrist.
Another problem with Richardson’s Ottoman Empire thesis is that he completely ignores the prophecy in Daniel 9:26 that says the Antichrist will arise out of the people who will destroy the Jewish Temple. It was the Romans who destroyed the Temple in 70 A.D. and it is from the Romans that the Antichrist must come. To me, it is just incredible that Richardson would totally ignore this prophecy.
The War of Gog and Magog
The final problem with Richardson’s thesis that I would like to mention concerns his interpretation of the War of Gog and Magog that is pictured in Ezekiel 38 and 39.
Richardson denies that the war described in Ezekiel 38 and 39 will be led by Russia or that Russia will even have a part in it. Of course, he has to take this position since he argues that the invading force will be the revived Ottoman Empire, which Russia was never a part of.
He says that the only reason people have ever included Russia as part of the invading armies is because Ezekiel says the invasion will be led by the prince of Rosh, and that the word, Rosh, sounds like Russia.33 This assertion is, or course, patently false. Many authors, including Mark Hitchcock and Ron Rhodes have gone to great pains to present historical evidence that identifies Russia with Rosh.34
The passage in question, Ezekiel 38:2, says the invasion will be led by “Gog of the land of Magog, the price of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal…” It is important to note that both Josephus in the First Century and Jerome in the Fifth Century identified Magog with Scythian tribes in Russia.35
Richardson favors Turkey as the leader of the coalition.36 Yet, Ezekiel 38 clearly states that the invasion will be led by the Prince of Rosh coming from “the remote parts of the north” or “the uttermost parts of the north” (Ezekiel 38:15). There is no way that Turkey could be considered a nation located in “the remote parts of the north.” Again, this is a verse that Richardson completely ignores.
Richardson never reveals when he believes the Ezekiel 38 invasion of Israel will occur, but it must be at the end of the Tribulation since the invading army will be the army of the Mahdi (the Antichrist) and will be destroyed by God. Thus, he must equate the battle of Gog and Magog in Ezekiel 38 and 39 with the Battle of Armageddon. But these are not the same battles.
The battle of Gog and Magog involves Russia and certain specified allies who come against Israel either at the beginning of the Tribulation or, most likely, before it begins. One of the tip-offs as to the timing of this invasion is the statement that following the defeat of the invading armies, the Jews will spend seven years burning the leftover weapons (Ezekiel 39:9).
Many have equated this seven years with the Tribulation, thus putting the invasion at the start of that period of time. But we know that in the middle of the Tribulation the Antichrist is going to turn on the Jews and try to annihilate them, causing them to flee the nation (Revelation 12:13-17). This will make it impossible for them to continue the burning of weapons during the last half of that terrible period. So, most likely, the battle will occur before the Tribulation begins.
In contrast, the Battle of Armageddon occurs at the end of the Tribulation. And there really is no battle at all. The armies of the Antichrist are destroyed in an instant when Jesus returns to the Mount of Olives and speaks a supernatural word, causing their flesh to drop from their bodies (Zechariah 14:1-13). In the Gog and Magog battle, the invading armies will be destroyed on the “mountains of Israel” (Ezekiel 39:4), not in the Valley of Armageddon, and they will be destroyed by pestilence, hailstones, fire and brimstone (Ezekiel 38:22).
Another difference can be found in the motivation of the wars. The War of Gog and Magog results from God “putting hooks in the jaws” of the invading nations and dragging them down against Israel to “capture spoil and to seize plunder” (Ezekiel 38:4 & 12). In contrast, the armies of the world that will be assembled at Armageddon will be gathered by demon spirits (Revelation 16:13-16).
Another serious problem with placing the Gog and Magog war at the end of the Tribulation is that Ezekiel 38 says the invasion will occur at a time when Israel is living in peace with unwalled cities (Ezekiel 38:11). That will not be the case at the end of the Tribulation. The land of Israel will be in absolute chaos at that time.
A Final Argument
Richardson wraps up his arguments with the observation that the Antichrist must be a Muslim because Islam is the most perfect incarnation of the antichrist spirit.37 He makes this assertion because Islam denies the Trinity, rejects Jesus as the Son of God, and repudiates the crucifixion of Jesus, arguing that someone else was killed in His place.
I do not agree with this observation. To me, the most perfect incarnation of the antichrist spirit is, and always has been, Humanism in all its various forms. Islam points people toward a god, even though he is a false god. Humanism encourages people to worship Man. God is denied. Man is exalted. And I believe the rejection of God, together with the exaltation of self, is the ultimate antichrist spirit.
Richardson concludes his book by dealing with what he calls “potential problems with his thesis.” He mentions only two.
The first is the fact that the Bible states that in the middle of the Tribulation, when the Antichrist goes to Jerusalem and desecrates the Temple, he will declare himself to be God (2 Thessalonians 2:4). Richardson says this is possibly the strongest argument that can be made against his thesis since it is inconceivable that any Muslim would ever claim to be God. Nonetheless, he argues that the Muslim Antichrist will become so self-absorbed that he will do so, and he claims that when it happens, the Muslims will be too embarrassed to confess that they have been deceived!38
I’m sorry, but I find this very hard to believe. To me, that is like saying that the Muslims would be willing to agree that night is day and day is night. There is a limit to deception. A person would have to cease being a Muslim in order to believe that any man could be God.
I believe the bizarre behavior of the Antichrist described in 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4, where it states that he will proclaim himself to be God, rules out any possibility that the Antichrist might prove to be a Muslim.
