The word antichrist, first mentioned in 1 John 2:18, is the compound Greek word antichristos. “Anti” means “in opposition to,” or, “in place of” and “Christ” means “anointed.” Consequently, in order to understand who anti-Christ is — those who take “a position in place of Christ”— we need to determine who the real “Anointed” is.
Clearly, Jesus was “anointed” with the holy spirit at his baptism. (Matthew 3:16) Redeemed followers of Jesus, who also receive the anointing of the holy spirit, are considered part of Christ’s body (I Corinthians 12:12). Therefore, Christ is composed of the head, Jesus, and His body members, spirit-begotten followers of Jesus.
The antichrist has a parallel structure. It is a group of people with a leader and many members who follow that leader. Historically, Christian believers have identified the Catholic Church as the Antichrist (see the forward to the King James Bible where antichrist is linked to the man of sin and Popish Persons). The Catholic Church, through the Pope, teaches that to receive forgiveness and salvation, a priest is necessary to sacrifice Christ at the altar in the Mass. They teach that every person must eat the body and blood of Jesus at the mass, do penance, and be forgiven of a priest.
This doctrine of the mass is completely false. Jesus died once. His offering was completely finished and accepted by God. Hebrews 10:10, 12 (NKJV), “…we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all…But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God”. We do not need a priest for salvation.
Pope Boniface VIII decreed, “We declare, say, define, pronounce it necessary to salvation for every human creature to be subject to the Roman pontiff.” St. Bernard wrote, “none except God is like the pope, either in heaven or on earth.” Popes Innocent and Jacobatius state that “the pope can do nearly all that God can do…”
Today, some believe that the Catholic Church has changed, but Papacy always claims that its doctrines are unchangeable; that the decrees of its popes and councils are infallible.
Between 800-1800 AD, the Catholic Church persecuted hundreds of thousands of people. Non-Catholics were tortured, brutally murdered, and burned at the stake. This is the fiendishness of the antichrist.
Francisco Ribera (1537–1591), a Spanish Jesuit theologian, changed the historical interpretation of antichrist as the papacy and the Catholic Church. In response to the Protestant Reformation, Ribera said the antichrist was a single man. He wrote a lengthy (500 page) commentary in 1585 on the Book of Revelation proposing that the first few chapters of Revelation apply to ancient pagan Rome. The rest of Revelation was limited to 3 1/2 years immediately prior to the second coming.
Many Christians today have forgotten the brutal murders and tortures conducted by the Catholic Church and have accepted Ribera's interpretation. We must strongly disagree with this rewrite of history.
For a detailed study about the antichrist, download the free PDF: "Can We Identify Antichrist?"