Chapter 2- The Action
ARTICLE I-CONTEST AND POLITICAL SWAY OF ANTICHRIST
1. Antichrist Begins to Manifest Himself to the Jews
Antichrist, being a Jew, will be circumcised; he will observe the Mosaic Law, and finally he will give himself for the Messiah whom Israel still expects, and he will be received by those whose names are not written in the Book of Life, in the Book of the Lamb. (Apoc. 13:8). Hence Our Lord thus reproaches the Jews, "I am come in the name of my Father, and you receive me not; if another shall come in his own name, him you will receive." Jn. 5:43). St. Irenaeus, St. Hilary, St. Ambrose, St. Augustine, St. Jerome, and St. Damascus are of opinion that Our Lord makes allusion in this passage to Antichrist.
2. He Achieves the Conquest of the World and Makes Jerusalem its Capital
Antichrist will naturally meet with obstacles in carrying out his designs. The ten kings, who, according to the prophet Daniel and St. John, will have divided the Roman empire among them, shall endeavor to conserve the independence of their realms and consequently will resist him with fire and sword. "I considered," says the prophet, "the horns, and behold another little horn sprung out of the midst of them, and three of the first horns were plucked up at the sight thereof. . . And these ten horns shall be ten kings, and another shall rise up after them, and he shall be mightier than the former, and he shall bring down three kings." (Dan. 7:8 & 24). "He shall take possession of the land; Egypt will not escape his power. . . he shall pass into Libya and Ethiopia." (Dan. 11 :42-43). St. Jerome has left us the interpretation of the Fathers, which is corroborated by all ecclesiastical writers who have since treated the question. At the end of the world. after the destruction of the empire, ten kings will divide among them the fragments of the Roman empire; then an eleventh king will enter the scene and conquer three of their number: the king of Egypt, the king of Africa, and the king of Ethiopia. After their death, the remaining seven laid their scepters at the conqueror's feet. (Dan. 7 [esp. 24-25]).
It seems that he will probably be defeated by certain people of the Western nations, who will give him a naval battle, people whom Daniel calls "Romans." (11:30). But he will soon recover from this defeat. St. Irenaeus and St. Hippolytus of Antioch concur with St. Jerome in the same opinion, which gives this interpretation of the prophet a theological certitude. When Antichrist shall have conquered all his enemies, power shall be given him over all tribes, peoples, languages, and nations; he will be the first Jew to reign over the whole world. When he shall find himself master of the world, he will choose for his capital the city in which Our Lord was crucified. (Apoc. 11 :8). If he did otherwise. he would fail to make the Jews receive him for the Messiah since their hearts will be fixed on terrestrial glory and Jerusalem, in their esteem, must be the sojourn of the Messiah.
ARTICLE II-CONTEST AND RELIGIOUS SWAY OF ANTICHRIST
1. He Declares Himself to be God and Desires to Establish His Religion Throughout the World
"And they adored the beast, saying, who is like to the beast? and who shall be able to fight with him?" (Apoc. 13 :4).
All vile parasites of fortune, astonished at the rapidity with which Antichrist achieves his conquests and also at the unlimited sway of his power, deceived by his prodigies, will prostrate themselves before him and adore him as their god. As soon as he believes himself master of the bodies and souls of all peoples, he will decree and proclaim his divinity and establish a new religion. According to the Apostle, he will lift himself up above all that is called God or that is worshipped, so that he sitteth in the temple of God showing himself as if he were God. (2 Thes. 2:4). He will command all peoples to place his statue in the public places to be worshipped, the image of the beast whose wound was healed. (Apoc. 13 :13-15). "He will sit in the temple of God showing himself as if he were God." (2 Thes. 2:4). This temple is probably that of Jerusalem, which he will have rebuilt and in which he will have divine honors paid to him. (Damascus, Book 4, Ch. 37). It is then, according to the prophecy of Daniel and in full force of the term, that the abomination of desolation shall be in the temple, seated in the holy place. (Dan. 9:27). Then he shall think himself able to change times and laws - religious, political, and sacred - by which the world had been governed up to his advent. (Dan. 7:25). Although he will make himself the object of idolatrous worship, he himself will adore a god called Moazim, ignored by his ancestors, and he will load this idol with gold and precious stones. (Dan. 11:38-39).
Our Lord Jesus Christ as man adored His Father. Antichrist will adore his father, Satan, principal author of his power. As for the moral of his religion, we are permitted to believe that he will eliminate from it whatever is painful to corrupt human nature, so that he may more easily gain men over to his party. (Suarez et Bellarm.)
2. His Apostles
In order to propagate his religion, he will send out missionaries to all parts of the world, as Our Saviour sent His Apostles to preach His doctrine. Among the false prophets, there will most probably be one more illustrious than the others, as St. Ambrose remarks. (in Apoc.). St. John describes him as follows: "And I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns, like a lamb, and he spoke as a dragon." (Apoc. 13:11). And in another passage he seems to point out three different persons: "And I saw from the mouth of the dragon, and from the mouth of the beast, and from the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits like frogs." (Apoc. 16:13). The dragon, the beast, and the false prophet signify Satan, Antichrist, and the principal apostle of Antichrist. These three different beings command all the other demons. In the work of our redemption, the three divine persons of the adorable Trinity manifested themselves. The Son adores the Father; the Holy Ghost gives glory to the Son. And we see that in the mystery of iniquity Antichrist adores Satan and the false prophet glorifies Antichrist. Hence we have every reason to show that this false prophet will be an individual person and not a collective term to designate the universality of preachers engaged in the service of Antichrist. We can even assert that he will not be a king, nor a general of an army, but a clever apostate, fallen from the episcopal dignity. From being an apostle of the Gospel he will become the first preacher of the false messiah. These conjectures are not devoid of much plausibility. (Acosta, Book 2, Ch. 16). Antichrist will communicate his power of working miracles to others, who will go into different countries and cities to gain new proselytes by all the human and diabolical means in their power. (Acosta, 2, 16). It is thus that the words of Our Lord will be fulfilled. "For there shall rise up false Christs and false prophets, and they shall show signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, event the elect. Take ye heed, therefore. Behold I have foretold you all things." (Mk. 13:22-23). "And then if any man shall say to you: Lo, here is Christ; 10, he is here, do not believe. . . he is in the desert, go ye not out." (Mat. 24:23-26). Benighted apostles who will indeed turn away from truth! (2 Tim. 4:4). They blaspheme the majesty of God and despise all true authority. "Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their confusion, wandering stars to whom the storm of darkness is reserved forever." (Jude 1:13). "Fountains without water and clouds tossed with whirlwinds, to whom the midst of darkness is reserved." (2 Pet. 2:17).
Antichrist will furthermore make all men, great and small, rich and poor, freemen and bondmen, bear a sign on their right arm or on their forehead. (Apoc. 13 :16). What this sign shall be time alone will reveal. Yet there are some commentators of Holy Writ, who, according to a special revelation, pretend to say that it shall be formed out of the Greek letters X and P, interlaced like a figure which resembles the number of Christ. (Cornelius a Lapide in Epis. 2 to Thes.]
No one can either buy or sell without this mark, as distinctly specified in the Apocalypse (13:17). And that no man might buy or sell but he that had the character or the name of the beast or the number of his name." None but adorers of this new god can enjoy the possession of riches or honors. This god shall increase their glory and shall give them power over many and shall divide the land for nothing. (Apoc. 13:7).
2. Religious Persecution of Antichrist
I. Gog and Magog
Those who will refuse to obey his impious orders shall be the object of a terrible and universal persecution. Gog and Magog shall be let loose; they shall come upon the "breath of the earth and encompass the camp of the saints and the beloved city." (Apoc. 20:8). What do these names mean? The Jews pretend that Gog will be Antichrist and Magog the northern people. "At the coming of the Messiah, they shall enter Palestine and lay waste the country to such an extent that the unfortunate citizens will be obliged to 'burn for fuel the handles of the lances and shields left on the battlefield. But these misfortunes once over, the golden age shall revive." This Thalmudic interpretation of Ezechiel (38) given by St. Jerome cannot be questioned. Some other ecclesiastical writers, notably Eusebius (Book 3, Hist., c. ult.) and Lactance (Book c. 44, 25), place the battle of Gog and Magog a thousand years after the death of Antichrist. During those thousand years, Jesus Christ will reign with the saints in this world in the midst of infidels, if not converted at least subjugated. At the lapse of that time Gog and Magog shall appear on the scene and wage a bloody war against the saints. This war shall be closely followed by the end of the world and the last judgment. This is, as may be easily seen, the error of the millennium which has long since been refuted by the Fathers St. Augustine, St. Jerome, and many others. It is probable that Gog and Magog mean Antichrist's combat against the Church. According to Bellarmine, Gog will be Antichrist himself and Magog will be his army. Because Ezechiel always designates Gog as a leader and Magog as a region (Ezech. 38-39), Magog, it is true, is regarded as being the Sythian nation. In Genesis (10:2) the second son of Japeth is said to have borne this name, and the country in which he settled was naturally called after him, and this country, according to Josephus, is Scythia. In employing this term to designate the army of Antichrist, we are led to infer that the men composing it will be orientals, or what seems more plausible, that his soldiers will possess all the brutality of those barbarous people.