In this article, we will study the departure from truth, especially about the coming of the antichrist and how it has come into the ranks of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. You may think that it could never happen, but it is happening, and the devil is preparing Seventh-day Adventists to take the mark of the beast, which is going to come upon those who have not overcome all sin. You see, you and I can know all these truths; we can know all doctrine and all theology, but unless we have overcome all sin, the devil will overcome us. We can know it all, but if we do not have victory in our lives, that means the devil has a foothold there. He can introduce subjects and doctrines of devils into our minds.
In Part I of this series [February 2006], we learned from Psalm 11:3 that if the foundations be destroyed, the righteous must stick to the original foundation. We must not get off that foundation or leave it. The apostle Paul warned the believers not to be laying any other foundation than that which had already been laid. (1 Corinthians 3:10, 11.)
From The Signs of the Times, February 10, 1898, we read from Ellen White’s article, “Christ and the Pharisees,” that “The priests and elders made great professions of piety. They claimed to be looking eagerly for the promised Messiah, and apparently they were waiting with anxious expectancy for the call to the great supper, when they would immediately go in. They were proclaiming everywhere the great events that were to take place when the King of the Jews should come. They boasted constantly of how He was to conquer their enemies, and set up His own kingdom. But they applied to His first advent the prophecies relating to His second coming, and when He did come, they knew Him not.”
How successful was this deception? Do you realize that even the disciples were still asking Jesus when He was about to ascend into heaven, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” Acts 1:6. This thought had so permeated the minds of the people that many Jews perished. They did not know Him because they had applied the prophecies of His Second Coming to His first coming.
With such great former success, the devil has introduced the same thought within the Christian world today. This probably ranks as one of the top deceptions of the Christian age, along with Sunday keeping and spiritualism. This idea has been reversed by the devil by applying the prophecies of Jesus’ first coming to his Second Coming. How has he done this?
Second Coming Divided
Read Daniel 9:27: “. . . in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate.” This one week of prophecy that belongs to Jesus’ ministry has been applied to the seven years of an end time secret rapture, to the coming of antichrist, and to the glorious coming. Jesus’ Second Coming has been divided into two parts. It is believed that this antichrist is going to be a single individual who will come and stop the sacrificing in the temple that the Jews have made in Jerusalem and make a covenant with them. Have you ever wondered what Jews who have accepted Jesus and believe they are the 144,000 evangelists that are to go out and spread the gospel once again to the ones who did not accept it the first time would be doing sacrificing in a temple? The connections have not been made! So the prophecies that we are talking about here have been reversed by the devil.
Christian Edwardson wrote: “So great a hold did the conviction that the Papacy was the antichrist gain upon the minds of men, that Rome at last saw she must stir herself and try by putting forth other systems of interpretation to counteract the identification of the Papacy with the antichrist.” Christian Edwardson, Facts of Faith, Southern Publishing Association, Nashville, Tennessee, 1943, 201. This occurred during the time of the Council of Trent. This was called the counter-Reformation period. It was during the sixteenth century, at the height of the Reformation. The Catholic Church was losing many of its converts. It wanted to reverse this trend, so other systems of interpretation were introduced.
“Accordingly, towards the close of the century of the Reformation, two of her most learned doctors set themselves to the task. Each endeavoring by different means to accomplish the same end; namely, that of diverting men’s minds from perceiving the fulfillment of the prophecies of the antichrist in the papal system. The Jesuit Alcasar devoted himself to bringing into prominence the Preterist method of interpretation.” Ibid. That is, they believed that the antichrist arose before Jesus came or that it applied to Nero.
On the other hand, the Jesuit Ribera tried to set aside the application of these prophecies to the papal power by bringing out the futurist system, which asserts that these prophecies refer properly not to the career of the papacy but to that of some future supernatural individual. Note the words, “who is yet to appear and to continue in power for three and one-half years.” All of this comes from Daniel 9.
Thus, as Alfred says, that Jesuit Ribera, about 1850, may be regarded as the founder of the futurist system in modern times. It is a matter for deep regret that those Protestants who hold and advocate the futurist system at the present day are, for the most part, really playing into the hands of Rome in helping to screen the papacy from detection as the antichrist.
Futurism or Preterism
Has this been successful within Protestantism? Absolutely! Perhaps a brief study of history would be useful. Francisco Ribera founded the futurist system of the antichrist arising in the future. This has been the most successful one of all, as we just read. Alcazar had the preterist view, in which he applied the antichrist to Nero and some to Antiochus Epiphanies before the coming of Christ. Both of these prophecies were to accomplish the same end, and that was to divert the people from studying that the papacy was the antichrist. Both of these prophecies accomplished this, but the most widely believed was Ribera’s interpretation. The belief systems are called preterism and futurism, and they apply the last seven years of Daniel 9:27 to an end-time prophecy.
