THE WOMAN AND THE BEAST (Part V)
(10th article in a series based on the book, Out of the Abyss … can the number of the beast be solved, 666?)
One of the most intriguing expressions in the English language is one of many two-part English words; a phrase that conveys both a literal and metaphorical meaning. That word is “bed-fellow.” Webster’s Dictionary defines this thought-provoking term as, “one who shares a bed with another.” (That would be the obvious definition). But this term has taken on a meaning that is, by far, the most common application today which Webster defines as, “a close associate: Ally (political).” In fact, down through the years, the concept of bed-fellows has come to mean two or more political, social, or religious groups/entities that are at odds with each other, but who are willing to figuratively “share the same bed” in order to accomplish their respective agendas.
Amazingly, Scripture uses the same analogy to describe the sordid, unholy relationship between “the great prostitute” and “the kings of the world.” But the Bible uses more explicit and harsher words than bed-fellows to paint a decadent picture of the Woman who sits on the Beast, which has been the subject of our past four articles. Once again, let’s read exactly what Revelation has to say about this ignoble woman. The angel tells John:
“Come with me … and I will show you the judgment that is going to come on the great prostitute, who rules over many waters. The kings of the world have committed adultery with her, and the people who belong to this world have been made drunk by the wine of her immorality” (Revelation 17:1-2).
“Prostitute, kings, adultery, drunk, immorality;” these are strong words to illustrate the same idea conveyed by bed-fellows. But that’s exactly what you will find if you research and compare the interactive political chronicles of the kings/queens of Europe, Great Britain, and Asia Minor alongside the religious history of the Roman Catholic Church, including the many Popes and high-ranking officials of The Holy See. Even a fairly brief study of these interlocking histories will confirm the identity of the Woman portrayed in Revelation … in addition to the other points of reference and documentation provided in my previous articles.
The Holy See
Simply stated, The Holy See is the episcopal (governing the church by bishops) dominion of the Roman Catholic Church in and from Rome. The Bishop of Rome is the Pope, the universal leader of the Catholic Church, and also held to be the infallible representative substitute (Vicar) of Christ on the earth. Although the Vatican or Vatican State (founded in 1929) is not exactly the same entity as the Holy See, for all practical purposes they are one and the same thing. Think of the Holy See as the organism or body of the Catholic Church and the Vatican as the central physical location where the brain and heart of the body reside and from which it functions.
The term “See” is derived from the Latin term “sedes” which means “seat,” which expresses and represents the Episcopal throne or the “Diocese of Rome.” The Vatican State was created from the Lateran Treaty in 1929 in order to “ensure the absolute and visible independence of the Holy See.” The fundamental purpose was to demonstrate that the Holy See would continue as a recognizable sovereignty and member-state in the global community. In fact, the Holy See maintains diplomatic relations with 180 individual nation states, with the European Union, and even with the Palestine Liberation Organization. The Holy See also is a member or observer of multiple international organizations such as: International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), World Trade Organization (WTO), UNESCO, United Nations General Assembly, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Whether a member or an observer, the Holy See dynamically interacts with some of the most powerful and influential global establishments on the face of the earth.
Though some may disagree, I believe one of the main reasons for the formation of the Vatican State was to preserve not only the international identity of the Holy See, but also restore and maintain diplomatic influence that had greatly diminished for the preceding 200 years or so. There were several reasons for this demise, such as the Protestant Reformation (that began with Martin Luther and his 95 Theses in 1517) and scientific discoveries that began to undermine the Catholic dogma with a more secular view of the world. In short, the Roman Catholic Church wanted to return to the glory days in which she “…rules over the kings of the world” (Revelation 17:18). This period of “bed-fellow” relationships with European monarchies lasted for well over a thousand years … off and on; but still continues in a limited capacity.
