13 August 2013

Blessed John Heny Newman on the Antichrist, p. 2

If, then, Antichrist is to come immediately before CHRIST, and to be the sign of His coming, it is manifest that he is not come yet, but is still to be expected.

Further, it appears that the time of Antichrist's tyranny will be three years and a half, which is an additional reason for believing he is not come; for, if so he must have come quite lately, his time being altogether so short; and this we cannot say he has.


Besides, there are two other attendants on his appearance, which have not been fulfilled. First, a time of unexampled trouble. "Then shall be great tribulation, such as was not from the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be; and except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved." This has not come. Next, the preaching of the Gospel throughout the world-"And this Gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come."



Now it may be objected to this conclusion, that St. Paul says, in the passage before us, that "the mystery of iniquity doth already work," i.e. even in his day, as if Antichrist had in fact come even then. But he would seem to mean merely this, that in his day there were shadows and forebodings, earnests and operating elements of that which was one day to come in its fullness. Just as the types of CHRIST went before CHRIST, so the shadows of Antichrist precede him. In truth, every event in this world is a type of those that follow, history proceeding forward as a circle ever enlarging. The days of the Apostles typified the last days: there were false Christs, and troubles, and the true CHRIST came in judgment to destroy the Jewish Church. 

[...]

 
However, a second objection may be made, as follows: St. Paul says, "Now ye know what withholdeth, that he (Antichrist) might be revealed in his time." Here a something is mentioned as keeping back the manifestation of the enemy of truth. The Apostle proceeds: "He that now withholdeth, will, until he be taken out of the way." Now this restraining power being generally admitted to be the Roman empire, and the Roman empire (it is argued) having long been taken out of the way, therefore Antichrist has long since come. I grant that "he that withholdeth," or "letteth," means the power of Rome, for all the ancient writers so speak of it. I grant that as Rome, according to the prophet Daniel's vision, succeeded Greece, so Antichrist succeeds Rome, and our SAVIOUR CHRIST succeeds Antichrist. But it does not hence follow that Antichrist is come; for I do not grant that the Roman empire is gone. Far from it: the Roman empire remains even to this day. It had a very different fate from the other three monsters mentioned by the Prophet; as will be seen by his description of it. "Behold a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth: it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it: and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns." These ten horns, an Angel informed him, "are ten kings that shall arise out of this kingdom" of Rome. As, then, the ten horns belonged to the beast, and were not separate from it, so are the kingdoms into which the Roman empire has been divided, part of that empire itself,-a continuation of that empire in the view of prophecy, however we decide the historical question. And as the horns, or kingdoms, still exist, as a matter of fact, consequently we have not yet seen the end of the Roman empire. "That which withholdeth" still exists, though in its ten horns; till it is removed, Antichrist will not come. And out of them he will arise, as the same Prophet informs us: "I considered the horns, and behold, there came up among them another little horn ...... and behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking great things."


[...]

 
Every spirit that confesseth not that JESUS CHRIST is come in the flesh, is not of GOD; and this is that spirit of the Antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come, and even now already is it in the world." Here we see what its doctrine is to be; but on that I shall not here enlarge. I am speaking of its working, which had begun in the days of the Apostles, and has doubtless continued ever since. Doubtless this malignant principle has been at work since from time to time, though kept under by him that "withholdeth." Nay, for what we know, at this very time there is a fierce struggle, the spirit of Antichrist attempting to rise, and the political power in those countries which are prophetically Roman, firm and vigorous in repressing it. What that spirit is, it would be beside my purpose here to attempt to ascertain, any more than to enlarge upon its doctrine; though certainly there is at this very time, as in the days of our fathers, a fierce and lawless principle every where at work,-a spirit of rebellion against GOD and man, which the powers of government in each country can barely keep under with their greatest efforts. Whether this which we witness be that spirit of Antichrist, which is one day to be let loose, this ambitious spirit, the parent of all heresy, schism, sedition, revolution, and war,-whether this be so or not, certainly the present framework of society and government, as far as it is the representative of Roman power, would seem to be that which withholdeth, and Antichrist is that which will rise when this restraint fails.


--from Sermon I on the Antichrist: The Times of Antichrist, Blessed John Henry Newman

No comments: