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The Final Antichrist
When Jesus was asked in Matthew 24 about the end-time, His first replay was to be careful that no man deceives you. Satan would if possible deceive the very elect. How he does it? This what this page is all about.

The United Testimony of the Reformers as to the identity of the antichrist
Let us now hear the united testimony of the Reformers. Their system of prophetic interpretation became unchallenged in the Protestant Movement for three hundred years and actually became known as "the Protestant system" of prophetic interpretation.

Martin Luther
"We are convinced that the papacy is the seat of the true and real antichrist."--D. Martin Luthers Werke, ed. Briefwechsel [Weimar, 1930-1948] Vol.2, p.167 cited in What Luther Says, ed. Ewald M. Plass, Vol.1, p.34.
You should know that the pope is the real, true, final antichrist, of whom the entire Scripture speaks, whom the Lord is beginning to consume with the spirit of His mouth and will very soon destroy and slay with the brightness of His coming, for which we are waiting.--D. Martin Luthers Werke, ed. Kritische Gesamtausgabe [Weimar 1883] Vol. 8, p.554

John Calvin
Daniel and Paul had predicted that Antichrist would sit in the temple of God. The head of that cursed and abominable kingdom, in the Western church, we affirm to be the Pope. When his seat is placed in the temple of God, it suggests, that his kingdom will be such, that he will not abolish the name of Christ or the church. Hence it appears, that we by no means deny that church exists, even under his tyranny; but he has profaned them by sacrilegious impiety, afflicted them by cruel despotism, corrupted and almost terminated their existence by false and pernicious doctrines; like poisonous potions, in such churches. Christ lies half buried, the gospel suppressed, piety exterminated, and the worship of God almost abolished; in a word, they are altogether in such a state of confusion, that they exhibit a picture of Babylon, rather than of the holy city of God.--John Calvin, Institute of the Christian Religion [Philadelphia: The Westminster Press 1960], Bk 4, chapter 2, sec. 12.

Heinrich Bullinger
By the little horn many understand the kingdom of Mohammed, of theSaracens and of the Turks.....But when the apostolic prophecy in Second Thessalonians 2 is more carefully examined, it seems that this prophecy of Daniel and that prophecy of the apostle belong more rightly to the kingdom of the Roman pope, which kingdom has arisen from small beginnings and has increased to an immense size.--Trans. from Heinrich Bullinger, Daniel Sapientissimus Dei Propheta [Daniel the Most Wise Prophet of God], chap. 7, fol. 78v.

Nicholas Ridley
The head, under Satan, of all mischief is Antichrist and his brood; and the same is he which is the Babylonical beast. The beast is he whereupon the whore sitteth. The whore is that city, saith John in plain words, which hath empire over the kings of the earth. This whore hath a golden cup of abominations in her hand, whereof she maketh to drink the kings of the earth, and of the wine of this harlot all nations hath drunk; yea, and kings of the earth have lain by this whore; and merchants of the earth, by virtue of her pleasant merchandise, have been made rich.
Now what city is there in the whole world, that when John wrote, ruled over the kings of the earth; or what city can be read of in any time, that of the city itself challenged the empire over the kings of the earth, but only the city of Rome, and that since the usurpation of that See hath grown to her full strength? -- Nicholas Ridley, A Piteous Lamentation of the Miserable Estate of the Church in England, in the Time of the Late Revolt from the Gospel, in Works, p. 53.

Philip Melanchthon

18. Since it is certain that the pontiffs and the monks have forbidden marriage, it is most manifest, and true without any doubt, that the Roman Pontiff, with his whole order and kingdom, is very Antichrist.
19. Likewise in 2 Thess. If, Paul clearly says that the man of sin will rule in the church exalting himself above the worship of God, etc.
20. But it is certain that the popes do rule in the church, and under the title of the church in defending idols.
21. Wherefore I affirm that no heresy hath arisen, nor indeed shall be, with which these descriptions of Paul can more truly and certainly accord and agree than with this pontifical kingdom . . . .
25. The prophet Daniel also attributes these two things to Antichrist; namely, that he shall place an idol in the temple, and worship [it] with gold and silver; and that he shall not honour women.
26. That both of them belong to the Roman Pontiff, who does not clearly see? The idols are clearly the impious masses, the worship of saints, and the statues which are exhibited in gold and silver that they may be worshiped. -- Trans. from Philip Melanchthon, "De Matrimonio," Disputationes, No. 56, in Opera (Corpus Reformatorum), Vol. 12, cols. 535, 536.

