What of the Antichrist, the Man of Sin?

We have now seen a summary of what is to be expected in the ecumenical movement and what its ultimate result will be. Now it is important to ask, "Is there any basis for fear?" Many writers on the subject of ecumenism say that the uniting churches will form the great beast or false prophet of Revelation. Others claim that the federated religious systems will work with some powerful deceiver who will be the "man of sin" or the "antichrist." Some of these warnings have validity; others are totally inaccurate. Let us first consider those which are not Scripturally justifiable. We have learned that the seed of Abraham is to be composed of all faithful Christians. This was lost sight of by Judaism who expected that Messiah would be only one individual. But Paul points out that Messiah or Christ is not one individual, but many! In I Corinthians 12:12, Ephesians 1:22,23; 4:15,16 and in other places, it is made clear that Christ is not one but many members. In short, the seed of Abraham is considered by God to be The Christ. (Galatians 3:27-29) This being so, we find that the Scriptures show the same mystery exists regarding the Antichrist. It is, likewise, not one person, but many. As a matter of fact, the antichrist is the same as the tares of our Lord's parable. The antichrist is the false church — not only the great Roman apostate church, but also all of the denominations which have separated from her. John explains that Babylon was a "mother" church, and that her "daughters" were also unclean in the Lord's sight. (Revelation 17:4,5) We may therefore conclude that the federated churches will not work with an antichrist since they are themselves all a part of the one great antichrist system. It is well to note that Martin Luther and the other reformers identified papacy as the antichrist. (For a more detailed discussion, see The Time is at Hand, page 267) The concept of a literal person being the antichrist crept in during the last century. Most evangelicals are unaware of this divergency from their historical Protestant roots. The term "man of sin" must also be considered. It is found in II Thessalonians 2:3-13. In these verses we find much that helps to explain the matter. In verse 7, Paul calls the man of sin by the name "mystery of iniquity" and says that it was already at work in his day! From this we immediately perceive that this could not literally be a man. He would be nearly two thousand years old now! Who, then, is the man of sin? Paul says that the Lord's second advent couldn't accomplish its work until the man of sin would be revealed or exposed. Well, he has been exposed! The man of sin is the papacy — not the pope himself, but the papal arrangement, the arrangement by which a man claims to be head of Christ's Church. Notice that in verse 3 Paul explains that before the man of sin could have control, a "falling away" must occur. The Greek word translated "falling away" is apostasy. Until Christians fell away from the truth, as expressed by the Apostles, no man would dare claim to be head of the Church. But the spirit of this error was already working (verse 7) in Paul's day in that prominent bishops were gaining ambition and usurping authority from the individual members of the Church. The apostate church was already beginning. The tares were being sown! Verse 4 tells what tremendous authority the apostate church would exercise. And it has been fulfilled. Note the words of Roman Catholic churchmen themselves: St. Bernard wrote that "none except God is like the pope, either in heaven or on earth." Pope Nicholas I wrote that the Emperor Constantine had "conferred the appellation of God on the pope, who, therefore, being God, cannot be judged by man." Pope Innocent III said, "The pope holds the place of the true God." The canon law, in the gloss, denominates the pope "our Lord God." Is that enough? The popes themselves have condemned and identified themselves by their own words. The papacy is the man of sin. Therefore, again, we see that it would be improper for us to look for a literal man of sin to deceive the whole world in our day. Papacy, the Scriptural man of sin, has already deceived the whole world during its infamous reign which historians now call the dark ages! (See Appendix B) Thus the views which expect an antichrist or a man of sin to appear as a literal person in conjunction with the ecumenical uniting are incorrect. However, the Lord does warn the wheat class concerning difficulties it will have due to church confederation. One example is in the highly symbolic language of Revelation 16:13. This verse describes the efforts of the Roman church (beast), the federated Protestants (false prophet), and the civil government (dragon) to attempt to hold together the social order as it now exists. While their efforts may seem for a while to succeed, they are doomed to ultimate failure and destruction. It is here, however, that the true Church must take note. It is the Scriptural testimony that the true Church will somehow be persecuted by this unholy alliance.

The "Beast" and the "Image of the Beast"

The Revelator gives another view of this matter in the 13th chapter of Revelation. In this chapter we have summarized for us centuries of church history. The first ten verses show the development of the great Roman apostate church — a beast of ten horns. (Horns represent supporting powers — an apt symbol since the power of natural beasts is often demonstrated by their lowering of their horn to gore their victims.) The Roman church has generally had the political support of the ten European powers (nations) which are fragmentations of the old "Holy Roman Empire." Even the Reformation is mentioned in this account as a "wound" (verse 3) from which the beast recovers. In verse 10-14 we see the rise of another beast. Note: This two-horned beast appears on the scene during or after the Reformation "wound." Further, this beast exercises "all the power of the first beast." This is a reference to authority. The non-Protestant churches (Anglican and Greek Orthodox) claim their authority through "apostolic succession." With this much information, plus the fact that the second beast has two horns or supporting powers (verse 11), we can reasonably identify this beast historically as the Church of England and Ireland (the two horns). Now we have before us the two great non-Protestant forces of the ecclesiastical world — Rome and England. Both claim authority to teach through direct succession of bishops from the days of the Apostles. No Protestant church makes this claim. This is important. The historical weakness of the "Evangelical Alliance" (See Appendix C) and the federated churches was that the churches which constituted them lacked apostolic succession. Revelation 13, however, points out the future of the matter. The alliance — the mergers, confederacies, and cooperations — of the Protestant denominations will indeed receive a spark of life-giving power (verse 15). This ecumenical church union of Protestants will be an "image of the beast." It will in this sense exercise all the power of the first two beasts — claiming apostolic authority to teach. It will, when vitalized, become the "false prophet" of later chapters of Revelation. From this prophecy, therefore, we can well expect that recognition of ecumenical federations will be coming one of these days from the Church of England — probably recognition in the form of the granting of apostolic succession to the Protestant churches! The result, as shown in Revelation 13:15-17, will be a religious intolerance of all who will not conform to the new ecumenical church. The faith of the saints will then be severely tested. But their victory of faith will be the moment the world has so long unknowningly awaited. The last member of the true Church will be changed from flesh to spirit — or, as the Lord said, the wheat will be gathered into his barn. Then they will bless all of the families of the earth! How we pray, "Thy kingdom come!"

A Brief History of Ecumenism's Development

The wheat and the tares grew together with relatively little disturbance until the great Reformation. While the turbulence of the Reformation made great strides in the search for truths lost since the first advent, the wounds it caused were rather readily healed and denominationalism was the victor. The wheat could not yet stand alone, but were planted in one or another denomination containing mostly tares. The beginning of the nineteenth century, however, saw something unusual happening. In 1799, in the sight of all the world, Napoleon took the pope prisoner and carried him to France where he died. The psychological effect of this action was tremendous. All could see that the pope's power was inferior to Napoleon's, and the pope began from that point to lose his hold over the minds of the religious world. Papacy has always been one of the most fervent opponents of the spread of the Bible, and even the Protestant world up to that time often frowned on widespread reading and interpretation of God's Word. But with papacy's humiliation, Bible societies sprang into existence almost overnight, and translations of the Bible in nearly all languages quickly were distributed worldwide. Honest searchers for truth began studying the Scriptures and began separating themselves from the various errors of Christendom. A new era had begun! The fractioning of the denominations became rapid and commonplace. This trend was a threat to the established authority of Babylon, and so she tried to do something about it. In 1846 the major Protestant denominations formed the Evangelical Alliance. (See Appendix C) It was an attempt to state to the world that "if you agree with us, you are acceptable; you are orthodox." Here was the beginning of the church union movement which is climaxing so rapidly in our day. The battle has been the same ever since: "orthodoxy" versus the spirit of free inquiry into the word of God. The matter is rarely stated that bluntly, but that is, in fact, the motivating force. Babylon is trying desperately to survive. It is the old spirit of "either we hang together or we will all hang alone." It is union based on fear. It is union based on a quest for power — not a quest for truth. It is not of God. It is of Satan. Thus we see that the present church union movement has its roots in historical events of well over a century ago. And the prophetic warnings about it have been circulated for nearly that long also — although many think that discussion on the matter is of recent origin. As a result of the fragmentation of the denominations, a small number of (completely) independent students of the Bible have been in existence since the middle of the nineteenth century. They have no organization except the Scriptural one which is that each little group of true Christians is autonomous in itself, giving its allegiance to its one and only head, Christ Jesus. Many of these who strive to follow Jesus closely have published the Biblical truths on many subjects, church union included. Some of these individuals obtained prominence in the public's eye; others were known by practically no one. This was to be expected as the Lord promised that all in His Church would have different functions — some quite humble in station, and a very few that He would use as special servants or messengers to the Church. We will here quote some of the forecasts regarding church union as published by these Bible students between the years of 1885 and 1912. This is done to show by this sampling that great understanding and foreknowledge of the ecumenical movement was available to all who searched the Scriptures daily as the Bereans of old. Our Lord asked that His Church be sanctified or set separate by the truth. The Father has and continues to honor that prayer.

