Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Woman On the Beast the Roman Catholic Church?

The other day I received the following question: "Is the Woman On the Beast (Revelation chapter 17) the Roman Catholic Church?"

In Revelation chapter 17 we read about a curious description wherein a woman is riding on the beast.  The topic is given an entire chapter in God's Word, which starts like this:

One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the punishment of the great prostitute, who sits on many waters. With her the kings of the earth committed adultery and the inhabitants of the earth were intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries.”

Then the angel carried me away in the Spirit into a desert. There I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names and had seven heads and ten horns. The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, and was glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls. She held a golden cup in her hand, filled with abominable things and the filth of her adulteries. This title was written on her forehead:


Many respected Bible prophecy scholars do believe the woman being described is the Roman Catholic Church, and although, at this point, we do not know with absolute certainty, I have not seen any convincing study that refutes that idea.  We must understand that some of God's prophetic Word is still hidden from us and will not be revealed until it is time.  Another example of that is the identity of the Antichrist and the ethnicity thereof (Muslim, Jew, Roman, ...?).  

We also know that knowledge will increase in the end times (and indeed we are beginning to understand considerably more than we knew even a few decades ago).  This idea of our knowledge increasing in the end times is explained in Daniel 12:4, "But you, Daniel, close up and seal the words of the scroll until the time of the end. Many will go here and there to increase knowledge."

Returning to Revelation 17 and the woman on the beast, we do see some things for sure.  For example, we notice that the woman and the beast are separate entities.  Following the analogy, we also know that a rider controls the animal on which they ride.  Throughout the Bible we know that the Church is given a womanly personification, so it would seem the beast is being controlled by a very powerful "world church".  We see in the text that it is the third mention of seven heads and ten horns.  That provides us clues that it is the same beast that we read comes out of the water in Revelation 13 and that is empowered by Satan, depicted as the dragon, in Revelation 12.  Thus, the conclusion is that a very powerful Church will be used to control the Antichrist (ultimately it is all controlled by Satan himself).

Many believe that mystery Babylon is not actually Babylon (now located in modern day Iraq); but, rather, mystery Babylon is a codename for another city.  As we look at what city could fit the description of seven hills on which she sits (Revelation 17:9), the best fit is clearly where the Vatican is, as it sits on what is called "A city of Seven Hills".  As we see the colors and imagery referred to in Revelation 17:4, they also fit the garb worn by officials of the Roman Catholic Church, and we often see images of the Pope holding various religious symbols, to include a golden cup.

An examination of Catholicism also reveals a lot of false doctrines that do not line up with the Bible, as they are clearly man-made rules.  In Mark 7:7, Jesus expressed disdain for abandoning God's Word and following the traditions of men.  The Bible clearly teaches us to test the doctrinal viewpoints, behavior, and claims made by church leaders (Revelation 2:2) and condemn churches that diminish a personal devotion to God (Revelation 2:4); that tolerate immoral church leaders, teachers or laypersons (Revelation 2:14-15, Revelation 2:20); and that become spiritually dead (Revelation 3:17-18).  

Of equal importance, if a church teaches people anything contrary to the Bible, it can, in a sense, be considered a "false prophet".  Jesus warns us that many false Christs and false prophets will try to lead us astray, especially in the end times (Matthew 24:5; Matthew 24:11; Matthew 24:24; Mark 13:6; and Mark 13:22).

More specific and obvious beliefs and practices of Catholicism which substantially deviate from the Word of God would be as follows:

CONFESSING SINS: The Roman Catholic Church teaches that their members should confess their sins to a priest.  Scripture, however, clearly teaches that we should confess our sins to God (1 John 1:9).  Notice it says "He (God) is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness"; furthermore, no mention whatsoever of confessing sins to a church leader is given (there or elsewhere in scripture).  Indeed it would be a "controlling" religion to require we tell our sins to someone within a man-made system.

MARY: The Roman Catholic Church gives Mary considerable more prominence than the Bible does.  They teach Mary is the "Queen of Heaven", a perpetual virgin, and the co-redemptress who ascended into heaven.  The Bible explains Mary was a servant of God that was chosen to be the mother of Jesus.  Her virginity and obedience to God were the noted characteristics. 

The attributes given to her by the Roman Catholic Church are well beyond anything mentioned in the Bible.  There is no indication that she ascended into heaven as Jesus did (Acts 1:9).  As for Mary being a perpetual virgin, we know that Jesus had siblings, for they are specifically mentioned in the Bible on multiple occasions (Matthew 12:46; Luke 8:19; and Mark 3:31).  In fact, Matthew 13:55 records that Jesus had at least four brothers: James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas. We're also told that Jesus had sisters (Matthew 13:56) though they are not named nor do we know exactly how many.  

There are also other references to His brothers (John 7:1-10; Acts 1:14; and Galatians 1:19).  These siblings are clearly referenced in the Bible, yet many Catholics claim that they were cousins.  In each instance, the Greek word for “brother” is used so reading it any other way is trying to force something into the Bible that is not there.  It stands to reason that Mary and Joseph had offspring and that Jesus, therefore, had half-siblings in His family.  As for Mary being a co-redemptress and another mediator between God and man, that is an extremely dangerous assertion, as only Jesus fills the role of our redeemer (Acts 4:12) and mediator (1 Timothy 2:5).  To put a human on the same level as Jesus--who was and is God, lived a perfect and righteous life, died on the cross, and rose again--is blasphemous.

BAPTISM: The New Testament teaches that baptism was always performed after someone had a saving faith in Christ.  Our salvation is not due to baptism; rather, baptism is a symbol of our profession of Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.  The Roman Catholic Church also practices baptizing infants, which is a practice that is never found in Scripture.  Acts 16:31 declares that our salvation is by believing in Jesus and the gospel written about Him (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John).

PRAYER: The Roman Catholic Church teaches that its members should petition Mary and the saints for their prayers.  However, there is not any mention of doing so anywhere in the Bible.  Rather, Jesus taught us, via what is commonly referred to as the "Lord's Prayer", to pray directly to God the Father in heaven (Matthew 6:9).

PRIESTHOOD: The Bible teaches us that we are all a "royal priesthood" (1 Peter 2:9), yet the Roman Catholic Church teaches that only certain members of the clergy are "priests". Again, this is clearly a man-made idea that inserts a level of authority from the church that does not exist biblically.

As we can see by those few examples, the Roman Catholic Church teaches many things that are just not biblical.  We also know that the organization is extremely political and powerful, wherein Archbishops, and certainly the Pope, command attention from world leaders (in contrast to Jesus, who came in a much more humble manner).  It is, therefore, believed by many that the Roman Catholic Church will be used as a tool of Satan in the end times to accomplish evil deeds and turn people away from biblical truths.  Many also believe it will reach out to other world religions and, in essence, become a "One World Religion" upon which the Antichrist will stand.

Yet, while it is clear that the Roman Catholic Church practices many doctrines that is not biblical, I believe we do need to be cautious when we conclude, for certain, that it is the "woman that rides the beast" described in Revelation 17.  It most certainly is something we should pay attention to.  Moreover, any of us that have friends and family that are trapped within the false teachings of the Roman Catholic Church should try to help them out of that situation.  It's a very difficult thing to do, however, because their traditions and beliefs run very deep and, in a cultish way, they are extremely discouraged to challenge what is taught, even if it clearly does not have any biblical support.  

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