The contents of this book were first given out by the author at Bible Conferences, and then appeared in their present form in Studies in the Scriptures. As the subject of them is of such importance to students of prophecy, and as so little has been published thereon, we have deemed it advisable to issue them, complete, in book form. So far as the writer is aware, only two or three comparatively brief booklets and essays have appeared on this particular theme, though to their contents we are indebted for a number of helpful suggestions.
Our aim has been to present as comprehensive an outline as our space would allow. Much of what we have advanced will no doubt be new to the great majority of our readers. Frequently we have been obliged to deviate from the interpretations of those who have gone before us. Nevertheless, we have sought to give clear proof texts for everything advanced, and we would respectfully urge the reader to examine them diligently and impartially.
The subject is unspeakably solemn, and before each chapter was commenced we lifted up our heart to God that we might write with His fear upon us. To speculate about any of the truths of Holy Writ is the height of irreverence: better far to humbly acknowledge our ignorance when God has not made known His mind to us. Only in His light do we see light. Secret things belong unto the Lord, but the things which are revealed (in Scripture) belong unto us and to our children. Therefore, it is our bounden duty, as well as holy privilege, to search carefully and prayerfully into what God has been pleased to tell us upon this, as upon all other subjects of inspiration.
Fully conscious are we that we have in no wise exhausted the subject. As the time of the manifestation of the Man of Sin draws near, God may be pleased to vouchsafe a fuller and better understanding of those parts of His Word which make known “the things which must shortly come to pass”. That others may be led to make a more thorough inquiry for themselves is our earnest hope, and that God may be pleased to use this work to stimulate to this end is our prayer. May He deign to use to His glory whatever in this book is in harmony with His Word, and cause to fall to the ground whatever in it is displeasing to Him.Arthur W. Pink,
Chapter One – Introduction
Across the varied scenes depicted by prophecy there falls the shadow of a figure at once commanding and ominous. Under many different names like the aliases of a criminal, his character and movements are set before us. It is our intention to write a series of papers concerning this one who will be the full embodiment of human wickedness and the final manifestation of satanic blasphemy. Many others have made reference to this mysterious personage in their general expositions of prophecy, but so far as our examination of the literature on this subject has carried us (and we have endeavored to make it as thorough as possible) there seem to have been very few attempts made to furnish a complete delineation of this Prince of Darkness. We do not know of any exhaustive treatment of the subject, and for this reason, and also because there is no little confusion in the minds of many concerning the character and career of the coming Man of Sin, these papers are not submitted to the attention of Bible students.
For upwards of twelve years we have studied diligently and prayerfully what the Scriptures teach about the Pseudo-Christ. The deeper we have carried these studies, the more surprised we are at the prominent place which is given in the Bible to this Son of Perdition. There is an amazing wealth of detail which, when carefully collected and arranged, supplies a vivid biography of the one who is shortly to appear and take the government of the world upon his shoulders. The very fact that the Holy Spirit has caused so much to be written upon the subject at once denotes its great importance. The prominence of the Antichrist in the prophetic Scriptures will at once appear by a glance at the references that follow.
The very first prophecy of the Bible takes note of him, for in Gen. 3:15 direct reference is made to the Serpent’s “Seed”. In exodus a striking type of him is furnished in Pharaoh, the defier of God; the one who cruelly treated His people; the one who by ordering the destruction of all the male children, sought to cut off Israel from being a nation; the one who met with such a drastic end at the hands of the Lord. In the prophecy of Balaam, the Antichrist is referred to under the name of “Asshur” (Num. 24:22), – in future chapters evidence will be given to prove that “Asshur” and the Antichrist are one and the same person. There are many other remarkable types of the Man of Sin to be found in the historical books of the Old Testament, but these we pass by now, as we shall devote a separate chapter to their consideration.
In the book of Job he is referred to as “the Crooked Serpent” (Job 26:13): with this should be compared Isa. 27:1 where, as “the Crooked Serpent”, he is connected with the Dragon, though distinguished from him. In the Psalms we find quite a number of references to him; as “the Bloody and Deceitful Man” (5:6); “the Wicked (One)” (9:17); “the Man of the Earth” (10:18); the “Mighty Man” (52:1); “the Adversary” (74:10); “the Head over many countries” (110:6); “the Evil Man” and “the Violent Man” (140:1), etc., etc. Let the student give special attention to Psalms 10, 52, and 55.
When we turn to the Prophets there the references to this Monster of Iniquity are so numerous that were we to cite all of them, even without comment, it would take us quite beyond the proper bounds of this introductory chapter. Only a few of the more prominent ones can, therefore, be noticed.
Isaiah mentions him: first as the “Assyrian”, “the Rod” of God’s anger (10:5); then as “the Wicked” (11:4); then as “the King of Babylon” (14:11-20 and cf 30:31-33); and also as the “Spoiler” – Destroyer (16:4). Jeremiah calls him “the Destroyer of the Gentiles” (4:7); the “Enemy”, the “Cruel One” and “the Wicked” (30:14 and 23). Ezekiel refers to him as the “Profane Wicked Prince of Israel” (21:25), and again under the figure of the “Prince of Tyre” (28:2-10), and also as “the chief Prince of Meshech and Tubal” (38:2). Daniel gives a full delineation of his character and furnished a complete outline of his career. Hosea speaks of him as “the King of Princes” (8:10), and as the “Merchant” in whose hand are “the balances of deceit” and who “loveth to oppress” (12:7). Joel describes him as the Head of the Northern Army, who shall be overthrown because he “magnified himself to do great things” (2:20). Amos terms him the “Adversary” who shall break Israel’s strength and spoil her palaces (3:11). Micah makes mention of him in the fifth chapter of his prophecy (see v. 6). Nahum refers to him under the name of “Belial (Heb.) and tells of his destruction (1:15). Habakkuk speaks of him as “the Proud Man” who “enlarged his desires as hell, and is as death, and cannot be satisfied, but gathereth unto him all nations, and heapeth unto him all peoples” (2:5). Zechariah describes him as “the Idol Shepherd” upon whom is pronounced God’s “woe”, and upon whom descends His judgment (11:17).
Nor is it only in the Old Testament that we meet with this fearful character. Our Lord Himself spoke of him as the one who should “come in his own name”, and who would be “received” by Israel (John 5:43). The apostle Paul gives us a full length picture of him in 2 Thess. 2, where he is denominated “that Man of Sin, the Son of Perdition”, who coming shall be “after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders”. The apostle John mentions him by name, and declares that he will deny both the Father and the Son (1 John 2:22). While in the Apocalypse, the last book in the Bible, all these lines of prophecy are found to converge in “the Beast” who shall ultimately be cast, together with the False Prophet, into the lake of fire, there to be joined a thousand years later by the Devil himself, to suffer for ever and ever in that fire specially “prepared” by God.
The appearing of the Antichrist is a most appalling and momentous subject, and in the past, many well-meaning writers have deprived this impending event of much of its terror and meaning, by confusing some of the antichrists that have already appeared at various intervals on the stage of human history, with that mysterious being who will tower high above all the sons of Belial, being no less than Satan’s counterfeit and opposer of the Christ of God, who is infinitely exalted above all the sons of God. It promotes the interests of Satan to keep the world in ignorance of the coming Super-man, and there can be no doubt that he is the one who is responsible for the general neglect in the study of this subject, and the author, too, of the conflicting testimony which is being given out by those who speak and write concerning it.
There have been three principal schools among the interpreters of the prophecies pertaining to the Antichrist. The first have applied these prophecies to persons of the past, to men who have been in their graves for many centuries. The second have given these prophecies a present application, finding their fulfillment in the Papacy which still exists. While the third give them a future application, and look for their fulfillment in a terrible being who is yet to be manifested. Now, widely divergent as are these several views, the writer is assured there is an element of truth in each of them. Many, if not the great majority of the prophecies – not only those pertaining to the Antichrist, but to other prominent objects of prediction – have at least a twofold, and frequently a threefold fulfillment. They have a local and immediate fulfillment: they have a continual and gradual fulfillment: and they have a final and exhaustive fulfillment.
