Last month we referred to the fact that new "prophets" are arising to play an important role in preparing the world for the Antichrist. They are of two kinds: (1) charismatics/Pentecostals, who claim to receive extrabiblical inspiration directly from God; and (2) so-called "Christian psychologists," who promote what they claim are extrabiblical revelations of "God's truth" ("all truth is God's truth") given to godless humanists and anti-Christians such as Freud, Jung, et al. Increasing numbers of professing Christians are following the guidance of both kinds of false "prophets," placing modern "revelations" and "experience" above the Bible.
Behold Protestantism's growing Roman Catholic-like priesthood that cannot be questioned, which mediates for the people with God and helps build the bridge back to Rome. "Christian psychologists" play such a role within Protestant churches. They speak, as do Catholic priests, with an authority that comes from outside Scripture and which cannot be questioned by mere "Bereans" who know only their Bibles. They minister psychotherapeutic "sacraments and rituals," which they claim are essential to the spiritual health of the flock and operate a "confessional." Some even promote images more dangerous than those revered by Catholics, for the visualized "Christ" used in the "healing of memories" comes alive and speaks!
The new "prophets" among the charismatics likewise cannot be questioned. Their "revelations" take precedence over the Bible and must be followed by those who would not be guilty of rebellion. The charismatic movement provides another lane on the highway to Rome. Not only is there a close bond between Protestant and Catholic charismatics (there are about 30 million of the latter worldwide [Note: 70 million in 1995]), but some of the "revelations" also lead in that direction.
Pastor Roland Buck's story, Angels On Assignment, is a classic case in point. One of his visions involved an alleged trip to the "throne room of God," where he was given in writing a most interesting "prophecy" by "God" himself. As Buck explained,
Number 113 of the 120 events which God entered on this paper from my book in heaven on January 21, 1977, was the selection of a new pope....in order to help in the restoration of his fragmented body, God had chosen a man named Karol Wojtyla of Poland. This prophecy was fulfilled October 16, 1978 when he began his reign as Pope JohnPaul II.1
Buck's book wasn't published until 1979. If we take his word, however, that he actually had such a paranormal experience, then a demon was clearly the source of this "revelation." The seductive purpose was obvious: to make it appear that God himself desires a union between Protestants and Catholics under the Pope.That the ecumenical movement has gained irresistible force cannot be denied. The climate for Protestant-Catholic "unity" today is a slap in the face of the Reformers, all of whom were convinced that the Roman Catholic popes were antichrists. This was the view of Protestant leaders during the next 400 years. Even Billy Graham, in 1948 at the start of his celebrated career, identified Roman Catholicism as one of the "greatest menaces faced by orthodox Christianity...."2
Yet today, leading Protestants refer to Roman Catholics as "Christian brothers and sisters" with whom we can work together in "evangelizing the world by the year a.d.2000." Encouraging this new view, Billy Graham refers favorably to "the new understanding between Roman Catholics and Protestants" and sends converts back into Catholic churches. He thus undermines the very gospel which he, as the world's most honored evangelist, preaches so earnestly.
Don't ever forget that every belief upon which Protestantism was founded and for which the martyrs gave their lives was rejected by the Council of Trent. Its Canons and Decrees are considered to be a summation of Roman Catholicism valid for all time. Today's catechisms continue to require all Roman Catholics to pledge absolute and unquestioning obedience to Trent's dogmas:
I accept, without hesitation, and profess all that has been handed down, defined and declared by the Sacred Canons and by the general Councils, especially by the Sacred Council of Trent and by the Vatican General Council [Vatican II, which reaffirmed Trent], and in a special manner concerning the primacy and infallibility of the Roman Pontiff....3
It is extremely difficult for Roman Catholics to escape the cultic grip in which they are held because they have been convinced that their Church controls the gates of heaven. To disobey her is to be lost forever. Rome's power to brainwash is evident in the fact that in spite of the Reformation that shook Europe in Luther's day, John Paul II commands nearly 900 million followers (about fifteen times the number of Lutherans) who are bound to him by oaths typical of most cults. Here is a further portion of the oath quoted above from The Convert's Catechism:
I recognize the Holy Roman, Catholic and Apostolic Church as the mother and teacher of all...and I promise and swear true obedience to the Roman Pontiff, successor of St. Peter, Prince of the Apostles, and Vicar of Christ. ...This same Catholic Faith, outside of which nobody can be saved, which I now freely profess and to which I truly adhere, the same I promise and swear to maintain and profess... until the last breath of life....4
As it is with Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses or any other cult, so it is with Catholics: though there is much talk about Christ, in the final analysis salvation is not in Him but in the Church. The first thing Mormon missionaries push on prospects sounds very much like Catholicism with a few names and dates changed: that theirs is the one true church outside of which there is no salvation, and that its current head is the true representative of Christ on earth, having inherited that position through apostolic succession that can be traced back to Joseph Smith, God's true prophet. The claims of Jehovah's Witnesses, Christian Scientists, Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church and other cults are much the same.
