ANTICHRIST - WHY IS CURRENT PROPHECY TEACHING UNBIBLICAL? – PART 2
“Rome’s answer to the Protestant Reformation was twofold, though actually conflicting and contradictory. "Through the Jesuits Ribera, of Salamanca, Spain, and Bellarmine, of Rome, the Papacy put forth her futurist interpretation. Almost simultaneously Alcazar, Spanish Jesuit of Seville, advanced the conflicting preterist interpretation.” (1)
Both of these interpretations were intended to counter the historical interpretation of the Reformers. Although they were actually opposite and conflicting, they were both designed to take the attention away from applying prophecy to the papacy and placing the fulfilment of prophecy either in the past (preterism), stopping short of Papal Rome’s career, or in the distant future (futurism) so that it leaps over papal dominance and squeezes Antichrist into a short period of time, just before the consummation of the ages – therefore often called the ‘gap theory’.
The Reformers’ interpretation of the vision of Babylon and the Beast of Revelation 17 rested clearly on the Roman Church – “the apostate woman, the Roman Church; the city – seven-hilled Rome; the many waters, the many peoples; the Beast, the fourth, or Roman beast of Daniel 7:7; the sixth head, the Caesars and the seventh, the popes”. (2)
“Roman Catholics as well as Protestants agree as to the origin of these interpretations. The Roman Catholic writer G.S. Hitchcock says:
• “The Futurist 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 Alcasar in 1614, explains the Revelation by the Fall of Jerusalem, or by the fall of Pagan Rome in 410 A.D.” (G.S. Hitchcock, The Beasts and the Little Horn, p. 7.)” (3)
Francisco Ribera (1537-1591)
“About 1590 Ribera published a 500-page commentary on the Apocalypse, denying the Protestant application of Antichrist to the Church of Rome. Ribera’s death at fifty-four halted the preparation of further commentaries. Those that were printed passed through several revised editions—at Salamanca about 1590, Lyons and Antwerp in 1593, Douay in 1612, and Antwerp in 1603 and 1623.
“Since its inception his basic thesis has been virtually unchanged. He assigned the first few chapters of the Apocalypse to ancient Rome, in John’s own time; the rest he restricted to a literal three and a half year’s reign of an infidel Antichrist, who would bitterly oppose and blaspheme the saints just before the second advent. He taught that antichrist would be a single individual, who would rebuild the temple in Jerusalem, abolish Christian religion, deny Christ, be received by the Jews, pretend to be God, and conquer the world—all in this brief space of three and one half years!
• Places Antichrist’s coming at the close of the seals
• Places trumpets under the seventh seal
• Death of the witness in literal time
• Antichrist's persecutions last three and one half years
• Judgements upon Rome for ultimate apostasy—in Revelation 17 Ribera admits the woman to be not only pagan Rome but also Rome Christian after a future falling away from the pope. (Francisco Ribera, Sacram Beati Ioannis … Apocalypsin Commentarij, chap. 14, pp. 282, 283).
• Repudiates Augustinian earthly millennium
• Antichrist’s reign counted by literal days
• Babylon is Rome past and future, not present” (4)
Alcazar’s preterist interpretation fell into disrepute and is not therefore relevant for this discussion.
What is the relevance of this information for the Church today?
1. The motive for Ribera's interpretation of prophecy was not to
interpret Scripture accurately but to take the attention away from the Reformers' identification of the Papacy and the Roman Catholic system as the Antichrist and the Scarlet Women of Revelation 17 and place it on some fictional character far in the future.
2. The Reformers suffered and paid a high price for believing and propagating the truth of salvation by grace through faith alone and for making the Scriptures available to the man in the street.
3. The Roman Catholic Church spilt the blood of millions of Protestant Christian martyrs during the Inquisition - in the name of the Church!
4. The Protestant Church has now joined hands with the Roman Catholic system in propagating the same lies Rome used to turn the attention of the Christian world away from their apostasy, lies and wickedness with which they control the consciences of millions of devotees.
5. In the name of unity – the large part of the Church of the Lord Jesus has climbed into bed with the great prostitute of Revelation 17:3-6. This what Jesus has warned: “Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues; for her sins are piled up to heaven, and God has remembered her crimes.” Revelation 18:4,5.
(Quotes 1-4 taken from the website http://gospel-herald.com/futurism_history.htm, (captured 01/10/2102), (LeRoy Edwin Froom, The Prophetic faith of Our Fathers, The Historical Development of Prophetic Interpretation, Vol. 2, Review and Herald, Washington, D.C., 1948, excerpted, pp. 464-532.)
(Please refer to the articles, "Who is the Antichrist?" and “Who is the Man Doomed to Destruction?” for a brief examination of this interpretation).