In the second chapter of his first epistle the apostle John declares, “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” (v. 18). In strict harmony with this, the apostle Paul affirmed that the “mystery of iniquity” was “already” at work in his day (2 Thess. 2:7). This need not surprise us, for many centuries before the apostles, the wise man declared, “The thing that hath been, is that which shall be;and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun” (Ecc. 1:9). History works in cycles, but as each cycle is completed we are carried nearer the goal and consummation of history. There have been, then, and there exist today, many antichrists, but these are only so many forecasts and foreshadowings of the one who is yet to appear. But it is of first importance that we should distinguish clearly between an antichrist and the Antichrist. As we have said, there have already been many antichrists, but the appearing of the Antichrist is yet future.
The first school of interpreters referred to above, have lighted upon Antiochus Epiphanes as the one who fulfills the prophecies respecting the Antichrist. As far back as the days of Josephus (see his “Antiquities”) this view found ardent advocates. Appeal was made to the title he assumed (Epiphanes signifying “Illustrious”); to his opposition against the worship of Jehovah; to his remarkable military achievements; to his diplomatic intrigues; to his defiling of the Temple; to his sacrificing of a pig in the holy of holies; to his setting up of an image; and to his cruel treatment of the Jews. But there are many conclusive reasons to prove that Antiochus Epiphanes could not possibly be the Antichrist, though undoubtedly he was, in several respects, a striking type of him, inasmuch as he foreshadowed many of the very things which this coming Monster will do. It is sufficient to point out that Antiochus Epiphanes had been in his grave for more than a hundred years when the apostle wrote 2 Thess. 2.
Another striking character who has been singled out by those who believe that the Antichrist has already appeared and finished his course, is Nero. And here again there are, admittedly, many striking resemblances between the type and the antitype. In his office of emperor of the Romans; in his awful impiety; in his consuming egotism, in his bloodthirsty nature; and in his ferocious and fiendish persecution of the people of God, we discover some of the very lineaments which will be characteristic of the Wicked One. But again it will be found that this man of infamous memory, Nero, did nothing more than foreshadow that one who shall far exceed him in satanic malignity. Positive proof that Nero was not the Antichrist is to be found in the fact that he was in his grave before John wrote the thirteenth chapter of the Revelation.
The second school of interpreters, to whom reference has been made above, apply the prophecies concerning the Antichrist to the papal system, and see in the succession of the popes the fac-simile of the Man of Sin. Attention is called to Rome’s hatred of the Gospel of God’ grace; to her mongrel combination of political and ecclesiastical rule; to her arrogant claims and tyrannical anathemas upon all who dare to oppose them; to her subtlety, her intrigues, her broken pledges; and last, but not least, to her unspeakable martyrdom of those who have withstood her. The pope, we are reminded, has usurped the place and prerogatives of the Son of God, and his arrogance, his impiety, his claims to infallibility, his demand for personal worship, all tally exactly with what is postulated of the Son of Perdition. Antichristian, Roman Catholicism unquestionably is, yet, even this monstrous system of evil falls short of that which shall yet be headed by the Beast. We shall devote a separate chapter to a careful comparison of the papacy with the prophecies which describe the character and career of the Antichrist.
The third school of interpreters believe that the prophecies relating to the Lawless One have not yet received their fulfillment, and cannot do so until this present Day of Salvation has run its course. The Holy Spirit of God, whose presence here now prevents the final outworking of the Mystery of Iniquity, must be removed from these scenes before Satan can bring forth his Masterpiece of deception and opposition to God. Many are the scriptures which teach plainly that the manifestation of the Antichrist is yet future, and these will come before us in our future studies. For the moment we must continue urging upon our readers the importance of this subject and the timeliness of our present inquiry.
