Some folks said they wanted to talk to me about the pope’s visit at some point. Other friends are showing a strange fascination with it. A few think it is a sure sign of the end of time.
Well, I’m not too worried. He’s a famous person, and a religious leader, and people listen to some things he says and ignore others (even the members of his church).
Now, Protestants have historically identified the institution of the papacy as the antichrist prophesied in the Bible (see Martin Luther, “Smalcald Articles,” and Melanchthon’s, “Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope,” as two examples of the Lutheran tradition). Seventh-day Adventists agree with that Protestant position (see Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy).
This is the position associated with the Historicist method of prophetic interpretation. Unlike Preterists, who look for a past fulfillment, such as Nero, or Futurists, who look for an individual in the last days, Historicists see the antichrist as a symbol for the historical apostasy of the church that led to the institution of the papacy, and its actions through history to “change times and laws” and to subvert the Gospel.
We do not have to look for the papacy to do something that will fulfill its role–it has already done so. We do not need to fret about what any individual pope might do–it is the institution that is the issue, and its actions through history, and its claims for itself, not the actions of any individual man that is the focus of prophecy.