Eschatology Studies (Seven)

It is written:

“Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, 4  who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. 5  Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? 6  And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. 7  For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way. 8  And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming. 9  The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, 10  and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11  And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, 12  that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” (2 Thessalonians 2:3-12)

In our studies, we have learned that the papacy (i.e., the pope of the Roman Catholic Church) perfectly fits the criterial of the “man of sin” in 2 Thessalonians 2.

Yet where did the papacy originate?

How did it come about?

Our Roman Catholic friends answer that the the first pope was none other then the Apostle Peter. We are told that Jesus made Peter the pope in Matthew 16:18, when Christ declared “… You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church.” Since the word “Peter” in Greek literally means a small detached stone, it is argued that the Lord here promised to build His church on the Apostle Peter.

The text actually makes it clear that the church is built on the identity of Jesus as the Son of God, which Peter had just confessed (Matthew 16:16; 1 Corinthians 3:11).

However, that the interpretation of the text is erroneous is obvious for several reasons.

Notice that Jesus changed person when speaking to Peter. He went from second to third person. He did not say, “You are Peter, and UPON YOU I will build My church.” Instead, He declared, “You are Peter (second person), and upon THIS ROCK (third person). This change in person shows that the rock was obviously something besides Peter. As White has pointed out:

“Next, note that when Christ speaks to Peter, He does so in the second person; that is, direct address. Yet, the term “this rock” is third person (indirect address indicated by the use of ταύτη ), making the differentiation between “Peter” and “this rock” complete, even if one accepts the Catholic apologists’ contention of an Aramaic original without differentiation of the genders, masculine and feminine, of “rock.” He is speaking to Peter, about the “rock.” Hence the text differentiates between Peter and the rock in two ways: the form of the word, and the person of address.” (James R. White, Answers To Catholic Claims: A Discussion Of Biblical Authority, 1558 (Kindle Edition))

Second, the Greek of the passage powerfully demonstrates that there is a difference between Peter and the Rock upon which the church is built.

“Roman Catholics claim that Christ was proclaiming that Peter was “the rock” and that Jesus would build His church upon him. However, in the original Greek we find that the word used for Peter is “petros”, which refers to a small stone or pebble while the word used for rock is “petra”, which indicates a large rock or cliff. It should also be noted that “petros” is masculine while “petra” is feminine. This makes it abundantly obvious that Christ’s statement of verse 18 was actually in reference to the statement Peter had made about Him (Christ) in verse 16 (“thou art the Christ, the son of the living God.”)” (Charles G.B. Evans, Ph.D., Why I Question The Roman Catholic Faith, 287-1293 (Kindle Edition);

Sometimes our Catholic friends will argue that because Jesus was speaking in Aramaic, there would have been no difference made between “Peter” and “the Rock.” However, this reasoning is unconvincing for at least five reasons.

First, while the Hebrews in Jesus’ day spoke Aramaic, it is also likely that Greek was spoken.

Second, even if Jesus and His followers were speaking Aramaic, it does not change the fact that the Gospel of Matthew was written in Greek. The

Third, the Apostle Matthew clearly points out to us from this passage that there is a difference between “Peter” and the “Rock.”

Fourth, it is important to notice that in the parallel accounts of this conversation, both Mark (8:27-29) and Luke (9:18-21) end the conversation with Peter’s confession of Jesus as the Son of God. Clearly, they understood that the church is built on Jesus, not on the Apostle Peter! This is especially interesting when we consider that Mark was narrating his Gospel based on the words of Peter himself!

Finally, consider the words of one former Roman Catholic who set out to find the truth about New Testament Christianity. As he was investigating the origin of the papacy, he encountered this argument and studied with a Gospel preacher on the subject. He recounts:

“The two words did not mean the same thing. “Rock” was a large mass of rock, something like the Rock of Gibraltar, but “Peter” was a petros, a stone small enough to be thrown or easily moved! And that Greek dictionary said the two words are “distinct from” each other. No, Jesus was not saying that Peter, a small stone, was the large mass of rock upon which He would build His church. Quite the opposite. By the use of those two words, Jesus was explaining that Peter was not the massive foundation of His church! Mr. Babbitt continued. “If you tell a Catholic priest what you just saw about these two different words, this is what he would say: ‘But, the Gospel of Matthew was originally written in Aramaic, not Greek. And, in the Aramaic, these two words are identical, not different. So, Jesus really identified Peter as the rock.’ Gary, that is the Catholic’s ‘knot at the end of the rope’–a desperate attempt to hang onto Matthew 16: 18 before it slips away from their hands and from their ability to use it to keep people believing that Jesus made Peter a pope.” “But, how are we to know whether it was written in Greek or Aramaic?” I asked. He explained. “God tucked inside the Bible an easy rebuttal to this false assumption….He reached for another book from those on his desk. “See those strange words, ‘Golgotha ‘and ‘sabachthani’? Find those words in this Bible dictionary to see of what language they are.” Locating each word, I read: Golgotha. This name represents in Greek the Aramaic word Gulgaltha. 4 Sabachthani. One of the Aramaic words uttered by our Lord on the cross. 5 “They are Aramaic words,” I reported my findings. “Gary, what do those two Aramaic words, which are translated within the verse, tell you?” “My mother didn’t raise a dummy,” I said. “It tells me, if Matthew was written in Aramaic, he wouldn’t translate an Aramaic word into Aramaic! It’s just like that English sentence, ‘Jim is a man.’ It would not translate the English word ‘man,’ into English because it was already written in English. God left no doubt about it. Since those words were Aramaic words that were translated into Greek, then Matthew was not written in Aramaic, but in Greek.” “Which means?” he prodded me on. “Which means that Matthew 16: 18 was written in Greek, and that ‘Peter’ and ‘rock’ are indeed different words,” I answered.” (Gary Henson, The Ivory Domino, 1912-1943 (Kindle Edition); Charleston, AR; Cobb Publishing)

It is also important to notice that the majority of the church fathers who commented on Matthew 16:18 understood the Rock to be Peter’s confession of Jesus. As even the Roman Catholic authorities have pointed out:

“All this is intelligible enough, if we look at the patristic interpretation of the words of Christ to St. Peter. Of all the Fathers who have exegetically explained these passages in the Gospels (Matt. xvi. 18, John xxi. 17), not a single one applies them to the Roman bishops as Peter’s successors. How many Fathers have busied themselves with these texts, yet not one of them…—Origen, Chrysostom, Hilary, Augustine, Cyril, Theodoret, and those whose interpretations are collected in catenas,—has dropped the faintest hint that the primacy of Rome is the consequence of the commission and promise to Peter! NOT ONE OF THEM HAS EXPLAINED THE ROCK OR FOUNDATION ON WHICH CHRIST WOULD BUILD HIS CHURCH OF THE OFFICE GIVEN TO PETER TO BE TRANSMITTED TO HIS SUCCESSORS, BUT THEY UNDERSTOOD BY IT EITHER CHRIST HIMSELF, OR PETER’S CONFESSION OF FAITH IN CHRIST; OFTEN BOTH TOGETHER. OR ELSE THEY THOUGHT PETER WAS THE FOUNDATION EQUALLY WITH ALL THE OTHER APOSTLES, THE TWELVE BEING TOGETHER THE FOUNDATIONS-STONES OF THE CHURCH. (Apoc. xxi. 14).” (Janus, Von Dollinger, Janus, The Pope And The Council, 90-91 (Kindle Edition, emphasis added M.T.); Pneuma Press)

Even when the ancient church fathers identified Peter as the rock, they saw him as representing every Christian who is equally a “rock” in the church, and certainly not the pope! As Origen wrote:

“If we, too, have said like Peter, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”—not as if flesh and blood had revealed it to us, but by light from the Father in heaven having shone in our heart—we become a Peter. So to us there might be said by the Word, “You are Peter, etc.” For every disciple of Christ is a rock. . . . And upon every such rock is built every word of the church and the polity in accordance with it. For in each of the perfect—who have the combination of words, deeds, and thoughts that fill up the blessedness—the church is built by God.” (Origen (c. 245, E), 9.456.)

“But if you suppose that upon only that one Peter the whole church is built by God, what would you say about John, the son of thunder, or about each one of the apostles? Shall we dare to say that the gates of Hades will not prevail against Peter in particular, but that they will prevail against the other apostles and the perfect? Does not the saying previously made, “The gates of Hades will not prevail against it,” apply in regard to all? . . . Are the keys of the kingdom of heaven given by the Lord to Peter only and will none other of the blessed receive them? (Origen (c. 245, E), 9.456.)

“In this place [Matt. 16: 18, 19], these words seem to be addressed to only Peter—” Whatever you will bind on earth will be bound in heaven.” However, in the Gospel of John, the Savior gave the Holy Spirit to the disciples by breathing upon them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit, etc.” Many then will say to the Savior, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” . . . And if anyone says this to Him . . . through the Father in heaven, he will obtain the things that were spoken according to the language of the gospel to Peter. . . . For all who are the imitators of Christ bear the surname of “rock.” . . . Furthermore, as members of Christ, they derive their surname from Him, being called “Christians.” And from the rock, they are called “Peters.” (Origen (c. 245, E), 9.456.)

The Apostle Peter was not the first pope; and as we will discover, the origin of the papacy shows us even more clearly how the papacy of the Roman Catholic Church is the only true contender for the “man of sin” in 2 Thessalonians 2:3-12.

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