The words of our Lord Jesus Christ,
35 But wisdom is justified of all her children.
The historic Protestant view of the fulfillment of the prophecies of “that man of sin” is Biblically solid, fascinating, but neglected. The following excerpt is from a series of lectures given by Henry Grattan Guinness, an Irish Christian, which were published around 1887. But first, here are the relevant prophecies from Daniel 7, 2 Thessalonians, and Revelation. As Pope Francis I’s visit to the U.S. approaches, more than ever I’m convinced that we can’t continue to ignore what Christians who went before us understood.
In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon Daniel had a dream and visions of his head upon his bed: then he wrote the dream, and told the sum of the matters. 2 Daniel spake and said, I saw in my vision by night, and, behold, the four winds of the heaven strove upon the great sea. 3 And four great beasts came up from the sea, diverse one from another. 4 The first was like a lion, and had eagle’s wings: I beheld till the wings thereof were plucked, and it was lifted up from the earth, and made stand upon the feet as a man, and a man’s heart was given to it. 5 And behold another beast, a second, like to a bear, and it raised up itself on one side, and it had three ribs in the mouth of it between the teeth of it: and they said thus unto it, Arise, devour much flesh. 6 After this I beheld, and lo another, like a leopard, which had upon the back of it four wings of a fowl; the beast had also four heads; and dominion was given to it. 7 After this I saw in the night visions, and behold a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth: it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it: and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it; and it had ten horns. 8 I considered the horns, and, behold, there came up among them another little horn, before whom there were three of the first horns plucked up by the roots: and, behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things.
9 I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire. 10 A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him: thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened. 11 I beheld then because of the voice of the great words which the horn spake: I beheld even till the beast was slain, and his body destroyed, and given to the burning flame. 12 As concerning the rest of the beasts, they had their dominion taken away: yet their lives were prolonged for a season and time. 13 I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. 14 And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.
15 I Daniel was grieved in my spirit in the midst of my body, and the visions of my head troubled me. 16 I came near unto one of them that stood by, and asked him the truth of all this. So he told me, and made me know the interpretation of the things. 17 These great beasts, which are four, are four kings, which shall arise out of the earth. 18 But the saints of the most High shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever.
19 Then I would know the truth of the fourth beast, which was diverse from all the others, exceeding dreadful, whose teeth were of iron, and his nails of brass; which devoured, brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with his feet; 20 and of the ten horns that were in his head, and of the other which came up, and before whom three fell; even of that horn that had eyes, and a mouth that spake very great things, whose look was more stout than his fellows. 21 I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them; 22 until the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom.
23 Thus he said, The fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon earth, which shall be diverse from all kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, and shall tread it down, and break it in pieces. 24 And the ten horns out of this kingdom are ten kings that shall arise: and another shall rise after them; and he shall be diverse from the first, and he shall subdue three kings. 25 And 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. 26 But the judgment shall sit, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and to destroy it unto the end. 27 And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him. 28 Hitherto is the end of the matter. As for me Daniel, my cogitations much troubled me, and my countenance changed in me: but I kept the matter in my heart.
2 Thessalonians 2:1-12
Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, 2 that ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. 3 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; 4 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, shewing himself that he is God. 5 Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? 6 And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. 7 For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. 8 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: 9 even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, 10 and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11 And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: 12 that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
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. 2 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. 3 And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast. 4 And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him?
5 And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months. 6 And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven. 7 And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations. 8 And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.
9 If any man have an ear, let him hear. 10 He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity: he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints.
11 And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon. 12 And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. 13 And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men, 14 and 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; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live. 15 And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed. 16 And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: 17 and that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. 18 Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.
And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and talked with me, saying unto me, Come hither; I will shew unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters: 2 with whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication. 3 So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. 4 And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication: 5 and upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. 6 And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration.
7 And the angel said unto me, Wherefore didst thou marvel? I will tell thee the mystery of the woman, and of the beast that carrieth her, which hath the seven heads and ten horns. 8 The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition: and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is. 9 And here is the mind which hath wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth. 10 And there are seven kings: five are fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come; and when he cometh, he must continue a short space. 11 And the beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven, and goeth into perdition. 12 And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast. 13 These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast. 14 These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful.
15 And he saith unto me, The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues. 16 And the ten horns which thou sawest upon the beast, these shall hate the whore, and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire. 17 For God hath put in their hearts to fulfil his will, and to agree, and give their kingdom unto the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled. 18 And the woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth.
