In recent decades, Roman Catholic popes and Eastern Orthodox patriarchs have inched toward healing the Great Schism, meeting and praying together and contemplating what would have been previously unthinkable!
"One of the most significant developments since the Reformation," it was called, in the words of London's Daily Telegraph newspaper (October 24, 2009). In October 2009, Pope Benedict XVI dropped an ecclesiastical bombshell on the professing Christian world by approving Anglicanorum Coetibus, announcing a stunning new plan to allow disenchanted Anglicans, upset over homosexual bishops, women's ordination and same-sex marriages, to return to the fold of the Roman Catholic Church while retaining much of their former Anglican discipline—including married priests!
This surprise announcement by the Vatican—which shocked the Church of England—has been hailed by the Roman Catholic policy makers as the work of the Holy Spirit guiding the various parts of the professing Christian community "towards Catholic unity" under the Pope. However, both history and Bible prophecies that are coming alive today, offer a very different perspective on this remarkable recent development!
The momentous announcement by the Vatican is an attempt to reverse the course of history! The Anglican Church—the Church of England—split from the Church of Rome in 1534 when King Henry VIII was refused a marriage annulment by the Vatican. Since that time, the Anglican Church has been at the heart of Protestant England—the tiny island nation that withstood several attempts by Catholic sovereigns on the Continent to bring the English back to the Roman Catholic fold by force! The defeat of the Spanish Armada, sent by the Catholic King Philip II of Spain in 1588, was viewed in England as "an act of God" to preserve Protestant England. These dramatic events in England and other parts of Europe effectively advanced the Protestant Reformation. The recent announcement to ease Anglicans' return to the Roman Church will be a significant reversal of prior trends, and may achieve what the Spanish Armada failed to accomplish—the demise of the Anglican Church and the eclipse of Protestant England.
Another ancient rift is also in the process of being smoothed over. In 1054, the "Great Schism" split the Roman Church in two when the Pope in Rome and the Patriarch in Constantinople excommunicated each other over issues of theology and papal authority. Old antipathies were further aggravated by the rise of Italian Catholic merchants into dominant positions in the trade and financial sectors of Constantinople, where they displaced native Greek traders. This smoldering discontent erupted into violence when Greek Catholics in Constantinople attacked the Roman Catholic merchants. In 1204, crusaders on the Fourth Crusade launched by Pope Innocent III conquered and brutally sacked the magnificent city of Constantinople. Rome's imposition of Latin patriarchs on the defeated Greeks spawned a legacy of hatred and mistrust between the Eastern and Western branches of "Christendom" that has lingered for more than 950 years.
However, in recent decades, Roman Catholic popes and Eastern Orthodox patriarchs have inched toward healing the Great Schism, meeting and praying together and contemplating what would have been previously unthinkable! The move toward reconciliation is also being driven by external forces: the rising threat from radical Islam, the decline of moral values in Western society and the efforts of Europe's political elite to exclude any semblance of Christianity from public life. Leaders in Rome and Constantinople realize that, unless they unite, they will sooner rather than later be sidelined into irrelevance by the rising forces of secularism.
Seen in this light, Pope Benedict's surprise invitation to Anglicans to return with dignity to the Roman Catholic fold is a vital step and may even be a prelude to reunification with the long-estranged Eastern Orthodox Christians—the other "lung" of the Church. We appear to be watching another significant turning point in history—one that was foretold long ago in the Bible.
Nearly 2,000 years ago, the Apostle John was given a prophetic vision of events that will occur at the end of this age, just before Jesus Christ returns to this earth. In Revelation 13, John described two beasts. One pictures a powerful figure leading a European political organization that will emerge as the final revival of a system of government linked to the ancient Roman Empire (see Daniel 2:40–43). The other beast foreshadows the appearance of an influential religious figure, leading a church that promotes the legitimacy of the first beast (see Daniel 7:8, 15–25). Later, John pictures this religious organization as a "scarlet woman" with global influence, "riding" (influencing) the political beast that will arise in Europe (see Revelation 17). That woman is named: "MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH" (Revelation 17:5).
Protestants have long linked this symbolic representation to the Roman Catholic Church (see Halley's Bible Handbook, 24th ed.), with its many religious customs and traditions that hearken back to the religious mysteries of ancient Babylon (see The Two Babylons, Hislop). Interestingly, popes and Vatican diplomats have for decades encouraged and promoted the formation of a united Europe. Is it any surprise, then, that such an entity is emerging today from the ashes of the Roman Empire—just as the prophecies in Daniel and Revelation predicted?
The prophet Isaiah reveals additional details about the activities of this end-time religious organization. This "daughter of Babylon" will claim to be "a lady forever" (think here of Rome, "the eternal city"), and that "there is no one else besides me" (think of its claim to be the one true Church). It will assert, "I shall not sit as a widow, nor shall I know the loss of children" (Isaiah 47:1–8)—it will take great pains to reclaim its "daughter" churches that have for a time separated in protest (Revelation 17:5).
We are witnessing these prophecies coming alive today in the efforts of the Roman Church to bring other professing Christian churches back into the Catholic fold of the Mother Church! The Apostle Paul also records a prophecy that places this migration of once-protesting daughters back to the Roman Church as part of a series of dramatic events that will occur just before the return of Jesus Christ to this earth.
Scripture reveals that at the end of this age, many once-true Christians will abandon their faith and return to pagan practices (1 Timothy 4:1). Some will re-enter a paganized form of false Christianity; others will abandon all pretense of Christianity. Even as true Christians are abandoning the faith once delivered, shock waves will run through the wider professing Christian community, as once-separated "daughters" of Rome reunite with their "mother." The first and second beasts, described above, will stir billions of human beings with a false religion that rebels against God's laws and the truth of Jesus Christ.
Ancient prophecies that foretold the return of protesting daughter churches back to the Mother Church, and the rebellion of millions against the teachings of the God of the Bible, are coming alive today in dramatic events that will precede the return of Jesus Christ to this earth and the end of this age! To learn more about this vital topic, please request your free copies of our booklets, Satan's Counterfeit Christianity and The Beast of Revelation: Myth, Metaphor or Soon-Coming Reality? As we come nearer to the final prophesied time of great apostasy, you need to know the truth about the future of our world!