The Church of the Beast and the False Prophet

The Apostle John, who saw " a beast rise up out of the sea," saw also " another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon." (The Revelation, xiii, 11.) There is no reason to question that this beast, like the first, is an individual man, though both have others of like spirit acting with them. He is called (Rev. xix, 20) "The false prophet," and with the beast is " cast alive into a lake of fire." As we have seen, the sea is the symbol of the peoples where the popular will is supreme, and all is unstable; the earth is the symbol of an established and more stable order. The coming up of the second beast out of the earth seems to show that he represents a traditional past, which still has a measure of solidity and authority. His two horns like a lamb may indicate an outward semblance to Christianity; but his speech as of a dragon shows whose servant he is, and by whom inspired.

We now ask, what are the relations of the second to the first beast to whom power has been given over all nations? We may say in general, that he is the ecclesiastical head of the antichristian kingdom. To this end all the necessary authority is given him. "He exerciseth all the authority of the first beast in his sight." (Rev.xiii,12,R. V.) The object of this ecclesiastical administration is, to make " the earth, and them that dwell therein, to worship the first beast." In addition to the power of punishing with death all who refuse this worship, he is able to deceive men by the proofs he gives of the actual possession of superhuman power, in the doing of great signs or wonders. Of these is mentioned, " the making of fire to come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men." This was the sign which the Lord refused to give to the Pharisees. (Matt. xvi, 1.) Having thus created faith in himself as endowed with superhuman power, he induces those dwelling on the earth, whom he has deceived, to "make an image to the beast." This term "image," though usually applied to a single person or thing, is applied in the Epistle to the Hebrews (x, 1) to an institution, and is so used here. This image, set up by the false prophet, is not, as many have said, a material image like that of Nebuchadnezzar, of the precious metals or of stone, which he is able to endow with life, or a marble bust of the beast, which speaks; but a form of ecclesiastical polity or church organization. The life — irvevpa— given it so that it can both speak and act, is the influx of that evil spiritual power which makes it the counterfeit of the Church, both as to word and work. As the Holy Ghost came down at Pentecost from Heaven, and dwells a living power in the Church, so into the image of the beast enters the spirit from the pit.

Now appears the Church of the Antichrist, not as a mere external ecclesiastical organization, or a society of men bound together by a common hatred of Christianity, but an organism filled with demoniacal power. Invested with all secular authority, the false prophet and his hierarchy can present their religious system and worship for universal acceptance. All men must receive some mark as a sign of submission; and if this be refused, they must be slain.* (It may be that those spoken of, xiv, 12,13, may be those slain at this period. See also vi, 11.) None will be permitted to buy or sell, or, in other words, to receive or dispense any grace of God through His appointed ordinances, now superseded by the ordinances of Satan, (xiii, 17. See Matt, xxv, 9.) The first beast is to be the object of worship, and all other worship is forbidden. Antichrist is now "seated in the temple of God, exalting himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped," thus fulfilling the words of the Apostle Paul. (2 Thess. ii, 4.) Having this prophetic outline of the Church of the Antichrist, let us ask on what basis it can be built, and how far it will be fitted to be a universal Church.

* The early Fathers said much of the persecutions under the Antichrist, of their fierce and bloody character. Referring to these, it is said (" Discussions and Arguments") by J. H. Newman: "in persecution the Church begins, and in persecution she ends. . . . Let us then apprehend and realize the idea that a persecution awaits the Church before the end, fiercer and more perilous than any which occurred at its first rise. Further, it is to be attended with the cessation of all religious worship. So the Fathers understood the taking away of the Daily Sacrifice."

Of the persecution (Rev. xvii, 6), something has already been said. It would seem that this is instigated by the woman, although it is carried into effect by the Beast. Whether this persecution is past or future, is for time to decide; but apparently it does not take place till the alliance of the Church with the Antichrist has been consummated. But whether past or future, it must be distinguished from the last persecution under the Antichrist in that it is confined to the saints and martyrs who reject her authority; the last extending to all dwelling on the earth who refuse to worship the Beast.

1. Let us first ask, putting aside all revealed religion, what principle lies at the basis of a universal or catholic religion? It is that the religious element is an essential element in human nature; and that there must be, therefore, among all people some forms of belief and of worship, and these are capable of continual development. The great problem is how to give this religious element as now developed it» simplest and most easily received form; and thus obtain a creed and worship which may be truly universal. To obtain these, we must put off from the many existing religions all that is local and national and temporary, and keep only what is common to the race, and therefore permanent. The universal creed can express only the beliefs common to all,— the first or elemental principles of religion. Many may believe far more, but their beliefs cannot be imposed upon others, or form part of the one creed.

2. The first and chief element in a religious belief is its conception of God. A God to be worshipped by all, must be- known of all. We are now come to a time when the conception of Him is through science and philosophy so enlarged that all anthropomorphic limitations, as of personality, will, intelligence, are to be done away, and we come to an indeterminate and universal Being.

"The race," as we are told, "has been long reaching forward to such a conception of Deity." Primitive Polytheism has given place to Henotheism, Henotheism to Monotheism. But Monotheism retains the dualism of God and nature, of nature and man; and therefore must give place to Monism, and thus come to an absolute unity. In this way we reach a conception of God which may be universally received, being stripped of all that is particular and distinctive and transient. The world can now conceive of a God who is an Infinite and Eternal Energy or Principle working in nature and man. But the eye sees him not, the understanding does not comprehend him, theology cannot define him, the imagination can form no image of him. He is the Inscrutable, the Unknowable, the Inconceivable, yet the Omnipresent and Omnipotent. Now have we come to the idea of a God, — a Power, or a Principle, which, we are told, may be the chief element in a universal religion. No earlier age could have come to such a conception; it is the product of the latest and highest development of science and philosophy.

3. But what religious emotions can such a conception of God awaken in men? And under what forms of worship can they be expressed? It may be admitted that a feeling of wonder and awe may fill the heart in the presence of "this Infinite and Eternal Energy." But such a feeling could not express itself in prayer or in any positive acts of worship; nor would it have any real influence on the conduct of life. There is nothing spiritual or even moral in it. None of those feelings which the Christian conception of God as our Father awakens, — filial love, holy fear, dependence, trust, gratitude, a sense of sin, hope of future blessedness in higher communion with Him,— can be awakened by a belief in an impersonal and unknowable First Cause. Worship of such a deity would be empty and unmeaning. The human soul, conscious of its weakness, craves communion with Persons, and cannot be put off with laws or powers. Neither the "Energy" of the Evolutionists, nor the " Substance" of Spinoza, can take the place in the heart of a personal God.

How then in an age which denies a personal God can we find an object of worship? Such an object modern Pantheism gives us. As God is in all men, and becomes self-conscious only in man, he in whom the Divine is most manifested may be an object of worship. The pantheistic church may conceive of God as an impersonal spiritual Principle, and yet find in a man such a manifestation of the common Divinity that all the world may be called to worship him. The Church of the Antichrist may therefore be in its essential principles pantheistic, and yet find in a man a Divine head to whom all are to pay their homage and to be obedient. Of the nature of this worship something will be said later.

Thus our age has reached a conception of God on which may rest a universal religion, embodied in a universal Church. And this Church can have its rites of worship, full of life and power. We have already in germ all the conditions necessary for the building of the Church of the Antichrist; but this cannot be accomplished till he appears as its head, and the work of organization has been effected by the false prophet.

We are now prepared to consider the tendencies and movements of our times which point forward to this Antichristian Church.

1. Of the pantheistic conception of God, and of His relation to men, sufficient has been already said. This unity of the Divine and human in man lies at the foundation of the many antichristian movements for unity which we see in all regions of human thought and life, political, social, religious.

