"STUDIES IN THE MINOR PROPHETS" Zechariah - I Am Zealous For Zion (12:1-14:21) by Mark Copeland

                    "STUDIES IN THE MINOR PROPHETS"

             Zechariah - I Am Zealous For Zion (12:1-14:21)


1. With this final lesson on the book of Zechariah, we come to the
   second of two "burdens" which make up the last six chapters...
   a. The first "burden" was against Israel's enemies, though it also
      spoke of Israel's hope for the future - cf. Zech 9:1-2,9-10
   b. This second "burden" is against Israel herself, though it too
      speaks of a glorious future for Jerusalem - cf. Zech 12:1;14:8-11

2. As previously mentioned, these last chapters are among the most difficult in the Bible...
   a. Some look for a literal fulfillment of what is described, concluding it has yet to come
   b. Others suggest this section is figurative, and is fulfilled with
      the coming of Christ and His kingdom, the church

3. I confess I am challenged by this section of Scripture; what I will do in this lesson is:
   a. Briefly survey the main points presented in Zechariah's prophecy
   b. Offer some thoughts as to what this prophecy refers to

[As we have seen from the very beginning, the main theme of the book is
"I Am Zealous For Zion" (cf. Zech 1:14).  This last section certainly
resounds with that theme as it describes...]


      1. Jerusalem is depicted in some future time as under siege by the nations - Zech 12:1-9
      2. "In that day" (12:3,4), the Lord will use Jerusalem:
         a. As a "cup of drunkenness" to all the surrounding peoples
         b. As a "very heavy stone" for all peoples
         -- I.e., Jerusalem will be a means by which God judges the nations
      3. "In that day" (12:6,8,9), the Lord will defend Jerusalem, and destroy her enemies
      1. Cleansed from her sins - Zech 12:10-13:6
         a. The Lord will pour out on Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication
         b. They will look on Him whom they have pierced, and mourn "in
            that day" (12:11) as they did when Josiah died - cf. 2 Chr 35:20-25
         c. "In that day" (13:1,2,4), the Lord will...
            1) Open a fountain for sin and for uncleanness
            2) Cut off the idols from the land
            3) Cause the prophets and unclean spirit to depart from the land, prompting...
               a) Parents to kill their sons who dare to prophesy
               b) Those who prophesy to be ashamed and admit they are not prophets
      2. Refined through persecution - Zech 13:7-9
         a. The Shepherd will be struck and His sheep scattered - cf. Mt 26:31-32
         b. But the Lord will use this to refine and test the people of God - cf. He 12:3-11

      1. "The day of the Lord" is coming when the Lord will gather all
         the nations to battle against Jerusalem  - Zech 14:1-3
         a. The city will be taken and rifled, the women ravished
         b. Half of the city shall go into captivity, but the remnant will not be cut off
      2. But then the Lord go forth and fight against those nations - Zech 14:4-7
         a. He will stand on the Mount of Olives, which will cause a great valley
         b. Through the valley the people will flee for safety
         c. "In that day" (14:6) there will be no light until evening

      1. What is said of Jerusalem "in that day" (14:8,9) - Zech 14:8-11
         a. Living waters shall flow from Jerusalem both east and west, summer and winter
         b. The Lord will be King over all the earth
         c. The land from Geba (6 mi. NE of Jerusalem) to Rimmon (35
            mi. SW of Jerusalem) will be turned into a plain, while 
            Jerusalem will be built up and safely inhabited
      2. What is said of Jerusalem's enemies "in that day" (14:13)- Zech 14:12-15
         a. The Lord will strike them with a plague
         b. The Lord will send a great panic among them
         c. Judah will fight for Jerusalem, with the wealth of the nations gathered
         d. The plague will afflict even the animals
      3. What is said of Jerusalem "in that day" (14:20,21), continued- Zech 14:16-21
         a. Those of the nations which remain will worship the King,
            the LORD of hosts and keep the Feast of Tabernacles
         b. Those who do not will experience drought and the plague
         c. "Holiness to the Lord" will be engraved on the bells of the horses - cf. Exo 28:36-38
         d. The pots in Jerusalem and Judah shall be holiness to the LORD of Hosts
         e. There shall no longer be a Canaanite in the house of the LORD of hosts

[Can you see why it has been said that these last six chapters are 
among the most difficult in the Bible?  What is this talking about?  Has it been fulfilled?]

      1. Are we to expect a literal or figurative fulfillment?
      2. Was it fulfilled at the beginning of the Messianic period?(His first coming)
      3. Or is it to be fulfilled toward the end of the Messianic period? (His second coming)

