STAND& COMFORT Newsletter
THE PAPACY IS NOT THE ANTICHRIST
I was thinking of statements often made that the Papacy is THE Antichrist, and when I considered certain Scriptures, particular questions arose. I've never looked deeply into such claims, even though I have discussed it with Christian brothers and sisters. Searching on the internet for input, I came across an online book called "The Antichrist" by Arthur W. Pink. I have this book on my bookshelf, but it was easier to use the online version. In Chapter 2, "The Papacy Not The Antichrist," Pink brought forth a lot of the same objections I'd thought about.
Although I'm going to be using this chapter as a reference on this subject, I'm not familiar with everything Pink teaches, and I'm not saying I agree with all his doctrines.
I actually couldn't even agree with all his arguments concerning the Papacy not being the future Man of Sin, and at times I questioned his reasoning. But here I'm going to list a few of Pink's points which I believe argue well against the idea of the Papacy being THE Antichrist. That does not mean I believe the Papacy is an okay thing. Certainly so much established by the Papacy in the past and being done in the present is Antibiblical and therefore Antichristian, but to lay the title of "THE Antichrist" on the Papacy is a stretch when the Scriptural facts and description of Antichrist are considered.
Pink says that the Early Church Fathers wrote of the Antichrist as an individual, as opposed to there being ONLY an Antichrist system:
"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 [a single individual-Ed] 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" (The Teaching of the Apostles).
On my web page, I quote Justin as saying,
"[T]wo advents of Christ have been announced: the one, in which He is set forth as suffering, inglorious, dishonored, and crucified; but the other, in which He shall come from heaven with glory, when the man of apostasy [single individual-Ed], who speaks strange things against the Most High, shall venture to do unlawful deeds on the earth against us the Christians,..." (Justin, Dialog with Trypho, CX).
This is an important fact about the Antichrist; he is an individual:
1. Daniel consistently depicts the end-time Antichrist as an individual (Dan. 8:9-14,23-26; 11:21-12:4)
2. It is possible Jesus was referring to him when He said HE will come in his own name (John 5:42)
3. HE follows after the apostasy and sits in the temple as if HE were God (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4)
4. HE comes with Satan's working and is then slain by the brightness of Jesus' return (2 Thesalonians 2:8-9). In this chapter, the Antichrist is described in two different terms: "the son of perdition" and "that Wicked."
5. HE comes after many Antichrists prepare the way for him:
1 John 2:18 Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.
Notice ANTICHRIST (singular) shall come (future), but even in John's time there were many Antichrists. Many argue that this is the only time the title "Antichrist" is used in Scripture. That does not mean that "that Wicked" and "the son of perdition" in 2 Thessalonians is not the same "man of lawlessness" as referred to under the title of Antichrist in 1 John 2:8. He is called by other names in Scripture, such as the "little horn" (Daniel 7:8, 8:9), "a king of fierce countenance" (Daniel 8:23), "the prince that shall come" (Daniel 9:26), "the [willful] king" (Daniel 11:36), and "the beast" (Revelation 11:7, 13:1-3).
Jesus Himself is referred to in Scripture with over 300 various titles or names: the Lamb, the Prophet, the Light of the World, etc. and surely we cannot say that these are not speaking of the same Jesus.
On this point, Pink states,
"Here the Antichrist is plainly distinguished from the many who prepare his way. The verb 'cometh' here is a remarkable one, for it is the very same that is used of the Lord Jesus Christ in reference to His first and second Advents. The Antichrist, therefore, is also 'the coming one', or 'he that cometh.'"
We know that the work of these antichrist spirits, in part, is to change who Jesus Christ is as stated in the word of God in order to foster apostasy. They also work to destroy the idea that there will be an antichrist, a man, who will rise in the last days. We need to be on guard against both.
Pink makes one very important point which confirmed my own thinking:
"The duration of Antichrist's career, after he comes out in his true character, will be limited to forty-two months. There are no less than six scriptures which, with a variety of expression, affirm this time restriction. In Dan. 7:25 we learn that this one who shall 'think to change times and laws', will have these 'given into his hand until a time, and times, and the dividing of time': that is, for three years and a half - cf. Rev. 12:14 with 12:6. And again in Rev. 13:5 we are told, 'And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months' (Rev. 13:5). Now it is utterly impossible to make this harmonize with the protracted history of Romanism by any honest method of computation" (Point 17).
Scripture tells us that the antichrist will be revealed when he sits in the temple as though he were God. This act begins a three-and-a-half year reign of terror. In other words, the time of the Antichrist being known is a limited period confined within the seven-year period known as Daniel's 70th week. So each time throughout the ages when a pope was labeled as THE Antichrist, that accusation was made out of the bounds of Scripture. The word of God is cut and dried, and reveals all of these past proclamations as untrue. The popes of the past have not been THE Scriptural Antichrist.
Guesstimaters are in the same class as date-setters. Setting dates does no good, and in fact is an embarassment to Christianity and confusing to the saints. In the same way, the many past "revealings" of the Antichrist's identity have also been deeply embarassing. Some people, in desperate attempts to tie all things together to reveal the working of Satan in bringing the world to worship him, have even declared that the Antichrist will be an alien. Arthur Pink himself believed that "the Antichrist will be Judas reincarnated," and in my searches on the internet, I found a whole list of Antichrist candidates:
Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, Mikhail Gorbachev, Adolf Hitler, Kaiser Wilhelm, Benito Mussolini, Joseph Stalin, Nikita Krushchev, John F. Kennedy, Ted Turner, Ronald Reagan, Henry Kissinger, Nero, popes throughout the ages, Charlemagne, Napoleon, Aleister Crowley, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Francisco Franco, Maitreya, Sun Myung Moon, Yassir Arafat, Magician David Blaine, Louis Farrakhan, Karl Hapsburg, Juan Carlos, William Jefferson Clinton, Sam Donaldson, Bill Gates, Prince Charles of Wales, Uday Hussein, Jacques Chirac, Jimmy Carter, Martin Luther, Pat Robertson, David Rockefeller, Willy Brandt, Caligula, Kurt Waldheim, Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands, Emperor Frederick II, King George II, Emperor Justinian, Ayatollah Khomeini, Peter the Great, Madonna, Pete Seiger, Boris Yeltsin, Theodore Roosevelt, Anwar el-Sadat, Larry Flynt, Donald Trump, Billy Graham, Russian President Putin, Bob Dylan, Regis Filbin, Don Francisco, a clone of Jesus from holy relics, and Barney the dinosaur (Yes, that's right - Barney the dinosaur).
Although the naming of Madonna, Seiger, Dylan, and Regis as antichrist candidates is certainly embarrassing to the church, Barney the dinosaur is just humorous. But because of such ludicrous ideas, the topic loses credibility and becomes nothing but a joke in the world's eyes, which in itself helps prepare the way for the one who is coming.
In his book, Pink gives the history of the claims, later made popular by the Reformers, that the Papacy is the Antichrist. In Chapter 2, he writes about the Waldenses, who first brought forth this idea. Quoting from a Waldenses document from 1000 AD, Pink says that they believed the Antichrist was an individual person who would appear at a future time:
"As for any other Law to come after, we shall have none, save only to imitate Jesus Christ, and to do his will, and keep fast that which he commands us, and to be well forewarned when Antichrist shall come. That we may believe neither to his words nor to his works, now according to the Scripture, there are already many Antichrists. For, all those which are contrary to Christ, are Antichrists. Many signs and great wonders shall be from this time forward until the Day of Judgment, the Heaven and the Earth shall burn, and all the living die. After which all shall arise to everlasting life, and all buildings shall be laid flat" (THE NOBLA LECON ("The Noble Lesson")).
But by the 14th century, the view of the Waldenses had changed:
"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 molded 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" (Pink, Chapter 2).
Quoting some observations by Pember, Pink continues,
"'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 (Rev. 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.
Pink also makes the point that the Antichrist's appearance must occur within the seven years of Daniel's 70th week, which is yet future:
"Closely akin to the last argument is the fact that quite a number of definite scriptures place the appearing of the Antichrist at that season known as the End-Time. Dan. 7 and 8 make it plain that the Antichrist will run his career at the very end of this age . . . , that is, during the great Tribulation, the time of "Jacob's trouble". Dan. 7:21-23 declares, "I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them; Until the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the Most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom". Dan. 8:19 places his course (see 8:23-25) at "the last end of the indignation", i.e. of God's wrath against Israel and the Gentiles. Dan. 9 shows that he will make his seven-years' Covenant with the Jews at the beginning of the last of the seventy "weeks" which is to bring in "the end" of Israel's sins and "finish the transgression" (9: 24). If the time of the Antichrist's manifestation is yet future then it necessarily follows that Rome cannot be the Antichrist."
The idea that the Papacy is THE Antichrist neutralizes the Scriptures. In Revelation 17, the ten kings give their power to the Beast and this confederacy in turn destroys the whore of that Chapter, the corrupt religious system of the endtimes. Today, there are many who still believe that the Papacy is THE Antichrist. At the same time, they proclaim that because of Rome's ecumenical movement, the pope will be the head of the apostate global church, the worldwide religious system which will be burned by fire under the leadership of the Antichrist. It is impossible for the Papacy to be both - the Antichrist, and also the leader of the religious whore of Revelation who is destroyed by the Antichrist.
There is a distinction between the two beasts in Revelation 13. The second beast (the false prophet) is primarily religious in nature, one who promotes the worship and servitude to the first beast (the Antichrist) by means of miracles. You'd think this would cause one to pause before declaring any strong religious power in today's world to be THE antichrist. To confuse the two and declare the second beast to be antichrist, when he is not, is to bring confusion to the saints and greatly decrease our power to watch and pray.
One last point I would make is that Antichrist begins small and slowly gains power in the political and military world. Then, as Revelation 13 and 2 Thessalonians 2 point out, he begins to make religious proclamations. With the Papacy, this order would have to be reversed. The Papacy, already notable for its religious proclamations, would have to now gain an effective political and military influence in the world to rise to power as described in Daniel.
Who is the Antichrist? I don't know, do you? What has the fruit been of "naming" who the antichrist is? Confusion, embarrassment, contention, bad atittudes. Such speculations are not wisdom from above:
James 3:14 But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth.
When will we know who it is? When he starts to rise or shows up. The game of "Will the real antichrist please stand up" is based on the strivings of the flesh and its "need to know," having "facts" someone else doesn't have or needing to be the first to discover his identity. In a lot of cases, these are ambitious pursuits for the sake of self-exaltation. It's neither staying sober nor watching in a Scriptural way. Of course we are to watch, but mixed with prayer, not speculation.
As Christians we need to remain level-headed and base our thinking on the Scriptures. For years I have watched proclamations of prophecy "now being fulfilled in this hour" fall to the ground. We must remember that John said there are many antichristic spirits in the world and one of the main traits of these spirits is to confuse or destroy the truth. Because of the progress these spirits have made in paving the way for THE antichrist, the world is more antichristic than it was 20 years ago. As a result, the traits of the antichristic spirits are seen in many, and when one person stands out, such as Sadaam Hussein, some go too far and declare he is THE Antichrist when all the signs pointing to the rise of the real antichrist are not there. It's the old problem of taking parts of something and declaring it to be the whole. All the signs of the rise of antichrist must be present. Character traits and the actions stemming from them are not enough to determine whether someone is THE antichrist.
It's obvious that we need the wisdom from above as described by John:
James 3:17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.
We have not seen such fruit in the guesstimations of who the antichrist is. I know this: when he starts to be promoted and rise, we will know who he is because of the Scriptures.
This newsletter will be sent out whenever I think there is something the body of Christ needs to consider, to build it up, to give it encouragement or comfort in hard times.
To sign up for this newsletter, email Ed at firstname.lastname@example.org