The study of Antichrist is not merely one of interest to those who love the sensational, but it is of vital importance to a right understanding of dispensational truth. A true conception of the predictions which regard the Man of Sin is imperatively necessary for an adequate examination of that vast territory of unfulfilled prophecy. A single passage of scripture will establish this. If the reader will turn to the beginning of 2 Thess. 2 he will find that the saints in Thessalonica had been waiting for the coming of God’s Son from heaven, because they had been taught to expect their gathering together unto Him before God launches His judgments upon the world, which will distinguish the “Day of the Lord”. But their faith had been shaken and their hope disturbed. Certain ones had erroneously informed them that “that day” had arrived, and therefore, their expectation of being caught up to meet the Lord in the air had been disappointed. It was to relieve the distress of these believers, and to repudiate the errors of those who had disturbed them, that, moved by the Holy Spirit, the apostle wrote his second epistle to the Thessalonian church.
“Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto Him, That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that Man of Sin be revealed, the Son of Perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you I told you these things? And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only He who now letteth (hindereth) will let, until He be taken our of the way. And then shall that Wicked One be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of His mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: Even him whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they might believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thess. 2:1-12).
We have quoted this passage at length to show that the Day of the Lord cannot come until after the Rapture (v. 1), after the Apostasy (v. 3), and after the appearing of the Man of Sin (v. 3), whose character and career here briefly but graphically sketched. The Antichrist is to run his career of unparalleled wickedness after all Christians have been removed from these scenes, for it it under him, as their leader, that all the hosts of ungodliness shall muster to meet their doom by the summary judgment of God. Has then, the Wicked One been revealed? or must we still say, as the apostle said in his day, that while the “mystery of iniquity” is even now working, there is something “withholding” (restraining), that he should be revealed “in his time”? The vital importance of the answer which is given to these questions will further appear when we connect with this description of the Antichrist given in 2 Thess. 2 the other prophecies which reveal the exact length of time within which his course must be accomplished. Our reason for saying this is because the majority of the prophecies yet unfulfilled are to be fulfilled during the time that the Antichrist is the central figure upon earth. Moreover, the destruction of the Antichrist and his forces will be the grand finale in the age-long conflict between the Serpent and the woman’s Seed, as He returns to set up His kingdom.
The dominant view which has been held by Protestants since the time of the Reformation is that the many predictions relating to the Antichrist describe, instead, the rise, progress, and doom of the papacy. This mistake has led to others, and given rise to the scheme of prophetic interpretation which has prevailed throughout Christendom. When the predictions concerning the Man of Sin were allegorized, consistency required that all associated and collateral predictions should also be allegorized, and especially those which relate to his doom, and the kingdom which is to be established on the overthrow of his power. When the period of his predicted course was made to measure the whole duration of the papal system, it naturally followed that the predictions of the associated events should be applied to the history of Europe from the time that the Bishop of Rome became recognized as the head of the Western Churches.
It was, really, this mistake of Luther and his contemporaries in applying to Rome the prophecies concerning the Antichrist which is responsible, we believe, for the whole modern system of post-millennialism. The Reformers were satisfied that the Papacy had received its death blow, and though it lingered on, the Protestants of the sixteenth century were confident it could never recover. Believing that the doom of the Roman hierarchy was sealed, that the kingdom of Satan was rocking on its foundations, and that a brief interval would witness a complete overthrow, they at once seized upon the prophecies which announced the setting up of the kingdom of Christ as immediately following the destruction of the Antichrist, and applied them to Protestantism. It is true that some of them did not seem to fit very well, but human ingenuity soon found a way to overcome these difficulties. The obstacle presented by those prophecies that announced the immediate setting up of Christ’s kingdom, following the overthrow and destruction of Satan’s, was surmounted by an appeal to the analogy furnished in the overthrow of Satan’s kingdom – if this was a tedious process, a gradual thing which required time to complete, why not so with the other? If the rapidly waning power of the papacy was sufficient to guarantee its ultimate extermination, why should not the progress of the Reformation presage the ultimate conquering of the world for Christ!
If, as it seemed clear to the Reformers, the papacy was the Man of Sin, and St. Peter’s was the “temple” in which he usurped the place and prerogatives of Christ, then, this premise established, all the other conclusions connected with their scheme of prophetic interpretation must logically follow. To establish the premise was the first thing to be done, and once the theory became a settled conviction it was no difficult thing to find scriptures which appeared to confirm their view. The principal difficulty in the way was to dispose of the predictions which limited the final stage of Antichrist’s career to forty-two months, or twelve hundred sixty days. This was accomplished by what is known as the “year-day” theory, which regards each of the 1260 days as “prophetic days”, that is, as 1260 years, and thus sufficient room was afforded to allow for the protracted history of Roman Catholicism.
Without entering into further details, it is evident at once that, if this allegorical interpretation of the prophecies regarding Antichrist can be proven erroneous, then the whole post-millennial and “historical” schemes of interpretation fall to the ground, and thousands of the voluminous expositions of prophecy which have been issued during the past three hundred and fifty years are set aside as ingenious but baseless speculations. This, of itself, is sufficient to demonstrate the importance of our present inquiry.
Not only is the importance of our subject denoted by the prominent place given to it in the Word of God, and not only is its value established by the fact that a correct understanding of the person of Antichrist is one of the chief keys to the right interpretation of the many prophecies which yet await their fulfillment, but the timeliness of this inquiry is discovered by noting that the Holy Spirit has connected the appearing of the Antichrist with the Apostasy: “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away (the Apostasy) first, and that Man of Sin be revealed, the Son of Perdition” (2 Thess. 2:3). These two things are here joined together, and if it can be shown that the Apostasy is already far advanced, then we may be certain that the manifestation of the Man of Sin cannot be far distant.
There is little need for us to make a lengthy digression here and give a selection from the abundance of evidence to hand, which shows that the Apostasy is already far advanced. The great majority of those whom we are addressing have already had their eyes opened by God to discern the Christ-dishonoring conditions which exist on almost every side. It will be enough to barely mention the gathering of the “tares” into bundles, which is taking place before our eyes; the rapid spread of Spiritism, with its “seducing spirits and doctrines of demons”, and the significant and solemn fact that thousands of those who are ensnared by it are those who have departed from the formal profession of the faith (1 Tim. 4:1); the “form of godliness” which still exists, but which alas! in the vast majority of instances “denies its power “; the alarming development and growth of Roman Catholicism in this land, and the lethargic indifference to this by most of those who bear the name of Christ; the denial of every cardinal doctrine of the faith once delivered to the saints, which is now heard in countless pulpits of every denomination; the “scoffing” which is invariably met with by those who teach the imminent return of the Lord Jesus; and the Lacodicean spirit which is now the very atmosphere of Christendom, and from which few, if any, of the Lord’s own people are entirely free – these, and a dozen others which might be mentioned, are the proofs which convince us that the time must be very near at hand when the Divine Hinderer shall be removed, and when satan shall bring forth his Son to head the final revolt against God, ere the Lord Jesus returns to this earth and sets up His kingdom. This then, shows the need of a prayerful examination of what God has revealed of those things “which must shortly come to pass”. The very fact that the time when Satan’s Masterpiece shall appear is rapidly drawing nearer, supplies further evidence of the importance and timeliness of our present inquiry.
The practical value of these preliminary considerations should at once be apparent. What we have written in connection with this incarnation of Satan who is shortly to appear, is not the product of a disordered imagination but the subject of Divine revelation. The warning given that the appearing of the Antichrist cannot be far distant springs not from the fears of an alarmist, but is required by the Signs of the Times which, in the light of Scripture, are fraught with significant meaning to all whose senses are exercised to discern both good and evil. The many proofs that the manifestation of the Man of Sin is an event of the near future are so many calls to God’s own children to be ready for the Return of the Saviour, for before the Son of Perdition can be revealed the Lord Himself must first descend into the air and catch away from these scenes, unto Himself, His own blood-bought people. Therefore, it behooves each one of us to make “our calling and election sure”, and to heed that urgent admonition of the Saviour “Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning; and ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their Lord” (Luke 12:35, 36).
 Erroneous in the sense that it is but a shadowy and secondary fulfillment, rather than the ultimate and primary.
