God’s Judgment Against “the Man of Lawlessness”
“Every tree not producing fine fruit gets cut down and thrown into the fire.”—MATTHEW 7:19.
1, 2. What is the man of lawlessness, and how did it develop?
WHEN the apostle Paul was inspired by God to foretell the coming of a “man of lawlessness,” he said that it was beginning to appear even in his day. As the previous article explained, Paul was talking about a class of individuals who would take the lead in apostatizing from true Christianity. That turning away from the truth began late in the first century, especially after the death of the last apostles. The lawless class introduced doctrines and practices that were in opposition to God’s Word.—2 Thessalonians 2:3, 7; Acts 20:29, 30; 2 Timothy 3:16, 17; 4:3, 4.
2 In time, this lawless class developed to become the clergy of Christendom. Its power was solidified by Roman emperor Constantine in the fourth century when the apostate churches were wed to the pagan State. As Christendom continued to fragment into a multitude of sects, the clergy continued to lift themselves above the laity and often above the secular rulers too.—2 Thessalonians 2:4.
3. What will be the fate of the man of lawlessness?
3 What would be the fate of the man of lawlessness? Paul foretold: “The lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will do away with . . . and bring to nothing by the manifestation of his presence.” (2 Thessalonians 2:8) This means that the clergy’s destruction will take place when God brings Satan’s entire system to its end. God uses his heavenly King, Christ Jesus, to lead the angelic executional forces. (2 Thessalonians 1:6-9; Revelation 19:11-21) This fate awaits the clergy because they have dishonored God and Christ and have led millions of people away from true worship.
4. By what principle will the man of lawlessness be judged?
4 Jesus gave the principle by which the man of lawlessness would be judged, saying: “Be on the watch for the false prophets that come to you in sheep’s covering, but inside they are ravenous wolves. By their fruits you will recognize them. Never do people gather grapes from thorns or figs from thistles, do they? Likewise every good tree produces fine fruit, but every rotten tree produces worthless fruit; a good tree cannot bear worthless fruit, neither can a rotten tree produce fine fruit. Every tree not producing fine fruit gets cut down and thrown into the fire. . . . Not everyone saying to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of the heavens, but the one doing the will of my Father who is in the heavens will.”—Matthew 7:15-21; see also Titus 1:16; 1 John 2:17.
Fine Christian Fruitage
5. What is the foundation for fine Christian fruitage, and what is a basic commandment?
5 The foundation for fine Christian fruitage is noted at 1 John 5:3, which states: “This is what the love of God means, that we observe his commandments.” And a basic commandment is this: “You must love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:39) Thus, God’s true servants must have love for their neighbors regardless of their race or nationality.—Matthew 5:43-48; Romans 12:17-21.
6. Toward whom especially must Christian love be shown?
6 Especially must God’s servants have love for those who are their spiritual brothers. “If anyone makes the statement: ‘I love God,’ and yet is hating his brother, he is a liar. For he who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot be loving God, whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him, that the one who loves God should be loving his brother also.” (1 John 4:20, 21) That love, Jesus said, would be an identifying mark of true Christians: “By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love among yourselves.”—John 13:35; see also Romans 14:19; Galatians 6:10; 1 John 3:10-12.
7. How are true Christians bound together worldwide?
7 Brotherly love is the “glue” that binds God’s servants in unity: “Clothe yourselves with love, for it is a perfect bond of union.” (Colossians 3:14) And true Christians must be at unity with their brothers worldwide, for God’s Word commands: “You should all speak in agreement . . . There should not be divisions among you . . . Be fitly united in the same mind and in the same line of thought.” (1 Corinthians 1:10) To maintain this love and unity on a global scale, God’s servants must be neutral in the political affairs of this world. Jesus said: “They are no part of the world, just as I am no part of the world.”—John 17:16.
8. How did Jesus demonstrate what Christians must do?
8 Jesus demonstrated the extent of what he had in mind when Peter used a sword to strike off the ear of one of the men who had come to arrest Jesus. Did Jesus encourage such use of force even to protect the Son of God against opposers? No, but he said to Peter: “Return your sword to its place.” (Matthew 26:52) Thus, true Christians do not engage in the wars of the nations or in any other shedding of human blood even if refusal results in their being martyred for their neutral stand, as many have been over the centuries and even in our time. They know that only God’s Kingdom under Christ will eliminate war and bloodshed forever.—Psalm 46:9; Matthew 6:9, 10; 2 Peter 3:11-13.
9. (a) What does history tell us about the first Christians? (b) How does this contrast with Christendom’s religions?
9 History confirms that the first-century Christians would not shed human blood. A former professor of theology from England, Peter De Rosa, writes: “Shedding blood was a grievous sin. This was why Christians opposed gladiatorial combat. . . . While war and the use of force were necessary to preserve Rome, Christians felt unable to join in. . . . Christians considered themselves, like Jesus, messengers of peace; in no circumstances could they be agents of death.” On the other hand, the disunited religions of Christendom have violated the commandment of love and have shed an enormous amount of blood. They have not been messengers of peace but have repeatedly been agents of death.
Bloodguilty Babylon the Great
10. What is Babylon the Great, and why is it called that?
10 Satan is “the ruler of this world,” “the god of this system of things.” (John 12:31; 2 Corinthians 4:4) Part of Satan’s world is the earth-wide system of false religion he has built up for centuries, including Christendom and her clergy. The Bible calls this worldwide system of false religion “Babylon the Great, the mother of the [spiritual] harlots and of the disgusting things of the earth.” (Revelation 17:5) The roots of today’s false religions go back to the ancient city of Babylon, which was steeped in false religion and in God-dishonoring doctrines and practices. That is why the counterpart of ancient Babylon is called Babylon the Great, the world empire of false religion.
11. What does the Bible say about Babylon the Great, and why?
11 Regarding religious Babylon, God’s Word says: “In her was found the blood of prophets and of holy ones and of all those who have been slaughtered on the earth.” (Revelation 18:24) How are this world’s religions responsible for the blood of all those slaughtered? In that all these religions—Christendom’s churches and non-Christian religions alike—have supported, condoned, or even taken the lead in the wars of the nations; they have also persecuted and killed God-fearing people who disagreed with them.
A God-Dishonoring Record
12. Why are the clergy of Christendom more reprehensible than other religious leaders?
12 Christendom’s clergy are more reprehensible in shedding blood than other religious leaders. Why? Because in addition to taking God’s name upon themselves, they have taken Christ’s too. They thereby obligated themselves to follow the teachings of Jesus. (John 15:10-14) But they have not followed those teachings, thus bringing great reproach upon both God and Christ. The responsibility for bloodshed by the clergy has been both direct, in the Crusades, other religious wars, inquisitions, and persecutions, and indirect, in condoning wars in which members of the churches killed their fellowman in other lands.
13. For what were the clergy responsible from the 11th to the 13th century?
13 For example, from the 11th to the 13th century, the clergy of Christendom introduced the Crusades. These resulted in horrible bloodshed and pillage in the name of God and of Christ. Hundreds of thousands were killed. The Crusades included the senseless slaughter of thousands of children who were induced to participate in the Children’s Crusade of the year 1212.
14, 15. How does a Catholic author comment on what the Catholic Church introduced in the 13th century?
14 In the 13th century, the Roman Catholic Church officially sanctioned another God-dishonoring horror—the Inquisition. It began in Europe and spread to the Americas, lasting for over six centuries. Originated and backed by the papacy, it was a murderous attempt to torture and stamp out all who disagreed with the church. While the church had previously persecuted non-Catholics, the Inquisition was far more extensive in scope.
15 Peter De Rosa, who states that he is a “patriotic Catholic,” says in his recent book Vicars of Christ—The Dark Side of the Papacy: “The church was responsible for persecuting Jews, for the Inquisition, for slaughtering heretics by the thousand, for reintroducing torture into Europe as part of the judicial process. . . . Popes appointed and sacked even emperors, demanded that they impose Christianity on their subjects under the threat of torture and death. . . . The cost to the Gospel message was horrendous.” The only “crime” of some who were murdered was that they possessed a Bible.
16, 17. What comments are made about the Inquisition?
16 Regarding Pope Innocent III of the early 13th century, De Rosa states: “It has been reckoned that in the last and most savage persecution under [Roman] Emperor Diocletian [third century] about two thousand Christians perished, worldwide. In the first vicious incident of Pope Innocent’s Crusade [against “heretics” in France] ten times that number of people were slaughtered. . . . It comes as a shock to discover that, at a stroke, a pope killed far more Christians than Diocletian. . . . [Innocent] had no qualms about using Christ’s name to do everything Christ objected to.”
17 De Rosa notes that “in the pope’s name, [the inquisitors] were responsible for the most savage and sustained onslaught on human decency in the history of the race.” Of Dominican inquisitor Torquemada in Spain, he says: “Appointed in 1483, he ruled tyrannically for fifteen years. His victims numbered over 114,000 of whom 10,220 were burned.”
18. How does a writer characterize the Inquisition, and what reason does he give for its continuing for over six centuries?
18 This writer concludes: “The record of the Inquisition would be embarrassing for any organization; for the Catholic church, it is devastating. . . . What history shows is that, for more than six centuries without a break, the papacy was the sworn enemy of elementary justice. Of eighty popes in a line from the thirteenth century on, not one of them disapproved of the theology and apparatus of Inquisition. On the contrary, one after another added his own cruel touches to the workings of this deadly machine. The mystery is: how could popes continue in this practical heresy for generation after generation? How could they deny at every point the Gospel of Jesus?” He answers: “Pontiffs preferred to contradict the Gospel than an ‘inerrant’ predecessor, for that would bring down the papacy itself.”
19. What other lawless activity was condoned by most of the clergy?
19 Also lawless was the part that the clergy played in the violent institution of slavery. The nations of Christendom kidnapped many thousands of Africans, took them far from their own lands, and for centuries brutalized them physically and mentally as slaves. Relatively few of the clergy class actively opposed. Some of them even claimed that it was God’s will.—See Matthew 7:12.
Bloodguilt in the 20th Century
20. How has the bloodguilt of the man of lawlessness reached a peak in this century?
20 The bloodguilt of the man of lawlessness reached a peak in our century. The clergy have backed wars that have taken tens of millions of lives, the worst wars in all history. They supported both sides in the two world wars, in which people of the same religion, “brothers,” killed one another. For instance, in World War II, French and American Catholics killed German and Italian Catholics; British and American Protestants killed German Protestants. At times, they killed others who were not only of the same religion but also of the same national background. The two world wars erupted in the heart of Christendom and would not have been possible had the clergy obeyed the commandment to love, and taught their followers to do the same.
21. What do secular sources say about the clergy’s involvement in war?
21 The New York Times affirmed: “In the past local Catholic hierarchies almost always supported the wars of their nations, blessing troops and offering prayers for victory, while another group of bishops on the other side publicly prayed for the opposite outcome. . . . The contradiction between the Christian spirit and the conduct of war . . . seems increasingly clear to many, as weapons grow more brutal.” And U.S.News & World Report noted: “The prestige of Christianity in the world has been gravely impaired by the frequency with which the so-called Christian nations have used violence.”
22. For what else are the clergy responsible in our time?
22 Too, while there is no official Inquisition today, the clergy have used the arm of the State to persecute “prophets” and “holy ones” who differ from them. They have pressured political leaders to ‘contrive mischief under cover of law.’ In this way, they have caused or approved the banning, imprisonment, beating, torture, and even death of God-fearing people in our century.—Revelation 17:6; Psalm 94:20, The New English Bible.
Called to Account
23. Why will God call the man of lawlessness to account?
23 Truly, in false religion there is found the blood of prophets, and of holy ones, and of all those who have been slaughtered on the earth. (Revelation 18:24) Since the worst bloodshed has arisen in Christendom, the guilt of the clergy is the greatest. How aptly the Bible labels them a “man of lawlessness”! But God’s Word also states: “Do not be misled: God is not one to be mocked. For whatever a man is sowing, this he will also reap.” (Galatians 6:7) So God will call the lawless clergy to account.
24. What world-shaking events are soon to take place?
24 Jesus said: “Get away from me, you workers of lawlessness.” (Matthew 7:23) And he declared: “Every tree not producing fine fruit gets cut down and thrown into the fire.” (Matthew 7:19) The time is fast approaching for the fiery end of the man of lawlessness, along with all false religion, when the political elements with which they have played the harlot will turn on them: “These will hate the harlot and will make her devastated and naked, and will eat up her fleshy parts and will completely burn her with fire.” (Revelation 17:16) Since such world-shaking events are soon to take place, God’s servants must make them known to others. The next article will examine how they have been doing this.
Questions for Review
◻ What is the man of lawlessness, and how did it develop?
◻ What fine fruitage must true Christians produce?
◻ Who is Babylon the Great, and how bloodguilty is she?
◻ What God-dishonoring record has the man of lawlessness made?
◻ How will God call the man of lawlessness to account?
[Picture on page 18]
The Crusades resulted in horrible bloodshed in the name of God and of Christ
By courtesy of The British Library
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“Local Catholic hierarchies almost always supported the wars of their nations”