Romanism and the Reformation
from the standpoint of prophecy
by Henry Grattan Guinness, 1835-1910
Excerpt from Lecture VI: Interpretation and Use of These Prophecies in Reformation Times [the Antichrist in Daniel, Paul, and John]
To resist the use to which Scripture prophecy was put by the reformers is no light or unimportant matter. The system of prophetic interpretation known as Futurism does resist this use. It condemns the interpretation of the reformers. It condemns the views of all these men, and of all the martyrs, and of all the confessors and faithful witnesses of Christ for long centuries. It condemns the Albigenses, the Waldenses, the Wicliffites, the Hussites, the Lollards, the Lutherans, the Calvinists ; it condemns them all, and upon a point upon which they are all agreed, an interpretation of Scripture which they embodied in their solemn confessions and sealed with their blood. It condemns the spring of their action, the foundation of the structure they erected. How daring is this act, and how destitute of justification ! What an opposition to the pillars of a work most manifestly Divine ! for it is no less than this, for Futurism asserts that Luther and all the reformers were wrong in this fundamental point. And whose interpretation of prophecy does it justify and approve ? That of the Romanists. Let this be clearly seen. Rome felt the force of these prophecies, and sought to evade it. It had no way but to deny their applicability. It could not deny their existence in Scripture. They were there plainly enough. But it denied that these prophecies referred to the Romish Church and its head. It pushed them aside. It shifted them from the entire field of mediaeval and modern history. As to Babylon the Great, it asserted that it meant Rome pagan, not Rome Papal. Rome pagan shed all the blood referred to in Revelation xvii., xviii. Rome Christian had shed none of it. Prophecy was eloquent about the deeds of the Caesars, but silent as to those of the popes ; and this though the persecutions perpetrated by the popes had exceeded those of the Caesars. Prophecy expended its strength in warning the Church of the perils from heathenism which it perfectly understood, and was speechless as to the far greater perils arising from the Christian apostasy on which it needed the fullest warning and instruction. It was eagle-eyed as to dangers from without, but blind to dangers from within. It guided and guarded the Church of the three first centuries, but left the Church of the next thousand years and more without a lamp to light its footsteps. As to the prophecies of the man of sin, or antichrist, these had nothing to do with the middle ages, or with the Roman popes, or the long central centuries of the Church’s sorest conflicts ; they only referred to a diminutive interval in the far off future, at the end of the world. The man of sin was only an ephemeral persecutor. His whole power was to continue but three and a half years. He was to be a cunning Jew of the tribe of Dan ; a clever infidel who was to call himself God, and set himself up in a Jewish temple at Jerusalem. Christians had nothing to do with him as such. A Jew was to do all the mischief. The whole evil was but a Jewish infidel spasm in the very last hour of history before the second advent. Therefore the reformers were all wrong in their denunciations of the Papacy. They were foolish, misguided, unreasonable, fanatical, and the popes were uncondemned by the voices of the prophets. Daniel and John said nothing about them; They were not the predicted apostates. What though they did shed the blood of heretics like water, and drink it like wine, and make themselves drunken with it, and exalt themselves above kings, and above the world, and clothe themselves with wealth and splendour, with purple and scarlet, gold and pearls ! what though they did sit supreme upon the seven hills, and ride and rule the Roman empire in its divided Gothic state, and use its powers for the persecution of heretics, and the suppression of what some presumed to call the gospel of Jesus Christ ! The prophecies which those contemptible reformers and miserable so-called martyrs said applied to them did nothing of the sort ; it was folly to suppose they did. They applied to other people and to other circumstances. They only applied to paganism and infidelity : a past and bygone paganism, and a future shortlived infidelity, and nothing more. Three centuries in the past and three years in the future, that was all they had anything to do with. As to the fifteen centuries which lay between, they had no bearing upon them whatever. Popes might make themselves easy, and cardinals and councils and papal princes and priests, inquisitors and persecutors, Dominicans and Jesuits ! The thunders’ of prophecy were not directed against them, but against those dead Caesars, and that unborn Jew. And so they puffed at the reformers, and scoffed at the martyrs, and scorned and derided and despised them, and went on in their proud tyranny, and abated nothing of their blasphemous pretensions and bloody persecutions.
Which think you were right in their interpretations of Scripture ? Those proud popes, those cruel inquisitors, those inhuman monsters who mangled the bodies of holy men and women in their torture chambers, those sanctimonious murderers who stirred up all the might of Christendom, from century to century, against the gospel and against the faithful witnesses of Jesus ; or those pure and persecuted saints, those faithful Waldenses and Wicliffites, those earnest Hussites and Lollards, those self-sacrificing Lutherans and Huguenots, those noble confessors, reformers, and martyrs ? With one mind and mouth all these Protestants agreed in the substance of their protest. To them Rome was Babylon, and its proud head the antichrist. Were they all mistaken, deluded, and their cruel, tyrannical oppressors and persecutors correct ? What think you ?
