The Papacy as Antichrist: Cramner, Knox, Wesley & Spurgeon

By Cris D. Putnam

Thomas Cranmer

It is a demonstrable historical fact that every notable protestant theologian of the 16-19th century, regardless of denomination, believed and taught that the papacy was antichrist. In the British Isles, Thomas Cranmer was the Archbishop of Canterbury during the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI, and for a very short time for Mary I. He was successful under the former two, famously composing the Book of Common Prayer which is still in use today. Of course, his Protestant stance was what led the staunchly Catholic Queen, “bloody Mary,” to execute him. However, he was first tortured by watching his close friends being brutally executed. Under such duress, he signed a statement denying Protestantism and was scheduled to make a public profession just prior to his own execution. Instead, he recanted the coerced statement saying, “As for the Pope, I refuse him as Christ’s enemy and Antichrist, with all his false doctrines” and thus he died honorably as a reformation martyr.[1]

The Scottish reformer, John Knox, held similar views to Calvin and other reformers. He had been captured from his native land by the French and forced into slave labor until he was released to England where he served the Anglican King Edward VI. When bloody Mary ascended to the throne, he moved to Geneva where he met Calvin. Accordingly, he learned reformed theology and on his subsequent return home led the Protestant Reformation in Scotland. His writings on the papacy as antichrist are extensive. A word search of The Works of John Knox using the search terms “antichrist” and “Roman” returns an astonishing 102 occurrences in thirty-six articles. He stated, “Yea, we doubt not to prove the kingdome of the Pope to be the kingdome and power of Antichrist.”[2]Indeed, the reformers had little doubt. But is this just a Lutheran and Calvinist construct?

John Wesley

Lest one begin to think that this belief was particular to Calvinism, it is essential to examine the opinions of John Wesley. Of course, Wesley was Arminian in his theology and the founder of Methodism. He wrote a book entitled, Antichrist and His Ten Kingdoms, where he said of the pope, “He is in an emphatical sense, the Man of Sin…”[3] In his commentary on Revelation, he wrote, “The beast with seven heads is the Papacy of many ages: the seventh head is the man of sin, antichrist. He is a body of men from Re 13:1–17:7; he is a body of men and an individual, Re 17:8–17:11; he is an individual, Re 17:12–19:20.”[4] Wesley makes an apt observation that the biblical material points to an institution and an individual. This infers the historic/futurist hybrid interpretation mentioned earlier. It is also seen in the writings of Charles Spurgeon.

Spurgeon, the prince of preachers, wrote eloquently about the apostasy of the Church into the system of Antichrist. He also had little doubt and argued the point forcefully. For instance, in one sermon, he expounds on the clever strategy of Satan’s evil world system:

Charles Spurgeon

Then the world changed its tactics; it became nominally Christian, and Antichrist came forth in all its blasphemous glory. The Pope of Rome put on the triple crown, and called himself the Vicar of Christ; then came in the abomination of the worship of saints, angels, images, and pictures; then came the mass, and I know not what, of detestable error.[5]

Far from a fanciful eschatological theory relegated to the hinterland of his thought, it was demonstrably a cornerstone in his theological discourse. He was fond of elaborating on the metanarrative of salvation history as it progressed from the apostolic era. In a later sermon, he offered concerning the digression of Roman Catholic Church, “She became like the heathen around her, and began to set up the images of her saints and martyrs, till at last, after years of gradual declension, the Church of Rome ceased to be the church of Christ, and that which was once nominally the church of Christ actually became the Antichrist.”[6] Yet, it is important to note that Spurgeon also saw a future time when the Jews would return to their own land and then, “that the power of antichrist shall be utterly and eternally destroyed, and that Babylon, that is to say, the Papal system, with all its abominations, shall be cast like a millstone into the flood, to rise no more forever.”[7]

Next the views of Charles Hodge bring us into the 20th century.

[1] Christian History: Thomas Cranmer and the English Reformation., electronic ed. (Carol Stream IL: Christianity Today, 1995; Published in electronic form by Logos Research Systems, 1996).

[2] John Knox, The Works of John Knox, Serial. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2003), 4:470.

[3] John Wesley, Antichrist and His Ten Kingdoms (Public Domain), 110. (See:

[4] John Wesley, Wesley’s Notes: Revelation, electronic ed. Wesley’s Notes (Albany, OR: Ages Software, 1999), Re 13:1.

[5] Charles H. Spurgeon, Spurgeon’s Sermons: Volume 10, electronic ed; Spurgeon’s Sermons (Albany, OR: Ages Software, 1998).

[6] Charles H. Spurgeon, Sermons: Volume 12.

[7] Charles H. Spurgeon, Sermons: Volume 50.

About Cris Putnam
Logos Apologia is the ministry of Cris D. Putnam. The mission of Logos Apologia is to show that logic, science, history and faith are complementary, not contradictory and to bring that life-changing truth to everybody who wants to know.


