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Significant Religious Trends

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Quietly—yet steadily—developments in the world of religion are demonstrating that Bible prophecies are coming alive today.


Quietly—yet steadily—developments in the world of religion are demonstrating that Bible prophecies are coming alive today. Most people remain unaware, busily pursuing their private lives, while around them occur significant religious trends that were predicted to occur just before Jesus Christ returns to this earth. Without the aid of Bible prophecy, the modern news media fails to understand the real significance of these trends. We cannot afford to ignore—or be unaware of—these critical events.

A recent European newspaper article proclaimed: "Catholics flock back to church… the Catholic church is making a comeback… mass attendance is on the rise for the first time in almost four decades… middle-aged parishioners, who appear to have abandoned religious practice, are now returning to the fold… college students also appear to be finding God: 6,000 attend mass" at a university in Dublin (The Sunday Times, May 6, 2001). An Irish priest comments: "I don't know why it is, but it is happening… [people] want a little more than just the [material] satisfaction of the Celtic tiger" (Ibid). This parallels what is happening in Britain, where the percentage of Catholics in the population has increased from 2 percent in 1700 to 6 percent in 1900 to 10 percent today. One writer cites these and other figures as "evidence of a genuine Catholic revival" (Daily Telegraph, July 1, 1999).

This comes on the heels of a recent Vatican announcement which called the Roman Catholic church the only true church and asserted that the Protestant churches, which broke away during the Reformation, are defective doctrinally and are "not churches in the proper sense" (BBC News, September 5, 2000). On the world scene, the Pope is increasingly viewed as the spiritual spokesman for humanity—even by many Protestants.

News sources report another growing trend. A recent study discovered that "a third of young evangelical Christians believe in living together before marriage" (The London Times, May 5, 2001). This finding shocked Protestant church leaders and revealed a thorny dilemma—"either they emphasize biblical teaching on sexual morality, which risks driving more young people away, or they compromise their traditional teaching, which may alienate the older generations" (Ibid). In contrast to the increasingly firm Catholic positions on moral and theological issues, "one Church of England report has already recommended that the phrase 'living in sin' should be abandoned" (Ibid). A study of evangelical young people revealed that many considered it acceptable to steal small items and said that it was sometimes necessary to lie. This lack of morality among professing Christians parallels the increasingly liberal teachings of their religious leaders.

Ironically, as mainline Protestant denominations liberalize their doctrines to accommodate popular ideas, their church attendance continues to fall! One British bishop described his church as "irrelevant, dull and… so committee-bound that it was hardly likely ever to inspire or convert anyone" (The London Times, December 22, 1998). There is growing concern that Anglican Church leaders can believe anything they want. Another article comments that secular, materialistic and ungodly trends in England are so apparent that "missionaries from South America and Africa are heading to Britain to save our souls in a reversal of traditional roles" (The Sunday Times, July 1, 2001).

The story of Protestant decline is the same in America and other countries. At a recent conference of the Presbyterian church, liberals' attempts to ordain practicing homosexuals and question whether belief in Jesus Christ is necessary for salvation (see John 14:6; Acts 4:12) sent shockwaves through a denomination long considered a bastion of conservative Christian theology. One delegate commented that "the homosexual and christological debates have diminished the church's ability to minister" (2001, WorldNetDaily.com). Another observed: "This is the end of the church as we know it" (Ibid). Conservative members of mainline denominations have threatened to leave if fundamental teachings of the Bible are willfully discarded.

But what does all this mean? What is so significant about the Roman Catholic revival and Protestant decline? Simply this—Jesus told His disciples to watch for specific signs that would announce that His return was near (see Matthew 24; Mark 13; Luke 21). Religious deception figures prominently in those signs. The Apostle Paul describes two more events that will precede the return of Christ—a great falling away and the appearance of a false, but highly influential, religious leader on the world stage (2 Thessalonians 2:1–4). The phrase "falling away" comes from the Greek word apostasia which means "a deliberate abandonment of a former professed position" or a great rebellion against, or general rejection of, the truth of Scripture and the laws of God (see The Expositor's Bible Commentary). This is exactly what we are seeing today in the world, as secular materialism replaces spirituality and liberalism undermines traditional moral teachings. This apostasy is also evident in the perverted teachings and compromised theology promoted by liberal theologians. These developments are described in numerous prophecies about the end of the age (see 1 Timothy 3; 4; 2 Peter 2:1–14).

Old Testament prophets have provided even more details about this end-time apostasy. Isaiah warned that the time would come for the nations of Israel when "children are their oppressors, and women rule over them… those who lead you cause you to err" (Isaiah 3:12). Today, theologians advocate the ordination of women in the name of equality, and the acceptance of homosexuality, easy divorce and cohabitation in the name of tolerance, even though these practices are contrary to Scripture. Liberal theologians assert that the biblical laws prohibiting these practices are intolerant, judgmental and old fashioned. Jeremiah prophesied: "Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of My pasture… who prophesy lies in my name" (Jeremiah 23:1, 25). Jeremiah predicted that the time will come when people will refuse to walk in the "old paths" (6:16). They will lie, steal, kill, commit adultery and practice idolatry—yet claim they are still God's people (7:8–10). Jeremiah wrote that because of misguided teachings of religious leaders, "all their flocks shall be scattered" (10:21). Jeremiah even pinpointed the time of his prophecies, writing that "in the latter days you will understand it perfectly" (23:20). These events are happening today!

Some may wonder whether the Catholic revival is a positive development, and may even wonder whether the Catholic church is what it says it is—the one true Church. The answer emerges when one compares its teachings to the Bible. The Apostle Paul wrote that one of the lies promoted at the end of the age is celibacy (1 Timothy 4:3). Celibacy for priests and nuns is a distinguishing factor of Catholic teaching—yet the Bible states, "it is not good for a man [or a woman] to be alone" (Genesis 2:18). The Apostle Peter was married (Mark 1:29–31; 1 Corinthians 9:5). Mary was not a perpetual virgin as Catholic theology teaches, but had additional children after Jesus was born (Matthew 12:47; 13:55–56). The Bible sanctifies the Sabbath (Exodus 20:8–11), which Jesus, the Apostles and the early Church continued to observe (Luke 4:16; Acts 17:2), yet the Pope urges his flock to keep Sunday sacred (The London Times, July 6, 1998). The list goes on. The Roman Catholic revival is just another aspect of the great apostasy or falling away from true biblical teaching, and it is destined to continue—especially in Europe—to the end of this age (see Revelation 13; 17).

Significant religious trends are developing that will affect the course of history in the near future. Prophecy is coming alive in the news today!

Douglas S. Winnail

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