March 13, 2013

The Final Pope?

Generally, I prefer not to talk much about my thoughts on End Times stuff or the Catholic Church, but I decided to make an exception and talk about both at the same time today!

Black smoke - try again.
White smoke - a new pope is elected.
For more info, read this.
After a recent church service, someone asked for my thoughts on the upcoming selection of the new pope. To be honest, I hadn't given it much thought. Not being Catholic, why should I? Then he asked what I thought of St. Malachy's prophecy concerning "Peter the Roman", but I had to admit I had no idea what he was talking about. I listened as he briefly explained what he understood about these things, offered a few thoughts, and decided to do a little research when I got home.

St. Malachy was the Archbishop of Armagh (Ireland) back in the 12th century, and the legend says that in 1139 AD, he saw a vision predicting who every pope would be from then until the Apocalypse. His "Prophecy of the Popes" doesn't give names or dates; instead it gives a cryptic phrase in Latin to describe each pope - 112 in all, starting with Pope Celestine II. Supposedly, for several of these, their descriptions have been surprisingly accurate!

The reason this was brought to my attention was because - did you guess it? - Pope Benedict XVI was Pope #111 since Malachy's day, which means if the prophecy can be trusted, the new pope - whomever he may be - will be the last pope before Jesus returns! If that's not exciting enough, apparently many believe this last pope (referred to in Malachy's prophecy as "Peter the Roman") will also be the second beast - the false prophet in Revelation 13 - who rises up and performs miracles in order to cause everyone to worship a false religion and take the mark of the beast!

Can this be true?!

Well, this much appears to be true:
  • There IS a list of Latin phrases which are said by some to predict 112 popes.
  • The list IS popularly attributed to St. Malachy, a 12th century Archbishop of Armagh.
  • This "Prophecy of the Popes" DID accurately describe several popes over the years.
  • Pope Benedict XVI WAS Pope #111 since the prophecy began, and there DOES seem to be a connection between him and the Latin motto assigned to him.
  • The last pope on the list IS referred to as "Petrus Romanus" ("Peter the Roman"), and the prophecy DOES end with an apparent reference to Judgement Day and the word "Finis" ("The End").
If the prophecy is real and the new pope really is the false prophet of Revelation 13, that really makes things interesting. Because of the heavy use of symbolism, there are a million different ways people have tried to interpret apocalyptic literature, but the thought that we might already be in the midst of the Great Tribulation, or that it's about to begin, could be terrifying to a lot of people!

(and that's a BIG but!)

There are a few reasons why you may not buy everything being said about the next pope.

St. Bernard never said a word
about St. Malachy's prophecy!
St. Malachy's list was extremely accurate UNTIL the year 1590. After that, connections to reality are more vague and sometimes extremely difficult to make. Maybe that makes sense when you realize that the list was never published during Malachy's lifetime. Malachy's biographer, St. Bernard of Clairvaux (who knew him personally) never mentioned it. And in fact, there's no known record anywhere that mentions the prophecy before it was "discovered" some 450 years later by a monk named Arnold de Wion in 1590 and finally published in 1595!

It's also worth noting that the prophecy doesn't actually say anything about the last pope being the false prophet of Revelation. Specifically, this is what it says about the last pope: 

"In the final persecution of the Holy Roman Church, there will sit.
Peter the Roman, who will pasture his sheep in many tribulations, and when these things are finished the city of seven hills will be destroyed, and the dreadful judge will judge his people. The End."

As you can see, all it really says about Peter the Roman is that he will be the leader during a time of many trials (which admittedly still could refer to Revelation), and he's the last pope before Rome (or the Vatican/papacy?) is destroyed and Judgment day comes. It never says anything about him leading the people to worship the other beast or anything like that. I'm not sure where this "evil pope" image comes from unless it's just a general distrust of the papacy...

Besides all that, did you see that there's a period at the end of the first line I quoted? I didn't make a typo. Many readers claim the punctuation at the end of that line means it may refer to another pope between #111 and Peter the Roman. In other words, if it turns out the world doesn't end when the next pope is in power, those who believe in the prophecy have at least one more chance to get it right! All that really has to be true for them to continue to believe is that Catholics should be persecuted during his watch - not a stretch, since Christianity as a whole has been under strong persecution around the world throughout the last century!

Is there anything to 
the Prophecy of the Popes?

Could Cardinal Peter Turkson be
"Peter the Roman"?!
I doubt it. There seems to be enough evidence against it for me. I will say I'll think twice about it if Cardinal Peter Turkson is ever elected pope. After all, his name is Peter, and even though he's from Ghana, I believe he now resides in Rome. He was also the head of a group in the Catholic Church that suggested in 2011 that we ought to have one world government and one currency. It just sounds a little too Revelation-y to me!

Turkson was touted for a while as a possible contender, but I understand he's made a few gaffes recently that make him less likely to get the job - but you never know!

Even if Turkson IS elected pope, however - or even if someone else is elected who seems to have an obvious connection to the title "Peter the Roman" - I don't think we should worry too much about it. Instead, we should focus on what's really important...

What's really important?

My answer now is basically the same response I gave at the end of that first conversation, before I came home and did all this research...

The messages in the Bible about End Times are cryptic on purpose. We're not supposed to know every detail of what's gonna happen. Jesus lists a few signs that should remind us the end is near (see Matthew 24), but over and over he stresses that no one will be able to predict it. Instead, Jesus says the end will come when we're not looking for it!

 "Therefore you also must be ready, 
for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour."
                    - Matthew 24:44

The reality is that the end could come at any time - the end of the world, or at least the end of your life! - and today is the day to prepare. I'm not talking so much about laying up supplies in case the "mark of the beast" is instituted tomorrow and you can't buy/sell anything without it. I'm talking about making sure everything is right between you and God - that you've accepted Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior! - because whether it's tonight or years from now, there is a Day of Judgment coming! (Revelation 20:11-15)

The point of End Time prophecies in the Bible is to encourage us to make things right with God today - to live now as if he's coming back any minute! - and to remind us that things will get worse before they get better. But even when things seem to be as bad as they can possibly get, those who serve the Lord should never lose hope, because we know that one day, he WILL make things right!

"Do not fear what you are about to suffer...
Be faithful until death,
and I will give you the crown of life."
                    - Revelation 2:10

I am blessed because I've read the book, and even though I don't always understand every bit of it, I know how the story ends: God wins!

Lord, help me to be faithful to you and to trust you...     
 matter how things may appear!

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