The prophesied last pope is here according to Saint Malachy’s vision of 112 popes: "Peter the Roman/Petrus Romanus." If Malachy is accurate, then Armageddon and the Tribulation he "pastures" during cannot be more than a single pope’s reign away or a few decades. But is Malachy’s last pope a reliable end time sign that faithful saints should get excited about? What does Bible prophecy say about the pope? Is he the Antichrist or the False Prophet? Learn the surprising details that both Catholic and Bible prophecy agree on about the last pope’s evil reign.
Saint Malachy's “Prophecy of the Popes”
Pope Francis has replaced Pope Benedict XVI. You might think that a transition of popes would be of no interest to those watching for solid signs of the Apocalypse. Believers typically focus instead on approaching comets or asteroids (Rev 8:8), major earthquakes (Rev 6:12=Mt 24:7), pandemics (Mt 24:7), or wars and rumors of war involving Israel (Lk 21:20) and the like. But thanks to Saint Malachy's surprisingly accurate “prophecy of the popes” the prospect of a new pope to replace Pope Benedict XVI is big, exciting news for those hoping for Jesus to come in their lifetime. It may be extra-biblical prophecy (not even endorsed by the Catholic church). It may be realistically less than 100% accurate and questionable in its authenticity. Yet in the never-ending quest to know when the end of the age will come, many believers find it hard to resist considering it.
Saint Malachy was the Archbishop of Armagh who had a vision while visiting Rome in 1139. He wrote down a few lines in Latin for what he saw about each pope and then gave the document to Pope Innocent II. It remained unpublished in the Vatican archives until 1590 (leading some to suspect it to be a forgery written later by someone else).
Regardless of doubts over its true source, it has gained in fame over the years because of how well it can be matched up to past popes. Admittedly, the fact that the prophecy consists of 112 short and vague papal descriptions is a key to it having this favorable perception. It would not be a stretch to liken it to horoscopes (which similarly have their legions of fans despite a dubious reputation).
As an ex-Catholic with a focus on Bible prophecy, my interest is not to validate this Catholic prophecy. My goal is to discern anyone's predictions by Bible prophecy (Acts 17:11; Isa 8:20) and disregard them if our "more sure word of prophecy" contradicts it.
Indication of Time Remaining?
What's most intriguing about Malachy's prophecy is that it is ready to complete now with the new 112th pope in his and our lifetime.
If you stop to think about it, there could have been 100, 50 or even 5 more popes left on Malachy's list today. Instead, we now have only the remaining lifespan of a single elderly man to complete this prophecy. Given that the average reign of a pope is 7.5 years and the two longest reigns were only 31 years (Pope Pius IX) and 26 years (Pope John Paul II), this means that we have at most three decades and probably more like one or two.
If accurate, it is exciting and encouraging news for those who want to see Jesus return in their lifetime, and another reason why Malachy's prophecy is so popular. It's telling most believers what they want to hear.
More importantly, this may fit what Bible prophecy indicates for how much time we have left until Jesus' return: only several more Sabbath years (which come every seven years and would cover just a few decades). Longtime readers know that I am not like most of my prophecy expert peers continually suggesting that the end time “may” start “this year” or even “in the next few years.” I cannot say that because none of the plain and unmistakable prophetic milestone markers that Jesus (Mt 24) or Revelation (Rev 6:12) describe have happened yet. Nor are they looking ready or about to pop.
However, the general consensus that Iran and her Arab allies have for years now been actively pursuing the development of nuclear weapons means that the first milestone—the Psalm 83 nuclear Middle East war—is just over the horizon. It's hard to imagine such nuclear proliferation in the Middle East being prevented for more than a decade or two.
That is why the arrival of the last pope of Malachy's prophecy is a little exciting to me as well. It dovetails with my understanding that the prophetic end time stage will be set in our lifetime.
The 112th and Last Pope – Petrus Romanus / Peter the Roman
Another key point of interest for people who follow Bible prophecy is what Malachy says about the circumstances surrounding the last pope. Both Malachy and the Bible agree that he reigns during the Great Tribulation in which he plays a key role. Here's a translation of the lines for the last pope, pope number 112 - Peter the Roman:
In the extreme persecution of the Holy Roman Church, there will sit [i.e., as bishop].
Peter the Roman, who will pasture his sheep in many tribulations, and when these things are finished,
the city of seven hills [i.e. Rome]
will be destroyed, and the terrible judge will judge his people.
Even for people with only a cursory knowledge of end time Bible prophecy, the parallels between Malachy's final pope prophecy above and Bible prophecy are obvious:
- Malachy: “many tribulations” = Mt 24:21: “For at that time there will be great tribulation...” = Daniel 12:1: “...There will be a time of distress such as never has occurred since nations came into being until that time. But at that time all your people who are found written in the book will escape.”
- Malachy: “extreme persecution” = Rev 12:13: “When the dragon saw that he had been thrown to earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male child.”
- Malachy: “the city of seven hills will be destroyed” = Rev 16:19-20: “...the cities of the nations fell. ... Every island fled, and the mountains disappeared.”
- Malachy: “the terrible judge will judge his people” = Rev 19:11: “Then I saw heaven opened, and there was a white horse. Its rider is called Faithful and True, and He judges and makes war in righteousness.”
By the way, don't be surprised that Malachy says the church will be persecuted. Just because both Catholic and Protestants believers are part of Jesus' church does not mean they will automatically escape the Great Tribulation for their belief. I expect that most of today's roughly two billion believers will not escape the Great Tribulation. This is because it will take faith to act on God's escape instructions in time before the Tribulation starts. Many believers will have doubts or be deceived and not act. This will leave them in a position of disobedience without God's protection to be tortured into taking the Mark of the Beast just like most non-believers will. Some non-believers will become believers along the way, and some believers will be offended when there is no pretrib rapture and betray other believers over to Beast and his mark (Mt 24:10).
What's more surprising about the Petrus Romanus prophecy is its perspective that the returning judge (Jesus) is “terrible” or “dreadful.” Jesus Christ is supposed to only be a terror to the wicked (Mt 24:30). He's coming with a reward for the righteous (Rev 22:12) who should love his appearing and judgment in their favor (2Ti 4:8). But this is typical of Catholic prophecies. You sometimes have to flip the good guys and bad guys to make sense of it. (This is perhaps appropriate given that the papacy and Catholic church are man-made religious institutions supported by mere tradition, not by Scripture or the teachings of Jesus in whose name they come (Mt 24:5).)
Identifying the Pope in Bible Prophecy
If Catholic readers were somehow not offended by the previous paragraph, I suspect my next point on who the pope is in Bible prophecy will use up the rest of their good will (sorry, guys). Contrary to what Catholics might hope, the pope is not one of the Two Witnesses or Elijah, or even one of the good guys. And no, he's not the Antichrist either. (See, I'm not purposely anti-Catholic). Nevertheless, he's only about one step down from that according to Revelation.
Revelation 13 is a frightening chapter where the Antichrist / Beast (Rev 13:1-10) and another “beastly” Tribulation figure are described (Rev 13:11-18). This is the chapter where the dreaded mark of the beast that they force on people is introduced as well.
Rev 13:11 (KJV) - And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon.
This “beast from the earth” is the same person later referred to as the “False Prophet” (Rev 16:13). The Antichrist's partner-in-crime is linked to him up until their mutual end in the lake of fire (Rev 19:20; 20:10). Here is why I think the last pope will fulfill this the False Prophet prophecy:
- "Like A Lamb" — In the Bible, the Lamb represents Christ, the Lamb of God. The pope takes the title "Vicar of Christ" meaning he is presented as Christ on Earth, in his place. So he is literally the most famous man on earth to be "like a lamb," or like THE lamb.
