Biblical Numerology: NUMBER SEVEN – Part 21
Unbroken Apostolic Succession of the Papacy?  

According to Webster’s Student Edition Dictionary (1976), papacy includes four things: “1. the position or authority of the pope 2. the period during which the pope rules  3. the line of succession of popes 4. the government of the Roman Catholic Church, headed by the pope.” It is important to remember these 4-point definition whenever referring to the papacy. Moreover, it is essential to remember that not one single or any particular pope is the papacy or the beast, even the president is the presidency or a senator the senate itself, etc. This would expose many false interpretations. For instance, while he was still alive, it was claimed that Pope John Paul (the first Polish pope) was the “last pope,” who was allegedly going to usher in the “New World Order” for the Church of Rome, with Gorbachev for Russia, and George Bush Sr. for America! 

Not only did Daniel and John foretell the development of the papacy. So did Paul:
“The apostle Paul, in his second letter to the Thessalonians, foretold the great apostasy which would result in the establishment of the papal power. He declared that the day of Christ should not come, ‘except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.’ 2 Thess. 2: 3, 4, 7. Even at that early date he saw, creeping into the church errors that would prepare the way for the development of the papacy. . . .The compromise between paganism and Christianity resulted in the development of “the man of sin” foretold in prophecy as opposing and exalting himself above God. That gigantic system of false religion is a masterpiece of Satan’s power—a monument of his efforts to seat himself upon the throne to rule the earth according to his will.” – Great Controversy, pp. 49, 50, 1911

The Death of the Papacy? – Not a few godly expositors of the Bible believed, including Uriah Smith (for a while, at least) that the papacy permanently lost its power when Pius VI was taken captive by General Berthier of Napoleon’s French Republican army in 1798 and taken to France. He died in Valence the next year. And yet prophecy tells us that:

“The influence of Rome in the countries that once acknowledged her dominion is still far from destroyed. A prophecy foretells a restoration of her power. ‘I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast.’ Rev. 13: 3. The infliction of the deadly wound points to the downfall of the papacy in 1798. After this, says the prophet [John], ‘his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast.’ Paul states plainly that ‘the man of sin’ will continue until the second advent. 2 Thess. 2: 3-8. To the very close of time he will carry forward the work of deception. And the revelator declares, also referring to the papacy: ‘All that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life.’ Rev. 13: 8. In both the Old and the New World, the papacy will receive homage in the honor paid to the Sunday institution, that rests solely upon the authority of the Roman Church.” – E. G. White, Great Controversy, 1911 ed., p. 579.


The Church of Rome, not the Bible, claims that the pope is the Vicar of Christ on earth–even “Christ Himself in the flesh”! But Christ promised before and after His ascension an altogether different vicar, vicegerent, or representative in His place who is not a mortal but the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Godhead. (John 14: 15-18; 16:7). Of His Representative, Christ says: “He shall teach you all things.” “He will guide you into all truth.” John 14: 26; 16:13. (Compare to 1 John 2: 20, 27). The Holy Spirit, being the author of the Bible (2 Pet. 1:2), certainly should be the proper interpreter of it. To this the Roman Catholic Church answers:
“Nor can it be said that being a divinely inspired book, its prime Author, the Holy Spirit, will guide the reader to the right meaning, The Church which made the Bible, likewise interprets the Bible.” – “Things Catholics Are Asked About,” Martin J. Scott, S.J., Litt.D., pp. 119, 120. N.Y. : Kennedy, 1927. Quoted in Facts of Faith, pp. 198-9.

Pope Leo XIII says:
“But the supreme teacher in the Church is the Roman Pontiff. Union of minds, therefore, requires, together with a perfect accord in the one faith, complete submission to the will of the Church and to the Roman Pontiff, as to God Himself.” – “The Great Encyclical Letters of Pope Leo XIII,” p. 193. N.Y: Benziger Bros. 1903. He further says:

“We hold upon this earth the place of God Almighty.” – Id., p. 304. (Ibid).

“All the names which in the Scriptures are applied to Christ, by virtue by which it is established that He is over the church, all the same names are applied to the Pope.” – Robert Bellarmine, “On the Authority of the Councils,” p. 17, 1628 ed. vol. I, p. 266.

“For nor man, but God separates those whom the Roman Pontiff (who exercises the functions, not of mere man, but of the true God), having weighed the necessity or benefit of the churches, dissolves, not by human but rather by divine authority.” – “The Decretals of Gregory IX, book I, title y, chap. 3, in Corpus Juris Canonici, 1555 ed., vol. 2, col. 203.

“The pope is supreme judge of the law of the land. . . He is the vicegerent of Christ, and is not only a priest forever, but also King of kings and Lord of lords. – “La Civilia Cattolica, March 18, 1871.

“The Pope is not only the representative of Jesus Christ, but He is Jesus Christ Himself hidden under the veil of the flesh. Does the Pope speak? It is Jesus Christ who speaks. Does the Pope accord a favor or pronounce an anathema? It is Jesus Christ who pronounces the anathema or accords the favor. So that when the Pope speaks we have no business to examine. We have only to obey. We have no right to criticize his direction or discuss his commands.” – “The Archbishop of Venice, prior to becoming Pope Pius X.  Quoted in “Mark of the Beast,” Harvestime Books, Altamont, TN 37301.

Unbroken Apostolic Succession?  The papacy has long claimed to be an “unbroken apostolic succession” going back to Peter, allegedly “the first pope.” Nowhere in the New Testament can this claim be found. It is entirely a creation of the papacy. The passage used to supposedly sustain this claim is Matthew 16: 18. But the “rock” in the Bible, from the Old Testament to the New Testament applies to Jesus Christ, “the Rock of all ages,” never to any mortal, as all His disciples and apostles were. See also 2 Sam. 22: 2, 3, 32, 47; 23: 3; Ps. 18: 2, 31, 46; 28: 131:3; 42:9; 61: 2; 31: 62, 2, 6, 7; 89: 26; 92: 15; 94: 22;  95:1; Rom. 9: 31; 1 Cor. 4: 4. See Matt. 16: 13-18; Mar 8: 27-38; Luke 9: 18-27; Desire of Ages, 410-418. The papacy did not begin in the time of the apostles but in 538 A.D.—during the fourth stage of the church symbolized as Thyatira.

Even Church history itself contradicts this claim. For four decades there were two, three, and even four bitterly feuding different lines who claimed the right to the “Petrine throne,”  namely, (1) the French Avignon (2) the Italian Roman, and (3) the the Pisan. One accused the other as “antipope,” and since they claimed to be the Vicar of Christ—they ironically accused themselves, correctly, of being the antichrist of prophecy! The so called “Great Schism of Christianity” is a misnomer– it did not take place among mainstream Christianity but in the Church of Rome!

“(1378-1417). In Roman Catholic history, a period when there were two, and later three, rival popes, each with their own College of Cardinals. The schism began soon after the papal residence was returned to Rome from Avignon (see Avignon papacy). Urban VI was elected amid local demands for an Italian pope, but a group of cardinals with French sympathies elected an antipope, Clement VII, who took up residence at Avignon. Cardinals on both sides met at Pisa in 1409 and elected a third pope in and effort to end the schism. The rift was not healed until the Council of Constance vacated all three seats and elected Martin V as pope in 1417.” Source: Britannica Concise Encyclopedia.

“The Great Schism of Western Christianity or Papal Schism (also known as the Western Schism) was a split within the Roman Catholic church from 1378 to 1417. By its end, three men simultaneously claimed to be the true pope. Driven by politics rather than any real theological disagreement [?], the schism was ended by the Council of Constance (1414-1418). The simultaneous claim to the papal chair of four different men hurt the reputation of the office. The Western Schism is occasionally called the Great Schism, though this term is more often applied to the East-West Schism of 1054.” Source: Wikipedia, Western Schism (emphasis mine).

Origin:  “The schism in the western Church resulted from the return of the papacy under Gregory XI in 1376, ending the Avignon Papacy, which had developed a reputation for corruption that estranged major parts of Western Christendom. This reputation can be attributed to perceptions of predominant French influence and to the papal curia’s efforts to extend its powers of patronage and increase in revenue.

“After Gregory XI died, the Romans rioted to ensure the election of a Roman for pope. The cardinals, fearing the crowds, elected a Neapolitanwhen no viable Roman candidates presented themselves. Pope Urban VI, born Bartolomeo Parignano, the Archbishop of Bari, was elected in 1378. Urban had been a respected administrator in the papal chancery at Avignon, but as pope he proved suspicious, overbearing, and prone to violent outbursts of temper. The cardinals who had elected him soon regretted their decision: the majority removed themselves from Rome to Agnani, where they elected Robert de Geneva as a rival pope on September 20 of the same year [1378]. Robert took the name Pope Clement VIIand reestablished a papal court in Avignon. The second election threw the church into turmoil. There have been antipopes—rival claimants to the papacy—before, but most of them had been appointed by various rival factions, in this case, a single group of leaders of the Church had created both the pope and the antipope.

“The conflicts quickly escalated from a church problem to a diplomatic crisis that divided Europe. Secular leaders had to choose which claimant they would recognize: Avignon: France, Aragon, Castille and Leon, Cyprus, Burgundy, Savoy, Naples, and Scotland recognized the Avignon claimant; Rome: Denmark, England, Flanders, the Holy Roman Empire, Hungary, northern Italy, Ireland, Norway, Poland, and Sweden recognized the Roman claimant.

“In the Iberian Peninsula there were the Fernandine Wars (Guerras fernandinas) and the 1383-1835 Crisis in Portugal, during which dynastic opponents supported rival claimants to the papal office.

Consequences: “Sustained by such national and factional rivalries throughout Catholic Christendom, the schism continued after the deaths of both initial claimants, Boniface IX, crowned at Rome in 1939, and Benedict XIII, who reigned in Avignon from 1394, maintained their rivalcourts. When Boniface died in 1404, the eight cardinals of the Roman conclave offered to refrain from electing a new pope if Benedict would resign; but when his legates refused on his behalf, the Roman party then proceeded to elect Pope Innocent VII.

“Effort were made to end the schism through force or diplomacy. The French crown even tried to coerce Benedict IX, whom it nominally supported, into resigning. None of these remedies worked. The suggestion that a church council should resolve the Schism, first made in 1378, was not adopted at first because canon law required that a pope call a council. Eventually theologians like Pierre d’Ailly and Jean Gerson, as well as canon lawyers like Francesco Zabarella, adopted arguments that equity permitted the [Roman] Catholic Church to act for its own welfare in defiance of the letter of the law.”
To be continued next week, God willing)