Standing in the place of the One who said, "Come unto me and I will give you rest" (Mat 11.28), the Roman Catholic Church insists that all must come to her and that she alone can provide to repentant sinners what Christ himself promised but cannot perform without her priesthood's mediation. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones was gravely concerned about the growing ecumenical acceptance of Roman Catholics as partners in "evangelization" of the world. Blaming this inexcusable naiveté upon "a weak and flabby Protestantism that does not know what it believes," he earnestly warned,
I would not hesitate to assert that... Roman Catholicism, is the devil's greatest masterpiece! It is such a departure from the Christian faith and the New Testament teaching, that I would not hesitate with the Reformers of the sixteenth century to [say]...she is, as the Scripture puts it, "the whore."...Christian people, your responsibility is terrible. You must know the truth. ...There are innocent people who are being deluded. It is your business and mine to open their eyes and to instruct them.5
Crying out against the already growing trend among Protestants in his day to accept Catholicism as not so bad after all, C. H. Spurgeon passionately decried "the spirit that would tamper with Truth for the sake of united action":
Not so thought our fathers, when at the stake they gave themselves to death...for truths which men can nowadays count unimportant, but which being truths were to them so vital that they would sooner die than suffer them to be dishonoured.
O for the same uncompromising love of truth!
May there ever be found some men... who shall denounce again and again all league with error and all compromise with sin [as] the abhorrence of God...!
Early Protestant creeds unanimously called the pope Antichrist—not only because of Rome's heresies but because the lives of many popes exemplified Antichrist's evil. More than one pope vacated "Peter's throne" when killed by a furious husband who caught him in bed with his wife. Even Catholic historians admit that many of the popes were among the most inhuman monsters to walk this earth. In Vicars of Christ, Jesuit Peter de Rosa reminds us that pope after pope engaged habitually on a grand scale in wholesale mayhem and murder, pillage, rape, incest, simony and corruption of the worst sort. Their evil lives are a blot upon the pages of history. It is a travesty to refer to such shameless perverts and master criminals as "His Holiness" or "Vicar of Christ" as they all are in official Roman Catholic dogma and documents.
Even if the popes had all been paragons of virtue, it would still be a mockery to claim that they represent an unbroken chain of "apostolic succession" back to Peter. It was long the custom for the popes to be voted in by the populace of Rome, which had its own selfish reasons for desiring one candidate above another. Such a majority vote could hardly be called "apostolic succession" and, in fact, is not acceptable by Rome today. Some popes were deposed by angry mobs protesting their unbearable evil. Others were installed and/or deposed by kings and emperors. Political expediency along with the wealth and influence of the candidate as often as not determined who would be pope. "Apostolic succession" indeed!
Nor is there any evidence that Peter ever enjoyed the position of leadership in the early church which is now claimed for the pope. Christ's promise, "I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven" (Mat:16:19), could be interpreted as having been fulfilled when Peter opened the Kingdom to Jews at Pentecost (Acts:2:14-41) and to Gentiles in the home of Cornelius (Acts:10:34-48). Christ's further promise to Peter that "whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" was no more than His identical promise to all of the disciples (Mat:18:18-20). Likewise the statement, "whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them..." (Jn:20:23), was made to all of the disciples.
That the special authority which has been claimed by the Roman Catholic popes as his alleged "successors" was never exercised by Peter as the head of the church is clear from the biblical record. Peter exhorts equals, he does not command subordinates: "The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder" (1 Pt 5:1). He offers his epistles not on the basis of exalted ecclesiastical position or power, but on the fact that he, like the other disciples, has been "a witness of the sufferings of Christ...[an eyewitness] of his majesty" (1 Pt 5:1; 2Pt 1:16).
The first church council (Acts:15:4-29), which was held in Jerusalem around A.D. 45-50, was convened on Paul's initiative, not Peter's. And it was James, not Peter, who seemed to take the leadership. Peter's only recorded statement was not doctrinal but mainly a summation of his experiences. James, however, drew upon the Scriptures and argued from a doctrinal point of view. Moreover, it was James who said, "Wherefore my sentence is...," and his declaration became the basis of the official letter sent back to Antioch in settlement of the dispute.
James seemingly took upon himself an authoritarian position which, while it never approached the infallibility and dominance now claimed for the pope, was unscriptural and detrimental. Fear of James and his influence caused Peter to revert to Jewish traditional separation from Gentiles. Paul, who wrote far more of the New Testament and whose ministry was obviously much larger, publicly rebuked Peter for his error (Gal:2:11-14). The specious claim that Peter held a special leadership position and was given the chief place among the apostles, and was thus the first pope, is refuted by numerous passages in the New Testament.
Roman Catholicism bases its false dogma upon Christ's statement, "Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church" (Mt 16:18). Whatever Christ meant, that declaration certainly makes no mention either of "infallibility," "apostolic succession" or a "ruling hierarchy." Nor can these key dogmas of Rome be supported by any other scripture. One need not argue from the Greek that Peter (petros) is not "this rock" (petra). The truth depends not upon a questionable interpretation of this one verse but upon the totality of Scripture. That Romanism's view is not valid is demonstrated fully by the passages in the New Testament to which we have already referred, and by the fact that the entire Bible, rather than supporting it, actually refutes it.
God himself is clearly described as the only unfailing "Rock" of our salvation throughout the entire Old Testament.6 As for the New Testament, it declares that Jesus Christ is the Rock upon which the church is built and that He, being God, is alone qualified for that position. The rock upon which the "wise man built his house" was not Peter but Christ and His teachings (Mat:7:24-29). Peter himself points out that Christ is the "chief corner stone" upon which the church is built (1 Pt 2:6-8) and quotes an Old Testament passage to that effect which Christ fulfilled. Paul also calls Christ "the chief corner stone" and declares that the church is "built upon the foundation of [all] the apostles and prophets" (Eph:2:20)a statement which clearly denies to Peter any special position in the foundation.
Let us each be certain that our lives are built upon that Rock which is Christ and upon an obedience to Him as Lord which is consistent with our profession of faith in Him. May He bless and guide you into the fulfillment of the purpose to which He has called you—and there is such a purpose for each of us in being here. TBC