Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Square, 2013
Photo by Edgar Jiménez
Once there was a boy so meek and modest, he was awarded a Most Humble badge. The next day, it was taken away because he wore it. Here endeth the lesson.
The above opening paragraph from the Time.com article explaining their decision to choose Pope Francis as Person of the Year pretty much sets the tone. His humility plus his reaching out to atheists, gay activists, the poor and even those in prison has shaken some more conservative Catholics and thrilled many who would normally oppose the Vatican.
Could this be the last pope? Could he be the one to gather together the world into a one world religion? It is easy to jump to conclusions, just as it is easy to be overly dismissive of the possibility.
There is little doubt that Francis is a very charismatic pope. He has in a way captured the world’s imagination. It should be obvious from history that instilling a new resurrection of the Holy Roman Empire and relying upon force alone is probably not going to work. Adolf Hitler understood this, and he was able to have a mesmerizing effect upon the public.
An interesting thing that is different from his more immediate predecessors is that there are in actuality two living popes. That is an interesting wrinkle to consider. Could they eventually claim to be the Two Witnesses? Could one be the Beast and the other the False Prophet?
It’s not an unknown that American influence around the world is waning, and there is certainly no shortage of countries willing to fill that vacuum. China is flexing its large muscles more and more, and as their economy continues to rise to the point where more Chinese citizens can participate, that will fuel even more growth. Of course, this is all contingent upon a number of factors. Russia, which apparently feels resentment for the breakup of the Soviet Union, is longing for the power of the good old days. Then, there are the special nut cases of Iran and North Korea.
However, we are not ignorant of Bible prophecy and know that Europe will eventually fill this void, but not entirely. There will be three regional powers in Europe, the Middle East (and probably parts of Africa) and Asia. Europe will dominate under the resurrected Holy Roman Empire. How will it do this in the face of the fierce competition. The answer is in religion. By skillful deceit, and endtime False Prophet will convince the world that there is one government and one state religion. This will require a great amount of charisma.
Well, Francis is not the only recent one that had a charismatic sway over the Catholic faithful. Pope John Paul II also was speculated to be the last pope. However, Francis has only been in office a short while, and his words have been directed outward as well as to the Catholic Church. Will this charisma grow, or will time tarnish it even as it did with his predecessor?
Yes, there is a “Pope” and a “Pope Emeritus”, but the main reason believed for Benedict stepping down is health reasons. Having two popes makes it natural to speculate they may try to counterfeit the work of the Two Witnesses. Given Benedict’s supposed health concerns, that might not be very likely. However, it is also not impossible, and it is possible that health was simply a cover.
Yes, there is a developing power vacuum. However, it cannot be filled overnight. Besides, the United States has not completely lost its grip on things just yet. It may be soon, but it hasn’t yet. How likely is it that the needed events can occur in Francis’ lifetime? I think it is possible, but we also need to remember we once thought the Great Tribulation would start in 1972.
Jesus instructed us to watch.
34 And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares.
35 For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth.
36 Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.
It is noteworthy that “watch” isn’t qualified. In context, it should be obvious that we are to watch our spiritual conditions. Why would things come unawares? Because those who are caught short have been already caught up in wild living, addicted to substances and the “cares of this life”. There are many cares of this life. There are many distractions from what we should be focusing upon. The only way we can be “worthy” of anything is to be forgiven and do what is right. That requires a solid spiritual condition.
However, that cannot be all. Events will sweep up those not grounded because they will not understand prophecy enough to know and avoid the things that are to come to pass. We must be aware of prophecy, and when we see events unfold, it should continue to drive us to repentance and give us incentive to prepare for the times ahead.
The danger I see over and over is when people quit growing spiritually because they are so focused on prophecy as to miss the bigger point. Focusing too much on prophecy is focusing on “them”. The Bible talks about individual things for Christians in this age, including repentance, baptism, continual self-examination, developing inward qualities like the Fruits of the Spirit, etc. We must neither become obsessed with prophecy nor be dismissive of it.