The traditional viewpoint has been that the Antichrist will be a European of Roman descent. This view is based on a statement in Daniel 9:26 which says that the Antichrist, referred to as "the prince who is to come," will be from "the people who destroy the Temple." Those people proved to be the Romans who destroyed the Temple in 70 AD.
Gentile or Jew?
Scholars have been divided as to whether or not this person of Roman heritage will be a Gentile or a Jew. Many have pointed to John 5:43 to argue that the Antichrist will be a Jew. That verse quotes Jesus as saying, "I have come in My Father's name, and you do not receive Me; if another shall come in his own name, you will receive him." The argument drawn from this statement is that the Antichrist must be a Jew in order for the Jews to accept him as their Messiah.
But other prophecies in the Bible make it clear that the Jews will never accept the Antichrist as their Messiah. In fact we are told point blank that when the Antichrist declares himself to be God at the mid-point of the Tribulation, the Jews will be outraged and will reject him, causing him to turn on them in fury with the purpose of annihilating them (Revelation 12:13-17).
The Gentile Argument
So what did Jesus mean when He said that "if another shall come in his own name you will receive him?" Those who argue the Antichrist will be a Gentile respond by saying that the Antichrist will be accepted by the Jewish people as their political savior when he implements a treaty that will guarantee their security and enable them to rebuild their Temple (Daniel 9:27). But the Jews will never receive the Antichrist as their spiritual savior. Thus, when he declares himself to be God, they will reject him.
There is other scriptural evidence that the Antichrist will be a Gentile. For example, Revelation 13:1 pictures him as a beast arising "out of the sea." The sea is used in Scripture to symbolize the Gentile nations (Daniel 7:3 and Luke 21:25).
In contrast, the Antichrist's right-hand man and spiritual leader is pictured in Revelation 13:11 as rising up out of the land (or the earth, in some translations). This reference to the land is an indication that the False Prophet will be a Jew who will rise out of the Promised Land of Israel.
Possibly a Muslim?
Could the Antichrist possibly be a Muslim? This is a new idea that seems to be catching fire today due to the awakening of Islam and the revival of its territorial goal of conquering the world for Allah.
I recently read four books that relate to this topic. One lays the biblical foundation without asserting that the Antichrist will actually be a Muslim. The other three use that foundation to make the assertion. Each of these books will be reviewed over the next couple of entries.