John Hooper

Because God hath given this light unto my countrymen, which be all persuaded, [or else God send them to be persuaded!] that the bishop of Rome nor none other is Christ's vicar upon the earth; it is no need to use any long or copious oration: it is so plain that it needeth no probation; the very properties of antichrist, I mean of Christ's great and principal enemy, is so openly known to all men, that are not blinded with the smoke of Rome, that they know him to be the beast that John describeth in the Apocalypse. -- John Hooper, Declaration of Christ and His Office, chap. 3, in Works, Vol. 1, pp. 22, 23 [early writings].

The Counter Reformation and the Origin of Futurism

Not only did the Reformers proclaim the mighty truth of justification by faith for the liberation of men's souls, but they nerved thousands to break from the tyranny of the dark ages of the papacy by clearly identifying the antichrist of Bible prophecy. The symbols of Daniel, Paul and John were applied with tremendous effect. The realization that the incriminating finger of prophecy rested squarely on Rome aroused the consciousness of Europe. In alarm Rome saw that she must successfully counteract this identification of antichrist with the papacy or lose the battle. She must present plausible arguments with would cause men to look outside the medieval period for the development of antichrist.
Jesuit scholarship rallied to the Roman cause by providing two plausible alternatives to the historical interpretation of the Protestants.

1. Luis de Alcazar [1554-1613] of Seville, Spain, devised what became known as the "preterist" system of prophetic interpretation. This theory proposed that the Revelation deals with events in the Pagan Roman Empire, that antichrist refers to Nero and that the prophecies were therefore fulfilled long before the time of the medieval church. Alcazar's preterist system has never made any impact on the conservative, or evangelical, wing of the Protestant movement, although in the last one hundred years it has become popular among Protestant rationalists and liberals.

2. A far more successful tack was taken by Francisco Ribera [1537-1591] of Salamanca, Spain. He was the founder of the "futurist" system of prophetic interpretation. Instead of placing antichrist way in the past as did Alcazar, Ribera argued that antichrist would appear way in the future. About 1590 Ribera published a five hundred page commentary on the Apocalypse, denying the Protestant application of antichrist to the Church of Rome. The gist of his futurist system was as follows:
   a. While the first few chapters in the Revelation were assigned to ancient Rome in the time of John, the greater part of the prophecies of the Revelation were assigned to the distant future, to events immediately preceding the second coming of Jesus Christ.
   b. Antichrist would be a single individual who would abolish the Christian religion, rebuild the temple at Jerusalem and be received by the Jews.
   c. Antichrist's blasphemous work would continue for a literal three and a half years.
   d. The locale of the conflict with antichrist would be the Middle East -- i.e., Palestine.
        Ribera's futurism was expanded and polished by later Catholic scholars and became the genuinely "Catholic" system of prophetic interpretation.
        Roman Catholic author G. S. Hitchcock summarizes the genesis of futurism and preterism as follows:

        The Futuristic School, founded by the Jesuit Ribera in 1591, looks for Antichrist, Babylon, and a     rebuilt temple in Jerusalem, at the end of the Christian dispensation. The Praeterist School, founded by the Jesuit Alcazar in 1614, explains the Revelation by the Fall of Jerusalem, or by the fall of Pagan Rome in 410 AD. -- G. S. Hitchcock, The Beasts and the Little Horn, p 7.

In 1898 English Protestant author Joseph Tanner made these observations on the beginnings of futurism and preterism:

       Accordingly, towards the close of the century of the Reformation, two of her [Rome's] most learned doctors set themselves to the task, each endeavouring by different means to accomplish the same end, namely, that of diverting men's minds from perceiving the fulfillment of the prophecies of the Antichrist in the Papal system. The Jesuit Alcazar devoted himself to bring into prominence the Preterist method of interpretation, which we have already briefly noticed, and thus endeavored to show that the prophecies of Antichrist were fulfilled before the Popes ever ruled at Rome, and therefore could not apply to the Papacy. On the other hand the Jesuit Ribera tried to set aside the application of these prophecies to the Papal Power by bringing out the Futurist system, which asserts that these prophecies refer properly not to the career of the Papacy, but to that of some future supernatural individual, who is yet to appear, and to continue in power for three and a half years. Thus as Alford says, the Jesuit Ribera, about AD 1580, may be regarded as the Founder of the Futurist system in modern times -- Joseph Tanner, Daniel and the Revelation [London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1898], pp 16, 17.

Ribera's futurism was polished and popularized by the great Catholic controversialist, Cardinal Bellarmine [1542-1621] of Italy. This astute prince of the church took up the battle against Protestantism and became the foremost apologist for Rome in the Counter Reformation. Bellarmine insisted that the prophecies concerning antichrist in Daniel, Paul and John had no application to the papal power. Between 1581 and 1593 he published the most detailed defense of the Catholic faith ever produced, called Disputationes de Controversies Christianae Fidei Adversus Huius Temporis Haereticos. The third part of his Disputationes was devoted to showing that antichrist is not the papacy but a single man who will appear at the end of time. Said Bellarmine:

     For all Catholics think thus that Antichrist will be one certain man; but all heretics teach . . . that Antichrist is expressly declared to be not a single person, but an individual throne or absolute kingdom, and apostate seat of those who rule over the church. -- Bellarmine, "De Summo Ponticici," Disputationes, Bk. 3, chap 2, p 185.

     Bellarmine further said:

     Nor can any one be pointed out who has been accepted for Antichrist, who has ruled exactly three and one-half years; therefore the Pope is not Antichrist. Then Antichrist has not yet come. -- Ibid. chap. 8, p. 190.

     The Pope is not Antichrist since indeed his throne is not in Jerusalem, nor in the Temple of Solomon. -- Ibid. chap. 13, p 195.

For nearly three hundred years the Protestant movement had no lack of expositors who very ably defended the "Protestant," or historical, school of prophetic interpretation. Until the nineteenth century, Protestantism stood unitedly on the historical principle of prophetic interpretation, and futurism therefore made no penetration within the Protestant movement.

Futurism Enters English Protestantism

Futurism first entered Protestantism in nineteenth century England by two seemingly widely separated developments.

   1. The first was the appearance of a Romanizing tendency in the Church of England. Briefly, the development was as follows:

       a. Dr. Samuel R. Maitland [1792-1866], curate of Christ Church at Gloucester and later librarian to the archbishop of Canterbury, was the first notable Protestant scholar to accept the Riberan interpretation of antichrist. Maitland held the Reformation in open contempt and freely admitted that his view of prophecy coincided with catholic interpretation. His wiews were first published in 1826 and received widespread study and interest.

      b. James H. Todd [1805-1869], professor of Hebrew at the University of Dublin, studied and accepted Maitland's futuristic views. He strongly attacked the Reformers' historical system of prophetic interpretation. Todd's views were published and widely circulated among the theologians of his time.

     c. John Henry Newman [1901-1890], famous High Church Anglican who was converted to Rome and became a cardinal, was one of the leading spirits in the renowned Oxford, or Tractarian, movement. Five years before he joined the Church of Rome, Newman advocated Todd's futurism in a tract called The Protestant Idea of Antichrist. Newman wrote:

          We have pleasure in believing that in matters of Doctrine we entirely agree with Dr. Todd . . . The prophecies concerning Antichrist are as yet unfulfilled, and that the predicted enemy of the Church is yet to come.

Through the publication and dissemination of thousands of tracts, the Oxford movement leavened English Protestantism with the idea that the Reformers' understanding of antichrist was untrustworthy. It effectively diverted attention from Rome to some person to come in the future.

