Thursday, March 30, 2017

by David Vaughn Elliott

    Rome, throughout history, has been identified by believers as the seat of "the man of sin." Were the early Christians right about Rome? Were the Bible believers of the Reformation right about Rome? Do the doctrines of the Roman Church fulfill the details of 2 Thessalonians 2?  

    In Part I of this series, the prophecy was examined by just looking into the Biblical text itself. In Part II, the views of Bible believers across the centuries were examined. The probe highlighted the fact that from the Reformation until this century, the prevailing view was that the prophecy was (and is) fulfilled in the "pope" of Rome. 

    The task now before us is to examine the beliefs and practices of the Roman church and papacy. Do the beliefs and practices of Rome fulfill the details of the "falling away" and "the man of sin" prophecy? Or, do we look for another? In this examination, we do not have to resort to private information, secret accords and hidden agendas of Rome. Rather, the task is to examine the open, public, admitted claims of Rome that can be verified by anyone in many available official Catholic sources. 


    Central to the whole teaching on "the man of sin" is the fact that "he sits as God." The Holy Spirit said, "who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God." To claim the attributes of God is blasphemy (see Mark 2:5,7). Revelation 17:3 says the beast is "full of names of blasphemy." Is the "pope" full of names of blasphemy? Is it true that he "sits as God... showing himself that he is God"? Consider these samples. 

    1 - "Pope" means "father." Jesus plainly said, "Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven" (Matthew 23:9). Yet the "pope" of Rome accepts the term "Holy Father." In fact, the very term "pope" means father. The Modern English word "pope" comes from the Old English "papa," which in turn comes from the Late Latin. In the Greek, it's "pappas." This explains the words "papacy" and "papal." Moreover, since the local priests also use the term "father," the one in Rome becomes the father of fathers. Double blasphemy! "Our Father, which art in..." My Father is neither in the local diocese nor in Rome. Mine is in heaven. How about yours? 

    2 - "The head of the church": The Roman "pope" claims to be the head of the church. It is often said that he is "the visible head of the church," with the obvious understanding that Christ is the invisible Head. But what does that do to the frequent figure in Scripture of the church being the body of Christ? Ever see a body with two heads? "No man can serve two masters." A body with two heads is a monster.  

    What does Scripture say of God's work through Christ? "And He put all [things] under His feet, and gave Him [to] [be] head over all [things] to the church, which is His body" (Ephesians 1:20-23). There are not two heads. Jesus is "head over all things to the church." To claim to be head of the church is to make one's self equal to Christ. It is blasphemy.  

    3 - "Pontiff": The term "pontiff" comes from ancient pagan Rome. Pontiffs were their chief priests. Since individual leaders in the Roman churches are called "priests," the one in Rome is called the "supreme pontiff." That is just another way of saying "high priest." But according the Gospel of Christ, to call any man "supreme priest" is blasphemy. Such a man claims what belongs only to Christ. Christians know that "we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God... without sin" (Hebrews 4:14,15). To claim to be the chief priest is to claim to be equal to Jesus Christ, the anointed Prophet, Priest and King. To sit as the supreme pontiff is to claim equality with the Son of God, who in turn is equal to God.  

    4 - "Vicar of Christ": A common term for the "pope" is "vicar of Christ." "Vicar" comes from the Latin meaning "substitute." Rome claims that the Roman pontiff "is acting for and in the place of Christ." Christ is God. The prophecy says "showing himself that he is God." Since the "pope" claims to be "in the place of Christ," he is showing himself that he is God. Another blasphemy! 

    5 - The "pope" claims "primacy." Rome talks much about the "primacy" of Peter, which it claims has been passed on to all the bishops of Rome. The words "primacy" and "primary" are not to be found in Scripture. However, the kindred word "preeminence" is recorded--just twice. First is Colossians 1:18, speaking of Christ: "He is the head of the body, the church... that in all things He may have the preeminence." Second is 3 John 9: "Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence among them, does not receive us."  

    Remember that Paul said, "the mystery of lawlessness is already at work"? Among other things, that mystery is the struggle of men to have first place in the church. Diotrephes only sought first place in the local church. Students of church history know that the struggle continued unabated until someone gained first place over all the world's churches. The bishop of Rome won that struggle. He claims "primacy" via Peter. In reality, his primacy is blasphemy against Christ, and fulfills the prophecy. Only Jesus has primacy in His church. 

    6 - The "pope" is a king. The Roman pontiff uses all the trappings of royalty. He lives in a palace. In fact, the Vatican Palace is the largest palace in the world. He has an ornate crown called the tiara. For solemn functions, he sits on a throne. His period of power is a "reign." The cardinals are called "princes of the church" who are subject only to the "pope." In short, though Catholics may not usually use the term, some do plainly say that the "pope" is a king. Blasphemy! Jesus is our only King.  

    7 - This king has three crowns. The tiara can be traced back to 1100 A.D. By 1300 A.D., it contained, not one, but three jewel-bedecked crowns, one above another on this rounded cone headpiece. Authorities do not fully agree on the explanation of the three realms which the "pope" rules over, but it is obvious that he claims all kinds of kingship, spiritual and temporal. Though John Paul II does not physically wear the tiara, he has in no way renounced the tiara and what it represents. Quite the contrary, the tiara appears today on his papal seal and the Vatican flag. Thus, the "pope" still presents himself as a thrice-crowned monarch. Jesus on earth had only one crown. Remember what it was made of? 

    8 - Above the law: So like God does the Roman Pontiff make himself that he places himself higher than the Son of God. When Jesus was upon earth He voluntarily submitted to taxation (Matthew 17:24-27) as well as to the Jewish council, the Roman Governor Pontius Pilate and the Roman soldiers. He had the power to resist, but He did not. 

    The "pope" of Rome, however, submits to no man! The "pope" is head of Vatican City, an independent nation also called the Papal State. Vatican City has its own coins, postage stamps and water supply. The Vatican receives ambassadors from about 170 nations (now including the United States--shame!). It is true that Vatican City is tiny compared to the land holdings of the "popes" of the Middle Ages. Nevertheless, it is big enough to furnish the "pope" with absolute independence from all human authority. The reason openly stated for the existence of Vatican City is that the "pope" "cannot rightly be made subject to any temporal power on earth." Did any man ever "sit as God in the temple of God" more than this? 

    The Apostle Paul wrote to the very church in question, the church in Rome, during the reign of the infamous emperor Nero. In that setting, Paul commanded the brethren in Rome, "Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities" (Romans 13:1). The "pope" of Rome refuses to obey this command of God. He sets himself outside of and above all earthly authority. In so doing, he sets himself above the very Son of God, who did submit. 


    "The man of sin" is only one person (at a time). But 2 Thessalonians 2 prophesies of the entire system over which "the man of sin" rules. It prophesies "lawlessness," "falling away" ("apostasy"), "unrighteousness," "deception," "strong delusion," and "the lie." Keep in mind that since this is a "falling away (apostasy)," it cannot be fulfilled by brand new religions, like Buddhism or Islam. Rather it is a departure or falling away from the true Gospel--keeping parts, omitting parts and changing parts--an unholy mixture of truth and error. 

    High on the list of these unrighteous deceptions are the numerous mediators that Rome places between man and God. At the uncontested top of this list of mediators is "the virgin."  


    The "Mary" of Rome is not the Mary of the Bible. While it is true that some teachings and practices of the Roman Church have edged closer to Bible truth in the 20th century, it's doctrine of "Mary" is not one of them. John Paul II, indeed, has dedicated his pontificate to "the virgin." He has everywhere tried to increase devotion to her, himself visiting most of the Marian shrines in the world. His motto is "Totus tuus sum Maria: Mary, I am all yours." 

    Rome makes a goddess out of their "Mary." The teaching goes this way: 1) Mary is the mother of Jesus; 2) Jesus is God; therefore, 3) Mary is the mother of God. The problem with this supposedly logical argument is the second point. Yes, Jesus is God; but Jesus was also man. As Romans 1:3 puts it, "Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh." By the same token, Jesus was the son of Mary according to the flesh.  