So, what about the Holy part of the Holy See (seat)? Or the Holy Roman Empire? Or the Holy Roman Church? The word holy in Hebrew (kadosh) and its counterpart in Greek (hageeadzo) primarily means: set apart, dedicated, or consecrated for a particular purpose. It does not mean perfect or flawlessly pure, unless the term applies to God, himself. Even when the Lord said to the Hebrews, “You shall be holy, for I am holy” (Leviticus 11:45), he was referring to his deliverance of the Jews from Egypt for the express purpose of making them a distinct, unique people/nation separated from the pagan nations of the earth; destined to serve God and be a light to the Gentiles, as eventually accomplished through Jesus, the Messiah.
Yet, when you study the history of both the concept and implication contained in the term Holy See, there is one unmistakable connotation: Divine excellence that qualifies the Holy See to exercise God-like authority, power, and influence in all things pertaining to religion and state. Of course, there are some within the Catholic Church who would not ascribe this kind of exclusivity to the Holy See, but it nevertheless is an integral part of Roman Catholic dogma, both in theory and practice. It is the sovereign right of rule that supersedes heads of state and all other Christian groups based on divinely granted holiness; that definitive part of Holy that belongs only to God, not to sinful man.
Which is why the Pope is considered to be essentially infallible. And when the Pope issues a decree (whether Biblically based or completely unbiblical such as granting indulgences or excommunication or the very doctrine of Papal infallibility), then the edict is, for all practical purposes, also infallible; as are all those who disseminate and defend the decree, except some don’t always implement the proclamation in the purest way possible!
Although God’s righteousness is imputed to every believer through believing and receiving Jesus Christ, and his true Church will one day be presented spotless and blameless; this accreditation is solely for the purpose of each believer’s right relationship to God. It has nothing to do with the hierarchical governmental or administrative activities of a centralized institution, be it The Holy See, or the Ecumenical Council of Churches, or the Anglican Church, or the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (to name just a few).
Some Historical Examples
As alluded to in previous articles: When the Roman Empire fell in the 5th century, the growing ecclesiastical headquarters in Rome, i.e. the Catholic Church, stepped in and assumed the same role and rights previously claimed by divine monarchs, particularly the Roman Emperors. Included in this “divine right to rule” was strong belief that the Pope—based on apostolic succession rights that began with the first Pope designated by the Catholic Church (the apostle Peter)—possessed divine authority over both church and state. It took some time for nation states to fill the power vacuum left by the fall of Rome, but by the 9th century several states or regions saw the rise of monarchs who began to challenge the sometimes subtle, but nevertheless growing influence of the Roman Catholic Church in the “affairs of state.”
For several hundred years there was an ebb and flow, a waxing and waning of Catholic domination over governments, kings, and of course the church itself. Sometimes kings would prevail, sometimes the Pope would come out on top. Sometimes there was direct confrontation, but more often than not, there was ongoing political/religious negotiation, diplomatic maneuvers, compromise, concessions—often with unscrupulous scheming that included but was not limited to some ugly tactics like torture and murder and sexual escapades that would add literal meaning to the Bible’s spiritual analogy of “adultery” between the kings of the world and the woman on the beast.
Here, we’ll examine just three of dozens of historical highlights (or lowlights, depending on your point of view) that reveal the Roman Catholic Church’s embedded association and/or active interaction with the kingdoms of the world. Which, incidentally, is the exact opposite of what Christ intended for his church. When on trial before Pontius Pilate, what was it that Jesus answered when Pilate asked him if he was the King of the Jews? Jesus replied: “My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). How ironic is it that the word/concept of “ecclesiastical” is mostly identified with the Catholic Church; when, in fact, the very word ecclesia means “called out” (from the world and worldly systems). Again, listen to the words of Jesus: “…And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world … They do not belong to the world any more than I do” (John 17:14-16).
Jesus was specifically referring to his disciples (the Apostles) and generally to all believers, then and now. If Peter was, in fact, the apostolic rock on which the Catholic church would be built, why didn’t he understand that role and begin asserting himself as the first and only (while he was alive) Vicar on earth. That’s a rhetorical question: But if Peter had pursued such an ambition, you can rest assured that Paul and John and other apostles would have confronted Peter and reminded him that Christ was the only Head of the Church, both in Heaven and on the earth. All believers are said to be ambassadors for Jesus; but nowhere in Scripture does Christ command that his or a substitute (and an infallible one at that) be appointed to wield ultimate power/control over the body of Christ—the true Church.
A common saying among today’s believers that summarizes these and other verses is, “We are in the world, but not of the world.” Yet, the Roman Catholic Church, for all intents and purposes, has not only sought after alliances with heads of state, but has actually formed and imposed its own “divine government” with the misguided, non-Scriptural notion of establishing a visible, tangible, Kingdom of God on the earth; rather than acknowledging that (until Christ himself returns to set up the Kingdom of God), the Kingdom of Heaven lies within the hearts of born-again believers on this earth.
First Example: (One that demonstrates collusion and cooperation between the Pope and a King)
In 800 AD, Pope Leo III crowned King Charlemagne as “Roman Emperor” which provided the papacy with a foothold in asserting sovereign rights over subsequent Holy Roman Emperors. Time does not permit in-depth explanation, but there was a movement to essentially restore the ideal and fabric of the fallen Roman Empire. Both the Holy See and monarchs had the same objective; it’s just that they often disagreed on who should be in charge of reaching this goal.
Second Example: (One of many incidents throughout history that depicts confrontation between the papacy and the state, in which the Pope/Church prevailed over the King/State)
Pope Gregory VII had ex-communicated King Henry IV of the Holy Roman Empire, because Henry would not yield to Gregory’s insistence that only the Church had the right to appoint local church officials, particularly bishops. In 1077 this conflict came to a head (Henry began to fear local rebellion of his subjects), and King Henry IV travelled a long distance only to wait outside in bitter cold for three days before Pope Gregory finally agreed to see the King. Henry begged for mercy and the pope repealed Henry’s excommunication.
Third Example: (One of several in which the King trumped the Pope; one that began a gradual decline of the Holy See in terms of its supremacy over heads of state)
In 1534, Henry VIII, King of England revolted against The Holy See and Pope Clement VII by making himself the Supreme Head of the “Church of England.” Ironically, Henry VIII still followed Roman Catholic doctrine, but simply could not accept the Pope’s refusal to annul Henry’s marriage to Catherine. Henry didn’t wait for ex-communication; he acted first by establishing a completely different “church.” This took place some 17 years after Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses, essentially proclaiming justification (salvation) by faith in Christ alone … not by being a member of the Catholic Church and, thereby, blindly adhering to non-Biblical sacraments and extra-biblical creeds such as the purchasing of indulgences to reduce or eliminate time in Purgatory, a place that doesn’t even exist (try finding it in Scripture).
In case anyone thinks that I am isolating the Roman Catholic Church as the only religious system that has perverted the very gospel of Jesus Christ, by changing and channeling the truth of this gospel into a man-made, governmental type of Kingdom of Heaven on earth, I am not. For example, the Church of England that broke away from Roman Catholic domination and later morphed into the Anglican Church wielded a great deal of influence over both the religious and political affairs of England, as well as individual groups of Christians. It was for this reason that the Puritans sailed to America and founded the first real colony in the New Land. And, following the same principles of freedom from religious and state monopoly, the colonies revolted against England, i.e. the Revolutionary War.
What I am saying is that the Roman Catholic Church, for all the reasons presented in this article and previous articles fits precisely all of the characteristics ascribed to the woman of Revelation Chapter 17. In next week’s article, we’ll delve into more descriptive characteristics of the Woman to further validate the identity of the great city that was and still is … but in a different form.
Things to Ponder
– I suppose a couple of reactions to what may be considered as inadvertent suggestions or implications in these articles that clarify the Roman Church’s entanglement in affairs of state, would be, (1) complete separation of church and state. (2) Believers in Christ should not be engaged in politics, i.e. holding office in city, state, or federal positions.
Much has been discussed and written about these matters throughout the centuries. Undoubtedly, each Christian should search his/her own heart and conscience; however, there are some clear principles in Scripture that enable us to maintain a balanced Biblical world-view on these issues. To enable us to understand what separation of church and state really means; and to determine how a Christian can personally serve his/her country in the context of Judaic-Christian values without promoting a visible, tangible religious system whose ultimate agenda is to usurp control over the “body politic.”