Antichrist in the Reformed Tradition after 300 years: Berkhouwer

Koot van Wyk (DLitt et Phil; Thd)

In a way, Berkhouwer is not a very good example.[1] The reason is that he has shifted in his theology somewhat close to Vatican II. He grew ecumenical in his attitude and perception and thus was sponsored and sent to Vatican II as a Protestant observer. A total of 42 doctorates went through his hands of which the Seventh-day Adventist Systematic Theologian, Hans LaRondelle was one as well. His predecessors were Abraham Kuyper and Herman Bavinck. Whoever spoke about Berkhouwer wanted to define him: some wanted to include him with the bad guys of neo-orthodoxy[2] and others with the bad guys of Protestant Scholastics. All distinguish between an early Berkhouwer and a later Berkhouwer.[3] Especially Berkhouwer’s two works on Scripture [1928] and [1966-1967] illustrates the two sides of Berkhouwer. It is said that the early Berkhouwer was more like Warfield but that the later Berkhouwer was more like neo-orthodoxy of which Karl Barth is an example and Van Til not.[4]

So what change came over Berkhwouer and what was this transformation that created him in an early Berkhouwer and a later Berkhouwer? Vatican II in 1962. Berkhouwer developed and interest to see Reformed Theology through the eyes of Catholic Theology. In 1948 Berkhouwer wrote the book: Conflict met Rome (Conflict With Rome, 1948). He was in the synods of the trouble years between 1943-1945 that had to cause a liberation or “Vrijmaking” and deposed certain officebearers like Dr. Klaas Schilder, Dr. S. Greijdanus and later regretted that the synod made the wrong decisions. He also wrote after Vatican II the book: Vaticaans Concilie en de nieuwe theologie (The Second Vatican Council and Recent Theology).

Berkhouwer developed an ecumenical nerve and attended since 1957 the Amsterdam and Nieu Delhi World Council of Churches meetings. He found good reading in his predecessors work Hendrikus Berkhof and this helped him to bring more ecumenism into his teaching. The student of Berkhouwer, Harry Kuitert then broke completely with the Free University of Amsterdam rule that the Synod of Dort needs to be subscribe to and rebelled against it. Kuitert became Unitarian[5] and on his 90 birthday, Berkhouwer applauded Kuitert’s works.

In the middle of his discussion on the Antichrist Berkhouwer suddenly stopped when he had to identify the Antichrist and what did he do? “Yet, we may not be tempted into concluding with Schmaus that ‘what the Antichrist is, is a deep mystery”.[6] That is just after he discussed 666. Berkhouwer is convinced that this number 666 must be calculated: “If this number cannot be understood and reckoned, everything would be lost in the last hour”.[7] The number was already calculated by Andreas Helvig in 1610, 1618 and 1630 editions of the same book with the word vicarius filii dei adding up to exactly 666 in Roman letters. Does Berkhouwer not know it? He does not even mention it. But he did mention vicar as Antichrist concept.

Berkhouwer said that the papacy clinging to the title of vicar had caused many problems in identifying itself as antichrist. He cited literature to emphasize his point by saying that Calvin was convinced on this. He also talked about John Henry Newman who was also concerned with this problem of vicar and Antichrist and Newman, according to Berkhouwer, admitted that until 1843, Newman was himself convinced that the pope is the antichrist.[8] Newman was originally an evangelical of the Church of England but Anglicanism and Catholicism appealed to him and in 1845 he moved to the Catholic church. And when he did, vicar was no problem to him any longer and the pope no longer an Antichrist because of the pope’s connectedness to vicarius filii dei or vicar of Christ.

