The President’s Column – Who is the Antichrist?
From the September /October1999 issue of The Concordia Lutheran, The Rev. M. L. Natterer, President
The President’s Column
Who is the Antichrist? This question has brought forth hundreds of pamphlets and tracts from various individuals and groups, each maintaining that they have the correct answer to this question. Some hold that Nero was the Antichrist, others think Napoleon, Hitler, Stalin, etc. But all of these men are dead. That they were an antichrist we know, but none of them was the Antichrist. Then there are those who think that the Antichrist is not a person but rather a teaching such as Naziism, Fascism, or Communism. But here again, these “isms” have just about fallen by the wayside. Besides, from Scripture we see that the Antichrist has his seat, not in the worldly governments, but “in the temple of God,” the Christian Church. To find out who the Antichrist is we must go to the Word of God and there study the marks of the Antichrist as given to us by God the Holy Spirit, and then turn to history to see who fulfills this prophecy of the Antichrist.
The seat of this doctrine is II Thessalonians 2:38. “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until 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.”
When we examine the Scriptural use of the word “antichrist,” we find that it is used in a wider and in a narrow sense. The Apostle John, for example, uses it in its wider sense when he writes, “Even now are there many antichrists” (2:18). All false teachers are “antichrists” because they teach contrary to the teachings of Christ. But the Antichrist (narrow sense) is really the culmination of all false teachers!
Note from the text in Thessalonians how the Apostle describes the whole movement led by the Antichrist as “a falling away.” And this falling away was not merely a falling away from a teaching which might appear to be of lesser importance, but from the very foundation itself — salvation solely and alone by the grace of God through faith in Christ without any merit or worthiness on our part. This doctrine, that man is saved without his works through faith in Christ, is the only teaching by which a man can be saved. “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ … for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified” (Gal. 2:16). Again, “By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph. 2:8,9). This crystalclear chief doctrine of the Holy Scriptures is cursed by the Roman Papacy. Listen to their own words: “If anyone saith that justifying faith is nothing else but confidence in the divine mercy which remits sins for Christ’s sake or that this confidence alone is that whereby we are justified, let him be anathema” (Council of Trent, Session VI, Canon 12). And now the ELCA has declared that it has reached an agreement with the Roman Church on the doctrine of justification!!!
Not only does the Roman Antichrist condemn the chief doctrine of Holy Writ, but it also condemns many others. For example, God tells us that every Christian can be certain of his salvation. The Apostle writes, “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day” (II Tim. 1:12; cp. Rom. 8:3139). This assurance of salvation is cursed by the Antichrist. “No one can know with the certainty of faith, which cannot be subject to error, that he has obtained the grace of God” … “If anyone says that a man who is born again and justified is bound by faith to believe that he is certainly in the number of the predestined, let him be anathema” (Council of Trent). We are taught in Scripture that there are only heaven and hell — the Antichrist teaches the existence of purgatory and curses all who deny its existence. “If anyone says that after the reception of the grace of justification the guilt is so remitted and the debt of eternal punishment so blotted out to every repentant sinner that no debt of temporal punishment remains to be discharged either in this world or in purgatory before the gates of heaven can be opened, let him be anathema” (Council of Trent).
The Antichrist opposes and exalts himself above God! He has his seat in the temple of God, in the pale of the Christian Church. He insists on being the supreme authority in the church. “We, moreover, proclaim, declare, and pronounce that it is altogether necessary to salvation for every human being to be subject to the Roman Pontiff” (Bull Unam Sanctam of Boniface VIII). The Roman Catechism calls him, “the archbishop of the entire world, father and patriarch of the earth.” Claudius Seisselius, the papal spokesman, said of the Pope in 1520, “In whatever guilty transactions the Pope may be implicated, he is an angel of God, yea, more, he is the successor of the Apostles and the vicar of Christ; aye, I should rather say, he is Christ.” In 1870 it was declared that the infallibility of the Pope “is the teaching of Catholic truth, from which no one can deviate without loss of faith and of salvation” (Decrees of the Vatican Council, 1870, Session IV, Chapter III). And how he has exercised that selfappointed right down through the years! In 1854 he proclaimed the new doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary, that is, that Mary was born without sin. This in spite of the fact that the Bible teaches, “for ALL have sinned” … (Rom. 3:23). Then in 1950 he proclaimed the teaching that the Virgin Mary was bodily taken up into heaven.
Note also from II Thessalonians 2 that the kingdom of the Antichrist is built and backed by all manner of lying powers and signs and wonders (vv. 9,10). And all these socalled miracles which invariably take place at shrines, graves, images of saints, etc., are really “lying wonders” which come from the father of all lies, the devil himself. The text also specifically states that the Antichrist will be with us until the Last Day.
The Antichrist was revealed at the time of the Reformation although the marks of the Antichrist began to appear already in the days of Christ and the Apostles as the Apostle Paul reminds the Thessalonians, “Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.” Obviously, however, it was at the time of the Reformation that the Roman Papacy was clearly revealed as the Antichrist.
Thanks be to God that the power of the Roman Antichrist has been broken. No man was able to break his power — it took the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God (Eph. 6:17). Martin Luther, the Augustinian monk, was the man whom the Lord had chosen to break the unlimited dominion of the Antichrist. And Luther did this not in his own strength and by his own power, for he was a sinful human being. It was the Word of God which did it all as Luther himself exclaimed, “I simply taught, preached, wrote God’s Word; otherwise I did nothing … the Word did it all!”
While the powerful arm of the Roman Antichrist was broken, it had not been destroyed. It still seeks to exert its authority in influencing the world. Hence we must constantly be on our guard since Scripture teaches that it will be with us until Judgment Day when it shall be destroyed with the brightness of the Lord’s coming. Today, by God’s grace, our Conference still confesses with all those who are truly Lutheran, “that 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” … (The Smalcald Articles of 1537, Part II, Art. IV). Like Luther let us now continue to cling to the precious Word of our God which is our trusty Shield and Weapon and which always is victorious over its enemies, also over the Roman Antichrist!