By James H. Brookes
“The Scriptures frequently refer to the appearing in the last days of a person, or succession of persons, or a system, known as the Antichrist. Thus the Spirit writes by the apostle John: “Little children, it is the last time, and as ye have heard that the Antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time,” 1 John. ii. 18. Again, “Every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God; and this is that spirit of the Antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world,” 1 John iv. 3. Again, “Many deceivers are entered into the world, even they that confess not that Jesus Christ cometh [coming, present participle] in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the Antichrist,” 2 John 7, R.V.
The early church, perhaps without an exception, believed that the predicted antichrist was to be a person, the embodiment of human blasphemy and wickedness. The learned Greswell says, “The fathers are likewise agreed in considering Antichrist himself to be a real person; and no merely figurative or symbolical character. Whatever he may be, and whatever the part which he is destined to act, it was the unanimous persuasion of the elders of the church that he will be a literal character, and his part will be the part of a literal bodily agent.”
Jerome, for example, writes in his Commentary on Daniel vii, “Therefore let us say, what all the ecclesiastical writers have handed down, that, in the consummation of the world, when the kingdom of the Romans is to be destroyed, there shall be ten kings who will divide the Roman world between them: and that an eleventh will arise—a little king, etc. Let us not suppose him to be, according to the opinion of some, either devil or demon, but one of the human race, in whom the whole of Satan shall dwell bodily;... for he is ‘the Man of Sin,’ ‘the Son of perdition,’ so that he dares to sit in the Temple of God, making himself out God.”
Since the Reformation the great majority of Protestant expositors regard the prophecy concerning him as fulfilled in the character and career of the Popes and Popery. ‘The arguments in favour of the latter view are ingenious and plausible, but if the question is submitted to the decision of the inspired writings, it will be difficult for an unprejudiced mind, searching after truth, to avoid the conclusion that the Christians nearest the apostles were correct in their opinion.
In the first place, it is written, ‘Who is a liar, but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is the Antichrist that denieth the Father and the Son,” 1 John ii. 22. Can it be truthfully said of Popery, even in its worst days, that it denieth the Father and the Son? Has it not always maintained in its councils, creeds, symbols of faith and worship that there are three persons in the Godhead? Whatever may have been its departures from the Bible in other respects, in The Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent, it was made obligatory upon every Roman Catholic to say, I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, of whom are all things visible and invisible; and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, and born of the Father before all ages; God of God, Light of Light, true God of true God; begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father, by whom all things were made; and in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceedeth from the Father and the Son.” The Roman church has never wavered in its adherence to this creed, and how can it be said that it denies the Father and the Son?
In the second place, all Protestant commentators insist that Popery is described under the figure of a woman “arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornications,” Rev. xvii. 4. But this woman, “the mother of harlots,” is represented as riding upon a beast which hath seven heads and ten horns, universally admitted to be the Antichrist. “And the ten horns which thou sawest upon the beast, these shall hate the whore, and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire.” If the mother of harlots is Popery, it is impossible that the beast, which is conceded to be the Antichrist, that hates and destroys the whore, should also be Popery.