      1. As mentioned previously, I recommend the following regarding OT prophecy:
         a. Where the inspired writers of the NT have provided inspired
            interpretation, we should certainly hold to what they wrote
         b. But with prophecies of the OT where NT writers have not
            commented, we should be very cautious
            1) We can offer our understanding as to what they pertain
            2) But we should abstain from developing doctrines or 
               practices based upon our uninspired interpretations of such prophecies
            3) Indeed, many false doctrines and cults are based upon
               speculative interpretations of OT prophecies
      2. Those who believe in a literal fulfillment say it is yet to be fulfilled
         a. The pre-millenialist, for example, believes this section 
            pertains to events surrounding literal Jerusalem just prior to the coming of Christ
         b. But what little is quoted by Jesus and NT writers is applied to His first coming
            1) Compare Zech 13:7 with Mt 26:31-32; Mk 14:27
            2) Compare Zech 12:10 with Jn 19:37
      3. I believe this section is intended to be understood figuratively
         a. For that is how inspired men in the NT often explained OT prophecy; e.g....
            1) Notice how James applied Amos 9:11-12
            2) He applied the rebuilding of the tabernacle of David to
               the establishment of the church - cf. Ac 15:14-17
         b. If so, then Jerusalem throughout this section should be understood as the church
            1) As seen in He 12:22-24
            2) That the Lord is illustrating how His care, cleansing,
               deliverance and glory for His people would continue
            3) But it is written in terms meaningful to the people of Zechariah's day
      4. I am not closed to the idea that there may be futuristic elements of this prophecy
         a. For Peter indicates that some of Isaiah's prophecies were
            yet to be fulfilled - cf. 2Pe 3:13-14 with Isa 65:17-19; 66:22
         b. But if there are, I would tend to view Zechariah's prophecy
            in the same time frame as Re 20:7-22:25
            1) I.e., a depiction of the church in its last tribulation and ultimate glory
            2) In which both Zechariah and John describe it in terms
               particularly meaningful to the people of their day


1. While the book of Zechariah may continue to challenge us, its main purpose is evident...
   a. Zechariah was sent to encourage the people of God
   b. This he did, through visions, teachings, and prophecies
   c. His theme throughout is the same:  "I Am Zealous For Zion"

2. As Christians in the church of our Lord...
   a. We have come to "Mt Zion and to the City of living God, the heavenly Jerusalem" 
       - He 12:22
   b. We can rest assured that regarding His church today the Lord is
      still "zealous for Zion"!

In light of the wonderful truth expressed by Paul...

   Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but
   fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of
   God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and
   prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone, in
   whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a
   holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built
   together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.  (Ep 2:19-22)

...may we be diligent in building the "temple" (church) of the Lord 

Do Visions Still Occur? by Dave Miller, Ph.D.


Do Visions Still Occur?

by  Dave Miller, Ph.D.


“In the history of Christianity there were many people who experienced visions. We know that the apostle Paul had visions of Jesus. He never believed in Jesus before the death and resurrection. We also know that Margaret Mary Alacoque had visions of Jesus in 1673. We also know that Bernadette Soubirous had visions of Mary in Lourdes in 1858. We also know that Sister Maria LĂșcia had a vision of Mary in 1917 in Portugal. We also know that Joseph Smith had visions that gave rise to Mormonism. We consider true and from God only the visions of Paul. But what is the criterion to accept from God the visions of Paul and refute the other visions? A Christian in the first century could have said that the visions of Jesus by Paul are from Satan just as we say that the visions of Jesus by Margaret Mary Alacoque in 1673 are from Satan. To say that only the visions of Paul are truly from God—is that not a belief based on bias?”


The reason we know Paul had visions is because the evidence proves that the Bible is inspired by God and, therefore, of divine origin. Hence, whatever it reports actually happened. However, that same Bible maintains that miracles (i.e., supernatural empowerment from God) served their purpose and were consequently terminated toward the end of the first century (e.g., 1 Corinthians 13:8-10). [See the AP article at: http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=11&article=1399&topic=293].
Further, one can examine the alleged vision of each person and ascertain whether it contradicts the Bible. If it contradicts the Bible, it is obviously a hoax or the result of a well-meaning but misguided individual. For example, Joseph Smith’s claims have been debunked. The Book of Mormon contradicts the Doctrine and Covenants, and both contradict the Bible. See the AP articles at: http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=11&topic=80.

Do the "Household Baptisms" Justify Infant Baptism? by Caleb Colley, Ph.D.


Do the "Household Baptisms" Justify Infant Baptism?

by  Caleb Colley, Ph.D.

On occasion, advocates of infant baptism appeal to Acts 10, Acts 16, and 1 Corinthians 1 for proof that infant baptism is scriptural. Acts 10:24-48 relates the account of Cornelius and his “relatives and close friends” hearing the Gospel and being baptized. Acts 16 includes the accounts of two sets of baptisms: (1) the baptism of the members of Lydia’s family (verse 15); and (2) the baptism of the Philippian jailer and “all his family” (verse 33). Paul revealed that he baptized members of the household of Stephanas (1 Corinthians 1:16). These are the so-called “household baptisms” (see Coffman, 1977, p. 320; Mare, 1984, pp. 192-193). Proponents of infant baptism assume that there were children in Cornelius’ house, Lydia’s family, the jailer’s house, and Stephanas’ house, and that the infants were baptized. Since there is no mention of infants in any of these passages, those who use these passages to justify infant baptism base their claims upon two assumptions: (1) infants were present in the households; and (2) the contexts of Acts 10 and 16 allow for the baptism of infants as part of “household baptisms.”
In each example of “household baptism,” the people who were baptized were ones who had been taught what they needed to do in order to receive salvation (Acts 10:34-43; 16:14, 32; 1 Corinthians 1:16-18; 16:15-16). They were the people who could hear and understand the Word of God (Acts 10:44), believe (10:31-33), and devote themselves to the ministry of the saints (1 Corinthians 16:15). The absence of the noun “belief,” and the verb “believe,” in some of the conversion accounts, does not necessarily imply that the ones who were baptized did not, or could not, believe. Also, the context of the household conversions does not demand that any infants were baptized. Yet, some insist that infants must have been present in the “households,” and that the infants must have been baptized.
Lydia did not live in Philippi (she was from Thyatira, on the other side of the Aegean Sea). Since she was traveling, she probably did not bring her children with her, if she had any. Because oikos seems to denote “property” in this instance, it was probably Lydia’s servants who were baptized (Lydia certainly was wealthy enough to have servants; see Jackson, 2000, pp. 201-02; Lenski, 1944, p. 660). Notice also that, in the case of Lydia’s conversion, the evangelists spoke to a group of women who had “come together,” indicating that the members of Lydia’s household could have been found within that group of women (the very group who was praying and who heard Paul’s message; see Coffman, 1977, p. 313; Lenski, 1944, p. 659).
Some allege that Lydia’s family members were baptized, not because they believed, but only because they were in Lydia’s family, while Lydia herself did believe (e.g., Barnes, 1972, p. 241). This allegation rests on the fact that Acts 16:14-15 denotes Lydia’s belief, but does not specifically reveal that her family believed. The Bible clearly teaches, however, that belief must precede baptism (see Mark 16:16; Acts 8:37; Romans 10:10-11; 1 Corinthians 1:21; Ephesians 1:21), and that a sinner cannot be forgiven of sin based on the faith of another (Matthew 12:36; Romans 14:12; 1 Peter 2:7; 4:5; 1 John 3:23).
Furthermore, Acts 16:34 (part of the account of a “household baptism”) reports that the Philippian jailer’s family, at the time of the “household baptism,” was made up entirely of “believers” (excluding infants), and the accounts of both Cornelius’ and the jailer’s conversions specifically indicate that candidates for baptism were those who had “heard the word” (Acts 10:44,47). When inspired writers wrote about “hearing” the Word of God, “hearing” often denoted not only the recognition of audible sounds, of which infants are capable, but also understanding the message, of which infants are incapable (see Deuteronomy 5:1; Romans 10:17; Job 13:17; Luke 14:35). The contexts of Acts 10 and Acts 16 imply that meaning of the verb “hear” (akouo).
Some base their claim that infants of the jailer’s household were baptized, upon the assumption that there would not have been enough water in a jail to immerse adults. Thus, they say, sprinkling was the mode of baptism, which would have been appropriate for infant baptism. However, Acts 16 suggests that Paul and Silas were not in the jail at the time of the major part of the teaching and the baptism, because they had been “brought out”—likely out of the prison itself—and taken to a place where the prisoners’ stripes could be washed. It was at this place that the baptisms took place, so it is an imposition on the text to imply that Paul and Silas did not have access to enough water for immersion.
There are other examples of household conversions, whose contexts attest to the fact that, when “households” of people were baptized, infants were not baptized. When the inspired writers mentioned the so-called “household baptisms,” they said that all believers in the households were baptized. To assert otherwise is to put an unnecessary strain on the text, and to teach that which contradicts unambiguous, definitive Bible teaching (see Mark 16:16; Acts 8:37-38; Romans 10:10-11).


Barnes, Albert (1972 reprint), Notes on the New Testament: Acts (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Coffman, James Burton (1977), Commentary on Acts (Abilene, TX: ACU Press).
Jackson, Wayne (2000), The Acts of the Apostles: From Jerusalem to Rome (Stockton, CA: Courier Publications).
Lenski, Robert C.H. (1944), The Interpretation of the Acts of the Apostles (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg).
Mare, W. Harold (1984), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: 1 Corinthians, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).

Do Preachers Have Authority Over Elders? by Dave Miller, Ph.D.


Do Preachers Have Authority Over Elders?

by  Dave Miller, Ph.D.

Does the Bible authorize the preacher in the local congregation to exercise authority over the elders, or over the members at large? The Bible very clearly teaches that each local congregation is to mature to the point that it can appoint a plurality of adult males, who meet the specific qualifications pinpointed in Scripture (1 Timothy 3:1-11; Titus 1:5ff.), to serve as the elders/shepherds/overseers of that single church (Acts 20:17,28; Philippians 1:1; 1 Peter 5:1-4). They exercise shepherding or overseeing authority over the entire congregation/flock (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13; 1 Timothy 5:17; Hebrews 13:7,17).
The Bible also clearly teaches that among the divinely-ordained functions in the church from the very beginning has been preachers and evangelists (Ephesians 4:11; 2 Timothy 4:5). These individuals clearly wield a measure of authority, by virtue of the message that they preach (1 Timothy 4:11; 2 Timothy 4:2; Titus 1:13; 2:15). They are to preach the Word of God without fear or favor, even in the face of opposition from fellow Christians.
The question, however, that presents itself regarding these two official functions in the Kingdom of Christ is: Is the preacher in a local congregation to submit to the authority of the elders; or may the preacher exercise authority over the elders and other members?
Since the Bible clearly teaches that elders are the shepherds of the local congregation, it naturally follows that they exercise that same authority over the preacher (if he is a member there). After all, they hired him! The mere act of hiring a preacher implies a measure of authority—and the same level of authority is retained by the elders to fire him! Likewise, if a congregation has no elders, the Bible places the authority to make decisions into the hands of the men of the congregation (in keeping with the principle of male leadership in the church—1 Timothy 2:8-15). They, therefore, have the authority to hire and fire a preacher—hence, exercising authority over him. Observe: God delegates authority to the preacher to preach God’s truth—and no eldership has the authority to dictate to a preacher to not preach the truth, or to preach error. Nevertheless, elders retain the authority to determine whether the preacher is permitted to preach the truth at that location!
God’s truth on the matter of authority in the local church is just that simple. The only way these foundational principles could be modified is if the Bible issues any supplementary directive(s) that would indicate that the preacher is somehow an exception to the extent that he is not under the authority of the elders. Sadly, some brethren have supposed that they have found just such an exception in Titus 1:5—
“For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee” (KJV).
Some brethren reason: Since Titus, an evangelist, was instructed by an apostle to go to the various congregations on the island of Crete and to ordain elders in those churches, the evangelist today is not under the authority of any eldership, but in fact, wields his own authority over them, even having the right to select them in the local congregation.
Observe that this line of thinking assumes a particular meaning for the word “ordain.”  It assumes that the evangelist was to select or hand-pick the elders. For the thoughtful student of the Bible, an immediate challenge to such thinking ought to be that it would not be possible for Titus to know personally all the members of the various churches all over the island of Crete. Yet, in order to make scriptural selections, he would have to be able to match up the divinely-stipulated qualifications (given in 1:6ff.) with each prospective elder. Further, it is obvious that Titus did not “stay around” in order to act as a pastor over the Cretan churches—he went on to Nicopolis (3:12).
The heart of the matter, however, is the meaning of the term rendered in the KJV as “ordain.” The word is more generally translated “appoint” (NKJV, ASV, NASB, ESV, NIV, RSV). The underlying Greek word is kathistemi. It has a variety of meanings, including “bring, conduct, take” as in Acts 17:15, “to appoint or set in charge” as in Luke 12:42 and Hebrews 5:1, and “to make or cause” as in 2 Peter 1:8. The salient question is: does the use of this word in Titus 1:5 mean that the evangelist actually selected the elders? Answer: it does not. For proof, consider that the Bible is its own best interpreter. A parallel occurrence of the term appears in Acts 6, when a problem arose within the early church regarding the daily distribution of benevolent assistance to the widows. The apostles insisted that their inspired function precluded them from having the time to handle such matters, and that the situation was to be resolved by the selection of qualified individuals who could manage “this business” (vs. 3). Read carefully the apostolic directive:
Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word (Acts 6:3-4, NKJV).
To whom did the apostles give the responsibility to “seek out” men to serve in the official capacity? Answer: the members of the congregation. Consider other renderings of the phrase: “Therefore, brethren, select from among you seven men…whom we may put in charge of this task” (NASB); “Therefore, brethren, pick out from among you seven men…whom we may appoint to this duty” (RSV). “Brothers, choose seven men from among you.... We willturn this responsibility over to them” (NIV); “Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men…whom we will appoint to this duty” (ESV).
It is apparent from this passage that the membership was to select their own officers—strictly based on divinely-given qualifications—and that the apostles would merely install them or formally confirm their appointment. The KJV rendering of “look ye out” carries the idea of the members consulting with each other, investigating candidate qualifications, and coming to an agreement—before the individuals were even set before the apostles to be inducted into office.
Many commentators agree with this assessment of the text. For example, Greek scholar J.W. Roberts stated:
The term ‘appoint’ here refers to the setting apart or induction of elders into their place. It does not refer to the selection of the elders…. The selection and appointment were separate. The evangelist Titus had the duty to set in office and undoubtedly helped in the congregational selection of the elders, but nothing indicates that he did the selection himself (1963, pp. 8-9, emp. added).
Nineteenth century commentator Albert Barnes observes:
Titus was to appoint or set them over the churches, though with what ceremony is now unknown. There is no reason to suppose that he did this except as the result of the choice of the people (1847, p. 267, emp. added).
Lenski states:
The verb does not mean “to ordain” (our versions) although they were actually ordained by the laying on of hands; Paul speaks of placing them in office, having them elected by the congregations and then ordaining them; the former is the main thing (2001, p. 896, emp. added).
But why have the apostles (in Acts 6) or Titus (in Titus 1), under Paul’s direction, even be involved in the official installation ceremony? The text does not say, but it would make sense for them to do so in order to convey to the congregations an official, authoritative, apostolic sanction to the first formalization of church officers in these first century churches.
NOTICE: Even if the preacher, by divine directive, was not under the authority of the local eldership, nevertheless, the Bible is extremely clear that the elders DO exercise authority over the flock committed to their charge. So no congregation of the Lord’s people should ever exist in which the preacher has assumed to himself ruling authority over a congregation. If that congregation has elders, THEY are the ones designated by God to “rule” (1 Timothy 3:5; 5:17). If that congregation does not have elders, then the adult males are to make the decisions—not the preacher (except as one vote among the men). Any preacher who has taken to himself the control of a congregation, in which he presents himself as “the pastor” (like the denominations), and continually cultivates and facilitates that mentality among the members, is a disgrace to the Lord’s cause and a blight on the work of the evangelist. To assume such authority without the approval of God is vehemently condemned in the Scriptures (e.g., 3 John 9; Numbers 16).
Titus 1:5 provides no support for the unbiblical, denominational notion of evangelistic oversight.


Barnes, Albert (1847), Notes on the New Testament: 1 Thessalonians to Philemon (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker), 2005 reprint.
Lenski, R.C.H. (2001 reprint), The Interpretation of St. Paul’s Epistles to the Colossians, to the Thessalonians, to Timothy, to Titus, and to Philemon  (Grand Rapids, MI: Hendrickson Publishers).
Roberts, J.W. (1963), Titus, Philemon & James (Austin, TX: Sweet).




The late vehement atheist Christopher Hitchens didn’t at all mind saying that the liked the poetry of GK Chesterton. I like that though I’m certain that Hitchens wouldn’t have cared whether I did or didn’t. Hitchens (who was shaped by more experiences than even he knew) marched to the drumbeat he heard. I don’t know how many streams feed our human convictions—life is all too complex to pretend we know a LOT about it—but there was something about the bitter Hitchens that I found appealing. I had the same experience with Carl Sagan, atheist and astronomer. I don’t find Dennett or Harris or Dawkins appealing—I wonder how many streams feed my distaste for them?
I know this, and I like it: Hitchens and I like Chesterton’s poetry and though I have no grounds whatever to support what I think, I like to think that Hitchens knew this poem and liked the gallantry he saw in it. Yes, even the unselfish gallantry in it! Hitchens had little patience for people like me because his convictions differed so radically from my own and because he looked for the wrong kind of “proof” for my faith. The kind of “proof” he sought from believers like me wouldn’t support his own faith. But that’s another discussion and besides, atheist or not, I think that the gospel about God blessed Christopher Hitchens with qualities I’d like to have in me or more marked in me than they are. Without going into a long discussion about how God does that I just wish to claim that Hitchens’ liking of GK’s poetry is one of the “proofs” that He did.
It appears beyond doubt that Lord Byron lived a truly libertine life though some like Richard Edgcumbe disputed it. Still, there were things about him that must be admired—well things I can’t help but admire. Will Durant the noted historian (and agnostic) quotes Leslie Marchand who has Byron’s chief physician say, right close to the end, that the poet said he did not know what to believe in this world. Then, “I heard him say, ‘Shall I sue for mercy?’ “and after a long pause, ‘Come, come; no weakness! Let’s be a man to the end.’ ” I wish to believe that Byron at that point was telling himself that he should take what was coming to him. Being an accomplished literary man Hitchens would know of that and it would appeal to him as the kind of thing one should do—live and die by one’s convictions. Hitchens’ bitter anger and anguish-bringing disease would add bitterness to his long-held atheistic convictions. He was only 62! So young. (Bless me, I can hardly believe that Hitchens died late in 2011, where did those nearly seven years go?)
Chesterton had only just left 62 behind when he died in 1936 (the year before I was born). The poem that follows is the gallantry of a firm believer in God and a very fine man but I find it easy to believe that the confrontational Hitchens would have admired the unselfish nature of the gallantry Chesterton expresses in the poem. There is so much in the poem but I want to focus on the non-whimpering message in it—not as a rebuke, but as an inspiration. I want to be like this myself and I can’t but believe that others wish it also. Staying with the same thought but making it clear that Chesterton and Hitchens were light years apart there’s this in GK’s poem, The Deluge. Noah is in the middle of planetary chaos (by which God made Himself present against moral evil that was worldwide) standing upright in unremitting storm and tsunamis with a cup of wine in his hand and looking skyward and saying:
Though giant rains put out the sun,
Here stand I for a sign.
Though earth be filled with waters dark,
My cup is filled with wine.
Tell to the trembling priests that here
Under the deluge rod,
One nameless, tattered, broken man
Stood up, and drank to God.
I took my cue from the poem and wrote a little book that Random House picked up. I called it Celebrating the Wrath of God. You might think it worth reading. Okay, that’s the commercial over. I didn’t intend to mention the book when I began writing this piece. It just happened.
I admire gallantry where I think I see it (don’t we all?) whether it’s in a heretic or an atheist—whoever! But I particularly admire it when I see those who’ve trusted their lives to God and won’t back away from it even in the middle of personal chaos when they’re sharing pain along with the human family—they don’t negotiate for exemption from hurt and they don’t get it. To truly commit to Him in faith against all the powers of unbelief, cruelty and utter selfishness and do it cheerfully and without apology is heroic! I was going to offer some help to you who are reading this with the poem but I’ve changed my mind. Read this superb thing that follows. Work at it if you need to—it’s worth it. And if you wish to, write me at holywoodjk@aol.com giving me your response and/or interpretation. Line 8 is wondrous and the last 2 lines can leave you happily dazed for a good while.
This much, O heaven—if I should brood or rave,
Pity me not; but let the world be fed,
Yea, in my madness if I strike me dead,
Heed you the grass that grows upon my grave.
If I dare snarl between this sun and sod,
Whimper and clamor, give me grace to own,
In sun and rain and fruit in season shown,
The shining silence of the scorn of God.
Thank God the stars are set beyond my power,
If I must travail in a night of wrath,
Thank God my tears will never vex a moth,
Nor any curse of mine cut down a flower.
Men say the sun was darkened: yet I had
Thought it beat brightly, even on—Calvary:
And He that hung upon the Torturing Tree
Heard all the crickets singing, and was glad.
(Holy Father bring us and keep us close to your heart and expect much of us for you have given us much to give—each in our own way and all of us as one. This prayer in the One who hanging on a Torture Tree could still hear the crickets sing.)



by David Vaughn Elliott

    Rome, throughout history, has been identified by believers as the seat of "the man of sin." Were the early Christians right about Rome? Were the Bible believers of the Reformation right about Rome? Do the doctrines of the Roman Church fulfill the details of 2 Thessalonians 2?  

    In Part I of this series, the prophecy was examined by just looking into the Biblical text itself. In Part II, the views of Bible believers across the centuries were examined. The probe highlighted the fact that from the Reformation until this century, the prevailing view was that the prophecy was (and is) fulfilled in the "pope" of Rome. 

    The task now before us is to examine the beliefs and practices of the Roman church and papacy. Do the beliefs and practices of Rome fulfill the details of the "falling away" and "the man of sin" prophecy? Or, do we look for another? In this examination, we do not have to resort to private information, secret accords and hidden agendas of Rome. Rather, the task is to examine the open, public, admitted claims of Rome that can be verified by anyone in many available official Catholic sources. 


    Central to the whole teaching on "the man of sin" is the fact that "he sits as God." The Holy Spirit said, "who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God." To claim the attributes of God is blasphemy (see Mark 2:5,7). Revelation 17:3 says the beast is "full of names of blasphemy." Is the "pope" full of names of blasphemy? Is it true that he "sits as God... showing himself that he is God"? Consider these samples. 

    1 - "Pope" means "father." Jesus plainly said, "Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven" (Matthew 23:9). Yet the "pope" of Rome accepts the term "Holy Father." In fact, the very term "pope" means father. The Modern English word "pope" comes from the Old English "papa," which in turn comes from the Late Latin. In the Greek, it's "pappas." This explains the words "papacy" and "papal." Moreover, since the local priests also use the term "father," the one in Rome becomes the father of fathers. Double blasphemy! "Our Father, which art in..." My Father is neither in the local diocese nor in Rome. Mine is in heaven. How about yours? 

    2 - "The head of the church": The Roman "pope" claims to be the head of the church. It is often said that he is "the visible head of the church," with the obvious understanding that Christ is the invisible Head. But what does that do to the frequent figure in Scripture of the church being the body of Christ? Ever see a body with two heads? "No man can serve two masters." A body with two heads is a monster.  

    What does Scripture say of God's work through Christ? "And He put all [things] under His feet, and gave Him [to] [be] head over all [things] to the church, which is His body" (Ephesians 1:20-23). There are not two heads. Jesus is "head over all things to the church." To claim to be head of the church is to make one's self equal to Christ. It is blasphemy.  

    3 - "Pontiff": The term "pontiff" comes from ancient pagan Rome. Pontiffs were their chief priests. Since individual leaders in the Roman churches are called "priests," the one in Rome is called the "supreme pontiff." That is just another way of saying "high priest." But according the Gospel of Christ, to call any man "supreme priest" is blasphemy. Such a man claims what belongs only to Christ. Christians know that "we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God... without sin" (Hebrews 4:14,15). To claim to be the chief priest is to claim to be equal to Jesus Christ, the anointed Prophet, Priest and King. To sit as the supreme pontiff is to claim equality with the Son of God, who in turn is equal to God.  

    4 - "Vicar of Christ": A common term for the "pope" is "vicar of Christ." "Vicar" comes from the Latin meaning "substitute." Rome claims that the Roman pontiff "is acting for and in the place of Christ." Christ is God. The prophecy says "showing himself that he is God." Since the "pope" claims to be "in the place of Christ," he is showing himself that he is God. Another blasphemy! 

    5 - The "pope" claims "primacy." Rome talks much about the "primacy" of Peter, which it claims has been passed on to all the bishops of Rome. The words "primacy" and "primary" are not to be found in Scripture. However, the kindred word "preeminence" is recorded--just twice. First is Colossians 1:18, speaking of Christ: "He is the head of the body, the church... that in all things He may have the preeminence." Second is 3 John 9: "Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence among them, does not receive us."  

    Remember that Paul said, "the mystery of lawlessness is already at work"? Among other things, that mystery is the struggle of men to have first place in the church. Diotrephes only sought first place in the local church. Students of church history know that the struggle continued unabated until someone gained first place over all the world's churches. The bishop of Rome won that struggle. He claims "primacy" via Peter. In reality, his primacy is blasphemy against Christ, and fulfills the prophecy. Only Jesus has primacy in His church. 

    6 - The "pope" is a king. The Roman pontiff uses all the trappings of royalty. He lives in a palace. In fact, the Vatican Palace is the largest palace in the world. He has an ornate crown called the tiara. For solemn functions, he sits on a throne. His period of power is a "reign." The cardinals are called "princes of the church" who are subject only to the "pope." In short, though Catholics may not usually use the term, some do plainly say that the "pope" is a king. Blasphemy! Jesus is our only King.  

    7 - This king has three crowns. The tiara can be traced back to 1100 A.D. By 1300 A.D., it contained, not one, but three jewel-bedecked crowns, one above another on this rounded cone headpiece. Authorities do not fully agree on the explanation of the three realms which the "pope" rules over, but it is obvious that he claims all kinds of kingship, spiritual and temporal. Though John Paul II does not physically wear the tiara, he has in no way renounced the tiara and what it represents. Quite the contrary, the tiara appears today on his papal seal and the Vatican flag. Thus, the "pope" still presents himself as a thrice-crowned monarch. Jesus on earth had only one crown. Remember what it was made of? 

    8 - Above the law: So like God does the Roman Pontiff make himself that he places himself higher than the Son of God. When Jesus was upon earth He voluntarily submitted to taxation (Matthew 17:24-27) as well as to the Jewish council, the Roman Governor Pontius Pilate and the Roman soldiers. He had the power to resist, but He did not. 

    The "pope" of Rome, however, submits to no man! The "pope" is head of Vatican City, an independent nation also called the Papal State. Vatican City has its own coins, postage stamps and water supply. The Vatican receives ambassadors from about 170 nations (now including the United States--shame!). It is true that Vatican City is tiny compared to the land holdings of the "popes" of the Middle Ages. Nevertheless, it is big enough to furnish the "pope" with absolute independence from all human authority. The reason openly stated for the existence of Vatican City is that the "pope" "cannot rightly be made subject to any temporal power on earth." Did any man ever "sit as God in the temple of God" more than this? 

    The Apostle Paul wrote to the very church in question, the church in Rome, during the reign of the infamous emperor Nero. In that setting, Paul commanded the brethren in Rome, "Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities" (Romans 13:1). The "pope" of Rome refuses to obey this command of God. He sets himself outside of and above all earthly authority. In so doing, he sets himself above the very Son of God, who did submit. 


    "The man of sin" is only one person (at a time). But 2 Thessalonians 2 prophesies of the entire system over which "the man of sin" rules. It prophesies "lawlessness," "falling away" ("apostasy"), "unrighteousness," "deception," "strong delusion," and "the lie." Keep in mind that since this is a "falling away (apostasy)," it cannot be fulfilled by brand new religions, like Buddhism or Islam. Rather it is a departure or falling away from the true Gospel--keeping parts, omitting parts and changing parts--an unholy mixture of truth and error. 

    High on the list of these unrighteous deceptions are the numerous mediators that Rome places between man and God. At the uncontested top of this list of mediators is "the virgin."  


    The "Mary" of Rome is not the Mary of the Bible. While it is true that some teachings and practices of the Roman Church have edged closer to Bible truth in the 20th century, it's doctrine of "Mary" is not one of them. John Paul II, indeed, has dedicated his pontificate to "the virgin." He has everywhere tried to increase devotion to her, himself visiting most of the Marian shrines in the world. His motto is "Totus tuus sum Maria: Mary, I am all yours." 

    Rome makes a goddess out of their "Mary." The teaching goes this way: 1) Mary is the mother of Jesus; 2) Jesus is God; therefore, 3) Mary is the mother of God. The problem with this supposedly logical argument is the second point. Yes, Jesus is God; but Jesus was also man. As Romans 1:3 puts it, "Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh." By the same token, Jesus was the son of Mary according to the flesh.  

    Reminds one of the question little children (and materialistic philosophers) ask: "Who made God?" A mother is always before a son. Thus, if Mary is the mother of God, then she is before God and she is god. That is blasphemy. John clarified, "In the beginning was the Word... And the Word became flesh" (John 1:14). Yes, Mary was before Jesus in the flesh; but Jesus was before Mary in the spirit. Mary is not the mother of God. Rather, the Lord Jesus Christ is Mary's Master and Maker! 

    Time fails to speak of all that is involved in Rome's teaching on "Mary." They say she was a perpetual virgin even though married. They say she was absolutely sinless like Jesus. They call her "queen of heaven" (see Jeremiah 44). Since God is King of heaven; that makes "Mary" a goddess. They call her the Mediatrix. Since Jesus is the Mediator, that places her as equal to Jesus. As a matter of fact, in praying the rosary, for every "Our Father," there follow ten "Hail Mary's." Ten to one. The teaching of Rome is "to Jesus through Mary." The teaching of the apostles is "to the Father through the Son" (John 14:6; 1 Timothy 2:5). Two different gospels.  


    The Holy Spirit says, "A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife" (1 Timothy 3:2). Rome says that a bishop must "not" be the husband of one wife. God requires pastors to be family men. Rome requires pastors to be single. 

    God's Word says, "as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup" (1 Corinthians 11:26). Rome says that the common members may "not" drink the cup. Rome has the audacity to withhold from its members one half of the Lord's Supper.  

    The Word says, "as often as you eat this bread." Rome says, "You do not eat bread; you eat the actual body of Christ." Now when Jesus changed water into wine, it no longer looked like water nor tasted like water. The feast master said, "You have kept the good wine until now!" (John 2:10). A miracle of changing one thing into another does just that--it changes one thing into another. Rome claims that the "host" is transformed into the actual body of Christ, even though it still looks, smells and tastes like bread. This is not a miracle. This is a bold-faced lie. Since so many millions world-wide believe such an obvious falsehood, it clearly fulfills the prophecy regarding "strong delusion." 

    Time fails to even name all the falsehoods of Rome. This is not just minor errors of a doctrine or two. This is "the" falling away, "the" apostasy. Among other things, Rome teaches that the people must confess their sins to a sinful priest rather than to Jesus the pure High Priest. Rome teaches that the mass is a sacrifice in which Christ, in an unbloody manner, offers himself to God via the officiating priest. Rome teaches the baptism of ignorant, sinless infants by means of sprinkling rather than immersion. Rome fosters the veneration of images, including kneeling and praying before them, burning candles before them, and carrying them in street processions. Rome condones church-sponsored gambling, dancing and drinking on the one hand and the Charismatic speaking in tongues on the other. 


