Armilus: the Antichrist of the Jews

By Stephen Yulish

Much has been written of late concerning the Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's claim that he had a mystical vision of the return of the 12th Islamic Imam, a child who disappeared in the year 941, who will be the Mahdi, the Islamic Messiah. When he returns, he will reign for 7 years and then bring final judgment and the end of the world. We Christians know that this will be what the New Testament calls the Antichrist (2Thess.2:3-12) who will rule and reign for seven years (Daniel 9:27) during the Tribulation (Matthew 24:21). It makes us all see more clearly not only how those left behind after the rapture (1Cor.15:52, 1Thess.4:16-17) will be deceived (2Thess.3:11-12) to believe that the Antichrist is actually the Messiah, but it also gives us Believers the hope that our redemption draws very near (Luke 21:28). False Messiahs (Matthew 24:5, 24:24) have always been with us and the Bible warns us to be aware of them whether they are a Jim Jones or a David Koresh or the great Matraiya, or a Rev. Moon. This warning is however especially important when it comes to Islam and Judaism because these are the very people who have rejected Christ and will be left behind to suffer through these terrible yet deceptive times of Jacob's trouble (Jeremiah 30:7) , the tribulation (Matthew 24:21). Satan has deceived the Muslims to believe that their Messiah will come in the end times and rule for seven years and then will bring final judgment and the end of the world. We know from the word of God that it will be the Antichrist who will rule for 7 years and then be defeated by the return of Jesus Christ who will bring final judgment (Rev.20:12) and the end of the world (Rev.21:1, Matthew 24:14) after the 1000 years of millennial peace (Rev.20:4).

Muslim doctrine on this Mahdi which is not part of the Koran but actually is part of oral tradition is the work of Satan to deceive them and not bring them to the saving grace of Jesus Christ. Satan is alive and well in the mosques of today as he once was in the Catholic Church. In both instances, he convinced the willing to persecute God's chosen people and try and destroy them. Satan hates the Jews because the Messiah came through them and the word of God was written by them (Romans 9:4-5). Also, if he can destroy Israel then where will the end time Temple be rebuilt (2Thess.2:4) and where will Jesus Christ return (Zechariah 14:4) to rule and reign for 1000 years (Rev.20:4)? Islam speaks of the prophet Isa (Jesus) returning in the last days to help the Mahdi defeat the evil one. Thus Islam has the two major players involved in the end times, Christ and the Antichrist, but has them terribly mixed up and jumbled. They will be deceived (2Thess.3:11-12).

Unfortunately, this discussion of the Messiah (Christ) and the Antichrist is not only limited to Christians and Muslims. Jewish tradition also speaks very clearly about the person called the Antichrist. Surprised? Well, you should be, because neither most Christians nor most Jews have ever heard of this concept. An excellent summary of all the Jewish literature relating to this concept can be found in the Encyclopedia Judaica under the name Armilus. Armilus was the legendary name of the Messianic antagonist or anti Messiah. According to the apocalyptic Midrashim, Sefer Zerubbavel, and the medieval sage Saadia Gaon's Midrash Ge'ullah and well as the Targum pseudo-Jonathan there arose an extra biblical medieval legend that Messiah ben Joseph (the first of two Jewish Messiahs) would be slain-pierced (Zechariah 12:10) by Armilus in the end times war of Gog and Magog (Ezekiel 38-39) prior to time of redemption. He in turn would be killed by Messiah ben David the second messiah. Jews say there are two Messiahs but we know that it is one Messiah coming twice. Midrash Ge'ullah states that "Satan Armilus is whom the Gentiles call Antichrist but there is no proof of Christian influence." Imagine the Jews claiming the Antichrist for themselves and denying any Christian influence? That is amazing and ultimately so sad. The name Armilus is thought to come from the Roman name Romulus because the Jews hated Rome for destroying the Second Temple and decimating Jerusalem.

The Encyclopedia Judaica states that Satan Armilus will have hold of the terrestrial world (John 14:30) but Messiah will have control of heaven and eternal kingdom. Armilus's evil deeds are described in the Midrash Ge'ullah. He will be "the least of kings, son a bondwoman, monstrous in appearance". He will be born of a beautiful virgin, born of a stone. This was probably from a Roman legend by Virgil that in Rome a marble statue of a beautiful maiden formed not by human hands but by God was defiled by the wicked sons of Belial and would come and lie with her and impregnate the stone(Rev.18:3, Rev.17:4-6) and thus create Satan Armilus. He was 12 cubits tall and two cubits broad with a space between his eyes which were crooked and red. His hair was golden and the soles of his feet were green. He also will have two heads.

