666 Mark Of The Beast
A Fearful Warning
Revelation 14:9-10: “And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb.”
This description is so alarming and so very unlike all other verses which deal with God’s character that we almost recoil in horror. But it points clearly to a time when God’s mercy will be withheld from those who have persistently rejected the authority of Heaven. It will be an unparalleled performance on the part of God in His relationship to the human family. For almost 6,000 years, His punishing judgments upon the most wicked men have been tempered with mercy. But now the measure of rebellion reaches a point which makes it necessary for God to intervene and to expose the terrible extent of man’s treason against God’s government.
Right here we are curious to know more about the sin that provokes God’s strange act of fiery punishment. Notice that the final issue involves a false allegiance to the beast power, so often referred to in Bible prophecy. At last the world shall stand divided into two great camps: those who worship the true God, and those who worship the beast of Revelation 13. But what issue leads to this massive division of the world’s people After describing the fate of the false worshipers in Revelation 14:9-11, John has this to say in the very next verse: “Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.” We see here a startling contrast between those who follow the beast and those who follow the Lamb.
Please note that the issue revolves around the keeping of the Ten Commandments. Those who do not have 666 or the mark of the beast are described as obedient to those Commandments, and the rest suffer the wrath of God. This agrees perfectly with Paul’s statement in Romans 6:16, “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness.”
The highest allegiance is accorded through the act of obedience. At last, the majority of earth’s inhabitants will accept the authority of an antichrist counterfeit power, in disobedience to God’s great Ten Commandment laws. Every individual will be on one side or the other. The Bible makes it very clear that life or death revolves around the final decision concerning the beast of Revelation 13.
Strangely enough, modern theologians have simply ignored the warning message of Revelation 14, relating to the mark of the beast. The interest of multitudes has been destroyed by the influence of pastors who would not take seriously the solemn words of John’s prophecy. Often it is dismissed as a confused, insignificant letter, applying only to a local problem in the early Church. For some reason the book called Revelation is counted a sealed book instead of the obviously revealed truth that its name implies. But please note the promise made to those who search out the truth of this wonderful book, “Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.” Revelation 1:3.
Before delving into John’s vivid account of that final clash between Christ and Satan, let us take time to examine the contestants in the conflict. When and how did it get started, and how will it end?
Two Powerful Contenders
Even though the climax in the great struggle takes place in the very end of human history when all the world is arraigned in two opposing camps, the controversy between Christ and Satan has been going on for almost 6,000 years. It started in heaven with the rebellion of Lucifer against God’s rule of the universe. The story of that beautiful angel who coveted the position of God Himself is revealed through a number of Old Testament prophetic writings. Isaiah says in reference to this glorious being: “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.” Isaiah 14:12-14.
The seeds of that selfish revolt of one leading angel spread rapidly to affect the loyalty of other angels. Soon one third of the heavenly host had joined the disaffection of Lucifer, and the great controversy was under way, a controversy that was to rage for over 6,000 years, and which would finally demand the decision of every living creature in heaven and on earth.
The immediate result of the discord was war in heaven that climaxed in the complete expulsion of Lucifer from the presence of God and the loyal angels. John describes it this way: “And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.” Revelation 12:7-9.
No more was the fallen angel to be known as Lucifer, signifying “star of the morning,” but Satan which means “adversary.” The conflict had now been transferred from heaven down to this earth. Here it will continue until it reaches a desperate climax in the division of earth’s multitudes for or against the Commandments of God. Just as the rebellion began by disloyalty to the authority of God, so it will end by a defiance of His authority as vested in the law of His government.
Satan has been here with his evil angels from the time he was banished from the regions of light. With devilish cunning, he has experimented with successive forms of warfare against God and His plan for this world. Through various insidious approaches, he has continued his efforts to overthrow the authority of God. The purpose of this document is to expose the massive assaults that have been made, and are being made, by Satan against the foundations of truth.
Every generation has witnessed a new manifestation of that evil power in its untiring warfare with Heaven’s program to save the world. The final form of the enemy opposition will be that of the beast of Revelation 13. That counterfeit power will be set up in deadly conflict with the Commandments of God. The whole world will be called to take sides. The confederation of evil will consolidate for a desperate last ditch struggle to engage the loyalty of earth’s inhabitants. The issues will be clearly revealed, and no one can remain neutral. Obedience to God or to Satan, as manifested through the beast power, will be the only alternatives open to man.
