On the basis of Rev. 13:11-18, II Thess. 2:3-12, Matt. 24:24-26, and other passages, we believe that near the very end of time there will be established the great church of the antichrist. This church will claim to be following the mandates of Christ. On the basis of the Scriptures, it will insist upon unity. It will claim to be the only legitimate church and insist that all the “godly” belong to it. This will be the time of severe trial for the true child of God who will not be deceived by these false prophets.
One sees in the past years developments which suggest that the time may be near when that antichristian church will be established. Most of us are aware of the efforts being made toward formal church union. Some large denominations in this land and in others have already become united. There are movements such as COCU (Consultation on Church Union) which seek formal unions of several large denominations. And, of course, there are the W.C.C. and N.C.C. which, though they do not claim to be any sort of super church, nevertheless encourage and work for church union.
However, in the past year or so, it would appear that formal union between differing denominations is no longer so popular as it once seemed to be. Several denominations have withdrawn from the COCU movement. It might seem that “ecumenism” is on the decline.
But it is not. There are yet attempts made toward formal merger of denominations. But increasingly there is seen what might be called a “de facto” church union. By this, I mean that the churches do not formally unite into one large denomination (which has often been opposed at the “grass roots” level), but that denominations increasingly cooperate together as though they were one doctrinally. I suspect that this will be increasingly seen in the days to come. Formal union takes too long to work out; perhaps it genders too much opposition within denominations; and it might cause segments to break off from the church if formal union took place. So—instead of formal organization into one denomination, there are increasing evidences of cooperation among the different denominations.
Such “de facto” union has been seen in several instances recently in our city of Grand Rapids. TheStandard Bearer has earlier given reports concerning a convocation of non-public school teachers (Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Christian Reformed) which was openly advertised as “ecumenism in action.” Reports have appeared on several aspects of the “Evangelism Thrust” program in the Christian Reformed Church, a program which is tied in with the “Key 73” project of evangelism in which over 150 denominations and other organizations are participating.
In this article, I would point out how that the “Key 73” project is promoting “de facto” church union in Grand Rapids, (and, I presume, in other cities as well). I strongly believe the “Key 73” project will accomplish more toward “de facto” church union than it will bring “converts to Christ.”
I want to state emphatically that I am not opposed to mission labors—I believe these must be carried out. Ido oppose such cooperative efforts which can surely serve the purpose of the antichrist when the lines of truth must be blurred and unity established in spite of doctrinal and confessional differences.
But allow me to show how “de facto” union is happening in Grand Rapids under the “Key 73” project. This “Key 73” project is the attempt of over 150 denominations and organizations to reach every person “for Christ” in the year 1973. A general plan of action has been laid out. Individual churches can “do their own thing”; yet cooperation is emphasized. In a recent paper from the Christian Reformed Board of Evangelism of Greater Grand Rapids (issue No. 5), the following appeared.
Many of the Churches of Grand Rapids are cooperating in a year of evangelism in 1973. Church leaders from Roman Catholic, Baptist, Lutheran, Reformed, Christian Reformed, Methodist Presbyterian, Church of Christ and others have been meeting together to plan cooperative evangelistic outreach for the year 1973.
Some of the areas where cooperation is being discussed are:
1. The noon prayer call (Christmas 1972-January 5, 1973) is a specific Key ’73 emphasis for Christians all over the North American continent to pray for the success of Key ’73.
2. Bible Distribution and Bible Study (Thanksgiving 1972 to Easter 1973). The churches are discussing a cooperative Bible distribution to every home in Grand Rapids.
3. A Palm Sunday or Easter Parade is a possibility as a public testimony and witness of concern and commitment to make the Good News of Jesus Christ live in our city.
Notice first two above: “The churches are discussing a cooperative Bible distribution to every home in Grand Rapids.” However, this cooperative venture involves more than just Bible distribution. Subsequent literature from the interdenominational “Key 73” committee points out the following:
5. On September 7, Mr. Ken Cochran was our host at Eastminster Presbyterian Church. Here we further confirmed the decisions that seemed to be evolving at the June 27th meeting that the NUMBER ONE PRIORITY that we would suggest for S.E. churches would be Visitation, Survey and Scripture distribution and that this (we felt.) could best be accomplished by groups of neighborhood congregations visiting together in interdenominational teams, locating prospects and inviting them to Christ. (italics mine—G.V.B.)
