Times and Signs—Part 8

The Rise and Fall of the Antichrist—Part II

“When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand).” —Matthew 24:15

THE expression, ‘abomination of desolation’, is another prophetic description of that counterfeit of Christ’s kingdom to which the name Antichrist also applies. Certainly the great Antichrist system foretold in the prophecies is an abomination—an abomination which indeed proved to be a desolation of God’s truths, and also a desolating, destroying power among the Lord’s people themselves.

In our text Jesus speaks of this abomination as having been foretold by the Prophet Daniel. Turning to the Book of Daniel we find it referred to twice. The first reference is found in chapter eleven, verse thirty-one; and the second in chapter twelve, verse eleven. Jesus’ reference to this desolating abomination is in the prophecy which he gave in reply to the disciples’ question, “What shall be the sign of thy coming [presence], and of the end of the world [age]?”—Matt. 24:3

In this prophecy, Jesus not only outlined signs by which his people would know of his second presence and the end of the age, but also foretold important developments throughout the age which would be related to, and the concern of, his followers. The abomination of desolation is one of these.

Various titles and expressions are used in the Bible to describe the many aspects of the true messianic kingdom, each of which emphasizes some particular aspect or work of the kingdom—some, even its preparatory stages. This is also true of the great Antichrist system foretold in the prophecies. As we have seen, it also is given a variety of names, and is described from different standpoints. Daniel speaks of it as the “abomination that maketh desolate.”—Dan. 11:31

One of the principal ways the Antichrist made desolate has been in taking away the truth of God’s Word from the minds and hearts of God’s professed people. The foundation of all the truths of the divine plan is the ransom sacrifice of Jesus Christ—that ransom for all, which is to be testified to all in “due time.” (I Tim. 2:3-6) This basic truth of the divine plan, stated in other words, is the fact that Jesus gave his flesh, his humanity, in death as a substitute for the forfeited life of Adam and his race; that he did this once for all; that it is a continuing, ever-efficacious sacrifice on behalf of all mankind.

In both of Daniel’s references to the abomination that maketh desolate, he associates with it the taking away of what the King James Version describes as the “daily sacrifice.” Here the Hebrew word translated ‘daily’, actually means ‘continual’, and is so translated in the Revised Standard Version. It is not a reference to the daily typical sacrifices under the Mosaic Law, but to the great sacrifice, “once for all” (Heb. 10:10), which was designed to serve continually as a propitiation for the sins of the church during the present age, and for the sins of the world in general during the age to come, the Millennium.—I John 2:2

This continual sacrifice was taken away, or set aside, by the Antichrist, and substituted in its place was the doctrine of the ‘mass’, which teaches that by intoining a few Latin words over a wafer of bread and a glass of wine, they are transformed into the actual body and blood of Jesus Christ. Not only is the claim that the body and blood of Jesus are thus recreated and resacrificed not supported in the Scriptures, but the theory completely destroys the glorious truth of the Bible concerning the ransom, the substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

While biblical language is frequently used in theological expositions, such as references to the shed blood of the Redeemer, Jesus’ death on the cross, and so forth, this language is given an entirely different meaning than that presented in the Word of God. In the Scriptures, the shedding of blood symbolizes the giving up, or pouring out, of life. Jesus “poured out his soul unto death,” wrote the Prophet Isaiah. (Isa. 53:12) But the Antichrist does not believe Jesus died! To the theologians in this system, Jesus was God, and surely God could not die.

No, their theory is that God came to earth incarnate in flesh and gave an exhibition of suffering, pretending to die on the cross. The theory is that sins are expiated by suffering. But it was not sufficient that God suffer once on the cross, so they cause him to suffer over and over again through the sacrifice of the mass. But even this is not enough, for after death, the individual for whom the masses are said must go to purgatory and continue to suffer—the length of time depending on how favorably he may be remembered by his friends still on the earth.

In Daniel’s expression, the abomination that maketh desolate, the Hebrew word translated ‘desolate’ literally means ‘to stun’, having as an overtone of meaning that the stunning, or rendering helpless, is by means of surprise or astonishment. How accurately this describes the desolating work accomplished by the Antichrist once its combined ecclesiastical and civil authority and power could not be successfully challenged!

In Daniel 8:11, this Antichrist system is referred to as “the prince of the host”—the host being the great mass of professing Christians—by whom the continual sacrifice was taken away. And the marginal translation of verse twelve explains that the host was given over to the prince “for the transgression against the daily [continual] sacrifice; and it cast down the truth to the ground; and it practiced, and prospered.”

In verses twenty-four and twenty-five of Daniel 8, we read further concerning the Antichrist, “His power shall be mighty, but not by his own power [but by the civil power of the various kingdoms of Europe]; and he shall destroy wonderfully, and shall prosper and practice, and shall destroy the mighty and the holy people. And through his policy also he shall cause craft to prosper in his hand; and he shall magnify himself in his heart, and by peace [‘prosperity’, Margin] shall destroy many: he shall also stand up against the Prince of princes [Christ]; but he shall [eventually] be broken without hand.”

Another revealing prophecy of this same desolating abomination is found in Daniel 11:31-33: “They shall pollute the sanctuary of strength, and shall take away the daily sacrifice, and they shall place the abomination that maketh desolate. And such as do wickedly against the covenant shall he corrupt by flatteries: but the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits. And they that understand among the people shall instruct many: yet they shall fall by the sword, and by the flame, by captivity, and by spoil, many days.”

From these various prophetic word pictures we get a very clear view of the abomination that makes desolate. In addition to taking away the continual, ever-efficacious sacrifice of Christ, it cast down essentially all God’s truth to the ground:

The truth concerning one true and living God of the Bible was cast down, and a triune god set up in his place.

The truth concerning man being mortal was cast down, and an immortal man invented instead.

The great truth that the wages of sin is death was cast down, and for it was substituted torture—eternal in hell for the willfully wicked, such as heretics; and long centuries of torment in purgatory for the less than willful sinners.

The truth that Christ would return and with his faithful followers establish a kingdom on the earth, was cast down, the unholy church-state rulership being substituted, with the pope claiming to be the vicar of Christ.

The true baptism into Christ’s death, with its symbol of water immersion, was cast down, and infant sprinkling established as a substitute.

Justification by faith in the blood of Jesus Christ was cast down, with purchased righteousness through indulgences and the mass taking its place.

The truth concerning the restoration of paradise during the “times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began” (Acts 3:19-21), was cast down, and the falsehood adopted that time would one day end, and then the earth would be destroyed.

We might continue to name one after another of the details of truth, and we would find that the abomination that makes desolate has been guilty of casting them all down to earth, and substituting others in their places. One of the most astonishing aspects of all this is that the Bible itself was relegated to a secondary place, and the authority of the pope exalted above the authority of the Bible. This means that a “thus saith the Lord” (Isa. 57:15; Jer. 2:2; Ezek. 25:15, etc.), through his inspired Word, had little or no weight in the minds and hearts of those who had been stunned by this abominable system.

We are glad that in the prophecies there is such a clear-cut distinction made between the host—the great mass of nominal believers—and the holy ones, “the people that do know their God.” (Dan. 8:13; 11:32) Of necessity those who did know God were few in number. One reason was that this is not the age in the divine plan for the conversion of the world. One of the practices of the Antichrist was the forcing of its brand of Christianity upon virtually the entire population of the nations at the point of the sword. Obviously this did not make the people Christians.

During this age there is only one way to know God, and that is through the truth of his Word, and Bibles were extremely scarce during the Middle Ages. They all had to be written by hand; and then, in addition to this, the Antichrist banned their use. Many people were burned at the stake, their only ‘crime’ being that they possessed or read the Bible. It would, of course, be true then, even as now, that a large percentage even of those who had access to the Bible, and who read it, still would not know their God.

Daniel foretold that those who did know their God “shall be strong, and do exploits.” (11:32) These were strong in the Lord, and without question stood up valiantly in defense of the truth, but it was against overwhelming odds. Knowing God, they did their best to instruct others. “Yet,” Daniel continued, “they shall fall by the sword, and by flame, by captivity, and by spoil, many days.”—11:33

It has been estimated that during the reign of the Antichrist, it was responsible for the death of fifty million people! And the death penalty was often inflicted by this desolating abomination in the cruelest of ways, such as burning at the stake; on the torture rack; tongues were cut out, and molten lead poured into the mouths of the victims—all this in the name of Christ, but contrary to every principle set forth in his teachings and by his example. Church historians, both Protestant and Catholic, verify the facts of these atrocities.

In this twentieth century, the civilized people of the world have been horrified by the cruelties imposed upon minorities by the ruthless dictators of our times, both fascist and communist. But none of these cruelties has been more devilish nor more widespread than the tortures of the ‘Holy’ Inquisition. And yet these were but the natural result of the God-dishonoring teachings of the Antichrist, particularly those doctrines relating to hell-fire and purgatory. Once the supporters of this system concluded that a person was a sinner according to their standards, they supposed that God would torture that individual eternally in more fiendish ways than their twisted minds were capable of imagining. So why not copy God, and inflict as much torture upon the poor soul as possible ahead of time?

No wonder the Bible describes a system capable of such practices as an abomination of desolation. The astonishing manner in which they departed from the true doctrines of the Word of God, and the practice of justice and love which they inculcate, truly did stun the professed Christian world throughout the Dark Ages. And while there were a few who knew their God, and stood out valiantly against the errors which engulfed them, the vast majority succumbed, and as generation after generation passed, these hideous doctrines and practices became accepted by the rank and file of the people as genuine Christianity.

True, great reformers finally began to take their stand against the evils of the abomination, and doubtless they accomplished much good. But so far as God’s love for his creatures is concerned, the reformers protested against the only doctrine that reflected any degree of mercy at all; namely, purgatory. It could be argued that a suffering soul could be released from purgatory, perhaps, but when the reformers abolished purgatory, only eternal torture was left for those not worthy of going to heaven. And with the various religious systems which are the outgrowth of the Reformation, this is still largely true.

