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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
(ἀντίχριστος , against Christ; others, instead of Christ [see below]), a term which has received a great variety of interpretations. Although the word Antichrist is used only by the Apostle John (Epistle 1 and 2), yet it has been generally applied also
(1) to the "Little Horn" of the "King of Fierce Countenance" (Daniel 7:1-28; Daniel 8:1-27);
(2) to the "false Christ" predicted by our Savior (Matthew 14:1-36);
(3) to the "Man of Sin" of St. Paul (2 Thessalonians); and
(4) to the "Beasts" of the Apocalypse (Revelations 13, 18).
I. Meaning of the word. — Some maintain (e.g. Greswell) that Antichrist can mean only "false Christ," taking ἀντί in the sense of "instead." But this is undue refinement: ἀντί bears the sense of "against" as well as "instead of," both in classical and N.T. usage. So ἀντικτήσεσθαι means to gain instead of, while ἀντιλέγειν means to speak against. The word doubtless includes both meanings — "pseudo-Christ" as well as "opposed to Christ," much as "anti-pope" implies both rivalry and antagonism. According to Bishop Hurd, it signifies "a person of power actuated with a spirit opposite to that of Christ." For, to adopt the illustration of the same writer, "as the word Christ is frequently used in the apostolic writings for the doctrine of Christ, in which sense we are to understand to ‘ put on Christ,' to ‘ grow in Christ,' or to ‘ learn Christ,' so Antichrist, in the abstract, may be taken for a doctrine subversive of the Christian; and when applied to a particular man, or body of men, it denotes one who sets himself against the spirit of that doctrine." It seems, however, that the Scriptures employ the term both with a general and limited signification. In the general sense, with which Bishop Hurd's idea mainly agrees, every person who is hostile to the authority of Christ, as Lord or head of the Church, and to the spirit of his religion, is called Antichrist; as when the Apostle John, referring to certain false teachers who corrupted the truth from its simplicity, says, "Even now are there many Antichrists" (1 John 2:18; 1 John 4:3), many who corrupt the doctrine and blaspheme the name of Christ, i.e. Jewish sectaries (Lucke, Comment. in loc.).
II. Types and Predictions of Antichrist in O.T.1. Balaam. As Moses was the type of Christ, so Balaam, the opponent of Moses, is to be taken as an O.T. type of Antichrist (Numbers 31:16; comp. Judges 1:9-11; 2 Peter 2:14-16; Revelation 2:14). (See BALAAM).
2. Antiochus Epiphanes, the "King of Fierce Countenance" (Daniel 8:23-25): "And in the latter time of their kingdom, when the transgressors are come tothe full, a king of fierce countenance, and understanding dark sentences, shall stand up. And his power shall be mighty, but not by his own power; and he shall destroy wonderfully, and shall prosper, and practice, and shall destroy the mighty and the holy people. And through his policy also he shall cause craft to prosper in his hand; and he shall magnify himself in his heart, and by peace shall destroy many: he shall also stand up against the Prince of princes; but he shall be broken without hand." (Comp. also chapters 11, 12.) Most interpreters concur in applying this passage to Antiochus Epiphanes as a type of Antichrist. Antiochus is here set forth
(ch. 8) as a theocratic anti-Messiah, opposed to the true Messiah, who, it will be remembered, is generally described in O.T. as a king. Jerome (quoted in Smith, Dictionary, s.v.) argues as follows: "All that follows (from ch. 11:21) to the end of the book applies personally to Antiochus Epiphanes, brother of Seleucus, and son of Antiochus the Great; for, after Seleucus, he reigned eleven years in Syria, and possessed Judaea; and in his reign there occurred the persecution about the Law of God, and the wars of the Maccabees. But our people consider all these things to be spoken of Antichrist. who is to come in the last time . . . . It is the custom of Holy Scripture to anticipate in types the reality of things to come. For in the same way our Lord and Savior is spoken of in the 72d Psalm, which is entitled a Psalm of Solomon, and yet all that is there said cannot be applied to Solomon. But in part, and as in a shadow and image of the truth, these things are foretold of Solomon, to be more perfectly fulfilled in our Lord and Savior. As, then, in Solomon and other saints the Savior has types of His coming, so Antichrist is rightly believed to have for his type that wicked king Antiochus, who persecuted the saints and ‘ defiled the Temple" (Hieron. Op. 3, 1127, Par. 1704). (See ANTIOCHUS EPIPHANES).
3. The Little Horn (Daniel 7:1-28). Here the four beasts indicate four kings; their kingdoms are supposed to be the Assyrian, Persian, Grecian, and Syrian (some say Roman) empires. The last empire breaks up into ten, after which the king rises up and masters three (Daniel 7:24) of them. It is declared (Daniel 7:25) that he shall speak great words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High, and think to change times and laws; and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time" — indicating a person, as well as a power or polity. It is likely that this prediction refers also to Antiochus as the type of Antichrist, at least primarily. (See HORN, LITTLE).
III. Passages in N.T. —
1. In Matthew 24:1-51, Christ himself foretells the appearance of false Messiahs; thus, Matthew 24:5 : "For many shall come in my name, saying I am Christ, and shall deceive many;" also Matthew 24:23-24 : "Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ or there, believe it not; for there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it uwere possible, they shall deceive the very elect."
(Comp. Mark 13:21-22.) In these passages anti-Christian teachers and their works are predicted. Christ teaches "that
(1) in the latter days of Jerusalem there should be sore distress, and that in the midst of it there should arise impostors who would claim to be the promised Messiah, and would lead away many of their countrymen after them; and that
(2) in the last days of the world there should be a great tribulation and persecution of the saints, and that there should arise at the same time false Christs and false prophets, with an unparalleled power of leading astray. In type, therefore, our Lord predicted the rise of the several impostors who excited the fanaticism of the Jews before their fall. In antitype He predicted the future rise of impostors in the last days, who should beguile all but the elect into the belief of their being God's prophets, or even his Christs. Our Lord is not speaking of any one individual (or polity), but rather of those forerunners of the Antichrist who are his servants and actuated by his spirit. They are ψευδόχριστοι (false Christs), and can deceive almost the elect, but they are not specifically ὁ ἀντίχριστος (the Antichrist); they are ψευδοπροφῆται (false prophets), and can show great signs and wonders, but they are not ὁ ψευδοπροφήτης (the false prophet) (Revelations 16:14).
2. St. Paul's Man of Sin. Paul specifically personifies Antichrist, 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4 : "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;" also 2 Thessalonians 2:8-10 : "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: even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan, with all power, and signs, and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish." Here he "who opposeth himself" (ὁ ἀντικείμενος, the Adversary, 2 Thessalonians 2:4) is plainly Antichrist. Paul tells the Thessalonians that the spirit of Antichrist, or Antichristianism, called by him "the mystery of iniquity," was already working; but Antichrist himself he characterizes as "the Man of Sin," "the Son of Perdition," "the Adversary to all that is called God," "the one who lifts himself above all objects of worship;" and assures them that he should not be revealed in person until some present obstacle to his appearance should have been taken away, and until the predicted ἀποστασία should have occurred. Comp. 1 Timothy 4:1-3; 2 Timothy 3:1-5. (See MAN OF SIN).
3. The Antichrist of John. The Apostle John also personifies Antichrist, alluding, as St. Paul does, to previous oral teaching on the subject, and applying it to a class of opponents of Christ: John 2:18 : "Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that Antichrist shall come, even now are there many Antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time;" and to a spirit of opposition; John 4:3 : "And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is not of God. And this is that spirit of Antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world." The Apostle here teaches "that the spirit of the Antichrist could exist even then, though the coming of the Antichrist himself was future, and that all who denied the Messiahship and Sonship of Jesus were Antichrists, as being types of the final Antichrist who was to come. The teaching of John's Epistles, therefore, amounts to this, that in type, Cerinthus, Basilides, Simon Magus and those Gnostics who denied Christ's Sonship, and all subsequent heretics who should deny it, were Antichrists, as being wanting in that divine principle of love which with him is the essence of Christianity; and he points on to the final appearance of the Antichrist that was "to come" in the last times, according as they had been orally taught, who would be the antitype of these his forerunners and servants." Comp. also 1 John 4:1-3, 2 John 1:7. "From John and Paul together we learn
(1) that the Antichrist should come;
(2) that he should not come until a certain obstacle to his coming was removed;
(3) nor till the time of, or rather till after the time of the ἀποστασία;
(4) that his characteristics would be
(a) open opposition to God and religion;
(b) a claim to the incommunicable attributes of God;
(c) iniquity, sin, and lawlessness;
(d) a power of working lying miracles;
(e) marvellous capacity of beguiling souls;
(5) that he would be actuated by Satan;
(6) that his spirit was already at work manifesting itself partially, incompletely, and typically, in the teachers of infidelity and immorality already abounding in the Church."
The Obstacle (τὸ κατέχον ). — Before leaving the apostolical passages on Antichrist, it is expedient to inquire into the meaning of the "obstacle" alluded to in the last paragraph: that which "withholdeth" (τὸ κατέχον, 2 Thessalonians 2:6); described also in 2 Thessalonians 2:7 as a person: "he who now letteth" (ὸ κατέχων ). The early Christian writers generally consider "the obstacle" to be the Roman empire; so "Tertullian (De Resur. Carn. c. 24, and Apol. c. 32); St. Chrysostom and Theophylact on 2 Thessalonians 2:1-17; Hippolytus (De Antichristo, c. 49); St. Jerome on Daniel 7:1-28; St. Augustine (De Civ. Dei, 20, 19); St. Cyril of Jerusalem (Catech. 15, 6; see Dr. H. More's Works, Luke 2:1-52, ch. 19, p. 690; Mede, bk. 3, ch. 13, p. 656; Alford, Gk. Test. 3, 57; Wordsworth, On the Apocalypse, p. 520). Theodoret and Theodore of Mopsuestia hold it to be the determination of God. Theodoret's view is embraced by Pelt; the Patristic interpretation is accepted by Wordsworth. Ellicott and Alford so far modify the Patristic interpretation as to explain the obstacle to be the restraining power of human law (τὸ κατέχον ) wielded by the empire of Rome (ὸ κατέχων ) when Tertullian wrote, but now by the several governments of the civilized world. The explanation of Theodoret is untenable on account of Paul's further words, ‘ until he be taken out of the way,' which are applied by him to the obstacle. The modification of Ellicott and Alford is necessary if we suppose the ἀποστασία to be an infidel apostasy still future; for the Roman empire is gone, and this apostasy is not come, nor is the Wicked One revealed. There is much to be said for the Patristic interpretation in its plainest acceptation. How should the idea of the Roman empire being the obstacle to the revelation of Antichrist have originated? There was nothing to lead the early Christian writers to such a belief. They regarded the Roman empire as idolatrous and abominable, and would have been more disposed to consider it as the precursor than as the obstacle to the Wicked One. Whatever the obstacle was, Paul says that he told the Thessalonians what it was. Those to whom he had preached knew, and every time that his Epistle was publicly read (1 Thessalonians 5:27), questions would have been asked by those who did not know, and thus the recollection must have been kept up. It is very difficult to see whence the tradition could have arisen, except from Paul's own teaching. It may be asked, Why then did he not express it in writing as well as by word of mouth? St. Jerome's answer is sufficient: ‘ If he had openly and unreservedly said, "Antichrist will not come unless the Roman empire be first destroyed," the infant church would have been exposed in consequence to persecution (ad Algas. Qu. 11, vol. 4, p. 209, Par. 1706). Remigius gives the same reason: ‘ He spoke obscurely for fear a Roman should perhaps read the Epistle, and raise a persecution against him and the other Christians, for they held that they were to rule for ever in the world' (Bib. Patr. Max. 8, 1018; see Wordsworth, On the Apocalypse, p. 343). It would appear, then, that the obstacle was probably the Roman empire, and on its being taken out of the way there did occur the ‘ falling away.' Zion the beloved city became Sodom the bloody city — still Zion though Sodom, still Sodom though Zion. According to the view given above, this would be the description of the church in her present estate, and this will continue to be our estate, until the time, times, and half time, during which the evil element is allowed to remain within her, shall have come to their end."
