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“Therefore at that time, when all the people heard the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and all kinds of music, all the people, the nations, and the languages, fell down and worshipped the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up.” 

Daniel 3:7

“Who shall rise up for me against the evildoers? or who will stand up for me against the workers of iniquity?” 

Psalm 94:16

Who indeed!

Not that he was not an impressive individual. By almost every standard and according to every report, he was a man of great character, this John Paul II.

But then, so was Nebuchadnezzar.

Not that he did not speak often about God, paying homage to Him, and say many things about the greatness of the one true God and Christ Jesus whom He sent, biblical things, things with which we in various instances could agree, things as true as the Scriptures themselves.

But then, so did Nebuchadnezzar. (Cf. Daniel 2, 3, 4, and their concluding verses in particular.)

It could be said that in the realm of civil righteousness and morality John Paul II stood for things that put to shame many a high ranking liberal Protestant clergy member, things with which we find far more agreement than things promoted by today’s apostate sons of the Reformation occupying Protestant podiums, men who apparently have one great goal in life, namely, to destroy all together any distinctiveness between the Christian faith, with its biblical standards, and the world. I for one would feel far safer in a society governed by the moral standards espoused publicly by the late pope than by those being propagated by Protestant liberals of our day. This to show just how far liberal Protestantism has slipped. At least this pope had some convictions in the realm of morality that accorded with Scripture and was not afraid to call for government officials to uphold the same.

But then, the same could be said about Nebuchadnezzar (cf. Daniel 4 again). In fact, the sad reality was that Daniel could far more readily find room to live according to his Jewish, biblical convictions in Nebuchadnezzar’s court and palace than he would have been able to back in the royal court in Jerusalem and David’s house towards its very end. Living in Babylon was for God-fearing Jews safer than living back in the apostate Judah of the day. This not in praise of Babylon, but to show how committed to unrighteousness the princes of Judah had become.

And yet all this did not make the King of Babylon one of the righteous of the earth. Nor did it make him the spiritual brother of Daniel and his three friends. And it certainly did not make him worthy of worship and obeisance and being put on a pedestal as if he were close to God. (Just ask Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, who refused to join the adoring throngs—and what price they paid as a result).

Nor does it the late, great pope—though one begins to wonder how many are left in Protestantism who would actually agree or dare say so. Precious few, it becomes painfully obvious. The universal acclaim for this towering figure of the late twentieth century has been astonishing to say the least. During the first two weeks of April past, all roads led to Rome. The line-up of the heads of State that passed before his body to pay their ‘respects’ was impressive; almost everyone that was anyone from the West, and more than a few even from the East.

Even the secular press had almost nothing but good to say. Which is odd, and even startling, in light of his supposed arch-conservatism, and his being at direct odds with so many of the secular press’ sacred cows, from his being strongly anti-abortion to his flatly refusing women the right to hold church office and taking part in running of the affairs of Rome’s church, and his condemnation of gay unions besides. All those eulogies coming from the notoriously anti-Christian media and press—a remarkable thing. Was it just political expediency, speak no evil of the dead (especially when so many of your reading public are Roman Catholic), or something deeper—a charisma in the man that mesmerized even the anti-spiritual media to a degree? It strikes us, the latter was true.

Read the following carefully, written the day after John Paul II’s funeral. And keep in mind that this is lifted from the Washington Post, not exactly your average rural, small town, conservative newspaper.

But to the world John Paul II still signified and spoke of faith and decency. He embodied hope even to the otherwise hopeless. As commentators noted yesterday, the pope’s own experience as an actor early in life helped him project the image, not for his own glorification but for that of an embattled church in a warring world.

As NBC’s Miller had said, Rome did seem like the center of the universe yesterday. If all roads did not lead there, all TV signals came from there. As it does on only the rarest occasions, cold technology warmed the world. (4/9/05)

Quite a testimonial from the world’s press. Center of the universe for a day, no less. His image beamed around the whole world. All worshiped with Rome and paid their homage to the Holy Father. And Rome’s music reverberating in its magnificent cathedrals is impressive. I must admit on occasions I have found it so myself (just visiting, of course).

When it came to Protestants of note, effusive in their praise, right on down the line—a servant of God, exemplary to Christianity at large, a true emblem and representative of what the Christian faith is all about to all the world, or as James Dobson put it, his death is “…an immeasurable loss—not only to our friends in the Roman Catholic faith, but to the entire world” (p. 25, World, April 16, 2005).

Even Jewish rabbis, long critical of Rome and its undeniable collaboration with the Nazi regime in the hour of the Jews’ deepest need, had good words to say. And Muslim representatives stood in the funeral crowd with bitter political enemies to say their farewells to this man. A man in his death able to elicit a remarkable show of unity in a divided world. A remarkable thing. Now to find one able to do the same during his own lifetime! You think it cannot be done?

No, we do not join all the ‘estranged brothers’ in expressing our heartfelt sympathy to Rome and our own sense of loss. He may have been a most charming and likable man, issuing some papal bulletins on various civil issues that profited the faithful church of Christ yet living in this world. But then, so did Nebuchadnezzar issue such degrees, making life more livable for the Jews in Babylon. And Daniel seemed to be able to get along with His Majesty just fine.

Still, it changed nothing with respect to God’s judgment of this fellow. “Thou art this head of gold” (Dan. 2:38).

That Nebuchadnezzar was the “head of gold” meant he was identified with Antichrist. He was part of the image that was ground into pieces by the stone that without hands was cut out of the mountain. That stone was the Christ; and the image with its kingdoms did not represent Christ’s kingdom, but Christ’s adversary’s, Satan’s, as every student of Scripture knows.

That the Reformed confessions have put the papacy and its Church in the same category, part of Antichrist’s coming kingdom, is plain. Read the Belgic Confession, Article 29, which clearly has Rome in mind when it describes the false church and its history of persecuting the righteous; and then the Westminster Confession of Faith, which states in unequivocal language:

There is no other head of the church but the Lord Jesus Christ: nor can the Pope of Rome in any sense be head thereof; but is that Antichrist, that man of sin, and son of perdition, that exalteth himself in the church against Christ, and all that is called God (XXV, 6).

This was the assessment of the Reformers themselves who came out of Rome, who know firsthand the abuses of Rome and the enormities committed by her popes and all their false claims. One quote from John Calvin will do.

I deny that see [that is, the Bishopric of Rome—kk] to be Apostolic, wherein nought is seen but a shocking apostasy—I deny him to be the vicar of Christ, who in furiously persecuting the gospel, demonstrates by his conduct that he is Antichrist—I deny him to be the successor of Peter, who is doing his utmost to demolish every edifice that Peter built—and I deny him to be the head of the Church, who by his tyranny lacerates and dismembers the Church, after dissevering her from Christ, her true and only Head (The Necessity of Reforming the Church).

Keep in mind that this was the universal judgment of those who in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries came out of Rome. And now the professed heirs of these same Reformers eulogize the head of this selfsame church, one who never objected to being called “Holy Father,” and talk of him even in terms of being “a brother in Christ.” These Protestant brethren had better ask themselves whether the late, great “Papa” changed anything in the Church of Rome and what the Reformed fathers found objectionable in Rome—in particular with respect to the mutilation of the gospel of the true apostles and the Lord Jesus—one iota! We wait to hear!

But note what Calvin’s main criticism of the self proclaimed vicar of Christ is—not that he and his henchmen with barbaric cruelty persecuted the righteous (with a malice and cruelty unmatched until the days of Hitler and his “Jewish solution”), though he (they) did—but for his (their) “…furiously persecuting the gospel.” Calvin’s first and primary criticism was what Rome under the direction of the so-called successors of Peter did to Christ’s gospel! Those who would speak well of this late, great pope and speak of him as a brother in the faith had better be able to explain to the Lord of the apostles how this so-called successor of Peter in anyway repented of the doctrinal errors and monstrous teachings of Rome and sought to lead his church back to the true doctrines of Christ Jesus. Where is any evidence of that?

True, he eschewed moral relativism; took a public stand against the appalling evils of abortion, homosexual unions, and the abuse of and trafficking of children; and he even continued to bar women from holding church office in a day and age when it is unpopular to do so. But these are not new stands for Rome. Which of John Paul’s predecessors in the last couple of centuries did not maintain precisely the same things.

What about Rome’s false doctrines and even its view of itself as the One True Church of Christ?

The simple fact is that within the Vatican itself the acknowledged legacy of John Paul II is that he was the most traditional of popes and made his beloved Church not a less authoritarian institution, but a more authoritarian one. He strengthened the traditions of Rome’s Church. This is what he worked with might and main to preserve and bolster, to restore the papacy to its role of supreme and unquestioned authority in the lives of its members, which authority had badly eroded over the decades previous to his rule. He took his appeal to the people, to the laity. In this he was successful. As U.S. News & World Report reported,

The pope’s supporters, of course, celebrate his strictness, noting it weeded out what his biographer George Wiegel calls the “Lite brigades” within Catholicism. “I think the Church is much stronger now,” says Michael Novak, an influential Catholic thinker… (April 11, 2005, pp. 28, 29).

The point is, this pope did not repudiate one of Rome’s unbiblical doctrines, doctrines that so mutilate and persecute the gospel of Christ.

This is the man who made it easier for the Romish Church to add to the list of the saints. Now not four verifiable miracles are required for canonization, but only two. This so all the people can have one of their own as a local saint to pray to for intercession and miraculous help. And it will not be long before this ‘papa’ John Paul II will be added to the list. He did not discourage it in the least. He was more than willing to have mere men be given the glory and honor that even the angels with horror refused (cf. Rev. 19:10: “…and [the angel] said, see thou do it not: I am thy fellow servant … worship God…”).

This was the man that was infatuated with Mary, the mother of our Lord. She was the one to whom he gave credit for protecting him in the assassination attempt that nearly ended his life. He openly promoted her as Co-redemptrix with her Son. He raised Mariolatry to a whole new level. This needs no demonstration. Next to his coffin as the adoring multitudes came with their homage was a cross. Affixed to it was a large letter M, his final homage to Mother Mary, to whom he prayed every day. By word and example he taught the people to do the same.

And this is Christianity? This is praiseworthy how?

The only words that apply are those of the truly holy apostle Paul in Galatians 1:8, “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.” Paul is writing here about the gospel of salvation all of grace, grace that is centered wholly and entirely in that one mediator between God and man, Christ Jesus, God’s Son. If the apostle Peter himself had proposed the adoration of mother Mary along with her Son, Paul would have anathematized him, demanding his repentance, and the forfeiture of his office as well.

And we as believers are to speak well of the late, great pope?

What he did do was to mend fences with Jews and Muslims, by apologizing to the Jews in particular for past atrocities committed against their communities by members of his Church, and by visiting and worshiping in synagogues and mosques. He was so bold as to say, along with his admirer Rev. Billy Graham, they were all brothers in Christ, going to heaven by different ways. No wonder so many were ready to forgive him so much. In such light, his popularity becomes easier to understand.

He was a most ecumenically-minded pope. In this way he is an advancement beyond his predecessors. But as for Rome’s false, unbiblical doctrines that so persecute the true gospel and that, in the end, will lead inevitably to the persecution of those who will not compromise the doctrines that will not give His glory to a mere man, he reflected nothing more than the age-old face of Rome.

Do not imagine that what happened in this springtime of 2005 to honor this Bishop of Rome, labeled “Pastor to the World,” is not a portent of things to come, what one religious man at the right time with the right charisma can persuade a divided world, including those whom you would think would oppose him, to do. And for the true friends of Daniel, it is not a portent of good. Not to those who refuse to pay homage to this coming “Vicar of Christ,” the spiritual offspring of the late, great Vicar of Rome.