Why are so many Protestant churches in crisis? What does prophecy reveal will happen to them as the end of this age approaches?
Mass defections from Protestant churches are now the order of the day! Methodist, Presbyterian and Episcopalian churches have lost, in total, millions of former followers. Other Protestant groups have also lost many members—as have many “independent” churches. Why?
Many polls show that increasing numbers of people feel these churches do not really “stand for anything.” They have so much watered down what they believe and are increasingly “joining the world” that it is hard to distinguish the way of life of churchgoers from the general population of this world. An article in USA Today points out:
Most young adults today don’t pray, don’t worship and don’t read the Bible, a major survey by a Christian research firm shows.
If the trends continue, “the Millennial generation will see churches closing as quickly as GM dealerships,” says Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources. In the group’s survey of 1,200 18- to 29-years old, 72 percent say they’re “really more spiritual than religious.…
We have dumbed down what it means to be part of the church so much that it means almost nothing, even to people who already say they are part of the church,” Rainer says (April 27, 2010).
Truly, the “mainstream” churches have “dumbed down” what religion means. They really do not “stand for anything”! Rather, they have, in fact, joined the world. So why should anyone join them? Increasing numbers of people think “what’s the difference” between those in the church and those out of the church. They wonder, “Is there any religion out there that really stands for something?”
Interestingly, the Roman Catholic Church “appears” to stand for something it believes—even though often ridiculed by the mainstream media. Yet many Bible-believing people are put off by the “popery” of Marian devotion and so many practices clearly taken from ancient paganism. What millions want is a religion based on the Bible. As one of the noted Protestant theologians of his time wrote: “The Bible, the whole Bible and nothing but the Bible, is the religion of Protestants” (Schaff-Herzog Cyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, article “Chillingworth, W.”).
Yet, sadly, the vast majority of “mainstream” churchgoers have almost no knowledge of what the Bible actually teaches! The ministers in these churches get up and give generalized sermons referring to the Bible, but rarely reading, explaining and expounding whole passages from the Bible to teach people what the Bible says. And most Americans and Britons do not study the Bible in detail to find out what the Creator is actually telling them about the meaning of life and what they ought to do. Because they lack a solid biblical foundation for their faith, most modern ministers are going along “whole hog” with the ideas and traditions of men. So without a powerful and genuine commitment to “seek” the God of the Bible and do what He says, their followers are slowly but surely compromising with Satan the devil’s agenda on virtually everything. It will not be too many more years until these Protestant leaders of professing “Christianity” not only allow homosexual practices for their members, but begin to approve polygamy, polyandry and “group marriages”! How dare I say this? Because that is definitely the path of continuing compromise which they are now on. And there is no indication that they will ever get off that path!
The Gospel of John specifically condemned the religious leaders of Jesus’ day by stating, “they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:43). My friends, do you “love the praise of men”? Do you really believe that in the soon-coming Great Tribulation these puny men will be able to save you?
The inspired word of God warns all of us: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart departs from the Lord” (Jeremiah 17:5). As the Eternal God warns us in the book of Proverbs: “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12). If you who read this article carefully and really want to obey your Creator and have part in His everlasting Kingdom, please think carefully about what I am writing and do not simply “go along” with pagan ideas masquerading as Christian!
The respected “mainstream” Protestant historian, Jesse Lyman Hurlbut, in his well-known history entitled, The Story of the Christian Church, describes the early decades of what we call the “Dark Ages” as the main developing pagan church took over the name of Christianity:
The forms and ceremonies of paganism gradually crept into the worship. Some of the old heathen feasts became church festivals with change of worship. About 405ad, images of saints and martyrs began to appear in the churches, at first as memorials, then in succession revered, adored, and worshiped. The adoration of the Virgin Mary was substituted for the worship of Venus and Diana; the Lord’s Supper became a sacrifice in place of a memorial; and the elder evolved from a preacher into a priest. As a result of the church sitting in power, we do not see Christianity transforming the world to its own idea, but the world dominating the church (p. 79).
Sadly, neither Protestant nor Catholic theologians as a whole have ever taken seriously the simple, straightforward teaching of Jesus. For when Jesus Christ was asked by a young man the way to eternal life, He replied, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments” (Matthew 19:17). In the famous Sermon on the Mount, Jesus clearly stated, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:17–19).
Many professing Christians do not remotely grasp the importance of those words. Christ said, regarding the law, that not “one jot or one tittle”—the tiniest marks in the Hebrew script—would pass from it until heaven and earth pass away. Since heaven and earth have not passed away, we must understand that the law remains. Did His “fulfilling” the law somehow change these commands? Or did they change after Christ’s resurrection? No! Heaven and earth did not pass away at His resurrection. And we see that Jesus’ own example was to keep all of the Ten Commandments (cf. Luke 4:16)!
At the very end of his life, in his final letter, the Apostle Peter specifically warned that deceived men could pervert the teachings of the Apostle Paul into an excuse to do away with the law of God! Peter describes Paul’s epistles as a part of Scripture—yet as a part that “ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction. Therefore, dear friends, since you already know this, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless” (2 Peter 3:16–17, NIV).
Lawless? Do you think for one minute that Peter was talking about traffic laws? Of course not! He was talking about the spiritual law of God—the Ten Commandments. God obviously knew, in advance, that false teachers would rise up—as Peter and Paul warned about over and over—and turn men away from the way of life patterned on the Ten Commandments, which God intended all true Christians to follow. Paul consistently obeyed God’s laws—kept the weekly Sabbaths and the Holy Days—and never once said God’s spiritual law was abrogated! Otherwise, he would have been contradicting himself when he wrote in God’s inspired word, “Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing, but keeping the commandments of God is what matters” (1 Corinthians 7:19).
Yet bishops and popes substituted their own pagan doctrine and “church traditions” for the clear teaching and example of Jesus Christ. And many of these substitutions were accepted and even embraced by the Protestant “reformers.” Martin Luther said: “No one can deny that we hold, believe, sing, and confess all things in correspondence with the old church, that we make nothing new therein nor add anything thereto, and in this way we belong to the old church and are one with it” (Lindsey, A History of the Reformation, Vol. I, p. 468).
By their own statements, then, it is proved that the Protestants regarded themselves only as a continuation of the historic Catholic church, but under a different and “purified” form. Luther himself vehemently affirms their essential oneness with the Catholic Church!
Speaking of the other great Protestant Reformer, John Calvin, respected historian George Park Fisher tells us: “He did not deny that the Christian societies acknowledging the Pope are ‘churches of Christ’…. He indignantly denies that he has withdrawn from the Church” (History of Christian Doctrine, p. 304).
Schaff tells us that it is in speaking of the visible or historic Catholic church that Calvin writes: “As our present design is to treat of the visible Church, we may learn even from her the title of mother, how useful and even necessary it is for us to know her” (Schaff, Vol. VIII, p. 450).
The insistence of the Protestant leaders on their basic unity with the Catholic church, and their identification of her as their “mother” church is most significant!
In the early editions of Martin Luther’s translation of the New Testament, there are many illustrations picturing the “Whore of Babylon” as the Roman Catholic Church. In describing this widely understood interpretation, Bainton tells us: “Fallen Babylon is plainly Rome” (Here I Stand, p. 258).
Countless Protestant books, pamphlets, and tracts make that same identification today. They brand the Roman Catholic Church as the “Great Whore” of Revelation 17.
But, it must be admitted, most of the more conservative Protestant denominational writers have stopped making this identification. After those first editions of the Bible, and pamphlets and tracts, they suddenly came to the embarrassing realization that they were telling on themselves! For in one of the easily understood passages in this inspired prophetic book, God describes a great false religious system which was to arise and labels it “Babylon the Great” (Revelation 17:1–6).
Turning to Revelation 17, we see that the woman pictured here is a fallen woman—a “Great Whore.” She sits upon “many waters.” In verse 15, the prophecy itself identifies these waters as “peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues.” This fallen woman, then, is a great church—ruling over many nations and peoples. She is accused of having “committed fornication” with the kings of the earth. Spiritually, that could only mean that she is guilty of mixing in the politics and wars of this world.
Christ said that His Kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36). James speaks of those who participate in the material lusts and wars of this world as spiritual “adulterers” (James 4:1–4). The prophecy now becomes plain! This apostate church is condemned because she has played politics and participated in the warfare of this world.
This fallen woman, or church, is arrayed in purple and scarlet colors. The purple symbolizes royal power and dignity. The scarlet signifies her spiritual whoredom! She is a wealthy church “adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls” (Revelation 17:4). And, John writes: “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 marveled with great amazement” (v. 6).
This church cruelly persecuted and martyred many of God’s saints. But her wealth, her power, and her royal majesty inspired a sense of awe even in John! Later, God reveals: “The woman whom you saw is that great city which reigns over the kings of the earth” (v. 18).
All of these descriptions apply perfectly to the Roman Catholic Church! This is the church that has persecuted God’s scattered people down through the ages. This is the church whose wealth and material power are equaled by no other. This is the church which has had its own army, and has actively participated in the wars and politics of this world!
Only the capital of “Christendom” at Rome could truly be called a “great city” which has ruled over the kings of this world. There is no mistaking this identification! Alexander Hislop, in his remarkable book, The Two Babylons, states: “There never has been any difficulty in the mind of any enlightened Protestant in identifying the woman ‘sitting on seven mountains,’ and having on her forehead the name written, ‘Mystery, Babylon the Great,’ with the Roman apostasy” (Hislop, p. 1).
He tells us: “It has been known all along that Popery was baptised Paganism; but God is now making it manifest, that the Paganism which Rome has baptised is, in all its essential elements, the very Paganism which prevailed in the ancient literal Babylon, when Jehovah opened before Cyrus the two-leaved gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron” (ibid., p. 2).
In this most enlightening work, Hislop proceeds to prove that indeed the Roman Catholic Church adopted the philosophies, the traditions, and the church festivals of the ancient pagans. Roman Catholicism is nothing more than “baptized paganism”!
Hislop states that “Rome is in very deed the Babylon of the Apocalypse, that the essential character of her system, the grand object of her worship, her festivals, her doctrines and discipline, her rites and ceremonies, her priesthood, and their orders, have all been derived from ancient Babylon” (ibid., p. 3). No wonder God calls this system, “Mystery, Babylon the Great!” The Roman Catholic system contains the very same doctrines, rituals and pagan religious holidays as the ancient, heathen city of Babylon—so often used to typify sin.
But thus far we have left out two important points. The first is that in describing this great false church, John states: “The inhabitants of the earth were made drunk with the wine of her fornication” (Revelation 17:2). Hislop reveals that in the original Babylonian religion, the worshipers were literally made drunk so that they would favorably receive the pagan “mysteries” (Hislop, p. 5). This indicates that the worshippers of Rome are made spiritually drunk so that they cannot see spiritual truths clearly. God says: “For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication” (Revelation 18:3).
These poisonous teachings and false concepts have crept into every civilized nation on earth. The peoples of the earth have become spiritually drunk on these false doctrines! When they approach the Bible and spiritual truths they become mixed-up, confused and divided.
“Babylon” literally means confusion. It is great confusion! And it typifies what we have seen of the Protestant reformers—arguing, bickering, divided even among themselves. And it describes the mixed-up, self-contradictory course taken by Luther, Calvin and the other reformers. The reformers were actually rebelling against only a small part of the Roman Catholic teachings. And they were as men spiritually drunk—not knowing where they wanted to go, or how to get there—still guided and misled by a background of paganized Roman doctrines and concepts. As we have seen, when they came out of the Roman Catholic Church, they brought most of her teachings and traditions right along with them!
Now we should be able to understand clearly the full name and description of this whole apostate system! It is given in Revelation 17:5: “And on her forehead a name was written, Mystery, Babylon the Great, the Mother of Harlots and of the Abominations of the earth.”
The corrupt Roman “mother” church has given birth to harlot daughters! If the clear, consistent principles of scriptural identification are to be honestly applied, the Protestant churches are “harlot daughters” of paganized, apostate Rome! They came out of her in protest. But, as we have clearly seen, they retained most of her pagan doctrines and concepts. They are still following Rome’s example of mixing in the politics and wars of this world. Though Jesus Christ warned against this, they are substituting the “traditions” of men for the Commandments of God (Matthew 15:3–9). And we have seen abundant Protestant testimony that they recognize that Rome is their “mother”!
One Protestant historian comments on Luther: “He started out to inaugurate a Church composed of those who had faith and spiritual vision, and who revealed an ability and power to proclaim the word of God. But, in reality, he left in full operation a large relic of ancient creeds, an extensive ‘rump’ of superstition, tradition and magic, and a heavy inheritance of external authority” (Jones, The Church’s Debt to Heretics, p. 228).
As Dr. Jones clearly implies, the Protestants still retain many pagan doctrines and traditions that they inherited from Rome. We have observed that some of these false traditions involve the pagan holidays, which the early Catholics adopted and gave Christian-sounding names. We ought to look into these things!
The Protestant churches stand clearly identified by God Almighty as the “harlot daughters” of apostate Rome! Speaking of this entire Babylonian system, God commands: “Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues.” (Revelation 18:4). The question is whether or not we will obey our Maker!
So what does all this mean for your life? It means that if God is opening your mind to His Truth, and if you have proved to yourself that the Holy Bible is, in fact, the inspired word of God (2 Timothy 3:16), then you must be willing to obey Jesus Christ’s basic command. For Jesus Christ said: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God” (Luke 4:4). There is only one Church on earth that treats this command with total respect. It is called “the Church of God”—the inspired name of God’s Church stated twelve times in the New Testament. And it is that Church which is willing to obey the fourth commandment of God and to “keep holy” the day God “made holy”—the seventh-day Sabbath (Exodus 31:15). It is that Church which is also surrendered enough to God to keep His seven annual Sabbaths as well as the seventh-day weekly Sabbath. It is the Church that is really willing to “grow in grace and in knowledge” and to grow “to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13). It is the Church that is willing to do the real Work of God commanded by Jesus Christ: “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14).
Yes, Protestantism undoubtedly will disappear within the lifetimes of most of you reading this article! For when you read the clear statements showing that the “revived” Roman Empire will take over virtually the entire world (Revelation 18:3)—and will impose its religion on others on pain of death if people resist (Revelation 13:15)—you will quickly perceive that no viable alternative religion will remain within the western world. As you long-term subscribers of Tomorrow’s World begin to “see” the enormous prophetic events we have described to you actually begin to occur on a massive scale—as the entire “world” around you becomes increasingly violent, confused and deceived—may God help you to act on the Truth!
If you wish to counsel with a representative of the true Church of God—which sponsors this very Work—then let us hear from you. Tell us clearly that you wish to contact our representative and give us your address or phone number. There will be no pressure upon you to “join” anything, to “give” any money or do anything else like that. We know that it is only God who “calls” people to understand and to act upon His Truth. But any such contact could be the most vital “turning point” in your entire life! May Almighty God grant all of you the understanding, the faith and the courage to “come out” of modern Babylon. May you then truly serve and obey the Creator who gives you life and breath and who is now beginning to intervene powerfully in world affairs.