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The Antichrist in the New Testament
By Richard Gunther
my first article I tried to present the case for the Historicist view of the
book of Revelation. I compared the prophecies with history and matched as
closely as possible the words of Scripture with the actual events of the past. I
leave it to the Reader to make up his or her mind as to whether the Historicist
view is the correct interpretation of course.
The question may now arise as to whether God has said anything else about
the Antichrist? Well, yes He has, and you will find it in 2 Thessalonians 2.
“Now we beseech you brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ .
. . that you be not shaken in mind
. . .as that day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means; for
that day shall not come, except there come the falling away first”.
The expression “the falling away” is straight from the Greek. THE
falling away is accurate because the Greek has the definite article here. It is
not “A” falling away.
The words “falling away” come from the Greek “apostasia” from
which we get the English word “apostasy”. This word apostasy does not mean
‘a falling away from a religion into atheism.’ It means ‘a falling away by
corruption from the truth’. In other words, Paul is here predicting some great
event in which many true Christians would become corrupted, perhaps through
strange teaching, and lapse into a state of spiritual pollution. The Church,
Paul said, was to crumble into a corrupt counterfeit form of its true
form before Jesus returned.
History confirms this prediction exactly. For three hundred years after
the Day of Pentecost, and for as long as the Roman Empire made life difficult
for Christians, the Church stayed reasonably pure. Perhaps it was because of the
opposition which Christians encountered that they hung on to their beliefs, but
for whatever reason, there was a thriving Christian community throughout the
Roman Empire for the first few centuries. But then, in 313 AD, when the Emperor
Constantine was converted, there was a union between Church and State, which
opened the way for pagan beliefs to come into the Church.
This is not the place for a discussion about whether Christians should be
in politics, but it ought to be pointed out that Church and State can be joined
with great success under some circumstances, and there are many Christians who
have maintained their integrity while at the same time holding high offices in
However, in 313 there was a co-mingling of compromising Church with pagan
State and the following things resulted from it:
The pagan Priest in pagan Rome was called Pontifix Maximus, which means
“High Priest”. This title was later transferred to the Pope, who is still
called “Pontifix Maximus” even today.
The name of the mother of Jesus was changed. In Jeremiah 44:17 a pagan
goddess is called the “Queen of Heaven”. This name goes back to Judges 2:13
and comes from the Phoenician goddess Ashtaroth. Her name has also been changed
to Ashtar, and Ester, and today we know it as Easter. This “Queen of Heaven”
was offered cakes, which we now know as Easter buns. But the Roman church gave
the name Mary to the Queen of Heaven, making her into a goddess. This suited the
pagans, who continued to worship Ashtaroth with cakes, and it suited the
corrupted Church because they had now gathered into the fold a large number of
Over the years the Roman church also gathered in many other pagan
teachings, or invented and elaborated her own. Such corruptions as the Mass,
Purgatory, Limbo, Prayers to saints, Penance, Earning salvation through
self-immolation, Popery, the Priesthood of only a few select men, Military
power, Celibacy, Flagellation, Rosaries, Monks, Nuns and many other abuses of
the truth – and these were all brought in under the name of Jesus.
The result of this contamination by pagan errors was a great apostasy –
“the falling away”.
Paul says in Thessalonians that after this falling away “that man of
sin (shall) be revealed, the son of perdition”.
It was the unanimous opinion of the Christian commentators from the
Reformation onwards that Paul’s “man of sin” was identical with the
Incidentally, as a third witness to the accuracy of these
predictions, the same sequence of events is outlined in Daniel 7 where the
“fourth beast” is foretold, out of whose mouth comes a “little horn”
which, Daniel says will “speak great words against the Most High, and shall
wear out the saints of the Most High.”
Why did Paul use the language he did? Why did he not simply spell out
what was going to happen, instead of using such veiled language? Because the
message had to be hidden from the Romans, to protect the Christians. Paul says,
in verse 5 “Remember . . . when I was yet with you, I told you these
things.” He did not want to write plainly that the Roman Empire was not going
to last for ever, as the Romans believed. Here, in Thessalonians he hints at the
fall of the Roman Empire in verse 6, but he does so in such a way as to obscure
his meaning from any casual reader.
The Antichrist is also called the “son of perdition”. Only one other
person in the Bible has been given this title – Judas Iscariot. Jesus, in his
prayer for the disciples (John 17:12) refers to Judas “None of them is lost,
but the son of perdition”. We can therefore expect the “man of sin” to be
similar to Judas.
was Judas like?
