In an age of uncertainty and an Apocalyptic warnings coming through the media, whether in fictional accounts produced by Hollywood, ‘documentaries’ and ‘evidence’ of global warming coming interestingly enough again from Hollywood, media accounts of the state of the war on terror, or mainstream Christian retailing of End Times novels, speculations, and conjecture, The Man Of Sin stands as a welcome resource for those who wish to look at what the Bible has to say about the Anti-christ.
Uncovering a truly biblical understanding of the Anti-christ is a daunting task when you begin to see all the presuppositions that have been attached to the person in all the fore-described media. But it is a task that Kim Riddlebarger faced head-on and, in my opinion, produced for us a Biblical picture of the Man of Sin.
The book begins with the immediate context of American culture as it relates to the Anti-christ. Dr. Riddlebarger draws a picture of the contemporary view of the Anti-christ and of the expectancies of what he will be and when he will appear and begins the task of separating fact from fiction.
He then provides an overview of the forerunners of the Anti-christ from the Old Testament. Riddlebarger’s discussion of the many ‘types’ and foretellings of the Anti-christ found in the Old Testament lays the necessary foundation for understanding all that the Anti-christ has been foretold to embody in Scripture. Tracing these types from the serpent in Paradise, through Cain, Nimrod, Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar, to Antiochus Epiphanes, and through the study of specific prophecies of the Anti-christ, Riddlebarger provides a comprehensive picture of the Anti-christ as expected by Jewish society before the time of Christ.
Moving then into a discussion of the doctrine of the Anti-christ in the New Testament, Riddlebarger lays another foundation for a more complete picture of the Anti-christ by discussing the interaction between Jesus and Satan in the Gospels, the “already/not yet” eschatological focus of the New Testament, and a look at prophetic perspective and fulfillment of prophecy in the New Testament.
The next section of the book begins a discussion of the ‘anti-christs’ (small ‘a’ and plural) that have already gone out into the world. Noting that the word ‘anti-christ’ only appears in the first two of John’s letters and never in the book of Revelation, he goes on to list some identifying traits of these anti-christs, the chief being a denial of the incarnation of the Son of God. Interacting with B. B. Warfield, he notes that Anti-christ is anyone who that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh and that we should not import John’s description of these heretics into our view of the Man of Sin or the False Prophet who will arise at the end of time. He concludes, “…”the final manifestation of the beast and the false prophet…seems to indicate that John’s series of antichrists…will indeed give way to a final …persecutor of the people of God”.
The next chapter focuses on the doctrine of the Anti-christ in the book of Revelation. Once again, he lays the foundation from the Old Testament, showing how the forerunners of the Anti-christ shape the language used to describe the beast and the false prophet. Nero and the cultic emperor-worship of the Roman Empire is discussed while he shows the significance of the number ‘666’.
Chapter Six is a discussion of Paul’s doctrine of Anti-christ in II Thessalonians. Once again, Riddlebarger is careful to bring all the background information we need to interpret correctly Paul’s statements concerning the ‘Man of Lawlessness’. In this chapter Riddlebarger interacts with the various views from Dispensationalism, preterism, futurists, and historicists in their interpretations of the Man of Sin, the coming Apostasy, and the Restrainer. For those of you who are wondering, Riddlebarger concludes that Gospel preaching is the ‘restrainer’ Paul speaks of in this passage.
Riddlebarger continues forward with a look back at the various interpretations of the Anti-christ in Church history. Beginning with the Fathers and walking through history, he discusses the various views of the Anti-christ which were often colored by the world they lived in. There is also a helpful chart showing the differing beliefs of the Fathers, Dispensationalism, the Reformers, etc. at the beginning of the book, but I thought it would be better located here.
The final chapter of the book is a summary and compilation of the conclusions from preceding chapters. The final section is an admonition to trust in God and not spend time on useless speculations not consistent with Scripture, but to rather look for the glorious appearing of Christ. Satan is a defeated foe. Evil runs rampant because Satan and his minions know their time is short. Don’t fear them, but have faith in God.
Overall, this book is a good read even for those who disagree with the author’s conclusions because he will make you think about what you believe and why. His conclusions are based on a literal interpretation of the Scripture and not a fanciful imagination, as is evident in many other books of this genre.