"For in the last days the false prophets and the destroyers shall be multiplied, and the sheep shall be turned into wolves, and love shall be turned into hate. For when lawlessness increases, they shall hate and persecute and deliver up one another; and then shall appear the world-deceiver as Son of God, who shall do signs and wonders, and the earth shall be delivered into his hands, and he shall do lawless deeds such as have never yet been done since the beginning of the world. Then shall the race of men come into the fire of trial, and many shall be offended and shall perish, but they who have endured in their faith shall be saved under the very curse itself".
Our second quotation is taken from the writings of Cyril, who was Bishop of Jerusalem in the fourth century:
"This aforementioned Antichrist comes when the times of the sovereignty of the Romans shall be fulfilled, and the concluding events of the world draw nigh. Ten kings of the Romans arise at the same time in different places, perhaps; but reigning at the same period. But after these, the antichrist is the eleventh, having, by his magic and evil skill, violently possessed himself of the Roman power. Three of those who have reigned before him, he will subdue; the other seven he will hold in subjection to himself. At first he assumes a character of gentleness (as if a wise and understanding person), pretending both to moderation and philanthropy; deceiving, both by lying miracles and prodigies which come from his magical deceptions, the Jews, as if he were the expected Messiah. Afterwards he will addict himself to every kind of evil, cruelty, and excess, so as to surpass all who have been unjust and impious before him; having a bloody and relentless and pitiless mind, and full of wily devices against all, and especially against believers. But having dared such things three years and six months, he will be destroyed by the second glorious coming from heaven of the truly begotten Son of God, who is our Lord and Saviour, Jesus the true Messiah; who, having destroyed Antichrist by the Spirit of His mouth, will deliver him to the fire Gehenna".
Our last quotation is made from the writings of Gregory of Tours, who wrote at the end of the sixth century A.D.: -
"Concerning the end of the world, I believe what I have learnt from those who have gone before me. Antichrist will assume circumcision, asserting himself to be the Christ. He will then place a statue to be worshipped in the Temple at Jerusalem, as we read that the Lord has said, `Ye shall see the abomination of desolation standing in the holy place'".
Our purpose in making these quotations is not because we regard the voice of antiquity as being in any degree authoritative: far from it; the only authority for us is "What saith the Scriptures?". Nor have we presented these views as curious relics of antiquity - though it is interesting to discover the thoughts which occupied some of the leading minds of past ages. No: our purpose has been simply to show that the early Christian writers uniformly held that the Antichrist would be a real person, a Jew, one who should both simulate and oppose the true Christ. Such continued to be the generally received doctrine until what is known as the Dark Ages were far advanced.
It is not until we reach the fourteenth century (so far as the writer is aware) that we find the first marked deviation from the uniform belief of the early Christians. It was the Waldenses, - so remarkably sound in the faith on almost all point of doctrine - who, thoroughly worn out by centuries of the most relentless and merciless persecutions, published about the year 1350 a treatise designed to prove that the system of Popery was the Antichrist. It should however be said in honor of this people, whose memory is blessed, that in one of their earliest books entitled "The Noble Lesson", published about 1100 A.D., they taught that the Antichrist was an individual rather than a system.
Following the new view espoused by the Waldenses it was not long before the Hussites, the Wycliffites and the Lollards - other companies of Christians who were fiercely persecuted by Rome - eagerly caught up the idea, and proclaimed that the Pope was the Man of Sin and the papacy the Beast. From them it was handed on to the leaders of the Reformation who soon made an earnest attempt to systematize this new scheme of eschatology. But rarely has there been a more forceable example of the tendency of men's belief to be moulded by the events and signs of their own lifetime. In order to adapt the prophecies of the Antichrist to the Papal hierarchy, or the line of the Popes, they had to be so wrested that scarcely anything was left of their original meaning.
"The coming Man of Sin had to be changed into a long succession of men. The time of his continuance, which God had stated with precision and clearness as forty-two months (Revelation 13:5), or three years and a half, being far too short for the line of Popes, had to be lengthened by an ingenious, but most unwarrantable, process of first resolving it into days, and then turning these days into years.
