“Don’t you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these things? And now you know what is holding him back so that he may be revealed at the proper time. For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so until he is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of His mouth and destroy by the splendour of His coming.” 2 Thessalonians 2:5-8 (NIV).
So far we have established from the examination of Scripture, that antichrist is a spirit operating in people, that denies both the deity and humanity of Jesus. It was already at work in the time of Paul and John. It was at work in people who had fallen away from the truth and were leading others astray.
The beast of which Daniel and John wrote, represents a kingdom, not a person, which opposes the church and persecutes the saints. Antichrist, meaning a succession of people who lead and represent the beast, sets himself up in the ‘temple’ of God, the church, and claims to be God. The full of force of antichrist’s power would be held back by the Roman government until its fall after which the beast and the antichrist would be let loose upon the world.
In spite of the depravity and debauchery of society in the time of the apostles, the early church was devoted to Jesus and the gospel spread rapidly across the Roman Empire. By the time the last of the apostles had died, around 100AD, there were Christian churches across the entire Roman world. Believers honoured God’s Word above tradition, they held to Jesus as the only way to the Father and the only Mediator between God and man. They were obedient to the truth and willingly suffered for their faith.
During the first three centuries of the church, the saints were mercilessly persecuted by emperor after emperor, starting with Nero during the lifetime of the apostles, because of their refusal to participate in the cult of Caesar worship. An early Christian theologian, Tertullian, in his “Apologeticus” chapter 50, claimed that ‘the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church’.
After the death of the apostles and their immediate successors, things began to change. Constantine the Great, (who ruled Rome from 302 – 337AD), made Christianity the dominant religion of the Empire. Instead of being persecuted, Christians were favoured but, with the change a flood of pagan practices came into the church and were ‘Christianised’ to make them acceptable to the church; idolatry became ‘honouring’ the saints, and pagan festivals like Christmas (Roman Saturnalia, a harvest festival that marked the winter solstice—the return of the sun) and Easter (honouring the resurrection of Tammuz who was brought back from the underworld by his wife/mother, Ishtar), were brought into the church calendar.
“The Church made a sacred day of Sunday … largely because it was the weekly festival of the sun; for it was a definite Christian policy to take over the pagan festivals endeared to the people by tradition, and to give them a Christian significance. - Source: Arthur Weigall, The Paganism in Our Christianity, p. 145. Copyright 1928 by G. p. Putnam’s Sons, New York.” http://www.essene.com/Church/Sunday.htm.
As the Apostle Paul had predicted, there was a gradual but massive ‘falling away’ from the simplicity of the apostolic gospel message. False theories, unbiblical practices and manmade traditions replaced the simple truth that Jesus is the atoning sacrifice for our sins and the only mediator between God and man.
By the 1500s people were confessing their sins to priests, praying to Mary, bowing to saints and buying forgiveness in the form of ‘indulgences’. Although Christian apologists would have us believe that the period of history called the ‘Dark Ages’ was caused by the ‘heathen barbaric hordes’ that overran the Roman Empire from the north, honest historians such a Gibbons have discovered that this era was brought on by “the corruption of a counterfeit Christianity” (The Truth About the Dark Ages – http://www.hermes-press.com/DAtruth.htm.
Examples of official church policy reveal how far the church had moved from its roots. “The fourth Council of Carthage in 398AC prohibited everybody, including ‘Christian’ bishops, from studying pagan (non-Christian) books - on penalty of death... Illiteracy became official Christian policy… The Roman Emperor Theodosius II In 448 AD, ordered all non-Christian books to be burned…In the new Christian tyranny all scientific thought which contradicted the Bible was suppressed…knowledge which did not serve the purposes of the church was suppressed…within a few generations most priests could not even read.”. http://www.hermes-press.com/DAtruth.htm.
Into this thoroughly corrupted and pagan ‘church’ of the 16th century, the Reformers came with their rediscovery of the simple gospel of faith in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins. These men sought honestly to study and understand the Scriptures, including the falling away, the man of lawlessness in the temple, the world-wide power of the corrupt church and the war being waged against the saints – the Anabaptists, the Waldenses and other groups that stayed true to the gospel of Jesus. During this period, up to 150 million believers were murdered by officials of the church.
Their unanimous conclusion is reflected in the following quotes:
Martin Luther was the first to speak publicly. On August 20, 1520 he declared, ”We are of the conviction that the papacy is the seat of the true and real antichrist.”
John Calvin (1509 -1564) declared: ”Daniel and Paul had predicted that the Antichrist would sit in the temple of God. The head of that cursed and abominable kingdom, we affirm to be the pope.”
John Knox (1505 -1572) concluded that the papacy was “the very antichrist, the son of perdition, of whom Paul speaks.”
Thomas Cranmer (1489 -1556) wrote “Whereof it follows Rome to be the seat of the antichrist, and the pope to be the very antichrist himself, I could prove the same by many other scriptures, old writers and strong reasons.”
Roger Williams (1603-1683) spoke of the pope as “the pretended Vicar of Christ on earth, who sits as God over the temple of God, exalting himself not only above all that is called God, but over the souls and consciences of all his vassals, yea over the Spirit of Christ, over the Holy Spirit, yea, and God himself…speaking against the God of heaven, thinking to change times and laws, but he is the son of perdition.”
Westminster Confession of Faith – “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.”
John Wesley (-1791) “He is in an emphatic sense, the man of sin. And he is too properly styled the son of perdition, as he has caused the death of numberless multitudes, both of his opposes and followers...He is that...that exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshipped…claiming the highest power, and highest honour…claiming the prerogatives that belong to God alone.”
These were sincere and godly men who based their conclusion on the prophecies of the Bible – Daniel, Paul and John - and who had tasted of the cruelty and evil of a thoroughly corrupt papacy and church.
At this point I must add that this is not intended to be an attack on the Roman Catholic Church and the papacy but rather a resume’ of church history and a summary of the conclusions that the Reformers who were victims of the corrupt papacy and church, came to in their study of history, prophecy and Scripture. The issue here is not people but a system, a kingdom, and leaders who believe and propagate the counterfeit gospel handed down from their forebears.
Satan is the great deceiver. His intention is to lead people astray into every kind of false belief and away from a true and sincere faith in Jesus Christ as the only Saviour. We become a part of the counterfeit church inasfar as we deceive or are deceived by believing or propagating anything that is contrary to the true, simple and Biblical gospel.
Those who hate us for exposing the truth can kill the body but they can never kill the truth or extinguish the light that comes from the pure word of God.
“All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the Word of the Lord stands forever.” 1 Peter 1:24,25 (NIV). (To be continued…)
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