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The confusion and misunderstanding about the antichrist is widespread. Most people do not clearly understand that antichrist is a usurper of the throne of Christ and that this controversy was foreshadowed in the Old Testament story of King David and his usurper son, Absalom.
Having been raised in the church, not once do I recall hearing any preacher make the connection between the revolt of Absalom and the overall story of the New Testament. I discovered the connection one day as I was reading Acts 1:15-20, where Peter firmly stated that Judas ought to be replaced. In making his case, Peter quoted two of the psalms which prophesied of Judas. Peter said in Acts 1:20,
20 For it is written in the book of Psalms, “Let his homestead be made desolate, and let no man dwell in it” [Psalm 69:25]; and “Let another man take his office” [Psalm 109:8].
Peter understood from Psalm 109:8 in particular that someone else was to take the place of Judas. The others agreed, and so they drew lots, replacing Judas with Matthias. Acts 1:26 says,
26 And they drew lots for them, and the lot fell to Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles.
There were many passages in the psalms where David prophesied about Judas. David was actually writing about Ahithophel, who had betrayed him by joining Absalom’s revolt, but those passages were also prophetic about Judas. Ahithophel was a prophetic type of Judas.
The story of the revolt itself is found in 2 Sam. 15-18. We read in 2 Sam. 15:6 that “Absalom stole away the hearts of the men of Israel.” Then, when the time was ripe, Absalom went to Hebron, where his supporters crowned him king. 2 Sam. 15:9, 10, and 12 says,
9 And the king [David] said to him [Absalom], “Go in peace.” So he arose and went to Hebron. 10 But Absalom sent spies throughout all the tribes of Israel, saying, “As soon as you hear the sound of the trumpet, then you shall say, “Absalom is king in Hebron….” 12 And Absalom sent for Ahithophel the Gilonite, David’s counselor, from his city Giloh, while he was offering the sacrifices. And the conspiracy was strong, for the people increased continually with Absalom.
After Absalom’s coronation in Hebron, his supporters marched on Jerusalem. David decided not to fight his son, so he left the city with his main supporters. 2 Sam. 15:30 and 32 says,
30 And David went up the ascent of the Mount of Olives, and wept as he went, and his head was covered and he walked barefoot… 32 It happened as David was coming to the summit [rosh, “head, top, summit”], where God was worshiped, that behold, Hushai the Archite met him with his coat torn and dust on his head.
David left Jerusalem and walked up the ascent of the Mount of Olives. There he worshiped God; that is, he offered a sacrifice on the summit, or head, the place later known as “Golgotha, which means Place of a Skull” (Matt. 27:33).
The Septuagint version of 2 Sam. 15:32 reads, “And David came as far as Ros, where he worshiped God.” Ros is Greek for rosh, “summit, head.” This Greek translation of the Old Testament shows that the Jewish translators understood that David worshiped God while he was on his way out of town.
This rendering shows that the verse prophesied that Jesus was to offer a sacrifice on Mount Olivet when He fulfilled the story of David.
It is clear that Jesus was playing the prophetic role of his ancestor, David, while those who had ordered His death were playing the role of Absalom. The third main character in this story, of course, was Ahithophel, who betrayed David even as Judas betrayed Jesus.
After David had escaped from Jerusalem, Absalom had to decide whether to pursue him or to let him escape. Ahithophel gave counsel that he should send the army to pursue David, but Hushai, David’s (secret) friend, disagreed and his counsel prevailed (2 Sam. 17:14). Ahithophel then knew that David would return later, and so we read in 2 Sam. 17:23 (KJV),
23 And when Ahithophel saw that his counsel was not followed, he saddled his ass, and arose, and gat him home to his house, to his city, and put his household in order, and hanged himself, and died, and was buried in the sepulcher of his father.
In hanging himself, he set the prophetic pattern for Judas, for we read in Matt. 27:5 (KJV),
5 And he [Judas] cast down the pieces of silver in the temple and departed, and went and hanged himself.
A few weeks later, while waiting for the day of Pentecost, the remaining apostles had to decide whether or not to replace Judas. Knowing that Jesus’ crucifixion had replayed the prophetic story of David, Absalom, and Ahithophel, Peter recalled two passages that David had written about Ahithophel. These obviously applied to Judas as well, and they indicated that Judas should be replaced.
