Statement on the antichrist

Introduction to the Statement
As Martin Luther grew in his appreciation of the gospel, he also grew in his recognition that the Papacy is the Antichrist. A 1954 WELS pamphlet entitled Antichrist put it this way: "It was because Luther cherished the Gospel so dearly that his faith instinctively recoiled and protested in unmistakable terms when the Pope put himself in the place of Christ and declared His work insufficient and in vain. That is the use to which Luther's faith put the prophecy of Scripture. For him the tenet that the Pope is the Antichrist was an article of faith."

Luther left no doubt where he stood concerning the Papacy when he wrote, "This teaching [of the supremacy of the pope] shows forcefully that the Pope is the very Antichrist, who has exalted himself above, and opposed himself against Christ, because he will not permit Christians to be saved without his power, which, nevertheless, is nothing, and is neither ordained nor commanded by God. This is, properly speaking, to exalt himself above all that is called God. . . . The Pope, however, prohibits this faith, saying that to be saved a person must obey him" (Smalcald Articles, II, IV, 10-12).

In the centuries after Luther's death, Lutherans accepted this confessional statement without reservation or qualification. In the 1860s, however, doubts about this confessional statement were raised within Lutheranism. They arose from the Iowa Synod, which refused to grant doctrinal status to the teaching that the Papacy is the Antichrist. They listed this teaching under the category of "open questions." The Missouri Synod took the lead, at that time, in defending the view of the Lutheran Confessions that the prophecies of Antichrist have been fulfilled in the Papacy.