Worldwide church union is a subject
about which people may be emotional, indifferent, cautious, or curious.
Therefore, any single treatment of the issue cannot satisfy the needs of
all readers. The subject is complex and, if treated exhaustively, would
fill a large volume
— not a section such as this. It is, therefore,
important to state from the outset that this section is merely an
— a summary. Its purpose is to present to the honest
truth-seeker the findings of a century of Bible study on this subject as
gleaned, collected, and recognized as valid by Bible students all over
the world. Additionally, it is the purpose of this section to relate the
subject of church union to God's plans and purposes over a large span of
time. This sort of broad spectrum view often leads to clearer thinking
and investigation on any subject.
The views presented herein are not the
views of a single author, but the views of hundreds of consecrated
Christians whose lives have been totally devoted to the harmonization of
the Word of God
— both Old and New Testaments. This being the case, it
is obvious that this section cannot be the most detailed study
available. It does, however, reflect detailed study, and it is the
desire of those distributing it that any reader may feel free to contact
the distributors for further details. If the reader seeks truth, he must
be willing to pursue truth in full honesty of heart
— and then it shall
be given to him even as it is written: "Ask, and it shall be given
you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto
The Other Half of the Gospel
Why did God create the earth and
mankind? What is God doing in the earth today? What is the Gospel? What
is the Church? What is the ultimate purpose of the Church? Are all
outside the Church forever lost? What about the Jew?
These questions and their answers lay
the necessary groundwork for an examination of the subject of church
union. Without comprehending God's overall plan for His creation, the
study of a subject like the ecumenical movement certainly can bear
little fruit. Because of this we devote our first chapter to a
consideration of the Gospel — the "good news" of the Bible.
The title of this chapter, "The
Other Half of the Gospel," suggests that what we regularly hear
preached as the Gospel is incomplete — and this is indeed the case! An
examination of the Scriptural definition of the Gospel will prove that
the Gospel is actually "good news" in a fuller sense than most
Christians have ever dreamed.
In Galatians 3:8 the Apostle Paul
makes an interesting statement. He claims that the Gospel was preached
to Abraham! This is a concept not generally appreciated — that the
Gospel can be found in the Old Testament! Abraham and his descendants
believed God and His promises, and the belief at the core of traditional
Judaism is based upon the Gospel which God preached to Abraham. What is
this belief? It is basically this: Messiah would come and bless everyone
on earth through the agency of Abraham's children (or seed). This
blessing would include those who had died by resurrecting them from the
dead. (It was because of his faith in the resurrection that Abraham was
willing to offer his son, Isaac, as a sacrifice to God.)
Paul summed up all of this belief in
the words spoken to Abraham, "in thee shall all nations be
blessed." Remember, Paul called this very promise the Gospel! It is
a beautiful Gospel, too! It promises that all mankind would be blessed.
(See the original promise in Genesis 22:15-18.)
Christianity generally does not define
the Gospel in quite the same manner. The teaching of Christendom
regarding the Gospel has been basically this: Faithful believers in
Christ will go to heaven when they die.
THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO:
Messiah will bless all on earth through
Abraham's seed and will even raise those who have died to enjoy
Faithful Christians go to heaven after death.
On the surface Judaism seems better,
doesn't it? After all, it includes all men in the blessing, whereas
Christendom excludes all — except Christians! But our examination of
the matter is not complete. As we look into it more, remember that we
cannot immediately judge either of these definitions of the Gospel as
being wrong. Judaism got its belief from God's own prophets; we would
indeed be presumptuous to ignore that testimony! And Jesus, who was a
Jew, never disputed the Gospel as preached to Abraham. But we must
acknowledge that the Bible also teaches that faithful Christians will go
to heaven. These two versions of the Gospel are not inharmonious. By
accepting them both, we learn the full Gospel.
We have found that the Gospel is
summarized in God's promise to Abraham that "In thy seed shall all
nations be blessed." What does this mean? Notice that it involves
two distinct and separate parts:
1. Abraham's seed
2. All nations of earth
Abraham's seed is not totally as
Abraham might have expected, for the Apostle informs us in Galatians
3:29 that "If ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed and heirs
according to the promise." This is a key to our understanding. It
says that faithful Christians are counted by God as being Abraham's seed
or children. It also says that because of this they become
"heirs" according to the "promise." What promise?
The promise was that the seed would bless everyone else. Now we are at
the crux of the matter! If true Christians are the seed, we see God's
eventual purpose for them — the blessing of all the nations of the
earth, and the resurrecting of all those who have died, just as Abraham
expected, so that they too could be blessed. Now our chart is
harmonious. Those who go to heaven will bless those here on earth!
THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO:
Messiah will bless all on earth through
Abraham's seed and will even raise those who have died to enjoy
Faithful Christians go to heaven after death.
But this is harmonious only if we
retain the "other half of the Gospel" — the part Judaism
believes. And that is that not only will the "seed" be saved,
but so will the rest of mankind! This is actually saying that there are
two salvations. First, the seed (true Christians) are saved; and
secondly, they (the seed) save and bless everyone else! Yes, the
complete Gospel is really GOOD NEWS!
The New Testament informs us that
there will be two kinds of resurrection, one in heaven for the true seed
(the "first resurrection") and one on earth for all the rest
of mankind. This is the whole Gospel. Christendom and Judaism have both
been incomplete and wrong in themselves. Each had one half of the
Gospel! But now we see that those who will go to heaven in the first
resurrection will not go to float on clouds and play harps, but rather
to participate with Christ in the rulership of his kingdom which will
bless all the families here on earth. Christ's kingdom will have two
parts: heavenly and earthly. If this were not so, how could the Lord
have taught the disciples to pray "Thy Kingdom come, thy will be
done in earth"? (Matt. 6:10) Or how could the angels have predicted
"peace on earth, goodwill toward men"? (Luke 2:12-14)
Paul also mentions these two
salvations in 1 Timothy 4:19 where he says "we trust in the living
God who is the Savior of all men, specially of those that believe."
It is clear that Paul still had in mind the seed and all men as being
the two parts of the Gospel because he says that salvation is:
1. for all men and
2. specially for those that believe.
The "special" salvation is,
of course, the salvation of the "first resurrection" (the
heavenly resurrection — Revelation 20:6). It is the salvation of true
Christians, those whom God recognizes as His own true Church —
"the seed of Abraham."
Understanding this matter of the two
salvations, earthly and heavenly (or the two parts to the Gospel),
answers many questions about certain scriptures. For instance, Matthew
11:11 tells us what a great man John the Baptist was. Yet in the same
verse we have our Lord's own words that John will not be a part of the
heavenly resurrection! John instead will be a part of all the nations of
the earth who will be raised and blessed right here on the earth by
"the seed" — the Church raised to heavenly glory.
So then, in short, the Gospel is the
beautiful promise that all men will be resurrected and be given an
opportunity to have a perfect, everlasting life on the earth. The
exception to this will be those who faithfully serve the Lord during
this present life; they will live in heaven as spirit beings, and their
job will be to bless the race of men on earth. The true Gospel is a
combination of the basic expectations of both Jews and Christians.
We began this chapter with a list of
seven questions basic to an understanding of God's plan (and hence to an
understanding of details of prophecy such as the ecumenical movement).
To close this chapter, we will ask the same seven questions — this time
with concise answers to cement our understanding and memory before we
proceed to our principal topic.
1. Why did God create the earth and
He created because He has love as one of His primary attributes, and
true love must give. Therefore he formed the earth "to be
inhabited" (Isaiah 45:18) by perfect human beings who would love
and serve Him freely and to whom He would freely give blessing and life.
This creation was "not in vain."
2. What is God doing in the earth
He is doing several things so that his purpose as stated above will
be accomplished - - so that His word will "not return unto Him void
but it shall accomplish that which He pleases, and it shall prosper in
the thing whereunto He sent it." (Isaiah 55:11) The Lord is
permitting evil to have full sway in the earth so that man will be able
fully to see its results. (Ecclesiastes 1:13; 3:10) Therefore, in the
Kingdom reign of righteousness, mankind will be able to make a free and
intelligent choice between good and evil after having experienced both.
But God is doing more. He is choosing "a people for His name"
(Acts 15:14), which we will discuss in a coming question.
3. What is the Gospel?
As we have just seen, the Gospel is God's good news to man that His
original plan has not failed — that man will be made alive and receive
God's blessings eternally on a perfected earth. This is all to be done
by a promised "seed."
4. & 5. What is the Church?
and What is the ultimate purpose for the Church?
The true Church of the Bible is that promised seed just mentioned,
and its ultimate purpose is, by God's grace, to participate in God's own
work of accomplishing His original design for the earth and its
inhabitants. One of the main things that God is doing in the earth today
is choosing that Church — one member here, one there. As Acts 15:14
declares, God, having found too few Jews faithful at the first advent to
constitute this Church, is "visiting the Gentiles" also — not
to bless or save them all now, but to take out from their midst "a
people for His name." This "people for His name" will be
those who have been called of God and who have faithfully suffered with
Christ. The Greek word for church (ekklesia) literally means "a
calling out." These called out ones are the true Church. They will
receive the first or heavenly resurrection. Then they will be
"priests of God and of Christ and shall reign with Him a thousand
years." (Revelation 20:6) This reigning will be for the purpose of
blessing all the nations of the earth. What a prospect! This is the very
reason that James says God is taking a people for His name: that
"after this . . . the residue of men might seek after the
Lord." (Acts 15:13-18)
6. Are all outside the Church
Of course not! The absurdity of this position should now be clear to
us all! The whole purpose of the Church is to bless all those who are
outside of the Church! God isn't even dealing with the world in general
now. He is merely choosing out from among them those who will become
members of the Church. After the Church is completely chosen and she
becomes the bride of Christ at his second advent, then "the Spirit
(of Christ) and the bride (the Church) say Come; and whosoever will, let
him take the water of life freely." (Revelation 22:17)
7. What about the Jew?
Israel as a nation has forever lost the opportunity of becoming the
Church (Romans 11:25); but Israel too shall be saved. (Romans 11:26) It
is through the natural seed of Abraham, the Jew, that God purposes to
give His New Covenant to mankind. (Jeremiah 31:31-34) Israel is now
reestablished as a nation. God put her there. She will be the nation
from whom the blessings will flow worldwide, for it is written that
"Many nations shall come and say; Come, and let us go up to the
mountain of the Lord and to the house of the God of Jacob, and He will
teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths, for the law shall
go forth of Zion, and the word of the Lord form Jerusalem." (Micah
4:2-4) Likewise it is said, "Yea, many people and strong nations
shall come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem and to pray before the
Lord. Thus saith the Lord of hosts; In those days it shall come to pass
that ten men shall take hold (out of all languages of the nations), even
shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go
with you, for we have heard that God is with you." (Zechariah 8:22,
A Note Before Continuing:
It is probably that many reading this
section consider themselves "New Testament Christians." Hence
it has probably been noticed that we are using Old Testament texts as
liberally as New Testament texts. It is, therefore, timely to point out
from the New Testament that the Old Testament is as valid to us as the
New, and that anyone rejecting its testimony cannot hope to understand
what the Lord is doing. The Old Testament is not yet fulfilled entirely,
and many of its prophecies are finding their fulfillment before our eyes
First, note the following New
Testament texts which commend the study of the "Scriptures"
remembering that the only Scriptures then in existence were the books of
the Old Testament prophets: Acts 17:2,3; Acts 17:10-13; Acts 18:24-28;
Rom. 1:1,2; Rom. 16:25-27; II Tim. 3:14-17; II Pet. 3:15-18; Matt.
22:28-30; Gal. 3:8; Gal. 4:28-31; I Tim. 5:18; James 2:8; James 4:5; I
Additionally, we have the strong
testimony of Paul (Rom. 15:4) that the Old Testament is for "our
learning." And Peter twice supports this view. In I Peter 1:10-12
he explains that the prophets did not minister to themselves, but to us,
Christians. In II Peter 1:16-21 he points out that the Old Testament
prophecies are a "more sure" authority to us than was Peter's
own experience on the mount of transfiguration! And he says we should
listen to them "until the day dawn" — that is, they are
valuable to us even up to the time of the Lord's second coming. If,
therefore, we accept the authority of the Apostles (the New Testament),
we cannot reject the Old Testament's testimony and authority.
"Say Ye Not a
Our Lord's parable of the wheat and
the tares (Matt. 13:24- 30) forms an excellent basis with which to begin
a consideration of church union. This parable predicts the history of
Christianity for nearly two thousand years. The parable explains that
Jesus would sow the Gospel message followed by Satan's sowing a
counterfeit message. Thus the true Church was founded, but the apostate
church also grew very quickly. The Lord's servants inquired about the
wisdom of separating the two groups, but the Lord cautioned that such
separation would do more harm than good until it was the proper time for
separation. The fact that the gathering out of the tares would have
rooted up the wheat also shows prophetically that the false church
(tares) would probably outnumber the true Church (wheat). This is in
harmony with Jesus' statements that "many are called but few are
chosen," and with His naming His true Church a "little
Just so it has been. The message of
the Lord and the Apostles was soon corrupted. The ambition of early
churchmen placed power above truth, and the great Roman Church ruled the
world. Some did attempt reforms, but the spirit of Satan infiltrated
these reform movements so that they too became tare- infested and formed
their own denominational tare collections — each, however, containing
The parable ends with a very important
message for us. It says that the day would come when it would be proper
to separate the wheat from the tares. This would be in the time of the
"harvest," which our Lord elsewhere explains is the end of the
age — the end of the call of the Church — the time of His return. We
are now living in the harvest of the age. Therefore the Lord looks over
his field to see what fruit it has borne. He considers the tares (false
church) worthless for his purpose (which is to bless the world), and so
he determines their destruction — as institutions, not as people!
Remember that the Lord did very much the same thing at his first advent.
He looked over the Jewish church to see if it had borne the proper
fruit. When he saw it had not, he determined their destruction — again,
as a nation, not as individuals. But those Jews who were faithful —
those who were "wheat" — he separated and gave them the
opportunity of being the first members of the Church. (Compare Matt.
23:37-39 with John 1:11,12.)
Matthew 13:30, therefore, becomes a
touchstone for our study of what is happening in the ecclesiastical
world. Note just what it says: "Gather . . . the tares and bind
them in bundles." Here it is! The ecumenical drive for unity is
here stated with such simplicity! (For a more detailed discussion, see
Thy Kingdom Come, page 142) [See Appendix A for more on the current
ecumenical movement.] The Lord is here predicting that prevailing forces
which he would maneuver would actually cause the "bundling"
together. Of course, the denominations think thatunity is for their
benefit and strength; but the parable states otherwise. It points out
that they are being bundled to be burned (destroyed as institutions).
The wheat, however, which is the true Church, is being gathered out from
denominationalism to be gathered together with Jesus to reign with him
to bless all the families of the earth. (And, by the way, those who were
the tares will be among those who will be blessed!)
It becomes clear, then, that those who
would be faithfully following the Lord at this time (the wheat) could
never participate in the church union (tare) movement. Instead, the true
wheat will recognize the ecumenical movement as a sign of the nearness
of the kingdom. They will be content to lean on the Lord and his wisdom
rather than on the organizational stratagems of the so-called churches.
The true Church will stand separate (and informed), neither joining nor
fighting the ecumenical movement.
Other Scriptures state the same
lesson. A brief consideration of an Old Testament prophecy will be a
help. It is found in Isaiah 8. For brevity we shall consider only verses
"Associate yourselves, O
people, and ye shall be broken in pieces; and give ear all of ye far
countries: gird yourselves, and ye shall be broken in pieces; gird
yourselves and ye shall be broken in pieces. Take counsel together,
and it shall come to nought; speak the word, and it shall not stand:
for God is with us. For the Lord spake thus to me with a strong hand,
and instructed me that I should not walk in the way of this people,
saying, Say ye not a confederacy, to all them to whom this people
shall say, A Confederacy; neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid.
Sanctify the Lord of hosts himself; and let Him be your fear, and let
Him be your dread."
In verse 9 we find the forecast that
the people will want to associate themselves. It also states that they
would "gird" themselves. Gird means bind. It is clearly the
same binding in bundles to which our Lord refers in the parable. But the
Lord declares through the prophet that all their attempts would
ultimately meet with destruction.
Ultimately they would be "broken
in pieces," and their counseling would not produce the ends they
desired. And why not? Because God would not be with them! He would be
with "us" (vs. 10) — the true Church. In verses 12 and 13 the
Lord counsels the true Church as to what its position should be:
"Say ye not a confederacy" — don't participate in the union.
"Neither fear ye their fear or be afraid." What is the fear of
denominationalism? Their fear is that their influence is waning; their
fear is that they are losing the support of the people; their fear is
that society is collapsing. Indeed, their fears are well founded! But
they know not that the Lord has decreed the destruction of the
denominations and even the social order itself so that He can establish
His righteous kingdom on earth in the place of the present corrupt order
of things. The true Church, understanding what the Lord is doing, does
not fear. It rejoices to see the evidences of the nearness of the
kingdom. (Psalm 97:8)
How Can Unity Be Bad?
Very often the advocates of church
union quote from our Lord's prayer as recorded in John 17. Here Jesus
prays for his Church and asks the Father that "they all may be
one." (vs. 21) Jesus' desire for the unity of the Church, however,
could only refer to the true Church, the wheat. If he desired unity for
all now, why would he have said that he would separate the wheat from
the tares? Jesus' prayer does have an answer, however. The true Church
is united — and it is united in the way which Jesus wanted: by the
Truth. That is what he requested in John 17:17. Notice that Jesus asks
that they be "sanctified" by the truth. Sanctified means
separated! The true Church (wheat) is to be separated (sanctified) from
the false church (tares) by the truth. It is not to be united to the
false church just for an outward show of unity!
The desire for unity in the ecumenical
movement is a desire based on error — on misinformation. The so-called
churches, not understanding the true and whole Gospel, want everyone in
harmony now, thinking this to be God's way to improve the world.
But God's way to improve the world is the kingdom on earth which will do
away with all error. This kingdom cannot function fully until the true
Church (Abraham's seed) have all been separated and glorified. Then they
will bless all the nations of earth even as God himself promised to
Abraham so many years ago. God never breaks a promise.
The Fall of Babylon
As we look more closely at the
question of the separation of the true Church from the false church at
this end of the age, it becomes important to understand what is meant by
various Biblical symbolisms. Among these is the term
"Babylon." There was, of course, a real city by this name.
Strangely, however, the name of this city of Babylon meant different
things to different people. In the language of the Jews, who were God's
people, the name came from a root word meaning "confusion."
But to the Babylonians, the word meant "the gate of God."
How interesting that one word could
have two meanings so opposite! But it is not difficult to see how this
came about. The city derived its name from the original tower of Babel
built by Nimrod. To Nimrod and his followers this tower was meant to be
a gateway to heaven. But God was angered by their presumptuous attitude
and stopped their progress by confusing their language; and hence the
idea of confusion was introduced into the name Babel. The meaning that
was favored, of course, depended upon whether the person using the word
was a friend of God or a friend of Nimrod!
When we come to the book of
Revelation, however, we find the Apostle John still prophesying about
Babylon even though it had gone out of existence centuries before John
was born. But this time it is mystic Babylon, or as John says,
"Mystery, Babylon the Great." (Rev. 17:5) God often used Old
Testament people and events to picture something that would come later
but be very similar in some important aspects. This is the case with
"Babylon." Now we must inquire, just what is Babylon in the
mystic sense? Babylon refers to the so-called churches which have sprung
up since our Master's first advent. This is quite a claim! Yet it meets
Note the words of Jeremiah 51:7,
"Babylon hath been a golden cup in the Lord's hand." How
interesting is this statement! It is saying that there was a time when
the Lord favored this mystic Babylon; He worked with it and He had
enough interest in it that He wanted to keep it spiritually healthy.
Jeremiah 51:9 states this: "We would have healed Babylon, but she
is not healed."
These words sound so familiar in
concept! They are the same thoughts as the Lord expressed in the parable
of wheat and tares. There too, the Lord was pleased to work with the
field as it was — wheat and tares mixed. By the truths of the
Reformation he even attempted to heal the spiritual sickness that had
developed. But Babylon would not be healed. She continued to produce
more tares than wheat. Remember the final result: separate them.
Jeremiah 51:9 states this separation of wheat from tares so clearly:
"Forsake her (Babylon), and let
us (wheat) go every one into his own country, for her judgment reacheth
unto heaven." But the "churches" are unaware of this.
They are still Babylon (confusion) although they see themselves as the
gateway to God — as man's only hope for salvation.
How does this relate to church union?
Babylon (the denominations) is the same as the tares. As the tares were
bundled, so will the denominations bundle themselves together to protect
their position in society. Why do they find this necessary? Because they
are under attack! Their doctrines no longer satisfy reasoning minds, so
they must resort to a "social Gospel." They cannot attract
sufficient loyalty or excite sufficient zeal to stay alive as
institutions. The wheat leaves them because the Lord directs them to
leave. Notice His directions to His true Church as found in both the Old
and New Testaments.
Jeremiah 51:6 says: "Flee out of
the midst of Babylon, and deliver every man his soul: be not cut off in
her iniquity, for this is the time of the Lord's vengeance. He will
render unto her a recompence." And Revelation 18:4 echoes this
advice: "Come out of her (Babylon) my people, that ye be not
partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues." The
Lord will plague Babylon to her destruction. This is what Jesus foresaw
when he said the tares would be bundled for the purpose of burning them.
The picture in the Scriptures is even
more inclusive. The Scriptures declare that this uniting spirit would be
not only in the churches, but even among the institutions, businesses,
and nations of the world. They are all to become interdependent on each
other. Hence we see mergers, affiliations, holding companies, trusts,
leagues, treaties, and even the "United Nations" and the
"European Economic Union." The spirit is everywhere! But to
the true Church, the Lord explains the matter. He tells what He is doing
and why. Notice Zephaniah 3:8,9:
"Wait ye upon me, saith the
Lord, until the day that I rise up to the prey: for my determination
is to gather the nations, that I may assemble the kingdoms, to pour
out upon them mine indignation, even all my fierce anger: for all the
earth (society) shall be devoured with the fire (destruction) of my
jealousy. for then will I turn to the people a pure language that they
may all call upon the name of the Lord to serve Him with one
Rejoice in what this text tells us! It
first assures us that the Lord is fully aware of the gathering,
assembling, and uniting that is going on. Indeed, He is helping it come
about! But He explains why. He says that when they are united, they will
fall harder. He united them in order to pour out his anger upon them all
The anger is expressed as
"fire" which is a Scriptural symbol for destruction; but it
cannot mean that He destroys the people because it says immediately that
He will bless the people with a pure message (no more error). It means,
rather, that He will destroy the symbolic "earth," and the
earth symbolizes the social order. And notice too that these people He
blesses must not have known even who He was because he blesses them so
that they can serve Him — showing that they didn't serve Him before.
All of this is in harmony with the
Gospel. God is collecting the last members of the seed of Abraham. Then
he will destroy man's selfish society in order to let the seed of
Abraham bless mankind with a perfect society: "Peace on earth, good
will toward men." We therefore need have no fear when we see
Babylon unite for its ultimate great fall. (Rev. 18:21)
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
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
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
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
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
The faith of the saints will then be
severely tested. But their victory of faith will be the moment the world
has so long unknowingly 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
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
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
Samplings of Ecumenical Warnings of
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
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
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."
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.
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
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
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.
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."
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
"Opponents within the ELCA
(Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) believed the denominations
would have relinquished too much theological ground if it approved the
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
"Lutheran objections to the idea
of bishops for life was strongest from Lutherans suspicious of church
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,
..."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
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.