antichrist

One reason I started reading Gill’s commentary on Revelation is because his view of the antichrist always puzzled me. He begins to open-up his view in Revelation 9:1, and it makes for fascinating reading.

Gill’s Presuppositions

Keep in mind, Gill holds to several presuppositions we’ve spelled-out before. 

  1. Revelation’s genre is “prophetic history” (describing eras the church will endure).
  2. The Roman empire split under Emperor Theodosius in 395 A.D. 
  3. This is important because two empires emerged: (a) eastern (predominately Muslim) and (b) western (predominately, Roman Catholic). 

These presuppositions lead him to believe the fifth trumpet is the unleashing of antichrist on both empires.  

Who is the Antichrist?

Gill suggests the antichrist, ultimately, is not a person, but a position: the pope.

Gill suggests the antichrist, ultimately, is not a person, but a position: the pope.

Satan works through the popes of Rome to produce and propagate false religions. He actually suggests there are two antichrists corresponding to the two empires. The western antichrist is the succession of popes in Rome. The eastern antichrist is Mahomet (or, Muhammad), the founder of Islam. Yet, Gill holds the popes responsible even for Islam because Muhammad had Christian influences and some of his accomplices identified with the Roman Catholic Church, though they seemed to be heretics: i.e., Sergius (a Nestorian) and John of Antioch (an Arian). The popes, ultimately, released antichrist from the bottomless pit, and he manifested himself in the two antichristian religions, Roman Catholicism and Islam. For Gill, the antichrist (also known as the “man of sin”) is the “whole hierarchy of Rome . . . especially the popes” (see Gill’s comments on 2 Thess. 2:9). This hierarchy, the tentacles of which influenced Muhammad, held incredible power beginning with Muhammad’s rise in 612 A.D. For instance, Gill states the pope (and by extension, Muhammad) weaponized every possible means against their subjects:

He made use of his universal power over all bishops and churches, enacted laws, issued out decrees, made articles of faith, and imposed them on men’s consciences, and obliged all to submit to his hellish principles and practices; and this, as it may be applied to Mahomet, the eastern antichrist, may regard the publishing of his Alcoran [which is the Koran].

John Gill, comments on Revelation 9:2

The 5th Trumpet

Gill believes the fifth trumpet unleashes from the bottomless pit the wretched antichristian religions of the world. The “star” represents antichrist manifested in the pope in the western empire and Muhammad in the eastern empire. Both, in Gill’s eyes, seek to subject the entire world to an antichristian church-state. The “smoke” is their false doctrine which obscures Christ. The “locusts” represent the Roman Catholic clergy in the west and the Saracens (Muslim warriors) in the east. Gill says the Saracens descended from the Ishmaelites and were a “furious and wrathful” people (see his comments on Rev. 9:3). The “grass” represents true Christians, whom God protects. Finally, the “king” (also called “Abbadon” and “Appollyon”) represents the dual-regents, Mahomet and the pope. 

Reflections

If you take Gill’s presuppositions as absolute truth, then his position has legs on which to stand. The problem is (as much as we love Gill), he appears to go farther than the text does.

If you take Gill’s presuppositions as absolute truth, then his position has legs on which to stand. The problem is (as much as we love Gill), he appears to go farther than the text does.

The text never divides antichrist into two empires with a “king” over each, much less names them as Roman Catholic and Islam dicators. We do see how those two religions have wielded every power in their arsenal to corrupt men’s hearts: bishops, laws, decrees, articles of faith, terror, etc.; all of which are founded on hellish, antichristian principles. Yet, we resist embracing Gill’s view because Scripture simply doesn’t reveal that much to us. 

What’s more, those historical presuppositions cause Gill to make other interpretive decisions. The details, however, get in the way. For instance, Gill states the “locusts” were not allowed to kill the Christians. Yet, the Roman Catholic Church and the Islamic Saracen invasions killed untold numbers of Christians. Gill suggests it’s referring to the “locusts” inability to kill the two empires, but that is not the natural reading of the text.

Another issue: Because he has locked into those historical presuppositions, Gill is forced to spiritualize the “five months” of torment. He says they actually are “five months of years.” That is, the 150 years from the rise of Muhammad’s public preaching in 612 A.D. to the building of Baghdad in 762 A.D. (see his comments on Rev. 9:5). This all is becoming too far-fetched to take seriously. Intriguing? Yes; but in the end, those stubborn details get in the way. When they do, Gill does what we all do (amillennialists, postmillennialists, and premillennialists): abstract, shave, modify, or massage the text so that it fits our preferred view. Once again, I’d rather not do that. I’d rather simply wait and see how God chooses to make it all clear in His time.  

Author antichrist

Chip Thornton

Pastor of FBC Springville, Alabama. Chip is a graduate of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary where he earned his Ph.D. in expository preaching. He enjoys spending time with his family, has a passion for discipleship, and is committed to biblical exposition.