THE GREAT ANTICHRIST

A Study By
Gary Ray Branscome
 
Lesson 19

    Although the Bible warns us that many antichrists will arise, it also warns of one specific deceiver who stands out from the rest, and clearly identifies that great destroyer of souls with Rome (Matthew 24:15,24, 1 John 2:18,22, 1 John 4:3, Revelation 17:18).
 

THE CLAIM THAT THE POPE IS GOD


    In his letter to the Thessalonians, the Apostle Paul predicted that one, “Who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God, or that is worshiped” would someday sit “in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God” (2Thessalonians 2:4).
    That prophesy was fulfilled a few centuries later as popes began to sit in God's temple, taking to themselves worship and honor that belongs only to God. In fact, the pope still takes to himself titles that belong to God, claims to be (and is officially designated as) God on earth, and until the early part of the twentieth century, required all who came before him to kiss his feet.

    According to Pope Innocent III, “The Pope holds the place of the True God.” The Canon Law [in the gloss] denominates the Pope, “Our Lord God,” and the canonists say that, “The Pope is the one God who has all power in heaven and in earth.” Pope Pius XII had a medal struck depicting himself as the “Savior of Rome.” At the time of his coronation, Pope Alexander VI had a triumphal arch erected with a Latin inscription that read, “By Caesar Rome was great, but now is greatest, when reigns Alexander the sixth. The former was a man, the latter is God.” Another inscription in his honor read, “Liberty, Pious Justice, Golden Peace, the gifts which Rome are thine, this new God gives thee” [“The Papacy Evaluated” by E. G. Behm]

CATHOLICS IDENTIFY THE POPE AS THE ANTICHRIST


    The idea that the Pope is the Antichrist spoken of in scripture was voiced by Catholic Christians long before the Lutheran Reformation. In fact, before the bishop in Rome ever claimed to be Pope, Christian believers identified the head of the Roman Empire as an Antichrist because he persecuted believers while claiming to be God. Nevertheless, when Constantine made Catholic Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire, he was allowed to become the head of the church even though he was still officially a Roman god. And, once the capital had been moved to Constantinople, he and his successors continued to be regarded as head of the Church. However, in the west, the bishop of Rome stepped in to fill the void left when the city of Rome ceased to be the capital of the known world, took upon himself all the pomp and lavish grandeur that formerly belonged to the emperor, and proclaimed himself to be king of kings, Christ's substitute, and God on earth.

    As a result, at the Synod of Rheims in the year 991, the Bishop Arnulf referred to the Pope as, “The Antichrist who sits in the temple of God and reveals himself as though he were God.” In the year 1130 St. Bernhard said, “The beast of the Apocalypse (Revelation) to whom has been given a mouth full of blasphemy and who wars against the saints, has arrogated the chair of Peter as a lion devours his prey.” Similar sentiments were voiced by Aretas in 1010, John of Chartres in 1157, Abbot Joachim in 1200, Eberhard of Salzburg in 1240, Rupert of Lincoln in 1250, Bishop Probus of Toulouse in 1280, Robert Gallus in 1290, and by many others over the centuries.

    In regard to the Pope's claim to be the Vicar (or substitute) of Christ on earth, it is interesting to know that in the Greek language the word “anti,” which is used in the Greek New Testament as a prefix in the word antichrist, can sometimes mean “substitute.” In fact, in Matthew 20:28 and Mark 10:45 that same word “anti” (translated “for”) is used in reference to Christ's vicarious (substitutionary) atonement.

THE BIBLE IDENTIFIES THE POPE AS THE ANTICHRIST


    Keeping in mind what Paul said about the Antichrist in 2Thessalonians 2:4, let us take a careful look at some of the things revealed in the Book of Revelation.

    In reading the book of Revelation, it is important to understand that it gives us a literal description of a vision, or series of visions, that John saw, not historical events (Revelation 1:10). For that reason, even though those visions have a prophetic significance, interpreters who regard them as a description of historical events have departed from the literal meaning of the words. In order to avoid that error, we must let Scripture interpret itself. And, Scripture tells us in many places that the vision is symbolic (Revelation 1:20, Revelation 19:8, Revelation 17:15,16,18, Revelation 12:9, Revelation 5:6,9). Therefore, in seeking to understand its meaning, instead of professing ourselves to be wise, we need to set aside our own ideas and pay careful attention any explanations of the vision included in the text (Revelation 17:18, Revelation 1:20, Revelation 12:9).