He was, to all outward appearances, an apostle and a faithful follower of Jesus,
but inwardly he was not committed to Jesus, and was always looking for personal
He lost his place as a bishop for the Early Church because of his transgression
While posing as an apostle, he was also a thief. The Bible says he was “a
thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put in there.”
For money he betrayed the Lord.
The Papacy and Roman church had all these marks too. The Roman church
proclaimed itself to be the true church, while at the same time it greedily
gathered money which was meant for God’s work. It helped itself to the
offerings, often given by the poorest people, and built itself up with fabulous
wealth. In the Middle Ages incredible riches poured into the Papal coffers, and
went into the swelling pockets of the Popes and cardinals, Bishops and Priests.
Huge sums were spent on lavish palaces and grand houses for the leaders of the
Roman church, instead of being employed in the welfare of the poor and needy.
Furthermore, for the love of money, the Popes shamefully betrayed Jesus.
They did this by taking money in return for prayers, Masses, special services
for the dead, pilgrimages to shrines, holy relics, indulgences for sins and so
A general estimate of the value of the Roman church, even today,
including assets and investments, is approximately $2,000,000,000 (2 trillion)
Paul goes on to describe the “man of sin” (2Thess.2:4)
“(He) opposes and exalts himself above all that is called a god, or
that is worshipped; so that he sits in the Temple of God, showing himself that
he is God.”
Futurists tend to take prophetic language literally, so should not come
as a surprise to know that many Futurists believe the “Temple” here is the
same rock and wood Temple which once stood in Jerusalem. This is why many of
these folk are expecting the literal Temple to be rebuilt, so some world-leader
can sit in it and show himself that he is God.
The Temple of God.
See 1Cor.3:16, 2Cor.6:16 and Eph. 2:20 – 22.
In these passages the expression “Temple” is used. In Greek the word
is ‘naos’, which, according to Baxter’s Lexicon, means “a dwelling, or
the dwelling of a deity, or the Holy Place of the Temple in Jerusalem.
So, just as we differentiate between the “front porch, the back door, the
hallway, the lounge and the kitchen’, the Greek makes a difference between the
Temple building and the Holy Place in the Temple. So “naos” does not mean
the actual building, or literal Temple – it means the Sanctuary, or special
place of Holiness.
The different words used in the Greek make a lot of sense when read in
context. For example, when Jesus said to the Jews “Behold your house is
left to you desolate” he used the
word ‘naos’.(Mat.23:38) He could have used the word ‘heiron’ which means
the whole Temple building, but he wanted to convey the meaning of the Sanctuary,
where the Holy place was, where God was supposed to dwell when the High Priest
entered. It was in the ‘naos’ where the curtain or Vail ripped from top to
bottom, and it was the ‘naos’ which God left, in order to dwell instead,
inside His Church.
For other verses which use the word ‘naos’ see Mat.23:16, 17, 26:61,
27:5, 40, 51, Mark 14:58, 15:29, 38, Luke 1:9,21, 22, 23:45, John 2:19, 20, 21,
Acts 7:48, 17:24, 1Cor.3:16, 17, 6:19, 2Cor.6:16, Eph.2:21, 2Thess. 2:4, Rev.
3:12, 7:15, 11:1, 2, 19, 14:15, 17, 15:5, 6, 8, 21:22, 16:1, 17.
In every case where the word ‘naos’ is used it means the
‘sanctuary’ or ‘Holy Place’. If ‘Naos meant the old Jewish building,
the actual stone and wood Temple, it would make nonsense of most of the
references using ‘naos’. For example Eph.2:21 – how could the Church grow
into an holy ‘heiron’, that is, an actual sone and wood building? The word
used is ‘naos’ because God wants the Church to grow into a ‘Holy
Returning to the subject, let us see what history shows.
The following is an actual extract from the words used by Pope Boniface
VIII in his bull of 1303 entitled “Unum Sanctum”:
“The Roman Pontiff judges all men, but is judged by no-one . . . we
declare, assert, define, and pronounce that to be subject to the Roman Pontiff
is to every creature altogether necessary for salvation . . . that which was
spoken of Christ “Thou hast subdued all things under his feet” may well seem
verified in me . . . I have the
authority of the King of kings. I am all in all and above all, so that God
Himself and I, the Vicar of God, have but one consistory, and I am able to do
almost all that God can do. What therefore can you make of me but God?”
these words with 2Thess.2:4)
The Roman Empire.
