Posted by: St. Mark Lutheran Church | October 3, 2012

The Antichrist

The Holy Spirit does an exemplary job warning the Church about danger.  Throughout Old and New Testaments the Spirit waves red flags so that the Church is without excuse.  “Be self-controlled and alert,” Peter writes.  “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).  “Watch out for false prophets,” Jesus preaches.  “They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves” (Matthew 7:15).  Jesus again, “Be on your guard against men” (Matt. 10:17).  Here, and elsewhere, God identifies threats against the Body of Christ.  The devil.  False prophets.  Men.  The Spirit features these same enemies in His revelation of “what must soon take place” (Revelation 1:1).

Just one of those enemies concerns us in this brief essay:  false prophets.  Not just any false prophet, but THE false prophet (Rev. 16:13, 19:20, 20:10).  He goes by other names:  “the little horn” (Daniel 7:7-8, 11, 19-28), “the king” who “will do as he pleases” (Dan. 11:36), the “man of lawlessness” (or sin; 2 Thessalonians 2:3), “the deceiver” (2 John 7), the “beast…coming out of the earth” (Rev. 13:11), “the great prostitute” (Rev. 17:1), “Babylon the Great, the mother of prostitutes and of the abominations of the earth” (Rev. 17:5).  He may also be the first horseman of the apocalypse, the white rider bent on conquest (Rev. 6:1-2).  Finally, we come to the name by which he is most famously known: Antichrist (1 John 2:18).

Though there have been, are, and will be a multitude of lawless false prophets (cf. Matthew 24, 2 Peter 2-3), and even many antichrists (1 John 2:18), Scripture says that all this lawless, antichristian harlotry culminates in one place.  “The antichrist is coming” (1 John 2:18).  The “man of lawlessness will be revealed” (2 Thess. 2:3).  There will be a little horn that speaks boastfully and wages war against the saints (Dan. 7:20-21).  A king will come and “do as he pleases” (Dan. 11:36).  Until he is stopped.  “He will come to his end, and no one will help him” (Dan. 11:45).  “The Lord Jesus will overthrow [him] with the breath of his mouth and destroy [him] by the splendor of his coming” (2 Thess. 2:8).  The Antichrist will be ruined and left naked, flesh eaten and burned by erstwhile allies (Rev. 17:16).  He will be “thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur” (Rev. 18:20).

The confessional documents of the Lutheran church identify this lawless one, this great Antichrist, in the Papacy of the Roman Catholic Church.  Basing their identification on the words and actions of the so-called successors of Peter, our church confesses that “it is necessary to oppose him as the Antichrist” (Treatise, 57) and that “the pope is the true Endchrist or Antichrist” (Smalcald Articles II:IV:8).

Many agree that the Reformation “revealed” (2 Thess. 2:7) the Papacy as the lawless one, Satan’s tool and ally (Rev. 12-13).  While it’s clear from history that this revealing only “ended” at the Reformation (for a couple centuries before Luther, various groups and individuals had been identifying individual popes and the papacy as the Antichrist), what must be equally clear is that the Reformation only revealed the Antichrist.  It did not remove him.  He has not been cast aside now that we know who he is.  He is not a bit player or harmless crank.  The Antichrist still rides bent on conquest (Rev. 6:1), masquerades as the Lamb (Rev. 13:11), and tries to ride the world for his own benefit to the destruction of the saints (Rev. 17:1-6).

But this message is muted today.

This essay, “Removed, not revealed” can be found, along with many others, at the “Theological Papers” page of this website.
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