Chapter Two – The Papacy Is Not The Antichrist
“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” (John 5:43). These words were spoken by the Lord Jesus Christ, and the occasion on which they were uttered and the connection in which they are found, invest them with peculiar solemnity. The chapter opens by depicting the Saviour healing the impotent man who lay by the pool of Bethesda. This occurred on the Sabbath day, and the enemies of Christ made it the occasion for a vicious attack upon Him: “Therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay Him, because He had done these things on the Sabbath day” (v. 16). In vindicating His performance of this miracle on the Sabbath, the Lord Jesus began by saying, “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work” (v. 17). But this only served to intensify their enmity against Him, for we read, “Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill Him, because He not only had broken the Sabbath, but said also that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God” (v. 18). In response, Christ then made a detailed declaration of His divine glories. In conclusion He appealed to the varied witnesses which bore testimony to His Deity: – the Father Himself (v. 32); John the Baptist (v. 33); His own works (v. 36); and the Scriptures (v. 39). Then He turned to those who were opposing Him and said, “And ye will not come to Me, that ye might have life. But I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you. 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” (vv. 40, 42, 43). And this was immediately followed by this searching question – “How can ye believe which receive honor (glory) one of another, and seek not the honor (glory) that cometh from God only?” (v. 44).
Here is the key to the solemn statement which begins this article. These Jews received glory from one another; they did not seek it from God, for they had not the love of God in them. Therefore it was that the One who had come to them in the Father’s name, and who “received not glory from men” (v. 41) was rejected by them. And just as eve’s rejection of the word of God’s truth laid her open to accept the serpent’s lie, so Israel’s rejection of the true Messiah, has prepared them, morally, to receive the false Messiah, for he will come in his own name, doing his own pleasure, and will “receive glory from men”. Thus will he thoroughly appeal to the corrupt heart of the natural man.
The future appearing of this one who shall “come in his own name” was announced, then, by the Lord Himself. The Antichrist will be “received”, not only by the Jews, but also by the whole world; received as their acknowledged Head and Ruler; and all the modern pleas for and movements to bring about a federation of the churches and a union of Christendom, together with the present-day efforts to establish a League of Nations – a great United States of the World – are but preparing the way for just such a character as is portrayed both in the Old and New Testaments.
There will be many remarkable correspondences between the true and the false Christ, but more numerous and more striking will be the contrasts between the Son of God and the Son of perdition. The Lord Jesus came down from Heaven, whereas the Antichrist shall ascent from the bottomless Pit (Rev. 11:7). The Lord Jesus came in His Father’s name, emptied Himself of His glory, lived in absolute dependence upon God, and refused to receive honor from men; but the Man of Sin will come in his own name, embodying all the pride of the Devil, opposing and exalting himself not only against the true God, but against everything that bears His name, and his deepest craving will be to receive honor and homage from men.
Now since this parallel, with its pointed contrasts, was drawn by our Lord Himself in John 5:43, how conclusive is the proof which it affords that the Antichrist will be a single individual being as surely as Christ was! In further proof of this 1 John 2:18 may be cited: “Little children, it is the last hour: and as ye heard that Antichrist cometh, even now hath there arisen many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last hour” (R.V.). 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”. This defines his relation to the world, – which has long been expecting some Conquering Hero – as “the Coming One” defines the relation of the Christ of God to His Churches, whose Divinely-inspired hope is the return of the Lord from Heaven.
Nor does this by any means exhaust the proof that the coming Antichrist will be a single individual being. The expressions used by the apostle Paul in 2 Thess. 2 – “that Man of Sin”, “The Son of Perdition”, “he that opposeth and exalteth himself”, “the Wicked One whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of His mouth”, “he whose coming is after the working of Satan” – all these point as distinctly to a single individual as did the Messianic predictions of the Old Testament point to the person of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Now, in accordance with these texts, and many others which might be quoted, we find that all the Christian writers of the first six centuries (that is all who make reference to the subject) regarded the Antichrist as a real person, a specific individual. We might fill many pages by giving extracts from their works, but three must suffice. The first is taken from a very ancient document, entitled “The Teaching of the Apostles”, which probably dates back to the beginning of the second century: –
“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 mouled 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 (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.