Many Christians today are looking into the future for some supernatural individual to arise and for a temple to be rebuilt. Then the antichrist will come and stop the sacrificing during the middle of the seven-year period, which applied to Christ. It is an abomination!
Toward the end of the 1700s, a Jesuit priest by the name of Manuel Lacunza wrote a book entitled The Coming of the Glorious Messiah. (Juan Josafat Ben-Ezra, Biblioteca Virtual Miguel de Cervantes, 2000.) He was from South America, so he wrote in Spanish under the pen name of Ben-Ezra.
Ellen White wrote about Lacunza as a person who began to search the Scriptures about the coming of Christ but did not have all the truth. “In South America, in the midst of barbarism and priest-craft, Lacunza, a Spaniard and a Jesuit, found his way to the Scriptures and thus received the truth of Christ’s speedy return. Impelled to give the warning, yet desiring to escape the censures of Rome, he published his views under the assumed name of ‘Rabbi Ben-Ezra,’ representing himself as a converted Jew. Lacunza lived in the eighteenth century, but it was about 1825 that his book, having found its way to London, was translated into the English language. Its publication served to deepen the interest already awakening in England in the subject of the second advent.” The Great Controversy, 363.
In this book, The Coming of the Glorious Messiah, Lacunza asserts that the antichrist is going to arise in the future. John Edward Irvin obtained a copy of Manuel Lacunza’s book in London and translated it. As he was translating it, he grasped this theory that the antichrist was going to arise in the future.
Following are some excerpts from the translation of the book. “That there shall be an antichrist and he shall be revealed and publicly declare toward the last times in that he shall commit in the world the greatest evils making formal war against Christ and all that pertains to him. These are three certain things of which no Christian can doubt.” Ben-Ezra, vol. I, Pt. II, Phenomenon III, 259.
Here is another excerpt: “According to all the signs given in the Holy Scriptures and others not equivocally offered to us by time which is want to be in the best interpreter of the prophecies the antichrist or the counter-Christ, with whom we stand threatened in the times immediate, upon the coming of the Lord is nothing but a moral body composed of innumerable individuals, divers in themselves but all morally united and animated with one common spirit and against the Lord and against his Christ.” Ibid., 260. Notice those words, it is “composed of innumerable individuals.”
Now, there are other people. For example, Margaret McDonald was a 15-year-old in John Edward Irvin’s church who started having visions of a secret rapture. She then started proclaiming that this secret rapture was going to happen and started studying John Edward Irvin’s books. John Darby then grasped Margaret McDonald’s visions and began publishing them and proclaiming about the antichrist arising in the future. Then Cyrus Schofield, who edited and annotated the Schofield Bible, included all the notes of Darby and McDonald in his edition of the Bible and introduced it into the Protestant theological seminaries, such as the Dallas Theological Seminary and the Moody Bible Institute.
By the early 1900s, people had already been introduced to these theories. Well-known theologians such as LaHaye and Jenkins attended these seminaries and grasped these theories. You perhaps recognize that LaHaye and Jenkins wrote the Left Behind book series that has sold more than 65 million copies. The theory propagated in their books is being permeated throughout all of Christendom, and now it has even come into the Seventh-day Adventist Church. There is no doubt that this teaching, which is pretty fundamental, is a fallacy.
Following are statements from an article entitled “Who is the Antichrist?” which appeared in the June 1999 issue of The Signs of the Times (Pacific Press Publishing Association, Nampa, Idaho). As you read through the statements, consider whether or not you detect anything wrong in the statements.
“Since the whole idea of antichrist comes out of the New Testament, it seems best to go to the Bible for the answer to our question.” What is wrong with that statement? Where in the Bible do we first discover mention of the antichrist? In the Old Testament, in Daniel 7! So there is something seriously wrong with this quote.
I was just a baby Christian when I started studying this subject, but when I began reading through this article, I was certain there was something wrong, because I had studied Daniel 7 where the antichrist is revealed. In fact, this chapter has more pertinent information that is not found anywhere else in the Bible, especially verse 25, where it says that he “shall intend to change times and law.”
Look at this next quote: “And he told us that the appearance of these false Christs will be a sign of the nearness of the Second Coming, making it clear that these antichrists will especially be an end-time phenomenon.” It is almost a mimic writing of what we read in Lacunza’s writings. Now, is this an end-time phenomenon?
A Historical View
How could you prove from the Bible that our understanding of the antichrist has already come, has been here, has ruled, and is with us today? Turn to Daniel 7. We may know these prophecies by heart, but the Bible says that we need to give an answer. We need to have a biblical reason for what we are doing, what we are saying, and what we are teaching.