Apologetically, almost apologyzingly Berkhouwer said about the Reformers identification of the papacy as Antichrist softpadding the issue: “The Reformers’ attack on the papacy is easy to dismiss as ‘antipapism,’ but we ought to analyze the background and motives that led to this identification.”[9] Luther, according to scholars, believed that in his time the End of the World came and that the Antichrist had to be around and also suneclipses of 1514, 1518 and 1531 were signs of the “last hour”.[10] He lived an operated with a Naherwartung “a close expectation” of the End Time. Adventism are similar than Luther one can say. We talk about the “last hour” since 1844. Of course there is the grey area of Daniel 11:36-45 that we did not know what to do with it. We could see the USA as power coming in 36-39 of this chapter but more than that in the 1930’s, 1950’s and all the way even to recently, it was, as LaRondelle indicated in his class syllabus on End Time Issues, a “grey area”. He was a student of Berkhouwer and correct. But, LaRondelle lived beyond 911 in 2001 and missed the attack in Daniel 11:40 of the King of the South [Bin Laden] and the King of the North [Saddam] and how the USA will set up its power from area to area as it did ever since and since Nixon in 1974 with Egypt [verse 42]. And over Libya in 2003 with Gaddaphi in Daniel 11:43. Ethiopia or current Somalia or both. Actually, nearly all historicists in the SDA tradition missed it in Daniel. Even with Iran now tightening up as [verse 44 predicted] and Trump shifting the embassy between the seas from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in Daniel 11:45. They are quiet and unaware of prophecy moving. So is Naherwartung important for a Seventh-day Adventist historicist? Yes. But they have vague scenarios with no specifics. “No one knows the hour” they say. Just like Preterists. It is not to be denied but the nearness will be known.

It is said that Luther first mentioned to Georg Spalatin his suspicions about the pope. Berkhouwer is quick to say that this idea of Luther already had a long history summed up in the medieval question: an papa sit antichristus?[11] But knowing this all from Calvin in his commentary on 2 Thessalonians 2:7 identifying the papacy with the antichrist, Berkhouwer is quick to brush it under the rug: “We may smile condescendingly and talk about their ‘obvious error’ when we hear that the Reformers identified pope and antichrist”. Why? Because he attended the Vatican II council. He had a soft heart for the Vatican Theology.

Berkhouwer pointed out though that the New Testament indicates that the antichrist is in their time already but that it will be an end time appearance and work. He said it is important to ask whether it is a power or person. Those who say “power” see it in every generation. Traditionally, says Berkhouwer the personality choice of the manifestation of the Antichrist in the End Time had preference over the power display due to 2 Thessalonians 2:8.[12]

He also felt that it is necessary to distinguish between Antichrists and Antichrist. He said that some solve the problem to talk about forerunners or Antichrist and the Antichrist.[13] The antichrists are with us but the Antichrist will appear at the end.[14] Bavinck, the predecessor of Berkhouwer felt that in this way the antichrists are throughout history but one day there will be one kingdom of the world, the apotheosis of apostacy.[15]

But then Berkhouwer took Bavinck to task for this distinction of forerunners and later an Antichrist. He says that John in 2 John 7 wants to indicate that there is one deceiver already who is the antichrist. “Instead of an idea of ‘forerunners’, the emphasis is on the antichrist, the deceiver, as herald of the last hour”.[16]

Van der Meulen disagrees with the idea of continuity. He says that the false teachers were not forerunners but in them the Antichrist of the end was present.[17] From an Adventist perspective, Van der Meulen is correct. Satan is the same power working in the forerunners or antichrist throughout generations of history as Bavinck would drag them through, but also these false teachers are not the papacy that would start in 538 until 1798 be wounded and then in 1928 be healed again. Yet the same Satan worked in all these parties for continuity and sameness that Berkhouwer is seeking. This is the Adventist position. It is almost an incorporation of all their ideas. They look at the same diamond from different angles and sees differently when they are actually dealing with the same diamond all of them in the Reformed tradition. Berkhouwer is correct by saying that it is not for John to actualize the antichrist. It had its time to start at the beginning of the 1260 years period of Daniel and Revelation and the wound to be received at the end of it by Berthier when the papacy was taken to France by Napoleon in 1798. The Adventist position though.  