“The fact that, in the 13th 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 (Rev. 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).
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-Christ-ian 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 Zech. 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.
4. In 2 Thess. 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.
6. The Antichrist will make a Covenant with the Jews. In Dan. 9:27 we read, “And he shall confirm the covenant with many for a week”. The one referred to here as making this seven-year Covenant is “the Prince that shall come” of the previous verse, namely, the Antichrist, who will be the Head of the ten-kingdomed Empire. The nation with whom the Prince will make this covenant is the people of Daniel, as is clear from the context – see v. 24. But we know of no record upon the scroll of history of any pope having ever made a seven-year Covenant with the Jews!
7. In Dan. 11:45 we read, “And he shall plant the tabernacles of his palace between the seas, in the glorious holy mountain; yet he shall come to his end, and none shall help him”. The person referred to here is, again, the Antichrist, as will be seen by going back to v. 36 where this section of the chapter begins. There we are told, “The king shall do according to his will; and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvelous things against he God of gods, and shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished; for that that is determined shall be done”. This is more than sufficient to identify with certainty the one spoken of in the last verse of Dan. 11. The Antichrist, then, will plant the tabernacles of his palace “between the seas”, that is, between the Mediterranean and the Red Sea. By no species of ingenuity can this be made to apply to the pope, for his palace, the Vatican, is located in the capital city of Italy.
8. The Antichrist cannot be revealed until the mystic Body of Christ and the Holy Spirit have been removed from the earth. This is made clear by what we read in 2 Thess. 2. In verse three of that chapter the apostle refers to the revelation of the Man of Sin. In verse four he describes his awful impiety. In verse five he reminds the Thessalonians how that he had taught them these things by word of mouth when he was with them. And then, in verse six he declares “And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time”. And again he said, “For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only He who now letteth (hindereth) will let until He be taken out of the way”. There are two agencies,then, which are hindering, or preventing the manifestation of the Antichrist, until “his time” shall have come. The former agency is covered by the pronoun “what”, the latter by the word “He”. The former, we are satisfied, is the mystical Body of Christ; the latter being the Holy Spirit of God. At the Rapture both shall be “taken out of the way”, and then shall the Man of Sin be revealed. If, then, the Antichrist cannot appear before the Rapture of the saints and the taking away of the Holy Spirit, then, here is proof positive that the Antichrist has not yet appeared.
9. 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 (we do not say this “dispensation” for that will end at the Rapture), 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.
10. The Antichrist will deny both the Father and the Son: “He is Antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son” (1 John 2:22). This scripture does not speak of virtual, but of actual and formal denial. But Rome has always maintained in her councils and creeds, her symbols of faith and worship, that there are three persons in the Godhead. Numerous and grievous have been her departures from the teaching of Holy Scripture, yet since the time of the Council of Trent (1563 A.D.) every Roman Catholic has had to confess “I believe in God the Father…and in the Lord Jesus Christ….and in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of life, which proceedeth from the Father and the Son”.
As a system Romanism is a go-between. The “priest” stands between the sinner and God; the `confessional’ between him and the throne of grace; `penance’ between him and godly sorrow; the `mass’ between him and Christ; and `purgatory’ between him and Heaven. The pope acknowledges both the Father and the Son: he confesses himself to be both the servant of God and His worshipper; he blesses the people not in his own name, but in that of the Holy Trinity.
11. The Antichrist is described as the one “who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the Temple of God, showing himself that he is God” (2 Thess. 2:4). This is what the popes have never done. Not even Leo ventured to deify himself or supersede God. The popes have made many false and impious claims for themselves; nevertheless, their decrees have been sent forth as from the “vice-gerent” of God, the “vicar” of Christ – thus acknowledging a Divine power above himself.
12. In Rev. 13:2,4 we read, “And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority…and they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast”. By comparing these verses with Rev. 12:9 we learn that the Dragon is none other than Satan himself. Now by almost common consent this first beast of Rev. 13 is the Antichrist. If, then, Romanism be the Antichrist, where, we may ask, shall we turn to find anything answering to what we read of here in Rev. 13:4 – “And they worshipped the dragon, which gave power unto the beast”.