A Life or Death Issue
Now, with this little background of the contenders, let us look closer at the biblical setting for the last decisive engagement in the great controversy. Please note that the beast of Revelation 13 symbolizes a gigantic antichrist power that attempts to displace God entirely. Here is the description of that power in the language of Revelation 13:1-7: “And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy. 2 And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority. 3 And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast. 4 And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him? 5 And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months. 6 And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven. 7 And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations.”
We cannot fail to see here an unprecedented scale of opposition to God and those who follow Him. Later in this same chapter, we read that this beast power will exercise so much influence over the earth, that it causes men to receive a mark in their foreheads or hands (Revelation 13:16). Finally, those who have the mark will suffer the terrible wrath of God as described in Revelation 14:9-11. The wrath of God is further defined in Revelation 15:1 in these words, “Seven angels having the seven last plagues; for in them is filled up the wrath of God.”
The awful nature of those plagues and the extreme sufferings they visit upon those who receive the mark of the beast are fully revealed in the sixteenth chapter of Revelation. We will not dwell on them at this point in detail, but let us remind ourselves again that this issue will involve eternal life or death for all. How earnestly should we seek to understand who the beast represents and how we might avoid that mark! There must be no guesswork or speculation on this vital subject. We must know exactly where the danger lies and how to avoid it.
The average Christian has scarcely even heard about the urgency of this subject. He has not the faintest idea about the beast or his mark, even though his destiny hinges upon the issue. Multitudes of preachers comfort the people in their ignorance of this point. They say, “Don’t worry about the beast. It is too complicated to understand. As long as you love the Lord, you will be all right. You can’t really know who the beast is.” Listen, will God warn us about the fearful danger of this beast, a danger so deadly that it will mean life or death and then tell us it is impossible to know what it is Would He say to us, “You will be cast into the fire if you have the mark, but I’m not going to tell you what it is, it’s just too bad if you have it.” No, that is not like God. He warns us of a danger that can be avoided. We can know that we are safe from the beast only if we know who the beast is. We can know we are free from the mark only if we know what the mark is.
A Symbolic Animal
Is it possible to understand the mark of the beast? Without fail, we can know and must know. But first we must understand the identity of the prophetic beast itself. Let us establish that this strange, composite animal is not to be taken literally. No one ever saw a creature with the body of a leopard, the mouth of a lion, and the feet of a bear. The prophetic books of the Bible usually deal in types and symbols. This beast represents something. But what does it symbolize? There must be no guessing here. The Bible does not leave any room for doubt. It serves as its own divine commentary and provides the key for understanding the prophecies.
Everything in the Bible description of the beast is symbolic. Consider the water for example, out of which the animal arises. What does it represent? Read the answer in Revelation 17:15, “And he saith unto me, The waters which thou sawest … are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues.” There can be no quibbling over this point. God clearly explained the meaning of water in prophecy. Once the symbol is interpreted in any prophecy, the rule will apply in every other prophecy. Water will always symbolize people in Biblical prophetic imagery.
Now, what about the other parts of the strange apocalyptic beast? What do they represent? In order to understand the beast we must go back to the Old Testament book of Daniel and compare Scripture with Scripture. The books of Daniel and Revelation explain each other. They fit together like a hand and glove. Please notice that Daniel had a vision very similar to that of John. It is described in Daniel 7:2-3: “Daniel spake and said, I saw in my vision by night, and, behold, the four winds of the heaven strove upon the great sea. And four great beasts came up from the sea, diverse one from another.” He saw the prophetic water just as John did, but Daniel saw four beasts arising instead of only one.
We have already found out that water symbolizes peoples or multitudes, but what do the animals represent The answer is found in verse 17, “These great beasts, which are four, are four kings, which shall arise out of the earth.” There it is. So plainly worded that no one can question or doubt! God says that animals in prophecy represent nations. Just as we have the American eagle and the Russian bear in our modem political vocabulary, God used animals long, long ago to represent countries also. Then, to be more explicit, God added this in verse 23, “The fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon earth.” If the fourth animal represented the fourth empire of history, then the first three would have to represent the first three empires.
This explanation becomes more simple and clear when we remember that there have only been four world empires in the earth since the days of Daniel. These kingdoms are referred to often in Bible prophecy and are called by name in some related prophecies of Daniel. Refer to Daniel 8:20-21 and Daniel 11:2 for examples of this. In the second chapter of Daniel the same four world kingdoms are symbolized by four metals in the great statue of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. Those four empires are Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece and Rome.