The correct way of viewing the Johanine and Pauline statements on the Antichrist is the following: you need to interpret Daniel historicistically and not preteristically; you need to bring the Rebellion in Heaven Motif in this whole scenario since Satan has an ax to grind ever since he left heaven; the antichrist or antichrists are proxies not of themselves or each other but of Satan and his demons. Demons enter humans and their actions make them join the antichrists. Satan and his demons are the essence in each Antichrist manifestation. Berkhouwer should have seen that 1 John 5:19 there is a foundation-block in ontology, namely “and the whole world lies in the wickedness”. As Harnack said in 1915: 534, “we are like babies on Satan’s lap”. But the good part is that Christ is also there to pull Satan’s ear. The next essence necessary on the Antichrist is the concept of a time to start and a time to stop, the 1260 years prophecy of Daniel and Revelation. Paul knew about it in 2 Thessalonians 2. He said in verse 8 that “then” will the lawless one be revealed, meaning the starting in 538 A.D. beginning of the 1260 years of papal rule. But in verse 7 he indicates that the mysterious one is already [ēdē] working the lawlessness. Satan was tempting Christ to break the law and as a roaring lion he is looking whom he can devour. Thus, he is the continuity factor in all evil including the evil that antichrists do and what the specific periodical prophesied Antichrist between 538-1798 would do, getting his wound and then revive again to play a role in our own times. So far the Adventist position on Paul and John here. Paul knew exactly the period interpretation of Daniel, namely the year-day principle, just like Qumran literature on Jubilees etc. and Pesher Habakkuk did, just like the Catholic Thomas Aquinas did with Daniel 9:24-27 and Calvin and Hugo Grotius the 17th century Reformed turned papist, but what about Berkhouwer?

We are still talking about the Seventh-day Adventist Systematic Theologian Hans LaRondelle’s teacher Berkhouwer. What did papal interest do to his cognitive parts of his brain that also affects his epistemology and methodology and finally his writing on the Antichrist? It is said about Berkhouwer that he wanted “to produce a work in systematic theology that was grounded in careful exegesis of the biblical texts for all doctrinal teaching, according to a Reformed tradition of interpretation of the Bible”.[18] Think about it: doing an exegesis of the Bible with the glasses of the interpretation of confessions in the Reformed tradition will differ from Adventism in what way? What exegetical drops fell on Hans LaRondelle and was carried into Andrews University Seminary in the lectures and articles and books of LaRondelle that shifted the axis of pastors and students to a more “Reformed” way of thinking for exegesis of the Bible?

An verse discussed by Berkhouwer regarding the antichrist time is 1 John 2:18 and 4:3. “The hour which was announced in advance, has come”. Then Berkhouwer wants to say that John believed it is the End of Time by saying: “In the appearance of the many antichrists and the liar, John discerns the last hour”.[19] Berkhouwer admitted that Calvin in his commentaries on 1 John and 2 Thessalonians 2:8 said that the Antichrist of the End Time has not yet come but “forerunners” or antichrists came. Contrary to Calvin, Berkhouwer takes the liberty to say: “Instead of an idea of ‘forerunners’, the emphasis is on the antichrist, the deceiver, as herald of the last hour.”[20]

Berkhouwer wanted to keep the papacy outside the confounds of Reformed interpretation and thus said about 1 John 2:18 “Wherever the Bible uses the word ‘antichrist’, it refers to something real and actually present.”[21] Adventist response, and I hope the response of Hans LaRondelle to his teacher should have been: yes, the essence of the antichrist (plural and singular at the End Time) is Satan and he is always present in every generation since the Fall of Adam and Eve. His demons as well. It is the difference between glove and hand. The hand is Satan and the glove is the generational choice of fighters against Christ spirituality. But, prophetically, a specific Antichrist person with a real function would appear in history that would in that official capacity or role operate for 1260 years and later beyond until the Second Coming with consistent ID as viciarius filii dei = 666 as Andreas Helvig indicated in 1612, 1618 and 1630 editions of his work.[22]

Berkhouwer cited Althaus as correctly indicating that the New Testament in their view, does not speak about an Antichrist to come in an End Time scenario but that “the church must always look for the antichrist as a reality present among it, or as an immediately threatening future possibility…”[23]

Since Berkhouwer do not want the papacy to be antichrist, tongue in the cheek, he indicated that for the Reformers the Antichrist was “eschatological seriousness and expectation then” and that in the modern times the idea is to hold on an “essentially vague and undetermined personality of the future”. [24]

There are Adventist professors in New Testament at Loma Linda University in California who wants to turn the Advent Hermeneutics of the vicarius filii dei = 666 to a mute situation and thus in Revelation 13 on Youtube actually said nothing about the papacy as ID! Teacher? Hans LaRondelle et al. and Berkhouwer as backbone to LaRondelle and not to single out LaRondelle per se, for he did an excellent spiritual work for God, but the Reformed leaning in Adventism is a concern.

Berkhouwer admitted also that Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2 takes on a Fernerwartung = future expectation. But he feels that it also talks about an already in verse 7 at work. “the mystery of lawlessness is already at work”. Satan is that mystery and his essence is always present. Paul wants to make sure that moment are not considered absent of evil presence even if the churches’ eyes are on the horizon waiting for Daniel’s 1260 years Antichrist to come.

When John is saying the antichrist will be in the last hour he is not saying the antichrist is in his own time. In verse 18 of 1 John 2 John is putting down the principle or axiom that Jesus gave them: “just as you have heard that an antichrist will come then we know that it is the last hour”. This is the principle expounded by John, the gospels, Paul and Peter. They have heard that there will be an End-time antichrist. Then “we will know or we know” is thus the koinonia interpreting. But, the work of the antichrist was said by Daniel expounded by Jesus, Paul and even John to last 1260 years and further after the healing of the wound of Revelation 13, and after that is the Second Coming or the “last hour” as John is speaking. John is not confused or perplexed or speak with two tongues. Some Adventist professors even in their Sabbath School Quarterlies tried to indicate that John expected Christ to come in his time. Reformed theology inroads in Adventism after 1950 examples.

This expression by John saying in 1 John 2:18 “Children, ‘it is the last hour’, is not the view of John but a colloquial expression and tabletalk going around on Christian tables wrongly and John wants to fix this misunderstanding and what follows is a correction of this. ‘and now antichrists are many’. This is not John’s view, it is the false interpreters that say the End is now in John’s time that he wants to correct. He refers them to the biblical tenet that it is an antichrist [singular] that must come first and then the end. Not like the tabletalk is running around from house to house in John’s day that many antichrists are around so it is the end. Berkhouwer and other Reformed Theologians missed this point. See for example further in the same chapter where John is talking about these skew views floating around: “These things have I written concerning those who seduce you”.

The antichrist of Revelation 13 would have power before the wound, have the wound and then imitate the universalism and democracy of the USA as second beast of Revelation 13 as the Seventh-day Adventist A. Treiyer indicated in a paper in August 2018, namely that after Vatican II the papacy is operating with “democratic like” modus operandi yet it is a fascism lover.[25]

The “Abomination of Desolation” statement of Mark 13 is correctly explained by Berkhouwer as follows: “What is noteworthy is that Christ does not speak about his horror as bout an event in some ancient past”.[26] Berkhouwer cancels J. Collins’ view as follows: “Christ is not referring back to the tribulations of Israel during the time of Antiochus Epiphanes, but to today and tomorrow.”[27]

Berkhouwer thought that Luke talked about the same event as Mark 13 and that the abomination of desolation is the destruction of the temple as cited Luke 21:20. Again Refomed scholars misunderstood Matthew, Mark and Luke here. Here is the key to understand it properly: Luke 21:20 is not the same as Matthew 24:15 but Matthew is the same as Mark 13:14. Why? Because Luke 21:20 is citing Daniel 9:26 but Matthew and Mark are citing Daniel 9:27. In the exposition of Daniel 9:26 it refers to the Roman forces destroying the temple in 70-73 A.D. but in the exposition of Daniel 9:27 it refers to the 1260 years of Antichrist rule starting in 538 A.D. It was this F. F. Bruce understanding that led Desmond Ford of Adventism to see a confusion in prediction and with this prooftext invented the recapitalization principle claiming that it refers to Antiochus and to Nero and to Papacy. Many Sabbath School Quarterlies in Adventism has followed the Preteristic Reformed exegesis of equalizing the three gospels on this verse and ascribe all the actions to 70 A.D. This cannot be done, why? Then the Holy Spirit lied since the Abomination of Desolation is the work of the Antichrist and that was to start in 538 A. D. With the above key provided that problem is solved and it is a proper Adventist position not preteristic revolving interpretation as Ford et al invented in his dissertation on Daniel. G. C. Aalders in the Reformed tradition refused to connect Mark 13:14 to Daniel 9:27 because that verse are using abominations [plural] but Mark is using abomination [singular].[28] He only wants to connect Mark 13:14 to Daniel 11:31 and Daniel 12:11. Berkhouwer makes it very clear that Luke did not cite Daniel 9:27 as did Mark and Matthew. He said correctly: “…Luke, without mentioning Daniel….”[29]

Berkhouwer said about the number 666 that it is mysterious, quoting a Catholic scholar. Catholic is disqualified to answer this question because they are fitting the ID. Despite this mystery about the number, Berkhouwer said: “there is something specific and concrete about this number. In other words, by means of this number John meant to indicate a concrete antichristian power or person, so that the Christian community could mobilize for the conflict with this power or person. This “code” has not incorrectly been called the key to the identification of the beast. The name of the beast is thought to be hidden in the number 666”.[30] But Berkhouwer knows nothing about vicarius filii dei even though it existed already since 1612. Did he know about it and pusposefully turned the other way?

Berkhouwer felt that if the antichrist was just someone who has to come at the last days, then there was nothing for the people until that time to hang on to or preparation was not necessary.[31]

Apostacy, Berkhouwer felt, had two aspects: denial and forgetfulness.[32] But one should not ask which one of the two is for the last days. He felt that in the last days the choice will be between illumination or blindness.[33]

Finally we are asking that when Hans LaRondelle completed his doctorate under Berkhouwer in 1971, how much of Berkhouwer’s theology have rubbed off on LaRondelle and from LaRondelle on his students like Jon Paulien, et al.? Are there shocking videos with Paulien, Stefanovich, or any other student of these teachers from Reformed school of Education?


[1] G. C. Berkhouwer, (1972). The Return of Christ. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

[2] Cornelius Van Til, The Sovereignty of Grace (Nutley, N. J.: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1969), p. 32, where Van Til says of Berkouwer: “His love for the Reformed faith unquestioned”; however, “concomitant with his more ‘positive’ attitude toward both Barth and Rome in recent times goes an increasingly negative attitude toward historic Reformed statements with respect to Scripture and doctrine.” Cited from the illuminating blog by Carl W. Bogue, “Berkouwer: A Hole in the Dike?”

[3] Al Vanderheide said in the obituary of Berkhouwer: “Almost everybody agrees as well that Berkouwer's thinking underwent a shift. Observers committed to Reformed orthodoxy indicate that, especially during the 1950's, Berkouwer departed from the classic Reformed viewpoint on several issues. For example, a comparison between his earlier and later writings shows a shift of viewpoint regarding matters like the authority of Scripture and original sin.” Al Vanderheide, (1996). “Dutch Reformed Leader Dr. G.C. Berkouwer Passes Away.” Editor to the Windmill. Downloaded from Herald

[4] Hendrick Krabbendam, “B. B. Warfield vs. G. C. Berkouwer on Scripture,” Summit Papers (unpublished), ed. Norman L. Geisler, International Council on Biblical Inerrancy, Chicago, October 1978 especially cited by Bogue at pp. 15.3, 15.28.

[5] "Unitarianism (from Latin unitas "unity, oneness", from unus "one") is a Christian theological movement named for its belief that the God in Christianity is one entity, as opposed to the Trinity (tri- from Latin tres "three") which defines God as three persons in one being; the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.[1] Unitarian Christians, therefore, believe that Jesus was inspired by God in his moral teachings, and he is a savior, but he was not a deity or God incarnate....Unitarianism is also known for the rejection of several other Western Christian doctrines, including the doctrines of original sin, predestination, and the infallibility of the Bible. Unitarians in previous centuries accepted the doctrine of punishment in an eternal hell, but few do today." (see "Unitarianism" Downloaded from What does this means? A denial of Jesus as the Son of God, denial of virgin birth, almost becoming the same as Judaism in their God concept and also as Islam. So the chances of ecumenism is greatly enhanced hereby.

[6] Berkhouwer, 1972: 279 citing the Catholic scholar Schmaus at footnote 57.

[7] Berkhouwer does not know how close he is to the truth here. It is imperative to calculate the number.

[8] Berkhouwer 1972: 262 also at footnote 4.

[9] Berkhouwer 1972: 262.

[10] Berkhouwer, 1972: 263, also at footnote 6.

[11] For the Medieval sources see F. Heiler, (1923). Der Katholizismus. Seine Idee und Erscheinung.

[12] Berkhouwer, 1972: 264.

[13] Berkhouwer 1972: 265.

[14] K. Dijk, Het einde der eeuwen page 156 op. cit. Berkhouwer 1972: 265.

[15] H. Bavinck, Goddelike Dogmatiek, IV, 659. Op. cit. Berkhouwer 1972: 265 at footnote 13.

[16] Berkhouwer 1972: 266.

[17] Berkhouwer 1972: 266 at footnote 17. R. J. van der Meulen, (1951). “Veractualisering van de Antichrist,” in Arcana Revelata, 69.


[19] Berkhouwer, 1972: 266.

[20] Berkhouwer, 1972: 266.

[21] Berkhouwer, 1972: 267.

[22] Edwin de Kock is a Seventh-day Adventist retired history professor who wrote a 1000 page book on this topic throughout Catholic history and collected many examples of the use of this title, the enforcement of this title, and its calculation adding up not six out of seven, six out of seven and six out of seven = imperfect number, but six hundred and sixty [ten] six.

[23] Berkhouwer, 1972: 267 footnote 20 citing Althaus, Die letzten Dinge, 283, 285.

[24] Berkhouwer, 1972: 268.

[25] Berkhouwer, 1972: 273. The wound was seen by Paul Minear in 1953 to be Christ on the cross and His ascension (see P. Minear, [1953]. “The Wounded Beast.” Journal of Biblical Literature, LXXII, 93-101). He feels that the beast hides the fact that he has been killed. Berkhouwer disagrees correctly by saying that Minear does not understand it properly since there will be a vivification and rejuvenation of the beast.

[26] Berkhouwer, 1972: 275.

[27] Berkhouwer, 1972: 275.

[28] G. C. Aalders, (1960). “De gruwel der verwoesting.” Gereformeerd theologisch tijdschrift” LII, 1-5. See the Commentary of Aalders pages 229ff. as cited by Berkhouwer 1972: 276.

[29] Berkhouwer, 1972: 276.

[30] Berkhouwer, 1972: 280.

[31] Berkhouwer, 1972: 282.

[32] Antanas Maceina, (1955). Das Geheimnis der Bosheit. Page 195ff. op. cit. Berkhouwer, 1972: 284.

[33] Berkhouwer, 1972: 289.