The time of Antichrist
"Hail Mary, full of grace. Our Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen."
Published April 7, 2018
Not only the seat, but the time of Antichrist is foretold in the word of God. True, there are several events which strongly indicate the rise of this power, and which have therefore occasioned a variety of opinions among the learned, as to the precise epoch of its commencement. Like the various edicts, however, of the Persian kings, from which the seventy weeks of Daniel have been calculated, these events are, for the most part, so near to each other, as to leave but little, if any doubt, as to the proper application of the prophecies. Those portions of Scripture which most clearly designate the rise of Antichrist, are the following.
“I considered the horns,” says Daniel, “and behold, there came up among them another little horn, before whom there were three of the first horns plucked up by the roots.” Daniel 7:8.
In explaining the vision to the prophet, the angel said: “The fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon earth. And the ten horns out of this kingdom, are ten kings that shall arise; and another shall arise after them; and he shall be diverse from the first; and he shall subdue three kingdoms.” Daniel 7:24.
The Apostle Paul also says concerning the same power, “And now ye know what withholdeth, that he might be revealed in his time. Only he who now letteth will let, till he be taken out of the way. And then shall that wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall, consume with the spirit of his mouth; and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming.” Thessalonians 2:6-8.
In explaining the symbol of the scarlet-colored beast on which the woman was sitting, the angel said to John: “The beast that thou sawest was, and is not, and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition. The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sitteth. And these are seven kings, five are fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come and when he cometh, he must continue a short space. And the beast that was and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven; and goeth into perdition. And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but received power as kings one hour with the beast. These have one mind and shall give their power and strength unto the beast. For God hath put in their hearts to fulfill his will, and to agree, and give their kingdom unto the beast until the words of God shall be fulfilled.” Revelation 17.
The following passage is also believed by some writers on prophecy to mark more definitely than any of the preceding, the precise period of the rise of Antichrist.
“And they (the saints) shall be given unto his hand, until a time, times and the dividing of time.” Daniel 7:25.
That the eleventh, or little horn of Daniel, the wicked power, or man of sin of Paul, and the eighth king or the beast of John, all refer to the same thing, is generally conceded by commentators, and must appear evident to any one who carefully considers these prophetic symbols. Daniel’s little horn arose among the ten horns upon the head of the fourth beast, the symbol of the Roman empire. Paul’s man of sin was to arise when that empire ceased to “let;” or, when “it was taken out of the way.” And John’s eighth king or beast, was that peculiar power which should succeed the seventh form of government at Rome. As, therefore, the little horn, the man of sin, and the eighth king, were all predicted to arise about the same time; as they were all to succeed imperial Rome, and as similar characteristics are ascribed to them all, they must mean the same thing.
But there is another reason for this conclusion, equally strong. Each of these symbols denoted a power, which was to continue the same length of time. The little horn of Daniel was to continue until “the judgment was set, and his dominion was taken away to be consumed and destroyed to the end.” Daniel 7:26.
The man of sin was to exist until he should become the son of perdition, that is, until he should be
“consumed by the Lord, and destroyed by the brightness of his coming.” 2 Thessalonians 2:8.
And the eighth king, or the beast of John, was that which was to tyrannize “until the words of God should be fulfilled;” that is, until the twelve hundred and sixty years, so often alluded to, should end; and then it was to “go into perdition.” Revelation 17. The “little horn,” therefore, “the man of sin,” and “the beast,” were not only to begin, but they were to end at the same time; viz. at some future coming of Christ. This also proves that they are the same.
As this is a point of some importance in our future calculations, it will not be amiss to introduce here the testimony of two of the ancient fathers. Irenaeus says: “Daniel, respecting the end of the last kingdom, that is, the last ten kings, among whom that kingdom should be divided, upon whom the son of perdition shall come, saith, that ten horns shall grow on the beast, and another little horn shall grow up among them, and three of the first horns shall be rooted out before him.” Of whom also, Paul the Apostle speaketh in his second Epistle to the Thessalonians, calling him the son of perdition, and ‘the wicked one.’ St. John, our Lord’s disciple, hath in the Apocalypse still more plainly signified of the last time, and of these ten kings, among whom the empire that now reigneth shall be divided; explaining what the ten horns shall be which were seen by Daniel.”
The following is the statement of Cyril of Jerusalem in the fourth century: “The first kingdom that was made famous was the kingdom of the Assyrians: and the second was that of the Medes and Persians together; and after these the third was that of the Macedonians; and the fourth kingdom is now that of the Romans. Afterwards, Gabriel interpreting, saith, Its ten horns are ten kings that shall arise; and after them shall arise another king, who shall exceed in wickedness all before him: not only the ten, he saith, but all who were before him. And he shall depress three kings. But it is manifest that of the first ten he shall depress three, that he himself might reign the eighth.” These quotations will show that the interpretation above given is neither modern nor protestant, but ancient and patristic.
Admitting, then, that these various symbols designate the same power, there are several strong marks furnished in these prophecies for ascertaining the period when that power should arise.
1. The first of these is, the dissolution of the western Roman empire. The propriety of restricting these prophecies to the western empire will appear from the following judicious remarks of Sir Isaac Newton: “All the four beasts are still alive, though the dominion of the three first be taken away. The nations of Chaldea and Assyria are still the first beast. Those of Media and Persia are still the second beast. Those of Macedon, Greece, and Thrace, Asia Minor, Syria, and Egypt, are still the third. And those of Europe on this side Greece, are still the fourth. As therefore the prophecies refer to the fourth, and not to the other three beasts, our business is with the Latin and not with the Greek empire. Now it was some time after this Latin or western empire was subverted, that the man of sin, according to Paul, was to make his appearance. When he that was then letting (katecwn) should be taken out of the way, “then shall that wicked be revealed.”
The western empire was overthrown by those northern barbarians, whose ravages are so significantly exhibited in the 8th chapter of the Apocalypse, under the sounding of the first four trumpets. Alaric and his Goths besieged and plundered Rome about the year 410. Attila and his Huns devastated a great part of the empire and invaded Italy about the year 452. In 455, Genseric, king of the Vandals, not only captured but pillaged Roam, for the space of fourteen days. And about the year 476, Odoacer, king of the Ostrogoths, terminated the imperial authority at Rome, by the conquest of the city, and the banishment of Augustulus to the castle of Lucullus, on an annuity of six thousand pieces of gold.4 Now it was, that “the third part of the Roman sun was smitten, and the third part of the moon, and the third part of the stars.” Revelation 8:12. Antichrist then, according to Paul, was not to arise till some time after the year 476 or 479, as the event above alluded to is differently estimated.
2. A second epoch, furnished us in the prophecy, is the time when the western empire was succeeded by ten new kingdoms. The beast had ten horns, and these horns were the symbols of ten kingdoms. Antichrist, however, was not to arise at the same time precisely with these kingdoms, but shortly afterwards “and another shall arise after them.” The following is a list of these ten European kingdoms, given by Bishop Lloyd, together with the dates of each: Huns, about 356; Ostrogoths, 377; Visigoths, 378; Franks, 407; Vandals, 407; Sueves and Alans, 407; Burgundians, 407; Herules and Rugians, 476; Saxons, 476; Lombards in Hungary, 526; in Germany, 483.”5 According to these calculations, the rise of Antichrist cannot precede the year 483 or 526.
3. Another mark by which the time of Antichrist is designated, is when Rome should be under its eighth form of government. “And there are seven kings: five are fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come, and when he cometh, he must continue a short space. And the beast that was and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven, and goeth into perdition.”
