Although the Pope is an unlikely Antichrist as we've come to picture the man we associate with End Times events, he does have all the necessary characteristics as laid out by the Protestant Reformers and their predecessors. While there is really no doubt as to the identity of the Pope as Antichrist, there may be some legitimate questions about exactly what role he'll play in the Day of the Lord or Great Tribulation, since he could play False Prophet to a political Antichrist as the Pope in Hitler's time did to Hitler. The Day of the Lord is generally understood to occur during the Seventieth Week of Daniel's prophecy of the Seventy Weeks, which was not fulfilled in the time of the coming of Christ. It is therefore understood to have been put off to the future. It is now understood to be bracketed by two stages of the Second Coming of Christ, the first to Rapture His Church, and the second or last to return as conquerer of the entire world. In between there is to be the Day of the Lord or Great Tribulation of seven years.
Here is the main scripture that is taken to describe the Antichrist:
The Pope is primarily identified as the Antichrist from the little horn of Daniel 7:8, and also from this passage quoted above. The "falling away" is also known as the Great Apostasy, and these days the futurists point to current deviations in the many churches from the gospel truth. And that certainly has to be a major part of the apostasy (and here's a link to Jan Markell's latest summary of this falling away: https://myemail.constantcontact.com/What-Happened-to-My-Church-.html?soid=1101818841456&aid=dVUinwAfOT0), but the Reformers, especially Martin Luther I believe, identified it as the doctrines of the Roman Church, though today there is a lot of ignorance and apathy about this fact among Protestants. The "man of sin" also known as the "son of perdition" is identified with the Pope. It is his role as "Vicar of Christ" by which he "opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God" and he "sits in the temple of God" because the people of Christ are now called the "temple of God. I've posted on the Latin title VICARIVS FILII DEI, which means Vicar of Christ or literally, "Substitute" or "In the place of the Son of God" showing that the Latin letters which are also Roman numerals add up to 666.
2 Thessalonians 2:1-4: Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, 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. 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, shewing himself that he is God.
I collected some references from a CD by Chris Pinto, who got his list from a book titled What Luther Says by E.M. Plass, a book I can’t afford at the moment though it sounds like a must-have. He lists many who came before the Reformers who called the papacy the Antichrist, which ought to dispel the accusation of Luther that he made it up in retaliation for being excommunicated. (As a matter of fact it took him about five years to become fully convinced from scripture and history that the Pope was indeed the Antichrist.)The following is a much shortened list from a site called Revelation Timeline that includes all those who testified that the papacy is the Antichrist that Chris Pinto mentioned: http://revelationtimelinedecoded.com/historical-witnesses-against-antichrist-summary.
Historical Witnesses Against Antichrist Summary
Arnulf (991), the Bishop of Orleans, proclaimed the Pope as the Antichrist, sitting in the temple of God, and showing himself as God.
Gherbert of Rheims (1000) said; the Pope was the antichrist sitting in the temple of God.
In the book of Waldensian Pastor Leger called “Treatise on Antichrist” written in 1120, said “That treatise brands the Romish Church as the harlot Babylon, and the Papacy as the “man of sin” and antichrist.”
John Wycliffe (1330-1384) Who translated the Latin Vulgate Bible into English, said Antichrist, the head of all these evil men, is the pope of Rome.
John Purvey (1354–1414), one of the leading followers of the English theologian and reformer John Wycliffe; said the Papacy was the kingdom of the Antichrist.
John Huss (1372-1415), a well-educated man from Bohemia, who came under the influence of Wycliffe’s writings, which caused him to break with the church of Rome; proclaimed the Antichrist has been revealed in the Pope for which he was burned to death.
William Tyndale (1493-1536) was an English scholar who became a leading figure in Protestant Reformation; said the Pope is the antichrist and his doctrine sprung of the devil.
Huldreich Zwingli (1484-1531) was a great Swiss Reformer; proclaimed the might and power of the Devil, that is, of the Antichrist… the Papacy has to be abolished.
John Calvin (1509-1564) was an influential French theologian and pastor during the Protestant Reformation; said we call the Roman pontiff Antichrist.
Martin Luther was an Augustinian monk, who the Father called out of the Papal Church. declared “We here are of the conviction that the papacy is the seat of the true and real Antichrist.”
Philipp Melanchthon (1497-1560), a German Reformer, said that the Roman Pontiff is the antichrist.
Confession of the Glastonbury Congregation (1551)…French refugees in England who first gathered under Calvin and Farel; “Moreover I renounce the Pope as the Roman Antichrist, and his whole doctrine and religion…“
In 1555 Hugh Latimer, Bishop of Worcester; said before being burned to death, “What fellowship have Christ with Antichrist? Therefore it is not lawful to bear the yoke with the Papists. Come forth from among them, and separate yourselves from them, saith the Lord.’“
Nicholas Ridley (1555), English Bishop of London; said before being burned to death that the See of Rome is the seat of Satan.
Thomas Cranmer (1489-1556) as the Archbishop of Canterbury, he was responsible for establishing the first doctrinal and liturgical structures of the reformed Church of England; said before being burned to death that the Pope is Christ’s enemy, and the antichrist.
Henry Adlington, Laurence Pernam, Henry Wye, William Halliwel, Thomas Bowyer, George Searles, Edmund Hurst, Lyon Cawch, Ralph Jackson, John Derifall, John Routh, Elizabeth Pepper, and Agnes George (1556); were all burnt in one fire, for proclaiming the Pope as Antichrist under the devil. Agnes Prest (1557) was burned to death for proclaiming that the Pope is the Antichrist and the devil.
John Knox (1505-1572) was a great leader of the Reformation in Scotland; said “the pope should be recognized as “the very antichrist, and son of perdition, of whom Paul speaks.”
Heinrich Bullinger (1504-1575) was Zwingli’s intimate friend and succeeded him as chief pastor of the Zurich Cathedral; said the Little Horn is the kingdom of the Roman pope.
The Geneva Study Bible (1556) included study notes from the Protestant Reformers, that all proclaimed that the Popes of Rome were the antichrist beast.
The Church of England declared that the Papal Church of Rome is the Babylonian beast, saying that the Pope is antichrist, and the Man of Sin.
The Church of Scotland Confession of Faith (1603) declared the Pope as the Antichrist, the man of sin and son of perdition.
The Irish Articles of Religion of 1615 testified that the Bishop of Rome is the Man of Sin.
The London Baptist Confession of 1689, proclaims that the Popes of Rome is the antichrist, that man of sin, and son of perdition, that exalteth himself in the church against Christ.
Westminster Confession of Faith (1649) which was ratified and established by Act of Parliament in 1649. states that the Popes of Rome is the antichrist, that man of sin, and son of perdition, that exalteth himself in the church.
Cotton Mather (1663-1728) in his book, Fall of Babylon,; said that all the characteristics of Antichrist are answered in the Popes of Rome.
Sir Isaac Newton (1643-1727) was an English physicist, mathematician, astronomer, natural philosopher, alchemist, and also a faithful expositor of Bible prophecy; taught that the Church of Rome was the Little Horn of Daniel.
John Wesley (1703-1791), an Anglican cleric and Christian theologian,; said that the whole succession of popes from Gregory VII. are undoubtedly Antichrist. Jonathan Edwards, an American preacher and theologian, who is perhaps best known for his role in the Great Awakenings of the mid 1700’s; said that the greatest and most cruel enemy of the Church of Christ is the church of Rome.
Dr. H. Grattan Guinness (1835-) pointed to the Roman Catholic Popes as the little horn power of Daniel 7, the Man of Sin in 2nd Thessalonians and the Beast of Revelation 13.
Reverend J. A.Wylie (1808 – 1890) in his Preface to “The Papacy is the Antichrist; says that the Roman system is the predicted Apostacy.
--David Nikao [compiler] For more detailed quotes from the above people who testified against the Popes of Rome, as the Little Horn of Daniel 7, the Son of Perdition of 2 Thessalonians 2, and the antichrist beast of Revelation 13; read Historical Witnesses AgainstThe passage in 2 Thessalonians goes on to say that this man of sin had not yet been revealed in Paul's time, so he is only hinting at it in writing, having told the Thessalonians in person at an earlier time. Today it is thought that what restrains the revealing of an as-yet-unknown Antichrist is the Holy Spirit, or the Church, but the Reformers understood Paul to be referring to the Roman Empire or the Caesars who were still in power in his time, which explains why he wouldn't identify them in writing. And as I mentioned in the previous post about the Pope this makes sense if you recognize that the Pope has taken the place of the Caesars with their title Pontifex Maximus and their Roman garb, and his presiding over an institution that over time acquired most of the trappings of the Roman pagan religions, including putting various Christian "saints" in the place of some of the Roman gods and encouraging prayers to them as to gods.
2 Thess 2:6-9 Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. 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...Some historical information.
Those who identified the Pope as the Antichrist saw the Antichrist papal system as having developed in the year 606 (about the same time Islam conquered the Eastern Roman Empire). I think it was the Byzantine Emperor who referred to Pope Gregory the Great as "universal bishop" to which Gregory replied that anyone who accepted that title would be a forerunner of Antichrist. Then the next Pope, Boniface, DID accept it as it was given to him by the Byzantine Emperor Phocas. Gregory the Great was thought by the Reformers to be the last legitimate Bishop of Rome, all those following being the Antichrist papal system. Over the ensuing years the Church of Rome accumulated the superstitions of pagan Rome that came to characterize its functions. Relics, prayers to saints, the rosary, and so on. This is all addressed in a book titled The History of Romanism by John Dowling, but I think Luther also addressed it, which would be in the book What Luther Says, by Plass.