What is this mysterious "image"? You will soon be compelled to worship it or face martyrdom. If you submit, you will suffer the wrath of God! MANY ministers know the facts which prove the identity of the "image of the beast," but they are afraid to tell you. This present generation, confused over the real significance of the "image," is destined to be forced to worship it! Many who haven't been told the facts are already practicing this species of idolatry.
The "image of the beast" (Rev. 13:14-15) can not be understood until the "beast," described in Revelation 13:1-10, is known. It is symbolic of a power whose identity is revealed in the second and seventh chapters of the book of Daniel.
The June, 1952, issue of "The Plain Truth" contained the Biblical explanation which conclusively proved that the "beast" John delineated is the Roman Empire. After receiving its deadly wound, it continued 1260 years from its restoration under Justinian (554) to the downfall of Napoleon (1814). For one last time this Roman system will be revived in Europe by a federation of ten nations. It is already beginning to solidify and emerge on the continent.
The "dragon" which gave this Empire its authority is the devil according to Revelation 12:9 and 20:2. The adversary told Jesus that the kingdoms of this world were delivered to him, "and to whomsoever I will I give it" (Luke 4:5-7). The Roman Empire and its revivals is Satan's civil government on earth.
Not only does the devil have his civil rulers doing his will, but he also has ecclesiastical rulers — ministers who masquerade as the "ministers of righteousness" (2 Cor. 11:13-15). John saw this pictured under the symbol of the "beast" which had two horns like a lamb (Rev. 13:11-17). According to the Bible, it is the hierarchy of order — the Pope, bishops, priests and deacons of the Roman Catholic Church, the explanation of which is given in this issue of "The Good News." This church is responsible for the creation of the "image of the beast."
What Is the Image? There are five fundamental points to consider before fully grasping the Biblical interpretation of this "image." (1) The lamb — like beast, by its miraculous claims, deceived the people who dwell on earth, saying to them (2) that they should make an image to the beast — Satan's civil government, the Roman Empire. (3) The great church figuratively gives life to the image. It was made to live and (4) to speak. Furthermore, the image (5) cased that every person not worshipping itself should be killed. It did not martyr, it merely cawed the death of those who would not submit to such idolatry. Once again, in this generation, the already widespread worship of this "image" will be forced upon the world.
What could it be? What is an "image"? According to the dictionary, an image is a "copy, representation, model, semblance, counterpart." It is a "likeness." Therefore the church which John mentions was saying to the people; "You should make a model, a copy of the civil Roman Government" — for the "beast" is a government (Daniel 7:23).
Instead of preaching the gospel of the Kingdom or government of God — divine government with divine laws — this church established human church government. The church of God is constituted by those saints who are begotten and led by the Holy Spirit. It is not a Kingdom, for Christ's kingdom is not of this present world or age (John 18: 36). But here is a great church that deceived the people into forming a duplicate or image of the civil government of the Roman Empire.
The PAPACY is "the Roman empire, again extended over Europe by a universal code and a provincial government; by a hierarchy of religious praetors or proconsuls, and a host of inferior officers, each in strict subordination to those immediately above them, and gradually descending to the very lowest ranks of society: the whole with a certain degree of freedom of action, but a restrained and limited freedom, and with an appeal to the spiritual Caesar in the last resort" (History of Latin Christianity by Milman, p. 28).
This church government — the PAPACY — is the image of the beast! It is an ecclesiastical model of the pagan Roman Government.
"Long before the fall of Rome there had begun to grow up within the Roman Empire an ecclesiastical state, which in its constitution and its administrative system was shaping itself upon the imperial model. This spiritual empire," says Myer's Ancient History, p. 582, "like the secular empire, possessed a hierarchy of officers."
The Papacy, according to these historians, is a model, a counterpart — an image of the "beast" which is the Roman Government. This ecclesiastical government compelled people to worship a man-ruled church organized into a worldly government. Although palmed off as the government of God, it is in reality an image of a human civil government. And worshipping any image is idolatry!
Just as the old Babylonish idolatry spread and altered its form as it propagated throughout the world, so this modern Babylon the Great, a Mother Church, has propagated daughter churches which came out protesting (Rev. 17:5), and all of them have different forms of church government — different "images of the beast," — each patterned in some way after the human government of the Empire. When religious people speak of "MY Church," they mean their humanly organized denomination which teaches pagan doctrines and customs labeled "Christian." They IDOLIZE their Church, believing its teaching can't be wrong. This is idolatry and God calls everyone of his people out of it (Rev. 18:4).
Where did this practice of human government in the churches develop? And how? What is the historical proof that most of you haven't been told because ministers are afraid to let you understand that their churches are not governed by Christ as the head, but by human boards or "spiritual Caesars"?
Government in the Early True Church Unlike any denomination of today, the Christians in the early inspired Church were governed by the will of God expressed in the Bible. The Father set Christ to be the continuous, living He& of the Church, the Head of those individuals who are led by the Spirit of God. Under Christ were those ministers He chose. They were not elected; the ministers of the gospel were never voted into office. They were ordained according to the Biblical specifications because their fruits proved that God had already chosen them. Compare John 3:27, Acts 13:2, 3 and 1 Timothy 3.
Every office of service in the church for spreading the gospel was and ought to be today according to the gifts of God proven by the fruits (Eph. 4:11-13). Jesus has always been the absolute Head of the Church, not any board, man or vicar ruling in the place of Christ (Eph. 5:23).
Edward Gibbon rightly says "that the apostles declined the office of legislation." (Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, chapter 15.) The laws governing the lives of true Christians are not human canons or traditions sanctioned by boards or Church councils, but the inviolate laws of God revealed in the scripture.
There were elders in every city to instruct, correct and to be examples to the churches (1 Peter 5:3). The original Greek word for "elders" is also translated "presbytery" in I Tim. 4:14. From Acts 20:17, 28 it becomes obvious that presbyters or elders were also called overseers or bishops — "two appellations which," according to Gibbon in his excellent fifteenth chapter Oil church history, "in their first origin, appear to have distinguished the same office and the same order of persons. The name Presbyter was expressive of their age, or rather of their gravity and wisdom. The title of Bishop denoted their inspection over the faith and manners of the Christians who were committed to their pastoral care."
How vastly different church governments are today! What happened that church offices are so radically altered? When did it happen:'
How the People Began to Form the "Image of the Beast" The Roman Empire in the days of the apostles was authoritarian, and the use of elections for many offices was an honored practice. After the death of the apostles, the prophesied great apostacy set in (2 Thess. 2). Some of the very elders or bishops to whom Paul talked at Ephesus (Acts 20:30) were ringleaders in deceiving the people into holding public church meetings and elections of officers following the pattern of Roman municipalities. Each local congregation took for itself, with variations, the form of the Roman collegia, associations, which were modeled after the Roman municipal government. (Boak, A History of Rome to 565 A.D., pp. 398, 364.)
Here was the beginning of the "image of the beast" — ecclesiastical leaders deceiving the people into creating a government in the church after the mode of the Roman civil administration and attributing to it divine origin.
In various congregations were numerous people, unconverted, who wanted the "say-so." They elected teachers who sanctioned elections and pleased their whims and who led them back into the customs of pagan Rome and Greece (2 Tim. 4:3, 4). Gradually those ministers who were chosen of God were rejected and forced out of the visible church congregations (3 John 10). The visible churches were ceasing to be governed by Jesus Christ. A universal or catholic apostacy permeated almost the whole Christian world.
The order of public deliberations soon introduced the office of a president, invested at least with the authority of collecting the sentiments, and of executing the resolutions, of the assembly," says Gibbon. Here were local congregations, making their h u m resolutions instead of following the Bible, and causing the formation of human government in the churches.
The Bishops Grow in Power Occasional elections induced the apostatizing Christians to constitute permanently one of the elders or presbyters with the office and "duties of an ecclesiastical governor. It was under these circumstances that the lofty title of Bishop began to raise itself above the humble appellations of Presbyter; and while the latter remained the most natural distinction for the members of every Christian senate, the former was appropriated to the dignity of its new president."
Did you notice? Each local congregation in its legislative practices developed into a little "senate" with one of its elders, elected to the permanent office of president, styled a "Bishop." From this time forward, only the leading elder, the president, was called "Bishop." The people were following the pattern of the Roman civil government, introducing it into the churches in place of the government of God. They found that voting on resolutions was a very satisfactory way of getting pagan "religious ceremonies, which imperceptibly increased in number and variety" into the churches. Rather than receive the correction of the Bible, the congregations wanted to have their own way and the leaders were glad to have it so, because it invested them with legislative power over the flock.
In the same fifteenth chapter of Gibbon's Decline and Fall we read: "Whenever the episcopal chair became vacant by death, a new president was chosen among the presbyters by the suffrage of the whole congregation." No longer were the ministers being chosen by Christ and ordained by the elders and apostles. Instead, in the Catholic churches the elders were elected and one of them, specially elected to preside over the local meetings, appropriated the title of "Bishop" above his equals.
Coupled with the advancement of the "Bishop" or president in each local congregation, was the rapid tendency to form local dioceses "by the union of several country churches with a church in a city" after 100 A.D. (Milman's footnote in Gibbon's Decline and Fall). Toward the middle of the ensuing century, numerous churches within a city united under the leadership of the most important Bishop of the leading church in each local diocese. Thus far, the "image" — church government shaped according to the model of the Roman civil institutions — was formed only after the city government and its municipal officials and jurisdiction. There was as yet no supreme leadership over all the churches.
The Image Called a Divine Institution The episcopal form of government was adopted within a hundred years after the death of the apostles by ALL the congregations scattered over the Roman Empire. It soon acquired the deceptive sanction of a divine institution because the bishops styled themselves the "vicars of Christ." Bingham's Antiquities of the Christian Church gives several cases in the early Catholic writings wherein "ever?! bishop is vice Christi, Christ's vicar or viceregent" (Bk. II, ch. 11, sect. 10).
The Bible nowhere teaches that man rules in place of Christ. Christ has no one ruling in his place. Every minister in the Church is ruled by Christ and carries out Christ's will, not his own or the people's! But those early bishops deceived the gullible, unconverted "Christian" into believing that they stood in the place of Christ and that the episcopal form of church government was a holy institution which the people should hold in reverence. The congregations voted those beguiling leaders into office since they taught what the people desired to hear in order to gain authority and prestige over them. (2 Peter 2:3; Jude 16). This is how the worship of the image — the idolizing of church government — developed!
The Roman "Province" Adopted With the progress of time the development of jurisdiction increased apace. Not only had a local elder usurped authority over his fellow elders, thus receiving the, exclusive title of "Bishop," but he had also acquired the dominion over all church congregations pertaining to a city — termed a diocese. The next step that occurred was the adoption of the Roman civil division of the "province" in order to unify the dioceses and the conflicting traditions that were developing in church customs.
Bingham, page 342, says: "A province was the cities of a whole region subjected to the authority of one chief magistrate, who resided in the metropolis, or chief city of the province. This was commonly a praetor, or a proconsul ... so likewise in the same metropolis there was a bishop, whose power extended over the whole province, whence he was called the metropolitan, or primate, as being the principal bishop of the province."
The government of the churches, the episcopate, was no longer a local association of bishop and elders, but monarchial. "The bishops were now regularly nominated by the clergy, approved by the congregations, and finally inducted into office by the ceremony of ordination." (A History of Rome to 565 A.D., p. 398.) Toward the close of the second century irregular synods in Ephesus, Jerusalem, Pontus and at Rome were held to assist in substituting the heathen Easter for the passover (Milman's footnote to Gibbon's Decline and Fall). By 250 A.D., these synods were held regularly, especially in Greece and Asia Minor.
From where did this practice come? Not from the Bible.
Says the historian Gibbon: They "borrowed the model of a representative council from the celebrated examples of their own country...."
"It was soon established," he says further, "as a custom and a law, that the bishops of the independent churches should meet in the capital of the province at stated periods of spring and autumn." The proceedings were moderated "by the presence of a listening multitude. Their decrees, which were styled Canons, regulated every important controversy of faith and discipline...."
The church government was beginning to issue decrees! The IMAGE was beginning to SPEAK with the force of law! Faith and discipline ceased to proceed from Scripture. Pagan traditions and customs became "the law."
"Suited to Private Ambition" With uncanny accuracy Gibbon explains that the "institution of synods was so well suited to private ambition, and to public interest, that in the space of a few years it was received throughout the whole empire... and the catholic church soon assumed the form, and acquired the strength, of a great federative republic."
Synods were universally accepted. Each local diocese, like a republic with its elected representatives and an ecclesiastical governor, joined together to form a province in the "public interest." It was the people who permitted the ministers and bishops to deceive them into modeling church government after the civil government. From the provincial councils there poured forth an ever increasing flow of correspondence federating all the provinces of the catholic or universal churches.
Exactly as the bishops had so recently grasped authority over every presbyter — who now became a priest — so in these provincial synods the difference in rank of the city from which each came caused the bishop of the metropolis or chief city of the province to prepare secretly to usurp authority over his fellow bishops and to acquire "the lofty titles of Metropolitans and Primates."
By now the mutual alliance of the bishops enabled them to attack the original "rights of the people" in having their "say-so." The participation of the people gradually ceased amid the superstitious reverence for the "divine authority" of the assemblies of the bishops. The bishops owed no allegiance to any higher human authority than their own assemblies in which they voted on matters of faith.
Constantine Begins Universal Councils After permitting the Catholic Faith to become the State religion of the Roman Empire, Constantine found it essential to unify conflicts within its ranks. To this end he called universal or ecumenical councils. Says Boak: "Procedure in the councils was modelled upon that of the Roman Senate; the meetings were conducted by imperial legates, their decisions were issued in the form of imperial edicts, and it was to the emperor that appeals from these decrees were made." (A History of Rome to 565 A.D., p. 492.)
There was as yet no Pope. The Roman Emperor was head of this Church. The laws of the councils were laws of the State. The Roman Senate, not a Biblical example, was the model. The "image" was gradually being fashioned more and more like the Roman civil government.
It was also during the age of Constantine that the Roman Empire was divided into great dioceses, thirteen in number. These were made up of numerous provinces over which bishops with the titles of Metropolitan or Primate presided. With the enforced universal councils being the highest assembly ruling the churches, Gibbon says it was not "long before an emulation of preeminence and power prevailed among the Metropolitans themselves, each affecting to display... the temporal honors and advantages of the city over which he presided..."
Naturally the Metropolitans who resided in the capitals of these great dioceses were to dominate all the other Primates over the provinces in his realm. Thus was the title of "Exarch" or "Patriarch" acquired by less than a dozen great bishops. There were now four grades of bishops: country bishops who became parish priests, city bishops, Metropolitans, Patriarchs.
Who would eventually be the Universal Bishop? We shall soon see.
It is notable that the title vicarii (vicars) was given by the Civil Government to the civil administrators of the great dioceses. Although the Patriarchs of the Catholic Church were really the vicars of the Emperor, who was head of the Catholic State Church, they claimed to be :he vicars of Christ, as all bishops had done decades prior in order to gain their eminence.
The Roman Empire was also divided into four Prefectures. While the Catholics did not institute any ecclesiastical office to compare to the prefects, they did soon find that among the Patriarchs over the dioceses, there was a rivalry that brought forth four dominant Patriarchs in the East and one in the West. These were of Constantinople, Antioch, Jerusalem and Alexandria in the East and Rome in the West.
Bingham, pages 344, 345, and other authors point out a highly important fact. The dioceses in the West, with the exception of Africa, lacked Patriarchs in Spain, Gaul and Britain, or else failed to send them to the councils. ROME WAS THE ONLY WESTERN PATRIARCHATE THAT REPRESENTED THE WEST IN DEALINGS WITH EASTERN BISHOPS, says Boak in the aforementioned book, pages 492, 493. It was easy to forsee that the bishop at Rome would be the dominant Patriarch since the Roman church was the greatest and its bishops claimed the inheritance of the attributes of the office of the apostle Peter by progressive traditions.
Was the Roman Bishop Always the Head of the Church? That the bishop at Rome was not from the time of Peter the head of the Church is admitted by the Roman Catholic Du Pin, who states, to the later embarrassment of Catholic doctrine, that Germany, Spain, France, Britain, Africa, Illyrcum and seven of the Italic provinces were NOT UNDER THE JURISDICTION OF THE BISHOP AT ROME during the early ages ( Du Pin de Disciplin. Eccles. Dessert. 1. n. 14. p. 92, quoted in Bingham's Antiquities, p. 348).
The bishop of Milan, Italy, was never ordained by the bishop of Rome, as he would have been if he were under his jurisdiction. This is even admitted by Pope Pelagius in one of his epistles (Bingham, p. 348). The African Church under the Patriarch of Carthage was originally independent as Justinian declares. In the 22nd canon of the Council of Milevis, the African churches prohibited appeals to the bishop at Rome. For centuries, Baluzius declares, the French synods "never allowed any appeals from their own determination to the pope" (Bingham, p. 349). The British or Celtic Church did not come under Roman dominion until the Synod of Whitby (664) brought about British conformity to the Roman Catholic mode of Easter observance. (E. R. Edman, The Light in Dark Ages, p. 184.)
The advancing star of the Roman Bishop developed rapidly with the transference in the fourth century — of the capital of the Empire to "New Rome" — Constantinople. Up to this time there were no great pontiffs that provoked jealousy, neither were there such factions that split the East. The bishops of Rome were carried upward by the sweep of dominant opinion. Eastern feuds disrupted the patriarchates in that area and left only the most recent, Constantinople, in the leadership. The domination of the Emperor in Constantinople was a disastrous handicap for the Eastern churches. The bishop of Rome was immeasurably freer to expand.
In 343 the Council of Sardica, COMPOSED OF WESTERN LEADERS ONLY, not a universal or ecumenical council, confirmed the Western feeling that the bishop of Rome ought to be the Head of the Church by sanctioning Pope Julius as the final arbiter in disputes resulting from the Arian controversy. Thirty-five years later the bishop at Rome became the "Pontifex Maximus" or Supreme Pontiff. This title once belonged to the high priest of the pagan Roman priesthood before Julius Caesar, the first Emperor was granted it. Thereafter, the office was passed to succeeding Emperors until Gratian refused it in 376. Two years later Damasus, Bishop of Rome, was declared Supreme Pontiff by imperial edict. (Bower's Lives of the popes.) The pagan Roman College of Pontiffs later became the Catholic business," wrote Boak in his pirvi-Pontifex Maximas "had charge of the calendar, fixed dates of the public festivals, and announced each month what days were open and what closed to public business," wrote Boak in his previously mentioned work, page 67. Little wonder that the Catholic Supreme Pontiff should "think to change times and laws" (Daniel 7:25) in opposition to Jesus Christ who is the actual High Priest of the Church (Heb. 7:21; 10:21).
The Papacy Finally Develops Many early writers and the populace termed the bishops in the Catholic Church "princes" in imitation of Isaiah 60:17 which they read: "I will make thy princes peace, and thy bishops righteousness." It became the customary view that the Church was the Kingdom and its leaders the rulers therein — a view exactly opposite to the gospel of Jesus which spoke of the Kingdom of God yet to be established (Bingham, p. 22).
With the rapid decline of the Western Roman Empire, the bishop of Rome rose in respect with the people. He determined to be the King of Kings in the government of the Church. We shall now see how the Roman bishops sought by their claims and obtained by popular approval the position of Ecclesiastical Caesar.
At the close of the fourth century Augustine wrote the "City of God," a book envisioning a Universal Catholic Empire of which the Roman Empire was the pattern. A few years later Innocent I pushed the claims of the papacy vigorously. Following him came Leo I, styled by many the first Pope. He was the first Latin preacher; for prior to him there seem to have been no public preaching by Catholics in Rome according to Sozomen (Milman, Latin Christianity, p. 56). Leo claimed to be the heir to Peter's primacy, advocated the complete "organization of the Church on the model of the Empire, with the pope as its religious head." He said resistance to his will was worthy of "hell,'' and advocated the death penalty for heresy.
Boak wrote in his book: "It was Leo also who induced the western emperor Valentinian III in 455 to order the whole western Church to obey the bishop of Rome as the heir to the primacy of Peter" (p. 493). Despite this decree that made the bishop of Rome the head of Western Christendom, the Council of Chalcedon, 451, a universal council claiming divine authority, placed the Patriarch of Constantinople "on an equality with the pope, a recognition against which the Pope Leo protested in vain."
By this time, too, the term parochiae — parish — began to be applied specifically to individual churches in the Episcopal dioceses, rather than to the dioceses themselves. Within another fifty years the common term "papa" from which "pope" is derived was applied almost exclusively in the West to the bishop of Rome, although, in prior years, "it was a common title of all bishops." However, the Eastern Catholics did not recognize this papal title, for in the time of Pope Gregory I, 590-604, the Patriarch of Constantinople claimed the title of "Universal Bishop." Against this Eastern usurpation of authority, Gregory stormed. He refused to appropriate the title to himself for obvious reasons, yet he exercised all the authority of a universal bishop.
After the Council of Constantinople in 869, the Roman and Eastern Churches ceased to meet together in ecumenical councils. In 1123 it was decided that the popes should appoint all bishops. The head of the "image of the beast" now governed with absolute power the entire ecclesiastical government. About 750 years later (1871), the Pope secured the declaration of infallibility when speaking "from the chair."
To assist the Roman Pontiff there have been developed through the centuries certain agencies. The College of Cardinals (Cardinals are bishops of dioceses) collectively advise the Pope. Under them are twelve Congregations,' three Tribunals and five Offices of the Roman Curia (bureaus, boards and courts) organized to administer Church affairs.
The "image" or "model" against which John warns is the hierarchy of jurisdiction, "the governing body of the Catholic Church — the Pope and the other bishops throughout the world." They possess according to Catholic sources "the power to make laws, to sit in judgment, and to fix spiritual penalties when necessary."
Its attributes belong ONLY TO GOD. To attribute them to any organization of men is to set that organization in the place of God — to commit idolatry — to worship the image of the beast! Not only does the Roman hierarchy claim such powers, but also millions of PROTESTANTS ARE WORSHIPPING SIMILAR IMAGES OF THEIR OWN MAKING — human church governments which pretend to exercise the powers of God.
Everyone committing such idolatry which will soon be forced on the world will suffer the wrath of God, the seven last plagues without mercy! Your only hope is to COME OUT OF THIS IDOLATROUS SYSTEM THAT IS GRIPPING THE WORLD. "Come out of her my people," says God (Rev. 8:4).