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Then I saw another beast rising out of the earth. It had two horns like a lamb and it spoke like a dragon. It exercises all the authority of the first beast in its presence, and makes the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose mortal wound was healed. It performs great signs, even making fire come down from heaven to earth in front of people, and by the signs that it is allowed to work in the presence ofthe beast it deceives those who dwell on earth, telling them to make an image for the beast that was wounded by the sword and yet lived. -- Revelation 13: 11-14 (ESV)
Jesus often marveled in His ministry at how often His disciples missed the obvious. Having eyes do you not see? He who has ears let him hear! There is a famous lyric from a popular song that asks how we can stand next to the truth and not see it? Perhaps it is human nature. Especially in these final days where distractions abound and narcissism will only allow most people to see things in relation to themselves. We are so saturated with media, both electronic and social, that it is amazing we realize anything that is actually going on around us. Even Christians continue to fail to see the signs as they too are ever more self absorbed. Tuning into Facebook on a Sunday is like a report card for how powerful every single service was that day. One backslapping tale after another. Or pictures posted of the latest outreach efforts or feeding the homeless. So much for not doing your good deeds to be seen by man. The larger point for today is that we know all the buzz words but pay no attention to the details. Every Christian I know believes we are living in the end times. We believe Jesus Christ is coming back soon for His bride. Yet we are more enamored with leadership conferences than we are with paying attention. We are more obsessed with false revivals than we are with what the daily news portends for us. We are more concerned with padding our pews and our bank accounts than we are preaching the Gospel and letting the Holy Spirit divide those who would be saved from those who will not.
Chapter 13 of revelation is widely considered the chapter on the prophetic picture of the end times. While I am admittedly not an eschatology expert, I can tell the signs I see in everyday life for what they are. They key verses today are what theologians refer to when they are discussing the fact that there will be a one world religion before Christ returns. Here is a portion from Matthew Henry's Commentary regarding this section:
Those who understand the first beast to denote a worldly power, take the second to be also a persecuting and assumed power, which acts under the disguise of religion, and of charity to the souls of men. It is a spiritual dominion, professing to be derived from Christ, and exercised at first in a gentle manner, but soon spake like the dragon. Its speech betrayed it; for it gives forth those false doctrines and cruel decrees, which show it to belong to the dragon, and not to the Lamb. It exercised all the power of the former beast. It pursues the same design, to draw men from worshipping the true God, and to subject the souls of men to the will and control of men. -- Matthew Henry
Under the disguise of religion beloved. Pretending to be concerned with charity to the souls of men. Claiming to be derived from Christ but false to the core. False doctrines used to draw men from worshipping the true God by allowing the souls of men to be subject to the will and control of men. Wow. If that does not describe the end times we are living in right now I do not know what does. This is the apostate church beloved. This is the false teachers you see lining up each and every day on television. This is Joel Osteen and TD Jakes. This is Rick Warren and Andy Stanley. This is Hillsong and IHOP. They are drawing people away from the true God and their false doctrines subject the souls of men to the control and will of men. The signs are undeniable for he who wishes to see. Having eyes is not enough. You have to want to see:
For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions -- 2Timothy 4: 3 (ESV)
This is the bible teaching us about the end times beloved. We know the verse but do we understand all of the elements? This verse is not talking about people in the world. It is talking about people in church. They will not tolerate sound doctrine! They will not put up with it! Try having a doctrinal conversation with a Joel Osteen adherent or a follower of Joseph Prince. They will not put up with doctrine. Other false gospels outright smear doctrine. The false signs and lying wonders churches like Bethel and IHOP consider doctrine to be a religious spirit and a box to put God in. I have written before how one mega church pastor referred to those in his congregation who wanted to go deeper in the Word as jackasses. How another referred to them as the excrement in the body of Christ. They have itching ears beloved. What does that mean? Well it means that they have their own worldview that is built around their false doctrine. They want to believe that they are little gods. That they do not have to worry about their sins. That God wants them to be filthy rich. Those things itch because they go against true doctrine. On some level they must know that. It is like having eyes but not seeing. So instead of putting up with correction, they gather around themselves teachers who will scratch their itch. They like their passions even though they are against the Word of God. They do not care. So they seek out preachers and teachers who will tell them that what they believe is not only right but that it is righteous. And the signs of the times all around them? Too deep for them to consider. They effectually are professing Christians who treat doctrine as an agnostic.
