In 1981 I was at work and a conversation started in the break area about whether then President Reagan was the Antichrist. Later I asked one of my coworkers if she really believed what she was saying. She said no, that the Antichrist has to be a foreigner. I remember thinking, ...okay, but foreign to whom?
Looking to Europe and the Middle East as possible places of origin seems to be a guiding principle of American Christian apocalyptic speculation. While some might feel a tiny bit of security in that assumption, it is pretty specious.
Here's another way of looking at the end times that I think might be useful. I do not claim to be any kind of prophet and what I am writing here isn't any more or less biblical than Lindsey or LaHaye/Jenkins. I just think it is a way of looking at the apocalyptic writings that isn't being done. So with that said, here is my take on the End Times:
Antichrist will emerge as an American Evangelical. He will be a pastor crossed over into politics. He will betray the church and everyone else. He will be a man of vast wisdom. His reputation for morality and integrity will be without question. He will be highly respected both within the church and without. He will not become UN Secretary General. A new multinational organization will form around him. He will end the coming police state once and for all, or so some will think. Americans will love him for giving them back their freedom. The rest of the world will love him for offering them peace.
Whomever this is will not know ahead of time that he is Antichrist. He will be, as Fr. Malachi Martin used the term, perfectly possessed. He will seem completely at home in church, synagogue, mosque, and ashram. By his preaching many will be led to Christ.
When the adoration of this man reaches a point akin to worship he'll be struck in the head (I'm not going to say shot because that is too definite) and killed. He'll rise three days later with the wound visible but looking healed. Then he'll begin issuing orders and directing people and organizations in a manner much like those who brought about the police state years before. For a time it will appear that others are to blame for the atrocities. This will be possible because most people won't want to believe the truth, having been so smitten with this guy for so long.
This will be the seven years of tribulation and it will begin with the mark...not necessarily a tattoo or microchip. It may be a type of nanotech or a DNA retrovirus...something that we aren't seeing yet today. The church won't be yanked away right at the beginning of this or necessarily at the 50 yard line. the extractions won't be as neat an orderly as some have thought. And it won't be just Christians. God is the judge of the human heart, not man. There are going to be people all over this planet whose eyes will be opened and seeing will cry out "save us!" The elect will be all those who refuse this mark and turn their hearts towards him, even if they call him by a different name from the rest of us. You will hear rumors of disappearances here and there, small groups and large becoming more and more frequent before and after the "assassination" until the final battle.
I believe prophecy is a lens through which the prophet focuses his or her vision. The prophet writes what he or she sees, but history fills in the details. I do not believe that I will live to see the things I have written about here. I really think we are like the Exodus generation wandering here and there in the desert and God is going to continue to let us wander until we finally learn what Jesus told us, that it is not given for us to know the day or time or the hour of his coming, that not even he knows this, but only the Father. All of our attempts to force or "usher in" the second coming, including counting baptisms, "millennial mathematics", or trying to bomb and rebuild the Middle East into something that looks like it fits end times prophecy is the perfect evidence of that wandering and is nothing more than spiritual masturbation. You will forgive my use of a term that may offend you, but what do you think God thinks of the high-tech witchcraft some of you are doing? These are things that have to be said, and there do not seem to be many in the church who are willing to take a stand against the current tide of apocalyptic talk.