The expression here used, “the beast that was and is not” is thus interpreted by Bishop Newton: “A beast in a prophetic style is a tyrannical idolatrous empire. The Roman empire was idolatrous under the heathen emperors; it then ceased to be so for some time under the Christian emperors; it then became idolatrous again under the Roman pontiffs, and so hath continued ever since.” The beast then “that was and is not,” denotes Rome imperial in its three successive conditions of Rome pagan, Rome Christian, and Rome papal. Rome papal is that which the angel terms the eighth, and which he says, “is of the seven” — ek twn eJpta asti. This last expression is rendered by Doddridge thus, “he ariseth out of the remainders of this people.” The correct interpretation, however, seems to be, that he is to succeed the seven in a regular line; he is to arise from them. But where shall we find the eight successive Roman sovereignties, referred to by the Apostle? According to most commentators, in the kings, consuls, dictators, decemvirs, military tribunes, emperors,7 exarchs, and popes, by which Rome has been governed. Rome was originally governed by kings for more than two hundred years. It was then under the control of consuls, dictators, decemvirs, and military tribunes, about the space of five hundred and thirty years. The reign of the emperors lasted about five hundred, and that of the exarchs about two hundred. There are some writers, who prefer to substitute the Italian Gothic kingdom, which lasted over sixty years, in the place of the exarchate; considering the latter as the instrument merely of the sixth or imperial government. It is quite certain, however, from history, that the Pope did not begin to exercise political power, until the overthrow its Italy of the exarchate.
This event occurred under very peculiar circumstances. The emperor Leo the Third, usually termed the iconoclast, had ordered all sacred images and figures to be removed from Christian churches. Gregory the second, who then filled the papal chair, wrote him a letter of severe remonstrance. Among other things, we find the following sentiments in this papal epistle. Advocating the use of pictures and images, he says, “The idols of antiquity were the fanciful representations of phantoms or demons, at a time, when the true God had not manifested his person, in any visible likeness. The latter are the genuine forms of Christ, his mother and his saints, who have approved, by a crowd of miracles, the innocence and merit of this relative worship.” In censuring Leo for rebelling against papal authority, he says: “Are you ignorant that the popes are the bond of union, the mediators of peace between the east and the west? The eyes of the nations are fixed upon our humility, and they revere as a God upon earth the Apostle St. Peter, whose image you threaten to destroy. The remote and interior regions of the west present their homage to Christ and his vicegerent. Abandon your rash and fatal enterprise, reflect, tremble, repent. If you persist, we are innocent of the blood that will be spilt in the contest, may it fall on your own head.”
Matters soon came to a crisis. By the counsel and authority of Gregory, the Exarchate was armed against the emperor; the exarch who espoused the cause of Leo, was killed by popular fury. A battle was soon fought between the army of the emperor and that of the pope. The latter was victorious. “The strangers,” says Gibbon, “retreated to their ships; but the populous sea-coast poured forth a multitude of boats; the waters of the Po were so deeply infected with blood, that during six years the public prejudice abstained from the fish of the river; and the institution of an annual feast perpetuated the worship of images, and the abhorrence of the Greek tyrant. Amidst the triumph of the catholic arms, the Roman pontiff Gregory III., convened a synod of ninety-three bishops against the heresy of the iconoclasts. With their consent, he pronounced a general excommunication against all, who by word or deed, should attack the traditions of the fathers, and the images of the saints.”
Surely here are events, which seem almost precisely to fulfill the predictions of John. A Roman bishop, not only reprimanding an emperor, and acknowledging, that he receives through St. Peter, coordinately with Christ, the homage of the nations; not only considering himself as the bond of union between the east and the west but actually arming his subjects for battle, fighting, conquering! And for what? To establish the worship of images! To declare as heretics, all who should renounce such worship! Does not this look like the literal revival of the sixth or idolatrous beast? Does it not occur, too, at the proper period? The seven preceding administrations had all passed away. The imperial arm was broken; the exarchate subverted. Surely then, this was the time, this the occasion for the rise of the eighth Roman power, or “the beast.”
The author above quoted, gives the following account of the new organization, which
succeeded the Exarchate. “By the necessity of their situation, the inhabitants of Rome were cast into the rough model of a republican government: they were compelled to elect some judges in peace and some leaders in war. The style of the Roman senate and people was revived, but the spirit was fled. The want of laws could only be supplied by the influence of religion, and their foreign and domestic counsels were moderated by the authority of the bishop. His alms, his sermons, his correspondence with the kings and prelates of the west, his recent services, their gratitude and oath, accustomed the Romans to consider him as the first magistrate or prince of the city. The Christian humility of the popes too, was not offended by the name of Dominus, or Lord; and their face and inscription are still apparent on the most ancient coins.”
The termination of the Exarchate and the establishment of political power in the hands of the Popes, occurred about the year 730. True, the exercise of such power was disturbed by the Lombards, their former allies. The interference however, of the French kings soon subdued these troublesome neighbors, and secured the popes in the privileges, which by rebellion and war, they had obtained.
4. A fourth sign of the rise of Antichrist is, the subjugation or rooting up of three of the ten kingdoms, in the midst of which he was to arise — “before whom there were three of the first horns plucked up by the roots.” The following extract from Professor Gaussen, will sufficiently illustrate this point. “Take now,” says he, “the map of Italy, and look for the dominions of the Pope; and see of how many of the ten first kingdoms, the pontifical territory occupies the site at this day. You will see that it has supplanted these three; the Herules, the Ostrogoths, and the Lombards. And go to Rome itself, and see the Pontiff on the banks of the Tyber in all his sovereign pomp, trampling under foot the ashes of Romulus in the Basilica of St. Peter’s, or in his own palace of the Vatican. You will see on his brow that Babylonish tiara, surmounted by the three crowns of the three horns, “plucked up by the roots before him;” those of Odoacer, Theodoric, and of Alboin, he the only king in the world who wears this prophetic headdress.”
These three kingdoms virtually fell into the hands of the Pope, when the Exarchate was wrested from the eastern emperor. The northern portion of this Exarchate however, being invaded by the Lombards, a fit occasion was furnished, for the interposition of some foreign prince. This prince was Pepin, king of the French. The Pope had confirmed a doubtful sovereignty on Pepin and his descendants. To reward him for this service, as well as to atone for his personal sins, the son of Martel invaded Lombardy, and compelled Astolphus to transfer his territory to the occupant of the chair of St. Peter. This event occurred in the year 754. “The Pontiff,” says Daunou, “Stephen II., enters France, and there as minister of the Greek emperor, gives in 753 to Pepin and to his sons the title of Roman Patrician, which Charles Martel had borne before him; and receives, it is said, in exchange, the gift of the provinces which Astolphus occupied and which the Emperor claimed. In 754, Pepin crossed the Alps, besieged Pavia, and forced Astolphus, to promise the restoration of the Exarchate and the Pentapolis, not to the emperor of Constantinople, but to St. Peter, to the church, and the Roman republic.” Gibbon speaks of this grant in the following language: — “The splendid donation was granted in supreme and absolute dominion; and the world beheld for the first time a Christian bishop invested with the prerogatives of a temporal prince; the choice of magistrates, the exercise of justice, the imposition of taxes, and the wealth of the palace of Ravenna.”
It is wonderful how ingeniously, and how gradually the successor of St. Peter became possessed of his temporal estates and influence. When the Exarchate fell, deference was still paid to the eastern emperor; the new government, too, was made to assume a sort of republican aspect, and was controlled at first only indirectly by the Pope. Even after the grant, too, of the French kings, those kings held the title of Patricians of Rome! “Such a course” says Daunou, “was in fact a method of entering furtively into the number of independent states, and of attenuating more and more the thread by which the Popes were connected with the Byzantine empire.
Commonly the Pope did not fill the first magistracy of this republic. He abandoned the insignia of power to a prefect, a duke, or to a patrician; and prepared himself to substantiate soon, for undecisive forms, a definite and pontifical form of government.” This mode of obtaining political power, is what some understand by the little horn’s rising “after,” that is behind, or unobserved by, the other ten kingdoms.
5. A fifth sign of the rise of Antichrist is, the deliverance into his hand of the saints of the Most High. “And they shall be given into his hand, until a time, times and the dividing of time.” “For God hath put in their hearts to fulfill his will, and to agree, and give their kingdom unto the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled.”
