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It is written:
1 John 2:18-Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour.
The Roman Catholic pope is a person who claims to be the “vicar” of Christ on Earth. According to Catholicism, this means that the pope is the visible head of the church on Earth who oversees the church in Christ’s place. Indeed, the word “vicar” means “substitute.” According to Vatican, all of the faithful must believe…
“Finally the reunion Council of Florence (1438-1445), repeating what had been substantially contained in the profession of faith of Michael Palaeologus approved by the Second Council of Lyons (1274), defined “that the holy Apostolic see and the Roman pontiff holds the primacy over the whole world; and that the Roman pontiff himself is the successor of the blessed Peter Prince of the Apostles and the true Vicar of Christ, and the head of the whole Church, and the father and teacher of all Christians, and that to him in blessed Peter the full power of feeding, ruling and governing the universal Church was given by our Lord Jesus Christ, and this is also recognized in the acts of the ecumenical council and in the sacred canons (quemadmodum etiam . . . continetur.” (Charles George Herbermann, The Catholic Encyclopedia: Complete Vol. 1-15 (With Active Table of Contents), 341993-341998 (Kindle Edition))
Of course, the facts demonstrate that there was no universal pope over the Catholic church for several hundreds after Jesus’ death. James White documents:
“The first point of note in examining the early Church and the origins of the Papacy should be that of the equality of the bishops. If the Roman claims regarding the Papacy are true, that is, if Peter acted as a Pope, chose a successor to follow him as a Pope, and established the foundations of the Papacy at Rome, teaching all other bishops that he, and he alone, was the “Vicar of Christ on earth,” then we should find evidence of this important teaching in the writings of the early Christians. But we do not. Rather, we find that for hundreds of years after Christ each bishop was considered equal to each other bishop. Indeed, during the first two centuries, the Biblical teaching, clearly drawn from an unbiased interpretation of the New Testament itself, had been maintained: that being that the office of bishop, elder or presbyter, was all one office. A presbyter was a bishop, a bishop a presbyter. Only as the the “clergy/ laity” split took place and deepened did this primitive, Biblical situation change. Cyprian (200-258), bishop of Carthage, was an impressive thinker and theologian, who died a martyr under Valerian. In a preface, written by him to the seventh council of Carthage, we read, “For neither does any of us set himself up as a bishop of bishops, nor by tyrannical terror does any compel his colleague to the necessity of obedience; since every bishop, according to the allowance of his liberty and power, has his own proper right of judgment, and can no more be judged by another than he himself can judge another.” 3 Note that Cyprian surely does not believe that there is a hierarchy of bishops in the church, or that one has the “primacy” over the others. Each is the bishop of his own territory, and has authority within that territory, and not elsewhere. No bishop can then sit as “judge” over other bishops, as all are equal to one another. Not only this, but Cyprian in a letter to “the clergy and people abiding in Spain” rebuked the Roman bishop Stephen who had meddled in the affairs of the African church. Basilides, a bishop who had been deposed for idolatry, had gone to Rome and enlisted the help of Stephen, seeking to be reestablished. Cyprian writes, “Neither can it rescind an ordination rightly perfected, that Basilides, after the detection of his crimes, and the baring of his conscience even by his own confession, went to Rome and deceived Stephen our colleague, placed at a distance, and ignorant of what had been done, and of the truth, to canvass that he might be replaced unjustly in the episcopate from which he had been righteously deposed.” 4 It is difficult to imagine such an attitude or belief in one of the bishops attending the Council of Trent, or any modem Roman Catholic conclave for that matter. Cyprian did not see the Roman bishop as being superior to, but rather equal with, all other bishops. This is even more important in the light of the fact that Cyprian was one of a minority of early Christian writers who did see Peter as the “rock” of Matthew 16: 18! 5 Therefore, while Cyprian did see Peter as the rock, he did not see that this made the bishop of Rome superior to anyone else! The bishop of Rome was an equal among equals—important, for he lead the large and influential church which was located at the very seat of the Roman empire, but not superior for any reason. During the early centuries, the term “pope” was used simply to mean “father.” It was not used of the bishop of Rome primarily, or even very often. 6 Cyprian was called “pope” more than once in letters sent to him, two of them, interestingly enough, from the “presbyters and deacons abiding at Rome”! 7 Surely if the “papacy” was an institution founded from the earliest times of the church, we would not find the clergy of Rome writing to an African bishop, calling him “Pope Cyprian.” Oh, but we are told, “the particular titles and honors of the papacy developed over time, led, of course, by the Holy Spirit, so that just because we do not see a fully-formed and developed concept of the papacy at this time does not mean it did not exist.” To which we reply that it is one thing to speak of development, another of absolute change. Not only does Cyprian not see the bishop of Rome as a “Pope” in the modem sense of the term, but he denies that the Church is structured in such a way as to allow for one man to be the “head of the Church.” Yes there was evolution, change, development—in fact, a nearly total rejection of the Biblical form of the Church and nearly every one of her doctrines! Another source of information in this regards comes from the “Apostolic Canons.” These canons are appended to the “Constitutions of the Holy Apostles.” Dating of the canons ranges from the early third to the fifth century. Canon 35 reads, “The bishops of every country ought to know who is the chief among them, and to esteem him as their head, and not to do any great thing without his consent; but every one to manage only the affairs that belong to his own parish, and the places subject to it. But let him not do anything without the consent of all; for it is by this means there will be unanimity, and God will be glorified by Christ, in the Holy Spirit.” 8 There is no mention of the Roman Papacy here; the unity of the Church is not maintained, according to this canon, by adherence to the Roman See. But, if the Papacy was in existence at this time, and it was the “universal” faith of all Christians that the Roman See perpetuated the primacy of Peter, why is this not taught here? We must remember that it is the Roman Church that is claiming the positive existence of a particular belief. The evidence, then, must not only substantiate the existence of such a belief, but must also explain why, when the “faith of the Church” was under discussion, this particular belief would not be taught or even mentioned. When the Council of Nicea met, one would think that the “Vicar of Christ on earth,” the Roman Pope, would figure prominently in the proceedings. Instead, the bishop of Rome attended none of the proceedings, and was represented by but two presbyters. These representatives had little important part in the proceedings. 9 The Council formed a very interesting canon, Canon 6. It is very important in that it gives us a clear understanding of the position of Rome at this time: “Let the ancient customs in Egypt, Libya and Pentapolis prevail, that the Bishop of Alexandria have jurisdiction in all these, since the like is customary for the Bishop of Rome also. Likewise in Antioch and the other provinces, let the Churches retain their privileges. And this is to be universally understood, that if any one be made bishop without the consent of the Metropolitan, the great Synod has declared that such a man ought not to be a bishop. 10 Here the early Church Fathers indicate that the Roman bishop is on an even plane and of equal status with Eastern bishops. There is no hint of any “papal supremacy” and just the opposite is indicated: Rome was seen as an equal, not the sole leader. Over a century later, the Council of Chalcedon, where some of the specifics of the relationship of the divine and the human in Christ were defined, also expressed in words that Rome found to be unacceptable the reason why anyone looked to Rome as having any kind of special position or authority. In “Canon 28” we read, “Following in all things the decisions of the holy Fathers, and acknowledging the canon, which has been just read, of the One Hundred and Fifty Bishops beloved-of-God (who assembled in the imperial city of Constantinople, which is New Rome, in the time of the Emperor Theodosius of happy memory), we also do enact and decree the same things concerning the privileges of the most holy Church of Constantinople, which is New Rome. For the Fathers rightly granted privileges to the throne of old Rome, because it was the royal city, (emphasis ours) And the One Hundred and Fifty most religious Bishops, actuated by the same consideration, gave equal privileges to the most holy throne of New Rome, justly judging that the city which is honoured with the Sovereignty and the Senate, and enjoys equal privileges with the old imperial Rome, should in ecclesiastical