St. Francis ofAssisi(1182-1226) was an Italian mystic and preacher, who founded the Franciscan Order. Born inAssisi,Italyas Giovanni Francesco Bernardone, he had little formal education. As a young man, Francis led a worldly life, but after being imprisoned inPerugiafor over a year, he changed his way of life. Back inAssisiin 1205, he did work among the lepers and began working to restore dilapidated churches. Francis was disowned by his wealthy merchant father for his change of character and his charity work, which had greatly angered his father. Francis devoted the next three years to care for outcasts and lepers in the woods ofMountSubasio. While serving there, Francis restored the ruined chapel ofSanta Mariadegli Angeli. One day during worship, he believed he heard God’s call telling him to go out into the world and to possess nothing, but to do good everywhere, according to the text of Matthew 10:5-14.
Upon returning toAssisiin 1208, Francis began preaching. He gathered 12 disciples who became the original brothers of his order, later called the First Order; and they elected Francis as their superior. In 1212 he received a young nun ofAssisi, Clare, into Franciscan fellowship and through her was established the Order of the Poor Ladies (the Poor Clares), later the Second Order of Franciscans. A little later in 1212 Francis set out for theHoly Land, but a shipwreck forced him to return. Francis later went on to theHoly Land, staying there until 1220. He wanted to become a martyr and was overjoyed when hearing that five Franciscan friars had been killed inMoroccowhile doing their work. On his return home to Assisi, he found the friars squabbling among themselves and resigned as their superior, but spent the next few years planning what became the Third Order of Franciscans, the tertiaries.
In September 1224, it is believed that after 40 days of fasting, Francis was praying upon Monte Alverno when he felt both pain and joy, and the marks of the crucifixion of Christ appeared on his body. Accounts of the appearance of these marks differ, but they were something like knobby protuberances of the flesh, resembling the heads of nails. Francis went back toAssisi, where his next few years he suffered much physical pain and nearly went blind. He was canonized in 1228 by the Catholic Church. In 1980, Pope John Paul II proclaimed him the patron saint of ecologists. In art, the emblems of St. Francis are the wolf, the lamb, the fish, birds, and the stigmata (the marks of the crucifixion). His feast day is October 4 in the Catholic faith.
Sometime before his death, St. Francis ofAssisicalled together his followers and warned them of the coming tribulation, saying:
The time is fast approaching in which there will be great trials and afflictions; perplexities and dissensions, both spiritual and temporal, will abound; the charity of many will grow cold, and the malice of the wicked will increase.
The devils will have unusual power, the immaculate purity of our Order, and of others, will be so much obscured that there will be very few Christians who will obey the true Sovereign Pontiff and the Roman Church with loyal hearts and perfect charity. At the time of this tribulation a man, not canonically elected, will be raised to the Pontificate, who, by his cunning, will endeavor to draw many into error and death.
Then scandals will be multiplied, our Order will be divided, and many others will be entirely destroyed, because they will consent to error instead of opposing it.
There will be such diversity of opinions and schisms among the people, the religious and the clergy, that, except those days were shortened, according to the words of the Gospel, even the elect would be led into error, were they not specially guided, amid such great confusion, by the immense mercy of God.
Then our Rule and manner of life will be violently opposed by some, and terrible trials will come upon us. Those who are found faithful will receive the crown of life; but woe to those who, trusting solely in their Order, shall fall into tepidity, for they will not be able to support the temptations permitted for the proving of the elect.
Those who preserve their fervor and adhere to virtue with love and zeal for the truth, will suffer injuries and, persecutions as rebels and schismatics; for their persecutors, urged on by the evil spirits, will say they are rendering a great service to God by destroying such pestilent men from the face of the earth. But the Lord will be the refuge of the afflicted, and will save all who trust in Him. And in order to be like their Head, [Christ] these, the elect, will act with confidence, and by their death will purchase for themselves eternal life; choosing to obey God rather than man, they will fear nothing, and they will prefer to perish rather than consent to falsehood and perfidy.
Some preachers will keep silence about the truth, and others will trample it under foot and deny it. Sanctity of life will be held in derision even by those who outwardly profess it, for in those days Jesus Christ will send them not a true Pastor, but a destroyer.”
One of St. Francis’ prophecies that I found most interesting was “At the time of this tribulation a man, not canonically elected, will be raised to the Pontificate, who, by his cunning, will endeavor to draw many into error and death.” It amazes me that one of the Roman Catholic Church’s own followers prophesied that one of the beasts of Revelation would in fact become a Pope. St. Francis goes on to say that “Sanctity of life will be held in derision even by those who outwardly profess it, for in those days Jesus Christ will send them not a true Pastor, but a destroyer.” The destroyer or Abaddon (Angel of the Abyss) is one of the names given the antichrist in the Bible in Rev. 9:11.
