Antichrist and the Vicar of Christ … Part I
Will the Antichrist and the Vicar of Christ be one and the same? Down through the ages, some scholars and students of prophecy believed that the Roman Catholic Pope of their time was the Antichrist. When the Pope died and the Rapture didn’t occur in their generation, they realized how wrong they were. Subsequently, they stopped pointing their antichrist finger at a specific pope, and proposed that whichever pope was alive at the time of the Rapture would be or would become the Antichrist.
Based on extensive evidence found both in Scripture and history, I have provided the Biblically accurate identification of the woman on the beast depicted in Revelation Chapter 17, as the great city Rome of the Roman Empire; subsequently replaced by the Roman Catholic Church … the Holy See headquartered in the Vatican. “And this woman you saw in your vision represents the great city that rules over the kings of the world” (Revelation 17:18). Please refer to the Eye of Prophecy series of articles entitled, The Woman and the Beast, Parts I through VI, published 10-12-13 through 11-16-13.
The Beast, of course, is the Antichrist. Certainly, I’m not the first scholar to match the Holy See papacy with the woman on the beast; however, the above referenced articles provide detailed documentation and compelling correlations to further demonstrate that the Antichrist Beast and the Roman Catholic Church, specifically the Pope, are not one and the same; nor will they be during the seven-year tribulation.
Based, then, on the Biblically and historically accurate premise that the Antichrist and the Vicar of Christ (Pope) are not the same person, might we conclude from Scripture that they are, for example, two peas in a pod? Answer: Sort of, but not quite. Before elaborating on that response, I need to up front (once again) disclose the identity of the Antichrist: none other than Nero Caesar, who will return from the Abyss. (Please refer to other Eye of Prophecy articles in the category of Antichrist, but primarily to my book, Out of the Abyss). Soon after the Rapture, both the Pope and Nero, as collaborative but contentious partners, will pursue the same seemingly noble objective of trying to achieve a Pax Romana peace (utopia on earth) that the ancient Roman Empire never quite achieved.
The problem with this two peas in a pod paradigm is that the Pope will reassert himself like never before as the infallible substitutionary representative of Jesus Christ … The Vicar of Christ. That he and the Roman Catholic Church alone can successfully establish the Kingdom of God on the earth; thereby, rescuing the world from the chaos, confusion, and calamity caused by the sudden disappearance of hundreds of millions of people. That conclusion is supported by the image of the woman sitting on the beast (Revelation 17:3); with the symbolic implication that the Roman Catholic Church will seek some form of support from but also dominance over the beast. This has been pretty much the pattern since the Roman Church came into existence, i.e. popes claiming superiority over heads of state.
However, as a result of the amazing reaction of billions of people to the seemingly miraculous return of a Roman Emperor, the Pope will also be compelled to acknowledge Nero’s claim to divinity. Whether the Pope stops short of acclaiming Nero as God or Messiah, remains to be seen.
A Roman Coin
The better analogy is that Antichrist and the Vicar of Christ are two sides of the same coin. But even that will last for only a short time … most likely about half way through the tribulation. Nero will proclaim himself as God or as Messiah … the man/God. He will soon be worshipped by people all over the world as divine for one reason only: his astounding revival and return some two thousand years after he had died. With that kind of veneration, Nero will become the head of the coin; dragging the tail of the coin (the Pope) behind him. In fact, this coinage will soon become a coin with two heads, both of them Nero’s.
But before that happens, there will be a titanic clash of two men vying for the personal loyalty of billions of people while trying to (unsuccessfully working together) accomplish their agenda each through their own vile systems. One is boldly and blatantly unholy. The other is hypocritically holy. Both will claim to be God and Christ on the earth.
Through the centuries, popes and kings have clashed; sometimes the pope prevailed, sometimes the king triumphed. This time the “divine monarch” and his ten-nation coalition with crush the ecclesiastical head of state who would dare assume political power as well as religious (Revelation 17:16).
In like manner, many Jews will at first acknowledge Nero as a messiah-type, or at least as a sovereign who God allowed to return to save the world. Thus, they will gladly enter into a seven-year treaty with Nero, who will facilitate the building of the third Temple and allow Jews to restore their sacrificial system of atonement.
Likewise with hundreds of millions of Muslims. Who can possibly argue with or fight against someone who bodily returns from the dead? They will conclude that it had to be Allah who performed such a miracle. They will concede Nero as their Mahdi (messiah).
By default, people from nations and religions the world over will give their allegiance to Nero immediately after he reappears from the Abyss. (See Revelation 13). So, too, will a good many of their political and religious leaders. But above all Nero will initially establish a liaison with the Vatican. After all: The Vatican is the embodiment of the Holy Roman Empire, the reincarnation of the once great Roman Empire which for fourteen years was ruled by none other than a man who had returned from the dead. Both dynasties were headquartered in Rome. Both empires purported to be the universal kingdom on earth; the first one politically and militarily, ruled by a supreme and divine emperor. The second through a religion that claims to be the universal church, headed by the infallible representative of Christ, himself. Both will seek to restore the glory that once was Rome’s.
Above painting depicts the Holy Roman Empire, where Popes appointed kings
Thus, at the beginning of the Great Tribulation, all eyes will be on Rome. Those eyes will see an amazing spectacle, a beast who is none other than a mighty Roman Emperor who has returned from the grave. Sitting on this beast will be the most influential religious leader on the earth, with the symbolic implication that each will use the other to accomplish their diabolically driven agenda of world domination. Both will fail miserably, but the first to go will be the so-called Holy succession of the early Roman Empire.
Although I’m certainly not saying that the current Pope is that pope, it is evident recently that:
Pope Francis Has Been Busy
Approximately one of every seven people on this planet belong to the Roman Catholic Church. Accordingly, their highest ecclesiastical leader, the Pope, captures a good deal of the global media headlines. But it seems that Pope Francis has been in the spotlight as much or more than his predecessors, including the very popular John II, the Pope from 1978 to 2005. Though it may be somewhat of an oversimplification, since Pope Francis was elected as Supreme Pontiff on 3-13-13, his focus has been on two main objectives: (1) to shift attention and emphasis on the Catholic clergy and all the political intrigue that surrounds the Vatican to the welfare of the non-clergy masses and membership of the Catholic Church.
(2) To restore and underscore the doctrinal tenets of Roman Catholicism, especially to and for the common Catholic. To, as is often said, “Get back to the basics.”
Those basics are found in the Catholic sacraments and catechism; however, they are not true to Scripture, particularly salvation and justification itself. This has been the case from the very inception of the Roman Catholic Church, which began after Constantine’s reign as the Roman Emperor in the 4th century AD. The Roman Catholic Church is not the original (true) church which is clearly defined in the Bible as those who have placed their individual trust in the sacrificial death (once and for all) of Christ Jesus. Not those who are members of the Catholic Church (or any organizational church system) beginning with baptism and continuing with observance of the required sacraments. With the degree of keeping those demands determining how much grace might be bestowed on the individual; that, in turn, determines whether that person might make it to heaven or not.
Down through the ages, individual born-again believers have challenged the non-Biblical creeds of the Catholic Church, including, but not limited to the examples that follow in this and next week’s article. Both before and after Martin Luther began the Protestant Reformation in the early 16th century, the Catholic Church periodically reasserted its right to political supremacy and religious dominance over kings and kingdoms and the masses.
Which is why the Papal Bull entitled, Unam Sanctam was issued in 1302 by Pope Boniface which made it crystal clear that the Catholic Church and the Pope are supreme on earth, and salvation can only be found within the hierarchical confines of the Roman Catholic Church. That idea persists to this very day, and is once again being promoted aggressively by Pope Francis … all the while courting the Jews (Judaism), the non-terrorists Muslims (Islam), the Protestants (mainline denominations), and Evangelicals.
The Unam Sanctam begins with this authoritative declaration: “Urged by faith, we are obliged to believe and to maintain that the Church is one, holy, catholic, and also apostolic. We believe in her firmly and we confess with simplicity that outside of her there is neither salvation nor the remission of sins.”
There can be no ambiguity whatsoever as to what this edict states, which is: Ultimately, one’s salvation is determined exclusively by the Catholic Church, which includes compliance with whatever non-Biblical doctrines are developed or decrees declared by the Pope.
As claimed by Pope Benedict: First and foremost, one must believe in the Catholic Church.
Permit me to make this personal by saying unequivocally: I do not believe in the Catholic Church, Roman or otherwise. What I believe in is what God said he did for me and what would happen if I believed what he said. This is what Jesus said and what I did:
“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
Am I not and are you not part of the world? Are we not every (one)?
“For Jesus is the one referred to in the Scriptures where it says, ‘The stone that you builders rejected has now become the cornerstone.’ There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:11-12).
The church does not consist of stones that built the Vatican or the Church of Rome or any parish church anywhere in the world. Rather, it is made of living stones, which are individual believers all over the world.
To be sure Catholicism claims that Christ is the head of the Church, but only the spiritual head who lives in Heaven. The corporeal head of the Catholic Church on earth is the Pope; and the Pope has supreme power to make edicts and doctrinal statements, even if they conflict with the Bible. When all is said and done, the powerfully practical result is that salvation ultimately comes by membership in the Catholic Church through baptism (even for infants) and adherence to seven primary sacraments and a host of other regulations. These things will determine one’s eternal destiny. Which is an outright contradiction of God’s clearly defined and explained means of salvation.
Although there are more, for sake of time/space in today’s article I will list just one of these examples of Pope Francis frequent attempts to once again promote and publicize the powerful position of the Catholic Church on the world stage. Next week’s article will provide two, possibly three more examples.
The Feast of Immaculate Conception
This past December, Roman Catholics around the world celebrated this annual event, led by Pope Francis. It is a commemoration of the divine status given to Mary; that she was born without sin. With the all too clear inference that she was sinless throughout her life. Listen to the words of Pope Francis which were (undoubtedly) carefully chosen to accentuate one of the foundational creeds of the Catholic Church.
“Oh Mary, our mother, today the people of God in celebration venerates you, the immaculate, preserved from the contagion of sin from the beginning. Accept the gift I offer on behalf of the church in Rome and throughout the world … The power of God’s love, which has preserved you from original sin, freed all of humanity through your intercession from every spiritual and material slavery and made the designs of God’s salvation victorious within hearts and events.”
He went on to say that in Mary, “…there was no room for sin…” Because, “God had chosen her to be the mother of Jesus.” Which preserved her from, “original sin.”
There is absolutely no vagueness or room for ambivalence over what Pope Francis is claiming about Mary. He is reinforcing to the Roman Catholic constituency and to the whole world that Mary is immaculate (without sin). That the gift of praise and veneration is to be given to her. That all humanity is freed from spiritual (and material) slavery to what is clearly meant as slavery from sin. That the victorious plan of God’s salvation in hearts and (world) events is possible through her direct intercession.
Of course, Mary was the mother of Jesus, but that doesn’t mean that she had to be sinless for God to choose her for this wonderful privilege. It is more than enough that Jesus was miraculously born of a virgin by the direct power of the Holy Spirit.
“For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, with undeserved kindness (grace), declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood…” (Romans 3:23-25).
Where does Mary fit into those verses? Or several other passages like it in the Bible? There’s only one place where she fits in … the same place that we all fit. It is at the beginning of the passage when God’s Word says, everyone has sinned. Is not Mary every (one)? Where in Scripture does it say that Mary was an exception to everyone (all)? Strong clue to the answer: you won’t find it in Scripture. Repeating for emphasis: There is absolutely no direct or indirect, no stated or implied evidence in Scripture whatsoever that Mary was born without sin and continued that way through her life.
Only one person has never sinned. “For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ” (II Corinthians 5:21).
Hail Mary Full of Grace is a flagrant denial of and challenge to the fact that God alone is the source of grace (underserved kindness), and he alone declares us righteous. That grace and righteousness comes from and through Christ Jesus, and no one else. That salvation, which includes freedom from the penalty of sin is possible only through Messiah Jesus. We are made right with God when we, “believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood.”
Mary, herself, said: “Oh, how my soul praises the Lord. How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior” (Luke 1:47). The angel told Mary’s husband, Joseph, to name the child Jesus; for Jesus means Savior, and only Messiah Jesus could save us from our sins.
Mary was no exception, and to consider her practically equal with Christ is the kind of heretical blasphemy that the Roman Catholic Church has accused true Christians of down through the ages … those born-again believers who have a personal relationship with Christ by believing and receiving him as their personal Savior. Certainly not by going through Mary.
The above painting is entitled, the Coronation of the Virgin
Contrast this with Catholic Church catechism that teaches Mary was not only sinless but that she is the Heavenly Queen mother and that her prayers, “…will deliver our souls from death.” That all who seek Mary’s protection will be saved for all eternity.
Jesus said: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me” (John 14:6, italics for emphasis). How much clearer can anything be? At no time did Christ ever say that his mother, Mary, was a co-equal way to God. Or that she was even an alternative way. If ever there was a time that Jesus might have clarified that Mary was also a divine intermediary means of approaching the Father, he surely would have said so when he spoke these words.
I’m sure Mary is appalled at the divine status afforded her by many on this earth. I’m equally certain that the Lord has told her something to the effect, “It’s okay Mary; it’s not your fault.”
Things to Ponder
Neither I nor others who proclaim the truth of God’s Word (which is the foundation and authority for what we say) are judging individuals, whether Roman Catholic or those of other beliefs, including atheists.
In fact, a couple of my friends and a few acquaintances have been or are Roman Catholics, including a major league baseball player who unfortunately died a few months ago. I had shared with him God’s plan of salvation straight from the Bible. I can only hope that he accepted Jesus as his personal Savior before he died.
Judgment belongs to God and him alone. But sharing God’s truth, his marvelous plan of salvation purchased with the highest price ever paid—the death of his totally innocent Son to pay for and pardon us from our sins—by inherent meaning and definition is to expose fraudulent gospels and deceitful systems that would falsify the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Indeed, the Bible is very clear that God’s harshest judgment is against rulers and leaders, both political and religious. For it is the clergy and the elite rulers of nations that exert a great deal of influence and power over their followers. When they steal the truth of God’s Word from the people and replace it with half-truths by subtracting from it or by adding man-made dogmas to it, there is a heavy price to pay.
On the other hand, we all must make a decision. We must all answer the question that Jesus asked: “Who do you say that I am?”
Is he the Christ? Is he truth and life? Is he the only way to God? Is he God? Will he alone have the right to rule all nations of the world, as Scripture says that he does? Will you choose him over religious and political systems and people who claim they can lead you and the world to Utopia?
If you are reading this article after the incredible disappearance of millions of born-again believers all over the earth, then even on the pain of death at the hand of Antichrist and all those who follow him, please choose Messiah Jesus.
Because: “…Salvation comes from our God who sits on the throne and from the Lamb!” (Jesus) (Revelation 7:10).