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.” (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4)
In this passage, Paul talks about a “man of sin” that will arise in the church during the time of the Great Apostasy (the “falling away” in the text). Several things about this “man of sin” are worthy of notice.
First, the man of sin was not any one individual. This is made clear by the fact that Paul says he was already working in Paul’s day (2 Thessalonians 2:7), but would continue all the way down to the Second Coming (2 Thessalonians 2:9-12). This is a system of power, not any one person or individual.
Second, the man of sin would arise in the “temple.” The Greek word used here is used by Paul to reference the church (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
Third, this man of sin would be an apostasy from the Lord and His Word. This is made clear by the reference to it being the “son of perdition,” a reference found only one other time in Scripture to describe Judas (one who departed from God’s plan and pattern-John 17:12).
Fourth, there was some restraining power that was keeping the man of sin from arising to full power in Paul’s day; and the Apostle said he had told the Christians what this restraining power was (2 Thessalonians 2:5-6). When we look back at the writings of the church fathers, we see that they readily identified this restraining power: the Roman Empire.
So, when the Roman Empire would collapse, the man of sin would rise to full power in the church.
Only one institution fits the bill for all these criteria: the papacy of the Roman Catholic Church.
In January of 1837, a Bible scholar named Alexander Campbell held a public debate with a well-respected and influential Roman Catholic priest named John Purcell. The debate was on the subject of the origin of Roman Catholicism.
At one point in the debate, Campbell introduced the testimony of a Catholic historian named Du Pin. Recently, a former Roman Catholic who described his departure from Catholicism to New Testament Christianity carefully studied this debate (and Campbell’s quotations from Du Pin). He says:
“Campbell then quoted Du Pin, the Catholic historian. “St. Gregory does not only oppose this title in the patriarch of Constantinople, but maintains also, that it cannot agree to any other bishop, and that the bishop of Rome neither ought, nor can assume it.… [Peter] was not called universal apostle. THAT THE TITLE OF UNIVERSAL BISHOP IS AGAINST THE RULES OF THE GOSPEL (THE SCRIPTURES), AND THE APPOINTMENT OF THE CANONS (THE LAWS FORMULATED AT THE CHURCH COUNCILS) THAT THERE CANNOT BE A UNIVERSAL BISHOP.” 2 Campbell then resumed his comments. But at this time [near the end of the 6th century] the patriarchs of Constantinople [John] and Rome [Gregory] were contending for the supremacy [of the church], and while it appeared to Gregory that his rival of the east was likely to process the title, he [Gregory] saw in it, everything anti-Christian and profane. When a new dynasty, however ascended the [Emperor’s] throne and offered the title to a Roman bishop, it [the title of universal patriarch] lost all its blasphemy and impiety, and we [then] find the successor of Gregory can wear the title of universal patriarch when tendered him by Phocas [the new Emperor], without the least scrupulosity. It is then a fact worthy of much consideration in this discussion, that John, bishop of Constantinople, first assumed the title of universal head of the whole Christian church, and that the bishop of Rome [Gregory] did in that case oppose it as anti-scriptural and anti-christian. Concerning the reputation of St. Gregory, I need not be profuse. Of the Gregories he is deservedly called the Great. Renowned in history as the one who stamped his own image on the Roman world for a period of five hundred years, yet he could not brook the idea of a pope, especially when about to be bestowed on his rival at Constantinople. St. Gregory, be it remembered, says Du Pin, did not only oppose the title in the case of John the Faster, as proud, heretical, blasphemous, &c., but could not agree to its being assumed by any other bishop; he affirmed that the bishops of Rome ought not, dare not, cannot assume this pompous and arrogant title. Thus stood matters as respects a supreme head up to within 14 years of the close of the 6th century. 3 Distressed, I wanted to tear out the page and burn it. But I would only be reacting dishonestly with the established and unchangeable facts of history. What had happened, happened. I dropped the book to my chest and stared at the ceiling. Wow! I thought with astonishment. No universal bishop until at least 588 A.D.! And when the first one finally arose, it was only the result of a power struggle between the two bishops of the two most important cities of the day. Unfortunately, a Catholic historian proved my earlier suspicions correct: the office of the pope was created by men, NOT God; and it was created centuries after the Church began. Even Gregory, the bishop of Rome, who would have been the pope if there was a pope, emphatically denied the Church to have a universal bishop over the universal Church. So, Gregory, one of the four most prominent patriarchs of the Church in that day, lets us know there was no universal bishop in the Church from its beginning unto at least 588 A.D.!” (Gary Henson, The Ivory Domino: Based On A True, Heart-Wrenching Challenge, 3293-3324 (Kindle Edition); Charleston, AR; Cobb Publishing).
The pope is not of God.
The papacy is the result of a departure from God’s Word, and clearly prophesied in the Scriptures. To our Catholic friends: please consider leaving Roman Catholicism and embracing New Testament Christianity. Members of the churches of Christ love you, and are eager to study God’s Word together.