13. This same 13th chapter of Revelation informs us that the Antichrist (the first Beast) shall be aided by a second Beast who is denominated “the False Prophet” (Rev. 19:20). The False Prophet, we are told “exerciseth all the power of the First Beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the First Beast” (Rev. 13:12). If the First Beast be the Papacy, then who is the False Prophet who “causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship” her?
14. Again; we are told that this False Prophet shall say to them that dwell on the earth “that they should make an image to the Beast, which had the wound by a sword and did live” (Rev. 13:14). Further, we are told, “And he had power to give life unto the image of the Beast, that the image of the Beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the Beast should be killed” (Rev 13:15). Where do we find anything in Popery which in anywise resembles this?
15. In Dan. 9:27 we are told that the Antichrist “shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease”. And again in 8:11 we read, “Yea, he magnified himself even against the Prince of the host, and by him the daily sacrifice was taken away”. If Romanism is the Antichrist how can these scriptures be made to square with the oft repeated “Sacrifice of the Mass”?
16. The dominion of the Antichrist shall be world-wide. The coming Man of Sin will assert a supremacy which shall be unchallenged and universal. “And all the world wondered after the Beast” (Rev. 13:3). “And power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations” (13:7). It hardly needs to be pointed out that half of Christendom, to say nothing of Heathendom, is outside the pale of Rome, and is antagonistic to the claims of the Papacy. Again; in 13:17 we read “No man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the Beast, or the number of his name”: and when, we ask, has any pope exercised such commercial supremacy that none could buy or sell without his permission?
17. 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.
18. In Rev. 13:7,8 we read, “And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations. And all that dwell upon the face of the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world”. Here we are expressly told that the only ones who will not “worship the Beast”, i.e. the Antichrist, are they whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life. If then the pope is the Antichrist, all who do not worship him must have their names written in the Lamb’s book of life – an absurdity on the face of it, for this world be tantamount to saying that all the infidels, atheists, and unbelievers of the last thousand years who were outside of the pale of Roman Catholicism are saved.
19. In 2 Thess. 2:11,12 we are told, “For this cause God shall end them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness”. The context here shows that “believing a lie” means accepting the claims of the Antichrist. Those who believe his claims will “receive him (John 5:43), and not only so, they will “worship” him (Rev. 13:8); and 2 Thess. 2:12 declares that all who do this will be damned”. If, then,the pope is the Antichrist, then it necessarily follows that all who have believed his lying claims, that all who have received him s the vicar of Christ, that all who have worshipped him, will be eternally lost. But the writer would not for a moment make any such sweeping assertion. He, together with thousands of others, believes firmly that during the centuries there have been many Roman Catholics who, despite much ignorance and superstition, have been among that number that have exercised faith in the blood of Christ, and that lived and died resting on the finished work of Christ as the alone ground of their acceptance before God, and who because of this shall be forever with the Lord.
20. That the Antichrist and the Papacy are totally distinct is unequivocally established by the teaching of Rev. 17. Here we learn that there shall be ten kings who will reign “with the Beast” (v. 12), and act in concert with him (vv. 13,16). Then we are told “these shall hate the Whore (the papacy), and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire” (v. 16). Instead of the Antichrist and the Papacy being identical, the former shall destroy the latter; whereas, the Antichrist shall be destroyed by Christ Himself, see 2 Thess. 2:8.
Perhaps a word of explanation is called for as to why we have entered into such lengthy details in presenting some of the many proofs that the Papacy is not the Antichrist. Our chief reason for doing so was because we expect that many who will read this paper are among the number who have been brought up in the belief which was commonly taught by the Reformers and which has prevailed generally since their day. For those readers who had already been established on this point, we would ask them to please bear with us for having sought to help those less fortunate. Our next chapter will be one of more general interest, for in it we shall discuss the person of the Antichrist – who he will be, from whence he will spring, and what marks will serve to identify him.