Chapter 3 - The Beast Described.
Let's take a close look at this thing to make sure there's no mistake.
"And the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority." Revelation 13:2.
Emperor Justinian "gave" Rome to the Pope when he decreed that the Pope should be over all the Christian churches of the earth, and established the Papacy in 538 A.D., when the Emperor's general Belisarius drove the Ostrogoths from Rome.
Rome gave him his "seat." Bible prophecy predicted it hundreds of years before it happened!
From 538 A.D. the Papacy ruled for exactly 1260 years, until 1798 when something incredible happened. The Pope was taken prisoner! Napoleon's general, Berthier, captured the Pope and took him to France!
A deadly wound. The Papacy had reigned exactly 1260 years. Could it have just been coincidence? Why did Berthier do it?
Napoleon wanted to rule the world. The Papacy stood in his way. I wonder if they knew that they were fulfilling prophecy in spite of themselves!
"... and his deadly wound was healed; and all the world wondered after the beast." Revelation 13:3.
"In 1929, the Italian government recognized Vatican City as an independent state. Once again, the Pope was king. On March 9, 1929, he said, 'The peoples of the entire world are with us.' The San Francisco Chronicle published an account of the pact-signing on the front page of its newspaper. It actually read like this, 'Mussolini and Gaspari Sign Historic Pact . . . Heal Wound of Many Years.' That is fantastic! The Bible prophesied that its wound would be healed and the newspaper confirmed it in the exact same words." (1)
Though this great organization was not officially established till 538 A.D., the Apostle Paul saw forces at work that were preparing the way. What was going on back there that he could have seen? Here's what happened.
After Jesus went back to heaven, the early church grew rapidly under the blessing of the Holy Spirit. Jesus had predicted the treatment that His people were to receive.
"They shall deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you; and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake." Matthew 24:9.
That was literally fulfilled. Look at this amazing account.
"Their execution was made into a game," wrote Tacitus, describing the persecutions under Nero. "They were covered with the skins of wild animals and torn to pieces by dogs. They were hung on crosses. They were burned, wrapped in flammable material and set on fire, to illuminate the night.
"To escape death, they had but to repudiate Christ and sacrifice to the emperor." (2) Some did, but many more were tortured to death rather than deny their Lord.
"Paganism foresaw that should the gospel triumph, her temples and altars would be swept away; therefore she summoned her forces to destroy Christianity. Christians were stripped of their possessions and driven from their homes. Great numbers sealed their testimony with their blood. Noble and slave, rich and poor, learned and ignorant, were alike slain without mercy.
"Beneath the hills outside the city of Rome, long galleries had been tunneled through earth and rock; the dark and intricate network of passages extended for miles beyond the city walls. In these underground retreats the followers of Christ buried their dead; and here also, when suspected, they found a home. Many were 'tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection' Hebrews 11:35. They rejoiced that they were accounted worthy to suffer for the truth, and songs of triumph ascended from the midst of the crackling flames." (3)
Satan couldn't wipe them out. For years emperors Nero and Diocletian slaughtered them by the thousands.
"You may kill us, torture us, condemn us," said one Christian to his persecutors, "your injustice is the proof that we are innocent." Tertullian, Apology, para. 50.
Until 313 A.D. it was against the law to be a Christian. Such a person was an automatic criminal. But the followers of Jesus spread everywhere.
Satan could see that he had to change his tactics. He would come up with a better scheme. What could the devil think of to do better than killing them?
Make things easy - and infiltrate! Like a wise general he would corrupt the church from the inside.
Watch what happens.
A great shout goes up in the empire. Emperor Constantine has become a Christian! The Christians are euphoric.
No more being torn apart by dogs and lions, or used as dupes to be cut down in cold blood, or human torches to light up the arena for the gladiators. Now Christianity is the state religion! Things are going great. Or so it seems.
But little by little, as everyone relaxes and quits worrying about being tortured to death, something happens.
Gradually the leaders, for the sake of popularity and gain, let down the standards to make it easier for the pagans to come into the church. But this brings in errors and pagan customs.
Not at all surprised by Satan's scheme to corrupt His church - from within, God gives us fair warning. Listen to Paul's shocking words.
"Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day (of the Lord) 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, shewing himself that he is God." "For the mystery of iniquity doth already work:" II Thessalonians 2:1- 4,7. Oh yes. He saw it coming! The mysterious work of corruption rapidly progressed after the death of the last Apostle.
Question: What happened?
After persecution ceased, Satan's great device was to control the leaders of the church. If he could inflate their ego; make them money hungry, the whole body would be affected. A popularity contest would be on to get as many heathen to accept Christianity as possible. The wealth and prestige of the church would grow. Who cares if you have to change the Bible somewhat to get them! Just introduce some of the heathen customs and rites into Christianity, give them Christian names, and the heathen will flock in.
Of all horrors - that's just what happened!
The Apostles had gone throughout the empire establishing churches in many cities. As time went by, smaller churches were built in the surrounding country sides. The large centers were in Jerusalem, Rome, and Alexandria, Egypt. Rome finally emerged on top.
The next step in the plot was for church leaders to get control of the state to help enforce their decrees. They achieved this beyond their wildest dreams. The epitome of this came when in 538 A.D. the entire city of Rome was handed over to the Pope - the Bishop of Rome. For the next 1260 years, church leaders reigned with full civil authority. All just as predicted in prophecy!
But look at this shocker.
It says that the beast has "the name of blasphemy." Revelation 13:1. "It became one of the leading doctrines of the church that its visible head is invested with supreme authority over bishops and pastors in all parts of the world. More than this, he took the very name of God! He was addressed as "Lord God the Pope" and declared to be "infallible." (For documentation see Appendix 3). He demands the worship of all men.
What about 666? Let's take a shocking look.
On the Pope's official mitre is the title "Vicarius Filii Dei" which means "Vicar of the Son of God." The claim that this is his official title has been stated publicly through the years. The April 18, 1915 issue of Our Sunday Visitor, states: "The letters inscribed in the Pope's mitre are these: "VICARIUS FILII DEI," which is Latin for Vicar of the Son of God."
In Revelation 13:18 it says, "Count the number of the beast; for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six. (666)."
Let's do it now and see what we find. Remember the Roman numerals you learned in school?
"U" and "V" have the same value. Look in your encyclopedia under "Alphabet."
Total = 666!
In Greek, Hebrew, and Latin, it comes out the same.
I want to be quick to say that when a person shares this shocking revelation, he must be kind and tactful. We must let people know that God loves all. The truth must be told - but always in kindness.
The 1260 years of the Papacy's rule are called the "dark ages." I'm sure you've heard that expression before. The reason it was so dark is because the priests forbade anyone to read or even have a Bible! For hundreds of years only the priests were allowed to read Bibles. Satan had to get the Bibles away from the people in order to keep them in darkness and superstition. The people just didn't know any better. There was a time when if you were caught with a Bible, you were dragged out of your home, hung up on a pole, and burned alive in your front yard! (For documentation, see Appendix 4).
What John sees next is so unbelievable that he's stunned.