s_k_Apostasy From True Religion
THE APOSTASY FROM TRUE RELIGION - I
Songs: 110, Beauties of Truth
203, Building for Eternity
Scripture Reading: 2 Thessalonians 2
Eternal God, to Thee be the glory, the majesty, the eternity of days. O Lord, grant us to love Thee with all our heart, with all our mind, and with all our soul, and our neighbor for Thy sake; that the grace of brotherly love may dwell in us, and all envy, harshness, and ill will die out; and fill our hearts with feelings of love, kindness and compassion, so that constantly rejoicing in the happiness and good success of others, we may follow Thee, who art Thyself the epitome of true and perfect love.
Most gracious God, send out Thy light and Thy truth, let them lead us into the paths of peace and righteousness; deliver us from dullness of spirit, and any mood of depression that prevails over us. Cleanse the thoughts of our minds and purge the meditations of our hearts that they may be acceptable in Thy sight. Forgive us, O God, for the good that we have left undone, and for the evil that we have done.
Father, we thank Thee for Thy Word which foreshows the trend that men of the world would follow, that dissatisfied with the simplicity of the teaching of Thy Word, men would turn the truth into a lie, would formulate creeds and theories of their own which would be nothing more than fables. We appreciate Thy goodness in forewarning us of this turn of events.
Thou hast identified for us the sinister power by which this shameful work would be accomplished, and warned us against being deceived by their vain pronouncements. This ruthless power would wear out Thy saints, and cast Thy truth to the ground, and would practice and prosper.
Thanks to Thee for the vivid picture of the man of sin that should speak in Thy name, shamefully declaring himself to be God. Thanks to Thee for pre-informing us of his existence and his long tenure of activity. That sinister power was beginning to work in Apostolic days, and will still be active when Thy dear Son returns to earth, who will destroy him with the brightness of His coming.
We also rejoice that we have been informed in advance of the dawn of a better day, of a time when Rome with all her errors will no longer hold the minds of men in abject darkness, and we thank Thee that for us that day has dawned, and the true light now shines. And now that we have the light help us to walk by it, cleansing from our lives every dark shadow, letting our light so shine before men that they may see our good works and glorify Thee in the day of visitation.
Fill us, we pray, with Thy spirit, that we may have power to do far greater things than lie in our own abilities. Relate our lives, O God, unto making this a better world, to the establishment of life and peace. This we ask in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. THE APOSTASY FROM TRUE RELIGION - I
How God Revealed Himself to Men
"God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son."
With these words the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews pictures the happy arrangement that had prevailed from the time of Adam, when God first began working with mankind, to his own day. Under this plan members of the human family desirous of living the higher life were informed of the pattern for that life.
During these years ordinary humans enjoyed direct contact with the divine mind through the ministration of angels, and by knowledge transmitted through the medium of Holy Spirit power. Angels appeared direct to Abraham. Moses the great Emancipator was permitted to hear the voice of the angel speaking from the burning bush. The commandments and ordinances given on Mt. Sinai as the governing law for the Children of Israel in the Wilderness, were given by angels, hence bore the mark of divine authority. They were the revealed will of God for that day and time.
The Prophets of Israel bore special messages from God, and they were always forthright and authoritative. The formula was, "The word of the Lord came to" so-and-so. There were intervals when no new truths were revealed in this way, and under those circumstances the people were confined to the record of what already had been given, much the same as we are today. One such instance is recorded in the time of Eli, "The word of the Lord was precious in those days: there was no open vision" (1 Sam. 3:1).
It was God's purpose that earth's inhabitants should be informed about what He has in store for them, that they should know His will and be conscious of the blessings to attend obedience and the curses that will accompany disobedience. It was revealed that "ignorance" alienates from the life of God, but "happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding" (Eph. 4:18, Prov. 3:13). The Israelites were enjoined to diligently teach the law of God to their children: "And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes (Deut. 6:6-8).
As the people were listening to Jesus preach, He told them to "Search the Scriptures," and Paul said to his son in the faith, Timothy, "But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them, and that from a child thou hast known the Holy Scriptures which are able to make thee wise unto salvation" (2 Tim. 3:14-15). When God spake through His Son Jesus, the people living at that time enjoyed the rarest opportunity. Jesus not only taught them of the perfect law of God but also showed them the example of a flawless life.
To one living during these fruitful years, it could easily appear that acquaintance with the Divine plan and knowledge of God's saving Truth was a condition that could be normally expected, and that as long as people were living on earth, some among them would possess this knowledge and choose to serve the Eternal God and loyally live up to His superior laws. Yet the revelations made by these very holy men through whom God was speaking, revealed that the trend would actually be the reverse. A time was to arrive when man's inborn perversity and rebellion against Divine Authority would impel him to depart from divine guidance and seek to pattern religion after his own liking and apostatize from the true teachings of God Almighty.
The Bible foreshows this universal departure from the true religion in a number of different ways. The apostle Paul speaks explicitly about this apostasy in 2 Tim. 4:1-4: "I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth and shall be turned unto fables."
The language used here is emphatic. Sometime after Paul's day an era should arrive when men would not endure sound doctrine but after their own lusts, should heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears, or teachers to tickle their own fancies, and these teachers would turn people away from the Truth and turn them to fables, or, as translated by Dr. Moffatt, "they would give up listening to the truth and turn to myths."
Paul speaks again of this apostasy in his farewell address to the elders of the church at Ephesus. Let us read Acts 20:29-30, "For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them." Men would arise who, not satisfied with the simplicity of the apostolic teachings, should choose to fashion religion after their own liking, and depart from the faith of Jesus Christ. The same Apostle, in his second epistle to the Thessalonians, forewarned again of this corruption of true religion by sinister forces, and revealed that the process had already begun.
2 Thessalonians 2:1-2 speaks of the second advent of the Messiah, an event which at that time was still at a distance. A long period of years was to separate Paul's time of writing from Christ's personal return to earth, and during this time, some spectacular events must take place: "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; who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God" (2 Thess. 2:3-4). Later on we shall identify this power carrying out this shameful program.
Verse 2 Thess. 1:7 reads. "For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work: only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way" (R. S. V.).
In Matthew 25 Jesus makes a very broad statement about the universal turning away from the truth to fables. Beginning at the first of the chapter he differentiates between the careless and the alert among those who have entered His service, by listing them as wise and foolish virgins. In this parable, Jesus reveals something more--a coming apostasy when no one on earth would be living the true religion.
He, the Bridegroom, was to be absent for a period of time. He was going to heaven where he would be seated at the Father`s right hand. During some part of this absence, all would slumber and sleep. Now, in a sound sleep, one is totally oblivious to what is going on about him. He knows absolutely nothing. He cannot reason, make decisions, or act upon decisions made. He is powerless to accomplish anything, and that is a fitting example of the condition of God's true Church during the long night of the apostasy. Let us repeat: during the absence of the bridegroom, all were to slumber and sleep.
Among the religious systems who give partial credence to the idea of a general apostasy, most are inclined to ignore the divine forecast that this apostasy should be total--that all would slumber and sleep, claiming that during the entire period of the dark, medieval age, God had living witnesses upon earth. Some even go so far as to make the claim that the titular heads of their particular church body form a direct succession of the apostles from Christ's day to the present time. However, this position is unscriptural. In 1 Cor. 4:9 Paul wrote, "For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last," or, "last apostles," as it reads in the margin. The Douay Version reads, "For I think that God has set forth us apostles, the last." And the phraseology of Rev. 21:14 should come as a shock to those who believe in a succession of apostles, showing as it does, that away down at the return of Christ from Heaven and the establishment of the new order upon earth, in the wall of the heavenly Jerusalem, there will be the names of only twelve apostles of the Lamb. No place here for a succession.
Other Biblical forecasts picture this complete falling away from the truth either directly or in figurative language.
The Prophet Isaiah, depicting the situation that shall prevail when God's saving knowledge begins to be broadcast to all mankind at Christ's second coming, has this to say: "Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people" (Isa. 60:1-2). The masses of mankind will be in darkness regarding true religion.
The Prophet Jeremiah describes the reaction of the people at this same time with the following words: ". . . the Gentiles shall come unto thee from the ends of the earth, and shall say, Surely our fathers have inherited lies, vanity, and things wherein there is no profit" (Jer. 16:19)--the apostasy had been complete.
In figurative language the Prophet Joel (Joel 1:1) forecasts that a sinister power would arise and destroy the food crops. He would lay God's vine waste, inflicting such damage that it would be completely dead, its branches bleached white. Joel 1:12 is revealing: "The vine is dried up, and the fig tree languisheth; . . . even all the trees of the field are withered: because joy is withered away from the sons of men."
Always the fruits of righteousness create joy, a joy which cannot be dimmed, because the consciousness that our works are pleasing to God brings the assurance of an abundant future life regardless of present tribulation. When all effort to bear good fruits ceased, when the goal of moral perfection no longer challenged the will of man, when the reward of eternal life no longer captured his desire, thrilled his imagination, and influenced his life, then God withdrew. No living water fell from heaven, the rivers of life ceased to flow, the pastures dried up, drought overcame the land.
Religious and Secular History Record This Apostasy
It is assuring to note the agreement between the Scriptural forecast and history. From the History of the Reformation, by D'Aubigne, we read: "The Church was in the beginning a community of brethren. All of its members were taught of God, and each possessed the liberty of drawing for himself from the divine fountain of life . . . But the writings of these very Apostles forewarn us that from the midst of these brethren, there shall arise a power which shall overthrow this simple and primitive order."
In a work entitled "Early Christianity and Paganism," we read: "From our pictures of the inner life of the Christian Church about the close of the second and earlier years of the third century, we pass to a rapid survey of the Imperial history of this period. For the first 150 years of its existence, the story of Christianity is the story of a separate people: of something apart from the Empire. But after the death of Marcus their numbers and influence brought the Christians into daily contact with the Government in Rome or in one or other of the provinces."
Mention is then made of two stalwarts for the true faith, Hippolytus and Tertullian, men who lived near the close of the second century. "Evidently the same feeling was working in Tertullian at Carthage as actuated Hippolytus in Rome; a persuasion that the church in the persons of its responsible leaders had left its first love, and was sanctioning a more lax and easy way than had been set forth as the pattern life by the Apostles and the teachers of the first hundred years of the existence of Christianity as a religion and a life. These troubles arose from the changed conditions, notably from the numbers and social position of the Christians, who were now largely recruited from the class which would naturally participate freely in public life. Hence the problem: Were Christians to 'come out from the world,' . . . or were they to go on a world-wide mission by more or less adapting themselves to Roman society, its ways, its laws, its customs? The Church, face to face with this new and changed position, chose the second alternative: to use the graphic language of a modern scholar: 'She marched through the open door into the Roman State, and settled down there for a long career of activity.' To do this the Church in some way had to abandon its old discipline, its apostolic simplicity."
The church historian Mosheim also plainly testifies to the fact that the Church apostatized. He says: "There were those in the first ages of the church who modified the religion of Christ by joining it with the Oriental philosophy, in regard to the sources of evil and the origin of this material universe . . . Hence there necessarily arose among them a multitude of opinions, which were extremely foreign to the precepts of Christ. As these extraordinary opinions required proof which it was not easy to find in the writings of the Apostles, recourse was had to falsehoods and impositions. Hence, as each one endeavored to accommodate his own philosophical opinions to the Christian religion, it was the necessary consequence that various systems of religion were produced. The noble simplicity and the majestic dignity of the Christian religion were lost, or at least impaired when the philosophers presumed to associate their dogmas with it. It appears, from a variety of testimonies, that they much preferred Plato, and embraced most of his dogmas concerning God, the human soul, and the universe.
"Genuine piety was supplanted by a long train of superstitious observances, which originated partly from opinions inconsiderately embraced, partly from a preposterous disposition to adopt profane rites and combine them with Christian worship . . . It would require a volume to detail the various impositions which were, for the most part successfully, practiced by artful knaves after genuine piety and true religion were compelled to resign their dominion in great measure to superstition."
From The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, by Gibbon, we read: "During six hundred years the gospel was the way of truth and salvation, but the Christians insensibly forgot both the laws and example of their founder . . . True religion lay buried under a senseless mass of superstitions, and was unable to raise her head."
The "Man of Sin" Develops
In the foregoing historical excerpts the power of Rome figures prominently in the corruption of the Church and the sabotage of the true religion in the centuries immediately following the Apostolic Age. The Bible is equally vocal regarding the same set of events. At about the time of Christ the Roman Empire was at its zenith as a secular power, and as she declined, an ecclesiastical dynasty was reared upon her ruins. It was this latter power that had so much to do with turning men's hearts from the truth to fables and bringing about the great apostasy. The prophecies of Daniel clearly outline the development of this power.
The temptation to expand upon the prophecies of Daniel as the outstanding example of the Divine authorship of the Bible is almost irresistible, however in the interest of orderliness and brevity we must refrain. The fact that these prophecies forecast so accurately and in such detail the rise and fall of the four world empires, and at a time when only the first of these empires was in existence, is undeniable proof that Daniel spoke by divine revelation. We are taking the liberty to make use of a chapter from Rollin's Ancient History where the author covers briefly but comprehensively the parallel prophecies regarding the rise and fall of the aforementioned empires.
"I have hitherto deferred making any reflections upon the prophecies of Daniel, which certainly to any reasonable mind are a very convincing proof of the truth of religion. I shall content myself with representing very briefly, and under one and the same point of view, the prophecies of Daniel, which signify the succession of four great empires, and for that reason have an essential and necessary relation to the subject matter of this work, which is only the history of those very empires. The first of these prophecies was occasioned by the dream that Nebuchadnezzar had, of an image composed of different metals, gold, silver, brass, and iron, which image was to be broken in pieces by a little stone which afterwards became itself a mountain of extraordinary height and magnitude. After this Daniel saw another vision; this was the vision of the four large beasts which came up out of the sea. The first was like a lion; the second was like a bear; the third was like a leopard, which had four heads; the fourth and last, still more strong and terrible than the other, had great iron teeth; it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with its feet. From the midst of the ten horns which this beast had, there came up a little one, which had eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking great things, and this horn became greater than the others: the same horn made war with the saints and prevailed against them . .
"It is generally agreed that these two visions, the one of the image composed of different metals, and the other of the four beasts, signify so many different monarchies, which were to succeed one another, were to be successively destroyed by each other, and were all to give place to the eternal empire of Jesus Christ. It is also agreed that these four monarchies were those of the Babylonians, of the Persians and Medes united, of the Macedonians or Greeks, and of the Romans. This is plainly demonstrated by the very order of their succession. But where did Daniel see this succession and this order? Who could reveal the changes of empire to him, but He only who is the Master of times and monarchies, who has determined everything by His own decrees, and who, by a supernatural revelation, imparts the knowledge of them to whom he pleases.
"There is nothing, perhaps, that can be more powerful to raise a profound reverence in us for religion, and to give us a great idea of the Deity, than to observe with what exactness he reveals to his prophets the principal circumstances of the besieging and taking of Babylon many years before it happened and the rise and fall of empires ages before they existed." We should be prepared to agree heartily with this sentiment of the historian about God's greatness, and such an exposition of divine foreknowledge should reinforce our faith in the truthfulness of His Inspired Word.
Daniel's own vision of the four beasts rising up out of the sea, rather than his interpretation of King Nebuchadnezzar's dream, provides the information about the power that wore out the saints and cast the truth to the ground, bringing into being the great apostasy. The prophecy is found in chapter seven. Daniel saw the symbolic beasts rising up out of the sea--the sea of nations is what is indicated here, not a large body of sea water (Revelation 17:15). The first beast to be seen rising up out of the sea resembled a lion and it had eagle's wings. This represented Babylon, the empire in existence at the time the prophecy was made. Then followed the bear, representing the kingdom of the Medes and persians. The bear was said to be raised up on one side in recognition of the fact that the Persian division, under Cyrus the Great, wielded a much greater authority than the Medes. The three ribs in the mouth of the bear was significant of the three presidents which Cyrus' son, Darius, placed over the whole realm, responsible only to himself (Dan. 6:2).
The Grecian kingdom under Alexander the Great was represented by a leopard having four wings. Alexander was said to be the man of wings as he made his conquests so quickly that he would be at the next theatre of invasion almost before the news of his former successes had reached that area. The next beast that Daniel sees appear upon the scene was unlike any living creature with which he was familiar. He describes it as "dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth: it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it: and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it; and it had ten horns." Then Daniel continues: "I considered the horns, and behold, there came up among them another little horn, before whom there were three of the first horns plucked up by the roots: and, behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking great things" (Dan. 7:7-8). As we proceed we shall learn that the power designated as the "little horn" can be identified as the authority by which divine truths were cast down, and the great apostasy brought about.
It is interesting to note the enduring quality of the power this horn represents. As Daniel, divinely enlightened, continued looking, he was able to scan twenty-five centuries ahead of him to the time of the return of Christ to earth and the Judgment scene, and the dissolution of man's incompetent system of misrule. Verses Dan. 7:9, 10 read: "I beheld till the thrones were cast down, (seats were placed) and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool . . . A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him: thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened."
The divine messenger then spake plainly, telling Daniel that the four beasts that he had seen in vision were representative of four kingdoms that should arise (Dan. 7:17). Then said Daniel, "I would know the truth of the fourth beast, which was diverse from all the others, exceeding dreadful, whose teeth were of iron, and his nails of brass; which devoured, brake in pieces and stamped the residue with his feet; and of the ten horns which were in his head, and of the other which came up, and before whom three fell; even of that horn which had eyes, and a mouth that spake very great things, whose look was more stout than his fellows. I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them; until the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the most High; and the time that the saints possessed the kingdom" (Dan. 7:19-22). This "little horn" power is to still be in existence at the time of Christ's return to earth.
Dan. 7:25 speaks again of this movement against true religion and the saints of God, also of the length of time this apostasy should last. "And he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws; and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time." Later we shall study the length of the time covered by this prophecy of the "time . . . times and the dividing of time" which this power should continue.
In Daniel the 8th chapter the Prophet records another vision that came before him during the existence of the Babylonian regime. In this vision only the three empires following Babylon were indicated. The symbolic living creatures shown bore unmistakable marks of identity. The dual Medo-Persian power is represented by a ram having two horns, one horn higher than the other, and the higher came up last (Dan. 8:3). As this power reached its zenith it was challenged by Alexander the youthful Greek warrior bent on world conquest. Alexander is here likened to a he goat moving with such rapidity that he touched not the ground as he went. The notable horn between the eyes of the rough goat followed by four horns of less importance indicate that at the death of Alexander the Great, at the early age of thirty-two years, his kingdom would be divided between his four generals (Dan. 8:5-8). Further on in this 8th chapter of Daniel the angel Gabriel was commanded to inform Daniel as to the meaning of the vision, and he identified these two powers as Media and Persia, and Grecia.
Now while Daniel's informer does not actually define this third or destructive power by name, its position as the kingdom immediately following Greece positively identify it as Rome. Dan. 8:9, 11, 12 tell again of the part which this ecclesiastical power to emerge from the fourth or Roman kingdom would play in bringing about the great apostasy: "And out of one of these came forth a little horn, which waxed exceeding great, toward the south and toward the east, and toward the pleasant land . . . Yea, he magnified himself even to the prince of the host, and by him the daily sacrifice was taken away, and the place of his sanctuary was cast down. And an host was given him against the daily sacrifice by reason of transgression, and it cast down the truth to the ground; and it practiced and prospered." This power would make war with the saints and prevail against them. It would "wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws;" it should "cast down the truth to the ground" and it should practice and prosper. Now let us read Dan. 8:24: "And his power shall be mighty, but not by his own power: and he shall destroy wonderfully, and shall prosper and practice, and shall destroy the mighty and the holy people." In this prophecy the "sanctuary" referred to was not a literal building to be used for a place of worship, but referred primarily to the saints. It is a spiritual temple or house of God, the members of Christ's true Church. It is the house of Heb. 3:6, "But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end."
The Woman With the Golden Cup
Revelation 17 pictures with great exactness the Church of Rome and declares unequivocally the destructive work she should do. In Rev. 17:1 the Revelator was shown the judgment of the "great whore that sitteth upon many waters." Rev. 17:2 reveals that "the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication." Then in Rev. 17:3 the narrative continues: "So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet colored beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns." We will recall that the beast that Daniel saw representing the fourth or Roman kingdom had ten horns, and this woman or ecclesiastical power is said to be seated on this beast, political Rome.
Now Rev. 17:4 is very realistic in picturing the pomp of the "mother" church. "And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet color, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls." Anyone familiar with the display put on by the prelates of the Roman Catholic Church can see a vivid mark of identity in the foregoing words. And the woman was seen holding a "golden cup"--representing the Bible, the pure gold--but it no longer contained the simple doctrines of Christ. She had filled it with the dregs of her fornication. In her hands it was made to speak many things for which not a word of proof could be found in the words of the Prophets, Jesus or the Apostles. Let us re-state our position, by the time the apostasy became complete this old "mother" had completely emptied the "cup" of its precious contents, truth, and filled it to the brim with dregs.
Another revealing mark of identity is the divine forecast that she would have written upon her forehead, "Mystery, Babylon the great, the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth." Figuratively speaking, the word "mystery" is written all over her elaborate system. For centuries the Church held the Bible away from their parishioners on the theory that the book was a mystery, and could be interpreted only by the clergy. Furthermore the Catholic catechism states that the teaching of the "trinity," which all must believe to be saved, is an "incomprehensible incomprehensibility."
And it may be more than a coincident that the Catholic Church saw fit to style their theory that sometime after her death, Mary, the mother of Jesus, was raised and ascended bodily to heaven, "The Assumption." The idea is wholly unfounded
Ask a Catholic priest a question on any simple statement of Scripture, the plain meaning of which militates against a tenet of the Church, and he will promptly answer: "Brother, don't pry into that. It is a great mystery."
Thank God, the Revelator was not left in the dark as to the true identity of this evil woman, and how blest are we to have a record of the words of his angelic informer: "And the angel said unto me, Wherefore didst thou marvel? I will show thee the mystery of the woman, and of the beast that carrieth her, which hath the seven heads and ten horns . . . And here is the mind which hath wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth" (Rev. 17:7, 9). It is common knowledge that the city of Rome is built on seven hills. Now let us see if this exegesis fits into the picture of Revelation 17: "And the woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth" (Rev. 17:18). Political Rome filled that bill at the zenith of her power, and to this very day her ecclesiastical authority is widely recognized.
Our knowledge of these divine predictions and their absolute fulfillment should have a stimulating effect upon our faith. It should deepen our love for God and strengthen our belief in His promises. Known to Him are all His works from the beginning of creation, and whatever He has promised He is able to perform.
Let us in the words of the Apostle Peter, "Gird up the loins of our mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace [or reward] that is to be brought unto [us] at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not fashioning ourselves according to the former lusts in our ignorance, but as He which has called us is holy so let us be holy in all manner of conduct."
Dear Father, we thank Thee for this service, and for the faith-strengthening potential that it has provided us with. Thanks be to Thee for Thy Word, and for the preserving of that Word through the centuries of darkness that separate us from the time of its inception, and that it has been handed down to us in its ancient purity.
We thank Thee for pre-informing us of the shameful work of unholy men and religious systems which should turn Thy truth into a lie, wear out Thy saints, and cast Thy truth to the ground, causing Thy saving plan upon earth to fail wholly over a long period of time. We rejoice to know that at long last a new day dawned, and divine truth crushed to earth rose again, and now is our prized possession. At midnight a cry was sounded, The Bridegroom cometh, prepare to meet Him.
This little body of people have been blest to hear that awakening cry; grant us the wisdom to act upon the warning given, and now awake to trim our faith-lamps, and put on the robe of righteousness which will assure us of the pleasure of the Bridegroom, and the privilege of sharing with Him His home and incomparable wealth.
In His name we pray. Amen.