In the third place, the Holy Ghost by the Apostle Paul tells us that before the day of the Lord sets in, “there comes the apostasy first, and that man of sin shall 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, showing himself that he is God,” 2 Thess. ii. 4. The temple of God is an expression applied in the Bible to but three. things—-the temple in Jerusalem, the Church, or the body of the believer, 1 Cor. iii. 17; vi. t9. If the Pope or Popery is meant by the man of sin, the son of perdition, the Antichrist, then the Pope must be sitting in the Church of God, and Popery must be the Christian Church, a conclusion against which those who hold this view would be the first to protest with vehement earnestness. Besides, it is not true-that the Pope has exalted himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped. However false and impious his claims, he sends forth his decrees and proclamations as the vicegerent of God, as the vicar of Christ, always recognising his subordination to a power higher than his vwn. Of the Lawless one, or Antichrist, it is said, “whose coming [whose parousia, the same word that is used to describe our Lord’s personal return] is after the working of Satan, with all power, and signs, and lying ~ wonders, 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 a strong delusion, that they should believe a lie; that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness,” 2 Thess. ii. g-12. All that is in Popery or Protestantism, which accepts not the truth, or the Word of God, leads on to the Antichrist; but we should distinguish between the cause and the effect, and expect at the end a personal embodiment of Satan, with Satan’s power to work miracles. It will be observed that the man of sin, the son of perdition, exalts himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped, and surely this cannot be said of a system or of a succession of persons. Nor is he a worshipper, as Popes and Popery are, but worshipped, reminding us of the words addressed to him by the Holy Ghost of old—‘ How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer [Daystar, a title stolen from Christ], son of the morning! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God—lI will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north [Psalm xlviii. 2]; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds: I will be like the most high,” Isaiah xiv. 12-14. Bishop Horsley has well described him as “that son of perdition, who shall be neither a Protestant nor a Papist, neither Christian, nor Jew, nor Heathen; who shall worship neither God, angel, nor saint; who will neither supplicate the invisible majesty of heaven, nor fall down before an idol. He will magnify HIMSELF against everything that is: called God, or is worshipped; and with a bold flight of impiety, soaring far above his precursors and types in the time of Paganism—the Sennacheribs, the Nebuchadnezzars, the Antiochuses, and the heathen Emperors, will claim divine honours to himself exclusively, and consecrate an image of himself.”
In the fourth place, “All the world wondered after the beast [the Antichrist], and they worshipped the dragon [the devil], which gave power unto the beast.” The Pope and Popery may worship the Virgin and saints, but it is not true that they worship the devil, as men are openly beginning to do in France, and Italy, and other atheistic communities. ‘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,” Rev. xiii. 4-8. That is to say, if the Pope or Popery is the Antichrist, the hosts of Antichrist are found wholly among those who worship the Pope; and the unavoidable result stares us in the face that all who do not worship him have their names in the Lamb’s book of life, including such names as Voltaire, Thomas Paine, John Stuart Mill, Darwen, Huxley, Herbert Spencer, John Morley, Bradlaugh, Ingersoll, and other arrogant blasphemers. ‘T’o such absurdities are men led when their minds are pre-occupied with a theory which they are determined to maintain.
In the fifth place, “If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without measure into the cup of His indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb; and the smoke of their torment ascended up forever and ever; and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name,” Rev. xiv. 9-11. Hence if the Pope or Popery is the Antichrist, not only all who worship the Roman Catholic Church, but all who in any way recognise its authority, are doomed to a frightful and everlasting punishment, although it will scarcely be denied that there have been, and are still, numbers of really godly men and women in that communion, notwithstanding the monstrous errors of the system.
In the sixth place, those who see nothing but the Pope or Popery in the Antichrist are compelled to put loose and fanciful interpretations upon the Scriptures, thus creating and fostering the wretched habit of reading the Word of God as if it does not mean what it says. In the plainest and most explicit manner it is repeatedly stated that the duration of the Antichrist’s dreadful power is limited to “1260 days,” or “forty and two months,” or a time, times, and the dividing of time,” commencing his persecutions in the midst of the last heptad, Daniel ix. 27, and continuing them for three and one-half years. But, in order to make them fit the Roman Catholic Church, these days, so carefully defined and guarded, are stretched out into years, whose beginning and end are subjects of the wildest conjecture.
In the seventh place, the Antichrist shall suddenly be destroyed “in the latter days.” A stone not in hands falls upon the ten confederated kingdoms of which he is the head, and grinds them to powder, and makes them as the chaff of the summer threshing floors, Daniel ii. 28-45. He shall plant the tabernacles of his palace [between the seas, the Dead sea and the Mediterranean] in the glorious holy mountain [Mount Zion]; yet he shall come to his end, and none shall help him,” Daniel xl. 45. Immediately after the tribulation, which occurs under his reign, Christ appears for his overthrow, Matt. xxiv. 29-31. “Then shall be revealed the lawless one, whom the Lord Jesus shall consume with the breath of his mouth, and destroy by the epiphany of his presence,” 2 Thess. ii. 8. At the descent of Christ from heaven, the Antichrist and his false prophet are “cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone,” Rev. xix, 20. All of this is utterly inconsistent with the idea of a gradual extinction, or even a violent ending, of a system or succession of persons.
Indeed the personality of the Antichrist is so distinctly and variously marked that no other thought could ever have been entertained, if it had not been for the dream ' that we are to find him in the Pope or Popery. Irenzeus, A.D. 180; Tertullian, A.D. 200; Hippolytus, A.D. 220; Origen, A.D. 225; Lactantius, A.D. 300; Athanasius, A.D. 340; Hilary, A.D. 350-; Cyril of Jerusalem, A.D. 360; Ambrose, A.D. 379; Jerome, A.D, 390; Chrysostom, A.D. 400, and many others of the so-called Fathers speak of him as a person, _an incarnate devil, sitting in the rebuilt temple ‘at Jerusalem, when the Lord shall appear. In “The Teaching of the Apostles,’’’a most valuable manuscript, reaching back to A.D. 80 or 90, it is said, ‘* when lawlessness increases, they shall hate and persecute and deliver up one another; and then shall appear the World-deceiver as Son of God, and shall do signs and wonders, and the earth shall be delivered into his hands, and he shall do lawless deeds such as have never yet been done since the beginning of the world.” Bad as Popery is, and frightful as its persecution of God’s saints in the past has been, something worse awaits an infidel world. Popery is an Antichrist, and much of Protestantism also, for it must be remembered that if she is “the mother of harlots,’’ she has daughters, but she is not the Antichrist.
Hippolytus tells us that “the ten states, meaning the ten toes of Daniel’s image, which will at length appear, will be Democracies;” and Irenĉus declares that “the adversary will sit in a temple built in Jerusalem, endeavouring to show himself to be Christ.’’ He is a counterfeit Christ, and Greswell endeavours to prove that his title means another Christ, a pro Christ, a vice-Christ. But the contrasts between the believer’s Christ and the world’s Antichrist are very great and striking. The former came down from heaven; the latter ascends out of the abyss, John vi, 38; Rev. xi. 7. The former came in His Father’s name; the latter comes in his own name, John v. 43. The former humbled Himself; the latter exalts himself, Phil. ii. 8; 2 Thess. ii. 4. The former was despised and rejected of men; the latter has all the world saying, “Who is like the beast?” Isaiah liii. 3; Rev. xiii. 3, 4. The former received a commandment from the Father what He should say, and what He should speak; the latter will receive his power, and his seat, and his great authority from the Devil, John xii, 49; Rev. xiii. 4. The former came to do His Father’s will; the latter comes to do his own will, John v. 30; Daniel xi. 36. The former glorified God on the earth; the latter blasphemes the name of God, John xvii. 4; Rev. xiii. 6. The former is the Good Shepherd, who giveth His life for the sheep; the latter is the idol shepherd, who teareth. the flock, John x. 14; Zech. xi. 16, 17. The former was a Man of Sorrows; the latter is a king of fierce countenance, Isaiah liii. 3; Daniel viii. 23. The former came not to destroy men’s lives, but to save them; the latter shall destroy wonderfully, and shall prosper and practice, and shall destroy the mighty and the holy people, Luke ix. 56; Daniel viii. 24. The former was meek and lowly in heart; the latter shall magnify himself in his heart, Matt. xi. 29; Daniel viii, 25. The former is the Prince of Peace; the latter is the prince that shall come as a desolator, Isaiah ix. 6; Daniel ix. 26, 27. The former is the Lord from heaven; the latter is the man of the earth, 1 Cor. xv. 47; Psalm x. 18. The former is the True Vine; the latter is the vine of the earth, John v. 1; Rev. xiv. 18. The former was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God; the latter goes into perdition, Mark xvi. 19; Rev. xvii. 8, 11.
