The retirement of Pope Benedict XVI will have a stunning effect. A document that has been known to prophecy scholars for some time is about to become common knowledge, and is sure to cause a great deal of speculation and debate. The document is the “Prophecy of the Popes,” supposedly written by Saint Malachy, a Bishop in Armagh, Ireland in 1139. It is a list of 112 future Popes from his time to the present… and just beyond.
The shocking thing is that the present Pope is next to last in the list. Now he has announced his resignation. The next Pope will the last one on the list and the prognostication for his reign is not encouraging. A translation of the prophecy says,
“In the extreme persecution of the Holy Roman Church, there will sit Peter the Roman, who will nourish the sheep in many tribulations; when they are all finished, the City of Seven Hills will be destroyed, and the dreadful judge will judge his people. The End.”
Malachy’s vision does not carry the weight of Bible prophecy. It is more like the Quatrains of Nostradamus. Some people claim that it has been about 80% accurate. Admittedly, that success rate has been achieved by a little creative explanation from its proponents, again, like the writings of Nostradamus. It also may have been a forgery since the other scholars of his own era did not leave any historical mention of the list. In 1595 it was “discovered” and published by a Benedictine named Arnold de Wyon in his history book Lignum Vitae. Skeptics note that the prophecies about the Popes in the list before 1595 were more accurate than the ones since that time. This suggests that the earlier ones were written after those Popes had lived. But the prophecies about Popes since then could not have been changed, and their fulfillments still turned out to be quite remarkable.
Bible prophecy teachers have been cautiously covering this subject for a couple of decades. I say, “cautiously” because it is not from the Bible. We expect Bible prophecy to be 100% true. People do have dreams and visions, but they are not on a par with the Scriptures, and only time will tell whether or not their prophecies were right. We also have been warned by Jesus not to try to set dates for prophetic events. Too many writers have been discredited by making that mistake.
Hal Lindsey wrote about this Malachy prophecy a few years ago, before Pope Benedict XVI was chosen. Last year a big book was written with this prophecy in mind. It was Petrus Romanus by Thomas Horn and Chris Putnam. I wrote a favorable review of their work because they were careful to stress that they “do not claim to know” and that they are, “not prophets or apocalyptic date-setters, just researchers and commentators.”
It will be interesting to see what Catholic scholars and commentators say about this development. In Petrus Romanus, the authors say that The Roman Catholic Church has had over four hundred fifty years to reject the prophecies, but it never has.
It is likely that some Catholics will dismiss the prophecies outright, but others will explain the vision as a valiant attempt by the next Pope to counter the apostasy of the times in which we are living.
Other teachers might consider him a failure in that effort, so that the Beast of the Apocalypse (Antichrist) will be able to rise to power.
Some may even promote the idea that many have held before, that this Pope would actually become the False Prophet who will directly assist the Beast. Personally, I doubt that this scenario will develop, but only time will tell.
Is this Catholic-bashing? It is not meant to be. The Bible most definitely teaches that there will be a great apostasy, or falling away from the truth, in most denominations in the days leading up to the Tribulation. It also teaches that an amalgamation of religious groups will empower the Beast in his dictatorial drive. Apostasy is a problem in all churches. But the reality is that the Roman Catholic Church is the largest and oldest branch of Christianity, and history shows that it has had some unfortunate lapses in the past, and is currently struggling with serious scandals.
And remember that during the Tribulation, when all of this comes to a head, born-again believers from all churches, including Catholics, will have been taken by the Rapture to be with the Lord Jesus Christ. Their absence will be the cause of the radical upsurge of immorality and violence during that time. That is why what is left of the Church would be willing to join with other faiths in a one-world religion that will empower the evil world dictator.
So, what should we do with this information? First, let’s not put too much emphasis on the Prophecy of the Popes. It won’t matter if it doesn’t come to pass. It is not from the Bible. And prophecy observers will not know if it is true or not as long as the next Pope is alive. Let’s just add it to the “big picture” of end times events and not discredit Bible scholarship by making irresponsible statements.