In Daniel 7, there is something that is repeated three times, and when God repeats something, He most certainly is trying to make a point. Teachers use this method to teach their students; it is called repeat and enlarge. In Daniel 7, the little horn as the antichrist is described; then notice the pattern of repeating in verses 8, 20, and 24: “I was considering the horns, and there was another horn, a little one, coming up among them, before whom three of the first horns were plucked out by the roots. And there, in this horn, [were] eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking pompous words.” “And the ten horns that [were] on its head, and the other [horn] which came up, before which three fell, namely, that horn which had eyes and a mouth which spoke pompous words, whose appearance [was] greater than his fellows.” “The ten horns [are] ten kings [Who] shall arise from this kingdom. And another shall rise after them; He shall be different from the first [ones], And shall subdue three kings.” What is repeated in those texts? The three horns. What is so significant about those three horns? Those three horns tell exactly when the antichrist would arise! How do we know that?
What were the three horns? Well, the horns represent earthly powers or kingdoms. The first one to fall were the Heruli in a.d. 493; the second were the Vandals in a.d. 534; and, lastly, were the Ostrogoths in a.d. 538. You will certainly recognize the significance of the a.d. 538 date, as it marked the beginning of the 1260 year prophecy. That date is being attacked in Adventism today by theologians.
The a.d. 538 date also marked a very significant change in the papacy. I have read from several different sources that at that time the popes were no longer just men of the church, but were men of secular power. The popes were considered to be men of the state.
In 11 Thessalonians 2:3, 4, we are told: “Let no one deceive you by any means; for [that Day will not come] unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.” This is the Papacy; is it not? This is what Paul predicted.
But, notice verse 7: “For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work.” To what time period does this refer? to the days of the apostles, to the pagan Roman Empire in Daniel 8. How are the pagan Roman Empire and the papal Roman Empire described in this chapter? They are described the same as in chapter 7, as a little horn. Both pagan and papal Rome are described as a little horn. It is the antichrist system, because the papal system is but Christianized paganism. That is all it is.
Paul says that the mystery of iniquity is already at work; “only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way.” Verse 7, last part. We know that is paganism. Paganism was taken away, and papal power took its place. It was just a transition. Many say that the papacy is baptized paganism.
Who/What is Antichrist?
Returning to the 1999 The Signs of the Times article, consider this quote: “And it is clear from the context of 11 Thessalonians 2:1-12 that Paul’s antichrist would appear just before the Second Coming of Jesus.” That is exactly what Lacunza and the Jesuit Priest Ribera had taught and introduced to Christendom today. Remember that the apostle Paul said, “Let no one deceive you by any means.” There has to come a falling away first.
Here is another quote: “However, Paul departs from Jesus and John in two important ways. First, his antichrist is a single individual¾a ‘lawless one.’ Second, Jesus and John’s antichrists were apostate Christians¾that is, ‘ordinary human beings.’ ” The Signs of the Times, June 1999. Is the antichrist a single individual or a system? It is the papal system, and each head of that system is the lawless one.
“As the storm [persecution] approaches, a large class who have professed faith in the third angel’s message, but have not been sanctified through obedience to the truth, abandon their position and join the ranks of the opposition. By uniting with the world and partaking of its spirit, they have come to view matters in nearly the same light; and when the test is brought, they are prepared to choose the easy, popular side. Men of talent and pleasing address, who once rejoiced in the truth, employ their powers to deceive and mislead souls. They become the most bitter enemies of their former brethren. When Sabbathkeepers are brought before the courts to answer for their faith, these apostates are the most efficient agents of Satan to misrepresent and accuse them, and by false reports and insinuations to stir up the rulers against them.” The Great Controversy, 608.
Exposing the Papacy
Does the third angel’s message expose the papacy? It does. God warned us not to worship the image or the beast or receive his mark. Why is the devil introducing this into Adventism? Will it have the same effect that it had on Protestantism? People of today do not know who the antichrist is. I have asked Seventh-day Adventists to tell me who he is, and they tell me it is the devil. When the devil hears that, he surely laughs and cheers. He loves to be called the antichrist, because then the papacy is not detected.
So much pressure is going to come upon us. Those who continue to preach the gospel message are going to become so unpopular that many will succumb to the pressure. We will see an abandonment of all of these principles of Seventh-day Adventism all over the world. There are going to be only a few left proclaiming this truth.
Pray daily that we will be part of that group. Jesus has given us the commission to take the gospel, which includes exposing this antichrist system, to the entire world. May He help us to stand firm when those about us are abandoning the truth¾even His professed people. May we not succumb to any pressure, but stand firm and continue to proclaim these truths until probation closes.
To be continued . . .
Pastor Mike Bauler serves as pastor of the Historic Message Church in Portland, Oregon. He may be contacted by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org.