Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Herkel, SSPX
One day the world
will end; that is a truth of the faith. All tradition agrees with the
Apostle's Creed, which confesses that Christ "shall come to judge
the living and the dead." What is of interest in the following
article are the more or less certain speculations as to what is prophesied
to happen before the return of our Lord in glory.
What are the signs
of the end of the world? Open your missal to the gospels for the last
Sunday after Pentecost and the first Sunday of Advent. (Mt. 24, and Lk.
21). There we have our Lord's own warning. It is a double warning, mixing
the description for the end of the world with that of the destruction
of Jerusalem; but this is fitting, since the destruction of Jerusalem
is a figure of the ruin of the present world, and so it is all a lesson
Still, these prophecies
of "wars and rumours of wars " seem very general. Such
things have happened many \times in history. Because of this vagueness,
these prophecies (Mt. 24, and Lk. 21) are only considered as secondary
signs of the end of the world. We must look for other signs, which we
do find. "The Sacred Scriptures also inform us that the general
judgment shall be preceded by these three principal signs, the preaching
of the Gospel throughout the world, a defection from the faith, and the
coming of the Antichrist. 'This Gospel of the kingdom,' says our Lord,
'shall be preached in the whole world, for a testimony to all nations,
and then shall come the consummation.’ -Mt. 24:14. The Apostle also,
admonishes us that we be not seduced by any one, 'as if the day of
the Lord were at hand; for, unless there come a revolt first, and the
man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition, ' -II Thes. 2:2-3 the
judgment will not come." -Catechism of the Council of Trent,
Part 1, Art. 7.
Sign - Preaching the Gospel
These three principal
signs are interesting, especially at the present time. Has the Gospel
been preached everywhere? There was a flurry of missionary activity in
the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. There seem to be no more
undiscovered islands or tribes. The Gospel has been preached on the
radio and television. Yet, since Vatican II, such missionary work has
not been much encouraged. God alone can determine the extent He wishes
the Gospel to be preached. But, arguably, this first sign has appeared.
Now, if we examine
this matter from God's perspective, we might ask, "What is He
waiting for?" This also has been revealed to us. God is waiting
for the number of the elect to be fulfilled. From all eternity God has
prepared the material universe, and the history of our world, so that
some chosen souls should enjoy eternal happiness with Him forever. A definite
number have been chosen. But that number has not been revealed. After
listing the 144 000 in the Apocalypse, St. John goes on to describe his
vision of "a great multitude, past all counting, taken from all
nations" -Apoc. 7:9. Our Lord has chosen to leave us in ignorance
of even the exact date of the final consummation: "of that day
and hour no man knows; no, not the angels of heaven, but the Father alone.
" -Mt. 24:36.
Allow me a long quotation
from "The End of the Present World and the Mysteries of the Future
Life", by Fr. Arminjon, P. 12. (This book of conferences, originally
published in French, in 1881, and republished in English by Britons Catholic
Library, is the same of which St. Therese of the Child Jesus wrote in
her autobiography, chapter five: "Reading it was one of the greatest
graces I've known. ". Here it is:
"It is possible
that the end of the world will be deferred for many more centuries; all
time is but "a little while" when compared to God's eternity.
Yet, however long it is delayed, the end of the present world will arrive.
"It will come at a time when the human race, sunk in the uttermost
depths of indifference, will be far from thinking about punishment and
justice. Divine mercy will have exhausted all its resources and means
of action. Antichrist will have appeared. Men over the whole surface of
the earth will have been called to the knowledge of the truth. The Catholic
Church will have blossomed out into the fullness of her life and fecundity
for the last time.
all these superabundant favours and prodigies will, once more, vanish
from the hearts and memory of men. By a criminal abuse of graces, mankind
will have returned to its vomit. Concentrating their affections and all
their aspirations on the goods and gross pleasures of this world, they
will, as the Sacred Books tell us, have so far turned their backs on God
as to be unable to look up to Heaven, and remember its just judgements.
-Dan. 13:9. All faith will be extinguished in hearts. All flesh
will have corrupted its ways. Divine Providence will judge that it is
says, it will be as in the days of Noe. -Mt. 24:37. At that time
men lived without a care, made plantations, built luxurious houses, poked
fun at the old fellow Noe, as he set himself up as a carpenter, and worked
day and night, building his ark. 'Madman! Dreamer!' they would say. This
went on until the day when the Flood came and engulfed the whole earth:
'The flood came and destroyed them all.' - Lk. 17:27.
final catastrophe will take place when the world is at its most secure:
civilization will be at its zenith, markets will be overflowing with money
and government stocks will never have been higher. There will be national
celebrations, great exhibitions, and mankind, wallowing in an unprecedented
material prosperity, will have ceased to hope for heaven. Crudely attached
to the basest pleasures of life, men, like the miser in the Gospel, will
say: My soul, you will possess your goods for many a long year. Eat, drink
and be merry...
in the middle of the night, 'in media nocte' -for it will be amidst the
darkness, and at that fateful midnight hour, when the Lord once appeared
in His lowliness, that He will appear again - men, startled out
of their sleep, will hear a great clamour and noise, and a voice will
be heard saying: 'Behold, the bridegroom cometh. Go ye forth to meet him.'
