A recent article in The Catholic Herald boldly stated: "For a long time, Anglicans faithful to Christ's teaching have been knocking nervously at Rome's door. Now it has swung open" ("The Pope Opens New Route to Christian Unity," Oct. 21, 2009). A pivotal papal decree opens the way for the Anglican priesthood to embrace Rome while enabling these priests to retain key aspects of their traditional liturgy and their wives. As The Economist reported, "The Vatican has already taken, following reordination, several dozen rebel Anglican priests, some of them married" ("Unleashing the Counter-Reformation," Oct. 24, 2009).
Why change churches?
Many traditional Anglicans have never been comfortable with the decision to admit women to the priesthood some 17 years ago. Neither has this wing of the Anglican Communion been pleased with the Church of England's (and its American Episcopal counterpart) ever-increasing tolerance of homosexuality.
But the question remains: How severely will this recent papal offer affect membership figures in the Anglican Church? How many adherents would it stand to lose? Bear in mind that the global Anglican Communion consists of about 77 million adherents. A Guardian article recently predicted that "tens of thousands of disaffected Anglicans could become Roman Catholics following a decree made today by Pope Benedict to poach whole Protestant communities for the church for the first time since the [Protestant] Reformation" ("Pope Opens Gates to Anglicans Disaffected Over Women Clergy," Oct. 20, 2009, emphasis added throughout).
The Economist adds: "Some think (or fear) that as many as one in seven Church of England priests could convert." On the other hand, Melanie McDonagh in The London Evening Standard estimated, "Perhaps a few dozen parishes will do so, quite a number of them in London. It's not exactly going to be rolling back the Reformation" ("The Pope's Invitation to a Much Broader Church," Oct. 23, 2009).
Some question Rome's motives
Although the archbishop of Canterbury has reluctantly acceded to Pope Benedict's overtures to his flock, others have openly greeted this papal offer with a high degree of skepticism. Prominent among these is Hans Kung, the independent-minded Swiss Catholic theologian. He titled his critical article in The Guardian: "The Vatican Thirst for Power Divides Christianity and Damages Catholicism." Just below the title, the subheading stated, "The astonishing efforts to lure away Anglican priests show that Pope Benedict is set on restoring the Roman Imperium" (Oct. 27, 2009).
Hans Küng added in his article that the present pope "wants to preserve the medieval, centralistic Roman system for all ages...; The old-fashioned call for a 'return to Rome' raises its ugly head again, this time through the conversion particularly of the priests, if possible, en masse" (ibid.).
Other insightful observers see these recent events in a somewhat different light. Noted British author A.N. Wilson, for instance, said the following: "The numbers of practicing Catholics in England is greater than the number of practicing Anglicans. Within a generation, there will probably be more Muslims than practicing Anglicans in the British Isles...; Britain has gone through a truly prodigious change in the last 30 years. It has moved from being a largely white culture with Christianity as its background religion to being a completely secular, multicultural society" ("Rock of Ages, Cleft by the Pope," International Herald Tribune, Oct. 24, 2009).
For a limited period of time, Mr. Wilson's assessment may be essentially correct. But in the long run, Hans Küng's fears will ultimately be realized, big time.
The counter-reformation in prophecy
What The Economist called "The Pope's Power Grab" (Oct. 24) goes hand in hand with the increased secular power of the European Union, made possible by the Lisbon Treaty. A pivotal biblical prophecy deals with a final revival of the ancient Roman Empire foretold in the books of Daniel and Revelation. The Bible prophesies that a group of 10 "kings" or national leaders, through various alliances or other political arrangements, will give rise to a geopolitical union in Central Europe—eventually leading to the second coming of Jesus Christ and the end of this age of man.
The Hebrew prophet Daniel foretold future occurrences in Europe hundreds of years before the time of Christ. His prophecies were later complemented by the book of Revelation revealed to the apostle John near the end of the first century.
Unlike today's increasingly secular, multicultural Europe, this new world superpower will be strongly undergirded and supported by a pervasive religious element—aided and abetted by astounding but satanic miracles performed by a charismatic religious leader the Bible calls "the false prophet." He will even have the power to cause fire to "come down from heaven" (Revelation 13:13).
He will join hands with a charismatic secular leader the Bible calls "the beast." These two together will head a European superpower constituting the final revival of the old Roman Empire. The whole world will fall under their spell and people will even worship this Beast power (verse 8)—a closely combined union of church and state. There will be no separation of powers as the United States and other nations now understand this concept. (To understand much more, request or download our free booklets Are We Living in the Time of the End? and The Book of Revelation Unveiled.)
Those who mastermind this massive satanic deception to come will blaspheme the true God in heaven (verse 6). The true saints of God will be severely persecuted (verse 7). But where do these major events, apparently not so far ahead, leave us today? What is our awesome responsibility?
Coping with a counterfeit Christianity
Jesus Christ clearly stated: "Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name...;and will deceive many" (Matthew 24:4-5). Many people assume that those who bear the name "Christian" generally follow the beliefs, teachings and practices of Jesus Christ. But the New Testament clearly tells us that not everyone who accepts the name of Christ is really a true Christian.
Jesus foretold that many would claim His name but deny Him by their actions. He said such would "call Me, 'Lord, Lord,' and not do the things which I say" (Luke 6:46; compare Matthew 7:21). Christ and His apostles spoke of false prophets and false apostles. They revealed that two opposing, ostensibly Christian religions would emerge.
One would be led by God's Holy Spirit and remain faithful to His teachings. The other would be guided by a different spirit of deception, accepting the name of Christ but twisting His teachings to create a convincing counterfeit that most people would fall for.
The New Testament presents a concise historical sketch of the roots of these two manifestations of Christianity—one true and one false. Christ's apostles depicted the origin of each and their fundamental characteristics. You need to understand what they are.
To know much more, request or download our free booklet The Church Jesus Built. It is one of the most important booklets that we have ever published. Ask for your copy today. WNP