That they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they may also may be in us: that the world may believe that thou didst send me. John 17:21
The beast out of the earth represents the false prophet or false religion. This false prophet has been at work as long as sin has been in the world. During the Old Testament days this was already apparent and Christ and the Apostles warn the New Testament church constantly concerning those who would lead them astray. This falsehood is nothing new. However, the striving of this falsehood becomes more intense as the end approaches.
It is a strange and almost unbelievable picture which is presented to us in Revelation 13. Who would ever have thought that godless, totalitarian government and a false religion or church would be allied! Yet, that is the clear picture of which we may not lose sight.
The true church, the body of Jesus Christ, was organized soon after its birth. Through its organization she has wielded a tremendous influence in the history of the world. Satan has attacked that church from the beginning. However, that organization was far stronger than the attacks from without. To make a more effective assault on the church, Satan must have his own organization. The division of Babel must be overcome. Only in a united attack is there hope of victory. He is the imitator of God and borrows from God’s plans to do his diabolical work.
Such an organization has a very innocent appearance. It looks like a lamb. The true church must look more and more like the Lamb. There seems to be much good in the outward appearance of this beast out of the earth. His success is phenomenal. There will even be the temptation on the part of the church to imitate the tactics of the false church because it seems to be so much more successful.
The picture which is here presented of the false church (Rev. 13:11–18) is a picture of unity. The whole organization is incorporated in the body of the beast. It speaks with one voice. It presses on to one goal. The true church should also exhibit that kind of unity. It must be the one body of Christ. It should speak with one voice. It should press on to one goal. But, alas, it doesn’t. The true church has been divided and sub-divided. Christ prayed (John 17:21) that that church might be one. The children of darkness again seem to he wiser in their generation than the children of light.
Many voices are being heard today condemning the fragmentation of Protestantism and urging a greater amount of unity. This is the spirit of ecumenicity. It is true that an ecumenical spirit should be found in the heart of every believer. However, it may never be an artificial unity. Christ prays that it may be a unity like the unity between the Father and the Son. It should never be a unity at the expense of the truth! Satan’s false church has no regard for the truth. It tramples the truth under foot. Its only goal is unity regardless of cost. Any ecumenical movement which compromises the truth works right into the hand of the false church and helps to establish it.
The false church is manifesting itself clearly today. Numbers mean far more than the truth. Modernism denies the truth of Scripture. A World Council of Churches holds a meeting at which not only almost every shade of Protestantism but Greek Catholics and even Roman Catholics are welcome. There can be no creedal basis of unity in such an organization.
An attempt is being made in our day to erect a super-church. It will preach the religion of humanity…man is god. It is the strongest ally of totalitarianism. It is no church at all…it is a beast!
1. How must we seek the unity of the church? Is it enough to say that it must be a spiritual unity? Is organizational unity also to be sought?
2. Was the separation of 1857, bringing the Christian Reformed Church into existence, justified? Explain.
3. Is denominationalism a sin? Discuss.