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Bible Dictionaries

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary


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compounded of αντι , contra, against, and Χριστος , Christ, in a general sense, denotes an adversary of Christ, or one who denies that the Messiah is come. In this sense, Jews, infidels, &c, may be said to be antichrists. The epithet, in the general sense of it, is also applicable to any power or person acting in direct opposition to Christ or his doctrine. Its particular meaning is to be collected from those passages of Scripture in which it occurs. Accordingly, it may either signify one who assumes the place and office of Christ, or one who maintains a direct enmity and opposition to him. The Fathers all speak of antichrist as a single man; though they also assure us, that he is to have divers precursors, or forerunners. Yet many Protestant writers apply to the Romish church, and the pope who is at the head of it, the several marks and signatures of antichrist enumerated in the Apocalypse, which would imply antichrist to be, not a single person, but a corrupt society, or a long series of persecuting pontiffs, or rather, a certain power and government, that may be held for many generations, by a number of individuals succeeding one another. The antichrist mentioned by the Apostle John, 1 John 2:18 , and more particularly described in the book of Revelation, seems evidently to be the same with the man of sin, &c, characterized by St. Paul in his Second Epistle to the Thessalonians, chap. 2; and the whole description literally applies to the Papal power. A late writer, after collecting the principal prophecies relating to antichrist, infers from them that a power, sometimes represented as the little horn, the man of sin, the antichrist, the beast, the harlot, the star falling from heaven, the false prophet, the dragon, or as the operation of false teachers, was to be expected to arise in the Christian world to persecute and oppress, and delude the disciples of Christ, corrupt the doctrine of the primitive church, enact new laws, and establish its dominion over the minds of mankind. He then proceeds to show, from the application of prophecy to history, and to the remarkable train of events that are now passing in the world, how exactly Popery, Mohammedanism, and Infidelity, correspond with the character given in Scripture of the power of antichrist, which was to prevail a certain time for the especial trial and punishment of the corrupted church of Christ. Upon this system, the different opinions of the Protestants and Papists, concerning the power of antichrist, derived from partial views of the subject, are not wholly incompatible with each other. With respect to the commonly received opinion, that the church of Rome is antichrist, Mede and Newton, Daubuz and Clarke, Lowman and Hurd, Jurieu, Vitringa, and many other members of the Protestant churches who have written upon the subject, concur in maintaining, that the prophecies of Daniel, St. Paul, and St. John, point directly to this church. This was likewise the opinion of the first reformers; and it was the prevalent opinion of Christians, in the earliest ages, that antichrist would appear soon after the fall of the Roman empire. Gregory the Great, in the sixth century, applied the prophecies concerning the beast in the Revelation, the man of sin, and the apostasy from the faith mentioned by St. Paul, to him who should presume to claim the title of universal priest, or universal bishop, in the Christian church; and yet his immediate successor, Boniface III, received from the tyrant Phocas the precise title which Gregory had thus censured. At the synod of Rheims, held in the tenth century, Arnulphus, bishop of Orleans, appealed to the whole council, whether the bishop of Rome was not the antichrist of St. Paul, "sitting in the temple of God," and perfectly corresponding with the description of him given by St. Paul. In the eleventh century, all the characters of antichrist seemed to be so united in the person of Pope Hildebrand, who took the name of Gregory VII, that Johannes Aventinus, a Romish historian, speaks of it as a subject in which the generality of fair, candid, and ingenuous writers agreed, that at that time began the reign of antichrist. And the Albigenses and Waldenses, who may be called the Protestants of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, expressly asserted in their declarations of faith, that the church of Rome was the whore of Babylon. The Papists imagine they view in the prophetical picture of antichrist, imperial Rome, elated by her victories, exulting in her sensuality and her spoils, polluted by idolatry, persecuting the people of God, and finally falling like the first Babylon; whilst a new and holy city, represented by their own communion, filled with the spotless votaries of the Christian faith, rises out of its ruins, and the victory of the cross is completed over the temples of Paganism. This scheme has had its able advocates, at the head of whom may be placed Bossuet, bishop of Meaux, Grotius, and Hammond. Some writers have maintained, that Caligula was antichrist; and others have asserted the same of Nero. But in order to establish the resemblance, they violate the order of time, disregard the opinions of the primitive Christians, and overlook the appropriate descriptions of the Apostles. After the point had been maturely debated at the council of Gap, held in 1603, a resolution was taken thereupon to insert an article in the confession of faith, whereby the Pope is formally declared to be antichrist. Pope Clement VIII was stung with this decision; and even king Henry IV, of France, was not a little mortified, to be thus declared, as he said, an imp of antichrist.

In the book of Daniel it is foretold, that this power should exercise dominion until a time and times, and the dividing of time, Daniel 7:25 . This expression is generally admitted to denote 1260 years. The papal power was completely established in the year 755, when it obtained the exarchate of Ravenna. Some, however, date the rise of antichrist in the year of Christ 606; and Mede places it in 456. If the rise of antichrist be not reckoned till he was possessed of secular authority, his fall will happen when this power shall be taken away. If his rise began, according to Mede in 456, he must have fallen in 1716; if in 606, it must be in 1866; if in 755, in 2015. If, however, we use prophetical years, consisting of three hundred and sixty days, and date the rise of antichrist in the year 755, his fall will happen in the year of Christ 2000. Every thing however in the state of the world betokens a speedy overthrow of the Papal and Mohammedan powers, both of which have indeed been already greatly weakened.

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Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Antichrist'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. 1831-2.

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