Thursday January 16, 2014
Why We Believe the Pope of Rome to be the Antichrist
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.
1 John 2:18
The subject of our study is “Why we believe the pope of Rome to be the antichrist.” And for a scripture, for a text, I would draw your attention to 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. “Why we believe the pope of Rome to be the antichrist.”
First, by way of introduction, let me just say who we are who do believe that the pope is the antichrist. Generally, we are Protestants. They are Protestants, generally, who believe that the pope is the antichrist. This is a Protestant doctrine. There are some of us yet in the present day – and there are many who have gone before – who believe and are convinced that the pope is the antichrist.
I would mention some of those who have gone before us – not because we rely on tradition or what men have said (we stand on the authority of the word of God), but because I would demonstrate that this is not some new teaching or an extreme fundamentalist position. This is actually mainstream Protestant doctrine.
The Irish Articles of Religion were compiled by James Ussher, Archbishop of Armagh, and agreed upon by the Archbishops and Bishops and the rest of the clergy of Ireland in 1615. Their Article 80 states, “The Bishop of Rome is so far from being the supreme head of the universal Church of Christ, that his works and doctrine do plainly discover him to be that man of sin, foretold in the holy Scriptures, whom the Lord shall consume with the Spirit of his mouth, and abolish with the brightness of his coming.”
The Westminster Confession of Faith of 1647 states (ch. 25 para. 6): “There is no other head of the church but the Lord Jesus Christ: nor can the Pope of Rome in any sense be head thereof; but is that antichrist, that man of sin, and son of perdition, that exalteth himself in the Church against Christ and all that is called God.”
The Savoy Declaration of 1658, which is the Congregationalist confession of faith, says exactly the same as the Westminster Confession but adds, “whom the Lord shall destroy with the brightness of his coming.” (Ch. 26 para. 4.)
The 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith uses similar language. Chapter 26 paragraph 4 says, “The Lord Jesus Christ is the Head of the church, in whom, by the appointment of the Father, all power for the calling, institution, order or government of the church, is invested in a supreme and sovereign manner; neither can the Pope of Rome in any sense be head thereof, but is that antichrist, that man of sin, and son of perdition, that exalteth himself in the church against Christ, and all that is called God; whom the Lord shall destroy with the brightness of his coming.”
These are some examples from various confessions of faith. We could mention numerous individuals from various denominations who believed that the pope was the antichrist – for example: Bishop Christopher Wordsworth of the Church of England, John Wesley of the Methodists, John Bunyan (the author of Pilgrim’s Progress) and Charles Haddon Spurgeon of the Baptists. We could mention many more.
But, as I have said, we are not so much concerned with what men say but with what God says.
And the first point I would make is that . . .
I. We believe that the pope is not merely an antichrist.
We believe that he is the antichrist. There are some who say, “Ah, yes, the pope is an antichrist; there are many antichrists and the papacy is just one of them. The pope is one of many antichrists.”
Let us just consider this position for a moment. It is certainly true that there are many antichrists. Our text says, 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. Even in John’s day there were many antichrists. There were the Jews who denied that Jesus was the Messiah, 1 John 2.22: Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son. There were the Gnostics who denied that Jesus had come in the flesh, 2 John 1.7: For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist. And in our day do we not see many antichrists? There is the secular media, which is very antichrist. There are militant atheists and communists. There is Islam and other false religions. There are those sects which purport to be Christian but deny the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ – such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Christadelphians and the Mormons and such like. Is the papacy, then, just one of many antichrists?
Well, firstly, we must establish the fact that the scriptures do speak of one particular antichrist which was to come. And, although John does speak of many antichrists, he does speak of one particular antichrist who was to come – and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, he says. They had heard that he was to come. There was one particular antichrist to come and the early church was expecting this antichrist. They had heard that he was to come. How had they heard that he was to come? Well the answer is, through the ministry of the Apostle Paul.
It had been revealed to Paul by the Spirit that there would be an apostasy, a falling away from the truth. He writes to Timothy of these things in 1 Timothy 4.1-3: Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. And writing to the Thessalonians, he speaks of that falling away; and he speaks of it as being headed up by one whom he calls that man of sin and the son of perdition, 2 Thess. 2.3: 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. He speaks of this one as that Wicked in verse 8: And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming. He is clearly speaking of one particular antichrist. And he reminds the Thessalonians that he had spoken of these things when he was with them, 2 Thess. 2.5:Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? he says. He had taught these things; he had preached these things; and he had written these things concerning him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders (2 Thess. 2.9). And Peter refers to Paul’s teaching on this subject, 2 Peter 3.15-17: And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction. Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness.
The early church, then, had been forewarned of a forthcoming apostasy headed up by one whom Paul called that man of sin . . . the son of perdition (2 Thess. 2.3) and that Wicked (2 Thess. 2.8); and whom John called antichrist, 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. The scriptures clearly speak of one particular antichrist. The question is whether the papacy, the pope of Rome, is that antichrist; or is he merely an antichrist – one of many? Well, we shall seek to prove from the word of God that the apostate Bishop of Rome is indeed the very antichrist.
But before we do that, let us just refute the notion that the antichrist will make his appearance immediately prior to, or seven years prior to, the return of Christ. Such a view is based on a faulty interpretation of 2 Thessalonians 2.8: And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming. There are those who reckon that he will be immediately destroyed, or there may be a period of seven years before he is destroyed; they look into the book of Revelation, they take the numbers of the book of Revelation, which are all symbolic, and then they apply them literally and tell us that antichrist will appear seven years before the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
But Paul does not say that antichrist shall be immediately destroyed or that there will be a very short period of time before he is destroyed – he is simply saying that he shall be destroyed. There is no indication as to how long antichrist will be permitted to shew himself that he is God (2 Thess. 2.4) before he is destroyed. And it makes absolutely no sense for the apostle to warn the churches, and to go to so much trouble and to expend so much energy in teaching the saints, about the revealing of that Wicked if that Wicked is only to make a short appearance at the very end only to be destroyed with the brightness of Christ’s coming. Indeed Paul seems to indicate that the man of sin would be revealed sooner rather than later. 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 will let, until he be taken out of the way. And then shall that Wicked be revealed (2 Thess. 2.6-8). Well, we shall return, I trust, to the subject of the time of antichrist’s appearing later on.
But let us proceed to consider the evidence as to “Why we believe the pope of Rome to be the antichrist.” If you have ever seen a “Wanted” poster you will know that on the poster there will usually be a picture of the criminal, a description of the offender and details of his crime and of his modus operandi (the way he operates). Well, that is what we have here in the scripture. Here is a description of a criminal and it is given so that we might recognise him when we see him. Let us ask the question, then. Have you seen this man?
Consider . . .
II. The name, antichrist.
There is a clue as to the true identity of antichrist in the very word antichrist. In the Greek the word is “anticristos,” made up of two Greek works – “anti” and “Cristos.” “Cristos” is, of course, Christ. But what of the little word “anti”? It is a very interesting word and it means “in the place of.” We see the word used in Matthew 20.28: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many. The word for is “anti” in the Greek. Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom in the place of many. This is the substitutionary atonement. Christ died in the place of his people. His death was a vicarious death, he was a penal substitute. That is the thrust of the meaning of the word “anti.” The antichrist is a substitute Christ.
Is the pope of Rome a substitute Christ? Yes, he is. One of his official titles is “Vicarius Iesu Christi,” vicar of Jesus Christ. Vicarius, which we translate as vicar, is actually Latin for substitute. That is the meaning of the word. The pope is the official substitute of Jesus Christ. He is officially in the place of Christ – “anticristos.”
And consider . . .
III. The names which Paul gives him – man of sin and son of perdition.
i) Firstly, man of sin (2 Thess. 2.3). This is an interesting name or description given to antichrist – that man of sin. There was one in the Old Testament who could be described as that man of sin – Jeroboam was his name, Jeroboam the son of Nebat. And, indeed, that is how he is described. Nineteen times in the books of 1 and 2 Kings there is reference to Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin or which made Israel to sin. Nineteen times he is described in these terms: who or which made Israel to sin. He was that man of sin of the Old Testament. He was a type, as it were, a foreshadowing, of the antichrist to come. And a short study of that man of sin of the Old Testament will lead us, I am sure, to the identity of the New Testament man of sin.
