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)
We have learned how the Roman Catholic papacy fits the criteria for the “man of sin” that the Apostle Paul here outlined.
Yet how does the Roman Catholic Church answer this charge?
Historically, Roman Catholics claim that the “man of sin” is actually a prophecy of the Protestant Reformation (i.e., a description of that era when Roman Catholics rebelled against the Catholic Church and encouraged people to return to the Bible, but unfortunately adding uninspired man-made creeds and creating hundreds of denominational churches).
The following lengthy account describes the discussion between a young man who was a Roman Catholic (at the time), and a member of the church of Christ. I include the entire conversation for your study.
“Wow! A section of verses foretelling the Reformation and the formation of the denominations that fell away from the one, true, original Church! It’s just as my Catechism teachers told me. But, doesn’t Mr. Babbitt realize that he and his denomination are part of the apostasy? “Now, Gary, take special care in noticing verse 3. The apostasy is described as ‘the apostasy.’ It is not ‘an apostasy,’ which means one of many, but it is THE apostasy. One so massive, it needs only to be referred to as ‘the apostasy’ in order for everyone to know what He is talking about. It dwarfed any other group that fell away and caused them to pale to insignificance when compared.” Well sure, the Reformation was one big apostasy! “It is popularly taught that this apostasy is the Reformation. But this is impossible.” “What?!” I did not intend to speak out, but his words shocked me. “Look at verse 7. The words, ‘the mystery of iniquity is already at work,’ makes it certain that the apostasy was already beginning when this was written. However, the Reformation did not begin for another 1500 years! So, THE apostasy this passage is writing about cannot possibly be the Reformation.” He’s right, the Reformation can’t be the apostasy. So, just what falling away began to work so early? He pushed on. “It is also said that this apostasy was the Gnostics, or some other such group, that fell away from the church in the early centuries. But, these too, are not the apostasy of these verses.” “And you’re going to tell me why, right?” “The Gnostics, Montanists, Novatians, and the like began early, but they died out in the 5th and 6th centuries. But look what verse 8 declares. The apostasy of this passage will still exist at the Second Coming of Jesus.” I saw what he was saying. “So, Mr. Babbitt, those groups with the weird names ended too early to be THE apostasy, and the Reformation began too late. Well, what is this great apostasy God is talking about?” “Gary, if you think about what God said in this passage, you can figure it out for yourself. Look in the verses at the identifying clues of the apostasy. What is the main feature of the great falling away?” I scanned over the verses. “It has a very powerful leader.” “Right, and most of the verses of 3 through 9 are talking about him. So, what does it say? It says he is ‘the man of sin,’ that is, he transgresses God’s Law. So, his actions and laws do not follow God’s Law. He is also ‘the son of perdition.’ Perdition means destruction. And that means he destroys the church, which, of course, is what an apostasy does. So, by his replacing God’s Law with his laws, the Christians are led away from what the church is supposed to be, resulting in their spiritual destruction.” Although I knew the Catholic Church certainly was not the apostasy, that swung too close for comfort. After all, numerous laws made up by men—laws and practices which did not follow God’s Law—flooded into the Church in the first few centuries. “Now, Gary, what identifying trait of this leader do you find in verse 4?” I read verse 4 again. The toxic description repulsed me. “This man makes himself out to be God!” “Yes, and his traits are quite prominently expressed. Now, verses 6 and 7 declare that this exalted, worshipful leader did not yet exist when this letter was being written because something or someone restrained him from taking that ‘as-if-he-were-God’ position.” “So, this position took time to develop?” I asked. “Correct. Now, the last thing you need to notice is in verse 8. What do you see?” “It says Jesus will slay him at His Second Coming. But, Mr. Babbitt, how can that be? If verse 7 tells us the apostasy and the development of the leader were already beginning back in the 1st century, how can he still be alive at the Second Coming?! Nobody lives for several centuries!” “Of course not. But a position which is occupied by a succession of men, does.” Well, sure. That’s the only possible answer, unless I want to say God made a big mistake in what He wrote. “Gary, those are the identifying marks of ‘the man of sin’ and the apostasy.” Mr. Babbitt spoke a little slower and as gently as he could. “When you identify ‘the man of sin,’ then you will know the identity of this great apostasy. So take a moment, put it all together, and think it through. You can figure it out.” From past experience with his shift in tone, I sensed his concern for me. I knew what he must be thinking, but I also knew the apostasy wasn’t Catholicism. More concerned now about proving to myself that the apostasy was not Catholicism than I was concerned about finding out what church was the real apostasy, I attacked those identifying marks to show that they did not describe the Catholic Church. Can’t do anything about “the man of sin” though. I mean, his man-made laws certainly cause us Catholics to worship in vain. Matthew 15:9 makes that clear. And then there are all those popes who lived in sinful immoralities of adultery, murder, robbery, and on and on. Also, there are those five to six centuries of popes who plagued humanity with the Inquisition and its insane tortures and stake-burnings. And there are the five centuries of popes who led the Church into the ungodly Crusades that plundered, ravaged, and murdered hundreds of thousands of people. As much as I don’t want to admit it, “the man of sin, the son of destruction” fits the popes far better than any other man in all of history. I took a deep breath to relieve the uneasiness creeping upon me. What was the other clue? Oh, yeah, succession. “The man of sin” is a succession of men. My anxiety returned in a flare-up. And this succession will continue until the Second Coming, which means “the man of sin” and “the apostasy” exists right now! Aw, come on! I shouted to myself. Surely something doesn’t fit! Let’s see, what else do the verses say? Oh, yeah, “the man of sin” took time to develop. Man! It can’t be! Another perfect fit! Going from elders, to a congregational bishop, to archbishops, to patriarchs, to pope definitely took time to develop. My heart beat as rapidly as in a track-meet race. I panicked for any clue that did not fit our pope. Verse 4! What about verse 4? It’s the one most descriptive of “the man of sin.” Surely it doesn’t fit. Let’s see.… Yes, that’s it! “He sits in the temple of God!” We don’t have a temple like that! Not like the Jews did in Jerusalem. The pope doesn’t fit! I felt my shoulders relax. Relief returned. The alarm shut off. No longer fearful of the apostasy being the Catholic Church, I asked Mr. Babbitt where that temple of God was located and what religious group owned it. Then I would know who the apostasy was. “Gary, I can tell you where that temple is located, but first you must understand what the temple in Christianity is.” He pointed to my Bible and said, “See what 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 says.” While I turned the pages, I wondered, Why find out what the temple is? It’s a building of bricks or rocks and mortar, isn’t it? But I then found out why he wanted me to read it. Do you not know that you are the temple of God and the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone destroys the temple of God, him God will destroy; for holy is the temple of God, and this temple you are. “Well, Mr. Babbitt,” I said with a struggle and without looking up, “the temple is the people, the church.” “You see,” he caringly said, “in Christianity, the temple of God is not some building like it was in the Jewish religion, but it is the church. So, ‘the man of sin,’ verse 4 informs us, is set in the highest position in the church, that is, what is thought to be the church because it is really the apostasy.” The tension returned so swiftly I almost got back and shoulder cramps. My heart raced and my shallow breathing quickened. “Gary, when I borrowed your Catechism several weeks ago, I read what it says about the pope. I am sure you and every Catholic throughout the world already know this, but, to its question number 496, ‘Who is the visible Head of the Church?,’ it answers, ‘Our Holy Father the Pope, the Bishop of Rome, is the Vicar of Christ on earth and the visible Head of the Church.’” He didn’t say it. He didn’t have to. I knew the pope fit this clue. And he fit it perfectly. “And the rest of the verse says….” He pointed at my Bible, indicating I was to read it. “…and gives himself out as if he were God.” “Gary, if you were to tell someone that it is a religious law to go to worship on Sunday, what would you be doing?” “I guess I’d just be telling him what God’s law in the Scriptures tells us.” “That is right. God wrote His law in the Scriptures, and you are merely pointing it out to someone else. But, if you were to tell someone that you say it is a religious law for the church to sacrifice a rabbit during Sunday worship, who would you be making yourself out to be?” “Well, since that’s not in the New Testament, I would be giving a new religious law, and since only God gives religious laws, then…” I paused, “I’d be making myself out to be God.” “And you are correct. As long as you are teaching what the Scriptures already teach, you are but a teacher, something all Christians are to be. But when you make laws that are not taught in the Scriptures, you make yourself out to be God. You see, when a person claims rights only God can claim, he sets himself forth as God.” “I see Mr. Babbitt.” But I wish I didn’t. My one loophole unraveled, and I knew what was coming next. “And Gary,” he spoke even more tenderly, “you have already seen the many laws the popes have made that are not taught in the Scriptures.” “Yeah, I know,” I somehow managed to whisper. The pursuing silence agonized me. Perhaps Mr. Babbitt waited for me to speak first. But I wasn’t going to. I wasn’t going to admit it. Even if we had to sit in silence for the rest of the class, I wasn’t going to admit it. Mr. Babbitt sensed my locked lips, and my agony. Mercifully, he spoke. Then again, maybe it wasn’t so merciful. “This ‘man of sin,’ this succession of men who are exalted above everyone else in the church and make themselves out to be God when they add their own man-made laws, is the identifying mark of the great falling away—the apostasy that began in the 1st century and will continue to exist until the Second Coming of Jesus. “Gary.” He stopped mid-breath, as though regretting to continue. “Of all the religious bodies of people in Christianity, there is only one that fits the description of this verse. And it fits it perfectly.” He did not say which one he meant. He did not have to. I knew the facts all fit—I had been discovering them for weeks. He then turned several pages in his Bible. “Listen to this in 1 Timothy 4, beginning with verse one.” Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving. “This too,” Mr. Babbitt gently explained, “tells us that sometime after this letter was written there would be a departure of Christians from the church. That departure occurred because they followed man-made doctrines. God labeled those teachings as ‘doctrines of devils´ because the added doctrines were not His. Two of the doctrines are identified: the first, ‘forbidding to marry;’ and the second, ‘abstain from meats.’” Double bulls-eye. Celibacy and fish on Friday. Guess who. “Gary, the group who restricts God-approved marriages and meats and has an exalted one-man head of the church that makes laws like he was God is the group that is the apostasy.” My thoughts pounded within my head like the interior of a huge bell. Okay! Okay! Okay! It’s true, the Church did depart from the elders and created a hierarchy of positions with an exalted, one-man leader—the pope! And true, the Church did add numerous man-made doctrines—doctrines of devils, the Bible calls them—that we still practice today! And it’s a fact, forgeries were made to make it look like those practices were done by the original church! And it really happened, Tradition was invented to make it look like God authorizes all those practices that can’t be found in the Scriptures! Yes, it’s true! The Bible identifies us as the one who fell away!! WE are the great apostasy!!” (Gary Henson, The Ivory Domino, 5991-6131 (Kindle Edition, emphasis added, M.T.); Charleston, AR; Cobb Publishing)
The “man of sin” is the papacy of the Roman Catholic Church.