Friday, December 28, 2007


Some Protestant Churches have made it an issue of faith to identify the Bishop of Rome and the papal system as the Antichrist. See, for example, the Smalcald Articles, Westminster Confession and the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith; early Protestant Reformers, including Martin Luther, John Calvin, Thomas Cranmer, John Knox, Cotton Mather, and John Wesley, identified the Roman Papacy as the Antichrist [1]. Headed by Matthias Flacius, several Lutheran scholars in Magdeburg, known as the Centuriators of Magdeburg, wrote the 12-volume "Magdeburg Centuries" to discredit the papacy, including identifying the pope as the Antichrist. Virtually all popes have been called the Antichrist by their enemies, and many popes have applied this title of "Antichrist", "son of perdition", or "man of sin", to their enemies as well. Some Catholics expected a son of Martin Luther to be the Antichrist, as his scion would be the son of an ex-priest and ex-nun.

The Lutheran Churches of the Reformation [2], the Concordia Lutheran Conference [3], the Church of the Lutheran Confession [4], and the Illinois Lutheran Conference [5] all hold to Brief Statement. In 1959 the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) formally issued its "Statement on the Antichrist", a doctrinal statement that declared, "we reaffirm the statement of the Lutheran Confessions, that 'the Pope is the very Antichrist'". "WELS Statement on the Antichrist".

Widespread Protestant identification of the Papacy as the Antichrist persisted until the early-1900s when the Scofield Reference Bible was published by Cyrus Scofield. Prior to the Scofield Bible, with few exceptions, the Protestant confessions of faith declared the Papacy as the Antichrist. Westminster Confession of Faith:

25.6. 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; whom the Lord shall destroy with the brightness of his coming.

(Col. 1:18; Matt. 28:18-20; Eph. 4:11-12; 2 Thess. 2:2-9)

In response to the identification of the Papacy as Antichrist, the modern view of Futurism (Christian eschatology), a product of the Counter-Reformation, was advanced beginning in the 16th century. This theory was developed by a Jesuit priest named Francisco Ribera in his 1585 treatise on the Apocalypse of John entitled In Sacrum Beati Ioannis Apostoli, & Evangelistiae Apocalypsin Commentarij. This view was then codified by St. Bellarmine, who gives in full the Catholic theory set forth by the Greek and Latin Fathers, of a personal Antichrist to come just before the end of the world and to be accepted by the Jews and enthroned in the temple at Jerusalem—thus endeavoring to dispose of the exposition which saw Antichrist in the pope. Bellarmine's interpretation, in modified form, is now accepted by most premillennial dispensationalists. [7]. The Leader of the Free Presbyterian Church, Ian Paisley, loudly denounced the then Pope, Pope John Paul II as the Antichrist when the pontiff was giving a speech at a sitting of the European Parliament in Strasbourg in 1988, when Paisley was an MEP.

Contemporary, conservative, Confessional Lutherans still hold that the pope is the Antichrist, insisting that this article of faith is part of a quia rather than quatenus subscription to the Book of Concord. In 1932, the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod (LCMS) adopted A Brief Statement of the Doctrinal Position of the Missouri Synod. Statement 43, Of the Antichrist:

43. As to the Antichrist we teach that the prophecies of the Holy Scriptures concerning the Antichrist, 2 Thess. 2:3-12; 1 John 2:18, have been fulfilled in the Pope of Rome and his dominion. All the features of the Antichrist as drawn in these prophecies, including the most abominable and horrible ones, for example, that the Antichrist "as God sitteth in the temple of God," 2 Thess. 2:4; that he anathematizes the very heart of the Gospel of Christ, that is, the doctrine of the forgiveness of sins by grace alone, for Christ's sake alone, through faith alone, without any merit or worthiness in man (Rom. 3:20-28; Gal. 2:16); that he recognizes only those as members of the Christian Church who bow to his authority; and that, like a deluge, he had inundated the whole Church with his antichristian doctrines till God revealed him through the Reformation -- these very features are the outstanding characteristics of the Papacy. (Cf. Smalcald Articles, Triglot, p. 515, Paragraphs 39-41; p. 401, Paragraph 45; M. pp. 336, 258.) Hence we subscribe to the statement of our Confessions that the Pope is "the very Antichrist." (Smalcald Articles, Triglot, p. 475, Paragraph 10; M., p. 308.) [8]

Revelation 13 contains a description of the Antichrist:

1. "And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy."

2. "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."

3. "And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast."

4. "And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? Who is able to make war with him?"

5. 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."

6. "And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven."

7. "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."

8 ."And all that dwell upon 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." (as per the King James Bible)

Some theorists attribute the wounding and resurgence in the third verse to the papacy, referring to General Louis Berthier's capture of Pope Pius VI in 1798 , and the pope's subsequent death in 1799 . Instead of reducing the power of the papacy, however, it grew and became the most influential political and religious power in the world.


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