Seemingly all were so stunned by the Antichrist that even though some could no longer endure its bondage or tolerate its corrupt practices, they could not return to normal thinking and to a sane study of the Word of God; for they continued to hold to the major errors previously taught, with the exception of purgatory and the mass. The inherent immortality of the soul; the trinity; the destruction of the earth; union of church and state—all of these errors continued to be upheld by nearly all the reformers.

And in many instances these false doctrines led to ungodly practices similar to those which they induced under the jurisdiction of the desolating abomination. John Calvin burned Servetus at the stake because he spoke out against the doctrine of the trinity. Latimer and Ridley were burned at the stake in England for the ‘crime’ of endeavoring to give the people the Bible. The spirit of cruelty and persecution continued, and only restricted opportunities prevented it from being just as widespread as in the Dark Ages.

The Beastly Kingdom

A “beast” is another of the prophetic symbolisms used in the Bible to emphasize certain characteristics of the Antichrist. This symbolism is introduced in the seventh chapter of Daniel, where we are told of four beasts, each representing a kingdom. Most students of prophecy agree that these four beasts represent the four successive empires of Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome. There were two phases of the Roman Empire—pagan and papal.

This changeover from pagan to papal is represented in Daniel’s prophecy of the four beasts by a little horn that grew on the head of the fourth, or Roman beast, replacing three of its ten horns. This horn, like the others, is interpreted to be a king, or kingdom. In the description of its characteristics we are given another definite identification of the Antichrist. We quote: “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.”—Dan. 7:25

This prophetic time measurement, “time and times and the dividing of time,” is actually a period of three and one-half symbolic years. These are Jewish—lunar years—of three hundred and sixty days, with each day representing a literal year. The entire period, therefore, would be 1,260 years. This same measurement is referred to in Daniel 12:7, where it is given as a period reaching to the end of “these wonders,” one of the wonders being the abomination that makes desolate.—vs. 6

In Revelation 11:2 this time measurement is described as “forty and two months,” which again is three and one-half symbolic years. Here it is assigned to a period during which the “holy city,” the embryo kingdom class, is trodden “under foot.” This, too, was one of the accomplishments of Antichrist, the counterfeit kingdom.

In Revelation 11:3, the identical period is again mentioned, and described as a “thousand two hundred and threescore days.” In this prophecy we are told that the Lord would give his two witnesses power to prophesy during this period, even though “clothed in sackcloth.” Evidently this is a reference to God’s Word, his greatest of all witnesses in the earth, the Old and New Testaments making up the two witnesses. During this long era of the Dark Ages, these two witnesses had their testimony limited by the sackcloth of dead languages.

In Revelation 12:6, the “woman”—God’s true covenant people—are said to flee into the wilderness for a “thousand two hundred and threescore days.” There was a place prepared for the woman by God, a place of protection where she could be cared for and fed during the reign of Antichrist: This is again mentioned in the fourteenth verse of the chapter, the time measurement being referred to as a time, and times, and half a time, as in Daniel 12:7.

Finally, in Revelation 13:5, this same time measurement is assigned to the reign of the beast. Beginning with verse four we read, “They worshiped the beast, saying, Who is able to make war with him? 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. … 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.”—Rev. 13:4-7

Note the similarity of this last quotation with Daniel 7:25, particularly with respect to the ‘great words’ which would be spoken by the ‘beast’. In Daniel’s vision, while these blasphemous words are said to be spoken by the horn on the head of the Roman beast, the thought is that this horn dominates the beast, the change in its status from pagan to papal having been made.

History indicates that the reign of papacy lasted throughout the entire period of the Dark Ages, and in these prophecies we are given its exact length from God’s viewpoint; namely, 1,260 years. As we have seen, the Antichrist is described in the Bible as having various characteristics, represented in different names given to it. As the Antichrist, it ruled. It was the counterfeit kingdom of Christ. As a beast it reigned also, and had great power, and it is the taking away of this power which the prophecies show was to take place at the close of the 1,260 years.

Historians generally, secular and religious, agree that the sovereign ruling power of papacy was shattered by Napoleon in 1799. Instead of going to Rome to be crowned by the pope, Napoleon insisted that the pope travel to France, and even then he did not permit the pope to crown him, but placed the crown on his own head, with the pope present, thus heaping humiliation upon him. The pope was permitted to continue with his religious activities, although, for a time, he was made prisoner by Napoleon. But not since then has he been recognized as having the right, or authority to crown or uncrown the kings of the old Roman world.

True, this mystery of iniquity was not completely destroyed by Napoleon, nor did the prophecies state it would be. What Daniel foretold would take place at the end of the 1,260 years was that the dominion of the beast would be taken away. And this, the prophecy indicates, was to “consume and to destroy it unto the end.” (Dan. 7:25,26) Not until the true kingdom of Christ is established, and its power being wielded worldwide, will the last vestige of the Antichrist be removed and its corrupting influence wholly destroyed.

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