5 And the beast was given the power of speech, uttering boastful and blasphemous words, and he was given freedom to exert his authority and to exercise his will during forty-two months (three and a half years). [Daniel 7:8.] AMP
"The fact that, in the 13 th chapter of the Apocalypse, the first Beast or secular power, is supreme while the second Beast or ecclesiastical power is subordinate, had to be ignored; since such an arrangement is opposed to all the traditions of the Roman system. Also the circumstances that the second Beast is a prophet and not a priest, had to be kept in the background; for the Roman church exalts the priest, and has little care for the prophet. Then, again, the awful words pronouncing sentence of death upon every one who worshipped the Beast and his image, and receives his mark in his forehead or in his hand (Revelation 13), seemed - and no wonder - too terrible to be applied to every Roman Catholic, and, therefore, had to be explained away or suppressed" (G. H. Pember).
13:1[AS] I stood on the sandy beach, I saw a beast coming up out of the sea with ten horns and seven heads. On his horns he had ten royal crowns (diadems) and blasphemous titles (names) on his heads.
2 And the beast that I saw resembled a leopard, but his feet were like those of a bear and his mouth was like that of a lion. And to him the dragon gave his [own] might and power and his [own] throne and great dominion.
3 And one of his heads seemed to have a deadly wound. But his death stroke was healed; and the whole earth went after the beast in amazement and admiration.
4 They fell down and paid homage to the dragon, because he had bestowed on the beast all his dominion and authority; they also praised and worshiped the beast, exclaiming, Who is a match for the beast, and, Who can make war against him?
5 And the beast was given the power of speech, uttering boastful and blasphemous words, and he was given freedom to exert his authority and to exercise his will during forty-two months (three and a half years). [Daniel 7:8.]
6 And he opened his mouth to speak slanders against God, blaspheming His name and His abode, [even vilifying] those who live in heaven.
7 He was further permitted to wage war on God's holy people (the saints) and to overcome them. And power was given him to extend his authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation, [Daniel 7:21,25.]
8 And all the inhabitants of the earth will fall down in adoration and pay him homage, everyone whose name has not been recorded in the Book of Life of the Lamb that was slain [in sacrifice] from the foundation of the world.
9 If anyone is able to hear, let him listen:
10 Whoever leads into captivity will himself go into captivity; if anyone slays with the sword, with the sword must he be slain. Herein is [the call for] the patience and the faith and fidelity of the saints (God's people). [Jeremiah 15:2.]
11 Then I saw another beast rising up out of the land [itself]; he had two horns like a lamb, and he spoke (roared) like a dragon.
12 He exerts all the power and right of control of the former beast in his presence, and causes the earth and those who dwell upon it to exalt and deify the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed, and to worship him.
13 He performs great signs (startling miracles), even making fire fall from the sky to the earth in men's sight.
14 And because of the signs (miracles) which he is allowed to perform in the presence of the [first] beast, he deceives those who inhabit the earth, commanding them to erect a statue (an image) in the likeness of the beast who was wounded by the [small] sword and still lived. [Deuteronomy 13:1-5.]
15 And he is permitted [also] to impart the breath of life into the beast's image, so that the statue of the beast could actually talk and cause to be put to death those who would not bow down and worship the image of the beast. [Daniel 3:5.]
16 Also he compels all [alike], both small and great, both the rich and the poor, both free and slave, to be marked with an inscription [stamped] on their right hands or on their foreheads,
17 So that no one will have power to buy or sell unless he bears the stamp (mark, inscription), [that is] the name of the beast or the number of his name.
18 Here is [room for] discernment [a call for the wisdom of interpretation]. Let anyone who has intelligence (penetration and insight enough) calculate the number of the beast, for it is a human number [the number of a certain man]; his number is 666. AMP
Nevertheless, by common consent the Reformers applied the prophecies which treat of the character, career, and doom of the Antichrist, to Popery, and regarded those of his titles which referred to him as "that Man of Sin, the Son of Perdition", the "King of Babylon" and "the Beast", as only so many names for the head of the Roman hierarchy. But this view, which was upheld by most of the Puritans too, must be brought to the test of the one infallible standard of Truth which our gracious God has placed in our hands. We must search the Scriptures to see whether these things be so or not.
Now we shall hold no brief for the pope, nor have we anything good to say of that pernicious system of which he is the head. On the contrary, we have no hesitation in denouncing as rank blasphemy the blatant assumption of the pope as being the infallible vicar of Christ. Nor do we hesitate to declare that the Papacy has been marked, all through its long history, by impious arrogance, awful idolatry, and unspeakable cruelty. But, nevertheless, there are many scriptures which prevent us from believing that the Papacy and the Antichrist are identical. The Son of Perdition will eclipse any monstrosities that have sprung from the waves of the Tiber. The Bible plainly teaches us to look for a more terrible personage than any Hildebrand or Leo.
Undoubtedly there are many points of analogy between Antichrist and the popes, and without doubt the Papal system has foreshadowed to a remarkable degree the character and career of the coming Man of Sin. Some of the parallelisms between them were pointed out by us in the previous chapter, and to these many more might be added. Not only is it evident that Roman Catholicism is a most striking type and harbinger of that one yet to come, but the cause of truth requires us to affirm that the Papacy is an antichrist, doubtless, the most devilish of them all. Yet, we say again, that Romanism is not the Antichrist. As it is likely that many of our readers have been educated in the belief that the pope and the Antichrist are identical, we shall proceed to produce some of the numerous proofs which go to show that such is not the case. That the Papacy cannot possibly be the Antichrist appears from the following considerations: =
1. The term "Antichrist" whether employed in the singular or the plural, denotes a person or persons, and never a system. We may speak correctly of an anti-Christian system, just as we may refer to a Christian organization; but it is just as inadmissible and erroneous to refer to any system or organization as "the Antichrist" or "an antichrist", as it would be to denominate any Christian system or organization "the Christ", or "a Christ". Just as truly as the Christ is the title of a single person the Son of God, so the Antichrist will be a single person, the son of Satan.
2. The Antichrist will be a lineal descendant of Abraham, a Jew. We shall not stop to submit the proof for this, as that will be given in our next chapter; suffice it now to say that none but a full-blooded Jew could ever expect to palm himself off on the Jewish people as their long-expected Messiah. Here is an argument that has never been met by those who believe that the pope is the Man of Sin. So far as we are aware no Israelite has ever occupied the Papal See - certainly none has done so since the seventh century.
3. In line with the last argument, we read in Zechariah 11:16,17, "For, lo, I will raise up a Shepherd in the land which shall not visit those that be cut off, neither shall seek the young ones, nor heal that that is broken, nor feed that that standeth still: but he shall eat the flesh of the fat, and tear their claws in pieces. Woe to the Idol Shepherd that leaveth the flock! The sword (of Divine judgment) shall be upon his arm (his power), and upon his right eye (intelligence): his arm shall be clean dried up, and his right eye shall be utterly darkened". "The land" here is, of course, Palestine, as is ever the case in Scripture with this expression. This could not possibly apply to the line of the Popes.
16 For behold, I will raise up a false shepherd in the land; the lost and perishing he will not miss or visit, the young and scattered he will not go to seek, the wounded and broken he will not heal, nor will he feed those that are sound and strong; but he will eat the flesh of the fat ones and break off their hoofs [to consume all the flesh].
17 Woe to the worthless and foolish shepherd who deserts the flock! The sword shall smite his arm and his right eye; his arm shall be utterly withered and his right eye utterly blinded. [Jeremiah 23:1; John 10:12,13.] AMP
4. In 2 Thessalonians 2:4 we learn that the Man of Sin shall sit "in the Temple of God", and St. Peter's at Rome cannot possibly be called that. The "Temple" in which the Antichrist shall sit will be the rebuilt temple of the Jews, and that will be located not in Italy but in Jerusalem. In later chapters it will be shown that he Mosque of Omar shall yet be replaced by a Jewish Temple before our Lord returns to earth.
5. The Antichrist will be received by the Jews. This is clear from the passage which heads the first paragraph of this chapter. "I am come in My Father's name, and ye receive me not; if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive"; but the Jews have never yet owned allegiance to any pope.
2 Thessalonians 2:4
4 Who opposes and exalts himself so proudly and insolently against and over all that is called God or that is worshiped, [even to his actually] taking his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming that he himself is God. [Ezekiel 28:2; Daniel 11:36,37.] AMP