I was asked, “How can I be sure that what I have written is the correct interpretation of prophecies?” My answer is not politically correct, but it is historically and theologically correct!
Protestant reformers held firmly to the historicist method of Bible prophecy interpretation, which holds that prophecy starts at the time it was given and runs continuously until it is complete. Using this understanding, the following was taught by most reformers:
•time periods in Bible symbolic prophecy are to be understood figuratively, not literally, thus a “day” represents a literal year;
•the “temple” in which the Antichrist sits is not literal Jerusalem but rather an apostate Christian church; and
•the word “Antichrist” does not denote a blasphemous individual who openly denies and defies God but rather one who opposes Christ by posing as the vicar of Christ.
The reformers were all biblical scholars and understood that the prophecies clearly indicated that the papacy was little horn power of Daniel 7, also mentioned in Revelation 13 and 17, and 2 Thessalonians 2. They understood the chronology of the biblical prophecies and knew that the prophesied powers of Babylon, the Medo-Persian empire, the Grecian empire and pagan Roman empire had passed away and that they were living in the time period of the little horn power.
Almost to a man, they believed, as John Wycliffe put it, “the pope is antichrist here on Earth.” And when two popes were vying for position he wrote they were “two halves of Antichrist making up the perfect man of sin between them.” A few of the Reformers who held this understanding were John Hus, William Tyndale, Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, John Calvin, John Knox and Thomas Cranmer.
It is very clear that from the 12th to 18th centuries the incriminating finger of Bible prophecy clearly pointed out the bishop of Rome as the Antichrist. To quote some early church confessions of faith:
Presbyterian: “The pope of Rome … is that Antichrist, that man of sin … that exalteth himself against … God.”
Church of England (Anglican): “The pope ought to be called Antichrist.”
Lutheran: “The pope should be called the real Antichrist.”
As result of such clear Bible teaching, thousands of adherents to the papal system left and embraced the Protestant cause. This naturally caused alarm in the papal system and they knew that somehow this identification must be changed to preserve the papal system.
To this end, a council was called in 1545 in Trento, Italy, lasting until 1563. Two Jesuit scholars, Alcazar and Ribera, came up with preterism and futurism. Preterism denies predictive prophecy and says that the prophecies are basically history. Futurism says that the prophecies are in the future.
Both deny the possibility of the pope being identified as the Antichrist of Bible prophecy. Surprisingly, both preterism and futurism were accepted by the majority of Protestants in the 19th century. And now the papacy was safe from the pointed accusations of the Bible and the reformers.
It has been said that there is not too much difference today between Catholicism and Protestants. That is true. The change is not on Catholicism’s side, which boasts that they never change, but rather in Protestantism, which has adopted their understanding!
The reformers from the 12th to 18th centuries would be turning in their graves to see the Bible prophecies so easily cast aside and the growth of the ecumenical movement today.
I can be sure that what I have written is correct because history proves the accuracy of prophecy when understood by the historicist method.
Ian Cotton is the retired pastor of the Cresto Seventh-day Adventist Church.