Uprising after uprising in the Middle East; sexual and intellectual scandal in the Church; earthquakes in Chile and Haiti; tsunamis in Indonesia and Japan; and financial collapse in almost every market: given the startling increase in the frequency of global crises –political, religious, financial, natural — one is tempted to begin looking for the antichrist and despair for the future.
The pervading anxiety and fear are exacerbated by non-Catholic proliferation of end times fiction and even some Catholics who promote the imminent arrival of the antichrist and the Second Coming. St. Paul rebukes end times fear mongering:
Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our assembling to meet him, we beg you, brethren, not to be quickly shaken in mind or excited, either by spirit or by word, or by letter purporting to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one deceive you in any way; for that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of perdition…. (2 Thess 2).
The idea of an imminent arrival of the antichrist has distinct emotional appeal in our troubled times, since one way or another, it would all end soon, and possibly without our having to “do” anything. Although the prospect relieves us of the sense of personal responsibility to become or remain involved in this immoral world which despises our Christian moral message, according to the historic Tradition of the Church and the direction of her leadership, it would be a tragic error for several reasons.
Antichrists in Every Age Prefigure the Final Antichrist
The mystery of evil is always in labor. Before the coming of Jesus there were many types, prophecies and symbols that preceded Him. It is the same for the Antichrist who is prefigured by violent persecutions of the Church, by secular Messianic movements and ideologies, heresies, schisms, unbelief, and sin, to the point that some have come to believe that the word “antichrist” is merely a generic term.
St. Paul teaches, “For the mystery of iniquity is already at work,” (2 Thess. 2:7). St. John confirms the ongoing “spirit of antichrist” when he says, “Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son.”
But St. John also specifies in the same chapter that he is speaking of an individual: “Children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come; therefore we know that it is the last hour” (1 Jn. 2:18-22).
The Scriptures speak of the final antichrist in various places as being a particular person, calling him the “the man of sin” and “son of perdition.” Daniel speaks of antichrist in both literal and mystical senses (chapters 7, 9, and 11); Matthew (24), Mark (13), John (5), and 2 Thessalonians (2); 1 & 2 John; and Revelation (13) all teach of him as a future person. In addition, all the Fathers and Doctors unanimously teach antichrist’s eventual individuality so that it is a teaching of the Deposit of Faith:
The Holy Fathers, “to whom after the Apostles, the Church owes its growth” – the Holy Fathers we say, are of supreme authority whenever they all interpret in one and the same manner any text of the Bible, as pertaining to the doctrine of faith and morals; for their unanimity clearly evinces that such interpretation has come down from the Apostles as a matter of Catholic Faith (Providentissimus Deus, Pope Leo XIII).
Obama is Not the Antichrist
However, the Antichrist is not here, or even within 30 years or more of manifestation. Jesus told the disciples how they might positively identify the imminent arrival of Antichrist and the events surrounding the end times. They, in turn, told the Church Fathers, as the most immediate successors of the original apostles. The Church Fathers then sorted out much of the eschatological uncertainty between them from what had been handed down orally and in writing from the apostles, and left extensive writings on the subject, far too many to quote in an internet article.
We know to watch for particular signs, and although conditions have been chaotic enough in other eras in history that our ancestors also speculated they might be near the end of the world, at no time have all the signs outlined in Scripture and the oral Tradition of the Church yet been present.
Those signs were given in order to combat then-current teachings of the imminent end of the world, and/or, the opposite view that God had completely abandoned creation to destruction. Yet to happen are: sweeping conversions to Christ, a world-wide religious apostasy, signs in the heavens, the arrival of Enoch and Elijah (Rom. 11; 2 Thess. 2; Rev. 8-12).
All of the signs certainly include a level of interpretation and even timing, so that even the Church does not make specific definitive statements regarding whom, how or when. But the Fathers were unanimous and clear on a few things that should give us great hope for the Third Millennium.
Our last two Holy Fathers worked strategically and deliberately to prepare the Church for the “New Evangelism” of the third millennium, pastorally, liturgically, and theologically. Our Magisterium knows and is intimately familiar with Scripture, Tradition, and approved private revelations (Our Lady of Fatima, for example) that help “flesh out” the eschatological skeleton given to us in the Deposit of Faith. Scripture, Tradition, and approved private revelation unanimously agree: there is far more to be fulfilled that has yet to be fulfilled. We cannot, therefore, be experiencing the time of antichrist, or even his imminent arrival.
What we do seem to be experiencing is what the Fathers termed a “minor chastisement” that conditionally precedes the major chastisement of antichrist. Between the two chastisements is widely prophesied an age of great peace. Through chastisement, we will suffer the sweeping consequences of decades of unprecedented flagrant sin against God and Church, humanity itself, and the earth.
We are told it will become so desperate that people will believe it is the end of the world. And yet it will not be. It is mercy from God upon our faithless, corrupt age, and nowhere near what the world will experience during antichrist. Chastisement proceeds from a loving Heavenly Father attempting to draw men to Himself in repentance. We must repent! and repentance begins in the house of God (1 Pet. 4:17). We are told we can avoid the chastisement, even as it has already begun, through repentance.
A Great Hope
We can avert it for ourselves and our children: “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Ch 7:14). Our Lady of Fatima begs us to pray, pray earnestly for sinners (ourselves!) and sacrifice for the salvation of souls.
We can repent in this way, and the Fathers foretell of a period of unprecedented Catholic peace that will reign over the whole earth, both in government and in the Church, in what they explain will be similar to a renaissance of the Holy Roman Empire.
Or we can continue our current trajectory and experience the dramatic frequency and worsening of the crises. Some of the predictions in the Scriptures, and/or unanimous agreement in the Fathers include: multiple simultaneous civil and national wars in Europe, the radical rise and spread of militant fundamentalism, great famines and disease plagues due to war and other sin and near-complete financial collapse, widespread death and destruction, several days of total darkness, sacks of Catholic churches and the murder of a pope — at which time is predicted the rise of a Great King, Great Pope and a great Church Council that will usher in the age of civil and sacred peace under the protection and direction of God.
All this precedes the major chastisement and antichrist, according to Sacred Tradition.
There will not be a literal 1000 year reign of Christ with His Saints on the earth. This is called millennialism, and it is a heresy condemned by the Church on the basis that it denies the Second Coming as the end of the ages and awaits another period of definitive salvation after that.
There will not be a “Rapture” in which the church is assumed en masse into heaven to escape chastisement. This teaching denies that the Church must follow Jesus in taking up her cross and being crucified with Christ, in order to also be resurrected.
Surely, “no man knows the day or hour.” But Jesus left us some certain knowledge of the future to comfort us. Both the Deposit of Faith, and the spiritual charism of prophecy offered for the edification of the Church through great numbers of Saints, Venerables, Popes, and Blesseds give us great hope for the future. When such prophecies are duly investigated and approved by the Church they provide heroic hope for the people, and fulfill the deep-seated, created psychological need in man to anticipate, work for, and hope in the future.
We must be prepared to offer “an explanation for the hope that is within us” when waves of people search for God in the chaos. We must be able to offer stability, sanity, hope, truth.
Dare I say it is not the end? The Fathers have. The Catechism tells us there is more to come. Be not afraid! Now is the time for the New Evangelism. We are invited to repent, pray, and work for the salvation of souls, help stave off the worst of the chastisement, and work to usher in the coming peace. Our Holy Father leads the way into the third millennium. Come Holy Spirit, come. Renew the face of the earth!
(© 2011 Sonja Corbitt)