    Is it proper to call the "pope" "antichrist"? The term "antichrist" appears only in the epistles of John, who says that many antichrists were already existent in his day. The texts in question are 1 John 2:18-22; 4:3; 2 John 7: 

    "As you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come... They went out from us... Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son... and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the [spirit] of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world... For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ [as] coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist."  

    Item 1 - John states that they had "heard that the Antichrist is coming." John does not deny that. He only clarifies that there are other antichrists besides "the" future antichrist. 

    Item 2 - "They went out from us." This agrees perfectly with "the man of sin" prophecy, which predicts "a falling away." Both texts thus speak of a development coming out of the true people of God. 

    Item 3 - "This is the [spirit] of the Antichrist which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world." John agrees with Paul, who said, "For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work." With good reason, the translators have added "spirit." The Greek says, "This is the of the antichrist." "The" what? Starting with 4:1, the word "spirit(s)" appears 5 times. Read for yourself and you will see that when you come to "the of the antichrist," "spirit" is the only sensible word to supply. Therefore, John is saying that the "spirit" of antichrist is coming and is already in the world. That is just another way of saying that "the mystery of lawlessness is already at work,"--before "the man of sin" or "the" antichrist actually appears. 

    Item 4 - "Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ?" "Christ" means the anointed Prophet, Priest and King. The "pope" does not directly deny that. However, by claiming the same attributes for himself, he in effect does deny it. The "pope" claims to be the infallible "chief teacher [prophet] and ruler [king] of the entire church," as well as "supreme pontiff [high priest]." As "vicar of Christ," he takes the place of Christ on earth." Thus he does deny that Jesus alone is the Christ.  

    Item 5 - "He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son." Does this describe the "pope" of Rome? There are many ways to "deny" God. Paul wrote, "They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him" (Titus 1:16). The "pope," by receiving the title "holy father," denies that we have only one Holy Father. By attributing to the "pope" and the "virgin" so many titles and characteristics of the Father and the Son, the Word is fulfilled in them that "They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him." 

   Item 6 - "Every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God... For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ [as] coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist." Certainly Rome does not deny that Jesus came in the flesh. Or, does it? 

    Put briefly, Rome teaches 1) that all men inherit original sin, 2) except Jesus and Mary. Rome is thus saying that Jesus and Mary did not have the same flesh as we do. But God says of Jesus, "For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham. Therefore, in all things He had to be made like [His] brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest" (Hebrews 2:16,17). To become our High Priest, Jesus had to be made like us.  

    Why did Rome invent the myth of the "immaculate conception" of Mary? Because Rome, to its credit, realized that if sin is inherited, then Jesus was born a sinner. That is impossible. So, either you reject the doctrine of inherited original sin and total depravity or else you invent a special miracle to overcome it for Jesus. But when you invent that special miracle, you deny that Jesus came in the same flesh we come in; you are antichrist!  


    Again, the Roman religion fulfills "the man of sin" prophecy with its "powers, signs, and lying wonders" (2 Thessalonians 2:9). Who has claims of miracles like unto Rome? In the mid-19th century, the "virgin" appeared to Bernadette in Lourdes, France. A whole century later, the shrine built there attracted 200,000 pilgrims a year. Many are the claims of miraculous cures.  

    Other outstanding locations of supposed apparitions of "the virgin" are Fatima in Portugal, Knock in Ireland and Guadalupe in Mexico. All such places become shrines and centers of pilgrimages. Multitudes are the claims of miracles. The average catholic believes in many more miracles than the hierarchy is willing to "authenticate." However, it does "authenticate" many. 

    To discuss all the miracles claimed by the Roman Church would require a book. I think there is no Pentecostal church that can begin to compete with the Roman Church when it comes to claims of the miraculous. And it has been going on for centuries. Rome clearly fulfills this part of the prophecy. 


    The "man of sin" prophecy is valuable to us today in at least three ways. 

    1 - This prophecy is a warning. We are all in danger. Satan can deceive us. Just as he did with Eve, Satan continues to mix truth with error. His arguments seem plausible. He offers benefits. He offers "the pleasures of sin for a season." This prophecy is a warning of false religions and apostate churches. It is a warning that Satan has power to work signs and wonders. It is a warning that there are lies and strong delusion all around us.  

    Many conservative evangelicals do not heed this warning. For example, many Charismatics today, disregarding all other doctrines, bind themselves together with one common denominator--the supposed baptism of the Holy Spirit with evidence via speaking in tongues. "Spirit filled" Pentecostals have great fellowship with their "Spirit-filled" Catholic brethren. Never mind that the latter still go to the sacrifice of the Mass, still pray to "the virgin" and still give allegiance to the pontiff of Rome.  

    2 - This prophecy is an explanation. How often do people ask, "Why are there so many religions?" "Can you trace your church back to the day of Pentecost?" This prophecy offers some of the answers. It shows that Jesus did not have any illusions about what was going to happen to His glorious church. Tragic as it is, it is a reality that cannot be swept under the rug. 

    3 - This prophecy is a promise. Verse 8 contains the promise, "the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming." There is victory in Jesus. "The man of sin" will not triumph in the end. Christ will. Jesus will return. He will destroy His enemies. He will reign victoriously. If we reject "the man of sin" and cling close to Jesus, we will be on the victory side.  

    (Scripture in the preceding article is taken from the New King James Version. Copyright (c) 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.)