Man of Sin Revealed


The churches of Christ Greet You (Romans 16:16)



Love Ones: Ephesians chapter four verses four and five say there are ONLY one faith and one body. Paul, guided by the Holy Spirit, wrote those words near the middle of the first century. As the years passed, men have left that one faith and one body (the church) and formed a multitude of conflicting faiths and bodies. Yes, the church of today is suffering from the effects of apostasy. God is good, however. He has not left His church without hope. The church on earth may apostatize for a time, but the promise and hope of the Gospel still lives.


What brought about this great apostasy? Where did it start? In what did it originate? Answer: It began in the church of God (also called the church of Christ) at Ephesus. In Acts 20:29-30 Paul said to the elders, "I know that after my departing grievous wolves shall enter in among you, not sparing the flock, and from among your own selves shall men arise speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them." Through revelation, Paul knew the apostasy would begin in Ephesus and some of those with whom he had closely worked would spearhead it.

Quickly the apostasy spread to the church in Corinth.Was it caused by a disagreement on the Gospel? Not at first. What then? We answer that in general terms it originated in extraordinary laxity in morals; and finally extended to the denial of the resurrection of the dead. The devil saw that selfishness and lasciviousness, and consequently unbelief, would bring swift destruction, and left it to work out its own disintegration. How strikingly true it is that division in the church (even today) has helped the destroyer in obstructing the conquest of the whole earth!

We mention four sins of which the apostle Paul accused the church in Corinth: first, they tolerated in their fellow­ship a man who lived openly with his father's wife (1 Cor. 5:1); second, they retained in their fellowship men who went to law before unbelievers (1 Cor. 6:1-11); third, they turned the Lord's supper into drunkenness and revelry (1 Cor. 11:19-34); and fourth, they denied the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (1 Cor. 15:1-23).


What were they doing when Paul wrote them his first epistle? Were they trying to purge the body of Christ of this filth and disgraceful unbelief? No Sir! What were they doing? Carrying on a successful warfare among themselves - in the church - on the simple questions of opinion (cf. 1 Cor. 1:10-16; 3:1-11)! How infinitely absurd, how ridiculously childish! They fell out and fought over their opinions and let the cancer of corruption eat up the vitals of the church.


Why did not this apostasy start at Jerusalem, seeing all men are frail alike? We can give but one answer: The war at Jerusalem was on the outside - a solid pressure of the enemy ‑ the flesh, the world, and the devil combined ‑ and they that were scattered abroad, as the result of persecution, went everywhere preaching the word (Acts 8:1-4). A persecuted church never apostasies; neither does a church that goes everywhere proclaiming the Word of Life. The church that does its duty fighting the enemies that are without will find no time to wage war inside.



What do the Apostles tell us about this apostasy?  We answer in the exact words of the Scripture. Please turn to 2 Thessalonians 2 and read verses 1-12 as we comment. 1 "Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, 2 That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, that the day of Christ is at hand." It is evident that a good many people in the apostolic church lived in daily expectation of the return of the Lord from heaven. Paul combated this error, and in order to deliver their minds from it said: 3 "Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition." Think this over. The return of the Master was not to take place until the man of sin should be revealed.


Who is the man of sin? Who is this son of perdition? Here is his photograph as taken by Paul: 4 "Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he is as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God." If this is not a picture of the Pope of Rome, pray tell us whose picture it is? Was this the first time Paul had spoken of this? Let him answer: 5 "Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? 6 And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time."


Was this departure from the pure Gospel beginning in the days of the apostles? YES: 7 "For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth now will let, until he be taken out of the way. 8 And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: 9 Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, 10 And with all deceivableness of unrighteous in them that perish; because they receive not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11 And for this cause God shall send them strong de­lusion, that they should believe a lie; 12 That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness." We insist that this Bible lan­guage is as correct a representation of the apostasy that developed into the Church of Rome as any contem­porary historian could write.


Is this all? Not by any means, Paul in his letter to Timothy brings out some things fully that are only hinted at above. Hear him: "Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth, for every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer” (1 Timothy 4:1‑5). Even today, as a whole, the Roman Catholic priest and nuns cannot marry. For years no faithful Catholic could eat meat on Friday, and they still encourage the keeping of lent. Notice, the Bible brands these teachings as "doctrines of devils."


Did Paul ever recant? Hear him just before he testified to the truth of what he believed by giving up his life: "Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine; for the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts will they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (2 Timothy 4:2‑4).


Yes, the apostasy was beginning even in apostolic times, but the extraordinary missionary zeal kept the church as a whole, comparatively pure. Those departures from original Christianity blossomed in the second century and grew in number and seriousness until the days of Constantine; but from his day forward, the de­parture was rapid. The most significant of the early departures occurred when the Roman General Constantine embraced Christianity in his struggle for victory in a civil war with General Maxentius, leader of the old pagan element of Rome. This occurred in 312 A.D. Achieving his victory, Constantine, now the emperor, through a series of edicts gradually turned Christianity into the state religion of the empire. He and his successors used the church for their political ends. By heaping favors on Christian leaders and outlawing idolatry, Constantine created a situation where multitudes of unconverted heathen flooded into the church for the political advantages it offered.

He used the power of the government to persecute and coerce pagans and those whom the church leaders deemed heretics, to conform to the majority thinking of the religious/political leaders. This was a major turning point for it united church and state and turned the persecuted church into a persecuting body. It transformed the nature of Christianity from that of pilgrims and strangers in a hostile world to that of politically powerful rulers in the world. When the western part of the Roman Empire fell to invading Barbarians in 476 A.D. the old secular political power collapsed. The only surviving institution able to provide political and civic leadership was the Roman church. Paul's prediction was fulfilled and the Pope of Rome became the head of the Church and the dictator of the potentates of the earth. Opinions sowed the error and the harvest was reaped in fire and blood. Intolerance was the characteristic spirit of the so‑called Church.


