The Historical Interpretation
What Reformers Said About the Antichrist
Some might suppose that the interpretation we have given here concerning the Antichrist is of recent origin. Just the reverse is true. For centuries great Christian leaders and Reformers have held this position, as the evidence which we will now present abundantly shows.
We have seen that the early Christians believed that the Roman Empire under the Caesars would fall - the fall of which would bring on Antichrist. With the decline and fall of the Roman Empire came the rise of the Papacy. Though the picture did not become complete all at once, the passing of time has thoroughly demonstrated that the Papacy did become a persecuting power; did wear out the saints; did make blasphemous claims; did the things that the prophecies said the Antichrist would do. Those who understood the prophecies were not unaware of these things.
Froom says: "In the centuries just preceding the Reformation an ever-increasing number of pious persons began openly to express the conviction that the dire prophecies concerning the Antichrist were even then in the process of fulfilment. They felt that the "falling away" had already taken place. They declared that the Antichrist was already seated in the churchly temple of God, clothed in scarlet and purple" - the reference, of course, being to the Papacy. (Froom, 'The Prophetic Faith of our Fathers', vol.2, p.66).
Eberhard II, archbishop of Salzburg (1200-1246), for example, set forth the teaching that the little horn of Daniel 7 was the Pope, that the Pope was a wolf in shepherd's garb, the Antichrist, the son of perdition. He did not look into the future for the coming of an unidentified individual called the Antichrist. Instead, he looked back over the centuries since Rome's dismemberment and saw in the historical Papacy, a system, or succession; the fulfilment of the prophecies concerning the Antichrist. He was excommunicated by the Pope and died under the ban in 1246. (Ibid., vol.1, p.798).
John Foxe, noted writer of 'Foxe's Book of Martyrs', gives a list of learned men between 1331 and 1360 who contended against the false claims of the Pope. One of these, Michael of Cesena, who had numerous followers, not a few of whom were slain, declared the Pope "to be the Antichrist, and the church of Rome to be the whore of Babylon, drunk with the blood of the saints." (Foxe, 'Acts and Movements', p.445).
John Wyclif (sometimes spelled Wycliffe), noted English Reformer, taught that the persecuting
"little horn" of Daniel had found fulfilment in the Papacy which arose out of the fourth kingdom, Rome. "Why is it necessary in unbelief to look for another Antichrist?" he asked. "In the Seventh Chapter of Daniel, the Antichrist is forcefully described as a horn arising in the time of the fourth kingdom... wearing out the saints of the most high." (Froom, vol.2, p.445). His book, the 'Mirror of the Antichrist', is filled with references to the Pope as the Antichrist.
From the ministry of Wyclif sprang the English "Lollards" which numbered in the hundreds of thousands. We give their testimony in the words of one of them, Lord Cobham. When brought before King Henry V and admonished to submit to the Pope as an obedient child, Cobham replied: "As touching the Pope and his spirituality, I owe him neither suit nor service, forasmuch as I know him by the Scriptures to be the great Antichrist, the son of perdition." (Guinness, 'Romanism and the Reformation', p.134). This was a century before Luther.
Walter Brute, noted scholar, prophetic expositor, and associate of Wyclif, was accused in 1391 of oftentimes and commonly claiming that "the Pope is the Antichrist and a seducer of the people." (Foxe, Vol.1, p.543).
Sir John Oldcastle (1360-1417), famous Christian of Herefordshire, spoke of the Pope in these words: "I know him by the Scriptures to be the great Antichrist, the Son of perdition... Rome is the very nest of the Antichrist, and out of that nest come all the disciples of him." He was sentenced to death for naming the Antichrist. Though the sentence was not immediately carried out, in 1417 he was dragged to St. Giles, suspended in chains, and slowly burned to death as his voice ascended in praise to God. (Ibid., p.636-641).
John Huss (1369-1415), born in Bohemia, was a well educated man who came under the influence of Wyclif's writings which caused him to break with the church of Rome. He labelled the Pope as the Antichrist of which the Scriptures had warned. His writings constantly refer to the Antichrist as the enemy of the church - not as a Jew, a pagan, or a Turk - but as a false confessor of the name of Christ.
Pope Martin V issued a bull in 1418 in which he ordered the punishment of both men or women who held to the teachings of Wyclif and Huss. Sixty miles from Prague, on a steep mountain, the city of Tabor was built to which the "Hussites" could "flee from the Antichrist." ('The Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers', vol.2, p.121).
Huss himself was condemned as a heretic and delivered to the secular arm for execution. Accompanied by a guard of 1,000 armed men and a vast crowd of spectators, he was led through the churchyard where he saw a bonfire of his books in the public square. As he knelt and prayed, his hands were tied behind him and a rusty chain wound round his neck. Straw and wood were piled around him. The name Huss meant "goose" in the Bohemian tongue and at the place of execution Huss reportedly said: "This day ye are burning a goose; but from my ashes will arise a swan, which ye will not be able to roast" - an expression later quoted by Luther. "Huss began to sing," writes Froom, "but the wind swept the flames into his face and silenced his words. Only his lips moved - until they too were stilled in death for his stand against the Antichrist of Bible prophecy." (Ibid., p.116).
Martin Luther (1483-1546), while still a priest of the Romish church, disagreed with the practice of selling indulgences. At first, he sought reform within the church. But as he grew in the knowledge of Christ, he saw that reform would be impossible and that the message was to
"come out of her." Being loosened from the bondages of this system, he began to wonder if the Pope was the Antichrist. Eventually this belief became pronounced. His friends, fearing for his safety, begged him to suppress his book 'To the German Nobility'. To this he replied on August 18, 1520: "We here are of the conviction that the papacy is the seat of the true and real Antichrist... personally I declare that I owe the Pope no other obedience than that to the Antichrist." (Ibid., p.256). Two months later, in October 1520, Luther's book 'On the Babylonian Captivity of the Church' was published. In this he spoke of the Papacy (the system, not necessarily the individual Pope who then reigned) as "nothing else than the kingdom of Babylon and of the 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." (Luther, 'First Principles', pp.196-197).
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 he will oppose and exalt himself above all that is called God - that man of Sin, that Son of Perdition... he suppresses the Law of God and exalts his commandments above the commandments of God." (Froom, Vol.2, p.281).
To Luther, the scriptures did not portray the Antichrist as an infidel, or a super-politician, but as he that would rise within the Church realm; that is, "in the midst of Christendom." Concerning the man of sin, he pointed out that he "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." Further, he explains: "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 ye 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, 'Works', vol.2, p.385).
It is evident that Luther did not believe the Antichrist would be some lone individual at the end of time, for he said: "The Antichrist of whom Paul speaks now reigns in the court of Rome." Martin Luther understood that the Papacy was the Antichrist of prophecy! As the Encyclopaedia Britannica says, "These ideas became the dynamic force which drove Luther on in his contest with the Papacy." (Vol.2, p.61, Article: 'The Antichrist').
Among other leaders with Luther in the Reformation in Germany was Andreas Oslander (1498-1552), who also took a stand against the Roman Antichrist who spoke words against God and who had seated himself in God's temple. His concept of the Antichrist was not limited to one individual man. He believed it was the Papal ecclesiastical system which rose with the fall of Rome and would extend until the end time. He felt that the Papal contention, that the Antichrist was some future person, had caused people to look ahead for a fictitious Antichrist and thus overlook the real Antichrist at Rome, who had already exerted his influence for centuries. (Froom, 'The Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers', vol.2, pp.296-299).
Nicolaus von Amsdorf (1483-1565), a close friend and zealous co-worker of Luther, believed that the Antichrist was to rise within the church realm and that "the pope is the real, true Antichrist and not the vicar of Christ." (Ibid., p.305).