Perhaps you say, But was Rome right in nothing ? Must a doctrine be wrong because Rome holds it ? Does not Rome hold the truth as to the divinity of Christ, and as to some other points of importance ? I grant Rome holds some truths. It would have no moral power unless it did. Even the Mohammedans hold some great truths, and the heathen also. But mark, this is a question of Rome’s judgment concerning herself, and the bearing of prophecy on her own history and character. It is here in this judgment that the Futurist claims that Rome was right, and the reformers in the wrong. And the consequences are most serious, for we are living in an age of revived Papal activity. Not only is the Papacy exerting an enormous influence in the outside world, not only has it formulated and decreed its own infallibility, not only is it attacking Protestantism in its strongholds with every weapon in its reach, political, civil, religious, but the principles and practices of the system it guides and governs have been introduced into the bosom of the Protestant Church, and planted securely within its walls, and are working most disastrously for its corruption and overthrow. Never was there a time in the Church’s history when she more needed the barriers which prophecy has erected for her protection. And now when they are so sorely needed, they are not to be found. Futurism has crept into the Protestant Church, and broken down these sacred walls. Romanists ‘, Ritualists, and Protestant Futurists are all agreed as to the non-applicability of Scripture prophecies to the Church of Rome and the Papacy. The Romanists are two hundred millions, the Ritualists are hundreds of thousands, and Protestant Futurists are many thousands in number. They all deny these prophecies their place and office. They remove these barriers. What then is to keep out the incoming Papal flood ? The word of prophecy in its solemn warnings of the dangers the Church has to encounter, the foes it has to resist, is asserted to be silent as to this. Why then should this be feared ? The reformers were mistaken ; the popes were right. Charles V. and Charles IX., Philip of Spain and Mary of England, the Duke of Alva and Louis XIV., and all the tribe of Innocents and Leos, Gregories and Clements, Pius IV. and Pius IX., all these were right in rejecting the fundamental position that Papal Rome is Babylon, and its head antichrist ; and all the reformers, without an exception, were wrong in maintaining it ; they were foolish interpreters of the “sure word of prophecy,” and utterly in error as to the real testimony of Scripture concerning the Church of Rome.
Is this the position you adopt ? Is this the conclusion you defend ? Are these the views you advocate ? You, a Protestant, and this after all that has been written upon the subject, and all the blaze of light which history and experience have poured upon it ? If it is, look to it that you be not found fighting against the truth, warring against the word of God, resisting the testimony of the prophetic Spirit, hindering the work of the Reformation, promoting the progress of the apostasy, opposing Christ, and helping antichrist.
Even the Romanists themselves shame you in their clear-sighted comprehension of the issues of this question. Cardinal Manning says, “The Catholic Church is either the masterpiece of Satan or the kingdom of the Son of God.” Cardinal Newman says, “A sacerdotal order is historically the essence of the Church of Rome ; if not divinely appointed, it is doctrinally the essence of antichrist.” In both these statements the issue is clear, and it is the same. Rome herself admits, openly admits, that if she is not the very kingdom of Christ, she is that of antichrist. Rome declares she is one or the other. She herself propounds and urges this solemn alternative. You shrink from it, do you ? I accept it. Conscience constrains me. History compels me. The past, the awful past rises before me. I see THE GREAT APOSTASY, I see the desolation of Christendom, I see the smoking ruins, I see the reign of monsters ; I see those vice-gods, that Gregory VII., that Innocent III., that Boniface VIII., that Alexander VI., that Gregory XIII., that Pius IX. ; I see their long succession, I hear their insufferable blasphemies, I see their abominable lives ; I see them worshipped by blinded generations, bestowing hollow benedictions, bartering lying indulgences, creating a paganized Christianity ; I see their liveried slaves, their shaven priests, their celibate confessors ; I see the infamous confessional, the ruined women, the murdered innocents ; I hear the lying absolutions, the dying groans ; I hear the cries of the victims ; I hear the anathemas, the curses, the thunders of the interdicts ; I see the racks, the dungeons, the stakes, I see that inhuman Inquisition, those fires of Smithfield, those butcheries of St. Bartholomew, that Spanish armada, those unspeakable dragonnades, that endless train of wars, that dreadful multitude of massacres. I see it all, and in the name of the ruin it has wrought in the Church and in the world, in the name of the truth it has denied, the temple it has defiled, the God it has blasphemed, the souls it has destroyed ; in the name of the millions it has deluded, the millions it has slaughtered, the millions it has damned ; with holy confessors, with noble reformers, with innumerable martyrs, with the saints of ages, I denounce it as the masterpiece of Satan, as the body and soul and essence of antichrist.