The King James version says “And now you know what withholds that he
might be revealed in his time. For the mystery does already work, only he who
now lets (or hinders) will let, until he be taken out of the way”.
Expanded, this verse could read: “Now you know that the Roman Empire
constrains the coming of the Papacy, but the Papacy will come in its correct
time. For the spiritual corruption has already begun to work, but it will not
come to fruit until the Roman Empire is taken out of the way.”
The word “let” is an old English word, meaning “to hinder” or
“hold back”. Today the word means quite the opposite. Many modern versions
of the Bible use the correct word.
Having identified the coming apostasy and the future rise of the Papacy,
Paul goes on to say that something is holding back the appearance of this “man
of sin”. The hindrance was the Roman Empire, which had to be destroyed before
Satan’s incredible counterfeit, the false Church, could be born. Paul was very
careful and very clever in his choice of words. He revealed enough for the alert
to understand, but hid the truth well enough to protect the Church from needless
History’s great Bible students show a perfect fulfilment of Paul’s
Bishop of Constantinople, 390 AD said “By “the hindrance” Paul means the
in 400 AD said “If Saint Paul had written openly and boldly that the man of
sin would not come until the Roman Empire was destroyed, a just cause of
persecution would then appear to have been afforded against the Church in her
an eminent Protestant historian said “We have the consenting testimony of the
early Fathers, from Irenaeus, the disciples of John, to the effect that it (the
hindrance) was understood to be the Imperial Power ruling and residing in
Rome”. (Horae vol.3 page 101)
Wordsworth in 1850 wrote “The earliest Christian writers declare almost with
one voice that HE WHO LETTETH was the heathen Roman Empire”. (Apocalypse page
Smith in his ‘Standard Bible Dictionary’ on page 1483 says “Many of the
fathers regarded the Roman Empire as the restraining power”.
John also writes about the Antichrist.
See 1 John 218 and 2:22, 4:3 and 2 John 7.
N 1 John 2:18 we are told that the Antichrist is an apostate Christian.
The Antichrist goes out of the Church, or away from true Christian beliefs. The
character of the Antichrist is revealed, and the evidence is that he will be
someone who calls himself a Christian, but who is not in fact a true Christian.
For example, the Roman church has long claimed to be faithful to Christ.
It carries many crosses, celebrates many festivals. It pronounces many prayers
and owns many church buildings. It constantly speaks of giving glory to God and
so on, yet it includes Mary in the Godhead and prays to her as well as to God.
This breaks the first of the Ten Commandments about idolatry. The Bible says
that Jesus alone is the one and only mediator between God and men (1Tim.2:5) but
the Roman church includes Mary, (and many saints as well), so what are we to
think? Is the Roman church really Christian, or is it a counterfeit, on the same
level as a cult?
Another example is the contradiction by the Roman church of the means to
salvation. Is it by Grace we are saved, or by Grace plus payment for prayers,
self-immolation, indulgences and so on. There was a time when Pope Leo X used a
German priest called Tetzel, who went through Germany selling indulgences for
money. Tetzel cried out “He who drops a coin in the box will have his sins
forgiven for ever!” It was this selling of indulgences which stirred Martin
Luther to write to Pope Leo X naming him as the Antichrist.
One could also list the many other heretical and unscriptural beliefs and
practices which are part of the Roman church system, but that would be too
tedious. C.S.Lewis described it as a “jungle” - so overgrown with false
teachings that the original true church has disappeared.
Can the Roman church be changed?
Yes, of course it can. Any human, of whatever creed, religion, cult or
community may become a Christian. But no Roman Catholic can be saved - not as
long as he or she holds to the doctrines of the Council of Trent, which were
ratified by the Roman church in 1545. These essential doctrines, or statements
of belief, have never been rescinded, removed or recanted either by the Papacy
or the will of the people within the Roman church. In fact, as the years have
gone by, and successive Councils have been held, the doctrines of the Council of
Trent have been verified and accepted.
In essence, these doctrines reveal the apostate Roman Catholic church,
the “beast” of Revelation, the ”little horn” of Daniel, the “man of
sin” of Thessalonians and the Antichrist. As long as the Roman church
continues to reject the Bible doctrines, which are plain to read and easy to
understand, it will remain a counterfeit and apostate system.
Please note, none of the above is a personal attack on any individual Roman Catholic. God loves all people, and is “not willing that any should perish” but that all should come to repentance and faith in His Son. Jesus died for all people, no matter how wicked or misguided, and his free salvation is available to all to him the right way.
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