I have had well intended people ask me seriously how anyone will fall for the mark of the beast, given the precise description in Scripture. First of all that assumes people read Scripture. Most do not anymore. Churches do not encourage it. People do not need to bring their Bibles anymore. False paraphrases are passed off as translations. Pastors today engage in proof texting instead of expositing God's Word. The result is that everyone knows Jeremiah 29:11 but few know that is actually was not written to them. Secondly however, this thinking fails to realize something. It is the church that will lead the march to take the mark. Yes, you read that right. The apostate church is in bed with the world already. Do you think Joel Osteen is not going to encourage his followers to participate? How else will you buy his next book? Before we get to the mark however we must get to the formation of the one world church. The signs are everywhere for those who are willing to see. Today we will discuss a recent sign that every true Christian ought to take notice of. Recently, a small group of false teachers and prophets went to visit Pope Francis. The two biggest names were Mike Bickle and Kris Vallotton.
Mike Bickle is the founder and leader of the wildly heretical International House of Prayer (IHOP) in Kansas City. Not to be confused with the pancake place, which has better waffles and sounder theology, IHOP is a mish mosh of absurd theologies that they openly profess. They teach the ungodly bridal paradigm that confuses young Christian women. They believe in the Joel's end time army teaching that confuses many young Christian men. They teach Eastern Mysticism and contemplative prayer. The worship music they produce borders on soft core pornography. Bickle is a proven false prophet and claims direct audible words from God Himself. He is an open member of the New Apostolic Reformation that considers him one of the current living Apostles of Jesus Christ. He believes in the unbiblical seven mountains mandate that says we must take over the world to bring about the second coming of Jesus Christ. When it comes to false teaching, Mike Bickle is not just anyone. He is one of the worst out there today and wields tremendous influence, especially over young and impressionable Christians which his teachings target.
Kris Vallotton is the Senior Associate Pastor at Bethel Church in Redding California. Bethel is just as bad as IHOP on the heresy scale. They are a chief proponent of the false signs and lying wonders network. They have claimed the gem stones heresy, gold dust manifestations and the false "glory clouds" at their services. Their Senior Pastor, Bill Johnson, brags about angel feathers just magically falling from the ceiling when he was eating at a diner. They have uncontrolled prophecy open mic nights where anyone is allowed to come up and offer a false prophecy. Bethel operates a School of Supernatural Ministry where they claim they can teach you the gifts of the Holy Spirit, even though the Bible says only the Spirit decides how they are apportioned. The heretical worship outfit Jesus Culture came from their youth group. Bethel has supported and promoted "grave sucking"; where people visit the graves of former false teachers to try and suck some of the "residual anointing" from the crypts. If it were Bill Johnson, I would say he is the heretical equal of Mike Bickle but since it is his lieutenant Vallotton, he is a step below Bickle. Both though are dangerous and as false as they come.
The Pope is not only a false teacher but a false Christ. The position is also referred to as the Vicar of Christ, inferring that the Pope is the representative of Jesus Christ on earth. So what happens when false prophets meet with the false Christ and what significance does it portend for us as believers? Vallotton has posted a video of himself speaking at Bethel following this meeting that revealed quite a bit about this meeting. Vollotton claims that the Pope has a deep passion for unity among believers. In addition to this Vollotton claimed that the Pope said:
Theology is a very complicated subject and we should let the theologians argue it out and figure it out but in the meantime we should love each other and learn how to value people who think differently than ourselves. -- Pope Francis
Beloved hear me very clearly. This is the blueprint for the one world church. This is how the way gets paved. It will be paved under the false notion that theology is something that is too difficult to figure out combined with a carnal pursuit of love. This is the clarion call for people pushing unity. But let us never forget that the Bible does NOT teach this:
I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. -- Romans 16: 17-18 (ESV)
What causes true division in the church? Doctrine that is false! This quote from the Pope can certainly be considered smooth talk but it is not biblical. We are not supposed to value people who think differently the same as those who we call brother and sister. We value them as creations of God and love them with the love of Christ but we do not elevate their beliefs to the level of acceptable truth! That is the definition of ecumenicalism. That is the one world religious system we will see as described in the key verses today. We ought to value those whose thinking is so darkened by this world enough to tell them the truth. That Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven and to escape the coming wrath. If we are unified by anything other than correct doctrine that is a false unity. Vollotton said that the Pope made it clear that theology should not divide us. Say what? That is not what Jesus said: