Pope Francis has made news lately with rumors of his possible resignation. A recent knee problem forced alterations to the pope’s summer travel plans, fueling speculation that he may step down. The precedent for a modern pope to resign for health reasons was set in February 2013 with the resignation of then 85-year-old Pope Benedict XVI. Now, nine years later, Francis is also 85.
Anything that happens to the pope is newsworthy. That is not only because he is the leader of the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics. For students of Bible prophecy, it is also because the pope and the Catholic Church fit the mold of an end-time, false religious system linked to a charismatic world leader called “the Beast” (Revelation 13:11-15).
History bears out the powerful role that popes and the Roman Catholic Church played in propagating the dominance of the Roman Empire. Because the historical record fits remarkably well with Bible prophecy, it is reasonable to ask, “Is Pope Francis this Beast power? Or will there be a different pope that becomes the Beast power?”
Bible prophecies in Daniel and Revelation warn of a coming time of global upheaval. From this turmoil will emerge a worldwide religious and political system to restore order in the world’s economies and to maintain peace. The leading charismatic figure of the false religious system, whom the Bible calls “the false prophet,” (Revelation 16:13), will perform astonishing miracles and persuade the world to worship “the beast,” the political head of this end-time power. The entire world will come under the sway of these leaders, and even worship the Beast power (Revelation 13:8)—an unholy union of church and state.
Given the age of Pope Francis, it is likely that another pope will come after him. Thus far, the pope has dismissed reports that he plans to resign soon. He continues to travel with several visits on his agenda. Yet, even with his active schedule, the pope has not ruled out the possibility that he may step down.
When Francis became pope, he inherited the burden of leading the church’s response to the decades-long priest abuse scandals. He is also now dealing with a growing movement within the Catholic church, the German Synod, which is pressing hard for monumental reform of Catholic tradition regarding priestly celibacy and ordaining women as deacons (WSJ, February 4, 2022). The weight of the office and ongoing health issues may lead Francis to make the decision to resign. That Francis will have any involvement in the final, world-shaking events preceding Christ's return may be unlikely. At the least, he could have a role to play in hastening these things.
Whatever happens, we need to stay watchful of world events. As Christ admonished us, “What I say to you, I say to all: Watch!” (Mark 13:37).