By Pastor Doug Batchelor
On a planet teeming with 7 billion people, a change in the religious leader for 1.2 billion of them represents a significant event. The new pope, Jorge Bergoglio, an Argentine cardinal, named as Pope Francis, is the first open Jesuit to be elected to the highest Roman Catholic office. (The Jesuit order was formed in 1540, with its primary purpose to counter the influence of the spreading Protestant Reformation.) He also represents the first pope from the Western Hemisphere, acknowledging a major shift in the global influence of the papacy.
This is amazing when you consider the country with the smallest population is the Vatican. That’s right—in 1929, under terms of the Lateran Treaty, Vatican City, or Holy See, was established as an independent state of 109 acres within Rome. Less than 1,000 people live in this small country governed by the pope, who has absolute executive, legislative, and judicial powers. Despite its diminutive size, the Vatican wields profound international power, as ambassadors from most major nations flock to their doors.
Despite the Vatican’s tiny territory, Bible prophecy tells us that the political-religious state will play a major role in final prophecy. Yes—Luther, Spurgeon, Wesley, Calvin, Knox, Moody, and virtually every other major Protestant reformer identified the Catholic Church as the beast of Revelation 13 and the papal office as antichrist. But today, most Protestants and evangelicals have historical amnesia when it comes to what separates Protestants and Catholics.
Don’t get me wrong—Pope Francis might be an absolutely wonderful individual, and I expect to meet millions of former and current Roman Catholics in the heavenly kingdom. But I am frankly surprised to hear so many Protestant leaders fawning over the new pope.
Remember, we are not talking about people's personal temperaments here—but rather their worldview in relation to the role of Scripture.
For example, the Bible teaches that we are not to bow down to statues (Exodus 20:4, 5). The Roman Catholic Church says that we should bow down to statues, not ancient tradition, but medieval tradition.
The Bible teaches that all have sinned except Jesus (Romans 3:10-12, Hebrews 4:15). The Roman Catholic Church teaches that Mary was sinless.
The Bible says that Jesus is the only mediator between man and God (1 Timothy 2:5). The Roman Catholic Church says Mary is co-mediator with Christ.
The Bible teaches that Christ offered His sacrifice on the cross once and for all (Hebrews 7:27,28 10:10). The Roman Catholic Church teaches that the priest sacrifices Christ on the altar at every mass.
The Bible teaches that all Christians are saints and priests (Ephesians 1:1 and 1 Peter 2:9). The Roman Catholic Church says that saints and priests are special casts within the Christian community.
The Bible teaches that all Christians should know that they have eternal life (1 John 5:13). The Roman Catholic Church teaches that all Christians cannot and should not know that they have eternal life.
The Bible teaches that we should call no religious leader “father” (Matthew 23:9). The Roman Catholic Church teaches that we may call the priests and pope “father.”
The Bible teaches to not pray in vain repetition (Matthew 6:7). The Roman Catholic Church says to pray the Lord’s prayer or Hail Mary’s in vain repetition.
The Bible teaches to confess your sins to God, for only God can forgive sin (Isaiah 43:25, Luke 5:24). The Roman Catholic Church says you must confess your sins to the priest for forgiveness.
Moreover, the teachings of purgatory, limbo, and prayers for the dead are nowhere in Scripture, but clearly relics of paganism.
The words of Jesus to the Pharisees apply today; we must not nullify the Word of God with manmade traditions (Matthew 15:6).
Here’s an amazing fact—I bet you didn’t know that the first individual to identify the papal office as antichrist was a pope! Yes, Pope Gregory the Great, (540–604), who was the last of the four original Doctors of the Church (q.v.) and who became known as Saint Gregory, at the end of the ancient church period, said that such a church teaching came from the spirit of antichrist. He wrote, “I confidently affirm that whomever calls himself universal bishop or desires to be so called is in his pride a fore runner of antichrist.”
There are fascinating times in the world! For more information, please watch my video “When the World Wonders” by clicking here.