There are other passages that David had written about Ahithophel, who had been his friend and counselor. In fact, Ahithophel was his wife’s grandfather (2 Sam. 11:3; 23:34). David often mourned the loss of his friend, writing in Psalm 55:12-14,
12 For it is not an enemy who reproaches me, then I could bear it; nor is it one who hates me who has exalted himself against me, then I could hide myself from you. 13 But it is you, a man my equal, my companion and my familiar friend. 14 We who had sweet fellowship together, walked in the house of God in the throng.
Enemies may kill you, but only a friend can betray you. So Jesus, when He was betrayed, called Judas “friend” in Matt. 26:50,
50 And Jesus said to him [Judas], “Friend, do what you have come for.” Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and seized Him.
This betrayal was also prophesied in Zechariah 13:6,
6 And one will say to him, “What are these wounds between your arms?” Then he will say, “Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.”
Tradition says that Judas was a childhood friend of Jesus. The pain of betrayal was part of the suffering that Jesus had to undergo along with crucifixion.
Absalom’s revolt began in Hebron, where he usurped the throne of David. Hebron means “association, joining, conjunction,” having a connotation of union and friendship. The name is derived from Cheber, “fellowship.”
Joshua 14:15 tells us, “Now the name of Hebron was formerly Kiriath-arba.” This was Judas’ home town, for Matt. 10:4 speaks about “Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed Him.” His surname, Iscariot, is the Greek spelling of Ish-Keriath, “man from Keriath (arba).” Judas was from Hebron, the place of friendship and fellowship. Hence, Jesus was betrayed by a friend from Hebron, the place of friendship.
All of this shows how the conflict in the New Testament between Jesus and the Jewish leaders was a replay of the story of David, Absalom, and Ahithophel. We cannot truly understand the New Testament without knowing this. Neither can we understand the nature of antichrist and antichrists without knowing this.
Absalom was the chief antichrist in the time of David. David was God’s “anointed one,” that is, the messiah (Hebrew term) or Christ (Greek term). In the New Testament, Caiaphas was the chief antichrist, the usurper who was fulfilling the same role that Absalom had played earlier.
And Judas, who betrayed Him, represented all the antichrists who support the antichrist and thereby betray Christ.
The tragedy of the story is the fact that Judas was one of Jesus’ disciples. More than that, he was Jesus’ friend. And yet he ended up betraying Jesus. In his remorse later, he hanged himself. The plot would have been worthy of a Shakespearean tragedy.
We can now understand what John had in mind when he wrote about the antichrists in 1 John 2:19, “they went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us.” We read in Psalm 41:9,
9 Even my close friend, in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.
When Jesus was about to be betrayed, He said in John 13:18,
18 I do not speak of all of you. I know the ones I have chosen; but it is that the Scripture may be fulfilled, “He who eats My bread has lifted up his heel against Me.”
Shortly after this, we read in John 13:26, 27,
26 Jesus therefore answered, “That is the one for whom I shall dip the morsel and give it to him.” So when He had dipped the morsel, He took and gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. 27 And after the morsel, Satan then entered into him. Jesus therefore said to him, “What you do, do quickly.”
Judas then left the room to betray Jesus to the chief priests, who paid him thirty pieces of silver (Matt. 26:15; Zech. 11:12). So the apostle who witnessed this betrayal, writes in 1 John 2:19,
19 They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, in order that it might be shown that they are all not of us.
Like Ahithophel, Judas was “of us,” as John writes, but did not remain with us. The betrayers were believers and friends who loved Jesus, but yet something got in the way, causing them to betray Jesus to the temple priests. The usurpation of Christ’s throne put the antichrist in the seat of power in the temple.
So also today, like Judas, many Christian believers have reverted back to Judaism in support of the temple in Jerusalem—the system of antichrist which had usurped the throne of Christ.
One cannot support both antichrist and Christ at the same time. Perhaps this issue had come to a crisis point about the time John wrote his epistle. Perhaps the Jewish believers at that time had to decide which side to support. Some had chosen to remain with the old temple and its system of worship, while others were able to make the clean break and come out in support of Jesus Christ.
The same choice between Christ and antichrist yet remains today.