Philipp Melanchton (1497-1560), also associated with Luther, said: "Since, it is certain that the pontiffs and the monks have forbidden marriage (cf. 1 TIMOTHY 4:1-3), it is most manifest, and true without any doubt, that the Roman Pontiff, with his whole order and kingdom, is the very Antichrist... Likewise in 2 THESSALONIANS 2, Paul clearly says that the man of sin will rule in the church, exalting himself above the worship of God." (Ibid., p.288) etc.
Generally regarded as second only to Luther in influence is the eminent French reformer John Calvin (1509-1564). Originally a son of the Romish church, about 1532 he embraced the Protestant faith. His published works fill some fifty volumes. Concerning the Pope he said: "I deny him to be the vicar of Christ, who, infuriously persecuting the gospel, demonstrates by his conduct that he is the Antichrist - I deny him to be the successor of Peter... I deny him to be the head of the church." (Calvin, 'Tracts', Vol.1, pp.219-220).
In his classic 'Institutes' he wrote: "Some persons think us too severe and censorious when we call the Roman pontiff the Antichrist. But those who are of this opinion do not consider that they bring the same charge of presumption against Paul himself, after whom we speak and whose language we adopt... I shall briefly show that Paul's words in 2 THESSALONIANS 2 are not capable of any other interpretation than that which applies them to the Papacy." He then points out that the Antichrist was to conceal himself under the character of the church, "as under a mask", and shows how the Papacy has fulfilled the characteristics set forth by Paul.
John Knox (1505-1572), especially known for his Reformation work in Scotland, was persecuted from country to country until finally the affairs of Scotland were in Protestant hands. Knox preached that Romish traditions and ceremonies should be abolished as well as "that tyranny which the Pope himself has for so many ages exercised over the church" and that he should be acknowledged as "the very Antichrist, and son of perdition, of whom Paul speaks." (Knox, 'The Zurich Letters', p.199).
In public challenge, Knox said: "As for your Roman Church, as it is now corrupted... I no more doubt but that it is the Synagogue of Satan; and the Head thereof, called the Pope, to be that man of Sin of whom the Apostle speaketh."
John Napier (1550-1617), noted Scottish mathematician and adherent of the Protestant cause, wrote a commentary on Revelation which the Encyclopaedia Britannica refers to as the first important Scottish work on the interpretation of Scripture. He taught that the Antichrist was the Pope - and not a Turk, a Jew, or someone outside the church realm - for he "must sit, saith Paul, in the Church of God." (Froom, 'The Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers', vol.2, p.461).
Huldreich Zwingli (1484-1531) was a prominent figure in the work of the Reformation that broke out in Switzerland. On December 28, 1524, he very wisely pointed out that the Papacy was evil, but that it must be overthrown by the preaching of the Word in love and never by hatred. In reference to the Papacy, he said: "I know that in it works the might and power of the devil, that is, of the Antichrist... the Papacy has to be abolished... But by no other means can it be more thoroughly routed than by the Word of God (2 THESSALONIANS 2), because as soon as the world receives this in the right way, it will turn away from the Pope without compulsion." ('Principal Works of Zwingli', Vol.7, p.461).
Heinrich Bullinger (1504-1575), friend of Zwingli, is regarded as one of the greatest prophetic expositors of the time. He explained that the kingdom of the Popes rose up among the divisions of Rome, and that the Pope is the Antichrist because he usurps the keys of Christ and his kingly and priestly authority. (Froom, vol.2, p.343).
Theodor Bibliander (1504-1564), called the "Father of Biblical Exegesis in Switzerland", a noted translator and Bible scholar, declared that the Papacy is the Antichrist predicted in 2 THESSALONIANS 2. (Bibliander, 'Relatio Fidells', p.58).
