35. Why is it no cause for surprise that the “man of lawlessness” should aspire to Godship? To what extent?
35 Since the “apostasy” or “rebellion” of this clerical “man of lawlessness” is against Jehovah God, it is no cause for surprise that this composite “man” should aspire to Godship, try to make a god of himself.
36. How does that composite “man” act as if not responsible to Jehovah, and what did Paul use to tell the Thessalonians about that “man”?
36 Being a lawless rebel in things religious, he has acted as if he were not responsible to the Most High and Almighty God, Jehovah, as if he were above the law of the one living and true God. The apostle Paul does not go to any extreme when he says prophetically of this composite “man of lawlessness” this astonishing thing: “He is set in opposition and lifts himself up over everyone who is called ‘god’ or an object of reverence, so that he sits down in the temple of The God, publicly showing himself to be a god. Do you not remember that, while I was yet with you, I used to tell you these things?”—2 Thessalonians 2:4, 5.
37. In confirming how Paul’s prophecy has been fulfilled, to what prominent religious personage might one point, and why?
37 Of course, in confirming how the clerical “man of lawlessness” has fulfilled this prophecy, a person might point to how a member of the so-called “Christian” clergy has spoken and acted or to the claims of godship that have been made for him. For instance, a person might point to the pope of the Roman Catholic Church, and quote what is said concerning this papal bishop of Rome in Ferraris’ ecclesiastical dictionary,* namely:
The pope is of such dignity and highness that he is not simply a man but, as it were, God, and the Vicar of God. . . . Hence the pope is crowned with a triple crown, as king of heaven, of earth and of hell. . . . Nay, the pope’s excellence and power are not only about heavenly, terrestrial and infernal things, but he is also above angels, and is their superior . . . So that if it were possible that angels could err from the faith, or entertain sentiments contrary thereto, they could be judged and excommunicated by the pope. . . . He is of such great dignity and power that he occupies one and the same tribunal with Christ . . . So that whatsoever the pope does seems to proceed from the mouth of God. . . . The pope is, as it were, God on earth, the only prince of the faithful of Christ, the greatest king of all kings, possessing the plenitude of power; to whom the government of the earthly and heavenly kingdom is entrusted. . . . The pope is of so great authority and power that he can modify, declare or interpret the divine law. . . . The pope can sometimes counteract the divine law by limiting, explaining,” etc.
38. However, in pointing to an individual clergyman, what should be remembered, and so how has this prophecy concerning the “man of lawlessness” really been fulfilled?
38 However, it is not to be forgotten that the “man of lawlessness” is not a single individual religious leader like the pope of Rome or the Greek Orthodox patriarch of Athens, the Greek Orthodox patriarch of Constantinople (Istanbul) or other religious patriarch. The foretold “lawless” one is a composite “man,” the whole religious clergy of the professed “Christian” church. Of course, what one prominent member of this clerical “man” does attaches blame to all the other members of the clergy class for their agreeing with what is done or not protesting against it or for acquiescing in it and remaining with the clergy organization. They all share a community responsibility and culpability for what a member of the clergy class does in a representative way as when speaking or acting for the whole group. It is what the clergy class as a whole does or joins in doing through the centuries of time that fulfills the prophecy concerning the “man of lawlessness.”
39. How has the “man of lawlessness” class proved itself to be “set in opposition” to Jehovah?
39 The “man of lawlessness” class has proved itself to be “set in opposition” by making itself the “friend” of the world, according to the rule stated by the inspired disciple James in his letter: “The friendship of this world is the enemy of God. Whosoever therefore will be a friend of this world becometh an enemy of God.” (James 4:4, Douay) He opposes Jehovah God when he opposes and tries to nullify the inspired written Word of God and even tries to take or keep away the Bible from the church-supporting members. He opposes Jehovah God when he opposes and persecutes those disciples of Christ who are worshiping Jehovah God with spirit and truth through Jesus Christ. (John 4:24) He opposes the one living and true God by taking away the worship and adoration that belong to this God and attracting such worship and adoration to a glorified clergy class.
40. How has the “man of lawlessness” class endeavored to be the only earthly god on the scene, as in the matter of Church and State?
40 The “man of lawlessness” class wants to be the only god on the earthly scene, in fact, the god of earthly gods. This has been demonstrated during the relations that the religious Church of Christendom has had with the political State. In this marriage of Church and State, the clergy has always endeavored to be the party on top, to do the dictating. From the time of Constantine there has been this marriage of Church and State. This has really been a marriage of convenience, for what the clergy can get out of it in the way of authority, prestige, protection and immunities, support and other selfish benefits. Concerning “Church and State,” The Encyclopedia Americana, Volume 6, pages 657, 658, says:
Between these two institutions, in modern times, there has rarely, if ever, existed perfect harmony. This struggle, so long protracted, bids fair, unless some astonishing upheaval occurs, to last for all time. It has been a bitter one. It has involved large interests and brought to the forefront momentous discussions. It has fomented uprisings of all kinds and originated a literature of vituperation without parallel outside of political strife. It has been, not seldom, mere political contention. . . . Under Constantine the Church entered the arena of universal activity as a collaborator in the task of civilizing the peoples. Acknowledged as the spiritual ruler, it gradually acquired a local habitation and a name as a temporal potentate. It became a world power. This success was the beginning of all the many disasters of the Church. . . . From Constantine to Charlemagne the civil power, while giving legal recognition to the Church, interfered in its government. From Charlemagne to a period approaching that of the Reformation, Church and state were closely united and there was a generally acknowledged subordination of the civil to the spiritual authority.
41. (a) What religious rank did the Roman emperors hold, above which the “man of lawlessness” needed to set itself up? (b) What religious office did the Roman emperor hold, and how was this used respecting the apostate church?
41 It is a fact of history that the emperors of the pagan Roman Empire were ranked as gods, and incense was offered to them as gods or divinities. From the time of Emperor Constantine the Great in the fourth century, the bishops of the “apostasy” became wedded to the State and they sought to gain the ascendancy above the deified Roman emperor. Emperor Constantine endeavored to create a fusion religion between paganism and Christianity, and decreed the religion of the apostate bishops to be the State religion. Down to the day of his death in 337 C.E., he bore the pagan title of Pontifex Maximus, the head of religious matters; and it was as Pontifex Maximus that the as yet unbaptized Constantine called the Nicaean Council of 325 C.E. for the settling of the religious disputings of the church bishops. At the time he decided in favor of the pagan doctrine of the Trinity (One God in Three Persons) as taught by the majority of the church bishops.
42. At the first opportunity, how and through whom did the “man of lawlessness” lift itself up “over everyone called a ‘god’ or an object of reverence”?
42 In the year 379* there came the opportunity for the papal bishop of Rome. This was when Emperor Gratian, professing to be Christian, gave up the pagan title and office of Pontifex Maximus. Without qualms of conscience, Pope Damasus picked it up for all the religious power, authority, influence and control it would give him over all the population, the larger part of which was still pagan and recognized the pagan title. This elevated the papal bishop of Rome above the Roman emperor in religious matters. Down to this day the pope of the Roman Catholic Church has continued to claim and use that pagan title. As represented in the pope, the most prominent member of the clergy class, the “man of lawlessness” was lifting himself up “over everyone who is called ‘god’ or an object of reverence.” Everybody knows that the priests and preachers of Christendom like to be addressed and titled as “Reverend,” “Most Reverend” and “Most Right Reverend.” They command and demand the reverence of their parishioners or church members.
43. In what temple is it that the “man of lawlessness” class seats itself as “a god,” and whom does it compel to recognize its power?
43 The “temple of The God” in which the “man of lawlessness” sits down, “showing himself to be a god,” is what professes to be the Church of God. To the true Christians of the first century the apostle Paul wrote: “Do you not know that you people are God’s temple, and that the spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him; for the temple of God is holy, which temple you people are.” (1 Corinthians 3:16, 17; also 2 Corinthians 6:16) It was from this spiritual “temple” class that the founders of the “apostasy” first broke away. They refuse to recognize the original true “temple” class, and the apostate congregation that these apostates establish they call “the temple of God.” It is in this apostate “temple” that they sit down and maintain their seat as a “clergy” distinct from those whom they call “the laity.” There the clergy class of Christendom shows itself to be “a god.” It forces the politicians, businessmen and military officers to recognize its power. The power and support of the clergy class is invariably sought by the political governments in time of war.