Read Daniel 7:15-28
“Thus he said: ‘As for the fourth beast,
there shall be a fourth kingdom on earth,
which shall be different from all the kingdoms,
and it shall devour the whole earth,
and trample it down, and break it to pieces.
24 As for the ten horns,
out of this kingdom ten kings shall arise,
and another shall arise after them;
he shall be different from the former ones,
and shall put down three kings.
25 He shall speak words against the Most High,
and shall wear out the saints of the Most High,
and shall think to change the times and the law;
and they shall be given into his hand
for a time, times, and half a time.
26 But the court shall sit in judgment,
and his dominion shall be taken away,
to be consumed and destroyed to the end.
27 And the kingdom and the dominion
and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven
shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High;
his kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom,
and all dominions shall serve and obey him.’
28 “Here is the end of the matter. As for me, Daniel, my thoughts greatly alarmed me, and my color changed, but I kept the matter in my heart.”
There are those who want to make a hard and fast judgment regarding the Antichrist. Is it the Pope? Is it Mohamed? Is it Hitler? Is it Stalin?
To identify one or another as the Antichrist, however, really misses the point. His rule – though fierce and ruthless – will be for only “a time, times, and half a time.” That equals 3½, not seven. Seven is the number of completeness, or the number for heaven and earth (3 for God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – plus 4 for earth – the four points of the compass). Whoever reigns as that fourth beast (be it the Antichrist, or Rome itself – toward which these verses seem to point) will not reign forever. He will give an account. His kingdom will be taken away.
The period of time after the Early Church was founded was a time of ruthless persecution, torture, intimidation, and mayhem. The kinds of excruciating torture and evil treatment people who followed Jesus endured makes the most disgusting horror film pale in comparison. If you wish to read for yourself, check out this article. I recall specifically learning of the persecutions by Nero, Decius, and Diocletian: all of whom were severe.
Jesus took those persecutions to a new ending by his faithful suffering and death. He hwo left his throne on high, emptied himself and entrusted himself to the One who would forsake him in his weakest hour. But he never lost faith. And by that He redeemed us lost and condemned men and women, children and youth. That noble army of martyrs with whom we join in worship on Sunday are those whose deaths reflect Jesus’ perfect martyrdom. He knew Daniel’s vision. He knew God’s power. He staked his eternal glory on the truth of both. Thanks be to God.