The Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers, vol. 2


CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO: Jesuits Introduce Futurist Counterinterpretation

I. Counterinterpretations Divert Protestant Applications

For some time following the launching of the Reformation, Roman Catholic leadership carefully avoided exposition of the prophecies of Daniel and the Apocalypse. They seemed unable to parry the force of the incriminating Protestant applications of the prophecies concerning Antichrist, which were under mining the very foundations of the Catholic position. Upon the first outbreak of Luther’s antipapal protest two Catholic doctors, Prierias and Eck, in the true spirit of the recently concluded Fifth Lateran Council (1512-1517), had boldly reasserted the Lateran theory and declared the papal dominion to be Daniel’s fifth monarchy, or reign of the saints, and identified the existing Roman church with the New Jerusalem. PFF2 484.1

But what of the various prophecies of the Antichrist that was to do its exploits between the time of Rome’s iron empire and the saints’ reign? In Germany, Switzerland, France, Den mark, Sweden, England, and Scotland there had been simultaneous and impressive declarations by voice and pen that the Papacy was the specified Antichrist of prophecy. The symbols of Daniel, Paul, and John were applied with tremendous effect. Hundreds of books and tracts impressed their contention upon the consciousness of Europe. Indeed, it gained so great a hold upon the minds of men that Rome, in alarm, saw that she must successfully counteract this identification of Antichrist with the Papacy, or lose the battle. PFF2 484.2

She felt the tremendous force of the arguments used against her. And she discovered, to her dismay, that she could no longer hold her members by mere ritual, dogma, or force. There must be reasoned evidence and plausible exposition of Scripture prophecy to counter the largely unbroken harmony of the re formed positions. Catholicism must have preachers who would match the dynamic Reformation eloquence and scholarship. The Jesuits were summoned to aid in the extremity, and cleverly provided the very method needed both for defense and for attack. PFF2 485.1

From the ranks of the Jesuits two stalwarts arose, determined to lift the stigma from the Papacy by locating Antichrist at some point where he could not be applied to the Roman church. Whereas Luther and some of his associates had, in the early part of the Reformation, doubted the canonicity of the Apocalypse, Catholicism could now pose as the actual defender of the New Testament canon, as against the inconsistency of the Reformers, who had boasted that they rested their case solely on Holy Writ. PFF2 485.2


The Reformers in all lands had been unanimous in applying most of the prophecies of Antichrist to the Papacy, though some applied one or two symbols to Mohammedanism, as a paralleling Eastern Antichrist. In fact, it was this united Protestant stand on the Papacy that became the spring of their reformatory action. It was this clear understanding of the prophetic symbols that led them to protest against Rome with such extraordinary courage and effectiveness, nerving them to break with her, and to resist her claims, even unto death. These positions were, more over, shared by hundreds of thousands, and were adopted by both rulers and people. Under their influence, whole nations abjured allegiance to the bishop of Rome. It was clearly a crisis of major proportions. Of this wholesale Protestant testimony The Catholic Encyclopedia charges: PFF2 485.3

“To the ‘reformers’ particularly the Apocalypse was an inexhaustible quarry where to dig for invectives that they might hurl them against the Roman hierarchy. The seven hills of Rome, the scarlet robes of the cardinals, and the unfortunate abuses of the papal court made the application easy and tempting.” 1 PFF2 486.1

In the reaction that followed, Catholicism loosed all its reserves upon the adherents of the Reformation. But the Counter Reformation did not merely condemn the Reformation in general; it attacked the prophetic positions on which all Protestants were agreed. It repudiated the interpretation which they embodied in their solemn confessions and sealed with their blood. It thus attacked and condemned Protestantism’s prophetic spring of action. PFF2 486.2


Rome had felt the cumulative force of these prophecies. She must somehow offset them. There was no way but to deny their applicability to the Papacy, as their integral existence in the Scripture could not be denied. The Catholic citadel must be defended on prophetic grounds. The persistent Protestant application to the Papacy of Antichrist, under the various symbols, must be countered and turned if the Protestant prophetic fortress was to be overwhelmed. The incriminating finger of prophecy—pointed by Daniel, Paul, and John—must be diverted. The symbols must be pushed out of the entire field of medieval and contemporary history. PFF2 486.3