2. But we are now concerned only with religion, and the tendencies to universalism as opposed to particularism. In the Christian Church many are weary of its divisions and crying aloud for unity; and in the non-Christian bodies many are manifesting the desire to have only one religion, one church, one worship. Accepting as an incontestable fact that the human race is making continual progress, and that though religions may die, religion will live and develope forever, they affirm that the future must bring with it in time a universal Church. It is said by one of this school: "Instead of religion passing away, we are in the time of its re-birth. There is to be a more magnificent religion, a grander church, than the past has ever dreamed of. . . . We are getting ready to build the new temple in which CJod shall manifest Himself as He has not in the past, and that shall be full of light and love and peace for all mankind."

That expectations of this kind are becoming very general, ample proof is found in the sermons and lectures, and in the popular theological literature of our day. But a more significant sign is seen in the recent assembling at Chicago of "The World's Parliament of Religions,"* the first of its kind ever held.

*"The World's Parliament of Religions." held at Chicago, 1893. Of this it is said by its historian. Dr. Barrows, that it continued seventeen days.and 160,000 people during this time attended its sessions. *' It was full of the highest religious enthusiasm from first to last . . . And at times the scenes were Pentecostal." It has been proposed that these parliaments be held regularly, and much is now said of one to be held at Paris in 1900 at the same time with the proposed great International Exhibition. It is said by one of its chief promoters that "the Parliament of Religions has just begun to live." and by another, that "it has come to stay.Such assemblies of religious leaders. Christian and nonChristian, may, therefore, have an important part to play in the religious history of the future.

It contained many men of great learning and abil ity, and of high ecclesiastical positions. A Roman Cardinal commended it as " worthy of all encouragement and praise." And an Archbishop said: "The conception of such a religious assembly seems almost like an inspiration." A Protestant Bishop spoke of the movement as "a grand one, and unexampled in the history of the world." Other Bishops and Protest- ant clergymen spoke in the same way. It was said by one: "It has been left to the mightier spirit of this day to throw the gates of the Divine Kingdom wide open, and bid every sincere worshipper in all the world, of whatever name or form, 'welcome.'" And by another: "A Pentecostal day is come again, for here are gathered devout men from every country under heaven, and we do hear them speak the wonderful works of God. And so is fulfilled in a sense more august than on Pentecost itself, the memorable prophecy in Joel (ii, 28) of the one coming, universal religion." And by another: "This Parliament marks the first step in the sacred path that shall one day bring the truly humanitarian and universal religion."

These extracts, which might be many times multiplied, show how, under the attractive guise of a religion which shall embrace all men, and bind them into one great religious brotherhood, the way is preparing for the Antichristian Church. Starting with the principle that all men are alike the sons of God, and are sincerely striving to find Him, all religions have a claim to recognition as having in them more or less of truth. And as the knowledge of God is continually enlarging with the progress of the race, no one religion can say that it has the absolute truth. There should be, therefore, from time to time, assemblies of the chief representatives of all faiths, that through comparison and discussion they may gradually attain to the pure truth, and agree upon a universal religion.*

Thus we have set before us a universal religion and a world-wide Church; how are they to be attained? In the Parliament there was not an agreement of opinions, but the general expression of the non-Christian members was, that they were to be attained by the elimination of all that is particular and temporary in the several religions; retaining only what is common to all, and so permanent. To this the orthodox Christian members could not assent, for this would be renouncing essential Christianity as founded in Christ. It was for them a difficult position. Either they must say, Christianity has the absolute truth, and is, therefore, to be accepted of all; or it has not, and is itself seeking after more truth.

* Of the four great religions which are now confronting Christianity, the Hindu, the Mohammedan, the Confucian, the Buddhist, all striving to be world-religions, one has recently written: "Victory cannot be expected to incline to either side, until there has been an intelligent study by each of the sources of the other's strength, an appreciation of the spiritual and social needs which it has met, and an absorption by the one that has most inherent excellence and power of assimilation." How long a time may be needed for this study and final absorption, the writer does not say. It is the law of evolution applied to religion; the best will survive, and the process may demand a few centuries, more or less, or even hundreds of them. But what of the purpose of God in His Son, whose words to His Church are: "Watch, for I come quickly."

