(9th article in a series based on the book, Out of the Abyss … can the number of the beast be solved, 666?)

From Triumph to Tragedy

What should have been one of the greatest achievements of the Christian faith (the Roman Emperor Constantine’s protection of Christians) turned out to be one of the most tragic episodes of the early Church; so disastrous that it led to a thousand-year period of gloom and obscurity which historians now refer to as The Dark Ages. What could have been a triumphant explosion of freedom to intensify the spread of the Good News of salvation through Jesus Christ, became instead what is commonly called Christendom, with its governmental hierarchy of ecclesiastical councils, commencing with a state church of the Roman Empire by edict in 380 AD.

Nowhere in the New Testament do we find any evidence whatsoever that Jesus needed a seat of government, or permission from a king, or endorsement by ruling officials or religious leaders to fulfill his mission on earth. In fact just the opposite occurred: He was ultimately rejected first by the religious leaders and then by the greater populace because they assumed that The Messiah would rule and reign from Jerusalem and deliver Israel from Gentile oppression. That will, in fact, happen one day when Christ returns to this earth. But the Old Testament was crystal clear that the Messiah must first suffer and die to liberate mankind from its worst tyranny … enslavement to sin; which is, after all, what produces the unjust and criminal conquest of rulers and nations against each other. Not to mention the devastation of individual lives resulting from greed, envy, lust, pride, theft, jealousy, immorality, sorcery, lying, and murder.

Nor do we find any evidence in Scripture or church history that 1st, or 2nd, or 3rd century believers were commanded to establish a centralized system of church rule that would unite all individual “churches” into an authoritarian hierarchy that would, in turn, govern (through church officials such as priests, bishops, vicars) and rule over individual believers.

The early Christian churches were more often found to be in the homes of believers, and were so identified in Paul’s epistles as (for example), “God’s holy people in the city of Colosse,” or the “church of God which is at Corinth.” But never (for example) to the “church of Rome,” meaning the one and only Church of (belonging to or controlling from) Rome. And when Jesus refers to all seven churches in Revelation 2 & 3, he addresses his comments to (for example) the “church in Sardis.”

This is much more than just semantics, i.e. in or at versus of. This distinction constitutes the very essence, the very character, the very identity, and definition of the church. It is the living church of God and of Christ, not a structure or system or seat of centralized, ecumenical power that claims ultimate authority over all who belong to that system including ex-communication; and that compels admission to and membership in the “Church” (beginning with baptism, including infants) as a fundamental requirement for salvation and, thus, qualifies its’ members to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Or, at least, places the members in good standing and gives them a head-start toward heaven; as long as they, in some fashion, remain in a “state of grace” though the conditions of this state are quite ambiguous.

The very words of Jesus contradicts and refutes this premise of salvation by admission to, affiliation with, and inclusion in any religious order by declaring, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God” (John 3:3). The man to whom Jesus spoke was, of course, Nicodemus; who was a member of the elite Jewish Sanhedrin, whose every colleague was thought to be securely and eternally connected to God and the Kingdom of God. Instead, Jesus said that a spiritual rebirth—made possible only by personally believing and receiving Christ as God’s Savior to mankind—was the ONLY way anyone would ever see the Kingdom of God.

Although the book of Galatians is written to the “churches of Galatia”, the word “of” is needed because there were several churches (plural) in the region of Galatia. When writing to a particular group of Christians in a specific city, Paul always uses the functional preposition in or at. Thus, the church was so identified by the presence of believers in or at a particular location; not by a structure or centralized organization that exercised a governmental type of regulation over believers or the churches in which they fellowship and served, whether someone’s home or a building to accommodate the growing number of Christians in that city. The highest degree of administration over any individual church should be no more than the church board, normally comprised of pastors and elders.

The Transformation of the Woman

It’s now time to explain how the woman on the beast (that great city) changed her very appearance to accomplish Satan’s plan of subversion from within, as graphically depicted in Revelation 17. And, in so doing, I must identify the source, the very entity that has deceived the nations since the 4th century. I do so reluctantly, because some will take great offense and accuse me of bigotry, intolerance, lack of compassion, and even sacrilege. But I believe Scripture, as validated by the last 1700 hundred years of historical events/records both church and secular, is amazingly accurate in its prophetic description of how the woman … the great city … would try to assume control of the true church (the body of Christ, identified by and consisted of those who have placed their trust in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ) through deception and what is clearly a false gospel.

It’s undoubtedly safer to be politically correct. But in today’s world PC is virtually the same thing as not telling the truth, or suppressing it, or concealing it; or not exposing a lie. Yet, I, and untold thousands of believers the world over, believe God’s truth is eternal; not fashionably relative to whatever any given society decides is true or relevant. Thus, many would say, “what’s true for me, may not be true for you … so let’s not make such a big issue over such things as Jesus claiming that he is the only way, truth, and life and that no one can come to God except through him.”

Who or what is this woman in today’s world? When did she alter her appearance and change her tactics from dominant ruler ship over kings of the world at the height of the Roman Empire to the more subtle, somewhat less brutal (but equally destructive) schemes and conspiracies that include, but are not limited to: political intrigue, corruption, greed, power, opulence, manipulation through cold and hot wars—all of which are rooted in a devious plan that is diametrically opposed to the basic tenet of the true Christian faith: “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9, NASB).

The woman transformed herself from the military might of the Roman Empire to the most dominant religious system in the history of mankind. It became a city within a city, but is still the great city itself. It still represents and reflects the Roman Empire, but wields a different kind of power; and achieves its goals by a different means of acquisition and authority. This woman of Revelation 17 has unwittingly accomplished Satan’s agenda to preserve and continue Rome’s conquest of the true Church by the shrewd introduction and use of a prefix. That prefix is Holy, as in Holy See. Which is easily interchangeable with Holy Roman Empire or Holy Roman Church, both symbolically and literally. I am referring to: THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH.

In next week’s article, we will elaborate on The Holy See, The Vatican or Vatican City State, and why/how it has perpetuated the legacy of the ancient Roman Empire.

Things to Ponder: You might want to read Revelation Chapter 18 which vividly depicts the demise of Babylon … both the city itself (Rome) and the false religions of “Babylon the Great. Mother of all prostitutes…” (Rev. 17:5). Note in particular Revelation 18:4-5, “…Come away from her, my people. Do not take part in her sins, or you will be punished with her. For her sins are piled as high as heaven, and God remembers her evil deeds.”

These verses are saying that there are and will be some true believers in Christ even within this counterfeit system. We need to see the distinction between those who are part of the hierarchy itself and those who have been misled by the ecclesiastical pyramid and tenets of the Roman Catholic Church (and other deceptive religions). Nowhere in the four Gospels do we find Jesus condemning an individual for his/her sins, because he fully understood the real problem is the sin nature and the innate wickedness and rebellion within each human heart. Instead he lovingly healed them, taught them, and saved them.

Unless the human heart is spiritually and supernaturally transformed by believing in Christ, there can be no forgiveness for and freedom from sin. It’s the inherited disease of sin that must be dealt with, not the symptoms which are individual sins that every man, woman, and child has committed.

Jesus did warn individuals that their unbelief in and rejection of him as the only One who could forgive and take away their sins would result in judgment, but he didn’t condemn them for their individual sins, as such. All of us were born sinners; for those who reject Christ as Savior, they are already judged … they condemn themselves (see John 3:36).

Yet, Christ blasted the religious leaders of Israel … as the blind leading the blind, telling them that they would, “…die in your sins; for unless you believe that I AM who I claim to be, you will die in your sins” (John 8:24). *Note– Jesus didn’t say they would die because of their sins; instead they would die in their sins. They would die (spiritual death or eternal separation from God) because they refused to “believe that I AM who I claim to be…”

Scripture is clear, both Old and New Testament: God is extremely harsh on those in position of religious leadership who promote and are part of any system that claims salvation or a right relationship with God or the path to Heaven is available only through keeping the law of Moses, or membership in “the church” be it Catholic, Mormon, or even Protestant. Meaning, only that particular religious hierarchy is entitled to be a buffer or go-between God and man; and then only if the individual is a qualified member and participant in good standing, with all of the qualifications determined and controlled exclusively by the religious leaders.

What does the Bible say about such things? There are many passages, but one will suffice: “For there is only one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus. He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone…” (I Timothy 2: 5-6)

When religious leaders are blind, how can we expect their followers to see?