Friday, September 22, 2006

The 'image' of the Beast - Revelation 13

As we’ve already discussed, many of today’s prophecy teachers have bought into the theory of a secret rapture, 7 year period of tribulation and a future evil world leader known as the Antichrist. Because of this, much of the Christian world is looking into the future for the start of the Revelation of Jesus Christ. There is no sense of urgency today because this secret rapture will take all true believers out of here before things get too bad. So, many of us continue to focus on our daily lives – making money, following sports, new houses, new cars, politics, terrorism, etc – and we are not at all prepared for what we will face. I have to say that I never thought our spiritual enemy could be this deceptive. I’m not sure why, the Bible tells us to always be on our guard against him. ‘Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes’ (Ephesians 6:11). ‘….in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes’ (2 Corinthians 2:11). ‘When he [satan] lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies’ (John 8:44).The truth is that as long as I relied on John Gilmore and his ability to see and discern, the world looked A-OK to me. Yes, there seemed to be many problems in the world, but they weren’t close to me, so I believed the lie that the world was fine. It wasn’t until I humbly came to the Lord and asked for wisdom that I began to see the world as it truly is. Honestly, I was fearful and depressed….at first. Over time, by remaining close to the Lord and learning from Him, I now know what is happening in the world and why….and equally important, I’m not afraid of it.

We have discussed previously how this secret rapture, future tribulation and future antichrist will be used against us by the enemy. Not only do these doctrines remove a sense of urgency, but they shift our focus from the truth in today’s world to some fantasy in the future. Very few people are looking at what is happening in the world today and how it relates to Revelation. Because of this, our spiritual radar is non-existent and we are allowing ourselves to be deceived on many fronts. We’re going to talk about a possible future deception in this post. This is an issue that I believe the Lord presented to me day’s ago, and at first, I didn’t want to believe it. I’ve found that if I ignore something that the Lord is bringing to my attention, He will continue to bring it back around to my attention until I know that it’s something He wants me to do….this was no exception. We’re going to discuss the ‘image’ of the beast mentioned in chapter 13 of Revelation. The verses that mention this image are Revelation 13:14-15: ‘Because of the signs he [beast ….out of the earth] was given power to do on behalf of the first beast [beast …out of the sea], he deceived the inhabitants of the earth. He [beast …out of the earth] ordered them [inhabitants of the earth] to setup an image in honor of the beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lived. He was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that it could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed’. In the Left Behind books, this image is portrayed as a huge statue of the Antichrist (Nicolae Carpathia) that seems to come alive. Everyone is forced to worship this ‘image’ or be killed. Is this what the Lord is saying? I believe that the answer is no. If you’ve read all of these posts, then you know that the beast is not a man, but the Roman Church. So, the image can’t be a statue of a man, but an image of the Roman Catholic Church. Before we go further, let’s get a definition of image.

From Webster’s dictionary:
im·age: 1: a reproduction or imitation of the form of a person or thing;

So, the image in the case of Revelation 13:14 is likely a church that imitates the Catholic Church in some way. If you’ve read my other posts to this point, you know some of the differences between official Catholic doctrine and God’s Word. There are significant differences that I won’t go into here, but it is clear that this image will incorporate many of the unbiblical doctrine of the Catholic Church. Why? Because a true church of God would not force anyone to obey its doctrine. Jesus never forced anyone to believe Him. If someone did not or would not agree, He let them go. ‘”Teacher," he declared, "all these [Commandments] I have kept since I was a boy." Jesus looked at him and loved him. "One thing you lack," he said. "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." At this the man's face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth’ (Mark 10:20-22). Jesus didn’t force the man to sell everything, He let him go. This ‘image’ in Revelation 13:15 forces everyone to worship it or be killed ‘…so that it [the image] could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed.’ (Revelation 13:15). It’s clear, this future ‘image’ of the Catholic Church is evil. The question is – in today’s world do we see any kind of an ‘image’ of the Catholic Church? Anything that somehow resembles the Catholic Church? The answer is yes…..and you’ll probably be shocked at what it is. As I’ve mentioned many times, you’ll need prayer to truly understand and believe these things. Why? Because the world and people focused on this world do not see with spiritual eyes. They cannot see into the spiritual and therefore, cannot see God in this world and our enemy working in the world. Through humble prayer, God will reveal the truth to you. Only God can show you the truth, regardless of what you’re told in this world.

I spent most of my life in the Methodist Church. I belonged to a Methodist Church during my High School years and my wife and I joined a large Methodist Church when we moved to Atlanta in the early 90’s. When we moved to Knoxville in 2001, we found another Methodist Church and joined. I met many wonderful, spirit filled people in these churches and I witnessed all of these churches reach out into their communities to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ. In all the time that I spent in these Methodist churches, I never realized that I was, at times, reciting Catholic prayers. The reason is that I never knew anything about the Catholic Church. I never thought about it. The church recited these statements or prayers, so I did the same. What prayers you ask? It wasn’t until earlier this year when I started studying Catholic doctrine that I noticed something that bothered me. If you belong to the Methodist Church as I did, then you’re very familiar with the Apostle’s Creed:

‘I believe in God, the Father Almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord:
Who was conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended into hell.
The third day He arose again from the dead.
He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, whence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting.

If you belong to a Methodist Church, then you’re also familiar with ‘Glory be to the Father’:

‘Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.’

Did you know that these prayers are recited as part of the Catholic Rosary? I didn’t. Is there anything wrong with saying these prayers? As I mentioned in an earlier post regarding Catholic doctrine, there’s obviously nothing wrong with stating your beliefs to someone, but the Bible tells us to refrain from repetitious prayers that are said as part of tradition. We’re told in Mathew 6:6-7 ‘But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.’ In the Methodist Churches I have attended, these statements are recited every Sunday. Do we need to repeat statements like this in our worship? The Bible says no. If we desire a relationship with our Father in heaven, we’re told to pray in secret – only to Him. He will hear us and reveal Himself to us if we pray and seek him with all of our heart. Praying in church is obviously something that we all should do, but to have a personal relationship with our Father, it is necessary to pray to Him by ourselves. It is up to each of us to establish this relationship – ‘You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart’ (Jeremiah 29:13).

The last stanza of the Apostles’ Creed also bothers me. Every Sunday in Church I was stating that I believed in the Holy Spirit (which I do) and the Holy Catholic Church (which I don’t). I used to think about this from time to time, but not knowing anything about Catholicism, it didn’t seem a big deal to me. It does now. Some will say that they replace ‘holy catholic church’ with ‘Christ’s church’ or something similar, but I have never heard this in all of my years of attending the Methodist Church. Why did the Methodist Church adopt something from the Catholic Church? I honestly don’t know the answer. I do wonder what those who were persecuted by the Catholic Church during the Middle Ages would think. I have an idea – I believe they’d sound an alarm. I believe this is why I was led to this topic. It’s a warning. Is the Methodist (or any other denomination) now the image of Revelation 13? No. No one is forcing anyone to do anything within Protestant churches today. However, we must be aware that the Bible tells us this will change. In the near future, Catholics and Protestants will unite again within a church that is opposed to God. There is going to be a worldwide ‘image’ of the Catholic Church and this ‘image’ is going to force people to worship its false doctrine. Refuse and you will face a death penalty – ‘He [worldwide government – new world order] was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast , so that it could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed’ (Revelation 13:15). From my own experiences and the knowledge I have received, our enemy never starts by taking down your whole house, he starts with a small brick and works his way up. If we know that the Catholic Church is preaching false doctrine and will someday face the Lord’s judgment, we had better be alert for anything from that church that leaches into our own teaching, however insignificant it may be. Never forget, the devil is constantly scheming to infiltrate and destroy the Lord’s church and he will do it very deceptively. We should not assume that any of us (or any church) is somehow immune to this: ‘Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour’ (1 Peter 5:80) The key here is to actually be alert. It appears to me that most are spiritually asleep or not mature enough yet to discern what is happening. I believe that we’re seeing the beginning of the unification of Catholics and Protestants. Many church leaders are becoming more concerned with the world and finding their place in it than with what the Bible tells us. As a result, we’re going to see the formation of the church-state beast once again – just as the Bible tells us.

Did you know that the ritual of infant baptism began in the Catholic Church? Some protestant churches now baptize infants. Obviously, we should all bring our children into church and our church family, but the Bible never mentions a requirement to baptize a child in order to receive salvation. There is certainly no problem with having a dedication ceremony for infants in our churches, but God does not require us to baptize our children. Jesus was never baptized as an infant. We should be baptized, as an adult, as an open acceptance of God's offer of salvation and the dedication of our lives to Him. We should always follow the example of Christ and He was baptized when He was an adult. The Catholic Church has twisted some verses in the Bible to fit their doctrine of infant baptism, but I see no specific command from our Lord to do this. Think about the logic of this from the Lord's perspective. At some point in your adult life you come close to the Lord. You overcome the world and believe that Jesus died for you so that you can live in eternity. You seek Him and find Him and follow His plan for your life. You are filled with the Holy Spirit and become Holy as He is Holy. You then die. Do you think that God will not allow you to enter heaven because a religious ritual was not performed on you as an infant? Something that you had no control over? The answer is no. Each of us will be judged individually for our lives, our works and the choices we made. The #1 most important choice is whether we believed and accepted that Jesus Christ died and was resurrected for us. Once we become adults and understand that we must ask God for forgiveness for our sins, it is up to us individually to choose to accept God's offer of salvation. You do not have to depend on anyone else in this world for salvation.

The final Catholic similarity I’ve seen in Protestant churches is that most Methodist preachers I’ve listened to are wearing formal robes. What makes me uncomfortable with this is that the Lord has made it clear to me that many Catholic traditions have nothing to do with Him. So it may seem insignificant that a Protestant preacher is wearing flowing robes that are similar to what a Catholic priest wears, but it doesn’t seem at all Christ-like to me. When I see the Pope wearing all of his formal attire and jewelry and sitting on some fancy chair, for me it paints a picture about as far from Jesus as you can get. It says that I’m concerned how the world views me, not how the Lord views me. There's certainly nothing wrong with dressing nicely for Church, but as a teacher of God's Word, it doesn't seem biblical to me to wear anything 'formal' such as robes. Jesus and His disciples were not concerned with their dress. John the Baptist, a mighty man of God, wore nothing but clothes made of camel’s hair and a leather belt. Simply put, John the Baptist and the Apostles were focused on the Lord and His message, not any type of tradition or ritual.

You may be thinking that this is a stretch – there’s no way that Catholics and Protestants will ever join together again. Really? Have you watched the news recently (December 2006)? Pope Benedict XVI recently traveled to Turkey to meet with both Muslim and Orthodox Christian leaders. He prayed toward Mecca with a Muslim cleric and met with an orthodox Christian leader. Statements were made that alluded to reconciliation with Protestants. Dave Hunt writes in his book, A Woman Rides the Beast – ‘The most significant event in nearly 500 years of church history was revealed as a fait accompli on March 29, 1994. On that day leading American evangelicals and Catholics signed a joint declaration titled “Evangelicals and Catholics Together: The Christian mission in the 3rd Millennium”. The document, in effect, overturned the Reformation and will unquestionably have far-reaching repercussions throughout the Christian world for years to come. The 25 page document acknowledges, without compromise, some key differences between Catholics and evangelicals (such as the significance of baptism and the authority of Scripture). Unfortunately, the most important difference – what it means to be a Christian – is not mentioned. In fact, that such a difference even exists is denied. This compromise of the gospel lies at the heart of the agreement……The key element behind this historic joint declaration is the previously unthinkable admission on the part of leading evangelicals that active participation in the Catholic Church makes one a Christian. If that is indeed the case, then the Reformation was a tragic mistake. The millions who were martyred (during the thousand years before the Reformation and since then to the present time) for rejecting Catholicism as a false gospel have all died in vain. If, however, the Reformers were right, then this new agreement between Catholics and evangelicals could well be the cleverest and deadliest blow struck against the gospel in the entire history of the church.’ Regardless of what you may currently believe, Bible prophecy tells us that world religion is going to consolidate at some point…..and this religion won’t be based on God’s Holy Word. If you are close to God and are spiritually mature, you can see it happening on the news everyday. It’s very important that each of us is alert to what the enemy is doing.

How would you describe the congregation of your church? I believe our answer should be - Full of the Holy Spirit. We should worship and praise God and be led, in all that we do, by Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. If I were to describe myself prior to last year in church (and many of the people I’ve seen throughout my years of attending church), I believe the word I would use is….bored. The Methodist Churches I attended always preached from the Bible and were active in spreading the message of Christ, but something was always missing. I remember on many occasions reading about the miracles performed by Jesus – the healings, the prophecy, the service, the knowledge of God and wondering – why aren’t we doing these things? Jesus told us that we would do - even greater works - if we have faith: 'Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father' (John 14:12). If someone ever mentioned that Jesus told us that we would do all of the things He did, I would usually hear something like, ‘Well, that was in biblical times.’ The truth is that many of us don’t know Jesus or our Father in heaven personally and have not asked for power from God – ‘So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you’ (Luke 11:9). Does your church teach how to identify your spiritual gifts and how to strengthen them? Does your church teach prophecy and God’s healing power? The Bible tells us that we all have spiritual gifts and we all have access to God’s power. As you think about your spirtual life and your relationship with God, keep in mind the words of Ezekiel 33:30-33: "As for you son of man, your countrymen are talking together about you by the walls and at the doors of the houses, saying to each other, 'Come and hear the message that has come from the Lord.' My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to listen to your words, but they do not put them into practice. With their mouths they express devotion, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain. Indeed, to them you are nothing more than one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice and plays an instrument well, for they hear your words but do not put them into practice. When all this comes true - and it surely will - then they will know that a prophet has been among them." It's as if Ezekiel was speaking the Lord's message to the United States today. You must ask yourself - "Am I putting the Lord's Word into practice? Do I listen to a preacher on Sunday and then disregard his words and the Bible and live my life my way?" I believe that most of us are doing this - we hear, but are not listening and putting the Lord's Word into practice in our lives. This same theme is expressed in Isaiah 29:13-14: "The Lord says: These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men. Therefore once more I will astound these people with wonder upon wonder; the wisdom of the wise will perish, the intelligence of the intelligent will vanish"

The apostles lived lives of adventure. Yes, very dangerous adventures, but adventures nonetheless. They traveled throughout the known world spreading the gospel of Jesus. They did this regardless of fierce opposition, prison and even death. They never allowed the gospel to be corrupted in any way. Why? Because they picked up their cross and began carrying it. They did not attend church services for one hour every week while living secular lives – they carried out God’s plan for them everyday. They asked God for His will and then carried it out, regardless of the consequences. It is time for us to do the same. In today’s world, we may be told from time to time that the miracles performed by Jesus and the Apostles are not available to us….that those types of adventures will never happen to us. Why? The Bible doesn’t say this. The truth is that we have believed the enemy’s lies. The truth is that God’s power is available to us and it’s time we stood up and received it. You cannot stand against the enemy without it.

I wrote this post not to scare anyone, but simply to get us to think about what is happening and why. It bothers me that I’ve recited the Apostles’ Creed in church many, many times and stated that I supported the Catholic Church when I knew nothing of this church at the time. It’s almost as if we’re being conditioned for something. I mention these things because the Lord has shown me how deceiving our enemy truly is. Don’t assume that because your church has adopted some Catholic doctrine, that it’s ok, we’re all the same. We’re not. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to prepare yourself spiritually for what we face. If you don’t know our Father in heaven and Jesus Christ, if you’re not full of the Holy Spirit to guide and instruct you, you will fail to resist the enemy. You will not see the mark coming and you will not be able to resist it. Don’t listen to the lies of the world that tell you not to worry, you’ll be raptured before things get bad. Don’t be deceived. Now is the time to pray to God to make you into a warrior. It’s time to come home. You’ll become someone who is feared by the enemy, because the enemy fears God’s power. You’ll be able to stand against the devil’s schemes. You’ll live a life of adventure and always know that the Lord is with you wherever you go. And when you finally leave this world, you’ll be welcomed into the Kingdom of Heaven where you’ll receive your reward. No more sickness, no more war, no more sin – just peace, love and joy in the presence of the Lord.

....and never forget that many large Protestant denominations today believe and teach the most deceiving of Catholic doctrines - that there will be a secret rapture before the prophecies in the Book of Revelation will take place at some point in the future....that there will be one evil, future world leader who controls the world during a 7 year period of tribulation and that all of the judgments of Revelation will be poured out onto the earth during these 7 years. I don't believe that any of this is biblical. I do believe that at some point, all religion in the world will be consolidated under the Roman Church. It would make sense that this would happen gradually over time. The truth is that our spiritual enemy has been planning this for centuries.....and he's making progress. We must check everything in the world today against God's Word in order to know the truth.

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