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The Apocalyptic Vision of “Lord of the World”

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Rev. C. John McCloskey - published on 05/31/15 - updated on 06/07/17



The Antichrist’s deception already begins to take shape in the world every time the claim is made to realize within history that messianic hope which can only be realized beyond history through the eschatological judgment. The Church has rejected even modified forms of this falsification of the kingdom to come under the name of millenarianism, especially the "intrinsically perverse" political form of a secular messianism.

The word Antichrist itself only occurs in the Johannine epistles, although the person himself is alluded to or hinted at in the Apocalypse, in the Pauline epistles, and less explicitly in the Gospels and the book of Daniel in the Old Testament. However, biblical writers sometimes refer to any enemy—including heretics of Christ and his doctrine—as Antichrist. St. Paul writes most clearly about the Antichrist and the events surrounding his coming in 2 Thessalonians, especially 2:3-10. The Pauline doctrine is that "the day of the Lord" will be preceded by a "revolt" and the revelation of the "man of sin." The latter will sit in the temple, as though he were God; he will work signs and wonders by Satan’s power; he will "seduce those who received not the love of truth, that they might be saved," but "the Lord Jesus shall kill will with the spirit of his mouth, and destroy him with the brightness of his coming."

When are we to look for his coming? We are told that "the day of the Lord" will be preceded by a "revolt"; this apostasy is an outcome of the great apostasy, which already "worketh." Many commentators have found more or less clear allusions to the Antichrist in the coming of false Christs and false prophets in all the four gospels (Matt 24:24; Mark13:6, 22; Luke 21:8), particularly in the "abomination of Jerusalem" and in the reference to him that "shall come in his own name" (John 5:43).

I am, of course, drawing from traditional Catholic teaching regarding the events leading up to the Second Coming rather than to the hundreds of theories concerning the Antichrist, the Second Coming, and the Final Judgment that have multiplied in the thousands of Protestant denominations and sects whose authority is suspect at best and ludicrous at worst, given the absence of apostolic authority and divine foundation.

Blessed John Henry Newman says towards the end of the "Patristical Idea of Christ" that:

What I have said upon this subject may be summed up as follows: that the coming of Christ will be immediately preceded by a very awful and unparalleled outbreak of evil, called by St. Paul an Apostasy, a falling away, in the midst of which a certain terrible Man of sin and Child of perdition, the special and singular enemy of Christ, or Antichrist, will appear; that this will be when revolutions prevail, and the present framework of society breaks to pieces; and that at present the spirit which he will embody and represent is kept under by "the powers that be," but that on their dissolution, he will rise out of their bosom and knit them together again in his own evil way, under his own rule, to the exclusion of the Church.

These instances give us warning: Is the enemy of Christ, and His Church, to arise out of a certain special falling away from GOD? And is there no reason to fear that some such Apostasy is gradually preparing, gathering, hastening on in this very day? For is there not at this very time a special effort made almost all over the world, that is, every here and there, more or less in sight or out of sight, in this or that place, but most visibly or formidably in its most civilized and powerful parts, an effort to do without Religion? Is there not an opinion avowed and growing, that a nation has nothing to do with Religion; that it is merely a matter for each man’s own conscience? Which is all one with saying that we may let the Truth fail from the earth without trying to continue it in and on after our time. Is there not a vigorous and united movement in all countries to cast down the Church of Christ from power and place? Is there not a feverish and ever-busy endeavor to get rid of the necessity of Religion in public transactions? … An attempt to educate without Religion? —that is, by putting all forms of Religion together, which comes to the same thing… An attempt to make
expedience, and not
truth, the end and the rule of measures of State and the enactments of Law? An attempt to make numbers, and not the Truth, the ground of maintaining, or not maintaining, this or that creed, as if we had any reason whatever in Scripture for thinking that the many will be in the right, and the few in the wrong? … An attempt to supersede Religion altogether, as far as it is external or objective, as far as it is displayed in ordinances, or can be expressed by written words — to confine it to our inward feelings, and thus, considering how variable, how evanescent our feelings are, an attempt, in fact, to destroy Religion?

Surely, there is at this day a confederacy of evil, marshaling its hosts from all parts of the world, organizing itself, taking its measures, enclosing the Church of Christ as in a net, and preparing the way for a general Apostasy from it. Whether this very Apostasy is to give birth to Antichrist, or whether he is still to be delayed, as he has already been delayed so long, we cannot know; but at any rate this Apostasy, and all its tokens and instruments, are of the Evil One, and savior of death… He promises you illumination, he offers you knowledge, science, philosophy, enlargement of mind. He scoffs at times gone by; he scoffs at every institution that reveres them. He prompts you what to say, and then listens to you, and praises you, and encourages you. He bids you mount aloft. He shows you how to become as gods. Then he laughs and jokes with you, and gets intimate with you; he takes your hand, and gets his fingers between yours, and grasps them, and then you are his."

Surely these words resonate with us today. For what Newman describes as the social and religious situation of his times and their presaging of the Second Coming sounds eerily like our own, except that we have had time to become even more decayed—morality ever more decaying as the worship of Science and Technology grows. Indeed there has been and continues to be a mass apostasy from the Church in the West (Europe and the Americas). Simply said, the West, Christendom, or Christian civilization has been steadily declining from the High Middle Ages up to our time, with peaks and valleys, while, of course, the Faith and its Saints perdures.

Indeed apart from technological growth for which we are deeply grateful, generally there has been decline in the arts, family life, public and private morality, and entertainment. In addition there have been hundreds of millions dead in the last century through horrific wars, plus the deadly plagues of contraception, abortion, and euthanasia. Such gloom may seem overly alarmist. However, perhaps a quotation from former President Bill Clinton will sum up contemporary allegiances: "I want unlimited scientific discovery and I want unlimited applications. We want to live forever and we are getting there."

Lord of the World is set in a distant future that is now our past. The latest date mentioned in the fictional prologue of the book is 1989, placing the events of the book more or less around the millennial year 2000, which in actuality was a Jubilee year of great celebration for the Church and a conduit for indulgences. For Catholics the transition to the new millennium was a "Crossing the Threshold of Hope," as Blessed Pope John Paul the Great put it in his book of the same name. However, the years approaching 2000 were full of apocalyptic fears, including a (now almost forgotten) Y2K change of date computer scare that amounted to nothing.

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