THE ECUMENICAL CHURCH OF THE END TIMES (Part 2)
Jesus’ Warnings of Apostasy in the Parables
Clearly, the Bible teaches that following the rapture, this Ecumenical church will be the church of the Antichrist, the church of the end time tribulation and totally apostate. The last picture that the Bible gives of apostate Christianity is found in Revelation chapter 13 through 18. In these chapters we find a merger of religions under one great end time religious leader called the False Prophet. Last week we found out that the headquarters of the False prophet will be in Rome. The Vatican is in Rome and the power will be concentrated in Rome. As we also saw last week the Ecumenical church is clearly shown in Revelation chapter 17 as Religious Babylon. After the rapture of God’s saints from earth, the professing churches on earth (papal and other apostate churches) unites to form one large apostate body. This religious entity of the last days is called: “Mystery, Babylon The Great, The Mother Of Harlots, And The Abominations Of The Earth (Rev. 17:5).”
Everything today is pointing in this direction. According to Scripture, the world will have its One World Government and its One World Religion, which we can see in the United Nations and the coming World Parliament of Religions. So-called Christian denominations and church groups will unite first. The sad part is that many good Christians cannot or will not see what is happening in the present day. There are spiritual forces at work within the Christian church that run counter to the revealed Word of God. Paul declares that conditions in Christendom, “Shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived (2 Tim. 3:13).”
Last week I showed you that the Roman Catholics and five other churches signed the historical 2020 “Ecumenical Charter” pledging a commit-ment/allegiance to each other. The spreading cancer of apostasy is not confined to theologians and church conferences. It can be found at the grass roots level in local churches. A person just has to look around their city and at the various churches and look at the apostasy going on. The big movement at the grassroots level these days is interfaith worship services. Christians are inviting Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, American Indian practitioners of “native religion,” and others to join in worshiping “the one true God, regardless of the name they may give to their god.”
Pope John Paul II got caught up in this interfaith fad in 1986 when he invited the leaders of the world’s religions to come to Assisi, Italy to join him in praying for world peace. One hundred and sixty representatives came, including the Dali Lama (who considers himself to be a god). Each representative prayed to his own god at the Pope’s request. Now, did the Pope believe their gods were real? Or did he believe that they were all praying to the same god but under different names? Can’t you just see the handprint of Satan behind the scenes in molding together this end time apostate church and belief system? Satan’s ultimate goal is to stand in the yet to be built Jewish temple and be worshipped. “The abomination of desolation, as spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (Matt. 24:15).”
Jesus, revealed to His servants that even during the lifetime of John, Satan was already developing a corrupted version of Christianity. He was already recruiting a following within the church that Jesus had founded. The apostle John records one such tragic example where true Christians were forced out of the congregation. We read in 3 John 9-10, “I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to have the pre-immanence among them, does not receive us…. prating against us with malicious words… he himself does not receive the brethren, and forbids those who wish to, putting them out of the church.” Incredible as it sounds, those who are faithful to the teaching of the apostles were expelled from this congregation. They had become the minority, the majority who chose to follow Diotrephes, who, in his own lust for power and influence, had falsely accused the apostle John. Here we find Satan had succeeded in placing his minister over this congregation, expelling the faithful servants of Jesus Christ.
The prophecies given by Jesus and His apostles concerning the development of a counterfeit Christianity came to pass just as they had been predicted. By the end of the third century the true servants of God had become a distinct minority among those who call themselves Christians. The counterfeit Christians had become the majority. This counterfeit Christian papal religion even now dominates the world’s religious scene but nowhere near to the extent it will be in the coming years after Christ’s true church is taken out of this world (rapture); as Satan then kicks into high gear, knowing his time is short.
Those who take the Bible seriously are not surprised by what they see today. We are up to our ears in apostasy today as major Canadian and American denominations ordain homosexuals and approve same-sex marriage, deny the deity of Jesus, and mock the inerrancy of the Scriptures. In like manner, the Bible tells us that “in the last days” society will degenerate into a cesspool of immorality and violence (2 Tim. 3:1-5). “The Spirit explicitly says that in latter times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons (1 Tim. 4:1).”
Jesus’ Warnings of This Apostasy in the Parables
Jesus knew what would happen after the disciples were gone. He knew that Satan would infiltrate this young Christian church. He knew all of that and what would happen to God’s Word (apostasy), but still the gospel had to go out to the Gentiles and to the four corners of the earth. Jesus knew that Satan would counterfeit the gospel and set up a counterfeit religious system (papal Rome) to deceive the masses. Yet, despite Satan’s efforts, millions upon millions have come to know the Lord by reading His Word. During the church age of the past 2000 years God has been calling out believers to His true church. Regardless of the circumstances, regardless of the false teachers and false doctrines, God reaches out and touches people’s heart by His Word, bringing them into His kingdom during this, the church age.
Last week we looked at the parable of the Wheat and the Tares. A parable picturing professing Christendom (apostasy). Wherever true believers are found Satan will also have his counterfeits just because a person goes to church it doesn’t make them a true Christian; just like if I go to a garage, it doesn’t make me a mechanic. These people can sit right next to you in church, and you would not be able to tell the difference from their outward appearance – only God knows the heart. Only Jesus knows His sheep. In most cases their identity will not become known until Jesus comes back at the end of the age with His angels to separate the possessing Christians from the professing Christians – to separate the wheat from the tares. Now, let us continue on with more parables and warnings of apostasy.
The Parable of the Mustard Seed (Matt, 13-31-32)
“The seed (Word of God) which a man took (Christ) and sowed in his field (the world).” At first the Word of God (small seed) was kept relatively small and pure as a result of persecution. But later with the patronage and protection of the state (Roman Church), this worldly church experienced abnormal growth (large mustard tree). Then the birds came and roosted in it. The same word for birds is used here as in verse four. Jesus explained the birds as meaning the evil one in verse 19 which says, “When anyone hears the word (Gospel of Jesus), and does not understand it, then the wicked one (Satan) comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart.”
The large mustard tree (an anomaly) becomes a nesting place for Satan and his agents. This huge tree represents professing Christendom which began originally as a little ecclesia, the smallest of seeds, grows into a religious monstrosity where even the emissaries of Satan himself will find a nesting place. Today the umbrella of Christendom covers all the apostate and professing churches and in the Tribulation Period when they all join together, they become known as Religious Babylon.
Revelation 18:2 confirms what I have been saying about this parable (apostate Christendom). Though the tiny seed would become an abnormal tree, its largeness would become “a dwelling place of demons, a prison for every foul spirit, and a cage for every unclean and hated bird – (Babylon The Great).” What we see in this parable is that during this church age, apostate Christendom will expand and expand until in the end times it engulfs the world and becomes prophetic “Babylon The Great (Rev 17:5).”
The Parable of the Leaven (Matt. 13:33).
“The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven (invariably presented in Scripture as a symbol of evil), which a woman took (frequently in Scripture the woman is presented as an agent of idolatry) and hid in three measures of meal (the meal is the Word of God), till the whole was leavened.”
A common (but false) interpretation is that the meal is the world and the leaven is the gospel, which will be preached throughout the world until everyone becomes saved. This view, however, is contradicted by Scripture, by history, and by current events. Leaven is always a symbol of evil, sin, and corruption in the Bible. When God commanded His people to rid their houses of leaven (Exodus 12:15), they understood this. If anyone ate what was leavened from the first till the seventh day of the Feast of Unleavened bread, he would be cut off from Israel. Jesus warned against the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees (Matt 16:6) and the leaven of Herod (Mark 8:15). In 1 Corinthians 5:6-8 leaven is defined as malice and evil, and the context of Galatians 5:9 shows that in there it means false teaching. So, in general, leaven means either evil doctrine or evil behavior.
Interpretation: The woman in the parable symbolizes the false church, whose members are professors and pretenders, who have never experienced the regenerating power of God – born again with the Holy Spirit dwelling in them. The meal or the grain is the truth of God’s Word. The leaven is a corruption of God’s Word by false teachers. It is the introduction of error and false doctrine, human interpretations, religious creeds and dogmas, traditions, and superstitions, and contrary to the Word of God. It is the adding to the truth of God’s Word. It is the Bible plus something else. And this process of corruption or fermentation (leaven) breaks down the purity of the gospel message, until it becomes something other than the Gospel of Jesus. It becomes a gospel of legalism, a gospel of salvation by works, a gospel of social activism, a gospel of political reformation, or some other gospel rather than, the one Jesus and the apostles proclaimed.
The leavening process of evil in the church began soon after Pentecost and has been going on ever since. The process is undetected by the masses because leavening is a gradual and silent process. But as we approach the end of the age when the whole lump will be leavened, it becomes more and more evident. Today, we can see it happening right before our very eyes. It is becoming more and more obvious. Never has there been so much error taught and deception practiced. Never has there been such a lack of separation and holiness among believers. Never has there been such an attitude of tolerance toward false doctrine and moral looseness as there is today. This parable has to do with the corrupting power of evil in the church.
Now we are seeing the battle rage in an area that no one would have thought possible 40 or 60 years ago. That is the issue of homosexuality, gay marriages and gay ministers teaching the flock. This says something about how far we have come down this downward spiral of worldly compromise.
Isn’t it interesting that in the prophetic Scriptures, this end time religious system that will dominate the world one day is described as a scarlet woman in Revelation, chapters 17 and 18. According to the prophetic Scriptures, the scarlet woman will succeed in uniting religions under one great ecumenical apostate church, leavening the whole lump. The scarlet woman (papal Rome) and her illegitimate children (other apostate churches) who have corrupted the Gospel of the Grace of God will fall under divine judgement and experience eternal separation from God (hell). Jesus had a dire warning for God’s people to separate themselves from this apostate Babylonian religion. “Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins and lest you receive of her plagues (Rev. 18:4).”
The Parable of the Dragnet (Matt. 13:47-50)
The kingdom of heaven is like unto a (gospel) net that was cast into the sea (picture of all the nations), and gathered of every kind (believers and non-believers come into the church), which, when it was full (when the dispensation of the church age runs its course; it’s almost full now), drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away (once again, like the separation of the wheat and the tares in a previous parable). So shall it be at the end of the world (at the end of the age); the angels shall come forth, separated the wicked from among the just (the “just” are those who trust in Christ) and shall cast them (the wicked) into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.”
Once again, it is a picture of professing Christendom, just like the previous parables of the wheat and the tares, the mustard seed and the leaven. The gospel net this cast into the sea of the nations and catches a great number of both good and bad fish – believers and unbelievers. The parables simply teach that in its mystery form the kingdom of heaven (church in its interim form) will include the real and the imitation; the genuine and the counterfeit, and that this condition will continue until the end of the age. Then after the Battle of Armageddon at Jesus’ Second Coming, God’s angels will separate the believers from the unbelievers; the true who will be with the Lord forever from the false who will be taken away in judgement.
The Purpose of the Parables
First, a bit of background. Throughout Jewish history, the Jewish people have looked forward to the coming of their promised Messiah. Jesus started His ministry performing miracles, preaching the gospel and proclaiming His deity. What more could Jesus do to prove His identity as the promised Messiah and King of Israel? At first, Jesus offered Himself to Israel as her King. He offered her the kingdom. He taught her the principles of the kingdom in the Sermon on the Mount. Over and over again, the leaders of National Israel turned away the witness of the Spirit of God and conspired against Jesus. Finally, when these leaders were confronted with the power of God; face-to-face with the miracles of Jesus and His disciples, the Pharisees contributed Jesus’ power to Beelzebub (the ruler of the demons). Here the leaders of National Israel accused Jesus of being demon empowered.
The evidence of His deity was overwhelming, but in their blindness, the leaders of National Israel rejected their King. They turned their backs on Him and finally succeeded in collaborating with the Romans to have Him executed. What did the Jewish leaders expect their Messiah to be? Well, they were under authority to Rome and they expected the Messiah to liberate them from Roman oppression. They were looking for a conquering and victorious leader. So, when Jesus did not deliver this, they rejected Him. As a result of the rejection of the King, Jesus would go to the cross instead of to the throne of Israel, thus obtaining salvation for both Jew and Gentile. God’s Word and the Gospel would eventually go to all the world and not be limited to only Israel.
In the internal purpose and consoles of God (God’s plans all along), Jesus was to be rejected and slain as a sacrifice for all sinners. But to accomplish this God must prevent the rulers of Israel from recognizing Him (their Messiah), less they should accept Him and the cross be by-passed. Jesus therefore clothed His words in mystery (parables). The use of parables was designated to contribute to the blindness of Israel and reveal God’s hidden plan to His disciples. They, National Israel, would not be permitted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, whereas His true followers would be helped to understand it.
A mystery in the New Testament is a fact never previously known by man, which man could never learn apart from divine revelation, but which has now been revealed. The mysteries of the kingdom are unknown truths concerning the kingdom in its interim form. The very fact that the kingdom would have an interim form had been a secret up to now. The parables describe some of the features of the kingdom during the time when the King would be absent during the time between Pentecost and the Lord Second Coming.
In closing, Scripture says apostasy will only get worst as Christ’s return approaches. Paul tells us that a great falling away will proceed Jesus’ Second Coming and the end times would be characterized by tribulation and hollow religious charlatans. Paul lists 19 characteristics of mankind during the last days and I’ll just summarize it here: “But know this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power. And from such people turn away (2 Timothy 3:1-5).”
This being true, it is critical now more than ever that every believer pray for discernment in combating apostasy, and to contend earnestly for the faith that has once and for all been delivered to the saints.
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Transforming Power; The Work of God on Behalf of Man
Lian Muan Kim
Koinonia Baptist Seminary, Yangon