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穿朱红色衣服的妇人

作者:乔·克鲁斯 牧师日期:2018-02-26 20:41:1浏览数:2557
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魔鬼竭力攻击教会

对于今日的教会,人们普遍的疑问是,她为何如此软弱,又极易妥协?初代教会的火热与能力为何会消失得无影无踪?许多基督徒为宗教团体的影响力日趋衰微而倍感难过。似乎是什么地方出了问题。信徒们频繁地出入娱乐场所,而非上帝的教会。他们的信心奄奄一息,更谈不上克己与自律,许多信徒几乎毫无反抗地屈从于放纵肉体的世俗化生活方式。

那敢于直指罪名而无所忌惮的牧人在哪里呢?保罗曾勉励那一时代的牧者:“务要传道,无论得时不得时,总要专心;并用百般的忍耐,各样的教训,责备人、警戒人、劝勉人。”随后,他写了一段振聋发聩的预言:“因为时候要到,人必厌烦纯正的道理,耳朵发痒,就随从自己的情欲,增添好些师傅,并且掩耳不听真道,偏向荒渺的言语。”(提后4:2-4)

毋庸置疑,这一预言正应验在我们眼前。各处都在教导“荒渺的言语”,而真理近似干涸,成千上万的人因媚俗而偏离真道。任何提倡顺从与克己的讲论,都会被视为律法主义或具有批判性的信息,从而被拒之门外。责备的声音几乎销声匿迹。对圣经中“敌基督者”直言不讳地讲解,常被视为刻薄与缺乏爱心。

以上的描述言过其实了吗?我想任何一位细心观察宗教现状的人,都不会对此存有异议。毫无疑问,撒但在教会内部所耗费的心机,远远超过了在教会之外所下的工夫。他企图伪造出最具迷惑性的、真理的赝品。通过在教会内部制造邪恶而错谬的教义,撒但已诱使无数人陷入虚假的崇拜之中。正当这大骗子在后使徒时代的教会中实施其主体计划之前的不久,圣灵便识破并揭穿了他邪恶的企图。

在阅读约翰受圣灵启示所记述的幽暗历史之前,我们先来看另一段有关教会混乱时期灵性状况的预言。保罗警告说:“我知道,我去之后必有凶暴的豺狼进入你们中间,不爱惜羊群。”(徒20:29)他还说:“人不拘用什么法子,你们总不要被他诱惑;因为那日子以前,必有离道反教的事,并有那大罪人,就是沉沦之子,显露出来。他是抵挡主,高抬自己,超过一切称为神的和一切受人敬拜的,甚至坐在上帝的殿里,自称是上帝。”(帖后 2:3, 4)

这段话并未显明离道反教之事的本质,也没有揭示僭越上帝至高威权之“大罪人”的身份。但魔鬼的阴谋,在初代教会便已经紧锣密鼓地开展起来。在保罗发出该警告之后不久,蒙爱的约翰便在拔摩海岛上,着手记录他所见到的、具有启示性的神秘异象。通过对多个预言的比较和学习,我们会对其中的表号有更加清晰的理解。对于在后使徒教会中善恶势力的发展,最先是由保罗进行了隐晦的描写,而后,约翰又对其作了进一步的阐明。

尽管当时的约翰并不晓得,自己笔下那高深莫测的言语,具有何等重要的历史意义,但他依然忠实地记录了宇宙间从太初就有的、基督与撒但之间的善恶之争。这一旷日持久的大战,其最终的焦点,将要集中在撒但亲自操控的“假基督”身上——他将试图废掉上帝的律法,取缔祂的政权,并消灭祂的子民。在“哈米吉多顿”大战达到白热化时,众善之敌将会聚集、勾结一切世俗和宗教的力量,来对抗那一小群拒绝违背上帝诫命的忠贞子民。在撒但支配之下的“敌基督”体系,将会成为镇压真理的核心力量,并以死刑来迫害凡拒绝与这一“邪恶联盟”同流合污的人。