There are two methods in which the saints may be delivered into the hand of Antichrist. The one is, by constituting him the sole head of the church; the other is, by subjecting political governments to his will, so that they shall execute the anathemas which he from time to time may pronounce. In both of these ways have the people of God been delivered into the hand of the Papacy. The time when the Pope was constituted the sole head of the church, has, by many, been computed from the edict of the emperor Phocas in 606. The following is the statement of Baronius on that subject. “Hinc igitur, anne Christi 606, in Cyriacum Phocas exacerbatus in ejus odium imperiali edicto sancivito nomen universalis decere Romanam tantummodo ecclesiam, tanquam quae caput esset omnium ecclesiarum; solique convenire Pontifici.” “Hence therefore, in the year 606, Phocas provoked with Cyriacus, through hatred to him confirmed by an imperial edict, that the name universal became the Roman church only, as that which was the head of all the churches; and could only be properly ascribed to the Pontiff.”
Hallam, in a note appended to his Middle Ages, for several reasons which he specifies, gives it as his opinion, that too much importance has been ascribed by many writers to this testimony of Baronius. He believes, that the edict of Valentinian III. in 455, can be better authenticated, and is more to the point than this of Phocas. It may, however, be questioned, whether either Phocas, or Valentinian, or any other emperor, had either the right or the power to deliver the saints into the hands of the Papacy. Though joined to the state, still the church had, even in those ages, much power of her own. Such, too, was the influence of bishops and of ecclesiastical institutions, that we doubt, whether the will of any one emperor could have brought the church into absolute subjection. Nor could the edict of one emperor be perpetual: it might be abrogated even in the next reign. The prophecy evidently requires, that this subjection should be the result of many and conspiring providential causes. The spirit of the age must be such, the instruction of the people such, their passive submission such, and even their apparent necessities such, as to lead to a result of this kind. The bishop of Rome was to be constituted the sole head of the church, not by any one arbitrary act, but by the general consent of Christendom, arising from the existing state of the world. The matter of inquiry then becomes, not who did it, but when have we evidence, that the Church became subject to the Roman bishop as its supreme head?
The prophecies require, that the spiritual and temporal power of Antichrist should begin at the same time. The “beast” was to rule the nations, during the same period that he was to oppress the church. Nor is there any distinction made in the vision of Daniel, between the duration of the temporal and spiritual power of the “little horn.” They appear to be contemporaneous. If, too, the spiritual power of Antichrist should be dated from one period, and his temporal power from another, then would there be two periods of twelve hundred and sixty years, during which he was to exist! It is evident, however, that this prophetic age of the beast and little horn, is to extend over but one such period. The spiritual and temporal power, therefore, of Antichrist, must begin and end at the same time.
We have already noticed, that the temporal and. political power of the popes, began at the time when these pontiffs cast off their allegiance to the eastern emperors. The cause of this rebellion was image-worship. The emperor prohibited the worship of images as idolatry; the popes maintained the propriety of such worship as sanctioned by tradition and miracles. This was the point at issue between them; and it was the means of severing for ever the tie which bound the bishops of Rome to the court of Byzantium.
The result in this case, however, was not simply political; it was also religious. If the bishop of Rome was bound as a subject to obey the court of Constantinople, much more was he bound as a Christian to keep the commandments of God. These commandments, however, forbid imageworship in every form. The law is express, and often repeated. At the same time, therefore, that the Pope set up a political supremacy for himself, did he erect also, an independent spiritual dominion. We invite particular attention to this remarkable coincidence. In the Apocalypse it is said, “And the beast is the eighth, and is of the seven, and goeth into perdition.” The easiest and most natural construction of this passage is the following: “The beast will be the eighth power at Rome; he will immediately succeed the seven preceding powers; and he will continue till Rome shall have no government at all: the power-line, the Roman succession, will end in him. When, then, did the Roman pastor or bishop become the “beast”? Precisely then, when he began to wield a political and an idolatrous scepter. Now, this event took place, when the popes, by rebellion against the eastern court, set up virtually a kingdom of their own upon the basis of idolatry. Then were the foundations of the Apocalyptic Babylon laid; then did Rome become “the mother of harlots, and abominations of the earth.” This event occurred near the middle of the eighth century.
