It was not until the thirteenth century that the ‘Man of Sin’ reached his maturity. During the passing ten centuries he stretched higher and higher and higher, piling assumption upon assumption and prerogative upon prerogative, till at last he looked down not only upon all churches but upon all kings and kingdoms. He claimed to be the world’s one monarch and bishop, the Representative of Christ on earth.
From a humble pastor to a mighty potentate he evolved. With the exception of true Christianity, no similar example of what at first was so small became in the end so great, has ever been witnessed on earth.
A line of some three hundred Popes are seen and these all, one after the other, prosecuted the same idea. Each one carried that idea forward at the point where his predecessor left it.
A strange combination, increasingly and undeviatingly, is seen to be at work. The spirit which conceived the plan and from century to century carried it forward, was more than human. Paul tells us that it was Satanic.
Mark ‘a great apostasy’ was to precede the rise of Antichrist.
‘The day of Christ,’ that is His coming and ‘the gathering of his saints to Him,’ the ascent of the resurrected saints to meet their Lord, cannot come ‘except there come a falling away first.’ II Thess. 2:3. ‘Falling away’ has the definite article it is ‘the’ falling away. The great and notable apostasy, that dark and terrible time, is spoken of by both Daniel and John.
The early persecutions of the church had hardly ceased until the declension of apostasy set in. The vine which Paul tended in Rome is transformed into the vine of Sodom. Riches, greed, lust and power, destroy its holiness. The bishop rides forth in a gilded chariot, and the clergy are arrayed in silks. Superstitious rites usurp the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.
As the centuries pass, error is piled on error, and the whole is buttressed with assumptions and decptions. The pastor becomes a bishop and the bishop a Pope, the Man of Sin.
He arises from a paganised Christianity, the great apostasy. Like the soil from which he sprung the Pope is pagan in essence though Christian in appearance, an apostate transformed as an angel of light.
Certain events aided the Antichrist in his development. The first of these was the removal of the Emperor from Rome to Constantinople. The Papacy could not have developed until the hindrance of the Caesar was removed from Rome. He who now letteth (hinders) will let (hinder). Paul notes that carefully and informs us of how the Antichrist is thus withholden.
Constantine removed the new Rome to the Bosphorus, leaving old Rome to its Bishop in AD 334. Out of the chair of St. Peter, which the Bishops of Rome claimed to occupy, and out of the city of the Caesars he forged for himself a sovereignty which survived the fall of the Roman Empire, the convulsions and overturnings of the Middle Ages and the Reformation, and has come down to our day in all its arrogance and deception. It has the art, when men believe it to be about to expire, of rallying its powers and yet again dominating the whole world.
The second great event which aided the Antichrist in his development was the development of a new and loftier order overtopping the episcopate. Christendom became partitioned into five great patriarchates, Rome, Constantinople, Antioch, Alexandria, and Jerusalem. The bishops of these five great cities of the empire became the five great princes of the church.
Then came the battle for priority and supremacy. Which of the five should be the first? The people of Rome pronounced in the favour of their bishop even without imperial ratification. He was installed as the first of the five in AD 606. The Emperor Phocas made Boniface III universal bishop only in precedence amongst the five, but with no jurisdiction over the other four.
But the Antichrist did not want precedence. He lusted after real power. The plan put into operation was to subdue the whole clergy of the church to the Pope. As the centuries passed, by the help of many an artifice, the Popes extended their power over the West. The darkness which descended on Europe with the descent of the Gothic hordes favoured the project in a high degree. That darkness masked the evil operations of the Papacy.
In the darkness there was produced the last will and testament of the Emperor Constantine which bequeathed to Silvestor, the Bishop of Rome, the whole Western Empire including palace, regalia, and all the belongings of the Master of the World.
Next came the decretals of Isidone. This showed that from Peter onwards all the Popes held the same state and ruled with the same power as the grand Popes of the Middle Ages.
Of course both documents were forgeries. Even Rome admits that today but she still holds as of divine authority the claims founded on these forgeries.
The third great event that aided the Antichrist in his development was the arrival of the northern nations in southern Europe. These invaders, when they arrived in Rome, beheld a great potentate in the throne of Caesar. He told them that he was the successor of Peter, the Vicar of Christ on earth, with power to transmit all his powers both temporal and spiritual to his successors. This was the Pope’s only gospel to the barbarians.
In the Pope they beheld no very distant likeness to their own Arch Druid. The idolatries of Rome were like their own pagan ones. Access to the baptismal font was not impeded by their pagan beliefs or sins. So nation after nation entered the Church, the French leading the way and earning for themselves the title ‘the eldest son of the church.’
The Antichrist with the vast accession of new subjects continued on the up and up. The subjection of all bishops was brought about by their pilgrimages to Rome, their appeal to the bishop of Rome in matters of dispute, and eventually by the presentation of the poll of consecration. This was at first a free gift but it soon became indispensable and without it no bishop could discharge his functions. All had to be paid for dearly and so the Antichrist became exceedingly rich. In a ‘divide and conquer’ strategy between the regular and secular clergy the Pope advanced both his financial and temporal interests.
The fourth great event which aided the Antichrist in his development was the event of the various crusades.
The papal-inspired crusades placed power, peoples, princes, and soldiers at the service of the Pope. He took over the estates of those who went off to fight, exempting their owners from the jurisdiction of the civil power in both civil and criminal causes.
When the Crusades were spent the only monarch unbroken and whose treasury was full was the Pope. The monarchs of Europe were bankrupt and their peoples ruined. The Antichrist rose to new heights of even greater grandeur on the ruins. What is more, the nations were further weakened and the Papacy strengthened by the fanatical fury of those returning from the Holy Land who vented their wrath on heretics to such lengths that bloody persecutions and wars were commenced which raged for centuries.
Out of the resulting weakness of strife-torn Europe, the Antichrist increased from strength to strength.