Key Studies In Discerning the Times
Keys To Discerning the Times - Study Four!
Today as we conclude our series of lessons entitled "Discerning the Times," I would like to focus your attention on some important trends in the religious sphere that are significant in the light of what the prophetic Scriptures foretell about the future of religion.
The Biblical background is provided by the inspired account of a prophetic vision given to the Apostle John on the Isle of Patmos and recorded in Revelation 17:1-6. Prior to what John recorded in this chapter, he had been given a vision of seven angels to whom were given seven vials containing the wrath of God to be poured out on the Christ-rejecting world after the True Church of Christ has been removed.
Revelation 17 picks up the account with these words: "And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and talked with me, saying..., Come hither; I will shew unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sifteth upon many waters.... So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication: and upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OFHARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration."
If you are familiar with the alphabet of symbols used throughout the inspired Scriptures, you will recognize the significance of at least several of the symbolic expressions contained in this passage. For example, the beast with seven heads and ten horns is an expression used in several passages to describe the Antichrist. The expression "Many waters," when used symbolically, is interpreted further on in this same chapter. Revelation 17:15 says, " The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sifteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues."
The name "Babylon" has two usages in Scripture:
(1) The literal city of Babylon, first mentioned in 11 Kings 17:24, and which after becoming a future centre of world trade and commerce will suffer a violent end as described in Revelation 18:12.
- (2) The name "Babylon" also is given to what is best described as ecumenical -ecclesiastical Babylon, or an apostate, counterfeit religion.
The term "Babylon" is used in that sense in the description of the gorgeously affired woman John saw in his prophetic vision. The name on her forehead was 'MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH." She held "a golden cup in her hand full of abominations ... of her fornication."
These terms are significant. The term "abomination" is used in Scripture to indicate idolatry, or the substituting of something offensive to God in place of that which He desires and intended man to recognize and respect. God desires and intends that human beings revere and worship only Him. Idolatry substitutes worship of someone or something other than the one true God. That is an abomination in His sight.The same term "abomination" is used in Leviticus 18:22 to describe and condemn the perverted sexual conduct of homosexuals. God's desired and intended sexual relationship is the relationship He has ordained between male and female as husband and wife. That's why He created them male and female and instituted the ordinance of holy matrimony saying, "Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother and shall cleave unto his wife; and they shall be one flesh." Homosexuality substitutes an unnatural, perverted relationship between men that ignores God's desire and intention. It, therefore, is evil and offensive in His sight.
The woman John saw in his vision bore the name "MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT" - that is, ecumenical-ecclesiastical Babylon. Ecumenical in the sense that it will be "World-Wide" and ecclesiastical in the sense of spurious and blasphemous apostate, counterfeit religion - "THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH." The prostitution of harlots is used to symbolize the illicit mingling of falsehood with truth which conveys the same thought as the idolatry implied by the name "abominations of the earth."
You have no doubt discovered from your own reading that in the Scriptures there are three different symbolic usages of the word "woman." Sometimes the word symbolizes God's people Israel, who are described in the book of the Prophet Hosea as the adulterous wife of Jehovah. In II Corinthians 11:2, the Apostle Paul refers to the church as a chaste virgin espoused to Christ as His bride. The third symbolic usage is the one in Revelation 17 which we read a few moments ago, where the be jeweled scarlet woman, "the mother of harlots and abominations," is used to portray the apostasy which will dominate the religious sphere in the days of the Antichrist after the True Church of Christ has been removed from this earth at the end of this present age.
In Revelation 13 there is a symbolic description of the dominant figure known as "The False Prophet" who will head up that future universal apostate church, and who will be the Antichrist's right- hand man, until the Antichrist turns on even him after he has attained his goal and has become the supreme head of The New World Order an apostate Global World Government.
Let me read from Revelation 13, beginning at verse 11. John has just described his prophetic vision of a beast representing the Antichrist rising up out of the troubled sea of humanity. He then goes on to say, "And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he (notice the personal pronoun) spake as a dragon." Now, a lamb is a gentle creature. It doesn't have horns. This beast, or person, did. He will create the impression of harmlessness and gentleness but will have the capacity to exercise great power, which he will use ruthlessly when it serves his purpose. "He spake as a dragon." The dragon, of course, symbolizes Satan, the arch-deceiver and the father of lies.
The text goes on, verse 12: "And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him (i.e., the Antichrist), and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast......" You notice his role is associated with a form of worship, but it will be idolatrous worship. The universal apostate, counterfeit church of which he will be the supreme ecumenical - ecclesiastical head will worship not the True God but the godless Antichrist, who will be the devil incarnate, just as Jesus Christ was God incarnate.
Surely this underscores the significance of the tremendous increase in Satan-worship which has taken place in recent years. There already exists an incorporated church organization under the name "Church of Satan" that has thousands of adherents throughout Europe and North America. They have their own blasphemous satanic bible, and a list of rituals used in the worship of Satan. Significantly, three common hallmarks of Satan-worshipers are the excessive use of narcotics, sexual orgies , and hard-rock music.
But back to our text. Revelation 13:13, still speaking of the apostate false prophet, says, "He doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of man....." We should bear in mind that Satan can and does imitate the supernatural, miraculous power of God and Jesus Christ. "He maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men, and deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast (i.e., the Antichrist)."
You see the pattern of this Counterfeit and blasphemous imitation? As Christ, who was God incarnate and the head of the True Church, performed miracles not of himself but God His Father performed such works through Him, so the head of the future apostate, counterfeit church will perform miracles through the power of the devil, incarnate in the person of the Antichrist.
The passage goes on to say he will propose that there be made an image of the Antichrist, and "he had power to give life unto the image.... that the image should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image ... should be killed." This idol, or image of the Antichrist, as we have noted in previous prophetic studies, undoubtedly is what the Prophet Daniel and Christ referred to as the "abomination of desolation" with which the false prophet will desecrate the restored Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, precipitating the greatest time of persecution and tribulation the Jews have ever known. (Read it for yourself in Matthew 24:19-22 and Mark 13: 14-20.)
The gorgeously arrayed, jewel-bedecked woman (bearing the name "the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth") that John saw in his prophetic vision symbolizes the ultimate universal apostate church of which the false prophet will be the ecumenical-ecclesiastical head. It will be a very impressive and appealing organization. Despite her blasphemous conduct, John says, when he saw the woman he "wondered with great admiration." The future apostate church will have great appeal to many people.
There are those today who seek to identify that future apostate church with certain present-day religious denominations or organizations, but the Scriptures make clear that the ultimate universal apostate church will be something far more comprehensive and universal than any single apostate religious organization of today. It will represent the consummation of apostasy on a worldwide scale, and the uniting of all apostate religions under one ecumenical- ecclesiastical head.
These prophetic predictions are very significant in the light of the trends developing in the religious world today. Remember the hallmarks of religious apostasy are the denial and rejection of the sovereignty of God and the deity and lordship and literal, bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ; the rejection of the Bible as the infallible, inerrant, authoritative Word of God; and the promotion of a form of a Counterfeit or pseudo-Christianity, preaching a gospel of good works and social responsibility and emphasizing brotherly love and the example of Christ, while rejecting the inherent sinfulness of man, the reality of hell and his eternal damnation unless he appropriates the salvation of God made possible by the atoning efficacy of the blood of Christ shed for the remission of sins on Calvary's cross.
All around us in the religious world we see increasing evidence of these characteristics of apostate religion.
Hand in hand with these religious trends we see the widespread acceptance of secular humanism which exalts the wisdom and will of men over and above the wisdom and will of God. It is a doctrine of human self-sufficiency that rejects man's dependence on God for his earthly preservation and eternal salvation.
All this is accompanied by the rapid growth of a wide range of pseudo-christian and religious cults such as New Thought, Charismatic movement, New Evangelicalism movement and the New Age movements which have been glamorized by stars in the entertainment world. Even professed Bible-believing evangelical churches, in the name of ecumenicism, are deliberately or unknowingly breaking down the wall of demarcation between the true committed Christians and those false Christians who deny the deity of Christ and the authority of the Word of God.
As we have mentioned in previous lessons, the tragic error being committed by many such professing evangelicals is the preaching of a gospel of "cheap grace" which deludes people into thinking that all there is to becoming a Christian is simply to say that you believe in Christ, without any true genuine Faith, without any true genuine repentance from your sins, without the need for a true genuine full immersion water baptism or without any genuine commitment to the obiedience and meaningful discipleship that produces godly living in the midst of an ungodly and Christ-rejecting world.
All these conditions and trends now so clearly evident are paving the way for the future universal apostate church that will dominate the religious scene after the True Church of Christ is removed from this earth.
As we close this brief series of lessons, I repeat to you what Christ said to the people of His day: "O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?" The signs of this times are all telling all of you of this Final Generation, that the hour of Christ's personal appearing to remove His True and Faithful Church is very near at hand.
Think about it! Are you ready if Christ should call His True and Faithful Bible Believing Church home this year, this month, this week, today? The only way you can be ready is to acknowledge your sinfulness and your helplessness to do anything to save or help save yourself from the eternal condemnation and judgement unforgiven sin will inevitably bring.
Christ said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." If you have never done so before, I urge you to turn in true repentance to the living Christ today and - right now - ask Him to come into your heart and life and forgive your sins and be your personal Saviour and Lord from this hour on. May God help you to do so now.
May God bless you.
Let Us Pray Together--
PRAY: "God be merciful to me a sinner. Receive me now for Christ's sake. Cleanse me from my sin by your precious blood, shed on the cross for me; lead me to be Baptized and fill me with your Holy Spirit. Teach me to pray each day; to read Your will for my life from your word, the Bible; and help me to worship and serve You in the fellowship of your church. I thank you Lord Jesus Christ. AMEN!
This Ends This Lesson Series!