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Saturday, November 22, 2014


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The Coming Anti-Christ: Jesus of Nazareth

Part Three of Three -- Page 1


The Modern Origin of Current Views About Antichrist


The very earliest writers on the subject of the Antichrist believed that an individual would arise either out of the Roman or Judaic systems who would fulfil the Biblical requirements of the persecuting power mentioned in prophecy. It appears to have been the general opinion that Antichrist would arise immediately after the fall of the Roman Empire, and that he would endure for a literal three and one-half year period. Opinions as to the nature of this Antichrist varied, but some, such as Hippolytus (martyred approximately 250 A.D.) wrote:

"The Seducer will seek to appear in all things like the Son of God. As Christ a Lion, so he a Lion; as Christ a King, so he a King; as Christ a Lamb, so he a lamb, though inwardly a wolf; as Christ sent out Apostles to all nations, so will he similarly send out false apostles."(1)

The reason that these early writers felt that Antichrist would be an individual was that it was not clear until events revealed the true meaning of the prophecies whether an individual or a succession of individuals was intended. A similar example of this type of prophecy is found in Daniel 7:17 where it is stated: "These great beasts, which are four, are four kings, which shall arise out of the earth." History has revealed that these were four dynasties of kings which arose rather than four individual kings; but this was not clear until events had revealed the meaning. The same understanding of who was indicated by the persecuting power mentioned in the prophecies became clear as history unfolded; a dynasty rather than an individual was intended.

The Roman Empire broke up into ten kingdoms, as expected. However, a personal Antichrist did not appear. A persecuting power did arise which answered to all the descriptions contained in the prophecies. In A.D. 1180, the Waldensians published a treatise entitled, "Treatise on Antichrist", in which the Papacy was nominated as the man of sin and the Catholic Church as the harlot of Babylon. This was followed a little over three centuries later by John Wycliffe's "The Mirror of Antichrist", in which essentially the same points were made. In 1520, Martin Luther published his book, "The Babylonian Captivity of the Church", in which the theme was repeated. The influence of these ideas as to who Babylon and the Antichrist were can be most graphically illustrated by the following cartoons which appeared in a widely read publication issued in 1521, only four years after Martin Luther publicly challenged the Roman church with his ninety-five theses.



Antichrist of 1521
 Christ is given a crown of thorns... (John 19) The Pope claims to have received an emperor's crown from Emperor Constantine
 Christ washes his disciples' feet... (John 13)  The Pope demands that his feet be kissed
 Christ drives the money-changers out of the temple... (John 2)  The Pope sells special favors

[There is also an old woodcut cartoons -- quality is too poor for internet viewing, eds.]

The above make it abundantly clear who Antichrist was deemed to be, and explain why one of the first steps the Catholic Church took as part of the Counter-reformation was to introduce new interpretations as to who Antichrist was - an individual who was to appear in Jerusalem at the end of the age - and not the Roman Catholic system throughout its long history of persecution, as claimed by the Reformers. The need for this new interpretation arose directly as a result of the evidence against the Church - namely the remarkable conformity between her actions and what was prophesied about a persecuting power to arise out of the Roman Empire (see text).

The Roman Church was losing ground steadily in Europe. In 1540, Ignatius Loyola founded the now infamous Society of Jesus (Jesuits) as the order who was to spearhead the Counter-reformation. It soon became apparent that persecution was not going to change people's minds as to the meaning of the Apocalypse; and thus a truly brilliant strategy was devised: Develop new interpretations!

Two of the most brilliant scholars in the Society were appointed to carry out the work: F. Ribera and L. Alcasar. And what were the explanations they put forth? Let us hear the answer from a Catholic writer:

"The Futurist School, founded by the Jesuit Ribera in 1591, looks for Anti-Christ, Babylon, and a rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem, at the end of the Christian Dispensation.

The Praeterist School, founded by the Jesuit Alcasar in 1614, explains the Revelation by the Fall of Jerusalem or by the fall of Pagan Rome in 410 A.D. "(2)

More specifically, Ribera treated much of Revelation as a commentary on Matt. 24; the city where the witnesses of Rev. 11 are slain as Jerusalem; and Antichrist as reigning for 3-1/2 years at the end of the age. He believed Rome was mentioned in the Apocalypse but that this referred to a final apostacy by the Antichrist in Rome (not the Pope) at the end of time.

Alcasar, on the other hand, expounded the Revelation as follows: Rev. 1-11 referred to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans and the rejection of the Jews; Rev. 12-22 the overthrow of Paganism, and establishment of the empire of the Roman Church over Rome and the whole world, the judgment of the great Whore, and the destruction of Babylon, being effected by Constantine and his successors; and Rev. 21, the New Jerusalem, the glorious state of the Roman Church in heaven.

Protestant expositors immediately reacted to these ideas:

"But mine anger and indignation burst out against the Jesuits. For when I had by chance light upon Ribera, who made a commentary on this same holy Revelation, Is it even so? said I Do the Papists take heart again; so as that book, which of a long time before they would scarce suffer any man to touch, they dare now take in hand, to intreat fully upon? What! was it but a vain image or bug, at the sight whereof they were wont to tremble a few years since, even in the dim light, that now they dare be bold to look wishly upon this glasse in the clear sunshine; and dare to proclaime to the world that any other thing rather is poynted at in it than their Pope of Rome?"' (Thomas Brightman, circa 1600)


Other writers, such as Nicolas Vignier the Younger, rose up to answer the expositions put forth by the Roman writers; for example, he wrote a book entitled (loose translation from the French) "The Theater of Antichrist: Which is a response to Cardinal Bellarmine, Sieur de Remond, Ribera, Viegas, Sanderus and others which by their writings condemn the doctrine of the English Reformers on this Subject" (Rochelle, 1614).

And so the controversy continued: the Protestants maintained that the book of Revelation was currently being fulfilled and the Romanists that it was either in the future or the past.

* from Passional: (adjective)1 of or pertaining to or marked by passion; 2. caused or accompanied by passion; 3. (noun) a book containing descriptions of the sufferings of saints and martyrs. for reading on their festivals

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