Are the End Times Here and Who is the Antichrist? Part I
In Math. 24, Mark 13, and Luke 17 and 21 Jesus tells the followers about a time when the world will be in chaos with wars, famines, disease, tsunamis, earthquakes, persecution of Christians and Jews, lack of love, lack of interest in the church, cosmological chaos, and so forth. This time period is described as being like birth pangs which get stronger and closer together as the time draws near. In the gospels, there appears to be two time periods involved in these prophecies. The first time period described is the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, which is the beginnings of the birth pangs. Then another time period seems to come with increasing intensity in which all these other devastations occur around the world. If you’ve been watching the news lately, you’ve probably noticed things seem to be getting worse.
Daniel 12:4 tells us another indication of the end times: But you, Daniel, close up the words and seal the book until the time of the end when many people will be traveling back and forth, and knowledge shall be greatly increased. Has there ever been a time in the world but now when people could travel the world in a few days, and when people can access information at the click of a button? Not until the last few years. So are the end times prophesied by Daniel and others in the Bible nearly upon us? Possibly so.
Isaiah 66:8 prophesied the rebirth of Israel in a day. Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such things? Shall the earth be made to give birth in a day? Or shall a nation be born in a day? For as soon as Zion (Israel) was in labor, she gave birth to her children. Boatloads of Jews escaping from the horrors of Hitler’s Nazi Germany came to back Israel and the modern day exodus of the Jews out of the nations back to Israel has not yet ceased. The country of Israel was reestablished as a nation on May 15, 1948 as a Jewish state in the historic region of Palestine, as was prophesied in the Bible many years ago. Israel became a nation again in just one day. Is this not proof positive of a prophecy being fulfilled in modern day times? As was also prophesied in Zech 12:3, Jerusalem is a burden to the whole world and has been fought over since Israel became a nation, though God has preserved it to this day. It shall happen in that day, that I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples; all that trouble themselves with it shall be greatly wounded; and all the nations of the earth shall be gathered together against it. The General Assembly of the United Nations has never recognized Israel’s sovereignty over Jerusalem, which is considered an international city to this day.
So according to these passages the end time is probably very near. If so, then what can we know from the scriptures about the antichrist? According to II Thes. 2:3 , which states, Let no one mislead you by any means, because that Day won’t come, unless a great loss of faith comes first, and that Soul of Sin becomes known, the one of Hell; the antichrist is called the one of Hell or the son of perdition in traditional translations. The only other instance of this title in the Bible is in John 17:12 and speaks of Judas Iscariot. In Matt. 26:47, Judas is said to be one of the twelve. So we know that the antichrist will be like Judas, who was one of the inner circle, and will come from within the church and/or possibly from the Jewish peoples or both. He will likely be a trusted and loved member of the Christian and/or Jewish community and will appear to be like one of us.
II Thes. 2:3 also tells us, Let no one mislead you by any means, because that Day won’t come, unless a great loss of faith comes first, and that Soul of Sin becomes known, the one of Hell; Who opposes and praises them self above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that as God, they will sit in the place of worship of God, believing them self to be God. The phrasesits as God, according to Mathew Henry’s commentary, means that this antichrist will usurp the authority of God and will be in a position of supreme authority in the (Christian) Church. The world Temple in this verse is Naos in the Greek, and is used to refer to the Temple at Jerusalem, or possibly can refer to the Church of Christ, since I Cor. 3:16 tells us that we (Christians) are the Temple of God (Naos). So we see that the Temple in this verse may refer to a rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem or possibly a Church of Christendom. Matt. 24:15 tells us of an abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet, and tells those who are in Judea, to run to the mountains. So we know this is clearly speaking of Jerusalem, but is this abomination of desolation the antichrist or just one of many antichrists? And since the gospel prophecies speak of two separate time periods, the first being the destruction of Jerusalem and the second being the final tribulation, could this Temple be a new rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem or possibly another Christian Church, such as St. Peter’s Basilica, located in the Vatican City in Rome? Since rebuilding the Jerusalem Temple has not yet happened, could this temple possibly be from Christendom?
Look at II Thes. 2:1-12, so that we can look at the context of the passage: Now, Christians, about the coming of our Christ Yeshua, and about our gathering together to be with Christ, we beg you not to be quickly upset in your mind, nor to be uneasy, not by spirit, not by word, and not by letter, as if from us, as if the Day of Christ had already come. Let no one mislead you by any means, because that Day won’t come, unless a great loss of faith comes first, and that soul of sin becomes known, the child of Hell; Who opposes and praises them self above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that as God, they will sit in the place of worship of God, believing them self to be God. Don’t you remember that when I was still with you I told you this? And now you know what is keeping this from happening, and that they will become known in their own time. Because the secret of sin is already working, only the one who now lets this happen will let it happen, until that one is taken out of the way. And then that evil one will become known, whom God will burn up with the blast of Christ’s breath, and will destroy with the brightness of Christ’s coming. This is the one, whose coming is after the working of Satan, with all power, amazing signs, things without truth, and all the ungodly lies in those who are to be destroyed; because they didn’t accept the love of the truth, in order to be saved. And for this reason, God will send a strong sense of false belief on them, so that they’ll believe the lie, and that they’ll all be damned, who didn’t believe the truth, but enjoyed ungodliness.
So we see in this passage that there is someone or something that keeps the one of Hell from gaining power for a time. Now this restrainer is commonly believed today to be the Holy Spirit in Christians. But theologians from the past had a very different view of this restrainer. If we read the above passage carefully, we see that Paul had already told the Church about this restrainer, but that he couldn’t write it in the letter to them for fear of the punishment of the Christians, who were under persecution at the time by Rome. Paul states that they know what the restrainer is. The early church fathers Jerome, Augustine, Tertullian, and others all believed this restrainer to be the Roman Empire.
Some of the historical Biblical prophecies in Daniel may also give us a clue to the end times. The popular belief is that Daniel 9:20-27 describes a time period of 70 weeks, which is divided into 62 weeks (434 yrs.), 7 weeks (49 yrs.), and 1 week (7 yrs.). The 49 years is believed to be the time period of the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s Temple, which is then added to the 434 years till the Messiah. The first part of 62 is usually added to the seven weeks for a total of 483 prophetic years. Some scholars believe this to be the time period between the call to rebuild Jerusalem by Artaxerxes about 445 B.C. and Christ’s first appearance and ultimate crucifixion. Some argue that the last week cannot be separated from the first 69 but is actually the time of Christ ministry, which was three and a half years, and the crucifixionin which he was “cut off” in the midst of the week. Some argue that the last week (7 years) is separated from the 483 by an unknown time period ending with the final seven year tribulation in the future. Daniel 9:26 states that after the 62 weeks the Messiah will be cut off, but not for Himself; and the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. The Roman General Titus destroyed the newly finished (A.D. 64) temple in A.D. 70, which could be the 1 week of 7 years. But could this 7 year period which led up to the destruction of the Temple, and was certainly a great tribulation for the Jews, be repeated in some later time period? The first 70 year period began with a call to rebuild the Temple. Since Israel has become a nation again, has there been another call to rebuild the Temple there? I don’t know, but I have heard over the years that there are preparations being made to rebuild it at some time in the future and to begin animal sacrifices once more.
Daniel 7 talks about four beasts, a lion, a bear, a leopard, and a dragon, which are commonly known to be the kingdoms of Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome. Dan. 7:7 says, After this I saw in the dream a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and very strong. It had huge iron teeth chewing and eating everything up, and trampling what was left with its feet. It was different from all those that were before it and had ten horns. And another horn, a little one, came up among them, which plucked out three others by the roots. And this horn had eyes like a man and spoke pompous words.
Now this little horn was believed by the early church fathers to be coming into power when the Roman Empire fell. The Roman Empire fell from power around 476 A.D. With Pope St. Leo I, the Great (440-61), the sanctions of the papacy were forcefully spoken. By this time the canon of apostolic succession, clearly proposed as a norm for orthodoxy and legitimacy at the end of the 2nd century, was fully developed, and Leo was able to promote the papacy as successor of Peter, as the “vicar of Peter”, backed by the civil authority of the Western Roman Empire. Shortly after that time, around 538 A.D., the Roman Catholic Church gained both religious and civil power when Justinian gave the Pope full political power. Pope St. Gregory I, the Great (590-604), made the papacy a major political force. According to Daniel 7, the three and a half year period is the same as 1260 days or 1260 prophetic years. Could the papal authorities of the Roman Catholic Church be this little horn? Did the power of the papacy last 1260 years? Martin Luther was the first to identify the papacy with the antichrist and proved it by Scripture. This was a clear doctrine of the protestant reformation. The two foundational doctrines of the Reformation was salvation by grace, and the papacy is the antichrist of Scripture. According to Revelation 13:3, this antichrist will have a deadly wound and be healed. Will the Papacy at some time in the future gain political authority once again? (Please note that this is not about the people in the Church, of whom many are precious saints of God, but the political system of the Roman Catholic Church.)
Dan. 7:25 tells us that the saints will be in the power of this entity for three and a half years, which is 1260 days. If the Papacy gained political power some time around 500 A.D. and you add 1,260 years to that number (with a year for each prophetic day) you come to around 1760 or so. The Protestant revolution was initiated in Germany by Luther on Oct. 31, 1517, when he published his 95 theses challenging the theory and practice of indulgences by the Catholic Church. This began to erode the Catholic Churches stronghold on the people. The French Revolution, which was a major transformation of the society, religious, and political system of France, lasted from 1789 to 1799. With these events and others, and the incorporation of the church into the political power of the states, the papacy lost much of its power. The states incorporated the church, stripping clerics of their property and special rights. So from this evidence we see that the political power of the Roman Catholic Church fits the time period in question. In 1797-98, when Napoleon’s troops entered Rome, the papacy lost its stronghold of political power, exactly 1260 years from when it first received political authority in 538 A.D.
What other entity has had more power and has persecuted and murdered more Christians and Jews down through the ages than the Catholic Church? Rev. 13:7 says It was given power to govern all the families, languages, and nations.During the Dark Ages, the Kings of the Earth literally gave their power to the Roman Catholic Church. In Dan. 7:21 it says that thislittle horn made war with the saints and prevailed against them. Also Revelation 17:1 says that the woman (city of Rome) is drunk with the blood of the saints. Beginning with the Crusades, some crusaders from the Roman Catholic Church savagely attacked the Jews in the name of Christianity, who lived in the Jewish communities along the Rhine. Later, the Crusades of the Roman Catholic Church turned to Protestant opponents. From the Crusades to the Protestant Revolution, the Roman Catholic Church slaughtered hundreds of thousands of Protestants and Jews.
Martin Luther rejected the papacy as an integral part of the Reformation. He denounced the pope as the Antichrist, not only for the worldliness and corruption of the papacy, but for its failure to proclaim the doctrine of justification by faith. Emperor Charles V attempted to halt the spread of his Protestant doctrines by public burnings of Luther’s books. The Counter Reformation began with the establishment in 1522 of the Inquisition, of which the Jesuits were known for their blatant cruelty toward Protestants. Consequently, many Lutherans were burned as heretics. (Bloody) Mary I attempted to restore Roman Catholicism as the state religion of England as well, and during her reign many Protestants were also burned at the stake at the bidding of the Roman Catholic pope. In St. Bartholomew ’s Massacre, Catherine de Médicis, of the French Roman Catholics, killed close to 100,000 protestants. If you haven’t watched the movies Luther, and Elizabeth, you may want to get them!
During the Dark Ages and the Reformation, religious literature, especially Bibles, was prohibited because it was written in the languages of the people, rather than in Latin, as the Roman Catholic Church demanded by threat of execution. The popes of the Roman Catholic Church are known to have ordered the Jesuits to torture and murder those who dared to try to translate the Scriptures of the Bible into the language of the people. The Catholic Church also had a list of books that were forbidden to even be read, on pain of death. One of those forbidden books on their list was actually the Holy Bible, in any language but Latin, which few understood. Christians were taught at that time that they had to do all sorts of things to earn God’s favor, including the buying of Indulgences by the poorest of the poor. The Church was making too much money to allow the truth to be known. Church history supports this.
During this time, a Jesuit named Francisco Ribera in 1590 wrote a doctrine to defend the Catholic Church against the accusations of the Reformers. He claimed that there was a single evil person who would come at the end of time and rebuild the Jerusalem Temple and be accepted by the Jews. He made a gap of time between the 483 years of Daniel and the final week, being the 7 year tribulation. His doctrine was a partial deception of the truth that there is a system of political and religious power, which has many antichrists, and that one would eventually be the beast of the end times. This Doctrine has now infiltrated the Protestant Church, by means of several teachers who incorporated Ribera’s ideas, culminating in the Scofield Reference Bible, which was used in Bible Seminaries in the 20’ and 30’s. This Futurism concept is also seen in the Left Behind series, many of us have read in our time. But the Historicism of the Protestant Movement is what has been left behind, and the history of the atrocities of the Roman Catholic Church against Protestants and Jews has all but been forgotten. This doctrine could be the strong deception spoken about in Matt.24:24, and Mark 13:22, which tells us that false Christs, and false teachers will come and do many amazing things; so that they would even mislead the chosen ones of God with their teachings, if it were possible.
But Rev.13:1-10 tells us that this beast was wounded in the head but would recover the deadly wound, which probably means that it will once again gain back both its religious and civil power: Then I stood on the sea shore, and saw a creature come up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on the horns ten crowns, and on the heads a disrespectful name. The creature that I saw was like a leopard, with feet like a bear, and a mouth like a lion. Satan gave it its power, and its government seat, and great control. And I saw one of the heads wounded to death; but the deadly wound was healed. So the whole world was amazed at the creature and worshipped the dragon which gave power to it: and they worshipped the creature, saying, “Who is like the creature? Who is able to fight against it?” And the creature was allowed to speak great and disrespectful things against God; and it was given the political power to rule for forty-two months. It spoke disrespectfully against God, to dishonor and disrespect God’s Name, and place of worship, and those who live in heaven. And it was allowed to fight against the Christians, and to overcome them. It was given power to govern all the families, languages, and nations. And all who live on the earth will worship it, whose names aren’t written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, that is, of the Christ, who was to be put to death from the beginning of the world. Whoever will listen, let them hear. Whoever takes another’s freedom will have their own freedom taken away and whoever causes another to be killed, must be killed themselves. The patience and the faith of the Christians wait for God’s justice.
Rev. 13:11-14 goes on to say, And I watched another creature coming up out of the earth; which had two horns like a lamb, but spoke like a dragon. And this religious leader uses all the political power of the first creature that came before it, and causes the earth and those who live in it to worship the first creature, who had come back to life. And this creature does amazing things, making fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of all humanity, and misleads all those who live on the earth by the things which it had power to do as long as it rules with the first creature. This passage says that the beast has two horns like a lamb, which symbolizes its religious authority. It also says that it speaks like a dragon, which symbolizes it political power. So this little horn will lose its effectiveness for a time and then regain its strength. The popes of the Roman Catholic Church have lost their political power for the time being, but could they resurrect that power again in the future with an unusually charismatic pope of Christian and/or possibly Jewish decent?
To be continued…