It is traditionally understood that the Antichrist, the man of sin, will be preceded by a series of forerunners that pave the way for his arrival, just as the prophets and the patriarchs heralded the coming of Christ.
In its most basic definition, ‘antichrist’ refers to anything that is opposed to Christ. Therefore, all sin, heresies, and errors can be defined as antichrist. Precursors to the Antichrist are not new phenomena. Types of the Antichrist can be found throughout Church history. Often referred to by scholars simply as “antichrists,” (small ‘a’), these diabolical leaders, movements, and ideologies ultimately serve the agenda of the Antichrist and Satan through normalizing and glamorizing sin, leading souls away from God, and creating a culture of iniquity ripe for the Antichrist’s arrival.
Some well-known forerunners of Antichrist are familiar to us: Nero & Diocletian were both convincing candidates for the title during their persecution of Christians, and centuries of Protestant, Masonic, and otherwise anti-Catholic revolutions likewise produced contenders worldwide. Generations of Christians have believed themselves to be living in the end times. After Nero’s suicide, conspiracy theories abounded across Rome that he had faked his own death; some arguing that this eventuality evidenced his identity as Antichrist, to be held in retainer for the end of the world. The book of the Apocalypse (Revelation) presupposed an imminent end times, and the first few centuries of early Christians believed the Second Coming was nigh.
Satan is the root of all evil and uses man’s weakness and ignorance to his diabolical advantage. He has been present in every sin and every atrocity throughout history. But, as Father Vincent Miceli argues in his incisive book The Antichrist: The Final Campaign Against the Savior, many of the ills of our current era go beyond usual concupiscence and can be interpreted as precursors to the Antichrist, signs that the stage is being set.
Writing in 1981, Fr. Miceli identifies particular evils of the twentieth century as the doctrines of Antichrist himself:
- Modernism & Moral Relativism
Called “the synthesis of all heresies” by Pope St. Pius X, Modernism is a pervasive error that particularly plagued the Church from the 19th century through today. It is characterized by religious indifferentism (the gnostic belief that all religions are pathways to truth), and a prioritization of man’s subjective “experience” of religion over objective truth.
Fr. Miceli states: “The trinity of parents responsible for the perversion known as Modernism are: (1) its religious ancestor is the Protestant Reformation; (2) its philosophical parent is the Enlightenment; (3) its political pedigree comes from the French Revolution.” The theological error of religious indifferentism leads to an overall moral relativism: decentralized truth, “anything goes” mentality, excuse for sin and depravity, lies cloaked in sophistry.
The Nietzschean deification of man as ubermensch and belief that “might makes right” is essentially the doctrine of Satan. It’s the reification of Satanic pride: an obsession with beauty, power, and strength, unanchored in Truth, amounts to the worship and glorification of man, and ends in genocide. In addition to its obvious evils, the Nazi movement included heavy neopagan and occult elements, thereby literally summoning demons for worldly gain. Fascism also paved the way for communism by destroying and destabilizing Europe.
Communism and fascism, while historically cast as ideological enemies, have the same ultimate goal: a worldly utopia. They therefore operate according to the same totalitarian tactics. Any system that seeks to gain utopia here on earth is inherently antichrist. Christ told us that His Kingdom is not of this world. We know that Satan is the prince of this world and that perfect harmony is only possible in Heaven, through our cooperation with God’s grace and efficacious suffering in this life. Therefore, any earthly utopian project that denies this supernatural reality is hubris, and as destined to fail as the Tower of Babel.
The fruits of communism speak for themselves: mass slaughter, human rights abuses, persecution. But the greatest clue that communism is a doctrine of Antichrist is in its self-professed atheism. In his encyclical Atheistic Communism, Pope Pius XI states boldly: “Communism is intrinsically evil, and no one who would save Christian civilization may collaborate with it in any undertaking whatsoever.” Fr. Miceli, living in the era of cooling tensions with the Soviet Union, even laments détente itself as a “catalyst” to the Antichrist. Compromise is a capitulation to evil: in a compromise between good and evil, only evil wins.
4. The Sexual Revolution
Fr. Miceli makes the now well-established connection between the sinful doctrine of “sexual liberation,” the proliferation of birth control, the destruction of the family, and the epidemic of infanticide, which have gained the protection of legality in the “Moloch State.”
5. Resurgence of Satanism and the Occult
Finally, literal Satanism has experienced a renaissance and established itself as the zeitgeist, even moreso since Fr. Miceli’s time. Popular cultural icons from midcentury onward have featured occult imagery in their work, and sometimes even flat-out admit they sold their souls to the devil for fame in this world. “Light” occult participation has become trendy, via deceptively benign gateways of horoscopes, tarot, crystals, witchcraft, etc.
Fr. Miceli distinguishes between intellectual forerunners and activist forerunners of the Antichrist, but notes that there is a dangerous symbiosis between the two: “For ideas have consequences, and violent ideas will produce violent leaders.” At the root of all these maladies is a simple yet stubborn problem: a loss of the Faith at the individual level, multiplied en masse and institutionalized through movements. While identifying a great apostasy, he stops short of diagnosing the crisis in the Church at the institutional level, leaving it to other authors to analyze.
Fr. Miceli writes: “Conduct flows from convictions and when the conduct is consistently depraved it is because the convictions have been corrupted. For example, Judas, forerunner of the Antichrist, had radically changed his deepest convictions about the person and mission of Christ before he sold his Lord for thirty pieces of silver.”
It is true that someone’s external actions are indicative of their internal state. And so, while the macro-solution to the state of the world relies on an act of God, the individual solution lies in reorienting the internal – in each Catholic recommitting to living the Faith at the expense of all else, and in gaining conversions.
To be Catholic is to be eschatological. We can never know with certainty the hour of the final judgment, be it this century or the 14th millennium. But one thing is certain – each of our personal judgments will definitely come within the next hundred years or so. Regardless of when and where we live, every forerunner of the Antichrist that we encounter will be some modified version of the same old heresies, rooted in the first sin of pride and inspired by the same Satan under different and more elaborate disguises. We do well to identify and avoid these ministries of Antichrist and their current transmogrifications, and live as if we shall meet Jesus face to face tomorrow.
Editor’s note: the above quotations are taken from The Antichrist: The Final Campaign Against the Savior, available now from Sophia Institute Press.
Image: NIZHNY NOVGOROD, RUSSIA – September 13, 2019 : Russia Soviet communism icon.Historic soviet icon . Sickle and Hammer. Shutterstock/Kutay Erten