Monday, October 09, 2006

Who is the beast? (Revelation 13) Part 1

Who is the beast “out of the sea” mentioned in Revelation 13? This has obviously intrigued many Bible scholars throughout history. If you believe the current, modern day interpretations of end time prophecy, then you most likely believe that the “beast out of the sea” of Revelation 13 is speaking about a future world leader who is also the antichrist. This is definitely the most popular belief today. Is it scripturally accurate? The problem I have always had (when I would think about the Book of Revelation) is this: why would God leave a 2,000 year prophetic void in history? Based on current interpretations of Revelation, it seems like we live in a time that is not referred to in the Bible. We are in a kind of prophetic ‘no man’s land’ where we have no guidance on what is happening in the world. Everything relating to end time prophecy is always going to happen ‘in the future’. Is this true or are we living through the prophecies in Revelation today?

There is another view of Revelation that subscribes to the theory that the Book of Revelation only references the time of the Roman Empire. This theory says that most of the prophecies of Revelation have already come to pass….in past history. This would, once again, leave us in a prophetic void. In my mind, this is even worse than the futurist view of Revelation. This belief not only places us in a prophetic void, but gives us no guidance on the future. Again, would God leave us in a prophetic void with no knowledge of future events, no guidance on how to prepare? I believe the answer is a resounding NO. Our Father in Heaven loves us too much to provide us with no guidance.

I believe that the Lord has made it clear to me that we are not approaching the beginning of the Book of Revelation, but the end. Did this get your attention? It should, because I firmly believe that it’s true. If you are like I was before being born again in the Spirit of God, then this probably shocks you. As I’ve said before, the problem with being deceived is that you don’t know you are deceived until it’s too late. All of my life, I have believed that the horrible things described in Revelation were coming someday…hopefully not in my lifetime. The truth is that the prophecies in Revelation began to come to pass during the Roman Empire and have continued to come to pass to this day. We are now nearing the time when the “beasts” of Revelation will begin to exert control over the entire world. If you’ve been living a nice, comfortable life as I was, then you haven’t been paying attention to what is happening to the governments of the world (especially America) and what is happening to Christianity. To me, it is obvious that a political beast and a religious beast are forming…..based on what we’re told in God’s Word and what we’re seeing in the world today. It’s time that we all prepared ourselves for the coming spiritual battles that are about to be waged in our world. It’s time to come close to God through His Son and become the warriors we were meant to be. You are living in the end times for a reason….and it’s not to live a nice, cozy life surrounded by worldly comforts and pleasure. You are here now to fight the good fight of faith for Jesus Christ who leads us and guides us against our enemy. Are you ready?

Something else to consider as we begin this discussion – Do you know why there are now many Protestant denominations? Ever thought much about it? I haven’t…..until now. Why do we have Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians…etc.? If you’ve never looked into this, the answer may be surprising to you.

Continuing in “End Time Delusions”:

Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen. – Martin Luther (1483-1546)

The New Testament Church possessed an all-consuming desire to exalt Jesus Christ and His incomprehensible once-and-for-all Sacrifice for the sins of the whole world (see Hebrews 10:12, 1 John 2:2). The Book of Acts reports how the message of Christ’s perfect righteousness and grace spread like an uncontrollable brushfire throughout the Roman Empire (see Acts 2:36-41; 5:14, 8:4). As the apostles lifted up the Risen One before the multitudes, sinners realized they were loved by God in spite of their faults, and the Lord’s power moved them to repent, be baptized, and stop serving satan (see Acts 2:38, 26:18). As people trusted the merits of Jesus Christ for salvation (see Acts 16:31), rather than their own “works” (see Ephesians 2:9), He forgave their sins (see Acts 13:38), purified their hearts (see Acts 15:8-9), and set their feet on the path to Paradise.

As a result of Spirit-filled preaching, strong churches were raised up in the midst of an idol-worshipping, pleasure-crazy, Caesar-devoted world. The new Christian converts were taught to obey the Bible above the traditions of men (see Colossians 2:8) and to cherish “every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Mathew 4:4). They had discovered the only way to the Father, Jesus Christ Himself (see John 14:6); and were taught to trust Him implicitly (see Ephesians 1:12) as the only Mediator between Almighty God and the human family (see 1 Timothy 2:5). They were also taught the importance of “obeying the truth” (1 Peter 1:22), even if it meant opposition, ridicule or death. They were willing to walk the narrow road “which leads to life” (Mathew 7:14) because Jesus was precious to them, just as they were to Him.

But as the Christian train rolled down history’s track, monumental changes took place. Just as Paul predicted, there came a tremendous “falling away” (2 Thessalonians 2:3) from the simplicity and purity of the gospel. Almost imperceptibly, false theories, man-made traditions, and unbiblical practices slipped into the very heart of Christianity. Little by little people lost sight of the beauty and loveliness of Jesus. In the fourth century, during the time of Constantine, a large portion of the church compromised key Bible truths and decided to line up with the Roman State. Rejecting the humility of the meek and humble One (see Mathew 11:29), church leaders sought pomp and worldly glory. Leaving the heavenly “power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13), they relied on the earthly power of politics and government. As even more traditions came in, Europe eventually became engulfed in the Dark Ages. In the twelfth century, a monstrous tribunal was established called the “Holy Office of the Inquisition” which was purposefully “created to persecute and exterminate ‘heresy’ by violence and not by persuasion.” Its 600 year history is filled with “gloomy portals”, “dark passages”, “locked doors”, “dungeons”, “bloodstained records”, and “extreme, merciless, unmitigated tortures”. Incredibly, so-called Christians murdered other Christians in the “name of Jesus Christ”.

By the time the 1500’s came along, the original simplicity of the early Christian faith was virtually non-existent. All over Europe sinners were taught to confess their sins to priests, to pray to the Virgin Mary, to buy “forgiveness notes” called indulgences and to kiss statues of the saints, none of which is taught in the New Testament. Monks even beat themselves with whips in a misguided effort to earn the favor of God. It’s true, there were sincere and godly people in what had become the Roman Catholic Church, but overall, Christianity was a mess! It was time for the Protestant Reformation!

21st century Christians should realize it was sincere Catholics wanting a change that originally spearheaded the Reformation. Initially, they had no thought of leaving the Mother Church, but simply wanted to redirect their Catholic countrymen away from the traditions of men and to lead them back to the pure truths of the Word. Their main goal was to lead other sinners like themselves to stop trusting their own works for salvation and to have simple faith in Jesus Christ. The Bible says,”Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). “By grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8, 9). “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).

Salvation is a wonderful gift from Jesus (see Romans 6:23). When we repent of our sins and receive this gift, trusting alone in Christ, the Father Himself forgives us, transforms our hearts by the Holy Spirit, and gives us power to obey His Word (see Luke 13:3, 1 John 1:9, 1 Peter 1:22, John 17:17). This simple message of free salvation through what Jesus Christ has already done for the entire world on the cross and of “the power of His resurrection” (Philippians 3:10), is called the good news of the gospel. Paul defined the good news as: “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). We must believe this good news wholeheartedly, for it alone can save our souls (see 1 Peter 1:3, 9).

The word antichrist literally means “opposed to” or “in the place of” Christ, and in its most subtle and diabolical manifestation it concerns something which claims loyalty to Jesus while really leading away from Him. Now let’s take a closer look at what truly happened during the time of the Protestant Reformation.

In the 1500’s, as a result of the invention of the printing press, countless European and English Catholics read the Bible for the first time in their lives. As a result, they uncovered the good news of salvation through trusting in Jesus Christ. At the same time, to their shock and amazement, they also realized that many Roman doctrines – including praying to dead saints and confessing to priests – actually led away from a simple faith in the merits of the Lamb. Compelled by the Spirit, these sincere Catholics tried to reform the church they loved from within. They preached the gospel and even appealed to the Pope. The result was fury, intense opposition, threats of flames and the ugly cry, “You’re now a candidate for the Inquisition!” As the conflict deepened, those who saw the Bible as their final authority began to have serious doubts about the basic authority of a church that utilized torture chambers. In other words, they began to question whether the Holy Apostolic Roman Catholic Church, as an institution centered in popes and the Vatican, was really the Bride of Jesus Christ in the first place.

One by one the reformers turned to the prophecies. In amazement they discovered what Paul actually wrote about “the falling away”, “the son of perdition”, and a “mystery of lawlessness” that would proudly set itself up inside “the temple of God”, which is the church (see 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4, 7; 1 Corinthians 3:16). They were stunned to read Daniel’s prophecy about a “little horn” with “eyes like the eyes of a man”, “a mouth speaking great things”, that would be centered in Western Europe and would make bloody “war with the saints” (Daniel 7:7-8, 21). They shuddered as they realized this same power was called “the beast” in God’s last book, and that it would finally exert worldwide influence and control (see Revelation 13:2, 7-8). There were especially jolted when they read about a harlot named “Mystery Babylon” who was “drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus” (Revelation 17:6). As death sentence after death sentence was hurled against them for pointing sinners to the holy Lamb of God, and as the smoke of burning martyrs blackened Europe’s fair skies, these reformers eventually came to a frightening, unanimous, and terribly solemn conclusion. They had discovered Jesus Christ and antichrist.

Let me clarify something right here. Even though, in the pages that follow, I will apply the Bible’s prophecies about the “little horn” and “the beast” to the papal system in general (because of its doctrines and practices), this does not reflect a judgment on individual Catholics. Personally, I have nothing against any member of the Roman Church. Because God is merciful and judges men fairly based on the light they have (see James 4:17), I know I will meet many sincere Catholics in Christ’s Kingdom.

Nor does my position reflect an exclusive view of the word antichrist itself. I realize “the spirit of antichrist” is now working inside various organizations and non-Christian religions, including many churches that call themselves Protestant. Nothing written here is designed to promote hostility toward any human being. Jesus said “God so loved the world” (John 3:16) which includes the Pope; and His clear command to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mathew 22:39) applies to Protestants, Catholics, Muslims, Hindus and everyone else. Yet this book is about the prophetic truths of God’s Word, truths which must not be ignored by any God-fearing, Bible-believing Christian.

The following quotations may seem a bit strong for our politically correct modern ears, but they reveal the facts of history. The reader is encouraged to consider them squarely and honestly, in the blazing light of Bible prophecy.

Martin Luther (1483-1546) (Lutheran):

Newsweek reported, “Martin Luther was the first to identify the papacy as such with the antichrist. At first he discounted the value of John’s Apocalypse. But then he saw in it a revelation of the Church of Rome as the deceiving antichrist….a view that was to become dogma for all Protestant Churches.”

On August 20, 1520, Luther declared, “We here are of the conviction that the papacy is the seat of the true and real antichrist.”

John Calvin (1509-1564) (Presbyterian):

“Some persons think us too severe and censorious when we call the Roman pontiff antichrist. But those who are of this opinion do not consider that they bring the same charge of presumption against Paul himself, after whom we speak and whose language we adopt…I shall briefly show that (Paul’s words in 2 Thessalonians 2) are not capable of any other interpretation than that which applies them to the Papacy.”

John Knox (1505-1572) (Scotch Presbyterian):

John Knox wrote about “that tyranny which the pope himself has for so many ages exercised over the church.” Along with Martin Luther and John Calvin, Knox finally concluded that the Papacy was “the very antichrist, and son of perdition, of whom Paul speaks.”

Thomas Cranmer (1489-1556) (Anglican):

“Whereof it followeth Rome to be the seat of antichrist, and the pope to be very antichrist himself. I could prove the same by many other scriptures, old writers, and strong reasons.”

Fox’s Book of Martyrs (1563):

Written by Englishman John Fox (1517-1587), this much-respected volume helped “mold the national character” of 17th century America. Fox reported: “Disregarding the maxims and the spirit of the Gospel, the papal Church, arming herself with the power of the sword, vexed the Church of God and wasted it for centuries, a period most appropriately termed in history, the ‘dark ages’. The kings of the earth gave their power to the Beast.”

Roger Williams (1603-1683) (Considered the first Baptist Pastor in America):

Roger Williams spoke of the Pope as “the pretended Vicar of Christ on earth, who sits as God over the Temple of God, exalting himself not only above all that is called God, but over the souls and consciences of all his vassals, yea over the Spirit of Christ, over the Holy Spirit, yea, and God Himself….speaking against the God of heaven, thinking to change times and laws; but he is the son of perdition (2 Thessalonians 2).

A Great Cloud of Witnesses:

“Wycliffe, Tyndale, Luther, Calvin, Cranmer; in the seventeenth century, Bunyan, the translators of the King James Bible and the men who published the Westminster and Baptist confessions of Faith; Sir Isaac Newton, Wesley, Whifield, Jonathon Edwards; and more recently Spurgeon, Bishop J.C. Ryle and Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones; these men among countless others, all saw the office of the Papacy as the antichrist.”

These quotes come from some of the most respected and influential Christians who have ever lived. They were intensely earnest, honest men who based their conclusions on the prophecies of the Bible. I realize times have changed. It’s true, we’re not in the Dark Ages anymore; and yes, this is the 21st century, but there is something we must consider: Daniel’s prophecy about “a little horn” that would make “war against the saints” (Daniel 7:8, 21), Paul’s predictions about a “falling away” and an antichrist “man of sin” or “mystery of lawlessness” that would sit in God’s temple (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4), John’s prophecy about “a beast” with global influence (Revelation 13:2, 7), and finally, Revelation’s strikingly graphic portrayal of a woman named “Mystery Babylon” who would become drunk with “the blood of the martyrs of Jesus” (Revelation 17:6) – these prophecies are still in the Bible. There is something else we should remember: Nations rise and fall, history rushes on, technology advances and a new millennium has arrived – but God’s Word has not changed!

Either those dead Protestants were dead wrong, or history’s forgotten voices still speak.

I agree 100% with Steve when he says that his application of Bible prophecy on the papal system does not reflect a judgment on individual Catholics. Each of us will be judged individually by God. “Nothing here is designed to promote hostility toward any human being.” But I also agree with Steve that we cannot deny the Bible’s prophecies and how they relate to historical events.

Are there other prophetic verses that support this argument? The answer is yes. We will continue this in the next posting.

Based on the historical brutality and ruthlessness of the papal system in the dark ages, it stands to reason that the Roman Catholic Church would attempt to defend itself from this new application of Biblical prophecy. Did they attempt to defend themselves? How could they defend themselves from this new doctrine established by Protestants? Were they successful? The answer is yes – it took some time, but they were eventually successful. If you haven’t been shocked by anything yet, you will be by this revelation of historical fact. I say this, because if you are currently a Christian, you most likely believe the doctrine they created in their defense. Never forget, our spiritual enemy is very deceiving and highly intelligent. Read on…….

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