Samplings of Ecumenical Warnings of Long Ago:

1. "Christian union is a hobby with many at the present time (1885). It is the pass-word to the very inner temple of self- styled 'orthodoxy.' Men will talk of a 'sweet union of loving hearts' when there is not a principle of true union with them. We think that this is well calculated to fulfill prophecy by securing union of action on certain popular points where there is no union in principle."

2. ". . . we find in Revelation (13:14-18) a prophecy of a special combination of influence by which Protestant denominations will be unified and, though separate, yet be brought into cooperation with papacy in a manner that will give both increased powers and deceive many into supposing that the new combination will be God's instrumentality for doing the work predicted of Messiah — and that it is thus his representative."

3. "While the world and the nominal church declare this to be a time of union and confederacy, God declares it to be a time of separating."

4. "In Revelation 16:13 we find mention of the False Prophet, another representation of the Image — the vitalized product of the Evangelical Alliance, which has taken the form of church federation and has today a great deal of vitality. (1912) Whether we can expect it to have more remains to be seen. The Scriptures clearly indicate that the Image of the Beast is to get so great power that it will do the same thing that the Roman Catholic Church did in the past; and that the two systems, Catholic and Protestant, will rule the civilized world with a high hand through the civil power — the Dragon."

5. "The . . . necessity for restricting liberty on political and social questions will probably be supposed to apply equally to freedom of expression on religious questions, which really lie at the foundation of all liberty. It would not be surprising if a 'strong government' . . . would someday replace this present Great Republic; and it is entirely probable that one common standard of religious belief will be deemed expedient and will be promulgated, to teach outside of which will be treated and punished as a political offense."

6. "The Church Federation which the Scriptures distinctly show will be effected, will include various classes. . . . But in the Federation, the Moralists and Higher Critics will be dominant forces. The saintly will less than ever be in evidence and appreciated. The outward and apparent success of the Federation will seem wonderful for a moment, but the results will be disastrous."

Concluding Thoughts

In this section we have reviewed the importance of the ecumenical movement as related to the true Gospel message of Jesus and the apostles and the writings of God's Holy Prophets. We have seen that God's general purpose for the earth and its inhabitants is to bless them. We have seen that He also purposes a special blessing for a few who will be His Church. We have seen that the ecumenical movement is the product of a false church system and not of God's true Church. The result of ecumenism will indeed try the faith of the true Church! But the presence of this movement for the union of denominationalism is a good sign to those who understand it, for it signals that we stand historically at the threshold of God's kingdom on earth — peace and blessing for all! It is for this reason that the subject is of special interest. If you would like to look further into the harmonious and breath-takingly beautiful truths of God's Word as they have been promised to be made plain at the Time of the End (Daniel 12:4), we invite you to ask for more. The Bible student who supplied you with this section would find it a pleasure to discuss with you the things concerning God's plan for mankind. Or, if you would like to read more please view The Divine Plan of the Ages. This section is perhaps the finest work ever written to lead you into your own personal and eye-opening understanding of the Bible.

Appendix A

In religious circles generally, the word "ecumenical" means world-wide in influence. An ecumenical council is one which represents an entire church. The ecumenical movement among non-Catholic churches are striving for union of Protestant churches and a closer relationship to the two great Catholic ecclesiastical organizations, The Roman and Greek Catholic churches.

The late Archbishop William Temple described the church unity movement as the twentieth century's most significant development. Many ecclesiastical leaders now speak of "the ecumenical age." The ecumenical movement, crystallized in the National Council and World Council of Churches, has achieved spectacular growth; it has stimulated the rise of competitive structures and given ecumenical impetus as well to Roman Catholicism and even to non-Christian faiths. Ecumenism seems prone to become a monolithic movement with new centers of ecclesiastical power and vast potential for propaganda.

Christianity Today Jan. 29, 1965 page 12 "The modern impulse toward ecumenism began, significantly, with church leaders who today would be called conservative evangelicals. In 1846 a conference of such men held in London led to the organization of the World Evangelical Alliance. For fifty years, this alliance performed a valuable service to the cause of unity among Christians."

"Then came the time near the turn of the century when liberalism began to have a serious effect on the Christian churches. A small group of leaders tried to shape the World Evangelical Alliance into an instrument of liberalism but met majority opposition and so withdrew from the alliance. In 1894 this group created the Open Church League, which was superseded in 1900 by the National Federation of Churches and Christian Workers. This in turn gave way in 1905 to the Federal Council of Churches, which in 1950 became the National Council of Churches" and was formally organized in Cleveland, Ohio. The strength and influence of the National Council of Churches overshadows that of any other cooperative religious agency in the United States. With 31 denominations 41 million church members, 144,000 churches, and 110,0000 clergymen it is of gigantic proportions, and its voices is bound to be listened to by all segments of the American people."

The World Council of Churches is made up of 306 churches of the Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, and Old Catholic confessions, from more than eighty countries. It began in August 1948, with an assembly in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Principal authority is vested in an assembly of delegates, which meets every six or seven years.

Appendix B

Prior to 1799 the Pope crowned and uncrowned the kings of Europe, except those in countries which had adopted Protestant church-state systems of government. But this was suddenly brought to an end by Napoleon, who took the Pope a prisoner to France; and thus broke the back of Papacy. Throughout the ages, religion has played an important role in controlling the people of all nations, but we are particularly concerned with what has occurred within professed Christian nations. And here Papacy has by far been the most dominant influence. As a result of its humiliation at the hands of Napoleon the damage done to its prestige among the nations and entering the time of the end which began in 1799, the first council of the Roman Catholic Church, designated Vatican I was held in 1869 and 1870. The 774 bishops who met at this council succeeded in declaring the infallibility of the pope.

The council was cut short in 1870 by the Franco-Prussian War and Vatican II called by the late Pope John xxiii opened in Rome on Oct. 11, 1962. This brought together 2,500 religious leaders of 550 million people under the direction of Pope John. The purpose was to update or modernize the Catholic Churches eccl. machinery and to meet the challenge and threat of Communism.

After the death of Pope John, Pope Paul reconvened the Vatican II council in late 1964. As a result in the document called "De Ecclesia," the Council declares that the pope and the bishops share the supreme authority to govern the church and expound its teachings. "Collegiality," a word unused a decade ago but on the lips of everyone now at the Vatican Council, does not diminish the primacy of the pope or affect his infallibility on faith and morals; what it does do is make the bishops co-responsible for the church with the pope. The majority of the Catholic bishops have been dissatisfied with the results of the council because the Pope used his authority to side with the minority on a number of issues.

Another history making event was the meeting of Pope Paul VI with Patriarch Athenagoras I, spiritual leader of Orthodoxy when they met in Jerusalem in 1964, breaking a silence between the two churches that had lasted for centuries. In 1054 the pope excommunicated the patriarch of Constantinople, and the patriarch excommunicated the pope. A fifteenth century effort to reunite the church, undertaken at the Council of Florence, collapsed.

Just this year (1998), according to a report from the Religious News Service, entitled "Orthodox want Vatican in WCC (World Council of Churches)". It reads "Patriarch Bartholomew I, the spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox Christians, has called on the Roman Catholic Church to join the World Council of Churches in time for the international ecumenical body's 50th anniversary next year."

Appendix C

In the 1960's the book, Religion in Action, said, one of the gifts or riches the church of England offers is Apostolic succession. The other churches stated that if they accepted this it would mean confessing that in the past their preaching was vain.

This is still a conflict today. A 1996 article from the "Religious News Service" reads, "The Church of England has ended the biennial meeting of its general synod by affirming the so-called Porvoo Declaration as an `act of synod,' the most solemn affirmation the Anglican denomination can make. The Porvoo Declaration takes its name from the Finnish city where it was signed and calls for allowing intercommunion among Anglicans and Lutherans of the participating churches as well as the mutual recognition and full interchangeability of priests and ministers between the Anglican churches of Britain and Ireland and the Lutheran Churches of Scandinavia and the Baltic countries."

However, the Oct. 6, 1997 "Christianity Today" brings out a different result by the Lutherans in the U.S. On page 81 it reads, "On a vote of 640 to 397, Lutherans balked at closer relations with the Episcopal Church, falling six votes shy of the necessary two-thirds required for passage.

"Debate centered on the doctrine of apostolic succession. This principle, supported by Catholics, Orthodox, and Anglicans, established bishops as the heirs of Christ's twelve apostles.

"Opponents within the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) believed the denominations would have relinquished too much theological ground if it approved the concordat.

Under the concordat, the Episcopal Church would recognize the ordinations of all current Lutheran pastors. Future ordinations would require that both a Lutheran and Episcopal bishop be present. Also, all future Episcopal and Lutheran bishops would be jointly consecrated for life. Yet, Lutherans would retain their bishops in office for a six-year term as they presently do. Episcopal bishops do not serve a set term of office in a diocese. And after they retire, Episcopal bishops keep their seats in the denominations's House of Bishops.

"Lutheran objections to the idea of bishops for life was strongest from Lutherans suspicious of church hierarchy."

However at the same meeting by the Lutherans they did vote to "link to 3 churches." In a Waterbury Republican Newspaper article from Aug. 19, 1997 it said, "The nation's largest Lutheran church voted Monday (Aug. 18th) to establish closer ties with three other major Protestant denominations in a sweeping plan that allows for the exchange of clergy and communion.

"However, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America also opened new ecumenical wounds by rejecting a similar plan for closer ties with the Episcopal Church.

"Healing divisions of more than 450 years, dating to the Reformation, delegates to the ...biennial Church-wide Assembly voted 839-193 to approve a unity plan with the Presbyterian Church (USA) the United Church of Christ and the Reformed Church in America.

"`Today is an occasion for profound gratitude to God for persistently calling us to overcome divisions that have separated Lutheran and Reformed Churches in North America,' leaders of the four churches, with a membership of 10 million, said.

..."Under the unity pact, the four denominations will be able to share clergy and members of the congregations can take communion in each other's churches. The agreement affects 5.2 million members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church; 2.7 million embers of the Prespeterian Church (USA); 400,000 members of the Reformed Church in America and 1.5 million members of the United Church of Christ."

However many are troubled by the rejection of the alliance with the Episcopal Church. The same article says "After the vote, somber delegates sane the hymn `The Church's One Foundations.' Some supporters of the plan wept and held hands.

"Lutheran Presiding Bishop H. George Anderson told the assembly late Monday he hoped the church could come up with a new plan to present to the Episcopal Church....`The ecumenical opportunity of the century has been lost,' said the Rev. Robert Wright of General Theological Seminary in New York."

On the same point the Christianity Today article reads "The nation's largest Lutheran group has embraced grater unity with several Protestant denominations and has taken a step toward theological reconciliation with Roman Catholics. But the Churchwide Assembly of the ELCA was unable to muster a two-thirds majority for closer relations with the Episcopal Church, in part because of differing theological views over the office of bishop. Nevertheless, the ELCA voted to keep conversations going with the Episcopalians and discuss the matter in 1999."

A short time before he relinquished his position as Archbishop of Canterbury, head of the established Church of England, Dr. Fisher paid a visit to the late Pope John. This was the first get together of the heads of these two great ecclesiastical systems mentioned in Rev. 13. Dr. Fisher urged greater unity between Protestants and Catholics when he visited Rome, and pointed out that he used the word "unity", not "union" deliberately. By this he apparently meant cooperation between differing elements of Christian thought without loss of identity and doctrinal authority. This bears out Nahum 1:9,10 of both end of a scroll coming together, the one side Catholic, the other Protestant, opposed and yet connected — each side united and federated to the best of its ability. Rev. 16:13, 14. The Bible points out that as a result the nominal church systems will rise to great prominence again in connection with the civil powers. But the Bible declares that this reign as a queen will be a short one, and that the fall of Babylon will be tremendous — like a great millstone cast into the Sea. Rev. 18:21.

back to previous section