A cleverly devised plan is underway declaring the Reformation is over. The “Holy Spirit” is supposedly uniting the church for a mighty revival before Jesus returns. Ecumenical madness is spreading like a virus. Few pastors take the time to listen carefully to what the present pope himself is saying. He is all for unity with anyone and everyone who will join with Rome. This is what the Jesuit agenda is all about, to unite all people and all religions under the authority of Rome. And for the first time in history, the Roman Catholic Church has a Jesuit pope! When you consider that the first Jesuits five hundred years ago were commissioned by the pope to do whatever it takes to bring an end to the Reformation and then consider the efforts being made today by the papacy and some Protestants (such as the late Tony Palmer) to end the Reformation, it’s a chilling scenario.
The ecumenical wheel has many spokes, but all the spokes lead to the hub. The hub is the Vatican located in Rome with the pope on the throne of “Peter.” From there, the “kingdom of God” will be established. In an article titled, “Pope’s Mass: We’re not Christian Without the Church,” reporting on Pope Francis speaking to a large group assembled for Mass, we read:
There is no such thing as a Christian without the Church, a Christian who walks alone, because Jesus inserted himself into the journey of His people: This was Pope Francis’ reflection at Mass this morning in Casa Santa Marta. Beginning with the first reading of the day, Pope Francis said that when they proclaimed Jesus the apostles did not begin with Him, but the history of the people. In fact “Jesus does not make sense without this history” because He “is the end of this story, [the end] towards which this story goes, towards which it walks.”1 (brackets in original)
Obviously, with Pope Francis speaking to a group assembled before him as he is presiding over the Mass, when he says “church,” he is talking about the Catholic Church. Anyone who doubts he was addressing the Roman Catholic “faithful,” the following quote will confirm this:
Looking forward, the Christian is a man, a woman of hope. And in this, the Christian follows the path of God and renews the covenant with God. He continually says to the Lord: “Yes, I want the commandments, I want your will, I will follow you.” He is a man of the covenant, and we celebrate the covenant, every day in the Mass: thus a Christian is “a woman, a man of the Eucharist.”2
Or consider the following information available at the Catholic website Catholicism.org:
“Outside the Church there is no salvation” (extra ecclesiam nulla salus) is a doctrine of the Catholic Faith that was taught by Jesus Christ to His Apostles, preached by the Fathers, defined by popes and councils and piously believed by the faithful in every age of the Church. Here is how the Popes defined it:
- “There is but one universal Church of the faithful, outside which no one at all is saved.” (Pope Innocent III, Fourth Lateran Council, 1215.)
- “We declare, say, define, and pronounce that it is absolutely necessary for the salvation of every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff.” (Pope Boniface VIII, the Bull Unam Sanctam, 1302.)
- “The most Holy Roman Church firmly believes, professes and preaches that none of those existing outside the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics, can have a share in life eternal; but that they will go into the eternal fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels, unless before death they are joined with Her; and that so important is the unity of this ecclesiastical body that only those remaining within this unity can profit by the sacraments of the Church unto salvation, and they alone can receive an eternal recompense for their fasts, their almsgivings, their other works of Christian piety and the duties of a Christian soldier. No one, let his almsgiving be as great as it may, no one, even if he pour out his blood for the Name of Christ, can be saved, unless he remain within the bosom and the unity of the Catholic Church.” (Pope Eugene IV, the Bull Cantate Domino, 1441.)3
Who Has the Keys to the Kingdom
If you have ever walked around St. Peter’s Square in Rome, you will know there is a statue of Peter before you enter the basilica, illustrating one of the main pillars of the Roman Catholic Church. The statue represents Peter, the disciple Catholics claim was the one Jesus chose to become the first Pope. The claim is that Roman Catholicism is the only true representation of Christianity because its beliefs can be traced back to the appointment of Peter as the successor of Jesus. He was handed the “keys to the Kingdom” by Jesus, they say.
In order to trace the origin of this claim, we need to go to the Scriptures and check out if this claim is valid. It is based on the portion of Scripture found in Matthew chapter 16 when Jesus asked the disciples the question who do they say I am?:
When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ. From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. (Matthew 16: 13-21)
While Roman Catholics avidly believe Jesus chose a man to succeed Him to head the Church, that is not what Jesus said. Jesus was responding to the question He had asked and Peter had answered. Peter said, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” The rock or the foundational belief that Christianity would be based on would not be following a man. The foundation was about knowing who Jesus is and the role He plays in history. This key was the key to the Kingdom of Heaven, not a key to a kingdom established here on Earth by a man even though it might be in the name of Jesus.
According to Roman Catholic dogma, the succession of popery throughout the ages has made the claim that salvation can only be dispensed by Rome. From the beginning, at Philippi, Jesus made it clear to the disciples and Peter that in no way should any man be followed and given a title to indicate he is a form of Jesus Christ in the flesh.
When Jesus told the disciples what would happen to Him and that He would suffer, die, and be resurrected, Peter refused to believe this vital message which fulfills the Gospel according to the Scriptures: The Bible states: “Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee” (Matthew 16: 22).
Jesus immediately responded to Peter’s heretical claim by saying: “Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men” (Matthew 16: 23).
Therein lies the error that has been passed down through the generations and has impacted not only the Roman Catholic Church but many Protestant pastors and leaders who profess to believe the Gospel of Jesus. It is man that gets between God and man. Men not only misunderstand what Jesus said about the rock or foundation that Christianity should be built upon, men take the position of the Good Shepherd and make the claim that they, and only they, have been given custody over the keys to the kingdom.
While Rome leads the way with the bold claim that God chose Peter and the succeeding popes to take the title of “Vicar of Christ” and determine what the sheep should or should not believe, other groups believe they have been called to usher in or even prepare and set up the kingdom of God here on Earth without the presence of the King. Often taking the position that Jesus will not actually physically return to rule and reign for a period of one thousand years, this group sees itself as chosen by God to be human vessels for this purpose.
Common names for this teaching are: Kingdom Now, Dominion Theology, and Reconstructionism. It is the idea that before Christ can return, the world must be brought together in unity and perfection, and this work will be done by the Christian church. Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven P.E.A.C.E. Plan, Jim Wallis’ social gospel agenda, and Tony Campolo or Brian McLaren’s emergent church are a few of the avenues through which this is being propagated. The goal is to basically eradicate all the world’s ills (e.g., disease, poverty, terrorism, and pollution) and thus, we will have created a “Heaven on Earth” Utopia.
While creating such a world sounds very good, it is not what the Bible says is going to happen. Many Scriptures, in both the Old and New Testaments, describe a very different scenario, such as the following:
Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. (Matthew 24:9-14)
The following list of the some of the erroneous teachings in Kingdom-Now theology illustrate how dangerous this belief system is, yet it has tremendously pervaded the church today:
- Prophetic Scriptures are denied or fulfilled in 70 AD (as is also the belief of preterism).
- The church is the new Israel (replacement theology)
- Armageddon is the ongoing battle between the forces of light and darkness.
- The Antichrist is a spirit, not an actual person.
- We are already in the Tribulation, but at the same time, we are in the Millennium. It doesn’t get any stranger! It’s one or the other.
- Rather than following traditional Bible prophecy, they follow “new revelations.”
- Modern-day prophets must be obeyed and not judged for their inaccuracy.
- They want to restore the Edenic nature even though Eden is where sin began.4
This movement has swept the planet, and those who refuse to join hands are considered “colonial,” “militant fundamentalists,” and “narrow-minded crackpots” who are not willing to catch the “new wave” and get on board with the mighty revival that is moving the world toward unity and peace. Many of the leaders in this movement have no problem whatsoever joining with the pope in Rome and the kingdom-of-Earth plans he has for joining together with other religions, including Islam.
While some discerning Christians can see how this trend plays a role in light of Bible prophecy, there is a huge portion of Christianity that does not. These are those who are reading books by authors who promote emerging church (or “progressive Christianity”) ideas for the postmodern generation that reject the teachings of the Bible and embrace establishing the kingdom of God on Earth right now. They are willing to join hands with other religions by reinventing Christianity into a “broad-way” spirituality where all are saved and part of God’s Kingdom. No longer do they believe in the “narrow road” to eternity. The kingdom of God is for all religions, they say (and even for those who believe in nothing). Unity, peace, connectedness, and oneness is all that matters, while biblical doctrine is being set aside as irrelevant to the “new reformation” at hand. Obviously, such a view leaves little room for the Cross and the biblical Gospel. And Scriptures such as this one are overlooked:
And he [Jesus] went through the cities and villages, teaching, and journeying toward Jerusalem. Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved? And he said unto them, Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able. When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are. (Luke 13:22-25; emphasis added)
Unfortunately, while there may be many pastors, like Rick Warren, who still hold to a personal belief in Jesus Christ as their Savior, the time will come when the path they are now taking may cost them dearly. It is my hope that these leaders might wake up to see what they are doing before it is too late. And let us not forget the countless number of people following these shepherds who may never embrace a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ because of the truths being withheld from them for the sake of “peace” and “unity.”