    Reminds one of the question little children (and materialistic philosophers) ask: "Who made God?" A mother is always before a son. Thus, if Mary is the mother of God, then she is before God and she is god. That is blasphemy. John clarified, "In the beginning was the Word... And the Word became flesh" (John 1:14). Yes, Mary was before Jesus in the flesh; but Jesus was before Mary in the spirit. Mary is not the mother of God. Rather, the Lord Jesus Christ is Mary's Master and Maker! 

    Time fails to speak of all that is involved in Rome's teaching on "Mary." They say she was a perpetual virgin even though married. They say she was absolutely sinless like Jesus. They call her "queen of heaven" (see Jeremiah 44). Since God is King of heaven; that makes "Mary" a goddess. They call her the Mediatrix. Since Jesus is the Mediator, that places her as equal to Jesus. As a matter of fact, in praying the rosary, for every "Our Father," there follow ten "Hail Mary's." Ten to one. The teaching of Rome is "to Jesus through Mary." The teaching of the apostles is "to the Father through the Son" (John 14:6; 1 Timothy 2:5). Two different gospels.  


    The Holy Spirit says, "A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife" (1 Timothy 3:2). Rome says that a bishop must "not" be the husband of one wife. God requires pastors to be family men. Rome requires pastors to be single. 

    God's Word says, "as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup" (1 Corinthians 11:26). Rome says that the common members may "not" drink the cup. Rome has the audacity to withhold from its members one half of the Lord's Supper.  

    The Word says, "as often as you eat this bread." Rome says, "You do not eat bread; you eat the actual body of Christ." Now when Jesus changed water into wine, it no longer looked like water nor tasted like water. The feast master said, "You have kept the good wine until now!" (John 2:10). A miracle of changing one thing into another does just that--it changes one thing into another. Rome claims that the "host" is transformed into the actual body of Christ, even though it still looks, smells and tastes like bread. This is not a miracle. This is a bold-faced lie. Since so many millions world-wide believe such an obvious falsehood, it clearly fulfills the prophecy regarding "strong delusion." 

    Time fails to even name all the falsehoods of Rome. This is not just minor errors of a doctrine or two. This is "the" falling away, "the" apostasy. Among other things, Rome teaches that the people must confess their sins to a sinful priest rather than to Jesus the pure High Priest. Rome teaches that the mass is a sacrifice in which Christ, in an unbloody manner, offers himself to God via the officiating priest. Rome teaches the baptism of ignorant, sinless infants by means of sprinkling rather than immersion. Rome fosters the veneration of images, including kneeling and praying before them, burning candles before them, and carrying them in street processions. Rome condones church-sponsored gambling, dancing and drinking on the one hand and the Charismatic speaking in tongues on the other. 


    Is it proper to call the "pope" "antichrist"? The term "antichrist" appears only in the epistles of John, who says that many antichrists were already existent in his day. The texts in question are 1 John 2:18-22; 4:3; 2 John 7: 

    "As you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come... They went out from us... Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son... and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the [spirit] of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world... For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ [as] coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist."  

    Item 1 - John states that they had "heard that the Antichrist is coming." John does not deny that. He only clarifies that there are other antichrists besides "the" future antichrist. 

    Item 2 - "They went out from us." This agrees perfectly with "the man of sin" prophecy, which predicts "a falling away." Both texts thus speak of a development coming out of the true people of God. 

    Item 3 - "This is the [spirit] of the Antichrist which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world." John agrees with Paul, who said, "For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work." With good reason, the translators have added "spirit." The Greek says, "This is the of the antichrist." "The" what? Starting with 4:1, the word "spirit(s)" appears 5 times. Read for yourself and you will see that when you come to "the of the antichrist," "spirit" is the only sensible word to supply. Therefore, John is saying that the "spirit" of antichrist is coming and is already in the world. That is just another way of saying that "the mystery of lawlessness is already at work,"--before "the man of sin" or "the" antichrist actually appears. 

    Item 4 - "Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ?" "Christ" means the anointed Prophet, Priest and King. The "pope" does not directly deny that. However, by claiming the same attributes for himself, he in effect does deny it. The "pope" claims to be the infallible "chief teacher [prophet] and ruler [king] of the entire church," as well as "supreme pontiff [high priest]." As "vicar of Christ," he takes the place of Christ on earth." Thus he does deny that Jesus alone is the Christ.  

    Item 5 - "He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son." Does this describe the "pope" of Rome? There are many ways to "deny" God. Paul wrote, "They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him" (Titus 1:16). The "pope," by receiving the title "holy father," denies that we have only one Holy Father. By attributing to the "pope" and the "virgin" so many titles and characteristics of the Father and the Son, the Word is fulfilled in them that "They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him." 

   Item 6 - "Every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God... For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ [as] coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist." Certainly Rome does not deny that Jesus came in the flesh. Or, does it? 

    Put briefly, Rome teaches 1) that all men inherit original sin, 2) except Jesus and Mary. Rome is thus saying that Jesus and Mary did not have the same flesh as we do. But God says of Jesus, "For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham. Therefore, in all things He had to be made like [His] brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest" (Hebrews 2:16,17). To become our High Priest, Jesus had to be made like us.  

    Why did Rome invent the myth of the "immaculate conception" of Mary? Because Rome, to its credit, realized that if sin is inherited, then Jesus was born a sinner. That is impossible. So, either you reject the doctrine of inherited original sin and total depravity or else you invent a special miracle to overcome it for Jesus. But when you invent that special miracle, you deny that Jesus came in the same flesh we come in; you are antichrist!  


    Again, the Roman religion fulfills "the man of sin" prophecy with its "powers, signs, and lying wonders" (2 Thessalonians 2:9). Who has claims of miracles like unto Rome? In the mid-19th century, the "virgin" appeared to Bernadette in Lourdes, France. A whole century later, the shrine built there attracted 200,000 pilgrims a year. Many are the claims of miraculous cures.  

    Other outstanding locations of supposed apparitions of "the virgin" are Fatima in Portugal, Knock in Ireland and Guadalupe in Mexico. All such places become shrines and centers of pilgrimages. Multitudes are the claims of miracles. The average catholic believes in many more miracles than the hierarchy is willing to "authenticate." However, it does "authenticate" many. 

    To discuss all the miracles claimed by the Roman Church would require a book. I think there is no Pentecostal church that can begin to compete with the Roman Church when it comes to claims of the miraculous. And it has been going on for centuries. Rome clearly fulfills this part of the prophecy. 


    The "man of sin" prophecy is valuable to us today in at least three ways. 

    1 - This prophecy is a warning. We are all in danger. Satan can deceive us. Just as he did with Eve, Satan continues to mix truth with error. His arguments seem plausible. He offers benefits. He offers "the pleasures of sin for a season." This prophecy is a warning of false religions and apostate churches. It is a warning that Satan has power to work signs and wonders. It is a warning that there are lies and strong delusion all around us.  

    Many conservative evangelicals do not heed this warning. For example, many Charismatics today, disregarding all other doctrines, bind themselves together with one common denominator--the supposed baptism of the Holy Spirit with evidence via speaking in tongues. "Spirit filled" Pentecostals have great fellowship with their "Spirit-filled" Catholic brethren. Never mind that the latter still go to the sacrifice of the Mass, still pray to "the virgin" and still give allegiance to the pontiff of Rome.  

    2 - This prophecy is an explanation. How often do people ask, "Why are there so many religions?" "Can you trace your church back to the day of Pentecost?" This prophecy offers some of the answers. It shows that Jesus did not have any illusions about what was going to happen to His glorious church. Tragic as it is, it is a reality that cannot be swept under the rug. 

    3 - This prophecy is a promise. Verse 8 contains the promise, "the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming." There is victory in Jesus. "The man of sin" will not triumph in the end. Christ will. Jesus will return. He will destroy His enemies. He will reign victoriously. If we reject "the man of sin" and cling close to Jesus, we will be on the victory side.  

    (Scripture in the preceding article is taken from the New King James Version. Copyright (c) 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.)  
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by David Vaughn Elliott

    Paul warned that "the mystery of lawlessness is already at work" (2 Thessalonians 2:7). Thus the fulfillment of this prophecy began in the first century. Something was already working in Paul's day which in time produced "the man of sin... the son of perdition... the lawless one."  


    Most students of prophecy, from Paul's day to this, understand that the little horn of Daniel 7 and the beasts of Revelation 13 and 17 are related to Rome. Today there are three major views about when Rome is involved. The preterists place the fulfillment in our past. The historicists place it in our present. The futurists place it in our future.  

    Most agree that 2 Thessalonians 2 is part of the same prophetic picture. This means that "the man of sin" will be found in Rome. The evidence studied in Part I: The Prophecypoints to the conclusion that "the man of sin," "the son of perdition" refers to the most outstanding apostate church. Add Rome to the equation and the fulfillment of the prophecy becomes obvious. 


    The Bible was not sealed in a vacuum as soon as it was written, to be untouched by human hands until it reached each of us in the 21st century. To ignore the intervening centuries is shortsighted and egotistical. If we do not learn from others, why should we expect others to learn from us? 

    "I told you... you know," said Paul, "what is restraining" (2 Thessalonians 2:5,6). This is amazing. The saints in Thessalonica knew. Paul had taught them in person. But the Holy Spirit prevented Paul from writing it down. Is there any other place in Scripture like this? The writer says his readers know what he is talking about, but he shrinks from writing it down. It becomes irresistible to scan early Christian writers to learn what they can tell us. Can you conceive that the first-century Christians would not pass the information on?  

    Before examining early Christian writers, we need to be aware of three things. 

    1) They were not inspired. Therefore, they express many contradictory views on prophecy as well as other matters. 

    2) Before a particular prophecy is fulfilled, we cannot expect Christians to understand it all. The apostles, for example, with Jesus in their midst, did not have correct views of many messianic prophecies. 

    3) After a prophecy is fulfilled, there will always be those who will deny its fulfillment. The Jews, for example, to this very day, deny that Jesus of Nazareth is the promised Messiah.  

    With these precautions in mind, it is still very enlightening to discover what Christians through the ages have believed regarding various prophecies. Especially is this true in this case in which Paul said, "You know... "  


    The preterist view teaches that "the man of sin" appeared in the first century. They apply all the details of 2 Thessalonians 2 to events surrounding the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. They quote authorities with identical views, but never anyone earlier than the seventeenth century. Why not earlier? The reason is simple. There are no earlier authorities.  

    Not one writer prior to 1600 A.D. ever mentions anybody who believed that "the man of sin" prophecy was fulfilled in the first century. Notice:  

    1) The Thessalonians knew who was restraining. 

    2) Many Christian writers in the second to fifth centuries wrote in detail about this prophecy. 

    3) Not one early writer thought "the man of sin" prophecy was fulfilled in the first century.  

    4) The early writers often discuss views contrary to their own. None of them mention anyone who applied this prophecy to the first century.  

    In the 18th century, Thomas Newton, in his famous "Dissertations on the Prophecies," discusses 2 Thessalonians 2 at length. He mentions five recent writers who claimed that "the man of sin" prophecy was fulfilled in the first century. He points out that they disagree with the majority of interpreters, and indeed disagree with each other as well as with all who were before them. 

    Then he remarks: "If this prophecy [2 Thessalonians 2] was fulfilled, as these critics conceive, before the destruction of Jerusalem, it is surprising that none of the fathers [early Christian writers] should agree with any of them in the same application, and that the discovery should first be made sixteen or seventeen hundred years after the completion. The fathers might differ and be mistaken in the circumstances of a prophecy which was yet to be fulfilled; but that a prophecy should be remarkably accomplished before their time, and they be totally ignorant of it, and speak of the accomplishment as still future, is not very credible" (page 400).  


    A search into early Christian writings reveals that many believers had a definite view as to what was restraining or withholding the appearance of "the man of sin." No, there is no writer who claims to quote the apostle Paul or one who heard the apostle Paul saying what was restraining. Nevertheless, these early Christians lived infinitely closer to the source than we do. They were thus in a far better position than we are today of being in touch with the information which Paul imparted to the saints in Thessalonica. What early Christian writers thought Paul was talking about should surely be seriously investigated before considering novel interpretations of the 21st century.  

    In light of the many divergent views on prophecy which we find among the early Christian writers, it is impressive that there is so much agreement on the question of what was restraining-withholding-hindering. In the end, of course, their view has to be tested both by Scripture and history. But as we follow their view and watch history develop, we cannot help but be impressed with the fact that the early Christians were on the right track in regard to much of this prophecy--well before it was fulfilled. 

IRENAEUS: 130 to 202 A.D. 
    Irenaeus was born about 30 years after the apostle John died. In his extensive work, "Against Heresies," Irenaeus devoted several chapters to Daniel 7, Revelation 13 and 2 Thessalonians 2. Typical of believers in all ages, he understood that the three prophecies are related. Irenaeus wrote: 

    "Daniel too, looking forward to the end of the last kingdom, i.e., the ten last kings, amongst whom the kingdom of those men shall be partitioned, and upon whom the son of perdition shall come, declares that ten horns shall spring from the beast, and that another little horn shall arise in the midst of them." 

    "In a still clearer light has John, in the Apocalypse, indicated to the Lord's disciples what shall happen in the last times, and concerning the ten kings who shall then arise, among whom the empire which now rules [Rome] shall be partitioned" ("Against Heresies," book 5, chapter 25, paragraph 3; chapter 26, paragraph 1). 

TERTULLIAN: 145 to 220 A.D. 
    Not many years later, Tertullian, quoting and commenting on 2 Thessalonians 2, wrote the following. He blends "the man of sin" prophecy with the prophecies of the ten-horned beast. 

    "Again, in the second epistle he [Paul] addresses them with even greater earnestness: 'For that day shall not come, unless indeed there first come a falling away,' he means indeed of this present empire, 'and that man of sin be revealed,' that is to say, Antichrist, 'the son of perdition, who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God... And now ye know what detaineth, that he might be revealed in his time. 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)?" ("Of the Resurrection of the Flesh," chapter 24).  

HIPPOLYTUS: 170 to 236 A.D. 
    A few years later yet, Hippolytus wrote "A Treatise on Christ and Antichrist." While discussing Daniel 2 and 7, he wrote: 

    "The golden head of the image and the lioness denoted the Babylonians; the shoulders and arms of silver, and the bear, represented the Persians and Medes; the belly and thighs of brass, and the leopard, meant the Greeks, who held the sovereignty from Alexander's time; the legs of iron, and the beast dreadful and terrible, expressed the Romans, who hold the sovereignty at present; the toes of the feet which were part clay and part iron, and the ten horns, were emblems of the kingdoms that are yet to rise; the other little horn that grows up among them meant the Antichrist in their midst" (paragraph 28).  

CYRIL OF JERUSALEM: 315 to 386 A.D. 
    Moving to the fourth century, Cyril, after quoting 2 Thessalonians 2, said the following: 

    "Thus wrote Paul, and now is the 'falling away'... now the Church is filled with heretics in disguise. For men have fallen away from the truth, and 'have itching ears'... This therefore is 'the falling away,' and the enemy is soon to be looked for...  

    "But this aforesaid Antichrist is to come when the times of the Roman empire shall have been fulfilled, and the end of the world is now drawing near. There shall rise up together ten kings of the Romans, reigning in different parts perhaps, but all about the same time; and after these an eleventh, the Antichrist, who by his magical craft shall seize upon the Roman power...  

    " 'So that he seateth himself in the temple of God.' What temple then? He means, the Temple of the Jews which has been destroyed. For God forbid that it should be the one in which we are!" (Lecture 15, paragraphs 9,12,15). 

    Cyril, living before the fulfillment, preferred to think that "temple of God" meant the temple of the Jews. He recoiled from the idea of "the man of sin" sitting in the church. Nevertheless, the way he expresses himself shows that he understood that "temple of God" could well refer to the church. Many today miss this point. 

CHRYSOSTOM: 347 to 407 A.D. 
    Later in the fourth century, Chrysostom wrote multitudes of homilies based on Scripture texts. In his Homily on 2 Thessalonians 2:6-9, he says: 

    "What then is it that withholdeth, that is, hindereth him from being revealed? Some indeed say, the grace of the Spirit, but others the Roman empire, to whom I most of all accede. Wherefore? Because if he meant to say the Spirit, he would not have spoken obscurely, but plainly... But because he said this of the Roman empire, he naturally glanced at it, and speaks covertly and darkly. For he did not wish to bring upon himself superfluous enmities, and useless dangers...  

    " 'Only there is one that restraineth now, until he be taken out of the way,' that is, when the Roman empire is taken out of the way, then he shall come. And naturally. For as long as the fear of this empire lasts, no one will willingly exit himself, but when that is dissolved, he will attack the anarchy, and endeavor to seize upon the government both of man and of God" (paragraphs 1-2). 

JEROME: 340 to 420 A.D. 
    Jerome wrote this first letter in 396 A.D. and the second in 409 A.D. Already the Roman Empire was in deep trouble from the barbarians. 

    "I shudder when I think of the catastrophes of our time... The Roman world is falling: yet we hold up our heads instead of bowing them...  

    "Rome's army, once victor and Lord of the world, now trembles with terror at the sight of the foe" (Letter #60 to Heliodorus, paragraphs 16,17).  

    "But what am I doing? Whilst I talk about the cargo, the vessel itself founders. He that letteth [restrains] is taken out of the way, and yet we do not realize that Antichrist is near. Yes, Antichrist is near whom the Lord Jesus Christ 'shall consume with the spirit of his mouth'...  

    "For thirty years the barbarians burst the barrier of the Danube and fought in the heart of the Roman Empire... Rome has to fight within her own borders not for glory but for bare life" (Letter #123 to Ageruchia, paragraphs 16, 17). 

AUGUSTINE: 345 to 430 A.D. 
    In his famous "City of God," Augustine wrote: "I can on no account omit what the Apostle Paul says, in writing to the Thessalonians, 'We beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ,' etc.  

    "No one can doubt that he wrote this of Antichrist and of the day of judgment, which he here calls the day of the Lord, nor that he declared that this day should not come unless he first came who is called the apostate... Then as for the words, 'And now ye know what withholdeth,' i.e., ye know what hindrance or cause of delay there is, 'that he might be revealed in his own time;' they show that he was unwilling to make an explicit statement, because he said that they knew... I frankly confess I do not know what he means. I will nevertheless mention such conjectures as I have heard or read.  

    "Some think that the Apostle Paul referred to the Roman empire, and that he was unwilling to use language more explicit, lest he should incur the calumnious charge of wishing ill to the empire which it was hoped would be eternal... But others think that the words, 'Ye know what withholdeth,' and 'The mystery of iniquity worketh,' refer only to the wicked and the hypocrites who are in the Church, until they reach a number so great as to furnish Antichrist with a great people, and that this is the mystery of iniquity" (book 20, chapter 19, paragraphs 1-3). 

    Christian writers of the second, third and fourth centuries have spoken. From these brief excerpts, we can make the following general observations of what was widely believed: 

    1) that Daniel 7, 2 Thessalonians 2, and Revelation 13 and 17 are interrelated, all prophesying about Rome. 

    2) that the little horn of Daniel 7 and the "man of sin" of 2 Thessalonians 2 refer to a future (to them) "antichrist." 

    3) that the antichrist would appear when Rome fell; that the Roman Empire was that which, in their time, was restraining the rise of the "man of sin." 


    Before historical fulfillment, it was impossible for the early Christians to understand exactly what was going to transpire. But what is very impressive is that, being students of God's prophetic Word, many of them rightly understood that the "man of sin" would appear when Rome fell. 

    Rome fell in 476 A.D. The bishop of Rome stepped into the vacuum and took the place of the Emperor. As the years went by, the popes gained incredible powers over the bodies and souls of men. Popes crowned emperors. In a clash between Emperor Henry IV and Pope Gregory VII, the Emperor was left standing barefoot in the snow for three days in January 1077, until Gregory withdrew his excommunication. This style of power lasted for centuries. The entire history of this period is well covered in the history books and is beyond the scope of this article. 


    Nearly a millennium after the last writers quoted--as early as the 13th century, if not before--one voice after another began to cry: "The pope of Rome is antichrist"; "the pope is the man of sin." The voices grew louder and louder until a full-blown Reformation Movement took shape. From that day until recent times, Protestants have been united in calling the Roman Pontiff "the man of sin."  

    Rather than prove this with endless quotations from Protestants over the centuries, let us rather see that both preterists and futurists admit this historical fact. 

    Gary DeMar, a modern preterist, totally rejects the idea that the pope is "the man of sin." He thinks 2 Thessalonians 2 and related prophecies were fulfilled in the first century by Nero and the Jews. Nevertheless he admits: 

    "For centuries the papacy was the unanimous candidate for the Antichrist. The papal system was identified as 'both "the man of sin" and the Babylonian whore of which Scripture forewarns (2 Thessalonians 2; Revelation 19). In the conviction of the sixteenth-century Protestants, Rome was the great Anti-Christ, and so firmly did this belief become established that it was not until the nineteenth century that it was seriously questioned by evangelicals' " ("Last Days Madness," page 207,208). 

    Again: "The Reformers, almost without exception, believed the 'man of lawlessness' to be the Roman Pontiff. In their dedication to the King James Version of the Bible (1611) the translators identified the Pope as the 'man of sin' of 2 Thessalonians 2: 'The zeal of your majesty [King James] toward the house of God doth not slack or go backward but is more and more kindled, manifesting itself abroad in the farthest parts of Christendom by writing a defence of the truth which hath given such a blow to that man of sin as will not be healed' " (page 330). You will find this in the "Dedicatory" in the front of your King James Bible. Later in the same "Dedicatory," the translators speak of "Popish Persons" on one hand and "Brethren" on the other hand. 

    Dave Hunt is a well-known futurist. He does believe that the Roman Catholic Church is the "whore" called Babylon in Revelation 17. However, being a futurist, he believes that the beasts of Revelation 13 and 17 are in the future, as are also the little horns of Daniel 7 and 8 and "the man of sin" of 2 Thessalonians 2. He believes the antichrist is probably alive now but will not be revealed until during "the tribulation" after "the rapture." With all these beliefs, he yet admits: 

    "Early Protestant creeds unanimously called the Pope Antichrist."  

    "It is only after the Russian Revolution that Christians began to view Communism as the Antichrist system. Yet for 400 years before 1917, Catholicism was so identified by Protestants" ("Global Peace and the Rise of Antichrist," pages 108, 136). 


    History shows that the early Christians understood that the antichrist would arise when Rome fell. History shows that they were right. History shows that when the Reformation came, preachers, politicians and the populace declared that the pope was "the man of sin," the antichrist. History shows that the vast majority of Bible believers continued in this conviction until recent times. History shows that modern evangelicals are preaching a new doctrine when they refuse to believe that the pope is "the man of sin."  

    To reject the pope of Rome as "the man of sin" is to forget those who were burned at the stake because they dared translate or even possess a Bible in any language but Latin! To deny that the pope is "the son of perdition" is to turn one's back on the thousands of martyrs whose bodies were twisted and wrenched by the "Holy" Inquisition. To deny that the Roman Church is "the falling away" (apostasy) is to minimize the gross perversion of sound doctrine that still emanates from the Vatican. 

    Among the hottest items in the religious marketplace today are the sensational books and videos about "the rapture," "the tribulation" and the "antichrist," which the producers openly advertise as fiction. Instead of prophecy-fiction, it would be a far more beneficial use of time, money and energy to produce historical documentaries on the church of the Middle Ages. Truth is stranger and more startling than fiction. Those who think that a mere seven years of tribulation in our future could possibly be worse than the realities of the Dark Ages need to brush the dust off their history books. 

    (Scripture in the preceding article is taken from the New King James Version. Copyright (c) 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.)