Popery, Antichrist, & Reformers
Many Bible teachers today point to the Antichrist of Bible prophecy as a very devilish character with obvious ill motives, but the understanding within Christian history is different. The word “anti” doesn’t just mean “against,” it means “in place of” so the more accurate view of an Antichrist would be one who puts himself in place of Christ.
Below are some statements by Reformers who reflect this thinking and very emphatically point toward the Pope and his position as the prophetic figure known as the Antichrist. These Reformers have pointed toward the system, not the person, when it comes to identifying the Little Horn power of Daniel 7 and the Beast of Revelation 13.
Martin Luther I German Protestant Reformer
“The Pope is the very Antichrist who has exalted himself above and opposed 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” (The Smalcald Articles, IV).
John Calvin | French Protestant Reformer
“It is certain that the Roman Pontiff has impudently transferred to himself the most peculiar properties of God and Christ, there cannot be a doubt that he is the leader and standard-bearer of an impious and abominable kingdom. …Although the Pope, who is Antichrist, be set in God’s sanctuary, …he is not worthy to be taken and accounted for a minister” (Institutes of the Christian Religion, Vol. 4).
J.A. Wylie | Scottish Historian of Religion
“In the life of Christ we behold the converse of what the Antichrist must be; and in the prophecy of the Antichrist we are shown the converse of what Christ must be, and was. And when we place the Papacy between the two, and compare it with each we find, on the one hand, that it is the perfect converse of Christ as seen in his life, and on the other, that it is the perfect image of the Antichrist, as shown in the prophecy of him. We conclude, therefore, that if Jesus of Nazareth be the Christ, the Roman Papacy is the Antichrist” (The Papacy: A Demonstration).
John Knox | Scottish Theologian
“Yea, to speak it in plain words; lest that we submit ourselves to Satan, thinking that we submit ourselves to Jesus Christ; for, as for your Roman kirk, as it is now corrupted, and the authority thereof, whereon stands the hope of your victory. 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 speaks” (The History of the Reformation in Scotland).
Thomas Cranmer I Leader of English Reformation, Archbishop of Canterbury
“Whereof it follows Rome to be the seat of antichrist, and the pope to be very antichrist himself. I could prove the same by many other scriptures and strong reasons” (The Works of Thomas Cranmer, Vol. 1).
John Wesley I English Theologian
“[The pope] is …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, destroyed innumerable souls, and will himself perish everlastingly. He …exalts himself above all that is called God, …claiming the highest power, the highest honor; suffering himself not once only to be styled God or vice-god. Indeed, no less is implied in his ordinary title, Most Holy Lord, or, Most Holy Father. So that he sits-enthroned, …declaring himself that he is God—claiming the prerogatives which belong to God alone” (Explanatory Notes Upon the New Testament).
Charles Spurgeon | English Baptist Preacher
“It is the duty of every Christian to pray against Antichrist, and as to what Antichrist is no sane man ought to raise a question. If it be not the Popery in the Church of Rome, … there is nothing in the world that can be called by that name. If there were to be issued a hue and cry for Antichrist, we should certainly take up this church on suspicion, and it certainly would not be let loose again, for it so exactly answers the description. Popery …is contrary to Christ’s gospel, and is the Antichrist, and we ought to pray against it. It should be the daily prayer of every believer that Antichrist might be hurled like a millstone into the flood …because it wounds Christ, because it robs Christ of His glory, because it puts sacramental efficacy in the place of His atonement, and lifts a piece of bread into the place of the Savior, and a few drops of water into the place of the Holy Ghost, and puts a mere fallible man like ourselves up as the vicar of Christ on earth” (“Pray for Jesus,” 1866).