Or from another letter:
Don and Ken (Rev. D. Griffioen of the C.R.C. and Rev. K. Lindland of the Methodist Church) are both amazed as we go around and see the excitement that is building as we get together. The only thing more exciting than the excitement is the love (Agape) which we sense in the groups. Our prayer circles and the very conversation says, “They will know we are Christians by our Love.”
In every section of the city and area where Don and Ken have visited we have rejoiced to note the wonderful participation of our Roman Catholic brethren, both lay and clergy . . .
Mixed teams (Christian Reformed and Roman Catholic; Reformed and Lutheran; etc.) are to confront the people of the city with the Christ. How is this mixed team to present the Christ? Is this Christ to be presented as the One Who loves all men and dies for all men (as the Arminian would insist) or the Christ Who dies for His people alone (as presumably a Reformed man would insist)? Is this Christ to be presented as One whose sacrifice must be daily repeated (as the Roman Catholic teaches) or as One whose sacrifice is fully and finally accomplished on the cross itself (as presumably a Protestant would teach)? You see, the only way for mixed teams to present Christ, would be to present Him in a way in which all would be agreed. And to which church would this mixed team urge an inquirer to attend? The “church of their own choice”? (Besides, I, as a Reformed man, would be extremely embarrassed to bear witness with a Roman Catholic while I am aware what my confession, the Heidelberg Catechism, has to say in Question 80 about his views on the cross and the repeated sacrifice of the mass.) I can only wonder, too, what sort of alliances will be formed by those of different denominations as a result of this cooperation. There is suggested a “de facto” union which can only lead toward ever closer cooperation, without agreement on the truths of God’s Word, and eventually formal union as well.
That there are intentions on the part of some for using “Key 73” to promote greater actual unity and union of churches is evident, according to the published schedule of events for “Key 73”, when the Burton Heights Ministerial Association of Grand Rapids plans:
During the WEEK OF PRAYER FOR CHRISTIAN UNITY (Jan. 18 to 25)
1. There will be a Corporate Ecumenical Service held in one of the churches.
2. During that week there will be Daily Prayer opportunities to which both pastors and Laymen are invited.
The cooperation which is being proposed involves various other projects which, to say the least, are of very questionable wisdom. In order to supplement the “noon prayer call,” Sunday school buses will be stationed in various highly visible locations where people will be encouraged to offer their noon prayers to God for the repentance of the nation. Now I know that there is place for public prayer; we have such in our gatherings and church services. Yet the arrangements being made for the “Key 73” project resemble the very thing, it seems to me, which Christ condemned so emphatically in Matthew 6:5-8. Surely there is no Scriptural warrant to have all pray precisely the same hour of each day and openly in this manner. This is not being done certainly to persuade God, but to be seen of men.
I have grave reservations about another proposal which seeks both to promote the appearance of unity of churches but at the same time, it seems to me, breaks the Sabbath. The plan of action suggests:
NUMBER SEVEN—The proposed PALM SUNDAY—”PARADE OF JOY AND AFFIRMATION”
(Calling our city to Christ)
This idea, with four Banner Bearing columns, entering the Calder Area from four sections of the city really seems to be catching on; three sub-committees (Parade, Program, and Publicity) are being formed. If you have a good suggestion for a member of one of these committees contact Don Griffioen . . . .
Though it might be premature to pass judgment on an event which is not yet entirely planned, one can not help but have the impression that this can only be a breaking of the fourth commandment in the name of Christ and His church. What else must be the result of such a large, public, ostentatious display for the eyes of men at the very time that God requires us to worship Him in sincerity and truth in His house of prayer?
I approve, of course, of some of the recommendations made in the “Key 73” project—especially the recommendation toward greater personal and group study of Scripture. This is good. But I am deeply concerned that this project can very truly be used to serve the purpose of the final establishment of the antichristian church. Its emphasis upon unity and union, apart from unity of doctrine, can only work in that direction. So I would warn concerning participation in this activity—lest, while believing ourselves to be fighting for God’s Cause (as Paul did before his conversion), we in reality be assisting the cause of the antichrist. Yet, let us know that these events too serve as a reminder that the “Lord is at hand” (Phil. 4:5).