matters also be magnified as she is, and rank next after her; so that, in the Pontic, the Asian, and the Thracian dioceses, the metropolitans only and such bishops also of the Dioceses aforesaid as are among the barbarians, should be ordained by the aforesaid most holy throne of the most holy Church of Constantinople; every metropolitan of the aforesaid dioceses, together with the bishops of his province, ordaining his own provincial bishops, as has been declared by the divine canons; but that, as has been above said, the metropolitans of the aforesaid Dioceses should be ordained by the archbishop of Constantinople, after the proper elections have been held according to custom and have been reported to him.” 11 Rome, then, was given “privileges” because it was the royal city. This is only logical. Rome’s priority (as seen above, possibly, in the citation from Irenaeus) was due to the fact that Rome was the center of the Empire, not due to some concept of “Petrine authority” in the Roman See. It might be likened to the modem situation where a church in Washington D.C. would, simply by its geographical location, demand the respect of those in its denomination, while another church, say in Ajo, Arizona (no offense intended to the citizens, few as they are, of Ajo) would probably not demand the same kind or amount of respect or privilege. But even this does not fully express the situation of Rome, for the city of Rome was the very center of the Empire itself; and, therefore, the bishop of the church in that city would have great privileges. Canon 28 of Chalcedon shows us, then, that the rank and privilege of Rome was not based upon theological reasoning, but on political reality. But note, that this canon also does not indicate that the bishop of Rome was superior to any other bishop, but simply enjoyed greater privileges. In fact, about fifty years before Chalcedon, the great scholar Jerome had written, “Wherever a bishop may be, whether at Rome or at Eugubium, at Constantinople or at Rhegtum, at Alexandria or at Thanis, he is of the same worth, and of the same priesthood; the force of wealth and lowness of poverty do not render a bishop higher or lower; for all of them are the successors of the apostles.” 12 Jerome uses a similar comparison as ours above between Washington and Ajo; he compares the three great patriarchates (Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch) with much lesser-known cities, and, on this basis, asserts that the bishop of Rome is of the same worth as the bishop of any smaller city or province. All the bishops, Jerome claims, are the successors of the apostles. No mention is made of Peter, no mention is made of the unity of the church depending upon Rome. Surely Jerome recognized the importance of the Roman See—so did just about everyone else. But they did so for reasons that are other than those claimed by modem Romanism. One of the bishops of Rome itself, Gregory I (540-604), wrote, “Now I confidently say that whosoever calls himself, or desires to be called, Universal Priest, is in his elation the precursor of Antichrist, because he proudly puts himself above all others.” 13 Such words would describe many of the medieval popes with great precision. But Gregory said more: “If then he shunned the subjecting of the members of Christ partially to certain heads, as if beside Christ, though this were to the apostles themselves, what wilt thou say to Christ, who is the Head of the universal Church, in the scrutiny of the last judgment, having attempted to put all his members under thyself by the appellation of Universal? Who, I ask, is proposed for imitation in this wrongful title but he who, despising the legions of angels constituted sodaily with himself, attempted to start up to an eminence of singularity, that he might seem to be under none and to be alone above all? 14 Gregory likens anyone who would claim to be “universal bishop” to Lucifer himself who attempted to raise his throne above the throne of God Himself (Isaiah 14). Would the modem claims of the papacy qualify for Gregory’s ridicule? This author believes that they would.” (James R. White, Answers to Catholic Claims: A Discussion of Biblical Authority, 1700-1807 (Kindle Edition))
Indeed, during power struggles with other churches, the Roman Catholic church began to forget documents to try and prove that Peter had been the pope. The Catholic Encyclopedia acknowledges these things without a hint of shame. One man, Gary Henson, describes his departure from Roman Catholicism to New Testament Christianity as he learned these things. Having learned of these forgeries from the Stevens-Beavers Debate (a public debate between a member of the church of Christ and a Roman Catholic priest), Henson relates what he learned as he and Mr. Babbitt (a member of the church of Christ that he was studying with).
“Gary, I realize if what Mr. Stevens says is true, this will be very upsetting to you,” he said with regret in his voice. “As you read what he said, was there any doctrine or practice in particular you noticed?” “The one on the authority of the pope,” I responded without hesitating, and not without mounting concern. “He said forgeries were written in order to make it look like the bishop of Rome had authority over all the Church. So, if they couldn’t prove the papacy any other way, they would have to make and use forgeries. In other words, they would have to lie about it! The other thing I noticed was that he said the succession of the popes is based upon forgeries.” At that point, Mr. Babbitt glanced at his research notes and then reached for one of the volumes of the Catholic Encyclopedia. “Let us see if what Mr. Stevens said is true. First, he claimed the encyclopedia itself affirms a multitude of forgeries. Here, read it yourself.” The sentence seemed to stand out in large letters right before my eyes. Mr. Stevens had referred to it correctly. “Substitution of false documents and tampering with genuine ones was quite a trade in the Middle Ages.” 4 My heart sank with intermingled emotions of heartache and disgust. “How could those early Catholics have done that?!” Ready with another volume, Mr. Babbitt pointed to a sentence for me to read. In all these departments forgery and interpolation as well as ignorance had wrought mischief on a great scale. 5 He slid another volume in front of me. Writers of the fourth century were prone to describe many practices (i.e. The Lenten Fast of Forty Days) as Apostolic institutions which certainly had no claim to be so regarded. 6 “Mr. Babbitt, this is unbelievable! If it were not in our Catholic Encyclopedia, I wouldn’t believe it. Mr. Stevens wasn’t making it up. Those early Catholic leaders did make use—big use—of forgeries! They lied in order to make the laity believe that those new doctrines were actually taught by the Apostles!” I began to understand why Mr. Babbitt hesitated to tell me this—it disturbed me to the core of my bones. Actually, it was downright frightening. “I am sorry, young Berean.” He attempted to console me while at the same time, by using that nickname, encourage me to continue to examine the Scriptures—or, in this case, the encyclopedia—in order to learn the truth no matter where that truth may lead. “Do you want to stop here?” he asked. “No,” I replied. “This Catholic authority admits the widespread forgeries. I want to see what else it admits.” “Then,” he continued as he replaced that book into the set on the table and retrieved another, “take a look at some of those examples of forged documents Mr. Stevens listed on his chart. Here’s one, the Didascalia Apostolorum. As I read my astonishment escalated. A treatise which pretends to have been written by the Apostles at the time of the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15), but is really a composition of the third century…. we find the whole work incorporated into the Apostolic Constitutions at the end of the fourth century….” 7 “Good night!” I was appalled. “Some guy who lived maybe 250 years after the apostles, wrote religious documents, forged them to make them out as though they were the actual writings of the apostles, and then the Church swallowed the lie 100 years later and added it to other Church laws!” Mr. Babbitt added, “And that is exactly what one of those previous encyclopedia articles admitted: later writers created forgeries in the attempt to give a newly invented practice as something taught by the apostles.” 5 “Yeah, and that’s exactly what Mr. Stevens brought out in that debate,” I said as I pointed toward the book. “Now look at this one,” Mr. Babbitt said while we exchanged volumes. Apostolic Constitutions, a fourth-century pseudo-Apo-stolic collection, in eight books, of independent, though closely related, treaties on Christian discipline, worship, and doctrine, intended to serve as a manual of guidance for the clergy, and to some extent for the laity… It purports to be the work of the Apostles, whose instructions, whether given by them as individuals or as a body, are supposed to be gathered and handed down by the pretended compiler, St. Clement of Rome, the author of whose name gave fictitious weight to more than one such piece of early Christian literature. The Church seems never to have regarded this work as the undoubted Apostolic authority. 8 “Man! This is unreal!” I muttered my words, not particularly speaking to Mr. Babbitt. I teemed with bewilderment and anger. Forgeries in the Church quite a trade; made new practices appear apostolic; fooled the Church into false practices for centuries, and apparently, even unto today. Prepared with the next volume, Mr. Babbitt traded books. I began reading our encyclopedia’s article which confessed the obvious: “No reliance can be placed on the long and fictitious account in the fourteenth-century forgery which is published under the name of Ingulf of Croyland.” 9 “Of course we can’t place reliance on a forgery. It’s a fake, a planned deception,” I said with some heat. “If those doctrines the forgers wrote about were true and had genuine documents, the Church would not have to create forgeries to lie about the doctrines originating with the apostles.” “And did you notice when that forgery was made?” Mr. Babbitt asked, wanting me to detect something else. I had noticed and I replied without looking. “The fourteenth-century. Just as Mr. Stevens told that huge audience, forgeries were made by the authority of the Catholic Church even until the present time.” Our Catholic Encyclopedia’s admissions tore my mind like tiger’s claws. I knew, from our own authorized encyclopedia, I could no longer retain my former, and much desired, image of an honest Church. “Gary, I found so many more admitted forgeries I could show you, and no doubt a great many more remain in these volumes I did not come across. After all, I could not very well read the entire encyclopedia in five days you know. But, there is one more you should see, and a prominent one it is. Even the Catholic Encyclopedia declares it a ‘huge forgery’.” 10 I read the words in utter dismay. Nowadays everyone agrees that these so-called papal letters are forgeries. These documents, to the number of about one hundred, appeared suddenly in the ninth century. 11 “A hundred!” My wide eyes glared at Mr. Babbitt. “This guy snuck 100 forged documents into the Church! And he was just one forger!” Mr. Babbitt simply nodded his head as though I was about to find out more. And I did. Isidore owed much to the “Liber Pontificalis,” or chronicle of the popes. Thus when the “Liber” tells us that such a pope issued such a decree long since lost, the forger noted the fact and set to work to invent a decree for his collection along the lines hinted at by the “Liber.” 11 “What a con-man!” I grumbled with disgust. “Whenever this fella read about an ancient document being lost, that sneak wrote one up and made it to say that the pope of that earlier day had declared whatever the forger now wanted taught. And just think, he wrote a hundred of these, and the Church used these for their doctrines!” There was even more. During the Middle Ages… it was not easy to distinguish genuine documents from apocryphal ones.… It must be admitted that Isidore’s forgeries increased the difficulty till it became almost insurmountable.… And, as a consequence, the Middle Ages knew very little concerning the historical growth of the rights of the papacy during those first centuries. 11 “Doctrinal chaos! That’s what it was!” I cried to Mr. Babbitt. “When all those forgeries that couldn’t be distinguished from the genuine decrees of the popes were all shuffled together, the Church didn’t know which doctrines were true and which were false. What a fine mess!” “Indeed. And did you also notice what the encyclopedia itself admits?” Mr. Babbitt interjected. “Because of that confusion, the church, during the several centuries of the Middle Ages, knew next to nothing about the previous centuries’ struggle and rise to universal power of the bishop of Rome to the office of pope.” “Yeah,” I responded as I hand-slapped the table. “It all fits together. In that debate-book you loaned me, Mr. Campbell presented to Bishop Purcell the historical fact that there was no pope until around the year 600, and that there had been a long power-struggle to see who would be the first pope. So, during the Middle Ages, the encyclopedia points out, the Church would not have known about all that. Therefore, sometime during the Middle Ages, when the church was finally set up with the pope and his supporting hierarchy, the Church would then assume there had always been a pope! Then, in an attempt to prove the papacy with the Bible, they twisted Matthew 16: 18 into saying what it does not say. And so the laity and probably most of the clergy have believed in a succession of popes back to Peter ever sense. But it’s false as false can be!” “Gary, I am sorry….” I stopped him with an upraised hand. “Mr. Babbitt, you’re not the one who needs to do the apologizing. But most of those who do are already dead.” “Well then,” he said with visual relief, “let us now look at what the Catholic Encyclopedia specifically admits about that list of popes.” “Yes, let’s,” I replied through my agony. “Do you remember…” He paused. “Well, here. Look at it again.” He reached for the navy-blue Stevens-Beevers debate and quickly relocated Stevens’ chart on forgeries. “In his list of ‘Notable Examples’ is the ‘Liber Pontificalis.’ The Liber Pontificialis is Catholicism’s most prestigious list of the popes. Actually, the Catholic Encyclopedia esteems it with unsurpassed honor.” He selected a volume and located the page. My eyes followed his extended finger down onto the page to where he pointed. The “Liber Pontificalis,” long accepted as an authority of the highest value, is now acknowledged to have been originally composed at the beginning of the fifth century.” 12 “It’s just as Mr. Stevens said. It’s unsurpassed in its authority, and it’s a forgery,” I concurred. Then Mr. Babbitt floored me. “Actually, the Liber Pontificalis is the very list of popes upon which today’s list is based.” Flabbergasted, I forgot about the quiet confines of a library and bellowed, “Wow! If the Liber Pontificalis is the highest authority on the list of popes, and if the Liber Pontificalis is a forgery, then today’s list is the result of a hoax of the fifth century.” “You are getting it, but tone it down. Remember, we are in a library. Now add to that what the article, ‘Book of the Popes,’ tells you.” My eager eyes searched the text for pertinent information. I soon found it. A great many of the biographies [in the Liber Pontificalis] of the predecessors of Anastasius II [pope, 496-498] are… historically untenable…. Liber Pontificalis utilized also [in addition to the unreliable Liberian Catalogue13]… a number of apocryphal fragments (e.g. the Pseudo-Clementine Recognitions)… the spurious Acts of the alleged Synod of 275 bishops under Sylvester etc., and from unauthentic sources…. 14 “Mr. Babbitt, I am not familiar with some of those words like ‘untenable’ and ‘apocryphal.’ Could you help me out?” “Certainly. ‘Untenable’ means not able to be defended. ‘Apocryphal’ means the authenticity is doubtful. ‘Spurious’ means not genuine, and ‘pseudo’ refers to something that appears to be what it is not, and that example, the Pseudo-Clementine Recognitions, is now admitted by Catholicism as a huge forgery as the word ‘pseudo’ indicates. I reread the encyclopedia as I inserted those definitions. “Mr. Babbitt!” I whispered with force. I was fuming. “The Liber Pontificalis is a collection of junk! Some guy—no telling who he was or what kind of a fella he was—in the 5th century gathered up forgeries and all kinds of worthless and phony writings, wove them together, and then passed off the work as a genuine authority. Then its list of popes was gullibly accepted as genuine by the Church in the Middle Ages during the time, as one of these volumes you showed me admitted, ‘knew very little concerning the historical growth of the rights of the papacy during those first centuries.’ So, when the world knew nothing about there being no universal bishop for the first few centuries, the Church made a forgery to get everyone to believe that there had always been a pope. The list is a sham! It’s a monstrous cover-up for a list of popes that does not exist!”” (Gary Henson, The Ivory Domino, 3572-3711 (Kindle Edition); Charleston, AR; Cobb Publishing)
How appropriate it is, in the light of all these things, to notice this interesting tidbit of information.
The Bible continually warns Christians about “antichrist” (cf. 1 John 2:18, 22; 4:3; 2 John 7). The Greek proposition translated “anti” can mean both “opposed to” and “in place of.” Consider that with the following information.
“The Latin equivalent of the Greek “anti” is “vicarius,” from which comes “vicar.” Thus “vicar of Christ” literally means Antichrist. Although the Roman Catholic popes have called themselves vicar of Christ for centuries, they were not the first to do so, but inherited that title from Constantine (see below)…. While heading the Christian church, Constantine continued to head the pagan priesthood, to officiate at pagan celebrations, tions, and to endow pagan temples even after he began to build Christian churches. As head of the pagan priesthood he was the Pontifex Maximus and needed a similar title as head of the Christian church. The Christians honored him as “Bishop of Bishops,” while Constantine called himself Vicarius Christi, Vicar of Christ. He meant that he was “another Christ” acting in the place of Christ. When translated into Greek, however, as we have seen, Vicarius Christi literally means Antichrist.”(Dave Hunt, A Woman Rides the Beast: Roman Catholic Church and the Last Days, 417-431 (Kindle Edition); Eugene, Oregon; Harvest House Publishers)
Antichrist=Vicar Of Christ (i.e., the Pope).
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen.