Posted by: returningking.com | April 30, 2009

Wolves in Wool : The Coming One-World Religious System

(NOTE:  This is a continuation of the Wolves in Wool Series.  This post assumes the prerequisite reading of earlier posts)

Skipping ahead from the slow-burn apostasy which permeates Christendom today, scripture also clarifies the finality of this degradation of worship and truth.  While scripture specifically notes that apostasy is a characteristic of the latter days, it further demonstrates the fruition of such apostasy; being characterized as a great harlot of world-wide influence. 

In Jewish thought, there existed two ages.  “This” age referred to the age before the advent of Messiah’s reign, and “the age to come” referred to the age of Messiah’s reign.  Such thinking is what prompted the disciples to ask Jesus in Matthew 24,

Matthew 24:3 (NIV)
3 … “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”

To ask Jesus concerning the signs of the “end of the age” demonstrates clearly that the disciples understood Jesus’ second coming to be the catalyst which will bring about the coming “age” of their traditional understanding.  While the disciples had faith that Jesus was indeed the Messiah, they also understood that he had not yet established his kingdom, but would do so at his second coming.  Thus, their question, “what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age,” emphasizes their understanding of the nature of Christ’s return:  he will return to establish the prophesied Messianic kingdom of God on earth.  Jesus ends his answer in chapter 25 with his analogy of the sheep and the goats.  The goats are separated out for eternal destruction.  The sheep are told (Matthew 25:34), “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.”

In following a literal interpretation of scriptural prophecy, it can be understood that the coming Messianic Kingdom of Christ will directly follow a period of great distress, as Jesus noted in verses 21-24 of his answer.

Matthew 24:21-24 (NIV)
21 For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now–and never to be equaled again. 22 If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. 23 At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. 24 For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect–if that were possible.

This season is commonly referred to as the Great Tribulation.  Throughout scripture, the Great Tribulation is given another name much more frequently.  That name is “the day of the Lord,” or one of numerous variations on that phrase.  It is this very same Tribulation period which Paul speaks of when he noted,

1 Thessalonians 5:1-3 (NIV)
1 Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, 2 for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3 While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.

Indeed, the “day of the Lord” refers to this tribulational season of God’s wrath against the continued rejection of his Son throughout history.  From the oldest Old Testament reference to the New Testament notes, the “day of the Lord” refers to this end-time season of great despair and judgment from the Lord.

It is this coming day of the Lord which Paul wrote in our earlier examination concerning a pending great apostasy.  Paul noted,

2 Thessalonians 2:1-3 (NIV)
1 Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers, 2 not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already come. 3 Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction.

As noted earlier, the day of the Lord cannot come until “the rebellion” (Gk. apostasia) occurs and “the man of lawlessness is revealed.”  As such, the rebellion demonstrates the nature of circumstances on the earth leading up to the time of the great tribulation.  Likewise, Paul noted,

1 Timothy 4:1 (NIV)
1 The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.

Jesus noted in Matthew 24 in his answer to the question, “what will be the sign of your coming and the end of the age:”

Matthew 24:12-14 (NIV)
12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13 but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

Emphatically, scripture asserts that the season prior to the end of this age is one characterized by an increase of wickedness and apostasy.  While this assertion has been strongly demonstrated in this series thus far, it has not yet been fully developed, for this apostasy is further noted in scripture to arrive at a future point of full fruition; an imminent point of maturity which will culminate in not a mere state of error, but a full-blown antithesis of the true gospel.  It will be an anti-gospel, fitting for an anti-Christ.

The Great Harlot, Babylon

Concerning the full-blown fruition of this apostasy during the tribulation, the book of Revelation gives this religious program a symbolic name and further description.  The entire chapter of Revelation 17 is devoted to the portrayal of this religious system.  The introduction to this neo-church system notes,

Revelation 17:1-2 (NIV)
1 One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the punishment of the great prostitute, who sits on many waters. 2 With her the kings of the earth committed adultery and the inhabitants of the earth were intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries.”

“The great prostitute” is spoken to John as something of previous reference.  “The” great prostitute is obviously something which John has already encountered in his vision, as no further explanation is given as to what is spoken of.  While the terms “great prostitute” do not appear earlier than Revelation 17, a description of what this prostitute represents does. 

Chapter 13 notes the actions of “the Beast,” commonly known as Antichrist, during the tribulation as he installs himself as the god-head of a world religious system. 

 Revelation 13:1 (NIV)
1 And the dragon stood on the shore of the sea. And I saw a beast coming out of the sea. He had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on his horns, and on each head a blasphemous name.

Revelation 13:5-8 (NIV)
5 The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise his authority for forty-two months. 6 He opened his mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander his name and his dwelling place and those who live in heaven. 7 He was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them. And he was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation. 8 All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast–all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world.

Antichrist is indeed a fitting name for this person, as he will literally attempt to establish himself as Christ-incarnate.  He will blaspheme God, slander his name and will be given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation on earth.  In the end, “all inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast–all whose names have not been written in the book of life.”  This worship of the beast is accomplished by his own liaison, commonly known as “the false prophet.”

Revelation 13:11-17 (NIV)
11 Then I saw another beast, coming out of the earth. He had two horns like a lamb, but he spoke like a dragon. 12 He exercised all the authority of the first beast on his behalf, and made the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose fatal wound had been healed. 13 And he performed great and miraculous signs, even causing fire to come down from heaven to earth in full view of men. 14 Because of the signs he was given power to do on behalf of the first beast, he deceived the inhabitants of the earth. He ordered them to set up an image in honor of the beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lived. 15 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. 16 He also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, 17 so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name.

This false prophet will make “the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast.”  As such, the false prophet will serve as a sort of counterfeit Holy Spirit for the counterfeit Christ.  Assigning an identification system, inhabitants of the earth are forced to worship the beast, or else starve for lack of ability to purchase food or goods.

A full depiction of the events of the tribulation are beyond the scope of this work.  The author’s book, The Return of the King, however, goes into a much deeper examination of such tribulational events.

What is of chief concern for this study is that a world-religious system is clearly taught in scripture to exist during the final days of the tribulation.  Specifically, for “forty-two months” (v5) Antichrist is demonstrated to have an utter monopoly on the worship practices of earth.  It is this understanding which brings the description of the great harlot, Babylon, into focus.

Re-examining Revelation 17, it is noted,

Revelation 17:1-2 (NIV)
1 One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the punishment of the great prostitute, who sits on many waters. 2 With her the kings of the earth committed adultery and the inhabitants of the earth were intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries.”

In the context of John’s overall vision, the nature of the prostitute is easily discernable.  John sees her, having “committed adultery” with the kings and the inhabitants of the earth.  While the imagery John sees is clearly not a physical manifestation, it does teach a literal set of circumstances.  Such is the nature of the entire book of Revelation; commonly using figurative imagery to depict real-world events which will occur on the earth in latter times.

Prostitution, when used symbolically in scripture, always refers spiritual deviance, particularly the worship of false gods and the turning away from the true “husband” of Israel, God, unto others.  Examples of this metaphorical usage are seen in Hosea and Jeremiah.

Hosea 1:2 
When the LORD began to speak through Hosea, the LORD said to him, “Go, take to yourself an adulterous wife and children of unfaithfulness, because the land is guilty of the vilest adultery in departing from the LORD.”

Jeremiah 2:20
Long ago you broke off your yoke and tore off your bonds;
     you said, ‘I will not serve you!’ Indeed, on every high hill
     and under every spreading tree you lay down as a prostitute.

Also, Ezekiel 16:15-41; 23:5-44, and numerous other texts note a metaphorical usage of prostitution.  In each case, a metaphorical prostitute is one who “cheats” on God with a false god.  Israel was identified in the Old Testament as the wife of Jehovah.  Symbolic prostitution, then, is when the metaphorical wife has an affair with another god.

In keeping with literal biblical interpretational methods, then, this Harlot represents a religion or a religious system which deviates from the Lord and gives his glory to another; a false god.  In this case, Satan’s own campaign entices the people of earth to follow a false god, Satan’s counterfeit christ; Antichrist.  In verse 2 the “kings of the earth” are noted to have also committed adultery with her, signifying that the full acquiescence of the earth’s political system is involved in the worship of Antichrist through this religious order. 

It apparently is also a tremendously provocative venue of worship, as, “the inhabitants of the earth were intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries.”  Intoxication is indicative of excess.  The excess in this text is “the wine of her adulteries,” referring to the obvious stupor which one revels in during the worship practices of this religion.  All who believe or teach that “experience” is a suitable affirmation of the validity of one’s religious beliefs should consider this phrase very carefully.  At this point in time the whole earth will worship Satan vicariously through his agent of Antichrist.  Yet, the experience will be one of drunken delight.

In verse 3-5 the nature of this religious system is further described.

Revelation 17:3-5 (NIV)
3 Then the angel carried me away in the Spirit into a desert. There I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names and had seven heads and ten horns. 4 The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, and was glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls. She held a golden cup in her hand, filled with abominable things and the filth of her adulteries. 5 This title was written on her forehead: MYSTERY BABYLON THE GREAT THE MOTHER OF PROSTITUTES AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.

“Mystery Babylon” is commonly referred to as “ecclesiastical Babylon” because of her “church-like” nature.  This prostitute will sit upon the same beast which was described in Revelation 13, the Antichrist, who was “covered with blasphemous names,” indicating his defamation of God, and “had seven heads and ten horns.”  Thus, the beast that gave rise to the religious system in chapter 13 is the same beast upon whom this prostitute is carried along.  She is the fruition of Antichrist’s earlier demand for worship by humanity. 

She is also noted to be wealthy, being dressed in purple and scarlet, the colors of royalty and sinfulness, and “glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls.”  It is unimaginable the wealth an utterly global religious system, of course, especially one whose “god” is not the least bit interested in reinvesting ministry funds into evangelistic and community programs!

While much more can be gleaned concerning the nature of the tribulation worship system, it is beyond the course of this series.  What is important within the context of the study of Wolves in Wool, is the knowledge that a latter day apostasy is noted in scripture to rise up, and that the ultimate fruition of such apostasy is a literal one-world super-church which worships a false christ.  This false christ is not just “different” from the true Christ, but is one who is characteristically the opposite of the true Christ, all-the-while claiming himself to be just that.

The clear cry of scripture to our generation, however, is that an apostasy will begin prior to the day of the Lord and will come to maturity during the same seven-year season as a full-blown worship of a man aptly named, Antichrist.  

It seems impossible to some that today’s apostasy may have such a formidable and evil destination.  After all, no one would relegate the teachings, for example, of the Word of Faith movement and the liberal Emergent movement to that of anti-christ status, would they?  Well, yes, some would, merely for the understanding of the nature of apostasy to endure into such monstrosities.  But, whether one is comfortable making such a call today isn’t really the issue.  The issue is the nature of apostasy.  It grows.  It develops.  It continually changes and degrades.  Once something has gotten off course there is literally no estimating the degree of its future error.  If a spaceship were orbiting the earth only one degree off of a perfect course, it would in time gyroscope itself 180 degrees away from its intended original target.  Luckily, in the case of the spherical earth, it would then correct itself.  Apostasy is based on a two dimensional plane, however.  There is only truth, and error, to whatever degree.  The slightest margin of error will continue to take that which is wrong further away from the truth.  In geometry, a short line can be drawn from the same starting point as another line, but one-half of a degree off course.  If the line is very short, the distinction will be virtually unnoticeable.  Yet, the greater distance that line travels, the more visible it becomes that its error is unyielding. 

The error of these two groups (Emergents and the Word of Faith) is already relegated to “no gospel at all” by those who are serious about contending for the faith of the written Word of God.  Yet, in time, doctrines which have been “tweaked” for the sake of the consumerism of the gospel will indeed enter the waters of utter antithesis of Christianity.  Even today Emergents are co-worshipping with other religions; Muslim, Hindu, Baha’i, and whatever other weird mystic belief is out there.  How can Christianity merge itself with untruth and end up anywhere other than the complete opposite of truth once enough time has passed?

In the final observation, I would be hard pressed to positively define the heretical positioning of the Word of Faith and/or the Emergent movement as the final apostasy which will yield the earth to the whims of God’s enemy.  Yet, considering other signs of the times, one who is honest would have a difficult time demonstrating that in fact we are not in the final days of this age and that the heretical course of these groups may not very well be the forerunners of ecclesiastical Babylon.

The observation of the migration of Christendom into the one-world religious system of the tribulation will be the subject of our next and final post in this series.

http://www.returningking.com/?p=410

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