Calvin’s Institutes (4.2.12) says,
“However, when we categorically deny to the papists the title of the church, we do not for this reason impugn the existence of churches among them. Rather, we are only contending about the true and lawful constitution of the church, required in the communion not only of the sacraments (which are the signs of profession) but also especially of doctrine. Daniel [Dan. 9:27] and Paul [II Thess. 2:4] foretold that Antichrist would sit in the Temple of God.”
First, notice how the fundamental principle of the Church’s Being and Well-Being, which is the basis for the Protestant view of Separation which was foundational to the Reformation is directly connected with the doctrine that the Pope is the Antichrist. Let any Preteristic or Futuristic reader take this strongly to heart. You cannot be a Presbyterian and deny the Historicist Eschatology and its accompanying doctrine that the Pope is the Antichrist. They are a Package deal with reference to Church Authority.
The Westminster Confession 25. VI. There is no other head of the Church but the Lord Jesus Christ. Nor can the Pope of Rome, in any sense, be head thereof; but is that Antichrist, that man of sin, and son of perdition, that exalts himself, in the Church, against Christ and all that is called God.
Antichrist simply means one who is against Christ by means of substitution. Luke 11:11 says “Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he? In the Greek text, the word “instead” is “anti”. The same root in the word antichrist. The idea is that an antichrist is someone who is against Christ by means of substitution. In the NT the context of antichrist is always apostasy. 1 John 2:18-19 mentions the antichrists being in the Church and apostatizing from it. This is why vs. 22 cannot mean that the antichrist never had anything to do with Christianity. He is someone who is in the Church and defects from it, just like 2 Thess 2. In 2 Thess 2:4 the “Temple of God” where his office dwells is not the temple of Solomon. The Temple mentioned in 2 Thess 2 is the Greek word naos. Every time Paul refers to the Church as the “Temple of God”(1 Cor 3:1617, 6:19, 2 Cor 6:16, Eph 2:21, etc.) he uses this word naos. Without exception, every time Paul refers to the physical Temple of Solomon he uses the word hieron notnaos! Without exception! 2 Thess 2:4 is referring to an office in the Church. 2 John 1:7 couches the theme in gnosticism as well. Now the gnostics believed that in order for the common man to understand the Bible he had to go to the hierarchical intermediary to get a hidden interpretation of the scripture. He alone could give you this information, due to his authoritative status in the hierarchy. He was a substitute for the prophetic office of Christ. Edward Moore’s (St. Elias School of Orthodox Theology) article Gnosticism from the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy says,
“Indeed, while the receptive hermeneutical method implies that we have something to learn from a text, the method employed by the Gnostics, which we may call the “revelatory” method, was founded upon the idea that they (the Gnostics) had received a supra-cosmic revelation, either in the form of a “call,” or a vision, or even, perhaps, through the exercise of philosophical dialectic. This “revelation” was the knowledge (gnôsis) that humankind is alien to this realm, and possesses a “home on high” within the plêrôma, the “Fullness,” where all the rational desires of the human mind come to full and perfect fruition…On this belief, all knowledge belonged to these Gnostics, and any interpretation of the biblical text would be for the purpose of explaining the true nature of things by elucidating the errors and distortions of the Demiurge.”
2 Thess 2:3-4 teaches that this apostasy will culminate in an office. “He will take his seat.” It says that this man will take his seat in the temple of God. 2 Thess 2:8 says that this office will end at the second coming. So the apostasy was already beginning at the time of the apostles (Very difficult for Patristic ecclesial views of preservation) culminated in an office that sought to substitute for Christ and the authority of his prophetic office; proclaimed his own authority of interpretation of scripture; and this office will not be destroyed until the second coming. Who is it? Methinks as with virtually every other Protestant divine for the first 300 years of the Reformation, the Papacy. I suggest three works for you:
2. The Papacy Is The Antichrist by Wylie
3. Notes on the Apocalypse by David Steele