February 20, 2013

Of late, I have been consumed with the ever-increasing secularization of our world. I am seeing Christianity's influence throughout the world, and in particular in Europe, is all but gone. Church buildings are empty throughout Spain, France, Belgium, Denmark, England and in most of Scandinavia. In America, particularly in New England and upstate New York three out of eight church buildings are used for things other than worship or are falling in disrepair.

I think, if we are living in the so-called "end times" then we are truly witnessing what the Apostle Paul called: "The Great Apostasy." He talks about this in Second Thessalonians 2:3. Apostasy is the big theological term for "falling away" or "turning away" from faith.

When this Great Apostasy occurs, the so-called "Man of Lawlessness" will appear on the scene. Many believe the Man of Lawlessness is the Antichrist, a singular person. But when the Apostle John wrote his letters and the Revelation, he noted to his church members that there have been many antichrist to have come out, deceiving people with false doctrines about Christ and His resurrection. This was in the first century.

Antichrists, by nature, empower false doctrine, false religion, the worship of someone or something other than God. The final Antichrist, will not empower false religion, rather, false religion turns a society's or a civilization's attention away from God to worship and serve the Antichrist.

So one night last week my attention was turned to the Apostle John's vision found in the Book of Revelation.

In a cursory reading of the thirteenth chapter of the Revelation we find three distinct foes of Jesus Christ. The three form an "unholy" trinity of sorts and are manifested in various ways throughout history.

The first is the dragon, who stands on the shore of the sea awaiting for and watching over the actions of the other two foes. He was identified in the twelfth chapter as Satan, the father of lies and the leader of liars.

The second is the beast from the sea, who receives the dragon's power, throne and authority. He has been identified elsewhere as THE (final) Antichrist.

The third is the beast which comes out of the earth (the land). His function is to entice people to worship the first beast. In the seventeenth chapter of Revelation he is called the "False Prophet," meaning, false religion.

The identity of these three figures along with their overt blasphemy (which is the rejection of and slander against God) means what is primarily in view is not so much John's interest in contemporary Roman history and politics (such as a particular emperor in power around his time), but that his vision depicts another battle in the ongoing war between good and evil.

The overtly anti-Christian nature of the first beast's rule can be seen in the first ten verses of Revelation 13 as he was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise his authority for forty-two months.

At this point, I would just add that the Book of Revelation was written in "apocalyptic" language. It was a symbolic genre quite popular from around 200 BC until about AD 250 to hide the real meaning of what is said from the secular world and could easily been understood and interpreted by the "initiated." In other words, Christians knew what John meant when he wrote with this style of language.

The early Christians knew that John was not necessarily speaking of a person or people specifically, but on a larger scale, an institution or groups of institutions which deny, slander and reject God's authority.

The forty-two months are not literal, but symbolic. In Revelation 11 we read of two witnesses, representing the Church's age of influence, who preached for 1260 days (3 and a half years), then the Beast (the first beast of Revelation 13) arises makes war upon the witnesses and kills them. Symbolically this would mean the Antichrist would arise at the end of the church age and put an end to it's power and influence.

After the 1260 days, there would be three-and-a-half DAYS in which all the non-Christian world would "rejoice and make merry" over the death of the Christian influence. Hence, another use of the three-and-a-half numerology, only this time in days, which means a shorter period of time.

In Revelation chapter 12 we read of a woman who gave birth to a male child being pursued by the dragon (Satan) but she was nourished by God for "a time, times and half-a-time" meaning three-and-a-half years (or 42 months).

The 1260 days of chapter 11 and the time, times and half-a-time of chapter 12 refer to the prevailing of a Christian consensus and the life of the Church.

Applying these time factors into Revelation chapter 13, we can conclude that the forty-two months, 1260 days and time, times and half-a time (each meaning three-and-a-half years) refers not to literal time, but to a period of time, the Church Age.

Will Durant, in his monumental The Story of Civilization, referred to the time between the first and early 20th century as Western Christian Civilization. Text books in schools all across America now simply call it Western Civilization, dropping the term "Christian" because that consensus is gone.

Does this mean we have approached or are already past the Church Age? Has the Christian consensus truly ceased in our day?

To answer this, I would go back to Revelation 13 and see if there is an application here to our time.There seems to be obvious parallels here which indicate we have approached the time when the Church and the real Gospel, has been marginalized, syncretized and/or destroyed.

Remember we have a Dragon, identified as Satan, the father of lies and the leader of liars. As a parallel let's just say the Dragon empowers our politicians today who look us straight in the eye and tell bald-faced lies and get away with it.

The first beast, the one that arises out of the sea, is the Antichrist. Don't think of him as a person, rather an institution. This beast blasphemes God, persecutes God's people, makes war with Christians, puts many to death, subverts and influences others with lies and threats to the extent that those "Christians" become what we would call part of the Great Falling Away, or the ultimate Apostasy.

There are many mainline Protestant denominations which preach the social gospel, encouraging many to adhere to the mandates of whims of government. They ordain gay clergy, pick and choose what parts of Scripture to preach and adhere to, exclude references to miracles, sin and discipleship and even change the meaning of such phrases as "righteousness" and "abomination" so as to become politically correct. The numerous cults and the occult, along with the New Age movement which operate with a loose use of the term Christian, are also apart of the mixture of the Great Falling Away.

These are spared the persecution by the first beast to the extent that they are incorporated into the work of the Second Beast, namely, to encourage everyone to worship the First Beast.

What we are witnessing today is a huge increase in the number of Social Gospel and emergent churches, many African-American churches which utilize the services of government run programs to encourage dependency on the government and mainline Protestant denominations which no longer preach or teach the Bible and are becoming more quick to jump on the same-sex marriage bandwagon. These are part of the Second Beast scenario.

The First Beast is Antichristian government (which is now firmly in place in the United States today). The second Beast is Antichristian Religion which may mask itself as being Christian or manifest itself as the propaganda arm of the First Beast; and by this, I mean the media and Hollywood.

We have had numerous articles pictures and depictions of President Obama wearing a halo, being referred to as our Savior, the new Messiah, God, the all-perfect leader, and on and on. But I am not calling Obama the Antichrist. It is the institution that is Antichrist. Obama represents and to a great degree is that institution which is the government.

The media, many black Churches, liberal churches, social gospel churches, even the average person on the street today, promote Obama and his policies over and above, God and His Word.

Are we living in the end times? As long as I hear that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is being preached somewhere on this earth and that lives are being transformed in a Christian way, then I say there is still hope. But lives aren't being changed in too many places on earth anymore. The rate of Christian conversions is at its lowest in American history.

And as far as America is concerned, more and more people are being forced into trusting their government to bail them out, provide food, protect them and be a father (or nanny) to them. Where is God in the mix?

As far as the Antichrist is concerned, he can't rule when God is around. And if God is kicked out and rejected, He won't stay where He is not wanted. He may just well be leaving the building and the 42 months (meaning the Christian era) are over.

The Antichrist (First Beast) is alive and well in the United States and the False Prophet (Second Beast) is out there preaching his authority on MSNBC, CNN, CBS, ABC, NBC, the New York Times, the Washington Post and on and on...

Welcome to The Great Apostasy.

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