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Charles H. H. Wright on “The Antichrist”

October 5, 2011

Charles H. H. Wright (1836-1909) wrote commentaries on Daniel, and on Zechariah, in which he opposed both the views of critical scholars, and the extreme claims of the futurists. He stated:

“The sober-minded theologian who compares Scripture with Scripture will find many a gap in Scripture revelation which he will not venture to fill up dogmatically from his own reasonings. If desirous to speculate on the subject he will modestly advance his opinions as speculations, and nothing more.” Dr. C. H. H. Wright. [1]

Charles H. H. Wright

Charles H. H. Wright

In the Introduction to his commentary on Daniel, Wright claimed that Antichrist is not an individual who is yet to appear, but has been deceiving the Church since the time of the apostle John. He cited 2 John 7, and supported this conclusion in his comments on the prophecy of Daniel 7. He interpreted the time, times and a half of verse 25 in that chapter as extending to the end of the age. He wrote in his Introduction: [2]

The attempt of modern critics to destroy the Messianic interpretation of the prophecy of the Seventy Weeks is, in our opinion, one of the most remarkable instances of a determination to refuse to consider simple facts. The difficulties connected with the Messianic interpretation are comparatively small, and do not affect the prophecy in its most important outlines. The Messianic interpretation reaches back to a period before Christ, and has (with trifling exceptions) been maintained by the Church Fathers, and by Christian expositors down to the rise of the modern school of exegesis. The passage as it stands in the traditional text cannot as a whole be referred to the Maccabean period. The total eradication of most important clauses and the dislocation of others, in the prophecy in the Septuagint translation, go far to prove that its application to the Maccabean age cannot be supported, if the Hebrew text be adhered to. Hence the later representatives of the Rationalistic school have proposed a number of radical transformations of the whole passage. Professor Bevan has been obliged honestly to confess, after all those modifications have been duly considered, that no intelligible sense can be extracted, from the latter two verses of the prophecy, although the prophecy itself consists only of four verses. Whatever may be said of traces of the Maccabean period existing in other parts of the book, the prophecy of “the Seventy Weeks” certainly does not belong to that period. The weak Onias III. was not “the anointed one,” or the Messiah, referred to in that great prediction, although that Rationalistic interpretation is distinctly set forth in the Revised English Version.

The Futuristic school of prophetical interpretation has been to no small degree responsible for the success which has attended the modern onslaught on the credibility of the prophecies of the Old and New Testament Scriptures. The interpreters of that narrow school of thought, however, imagine themselves to be the only real defenders of Holy Scripture. The origin of that school in its modern phase may be traced back to Ribera, a distinguished Jesuit expositor (1585), and to the other remarkable Jesuit interpreters of the seventeenth century.

When the Tractarians began their work in the Church of England under the leadership of Newman, Pusey, and their confederates, they soon discovered that it was absolutely necessary for the spread of their opinions that a blow should be struck at the old so-called “Protestant” interpretation of prophecy, which was then almost universally accepted as correct. Newman, as he states in his Apologia pro vita sua, was long kept back from imbibing peculiar Romish views by the notion which had been instilled into him in early days that the Pope was the Antichrist. When that opinion was once demolished to his satisfaction, he proceeded comfortably on the way towards Rome.

Futuristic views of prophecy, as was natural, were soon accepted by the theologians of the High Church school, and were also caught up by many popular preachers of the Evangelical party in the National Church. Among its leaders, at, or shortly after, that period, were the learned Dr S. Roffey Maitland (died 1866), Dr J. Henthorn Todd, Fellow of Trinity College, Dublin (died 1869), with his friend Rev. W. de Burgh, Dr Pusey of Oxford, and many others. The interest, however, in prophetical studies did not long continue to be a general characteristic of the High Church party, but their prophetical views spread among writers of the so-called “Plymouth Brethren.” [The work of Mr William Blair Neatly, M.A., The History of the Plymouth Brethren, gives a fair description of that curious movement (1902).] J. N. Darby may be fairly called the leader of that peculiar movement, although not, perhaps, the earliest exponent of its principles. He for a season fascinated even Francis William Newman, the brother of the late “Cardinal,” who continued for some time his devoted follower. Darby himself wrote on the Apocalypse. Most of their leaders wrote on prophecy, and all more or less in support of Futuristic views. Among the more notable were Dr S. P. Tregelles (whose Old Testament scholarship was not equal to that he displayed in New Testament criticism), W. Kelly, of whom the same remark may be made, B. W. Newton, and a host of minor writers.

A craving after sensationalism is a marked characteristic of many of the writers of the Futurist school. The Book of Daniel itself ought to have acted as a warning against their fantastic views of the imaginary Antichrist of the latter days. For Antiochus Epiphanes and his fellows, though spoken of as “contemptible,” and described as a “very little horn” in ch. viii., which was seen in the vision of the prophet to shoot up as high as the stars, and to cast down some of the stars, and to exalt himself “even to the Prince of the host.” The “very little horn,” which is in some respects more remarkable than “the little horn” of ch. vii., is incorrectly identified with the so-called “wilful king” of ch. xi., an expression used in that chapter also of Alexander the Great and Antiochus the Great (see note on p. 298). The comparison between ch. vii. and viii. will show something of Futuristic exaggerations. Our Lord describes Himself as coming unexpectedly in the clouds of heaven to an apathetic and pleasure-loving world (Matt. xxiv. 37 ff.). These novel Futurists expound the prophecies as teaching that the disconnected ten kingdoms will all be joined again together (contrary to the statement of Dan. ii. 43, 44), and Satan visibly seated on the throne of a united world, when the Son of Man shall appear. All these are idle dreams of men imperfectly acquainted with the prophecies.

The great Joseph Mede long ago remarked that “the Jews expected Christ to come when He did come, and yet knew Him not when He was come, because they fancied the manner and quality of His coming like some temporal monarch with armed power to subdue the earth before Him. So the Christians, God’s second Israel, looked [expected that] the coming of Antichrist should be at that time when he came indeed, and yet they knew him not when he was come; because they had fancied his coming as of some barbarous Tyrant who should with armed power not only persecute and destroy the Church of Christ, but almost the world; that is, they looked for such an Antichrist as the Jews looked for a Christ” (Mede’s Works, p. 647).

“The Antichrist” and “the deceiver” has been working in the Church since St John’s days (2 John 7). The outward and visible Church very soon began to wrap earth-woven robes around her, and to dream of “infallibility,” all the while that she abounded with false doctrines, and had departed widely from “the faith once for all delivered to the saints.” Outside the Church there is no Antichrist, in the Biblical sense of the term; inside the Church that evil power has sat for nearly two thousand years as “God in the temple of God.”

The attempt to interpret Old and New Testament prophecies literally, as these writers term it, led the Futurists into conclusions which, as Professor Birks of Cambridge long ago stated, tended to undermine the foundations of all Christian Evidences. That learned writer noted that their reasonings and principles were more incredulous than those of the infidel, and asserted that, when such opinions gained general currency and approval in the Church, the reign of open infidelity would be at hand. This statement was made about 1841, in his book on the First Elements of Sacred Prophecy.


1. James Silvester. A champion of the faith: a memoir of the Rev. Chas. Henry Hamilton Wright, D.D., Ph. D. With extracts from his writings and journals. (1917.) p. 143.

2. Wright, Charles Henry Hamilton. Daniel and his prophecies (1906). pp. xiii-xvii.