THE FIRST HALF OF THE SEVENTIETH WEEK: THE SEVEN SEALS
|The union of the church and the state - oh what a sinister and evil potion this is, when religion and politics are mixed together. No more lethal and noxious poison exists.|
The Seven Seals relate specifically to the Antichrist and result from his terrible rule and wars of conquest, beginning first with the Gog/Magog War, and extending from there over the entire length of the first half of the Seventieth Week. They are as follows:
Thus, a picture of the first half of the Seventieth Week begins to emerge. The paramount theme is one of incessant war, confusion, and chaos - at least in those parts of the world and within those circles which resist the cajolery and blandishments of Babylon and the Antichrist; world conquest is their sole object, and where flattery fails, brute force takes over. It is a time of titanic struggle and enormous striving; an era of great triumph on the one hand, and futile resistance on the other; a period of incredible victory on the one side and crushing defeat on the other.
And now, in the midst of all this, the process of winnowing begins - the separation of the wheat from the tares, the good seed from the bad seed, the real Christians from those who had merely professed Christianity for advantage or gain.
"Now the brother shall betray the brother to death, and the father the son; and children shall rise up against their parents, and shall cause them to be put to death. "And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved (Mark 13:12-13).
Persecution, if it is anything, is certainly a sifting process. Throughout the Western World, and most especially in the United States, Christianity has enjoyed undisturbed peace for generations. With many who call themselves Christian - even "born again" - Christianity is not now the faith of ardent conviction, such as that which exists in the hearts of those believers who now so cruelly suffer for their faith in other parts of the world; rather the faith of the Western World, and most especially the United States, is one of rote truth, dead doctrine, and shallow emotion instilled into the mind by means of what today passes as "charismatic Christianity" - an evangelical Christianity with which a D.L. Moody, a Hudson Taylor, or a C.T. Studd would utterly not be familiar.
A persecution, breaking out today with great violence, after so many years of tranquillity, could not fail to winnow the Church. The atmosphere of Christianity in America has been corrupted. A secular spirit has crept in - one which even grasps after, of all things, naked and profane political power. Its leaders can be numbered among the most prominent in American Christendom; the sad truth is that many of these men are received with open arms by unbelievers into the highest recesses of worldly political power. It is against these kinds of leaders that Savanarola, the great fourteenth century Italian reformer railed when he charged:
"The Church had once her golden priests, and wooden chalices, but now the chalices are made of gold and the priests are made of wood."1
Paraphrased and put in a modern context, it would read:
"The Church had once her golden pastors in small wooden buildings, but now the buildings are made of gold and the pastors are small little men made of wood."
Pember prophetically saw the condition of today's Church when he wrote more than 100 years ago:
"... [evangelicals] do indeed frequent their churches ... in crowds: they excite a feeling ... by grand buildings ... by beautiful music ... and strong political conviction. But if they clothe themselves with the semblance of devotion in their worship, they altogether lose this outward distinction in the world, and bewilder those who are honestly asking what they shall do to be saved by plunging into gaieties, frivolities, pursuits, and the business of this life, as if they were to remain among them forever ... The powers of the World to Come have lost their hold upon them, they are even as other men: so many points have been yielded, amusements permitted, and vices condoned, that it is almost impossible to distinguish them from nonprofessors unless they recite their creed [i.e., (in today's context) claim to be "born-again"] ... And although many are ready to confess that the Christian must take up his cross, yet being thoroughly satisfied that in these modern times the unwearied zeal of Christ and His apostles would be quite out of place, they can by no means find a cross to bear. If, however, God in His anger smite them with sickness, bereavement, disappointment, or loss, they talk of their trials, and comfort themselves with the thought that they are imitating the Lord by enduring troubles which they cannot in any way avoid.2
Indeed, it is an evil specter that has noiselessly glided into the Church while it slumbered and slept, seducing the saints into an unlawful alliance with the state - the sphere of Satan's authority and power. The Church is flattered by the attention of the state; it embraces it. Worldly advantage has no doubt been gained; but alas, it has been gained at the cost of the honor and glory of the Church's heavenly Lord and Savior.
The testimony of her heavenly character is lost when the Church embraces worldly political power and her place of separation from the world is surrendered. She falsifies the Word of the Lord which says of His disciples,
"They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world." (John 17:16).
True, in appearance, Christianity in the last few years has gained a victory in the United States with its false alliance with partisan party politics. The Church is rich and increased with wealth, politicians curry its favor; but this is the glory of the world, not of a crucified Christ. It is the world that has gained the victory, not true Christianity. And the natural consequence of this unlawful union of the Church with the state is that its doors are thrown open to unbelievers - unbelievers who will inevitably seek to use it to suppress the truth of the Gospel and the real saints of God. AND THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT THE SCRIPTURES PREDICT WITH REGARD TO THE PERSECUTION OF THE FIRST HALF OF THE SEVENTIETH WEEK. It will in large part be a persecution directed against the saints of God by the professing Church - and not necessarily just the liberal and Catholic churches, but even that portion of the evangelical Church which today has so heartily embraced secular political power.
It is a deadly potion that the Church has mixed for itself, mixing patriotism to corrupt Gentile power (i.e., the United States) with the Word of God. It is spiritual fornication, the fornication of Babylon the Great. It is precisely this kind of thinking which has slaughtered the saints of God up through the centuries: the blood of the saints is involved here. God help those who drink of this potion! They are drinking damnation to themselves.
"... they will lay their hands on you and will persecute you, delivering you to the synagogues [churches] and prison ..." (Luke 21:12).
Oh, what a sinister and evil potion this is, when religion and politics are mixed together, no more lethal and noxious poison exists. Few, if any, of our readers, outside of Northern Ireland, the Balkans, the Caucasus, or Iran, could possibly imagine its malice and deadly danger. With a toss of our heads, we are tempted instead to consign all such imagination to another age, to see such things as the result of superstition and nothing else. But in the frenzy of war and chaos - such as will characterize the Seventieth Week - such things have a way of reappearing. The things that we thought were dead and buried, we will find are not so dead after all - as those in the Balkans have found out to their horror.
We face a new Inquisition! An inquisition that will be forced upon us in the name of "God and Country," and not simply by strangers; but by those who we had deemed friends and neighbors, and by those - God help them - that we had thought of as our brothers and sisters in Christ.
"But you will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death ... (Luke 21:16).
But what does this exactly mean? In the Inquisition3 of old, when a man was even slightly suspected of harboring thoughts contrary to the religious authorities of his day, "familiars" [or spies] of the Inquisition were employed to watch him, with the view of discovering the least excuse for handing him over to the tribunal. Had he said something against the impious union of the Church and the state? Did he hold an opinion of any sort contrary to that of the established religious authorities? Had he said something against the state itself? [Which, when state and Church are united, means, of course, betrayal of God.] Was he holding religious meetings in his home without permission or meeting in a church not approved by the state? [Which again - when Church and state are united - could mean not just religious treason, but state treason as well.] Any of these things were enough to create suspicion. He was now marked and denounced by the "familiars."
At midnight a knock is heard. The suspected man is ordered to accompany the "messengers." His wife and family know what that means; their distress is great. They must now take a last farewell of the beloved husband and father. Not a word of entreaty or of remonstrance dare be breathed. Thus, suddenly and unexpectedly did this frightful force pounce upon its victims. Wives gave up their husbands, husbands their wives, parents their children, etc. An impenetrable secrecy surrounded all the proceedings of this institution. And the workings of imagination only lent further to it's fearfulness. Neither rank, nor age, nor sex, afforded any defense against its watchful vigilance and pitiless severity.
Such severity has a way of winnowing the Church - you can believe that! But, then, oh how the Church will shine! The dross washed away! The gold revealed at last!
"And they that be wise, shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever." (Daniel 12:3)
And again -
"It will lead to an opportunity for your testimony.
"So make up your minds not to prepare beforehand to defend yourselves;
"For I will give you utterance and wisdom which none of your opponents will be able to resist or refute." (Luke 21:13-15)
- Brinton, Christopher, and Wolff, A History of Civilization, Vol. 1. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1958. pg. 236.
- Op. Cit., Miller, pg. 198.
- The Inquisition was a secret religious commission established under state authority in Catholic Spain in the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries. It was charged with maintaining Catholic faith and tradition as the undergirding of Spanish state authority - in other words, the authority of the king, who was believed to be the vicar of God insofar as the state was concerned. Opponents of the Monarchy and the church were arrested by the tens of thousands during the Inquisition's almost 300 years of operation, and put to death.
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