We have now entered the last decade of the second millennium since Christ's birth. One is tempted to cry out: Will our Lord ever return to reign personally upon earth and usher in the Millennium? Why has He waited so long? We must not forget that the return of Christ is intimately linked with the coming of the Antichrist—who can only be revealed in his time (2 Thes:2:6-8).
I remember, as a young boy in the late 1930s, listening with special interest whenever preachers presented from familiar scriptures the prophesied "signs" that would herald the approach of Christ's second coming. There was much speculation about current developments: What was the significance of the Great Depression? Where did President Roosevelt's New Deal, with its innovative economic and banking measures, fit in? And what about Hitler—could he be the prophesied Antichrist? He was certainly a prime suspect!
Even back then, there was a very firm consensus on at least two points: Israel would have to return to her own land in unbelief, becoming a nation there once again; and the Roman Empire must be revived. These convictions were held in spite of every indication to the contrary. Confidence in the Bible alone caused us to believe that what seemed at the time to be preposterous would indeed come to pass—perhaps even in our lifetime.
Of course, applying prophecy to the present world had its difficulties. For example, since the days when she had been part of the Roman Empire, Britain had acquired a worldwide empire of its own upon which "the sun never set." Would that all be part of the "revived" Roman Empire? Again there was a firm conviction that Britain would have to lose her far-flung colonies in order to be included in the new union of Western Europe. Unthinkable in those days when "Britannia ruled the waves"! Yet we accepted such "impossibilities" by simple faith in God's prophetic Word.
Much of what I learned as prophecy in my youth has since become history. The seemingly impossible has happened, including the astonishing rebirth of the nation Israel. To a large extent she remains in unbelief and rebellion against the One who, nevertheless, still calls Himself "the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob." Make no mistake, the Israelites are there in fulfillment of God's promises and under His protection. Jeremiah 30-32 is sufficient (and there are many other similar scriptures) to clear up any doubt on this subject. It includes:
O Israel...I am with thee, saith the Lord, to save thee: though I make a full end of all nations whither I have scattered thee, yet will I not make a full end of thee: but I will correct thee in measure....
All they that devour thee shall be devoured....Hear the word of the Lord, O ye nations....He that scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him, as a shepherd doth his flock...and they shall not sorrow any more at all....Thus saith the Lord, which giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars...If those ordinances depart from before me...then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation.... Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that...[Jerusalem] shall not be plucked up, nor thrown down any more for ever.
And the revival of the Roman Empire? That staggering event now looms on the horizon. In 1992 the European Economic Community will officially become one massive entity with the power to dominate the world. And now that the Berlin Wall has crumbled and the entire Iron Curtain is being shredded, the dream of worldwide peace and prosperity seem within our grasp. Yet there is an essential element which I do not recall hearing about in my youth. Nor is it generally mentioned today. The ancient Roman Empire was a pagan religious entity headed by an emperor who was worshiped as God—and that aspect must be revived as well (2 Thes:2:4; Rev:13:4,8)!
There has been much talk of the "revived Roman Empire" as a political, economic and military power. Seemingly forgotten is the essential role religion played in the world of ancient Rome. Like Gorbachev today, Constantine understood. A brilliant military commander, he also had the genius to recognize the need for a union between paganism and Christianity. By giving the latter official status, he brought internal peace to the Empire. In addition to the title Pontifex Maximus, which the emperors bore as heads of the pagan priesthood, Constantine, as the self-appointed civil head of the Church, became known also as the Vicar of Christ and the Bishop of Bishops. These three titles the popes, as his successors, retain today.
Concern for the religious unity of the Empire caused Constantine to call the first ecumenical Church Council—at Nicaea. There this pagan "father of ecumenism," the "first pope," gave the opening address and enforced unity upon the quarreling bishops. When the Empire later disintegrated politically under the onslaught of the Barbarians, it was held together religiously by the all-pervasive presence of the Roman Catholic Church, with its ingenious ecumenical blend of paganism and Christianity still headquartered in Rome. Thus, it was to the popes, successors of the pagan emperors, that the world of the Middle Ages looked for leadership in the longed-for revival of the Roman Empire—unaware that it was prophesied in the Bible as something evil upon which God's judgment would fall.
Hoping to usher in that long-awaited event, Pope Leo III, who'd had his tongue and eyes torn out by a mob seeking revenge for his unbearable tyranny and wickedness, groped his way to the side of Charlemagne, placed on his head a crown and declared him to be "Emperor"! It was Christmas day of a.d.800. The King was attending mass at St. Peter's in Rome. Abjectly pledging his loyalty, the Pope knelt before Charlemagne, whose protection he desperately needed. Yet Leo was also cleverly reasserting the popes' traditional claim to the authority to install or to excommunicate and dethrone kings and emperors. (See Rev:17:9,18"...that great city...on seven mountains... which reigneth over the kings of the earth.")
If the EEC is to fulfil the prophesied last days revival of the Roman Empire, then it must include these two elements: A new pagan "emperor" who will be worshiped as God (i.e., the Antichrist); and the restoration of a concomitant religious authority. There must be a partnership between the Antichrist and the head of the world church, identified in Revelation 17 as "Mystery Babylon." Even Catholic apologist Karl Keating admits that Babylon signifies Rome. The current pope, John Paul II, is working feverishly to merge all faiths. He obviously understands that not only Protestants and Catholics but all mankind must unite in a new world religion.