4. Passages in the Apocalypse. —
(1) The Beast from the Sea. The Apocalypse symbolizes the final opposition to Christianity as a beast out of the pit (Revelation 11:7): "And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them;" out of the sea (13): "And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy. And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion; and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority" (comp. the whole chapter, and Revelation 17:1-18). The "beast" is here similar to the Little Horn of Daniel. "The Beast whose power is absorbed into the Little Horn has ten horns (Daniel 7:7), and rises from the sea (Daniel 7:3): the Apocalyptic Beast has ten horns (Revelation 13:1), and rises from the sea (ibid.). The Little Horn has a mouth speaking great things (Daniel 7:8; Daniel 7:11; Daniel 7:20): the Apocalyptic Beast has a mouth speaking great things (Revelation 13:5). The Little Horn makes war with the saints, and prevails (Daniel 7:21): the Apocalyptic Beast makes war with the saints, and overcomes them (Revelation 13:7). The Little Horn speaks great words against the Most High (Daniel 7:25): the Apocalyptic Beast opens his mouth in blasphemy against God (Revelation 13:6). The Little Horn wears out the saints of the Most High (Daniel 7:25): the woman who rides on, i.e. directs, the Apocalyptic Beast, is drunken with the blood of saints (Revelation 17:6). The persecution of the Little Horn is to last a time, and times and a dividing of times, i.e. three and a half times (Daniel 7:25): power is given to the Apocalyptic Beast for forty-two months, i.e. three and a half times (Revelation 13:5)." These and other parallelisms show that as the Little Horn was typical of an individual that should stand to the Church as the leading type of Antichrist, so John's Apocalyptic Beast was symbolical of a later individual, wiho should embody the elements of a similar Antichristian power with respect to the Christians.
(2) The Second Beast and the False Prophet (Revelations 13:11-18; 19:11-21). In these passages we find described a second beast, coming up out of the earth, who is accompanied by (or identical with) "the False Prophet." The following views are from Smith, s.v.: "His characteristics are
 ‘ doing great wonders, so that he maketh fire to come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men' (Revelations 13:13). This power of miracle-working, we should note, is not attributed by John to the First Beast; but it is one of the chief signs of Paul's Adversary,
‘ whose coming is with all power, and signs, and lying wonders' (2 Thessalonians 2:9).
 ‘ He deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the Beast'
(Revelation 13:14). ‘ He wrought miracles with which he deceived them that received the mark of the Beast and worshipped the image of the Beast' (Revelation 19:20). In like manner, no special power of beguiling is attributed to the First Beast; but the Adversary is possessed of ‘ all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish because they received not the love of the truth that they might be saved' (2 Thessalonians 2:10).
 He has horns like a lamb, i.e. he bears an outward resemblance to the Messiah (Revelation 13:11); and the Adversary sits in the temple of God showing himself that he is God (2 Thessalonians 2:4).
 His title is The False Prophet, ὁ Ψευδοπροφήτης (Revelations 16:13; 19:20); and our Lord, whom Antichrist counterfeits, is emphatically the Prophet, ὁ Προφήτης . (The Ψευδοπροφῆται of Matthew 24:24, are the forerunners of ὁ Ψευδοπροφήτης , as John the Baptist of the True Prophet.) It would seem that the Antichrist appears most distinctly in the Book of the Revelation by this Second Beast or the False Prophet, especially in the more general or representative character. He is not, however, necessarily a person, but rather the symbol of some power that should arise, who will ally itself with a corrupt religion (for the two Apocalyptic beasts are designated as distinct), represent itself as her minister and vindicator (Revelation 13:12), compel men by violence to pay reverence to her (Revelation 13:14), breathe a new life into her decaying frame I by his use of the secular arm in her behalf (Revelation 13:15), forbidding civil rights to those who renounce her authority and reject her symbols (Revelation 13:17), and putting them to death by the sword (Revelation 13:15)." (See BEAST).
IV. Interpretations. — Who or what is Antichrist? The answers to this question are legion. The Edinburgh Encyclopoedia (s.v.) enumerates fourteen different theories, and the list might be greatly enlarged. We give
(1) a brief summary of the Scripture testimony;
(2) the views of the early Christians;
(3) the views held in the Middle Ages;
(4) from the Reformation to the present time.
In this sketch, we make use, to a considerable extent, of information from various sources, from which paragraphs have already been cited.
