Hope of Israel Ministries (Ecclesia of YEHOVAH):

Islam and the Papacy in Prophecy

The identifying mark of the Little Horn of Daniel 7 as a persecuting power has been historically fulfilled by both the Papacy and Islam. Regarding the persecuting power of the Papacy, it is significant that recently the Pope himself has apologized for the atrocities committed by the Catholic Church against Jews, Muslims, and dissenting Christians over the centuries. Compared to the Papacy, however, Islam has persecuted Christians far more intensively and extensively. The persecuting nature of Islam is inspired by the example and teachings of its founder, Muhammad, who fought all the pagans, Jews, and Christians in Saudi Arabia, until he subdued them, forcing them to accept Islam. Muhammad's example was followed by his fanatical followers who systematically exterminated Christians or reduced them to a condition of virtual servitude.

by Samuele Bacchiocchi

The prophetic connection between the Papacy and Islam has long been recognized by Christian thinkers. Thus, what I am proposing in this essay, is by no means my own original interpretation of the antichrist. Bible students have for centuries seen the prophetic connection between Islam and the Papacy.

For example, Jonathan Edwards, the first President of Princeton University and one of the most respected American theologians, wrote in his book, A History of the Work of Redemption:

"The two great works of the devil which he wrought against the Kingdom of Christ are...his anti-Christian [Romish or Papal] and Mahometan [Muslim or Islamic] kingdoms, which have been, and still are, two kingdoms of great extent and strength. Both together swallow up the Ancient Roman Empire; the [Papal] kingdom of the antichrist swallowing up the Western Empire; and Satan's Mahometan kingdom the Eastern Empire...In the Book of Revelation (chapters 16-20)...it is in the destruction of these that the glorious victory of Christ at the introduction of the glorious times of the Church, will mainly consist."

Edwards view that the prophetic activities of the antichrist have been manifested through Christian history through the Papacy in the Western Roman empire and Islam in the Eastern part of the empire, was ably defended already in the sixteenth century by the two Reformers Luther and Calvin. I am indebted to Dr. Francis Nigel Lee, Professor of Theology and Church History at the Queensland Presbyterian Theological Seminary, in Brisbane, Australia, for two informative essays: Luther on Islam and the Papacy, and Calvin on Islam. [21] These two lengthy essays of about 60 pages, provide a valuable collection of statements on Islam and the Papacy from the two Reformers.

My plan is first to submit a brief summary of what Luther and Calvin had to say about Islam and the Papacy from a prophetic perspective. Then, we will test the views of these two Reformers by examining relevant Biblical texts on the prophetic role of the antichrist.

The interest of the Reformers in Islam and the Papacy stems from the fact that they lived at a time when the Papacy had corrupted the Western Church, while Islam was swallowing up much of what was left of the Eastern Church. In many ways the Muslim threat was as real in Luther and Calvin's days, as the threat of Muslim terrorists is today.

After the Turks became Muslims in their homeland of Turkmenistan, most of them embarked on a war of conquest, exporting Islam to many countries. In 1453, they brought to an end the Eastern Roman Empire by capturing Constantinople. Then they subjugated Greece, Bulgaria, Ukraine.

They continued their steady advance by subduing Albania in 1500, Moldavia in 1512, Romania in 1516, Montenegro in 1517, Serbia in 1521, Bosnia in 1527, and reached Vienna by 1529. By the time Luther died in 1546, the Muslims controlled even Hungary and Moldovia. This means that the two Reformers lived at a time when the Muslim threat was as deeply felt as it is today.

Luther on Islam and the Papacy

Luther saw both the Papacy and Islam predicted in such places as Daniel; Revelation; Matthew 24; II Thessalonians 2; I John; I Peter 3. For the sake of brevity we shall refer only to a few of his comments. He interpreted the two legs of the statue of Daniel 2, as representing the division of the fourth kingdom. [22]

"Luther believed that the wrath of God had brought Muhammad and the Pope into the world [23] to punish Eastern and Western Christians for abandoning the pure teachings of the Bible. When the Greeks despised His Word, He took it away and gave them [over to] the Turk and Muhammad. To us Germans and to the Italians, he gave us the Pope and with him all sorts of horrible things." [24]

In Daniel 7, Luther saw the work of the Papacy and Islam represented by the emergence of the Little Horn from the ten horns of the fourth beast which, in fact, symbolizes the Islamic Empire. In his Preface on Daniel, he wrote:

"He also indicates that one small horn shall knock off three among the top ten horns meaning Mohammad or the Turk who now holds Egypt, Asia, and Greece....This same little horn will fight the saints and blaspheme Christ something that we are all experiencing and seeing before our very eyes." [25]

In a sermon on Matthew 24:15-28, Luther expresses his views that Islam and the Papacy are but two different legs of the same antichrist. [26] What unites the two together in Luther's view, is the fact that both persecute Christians and promote false teachings. The difference is that Islam persecutes Christianity from outside, while the Papacy does it from inside. [27]

In Revelation, Luther found several prophetic allusions to Islam. Commenting on Revelation 9:12-13, he wrote: "The second woe is...the shameful Muhammad with his companions the Saracens, who inflicted a great plague on the Church with their doctrines and with the sword." [28]

For Luther, the central message of Revelation is the final victory of the true Church over Islam and the Papacy. He concludes his treatment of the book saying: "We can profit by this Book....We can know that neither force nor lies neither wisdom nor holiness, neither tribulation nor suffering, shall suppress the Church. But it will gain the victory, and overcome at last....Great and perilous and manifold offences come upon the Church....This has happened before now, under the Papacy and Muhammad." [29]

Luther attempted in several ways to clarify the relationship of Islam and the Papacy to the antichrist. In 1532, he made one of the clearest statements:

"I am entirely of the opinion that the Papacy is the antichrist. But if anyone wants to add the Turk then the Pope is the spirit of antichrist, and the Turk is the flesh of antichrist. They help each other in their murderous work. The latter slaughters bodily by the sword; and the former spiritually by doctrine." [30]

Before commenting on Luther's view of Islam and the Papacy as being two manifestations of the antichrist, let us see what Calvin has to say.

Calvin on Islam and the Papacy

Calvin's views on the prophetic role of Islam and the Papacy are strikingly similar to those of Luther. Calvin's comments were largely inspired by his concern over the threat posed by the Muslim Turks, who had invaded Romania, Hungary, and besieged even Nice in France.

In 1543, Calvin in Switzerland wrote to Philip Melanthon in Germany, saying:

"It is not without the bitterest grief that I hear of the sad condition of your Germany! Nor are the evils which I dread, of a less serious kind than those which I bewail....The Turk again prepares to wage war with a larger force. Who will stand up to oppose his marching throughout the length and breadth of the land, at his mere will and pleasure?" [31]

In the tract on The Necessity of Reforming the Church, which Calvin presented in 1544 to the Most Invincible Emperor Charles V, he urged the emperor to delay the task of reforming the church in order to give priority to the Muslim problem, if he wanted to leave his posterity some empire. [32] Calvin explains: "Why do I speak of posterity? Because even now, while your own eyes behold it is half-bent, and totters to its final ruin!" [33] The so-called German Holy Roman Empire was fast disintegrating.

In the light of the Muslim threat to the survival of Western Europe, Calvin acknowledges that Islam and the Papacy are two manifestations of the antichrist power that will attempt to subvert the truth and destroy God's Church. In his Sermons on Deuteronomy (18:15 and 33:2), Calvin explains: "As Mahomet says that his Al-Coran is the sovereign wisdom, so says the Pope of his own decrees. For they be the two horns of antichrist." [34] For Calvin, the common denominator between the two powers, is their appeal to higher revelations that supersede the Scripture: "Muhammad and the Pope have this religious principle in common that Scripture does not contain the perfection of doctrine, but that something higher has been revealed to them." [35]

In his Commentaries on Daniel, Calvin opines that the fourth empire represented by the iron legs of the statue of Daniel 2, is the Roman Empire which was later divided into the Western-Roman Papal and the contemporaneous Eastern-Roman Islamic Empire. [36] As noted earlier, Calvin calls them the two horns of the antichrist. "The Turks have spread far and wide, and the world is filled with impious despisers of God." [37]

However, since it can be shown that the Fourth Kingdom is Islam, the two legs represent the two branches of Islam -- Shia and Sunni! (see our article, Islam and Daniel's Four Kingdoms -- Editor).

In his commentary on Daniel 7, Calvin believes that the Fourth Beast represents the Roman Empire. Calvin notes that the Little Horn that sprung up from the Fourth Beast is interpreted by some to refer to the papacy and by others to the Turkish kingdom. He prefers to adopt a more inclusive interpretation.

Calvin wrote:

"I have no doubt that in this vision [of the Fourth Beast], the Prophet was shown the figure of the Roman Empire....The Prophet simply means that the Roman Empire was complex....Some twist this to mean the Pope, and others the Turk....I have no doubt that the little horn relates to Julius Caesar and the other Caesars who succeeded him....Some take this prophecy to relate to the kingdom of Turkey; others to the tyranny of the Pope of Rome" (Lee n 10).

Calvin advocates a more inclusive view of the antichrist, which allows for the manifestation of both powers: the Papacy and Islam. In his Commentary on Second Thessalonians, Calvin clearly identifies the rising of the Man of Sin mentioned by Paul in II Thessalonians 2:3, with the Papacy. However, Calvin saw in the unprecedented apostasy predicted in the same text (II Thessalonians 2:3), the outcome of the Muslim invasion of Christian countries.

Calvin wrote:

"The minds of ancients were so bewitched that they believed that Nero would be antichrist! However, Paul is not speaking of one individual, but of a kingdom that was to be seized by Satan, for the purpose of setting up a seat of abomination in the midst of God's Temple. This we see accomplished in Popery." [38]

Paul predicted, however, not only the emergence of the Man of Sin, but also an unprecedented apostasy (II Thessalonians 2:3). Calvin rightly explains that when the word apostasy is used without any addition, it cannot be confined to a few individuals. Now the word apostates can be understood only of those who have previously enlisted in the service of Christ and his Gospel. Paul, then, is predicting a general defection on the part of the Visible Church. As if he were saying, "The Church must be reduced to a ghastly and horrifying state of ruin, before its full restoration is achieved." (Lee, n. 24).

Calvin saw the fulfillment of the general defection predicted by Paul, in the massive apostasies caused by the Muslim invasion of Christian countries. "The defection has indeed spread more widely! For, since Muhammad was an apostate, he turned his followers, the Turks, from Christ....The sect of Muhammad was like a raging overflow, which in its violence tore away about half of the Church. It remained for [the Papal] antichrist to infect with his poison the part which was left." [40]

Calvin died in 1564 at the age of 55, before he could write a commentary on the last book of the Bible. Yet on the basis of what he wrote on the Papacy and Islam in his commentaries on Daniel, Second Thessalonians, and First John, we can safely conclude that his understanding of these two powers as being the two horns of the antichrist, would have been reflected in his interpretation of Revelation.

Are Islam and the Papacy Two Manifestations of the antichrist?

Were Luther and Calvin correct in viewing the papacy and Islam as two manifestations of the prophetic antichrist? Were their views based on a correct interpretation of the relevant Bible texts, or were they influenced by the Muslim threat to the survival of Western Europe? Can we today legitimately embrace the Reformers view of the antichrist as including both the power of the Papacy and of Islam?

We shall attempt to answer these questions by examining what the Bible has to say about the nature and work of the antichrist. Our procedure will be simple. First we will define the major prophetic characteristics of the antichrist, and then we shall ask if the Papacy and Islam equally fulfill these characteristics.

I recognize the controversial nature of this investigation, since it expands the traditional Adventist interpretation of the antichrist, which was limited to the Papacy. May I urge you to read the following analysis, without prejudging me as a heretic. Please note that though I was born and bred in Rome, Italy, I do not claim infallibility. What I am submitting for your consideration, represents simply a feeble attempt to understand more fully the prophetic role of the antichrist in the light of the historical persecution of the church and perversion of truth accomplished by both the Papacy and Islam.

What I am submitting is a working hypothesis, not a dogmatic truth. I am always prepared to change my views when someone shows me the flaws of my methodology and conclusions. Please do not flood me with hate mail. If you cannot stand what I have to share, simply ask me to remove your address and your request will be fulfilled. Let us act as mature Christians, able to disagree without becoming disagreeable with one another.

Definition of the Antichrist

The term antichrist appears in the Bible only in two of John's letters. He refers four times specifically to the antichrist (I John 2:18, 22, 4:3; II John 7). It is noteworthy that by the time of John's writing (A. D. 90-100), Christians had coined a specific term, the antichrist, to designate the expected appearance of false Christs and false prophets. Presumably such a term was yet unknown a few decades earlier, since Paul uses other designations: the man of lawlessness, the son of perdition (II Thessalonians 2:3).

Linguistically, the term antichrist can denote a substitute or an opponent of Christ since the Greek preposition anti can mean either in the place of or against. In John the term is used primarily in the latter sense. The antichrist is not a Messianic pretender, but one who opposes the Messiah by denying his humanity and Messiahship.