Lucas Cranach the Elder depicted the papacy as the Antichrist wearing a Papal Tiara in Martin Luther’s 1522 translation of the New Testament. Luther clearly believed that the Catholic Papacy was one of the beasts spoken of in Revelation, according to some of his writings. The conviction that the Pope is the antichrist was once a common belief among Protestants, who rejected the authority of the pope and emphasized instead the authority of the Bible and the importance of individual faith. Some Protestant denominations have rejected this early teaching, but it is still part of the confession of faith of some Protestant churches.
One of the earliest records of a Protestant writer on this subject, which addressed the phrase Vicarius Filii Dei is Andreas Helwig in 1612, though he was likely introduced to the idea of a Papal antichrist in Luther’s earlier writings. In his work Antichristus Romanus he found that the Pope’s title Vicarius Filii Dei, used in the Donation of Constantine, adds up to 666 (VICARIVS FILII DEI = 5+1+100+1+5+1+50+1+1+500+1 = 666, where ‘U’ is taken as ‘V’ interchangeably). Vicarius Filii Dei translates as “Vicar of the Son of God”.
Catholic apologists claim that “Vicarius Filii Dei” is not an official papal title, and that there is no evidence of a tiara having that inscription, though the Pope does have the title Vicarius Christi, translating as Vicar of Christ. But when popes were crowned in the past, the following words were used during their inauguration:
Accipe tiaram tribus coronis ornatam, et scias te esse Patrem Principum et Regum, Rectorem Orbis, in terra Vicarium Salvatoris Nostri Jesu Christi, cui est honor et gloria in sæcula sæculorum.
(Receive the tiara adorned with three crowns and know that thou art Father of Princes and Kings, Ruler of the World, Vicar of Our Savior Jesus Christ in earth, to whom is honor and glory in the ages of ages.)
Helwig suggested that the title Vicarius Filii Dei was an expansion of the historical title Vicarius Christi, rather than an official title used by the Popes themselves. This interpretation did not become common until the time of the French Revolution. Some later Protestant figures claimed that Vicarius Filii Dei was an official title of the Pope, and that this title appeared on the papal tiara.
At the coronation of Pope John XXIII in 1958, the new pope was crowned with the words
Receive the tiara adorned with three crowns and know that thou art Father of princes and kings, Ruler of the world, Vicar of our Saviour Jesus Christ.
In light of the evidence provided, I believe St. Francis of Assisi, was clearly led by God to make the prophecies he made. We need to pay particular attention to this part of his prophecy which follows, and be prepared to go through the tribulation. “Those who preserve their fervor and adhere to virtue with love and zeal for the truth, will suffer injuries and, persecutions as rebels and schismatics; for their persecutors, urged on by the evil spirits, will say they are rendering a great service to God by destroying such pestilent men from the face of the earth. But the Lord will be the refuge of the afflicted, and will save all who trust in Him. And in order to be like their Head, [Christ] these, the elect, will act with confidence, and by their death will purchase for themselves eternal life; choosing to obey God rather than man, they will fear nothing, and they will prefer to perish rather than consent to falsehood and perfidy.”
Though we may hope for the best, that is that the Church will be raptured up before the tribulation as we may have been taught, we need to be prepared for the worst, that is, that we will go through the fire of the tribulation, as did Daniel’s three friends. We need to be willing to say with them that even if our God chooses not to save us from the fire, we will still not worship the beast. The early Church fathers Irenaeus and Hyppolytus clearly believed that true Christians would suffer persecution during the tribulation from the antichrist. These two also believed that the antichrist would be a Jew, who would have others believe he is the Christ and be worshipped as God, as do many others. My personal belief is that somehow, as unlikely as it may seem, that a Roman Pope (the first beast and false prophet) and a Jew from the tribe of Dan (the second beast and antichrist, Jeremiah 8:16, Rev.7:5-8) will come together as the false prophet and the antichrist, in agreement with each other, and do the bidding of Satan, making up the unholy trinity. Those who reject Christ will be deceived by their lies (II Thessalonians 2: 1-12), and they in turn will persecute all true Christians who refuse to worship the beasts(Revelation 12: 10-11,17;13:17).
The prophecy of St. Francis, is as given in the Works of the Seraphic Father St. Francis Of Assisi, Washbourne, 1882, pp. 248-250, with the exception of spelling changes.
The Antichrist, 2003, Larry D. Harper
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