Summary: There is a coming conflict that will boil down to two religions - one right and one wrong. Which will you be part of?
Much has been written about the socio-political situation at the time of the end, but we need to study more what will take place in the religious realm at those times. Common sense tells us that the closing hours of the age are about a conflict - Satan is seeking to usurp God’s place so that he can step in and be in control. That has been his plan from the time he fell, and it is headed for a climax. The key to his victory, as he sees it, is the hearts and souls of humanity. As a result, as things start to play out, we will begin - and I must say, we are seeing it now - to see the polarization of two competing faiths. This fact can be found throughout Scripture, as it is seen in the parable of the wheat and tares in Matthew 13:24-30, as well as in the parable of the dragnet in Matthew 13:47-48, among other passages (note in particular I Timothy 4:1-4, Matthew 25:33, etc.). I believe the time is soon upon us when this polarization will compel individuals to choose, and there are only two choices. The first is the Remnant of Christ, and the second is the apostasy of Satan. We as Christians are to inform as many as we can of the RIGHT choice, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ.
This portion of the series I wish to focus on the Apostate Church which will be instituted by the False Prophet to worship the Beast during the Tribulation. This religious system is discussed at length in Revelation 17, beginning in verse 4, where it is symbolized by a whore riding upon a hideous scarlet beast rising on the waters - the "Scarlet Woman." The description of this "Scarlet Woman" begins in verse 4 and this is what we find:
1. She is elaborately clad in scarlet and purple, and is adorned with precious stones and pearls (referring to a government-sanctioned system with a great deal of wealth at her disposal)
2. She holds a golden cup filled with abominations (this symbolizes heresies and possibly immorality, mixing the skin of the truth - the gold cup - with apostasy - its content. It will be a religion that appears "Christian," yet will be anything but).
3. The name on her head "Mystery Babylon the Great - Babylon as it is referred to in prophetic Scripture is always synonymous with apostasy and of a wealthy temporal government. Therefore, this apostate religion is basically a "spiritual Babylon."
4. She is intoxicated with the blood of saints and martyrs - this symbolizes that the apostate faith is in terrible conflict with the True Faith, and that it comes to power at the expense of genuine Judeo-Christianity, which it will persecute and ostracize.
5. She causes those who behold her to ogle over her and lust after her - Note that even Saint John the Revelator was captivated by this momentarily as he was seeing the vision of it. Essentially, this will be a religious system that will appeal to many with a relevent but false message (ie; "seeker-friendly" in the truest sense!)that will gain a lot of adherents (note also Mark 13:22).
Please note that initially we see the "good" image of this false system, but as we read on in verse 16, the system itself falls from favor and is destroyed by Antichrist. There are explanations to all this we can get to in due time. However, it must be noted that this passage references an apostate religious system that will arise, but in time outlast its initial purpose when the Antichrist and False Prophet institute their real intentions. In order to understand future events, it is important to understand that these things do not just happen overnight, but rather evolve and develop over time. The system we just talked about briefly above will likely be a culmination of lesser factors that lead up to it. Therefore, in order to get the full picture of what’s going on, we need to look first at the contributing factors to see how things will come together. That is the purpose of this series.
A. Road to Apostasy in the Vehicle of Complacency
To begin, let us go back to the opening chapters of Revelation. These initial chapters deal with letters addressed to the seven churches of Asia. If one looks at this from the perspective of Apostolic Christianity (which, as an Eastern Orthodox, I am) all of these churches were under the episcopal authority of Saint John the Revelator, who in our Eastern Christian Tradition is known as the Bishop of Ephesus. In essence, what the Apostle is doing in the earlier chapters of Revelation is a "spiritual audit" of the parishes in his diocese, if you will. All of these congregations have their strengths and their weaknesses, as the Apostle points out clearly, and interesting enough all of these are relevent to us today as Christians. The focus here is on the seventh parish of Laodicea, which is addressed at length in Revelation 3:14-19. This parish was plagued with a LOT of problems, and we will now look at those: