The modern controversy that exists between the various hermeneutical methods of prophetic interpretation, those being preterist, historicist, and futurist, goes deeper than simply being ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ regards understanding prophecy. What we teach has far greater impact than we can possibly know. The Holy Spirit I believe has just revealed to me something that the futurist hermeneutic demands, something that distorts and confuses the truth of the war that is currently raging between the powers of darkness and Christ. This war is a fact of life for all who believe and all who reject Christ as Savior. We believers are intimately engaged in this war, through prayer, through the sharing of the gospel; we are not only at the front lines, but are also the ultimate prize to be claimed by the eventual victor, who we know of course to be Jesus.
So what is this tenet of futurism that distorts the truth of this spiritual warfare? It is the core belief among futurists that the nation of Israel is central to future prophetic fulfillment. And how does this teaching distort truth? By giving Christians a false sense of security. If Satan’s attention is focused upon the Middle East, then the church must be free to go about its business unmolested right? For today’s Christian who believes the futurist propaganda, there is no real urgent need to guard against deception, after all, according to most, the church won’t even be around when Israel is taken over by the Antichrist. The church doesn’t need to worry about the mark of the beast, the deceptions of the last days, the plagues, the impersonation of Christ by Satan etc, we can just cruise along and let those who are left behind worry about all those things. Of course, this line of reasoning may be somewhat exaggerated, but I am convinced the principles of that argument are common, and for that reason the church I believe is in great danger of being totally deceived, if she hasn’t been already.
For 6000 years Satan, our adversary, and Jesus’ arch enemy, has waged relentless war against God’s people. When Jesus was here in person, Satan attacked Him viciously, constantly, unrelentingly, culminating at Calvary. When Jesus arose from the grave, much to Satan’s horror, he continued his attacks, but because Jesus was personally out of reach, Satan targeted his attacks against those who remained, Christ’s ambassadors or representatives, the church. The nation of Israel, for so long Satan’s prime focus because it was the nation, or more specifically the tribe of Judah and even more specifically the family of David, that was to be the vehicle for the birth of the Messiah. Throughout the OT we see Satan’s attempts to wipe out the root, that the fruit could not result. Particularly we see this in his targeting of the family of David, and his constant temptations to false worship, knowing that God’s wrath and discipline would result in their destruction. The story of Solomon’s idolatry, the dividing of the nation, and the ensuing war between Rehoboam and Jereboam, are a glowing example. Yet God in His mercy preserved a remnant. There has always been a remnant that has been the recipients and keepers of the truth. Israel though, after rejecting Christ, were themselves rejected as God’s “chosen vessel unto Me, to bear My name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel” (Acts 9:15.) Paul, among others, were now the chosen vessel. God’s people were no longer recognized as a nation, but as a church.
So take a look at history. Was Satan aware of this change in paradigm? Absolutely! He knew very well who his most dangerous foe now was. It was those who now knew the truth of God’s love as revealed in the gospels. His attacks were directed against first, God’s people, and second, against God’s word. The former religious elite of the nation of Israel were Satan’s first agents in his attacks against the church. Then pagan Rome became his chief weapon, and after the failure of violence to quell the growth of the church, raised up a false Christian edifice, began to attack the scriptures and the peoples’ access to them, and introduced a raft of false doctrines, creeds, and superstitions that had a huge effect upon the church, and literally tens of thousands were seduced and beguiled by the sophistries of the Roman clergy that inherited the thrones of the Caesars. The little horn that had grown from the head of the 4th beast of Daniel 7 was growing powerful and by the 4th and 5th centuries was demanding all churches everywhere to submit to papal authority. Satan was at last finding far greater success with deception than he had with blatant persecution.
However, there were pockets of resistance. The Celtic church in Britain and Ireland; the churches of Africa, India, and Asia; and the Waldenses of the Piedmont on the papal doorstep retained the truth in Christ and taught the gospel as it was handed down to them from the apostles. They had the scriptures in an unadulterated form, not based on the Gnostic ramblings of Alexandria, and subsequently to the Latin Vulgate of Jerome, but upon the Syraic translations of Lucian of Antioch. These truth bearers were having a powerful impact on paganism wherever they went. In Europe however, where the papacy had far greater influence and where she had the ears of the kings and queens that had surrendered their authority and sovereignty to Rome, these agents of truth found bitter and violent opposition. Satan was not about to relinquish his hold on the minds and the hearts of his deceived subjects so readily. Violence was once again brought to bear, and terrible was the resulting horrors. The inquisitions, the crusades, and various other wars and conflicts that ensued over the next 1000 years or so in Europe claimed it is said at least 50 million lives of those who would not bow their knee to Baal.
1000 years of war, both of a spiritual nature and physical, dominated history throughout the European theatre. Those who clung to the truth, who trusted in Christ and refused to surrender to Roman authority, paid for their fidelity with their lives. Their blood now lies in the earth, but bears powerful witness to those who remained to testify to Rome’s wickedness, and to Rome’s true identity as the Antichrist. Every reformer and leader of the reformation were unanimous in their condemning the papacy as the little horn, the man of sin. They, with courage that testified to God’s power within, exposed Rome’s errors, revealing to the world how the inheritor to the throne of the Roman pontiffex maximus, had replaced Christ as sole mediator, had introduced a system that usurped the true gospel, and had become Satan’s chief agent in his war against Christ. And the target? Truth, and those who would dare proclaim it.
