Towards Understanding Revelation


Good morning! We are still in the Middle Ages, and the material is still coming from VISIONS OF THE END: APOCALYPTIC TRADITIONS IN THE MIDDLE AGES by Bernard McGinn from 1979.

We are in the middle of the Middle Ages at this point, about 600 years before the Renaissance. The Carolingian period is mentioned in several excerpts; it takes its name from Charlemagne who began ruling as king of the Franks in 741. In 800 the Roman Pope crowned him emperor, and he then considered himself king of the Holy Roman Empire (which was thought of as the continuation of Rome and extended at that point from France to eastern Europe and northern Italy).  The Carolingian period ended in 888, though the title of Holy Roman Emperor lingered on as the Catholic Church in Rome strove to hold on to power, and the Carolingian family continued to rule part of France with the last Carolingian descendant dying in 1122. In Europe, the middle ages is considered to have begun with Charlemagne’s reign. 

Meanwhile, in the East, they were identifying themselves as the continuation of Rome under what became known as the Byzantine Empire. While the Holy Roman Empire was conducting official business in Latin, the Byzantines were doing that in Greek. The Byzantines were also much less consolidated, which is why there are multiple Orthodox Churches, i.e. Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, etc. Both the East and West, of course, started out with similar beliefs, but gradually moved apart, and in 1054 they each officially declared the other to be heretical in what is known as the East-West Schism. (If you want more history, see the Sources page for a couple of online sites of more in-depth history.)

So with that historical background, the first excerpt gives a small overview on the thoughts about the Antichrist over the previous 400 years:

“…speculation on the Antichrist had remained popular both in the East and the West during the centuries from A.D. 500 to 900. The corporate interpretation of the Last Enemy was common, with the Antichrist usually being identified with heretics or sometimes with the Jews. Belief in a final individual Antichrist was also known. The new life given to learning, education and theology in the Carolingian period inspired Agobard of Lyons in a letter to Louis the Pious in 826 to suggest that someone should compose a treatise summarizing traditional teaching on the Son of Perdition.”

This time period, and perhaps much of our own, was fascinated with the Antichrist. It often seems like more people are interested in when the Antichrist will show up, and who he is, than in when Christ will return! But, I will try to give them the benefit of the doubt by thinking that perhaps they are interested in the Antichrist because they know that the rise of the Antichrist will herald the coming of Christ.

So now we will read about Adso’s life. If you are interested, go borrow the book on Internet Archive (see the Sources page), there is much more in there about who has been determined to have influenced Adso and what Adso’s influence on culture was. 

“The hope [for a treatise on Antichrist] was not fulfilled for over a century. Adso was born about 910 and entered the monastic life during the time of the great reforms associated with the houses of Cluny and Gorze [these two houses reformed to the rule of St. Benedict and started what we know as the Benedictines). He became abbot of the reformed monastery of Montier-en-Der and died in 992 while on pilgrimage to the Holy Land.  A noted hagiographer [someone who writes about the lives of saints] and confidant of the West Frankish royal family [i.e. the Carolingians], Adso composed his LETTER ON THE ORIGIN AND LIFE OF THE ANTICHRIST about 950. It was dedicated to Gerberga, the sister of Otto the Saxon, the future renewer of the empire, and wife of the young Louis IV (ruled [France] from 936 to 954), one of the last descendants of the Carolingians…The monk was a learned man for his day, but in the tenth century even scholars traveled with light academic baggage. It is certain that Adso depends ultimately upon patristic [Church fathers] teaching on the Antichrist, though his access to this material seems to have been largely through summaries dating from the eighth and the ninth centuries…Relying on his background as a hagiographer…the monk modeled his account of the Antichrist on a typical saint’s life.

The next excerpt talks about something that I was wondering about. Think about Nebuchadnezzar’s dream that Daniel interpreted, the one with the image that had a golden head, silver torso, iron legs, and feet made of clay and iron. And then remember that many think that Daniel prophesied that the Antichrist would come from the last great kingdom, i.e., Rome.  I was imagining living during the end of the Roman Empire: They thought that the world would end when Rome fell, because hey, the Antichrist had to come from Rome, and, they were also equating Rome’s power with the ‘restrainer’. But then, what did the people after that think? Today we look back and see that Rome influenced a large swath of land, and that influence remains today, both geographically, culturally and linguistically, so we consider that Rome is still present in many ways. But the people living after Rome fell mostly saw it as the end of Rome and beginning of great upheaval. But after a period of time, the Holy Roman and the Byzantine Empires began to see themselves as a continuation of the Roman Empire as it existed in the 4th century. The following excerpt provides some hints as to how these things were being thought about at that time:

“…the notion of the endurance of Rome to the End of time as the last of the four world empires was also a subject for speculation. There appear to have been two attitudes to this complex of apocalyptic ideas in the Carolingian age — one jettisoned the traditional exegesis which identified Rome with the restraining power of 2 These. 2; the other attempted to update the traditional teaching by showing how the reality of Roman rule had passed from East to West during the course of history. Adso is among the most influential exponents of the latter option in early medieval thought.

