Pope Benedict ‘s resignation caused shock waves in Rome and around the world. The announcement that the pope was to retire was the first time this has happened for 600 years. The same day lightning struck the roof of St Peter’s Rome.
News reporters repeated the Roman Catholic teaching that the Papacy is the oldest institution in the world going back to St Peter who was said to be commissioned by Jesus Christ to be ‘the visible head of the whole church.’ Sky News referred to the papal flag and said, ‘There is the triple tiara of the papacy with the two keys, the gold key and the silver key – the gold key to heaven and the silver key to the hearts of men and women on earth given by Jesus Christ to St Peter who was the foundations stone, the corner stone of the church.’
This concept is based on the words of Jesus in Matthew 16.13-18 where Peter answers Jesus question ‘Who do you say that I am?’ with the words ‘You are the Christ (Messiah), the Son of the living God.’ Jesus says to Peter: ‘Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven.’
The Roman Catholic Church interprets this as Jesus saying that Peter would be the rock upon which the Church would be built. In fact there is a word play in the Greek between ‘Petros’ (Peter) which means a stone (the kind you can pick up and throw) and ‘Petra’ which means rock. What Jesus meant was that the true church would not be built on Peter the man, but on Peter’s declaration of faith in Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God. In other words Jesus Himself is the foundation of the church, as Peter wrote in his epistle when he referred to Jesus as ‘a chief cornerstone, elect, precious, and he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.’ 1 Peter 2.6. The true church is made up of those who come to believe in Jesus as Saviour and Lord and are born again of the Holy Spirit.
The ‘keys of the kingdom’ are the authority to preach the Gospel through which the door is opened into the kingdom of God when people respond to this message by repenting and believing in Jesus as Saviour and Lord. The Gospel opens the door to the kingdom of heaven to all who believe it, and closes it to all who reject it. Peter did have the ‘keys’ to open the preaching of the Gospel being the first to preach to Jews (Acts 2), the Samaritans (Acts 8), and the Gentiles (Acts 10). Although he played a leading role in the early church there is nothing in the New Testament to show that he took on the role of Pope. Nor is there any evidence from first century sources that he even went to Rome, let alone founded the church in Rome or was the bishop of Rome. For more on this go to http://www.gospelway.com/religiousgroups/peter_as_pope.php
So if the evidence for Peter being the first pope is not there, what about the succession of popes following him? The Catholic claim that Linus, an obscure figure mentioned in 2 Timothy 4.21, was the second pope, successor to Peter, has no validity whatsoever. Following Linus the Catholic Church gives a list of alleged popes, Anacletus, Clement, Evaristus and so on, but these are simply names plucked from references in early Christian writings with no evidence whatsoever that they were popes. Even Catholic historians actually acknowledge that there was no ‘bishop of Rome’ in the first century. For more on this go to http://www.cogwriter.com/linus.htm
During most of the first two centuries the church was made up of believers living under conditions of persecution. This situation changed following the supposed conversion to Christianity of the Emperor Constantine in 312 and the Edict of Milan in 313. This ended the persecution of Christianity and established it as an official religion in the Roman Empire. At this time the bishop of Rome became the most important figure in the now legal religion of Christianity. In 378 Demasus, bishop of Rome, was elected ‘Pontifex Maximus’ (the supreme Pontiff). Today Pontiff is one of the names the pope is known by. Pontifex Maximus was one of the titles of the Roman Emperor, first used by Julius Caesar in 63BC and also used by Augustus Caesar (27BC-14AD) and by the line of Emperors who followed them. The title actually referred to the Caesar as the head of the mystery religion of Rome, which was itself derived from the pagan rites of ancient Babylon.
Ralph Woodrow in his book ‘Babylon Mystery Religion’ shows how the pagan mythology of Rome was merged into corrupted Christianity as the Bishop of Rome emerged as the pope and Pontifex Maximus. This led to the pope arising as not just the head of the professing church, but also becoming a political power in itself. This process intensified following the fall of the Roman Empire. After the Roman Empire fell in 476 there was a time of great instability in Europe. More and more the Roman Church stepped in and fulfilled basic functions of government with its power growing and expanding throughout Europe. Eventually, Roman ‘Christendom’ took the place of the Roman Empire with the emperors being replaced by the papacy.
Later Popes referred to the ‘Donation of Constantine.’ This was a counterfeit decree which was used in the 8th century to claim that the emperor Constantine had given authority over the western empire and the city of Rome to Pope Sylvester (314-335). It gave ‘imperial power’ to the ‘holy Roman Church.’ Under Pope Gregory VII (1073-1085) the ‘Dictatus Papae’ (dictates of the Popes) was brought in which said amongst other things: ‘All princes should kiss the pope’s feet only, it may be permitted to him to depose emperors, no person may live under the same roof with one excommunicated by the pope, the pope can be judged by no one, the Roman Church never erred, nor will it, according to the scripture ever err.’
Never err? The church had been taken over by pagan influences, ritualism and ceremony rather than a true knowledge of Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord. Accounts also tell us of sorcery, murder, homosexuality and prostitution abounding in Rome. The ex-Jesuit de Rosa writes of the medieval popes: ‘They were less disciples of Christ than of Belial, the Prince of Darkness. Very many were libertines, murderers, adulterers, warmongers, tyrants, simoniacs who were prepared to sell everything holy. They were nearly all more wrapped up in money and intrigue more than in religion.’ (Vicars of Christ). This shows beyond any doubt that the popes have not been an unbroken line of spiritual successors to the Apostle Peter.
Pope Boniface VIII (1294-1303) stated: ‘We declare, say, define and proclaim to every human creature that they by necessity for salvation are entirely subject to the Roman Pontiff.’ In order to enforce this subjection the popes approved the torture, murder, burning at the stake and confiscation of property of true followers of Jesus during the horrific centuries of the Inquisition. The Synod of Toulouse in 1229 forbad people to read or possess the Bible. Some estimates put the number of victims put to death by Medieval Catholicism at 50,000,000. There was also vicious anti-Semitism with false accusations and attacks on the Jewish people from whom Jesus Himself, as well as Peter and all the apostles came. As Jesus said to the corrupt religious leaders of his day: ‘You shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.’ (Matthew 23.13).
From the time of the Reformation Protestant leaders, Luther, Calvin, John Knox and others identified the pope with Antichrist. Spurgeon wrote: ‘Then the world changed its tactics; it became nominally Christian, and Antichrist came forth in all its blasphemous glory. The Pope of Rome put on the triple crown and called himself the Vicar of Christ; then came in the abomination of the worship of saints, angels, images and pictures; then came in the mass, and I know not what of detestable error.’
Some of the errors of Roman Catholic teaching include the belief that baptism (of infants) can save us from ‘original sin and make us Christians’ (Article 256) and that salvation is by works, not faith (Article 135). It is taught that there is a separation between the priesthood and the laity. Priests should not marry, sins should be confessed to a priest and the priest has the power to change the bread and wine taken at communion into the literal body and blood of Jesus Christ (transubstantiation). Article 267 of the Catechism says: ‘The bread and the wine are changed into the Body and Blood of Christ by the power of God, to whom nothing is impossible or difficult.’ Article 278 says: ‘The Holy Mass is one and the same Sacrifice with that of the Cross, inasmuch as Christ who offered himself, a bleeding victim on the Cross to his heavenly Father, continues to offer himself in an unbloody manner on the altar through the ministry of his priests.’
Another major error of Catholicism is the place given to Mary as one who participates with Jesus in our redemption. Catholic Churches are full of statues of Mary and she is given titles as ‘the Mother of God’ and ‘Queen of Heaven.’ It is claimed that she was conceived without sin (the immaculate conception) and ‘assumed’ into heaven (the assumption). In the ‘Hail Mary’ prayer Catholics appeal to Mary to ‘pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death’, from which we conclude that Roman Catholics believe Mary is able to intercede for us before God to forgive our sins. There is now pressure within the Catholic Church to have Mary proclaimed as a co-Mediatrix with Jesus Christ, in other words to say that she participated in our redemption through her sufferings at the cross and is able to bring us to God.
Roman Catholic teaching also claims that there is a place called Purgatory in between heaven and hell where even faithful Catholics go to in order to be purged from their sins ‘a place where souls suffer for a time after death on account of their sins’ (Catechism, Article 106).
All of these teachings conflict with the teaching of the New Testament. We are saved by repentance and faith in what Jesus Christ has done for us on the cross. Baptism is a profession of faith in Jesus as Saviour and Lord and so is something that should be done by those old enough to make this decision. A baby cannot make such a decision. The bread and the wine taken at communion are symbols of the body and blood of Jesus which we take to remember Him by. His death on the cross was the final sacrifice for sin when ‘Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many’ (Hebrews 9.28). Jesus is the sole mediator between God and humanity and He alone bore the sins of the world when He died on the cross. The idea that He can be offered over and over again in the Mass is a denial of the true meaning of His death and resurrection.
Mary was a faithful woman who bore the Lord Jesus in her womb, but she is never referred to as Mother of God or Queen of Heaven in the Bible. There was nothing unusual about her birth or death. She herself needed salvation through her faith in the Lord. There is no place called Purgatory mentioned anywhere in the Bible, only heaven where believers in Jesus will go and hell where unbelievers will go
So what about the present pope?
Some people say that all this is ancient history, that Rome is now reformed and that we should overlook differences in doctrine and seek the unity of all Christians to work together to make a better world. Vatican II opened the way for the Roman Catholic Church to engage in ecumenical activity aimed at ‘The restoration of unity among all Christians’. Pope John Paul II met with Billy Graham and declared him a ‘brother in Christ’ and Billy Graham sent those Catholics who responded to the Gospel message at his rallies back to Roman Catholic churches. The document signed in 1994 by Evangelicals and Catholics Together declared that ‘Evangelicals and Catholics are brothers and sisters in Christ’ and ‘existing divisions that obscure the one Christ and hinder the one mission of the Church’ were confessed as ‘sins against the unity that Christ intends for all his disciples.’ The widely used Alpha Course is acceptable to, and accepting of Roman Catholics as following the same faith.
Now we have a new pope, who has been welcomed by Anglican and evangelical leaders. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said, ‘His election is also of great significance to Christians everywhere, not least among Anglicans. Our churches hold a special place for one another. I look forward to meeting Pope Francis, and to walking and working together to build on the consistent legacy of our predecessors. May the love of Christ unite us, and intensify our service in a genuine and fruitful ecumenism that can be a blessing for the Body of Christ throughout the world.’ Dr Dave Landrum, the Evangelical Alliance’s director of advocacy, said: ‘The election of Cardinal Bergoglio to become the first Pope Francis should be an encouragement to Christians of all stripes across the globe.’
Rick Warren, author of the best-selling book ‘The Purpose-Driven Life’ and globally influential megachurch leader, was enthusiastic about the election of the new pope. Warren called for fasting and prayer for the cardinals that would be voting on the matter. After the appointment, Warren tweeted to his over 900,000 followers, ‘Welcome Pope Francis, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio. You have our prayers.’ He included the hashtag ‘habemus papum,’ meaning ‘We have a pope!’
Cardinal Bergoglio has taken the name Pope Francis. In doing this he has connected himself with Francis of Assisi, the 13th century son of an aristocrat who spurned a life of luxury to live with the poor. In his message at his inauguration he spoke of the need for the church to be protector of ‘all creation, the beauty of the created world… respecting each of God’s creatures and respecting the environment in which we live … protecting people, showing loving concern for each and every person, especially children, the elderly, those in need, who are often the last we think about.’ He called on ‘all those who have positions of responsibility in economic, political and social life’ to be protectors of creation. It appears that the pope’s message will be a social gospel to try to improve the lives of the poor and save the world from environmental destruction.
Pope Francis is the first Jesuit pope, which leads us to another ‘Francis’ connection. The co-founder of the Jesuits in 1534 was Francis Xavier, along with Ignatius Loyola. The mission of the organization was to spread Roman Catholicism throughout the world, and to protect the power of the pope and the practices of Roman Catholicism from the Protestant Reformation, so that the pope may remain God’s authority on the earth. The Jesuits were prime movers of the Counter Reformation, using all manner of means, including infiltration and deception as well as the murderous activities of the Inquisition, to bring the ‘separated brethren’ (Protestants) back to the ‘Mother Church.’ The Jesuit oath contained the words: ‘I do further declare the doctrine of the Church of England, of the Calvinists, the Huguenots and other Protestants to be damnable and those to be damned who will not forsake the same … I do further declare that I will … do my utmost to extirpate (exterminate) the heretical Protestant doctrine and to destroy all their pretended power.’
From the comments of Anglican and evangelical leaders above it appears that this hostility is a thing of the past and now Catholics and Protestants are singing from the same hymn sheet and should work together and unite where possible. However Roger Oakland says that the Jesuit Agenda is now to bring about ‘ecumenism and a one-world religion. And at the same time, it is attempting to destroy the message that so many died for – the message that Jesus Christ is not found in a wafer to be re-crucified day after day but has died once and for all for the sins of man and offers a salvation that is an entirely free gift, unearned to those who believe on Him (Hebrews 7:27; 10:11-14). … According to Bible prophecy, a one-world religion that will offer the promise of peace throughout the world is going to commence prior to Christ’s return. To most, this global body will seem like a wonderful thing and very possibly will be a pseudo-Christianity (coming in the name of ‘Christ’); however, contrary to how the masses will view it, it will actually help establish and set up the antichrist and his one world government.’ ‘The Jesuit Agenda and the Evangelical Church’ http://www.understandthetimes.org/commentary/c97.shtml
The Vatican has already launched a programme for this through its ‘Justice and Peace’ department which has called for ‘a supranational authority’ with ‘universal jurisdiction’ and a central world bank to guide economic policies and decisions. In December 2012 Pope Benedict proposed the ‘construction of a world community,’ and to guide this world community will be a ‘corresponding authority’ whose purpose it is to serve and promote the ‘common good of the human family.’ Analysts saw Benedict’s speech as a call for a New World Order guided by the Roman Catholic Church.
The last pope?
With all this in mind, prophetic interest has been raised by the 12th century ‘Prophecy of the Popes’ by Malachy, a 12th century Irish monk, who had a vision of all the popes down to the last one whom he call Petrus Romanus / Peter the Roman. Malachy saw, and committed to paper, a series of Latin phrases describing the popes to come. He catalogued each one with an epigrammatic verse, such as ‘the tears of the sun’. His words concerning John Paul II and Benedict XI are said to have had significance relating to them, but what has really got people talking is the fact that according to these prophecies the present pope is the last one. Malachy gave him the title ‘Petrus Romanus / Peter the Roman’ and wrote of him, ‘In the final persecution of the Holy Roman Church there will reign Petrus Romanus, who will feed his flock amid many tribulations; after which the seven-hilled city will be destroyed and the dreadful Judge will judge the people. The End.’
Of course this is not a biblical prophecy and should not be treated as such and we cannot say for certain that Francis really is the last one. However the biblical prophecy in Revelation 17 does speak of the rise and fall of ‘Mystery Babylon’ which has been identified with the Roman Catholic Church and the ecumenical and interfaith movement.
‘Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and talked with me, saying to me, ‘Come, I will show you the judgement of the great harlot who sits on many waters, with whom the kings of the earth committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth were made drunk with the wine of her fornication.’ So he carried me away in the Spirit into the wilderness. And I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast which was full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the filthiness of her fornication. And on her forehead a name was written: MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. And when I saw her, I marvelled with great amazement.’ Revelation 17.1-6.
Rome fits in well with this description of the harlot, who is false to the Lord Jesus and has persecuted true followers of Jesus. It has the great wealth described here and its clergy wear purple and scarlet. It has ‘committed fornication’ with the kings of the earth by joining power with them and itself becoming an earthly as well as a spiritual power. All of this is the result of a mingling of Christianity with the spiritual power that came out of Babylon (the Tower of Babel) in antiquity.
The woman is riding the beast who is identified in Revelation with the Antichrist who, allied to the False Prophet and empowered by the Devil, runs the final world government. The ‘woman’ is seen as being carried by the beast, which implies that the Roman Catholic system is seen as allied to the Antichrist in the final period of history. This does not mean that the pope / papacy is the Antichrist, but he is in league with him as he takes power.
According to Revelation the woman who rides the beast will eventually be destroyed by it: ‘The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have received no kingdom as yet, but they receive authority for one hour as kings with the beast. These are of one mind, and they will give their power and authority to the beast. These will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings; and those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful.’ Then he said to me, ‘The waters which you saw, where the harlot sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues. And the ten horns which you saw on the beast, these will hate the harlot, make her desolate and naked, eat her flesh and burn her with fire. For God has put it into their hearts to fulfil His purpose, to be of one mind, and to give their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled. And the woman whom you saw is that great city which reigns over the kings of the earth.’
The ‘ten horns’ on the beast make the harlot desolate and burn her with fire, which speaks of a destruction coming upon ecclesiastical Babylon. The call of the Lord Jesus Christ to believing Christians therefore is to ‘come out of Babylon’ not to join up with it! This becomes even more urgent as we see the prophecies of the end times taking shape around us pointing us to the soon coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.
We have a CD of Tony Pearce speaking on this subject available on request for £3.50 including postage.