Alfonsus Conradus who fled from Italy to Switzerland because of his religious convictions, wrote a large commentary in 1560 on the book of Revelation in which he taught that the Roman Papacy is the Antichrist. He said it was useless to wait for the coming of the Antichrist in the future, for he had already been revealed in the Papacy. (Froom, vol.2, p.319).
William Tyndale (1485-1536), first translator of the Bible from Greek to English, Reformer and martyr, held that the Romish church was Babylon and that the Pope was the man of sin or the Antichrist, seated in the temple of God, i.e. the Church (Ibid., p.356). Repeatedly he cited 2 THESSALONIANS 2 in this connection.
Nicholas Ridley (1500-1555), a famed English martyr, and man of great learning, memorised most of the epistles in Greek and wrote numerous works. He spoke out on the deceptions of Romanism and that "the head, under satan, of all mischief is the Antichrist and his brood."
Before his martyrdom on October 16, 1555, Ridley wrote a farewell in which he said good-bye to his wife, brothers, sisters, and friends. He gave a review of his faith and spoke of how the Papacy had developed over the centuries. He spoke of Rome as "the seat of satan; and the bishop of the same, that maintaineth the abominations thereof, is the Antichrist himself indeed." (Letters of Bishop Ridley, letter 32).
A friend of Ridley, John Bradford (1510-1555), a noted preacher, was also martyred for his Protestant stand. On June 30, 1555, he was taken from prison late at night, all the prisoners tearfully bidding him farewell. As he passed along, great crowds were waiting, many weeping and praying for him.
Standing by the stake where he would be killed, he raised both hands and called England to repentance. He wrote a farewell in which he declared that he was condemned "for not acknowledging the Antichrist of Rome to be Christ's vicar - general and supreme head of the Catholic and universal church." He spoke of the Papacy as being "undoubtedly that great Antichrist, of whom the apostles do so much admonish us." (Froom. vol.2, p.377).
John Hooper (1495-1555) was one of the first arrested for his Protestant faith when Mary came to the throne in England. He was condemned because he would not accept the "wicked papistical religion of the bishop of Rome." As a throng of 7,000 gathered - many of them weeping - Hooper was bound to a stake and slowly burned while he prayed. He believed that the so-called Vicar of Christ was really the great and principal enemy of Christ, that in him were found the very properties of the Antichrist, and that these things were openly known to all men that were not blinded with the smoke of Rome. (Ibid., pp.381-382).
Hugh Latimer (1490-1555) was won to the Protestant faith and became a fervent preacher with no time for hypocrisy or tyranny. In commenting on the words of Paul in 2 THESSALONIANS 2, he said in 1552: "The Lord will not come till 'the swerving from faith cometh': which thing is already done and past." The falling away was not some future thing to Latimer. Nor was the man of sin an individual yet to come, for speaking of his day, Latimer said: "The Antichrist is known throughout all the world." (Ibid., p.371).
Thomas Cranmer (1489-1556), writing in 1550 said of the Papacy: "I know how the Antichrist hath obscured the glory of God, and the true knowledge of His Word, overcasting the same with mists and clouds of error and ignorance through false glosses and interpretation...
The Antichrist of Rome... hath extolled himself above his fellow bishops, as God's vicar, yea, rather as God Himself; and taketh upon him authority over kings and emperors, and sitteth in the temple of God, that is, in the consciences of men, and causeth his decrees to be more regarded than God's laws; yea, and for money he dispenseth with God's laws, and all other, giving men license to break them." (Cranmer, 'Works', vol.1, pp.6-7).
After quoting from the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation, he says: "Whereof it followeth Rome to be the seat of the Antichrist, and the Pope to be the very Antichrist himself. I could prove the same by many other scriptures, old writers and strong reasons." (Ibid., pp.62-63).
Cranmer was martyred for this Protestant faith. In his dying testimony he said: "And as for the Pope, I refuse him as Christ's enemy and the Antichrist, with all his false doctrine." He was then led to the fire, said a few more words, and finally the flames left him a blackened corpse.
Thomas Becon (1511-1567), author of numerous books on Popery, wrote: "We desire of our heavenly Father, that the Antichrist with his kingdom, which hath seduced, and daily doth seduce... may shortly be slain and brought unto confusion 'with the breath of the Lord's mouth'...that 'that sinful man, the son of perdition, which is an adversary, and is exalted above all that is called God, or that is worshipped' may no longer 'sit in the temple of god, boasting himself to be God'." (Froom, vol.2, p.403).
One of the great intellectuals of the English reformation was John Jewel (1522-1571). He listed some of the misconceptions held by the Roman Catholic church as to the Antichrist: that he would be a Jew of the tribe of Dan, born in Babylonia or Syria, or be Mohammed, or that he would overthrow Rome or rebuild Jerusalem, etc. Then he commented: "These tales have been craftily devised to beguile our eyes, that, whilst we think upon these guises, and so occupy ourselves in beholding a shadow or probable conjecture of the Antichrist, he which is the Antichrist indeed may unawares deceive us." He was referring to the Papacy.
He then mentions that if we took the term "man of sin" by itself, we might suppose that an individual man is meant. But taking all of the evidence into consideration, we understand that a succession of men is the proper meaning. He pointed out that pagan Rome was the hindering power that prevented the development of the Antichrist and that "Paul saith, the Antichrist shall not come yet; for the emperor letteth him: the emperor shall be removed; and then shall the Antichrist come." This system of apostasy shall continue until it is destroyed at the Lord's coming. "He meaneth not, therefore, that the Antichrist shall be any one man only, but one estate or kingdom of men, and a continuance of some one power and tyranny in the church." (Jewel, 'An Exposition Upon the Two Epistles to the Thessalonians', vol.2, p.813).
Jewel mentioned some of the Papal claims: that the Pope is lord over all the world, king of kings, and that every knee should bow to him; that his authority reaches into heaven and down into hell; that he can command the angels of God; that he can forgive sins, etc. "This is the Antichrist. This is his power. Thus shall he work and make himself manifest. So shall he sit in the temple of God - as though to take God's place."
Twenty-two of the sermons of Edwin Sandys (1519-1588) have been preserved to our day. In his sermon on ISAIAH 55:1:
"Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters... come ye, buy... without money and without price", he contrasted this invitation with that of the Papal Antichrist who requires money for his blessing: "He that sitteth in the temple of God, and termeth himself Christ's vicar, doth in like sort offer unto the people bread, water, wine, milk, pardon of sins, grace, mercy, and eternal life; but not freely: he is a merchant, he giveth nothing, and that is nothing which he selleth... his holy water cannot wash away the spots... his blasphemous masses do not appease, but provoke God's wrath... his rotten relics cannot comfort you... by his Latin service ye cannot be edified, or made wiser. Yet this trumpery they sell for money, and upon this trash they cause silly men to waste their substance... Thus you see a manifest difference between Christ and the Antichrist." ('The Sermons of Edwin Sandys', pp.11-12).
William Fluke (1538-1589), an English puritan, pointed to Rome as the seat of the Antichrist (which was taken after the seat of the civil empire was removed) and that the Antichrist was a succession of men, not a single individual. By looking at Rome, he says, "It is easy to find the person by St. Paul's description; and this note especially, that excludeth the heathen tyrants,
'He shall sit in the temple of God': which we see to be fulfilled in the Pope... the Pope is that
'Man of Sin', and
'Son of Perdition', the adversary that lifteth up himself
'above all that is called God'; and shall be destroyed
'by the glory of his coming'."
In 1611, what is known as the "King James Version" of the Bible was issued and has ever since been in wide circulation and use. The translators, men of learning and with a knowledge of history, recognised that the Papacy was the man of sin and that the open publication of scriptural truth was dealing a great blow to him. Thus they wrote in their dedication to King James: "...The zeal of your majesty 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." It is evident that these men did not think the man of sin was an individual to be revealed at some future time!
King James (1566-1625) himself believed that following the removal of the Roman emperors, the reign of the Antichrist began. This was, of course, a reference to the rise of the Papacy which he believed to be the Antichrist and Mystery of Iniquity. (Froom, vol.2, pp.540-541).
Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727) is well known in history because of his scientific research, especially in connection with the laws of gravitation. He was a writer, mathematician, philosopher, and also a student of Bible prophecy! His writings on prophecy - from a study of 42 years - entitled 'Observations Upon the Prophecies of Daniel and the Apocalypse of St. John' was published six years after his death. Newton linked the little horn of Daniel 7 with the Papacy, rising among the ten kingdoms into which the Roman empire fell. "But it was a kingdom of a different kind from the other ten kingdoms... By its eyes it was a Seer; and by its mouth speaking great things and changing times and laws, it was a Prophet as well as a King. And such a Seer, a Prophet and a King, is the church of Rome. A Seer... is a Bishop in the literal sense of the word; and this Church claims the universal Bishopric. With his mouth he gives laws to kings and nations as an Oracle; and pretends to Infallibility, and that his dictates are binding to the whole world; which is to be a Prophet in the highest degree." (Newton, 'Observations on the Prophecies', p.75).
Johann Albrecht Bengel (1687-1725), "early became convinced that the Pope was the predicted Antichrist." Through his books which were translated into many languages, he had a strong influence upon a number of people, including Wesley.
John Wesley (1703-1791), founder of Methodism, whose ministry has affected the lives of multiplied thousands, believed the man of sin had found fulfilment in the "Romish Papacy." (Wesley, 'Explanatory Notes Upon the New Testament', pp.290).
In 1754, Wesley wrote these words concerning the Papacy: "He is in an emphatical sense, the Man of Sin, as he increases all manner of sin above measure. And he is, too, properly styled the Son of Perdition, as he has caused the death of numberless multitudes, both of his opposers and followers... He it is... that exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped... claiming the highest power, and highest honour... claiming the prerogatives which belong to God alone." (quoted in the 'Antichrist and His Ten Kingdoms', p.110).
Froom sums up the evidence in these words: "We have seen the remarkable unanimity of belief of Reformation leaders in every land that the Antichrist of prophecy is not to be a single individual - some sort of superman - who will wrack and well-nigh wreck the world just before the second advent of Christ. Instead, they found that it was a vast system of apostasy, or rather, an imposing counterfeit of truth which had developed within the jurisdiction of that divinely appointed custodian of truth, the Christian Church." (Froom, vol.2, p.793).
A number of notable books on the Papal Antichrist were written during the centuries that followed the Reformation. We will mention two: 'Roman Antichrist', written in 1612 by Andreas Helwig of Berlin (the first according to Froom, as well as Elliott, to link the number 666 with the Papal designation "Vicarius Filii Dei") and 'Dissertations on the Prophecies', written by Thomas Newton in 1748, which showed that the prophecy of the man of sin had found fulfilment in the Roman Papacy.
This same point was emphasised in the Protestant Creeds. The 'Westminster Confession of Faith' used by the Church of England and later by the Presbyterian Church says: "There is no other Head of the Church but the Lord Jesus Christ, nor can the Pope of Rome, in any sense, be head thereof, but is that Antichrist, that man of sin, and Son of Perdition, that exalteth himself in the Church, against Christ and all that is called God." (Chapter 25, Section 6). This same basic statement, with difference only in wording, is found in the 'Savoy Declaration' of the Congregational Church, the 'Baptist Confession' of 1689, and in the 'Philadelphia Confession of Faith'.
