Who Did the Protestant Reformers Believe is the Antichrist?

In a day and age where prophecy is spoken about with fervor by some, and disdain by others, we hear of so many different interpretations of the identity of the “antichrist” of Scripture. He has other names as well. He’s “the little horn” (Daniel 7:8), “the beast” (Revelation 13:1), and  “the man of sin” (2 Thessalonians 2:3).

The Greek word “anti” doesn’t necessarily mean “against.” It also means “in the place of.” This is important because many today believe that this individual spoken about in Bible prophecy is not only against the truth as found in Jesus; he’s trying to replace the true Jesus for the church on earth.

If we were to put the leaders of the Lutherans, Presbyterians, Scotch Presbyterians, Anglicans, Baptists, & Methodists in a room and ask them “who is the Antichrist?”, do you think there would be a consensus?

Let’s closely examine the founders of these denominations and see if they used to agree.

Martin Luther (1483-1546) (Lutherans): “We here are of the conviction that the papacy is the seat of the true and real Antichrist.” The Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers, by LeRoy Froom. Vol. 2., pg. 121.

John Calvin (1509-1564) (Presbyterians): “Some persons think us too severe and censorious when we call the Roman pontiff Antichrist. But those who are of this opinion do not consider that they bring the same charge of presumption against Paul himself, after whom we speak and whose language we adopt… I shall briefly show that (Paul’s words in II Thess. 2) are not capable of any other interpretation than that which applies them to the Papacy.” Institutes of the Christian Religion, by John Calvin.

John Knox (1505-1572) (Scotch Presbyterian): John Knox sought to counteract  “that tyranny which the pope himself has for so many ages exercised over the church.” As with Luther, he finally concluded that the Papacy was  “the very antichrist, and son of perdition, of whom Paul speaks.” The Zurich Letters, by John Knox, pg. 199.

Thomas Cranmer (1489-1556) (Anglican): “Whereof it followeth Rome to be the seat of antichrist, and the pope to be very antichrist himself. I could prove the same by many other scriptures, old writers, and strong reasons.”  (Referring to prophecies in Revelation and Daniel.)Works by Cranmer, Vol. 1, pp. 6-7.

Roger Williams (1603-1683) (First Baptist Pastor in America): Pastor Williams spoke of the Pope as “the pretended Vicar of Christ o­n earth, who sits as God over the Temple of God, exalting himself not o­nly above all that is called God, but over the souls and consciences of all his vassals, yea over the Spirit of Christ, over the Holy Spirit, yea, and God himself…speaking against the God of heaven, thinking to change times and laws; but he is the son of perdition (II Thess. 2).” The Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers, by Froom, Vol. 3, pg. 52.

The Westminster Confession of Faith (1647): “There is no other head of the church but the Lord Jesus Christ. Nor can the pope of Rome in any sense be head thereof; but is that Antichrist, that man of sin and son of perdition that exalteth himself in the church against Christ and all that is called God.” Taken from Philip Schaff’s, The Creeds of Christendom, With a History and Critical Notes, III, p. 658, 659, ch. 25, sec. 6.

Cotton Mather (1663-1728) (Congregational Theologian): “The oracles of God foretold the rising of an Antichrist in the Christian Church: and in the Pope of Rome, all the characteristics of that Antichrist are so marvelously answered that if any who read the Scriptures do not see it, there is a marvelous blindness upon them.” The Fall of Babylon by Cotton Mather

John Wesley (1703-1791) (Methodist): Speaking of the Papacy, John Wesley wrote, “He is in an emphatical sense, the Man of Sin, as he increases all manner of sin above measure. And he is, too, properly styled the Son of Perdition, as he has caused the death of numberless multitudes, both of his opposers and followers… He it is…that exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped…claiming the highest power, and highest honour…claiming the prerogatives which belong to God alone.” Antichrist and His Ten Kingdoms, by John Wesley, pg. 110.

A Great Cloud of Witnesses: “Wycliffe, Tyndale, Luther, Calvin, Cranmer; in the seventeenth century, Bunyan, the translators of the King James Bible and the men who published the Westminster and Baptist confessions of Faith; Sir Isaac Newton, Wesley, Whitfield, Jonathan Edwards; and more recently Spurgeon, Bishop J.C. Ryle and Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones; these men among countless others, all saw the office of the Papacy as the antichrist.”  Taken from All Roads Lead to Rome, by Michael de Semlyen. Dorchestor House Publications, p. 205. 1991.

There seemed to be quite an agreement on the identity of the Antichrist, even up until as recent as 200 years ago. What has changed? Did the Scriptures change?

Here’s one question to leave you with to ponder: if the Antichrist resembles Christ, talks like Christ & sounds like Christ, who should we expect his followers to be? That’s right, Christians.

Friends, God’s Word and nearly all the Protestant Reformers of old are clear about who this power is and what he’s all about. As true Christians, we need not be deceived!