An equally important fact that I think rules out the possibility of a Muslim Antichrist is that prophecy states the Antichrist will make a covenant with Israel that will guarantee the nation’s security (Daniel 9:27 and Isaiah 28:14-22). I think it is preposterous to believe that Israel would ever trust its security to a Muslim leader or that a Muslim leader would be interested in guaranteeing the safety of Israel.
The second problem Richardson anticipates relates to his scrambling of the Islamic order of end time events by placing the appearance of the Islamic Dajjal at the end of the Tribulation instead of at the beginning. Incredibly, he says that the Muslims will simply overlook this problem due to the inconsistency of Hadith traditions. As he puts it, once the Mahdi has conquered Israel and taken Jerusalem, the Muslims will accept him regardless of the fact that the Dajjal was supposed to come first.39
But again, this overlooks the fact that according to biblical prophecy, the first thing the Antichrist will do is make a peace treaty with Israel, not defeat Israel. And I would contend that any Muslim leader who would make peace with Israel would be rejected by the Muslim world, just as was the case with Anwar Sadat, the President of Egypt, when he signed a peace treaty with Israel. He was assassinated by Islamic fundamentalists almost immediately.
There are other serious problems with Richardson’s scenario that he does not acknowledge. How, for example, does he explain the miraculous resurrection of the Roman Empire in the form of the European Union? It’s a development that prophecy experts have been telling us to watch for, and those alerts go back several hundred years. Is the revival of the Roman Empire just an accident of history? I think not. I believe that, just as the Bible prophesies, it is going to serve as the platform for the ascension of the Antichrist.
Another problem Richardson must deal with is the worldwide destruction that Revelation describes in chapters 6-9. Those chapters reveal that one-half of the world’s population is going to die during the first half of the Tribulation. Is this going to happen as a result of a regional conflict? Or, is all this just more “biblical hyperbole”?
When I finished reading Richardson’s book, I found myself wanting to ask him two questions. The first was what is he going to do with Psalm 83?40 This psalm portrays an attack on Israel by a Muslim coalition consisting of Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, Gaza, Saudi Arabia and Assyria (Syria). The Bible clearly teaches that God will protect Israel against all such attacks in the end times (Zechariah 12:6).
The outcome of this war most likely is detailed in Zephaniah 2:4-5. These verses indicate that the attacking nations will be devastated by Israel. It is during this war that Damascus, the capital of Syria, will probably be destroyed completely, never to be rebuilt again (Isaiah 17:1-14 and Jeremiah 49:23-27). That is most likely why Syria is not mentioned in Ezekiel 38 as one of the Russian allies.
The outcome of the Psalm 83 war is what will most likely produce peace for Israel, the peace that it is prophesied to be enjoying when Russia and its allies decide to launch the Ezekiel 38 invasion.
The war of Psalm 83 followed by the war of Ezekiel 38 will result in the annihilation of nearly all the armies of the Muslim nations of the Middle East, and these wars are most likely going to occur before the Tribulation begins! Thus, if the Antichrist is a Muslim who is going to rule a Muslim empire in the Middle East during the Tribulation, then he is going to rule over an empire that has been reduced to ashes!
The second question Richardson left hanging relates to the timing of the Rapture. He never mentions the event, leaving the clear impression that he identifies it with the Second Coming of Jesus.
In the next installment of this evaluation of the Muslim Antichrist Theory, I’ll present Walid Shoebat’s thesis as explained in his book and make some objections.
(This paper was presented at the annual Pre-Trib Conference held in Dallas, Texas in December 2010.)
17) Richardson, Antichrist, pages 50-51 and 78-79.
18) Ibid., pages 80, 94, and 187.
19) Ibid., pages 67-68.
20) Ibid., pages 136-154.
21) Ibid., pages 66-67.
22) Ibid., pages 110-114.
23) Shahid, Pages 45-72. See also, Wikipedia, “Masih ad-Dajjal,” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Masih_ad-Dajjal.
24) HNN Staff (History News Network), “What Is the Difference Between Sunni and Shiite Muslims – and Why Does It Matter?” http://hnn.us/articles/934.html.
25) Wikipedia, “The Occultation,” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Occultation.
26) HNN Staff, “What is the Difference…”
27) Jacob Prasch, “The Islamic Antichrist: the Unresolved Problems with Joel Richardson’s Theory,” September 11, 2009, www.moriel.org/MorielArchive/index.php/news/uk/the-islamic-antichrist, page 3.
28) Prasch, “The Islamic Antichrist…”, page 3.
29) Ibid., page 3.
30) Richardson, Antichrist, page 215.
31) Ibid., page 216.
32) Wikiquote, “Voltaire,” http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Voltaire.
33) Richardson, Antichrist, pages 103-104.
34) Ron Rhodes, Northern Storm Rising (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 2008), pages 104-109. See also: Mark Hitchcock, The Coming Islamic Invasion of Israel (Sisters, OR: Multnomah, 2002), pages 31-32.
35) Ron Rhodes, Northern Storm Rising, pages 102-104.
36) Richardson, Antichrist, page 109.
37) Ibid., pages 121-128.
38) Ibid., pages 197-202.
39) Ibid., pages 203-204.
40) Bill Salus has written an excellent book on the prophetic implications of Psalm 83. It is titled, Isralestine, (Lecompton, KS: HighWay Publishers, 2008), 350 pages.