Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition.—2 Thess. 2.3.

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THE CHURCH OF OUR TIME.

Excerpted from:

THE

ORIGINAL COVENANTER.

VOL. III.

SEPTEMBER, 1881.

No. 3.

X

TrueCovenanter.com Editor's Introduction.

How can the modern Christian believer make sense of the present landscape of a professing Christian Church that is divided into so many contrary types of religion, and so many strange defections from the teachings and practices of the Bible?  If it scandalizes the world, should it stumble him too?  Or is this, at the present time, a confirmation of explicit prophecies of Holy Scripture?  The following article serves to help modern Covenanters, and perhaps Christians of other convictions as well, recognize the correspondence between the disappointing scene of our present day, and the “falling away” foretold in Scripture.  May it be blessed by the Lord to help us wait patiently, looking forward to the end anticipated, when the “falling away” shall be terminated, and the rebuilding of Zion in her glory commenced.

2018.05.31::JTK.

The Holy Spirit who “searcheth all things, yea the deep things of God, and declares the end from the beginning,” has given a prophetic delineation of the church as now existing in the world.  Both in the Old and New Testament, especially by Daniel, Paul, and John, “the Spirit speaketh expressly” of a great apostasy.  And those whom Christ has chosen and designated his “two witnesses” could not sustain this character or perform the duties of their peculiar office if willingly ignorant of those prophesies.  But Christ has promised them all necessary furniture for their work.  “I will give to my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy.”  He does not specify what he will give, but in general such equipment that “they shall prophesy;” that is, they shall be enabled to understand, expound, and apply the predictions which bear upon their own times; at least so far as to keep them from complicity with the apostasy, and also to oppose it by their faithful testimony.

The great apostasy was predicted by Daniel, and it is described by intelligible symbols in the 7th chapter of his prophecy, 20th and 25th verses.  The symbols are “a horn that had eyes and a mouth that spake very great things;” that is, “great words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High, and think to change times and laws,” etc.  Now it does not appear from history that any enemy to the Most High and the saints has appeared in the world answering to this prophetic description, except the Romish church in alliance with the “ten horns”—tyrannical nations.  And lest Daniel’s symbols should be misinterpreted, they are explained by Paul in 2 Thess. 2.3,4, by “a falling away”—or, an apostasy; and in 1 Tim. 4.1,3, “forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats,” etc.  These are characteristics so plain that no reader can mistake their reference to the church of Rome, to the exclusion of all other enemies of God and his saints.

Again, the apostle John describes the same apostasy by the symbols of a beast and false prophet, the latter obviously {82} indicating this enemy’s ecclesiastical character, Rev. 19.20.  In the eleventh chapter of Revelation and second verse, this confederacy is designated a heathenized church.  “Gentiles,”  “reprobate silver, because the Lord hath rejected them;” for the word translated “leave out,” more literally signifies—cast out.  The false miracles by which Rome awes and deceives her votaries, Paul explains by “deceivableness of unrighteousness,” and more plainly by calling them “lying wonders,” Rev. 13.13,14; 2 Thess 2.9,10.

The phrase “latter times,” seems to designate in this connection the Christian dispensation, within which this great apostasy was destined to be developed; and all Christians who have been preserved from fraternizing with Rome papal are agreed that the predictions above quoted apply to that church and no other combination of professing Christians.  The period of this falling away is variously expressed—“a time, times, and half a time; forty and two months; a thousand two hundred and threescore days;” and all these are certainly understood to mean precisely an equal, and the same period—1260 years.  In close alliance with antichristian nations the church of Rome is during this period to continue the apostasy.

Other churches, daughters of that prolific “mother of harlots,” were also to appear in succession of time, but not contemporary with their mother’s duration.  Of these we have descriptions in their causes and character.  “The time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine.  They shall heap to themselves teachers (a license which we know holy mother never gives,) “and shall be turned unto fables,” 2 Tim. 4.3,4.  Not in “the latter times,” but emphatically in “perilous times, in the last days,” these formalists, who cannot “endure sound doctrine” but prefer “fables;” who are satisfied with a “form of godliness, denying the power thereof,” are to be developed for the farther trial of Christ’s two witnesses.  See their character delineated in 2 Tim. 3.1-5.

Now we are aware of the sentiment often expressed by divines in diverse forms, that prophecy does not furnish a safe basis on which to predicate doctrine.  And truly the {83} crude interpretations and reckless applications of prophecy are admonitory to all sober minds.  But are not “the other Scriptures wrested” in like manner?  Indeed they are.  Even the most fundamental and important doctrines of the Bible are liable to perversion.  Thus it is with the doctrines of the Trinity, the incarnation, atonement, etc.  We have heard a professed follower of Luther, for example, speak flippantly of the “old exploded doctrine of the decrees!” and many others with equal confidence reject the “exploded theory of innate ideas.”  Now we venture to assert that to explode either of these doctrines would involve the explosion of human nature!  No, no; although prophecy has been often misinterpreted by the learned as by the unlearned, it continues to be a part—a most important part of “all Scripture, profitable for doctrine.” 2 Tim. 3.16.

When our Saviour promised to send the “Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost,” did he not say to his disciples, “He will show you things to come”?  And how shall the disciples locate and identify the great apostasy of which “the Spirit speaketh expressly”—retòs, not in ambiguous language like the heathen oracles,—unless they can certainly both understand and apply the prophetic description of that enemy?  And as matter of fact, and as already noticed, all Protestants agree that this apostasy is the Romish apostasy—designated by names which are applicable to no other combination, as “Babylon the Great, Mother of Harlots, that great city which reigneth over the kings of the earth.” Rev. 17.5,18.  This is the church of Rome.[1]

She is still more minutely described as “arrayed in purple and scarlet color, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls—the attire of an harlot.”  Thus in her rich adornment, her splendid apparel, she is fit to associate with the kings of the earth, and prepared to “commit fornication with them.” Chap. 18.3.  Young men void of understanding, and among them princes of royal blood, are often captivated by her pious language—“I have peace offerings with me: this day have I paid my vows,” etc. Prov. 7.14. {84}

But this woman is a mother, and this name necessarily suggests offspring; and the church of Rome says she is, and boasts of her claim to be “the mother and mistress of all churches.”  Her claim, however, we may well suppose to be somewhat exorbitant, as usual with all proud boasters.  It is worthy of special notice that all her offspring are daughters.  For although she has with affected maternal fondness called the King of France her “eldest son”—and this implies a vain boast of more sons in her family—yet nowhere do we find in prophecy even one son attributed to her; this honor being assigned and restricted to another woman. Rev. 12.1,5.

These harlot daughters naturally imitate their mother’s example.  If they cannot fully justify her they will apologize for her.  By outward adornment and multiplied decorations both mother and daughters exhibit much ingenuity in changing objects of faith into objects of sense.  The eye is dazzled with gorgeous scenery, the productions of the skillful artist’s æsthetic tastes displayed in painting and sculpture.  The ear is charmed with music, vocal and instrumental, rendered in skillful operatic style, and associated with sentimental hymns thrilling the heart, but not troubling the guilty conscience.  To these attractions are added mystical festivals, Christmas, Easter, etc., and public processions—all calculated and intended to arrest the attention and captivate the affections of the populace.

Now if we have succeeded in a correct application of the sure word of prophecy to the church of our day; then we may safely infer the need of a THIRD REFORMATION—that reformation predicted and promised by the ministry of the third symbolic angel of reform. Rev. 14.9, etc.[2]  Thus it is that Christ’s covenanted witnesses, during the period of the great apostasy, by “taking heed to the more sure word of prophecy,” have already “antedated the millennium;” and have also realized in measure a foretaste of that peace which Christ promised when he said to his disciples, “In the world ye shall have tribulation, but in me ye shall have peace.  Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”


Footnotes:

1. Our authors speak of “All protestants” not according to the loose terminology of our time, but the terminology of former generations in which this was certainly the case.  See for example the various resources in our Anti-Papacy and Eschatology collections of documents, where the reader will find a sampling of the unvarying harmony between Lutherans, Puritans, Presbyterians, and others, in this doctrine.—JTKer.

2. It may be worth noting, in our age of greater variety in eschatological interpretations, and suspicion of “Steelite” comments on such matters, that this interpretation respecting the third angel of Rev. 14.9, was not a development of a particular group of Reformed Presbyterians, but the same exposition suggested by one of the earliest pastors of the RPCNA in his 1814 publication of Lectures upon the Principle Prophecies of the Revelation, pp. 468-469.—JTKer.