But if it has the absolute truth, why convene the representatives of other religions to compare and discuss their partial truths? They must in the end receive its teachings.*

But if Christianity has not the absolute truth and is seeking after it, and convenes the Parliament to this end, then its representatives must meet the representatives of other religions on the same plane, and recognize them as teachers having the same right to teach as themselves.t

Thus Christianity appears before the world as one of many religions,— having, it may be, more truth, but still without the element of universality. For this end it must be modified, and these modifications must be in the direction of universalism.

* It may be said that something was gained if the non-Christian religions were put in close and direct contrast to the ChristiaB, and their relations to it thus shown. But this involved the clear and direct presentation of Christianity as the absolute religion to which all must come. Such a presentation was not made.

It need not be affirmed that the Church in her present condition of division and doubt can teach all truth, but that her Head it the Truth, and the Spirit of Truth, however hindered, still dwells in her; and that, therefore, through her alone the perfect revelation must be made, and she become in full reality the light of the world. To her light all must come.

t It is said by a recent writer: "The appearing of Christianity in the Parliament can mean nothing less than a voluntary abdication of all exclusive claims to be the only true and revealed religion." The same inference seems to have been drawn by many of the non-Christian members, and they returned to their homes feeling that the true way to attain to a knowledge of God is by a scientific comparison of religions, and the selection of the best in each, not by the acceptance of Christ and His work and teachings. Some are reported to have said that Christianity had so lost its hold upon the people of the United States that a good opportunity was offered for the diffusion of the Eastern religions.

It must give up what is peculiar, that it may be in harmony with the common religion. As the Incarnation, based on the Trinity and realized in the Person of Jesus Christ, is the great distinctive feature of Christianity, this is especially an obstacle to be put away. It is, therefore, of great interest as a sign of the times to note how the orthodox members of the Parliament acted in regard to it. We may, without injustice, say that it was in large measure kept out of sight, at least as regards the Person of the Incarnate Son, and His place as the Living Head, and the present Ruler and Teacher of the Church, and through her of the world. To His place as a religious teacher long since dead, no objection could be made by the nonChristians; some would have admitted Him to be the greatest of all past teachers. But the presentation of His claims in His own words, and affirmed as present realities by the Christian members, would have brought to a speedy end its discussions as to the way by which to attain religious truth. How could they come to a knowledge of God while disowning or ignoring Him who said: "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father." "No man knoweth who the Father is but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal Him." "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no man cometh unto the Father but by me." "I am the Door; by me if any man enter in he shall be saved." Can He who spake these words be put out of sight when men assemble to consult how they may know God? Is it "sectarian " to repeat them? If true, must not those assembled have, as the first step, bowed down before the Son and besought Him to teach them of the Father? How could they expect to know Him when they denied or ignored the Son whom the Father had sent to make Him known, and who alone can reveal Him?

We have dwelt longer upon this Parliament of religions because it gives us an illustration how the way may be prepared for the Church of the Antichrist. The first and great step is the deposition of Christ from His supreme place as the Incarnate Son, now living and having all authority in heaven and earth, the one Image and Revealer of God, and His degradation to the place of an ethical and religious teacher; and then, the rejection of His teachings as now outgrown. This change is gradually effected by the silence of the Church as to His Person and present offices as Priest and Lord, and by dwelling on His teachings, comparing them with those of other teachers, so that the world learns to think of Him only as a religious instructor. This forgetfulness of His absolute supremacy was illustrated in the Parliament. It was assumed by its conveners, that, although it had not met in His name, and although some appearing as His representatives denied His Divinity, His Atonement, His Resurrection, yet that He was well pleased, and would fulfil His promise to be "in the midst of them." It was assumed that although He is the Head of the Church, and had prayed that all its members might be one in Him, yet that He is not displeased to see them arrayed under sectarian banners, teaching contradictory doctrines, having little or no communion or fellowship with one another, and rejecting His appointed bonds of unity. It was assumed that all He had spoken of the future of the Church, its temptations, its trials, its perils, its falling away, and His warnings of the sore judgments He would send upon it, might be safely ignored, and only visions of prosperity and peace be set before it. There are no calls to repentance which they should heed.

Thus we see how, through the silence of the Church as to her Living Head and His prerogatives, He passes gradually from the thoughts of men. As to all present offices of teaching and rule, He becomes - practically non-existent. He is far off, and is silent because He cannot speak by the Holy Ghost. We must go back, it is said, to His work in the past. We have His earthly teachings in a book; let them be our guide. But there is no agreement as to their meaning. Shall we take the interpretation of the early disciples? But why? Age gives wisdom, and the nineteenth century is better able to interpret them than the first. We are not to be bound by the letter. In spirit Christianity is a world-religion; let us make it so by striking out all that is particular and exclusive. To this end let us study all religions and widen our Christianity; let us enlarge the Church to take in, not only the baptized, but all seekers after truth of every creed; so shall we attain a universal religion and a universal Church.

Thus forgetting that the Person of Christ, the Incarnate Son, — very God and very Man, — is far more than His past works and teachings, important as these may have been, and forgetting that He has much more to do and to teach in completing redemption, the Church grieves and dishonours Him when she substitutes those for His present headship and guidance.

Not any personal Christ under the limitations of space and time, but His all-embracing spirit of philanthropy, is what many now seek. The next step is to affirm that no one, Jesus Christ or another, can stand for ever as mediator between humanity and God; for this is a denial of God's fatherhood, and of man's Divine sonship. The limitations of Christianity as represented in Christ must be put aside. Thus the absent and silent Christ has already become to many the dead Christ; and the way is thus prepared for him who shall present himself as the great and living Power upon the stage of religious action.

All studies in comparative religions, which are necessarily limited to a few scholars, can end only in forming schools of philosophy, not in a universal church. For this there must be a personal centre of unity, a head, and an inspiring energy which only some superhuman indwelling power can give. Thus the Antichristian Church becomes the analogue of the Christian with its Divine Head, and the indwelling Holy Spirit; and can exercise a spiritual sway over the minds and hearts of men. The mark which its head puts upon the foreheads and right hands of his followers, is the symbol of their unity with him, and of the submission of both thought and action to his will.

It is only as an organism — the image to which breath is given — that the worship of the Antichristian Church can retain its hold upon its worshippers. Without this inbreathed life from the pit, all its services would be artificial and hollow, and all men would soon weary of them. The worshippers must be made conscious of a Power not of themselves, and yet working in and upon them, and overmastering them. The vague feelings of wonder and awe awakened by the presence in the universe of a mysterious and inscrutable Energy of which the evolutionists speak, now, through stitanic operations, take definite forms and become real; and can express themselves in rites and acts of worship which hold the worshippers by a mighty spell. This spiritual energy, manifested in highest degree in the Antichrist himself and in the false prophet, is seen also in all the ecclesiastical orders, in his evangelists, his prophets, his priests. They are made to speak and do things of which they are at other times incapable. There are inspirations, ecstasies, tongues, miracles. There is spiritual power in every ordinance, his falsehoods are not empty deceptions, his blasphemous words burn like fire. There may thus be kindled a fervour of faith, an evangelistic zeal, a high religious exaltation, which will rival those of the early days of the Church. To his worshippers Christian worship in the power of the Holy Spirit may seem in comparison tame and lifeless. (See 2 Thess. ii, 9-12.)