The reformation became a powerful force, in fact so powerful that the council of Trent was primarily established to find a way to counter the tidal wave of truth that was even then, in the 16th century, threatening to engulf Rome. Another force was established to counter Protestantism at that time, and that was the Jesuits. Their sole purpose then, and remains so to this day, is to destroy Protestantism, or return such to submit once again to papal authority. Thus it was that while Rome could not deny the scriptural truths that supported Protestant identification of the Roman Antichrist, she realised she must devise some way to defuse these powerful arguments in such a way that sound logical, reasonable, and be acceptable to those who had little or no Biblical understanding. It was two Jesuits, sworn to overturn Protestant truth, that found a way. One established preterism, another futurism.
You see, the Protestant Reformers knew for certain that in the prophetic flow of time, the lion (Babylon), the bear (Persia), the leopard (Greece), and the dragon (Rome) had already ruled the world. They also knew that Rome had been divided into ten kingdoms when the barbarians carved up the empire. They knew all too well that the predicted Antichrist was to arise among these ten kingdoms of Western Europe. They saw clearly and distinctly that they were living in the time period of the little horn. The historicist hermeneutical method made it quite simple. A correct understanding of Bible prophecy gave them the unmistakable mandate to unmask this system which had usurped the prerogatives of Christ and adulterated the truth of God!!
In a letter to Spalatin on February 24, 1520, Luther wrote:
“I am practically cornered, and can hardly doubt any more, that the Pope is really the Antichrist, whom the world expects according to a general belief, because everything so exactly corresponds to the way of his life, action, words, and commandments.”
When Luther wrote his book, To the German Nobility, his friends, fearing for his safety, asked him to suppress it. To this request Luther replied: “We here are of the conviction that the Papacy is the seat of the true Antichrist. . . . personally I declare that I owe to the Pope no other obedience than that to Antichrist.”
Two months after Luther made this statement, his book, On the Babylonian Captivity of the Church [notice that he is referring to the papacy as Babylon], was published. In it, Luther spoke of the papacy as “nothing else than the kingdom of Babylon and of very Antichrist. . . . For who is the man of sin and the son of perdition, but he who by his teaching and his ordinances increases the sin and perdition of souls in the church; while he yet sits in the church as if he were God? All these conditions have now for many ages been fulfilled by the papal tyranny.” In 1540, Luther wrote: “Oh, Christ, my Lord, look down upon us and bring upon us thy day of judgment, and destroy the brood of Satan in Rome. There sits the Man, of whom the apostle Paul wrote (2 Thessalonians 2:3, 4) that will oppose and exalt himself above God and exalts his own above the commandments of God.”
Concerning the Man of Sin, Luther affirmed that the Antichrist “sitteth not in a stable of fiends, or in a swine-sty, or in a company of infidels, but in the highest and holiest place of all, namely, in the temple of God. . . .Is not this to sit in the temple of God, to profess himself to be the Ruler in the whole church? What is the temple of God? Is it stones and wood? Did not Paul say, “The temple of God is holy, which temple you are?” To sit—what is it but to reign, to teach, and to judge? Who from the beginning of the church has dared to call himself master of the whole church but the Pope alone? None of the saints, none of the heretics ever uttered so horrible a word of pride.”
Luther was not alone in testifying to this. Yet today we have countless leaders of Protestantism who with their futurist hermeneutic pretend none of this happened. A thousand years of extremely important history involving the lives of millions of martyrs for the faith and revealing Satan’s craftiness and cunning and deceptions, is cast aside as if God didn’t know it was going to happen and left it out of prophecy. Jumping from pagan Rome to a yet unfulfilled future, over a thousand years of essential Christian history is trampled upon as if of no account. And by adopting Rome’s own creation modern theologians have effectively hidden the Antichrist from view in favour of conjecture and guesswork.
And not only so, but the real and very dangerous error of distorting and twisting the truth of who the true focus and target of Satan’s lies and deceptions. That is the church, not the nation of Israel. And through futurism our attention is diverted away from the true source of the coming crisis. We are directed to look at the middle east. To some future overlord who will enter the political scene with guns blazing wreaking havoc and vengeance against Israel. And while everyone takes the bait, bait cast out by Rome 400 years ago in the form of futurism, hook, line, sinker, and boat, Rome quietly is working throughout the world to return her wayward daughters to herself. Mother has put out the call to come home, and Protestants by the droves are responding.
Why would Satan, after 6000 years of focused malevolent and concerted war against God’s people, suddenly take a left turn and attack a nation that no longer has any relevance to God’s purposes in taking the gospel to the world, leaving the church to continue its mission unmolested? No folks, Revelation informs us that the whole world will be deceived into submitting to the Antichrist. This includes the vast majority of Christians who in their ignorance of scripture and their blind sheep-like following of their equally deceived pastors and teachers, are searching the horizon in vain expectation of a coming warlord to attack Israel while leaning over the back fence in apparent friendship is the true Antichrist wooing all to join her once again in passive submission to her traditions, superstitions, and heresies.