1. Scripture Teaching. — The sum of Scripture teaching with regard to the Antichrist, then, appears to be as follows: Already, in the times of the apostles, there was the mystery of iniquity, the spirit of Antichrist, at work. It embodied itself in various shapes — in the Gnostic heretics of John's days; in the Jewish impostors who preceded the fall of Jerusalem; in all heresiarchs and unbelievers, especially those whose heresies had a tendency to deny the incarnation of Christ; and in the great persecutors who from time to time afflicted the church. But this Antichristian spirit was originally, and is now again diffused; it has only at times concentrated itself in certain personal or distinct forms of persecution, which may thus be historically enumerated: 1. Antiochus Epiphanes, the consummation of the Hellenizing policy of the Greco-Syrian monarchy, and denoted by the Little Horn and fierce king of Daniel 2:1-49. The apostate Jewish faith, especially in its representatives who opposed Christianity in its early progress, and at length caused the downfall of the Jewish nation, as represented by the allusions in our Savior's last discourse and in John's epistles. 3. The Roman civil power (the first beast of Revelation) abetting the pagan mythology (the second beast, or false prophet) in its violent attempts to crush Christianity, at first insidious, but finally open, as culminating in Nero and Domitian. It is this phase which seems incipiently alluded to by Paul. All these-hiave again their refulfilment (so to speak) in the great apostasy ofthe papal system. (Compare especially the characteristics of the Second Beast, above.) There is also dimly foreshadowed some future contest, which shall arouse the same essential elements of hostility to divine truth. (See BABYLON); (See GOG).
2. Early Christian Views. — The early Christians looked for Antichrist in a person, not in a polity or system. "That he would be a man armed with Satanic powers is the opinion of Justin Martyr, A.D. 103 (Dial. 371, 20, 21, Thirlbii. 1722); of Irensus, A.D. 140 (Op. 5,25, 437, Grabii. 1702); of Tertullian, A.D. 150 (De Res. Carn. c. 24; Apol. c. 32); of Origen, A.D. 184 (Op. 1, 667, Delarue, 1733); of his contemporary, Hippolytus (De Antichristo, 57, Fabricii, Hamburgi. 1716); of Cyprian, A.D. 250 (Ep. 58; op. 120, Oxon. 1682) of Victorinus, A.D. 270 (Bib. Patr. Magna, 3, 136, Col. Agrip. 1618); of Lactantius, A.D. 300 (Dyv. Inst. 7, 17); of Cyril of Jerusalem, A.D. 315 (Catech. 15, 4); of Jerome, A.D. 330 (Op. 4, pars 1, 209, Parisiis, 1693); of Chrysostom, A.D. 347 (Comm. in 2 Thessalonians); of Hilary of Poitiers, A.D. 350 (Comm. in Matthew); of Augustine, A.D. 354 (De Civit. Dei, 20, 19); of Ambrose, A.D. 380 (Comm. in Luc.). The authors of the Sibylline Oracles, A.D. 150, and of the Apostolical Constitutions, Celsus (see Orig. c. Cels. lib. 6), Ephraem Syrus, A.D. 370, Theodoret, A.D. 430, and a few other writers, seem to have regarded the Antichrist as the devil himself, rather than as his minister or an emanation from him. But they may, perhaps, have meant no more than to express the identity of his character and his power with that of Satan. Each of the writers to whom we have referred gives his own judgment with respect to some particulars which may be expected in the Antichrist, while they all agree in representing him as a person about to come shortly before the glorious and final appearance of Christ, and to be destroyed by His presence. Justin Martyr speaks of him as the man of the apostasy, and dwells chiefly on the persecutions which he would cause.
Irenaeus describes him as summing up the apostasy in himself; as having his seat at Jerusalem; as identical with the Apocalyptic Beast (c. 28); as foreshadowed by the unjust judge; as being the man who ‘ should come in his own name,' and as belonging to the tribe of Dan (c. 30). Tertullian identifies him with the Beast, and supposes him to be about to arise on the fall of the Roman Empire (De Res. Cam. c. 25). Origen describes him in Eastern phrase as the child of the devil and the counterpart of Christ. Hippolytus understands the Roman Empire to be represented by the Apocalyptic Beast, and the Antichrist by the False Prophet, who would restore the wounded Beast by his craft and by the wisdom of his laws. Cyprian sees him typified in Antiochus Epiphanes (Exhort. ad Mart. c. 11). Victorinus, with several others, misunstanding Paul's expression that the mystery of iniquity was in his day working, supposes that the Antichrist will be a revivified hero; Lactantius, that he will be a king of Syria, born of an evil spirit; Cyril, that he will be a magician, who by his arts will get the mastery of the Roman Empire. Jerome describes him as the son of the devil, sitting in the Church as though he were the Son of God; Chrysostom as ἀντίθεός τις , sitting in the Temple of God, that is, in all the churches, not merely in the Temple at Jerusalem; Augustine as the adversary holding power for three and a half years-the Beast, perhaps, representing Satan's empire. The primitive belief may be summed up in the words of Jerome (Comm. on Daniel): ‘ Let us say that which all ecclesiastical writers have handed down, viz., that at the end of the world, when the Roman Empire is to be destroyed, there will be ten kings, who will divide the Roman world among them; and there will arise an eleventh little king, who will subdue three of the ten kings, that is, the king of Egypt, of Africa, and of Ethiopia, as we shall hereafter show; and on these having been slain, the seven other kings will also submit. "And behold," he says, "in the ram were the eyes of a man" — this is that we may not suppose him to be a devil or a daemon, as some have thought, but a man in whom Satan will dwell utterly and bodily — "and a mouth speaking great things;" for he is "the man of sin, the son of perdition, who sitteth in the temple of God, making himself as God"' (Op. 4, 511, Col. Agrip: 1616). In his Comment. on Daniel 11:1-45, and in his reply to Algasia's eleventh question, he works out the same view in greater detail, the same line of interpretation continued. Andreas of Casarea, A.D. 550, explains him to be a king actuated by Satan, who will reunite the old Roman Empire and reign at Jerusalem (In Apoc. c. 13); Aretas, A.D. 650, as a king of the Romans, who will reign over the Saracens in Bagdad (In Apoc. c. 13)."
3. Middle-Age Views. — In the Middle Age it was the prevailing opinion that Antichrist would either be brought forth by a virgin, or be the offspring of a bishop and a nun. About the year 950, Adso, a monk in a monastery of Western Franconia, wrote a treatise on Antichrist, in which he assigned a later time to his coming, and also to the end of the world (see Schrockh, Kirchengesch. 21, p. 243). He did not distinctly state whom he meant to be understood by Antichrist (Hagenbach, Hist. of Doctrines, §203). "A Frank king," he says, "will reunite the Roman Empire, and aldicate on Mount Olivet, and, on the dissolution of his kingdom, the Antichrist will be revealed." The same writer supposes that he will be born in Babylon, that he will be educated at Bethsaida and Chorazin, and that he will proclaim himself the Son of God at Jeruralem (Tract. in Antichr. apud August. Opera, 9, 454, Paris, 1637). In the singular predictions of Hildegarde († 1197), Antichrist is foretold as the spirit of doubt. She states that the exact season of Antichrist is not revealed, but describes his manifestation as an impious imitation or "parody of the incarnation of the Divine Word" (Christian Remembrancer, 44, 50). (See HILDEGARDE). But "the received opinion of the twelfth century is brought before us in a striking manner in the interview between Richard I and the abbot Joachim of Floris († 1202) at Messina, as the king was on his way to the Holy Land.
‘ I thought,' said the king, ‘ that Antichrist would be born in Antioch or in Babylon, and of the tribe of Dan, and would reign in the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem, and would walk in that land in which Christ walked, and would reign in it for three years and a half, and would dispute against Elijah and Enoch, and would kill them, and would afterward die; and that after his death God would give sixty days of repentance, in which those might repent which should have erred from the way of truth, and have been seduced by the preaching of Antichrist and his false prophets.' This seems to have been the view defended by the archbishops of Rouen and Auxerre, and by the bishop of Bayonne, who were present at the interview, but it was not Joachim's opinion. He maintained the seven heads of the Beast to be Herod, Nero, Constantius, Mohammed, Melsemut, who were past; Saladin, who was then living; and Antichrist, who was shortly to come, being already born in the city of Rome, and about to be elevated to the apostolic see (Roger de Hoveden, in Richard 1, anno 1190). In his own work on the Apocalypse, Joachim speaks of the second Apocalyptic Beast as being governed by ‘ some great. prelate who will be like Simon Magus, and, as it were, universal pontiff throughout the world, and be that very Antichrist of whom St. Paul speaks.' These are very noticeable words. Gregory I had long since (A.D. 590) declared that any man who held even the shadow of the power which the popes of Rome soon after his time arrogated to themselves would be the precursor of Antichrist. Arnulphus, bishop of Orleans (or perhaps Gerbert), in an invective against John XV at the Council of Rheims, A.D. 991, had declared, that if the Roman pontiff was destitute of charity and puffed up with knowledge, he was Antichrist; if destitute both of charity and of knowledge, that he was a lifeless stone (Mansi, 9, 132, Ven. 1774); but Joachim is the first to suggest, not that such and such a pontiff was Antichrist, but that the Antichrist would be a Universalis Pontifex, and that he would occupy the apostolic see. Still, however, we have no hint of an order of men being the Antichrist; it is a living individual man that Joachim contemplates." Amalrich of Bena (†12th century) seems to have been the first to teach explicitly that the pope (i.e. the papal system) is Antichrist: Quia Papa esset Antichristus et Roma Babylon et ipse sedet in monte Oliveti. i.e. in pinguedine potestatis (according to Caesarius of Heisterbach; comp. Engelhardt, Kirchenhistorische Abhandlungen, p. 256, quoted by Hagenbach). The German emperors in their contests with the popes, often applied the title Antichrist to the latter; we find instances of this as early as the times of the Hohenstaufen. Emperor Louis, surnamed the Bavarian, also called Pope John XXII the mystical Antichrist (Schrockh, 31, p. 108). John Aventinus, in his Annalium Boiorunm, libri 8, p. 651, Lips. 1710), himself the Romish writer, speaks of it as a received opinion of the Middle Age that the reign of Antichrist was that of Hildebrand († 1085), and cites Eberhard, archbishop of Salzburg (12th century), as asserting that Hildebrand had, "in the name of religion, laid the foundation of the kingdom of Antichrist 170 years before his time." He can even name the ten horns. They are the "Turks, Greeks, Egyptians, Africans, Spaniards, English, French, Germans, Sicilians, and Italians, who now occupy the provinces of Rome; and a little horn has grown up with eyes and mouth, speaking great things, which is reducing three of these kingdoms i.e. Sicily, Italy, and Germany — to subserviency; is persecuting the people of Christ and the saints of God with intolerable opposition; is confounding things human and divine, and attempting things unutterable, execrable." Pope Innocent III (A.D. 1213) designated Mohammed as Antichrist; and as the number of the beast, 666, was held to indicate the period of his dominion, it was supposed that the Mohammedan power was soon to fall.
The Waldenses have a treatise (given in Leger, Hist. des Eglises Vaudoises) concerning Antichrist of the 12th century (Gieseler, Maitland, and others, dispute the date, but the best authorities now agree to it). It treats of Antichrist as the whole anti-Christian principle concealing itself under the guise of Christianity, and calls it a "system of falsehood adorning itself with a show of beauty and piety, yet (as by the names and offices of the Scriptures, and the sacraments, and various other things may appear) very unsuitable to the Church of Christ. The system of iniquity thus completed, with its ministers, great and small, supported by those who are induced to follow it with an evil heart, and blindfold — this is the congregation which, taken together, comprises what is called Antichrist or Babylon, the fourth beast, the whore, the man of sin, the son of perdition." It originated, indeed, "in the times of the apostles, but, by gaining power and worldly influence, it had reached its climax in the corruption of the Papal Church. "Christ never had an enemy like this; so able to pervert the way of truth into falsehood, insomuch that the true church, with her children, is trodden under foot. The worship that belongs alone to God he transfers to Antichrist himself — to the creature, male and female, deceased — to images, carcasses, and relics. The sacrament of the Eucharist is converted into an object of adoration, and the worshipping of God alone is prohibited. He robs the Savior of his merits, and the sufficiency of his grace in justification, regeneration, remission of sins, sanctification, establishment in the faith, and spiritual nourishment; ascribing all these things to his own authority, to a form of words, to his own works, to the intercession of saints, and to the fire of purgatory. He seduces the people from Christ, drawing off their minds from seeking those blessings in him, by a lively faith in God, in Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Spirit, and teaching his followers to expect them by the will, and pleasure, and works of Antichrist.
"He teaches to baptize children into the faith, and attributes to this the work of regeneration; thus confounding the work of the Holy Spirit in regeneration with the external rite of baptism, and on this foundation bestows orders, and, indeed, grounds all his Christianity. He places all religion and holiness in going to mass, and has mingled together all descriptions of ceremonies, Jewish, heathen, and Christian — and by means thereof, the people are deprived of spiritual food, seduced from the true religion and the commandments of God, and established in vain and presumptuous hopes. All his works are done to be seen of men, that he may glut himself with insatiable avarice, and hence every thing is set to sale. He allows of open sins without ecclesiastical censure, and even the impenitent are not excommunicated" (Neander, Church History, 4, 605 sq.).
The Hussites followed the Waldenses in this theory of Antichrist, applying it to the papal system., So did Wickliffe and his followers: Wickliffe, Trialogus (cited by Schrockh, 34, 509); Janow, Liber de Almtichristo (Hist. et Monum. J. Huss, vol. 1). Lord Cobham (Sir John Oldcastle), executed as a Wickliffite, 1417, declared to King Henry V that, "as sure as God's word is true, the pope is the great Antichrist foretold in Holy Writ" (New Genesis Dict. s.v. Oldcastle).
4. From the Reformation downward. — One of the oldest German works in print, the first mentioned by Panzer in the Annalen der Alteren deutschen Literatur, is Das Buch yom Entkrist (The Book of Antichrist), or, also, "Bichlin von des Endte Christs Leben und Regierung durch verhengniss Gottes, wie er die Welt tuth verkeren mit seiner falschen Lere und Rat des Teufels," etc. "‘ Little Book concerning Antichrist's Life and Rule through God's Providence, how he doth pervert the World with his false Doctrine and Counsel of the Devil," etc. (reprinted at Erfurt, 1516). As early as 1520 Luther began to doubt whether the pope were not Antichrist. In a letter to Spalatin, Feb. 23, 1520, he says, "Ego sic angor ut prope non dubitem papam esse proprie Antichristun." In the same year, when he heard of Eck's success in obtaining the bull against him from the pope, Luther exclaimed, "At length the mystery of Antichrist must be unveiled" (Ranke, Hist. of Reformation, Uk. 2, ch. 3). In the Reformation era the opinion that the papal system is Antichrist was generally adopted; and it is the prevalent opinion among Protestants to this day, although, as will appear below, some writers make Rome only one form of Antichrist. The various classes of opinion, and the writers who maintain them, are given by Smith, s.v., as follows: Bullinger (1504), Chytraeus (1571), Aretius (1573), Foxe (1586), Napier (1593), Mede (1632), Jurieu (1685), Bp. Newton (1750), Cunninghame (1813), Faber (1814), Woodhouse (1828), Habershon (1843), identify the False Prophet, or Second Apocalyptic Beast, with Antichrist and with the papacy; Marlorat (1574), King James I (1603), Daubuz (1720), Galloway (1802), the First Apocalyptic Beast; Briihtman (1600), Pareus (1615), Vitringa (1705), Gill (1776), Bachmair (1778), Fraser (1795), Croly (1828), Fysh (1837), Elliott (1844), both the Beasts. That the pope and his system are Antichrist was taught by Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Melancthon, Bucer, Beza. Calixtus, Bengel, Michaelis, and by almost all Protestant writers on the Continent. Nor was there any hesitation on the part of English theologians to seize the same weapon of. offense. Bishop Bale (1491), like Luther, Bucer, and Melancthon, pronounces the pope in Europe and Mohammed in Africa to be Antichrist. The pope is Antichrist, say Cranmer (Works, 2, 46, Camb. 1844), Latimer (Works, 1, 149, Camb. 1844), Ridley (Works,p. 53. Camb. 1841), Hooper (Works, 2, 44, Camb., 1852), Hutchinson (Works, p. 304, Camb., 1842), Tyndale (Works, 1, 147, Camb. 1848), Sandys (Works, p. 11, Camb. 1841), Philpot (Works, p. 152, Camb. 1842), Jewell (Works, 1, 109, Camb. 1845), Rogers (Workes, p. 182, Camb. 1854), Fulke (Works, 2, 269, Camb. 1848), Bradford (Works, p. 435, Camb. 1848). Nor is the opinion confined to these 16th century divines, who may be supposed to have been specially incensed against popery. King James held it (Apol. pro Juram. Fidel. Lond. 1609) as strongly as Queen Elizabeth (see, Jewell, Letter to Bulling. May 22, 1559, Zurich Letters, First Series, p. 33, Camb. 1842); and the theologians of the 17th century did not repudiate it, though they less and less dwelt upon it as their struggle came to be with Puritanism in place of popery. Bishop Andrewes maintains it as a probable conclusion from the Epistle to the Thessalonians (Resp. ad Bellarm. p. 304, Oxon. 1851); but he carefully explains that King James, whom he was defending, had expressed his private opinion, not the belief of the church, on the subject (ibid. p. 23). Bramhall introduces limitations and distinctions (Works, 3, 520, Oxf. 1845); significantly suggests that there are marks of Antichrist which apply to the General Assembly of the Kirk of Scotland as much as to the pope or to the Turk (ibid. 3, 287), and declines to make the Church of England responsible for what individual preachers or writers had said on the subject in moments of exasperation (ib. 2, 582). From this time onward, in the Church of England, the less evangelical divines are inclined to abandon the theory of the Reformers, while, of course, the Romanizers oppose it. Yet it appears, from the list above, that some of the best interpreters in that church, as well as in other branches of Protestantism, maintain the old interpretation of the prophecies of Daniel, Paul, and John.