In 607, Boniface III, the bishop of Rome, was able to declare that he was the universal bishop or pope of all the churches and the emperor backed his claim From that date on the church that had its greatest political strength in Rome began to dominate all of western Europe. Anyone who dissented or protested against the abuses that grew out of this unchristian situation was persecuted severely, even unto death. The period of time from 476 to the beginning of the Protestant Reformation and the Renaissance in the 1500s has been called the Dark Ages, not because of the power of the Barbarian pagans, but because all of Europe and England fell under the mind-numbing power of that corrupt church that we now know as the Roman Catholic Church.

You ask, “What happened to the faithful church during this period”? The true church never ceased to exist, but it was driven underground during those long centuries of persecution. If you wish to follow this subject further turn to the eleventh and twelfth chapter of the Revelation and you will find the picture completed in all its horrible details ‑ the two witnesses, the Old and New Testa­ments - were trampled under foot and the people of God were driven from the haunts of civilized man. Jesus told his disciples that when the corruptions of the Jewish nation would bring the Romans against them, they were to flee the city and take refuge in the mountains (Mathew 24:15-23). They did and survived at Pella when the Jewish state was destroyed. Although the church in Sardis had generally gone astray, there were a few who had not soiled their garments…they were the remnant - the faithful few (Revelation 3:1-5).


The church is poetically described as a holy and virtuous mother in Revelation chapter 12. When persecuted, she fled to the wilderness and there was succored and protected for 1260 years (Revelation 12:6, 13-15). Throughout the Bible the writers taught that God's faithful people were only a remnant of the whole. Paul wrote, "If the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, it is the remnant that shall be saved" (Romans 9:27). When faithful Christians could no longer assemble and worship publicly they were forced to meet in their homes or in safe sanctuaries such as caves, catacombs, and mountain retreats. Their writings were not legal to be published and those that were quickly were suppressed. Several million Bible Christians were persecuted to death during those long dreary years of persecution. The historical record, which was controlled by spokesmen for Rome, pictured them as heretics and dangerous sorts, when the opposite was actually true. Even today in China, true Christians are forced to meet quietly in house churches as they were during Communist Europe in days past.

The inquisition was a positive and unfailing remedy for heresy. But the mind of man cannot be chained always; and numerous efforts were made and crowned with failure! With the outbreak of the Protestant Reformation, great men like John Huss, Martin Luther, Huldrich Zwingle, John Calvin and John Knox led the battle to break Rome's stranglehold of power over the Western World. Most importantly of all they were able to wrest the Bible from the power and control of the Roman priesthood. They translated it into the language of the common man and thus gave him the truth that could make him free (John 8:32). They also broke the political power Rome held over Europe and England making it possible for freedom of religion to blossom once again.


Jesus said the seed of the kingdom is the word of God (Luke 8:11). So long as the Word of God is available to be taught, read and believed, the potential for the kingdom or church of Christ to spring up and flourish is there. So during those long years of persecution when the true people of God were driven underground and even near to extinction, the living seed of God's Word was always capable of once again producing faithful servants of Christ.

At last Luther gave the world the Bible, and thus struck the shackles from the race. The war was long, fierce and de­structive; the reformer, in swinging away from the doctrine of justification by works – penance – swung to another extreme (faith only) and overlooked many funda­mental principles of the Gospel. The reformation was divided. Later, John Wesley started another re­formation in England, and while Luther preached justification by faith, Wesley went a step farther, and in defiance of the formalities of the time, preached the Gospel demand for personal holiness.


At the time of the Protestant Reformation there was a parallel group that historians have labeled Anabaptists, which means rebaptizers. Those disciples felt that Luther and Calvin did not go far enough in their attempts to reform the Catholic Church. The Anabaptists wanted to go all the way back to the Bible and "restore original Christianity." They were hated and fiercely persecuted by Catholics, Lutherans, and Calvinists alike. They too had to flee and meet secretly until a day of greater freedom of religion arrived.

Sect after sect was born. Why so many? Each man who dis­covered what he considered a new truth, in his enthu­siasm emphasized it too much, and thus lifted it out of its place in the Gospel. It is an indisputable fact that all these sects were born in an effort to get back to the original ground, otherwise the apostolic ground. What demand was there for another refor­mation? Look over the ground ‑ the reformers were divided into numerous belligerent factions.


Here in America at the opening of the 19th century a movement arose among several different denominations to reject denominationalism and return to the Bible and restore the church found therein. When Alexander Campbell stepped upon the arena, and recognizing Luther's doctrine of justification by faith, went a step in advance, and declared that justification by faith is not incompatible with full and sincere obe­dience to the Gospel of Christ. He also recognized Wesley's doctrine of personal holiness, and went one step further and declared that all who live righteous lives should be one. Hence his plea ‑ a plea that startled the whole world ‑ for the union of all who love the Lord on the Bible, and on it alone.


Campbell and his co‑laborers gradually worked their way out. This movement has flourished and now numbers well over a million disciples here in America and even more than that overseas. We doubt if they had any thought at the beginning of what God in His providence intended for them to do. Churches of Christ continue that quest to restore the faith and practice of primitive Christianity in this modern age. We believe that "the Bible only will produce Christians only." Hopefully you will want to join us in this endeavor.


 Go To: Man of Sin - Part 2


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