Armilus will deceive the entire world into believing that He is God (2Thess.2:4) and will reign over the entire world. He will come with 10 kings together ( Daniel 7:24, Rev.17:12) and fight over Jerusalem (Zechariah 12). He will slay Messiah ben Joseph and many other righteous men. They then quote Zechariah 12:10ff about Israel mourning for him as over a first born son. Armilus will banish Israel to the wilderness (Matthew 24:16) and there be great distress for them and they will have to hide in caves. This Midrash Ge'ullah also states that Armilus will conquer not only Jerusalem but Antioch as well (Acts 11:26?). He will take the stone from which he was born and make her the chief of all idolatry. All Gentiles will bow down to her and pour out libations to her (Rev.18:3, Rev,13:15) No one can look on her face for any reason Is this the abomination of desolation (Matthew 24:15).? This marble virgin motif was a result of Virgil's story popular in Rome coupled with the Christianity story of the Immaculate Conception and the worship of images both of which the Jews rejected. At the end, Messiah ben David will come and defeat Armilus's 500,000 hosts and bring deliverance for Israel and the kingdom of heaven will come over the entire earth (Rev.20:4).

Once again this concept of the Antichrist in Jewish lore is one which is foreign to most Jews let alone most Christians. It is akin to the Jew who says that Jesus never existed because there is no record of him other than the New Testament. When it is pointed out that not only does the Talmud speak of Him but it talks of His being put to death for blasphemy and sorcery. "Jesus of Nazareth was going to be stoned for sorcery. A plea went out for anyone to plead on his behalf and nobody responded so he was hanged on a tree on the eve of Passover" (b.sanhedrin 43a. t.sanhedrin 10:11, g.sanhedrin 7:16. 67a). That sounds pretty specific to me. When this is pointed out, some rabbis say that this was a different Jesus? Moses Maimonides the medieval Jewish sage also spoke of Him in his Mishneh Torah where he spoke of "Jesus of Nazareth who aspired to be the Messiah and was executed by the court (Sanhedrin)". So the Jewish person must be shown that his assumptions about Jesus and probably likewise the Jewish Antichrist are false. Most Christians as well, will not believe that Jewish extra biblical Midrashim and legends speak of Satan Armilus as the Antichrist and that they claimed that it was not a result of Christian influence. These medieval Jewish storytellers spoke of two Messiahs. The first Messiah son of Joseph (sounds like Jesus doesn't it?) who would be killed by Satan Armilus, pierced (John 19:37) through in the end time battle of Gog and Magog) and then Armilus would be defeated by Messiah son of David (Second coming of Christ, Rev.9:11-16) who would usher in Kingdom of God. Many Jews will be deceived that the appearance of the Messiah, Yeshua Hamashiach, Jesus Christ, will be for the second time (Hebrews 9:28) and will not be the second Messiah. But at least they do have a concept of the evil king of the end times, the Antichrist, Satan Armilus.

The problem is that most Jews today are secular and do not read or know of Jewish mystical writings like the Sefer Zerubbavel or Midrash Ge'ullah. They will be deceived to believe that the coming antichrist, Satan Armilus, is really their savior. But even religious, Orthodox, so called Kabbalists (Jewish mystics) can be deceived. See where Jesus is called Yeshu which is a Hebrew acronym for 'may his name and memory be blotted out'. This derogatory name for Jesus is often used by Orthodox Jews. Anyway, these people who should be aware of the Sefer Zerubbavel and Midrash Ge'ullah if anyone is, went on to state that Yeshu was the reincarnation (gilgul in Jewish kabbalistic lore) of Cain and Esau and was a man of violence as they were also. It went on to say that Armilus is none other than Yeshu reincarnated. The second coming of Christ and the arrival of antichrist would be the same event in their view. Messiah ben Joseph would be killed by Armilus/Yeshu and he would be in turn killed by Messiah ben David. That is what we call meshugge in Yiddish, i.e. crazy, mixed up stuff. They are totally deceived. No matter what the President of Iran says or the Orthodox Rabbis imagine being the truth, remember what Jesus told us, "...take heed, behold, I have told you everything in advance" (Mark 13:23).

Come quickly Lord Jesus (Rev.22:20). Stephen Yulish

PS. In my novel, "Invasion: Israel", the character of the Antichrist is Dr .Samael (Satan) Armilus and he embodies many of the characteristics of both the New Testament Antichrist as well as his description in Jewish mystical lore.

About the Author:

Stephen M. Yulish, born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1947, received his BA from Case Western Reserve University in 1969, his MA in 1972, and his PhD in 1975 from the University of Illinois. His first book, The Search for a Civic Religion, was published in 1980. He was an Assistant Professor at the University of Arizona in Tucson and then became a Jewish Community Professional in Phoenix. Currently disabled with Multiple Sclerosis, the author is co-leader of Chayim Chadashim Messianic Fellowship and is on the Board of Reference for Jewish Voice Prophetic Magazine. He lives in Flagstaff, AZ, with his wife Paula and daughter Andrea.


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