"Who is the liar?," writes John, "There is no falsehood so great as the denial of the Messiahship of Jesus. He is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son" (I John 2:22). "How do you recognize God's spirit? Every spirit who confesses Jesus Messiah as the one coming as a fully human being is from God, while every spirit which does not accept that Jesus, the one so identified, is not from God. In fact it is the spirit of the Antichrist which you heard was coming, and which is already at work in the world" (I John 4:2-3).

The genuine humanity of the Messiah was denied in John's time by Gnostic sects. In their view matter was altogether evil, and consequently they taught that the Messiah could never have been totally human. Therefore, according to these sects, his body was not genuinely human but only had a human appearance.

In John's view this teaching was a deadly heresy because it undermined the Old Testament prophecies and the validity of the Messiah's atonement. Thus he identifies the propagators of this heresy with the antichrist: "I am telling you this because many deceivers have left and gone out into the world. They do not accept that Jesus Messiah has come as a fully human being. Anyone like this is a deceiver and an antichrist" (II John 7).

In this passage, the antichrist is singular and specific (preceded by the article ho antichristos), but it is used to describe not one specific false teacher, but the many deceivers who were misleading the believers. In fact, in I John 2:18 the plural form is used (Now many antichrists have come) to describe these false teachers. This indicates that John sees the antichrist as a principle of hostility and opposition to God, manifested especially by those who denied the humanity of the Messiah. This principle is designated by John as the spirit of antichrist (I John 4:3).

Islam and the Papacy as the Antichrist

John's definition of the antichrist fits perfectly Islam's denial of the uniqueness and crucifixion of the Messiah. The Koran correctly teaches that the Messiah, called Isa, was simply a human being, but incorrectly teaches that he was born to a virgin called Mariam, who was the sister of Aaron and Moses (Surah 19:28). While still a virgin (Surah 6:12; 19:19-21), Mariam supposedly gave birth to Isa alone in a desolate place under a date palm tree (Surah 19:22ff). The Messiah was not killed or crucified, and those who said he was crucified lied (Surah 4:157). "Isa [the Messiah] did not die, but ascended to Allah" (Surah 4:158).

Muhammad adopted these teachings from Gnostic and Arian sects that had been exiled to Saudi Arabia, but retained the very core teaching espoused by John and adopted a Unitarian view of God and a strictly human view of the Messiah that discredited his divine nature.

The term antichrist can also be applied to the Papacy, not in the sense of John's definition of the nature of the Messiah, but in the meaning of taking the place of the Messiah. This is a legitimate use of the term, which fits the historical claims of the Pope to be the Vicar of Christ and God's representative on earth.

Antichrist as the Little Horn of Daniel 7

A fuller description of the nature and work of the antichrist, is found in Daniel 7. This chapter contains the well-known vision of the four beasts, representing the succession of four empires: Babylon, Media, Persia and Islam. Out of the Fourth Beast emerges the Little Horn -- a power which has been rightly associated with the work of the antichrist. Much of the discussion of the prophetic outworking of the antichrist derives and depends upon Daniel's vision of the Little Horn. Therefore, let us look at some of the identifying marks of the antichrist Little Horn of Daniel 7 to see if they equally apply to the Papacy and Islam.

A Small Beginning

The name Little Horn (Daniel 7:3) suggests a power that had a small beginning. Its roots existed prior to the Fall of the Roman Empire, because it uproots three existing horns or kingdoms. Gradually this small power was to become a dominant despot that shall wear out the saints of the Most High (Daniel 7:25).

This distinguishing mark of the Little Horn fits well both the Papacy and Islam. The beginning of the Papacy was small. Initially the Bishop of Rome was regarded as unus inter pares, that is, one bishop among equals. But gradually, geographical and political factors contributed to the development of the primacy of the Bishop of Rome. With the election of Gregory I in 590, (known as the first medieval pope), the papacy became a dominant religious and political power that exercised enormous influence during the Middle Ages.

Like the Papacy, Islam also had a small beginning. When Muhammad began preaching Islam in 610 in Mecca, he faced considerable opposition and was forced to flee with his band of followers to Medina in 622. But gradually he consolidated his power and systematically subdued all the tribes living in Saudi Arabia.

During the first century of Islam's expansion from 632 to 732, Muhammad's successors subdued Egypt, Palestine, Syria, part of Turkey, and all the countries of northern Africa. In 711 they crossed from Africa to Spain and crossed the Pyrenees into southern France, until they were stopped in 732 by the Frankish ruler Charles Martel. The expansion continued for the next thousand years. Truly the description of the Little Horn as a power that began small but became exceedingly powerful, fits well not only the Papacy, but also Islam.

A Different Kingdom

The Little Horn shall be different from the former ones (Daniel 7:24). The difference is suggested by its political and religious agenda. "He shall speaks words against the Most High and shall wear out the saints of the Most High" (Daniel 7:25). It would be a kingdom, but its rulers would be both political and religious leaders.

Again, this distinguishing mark fits well both the Papacy and Islam. Both powers claim the right to control people's beliefs as well as their bodies. They have been different from all previous kingdoms, because they have exercised political power to promote their religious agenda. To this very day, leaders of fundamental Muslim countries like Iran, act as both political and religious leaders of their people.

Uproots Three of the Ten Horns

The Little Horn power would come into prominence after the breaking up of the Roman Empire. The aggressive thrust of the newcomer shall put down three kings (Daniel 7:24). The text says that three of the first horns were plucked by the roots.

This distinguishing mark fits Islam better than the Papacy. The traditional Adventist interpretation found in the SDA Bible Commentary and in Merwyn Maxwell's God Cares, maintains that the three horns uprooted refer to the eradication of the Heruli in 493, the Vandals in 534, and the Ostrogoths in 538. The problem with this interpretation is that none of these three Germanic tribes were really eradicated. Furthermore, the Papacy never gained control of their territories.

Justinian's triumph over the Ostrogoths in Italy was short-lived. First, because under their new leader, Totila, the Ostrogoths quickly recaptured most of their lost territories. Second, because three years after Justinian's death in 565, another Germanic people, the Lombards, invaded the Italian peninsula and weakened the Papal power. In other words, the Papacy never really displaced three kingdoms or nations to establish its power.

Even with the establishment of the Holy Roman Empire in 800 by Charlemagne, the power of the papacy was still constantly restrained by the ambitions of emperors, who went as far as deposing certain popes and replacing them with men of their own choosing. For example, the German Emperor Otto III in 996 entered Rome and, after putting down a faction of Roman nobles, he forced the election of his own cousin Bruno as Gregory V.

By contrast, the application to Islam of the uprooting of the three horns of Daniel 7:24, poses no serious problems. The reason is that Muhammad's successors, known as the Caliphs, who like him, combined the priestly and kingly dignity, within ten years of the Prophet's death, ruthlessly subdued Egypt, Palestine, and Syria three major centers of primitive Christianity and of the Roman Empire. Their wars of conquest continued within and without the boundaries of the empire, extending their territories all the way to India and Afghanistan.

Arrogant Appearance and Blasphemous Speech

Another distinguishing characteristic of the Little Horn is his arrogant appearance and blasphemous speech: "The horn which had eyes and a mouth that spoke great things, and which seemed greater than its fellows" (Daniel 7:20). "He shall speak words against the Most High" (Daniel 7:25).

This identifying mark of the Little Horn, fits well both the Papacy and Islam. The classical example of the arrogance of the Papacy is Pope Gregory VII's humiliation of the Emperor Henry IV at the castle of Canossa. The emperor was kept in the outer court of the castle for three days with uncovered head and naked feet during unusually cold winter weather. When the Emperor was practically frozen, the door of the castle was open and the Pope accepted his confession and granted him a pardon.

"The Little Horn shall speak words against the Most High" (Daniel 7:25). Later parallels (Daniel 8:25, 11:36; II Thessalonians 2:3, 4), suggest that the Little Horn would magnify himself by claiming the place of God. History records many examples of such bold claims by the Papacy. At the Fifth Lateran Council in 1512, Pope Julius II, who distinguished himself as a military leader, a pope in arms, was acknowledged, not only as Shepherd, Physician, and Governor, but also as another God on earth.

Similar blasphemous claims have been made by popes in more recent times. For example, on June 20, 1894, Pope Leo VII asserted in his Pastoral Letter, "The Reunion of Christendom, that we [the popes] hold on this earth the place of God Almighty."

The arrogant and blasphemous nature of Islam is self-evident. Islam is arrogant in claiming that Muhammad is the greatest prophet sent by God, superseding even Yeshua the Messiah himself. It is arrogant in boasting that the Koran is the absolute and uncorrupted word of God, replacing the earlier revelations of the Old and New Testaments.

Islam is arrogant especially in commanding Muslims to slay the people who do not accept their faith: "Fight and slay the pagans wherever ye find them, and seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem [of war]. But if they repent, and establish regular prayers and practice regular charity [become Muslim], then open the way for them" (Surah 9:5).

A Persecuting Power

A significant distinctive mark of the Little Horn is his persecution of believers: "He shall wear out the saints of the Most High" (Daniel 7:25). During the course of its history, the antichrist power represented by the Little Horn, was to become known for persecuting God's people.

This identifying mark of the Little Horn as a persecuting power has been historically fulfilled by both the Papacy and Islam. Regarding the persecuting power of the Papacy, it is significant that recently the Pope himself has apologized for the atrocities committed by the Catholic Church against Jews, Muslims, and dissenting Christians. Unfortunately, his apology does not undo the suffering and loss of countless millions of innocent lives over the centuries.

The persecuting power of the Roman Catholic Church has been manifested in the extirpation of the Albigenses by means of a crusade, the establishment of the Inquisition, the cruel attempt to suppress the Waldenses, the bloody wars to exterminate the Bohemians, the burning of Hus and Jerome, and the countless other Christians executed before the Reformation. After the Reformation, ferocious cruelties were practiced by the Catholic Church in England during Queen Mary's reign; in France at the massacre of Batholomew and the persecution of the Huguenots; in Spain, Italy, and Poland, in the attempts to suppress by the sword those who had embraced the Protestant faith.

Compared to the Papacy, however, Islam has persecuted Christians far more intensively and extensively. During the first century of Islam's existence, Muslim armies, inspired by intense fanaticism, conquered the Eastern part of the Roman Empire, extending their control all the way from North Africa, to Egypt, Palestine, Syria, and part of Turkey. They succeeded in practically uprooting the Christian presence in these countries by means of the sword and forced conversions.

The persecuting nature of Islam is inspired by the example and teachings of its founder, Muhammad. He fought all the pagans, Jews, and Christians in Saudi Arabia, until he subdued them, forcing them to accept Islam. For him, fighting was a way to practice his religion: "My livelihood is under the shade of my spear, and he who disobeys my orders will be humiliated by paying Jizya [tribute]" (Hadith 4:162b). Muhammad's example was followed by his fanatical followers who systematically exterminated Christians or reduced them to a condition of virtual servitude.

A Lawless Power

Another distinctive characteristic of the Little Horn is his disrespect for God's sacred times and laws. He shall think to change the times and the law (Daniel 7:25). The times are the religious times, as indicated by the translation "sacred seasons" in the Smith and Goodspeed version. Paul alludes to the same characteristic of the prophetic antichrist by calling him the man of lawlessness (II Thessalonians 2:3). Rebellion against God is manifested in disobedience to His commandments.

In I Kings 12:25-33, we find an interesting example. King Jeroboam of Israel was determined to wean his people away from the worship of God at the Jerusalem Temple. To accomplish this he built two altars, one in Bethel and the other in Dan (I Kings 12:29) and he appointed a feast for the people to attend on the fifteenth day of the eighth month. The date suggests that he wanted to lead the people away from the worship of the true God, by changing the annual feast of Tabernacles, which was the most important gathering of God's people, from the fifteenth day of the seventh month, to the fifteenth day of the eighth month. By changing the time and the place of worship, Jeroboam led the Israelites into apostasy.

The most sacred time appointed by God to worship Him as Creator, Redeemer, and Restorer, is the weekly Sabbath. In the Scriptures, great blessings and curses are associated with its observance or nonobservance (Ezekiel 20:12, 20, 22:26-31; Isaiah 58:13, 14; Jeremiah 17:19-27). This is the one commandment that affords us an opportunity to show in a concrete way our commitment to God, by giving priority to Him in our thinking and living during the seventh day.

It is not surprising that Daniel predicted that the antichrist power, represented by the Little Horn, will attempt to change the sacred times (Daniel 7:25) for worship. After all, the day in which we worship tells a lot about HOW we worship and WHO we worship. Revelation speaks of the false worship promoted by the beast, which in many ways is the counterpart of the Little Horn of Daniel 7. Those who accept the false worship receive a mark on their right hand or forehead. (See our article, The REAL "Mark of the Beast"!). In view of the close connection between the time and manner of worship, the mark of the beast is most likely connected to the day of worship.

This identifying mark finds its fulfillment in the work of both the Papacy and Islam in changing the Biblical Sabbath day of rest and worship. In Chapter 6 of my dissertation, From Sabbath to Sunday, I have submitted compelling documentation, showing the theological, social, and liturgical methods used by the Papacy to lead Christians away from Sabbath-keeping to Sunday-keeping. The change was not merely one of numbers of names, but of meaning, authority, and experience. It was a change from a HOLY DAY into a HOLIDAY.

