Do Baptists believe the Pope is Antichrist?

Text 1 John/2 Thessalonians Time 10 04 05 Place Childs Hill Baptist Church

As you know there has been a great deal of coverage of the recent death in Rome of Mr Karol Wojtila, the man people called the Pope and who claimed to be the Head of God’s church on earth and who was happy to be addressed by people as Holy Father. Soon they will choose a new man to take on this role and though he may be different in some of his emphases he will make more or less the same claims as the others have. In view of this I thought it would be good to take a little look at the question of whether the Pope is, as many believe, the Antichrist prophesied in Scripture. Everybody is quick to say what a wonderful man the Pope was and I’m sure that he was very personable and full of many great human qualities. However, I want us to look beyond that this morning and consider what he stood for.

1. What have Baptists and others said about the Pope?
In 1689 a group of Baptist ministers published a Confession of Faith setting out their beliefs for all to see. For the most part they followed the famous Westminster Confession of Faith as they were keen to stress their unity with the Presbyterians. The Confession covers many doctrines. Chapter 26 talks about the church. There are 15 paragraphs, No 4 says
The Lord Jesus Christ is the Head of the Church. In Him, by the appointment of the Father, is vested in a supreme and sovereign manner all power for the calling, institution, order, or government of the Church. The Pope of Rome cannot in any sense be head of the Church, but he is that Antichrist, that man of sin, and son of perdition, who exalts himself in the church against Christ and all that is called God, who the Lord shall destroy with the brightness of His coming.
This is far from being an unusual statement for a Protestant group. All the Reformers took this view and many others before and since have agreed with them. In the past this view was held by St Brigitta of Sweden and other Roman Catholics and even today there are Catholics who suggest that Mr Wojtila was Antichrist because of his ecumenism and willingness to kiss the Muslim Koran, etc.

2. What does the word Antichrist suggest?
When most people hear the term Antichrist they think of a dark sinister dictator like Hitler or some horrific, obviously evil creature opposed to God. However, that’s not how the Bible portrays the Antichrist. The idea is much more of someone who sets himself up in opposition to God as a seemingly legitimate but false alternative to the true Christ or Messiah. Jesus of Nazareth is the true Christ. Antichrist is a false Christ. He claims to be anointed by God with the Spirit and qualified to work in God’s name to redeem God’s people and renew the creation. But he’s not. He is a liar. His claims are false. He is a false Christ. He is anti in at least two senses.
1. He is anti Christ, firstly in the sense of being against Christ, opposed to him. Cf anti-aircraft fire, antiseptic. Antichrist is against Christ, against his Word, his church and against God himself. The Antichrist pretends to be motivated by love, concern for mankind, pity for the oppressed, but what drives him is not love but hatred, hatred for Jesus Christ and all he stands for, and all who stand for him.
2. He is also anti in the sense of seeking to be a substitute for Christ, an alternative. Do you know the word antihero? Not a non-hero but an alternative, atypical one. An antithesis is the exact opposite of something. Antichrist is a supplanter. He wants to take Christ’s place. So for example in 1943 Pope Pius VI said of the church over which he was head Christ ‘so upholds the church and so, after a certain manner lives in the church that she may be said to be another Christ’. The claim is then that the Roman Catholic church, with the Pope as its head, is another Christ, an alternative Christ. This is why Roman Catholicism teaches that, apart from invincible ignorance, salvation is only possible through the Roman Catholic church. We are doomed, it teaches, simply because we won’t bow to its authority.

3. What does the Bible say about the Antichrist?
What we are interested in here, of course, is what the Bible says about these things. I thought it would be good for us to look at the passages that speak about the Antichrist and similar matters this morning.
The word Antichrist is used only five times in the Bible. It occurs only in 1 John and 2 John. Cf
1 John 2:18 Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. 2:22 Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist - he denies the Father and the Son. 4:3 but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.2 John 7 Many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist.From these verses we can conclude four things
1. The Antichrist is coming at the end of time. Before Christ comes the Antichrist will be manifested. The Bible seems to be speaking about one person, one individual but we cannot be 100% sure about that.
2. The Antichrist is preceded by many antichrists. The spirit of Antichrist has been around some time. There is development then. This reminds us of the danger of saying ‘This is the Antichrist’ (‘an’ is wiser).
3. The Antichrist is a liar. He denies Jesus is the Christ and that he is from God. Some people say this proves that the Pope cannot be Antichrist as he would be quite orthodox in his view of the Trinity. We need to bear in mind the next point, however, and see that the Antichrist is not going to make a simple denial of the fundamental truths of Christianity. That would make it too obvious.
4. The Antichrist is a deceiver. Like Satan himself who makes himself seem an angel of light so the Antichrist uses all sorts of subterfuge and trickery to deceive people.

4. What are the other key Bible passages about Antichrist?
People tend to link these verses about Antichrist with others in four places
Dan 7, 8, 11 (little horn); Matt 24 etc (false Christs); 2 Thessalonians 2 and Revelation 13, 17, 18.
Revelation speaks of the Beast from the Land and the Sea and especially reminds us of the political and religious machinations of Catholicism in its attempts to grab power. It is important to remember that the Vatican City is a country with ambassadors and embassies, a bank, a secret service like the CIA or Mi5, etc. We can’t look at that or at most of these passages today but we will look at 2 Thessalonians 2, which speaks of the man of lawlessness/sin. This is where the Baptist Confession gets its language, speaking of the Pope not only as Antichrist but also that man of sin, and son of perdition, who exalts himself in the church against Christ and all that is called God. So let’s look briefly at 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12.
A rumour had got around in Thessalonica that Paul was teaching that Christ had come. Paul replies that that can’t be the case as certain things that will precede Christ’s coming have not happened.
3 Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction.He is the man of lawlessness/sin – A totally evil man, with nor respect for God’s law. He is ‘the son of perdition’ that is lostness. The NIV puts it well – he’s doomed to destruction. 4-12 goes on He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshipped, so that he sets himself up in God's temple, proclaiming himself to be God. Don’t you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these things? And now you know what is holding him back, so that he may be revealed at the proper time. For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendour of his coming. The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.
Now you know what is holding him back
. They certainly knew as Paul had spoken about it. We’re not sure what Paul means but it’s most likely that he’s thinking of the Roman power or civil government in general. This proves a bulwark against the man of lawlessness. It will at least for a time as it does today.
What do we learn here then? Here we especially see how Antichrist seeks to be an alternative Christ.
1. The man of lawlessness comes before the end but his secret power was already at work in Paul’s day. This ties in with the way John speaks of Antichrist – coming but already at work. There is certainly a direct line between Paul and the power of Rome to the Popes of today. The last Pope may not be the Antichrist but he had an antichristian spirit and the papacy is marked by this spirit.
2. The man of lawlessness is part of a great rebellion against God. Although Antichrist is one man, he is supported by many others. It is right that we see the Roman Catholic movement with all its blasphemous teachings – that the Bible is not the sole Word of God, that they have the power to make Jesus’s body appear on earth in the Mass, that they have the authority to send a man to heaven or hell, that a man can be saved by what he does, etc, as a great rebellion against God.
3. The man of lawlessness opposes God and proudly exalts himself over God or anything worshipped, setting himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God. This ties in, of course, with the way the Pope takes titles that belong only to God and acts as though he were God. Do you remember how when he was here in Britain they sang about him ‘He’s got the whole world in his hands’? He accepted this worship. Of course, there are also claims that when the Pope speaks ex cathedra from his throne, he is infallible. What arrogance and folly. For any man to call himself Holy Father, Supreme Pontiff and Vicar of Christ (a vicar is a substitute) is the supreme arrogance and blasphemy. Cf
New York Catholic Catechism ‘The Pope takes the place of Jesus Christ on earth ... by divine right the pope has supreme and full power in faith and morals over each and every pastor and his flock. He is the true Vicar of Christ, the head of the entire church, the father and teacher of all Christians. He is the infallible ruler, the founder of dogmas, the author of and the judge of councils; the universal ruler of truth, the arbiter of the world, the supreme judge of heaven and earth, the judge of all, being judged by one, God himself on earth.’
Innocent III ‘The Pope holdeth place on earth, not simply of a man but of the true God.’
Leo XIII (1885) Pope holds ‘upon this earth the place of God Almighty.’
Pius IX ‘I am the way, the truth and the life.’
When crowned they said to Pius XII (1939) ‘Receive this tiara adorned with three crowns that thou mayst know that thou art the father of princes and of kings, the ruler of the world, the Vicar on earth of our Saviour Jesus Christ.’
4. The man of lawlessness will perform all sorts of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders. This is a feature of Roman Catholic teaching. Lourdes is the most famous center for this but there are claims of visions and revelations and healings and miracles in many places. Every time the Mass is celebrated they claim to turn bread into the body of Christ. Most of it is straightforward lies and trickery but some things are inexplicable.
5. The man of lawlessness will perpetrate all sorts of evil and deceive many into unbelief and eternal destruction. We have only a small idea of the scandalous sin connected with Rome. Exposes are regularly written and we have some idea of the evils that go on but we do not know the half of it. How many millions are being deceived by this false religion.
6. The man of lawlessness is doomed to destruction and will be overthrown at Christ’s coming. Here is the final great word of comfort. The Antichrist will not last. Christ is going to come again and the judgement will follow. The Antichrist will not be able to stand then. By his powerful presence the Lord will overcome him and there will be justice for those who have rejected Antichrist and trusted in the true Christ the one Saviour Jesus.
5. What then does the Confession say and not say about the Pope?
1. What is it saying? The Confession is saying three things
1 The Pope is not the head of the Church. This is surely undeniable. Christ is its one true Head.
2 He exalts himself as if he were. What else can we make of the titles he uses?
3 This proves he is activated by the anti-Christian spirit that seeks religious veneration (Matthew 21:8,9), persecutes the godly (Revelation 13:6) and illustrates the predicted apostasy in the church (2 Thessalonians 2:3,4,8,9)
2. What is it not necessarily saying? It is not necessarily saying
1 That there is no other application of the Antichrist idea
2 That the man of sin passage that refers to apostasy in the church is totally exhausted in the papacy
3 Or committing to any detailed understanding of unfulfilled prophecy. The main point rather is that Christ is the Head of the church not the Pope.
A statement from churches in the Southern States of USA issued 1939 perhaps states things better:
"The Lord Jesus Christ is the only Head of the church, and the claim of any man to be the vicar of Christ and the head of the church, is without warrant in fact or in Scripture, even anti-Christian, an usurpation dishonouring to the Lord Jesus Christ."
6. What should I do about all this?
1. Accept that the Bible speaks about an Antichrist and a spirit of Antichrist that is active now.
2. Seek by God’s grace to identify this antichristian spirit. We need to be careful. In the past people have thought they have identified the Antichrist but must have been wrong. It is best seek to identify an antichristian spirit. The characteristics are clearly set out for us.
3. Pray not to be deceived about this. The mark of Antichrist is that he deceives many. Take great care then over this.
4. Pray to be delivered from an antichristian spirit in yourself – from rebelliousness, pride, all taint of evil
5. Rejoice that Antichrist will be defeated. He cannot survive.
6. Prepare for Christ’s return by repenting from sin and trusting only in Christ and rejecting all others.

Harvest past, Summer ended but are you saved?

Text Jeremiah 8:20 Time 30 09 08 Place Childs Hill Baptist ChurchWe are very much in an urban setting here and it's easy to forget our dependence on the rain and the sunshine from heaven. I think it's good, however, around this time of the year to sing some harvest hymns and to consider God's goodness to us.
As you know August and the early part of September were quite wet and a week or two back a reporter in The Times was saying that Britain was “facing its worst harvest for at least 40 years as 30 per cent of the country’s grain lies in waterlogged or sodden ground.” Things have been worst in the north of the country. On some farms by mid-September only half the crop had been harvested.
We live in a global economy, of course, and so we are not immediately or directly affected by such things but we cannot forget that they affect us all in the long term. A run of bad harvests would eventually have its impact just as recent happenings in the financial markets are beginning to have their effect in the High Street today.
Something similar can be said about spiritual realities. These too can sometimes seem remote and it is possible to feel as though you are in a hermetically sealed bubble unaffected by the decisions you make and the way you lead your life. But again that is not so. The return of Jesus Christ and the day of judgement is coming and soon we will all face a day of reckoning before God.
In the light of that fact then I want you to draw your attention to a verse found in Jeremiah 8:20. The verse says The harvest is past, the summer has ended, and we are not saved. I've obviously chosen it because it has the word harvest in it but I'm also just as much interested in the word saved. By nature we are all lost and we need to be saved - from sin, from Satan, from death, from hell. Such talk may seem as remote to us as a farmer talking about the relative merits of wheat, barley, oats or some other crop but the truth is that we need to know about such things – spiritual sowing and reaping, spiritual growth and harvest.
So let's consider this verse together then. Perhaps we are best to begin by saying something about Jeremiah and his times and about the subject of this chapter then look at the verse itself.

1. Consider Jeremiah and the relevance of his warning ministry
Jeremiah is a major Old Testament prophet. He lived in the 7th and 6th Centuries BC. A priest by birth, he grew up in the priestly city of Anathoth. While still young, however, God called him to be a prophet so he left Anathoth for Jerusalem, where he was a great help in good King Josiah's reformation. Josiah's death was a great disappointment to the godly. Jeremiah wrote a lament in response. The kings of Judah who succeeded Josiah were all evil.
There is no mention of Jeremiah during the three year reign of Jehoahaz but in the reign of Jehoiakim we know he was fiercely persecuted. Resentment against him no doubt sprang from his continual warnings that the people were under God's judgement for their sins and would be conquered by the Babylonians. Not all supposed prophets said what Jeremiah said.
Jeremiah lived to see Nebuchadnezzar's invasion in BC 589. Although the invasion was interrupted, Jeremiah warned that the Babylonians would return. For this he was imprisoned. He was still there when the city was taken the following year. The Babylonians released him and showed him kindness, letting him live where he wished. He was later taken to Egypt against his will by the Governor of Judea Johanan. There is no record of his death. Presumably he died at a good age down in Egypt or possibly in Babylon.
Daryl Sensenig is a 24 year old living in Pennsylvania who reads his Bible daily and sometimes posts his thoughts in a blog. Early this year reading about Jeremiah he was stirred to write this
“Jeremiah was an amazing person. He suffered greatly with the Jews because of all their sin even though he was doing what God wanted him to do. He tirelessly told them God's Word even though they continually rejected what he said. He was put in prison, he was cast into a miry dungeon, and some people even wanted to kill him. Yet, he faithfully warned the people of coming judgement. He refused to stop preaching even when it seems he was almost the only person in Jerusalem that was standing for truth.”
How willing are we to stand for truth even when it is unpopular? How easy is it for us to make exceptions to our beliefs or compromise God's truth to make it easier on our life or the lives of others. We need to stand firm on the Bible and never change our biblical position no matter how unpopular it becomes. May God give us the strength and courage to do that.
Jeremiah is a prophet with great relevance to our day as he was a faithful, uncompromising man in days of wickedness and decline. We also live in days when things are bad and, generally speaking, getting worse. As in Jeremiah's day there are plenty of false prophets who will tell us that things are not so bad and that God is about to bless us. We fervently hope it may be so but all the sings are that things are more likely to get worse and so we need to hear that warning note found in Jeremiah and be reminded of the coming judgement.

2. Consider Jeremiah 8 and its warnings
In Jeremiah 8, Jeremiah is typically speaking about the destruction that God is going to bring on his people because of their sins. The section really begins in 7:34 where Jeremiah speaks about the people's idolatry and the coming disaster. Jeremiah wants to show them that these judgements will be terrible but fair.
He begins by describing the bones of the kings and officials of Judah, ... the priests and prophets and of all the people of Jerusalem being removed from their graves. As for the survivors Wherever I banish them, says God they will prefer death to life. That is how bad it would be.
In 4-12 he speaks of the people's sinfulness and their unwillingness to repent – the reason for their judgement. They cling to deceit; they refuse to return. ... No one repents of his wickedness, saying, What have I done? Each pursues his own course like a horse charging into battle. They are wilful and senseless in their sin. Like our own generation those living in Jeremiah's day thought themselves very wise but, as he says, they had rejected God's Word. As today the false prophets (11) dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. Peace, peace, they say, when there is no peace. Because of such shameless sin, says the Lord, judgement is coming.
In 13-17 he describes the judgement to come. I will take away their harvest, he says. There will be no grapes, no figs. What I have given them God says will be taken from them. The God who gives can also take away. They have sinned against God so judgement will follow. They will say (15) We hoped for peace but no good has come, for a time of healing but there was only terror. Very graphically he says God will send venomous snakes among them, vipers that cannot be charmed, and they will bite you. Imagine that poisonous snakes everywhere.
Jeremiah himself is often called the weeping prophet and he is clearly very moved by this prophecy. In the chapter's closing verses (18-22) he turns to God and says O my Comforter in sorrow, my heart is faint within me. He imagines his people in exile in the far country devastated and lamenting over what they have lost and asking questions. But God asks questions too - Why have they provoked me to anger with their images, with their worthless foreign idols? The exile is most just. In 21 Jeremiah says in God's name Since my people are crushed, I am crushed; I mourn, and horror grips me. Finally, he asks, almost in despair, (22) Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then is there no healing for the wound of my people? If you go on into Chapter 9 you will see how full of grief Jeremiah was.
Again it is highly relevant. I am not a prophet and so I can't tell you whether we are in danger of imminent economic collapse or if we're going to be invaded sometime in the near future. What I can tell you though is that a final judgement is coming, a day of reckoning, and you need to be ready for it. I am not going to pretend that a little mend here and a little mend there will put things right. I'm not saying Peace, peace, ... when there is no peace. No, I am saying that some of you are clinging to sin like a favourite toy and unless you let go and repent from your wickedness, owning up to your sin and waking up to your true situation then the venomous snakes described here are going to bite you and kill you. It's no good thinking, as these people did, but I'm religious – I come to church, I try to pray. That will save no-one. As Jeremiah says here (7) the stork in the sky knows her appointed seasons, and the dove, the swift and the thrush observe the time of their migration.Like me you may not have noticed but at this time of year innumerable small birds are on their way to the Mediterranean or Africa. “Along southern coasts, there have been flocks of swallows and house martins having a last feed in the air before heading for the Continent” I read. Apparently bird watchers have been seeing uncommon birds such as hoopoes, wrynecks, black terns and honey buzzards coming into Britain from north and east. We can certainly all feel winter drawing in and we know why the birds are flying south. But what about us? Are we like God's people in Jeremiah's day who were ignorant of the requirements of the LORD?

3. Consider this specific verse and the questions it raises
This is the context then for 8:20 The harvest is past, the summer has ended, and we are not saved. Let's focus on the specific verse then.
Perhaps you know the verse and sometimes when we are familiar with a thing we don't look at it properly. I've tended to think of the verse as saying "The summer has ended, the harvest is past, and we are not saved". I'm importing into the verse my own cultural context where the order of events is the summer months of June, July and into August, then the harvest period from the end of August to the beginning of October. We would say something like “The summer has gone, the harvest is nearly past, and still people are not saved.”. In Israel, however, where Jeremiah lived things are different. In Israel there were two harvests – the Spring harvest and the Summer harvest. In Spring barley and wheat and other cereals were harvested. Then later came the harvest of the grapes, figs and olives. That is why we have this order The harvest is past, then the summer has ended, and we are not saved. Literally it is “The harvest is past, the time of summer harvest has ended, and we are not saved”. The point then is that one season of hope after another has passed but the looked-for deliverance has not come, and now it seems as though all hope is gone. It is like a proverb. The grain harvest has failed; the fruit-gathering has also proved unproductive. What hope is there?
Another matter to deal with here is who is saying this and in what way or why. The older commentators tend to assume it is God who is speaking. He is saying that the opportunities for repentance are going by but still there is no change and so no salvation. More modern commentators often tend to see it as a statement from the people in their sin and complacency The summer has ended, the harvest is past, and still we are not saved – God still hasn't done anything about our salvation. The verse surely reflects what is in 15 We hoped for peace but no good has come, for a time of healing but there was only terror and so is probably what the people are saying.
Which ever way we take it, however, there are two elements here. Firstly, the passage of time with efforts being made to no avail and then, secondly, the observation that the people are not saved. I think that many here can think of their own situations in these same terms.
1. Are you conscious of much time having passed and all your efforts having accomplished little?
Some of you are older in age. You have been alive for many years. You have done many things. But when you look back over your life you may feel time has escaped you and you have accomplished little. The older we get the greater danger of such feelings. Now the Bible never countenances vain regrets but we must make a sober assessment of where our lives are going and where they have been. Are you at the point where summer has ended and the harvest is past? Time is running out. You cannot assume much more time. Your winter is coming. Now is the time to act. Look to Jesus Christ now. Find strength in him today. Don't leave it any longer.
Some of you are perhaps not so old in years but when you think about it there have been many missed opportunities. Think of how many sermons you've listened to, books you've read perhaps, good conversations you've had and you have been resolved perhaps to live for God and yet it has never come to pass. You too can see summer ... ended and the harvest ... past. How many more opportunities will there be? Now is the time to act. You too must look to Jesus Christ today. Find strength in him right now. Don't leave it any longer.
Some of you are young people. Let's just think about this past year of 2008. It is the last Sunday of the ninth month, just three months before the year's end. Now think what some of you have experienced in this last nine months. You've heard sermons calling you to Christ – over 25 in some cases, over 50 for some may be. On a Friday night many of you have heard similar exhortations to repent and come to Christ. Some have been to camp and heard messages every day or to other things where there have been earnest calls to trust the Lord. And now summer has ended and indeed the harvest is past. Will there be any more opportunities? Winter is coming. Now is the time to act. You must look to Jesus Christ. Find strength in him. Don't leave it any longer.
2. Are you one who is still not saved? That is the question we are left with. If you are saved give thanks to God. Rejoice! Pray for others to be saved too. Listen to them crying out The harvest is past, the summer has ended, and we are not saved. If you are not saved, if you are one who has to say The harvest is past, the summer has ended, and we are not saved then wake up to the situation. I know that God often works very slowly. Harvest passes, summer goes and still no-one is saved and then in the deep of winter someone finally comes to salvation. However, we must not make this an excuse. We must not say God will save me when he chooses, there is nothing I can do. You have a duty to act, to repent. Come to the Lord today. Be saved. Why will you die? Be saved. Be delivered. Look to Jesus Christ. Amen.