-Mt. 25:16."" (This is the end of that extended quotation)
Second Sign -Defection
from the Faith
St. Paul counsels
us (in II Thes. 2:2 - 4) not to "be terrified ...as if the day
of the Lord were at hand; for, unless there come a revolt first, and the
man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and is lifted
up above all that is called God, or that is worshipped, so that he sits
in the temple of God, showing himself as if he were God" This
"revolt" is the second point mentioned by the Catechism
of the Council of Trent - a defection from the faith. God alone knows
if He is planning to allow a time of apostasy worse than the present condition
of the Church. Again, arguably, we are there.
St. Paul wishes to
comfort us by his epistle. His foremost message of comfort seems to be
that we are not yet in the days of the Antichrist. Something is preventing
the arrival of the man of sin. This is an interesting passage: "now
you know what withholds, that he may be revealed in his time. For the
mystery of iniquity already works; only that he who now holds, do hold,
until he be taken out of the way. And then that wicked one shall be revealed".
-II Thess. 2:5 - 7. Something is withholding the arrival of the Antichrist,
something, which existed in St. Paul's day, and must still exist now (if
the Antichrist is not upon us). St. Paul knew what it was, and the first
Thessalonian Christians knew what it was. But now, biblical scholars are
divided in opinion. Many ancient commentators, and even Fathers of the
Church, have believed that the thing which "withholds" was
the Roman Empire, or later it was said the Holy Roman Germanic Empire.
Others have understood it to be the Holy Roman Catholic Church. But Christ
declared that the gates of hell will not prevail against His Church. I
do not offer a definite solution to these interpretations, but I will
offer an opinion of my own. Something is withholding the appearance of
the Antichrist, and I would like to give it a name, not from any revelation
or deep study of history, but from a fear of the future and the way in
which the world seems to be headed. The future I fear is the New World
Order, and in simple reaction to that I wish to refer to the obstacle
of II Thes. 2:6 as the Old World Order.
What is the New World
Order? It is hard to give a definition. (Malachi Martin gives several
useful descriptions in the April-May series of articles in the Remnant,
by Michael Cooper - Malachi Martin and Iraq.) But if we look at the history
of the world from a Catholic religious/ideological perspective, studying
the past 500 years, we can notice a decline in a certain direction. The
forces fighting against the true Church have been supernatural heresy
and organized naturalism. The heresy of Protestantism tore many souls
away from the Church, and the original Protestants splintered into many
groups. Over the centuries the level of belief degraded towards Uni-tarianism,
Deism, and eventually, for many, agnosticism. Today, a large percentage
of the population in Western nations professes or practices no religion
at all. This indifference is encouraged by the secular assault of revolution,
freemasonry, communism, and similar movements to encourage men to seek
for ultimate happiness in this world without any reference to God. As
the number of people who are divided about or indifferent to the basic
truths of the faith has grown, the power of secular organizations has
grown, and this secular power continually promotes atheism. Catholic monarchies,
which were a bulwark of the faith, have been eliminated by war and revolution.
Democracies have proved easier to control. The goal of the New World Order
is in sight, and it seems to be a world in which God and His Church do
not have an important place, do not matter in politics, and especially
do not control the hearts of men.
I am intentionally
ignoring private revelations and non-Scriptural prophecies. Many private
revelations allude to an extraordinary divine intervention (or chastisement),
which will alter the course of present history. Let us pray that God's
will be done. But in this article I wish rather to illustrate the present
state of the world, and what I surmise to be its' near future, resulting
from the natural forces now at work. Also, I have made efforts not to
write this essay simply as a commentary on present political events. Therefore
I have recourse to one of my favourite mediums - fiction.
A sensational book
about the end of the world was written by an English Catholic priest almost
a hundred years ago. As Monsignor Robert / Hugh Benson wrote in the preface
to his futuristic novel, "Lord of the World", "I am
perfectly aware that this is a terribly sensational book, and open to
innumerable criticisms on that account, as well as on many others. But
I did not know how else to express the principles I desired (and which
I passionately believe to be true) except by producing their lines to
a sensational point." Now, a century later, I still find this
story gripping, because so many of the exaggerated prophecies of Msgr.
Benson have come true.
The prologue provides
much of the information about the religious/ideological state of the world,
at the time of the Antichrist. Benson did not envision the present doctrinal
collapse of the Holy See, but he did foresee a period of widespread apostasy.
Benson's religious world, before the advent of the Antichrist, is no longer
threatened by the Protestant heresiarchs. In fact, Protestantism has collapsed,
and throughout the West, men are more and more divided into two groups
- Catholics (supernaturalists) and non-Catholics (who were materialist,
but have somehow evolved into embracing a kind of Pantheism, which Benson
religion deserves a thorough explanation in Benson's own words, for it
in many ways resembles the beliefs of faithless souls today, whom we designate
as New Age. It is not really a religion at the beginning of the story,
for a religion worships a "god". At the beginning, humanitarianism
is only a philosophy -a way of life concerned only with this world and
present happiness. "First, you see, there was Materialism, pure
and simple - that failed more or less -it was too crude - until psychology
came to the rescue. Now psychology claims all the rest of the ground;
and the supernatural sense seems accounted for. That's the claim. "
-Lord of the World, P. xviii. But humanitarianism is not to remain
at the level of a philosophy. There is an innate need for religion, even
among atheists, and so: "Humanitarianism ...is becoming an actual
religion itself, though anti-supernatural. It is Pantheism; it is developing
a ritual under Freemasonry; it has a creed, 'God is Man,' and the rest.
It therefore has a real food of a sort to offer to religious cravings;
it idealizes, and yet it makes no demand upon the spiritual faculties.
Then, they have the use of all the churches except ours ...and they are
beginning at last to encourage sentiment." -Lord of the World,
At the same time,
the Catholic Church is growing weaker, numerically. Whole European nations
have fallen away from the faith. There are a number of apostates in England
(where the story begins). The spirit of the world is pulling on them,
and their faith is not strong enough to resist. The organized naturalism
of freemasonry is making large strides forward; even the national anthem
has been replaced on public occasions by the verses of a Masonic hymn.
The "unintelligent Christian could sing them without a qualm;
yet their sense was plain enough - the old human creed that man was all.
Even Christ's words themselves were quoted. The kingdom of God, it was
said, lay within the human heart, and the greatest of all graces was Charity.
" -Lord of the World, P. 43. Many politicians are openly Masons.
To impress the public with their virtue they offer magnanimous donations
to hospitals, orphanages and the like.
There is a great
similarity in all this to the modern world. One striking difference is
that, in the novel, the world ends with a series of saintly popes. Rome
keeps the faith, until it is destroyed, and the last Pope reigns over
a persecuted, underground Church. This story leads to much wishful thinking,
and remembrances of the grandeur that was Rome.
Yet, though in this
fiction Rome remains strong, and even excommunicates apostates and heretics,
the loss of many souls continues. In this, I think Benson is farsighted,
for in 1907 he identifies the heresy that will rot the faith of many souls
throughout the twentieth century, and it is Modernism. "The Bible
was completely given up as an authority after the renewed German attacks
in the twenties; and the Divinity of our Lord, some think, had gone all
but in name by the beginning of the century. The Kenotic theory had provided
for that. " -Lord of the World, P. xii. Here Benson is giving
two examples of the heresy of modernism, which was first condemned by
Bl. Pius IX, and which St. Pius X strongly condemned in his encyclical
Pascendi, in the same year Lord of the World was published. "The
Modernists have no hesitation in affirming generally that these books
[of Scripture], ...have been gradually formed from a primitive brief narration,
by additions, by interpolations of theological or allegorical interpretations,
or parts introduced only for the purpose of joining different passages
together. This means, to put it briefly and clearly, that in the Sacred
Books we must admit a vital evolution ...of faith. ...To hear them descant
of their works on the Sacred Books, in which they have been able to discover
so much that is defective, one would imagine that before them nobody ever
even turned over the pages of Scripture." -Pascendi §34. "The
other wound inflicted on the Church touches on the mystery of Christ.
This is the 'kenotic' theory. The word derives from the Greek word keno,
to empty, and is used by St. Paul in his letter to the Philippians (Phil.
2:7) when explaining how Christ, in becoming man, freely emptied Himself
not only of His divine nature but also of the glory which was His in virtue
of that nature. This theological theory, in emphasizing that God really
became man and in stressing the humanity of Christ, plays down the divinity
of Christ. According to the theory, Jesus Christ is no longer God. He
is merely a great representative of God and one of the many 'saviours
' of man." -Wrath of God, The Days of the Antichrist, P. 112,
by Fr. Fanzaga (a commentary on Lord of the World). Indeed, this kenotic
theory is the same as that called modernist historic criticism, condemned
by St. Pius X. The modernist historian attempts to correct our understanding
of a past event, such as the life of Christ. Beginning from a position
of agnosticism, which will not affirm the divinity of Christ, the kenotic
expert tries to re-evaluate the historical facts. Since (it is assumed)
"the historical Person of Christ was transfigured by faith; therefore
everything that raises it above historical conditions must be removed.
... [And since] the Person of Christ has been disfigured by faith,
[the modernist historian] requires that everything should be excluded,
deeds and words and all else, that is not in strict keeping with His character,
condition, and education, and with the place and time in which He lived.
A method of reasoning which is passing strange, but in it we have the
Modernist criticism." -Pascendi §9.
Up till now we have
explored only the setting of Benson's novel. It is far too easy to make
the comparison to our real world. What is the present state of world religions?
We have seen their representatives stand together in silent prayer, holding
young trees. We have the externals of a religion of nature - centered
on this world. Benson's fictional English politician, Oliver Brand, describes
this religion well: "Pantheism, he understood, was what he held
himself; for him 'God' was the developing sum of created life, and impersonal
Unity was the essence of His being; competition was the one great heresy
that set men one against another and delayed all progress; for, to his
mind, progress lay in the merging of the individual in the family, of
the family in the commonwealth, of the commonwealth in the continent,
and of the continent in the world. Finally, the world itself at any moment
was no more than the mood of impersonal life. It was, in fact, the Catholic
idea with the supernatural left out...." -Lord of the World,
There is another
element of the background in which Benson's world resembles our own. There
is a nervousness in the air; an expectation of things to come. It is partly
that there are no great men, the heroes (both of the world and of the
Church) are dead and gone, and men revere their memory with more confidence
than they give to any living leader. There is a sense that something must
happen, that things have been calm for too long. There are rumours of
a terrible war approaching. "It seemed now as if the civilization
of the last century was to be swept back into chaos. ...There was a touch
of grimness too in the rumour that religious fanaticism was behind the
movement, and the patient East proposed at last to proselytise by the
modern equivalents of fire and sword those who had laid aside for the
most part all religious beliefs except that in Humanity. " -Lord
of the World, P. 6.
In the real world
of 2003, what do men fear? What has shocked the modern world and steeled
even godless men against a terrible enemy? Certainly, it is the suicide
bombers, the religious fanatics who are willing to kill even at the price
of their own lives. The secular materialists (let us call them humanists)
fear those with death dealing convictions. Mark well, I am not praising
or justifying Islamic fundamentalism, but the attacks of 9-11 have succeeded
in provoking a reaction of fear which few other actions could have provoked,
and the recent wars of the West in Asia have been justified (to the satisfaction
of the secular press) as the defense of our civilization against the assault
of Eastern barbarism.
To the non-Catholic
today this is very serious. It is an inexorable law of evolution that
humanity must continually progress. The false religions of the East threaten
to carry the world backwards. This is well put by Benson in the vision
of the politician Oliver Brand: "To Oliver it was simply maddening.
He looked from His window and saw that vast limit of London laid peaceably
before him, as his imagination ran out over Europe and saw everywhere
that steady triumph of common sense and fact over the wild fairy-stories
of Christianity, it seemed intolerable that there should be even a possibility
that all this should be swept back again into the barbarous turmoil of
sects and dogmas.... There was but one hope on the religious side... and
that was that the Quietist Pantheism which for the last century had made
such giant strides in the East and West alike, among Mohammedans, Buddhists,
Hindus, Confucians and the rest, should avail to check the super-natural
frenzy that inspired their exoteric brethren. " -Lord of the
World, P. 6-7.
I venture to suggest
that this is where we are today. If America continues to hold a hard line
against the East, we can expect no final victory, but only an endless
series of wars against Iran, Syria, North Korea, and others. But it might
be possible, even today it might be possible that they could be convinced
to seek peace. Of course it ought to be the Catholic Church,
which convinces them, but if it is not, it will be ...the Antichrist.
Third Sign -
Msgr. Benson proposes
that it will be on the great issue of war and peace that the Antichrist
comes to power. He will be the Prince of Peace, the Saviour of the New
World Order. At a moment of fear which threatens the whole world, when
an Eastern religious fanaticism seems about to ignite a destructive war,
cover the world with a cloud of heathen darkness, and rid the world of
a corrupt Western civilization (much like our own), then one man intervenes.
He is an unknown figure, called upon in a moment of political crisis.
He acts with a power that is of his own person; not by plots, bribery,
or underhandedness, but with the force of his own personality and a masonic
belief in Universal Brotherhood, he overcomes all other forces of the
world. "Comment is useless. It is enough to say in one short sentence
that the new era has begun, to which prophets and kings, and the suffering,
the dying, all who labour and are heavy-laden, have aspired in vain. Not
only has intercontinental rivalry ceased to exist, but the strife of home
dissensions has ceased also. Of him who has been the herald of its inauguration
we have nothing more to say. Time alone can show what is left for him
has been done is as follows. The Eastern peril has been forever dissipated.
It is understood now, by fanatic barbarians as well as by civilized nations,
that the reign of War is ended. 'Not peace but a sword,' said CHRIST;
and bitterly true have those words proved to be. 'Not a sword but peace'
is the retort, articulate at last, from those who have renounced CHRIST'S
claims or have never accepted them." -Lord of the World, P. 89
withholds" (which is, at least in general, the Old World Order)
is sufficiently "taken out of the way, " the "man
of sin " will appear. Listen to a great Catholic theologian:
"Is the enemy
of Christ, and His Church, to arise out of a certain special falling away
from God? And is there no reason to fear that some such Apostasy is gradually
preparing, gathering, hastening on in this very day? For is there not
at this very time a special effort made almost all over the world ...but
most visibly or formidably in its most civilized and powerful parts, an
effort to do without Religion? Is there not an opinion avowed and growing,
that a nation has nothing to do with Religion; that it is merely a matter
for each man's own conscience? -which is all one with saying that
we may let the Truth fail from the earth without trying to continue it
in and on after our time.... Is there not a feverish and ever-busy endeavour
to get rid of the necessity of Religion in public transactions? For example,
an attempt to get rid of oaths... an attempt to educate without Religion?...
an attempt to make expediency, and not truth, the end and the rule of
measure of State and the enactments of Law? an attempt to make numbers,
and not the Truth, the ground of maintaining, or not maintaining, this
or that creed.... An attempt to deprive the Bible of its one meaning to
the exclusion of all other, to make people think that it may have an hundred
meanings all equally good, or, in other words, that it has no meaning
at all, is a dead letter, and may be put aside? An attempt to supersede
Religion altogether, as far as it is external or objective, as far as
it is displayed in ordinances, or can be expressed by written words, -
to confine it to our inward feelings, and thus, considering how variable,
how evanescent our feelings are, an attempt, in fact, to destroy Religion?"
-The Patristical Idea of the Antichrist, Lecture 1, The Times of the
Antichrist, by John Henry Cardinal Newman, (1838).
The role of the Antichrist
will not be to destroy these things. They are being cleared away by his
precursors. When he comes, the world will be ready to receive him; the
world will be waiting, empty, godless. And he will fill the void.
Let us examine now
the prophecies about the Antichrist, to form a picture of this terrible
being. It is the common opinion of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church
that the Antichrist will be human, though aided by the devil to work many
superhuman wonders. St. Paul designates this great adversary as "the
man of sin"', by these words it is understood that he will be
St. John, in the
Apocalypse, tells us of a vision of the Antichrist as a seven-headed beast.
This monster shall rule the entire world: "power was given him
over every tribe, and people, and tongue, and nation." -Apoc.
13:7. He will seem to be, at least for a time, the Lord of the World.
The Antichrist will use this power to blaspheme God, and all holy things,
and "to make war with the saints, and to overcome them."
of the Antichrist
beast will be given power by the devil to "show great signs and
wonders, insomuch as to deceive (if it were possible) even the
elect." - Mt. 24:24. The wonders he will work, of course, will
not be true supernatural miracles, but they will be very impressive, and
deluded men will accept them as proof of the Antichrist's unparalleled
greatness. Such power should not surprise us. It is well known that the
devils were deprived of their original goodness and beauty, but otherwise
have lost none of their original angelic powers. They are pure spirits,
capable of assuming the appearance of a physical form (of any shape or
size), and they may also act invisibly, by God's permission, upon the
inanimate forces of nature.
The first of these
"miracles" mentioned in the Apocalypse will be a resurrection,
or an apparent resurrection. St. John "saw one of his heads as
it were wounded to death: and his deadly wound was healed" -Apoc.
13:3. The beast described has seven heads, so perhaps this wound will
be to the Antichrist himself, or perhaps it will be a wound to another
head (ie. to some head of state or leader closely assisting him). But,
to whomever this occurs, the honour for the resurrection will be given
to the Antichrist. "And all the earth was in admiration after
the beast. " -Apoc. 13:3.
A second beast (like
a lamb with the dragon's voice) then appears in this vision, "and
he executed all the power of the former beast in his sight. " -Apoc.
13:12. The next "miracles" seem to be worked by this
second beast as a delegate of the Antichrist. He shall have power to make
"fire to come down from heaven upon the earth in the sight of
men. " -Apoc. 13:13. This will, presumably, be a natural fire
such as that with which the devil afflicted the sheep and servants of
the holy man Job. (cf. Job 1:16). It will certainly be awe inspiring,
filling even good men with amazement that such power should be given to
a mere man, and dread lest this fire be unleashed to destroy them.
The third pseudo-miracle
foreseen by St. John will be the bestowal of life upon an inanimate statue.
"And it was given him to give life to the image of the beast,
and that the image of the beast should speak"-Apoc. 13:15. A
possible explanation of this hoax, suggested in the past, was the trick
of ventriloquism (known to have been used to cause some pagan idols to
"speak"), but with modern technological advances, the
idea of an electronic speaking robot may also fit the description. Whatever
this image of the beast may be, it will not be a simple fraud, easily
unmasked. It will have the appearance of a real miracle. More than likely,
this "miracle" will be a work beyond human power, but
within the natural power of the devil. It may even be openly admitted
as a prodigy of black magic, calculated to entice non-calculating men
into the forbidden arts of necromancy and divination. If so, it would
fulfill the prophecy of St. Paul: "the Spirit manifestly says
that in the last time some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to
spirits of error and doctrines of devils. " -I Tim. 4:1.
Honours of the Antichrist
The purpose for which
these miracles will be wrought is also plainly revealed. They are proofs
to induce men to worship the Antichrist as a god. "And all the
earth ...adored the dragon [the devil], which gave power to the beast:
and they adored the beast, saying: Who is like to the beast?" -Apoc.
Tertullian (an ancient
Christian writer) said well that the devil is the "ape of God.
" The meaning of this is that the lying spirit will imitate,
to a great extent, the Spirit of Truth in working with men. Whatever God
uses to impress men (ie. magnificent Catholic churches) may also be used
by the devil (ie. beautiful Anglican churches). This is not only a result
of the devil's recognition of an appropriate and effective means of securing
allegiance, it is, moreover, a deliberate mockery of God, by using something
which should be used for the glory of God to honour the devil. This is,
I consider, among the most interesting points of Mgr. Benson's novel.
He relates the honours given to the Antichrist, which are identical and
in mockery of the titles of our Lord and Saviour. Attempting to summarize
these honours given to the Antichrist, one of Benson's characters "quoted
freely some of the titles given to the Man by sober, non-hysterical newspapers.
...[He] was called the Son of Man, because he was so purebred a
cosmopolitan; the Saviour of the World, because he had slain war and himself
survived, even ...Incarnate God, because he was the perfect representative
of divine man. " -Lord of the World, P. 123-124.
That which the devil
and his trump, the Antichrist, principally desire is not only certain
titles similar to the divine names, but the public display of liturgy
and sacrifice. The Antichrist will seek to receive those marks of honour,
which are due to God alone. In this he will be motivated by the primal
sin of the devil - an overweening pride.
Certainly the Antichrist,
like all men, will be offered the graces necessary for his salvation.
But he will reject them; his perdition is foretold. For God gives His
grace to the humble; the haughty despise such gifts. The Antichrist will
be enamoured by his own greatness. The wonders he shall perform and the
high position he shall hold will be the admiration of the world. He will
not give thanks and render to God the glory. No, not he! It is with unbounded
pride that he shall claim divine worship as his due, "and shall
cause, that whosoever will not adore the image of the beast, should be
slain." -Apoc. 13:15. For to such a pride there is one great
insult - that any being should receive a higher honour, for this would
be a statement that the Antichrist is not supreme. "Over the whole
surface of the earth, worship of any god other than this christ of Satan
will not be tolerated. "
"On the other
hand, it is certain that the duration and bitterness of this persecution
will make it the ultimate
criterion for discerning the elect from the reprobate, since it will also
be the ruin of many whose perseverance will fail; thus it will be a test
'set for the ruin and for the resurrection of many.... that out of many
hearts thoughts may be revealed.'" -Lk. 2:34, 35.
will be numerous, and courage will become rare. It is written that the
powers of the heavens will be shaken, and the stars of the firmament will
fall. In other words, the leaders of peoples will be seen to bend the
knee before the reigning idol, and, what is still more lamentable, among
the exponents of science, the luminaries of theology and the oracles of
sacred eloquence, a large number will abandon the truth, and let themselves
be carried along with the current of depravity''' -The End of the
Present World and the Mysteries of the Future Life, by Fr. Arminjon, P.
Abomination of Desolation
So great a number
of men will be deceived that St. Paul foresees that the Antichrist will
be "worshipped, so that he sits in the temple of God, showing
himself as if he were God." -II Thes. 2:4. Our Lord tells us,
in the same vein, "When ...you shall see the abomination of desolation,
which was spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place
...then ...let them flee to the mountains" -Mt. 24:15 - 16. The
worship of the Antichrist will be public, with full divine honours, and
when it begins, Catholics will run for their lives.
The Prophet Daniel,
500 years before Christ, thrice mentions of the abomination of desolation.
He wrote: "the victim and the sacrifice shall fail, and there
shall be in the temple the abomination of desolation" -Dan. 9:
27; "they shall defile the sanctuary of strength, and shall take
away the continual sacrifice, and they shall place there the abomination
of desolation. " -Dan. 11:31; and "it should be unto
a time, and times, and half a time. And when the scattering of the band
of the holy people shall be accomplished, all these things shall be finished....
And from the time when the continual sacrifice shall be taken away, and
the abomination unto desolation shall be set up, there shall be a thousand
two hundred and ninety days. " -Dan. 12:7, 11. What is this abomination?
Bishop Challoner tells us that some "distinguished three different
times of desolation: viz., 1) that under Antiochus [IV Epiphanes, the
Seleucid king who declared himself to be the supreme god and demanded
to be worshipped. He abolished the liturgical worship and desecrated the
altar of sacrifices in the Jewish Temple and fought against the Machabees.];
2) that when the temple was destroyed by the Romans [in the year 70 AD;
the rebellion of the Jews was put down by a Roman army which burned the
Temple and leveled the city.]; and the last near the end of the world
under Antichrist. To all which ...this prophecy may have a relation."
-Challoner Douay Rheims Bible, note on Dan. 9:27. Thus the sins committed
in the ancient Temple by Antiochus IV, and later at the destruction of
Jerusalem by the Romans, are a foreshadowing of the sacrileges, which
will be committed by the Antichrist. Certainly the abomination refers
to grievous sins committed in the place where the true God was worshipped.