  1. john B says:

    Wesley said; ‘he is a body of men and an individual’, and thus it is!

    john B

    • Cris Putnam says:

      John B, that is what I have been saying all along as well. Remember John wrote “many antichrists have come” back in the first century! The part I was objecting to is the denial of the individual. The next post on Charles Hodge is probably the best exposition I have read.

  2. Ursula Leo says:

    Just ordered the book. Cannot wait to delve into this. Being rased catholic, there is much the people of this religion do not know. Bless Chris and Tom for bringing this to the forefront. I will share with everyone who will listen!

  3. Mark says:


    These articles and a recent video documentary I saw by Chris Pinto has hit me between the eyes with the connections between the RCC and our Founding Fathers; even the establishment of our Constitution, the Declaration of “Independence”, and the Jesuit connection. This is all really very eye opening. Thanks to you and Tom and others who have put so much dedicated work into presenting these things.

    How close to His coming for His Church? It is a sobering question to be sure.


  4. Justina says:

    the pope cannot be the antichrist, the most he can be is some predecessor, I don’t understand how
    these people twist Revelation to spiritualize and allegorize what they can’t fit literally to this.
    When has any pope required worship of himself, as God, or prevented or tried to prevent business
    and buying and selling without the infamous three sixes or something like that?

    Not only that, Babylon the Great is called the great city that sits on seven hills, and the Vatican
    is OUTSIDE the Roman city limits, and NOT on ANY of those hills, and the papacy we know now
    was developing in stages by the late 800s and went into schism from the rest of the church in
    AD 1054. Before that, the “pope” (the term was also used for the Bishop of Alexandria) was just
    the Orthodox Bishop of Rome.

    • Cris Putnam says:

      Justina, remember that the apostle John wrote that “Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour.”(1 Jn 2:18) Many antichrists had already come 2,000 years ago — so its completely coherent to argue that there have been many since. These great men of God like Spurgeon and Wesley had very good reasons to write what they did.

      However as far as the final “man of Sin” who Jesus will destroy at his return I agree with you. In our book we argue that the final pope will be the false prophet who “had two horns like a lamb and it spoke like a dragon”(Re 13:11). “Like a lamb” seems to imply he is seen as a Christian leader – “like a dragon” speaks for itself. It is this false prophet figure who works miracles and directs worship to the ultimate realization of the Antichrist – who, to me, seems to be more of a world political figure empowered by Satan.

  5. Klaatu says:


    I think you need to study this, and seriously reconsider your thoughts..

    Pay special attention the the region of VATICANUS.

  6. john B says:

    Justina; you may consider reading The book by Alexander Hyslop titled ‘The Two Babylons’

    Have you ever considered what is meant by the words “Come out of her my people” Rev18:4
    These are words addressed to Christians.. Yes! there are Christians in Babylon such it has been post- Pentecost… Mystery Babylon the spiritual ‘Whore of satan’ the Great counterfiet of the Bride of Christ..
    Time is short! The Whore’s final seduction is the worship of the ecumenical God (The image of the Beast) Thus is satan represented in this world’s cultural worship… unification by the image worship of the beast..

    john b

  7. Dear Justina:

    Pay no attention to Protestant nutballs.

    Cramner, Knox, Wesley, Spurgeon, etc.,were all on heroin.

    Truth is Pope Pius XII was the last catholic Pope, that is, the last true successor of Saint Peter.

    However, since 1959, John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II and Benedict XVI habe been false Popes, that is, have been masons or jews disguised as Popes.

    After Benedict XVI we could have the Second Apocalyptic Beast posing as Pope.

    This means that the catholic Papacy and the Apostolic succession ended with Pius XII and now we are living in Apocalyptic times.

    You have heard of Sede Vacante… well… we are now in Sede Finita.

    Your friend, Wulfrano.

    See you in Facebook.

    • Cris Putnam says:

      Truth is Pope Pius XII was the last catholic Pope, that is, the last true successor of Saint Peter.

      Wulfrano, the RCC arguments are extremely weak. The first real “pope” appeared in AD 606 and even the bishop of Rome Gregory I would have called him a precursor to antichrist. The entire system is a house of cards. Peter was never a “pope” so all claims to succession are incoherent. What leads you to the conclusion Peter was a pope?

  8. john B says:

    Wulfrano! what maketh thee of the inquisition period instigated by the popes prior to your so called ‘false papacy’

    Let me see now; Christ asked Apostle Peter to (put away his sword) in the garden Did He Not!….. Who is it that is drunk with the Blood of the saints in the wickedness of violence But Rome under the Cesar’s and the usurper of the Faith ‘Maximus pontifex’ who followed in their footsteps….
    The catholic system of religion is Antichrist.. that two horned beast of Rev13:11 who is presently at work like unto a Lamb (The ecumenical phase) Soon enough, the Dragon’s voice shall be heard calling all who worship not the Image of the beast to be put to death Rev13:15

    Wulfrano! You need to come out of Babylon!… Not only is Babylon Catholic.. She is the Spirit of all religion in the heart of man in opposition to The seed of the Woman The true Bride of Christ.

    john B

  9. Klaatu says:

    Concerning St. Peter (Simon bar Jonah) in Rome, and Pius XII. Please review the following:

    Please make special attention to the following excerpt:

    “Then I asked, “Does Father Bagatti (co-writer of the book in Italian on the subject, and archaeologist) really believe that those are the bones of St. Peter?” “Yes, he does,” was the reply. Then I asked, “But what does the Pope think of all this?” That was a thousand dollar question and he gave me a million dollar answer. “Well,” he confidentially answered in a hushed voice, “Father Bagatti told me personally that three years ago he went to the Pope (Pius XII) in Rome and showed him the evidence and the Pope said to him, ‘Well, we will have to make some changes, but for the time being, keep this thing quiet’.” In awe I asked also in a subdued voice, “So the Pope really believes that those are the bones of St. Peter?” “Yes,” was his answer. “The documentary evidence is there, he could not help but believe.””

    Now, these are the conclusions of the author of the article, and apparently Fr. Bagatti and Milik:

    “The story of the cave and the ossuaries and the regular cemetery just outside of the Convent site is this: It was a Roman custom that when a person had died and…when the body had decomposed, the grave would be opened. The bones would be placed in a small ossuary with the name of the person carefully written on the outside front. These ossuaries would then be placed in a cave as in the case of this Christian burial ground and thus making room for others. But this cave or burial place where the ossuaries were found and which was created and brought about through the natural and disinterested sequence of events, without any reason to change facts or circumstances, was a greater testimony than if there were a witness recorded, stating that Peter was buried there. And yet, even that is unmistakenly recorded in the three words in Aramaic of the ossuary, Simon Bar Jona. Herein, lies the greatest proof that Peter never was a Pope, and never was in Rome, for if he had been, it would have certainly been proclaimed in the New Testament. History, likewise, would not have been silent on the subject, as they were not silent in the case of the Apostle Paul. Even the Catholic history would have claimed the above as a fact and not as fickle tradition. To omit Peter as being Pope and in Rome (and the Papacy) would be like omitting the Law of Moses or the Prophets or the Acts of the Apostles from the Bible.”

    There is a documentary program on the Discovery Channel called “The Naked Archaeologist.” There is an episode entitled “The Search for St. Peter.” Here is an interview with the author/producer:

    I say, read the article mentioned. View the episode, “The Search for St. Peter,” Then read the article again.

    The next question that comes to mind, is then “what Peter/Simon was saw in Rome?” Justin Martyr gives us a clue:

    The rest is (as they say) — history…

    • Cris Putnam says:

      Thanks Klattu,

      I actually use that same quote in the book. The evidence Peter was buried at the Mt of Olives is far better than the evidence for Rome.

  10. Thankyou Lord, for showing me that all Catholic souls are Antichrist; leaving the interpritation not to vague, half-way, external, nor impersonal interpritation

  11. Charles VanHook says:

    Chris, you are headed in the right direction-keep at it. The Pope has demanded worship and prohibited trading with heritics , which you and I are. The inquisition and indulgences should be enough evidence to convict any Pope as antichrist. In 2000 John Paul 2 reaffirmed indulgences and if the opportunity arises the inquisition will also be reinstituted. She has not changed. By the way one of the confounders of the Jesuit’s was named Francis, whom Pope Francis was named after.

    • Michael says:

      Francis of Assisi lived long before the Jesuit Order was founded. The Jesuits have no oath that says they will strangle or assassinate anyone, the same person that forged the “Protocols of the elders of zion” made that up. The Jesuits have no weapons and are not an army. The Bible says to not to respect those who refuse to listen to the Church but treat them as heathen. Purgatory is very clearly in The Bible & saying that it denies the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice is like saying that addiction rehab for drug abuse dies the sufficiency of a prison term spend for drug abuse. Indulgences are not sold. The sale of indulgences was banned for centuries. Indulgences are earned but no sold. Please google search “Protestantism refuted by Scripture”. Protestantism is based on ignorance of scripture and quoting it out of context.

  12. KenKiambati says:

    I heard a series of sermons by a dear man that agrees with this view about Rome and the papacy. He clearly presents the truth using Scripture and history. Take a look and listen to Sermons titled Second Coming #4 #5Man of Sin, the Apostasy by Robert Jennings.
    Other sermons by him here
    I hope they are for your edification. Lord Jesus help us and keep us for that great Day.


  1. […] It is a demonstrable historical fact that every notable protestant theologian of the 16 -19th century, regardless of denomination, believed and taught that the papacy was antichrist. […]

  2. […] It is a demonstrable historical fact that every notable protestant theologian of the 16 -19th century, regardless of denomination, believed and taught that the papacy was antichrist. […]