   2. About the same time as the development of the Oxford movement, there was another development in England which played a decisive role in bringing futurism with the Protestant movement. There was a growing disenchantment with the deadness of the established churches, a reaction against the spiritualizing tendency of post millennialism [with its tendency toward modernism and preterism] and a revival of hope in the soon coming of Christ and the last things. Two religious leaders played an important role in these developments:

      a. Edward Irving [1792-1834], born in Scotland and a brilliant Presbyterian preacher, became a noted expositor in the British Advent Awakening. At first a historicist in his approach to the prophecies, Irving came to adopt futuristic views. He despaired of the church being able to complete her gospel commission by the ordinary means of evangelism and began to believe and preach about the miraculous return of the gifts and power of the early church.

In 1831 the "gift of tongues" and other "prophetic utterances" made their appearance among his followers, first in Scotland among some women and then in London. Irving never detected the imposture and gave credence to these new revelations. Under the influence of these revelations of "the Holy Ghost" "by other tongues," a new aspect was added to the expectation of a future antichrist -- the rapture of the church before the advent of Christ. The novel origin of this novel theory has embarrassed some of its advocates, and in the face of certain lack of evidence heretofore, the defenders of this novel theory have tried to deny its historical beginning. But the recent discovery in a rare book of Rev. Robert Norton entitled The Restoration of Apostles and Prophets; In the Catholic Apostolic Church, published in 1861, establishes the origin of this innovative doctrine beyond all question. Norton was a participant in the Irvingite movement. The idea of a two-stage coming of Christ first came to a Scottish lass, Miss Margaret Macdonald of Port Glasgow, Scotland, while she was in as "prophetic" trance. Norton has actually preserved Miss MacDonald's pretribulation vision and "prophetic" utterance in his book. He says:

"Marvelous light was shed upon Scripture, and especially on the doctrine of the second Advent, by the revived spirit of prophecy. In the following account by Miss M. M.-, of an evening during which the power of the Holy Ghost rested upon her for several successive hours, in mingled prophecy and vision, we have an instance; for here we first see the distinction between the final stage of the Lord's coming, when every eye shall see Him, and His prior appearing in glory to them that look for Him.--Robert N. Norton, M.D. The Restoration of Apostles and Prophets; In the Catholic Apostolic Church [1861],p.15
Also quoted in Dave MacPherson's The Unbelievable Pre-Trib Origin.

The idea of a two - stage coming of Christ first came to a Scottish lass, Miss Margaret Macdonald of Port Glasgow, Scotland, while she was in a "prophetic" trance.
A little later, the idea of the secret pretribulation rapture was adopted and polished by the Plymouth Brethren in their founding Powercourt Conferences of the 1830's. S.P. Tregelles, who participated in the Powercourt Conferences, admit that the Brethren obtained the idea of the rapture from the Irvingate movement. He writes:

"I am not aware that there was any definite teaching that there should be a Secret Rapture of the Church at a secret coming until this was given forth as an "utterance" in Mr. Irving's church from what was then received as being the voice of the Spirit. But whether anyone ever asserted such a thing or not it was from that supposed revelation that the modern doctrine and the modern phraseology respecting it arose."--S. P. Tregelles, The Hope of Christ's Coming, p. 35.cited by George L. Murray, Millenial Studies-A search for Truth [Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1960].p.138.

John Nelson Darby [1800-1882],
one of the prominent founders of the movement known as Plymouth Brethren, was not only an ardent futurist, but he added another new dimension to the futuristic scheme-dispensationalism. Says Oswald T. Allis in his book, Prophecy and the church:
The dispensational teaching of today, as represented, for example, by the Scofield Reference Bible, can be traced back directly to the Brethren Movement which arose in England and Ireland about the year 1830. Its adherents are often known as Plymouth Brethren, because Plymouth was the strongest of the early centres of Brethrenism. It is also called Darbyism, after John Nelson Darby [1800-82], its most conspicuos representative. The primary features of this movement were two in number. The one related to the church. It was the result of profound dissatisfaction felt at that time by many earnest Christians with the worldliness and temporal security of the Church of England and of many of the dissenting communions in the British Isles. The other had to do with prophecy; it represented a very marked emphasis on the coming of the Lord as a present hope and immediate expectation. These two doctrines were closely connected."

The Parenthesis Church
The beginning of the Brethren doctrine regarding the Church is found in the claim that an ordained ministry and eldership was not necessary to the proper observance of the great central rite of the Christian Church, the Lord's Supper.
It was claimed that Christian believers might meet together to break bread, without any ecclestiastical order or government whatsoever. And since the New Testament speaks quiet definetely of the ordaining elders, it was claimed that this "professing church" which is characterised by a ministry of eldership having "successive" or "derivative" authority was Jewish and Petrine, and to be sharply distinguished from the church described by Paul as a "mystery," which is entirely unique, utterly distinct from Israel, a heavenly body having no connection with the earth.
So understood, the church age is to be regarded as a "parenthesis" between the Old Testament kingdom of the past and the Old Testament kingdom of the future, or in other words as constituting an "interruption" in the fulfillment of the kingdom promises to Israel. This distinction between the true {Pauline} church is of fundamental importance.

The Any Moment Coming
Closely connected with the doctrine of the Church was the doctrine of the Coming. Brethrenism had its beginnings at a time when there was interest in the doctrine of the second advent. Edward Irving had stirred London by his flaming eloquence, declaring in sermon after sermon that the Lord might come at any moment. The Brethren, who were ardent Chiliasts, took the position that the church as a heavenly body had no connection with earthly events, that such events concerned Israel and the nations, that the church must live in constant expectancy of the coming of the Lord that no events of any kind must be regarded as necessarily intervening between the church and this any moment expectancy, and particularly that the rapture of the church would certainly take place before the great tribulation.

Dispensationalism in America

The distinctive features of Brethrenism were fully developed and formulated before the middle of the 1800's. Darby made his first visit to Canada in 1859 and subsequently paid repeated visits to Canada and the United States. In 1862 James Inglis of New York began the publication of a monthly, Waymarks in the Wilderness, which helped to spread the teachings of the Brethren on this side of the Atlantic. One of the most influential advocates of this teaching was James H. Brooks of St. Louis, whose Maranatha appeared about 1870 and passed through many editions. But while Brookes' Dispensational views so closely resemble those of the Brethren that it seems clear that they were largely derived from them, Brookes gave no credit for them to Darby or any other of the Brethren. This may be due to the fact that there were associations with the name of Darby which Brookes wished to avoid. But his attitude was characteristic of the movement as a whole. Dispensationalists have accepted the prophetic teaching of the Brethren, but until recently have shown themselves decidedly unwilling to disclose the source from which they derived them. Brookes was active in the summer conferences known as "Believers' Meetings for Bible Study" which were commenced in the seventies, and also in the Prophetic Conferences, the first of which was held in New York in 1878.

Without attempting to trace the history of Dispensationalism in detail, it will suffice to point out that it has owned its rapid growth in no small degree to two books, Jesus is Coming by "W.E.B.", and the Scofield Reference Bible. Blackstone's Jesus is Coming was published in 1878 . . . The Scofield Reference Bible was published in 1909 and revised in 1917. More than two million copies have been printed. It is the Bible of Dispensationalists, and has probably done as much to popularize the prophet teachings of Darby and the Brethren as all other agencies put together. That Scofield was indebted to the Brethren for his Dispensational views cannot be questioned. He derived them first indirectly, from Brookes, and then directly from the Brethren and their writings. He held Darby's Synopsis, which is the standard commentary among the Brethren, in high esteem; and in the Introduction to the Reference Bible he acknowledged his indebtedness to the Brethren Movement without expressly mentioning it, and made special mention of the the "eminent Bible teacher," Walter Scott, who was a prominent figure among the Brethren. There are today scores of Bible Schools and Institutes in this country and elsewhere, especially in Canada, where Dispensational interpretation of the Bible is stressed and the Scofield Reference Bible practically a textbook. And the number of books and periodicals in circulation today which represent this viewpoint is legion.-- [Philadelphia: The Presbyterian & Reformed Pub. Co., 1972], pp. 9-14.

"The Dispensational teaching of today, as represented, for example, by the Scofield reference Bible, can be traced directly to the Brethren Movement which arose in England and Ireland about the year 1830."--Oswald T. Allis.

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