These words concerning the identity of the AntiChrist are again taken from Mr. Hodge’s Systematic Theology (volume 3):
The Antichrist of the Apocalypse.
The Apocalypse seems to be a summing up and expansion of all the eschatological prophecies of the Old Testament, especially of those of Ezekiel, Zechariah and Daniel. The same symbols, the same forms of expression, the same numbers, the same cycle of events, occur in the New Testament predictions, that are found in those of the Old. Everyone knows that commentators differ not only in their interpretation of the details, but even as to the whole structure and design of the book of Revelation. Some regard it as a description in oriental imagery of contemporaneous events; others as intended to set forth the different phases of the spiritual life of the Church; others as designed to unfold the leading events in the history of the Church and of the world in their chronological order; others again assume that it is a series, figuratively speaking, of circles; each vision or series of visions relating to the same events under different aspects; the end, and the preparation for the end, being presented over and over again; the great theme being the coming of the Lord, and the triumph of his Church.
The most commonly accepted view of the general contents of the book by those who adopt the chronological method is that so clearly presented in the admirable little work of Dr. James M. Macdonald (now of Princeton, New Jersey). According to this view*, the introduction is contained in chapters i.-iii.; part second relates the Jewish persecutions, and the destruction of that power, in chapters iv.-xi. 14, part third relates the Pagan persecutions, and the end of the Pagan persecuting power, in chapters xi. 15-xiii. 10; part fourth relates the Papal persecutions and errors, and their end, in chapters xiii. 11-xix.; and part fifth relates the latter day of glory, the battle of Gog and Magog, the final judgment, and the heavenly state, in chapters xx.-xxii.
* this is not exactly my own view of the structure of the book
Luthardt may be taken as a representative of the advocates of the theory that the historical sequence of events is not designed to be set forth in the Apocalypse. The three works of the Apostle John contained in the New Testament, the Gospel, the Epistles, and the Apocalypse, according to Luthardt, form a beautiful, harmonious whole; as faith, love, and hope mingle into one, so do these writings of St. John, though each has its characteristic; faith is prominent in the Gospel, love in the Epistles, and hope in the Apocalypse. The theme of the Book of Revelation is, “Behold, He comes.” Luthardt admits that commentators differ greatly as to their views of its meaning, and that, at first, it appears very full of enigmas; but he adds, “Whoever is familiar with the ancient prophecies, and gives himself with loving confidence to this book, will soon find the right way, which will lead him safely through all its labyrinths.” This is the experience of every commentator so far as he himself is concerned, however he may fail to satisfy his readers that his way is the right one. The main principle of Luthardt’s exposition is, “That the Revelation of John does not contemplate the events of history, whether of the Church or of the world. It contemplates the end. We find that the antagonism of the Church and the world, and the issue of the conflict are its contents; the coming of Christ is its theme. The events of history preceding the consummation are taken up only so far as they are connected with the final issue. This consummation is not chronologically unfolded, but is ever taken up anew, in order to lead us by a new way to the end.” One thing is certain, namely, that the Apocalypse contains the series of predictions common to all the prophets; the defections of the people of God; persecutions of their enemies; direful judgments on the persecutors; and the final triumph and blessedness of the elect. Under different forms, this is the burden of all the disclosures God has seen fit to make of the fate of his Church here on earth and this is the burden of the Apocalypse. According to Luthardt, the first vision i. 9-iii. 22, concerns the present state of the Church; the second vision, iv. 1-viii. 1, concerns God and the world; the third vision, viii. 2-xi. 19, concerns the judgment of the world and the consummation of covenant fellowship with God; the fourth vision, xii.-xiv. concerns the Church and the antichristian world power; this contains the vision of the woman, which brought forth the man child; and in xii. 18-xiii. 18, Antichrist and the false prophet; and in xiv. the Church of the end, and the judgment of the antichristian world; and the fifth vision, xv.-xxii. concerns the outpouring of wrath upon the world and the redemption of the Church.
It is characteristic of the Apocalypse that it takes up and expands the eschatological predictions of the earlier portions of Scripture. What in the Old Testament or in the Epistles of the New Testament, is set forth under one symbol and in the concrete, is in the Apocalypse presented under two or more symbols representing the constituent elements of the whole. Thus the Antichrist is predicted in Daniel under the symbol of “the little horn,” and in Paul’s Epistle to the Thessalonians under the title of the Man of Sin. Antichrist, as thus portrayed, includes an ecclesiastical and a worldly element; an apostate Church invested with imperial, worldly power. In the Apocalypse these two elements are represented as separate and united; a woman sitting on a beast with ten horns. The woman is the apostate Church; the beast is the symbol of the world-power by which it is supported. The destruction of the one, therefore, does not involve the destruction of the other. According to the prediction in the eighteenth chapter, the kings of the earth, wearied with the arrogance and assumption of the apostate Church, shall turn against it, waste, and consume it; that is, despoil it of its external power and glory. The destruction of Babylon, therefore, here predicted, is understood by that diligent student of prophecy, Mr. D. N. Lord, not as implying the overthrow of the Papacy, but its “denationalization” and spoliation.
Throughout the Scriptures the relation between God and his people is illustrated by that of a husband to his wife; apostasy from God, therefore, is in the ancient prophets called adultery. In the Revelation, the Church, considered as faithful, is called the woman; as apostate, the adulteress or harlot; and as glorified, the bride, the Lamb’s wife. It is in accordance with the analogy of Scripture that the harlot spoken of in chapters xvii. and xviii. is understood to be the apostate Church. Of this woman it is said: (1.) That she sits on many waters. This is explained in xvii. 15, of her wide spread dominion: “The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues.” (2.) That she seduced the nations into idolatry; making the inhabitants of the earth drunk with the wine of her fornication. (3.) That she is sustained in her blasphemous assumption of divine prerogatives and powers by the kings and princes of the earth. She is seen sitting on a scarlet-coloured beast, full of the names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. In verse 12, these ten horns are said to be ten kings, i.e., in the language of prophecy, ten kingdoms. (4.) That she takes rank among and above the kings and princes of the earth. She is “arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls.” (5.) That her riches are above estimate. This is dwelt upon at length in the eighteenth chapter. (6.) That she is a persecuting power, “drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.” (7.) That the claims of this persecuting power, as appears from Revelation xiii. 3, 14, are to be sustained by lying wonders. “He doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men, and deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by those miracles which he hath power to do in the sight of the beast.” We find, therefore, in this description all the traits which in Daniel and the Epistle to the Thessalonians are ascribed to the Man of Sin, or, ὁ ἀντικείμενος, the Antichrist. It matters not what this power may be called. “Wheresoever the carcass is, there will the eagles be gathered together.” Any man; any institution; any organized power which answers to this prophetic description, comes within the prophetic denunciations here recorded. Neither does it matter what is to happen after this judgment on the mystical Babylon. Should another Antichrist arise, essentially worldly in his character, as so many anticipate, who shall attain universal dominion, and set himself against God and his Christ with more blasphemous assumptions, with a more malignant hatred of the Church, and a more demoniacal spirit than any of his predecessors, this would not at all disprove the correctness of the interpretation given above of St. John’s predictions concerning Babylon. On this point, Maitland says: “The two great powers whose names stand foremost in prophecy come into historical contact at a single point. Where Babylon ends, Antichrist begins**: the same ten kings that destroy the first, give their power to the second. When the ten kings shall have burnt Rome, so complete will be the ruin, that no sign of life or habitation will again be found in her. Here, then, is a decisive landmark; Rome is still standing, therefore, Antichrist has not yet come: we are still in the times of Babylon, whether tasting or refusing her golden cap.” In this view, that is, in assuming that the Scriptural prophecies respecting Antichrist, have not their full accomplishment in any one anti-christian power or personage exclusively, many of the most distinguished eschatologists, as Auberlen and Luthardt, substantially agree. The ancient prediction that Japhet should dwell in the tents of Shem, had its fulfilment every time the descendants of the latter participated in the temporal or spiritual heritage of the children of the former; and had its final and great accomplishment in the sons of Japhet sharing the blessings of redemption, which were to be realized in the line of Shem. In like manner the predictions concerning Antichrist may have had a partial fulfilment in Antiochus Epiphanes, in Nero and Pagan Rome, and in the papacy***, and, it may still have a fulfilment in some great anti-christian power which is yet to appear. So much, at least, is clear, in the time of Paul there was in the future a great apostasy and an antichristian, arrogant persecuting power, which has been realized, in all its essential characteristics, in the papacy, whatever may happen after Antichrist, in that form, is utterly despoiled and trodden under foot.
** this is certainly not my view; Maitland was among the first Protestant futurists in the 19th century; I am an ex-futurist
*** the papacy is not a partial fulfillment; it is THE fulfillment of Daniel chapter 7 and 2nd Thessalonians chapter 2
TO BE CONTINUED