Joseph Pronechen is staff writer with the National Catholic Register since 2005 and before that a regular correspondent for the paper. His articles have appeared in a number of national publications including Columbia magazine, Soul, Faith and Family, Catholic Digest, and Marian Helper. His religion features have also appeared in Fairfield County Catholic and in major newspapers. He is the author of Fruits of Fatima — Century of Signs and Wonders. He holds a graduate degree and formerly taught English and courses in film study that he developed at a Catholic high school in Connecticut. Joseph and his wife Mary reside on the East Coast.
When we look at what’s going in the world, we would do well to turn away from secular La-La Land’s vision and see what just a sample of major saints, including several Doctors of the Church, had to say about latter times. Of course, we keep in mind that only God knows the actual timetable.
Heading the list are three who knew Jesus directly.
St. John the Evangelist told us, “Whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Whoever denies the Father and the Son, this is the antichrist” (1John 2:22).
In 2 Thessalonians 2:3-12, St. Paul made it clear:
Let no one deceive you in any way. For unless the apostasy comes first and the lawless one is revealed, the one doomed to perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god and object of worship, so as to seat himself in the temple of God, claiming that he is a god...But the one who restrains is to do so only for the present, until he is removed from the scene. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord [Jesus] will kill with the breath of his mouth and render powerless by the manifestation of his coming, the one whose coming springs from the power of Satan in every mighty deed and in signs and wonders that lie, and in every wicked deceit for those who are perishing because they have not accepted the love of truth so that they may be saved. Therefore, God is sending them a deceiving power so that they may believe the lie, that all who have not believed the truth but have approved wrongdoing may be condemned.”
And of course, St. Matthew recording the words of Jesus on this in Matthew 24:15-27.
Catechism Weighs In
Before we look at a few more saints, remember the Catechism takes away the distorted glasses through which we might want to look at today’s reality. In 675,
“Before Christ's second coming the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers. The persecution that accompanies her pilgrimage on earth will unveil the ‘mystery of iniquity’ in the form of a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth. The supreme religious deception is that of the Antichrist, a pseudo-messianism by which man glorifies himself in place of God and of his Messiah come in the flesh.”
In 677, “The Church will enter the glory of the kingdom only through this final Passover, when she will follow her Lord in his death and Resurrection. The kingdom will be fulfilled, then, not by a historic triumph of the Church through a progressive ascendancy, but only by God's victory over the final unleashing of evil, which will cause his Bride to come down from heaven. God's triumph over the revolt of evil will take the form of the Last Judgement after the final cosmic upheaval of this passing world.”
Doctors of the Church
According to St. Thomas Aquinas, "As in Christ dwells the fullness of the Godhead so in Antichrist the fullness of all wickedness. Not indeed in the sense that his humanity is to be assumed by the devil into unity of person...but that the devil by suggestion infuses his wickedness more copiously into him than into all others. In this way all the wicked that have gone before are signs of Antichrist."
His works will not be what they seem to be, explained Aquinas. "(His miracles may be) said to be real just as Pharaoh's magicians made real frogs, but they will not be real miracles because they will be done by the power of natural causes."
"But his miracles will be lies. No one can perform a true miracle against the faith, because God is not a witness of falsity. Hence, no one preaching a false doctrine can work miracles..."
Another major doctor, St. Augustine, told us, “That which there is no doubt he said is this, that Christ will not come to judge quick and dead unless Antichrist, His adversary, first come to seduce those who are dead in soul...[H]is presence shall be after the working of Satan, with all power, and signs, and lying wonders, and with all seduction of unrighteousness in them that perish. For then shall Satan be loosed, and by means of that Antichrist shall work with all power in a lying though a wonderful manner.”
Between these two came 8th century St. John Damascene, likewise stating: “During the first part of his reign — of his tyranny rather — he plays more the part of sanctity; but when he gains complete control, he persecutes the Church of God and reveals all his wickedness. ‘And he shall come in signs and lying wonders’ — sham ones and not real — and he shall seduce those whose intention rests on a rotten and unstable foundation and make them abandon the living God, ‘in as much as to scandalize (if possible) even the elect…’”
One of the recently named Doctors, St. Hildegard of Bingen, had plenty to reveal about the Antichrist. These are just a few details:
“After the birth of Antichrist heretics will preach their false doctrines undisturbed, resulting in Christians having doubts about their holy Catholic faith.”
“After his birth false teachers and doctrines will appear, followed by wars, famines, and pestilence. His mother will seldom let anyone see him, and yet by magic art, she will manage to gain the love of the people for him.”
“When he has grown to full manhood he will publicly announce a hostile doctrine on religion. He will lure and attract the people to himself by granting them complete exemption from the observance of all divine and ecclesiastical commandments, by forgiving them their sins and requiring of them only their belief in his divinity. He will spurn and reject baptism and the gospel. He will open his mouth to preach contradiction. He will say, ‘Jesus of Nazareth is not the son of God, only a deceiver who gave himself out as God; and the Church instituted by him is only superstition.’ The true Christ has come in his person. He will say, ‘I am the Saviour of the world.’
He will grant entire freedom from the commandments of God and the Church and permit everyone to live as his passions dictate. By doing so he hopes to be acknowledged by the people as deliverer from the yoke, and as the cause of prosperity in the world. Religion he will endeavor to make convenient. He will say that you need not fast and embitter your life by renunciation...It will suffice to love God…He will preach free love and tear asunder family ties. He will scorn everything holy, and he will ridicule all graces of the Church with devilish mockery. He will condemn humility and foster proud and gruesome dogmas. He will tear down that which God has taught in the Old and New Testament and maintain sin and vice are not sin and vice…”
“He will ally himself with the kings, the princes and the powerful ones of the earth; he will condemn humility and will extol all the doctrines of pride. His magic art will feign the most astonishing prodigies…”
Fathers of the Church
The early Father of the Church offered great insights too. St. Hippolytus described how “the deceiver seeks to liken himself in all things to the Son of God. Christ is a lion, so Antichrist is also a lion; Christ is a king, so Antichrist is also a king. The Saviour was manifested as a lamb (John 1:29); so he too, in like manner, will appear as a lamb, though within he is a wolf. The Saviour came into the World in the circumcision, and he will come in the same manner. The Lord sent apostles among all the nations, and he in like manner will send false apostles. The Saviour gathered together the sheep that were scattered abroad, and he in like manner will bring together a people that is scattered abroad. The Lord gave a seal to those who believed on Him, and he will give one like manner…”
St. Irenaeus gave these details, among them:
“[H]e, being an apostate and a robber, is anxious to be adored as God; and that, although a mere slave, he wishes himself to be proclaimed as a king. For he (Antichrist) being endued with all the power of the devil, shall come, not as a righteous king, nor as a legitimate king, [i.e., one] in subjection to God, but an impious, unjust, and lawless one; as an apostate, iniquitous and murderous; as a robber, concentrating in himself [all] satanic apostasy, and setting aside idols to persuade [men] that he himself is God, raising up himself as the only idol, having in himself the multifarious errors of the other idols. This he does, in order that they who do [now] worship the devil by means of many abominations, may serve himself by this one idol, of whom the apostle thus speaks in the second Epistle to the Thessalonians…there shall come a failing away first, and the man of sin shall be revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he sits in the temple of God, showing himself as if he were God.”
“As Christ, the Lord also declares: ‘But when you shall see the abomination of desolation, which has been spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let him that reads understand), then let those who are in Judea flee into the mountains; and he who is upon the house-top, let him not come down to take anything out of his house: for there shall then be great hardship, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, nor ever shall be.’”
“The Lord also spoke as follows to those who did not believe in Him: ‘I have come in my Father's name, and you have not received Me: when another shall come in his own name, him you will receive’ (John 5:43) calling Antichrist the other, because he is alienated from the Lord.”
Irenaeus pointed out the Angel Gabriel said in Daniel 12:7 his tyranny will last three years and six months.
Saints and Mystics
The early centuries through the 21st century have their saints who were given insights or revelations by God about the Antichrist and end times.
In the 14th century, St. Bridget of Sweden said, “The time of Antichrist will be near when the measure of injustice will overflow and when wickedness has grown to immense proportions, when the Christians love heresies and the unjust trample underfoot the servants of God…and…tread spirituality and justice under foot.”
“[T]his should be the sign that Antichrist shall come without delay.”
In the early 19th century, Bl. Anne-Catherine Emmerich saw, “When the time of the reign of Antichrist is near, a false religion will appear which will be opposed to the unity of God and His Church. This will cause the greatest schism the world has ever known. The nearer the time of the end, the more the darkness of Satan will spread on earth, the greater will be the number of the children of corruption, and the number of the just will correspondingly diminish…”
Pope Saints Weigh In
By early in the 20th century Pope St. Pius X saw society already suffering a terrible sickness — “this disease is—apostasy from God.” And man putting himself in the place of God “is the distinguishing mark of Antichrist…raising himself above all that is called God.”
Late in the century, in 1976, in Philadelphia for the Eucharistic Congress, while still Cardinal Wojtyla, St. John Paul II warned: "We are now standing in the face of the greatest historical confrontation humanity has ever experienced. I do not think that the wide circle of the American Society, or the whole wide circle of the Christian Community realize this fully. We are now facing the final confrontation between the Church and the anti-church, between the gospel and the anti-gospel, between Christ and the antichrist. The confrontation lies within the plans of Divine Providence. It is, therefore, in God's Plan, and it must be a trial which the Church must take up, and face courageously..."
In the 19th Century, Bl. Anna Maria Taigi revealed: “Whole nations will join the Church shortly before the reign of the Antichrist. These conversions will be amazing. Those who survive shall have to conduct themselves well. There shall be innumerable conversions of heretics, who will return to the bosom of the Church; all will note the edifying conduct of their lives, as well as that of other Catholics. Russia, England and China will come into the Church…”
Next, we’ll look at some saints’ hopeful answers for meeting these times.