These contrasts might be continued at considerable length, but perhaps enough has been said to show that the Antichrist is to be a real person. He will not appear until the ancient Roman empire reappears in the form of ten independent but confederated kingdoms, Daniel vii. 21-24; but the Popes and Popery have already existed “for centuries. He is to personify the Godless culture of these last days, possessing rare intelligence, indicated by the fact that the horn of power which symbolized him “had eyes and a mouth that spake very great things,” Daniel vii. 20. He is to be a scholar of fine attainments, “understanding dark sentences,” Daniel viii. 23. He is to exult in the strength of his intellect, for “he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every God, and shall speak marvellous things against the God of gods,” Daniel xi. 36. He is to be a warrior of renown, for “in his office shall he honour the God of fortresses,” Daniel xi. 38; and the wondering world will exclaim; “Who is able to make war with him?” Rev. xiii. 4. Asa man of transcendent genius, as a statesman of marvellous ability, as a politician of matchless skill, as a soldier born to command, it will be easy enough for the ten kingdoms to elect him their Imperator or Umpire for the decision of civil questions, their Generalissimo in the event of war, without disturbing their autonomy. These ten kingdoms, the Scriptures intimate, will largely manifest the character of a democracy, which without the fear of God, tends to lawlessness, Well, therefore, is the Antichrist called “the Lawless one,” for he will give triumphant expression for a time to the lawlessness that already pervades all classes of society, children becoming more and more restless under parental authority, servants hating their masters, working men plotting against their employers, subjects rebelling against their rulers, citizens seeking the overthrow of their governments, and the criminal, and licentious, and infidel classes increasing with appalling rapidity.
An eminent statistician has announced in one of our leading magazines that “in 1850 there was one criminal in 3,442 of the population of this country; in 1860 there there was one in 1,647; in 1870 there was one in 1,172; and in 1880 one in 860.” That there has been no improvement since 1880 may be inferred from the fact that the leading newspaper in one of our large cities recently said, “An examination of the jail calendar is appalling, and the situation grows worse day by day. Here are some figures that cannot even be suspected of lying. They were obtained from Deputy Warden Soffel. . . . For the even year of 1889 there were 4,398 commitments to jail, or nearly one fifth of the total for seven years and six months. For eight months and a half of the present year , there have been 4,238, forty more than all of last year, and Mr. Soffel says the condition grows worse day by day.” Even in sober, staid Philadelphia, according to the Record of that city there were 237 arrests of boys under 15 years of age in the month of January, 1891, for burglary, larceny and other crimes.
Meanwhile the Church, not only the Papal but the Protestant, is approaching the Laodicean state, which also implies Lawlessness, the word meaning “the right, custom, usage, manner or fashion of the people.” Boastful, proud and insolent, they do as they please, and to a lamentable extent vie with the world in their contempt of authority, human or divine.
Prominent professors in colleges and even in Theological Seminaries stand shoulder to shoulder with open infidels in their assaults upon the Word of God. They deny its inspiration, authority, and authenticity. They sneer at the story of man’s fall; they reject miracles; they ridicule prophecy; they scout the doctrine of future punishment; and in no respect do they differ from avowed sceptics except in the hollow and hypocritical profession of a name. Outside of professing Christianity, so profound a thinker as John Stuart Mill deliberately declared that “the God of the Bible should at at least never extort from him the homage of love, to whatever else He might compel him;” and so influential a member of Parliament as John Morley describes God as “a Being no more entitled to homage or worship than Francesco Cenci was entitled to the filial piety of his unhappy children;” while one of the greatest of England’s living poets crowns the horrible blasphemy with the words—
The people have been educated to reject with scorn the truth that “God was manifest in the flesh,” and the next logical and unavoidable step is that “Man is God.” The son of one of the most eminent preachers in America, himself a few years ago an apparently earnest and intelligent Christian, is now lecturing every Sunday in a hall to a crowd of renegade Christians, who have adopted as their motto, “Down with God; up with man;” and this beyond question is the popular demand. Inside of professing Christianity there are comparatively few who are not “traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof,” 2 Tim. iii. 4, 5; so that both a God-defying world and an apostate Church, Papal and Protestant, are busily engaged in preparing the way for the advent of the Antichrist.