Taking great strides in that direction, the professing evangelical church is steadily surrendering everything gained at the Reformation in its accommodation to Roman Catholicism and to its close relative, New Age paganism. Many of the shocking ways in which even children and youth are being drawn into the latter are revealed by Johanna Michaelsen in Like Lambs to the Slaughter. Of course the public schools have played a key role in the seductive process. A major concern of Christian parents which has led to the burgeoning home schooling movement has been the imposition of secular humanism upon students by the public school system. However, something even more subtle and deadly is being developed for leading youth into the coming world religion. Surprisingly, it will involve teaching about religion in public schools—in the name of religious liberty!
After the Supreme Court's 1963 decision banning prayer in public schools, any mention of religion disappeared almost completely from the classroom. Yet in that decision the court had encouraged religious discussion, declaring that "one's education is not complete without a study of comparative religion." To fill the vacuum they themselves created, public educators are suddenly exhibiting what National Council on Religion and Public Education president Charles Haynes calls an "exploding interest in teaching about religion."
Directing this new movement is the Williamsburg Charter Foundation, "a private education group...committed to producing actual class materials by 1990...." Curriculums are already being tested in public schools. The Williamsburg Charter is backed by a veritable Who's Who of America's top leaders. Its support has joined together in common purpose such diverse persons and organizations as the Mormon Church and National Council of Churches, with the National Association of Evangelicals; the Muslim American Community, with the American Jewish Committee; NOW's Molly Yard, with Beverly LaHaye and Phyllis Schlafly; People for the American Way's Norman Lear, with James Dobson and Chuck Colson. Billy Graham gave the keynote address at the impressive signing ceremony June 25, 1988. It was attended by such international observers as Feodor Burlatskij, chairman of the Soviet Commission on Human Rights.
In his recent meetings with John Paul II, Gorbachev acknowledged the vital importance of religion and pledged both religious freedom and a restoration of relations with the Vatican. He and the Pope were described by the December 2 Los Angeles Times as "Two of the most compelling figures on the world stage today." It is all hauntingly reminiscent of Constantine's ecumenical achievements!
The aim of the Charter (which was echoed by Gorbachev and the Pope) seems commendable: "...we who sign this Charter, people of many and various beliefs, pledge ourselves to the enduring precepts of the First Amendment...commit ourselves to speak, write and act according to this vision and...urge our fellow citizens to do the same." The Charter recognizes and seems to decry "the de facto semi-establishment of a wholly secular understanding of the origin, nature and destiny of human kind" and promises to foster religious liberty for all. At the same time, however, ideas are expressed that spell trouble for Christians.
Those signing the Charter may have the best of intentions, but as a practical matter it is impossible to teach about religion without making pronouncements that are at best superficial and at worst inaccurate. For example, the curriculum's description of Islam (perhaps for fear of, like Salman Rushdie, having a price put on on one's head), omits the fact that killing non-Muslims and apostates is the shortest route to Paradise and that the most important verses scattered throughout the Koran advocate such killings. A comparison between Jesus, who said we should love our enemies, and Muhammad, who taught and practiced killing them, would be instructive, but is avoided. Nor is there any mention that a Muslim can marry four wives, beat them if they displease him and divorce them at his whim. Yet how can one really teach about Islam or any other religion without revealing the whole truth and making comparisons?
Predictably, the evils of "Christianity" are exposed, with no mention that such practices are contrary to the Bible. The very usage of the term "Christian," without clarification, is consistently misleading. To the Jews, Hitler was a "Christian," and indeed he declared that "National Socialism is positive Christianity"a monstrous lie. The Catholic enforcers of the Spanish Inquisition, in which Jews were slaughtered, "converted" under threat of death, and forced to flee the country are described as "Christians" in the curriculum. The suggestion is then made that Vatican II transformed the Catholic Church into a champion of religious freedom. This is false, but what child would know the truth that the Pope's pledge of religious freedom is as hypocritical and treacherous as Gorbachev's?
Biblical Christianity will be the inevitable victim of such misinformation. It offers salvation by grace through faith in Christ and His sacrifice for our sins—while salvation by works is offered in varying forms by all other religions. A major aim of the Charter is to dispel "the spiritual divisiveness, born of creeds." Students will learn that it is both impolite and irrelevant to suggest that any one religion is right. Such broadmindedness is very appealing, especially to children. Thus the major lesson learned will be that Christians are bigots and that differences in religious beliefs are far less important than "world peace."
The Charter pointedly declares, "Justifiable fears are raised by those who advocate theocracy or the coercive power of law to establish a "Christian America" (p 15). That Christian fundamentalists are a threat to peace and intend to take over the world has long been the contention of atheists, humanists and such organizations as People for the American Way. We can hardly deny this accusation in view of statements by the Reconstruction/Kingdom/Dominionists. Paul Crouch, for example, in a recent broadcast, declared with anger and determination in his voice, "We are well able to possess the land. We're going to get violent; and if necessary we're going to take these air waves and these stations for God by force!"
An unbiased, nonreligious teaching of religion is impossible. Students will learn to see religion as a functional means to an end, that end being a Gorbachevian tolerance of all beliefs in the interest of world peace. Thus, the foundation will be laid for a new world religion that sees "truth" as less important than human fulfillment on this earth and ultimately deifies man. You may wish to point this out to the Christian leaders who are presently supporting the Charter. TBC