Four Empires of History
Let’s take a closer look at these animals, one by one, as they arose in the prophet’s vision. The first was “like a lion and had eagle’s wings.” Daniel 7:4. Here we have represented that grand empire of Babylon, so well symbolized by the king of beasts. It was one of the wealthiest, strongest nations ever to exist on the earth. Notice that this animal has wings. Wings are used in prophetic terminology to symbolize speed. And sure enough, Babylon arose very quickly to take its place as a ruler of the entire world.
From 606 B.C. until 538 B.C. Babylon continued to exercise her extensive authority. But a change was to take place. Daniel saw the second beast, “like unto a bear, and it raised up itself on one side, and it had three ribs in the mouth of it between the teeth of it.” Daniel 7:5. After Babylon came the kingdom of Medo-Persia in 538 B.C., the second world empire.
The bear is raised up on one side to represent the fact that Persia was stronger than the Medes. Those two powers were allied together in their domination of the earth. The three ribs probably symbolize the three provinces of that kingdom, Babylon, Lydia, and Egypt.
Then in 331 B.C. Medo-Persia went down, and the third world empire arose. According to the prophecy, “dominion was given to it.” Daniel 7:6. It was “like a leopard, which had upon the back of it four wings of a fowl; the beast had also four heads.” Daniel 7:6. Any schoolboy who has studied his lessons carefully in ancient history will know that Greece arose as the next world ruler. Alexander the Great came marching from the west, laying the world at his feet in a very short time. The four wings of the leopard denote the exceeding speed with which Alexander subdued the nations. Within eight years, he had completely subjugated the world and sat down to weep because there were no more worlds to conquer. But he could not conquer himself; he died as a young man of thirty-three at the height of his power. At his death the kingdom was divided among his four leading generals: Cassander, Lysimachus, Seleucus and Ptolemy. The four heads of the beast represent those divisions of his empire. This brings us to the year 168 B.C. and the downfall of the Grecian empire in that very year. So far, every detail of the prophecy has been fulfilled exactly.
The Terrible Fourth Beast
Now let us notice the rise of the fourth beast, which is “the fourth kingdom upon earth.” Daniel 7:23. Although Daniel had seen living wild beasts like those portrayed in the first three prophetic symbols, he had never seen anything resembling the fourth terrible beast. This is the way the Bible describes it: “After this I saw in the night visions, and behold a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth: it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it … and it had ten horns.” Daniel 7:7.
As we have already learned, this symbolizes the fourth world empire, which was the iron monarchy of Rome. The extension of its cruel domination of the earth has been well documented in the pages of ancient history. But this powerful nation was also to be divided, as Daniel 7:24 indicates, “And the ten horns out of this kingdom are ten kings that shall arise.” Please notice that this is God’s interpretation of the ten horns on this animal. Rome would be divided into ten distinct areas.
By following the course of history we discover that the exact fulfilment did come in the year 476 A.D. Fierce tribes came sweeping down from the north country, and overwhelmed the territory of Western Europe, dividing it finally into ten parts. Those parts, of course, correspond to the ten toes of the great image of Daniel 2.
The ten divisions of Rome
|1. Anglo-Saxons - England.||6. Suevi - Portugal.|
|2. Alemanni - Germany.||7. Visigoths - Spain.|
|3. Burgundians - Switzerland.||8. Heruli - Destroyed.|
|4. Franks - France.||9. Vandals - Destroyed.|
|5. Lombards - Italy.||10. Ostrogoths - Destroyed.|
All students of history are well acquainted with the names of those tribal conquerors of Western Europe in 476 A.D. They were the Anglo-Saxons, Alemanni, Heruli, Vandals, Ostrogoths, Visigoths, Suevi, Lombards, Burgundians and Franks. Seven of those tribes are still in existence to this very day, having grown into modem nations. They survive on the map of Europe as significant twentieth century powers. Three of them disappeared from the stage of history, as we shall learn in just a moment.
The Little Horn
Now we are prepared to read the next verse of the prophecy and find out the meaning of the little horn in the vision of Daniel. “I considered the horns, and, behold, there came up among them another little horn, before whom there were three of the first horns plucked up by the roots: and, behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things.” Daniel 7:8. Here we must be very, very careful, indeed. We must not make the mistake of falsely identifying the little horn power, because it will prove to be the great antichrist power of history.
In order to avoid all mistakes of identity, it would be well to first consider the nine characteristic marks described in the prophecy itself. These marks of identity will enable us to be absolutely sure of the interpretation. We dare not guess or speculate concerning the historical identity of this “little horn” of prophecy.
First of all, the little horn came up among the ten. This places it geographically in Western Europe. Second, it came up after the ten arose, because it came up “among them.” Since the ten arose in 476 A.D., the little horn would have to begin its reign some time after that date. Third, it would uproot three of the ten tribes as it came to power. The eighth verse says that before the little horn, “there were three of the first horns plucked up by the roots.”
Fourth, the little horn would have “eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things.” Daniel 7:8. This indicates that a human being would be at the head of the power represented by the little horn. Fifth, “he shall be diverse from the first (horns).” Daniel 7:24. This means that the little horn would be a different kind of power from those purely political kingdoms that preceded it. The sixth characteristic is revealed in the first part of Daniel 7:25, “And he shall speak great words against the most High.” Another verse says, “speaking great things and blasphemies.” Revelation 13:5.
At this point, let’s define from the Bible the meaning of blasphemy. In John 10:30-33, Jesus was about to be stoned for claiming to be one with the Father. The Jews who were going to kill Him said, “For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God.” According to this text, it is blasphemy for a man to be accorded the place of God.
Now let us read another definition of blasphemy. Jesus had forgiven a man his sins, and the scribes said, “Why doth this man thus speak blasphemies Who can forgive sins but God only.” Mark 2:7. Clearly, Jesus was not a blasphemer, because He was God and He was able to forgive sin. But for a man to make such claims would constitute blasphemy, according to the Bible’s own definition.
Now we come to the seventh point of identity, found also in Daniel 7:25, “and shall wear out the saints of the most High.” This tells us that the little horn is a persecuting power. It will make war with God’s people and cause them to be put to death. The eighth mark is also given in Daniel 7:25, “and think to change times and laws.” Apparently, in its bitter opposition to the God of Heaven, in speaking great words against Him, this power also seeks to change the great law of God. This move of the little horn could only be an attempt to make a change. Obviously, man can never alter the Ten Commandment, moral law of God. See Adam Clarke's commentary on Daniel 7:25. Note also the day for a year rule.
A Rule of 1,260 Years
The ninth, and final identifying mark, in verse twenty-five, tells us exactly how long this little horn would exercise authority in the earth, “and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time.” Here we are faced with a strange expression. It is actually a prophetic term that the Bible itself explains. In Revelation 12:14, we read these words concerning the same time period, “And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent.” Now read verse six, which describes the same event. Instead of saying, “a time, times, and half a time,” it says, “a thousand two hundred and threescore days.” Thus we see that the two periods of time are exactly the same. By comparing these Scriptures, we understand that a time is a year in Bible prophecy, times is two years, and half a time is half a year. This gives us a total of 3 1/2 times, or 3 1/2 years, because 3 1/2 years is exactly equal to 1,260 days. We are using of course, the Bible year of 360 days.
We are now ready to apply another great principle in the interpretation of prophecy. Please notice that always in measuring prophetic time, God uses a day to represent a year. In Ezekiel 4:6 we read the actual rule, “I have appointed thee each day for a year.” Further support of this is found in Numbers 14:34. This method of reckoning time must always be applied in the study of Bible prophecy. This means, then, that the little horn power would rule for 1,260 years, instead of merely 1,260 days.
An Exact Fulfilment
We have before us now a list of nine specific characteristics, which have been lifted out of the seventh chapter of Daniel in description of the little-horn power. There is only one power in all history that meets the description given here. In other words, God closes every other option, and forces us to the only possible conclusion: the Catholic Church alone fulfils all the points of identity established in Daniel 7.
Let us take a quick look and notice how clearly this is done. First of all, the Papacy did arise in western Europe, at the very heart of the territory of the pagan Roman Empire, in Rome itself. Second, it did come up after 476 A.D. It was in the year 538 A.D. that a decree of Emperor Justinian went into effect that assigned absolute pre-eminence to the Church of Rome. These are facts of history that can be verified by any authoritative historical source.
Third, when the Papacy arose, it was opposed by three of the tribes that had taken over at the collapse of the Roman Empire. The Vandals, Ostrogoths and Heruli were Arian powers that strongly opposed the rise of the Catholic Church. The armies of Rome marched in to uproot and completely destroy these three tribes. The last of the three was destroyed in the very year 538 A.D., when Justinian’s decree went into effect.
Fourth, the Catholic Church did have a man at the head of its system. Fifth, the Papacy was a diverse kind of power from the other political kingdoms before it. It was a religio-political system quite unlike anything that had been seen in the world before that time.
Now we take a look at the sixth characteristic, the speaking of great words and blasphemy against the Most High. Does the Papacy meet this description? We need only to be reminded that the Catholic Church has ever attributed to itself the power to forgive sins. As to the great words, let me quote from an article by F. Lucii Ferraris, contained in the book Prompta Bibliotheca Canonica Juridica Moralis Theologica. This book was printed at Rome and is sanctioned by the Catholic encyclopaedia. Listen to these claims: “The Pope is of so great dignity, and so exalted, that he is not a mere man, but as it were God and the Vicar of God. The Pope is, as it were, God on earth, chief king of kings, having plenitude of power.” — Volume VI, pp. 2529. And one more, “The Pope is not only the representative of Jesus Christ, but he is Jesus Christ, Himself, hidden under the veil of human flesh.” — Catholic National, July 1895. These are only a few of the words that the Bible defines as blasphemy. Thus, the Papacy meets the marks of identity as the little horn power.
Coming now to the seventh point of identity, we find that history supports the prophecy concerning Papal persecution. Everyone who has any knowledge of the Middle Ages is acquainted with the fact that millions of people were tortured and killed by the Catholic inquisitions. From a book written by a Catholic cardinal, which also bears the sanction of the Church, we read, “The Catholic Church … has a horror of blood. Nevertheless when confronted by heresy … she has recourse to force, to corporal punishment, to torture. She creates tribunals like the Inquisition. She calls the laws of the state to her aid. … Especially did she act thus in the 16th Century with regard to Protestants. … In France, under Francis I and Henry II, in England under Mary Tudor, she tortured the heretics.” — The Catholic Church, The Renaissance and Protestantism, pp. 182-184. The following is what they classify as a heretic. “He is a heretic who does not believe what the Roman Hierarchy teaches.” — The American Textbook of Popery, p 164 (quoting from the “Directory for the Inquisitors”). And here is one more quote on what they say should be done to heretics. “The church may by divine right confiscate the property of heretics, imprison their person, and condemn them to flames. In our age, the right to inflict the severest penalties, even death, belongs to the church. There is no graver offense than heresy, therefore it must be rooted out.” — Public Eccliastical, Vol. 2, p.142.
We could multiply statements like this from historians, both Catholic and Protestant that describe the horrible tortures of the Papal authorities upon Protestants. Thus we can see the complete fulfilment of this description of the little horn.
The eighth mark, as given in verse twenty-five, concerns the attempt to change God’s laws. Does this apply to the Papacy? Please note this: the Catholic Church has removed the second Commandment from her doctrinal books and catechism, because it condemns the worship of images. The tenth Commandment is then divided so that they still have Ten Commandments. But two are against coveting, and there is none against idolatry. In this way, the Papacy has thought to change the law, but unsuccessfully. God’s law cannot be changed.
Finally, we come to the ninth identifying mark, which tells us exactly how long this Papal power would exercise its authority in the earth. We discovered that it would be for a period of 1,260 years. Is this according to the record of history Remember, that we have noted how the Papacy began its reign, by order of Justinian in 538 A.D. By counting down 1,260 years from this date we are brought to the year 1798. In that very year the French general, Berthier, marched his armies into Rome and pulled the Pope off his throne. He was carried away into exile, and all the properties of the Church were confiscated. The Encyclopaedia Americana, 1941 edition says. “In 1798 he (Berthier) made his entrance into Rome, ABOLISHED THE PAPAL GOVERNMENT and established a secular one.” Hover here for an original document clip.
The French Directory government decreed that there would never be another Bishop of Rome. As far as the world was concerned, and by all outward appearance, the Catholic Church was dead. After exactly 1,260 years, in fulfilment of the prophecy, she lost her control of the world. Thus, the final point is clearly fulfilled in the Papacy, and in it only.
The Beast and Little Horn Identical
You may be wondering what all of this has to do with the beast of Revelation 13. We are now ready to identify that strange, composite animal described in the book of Revelation. Let us read the description of that beast once more, which has the body of a leopard, the feet of a bear, and the mouth of a lion. “And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies.” Revelation 13:5. Notice, please, that this beast is doing exactly the same thing as the little horn of Daniel. Verse five continues, “And power was given unto him to continue forty and two months.” How long is forty two months? Exactly 1,260 prophetic days or years, the same as the 3 1/2 times of Daniel’s prophecy.
Concerning the beast, we read further, “And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them.” Revelation 13:7. This beast is also a persecuting power. In other words, the beast of Revelation 13 is the very same power as the little horn. Both are symbolic of the Papacy. This is God’s graphic illustration of the Papal power, as it came up to exercise arbitrary authority over the earth for 1,260 years.
Further similarity is found by reading Revelation 13:3, “And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast.” As we have already established, the deadly wound was given in the year 1798 A.D., when the French armies carried the Pope away into exile. But that wound was to be healed, and finally the whole world would give its allegiance to the Papacy again. That prophecy has been fulfilled very, very vividly before our eyes.
It was in the year 1929 that Mussolini executed the Concordat of 1929 with the Pope, restoring the properties that had been taken away from the Church. At that time, the Pope was actually made king once more and the Vatican City was set up as a political sovereign power. From that day to this, the strength of the Papacy has been advancing with tremendous strides. The image shows Benito Mussolini reading his credentials prior to signing the Lateran Treaty on behalf of King Victor Emmanuel III. Cardinal Gasparri (person seated), signed on behalf of Pope Pius XI.
At this present time most of the countries of the world have political representatives at Vatican City. The incredible influence of the Papacy in world affairs is attested to by the headlines in today’s newspaper. Almost every utterance of the Pope is published to the ends of the earth, and millions and millions of people look to the Papal power as the greatest influence in politics today. Yes, the wound has certainly been healed, and the world continues to follow after the beast. American Presidents have bowed before the Pope but they have never bowed before the head of any other Church.
The Dragon And The Woman
At this point, we are prepared to ask another question concerning this appropriation of power on the part of the beast. Where did she receive the authority to rule over the world for 1,260 years and to persecute so many millions of people for their faith The answer is found in Revelation 13:2, “And the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority.” Notice that the power comes from the dragon. But who is the dragon Revelation 12:7-9: “And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.”
The dragon of course is Satan himself. But when did Satan deceive the whole world? When he was cast out of heaven, there were only two people on the earth, and they represented the entire world. By deceiving Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, Satan led all the world astray and came into temporary possession of the earth. The great controversy between good and evil, which had started in heaven, was now transferred to this planet.
A Prediction of Enmity
After the fall of man, God pronounced a curse upon each participant in that original transgression. In Genesis 3:15, we read of the curse that was placed upon the devil or the dragon. “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” Here is a prophecy of the age long struggle that would exist between the dragon and the woman, and between the seed of the dragon and the seed of the woman.
But whom is the woman referred to in this prophecy? A woman, in Bible prophecy, always represents the Church. In Jeremiah 6:2 we read, “I have likened the daughter of Zion to a comely and delicate woman.” Who is Zion Isaiah 51:16, “And say unto Zion, Thou art my people.” So the great controversy has been going on ever since Eden. There have been two sides from then until now. The dragon and his followers are arraigned against God and His followers. Truth versus error and Satan versus the Church.
Satan and God have been contending for the control of every living human being. Even in the children of Adam the two sides were represented. Cain was on the dragon’s side and wanted to substitute his own way instead of the way God had commanded him. Abel belonged to God’s side and was so righteous that Cain finally killed him. Do you remember how God told each one of them to bring a lamb, but Cain substituted fruit or vegetables for that which God had commanded as a sacrifice? This you will discover, will always be the mark of the dragon. He tries to substitute, or make a counterfeit, for the exact truth of God.
Through the descendants of Cain the earth was so corrupted that God finally had to destroy it with the flood. But after the deluge the two sides appeared once again. The dragon’s followers concentrated in Babel and tried to defy God by building a great tower that was to reach up to heaven. The plan failed, of course, and that site of the tower of Babel later became Babylon, which in 606 B.C. began to rule as the first world empire.
During those early years of confusion, God called Abraham out of Babylon and sent him over into Canaan. Abraham had grown up right there in Mesopotamia, near the place where the great tower of Babel was attempted, and where the empire of Babylon developed. God’s plan has always involved a call of separation from the confusion of falsehood.
The Dragon and Sun Worship
Briefly, let us study the history of the dragon’s side. The city of Babylon was the first capital of the dragon on this earth. A pagan system of religion developed there in the form of sun worship. It was a blasphemous idolatry, filled with immoralities, licentious ceremonies and degrading rites. But soon the dragon’s followers quarrelled among themselves, and Medo-Persia came into power. But it was still the dragon’s headquarters. Baal worship continued to predominate as it did in the previous kingdom. Then Greece took over and she also subscribed to the same pagan sun worship. Finally, Rome began to rule the world. But there was no change in the religion. Mithraism, or sun worship was the universal religion of the pagan Roman Empire. From Babylon to Rome, the dragon held control through heathen sun worship.
But during the Roman rule a great thing happened! It was time for the seed of the woman to appear. Remember, the prophecy spoke of enmity between the seed of the woman and the seed of the dragon. The seed of the woman appeared in the days of the Roman Empire. Let’s read about it in Revelation 12:1, “And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars.” Do not forget that a woman in prophecy represents a Church. A pure woman stands for the true Church, but a fallen woman symbolizes a false religious system.
The Seed of the Woman
This woman in white described in Revelation twelve represents the true Church, the apostolic Church, with its pure doctrines. The twelve stars on her head are the twelve apostles. “And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered. And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns … and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born. And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne.” Revelation 12:25. Now, who was this man child? There has been only one man child who was destined to rule all nations and who was finally caught up to God’s throne. It is none other than Jesus Christ. But who tried to kill Jesus as soon as He was born? You answer, “Herod, the Roman king.” And so it was. Herod tried to put all the boy babies to death in Judea in an attempt to destroy Christ.
The Roman Empire then is symbolized in Bible prophecy by the same red dragon as is the devil himself. Because Satan worked so closely through that nation to destroy Jesus, pagan Rome is represented by the same symbol in prophecy as the devil. But Herod did not succeed in his attempt to destroy the man child. Mary and Joseph fled to Egypt and escaped the terrible decree. The masterstroke of Satan to destroy Jesus on the cross was foiled on that Sunday morning when the Crucified One broke the bonds of death in the resurrection. Forty days later, He was caught up to heaven in perfect fulfilment of the words of the prophecy.
When the dragon saw that he was not able to destroy Christ, he turned his wrath against the early Church.
According to Revelation 12:13, “When the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child.” At this time, there was only a small number of Christians in all the world, and Satan felt that he could completely obliterate them by persecution. Thousands and thousands of Christians were martyred under the terrible persecutions of the cruel Roman emperors. But the Gospel continued to grow and spread. The blood of the martyrs seemed to become the seed of the Church. When one died a hundred more sprang up to take his place. Paul preached his gospel right up to the very gates of Rome. The old dragon became worried. It was now time for the seed of the dragon to appear.
The Seed of the Dragon
For centuries Satan had tried to destroy God’s people through the violent opposition of Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome. Through violence and persecution, he had failed to stamp out the truth. So what he could not do through force, the dragon would now attempt by strategy and deception. He would organize his own counterfeit religious system. He would bring in pagan doctrines and philosophy from the old empires of Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome and combine them with Christian teaching. Thus, he attempted to destroy millions through deception.
In what form did the seed of the dragon appear? It was brought forth as the beast of Revelation 13. It is very significant that the beast is actually made up of parts of the lion, the leopard, the bear and the nondescript animal of Daniel 7. God’s illustrative depiction of the Papacy reveals that she was made up of parts from all those old pagan kingdoms. In particular did she draw her strength from the pagan Roman nation. According to Revelation 13:2, the dragon gave the beast his power and seat and great authority. We have learned that the dragon actually symbolizes the pagan Roman Empire, as well as the devil himself.
Did the pagan Roman Empire actually bestow any authority upon the Papacy? The fact is that in 330 A.D., Constantine, the Roman emperor, turned the whole city of Rome over to the Pope as the seat of his authority. History uses almost the words of the prophecy in describing it. I shall quote from one Catholic source and one history book on this point: “When the Roman Empire became Christian, and the peace of the Church was guaranteed, the Emperor left Rome to the Pope, to be the seat of the authority of the Vicar of Christ, who should reign there independent of all human authority, to the consummation of ages, to the end of time.” — Papal Rights and Privileges, pp. 13, 14.
“The removal of the capital of the empire from Rome to Constantinople in 330 A.D., left the western Church practically free from imperial power, to develop its own form of organization. The Bishop of Rome, in the seat of the Caesars, was now the greatest man in the west, and was soon forced to become the political as well as the spiritual head.” — The Rise of the Medieval Church, p. 168. How clearly these statements show that the Papacy received her seat and power from pagan Rome! But where did Rome get it? From Greece. And where did Greece get her power? From Medo-Persia. And where did Medo-Persia get hers? From Babylon. And where did Babylon get it? From the dragon. So we begin to understand why God has given such fearful warnings against the beast power. The dragon is actually behind it all.