The Pope urged the abandonment of the Sabbath to show separation from the Jews, and promoted the adoption of Sunday to prove the Christian identification and integration with the cycles of the Roman society. The Sun-god with its Sun-day became dominant in the pagan society beginning from the early part of the second century.

Muhammad, like the Pope, promoted the abandonment of the Sabbath to show separation from the Jews, but adopted Friday instead of Sunday as the weekly day for prayer and worship. Why? I intend to investigate this question more fully, when I prepare this essay for publication.

At this point, it seems to me that Muhammad chose Friday, the supposed Day of the Creation of Man, because he wanted his followers to differ not only from the Jews and Christians who observed the seventh day Sabbath, but also from the pagans and Christians who worshipped on the Day of the Sun. His abhorrence of idolatry most likely caused him to reject the Day of the Sun, because of its association with pagan Sun-worship.

Summing up, we can say that in different ways and for different reasons, the Papacy and Islam fulfilled the prophetic role of the Little Horn regarding the change of the sacred time of the Sabbath for the worship of God. This historical change has greatly affected the quality of religious experience of countless people through the centuries.

The Time of the Domination of the Antichrist

Another distinctive characteristic of the Little Horn is the time of his domination given in Daniel 7:25 as a time, two times, and half a time. This prophetic period of three-and-a-half-years, is also designated as 42 months, or 1260 days. The three designations refer to the same prophetic period of time, which sometimes is given in years, sometimes in months, and other times in days. In Daniel 7:25 and 12:7, the three-and-a-half-years are the time when the antichrist power oppresses the saints of the Most High.

In Revelation 11:2, the 42 months mark the time of the oppression of the Holy city. In the following verse (Revelation 11:3), the 1260 days designate the duration of the mission of the two witnesses. In Revelation 12:6, the 1260 days denote the time of the preservation of the Church in the wilderness. In Revelation 13:5, the 42 months stand for the time during which the beast is allowed to exercise his authority.

A look at the various usages of this prophetic period of three-and-a-half-years, suggests that persecution and protection are the two outstanding features of this time prophecy. We are told that during this period the antichrist power of the Little Horn in Daniel shall wear out the saints (Daniel 7:25) and the Beast power of Revelation will make war on the saints (Revelation 13:7). The reassuring message is that God's people are not abandoned to the mercy of the antichrist. The Church is protected in the wilderness where she has a place prepared by God, in which to be nourished for one thousand two hundred and sixty days (Revelation 12:6).

Historically, the Adventist Church has interpreted this prophetic period as representing the 1260 years of Papal domination from 538 to 1798. Supposedly the prophetic period of the antichrist began in 538 when Justinian's general, Belisarius, defeated the Ostrogoths, thus enabling the Pope to regain some of his power. The period terminated in 1798 when Napoleon's general, Berthier, entered Rome with a French army, proclaiming the end to the political rule of the papacy, and taking with him the Pope as prisoner to France.

This interpretation poses two major problems, which thinking Adventists have long recognized. In fact, during the past few months, I have received several e-mail messages and calls from pastors who have asked me to help them understand more fully what really happened in 538.

The first problem is the questionable significance of 538. We noted earlier that Justinian's triumph over the Ostrogoths in 538 was short-lived, because under their new leader, Totila, the Ostrogoths quickly recaptured most of their lost territories. In other words, this event did not significantly boost the power of the Papacy, which still faced constant harassments from various rulers for centuries to come.

The second problem with the traditional interpretation, is its failure to account for the basic meaning of this prophetic period, namely, a time in which God's people are persecuted on the one hand, and are protected on the other hand. It is evident that the persecution and protection of the Church did not begin in 538, nor did it end in 1798. These are realities that have characterized the whole history of God's Church throughout the centuries. Some of the most bloody persecutions by Roman emperors occurred during the first four centuries.

A more satisfactory interpretation of the prophetic period of three-and-a-half years, is suggested by its symbolic usage to represent, on the one hand, the time of domination of the antichrist, and on the other hand, the protection of God's people in time of persecution.

Why do Daniel and John the Revelator use the three-and-a-half-year period to represent the persecution and protection of God's people during the time of the antichrist? Most likely because three-and-a-half is half of seven, which is the number of God's completion and perfection. Half of seven suggests incompletion and limitation. In other words, the forces of the antichrist are limited, and will not reach their scope of the complete destruction of God's people. God will have the final word and triumph over the forces of evil. This is the final message of Daniel and Revelation.

It is interesting to note the use of three- and-a-half years in the life of Elijah. At the time of Elijah there was no rain for three-and-a-half years (I Kings 17:1; James 5:17). It is worth noting that Revelation 11:6 associates this experience of Elijah with the 1260 days during which the two witnesses will prophesy (Revelation 11:3). What stands out in the experience of Elijah, is the fact that over 7000 faithful prophets were protected and provided for by God during the three-and-a-half years of drought. What happened at the time of Elijah serves as a model for the history of God's Church.

In the light of this symbolic interpretation of the three-and-a-half years as the time of the domination and persecution by the antichrist during which God's people will be protected, this identifying mark of the Little Horn applies equally well to the Papacy and Islam. Both powers have attempted to wear out the saints of the Most High, but during the times of persecution many believers have been empowered and protected by God.

Conclusion

The preceding analysis of the identifying marks of the prophetic antichrist, represented in Daniel 7 by the imagery of the Little Horn and in Revelation 13 by the symbol of a Beast, has shown that both the Papacy and Islam fulfill the qualifying marks of this prophetic power. Had time allowed me, I would have examined the prophetic role of Islam in the book of Revelation, especially in the light of Revelation 9, 13, and 16. I hope to continue this investigation when I prepare this essay for publication in a forthcoming book on Endtime Issues.

The tentative conclusion that emerges at this point, is that the claim of two Great Reformers, Luther and Calvin, that the Papacy and Islam are the two legs or the two horns of the antichrist, deserves serious consideration. We have found that both powers fulfill the prophetic identifying marks of the antichrist. Both powers emerged out of the divided territories of the Roman Empire, both promoted false worship, both persecuted God's people, both attempted to change the sacred Sabbath time of worship, and both are to last until the fulfillment of the prophetic three-and-a-half years.

It is unfortunate that the Adventist pioneers did not consider the prophetic role of Islam, as the counterpart of the Papal antichrist. Let us not blame them for this shortsightedness. After all, they lived before September 11, at a time when the Muslim power (Ottoman Empire) was declining. Let us be thankful for the insights they have provided us and have the courage to expand and strengthen their interpretations.

We began this study by reflecting upon the new partnership that the Pope is determined to build with the Muslims. In the light of the prophetic role these two powers have played in promoting the false worship of God and the persecution God's people, we can legitimately assume that this new partnership will play a major role in bringing about the final showdown that will usher in YEHOVAH God's glorious Return.

References:

[21] Francis Nigel Lee, Luther on Islam and the Papacy, (Lamp Trimmers, El Paso, Texas, 2000); Francis Nigel Lee, Calvin on Islam, (Lamp Trimmers, Texas, 2000).

[22] Francis Nigel Lee, Luther on Islam and the Papacy, (Lamp Trimmers, El Paso, Texas, 2000), p. 2.

[23] Luther's Works, Weimer ed., 47, 147.

[24] Luther's Tischreden, 6, No. 6543; 1, No. 906.

[25] American ed., 35:299-300.

[26] Luther's Works, Weimer ed., 53, 394f.

[27] M. Luther's German Thesaurus (Deutscher Thesaurus des Hochgelerten wertberuembten und theuren Man D. Mart. Luthers), ed. T. Kirchner [Franckfort am Mayn, 1570], Luedenscheid: Christlicher Verlag Johann Berg, 1983 rep., pp. 399f.

[28] Luther's Works, Muhlenberg, 1932, VI:482f.

[29] Ibid., p. 488.

[30] Luther's Tischreden, Weimer ed., 1, No. 330.

[31] Selected Works of John Calvin: Tracts and Letters, Grand Rapids, 1983, I:373-75.

[32] J. Calvin: Tracts and Treatises, (Grand Rapids, 1958 rep.,), I:121-23.

[33] Ibid.

[34] J. Calvin: Sermons on Deuteronomy [1555f], (Edinburgh, 1987 rep.,), p. 666.

[35] J. Calvin: The Gospel according to St. John, (Grand Rapids, 1961 rep.,), II:82.

[36] See, Francis Nigel Lee, Calvin on Islam, (Lamp Trimmers, Texas, 2000), p. 5.

[37] J. Calvin: Commentaries on the Book of the Prophet Daniel [1561], (Grand Rapids,1948 rep.,), I:167,182.

[38] Ibid., vol 2, p. 21.

[39] J. Calvin's Commentary on Second Thessalonians in his The Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Romans and to the Thessalonians, (Grand Rapids, 1961 rep.,) p. 400.

[40] Ibid., p. 40.

 

-- Edited by John D. Keyser.

 

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