Types of Antichrist: King Saul and Absalom

 •  7 min. read  •  grade level: 9
As Saul holds a considerable place in the first book of Samuel, so Absalom occupies not a little space in the second, and both of them in collision with David. Now the nature of inspiration supposes that God, in selecting such persons or facts as are regarded there, had a divine object before Him. It is the main business of an interpreter to learn and set out according to his measure the design that the Spirit of God appears to have had in view.
It is clear on the face of it that the chief feature of Absalom's history is, in the end of it at least, opposition to David; he stood in the nearest relationship to the king, but he was nonetheless an antagonist. Now as David all through, whether in the first or in the second book of Samuel, is a type of the Lord Jesus, there ought not to be a question, as it appears to me, that the Spirit of God is giving us, in the adversaries of David, antichrists. Only the antichrist has qualities in his type which differ quite as much as those of the antitype will, in express scripture or in reality.
Thus in the New Testament, where he is brought before us directly and as a matter of doctrine or prophecy, John describes the antichrist first as one that denies the Christ; then as going on with a growing audacity (and this is more particularly his opposition to the Christian revelation) to deny the Father and the Son. For he is the liar and the antichrist. He denies Christ both in Jewish relations and in personal dignity. He sets aside therefore in Him the glory of Israel, and also the fullness of divine grace as now shown in Christianity. For we must remember that the Lord Jesus in the variety of His glories displays God in many ways; for instance, as Messiah King of Israel, and when rejected by the Jews, as the Son of man, ruler of all tribes, peoples, nations, and tongues in the world. The unbelief of the Jews in rejecting the Lord was and will be thus used by God still more fully to display Christ's glory and His own counsels.
Now as John refers to the two characteristics of the last antagonist of Christ, so I think it will be found that in the first book of Samuel Saul stands forth as the chief adversary of David before he came to the throne. After it Absalom holds a similar place in the second; and of the two, Absalom was the more dangerous and daring, as the enormity in him was incomparably worse. The nearness and character of his relationship to the king made the guilt of his conduct the more dreadful before God and man. It is this to which my mind explains the large space that is given both to King Saul's jealous persecution on the one hand, and to Absalom's attempt at usurping the power of David on the other. It is true, that at first Absalom by no means shows out the violent form which his wickedness was finally to take. He uses a certain craft which no doubt succeeded with the simple though repulsive to the upright.... It will be so with antichrist. All his evil will not come out fully at once.
Surely then it is a most solemn consideration for all our souls—the moral principle which we see in these cases. Nearness to what is good invariably develops evil in, its worst features. There could be no such thing as antichrist if there were not Christianity and Christ. It is the fullness of the grace and truth that is revealed in the Person of the Lord Jesus that brings out the worst evil in man. And even Satan himself could not accomplish his designs against the glory of God save by rising up against the Man who is the special Object of God's delight and of His counsels in glory.
Hence we find a pretty full answer to all this in the twofold type: first, Saul the adversary of David in his earlier career, when he had not yet been seated on the throne; then Absalom, not all at once, but by degrees coming out, though no doubt full of craft and bloodthirstiness before he turned against his father. The liar and murderer is betrayed even in the earliest account of him which Scripture brings before us...
The Spirit of God gives us the description of the person of Absalom. There was everything to attract the eye, everything to meet the natural desires, of one who would Wish the comeliest person in Israel to be the king. Nature had wrought formerly in the choice of Saul. It was repeated again with Absalom....
It was not till the banished one had found means in the grace of the king to return; it was after that which answers as much as anything could to the grace of God in the gospel. Then, consequent on all the mercy shown him, does a more terrible character of antichrist display itself in Absalom than had ever been seen in King Saul.
What then appears to be the distinction intended? Is it not that Saul shows us antichrist more as the consequence of Jewish apostasy—Absalom more as the consequence of Christian apostasy? Both these traits must be found in the antichrist of the last days; and this is one reason too why, although there were anti-Christian features when the Lord Jesus was found here below, the full display of the antichrist could not be until after all the grace of God in Christianity had been fully brought out.
This also explains why there should be a double type of antichrist—one in each of these two books of Samuel. We have the display of the fullest possible evil of man—one in pride and real envy and affected contempt, and at last of murderous hatred toward David. All this was found in Saul. But in Absalom's case there was a still deeper character of lawlessness, as there was a nearer and more dependent tie to the king. Besides, there had been the richest manifestation of mercy to himself. The most dreadful wickedness on his own part had been met by greater love and grace on the part of David. After all this then we find Absalom laying his plots and carrying out his schemes for the purpose of supplanting the king, his father....
Another character is here which was necessary to complete the character of antichrist; that is, the combination of kingly power in Israel with spiritual pretension. Ahithophel, David's counselor, followed Absalom. There will be the highest assumption of a religious sort. The antichrist is not barely infidel. Infidelity there will be, but always a show of religion along with it, whether in the same personage or in one that is joined with him in type. That which brings in an evil spiritual power is necessary to give the true and full character of the antichrist. So, as we know, the second beast, or false prophet, in the Revelation, symbolizes this same personage. Notably he has two horns like the lamb. There is a double character of power. It is not simply that he is or has a horn. He is not a mere king, but a beast with two horns. And at this time it would seem that it is no longer a question of imitating the priestly power of Christ, but he will pretend to have not only a kingly place but a prophet character, an understanding of the mind of God, just as Ahithophel here, as we see, who had been David's counselor before, but is now Absalom's. There is thus a combination of the false prophet with royalty.1 These at the close will be united in the antichrist.
I am not now speaking of the great imperial power, the beast in those days that brings on judgment. For this we must look elsewhere; for it will not have its seat in Jerusalem, nor will the sphere of its dominion be the land of Israel. There will be the place where the final conflict takes place; there the scene of the destruction of the beast and the false prophet, and of the associated kings that are with them.
Such are a few of the leading points which may help, not only to guide souls, but also to preserve from mistakes too often made, to which we are as liable as any. There is no power of preservation in the truth except by simple subjection to the Word of God. W.K.
1. The two were connected together just as we see Saul himself at the last finding his resource in the witch of Endor. There was an evil spiritual adviser of the lowest kind to which he was driven. See too Pharaoh and the magicians, also Balak and Baalim. So these two characters are constantly linked in opposition to the Christ of God.