Some writers have gone back to the old idea of an individual Antichrist yet to come, e. p. "Lacunza or Benezra (1810), Burgh, Samuel Maitland, Newman (Tracts for the Times, No. 83), Charles Maitland (Prophetic Interpretation). Others prefer looking upon him as long past, and fix upon one or another persecutor or heresiarch as the man in whom the predictions as to Antichrist found their fulfillment. There seems to be no trace of this idea for more than 1600 years in the church.: But it has been taken up by two opposite classes of expounders — by Romanists who were anxious to avert the application of the Apocalyptic prophecies from the papacy, and by others, who were disposed, not indeed to deny the prophetic import of the Apocalypse, but to confine the seer's ken within the closest and narrowest limits that were possible. Alcasar, a Spanish Jesuit, taking a hint from Victorinus, seems to have been the first (A.D. 1604) to have suggested that the Apocalyptic prophecies did not extend further than to the overthrow of paganism by Constantine. This view, with variations by Grotius, is taken up and expounded by Bossuet, Calmet, De Sacy, Eichhorn, Hug, Herder, Ewald, Moses Stuart, Davidson. The general view of the school is that the Apocalypse describes the triumph of Christianity over Judaism in the first, and over heathenism in the third century. Mariana sees Antichrist in Nero; Bossuet in Dipoletian and in Julian; Grotius in Caligula; Wetstein in Titus; Hammond in Simon Magus (Works, 3, 620, Lond. 1631); Whitby in the Jews (Comm. 2, 431, Lond. 1760); Le Clerc in Simon, son of Giora, a leader of the rebel Jews; Schottgen in the Pharisees; Nossett and Krause in the Jewish zealots; Harduin in the High-priest Ananias; F. D. Maurice in Vitellius (On the Apocalypse, Camb. 1860)."
5. The same spirit that refuses to regard Satan as an individual, naturally looks upon the Antichrist as an evil principle not embodied either in a person or in a polity. "Thus Koppe, Storr, Nitzsch, Pelt. (See Alford, Gk. Test. 3, 69.) Some of the Romish theologians find Antichrist in rationalism and radicalism, others in Protestantism as a whole. Some Protestants fix it in Romanism as a whole, others in Jesuitism; others, again, in the latest forms of infidelity, while some of the ultra Lutherans find it in modern radicalism, political and religious. Any view of this kind, when carried so far as to exclude all personal identification, is certainly too vague to be satisfactory. But, at the same time, the just conclusion seems to be that Antichrist is not to be confined to any single person or power, but is essentially a great principle or system of falsehood, having various manifestations, forms of working, and degrees, as especially exemplified in Antiochus Epiphanes, Jewish bigotry, and pagan intolerance; while it is undeniable that later Romanism exhibits some of the most prominent characteristics of Antichrist in a manner so striking and peculiar as to assure us that the system is not only one among the many species of Antichrist, but that it stands in the fore-front, and is pointed at by the finger of prophecy as no other form of Antichrist is.
V. Time of Antichrist. — A vast deal of labor has been spent upon computations based upon the "time, times, and dividing of time" in Daniel (7:25), and upon the "number of the Beast" (666) given in Revelation 13:18. We can only refer to the commentators and writers on prophecy for these, as it would take too much space to enumerate them. As to Daniel's "time, times, and dividing of time," it is commonly interpreted to mean 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" (Watson, s.v.). As to the "number of the beast," the interpretation suggested by Irenaeus is one of the most plausible. The number is "the number of a man" (Revelation 13:18); and Irenaeus names Λατεινος as fulfilling the conditions (see Alford, Comm., who considers this the nearest approach to a complete solution). But human ingenuity has found the conditions fulfilled also in the name of Mohammed, Luther, Napoleon, and many others. After all the learning and labor spent upon the question, we must confess that it is yet left unsolved.
VI. Jewish and Mohammedan Traditions of Antichrist. — Of these we take the following account from Smith, s.v.
1. "The name given by the Jews to Antichrist is (אִרְמַילוּס ) Armillus. There are several rabbinical books in which a circumstantial account is given of him, such as the ‘ Book of Zerubbabel,' and others printed at Constantinople. Buxtorf gives an abridgment of their contents in his Lexicon, under the head ‘ Armillus,' and in the fiftieth chapter of his Synagoga Judaica (p. 717). The name is derived from Isaiah 11:4, where the Targum gives ‘ By the word of his mouth the wicked Armillus shall die,' for ‘ with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.' There will, say the Jews, be twelve signs of the coming of the Messiah:
(1.) The appearance of three apostate kings who have fallen away from the faith, but in the sight of men appear to be worshippers of the true God.
(2.) A terrible heat of the sun.
(3.) A dew of blood (Joel 2:30).
(4.) A healing dew for the pious.
(5.) A darkness will be cast upon the sun (Joel 2:31) for thirty days (Isaiah 24:22).