(a) Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin, instituted idolatrous worship in Israel. 1 Kings 12.25-30: Then Jeroboam built Shechem in mount Ephraim, and dwelt therein; and went out from thence, and built Penuel. And Jeroboam said in his heart, Now shall the kingdom return to the house of David: If this people go up to do sacrifice in the house of the Lord at Jerusalem, then shall the heart of this people turn again unto their lord, even unto Rehoboam king of Judah, and they shall kill me, and go again to Rehoboam king of Judah. Whereupon the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold, and said unto them, It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. And he set the one in Bethel, and the other put he in Dan. And this thing became a sin: for the people went to worship before the one, even unto Dan. Consider for a moment. What is the principal sin of popery? Is it not idolatry? Is it not the worship of idols? That one who brings idolatry into the professing church has to be that man of sin.
(b) And furthermore, we read of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin, in verse 31 of that chapter, 1 Kings 12.31: And he made an house of high places, and made priests of the lowest of the people, which were not of the sons of Levi. He instituted a priesthood which God had not appointed. Now there is no priesthood in the New Testament whatsoever except for the priesthood of Christ and the priesthood of all believers. But this man, Paul says, concerning the Lord Jesus Christ (Heb. 7.24) because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. And Peter, writing to the elect, to all the saints who are in Christ Jesus, says (1 Pet. 2.5), Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. But that man of sin institutes another priesthood in the professing church, a separate priesthood, a celibate priesthood – forbidding to marry (1 Tim. 4.3) – a priesthood which God has not ordained. Do you recognise that man of sin yet?
(c) 1 Kings 12.32-33: And Jeroboam ordained a feast in the eighth month, on the fifteenth day of the month, like unto the feast that is in Judah, and he offered upon the altar. So did he in Bethel, sacrificing unto the calves that he had made: and he placed in Bethel the priests of the high places which he had made. So he offered upon the altar which he had made in Bethel the fifteenth day of the eighth month, even in the month which he had devised of his own heart; and ordained a feast unto the children of Israel: and he offered upon the altar, and burnt incense. This man, which made Israel to sin, instituted holy days which God had not appointed. The only day which God has ordained to be kept in the Christian church is the weekly Sabbath, the first day of the week. Show me if there is any other day which is to be kept in the New Testament, show me! This is the day which Christ himself sanctified by his resurrection from the dead. That is the only day in the New Testament which God has ordained to be kept and it is the only day which the early church kept. What is the origin of December 25th? It was a pagan feast day, designated by the apostate Bishop of Rome as day on which a Feast of the Nativity was to be observed – the so-called Christ-mass, even in the month which he had devised of his own heart; and ordained a feast unto the children of Israel. And much the same could be said for other so-called holy days.
It is surely clear from a consideration these things that the pope of Rome is that man of sin. And . . .
ii) Son of perdition (2 Thess. 2.3). This is another interesting name or description that Paul gives to antichrist. The word perdition means eternal destruction. The son of perdition is one who is foreordained to eternal destruction. The only other time the phrase is used is in John’s Gospel, John 17.12: While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled. Here is the Lord Jesus Christ in prayer to the Father and he is referring to Judas Iscariot. It is he, Judas Iscariot, who is called the son of perdition by the Lord Jesus Christ. And a brief look at the character of Judas Iscariot will tell us something, I am sure, of the identity of antichrist whom Paul calls the son of perdition.
(a) Judas Iscariot loved money. Remember what he said to Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, when she anointed the feet of Jesus with very costly ointment? John 12.4-6: Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, which should betray him, Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor? This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein. The man was a thief. And remember – he betrayed his master for thirty pieces of silver. The Vatican is well-known for its riches. How did it obtain those riches? By selling forgiveness, that’s how. It was through the betrayal of Christ and his gospel. And by theft – the confiscation of lands and goods which belonged to those whom they called “heretics,” in other words, those who refused to bow down to the pope of Rome and who acknowledged him only as antichrist. They had their lands and goods confiscated and so the pope of Rome was enriched by his stealing from the people of God as well as from his deluded adherents. It is interesting that another place in the scripture, besides Revelation 13, where we find the number Six hundred threescore and six, 666, (Rev. 13.18) is 1 Kings 10.14: Now the weight of gold that came to Solomon in one year was six hundred threescore and six talents of gold. This is a mark of the son of perdition – the love of money.
(b) Judas Iscariot was counted amongst the apostles. Peter said in Acts 1.17, For he was numbered with us, and had obtained part of this ministry. One of the official titles of the pope of Rome is successor of the chief, or successor of the prince, of the Apostles. He reckons himself amongst the apostles. The office of Judas Iscariot is described as a bishoprick there in Acts 1.20: For it is written in the book of Psalms, Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and his bishoprick let another take. Again, one of the official titles of the pope is Bishop of Rome. Another is Primate of Italy, Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Roman Province. Now Judas Iscariot by transgression fell, we read in Acts 1.25. And Revelation chapter 9 points to the identity of antichrist as being an apostate bishop, Rev. 9.1-2: And the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star fall from heaven unto the earth: and to him was given the key of the bottomless pit. And he opened the bottomless pit; and there arose a smoke out of the pit, as the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by reason of the smoke of the pit. Why do I say that this indicates an apostate bishop? Well, later on in that chapter we read of the angel of the bottomless pit (Rev. 9.11). The star which fell from heaven, you see, was an angel; and in chapter 1 we read of stars which are angels – The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches(Rev. 1.20). They were bishops or pastors; and in chapters 2 and 3 we read of letters which were to be sent to those seven bishops. Revelation chapter 9, I believe, speaks of an apostate bishop and by his false doctrines he obscures the true doctrine, the pure doctrine of Christ. And he opened the bottomless pit; and there arose a smoke out of the pit, as the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by reason of the smoke of the pit (Rev. 9.2). What a description of popery! It is a perfect description of the religion of Rome! Yes, the son of perdition holds office in the professing church just as Judas Iscariot held office in the professing church, even amongst the apostles of the Lamb – but he is an apostate as was Judas Iscariot.
(c) Judas Iscariot was sent out with the other apostles to preach and to teach and to work miracles as you read in Mark 3 and Matthew 10. And so the son of perdition preaches and teaches. But what is his preaching? What is his teaching? Paul tells us in 1 Tim. 4.1-2 that it is doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy. And the son of perdition comes, we are told, with all power and signs and lying wonders (2 Thess. 2.9). What does the triple crown of the papacy signify if it does not signify all power? And what greater signs and lying wonders can there be than the papal masses! They claim that, in the mass, the bread and wine is literally changed into the body and blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. Oh, this is all power indeed to be able to change a wafer into Christ! It is, of course, a lie. And I believe the Church of England is quite right in its 39 Articles to describe masses as “blasphemous fables, and dangerous deceits” because that is what Paul calls them in 2 Thessalonians 2.9, where he describes the son of perdition as coming after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders.
(d) Judas Iscariot betrayed the Lord Jesus Christ with a kiss. This was the kiss of pretended friendship. But his heart was all the while against him. And so the son of perdition pretends friendship to Christ. They only consult to cast him down from his excellency: they delight in lies: they bless with their mouth, but they curse inwardly (Ps. 62.4.) These words of the psalmist might well be applied to all the popes of Rome in their opposition to Christ. Theirs is but a hypocritical kiss, as was Judas Iscariot’s, the son of perdition.
And lastly consider . . .
IV. The time and place of antichrist’s appearing.
i) The time. We are told the time of antichrist’s appearing in 2 Thessalonians 2.5-8a: 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 will let, until he be taken out of the way. And then shall that Wicked be revealed. Yes, the mystery of iniquity did already work even in the time of the apostles; as John says, even now are there many antichrists (1 John 2.18). But there was something holding back the full manifestation of the antichrist that should come. Paul had told the Thessalonians of these things and they knew exactly what he referred to but it seems that he had to be very careful what he wrote in this epistle. 2 Thess. 2.5-6: 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. What was it that held back and hindered the revealing of that Wicked? It was the Roman Empire. That’s why the Holy Spirit inspired the apostle to be so careful in what he wrote. The Roman Empire was to be taken out of the way: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. Of course the word let means hinder; only he who now hinders will hinder, until he be taken out of the way. Antichrist was to be revealed after the fall of the Roman Empire. And then shall that Wicked be revealed (2 Thess. 2.8). And we know from history that that is exactly what happened. The Roman Empire did fall. And who stepped into the breach? Why, the Bishop of Rome! And the Roman Empire was replaced by the Holy Roman Empire, a misnomer if ever there was one. This was the time of antichrist’s appearing.
ii) The place. Paul tells us that antichrist will be revealed in the professing church, 2 Thessalonians 2.3-5: 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, shewing himself that he is God. Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? And Paul not only told the Thessalonians these things; he also told the Ephesians these things, Acts 20.29-31: For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears. This was clearly a very important thing that was to happen – this apostasy and this rise of wickedness within the professing church. And it was to happen very soon, Paul says. Not right at the end of time or just before the end of time. And note that Paul speaks there of men in the plural, and we ought to note that it is not one single man but a succession of men within the professing church that we are to watch out for. The Lord Jesus Christ said (Luke 21.8), Take heed that ye be not deceived: for many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and the time draweth near: go ye not therefore after them. Are we to believe that when Jesus said the time draweth near that, 2000 years later, we have still not seen the manifestation of antichrist – one who comes, or a succession of men who come, saying I am Christ, the substitute Christ? The Lord Jesus tells us, in both Matthew and Mark, that many shall be deceived. The Lord Jesus Christ forewarned his church that many would come in his name, saying I am Christ; and surely this is fulfilled in the succession of men who claim to be the head of the church and the Vicar of Christ. And millions have been deceived. 2 Thess. 2.10-12: 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 should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
But someone might object, “Surely the pope doesn’t shew himself that he is God?” Oh, does he not? We have already noted that he claims to be in the place of Christ. But not only that, he is addressed as “Holy Father!” They call him “Holy Father!” This was how Christ addressed his Father in prayer, as you see in John 17 – the only place, where you find these words together, Holy Father. And it is used with regard to God alone. This is a name that belongs to God only. And the Lord said (Matt. 23.9), And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. In allowing himself to be addressed as Holy Father, the pope of Rome is shewing himself that he is God (2 Thess. 2.4)!
By the doctrine of papal infallibility the pope is shewing himself that he is God. For who is infallible but God only? By forgiving sins and creating saints, the pope is shewing himself that he is God. And that which was spoken erroneously against Christ can rightly and justly be spoken against the papal antichrist: Why doth this man thus speak blasphemies? who can forgive sins but God only?(Mark 2.7)
Well, there is much more that could be said on this subject, “Why we believe the pope of Rome to be the antichrist.” But I hope that this will suffice for now.
It is a great mercy to be brought to a saving knowledge of the truth, to be brought to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing we might have life through his name (John 20.31). Oh to be brought to know that we ourselves are sinners, that we cannot save ourselves, that there are no good works that we can perform which would ingratiate ourselves to God. There are no penances that we can perform to make ourselves right with God. And the mass is an altogether insufficient sacrifice, if it can be called that, to wash away our sins. Nothing but the blood of Jesus can wash away my sin. And it is to his death upon the cross, the once and for all sacrifice, that I look for my salvation. I depend only upon Christ and upon none other. He is the way, the truth and the life. All other ways are lies and death. It is, I say, a mercy; it is all of mercy, if we are brought to look to Jesus only to save us. That is what Paul says. He continues in 2 Thessalonians 2.13-14: But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
I conclude with an exhortation from the words of the apostle Peter, Saint Peter as he is called by the Romanists: 2 Peter 3.17-18: Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness. But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.
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Wednesday March 2, 2016
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Wednesday March 2, 2016
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