The word antichrist comes untranslated from the compound Greek word antichristos; “anti” meaning "in opposition to,” or, “in place of” and “Christ” meaning "anointed." Consequently, in order to understand what anti-Christ means —“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. (Matt. 3:16) Redeemed followers of Jesus, who also receive the anointing of the holy spirit, are considered part of Christ's body (I Cor. 12:12). Therefore, Christ is composed of the head, Jesus, and His body members, spirit-begotten followers of Jesus. However, these members are not now reigning (I Cor. 4:8) These body members are suffering now (Matt. 16:24). Yet the scriptures promise that Christ will reign (with His church) over the nations for 1,000 years (Rev. 20:3).
The antichrist has a parallel structure. It is a group of people with a leader and many members who follow that leader. Our Lord warned that many false Christs would come (Matt. 24:24) Of greatest importance is the fact that 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. Pope Boniface VIII decreed, "We declare, say, define, pronounce it necessary to salvation for every human creature to be subject to the Roman pontiff." Ferraris' Ecclesiastical Dictionary, a standard Roman Catholic authority, under papal power, article 2 reads, " the pope is crowned with a triple crown, as king of heaven, of earth, and of hell…he occupies one and the same tribunal with Christ; so that whatsoever the pope does seems to proceed from the mouth of God…The pope is, as it were, God on earth…" Popes Innocent and Jacobatius state that "the pope can do nearly all that God can do,…" Today, some say that the Catholic Church has changed, but it is the constant claim of Papacy that its doctrines are unchangeable; that the decrees of its popes and councils are infallible.
Additionally, the Catholic Church teaches they reigned a 1,000 years as the Holy Roman Empire from 800 to 1800AD. During this period, hundreds of thousands of non-Catholics were tortured, brutally murdered, and burned at the stake. This was certainly not Christ's kingdom!
Feeling the sting of Protestant criticism regarding “antichrist,” Francisco Ribera (1537–1591) a Spanish Jesuit theologian, from the University of Salamanca sought to remove the papacy and the Catholic Church from consideration as the Antichrist (as an act of countering the Protestant Reformation). Ribera began writing a lengthy (500 page) commentary in 1585 on the Book of Revelation (Apocalypse) titled In Sacrum Beati Ioannis Apostoli, & Evangelistiae Apocalypsin Commentarij, proposing that the first few chapters of the Apocalypse apply to ancient pagan Rome, and the rest he limited to a yet future period of 3½ literal years, immediately prior to the second coming. Among many Christians today variations of Ribera’s thesis have been accepted. We must strongly disagree with this rewrite of history.