For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way. (2 Thessalonians 2:7; NKJV)

Now let’s look at the introductory passage from THE ORIGIN OF THE ANTICHRIST section of Adso’s LETTER:

“Since you want to know about the Antichrist, the first thing to observe is why he is so named. It is because he will be contrary to Christ in all things and will work deeds against Christ. Christ came in humble fashion; he will come as a proud man. Christ came to raise up the humble, to justify sinners; he, on the other hand, will cast out the humble, magnify sinners, exalt the wicked and always teach the vices contrary to virtues. He will destroy the Law of the Gospel, call the worship of demons back into the world, seek his own glory, and call himself almighty God. This Antichrist will have many ministers of his evil: many of them have already gone forth into the world, such as Antiochus, Nero, and Domitian. In our own time we know there are many Antichrists. Any layman, cleric, or monk who lives in a way contrary to justice, who attacks the rule of his order of life, and blasphemes the good, he is an Antichrist, a minister of Satan.”

Adso mentions that he got the information about Antichrist from other sources that he had “diligently studied.” This is good for us because it means that what he writes about it was agreed upon by at least some contemporary, and somewhat earlier, sources. This gives us a better idea of what people were thinking about the Antichrist and the End Times in the mid-tenth century.

“As our authorities say, Antichrist will be born from the Jews, namely, from the tribe of Dan, as the prophet says: ‘Let Dan be a snake on the wayside, an adder in the path.’ He will sit like a serpent on the wayside, and in the path to wound those who walk on the paths of justice and to kill them with the venom of his malice. He will be born from the union of a father and mother, just as other men are born, and not, as some say, from a virgin alone. Nevertheless, he will be conceived wholly in sin, generated in sin, born in sin. The devil will enter the womb of his mother at the very instant of his conception. He will be fostered by the power of the devil and protected in his mother’s womb. The power of the devil will always be with him. Just as the Holy Spirit came into the Mother of Our Lord Jesus Christ, overshadowed her with his power, and filled her with divinity, so that she conceived of the Holy Spirit and what was born of her would be divine and holy, so too the devil will descend into the mother of the Antichrist and completely fill her, surround her completely, possess her completely both inside and out, so that she will conceive through a man with the cooperation of the devil, and what will be born will be totally inimical, evil, and lost….”

There are those who still hold to many of these ideas, including the focus on justice, though the New Testament focus is on mercy rather than justice. We will continue to run into these ideas as we go through the Revelation commentaries. I don’t really agree with most of it, but the part that bothers me the most is the idea that the mother of the Antichrist will be indwelt by Satan before conception, and that the child will be indwelt upon conception. First of all, Satan cannot read the future, so he cannot be sure of the timing in which he would need to perform this deed (and it is questionable that he could perform this deed in this way).  And secondly, if Satan has done this for every antichrist character through time, then he has been kept too busy to do much else. 

My third issue is: while I’m sure that there are women enough out there who have embraced evil to the point of allowing themselves to be indwelt by demons, a child at conception is a different thing. We are all born with original sin, but I don’t believe that alone gives Satan the right or cause to indwell an individual. Just as there are plenty of evil women out there, there are also plenty of evil men. The Antichrist will be a man who has earned being indwelt by Satan, not a poor schmuck who was indwelt before knowing good from evil.

The last issue revolves around sin and free choice. As I said above, we are all born in sin because of original sin. For Adso, or his “authorities,” to think that the circumstances of the Antichrist’s birth must have compounded evil upon evil for this all to work is naive at best, and completely misguided at worst. To me this attitude suggests the idea that people are inherently ‘good’ (i.e., sinless at birth), and would therefore need significant input from evil forces to ‘turn bad’.  

We have only to look around us to see the harvest of evil and its origin. The people being drawn into sin may have been tempted by Satan, but they have the free will to decide whose side they will take. And in choosing to turn from God, they default to the side of Satan, and this allows Satan far more leeway in their lives. All of them started out as ‘innocent’ babes, young children loved by God, unable to tell good from evil and thus not personally responsible, but tainted by the sin of Adam nonetheless; and Antichrist will start out the same way. Choices made through free will, once the knowledge of good and evil is achieved, mark out a path for the individual. It is not marked out by anyone else, or any outside power, i.e. free will. God, in His infinite Love and Goodness, does provide through Jesus that anyone may turn from the evil path to Him at any time until death. Even the Antichrist will have this option open to him, but he will not take it, as many of his followers will not.  And one more point: if mankind is inherently ‘good’, and yet Satan can take us over at will, then we are only powerless pawns, suggesting that this life is nothing more than a chess game between God and Satan. It may sometimes feel like this is the case, but this is wrong on many levels. We are not powerless. We cannot save ourselves through our own deeds, but we have the power to turn to Christ and have faith in Him. That is all we need. Once we do that, Satan can tempt us, but he cannot indwell us. If we turn away from Christ, then we are on our own, and we are weak before Satan. And while we are weak before Satan, Satan is weak before God…it is not an even match.

I will leave the argument here. We’ll return to Adso:

“The Apostle Paul discloses the time when the Antichrist will come and when the Day of Judgment will begin to appear in his Epistle to the Thessalonians where he says: ‘I ask you through the coming of Our Lord Jesus Christ…,’ down to ‘…unless the falling away first comes and the Man of Sin and Son of Perdition be revealed.’ (2 These. 2:1-3). We know that after the Greek empire and even after the Persian empire, each of which in its day throve in great glory and flourished in very great strength, finally, after all the others, began the Roman empire, which was the strongest of all and had the whole world under its sway. All nations were subject to the Romans and served them as tributaries. Hence the Apostle Paul says that Antichrist will not come into the world unless first comes the falling-away, i.e., unless first all kingdoms fall away from the Roman empire to which they were long subject. This time has not yet come, because, though we see the Roman empire destroyed in great part, nevertheless as long as the kings of the Franks who hold the empire by right shall last, the dignity of the Roman empire will not totally perish, because it will endure in its kings.”

This is an interesting take on ‘falling away.’ It goes to show that Rome was a huge influence on culture, even after she fell. This letter was written around 950; by then the Carolingian period was over and the Frankish kings were ruling smaller and smaller areas, while other family lines were actually ruling the empire. Adso, being a friend to the Carolingian court in France, obvious believed that they had the right to the throne of the empire. 

It’s amazing that Adso would still believe that the falling away had anything to do with Rome.  But he goes further:

“Some of our learned men say that one of the kings of the Franks who will come in the last time will possess anew the Roman empire. He will come at the last time and will be the last and the greatest of all rulers. After he has successfully governed his empire, at last he will come to Jerusalem and will put off his scepter and crown on the Mount of Olives. This will be the end and the consummation of the Roman and Christian empire. Immediately…they say that the Antichrist will be at hand. Then the ‘Man of Sin’ will be revealed, Antichrist who, although he is a man, will nonetheless be the source of all sin, and the ‘Son of Perdition,’ that is, the son of the devil, not through nature but through imitation, because he will fulfill the devil’s will in all things, and because the fullness of diabolical power and of every evil disposition will dwell bodily in him in whom will be hidden all the treasures of malice and iniquity.”

Today, this ‘last ruler of the Roman empire’ is seen as being the Antichrist himself. And he won’t be laying down his scepter and crown on the Mount of Olives. I’m not sure where they came up with this scenario on the Mount of Olives either.  But, Adso goes on:

“This Antichrist, the son of the devil and the totally wicked agent of all evil, for three and a half years will torment the whole world with a great persecution and torture the whole people of God with various punishments, as foretold. After he has killed Elijah and Enoch and has crowned with martyrdom those holding fast in the faith, finally the judgment of God will come upon him, as St. Paul writes: ‘The Lord Jesus will slay him with the breath of his mouth’ (2 Thess. 2:8). Whether the Lord Jesus will kill him by the power of his might, or whether the Archangel Michael will slay him, he will be killed through the power of Our Lord Jesus Christ…The learned say that Antichrist will be killed on the Mount of Olives in his pavilion and on his throne, opposite the place where the Lord ascended to heaven…You should know that after the Antichrist has been slain the Day of Judgment will not come right away, nor will God immediately come to judge; but, as we understand from the Book of Daniel, the Lord will grant forty days to the elect to do penance because they were led astray by the Antichrist…”

The ‘learned’ seem to be obsessed with the Mount of Olives, but the Bible says nothing about the Antichrist hanging out there. According to Revelation, the Antichrist is captured by Christ at Armageddon and subsequently thrown alive into the lake of fire. The Thessalonian quote seems to depend on the translation. Here it is per King James:

And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders (Thessalonians 2:8-9; KJV)

Paul does not make it clear just what happens to the Antichrist or what, exactly the time frame is, but just that he loses and dies eventually at Christ’s hand.

Revelation does say that the judgment occurs after the millennium. But, the 40 days for “the elect to do penance because they were led astray by the Antichrist” is doubtful. The pertinent part of Daniel says:

And from the time that the daily sacrifice shall be taken away, and the abomination that taketh desolation set up, there shall be a thousand two hundred and ninety days. Blessed is he that waiteth, and cometh to the thousand three hundred and five and thirty days. (Daniel 12:11-12; NKJV)

Subtract 1290 from 1335 and you get 45 days (I’ll try to keep the math to a minimum…), not 40. And why would those who were “led astray by the Antichrist” be considered “blessed”? More than that, why would anyone who is the “elect” even be able to be “led astray”? This whole idea is very antithetical to Bible teachings. It sounds like something written by either someone who had not experienced persecution, and was afraid that he might not be able to stand up to it, or, perhaps someone who was afraid that he might not be able to discern the lies of Satan…and has no faith that Christ will allow that discernment. It’s a trap door, an escape hatch that is an illusion. 

Here’s the last theological point for the day: While repentance is a necessary part of salvation, penance is not. Christians do not have a ‘get out of jail free’ card, so that they can go sin at will and then do penance to be forgiven; this, unfortunately, is where the Catholic Church went and was one of the things that brought on the Reformation. Once you call on Jesus and repent, your sins are forgiven…all of them, and you no longer willfully sin because it is anathema to you. Are you perfect at that point? Of course not, you will continue to be a sinner, but you will mourn and repent each time you sin. Do saved Christians ‘fall away’? Yes, of course they do. But if they were truly saved, they come back. Is this what Adso is referring to, time in which come back? No, because ‘penance’ is not part of that return. Consequences can be part of it…if a Christian ‘falls away’ and robs a bank, he will have to suffer the consequences of having robbed that bank, even if he returns to Christ. But he does not need to do specific penance to ‘make up’ for his sins. Christ already did that, totally and completely, past/present/future.

I have given you a lot of theological points today. They are mine, not in an original sense, but they reflect how I have understood the Bible and the many pastors I have chosen to listen to. I freely admit that not all Christians or pastors will agree with me. But to stand and say that this is right and that is wrong, you need a piece of real estate to plant your feet upon. I am defining my piece of real estate. You may read things differently and stand in a different spot. If that’s the case, then me defining my stand, my understanding of the truth, should help you solidify yours by giving you something to push against.  

This is not to say that I have a different ‘truth’ than you do: the Truth is solid and immovable. But what is coming from the huge and incomprehensible mind of God we must explain to ourselves with our microscopic minds. It’s entirely possible that in God’s mind these concepts include all of our interpretations simultaneously, plus much more. But meanwhile, we are stuck in our microscopic minds and must come up with ways of understanding those specks of information that God has bestowed upon us; and while those specks can feel overwhelming at times, they are what God requires that we sort through to understand some basic knowledge of Him and His Plans. If your understanding is different that than mine, feel free to share, and of course, I could be wrong.

That’s it for now. Thanks for being there. I’ll be praying that God will bless us with greater understanding in these turbulent times. k

2 responses to “3/9/22 ADSO ON THE ANTICHRIST”

  1. I understand that there have been many “date-setters” in the last 50 to 100 years, and that the failure of these people has turned many off. This is part of the reason for this blog. First of all, you can already see from what’s been posted that date setting has been popular since the Apostolic Age…even Paul seemed to expect the End to come in his time. And secondly, in my experience, most of those who are turned off have not and do not dive deeply into Revelation themselves. It wasn’t the Bible that failed them, but fallible men (and women). Your link is certainly right in calling the American Church into question. While there are still many churches in America that are Bible-based and on target, there are, unfortunately, far more that are not. They are following culture instead of Christ, and the itching ears want to here dates, times, and certainties that God does not want us to have.


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