For what reasons did the reformers risk life and limb, (literally), in their damning accusations against the church which raised them? Nearly all the reformers were priests, with no intentions of forming new churches, but reforming the one they loved and held dear. Yet here they are accusing the very institution which educated and confirmed them in their faith, of being the dreaded Antichrist of prophetic scripture. Why?
Was it revenge for being excommunicated? No, they were excommunicated for the most part because of the accusations. Was it the worst insult they could come up with because of a personal grudge? Hardly. Or perhaps, as this author believes and will expand on later, was it because they were serious students of the Bible and saw unmistakably the fulfilment of the many prophecies regarding Antichrist being played out perfectly before their very eyes?
Are you aware that there is more detail concerning the character and nature of this entity than any other in the entire scriptures apart from Jesus Himself? Even Satan doesn’t get that much press, yet God has seen fit to describe the Antichrist with accuracy and detail no other earthly entity receives. In His love, God earnestly desires that every man, woman, and child on the planet makes no mistake regarding the identity of Antichrist. Antichrist poses such a threat that God has given us more than ample warning and information as to who or what this entity is. Yet today the majority of Christendom completely ignores the very heroes of our faith and the godly men and women of recent history who died as a result of their testimony, and look to the future for some mythical creature to fulfil their clairvoyant prognostications.
Let me lay my card on the table, and I pray everyone reading this heeds the warning. While you look to the horizon for a battleship to appear with all guns blazing against Christianity and named “Antichrist”, look behind you. There is a ‘friend’ who kisses you as Judas kissed Christ and will run you over like a runaway train lest you kneel before her.
In order to further establish the historicity of the reformers claims, I would like to begin the study proper with the following passage.
2 That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.
3 ¶ Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;
4 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, shewing himself that he is God.
5 Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?
6 And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time…..
Authors note: this bolded portion is commonly referred to as “the restrainer”, that is, he who with-holds the development, establishment, or appearing of the Antichrist. The modern understanding of these verses, particularly in the futurist paradigm, is that the restrainer is in fact the Holy Spirit. The following evidence however should dispel such thoughts, and reveal the true facts…..7 For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.
8 And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming:
9 Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders,
10 And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.Nearly all commentators are unanimous that the ‘restrainer’, so called, was not named by Paul because it was too dangerous for him to do so. He had already spoken in person to the Thessalonian church on the matter, so they knew who Paul was writing about…the very power that if it had read that letter, would take no little umbrage to being informed that they would soon be removed from power and another rise up in their stead. The ‘restrainer’ of course being pagan Rome.
Not a few of the early church fathers wrote on this subject, and all agreed that Rome was the one alluded to in Paul’s letter. Let me quote one or three.
“‘For the mystery of iniquity doth already work; only he who now hinders must hinder, until he be taken out of the way.’ What obstacle is there but the Roman state, the falling away of which, by being scattered into ten kingdoms, shall introduce Antichrist upon (its
own ruins)? ‘And then shall be revealed the wicked one.”
“On the Resurrection of the Flesh,” chapter 24; Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. III, p. 563
There is some debate as to whether the ‘falling away’ referred to here is in reference to the empire, or the church. Some say one, some the other, while some would contend that it can apply equally to both. This author contends that the falling away [spoken of by Paul in 2 Thess. 2:3] is in reference to the church, although when considered in reference to the state, it doesn’t do violence to the passage. The falling away of the church transpired when she aspired to political power at the expense of spiritual, thus committing spiritual adultery. (see Revelation 17:2; James 4:4) Either way, Tertullian was certain in his belief that the restrainer was the Roman Empire. That it was pagan Rome itself that inhibited in some way the rise of the antichrist. This was generally accepted throughout the church at that time, and it was common for the church to pray to God that He would keep the Roman power intact in order to keep the antichrist from coming to power in their time. So the consensus among church leaders of that time was that the moment pagan Rome disappeared, the Antichrist would then be free to rule.
Elsewhere, Tertullian states:
“The very end of all things threatening dreadful woes is only retarded by the continued existence of the Roman Empire.”
(“Apology,” chapter 32; Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. III, p. 43).
Lactanctius, in the early 4th century wrote:
“The subject itself declares that the fall and ruin of the world will shortly take place; except that while the city of Rome remains, it appears that nothing of this kind is to be feared. But when that capital of the world shall have fallen, and shall have begun to be a street, which the Sibyls say shall come to pass, who can doubt that the end has now arrived to the affairs of men and the whole world? It is that city, that only, which still sustains all things.” (“The Divine Institutes,” book 7, chapter 25; Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. VII, p. 220).
Cyril of Jerusalem (318-386).
But this aforesaid Antichrist is to come when the times of the Roman empire have been fulfilled and the end of the world is drawing near. There shall rise up together ten kings of the Romans, reigning in different parts perhaps, but all about the same time; but after those, an eleventh, the Antichrist, who by his magic craft will seize upon the Roman power, and of the kings who reigned before him, “three he shall humble” and the remaining seven he shall keep in subjection to himself.”
(Catechetical Lectures,” section 15, on II Thessalonians 2:4; Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, vol. VII, p. 108 [New York: The Christian Literature Company, 1895]).
Much could be said about this quote; he also is clearly linking the prophecy of Daniel to the text of Paul’s, agreeing with other eminent writers of his time that out of Rome would evolve ten kings, 3 of whom the antichrist would subdue. When the restrainer, Rome, was to be taken out of the way, and the horns of Daniel 7 arise, the antichrist would be revealed
Ambrose (died 398)
“After the falling or decay of the Roman Empire, Antichrist shall appear.”
(Quoted in, Bishop Thomas Newton, Dissertations on the Prophecies, p. 463)……
Chrysostum (died 407)
“When the Roman Empire is taken out of the way, then he [the Antichrist] shall come. And naturally. For as long as the fear of this empire lasts, no one will willingly exalt himself, but when that is dissolved, he will attack the anarchy, and endeavor to seize upon the government both of man and of God.”
“Homily IV on 2 Thessalonians 2:6-9,” Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, vol. XIII, p. 389
[New York: Charles Scribner’s and Sons, 1905]…..
…..and finally Jerome (died 420)
“He that letteth is taken out of the way, and yet we do not realize that Antichrist is near.”
(Letter to Ageruchia, written about 409A. D. Letter 123, section 16; Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, vol. VI, p. 236
Jerome’s testimony is interesting, because from his perspective, he had seen and witnessed the fall of Rome, but was yet to see the rise of Antichrist. The reason is that history had not yet revealed who the Antichrist actually was, despite the early beginnings of the church of Rome at that time. The 3 nations had yet to be vanquished: It was this event that would definitively prove the Antichrist’s identity.
I think it would be a good time to quote a Catholic source, the eminent historian Cardinal Manning.
“Now the abandonment of Rome was the liberation of the pontiffs. Whatsoever claims to obedience the emperors may have made, and whatsoever compliance the Pontiff may have yielded, the whole previous relation, anomalous, and annulled again and again by the vices and outrages of the emperors, was finally dissolved by a higher power. The providence of God permitted a succession of irruptions, Gothic, Lombard, and Hungarian, to desolate Italy, and to efface from it every remnant of the empire.
The pontiffs found themselves alone, the sole fountains of order, peace, law, and safety. And from the hour of this providential liberation, when, by a divine intervention, the chains fell off from the hands of the successor of St. Peter, as once before from his own, no sovereign has ever reigned in Rome except the Vicar of Jesus Christ.”
(Henry Edward Manning, The Temporal Power of The Vicar of Jesus Christ, Preface, pp. xxviii, xxix. London: Burns and Lambert, 1862).
Manning has clearly given an excellent summary of history which directly correlates with the prophecies of Daniel and Paul. While attributing the fall of Rome to God and the rise of the papacy to Him also, Manning seems oblivious to the fact that he is revealing the perfect fulfilment of the prophecy of Paul and Daniel. That when Rome fell, the ten nations arose, three were subdued, and the ultimate victor was the papacy! It was the papacy itself that the empire of Rome was restraining. It was the papacy that arose after the establishment of the ten horns. It was the papacy that had a major role in the subjugation of the 3 horns because being Arian in belief they were directly opposed to the rule of the pontiffs. It will be the papacy that will still be here at the second coming, when Paul says she will be destroyed by the “brightness of His coming”. Therefore it is the papacy which perfectly fulfils the criteria demanded of it in order to be identified as the Antichrist. And that my friends are precisely the reasons all non-Roman Bible commentators from the time of the 6th century on were almost unanimous in identifying the papacy as the man of sin. The power who entered the church (the temple of God) and by claiming the power to forgive sin, and shut out of heaven whom he will, and claiming universal spiritual and temporal authority over all the earth, thus claiming the prerogatives of God, “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.”
I will be like the Most High.
Here we have a revelation into the heart and mind of Satan. We are here given insight into his most cherished ambition; to be like God, therefore to receive the worship, adoration and fidelity of his subjects. If anyone has any doubt as to whether Satan still cherishes this particular ambition, one need look no further than the temptation of Christ in order to confirm this. Satan offered Jesus all the kingdoms of the earth and their glory, if only Jesus would fall down and worship him. Imagine, the Creator worshipping His creation!!! Although Satan failed in that particular exercise, he has not failed when it comes to enticing man to worship him. I am not speaking here of those who are involved in the occult, or in Satanic rites. No, no. I am speaking of people who consider themselves Christians, those who sincerely believe and are convinced they are worshipping God. Allow me to explain.Satan already has the fidelity and loyalty of those in the world, whether they are aware of that or not. And because they are already his, his attention is directed more toward those who have decided, or are in the process or danger of deciding, against him. The church is the particular focus of the arch deceiver, especially in these last days.Re 12:17 And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.
Satan can not enter the church of course and introduce himself and make a polite request that the congregation worship him. He knows that will not work; we know that will not work; such an attempt would be met with a less than favourable response. Therefore, in order to gain the advantage over those who believe in God, he must use deception. The apostle Paul alluded to this very thing when he wrote:
2 Thess. 2:3-10. Let no man deceive you by any means; for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin 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. Remember ye not, that when I was with you, I told you of these things? And now ye know what with-holdeth, that he might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work; only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. And then shall that wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the Spirit of His mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of His coming.
Reading to this point, and comparing these verses with the one quoted from Isaiah above, one would be forgiven for thinking that Satan has competition. Someone else vying for the top spot adoration of man. But let us read further;…..
Even him, whose coming 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.
“Whose coming is after the working of Satan!!?” Not competition, but his own child! Here is Satan’s baby. Here is that creation of his which enters the church (the temple of God is the church in the NT) and in his place accepts man’s worship by proclaiming himself God, but it is in fact Satan who receives the ultimate glory.
Satan could not himself enter the church, but he could very easily use someone else to do that for him, and through him, receive the worship he desires. By misrepresenting God, and introducing a counterfeit God and a counterfeit religion to worship that God, Satan has deceived millions. Allow me to make a point regarding deception, using counterfeit money as an example. People are not deceived into believing that it is acceptable in the eyes of the authorities to use counterfeit money. The deception operates by way of blinding the people that it is a counterfeit. It is fake, but they believe it to be real. It is the same with religion. Satan would deceive very few into thinking that it is acceptable to God for man to worship Satan. But he has had resounding success in deceiving many into thinking and believing they are worshipping God, when in fact they are worshipping Satan. (See Revelation 13:4)
How does this work? Jesus explained it very clearly throughout His ministry, warning us repeatedly of false Christs and false prophets. Important to notice that if there be a false Christ then his followers must surely be false Christians. The expression ‘antichrist’ means that precisely; “one who stands in the place of Christ”. Therefore the followers of antichrist must also be professing Christians, the antichrist being the counterfeit of the true Christ, and his followers deceived into believing they are worshipping the true.
Jesus alluded to this very thing here;
Matt. 15:9. But in vain do they worship Me, teaching for commandments the doctrines of men.
Notice here that Jesus was not saying these people were not worshipping, they were just not worshipping Him!
Most would be also familiar with the following;
Matthew 7:21-23 Not every one that saith unto Me Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from Me, ye that work iniquity.
Now if Jesus didn’t know them, it would be fairly safe to conclude that they didn’t know Him. They were doing all manner of religious stuff, including one would presume worship, but it certainly wasn’t Jesus they were worshipping, even though they believed it was, and when they came face to face with Him, called Him Lord!!!!
So who was it they were worshipping? Let us look at
Romans 6:16 Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey…
According to this text, we are servants to whoever we obey. Regardless of our profession, it is in our acts that define who we worship. As Jesus said, in vain do they worship Him, when they obey the commandments of men which override the commandments and doctrines of God. And later, as we just saw, only those who do the will of the Father will be entering the kingdom of heaven. How eternally important is doctrine! How essential it is to understand truth!!! How critical it is that we be absolutely assured that what teachings we follow are based on sound Biblical truth rather than the teachings, interpretations, or traditions of man.
Doctrine is an integral part of worship. Jesus is here telling us that the creator of the doctrine is the object of our worship, regardless of the intent, sincere or otherwise, of the worshipper. It is through false doctrine that Satan has deceived millions into believing they are worshipping God when in fact they are worshipping him. It is through false teaching- doctrines that are the invention of Satan and taught by man, that Satan has established his counterfeit God, and his counterfeit religion of worshipping that god.
The book of Revelation reveals this to us clearly.
The true things of God have Satanic counterparts. There is a false trinity; the dragon, sea-beast (antichrist) and false prophet. This false trinity has a false message (Revel 16:13) – a counterfeit of the true 3 angels messages, the everlasting gospel, of Revel. 14:6-12. The false trinity is associated with a false city, Babylon. This city, like the New Jerusalem, has a river, and is called ‘great’. (18:10). The antichrist himself is a counterfeit Christ. Jesus proclaimed His threefold ministry in Matthew 12:6,41,42. He proclaimed Himself as the ultimate Priest, Prophet, and King, and rightly so. However, there is an entity living upon the earth as we speak who also claims, falsely, these very same prerogatives, and claims them to be his universal right. By claiming to be the sole arbiter and interpreter of scripture, by claiming the power to forgive sin, by claiming universal authority in religious matters, (thus subverting Christ’s ministry of High priest); by claiming the power to change God’s times and laws,and claiming the sole right to speak upon the earth as God’s representative, and claiming the right to judge who does or does not enter the kingdom of God, (thus subverting role as Prophet), by claiming the right and seeking secular authority over all the earth,(thus subverting Christ’s role as King) the Catholic Church has indeed “opposed and exalted himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped, so that he as God sits in the temple of God, (the church), showing himself that he is God.”
The messages themselves also have parallels. Both the true and the false are designed to gather people together to their makers; the false to Satan,(Revel. 16:14), the true to Jesus (Revel. 14:7). Both are also designed to go to all mankind (Revel 14:6; 16:14.) It is no coincidence that the true message, that of Revel. 14:6-12, is focused on worshipping God, the Creator of all things. Right throughout the book of Revelation, we are confronted by worship. In particular we see in Rev. 13 several references to the deceptive practices of the antichrist and the false prophet, through whom Satan deceives the whole world, resulting in false worship. In contrast, the true worshippers are described as those who keep God’s commandments. (Revel. 12: 17; 14:12.) See how neatly all this falls in with Jesus declaration that those who enter heaven must be obeying God, doing the will of the Father. Elsewhere Jesus said “If ye love Me, keep My commandments.”
With this in mind, and remembering Romans 6:16, the big question is, and the one we must all ask ourselves if we are to have any assurance of eternal life, is, whose commandments are they which I am surrendered to? Who am I obeying? Many hold the word of God as the authority in religious matters. Others, a combination of scripture and tradition, and others, the church. Many churches today don’t even teach doctrine any more, as they think because it tends to divide, then they must avoid it. Mega churches have been built on this premise. If they don’t study doctrine however how can they discern the real from the false? Doctrine matters. Our eternal destiny hinges on our correct understanding of Biblical truth. Of course the RCC teaches that they have the inherent right to decide what true doctrine is and what is false, by referring to the traditions handed down from the church fathers. Many of those traditions however, are in direct contradiction to the revealed word of God as shown in scripture. Truth is progressive. It builds on foundations already established, but nowhere must it contradict what God has previously been pleased to reveal to His people through His word. An example of one surrendering to false teaching and suffering as a result is found in 1 Kings 13:1-34. Believing the lie brought to him by a false prophet did not excuse the unnamed man of God from Judea for his disobedience.
The teachings of churches, ecclesiastical institutions such as seminaries and Bible colleges, or church councils be they great or small, are valid only in as much as they agree with scripture. All else is vain.
The reformers were discovering truths hidden and obscured for centuries by the church. Being progressive, truth took some time to come to the light. Several hundred years in fact, and several denominations later. Sadly, the former reformers’ followers denounced the new teachings that the Holy Spirit was bringing to light through later reformers, and the churches that were founded on the reformers stagnated and never grew. Today, the reformation goes on. We must always be ready and willing to receive new light regarding truth, but only inasmuch as it agrees with scripture.
So why was it that the reformers were willing to risk so much in their denunciation of the papal church? Truth. They came to a point in their lives when error was no longer to be tolerated. The word of God, the Bible, became the foundation of faith and practice, and although the whole truth had not yet been revealed to them, they were willing to risk their lives in defence of what light they had.