TRUE AND FALSE RELIGIONS IDENTIFIED IN THE BIBLE
Roman Catholicism is not mentioned in the Bible you say! Neither is Protestantism, Mormonism, Christadelphianism or the many other isms professing Christianity today. But the truth is these differing religions can be identified in the Bible by the way the Bible speaks of them in relation to the gospel preached by Jesus and the Apostles. There can be no doubt that there was unanimity of doctrine and practice in their teaching and that the Christian religion established through their preaching was one in which all its adherents were united by this common bond. It is this truth which highlights one of the astonishing facts of the New Testament - that so early in the first century there should be an apostasy from true religion and the establishment of other communities claiming to be Christian, or followers of Christ. One such reference can be found in Acts 20:29-30.
“I know this (says Paul), that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in amongst you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, SPEAKING PERVERSE THINGS to draw away disciples after them”.
THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE APOSTASY
The apostle Paul also spoke at great length about this apostasy, from its small beginnings in the Middle East to its development into a world-wide system, only to be destroyed by Christ when comes again to the earth. He attributes the success of this system to its head whom, he said would be a man wielding great power and influence in the earth. Its identity with Roman Catholicism and the Pope is unmistakable. The details are to be found in 2 Thessalonians 2. When writing to them of the second coming of Christ, he told them that, before he came, there would be “a falling away”, or an apostasy from the Truth, revealing the “man of sin”. This “man” would “oppose God” and “exalt himself above all”, claiming to be God’s representative on earth (verses 3-4). The beginnings of this apostasy were already evident amongst the believers (verse 7), and circumstances in the rulership of the pagan Roman Empire would eventually bring it out into the open making it possible for its leader to be made manifest (verses 7-8).
The divine estimation of such a system headed by “the son of perdition” is evident from the statement that the Lord Jesus will “consume” and “destroy” it at “his coming” (verse 8). The leader of this apostasy would hold absolute power over his followers by “lying wonders” and “deceivableness of unrighteousness” and, as a consequence, “God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie” (verses 9-11). The adherents of this system of religion are described as those who “received not the love of the truth”, and who “believed not the truth” (verses 10-11), making it evident that it is an apostate religion devoid of the truth of the gospel of God. By contrast, Paul addressing the true believers in Thessalonica, told them that salvation could be theirs through “belief of the truth” which they held after believing the gospel preached by the apostles (verses 15-16).
SALVATION OR DESTRUCTION?
The importance of this matter can be gauged by looking at the previous chapter in 2 Thessalonians, where Paul writes in specific terms about the effect of Christ’s second coming on true believers and false professors of the gospel. He said,
“…the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them which know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power, when he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired of all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day” (verses 7-10)
The Book of Revelation enlarges on these events, in graphic terms, but the scope of this booklet prevents reference thereto, except to say that the head of Roman Catholicism is there described as the “false prophet”; the system as “the mother of harlots”; whilst the city of Rome, built on seven hills, is shown to be the headquarters of the system of false religion, holding many the world over in its grip (see chapters 17 and 18). The true believers are depicted by contrast many times in the same book, and it is shown that they are those who recognise that by the death of Jesus they have been “redeemed to God out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation”, to be “made unto our God kings and priests” so that they can “reign on the earth” in the kingdom of God (Revelation 5:9-10).
IDENTIFY YOURSELF WITH THE TRUTH
The gospel is “the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth” (Romans 1:16). To “pervert the gospel of Christ” and to preach and to believe “another gospel” brings opposite results - “let him be accursed”, says Paul (see Galatians 1:6-9). How important it is, then, to get at the truth of the gospel revealed in the Bible to allow its message to have its impact upon us! The invitation of the gospel is to separate from the apostate religions that abound in the earth today, and to join with the few faithful followers of Jesus who adhere to the truth of the gospel he and his apostles proclaimed.
“Wherefore, come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty” (2 Corinthians 6.17-18)
This is the only sure way to escape the wrath of God that will soon be poured out upon all those who follow the dictates of men rather than the simple gospel message clearly revealed in the Bible.