    For example, in chapter 17 we encounter a woman who is called “Mystery Babylon the Great” (verses 3-6). And, there has been a lot of speculation as to who she is. However, verse 18 of that same chapter explains the vision by telling us that the woman that John saw, “is [present tense] that great city, which reigneth [present tense] over the kings of the earth” (Revelation 17:18). The use of the present tense is significant because it points to the time when John was writing. And, at that time, Rome was the city that reigned over the kings of the earth. In other words, Rome is Babylon the great. Keeping that fact in mind, let us look at what chapters twelve, thirteen, and fourteen have to say. [You might begin by reading those chapters.]

    In chapter twelve, John describes a woman who is clothed with the sun, and travailing in birth. When we look to what the Bible says elsewhere for clues as to who she might be, we find a very similar prophesy in the Book of Isaiah. In both accounts a woman (who is portrayed as the mother of believers) brings forth a “man child” [Christ] (Compare Isaiah 66:7-10, with Revelation 12:1-5,17, see also Mark 3:31-35, and Galatians 4:26). However, since Isaiah identifies that woman as Jerusalem, and Paul tells us that “Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all,” it becomes evident that the woman is a personification of God's church (Galatians 4:26).

    We next see the devil described as a great red dragon, who begins by trying to destroy Christ, and after Christ is caught up to the throne of God, persecutes the woman [the church], and makes war on her seed [believers] (Revelation 12:3,4,9,13,17). In other words, working first through Herod and then through the Jewish leaders, the devil does his best to destroy Christ. Then, after Christ ascends unto heaven (verse 5), he begins to persecute the Christian church, and make war on believers (verses 13 and 17). Furthermore, we know from the book of Acts that Satan worked through the Jews to carry out that persecution. [Acts 4:17,18, Acts 7:57-60, Acts 8:1-3, Acts 9:1-2, Acts 13:50, Acts 14:19, Acts 20:3, Acts 21:27-30, Acts 23:12.]

    In chapter thirteen, John describes a great beast that carries forward Satan's war on Christian believers (verses 1-7). When we search the Scriptures for clues as to the identity of that beast, we find that it is similar to a beast (usually identified with Rome) that is described in the book of Daniel. In Chapter seventeen, it is being ridden by “Mystery Babylon the Great” who we have already identified with Rome. And, we know from history that persecution by the Roman government followed persecution by the Jews. Therefore, it seems pretty certain that the first beast of chapter thirteen is a spiritual depiction of imperial Rome. In fact, the reference to Babylon in Revelation 14:8 supports that interpretation.  [Daniel 7:1-7 and 17-23, Daniel 2:36-40, Daniel 8:20,21, Revelation 14:8 and 17:7].

    When Constantine made Christianity the official religion of Rome and moved the capital of the empire from Rome to Constantinople, it seemed as if the great beast that persecuted Christians had received a deathblow. However, once the bishop of Rome took upon himself all the pomp and lavish grandeur that formerly belonged to the emperor, the persecuting beast was revived, and persecution of anyone who questioned the pope’s authority continued more fiercely than ever (Revelation 13:3,7).

    Going a little further in chapter thirteen, John describes a false prophet, who looks like a lamb but speaks the words of Satan (Revelation 13:11). This false prophet then causes men to make a likeness of the beast, which we have already identified as imperial Rome. In other words, he leads them to form an institution patterned after, or similar to, Imperial Rome (an image of Rome, Revelation 13:14). Moreover, he is the spokesman of this image of Rome — the one who makes it speak — and he makes everyone submit to it, bow down to it, and obey it rather than God (Revelation 13:15).

    This false prophet then makes everyone receive a mark, and if you understand the gospel you should understand what that mark is, for only unbelief damns (verse 18). The reference to the right hand and forehead is a reference to the law, and thus to works righteousness (verse 16, Deuteronomy 6:8 and 11:18). The name of the beast is Rome, and all who call themselves “Roman Catholic” have that name (verse 17). And, the number of the beast is 666, which is the number of a man (verse 18). Since the Bible associates the number seven with completeness or perfection, the number 666 signifies man’s righteousness which falls short of perfection (Romans 3:23). Therefore, the significance of the mark, the name, and the number is works righteousness. All, who trust in man’s righteousness will die in their sins and go into eternity unforgiven (Revelation 14:9-10).