It is also grievous to know that a good number of “Christian” leaders no longer believe (or have never believed) in the Cross as a propitiation for sin but maintain their belief that such a concept is both archaic and barbaric. They hold to the view that Christianity needs to be reinvented for our times. Brian McLaren, who in 2015 represented “Christianity” at the Parliament of the World Religions in Utah, holds to just such a view. In one interview, he said that the idea of God sending His Son to a violent death is “false advertising for God” and he equally rejected the doctrine of Hell as well.5
In addition, McLaren has played a significant role in promoting kingdom-now theology as can be seen in his book The Secret Message of Jesus: Uncovering the Truth That Could Change Everything. McLaren, who was once listed by Time Magazine as one of the top 25 most influential persons associated with evangelical Christianity, has sought to upgrade the Christian faith in order to make it relevant for today. He asks a number of questions at the beginning of his book that imply the church has misrepresented Jesus’ core message and promotes the idea that Christians need to be honest with themselves even if that means altering their faith. In this book, he makes the following statement:
Sadly, for centuries at a time in too many places to count, the Christian religion has downplayed, misconstrued, or forgotten the secret message of Jesus entirely. Instead of being about the kingdom of God coming to earth, the Christian religion has too often been preoccupied with abandoning or escaping the earth and going to heaven . . . We have betrayed the message that the kingdom of God is available for all, beginning with the least and last and the lost—and have instead believed and taught that the kingdom of God is available for the elite, beginning with the correct and the clean and the powerful.6
In McLaren’s 2016 book titled The Great Spiritual Migration: How the World’s Largest Religion is Seeking a Better Way to be Christian, he describes this all-inclusive “kingdom of God” that incorporates “multifaith [i.e., all religions] collaborations.” He states:
This kind of collaboration leads to a fresh understanding of what it means to evangelize. I was taught that it meant converting people to the one true religion, namely, my own [Christianity]. Now I believe evangelism means inviting people into heart-to-heart communion and collaboration with God and neighbors in the great work of healing the earth, of building the beloved community, of seeking first the kingdom of God and God’s justice for all. Members of each tradition bring their unique gifts to the table, ready to share and receive, learn and teach, give and take, in a spirit of generosity and vulnerability. Neither my neighbors nor I are obligated or expected to convert. . . . As we work together for the common good, we are all transformed. Those who haven’t experienced this kind of transforming collaboration simply don’t know what they’re missing. . . . Through multifaith collaborations, I have come to see how the language Paul used about one body with many members (1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12: 4– 5) applies not only to differing gifts among individual Christians but also to differing gifts among religions.7 (emphasis added)
While many evangelicals have now pushed Brian McLaren to the sidelines of evangelical Christianity, others have continued carrying on his message, sometimes in more subtle ways. But as the Bible says, there is nothing new under the sun. Satan’s devices are always in play. His goal is to destroy the message of the Cross, and while he cannot ever actually destroy it, he can cause untold numbers to reject it by offering them substitutes. But we know there is no substitute for the finished work on the Cross by Jesus Christ, who is the only Savior for mankind.
What Does This Tell Us?
There is a common cliché: if it quacks like a duck, walks like a duck, and has feathers like a duck—it is a duck! In this article, we have touched on three different areas with regard to establishing the kingdom of God on Earth right now without the King. Is this what Jesus intended would happen, or are we being misled by human beings who are following the thoughts of their own imagination or worse yet the inspiration of Satan?
While the idea that the kingdom of God is being established here on Earth by human leaders has been around for centuries, we should pay special attention when current events reveal that though the world gets worse and worse, we are being told it is getting better and better. When false religions become part of the kingdom, then clearly, this is not God’s kingdom, but rather it is the kingdom that belongs to the god of this world. Jesus made it very clear there are two kingdoms—one of God and one of this world—when he told Pontius Pilate shortly before He was crucified, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). Jesus also said to Pilate in that same conversation “Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.” Ask yourself this, are you hearing the voice of the Good Shepherd, or is it the voice of the god of this world who leads a kingdom that is not of God?
- Pope Francis, “Pope’s Mass: We’re not Christian without the Church” (Rome Reports TV News Agency, May 5, 2015, ).
- “Outside the Church There is No Salvation” (Catholicism.org, “an online journal edited by the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary,” St. Benedict Center, NH, ).
- Taken from “Kingdom-Now Theology” (Lighthouse Trails blog, March 6, 2007, ).
- Interview by Leif Hansen (The Bleeding Purple Podcast) with Brian McLaren, January 8th, 2006); Part 1 ; Part II ).
- Brian McLaren, The Secret Message of Jesus (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2006), pp. 78-79.
- Brian McLaren, The Great Spiritual Migration (New York, NY: Convergent Books, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, 2016), Kindle location 2768.
Roger Oakland is the author of several Lighthouse Trails books, booklets, and lecture DVDs. He is the founder and director of Understand the Times, International and the Bryce Homes for Widows and Children.
(photo from bigstockphoto.com; used with permission)