But to place the saints effectually in the hands of Antichrist, it was necessary, that the political governments of Europe should also be under his control. Without this he could not enforce his will as law throughout the Christian world. As a local prince, he might rule his own Italian subjects. As the accredited head of ecclesiastical polity, he might have influence in the church. But to render his authority absolute and universal, the independence of states must bow to his will, and the kings of the earth stand ready to execute his pleasure. And here again, we are called upon to notice the extraordinary fact, that just about the time that the popes became independent princes, and began also to exercise superior spiritual control, a sort of imperial power felt into their hands. The crown was transferred from Childeric to Pepin, but a year or two before the Pope was made supreme proprietor of Lombardy! At some period then, between the rupture of the Pope with Leo III., and his decision in the case of Pepin, that is, somewhere between the year 730 and 753, we may safely locate the rise of the political, imperial, and supreme spiritual power of the popes.
As further proof of this, it may be proper here to notice the decisions of two ecclesiastical councils, which sat within or near this period. By the council of Frankfort, A.D. 742, it was decreed, “that as a token of their willing subjection to the See of Rome, all Metropolitans should request the pallium at the hands of the Pope, and obey his lawful commands.”17 “In the second Nicene council, says Mosheim, held in the year 786, “the imperial laws against the new idolatry were abrogated, the decrees of the council of Constantinople reversed, the worship of images and the cross restored, and severe punishments denounced against such as maintained that God was the only object of religious adoration.”18 The object of this council was, to suppress in the east, as had already’ been done in the west, all opposition to imageworship. Surely this looks as if the saints, all who abhorred idolatry, had now been given into the hand of the beast. The universal law was, image-worship or punishment, idolatry or death. Thus have we noticed five prophetic marks or evidences of the rise of Antichrist. This malignant power was to arise, after the dissolution of the western Roman empire. It was to arise among the ten new kingdoms, by which that empire was to be succeeded. It was immediately to succeed that brief administration, whatever it was, Exarchate or Gothic kingdom, which was to constitute the seventh form of government at Rome. In its rise, it was to root up three of the ten kingdoms around it. The saints were also to be put in its power, for a period of twelve hundred and sixty years.
Now, these events as above shown, all fall within the compass of two hundred and seventyeight years; this being the space of time from the dethronement of Augustulus to the grant of Pepin. Within this period then, are we to find the rise of Antichrist. According to prophecy, his rise could not take place earlier, nor was it to be later. We are then limited to this period; and within it somewhere, are we to find the origin of that great enemy to the church, which so filled the minds of Daniel, of Paul, and of John.
But this period may be reduced to still narrower limits. The dissolution of the western empire was to be succeeded by another political power, which was “to continue a short space.” This political power must be, either the kingdom of Odoacer, or the Exarchate. If the former, then are sixty years to be deducted from this period; if the latter, two hundred and sixty. We have already assigned reasons why we suppose the latter to be meant. This period then, will be narrowed down to the space of twenty-four years, within which we are to find the rise of Antichrist. This short period extends from the year 730 to 754.
What power, then we ask, arose within this period to which the characteristics of Antichrist may be established? Not the Mohammedan surely. Mohammed arose in Asia, not in Europe; he was too, an enemy to idolatry, not its patron; he appeared also in the seventh century, not in the eighth. Nor call Antichrist be Pepin, Charlemagne or any of the French kings. France was one of the ten horns of the beast; it could not therefore be another power rising among them. Nor have we any evidence, that even one of the traits of Antichrist was ever developed in the character of these kings! Who then we ask is Antichrist? Let history, let universal history reply. He is the Pope. No other answer can be given. It was at this very period, that the Papacy arose, as an independent and sovereign power in Europe. It was at this very time, that the Pontifical miter began to be seen among the crowns of European kings. It was precisely here, that idolatry was set up again, as the religion of the Roman world.
If then, Jacob’s prediction concerning Shiloh, and the seventy weeks of Daniel, are evidence conclusive, that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ, so also are the predictions, concerning the time of the “little horn,” of “the man of sin” and of “the beast,” proofs irrefragable, that the Papacy is Antichrist. And as it may be proved, that any one hereafter pretending to be the Messiah, is not such, because he appears out of time, so may it be demonstrated, that any one hereafter who may be thought to be Antichrist is not, for the very same reason. The time, then, as well as the place, determines the antichristian character of the papal throne. The Pope is Antichrist, so says prophecy; so says history; so says his own fully developed character.