(6.) God will give universal power to the Romans for nine months, during which time the Roman chieftain will afflict the Israelites; at the end of the nine months God will raise up the Messiah Ben-Joseph — that is, the Messiah of the tribe of Joseph, named Nehemiah — who will defeat the Roman chieftain, and slay him. (7.) Then there will arise Armillus, whom the Gentiles or Christians call Antichrist. He will be born of a marble statue in one of the churches in Rome. He will go to the Romans and will profess himself to be their Messiah and their God. At once the Romans will believe in him and accept him for their king. Having made the whole world subject to him, he will say to the Idumaeans (i.e. Christians), ‘ Bring me the law which I have given you.' They will bring it with their book of prayers; and he will accept it as his own, and will exhort them to persevere in their belief of him. Then he will send to Nehemiah, and command the Jewish Law to be brought him, and proof to be given from it that he is God. Nehemiah will go before him, guarded by 30,000 warriors of the tribe of Ephraim, and will read, ‘ I am the Lord thy God: thou shalt have none other gods but me.' Armillus will say that there are no such words in the Law, and will command the Jews to confess him to be God as the other nations had confessed him. But Nehemiah will give orders to his followers to seize and bind him. Then Armillus, in rage and fury, will gather all his people in a deep valley to fight with Israel, and in that battle the Messiah Ben-Joseph will fall, and the angels will bear away his body and carry him to the resting-place of the Patriarchs. Then the Jews will be cast out by all nations, and suffer afflictions such as have not been from the beginning of the world, and the residue of them will fly into the desert, and will remain there forty and five days, during which time all the Israelites who are not worthy to see the redemption shall die.
(8.) Then the great angel Michael will rise and blow three mighty blasts of a trumpet. At the first blast there shall appear the true Messiah Ben-David and the prophet Elijah, and they will manifest themselves to the Jews in the desert, and all the Jews throughout the world shall hear the sound of the trump, and those that have been carried captive into Assyria shall be gathered together; and with great gladness they shall come to Jerusalem. Then Armillus will raise a great army of Christians, and lead them to Jerusalem to conquer the new king. But God shall say to Messiah, ‘ Sit thou on my right hand,' and to the Israelites, ‘ Stand still and see what God will work for you to-day.' Then God will pour down sulphur and fire from heaven (Ezekiel 38:22), and the impious Armillus shall die, and the impious Idumaeans (i.e. Christians), who have destroyed the house of our God and have led us away into captivity, shall perish in misery; and the Jews shall avenge themselves upon them, as it is written: ‘ The house of Jacob shall be a fire, and the house of Joseph a flame, and the house of Esau (i.e. the Christians) for stubble, and they shall kindle in them and devour them: there shall not be any remaining of the house of Esau, for the Lord hath spoken it' (Obadiah 1:18).
(9.) On the second blast of the trumpet the tombs shall be opened, and Messiah Ben-David shall raise Messiah Ben-Joseph from the dead.
(10.) The ten tribes shall be led to Paradise, and shall celebrate the wedding-feast of the Messiah. And the Messiah shall choose a bride among the fairest of the daughters of Israel, anid children and children's children shall be born to him, and then he shall die like other men, and his sons shall reign over Israel after him, as it is written: ‘ He shall prolong his days' (Isaiah 53:10), which Rambam explains to mean, ‘ He shall live long, but he too shall die in great glory, and his son shall reign in his stead, and his sons' sons in succession' (Buxtorfii Synagoga Judaica, p. 717, Basil, 1661).
2. Mussulmans, as well as Jews and Christians, expect an Antichrist. They call him Al Dajjal, from a name which signifies an impostor, or a liar; and they hold that their prophet Mohammed taught one of his disciples, whose name was Tamini Al-Dari, every thing relating to Antichrist. On his authority, they tell us that Antichrist must come at the end of the world; that he will make his entry into Jerusalem, like Jesus Christ, riding on an ass; but that Christ, who is not dead, will come at his second advent to encounter him; and that, after having conquered him, he will then die indeed. That the beast described by John in the Revelation will appear with Antichrist, and make war against the saints; that Imam Mahdi, who remains concealed among the Mussulmans, will then show himself, join Jesus Christ, and with him engage Dajjal; after which they will unite the Christians, and the Mussulmans, and of the two religions will make but one (D'Herbelot, Bibl. Orient. s.v. Daggial, etc.).
"These Mohammedan traditions are an adaptation of Christian prophecy and Jewish legend, without any originality or any beauty of their own. They too have their signs which are to precede the final consummation. They are divided into the greater and lesser signs. Of the greater signs the first is the rising of the sun from the west (comp. Matthew 24:29). The next is the appearance of a beast from the earth, sixty cubits high, bearing the staff of Moses and the seal of Solomon, with which he will inscribe the word
‘ Believer' on the face of the faithful, and ‘ Unbeliever' on all who have not accepted Islamism (comp. Revelation 13:1-18). The third sign is the capture of Constantinople; while the spoil of which is being divided, news will come of the appearance of Antichrist, and every man will return to his own home. Antichrist will be blind of one eye and deaf of one ear, and will have the name of Unbeliever written on his forehead (Revelation 13:1-18). It is he that the Jews call Messiah Ben-David, and say that he will come in the last times and reign over sea and land, and restore to them the kingdom. He will continue forty days, one of these days being equal to a year, another to a month, another to a week, the rest being days of ordinary length. He will devastate all other places, but willnot be allowed to enter Mecca and Medina, which will be guarded by angels. Lastly, he will be killed by Jesus at the gate of Lud. For when news is received of the appearance of Antichrist, Jesus will come down to earth, alighting on the white tower at the east of Damascus, and will slay him;
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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Antichrist'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/a/antichrist.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.
the Second Week of Advent