The crucial and essential question that needs to be put to believers who have “been led” to become part of the Roman Catholic Church is this:
Will the Catholic Church, in her doctrines and practices, become more distinctly the bride of the Lord through their witness and testimony, or will the opposite result in these individuals’ lives as they come under the influence and authority of the Pope and his curia; leading many true believers from the Charismatic and Evangelical churches to follow their example and switch their biblical, Jerusalem orientation to Rome’s more ecclesiastical one?
Jesus suffered outside the gate of His Jerusalem; the majority of the Apostles and Prophets were rejected by their co-religionists; even Paul, who tried repeatedly to preach first and foremost inside the synagogues to his own brethren, was often rejected by them and thus forced to go outside to the Gentiles, who did often receive his word with gladness.
Here it is how he describes this phenomenon:
So when the Jews went out of the synagogue, the Gentiles begged that these words might be preached to them the next Sabbath. Now when the congregation had broken up, many of the Jews and devout proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas, who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God. On the next Sabbath almost the whole city came together to hear the word of God. But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy; and contradicting and blaspheming, they opposed the things spoken by Paul. Then Paul and Barnabas grew bold and said, “It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; but since you reject it, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us: ‘I have set you as a light to the Gentiles, That you should be for salvation to the ends of the earth.’ ” Now when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed. And the word of the Lord was being spread throughout all the region. But the Jews stirred up the devout and prominent women and the chief men of the city, raised up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region. But they shook off the dust from their feet against them, and came to Iconium. And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit. (Acts 13:42-52)
In similar fashion today, co-religionists inside the structure of the church often reject the Word of the Lord as He Himself – as He showed John on the isle of Patmos – stands outside His own church knocking to come in and sup with them.
It seems incredible that in many ways the Church – or God’s New Covenant people – have been deceived in the same way as were His ancient covenant people the Jews, placing more value on the teachings of men than on God’s living word, as Jesus rebuked the Pharisees of old:
“All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition” (Mark 7:9)
For instance, Jesus strongly warned against ecclesiastical hierarchy by saying that no man should be called ‘Father’ or ‘Rabbi’ – But you, do not be called ‘Rabbi’; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren (Matthew 23:8).
The plain teaching of the apostles was far away from the ecclesiastical church structure of today with its emphasis that we are all but brothers and sisters under the guidance of the Lord (who is the head) and His Spirit.
All can prophesy according to God’s Word:
“For you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged” (1 Corinthians 14:31).
Paul calls all true believers saints:
“To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 1:7).
“To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours” (1 Corinthians 1:2).
All are allowed to share and participate during religious services, not just the priest or the pastor!!
“How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification” (1 Corinthians 14:26)
Certainly no believer was ever allowed to be called ‘father.’ ‘Holy Father’ would have been anathema to our Lord; no brother was allowed to be called Lord – dominus in Latin – which is exactly what many ministers in the Reformed church in the Netherlands are called – ‘dominee.’
Yes there were five titles or tasks that the Lord recognized in the New Testament. They were:
But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.
Therefore He says: “When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men.” (Now this, “He ascended” — what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.) And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head — Christ– from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love (Ephesians 4:7-16)
To be an apostle you had to be chosen by the Lord as indeed the very first 12 Apostles were chosen and appointed by the Lord after He spent a night in prayer to His father to know whom to choose.
Later here in the Epistle to the Ephesians it seems still to be the Lord’s prerogative to appoint and choose these special servants called here in the Ephesians letter “The Lord’s gifts to men.”
The Scriptures call the Apostles and Prophets the foundation of the church of which Jesus is the Cornerstone.
“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” (Ephesians 2:19-22).
Paul, one of the greatest of the Apostles in the New Testament, confirms this truth in relation to his own calling when he writes:
“Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God” (1 Corinthians 1:1).
Who is an Apostle?
In the book of Revelation we find these words from our Lord in a message to the angel of the church in Ephesus:
“I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars” (Revelation 2:2).
Now that we have found out from Scripture how important the ministry of Apostles and prophets is in the Lord’s eyes for the building of His Church and bride, it is essential that we not be deceived today by those who wrongfully and without basis claim themselves to be Apostles or prophets.
There are three essential conditions for someone to operate in the position and anointing of an apostle:
One: He has to be personally called by the Lord as indeed were His twelve Apostles and later Paul.
Two: It has to be confirmed by God’s holy servants as indeed was the case with the calling of Paul:
“Now there was a certain disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and to him the Lord said in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel” (Acts 9:10,15).
Now in the church that was at Antioch there were certain prophets and teachers:
“Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away” (Acts 13:1-3).
Three: There has to be an outworking in signs and wonders to signify that indeed the Apostle or Prophet is God’s appointed servant:
“I have become a fool in boasting; you have compelled me. For I ought to have been commended by you; for in nothing was I behind the most eminent apostles, though I am nothing. Truly the signs of an apostle were accomplished among you with all perseverance, in signs and wonders and mighty deeds” (2 Corinthians 12:11-12).
None of God’s appointed prophets or apostles were left without signs and wonders following their word and ministry.
When Babylon finally falls and is destroyed, we read this amazing verse in Revelation 18:20:
“Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you holy apostles and prophets, for God has avenged you on her!”
In the End Time it will be the true and holy apostles and prophets who will be used in an amazing way to prepare the bride for His coming!
There were during the early church age two distinct kinds of leadership, the overall or international leadership of the Church, and then the local leadership in each city – called elders or overseers. The local leaders were usually appointed under the direction of the international apostolic leaders or people instructed and appointed by them, as Paul did in relation to Titus when he wrote:
“Paul, a bondservant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect and the acknowledgment of the truth which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began, but has in due time manifested His word through preaching, which was committed to me according to the commandment of God our Savior; to Titus, a true son in our common faith: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Savior. For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you — if a man is blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of dissipation or insubordination. For a bishop must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but hospitable, a lover of what is good, sober-minded, just, holy, self-controlled, holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict” (Titus 1:1-9).
The Position of the Roman Catholic Pope:
Now concerning the position of the Roman Catholic Pope, there is a mixture. If he is to be seen in a line of succession going back to Peter – whose name was Rock – then he should be an Apostle with all the signs accompanying the ministry of Peter or any of the Apostles.
If, however, his position stems from being the bishop (ἐπίσκοπος episkopai in Greek) or elder of the important but still local church in Rome, then he is just that: the bishop if you like of the local church in Rome!
A combination of the two types of leadership is possible, as we can see in relationship to the Apostles and elders when Jerusalem, not Rome, was the key city and most influential congregation for the worldwide developing church. When there was a dispute relating to the question whether the many Gentiles who had come to faith in the Lord Jesus were required to keep the whole law of Moses, the Apostles and elders came together in Jerusalem to hear from God concerning this matter.
Here is how it is recorded by Luke:
“Now the apostles and elders came together to consider this matter. Then it pleased the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas, namely, Judas who was also named Barsabas, and Silas, leading men among the brethren. They wrote this letter by them: The apostles, the elders, and the brethren, to the brethren who are of the Gentiles in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia: Greetings. Since we have heard that some who went out from us have troubled you with words, unsettling your souls, saying, “You must be circumcised and keep the law” — to whom we gave no such commandment — it seemed good to us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who will also report the same things by word of mouth. For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell” (Acts 15:6, 22-29).
So we see that when Jerusalem and the Congregation was still the main focal point of the Church, Apostles and the local elders came together there to discuss issues of importance. This may well have a prophetic significance, as we live in the day when the pendulum is swinging back to Jerusalem; when God will pour out His Spirit upon this nation and all Israel and Jerusalem will again become the spiritual and geographic center of the true believers.
Years ago an elderly pastor who loved the Lord and Israel gave me a prophecy which I have kept in my Bible until today. This is what it says:
“I am leaving the nations. For almost 2000 years I have been calling a remnant out of each nation. Now I am returning to Jerusalem. I am building up Zion, for there I shall be glorified.”
This is a serious word, in a way as serious as His word to His own people was about 2000 years ago when He said unto them:
“Have you never read in the Scriptures: ‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? “Therefore I say to you, the Kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it. And whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder” (Matthew 21:42-44).
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!'” (Matthew 23:37-39).
Thus, just as there was a time that the Lord turned away from His people to go to the Gentiles – as even also Paul did many times – so the Scriptures warn us seriously that one day the opposite will happen: that God will turn away from, or leave, the Gentile nations, and return in great favor and compassion to His own people, when all Israel will be saved!!
This is how the Apostle Paul writes it:
“I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles. Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness! For I speak to you Gentiles; inasmuch as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, if by any means I may provoke to jealousy those who are my flesh and save some of them. For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? For if the firstfruit is holy, the lump is also holy; and if the root is holy, so are the branches. And if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them became a partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree, do not boast against the branches. But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, “Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in.” Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either. Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off. And they also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. For if you were cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, who are natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree? For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: “The Deliverer will come out of Zion, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; for this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins” (Romans 11:11-26).
Paul rightly argues, under the anointing of God’s Spirit, that if it can happen to God’s own people it certainly can happen to us Gentile believers. That’s why we have to be so humble and tender before God, and not make the same mistake the majority of the religious leaders did in their day: rejecting the Word of God even in His bodily form because they loved their man made religious traditions more than His Word!
As is written in Mark’s Gospel:
“He answered and said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ “For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men.” He said to them, “All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition, making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down. And many such things you do” (Mark 7:6-9,13).
Now let us state that today, in most of the ancient ecclesiastical churches, there are still fine and devoted believers who sacrificially and with all their heart love the Lord; people who in essence belong to Him as His bride and body. But how will they not become ensnared in sin and in wrong, manmade traditions, when the global united world church will soon arise, a church that may well welcome any, even Muslims; a church that will in fact do the same thing the religious leaders did in Jesus’ time – reject His piercing words in favor for their own ways and traditions?
In closing, then, this is the question:
Will those who have felt led at this time to return to the mother church – Rome – be able by their clear word and holy testimony to inspire true, devoted believers to leave that church when it increasingly becomes the harlot church, and to be grafted into the true tree and commonwealth of Israel?
Or will their action have the opposite result, deceiving many believers worldwide at this very time when the Lord Himself is returning to Zion?!
Jan Willem van der Hoeven, Director
International Christian Zionist Center
Republished with the kind permission of Author Jan Willem van der Hoeven, Director of International Christian Zionist Center.
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