Although many pre-Reformation writers perceived Papacy as the Man of Sin, the leadersof the sixteenth century Reformation wove this identification into a larger propheticmosaic. That Martin Luther, the father of the Reformation, recognized the Papacy as theMan of Sin is obvious, “We are convinced that the Papacy is the seat of the true and realAntichrist.” The Protestant Church of the Reformation saw Papacy as more than the
apostate church. Prophecy became the rallying point of the Reformation. Protestantsidentified the Papacy as the prophetic Antichrist of Daniel and Revelation. They acted onthat belief and many died for that conviction:From the first, and throughout, that movement [the Reformation] was energized andguided by the prophetic Word. Luther never felt strong and free to war against the papalapostasy til he recognized the pope as antichrist. It was then he burned the papal Bull.Knox’s first sermon, the sermon which launched him on his mission as a Reformer, wason the prophecies concerning the papacy…All the Reformers were unanimous in thematter…It nerved them to resist the claims of that apostate church to the uttermost. Itmade them martyrs, it sustained them at the stake. And the views of the Reformers wereshared by thousands, by hundreds of thousands. Not only did the Reformers proclaim the mighty truth of justification by faith for theliberation of men’s souls, but they nerved thousands to break from the tyranny of the dark ages of the Papacy by explicitly identifying the Antichrist of Bible prophecy. Thesymbols of Daniel, Paul and John were applied with tremendous effect. The realizationthat the incriminating finger of prophecy rested squarely on Rome aroused theconsciousness of Europe. In alarm, Rome saw that she must successfully counteract thisidentification of Antichrist as the Papacy——or lose the battle.
The Counter Reformation
Jesuit scholarship rallied to the Roman cause by providing alternatives to the historicalinterpretation of the Protestants:
“Futurism”—Antichrist, a Man in the Future
The most successful tack was taken by Francisco Ribera (1537-1591) of Salamanca,Spain. He was the founder of the Futurist system of prophetic interpretation. Riberaargued that Antichrist would appear in the distant future. About 1590 Ribera published a500-page commentary on the apocalypse denying the Protestant application of Antichristto the Church of Rome. The following is a synopsis:While the first few chapters in the Revelation were assigned to ancient Rome in the timeof John, the greater part of the prophecies of the Revelation were assigned to the distantfuture—to events immediately preceding the second coming of Jesus Christ.