The 'Morland Confession' of 1508 and 1535 (which represented the beliefs of the Waldensian Brethren) says in article 8: "That the Antichrist, that man of sin, doth sit in the Temple of God, that is, in the Church, of whom the Prophets, and Christ and His Apostles foretold, admonishing all the godly, to beware of him and his errors, and not suffer themselves to be drawn aside from the Truth."
The Reformation work in Switzerland produced the 'Helvetic Confession' in 1536 in which the Papacy is mentioned as the predicted Antichrist. The Lutheran Statement contained in the 'Smalcald Articles' says: "The Pope is the very Antichrist, who exalteth himself above, and opposeth himself against Christ, because he will not permit Christians to be saved without his power, which, nevertheless, is nothing, and is neither ordained nor commanded by God..." These Creeds represented the belief of multiplied thousands.
As churches were established in America, it was this same view concerning the Papacy that was held. In 1680 the churches of New England drew up a Confession of faith which stated that Jesus Christ is the head of the church and not the Pope of Rome who is indeed the Antichrist and the Son of Perdition. "This", writes Froom, "was the commonly accepted American position." (Ibid. vol.3, p.111). As Samuel Lee (1625-1691), a learned minister of New Bristol, Rhode Island, said: "It is agreed among all maintainers of the Evangelical Church that the Roman Pontiff is the Antichrist." (Lee, 'The Cutting Off of the Antichrist', p.1).
John Cotton (1584-1652), a Puritan minister of Plymouth and Boston, taught that REVELATION 13 was a picture of the Papacy. Cotton is regarded as America's first prophetic expositor. Roger Williams (1603-1683), founder of Rhode Island and pastor of the first Baptist church in America, likewise, spoke of the Pope as "the pretended Vicar of Christ on earth, who sits as God over the Temple of God, exalting himself not only above all that is called God, but over the souls and consciences of all his vassals, yea over the Spirit of Christ, over the Holy Spirit, yea, and God himself... speaking against the God of heaven, thinking to change times and laws: but he is the son of perdition (2 THESSALONIANS 2)." (Froom, vol.3, p.52).
Cotton Mather (1663-1728), a Congregational theologian, in his book 'Fall of Babylon' asked the question: "Is the Pope of Rome to be looked upon as the Antichrist, whose coming and reigning was foretold in the ancient oracles?" To this he answered: "The oracles of God foretold the rising of an Antichrist in the Christian Church; and in the Pope of Rome, all the characteristics of that Antichrist are so marvellously answered that if any who read the Scriptures do not see it, there is a marvellous blindness upon them." (Ibid., vol.3, p.113).
Samuel Cooper (1725-1783), while delivering a series of lectures at Harvard, said: "If the Antichrist is not to be found in the chair of St. Peter, he is nowhere to be found." He believed the Antichrist was the succession of bishops in Rome. (Cooper, 'A Discourse on the Man of Sin', p.12).
Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758), a famous revivalist and third president of Princeton, identified the "Pope and his clergy" as the power prophesied in 2 THESSALONIANS, DANIEL 7 and REVELATION 13, and 17. His grandson, Timothy Dwight (1752-1817), also a minister, spoke of how the Popes "have seated themselves in the Church, or temple of God, and shewed that they were God, by assuming powers, which belong only to God: the powers, for instance, of making laws to bind the consciences of men; or pardoning sin; of forming religious establishments; of introducing new laws for the conduct and government of the church... thus have they exalted themselves above all that is called God, or that is worshipped." (Dwight, 'A Sermon Preached at Northampton', p.27).
After many pages of carefully documented proof for his statement, Froom concludes: "The futurist view of an individual ... The Antichrist, was unknown among the Protestants of North America prior to the nineteenth century"! (Froom, vol.3, p.257).
If then, over the centuries the great Christian leaders and reformers believed and taught that the prophecies of the Anti-Christ had found their fulfilment in the Papacy, what has caused this truth to be so greatly obscured in our time? Obviously, somewhere, somehow, something happened! We know where. We know when. We know why. It is this evidence we will notice in the chapter that follows..