    Chapter fourteen begins with a vision of a great multitude (144,000) who have been redeemed (verse 3). This multitude follows Jesus (the Bible) rather than the church of Rome (verse 4). And, the fact that they are without guile tells us that they do not rationalize sin, or deceive themselves concerning their own righteousness (Psalm 32:2, John 1:47, Luke 18:11). This multitude represents the first fruits of that great restoration of the gospel that took place at the time of the reformation (verse 4). In verse 6, John sees an angel who has the everlasting gospel to preach. While some see that angel as a reference to Martin Luther, it is clear that God was at work during the time of the reformation. So much so, that Luther marveled at how fast the gospel spread, and commented that it seemed as if the angels in heaven were spreading the good news.
Following the restoration of the gospel, a second angel proclaims “Babylon [Rome] is fallen” (verse 8).

    In light of what has been revealed up to this point, we can view the bloodshed described at the end of chapter fourteen as a reference to the bloody religious wars that followed the Reformation. Wars in which the pope sought to bring the nations that had turned to the gospel, back under his authority (Revelation 14:9,10,20). While war is always a horrible thing, during that time of turmoil God was able to reap a mighty harvest of souls (verse 15) as millions became adamant in their devotion to the gospel, and opposition to the false gospel of Rome.

    While chapters fifteen and sixteen describe God's ongoing wrath against Babylon [Rome], in the thirteenth verse of chapter sixteen, we are told that John saw three unclean spirits come out of the mouth of the dragon (Satan), the beast (Rome), and the false prophet (the pope) (Revelation 15:6-7, Revelation 16:2,6,13). Those unclean spirits then work to turn the world against God, and that is what we see happening in the world today. In regard to this prophesy, it is interesting to learn that the founder of the Luciferian order of Illuminati (Adam Weishaupt) came out of the church of Rome (he was trained by the Jesuits). After the order of Illuminati was outlawed, its former members played a part in bringing the communist movement into existence.  At present, many of the Catholic clergy are involved in communism, and they have even created a “theology of liberation” which they use to justify their atrocities.

    Now, in order to put things in perspective, I want to make it clear that I know many Catholics who are anti-Communist. Nevertheless, they complain about Communist activity on the part of some of their clergy. Of course, that is no surprise, for I see the Papacy [not the Catholic congregations, but the Papacy that controls them] and the Communist Party as two arms of Satan's attack on believers. Both are hostile to the gospel, both have burned Bibles, and both have killed Christians.

    Around the world, we see governments growing more hostile to Christianity. The persecution of Christians is becoming more common. And, even in the United States, there is a concerted effort to exclude Christian influence from government and education. If this hostility to believers is the same hostility described in Revelation chapter sixteen, then what happens in the future will depend on whether chapters 17 and 18 describe the same events as chapters 13 and 14. That could be the case, for chapters 13 and 17 both describe Rome (Babylon), while chapters 14 and 18 both contain the phrase “Babylon is fallen, is fallen” (Revelation 14:8, Revelation 18:2). However, if the events portrayed in chapter 18 are yet in the future, we can expect to see Christianity triumph over Communism.* And, we can expect to see the papacy revived (perhaps as a “one world church”) before Christ returns. At the same time, we could see another reformation (compare Revelation 18:1-2 with 14:6-8). One which results in Satan being bound, in the sense that he will not be allowed to deceive the nations with false religion (Revelation 18:1-6, Revelation 20:1-3). Whatever happens, we know that the Pope will be trying to pass himself off as God when Christ returns, for the Bible tells us that “the Lord shall… destroy [him] with the brightness of his coming” (2Thessalonians 2:8).

* NOTE: This essay was written prior to the fall of Communism in Russia and Eastern Europe.
 

CONCLUSION


    Although many people think that the Papacy has changed and is no longer hostile to the gospel, it has never admitted that it was wrong, or retracted the curse that the council of Trent placed on everyone who believes that we are saved through trust in God’s mercy in Christ. Instead, God has stripped it of political power. However, it is doing all that it can to regain political power, and is openly hostile to the gospel in countries where its influence is strong.
 

STUDY QUESTIONS


1- Who do the canonists say that the Pope is?
2- What void did the bishop of Rome step in to fill?
3- Bishop Arnulf referred to the Pope as what?
4- What is the Book Of Revelation a description of?
5- At the time of John’s vision, what city reigned over the kings of the earth?
6- How is the devil described in chapter twelve?
7- What is the significance of the mark, name, and number of the beast?
8- What is the significance of the words “without guile”?
9- What do chapters 15 and 16 of the Book Of Revelation describe?
10- What organization trained Adam Weishaupt?
11- What is the “theology of liberation” used to justify?
12- What do the Papacy and the Communist Party have in common?
13- In what two chapters contain the phrase “Babylon is fallen”?
14- Who will destroy the last Pope?
15- Has the Papacy changed?