What is meant to
be the temple of the Antichrist? It may be the ancient site in Jerusalem,
or "some Christian church, which he will pervert to his own worship."
-Challoner Douay Rheims Bible, note on II Thes. 2:4. Msgr. Benson
describes this scene occurring in Westminister Abbey of London. But there
is a serious movement among Jews today who wish to rebuild the ancient
Temple of Jerusalem. Again this would fit in with the devil's desire to
mock the holy places of God. If the ancient Temple is rebuilt and is the
place where the Antichrist will receive divine worship, it must follow
that the Antichrist will be Jewish.
Having rejected Christ,
the Jews are still waiting for a Messiah. The devil will not fail to make
use of their blindness to foist the Antichrist upon them. Christ, whom
they have rejected, is the Truth. Thus the curse of St. Paul will apply
to the Jews: "because they receive not the love of the truth....
Therefore God shall send them the operation of error, to believe lying.
" -II Thes. 2:10. The acceptance of the Antichrist as a false
Messiah is also a reasonable interpretation of our Lord's own words to
the unbelieving Jews: "I am come in the name of My Father, and
you receive Me not; if another shall come in his own name, him you will
receive. " -Jn. 5:43.
All this is not written
as an anti-Semitic insult. I refer to no individuals, but only to the
Jewish people, in general. Their ancestors have given to the world Christ,
His Virgin Mother, the Apostles, and many saints. But the Jews of today
are those who do not accept Christ. Here there can be no indifference:
"He that is not with Me, is against Me" -Mt. 12:30, said
our Lord. Thus the Jews, together with the whole unchristian world, will
follow the Antichrist. But the Jews will not follow as individuals or
members of other tribes and nations. History has demonstrated that Jews,
scattered throughout the world in small groups, are not often assimilated
into any other nation. After centuries of exile they have remained Jews,
and now, since the end of the Second World War, they are gathered again,
in large numbers in the Holy Land. Let us give credit to their national
virtues: they will be their own people, they will never fully support
a leader who is not "of them. " Thus it is unthinkable
that the whole Jewish people will bow down to adore a foreign "Messiah"
who is not a Jew.
There are other details
in the inspired Scriptures, and especially in the Apocalypse which relate
to the Antichrist, and are discerned by more learned authors to be of
great importance. I will, however, pass over without comment many famous
passages, such as Gog and Magog, the fall of Babylon, the conversion of
the Jews, and the mark of the beast. The true meaning of each of these
visions will be clear when their day is come.
Times, and Half a Time
One last point I
will endeavour to explain, for it is as a consolation that God has revealed
how long the persecution of the Antichrist will last. The prophet Daniel
has foretold the reign of the Antichrist in his vision of the ten-horned
monster, who "shall speak words against the most High: and he
shall think himself able to change times and laws, and they shall be delivered
into his hands until a time, and times, and half a time" -Dan.
7:25. In the Apocalypse of St. John there are two visions, which are similar
to that of Daniel on this point. In chapter twelve, St. John is amazed
by the "woman clothed with the sun", and her Son, who
are threatened by a mean red dragon, (the devil, the primeval serpent).
"And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she had a place
prepared by God, that there they should feed her a thousand two hundred
and sixty days." -Apoc. 12:6. This is repeated in parallel terms
later in the same chapter: "the dragon ...persecuted the woman,
who brought forth the man child: and there were given to the woman, two
wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the desert to her place,
where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time" -Apoc.
12:13 - 14. The second vision of St. John is the one referred to earlier,
in which the Antichrist appears as a beast with seven heads and ten horns.
It is written of this beast that "power was given to him to act
forty-two months." -Apoc. 13:5. A "time" here
mentioned is probably meant to be a year. For, with simple math skills
we can calculate that 1260 days is equivalent to 42 months of 30 days
each, and this is equivalent to three and a half years ("time"
+ 2 "times" + half a "time"). Thus the
parallelism of these passages is knit closer.
In a previous reference
to the Book of Daniel, King Antiochus IV was mentioned. He deserves to
be mentioned again. Daniel himself explains the seventh chapter of his
book as a vision of history. -Dan. 7:17. Here are four monsters, which
represent four kingdoms. According to the Greek theory (cf. A Catholic
Commentary on Holy Scripture, ed. Dom Or-\ chard, P. 634) the fourth monster
(a ten-horned beast) is the empire of Alexander the Great. The ten horns
are ten successors of the Seleucid dynasty (which ruled Palestine). Then
"another little horn sprung out of the midst of them. ...that
horn made war against the saints." -Dan. 7:8, 21. This little
horn is King Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the eleventh successor of the Seleucid
dynasty, whose religious war, persecution, and sacrileges are recorded
in the two Books of Machabees.