- "Two Horns" — The pope's mitre literally has two horns. If you go to the Catholic Encyclopedia, they themselves call it a "two horned mitre!" Again, it's plain meaning is fulfilled in the pope. He is a like a lamb with two horns.
- "Spoke Like a Dragon" — Revelation 12:9 tells us that Satan is the Dragon and the "Serpent of old" of the Garden of Eden. Jesus called Satan the Father of lies (Jn 8:44). Therefore speaking like a dragon refers to the deceptive talk of Satan. But this "spoke like a dragon" is more than just telling any old mistruth. Remember how Satan spoke to Eve in the Garden? He did not tell her obviously crazy ideas like "drink human blood and worship me." Even Eve with her fledgling discernment would know to reject that. Instead he told her subtle, appealing lies which sounded reasonable and appealed to her desire to be good. This is how the pope operates.
Protestants already know that the pope's Catholicism is at odds with the teaching of the Bible. Yet, even in the midst of leading people astray from what the Bible teaches, he is widely respected as a man of God, and a great spiritual world leader. That's speaking like a dragon! (NOTE: In case Catholics reading this are wondering, I bear no malice towards Catholicism or the pope. In fact, I was a Catholic until I read the Bible through for myself-something I was never encouraged to do by Catholicism.)
Revelation 13:12-14—12 And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. 13 And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men, 14 And deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live.
The pope is the leading religious figure whose endorsement is the most important one a future Antichrist "declaring himself god" (2The 2:4) would want in order to ensure a global following. Therefore, the pope is positioned better than anyone on the scene to fulfill this prophecy. As well, Catholicism already has a long history of making images (statues) for people to worship in front of, disregarding the biblical principle against abominations to God like this. Not to mention that Catholicism already has a legacy of many documented miracles for the greater miracles predicted at the hand of the False Prophet to fit into.
Pope Will Not Be The Antichrist
Some people think that the last pope will be the Antichrist. But it is not as good a fit as the False Prophet when examined carefully. For example, notice these scriptural titles for the Antichrist:
- Daniel 9 calls him "the Prince...who shall come."
- Daniel 11 calls him "the King of the North."
- Daniel 7 and 8 call him "the little horn" among other horns...with the horns explained there to be kings or rulers.
These passages give the idea not of a religious leader, but of a prominent political ruler. If the Antichrist is going to be the head of the coming One World Government, he ought to have been a lesser political ruler already. While the pope does "rule" the Vatican principality, he is known chiefly as a spiritual leader, not the political ruler of a principality that is only 0.2 square miles containing less than 1000 subjects. Rather than being known as the "prince of the Vatican," he is known worldwide as the religious man in place of the "lamb" who wears a mitre with "two horns," just like the false prophet.
For an extra-biblical prophecy, Malachy's vision of the popes has an intriguing level of accuracy and relevance. If it's right (not saying it is), we are now one pope's tenure away from Jesus' return. This would translate to putting us two or, at most, three decades before Jesus returns which is an exciting prospect to most believers. This explains why Malachy's prophecy is so popular, even with Protestants.
Further, Bible prophecy and Malachy agree that the final pope will play a big role in the Great Tribulation. Revelation implies that the final pope will be the Antichrist's sidekick, the False Prophet. Through miracles and the Mark of the Beast he will give validity and complete support to the Antichrist. As one of the most enduring and prominent institutions in human history, the pope is uniquely positioned to influence the world so powerfully.
Nevertheless, even if two senior citizens were identified tomorrow as the Antichrist and False Prophet (no young cardinals become pope), it would still only limit the time left until Christ returns to within several decades. While thankfully in our lifetime, it's still not telling us much more than we already can know from the Bible and the current level of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East. Until the milestones identified by Bible prophecy appear, we should not expect (or fear) the end times to begin soon.
Finally, remember, this is not Bible prophecy. I'm not saying it's right. Because of it is not from the Bible, it would not surprise me if Pope Francis dies suddenly and we have another pope. Then people will move on to the next "prophecy" as always. =)