Counterfeits In Pagan Dress
Let us consider for a moment how pagan doctrines were able to find a place in this counterfeit religious system that Satan introduced. Because a mark of the dragon power is to counterfeit and substitute, we will be able to see in this religio-political system the operation of Satan at his infernal best. Just as was the case with Cain, substitutes were fashioned to meet the Commandments of God. Many relics of sun worship actually came to be accorded Christian status. A whole set of counterfeit doctrines was added so that the Papacy could gain prestige with the pagan peoples of that age. Pagan idols were left at the door, but idols of Peter, Mary and the saints took their place.
As an example of the way in which pagan concepts came into the Church, consider the example of Christmas. Do you know where the observance of Christmas originated? Christmas as a festival, existed long before Jesus was born into this world. December 25 was actually celebrated hundreds of years before Christ was born. The pagans worshiped the sun, and they noticed that in December, the days were becoming shorter and shorter and the sun was getting farther away from them. Fearing that the sun would leave them altogether, they prayed and offered sacrifices. Then on December 25, for the first time, they could tell that the sun was coming back closer; the days were beginning to lengthen out again. So these people said, “The sun is reborn to us.” They called December 25 the birthday of the sun or sun god. It became a great religious festival with them.
Only the pagans celebrated the day until the counterfeit Papal system was taking form. At that time, the day was adopted by the Papacy and called the birth of the SON, instead of the birthday of the SUN. Dr. Gilbert Murray, M.A., D. Litt., LL.D., F.B.A., professor of Greek at Oxford University, has written this: “Mithraism had so much acceptance, that it was able to impose on the Christian world its own Sunday in place of the Sabbath; its Sun’s birthday, 25th of December, as the birthday of Jesus.” — History of Christianity in the Light of Modern Knowledge, Chapter III; cited in Religion and Philosophy, pp. 73, 74. New York: 1929.
Actually, we do not know the date of Christ’s birth. As you can readily see, the adoption of December 25 was based purely upon the heathen observance of the festival of sun worship. Please take note how easily a pagan institution can slip into Christian Churches and can even be passed along in Protestantism.
And what about Easter? It is a well known Christian observance in our modem Churches. Yet, it was also celebrated by pagans long before the resurrection of Christ. All Christian groups recognize that Easter Sunday is often as much as five weeks apart from one year to the next. Few know that it is all governed by the heavenly bodies. Easter always falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the equinox.
The pagans of long ago noticed that everything seemed to take on new life in the early spring, as soon as the sun crossed the equinox. So they designated a day in the spring to honour the goddess of reproduction. That day was dedicated to Ishtar, the goddess of reproduction, because of the new life and growth in nature. The very word Easter has been transliterated from the name of the goddess Ishtar, whose worship was memorialized by the adoption of Easter.
Many times Christian laymen have asked just what the bunny rabbit and Easter egg have to do with the resurrection of Christ. Of course, they have nothing to do with it. Those pagans chose the rabbit as a symbol of Ishtar’s day because it was the most prolific reproducer. The egg was also chosen because it was a symbol of fertility. Among the heathen, the day was associated with the most licentious practices.
During the time the Papacy was developing, Ishtar’s day was adopted by the Church and called Easter. Even the symbols, the bunny rabbits and eggs are retained as reminders of its pagan origin. These examples have been presented merely to show how easily the devil was able to impose pagan ideas upon that Church. As the Papacy developed, it was open to the reception of unbiblical customs that marked it clearly as the real counterfeit power described by God in Revelation 13.
The question comes to our minds at this point: Are we really following the Bible in all our doctrines? If tradition and heathen custom have crept so easily into the Church, what about other doctrines? The things mentioned so far have not been opposed to the direct Commandments of God. We do not have any commandments concerning the observing of Christ’s resurrection or His birth. We can think of His resurrection and birth at any time and on any day of the year. In the next chapter we shall discover, though, that other pagan doctrines were introduced which strike at the very heart of true Bible religion. We are not so concerned, except for those things which contravene a plain command of God.
The growing power of the Papacy continued its program by counterfeiting some of the most vital truths contained in God’s Word. May our eyes be opened to recognize these counterfeits and to remain loyal to the exact truth in its original form.
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