was a savage persecutor of the Jews. Some Jewish apostates, seeking the
power and pleasures
of this world, made a covenant with him. They made themselves uncircumcised,
forsook the holy covenant with God, joined the heathens and sold themselves
to perform all manner of mischief. When Antiochus had conquered Egypt,
he advanced against Israel and Jerusalem. He sacked the city, profaned
the temple, removed the golden altar, the candlestick of light, all the
sacred vessels, the vials, the censers of gold, the veils, the crowns,
the golden ornaments; he pulled down every sacred symbol. Claiming to
be God, he massacred the people, set fire to Jerusalem, and ...assimilated
the Jews under his heathen laws, demanding that they abandon the law of
God under penalty of death. The Jews accepted the religion of a pagan
idolatry, sacrificed to false gods and profaned the Sabbath. The king
forced other impieties upon the Jews. Those who remained faithful to their
covenant and Sabbaths, he put to death. But the majority polluted the
sanctuary, visited the altars and groves of idols, and sacrificed swine's
flesh and unclean beasts. Finally, Antiochus set up a great idol or, in
the words of history, 'the Abomination of Desolation' upon the altar,
and built idol altars throughout the cities of Judah." -The Antichrist,
by Fr. Miceli, P. 108.
The worship of the
true God at the Temple of Jerusalem was interrupted for about three and
a half years. In reading these Books of the Machabees, the wickedness
of King Antiochus IV is apparent, yet his deeds and his death do not correspond
perfectly to the prophecy of Daniel. The everlasting kingdom of the saints
(prophesied in Dan. 7:27) was not then established. Further, the similarity
of evil intention and of the intervention of God to destroy the fourth
beast of Daniel to the "man of sin" of II Thes. 2, and
the repetition of the phrase "time, times and half a time" in
the visions of the Apocalypse, leads some commentators to "hold
that the little horn in its literal, historical, and obvious sense represents
Antiochus IV, but in a fuller and adequate sense it is the Antichrist
of whom Antiochus was but a faint image " -A Catholic Commentary
on Holy Scripture, P. 634.
It seems clear from
this that the Antichrist will be allowed to persecute the Church for three
and a half years. This is something our Lord Himself will permit, but
for no more than three and a half years, for He said: "unless
those days had been shortened, no flesh should be saved: but for the sake
of the elect those days shall be shortened." -Mt. 24:22. Yet,
how are these years to be counted? "The number given in the Sacred
Books probably does not express the length of time which the man of sin
will need in order to conquer the earth and reach the zenith of his omnipotence.
It is not reasonable to suppose that, even with the aid of the superhuman
and satanic powers, which will be at his disposal, he will be able to
become master of the earth in a single day. It is to be supposed that
he will only attain the fullness of his sovereignty gradually, and will
require a longish period to subdue the nations and envelop the whole world
in the murky web of his trickery and seduction" -The End of the
Present World and the Mysteries of the Future Life, by Fr. Arminjon, P.
But a hint is recorded
by the prophet Daniel, if we can rightly understand it. For he tells us
that from "the time when the continual sacrifice shall be taken
away, and the abomination unto desolation shall be set up, there shall
be a thousand two hundred and ninety days." -Dan. 12:11. (This
is thirty days longer than the days of Apoc. 12:6.) Here I venture onto
a very interesting interpretation (supported by Fr. Arminjon and Fr. Hay-dock
- in his Comprehensive Catholic Commentary on Scripture). Daniel's prophecy
was made in the time of the Old Testament and was fulfilled when the persecution
of King Antiochus IV interrupted the Jewish sacrifices for three and a
half years. Yet, if this prophecy is to have a further meaning and apply
to the Antichrist, we must presume that it is the continual sacrifice
of the New Testament, which shall be interrupted. Christ is our sacrifice.
His Divine Body and Blood are offered every day in reparation for the
sins of many. Padre Pio once said: "It is easier for the earth
to exist without the sun, than without the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
"-Communicantes No. 13, P. 13. Is it not the Mass (the traditional
Mass), which is sustaining what still remains of the Old World Order?
Yes, for the Victim offered upon our altars is interceding for all of
mankind, offering, to all, God's grace. What would happen if the Mass
ceased to be offered throughout the world? The devil knows the power of
this offering, and fears it. Certainly it will be a particular aim of
the Antichrist to abolish the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Horrible to
consider, if this is the true meaning of Dan. 12: 11, the Antichrist shall
succeed! (everywhere? in public? - God knows.) The Immaculate Victim will
no longer be present in our tabernacles, He will no longer be slain as
a victim to His Father's justice to make reparation for the sins of men.
The universal dominion of the Antichrist is to be reckoned from the day
when the Holy Mass will cease to be celebrated.
"God is faithful,
who will not suffer you to be tempted above that which you are able...
to bear. " - I Cor. 10:13. The world is going to the devil, and
we seem to be approaching the end. The Old World Order (in which it was
recognized that all power comes from God) is passing away, and a New World
Order (in which no recognition is given to the transcendent God) is already
established. What I have written is only one interpretation of the many
visions of the Antichrist. God alone knows the day and the hour in which
these things shall be fulfilled. Yet, the very end of this story is also
revealed to us: Christ shall come again, in glory! "Come, Lord
Jesus. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen. "
-Apoc. 22:20-21. ←