According to Moody Radio’s Up For Debate program, Bible scholars have traditionally held the Antichrist “will be of Roman or European descent.”

But in the most recent episode of the popular Christian program, documentary filmmaker, religious teacher and New York Times bestselling author of books including “Mideast Beast” and “The Islamic Antichrist” Joel Richardson advanced a powerful argument for believing the Antichrist will come from the Islamic world.

He said the idea really “is not so much a novel view as it’s often cast.”

“When we survey a broad range of opinions surrounding the Antichrist down through history even through the early church, there was the view the Antichrist would come out of Syria or out of the Middle East, although it was believed he would come out of a segment of the Roman Empire,” he said.

Richardson blames a “false equation” of “Roman” being perceived as equal to “European” in the eyes of many people interested in eschatology which arose as the European Union was consolidating in the 1980s.

However, as he notes, the Roman Empire extended beyond Europe to the Middle East. Richardson also says Christian leaders throughout history had an understanding of the special significance of the Islamic world.

Richardson, whose most recent book is “When a Jew Rules the World: What The Bible Really Says About Israel In the Plan of God,” argues the Bible is focused on Israel and the Middle East, not on Europe. Prophecy, he maintains, will reflect that focus.

Richardson credits his development of the theory of an “Islamic Antichrist” to his experience as an evangelist.

He perceived a “powerfully seductive spirit” in Islam which made it more significant than just another “false belief system” and turned to Scripture, where he says he found evidence the attack by the figure “Gog” upon Israel predicted in Ezekiel 38 would come from Asia Minor, not Russia.

However, Dr. Thomas Ice, executive director of the Pre-Trib Research Center dedicated to studying and promoting eschatological issues, strongly disputed Richardson’s assertion.

Ice maintained “Gog” was probably Russian because of information in Scripture that predicts the attack on Israel will come from the north. More importantly, Ice also claimed “Gog” was a distinct figure from that of the Antichrist, whom he believes will be a Roman and come from a revived Roman Empire.

Richardson says such an interpretation relies upon a contradictory approach to prophecy because people arguing for a non-Islamic Antichrist are inconsistent. Richardson argues they sometimes base their prophetic interpretation on purely geographic references while other times they base their predictions by trying to trace the history of particular peoples.

Moreover, according to Richardson, they never stick with one approach. In contrast, says Richardson, an Islamic Antichrist theory is more logical because the sequence of events laid out in Scripture only makes sense if “Gog” is the Antichrist.

Furthermore, while Ice believes the Roman Empire meets all the qualifications of the “revitalized” empire said to arise in the last days, Richardson believes only the Islamic caliphate can fulfill the prophecy because of its historic conquest of all the Middle Eastern territories mentioned in the Book of Daniel.

Ice and Richardson also came into conflict over why believers should worry about recognizing the Antichrist. While Ice is a dispensationalist who believes in the rapture of believers before the Antichrist’s rise, Richardson says believers will face the Great Tribulation and the Antichrist. Furthermore, Richardson says, current events including the spread of militant Islam are a compelling reason for believers to be on their guard.

While host Julie Roys was not fully convinced, she concluded listeners need to investigate both theories, and most of all, “we need to be watching.”

Richardson’s theory is gaining new acceptance among American Christians, with the author appearing on other Christian programs in recent months including the 700 Club on the Christian Broadcasting Network.

And “The Islamic Antichrist” remains a hit with readers, averaging 4.5 out of 5 stars on over 442 customer reviews.

Readers rave:

  • Thanks to my various Christian relatives, friends, books and TV shows, I have been exposed to quite a number of theories about the anti-Christ and the end times. Some were more credible than others. However, after reading Richardson’s The Islamic Anti-Christ, I’m stunned at how narrowly culture-bound my viewpoint was. As he points out, the Bible isn’t a western European/American story; it’s a Middle Eastern story.

  • If you care about what’s changing in the world today, and in particular about where the changes in the Middle East are leading… this book is invaluable reading. And if you are a Christian, a Jew, or a Muslim, it takes on an additional level of relevance.

  • Recall the Lord’s words about a great deception … so great that even the elect would be deceived if such were possible. This book will prepare you for this coming deception, which is being made clear to us today. Be ready now, not tomorrow. This book is absolutely essential to one’s understanding of what is coming.

Richardson told WND even non-believers need to pay attention, because “eschatology is driving policy in the Middle East right now.”

“If you are in the military or a strategy buff, you simply need this information,” he said