To this worship, full of living power, let there be added all that science and art can do to make its outward forms and rites impressive. Let there be temples, stately and majestic, on which all that architectural taste and skill can do has been expended; the master-pieces of painting and of sculpture, priests in their splendid vestments, music that calls into play the capacities of all musical instruments and of all human voices,— in a word, all that our advanced civilization can add of magnificence and beauty to religious services,— and we may understand what power of attraction will be in this worship for those who will not bow their knees in humble adoration before the Father and the Son, confessing their sins and pleading the merits of the sacrifice offered upon the cross. The cross as a symbol of salvation from sin will disappear, and some symbol expressive of the Divinity of man and of the greatness of his aspirations will take its place and be the symbol of the new age. Men will say: This is the religion for which the world has waited so long; not a Christianity narrow and exclusive, but all-embracing, universal as humanity. This is a worship worthy of the dignity of man.

We have yet to ask as to the time of the setting up of the Antichristian Church. It is not till the ten kings have consummated their alliance with the Beast, and become the obedient executors of his will. (Rev. xvii, 16, 17.) * They give their kingdom to him, and the last act of judgment is then accomplished. "These shall hate the whore, and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire." The way is now prepared for Antichrist to manifest himself in the fullness of his pride, and to show himself to the nations not only as the International king and supreme ruler, but also as God. Now is brought into his service and made his chief instrument, the false prophet who, as the ecclesiastical head, may stand to him in a relation not unlike that which Napoleon wished to establish between himself and the Pope.

*Whether the number "ten," as the number of the kings in union with the Beast, is to be taken literally or symbolically, cannot be positively said. Ten, like seven, is a symbol of completeness, but in a different way; seven implying that that to which it is applied is complete of its kind, or fulfiling its idea; ten, that a certain definite order is completed, the number perfect. As applied to the kingdoms of the world regarded in hostility to the Kingdom of Christ, we have the ten toes of the image and the ten horns of the fourth beast in Daniel (ii, 41; vii, 7); the ten horns of the dragon and of the Beast. (Rev. xii, 3; ziii, 1.)

The ten kings may be the heads of ten kingdoms into which Christendom will be ultimately divided; but this only the event can show.

We call to mind, says Renan (" Religious Hist. and Crit."), those proud words ascribed to Napoleon: "I meant to exalt the Pope immeasurably, to surround him with pomp and homage. ... I would have idolized him; he should have lived near me. Paris should have become the capital of Christendom, and I would have directed the religious as well as the political world. It was a device for binding together all the federative parts of the empire, and for holding in the bonds of peace all that remained outside. I would have held my religious as well as my legislative sessions. My councils would have represented Christendom; the Popes would merely have presided at them. I would have opened and closed these assemblies, and approved their decisions, as Constantino and Charlemagne had done."

With Napoleon the establishment of a church was a purely political matter — as he said: "The people must have a religion; and this religion must be in the hands of the government." But the Church of the Antichrist stands in a much closer relation to him. There is a spiritual unity, the operation of Satan, whereby it becomes in a sense his body.

Of the downfall of Babylon notice has already been taken in considering the teachings of The Revelation. In point of time it probably precedes the work of the false prophet. The universal Church is based upon the universal kingdom. "Power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations; and all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb." Now in anticipation of Him who is to come, he seats himself a priest upon his throne. (Zech. vi, 13.)

But the timo of his triumph is short. He cornea who will cast out the prince and god of this world, and redeem His inheritance from its pollutions, and establish righteousness and peace in all the earth. "And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and He that sat upon him was called Faithful and True. . . . And out of His mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it He should smite the nations. . . . And I saw the Beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to make war against Him that sat on the horse, and against His army. And the Beast was taken, and with him the false prophet. . . . These both were cast alive into a lake of fire." (Rev. xix, 11-20.)

And now begins the last stage of the Lord's redemptive work,— to "put all enemies under His feet," during which He acts as Judge and King. "And He that sat upon the throne said: Behold, I make all things new." When redemption is completed and the heavenly order fully established, He gives up the Kingdom to the Father, "that God may be all in all." Beyond this, prophecy is silent. In the present state of our religious knowledge no revelation of that future condition could be intelligible to us. We must ourselves be lifted up into that higher knowledge of God and of His purpose which the resurrection life will bring.