使徒约翰在书信中写道:“凡灵不认耶稣是成了肉身来的,就不是出于上帝;这是那敌基督者的灵。你们从前听见他要来,现在已经在世上了。”(约一4:3 KJV直译)约翰知道“敌基督者的灵”在他的时代就已发动,于是竭力与圣灵同工,用特殊的表号性语言来揭露这一势力,以致仇敌无法明白,从而避免这一重要的启示性记录被魔鬼付之一炬。

两军对垒

约翰用极其丰富的形式和表号,描述了基督与撒但之间终极之战的细节。例如:龙、羔羊和两只凶猛的兽。关于争战双方最具代表性的表述,乃是集中在启示录12章和17章的两个妇人身上。再找不到比这更恰当、生动的言辞来表述这场争战的本质了。

争战的一方是启示录12章纯洁的妇人,她身披荣耀的日头,头戴十二星的冠冕,脚踏月亮。这一妇人象征上帝的真教会,是基督的新妇。众先知曾写道:“我把锡安女子比作秀美娇嫩的妇人。”(耶6:2)“又对锡安说:你是我的百姓。”(赛51:16)而后,保罗也用同样的表号来象征教会:“因为我曾把你们许配一个丈夫,要把你们如同贞洁的童女,献给基督。”(林后11:2)

争战的另一方,记在启示录第17章。约翰描述了一位醉酒的、穿着朱红色衣服的大淫妇。她坐在众水之上,手拿盛满可憎之物的金杯。这与12章中纯洁的妇人恰好形成了鲜明的对比。当然,这个妇人也预表一个教会,一个犯了属灵淫乱的教会。她手持的杯中,盛满了淫乱的污秽。根据圣经,这一污秽代表着背离基督,不忠于基督的真道。

“你们这些淫乱的人哪(原文作淫女),岂不知与世俗为友就是与上帝为敌吗?”(雅4:4)虽然已经许配给基督,但这个教会却不遵行祂的道,反而领受基督之敌——就是这个世界的教训,因此她成了属灵的淫妇。杯中所盛的污秽,就是错谬的教义,是与她的真丈夫基督背道而驰的道理。

依照启示录的记载,世人终必归为两大阵营——跟从基督或跟从龙;遵行真理或接受缪道;接受兽的印记或上帝的印记。末了,每一个人要么归于大淫妇的阵营,要么归于贞洁妇人的阵营。每一位读者都必属于这两大阵营之一,多么严肃的问题啊!不是属于得救的阵营,就是沦亡的阵营,绝无中间地带。

当先知观看其中一个阵营时,他看到上帝的忿怒倾倒在受了兽印的教会之上。(启14:10, 11)然后,他又观看另一边,并宣告说:“圣徒的忍耐就在此;他们是守上帝诫命并有耶稣之信心的。”(启14:12 KJV直译)持守耶稣之信心的经历,就是持守耶稣的经历,这使人生发顺从上帝诫命的心,这也正是跟随基督与跟随兽之人的首要差别。

淫妇的体系

本课的重心,是关注从早期背道教会,逐渐演变而成的一个伪宗教体系。先来看约翰对于这个“大淫妇”的整体描述:“拿着七碗的七位天使中,有一位前来对我说:‘你到这里来,我将坐在众水上的大淫妇所要受的刑罚指给你看。地上的君王与她行淫,住在地上的人喝醉了她淫乱的酒。’我被圣灵感动,天使带我到旷野去,我就看见一个女人骑在朱红色的兽上;那兽有七头十角,遍体有亵渎的名号。那女人穿着紫色和朱红色的衣服,用金子、宝石、珍珠为妆饰;手拿金杯,杯中盛满了可憎之物,就是她淫乱的污秽。在她额上有名写着说:‘奥秘哉!大巴比伦,作世上的淫妇和一切可憎之物的母。’我又看见那女人喝醉了圣徒的血和为耶稣作见证之人的血。我看见她,就大大地希奇。” (启17:1-6)

对于这个败坏的宗教体系的认识,与我们的得救密切相关。约翰说:“全地的人都希奇,跟从那兽。”(启13:3)本文没有时间汇总罗列圣经中关于兽及其势力特征的所有经文,但在奇妙真相出版的另一本小册子《兽、龙与妇人》中,已有详细的阐述。(中文网站已经发布)接下来,我们要搜寻启示录17章中的一系列证据,以确认那被称为“巴比伦”的淫妇及其众女儿的身份。

让我们用清晰、合乎逻辑的视角,来查明以下的真相。首先,呈现在我们面前的妇人,她代表的是一个宗教体系——尽管她是伪宗教;第二,她得到一个七头十角、相貌如龙的兽的支持。那么在这里,妇人所骑的兽代表谁?时间有限,我们无法逐一列出详尽的证据,但第9节经文为我们提供了一个重要的线索:“那七头就是女人所坐的七座山。”

这听起来非常耳熟,哪一座城建在七座山上?正是信奉异教的罗马帝国的中心——罗马城,它横跨在台伯河畔的七座山上。尽管这个神秘之兽的作为比异教罗马更甚,但有充分的证据表明,罗马帝国无疑是这一淫乱宗教系统的支持者。是哪个教会得到过罗马帝国的支持呢?当然,仅此一个——天主教。天主教的教皇也被称为最高的祭司,而在罗马时期,最高祭司被视为凯撒大帝的直接继承人。

指认教皇的第二个证据,在启17:6节:“我又看见那女人喝醉了圣徒的血和为耶稣作见证之人的血。”历史证明,只有一个教会,曾疯狂地迫害忠心的基督徒。据最保守的估计,曾有5千多万人在罗马教可怖的宗教裁判所中殉道。毋庸置疑,这是一个残害生灵的教会。包括罗马教自身供认的许多证据在内,都可以证明该宗教体系具有经文中所描写的特征。

启17:4节提供了另一条有趣的线索:“那女人穿着紫色和朱红色的衣服。”任何一个游览过梵蒂冈的人都可以证实,圣彼得广场周围最主要的颜色就是这两种。教皇身为国家和教会的最高领袖,觐见的人络绎不绝,其中身着红衣的主教是最频繁的觐见者之一。

约翰进一步观察这位妇人,她是“用金子、宝石、珍珠为妆饰”的。这与启示录12章那位毫无人为装饰、身穿荣光衣袍的纯洁妇人的简朴形成了鲜明的对比。纵观整本圣经,装饰用的珠宝首饰常用来暗示背道与不忠。(参见 赛3:16-26)(既然如此,真基督徒应当避免此等虚荣,就是肉体的炫耀和骄傲。)

与此同时,我们也来关注一下淫妇所骑的头有十角的兽。天使这样解释:“…那十角就是十王,他们还没有得国,但他们一时之间要和兽同得权柄,与王一样。他们同心合意将自己的能力权柄给那兽。他们与羔羊争战,羔羊必胜过他们,因为羔羊是万主之主,万王之王。同着羔羊的,就是蒙召、被选、有忠心的,也必得胜。…你所看见那淫妇坐的众水,就是多民、多人、多国、多方。你所看见的那十角与兽必恨这淫妇,使她冷落赤身,又要吃她的肉,用火将她烧尽。”(启17:12-16)

这段预言的情境确实非常有趣。数字7是指属灵的完全,而数字10是指属世的完全。这段预言表明,在将来某一时期,会有一个普世性的政治大联盟来支持这个兽,就像异教罗马曾作为主要政治力量之一,来加强教皇权的势力一样。我们也会看到地上的众王,正在携手联合,以支持天主教的计划。难怪约翰说:“全地的人都希奇,跟从那兽。”(启13:3)

然而,当审判临到这位大淫妇之前,事情起了变化。显然,地上的列国猛然发现,自己乃是受了淫妇(巴比伦体系)的欺骗,于是不再给予支持。通过先知的预言,我们相信,最终他们会猛烈地起来敌对那淫妇,“使她冷落赤身…用火将她烧尽。” (启17 :6)

这有助于我们理解有关大淫妇的另一个预表性描述。虽然她坐在“众水”之上,但那些“水”都会“干涸”。(启16:12)天使解释说:“你所看见那淫妇坐的众水,就是多民、多人、多国、多方。”(启17:15)

当由众水所象征的多民、多国撤回他们对淫妇的支持时,便是这妇人所坐之众水干涸的时刻。虽然事态发展的细节我们无从知晓,但通过先知的预言,未来的全景图已经呈现在我们的眼前。

淫妇手中的金杯

约翰说,那淫妇“手拿金杯,杯中盛满了可憎之物,就是她淫乱的污秽。”(启17:4)下面就来看看那金杯中所盛的可憎之物是什么。在前面,我们已经确认了可憎之污秽的属灵本质——即教会只有在背离丈夫(基督)的律法时,才会犯下不贞之罪。毫无疑问,这杯中所盛的,就是那些违背圣经的虚假教义和谬道。许多此类的教训可以轻易地鉴别出来,因为众多宗教团体已经采纳了这些教义。对此,我们稍后会进一步说明。

在这杯中,你会发现点水礼取代了浸礼——此等做法是主耶稣从未亲身示范或认可的。耶稣讲述洗礼时所用的特别词汇,只有一种含义,就是“浸入水中”,完全被水淹没,丝毫没有洒水或点水的意思。

这杯中也包含着用星期日来代替安息日的教训。圣经中没有一处经文提到,上帝亲手所写的崇高十诫已经被废除或改变。耶稣在世时也是“照祂平常的规矩”守第七日为圣安息日,并且绝无守第一日为圣的想法。(参 路4:16)然而,异教的“太阳日”是在使徒时代之后,经过很长一段时间才被教会所接纳的,目的是要安抚大量涌入教会的密特拉教拜太阳神的人,和那位表面“悔改”的异教徒——罗马皇帝君士坦丁。

毫无疑问,金杯中所盛的另一个重要元素,便是希腊的异教观念,即人死后有不朽的灵魂会飞离躯壳、去承受永远的刑罚或得奖赏之概念。事实上,圣经从未提到过灵魂不死。耶稣称死为睡觉,根据祂的教导,死亡是一种无知觉、无梦的睡眠。在审判之日,所有人都会从沉睡中被唤醒,接受永生或永死。耶稣说:“你们不要把这事看作希奇,时候要到,凡在坟墓里的,都要听见祂的声音,就出来。行善的复活得生,作恶的复活定罪。” (约5:28, 29)

许多人正是因为听说地狱之火永不熄灭、恶人永受折磨,而转离了慈爱救主的宝贵恩典。耶稣亲自驳斥了金杯中所盛的这一个广受欢迎的谬论,祂毫不含糊地说:“那杀身体不能杀灵魂的,不要怕他们;惟有能把身体和灵魂都灭在地狱里的,正要怕祂。”(太10:28)

这节经文无可争辩且具有最高的权威,它表明人的灵魂会死。惟有义人才能获得永生的赏赐。“因为罪的工价乃是死。”(罗6:23)“犯罪的,他必死亡。”(结18:4)“凡行恶的必如碎秸,在那日必被烧尽,…你们必践踏恶人,在我所定的日子,他们必如灰尘在你们脚掌之下。这是万军之耶和华说的。”(玛4:1,3)

圣经中一致的见证指明,恶人终必在火湖中受死。他们将面临永死,绝无残存,也不再有复活,更不是在地狱的火中变相永生。灵魂并非不朽,所有的恶人都将遭受此等结局,正如耶稣生动的描述:“把身体和灵魂都灭在地狱里。”

淫妇的名字

在淫妇的神秘之杯中,盛满了以上提及的谬论,和其它不计其数的“学说”,以及歪曲真理的旁门左道。每一位真基督徒,都该与基督保持忠贞的属灵关系,而杯中的每一道理,都体现了背信与不忠。难怪那妇人的额上写着这样的名字:“奥秘哉!大巴比伦,作世上的淫妇和一切可憎之物的母。”

“巴比伦”意为混乱。该词源自巴别塔,在那里,上帝变乱了天下人的语言,使他们无法理解彼此所说的话,人们都说互不相通的言语。上帝称这妇人为巴比伦,因为她将真理与谬道混杂,导致“住在地上的人”“喝醉了她淫乱的酒”。换句话说,她的教训会污秽并迷惑全世界。

接下来,我们要进一步研究这个名号。请注意,“淫妇”显然是个族系,因为她有众多的女儿,也像她们的母亲一样,被称为淫妇。我们已经确认,预言中的妇人象征教会,现在来考查其众多女儿的身份。既然她们也犯了不忠之罪,我们会自然地得出结论——她们正是传讲那相同的谬道、犯下属灵淫乱的教会。换言之,她们必同饮那盛满违背圣经之教训的金杯。这些女儿们代表的是怎样的教会呢?既然她们的母亲被确认为天主教,我们就必须寻找其它从罗马“母教会”出来的、并拥有某些与“母教会”相同的混乱教义的宗教团体。

唯一的结论乃是:这些女儿就是改正教——她们从前辈天主教那里继承了许多错谬的遗传和学说。不论喜欢与否,我们都必须承认,改正教中许多最受欢迎的教义,都源自使徒时代之后那段屈从异教影响的时期。

我们只需看一个道德律法(十诫)中的实例,就会明白异教的渗透对教义的影响——不论是当时还是现在——多么严重。这些教会都有十条诫命,其中最清楚明白的一段话就是:“第七日是向耶和华你上帝当守的安息日。这一日你……无论何工都不可做。” 早期教会的领袖屈服于罗马的政治压力,接纳了数百万曾经拜太阳的信徒,这些信徒并不想放弃在七日头一日的敬拜,这日以他们所尊崇的太阳神命名(星期日的英文名是“太阳日”,即Sunday),他们在这一日敬拜。

天主教把敬拜的日子从第七日改为第一日,并宣称这是上帝赋予他们的权柄。尽管这纯粹是天主教的肆意篡改。然而可悲的是,竟有不计其数的改正教徒延续了这一惯例。任何教会领袖,不论是主教、神父还是教皇,都无权更改上帝亲手写就的道德律法——十条诫命。

天主教是一个妥协了的宗教,尽管她的女儿们已经认出她就是预言中敌基督的势力,却仍盲目地遵循着她的大部分教义,这真是个有趣的现象。怎么会这样?为什么她们会如此轻易地,接纳这种公然违背上帝明确命令的行径?也许当我们自己面对这样一条简明而又具体的诫命时,该问题的答案就更加显而易见了。

现在我们再回到这一重要预言的中心,并提出以下问题:上帝怎样看待这个妇人和她的众女儿?

从巴比伦出来

对于这一问题,启示录18章的前几节经文,为我们提供了答案。在我们这个时代,愿意遵守上帝诫命的人寥寥无几。“此后,我看见另有一位有大权柄的天使从天降下,地就因他的荣耀发光。他大声喊着说:’巴比伦大城倾倒了,倾倒了!成了鬼魔的住处和各样污秽之灵的巢穴,并各样污秽可憎之雀鸟的巢穴,因为列国都被她邪淫大怒的酒倾倒了,地上的君王与她行淫,地上的客商因她奢华太过就发了财。’我又听见从天上有声音说:‘我的民哪,你们要从那城出来,免得与她一同有罪,受她所受的灾殃;因她的罪恶滔天,她的不义,上帝已经想起来了。’”(启18:1-5)

以上的经文表明,有一道特别的信息正在传扬,它会影响地球的每一角落。事实上,第四位天使(注:启14:6-12节是前三位天使)的表号性语言,乃是向大淫妇和她众女儿的假福音发出警告。这位大淫妇不仅因在属灵上的堕落而惹怒上帝,她欺骗性的教义,还令地上的君王与她结成了邪恶的同盟。

各国都因支持她错谬的教训而犯下淫乱之罪。地上的君王利用这一不正当的关系,使自己在政治上处于优势地位,并且“因她奢华太过就发了财”。(译者注:事实上,我们稍加留意就会发现,即便是世界上最强大的美国,其总统一旦宣誓就职,第一件事就是去拜见教皇,以求其关照。足见天主教在世界上的影响力之广大。)

这时,天上突然发出一个更为紧迫的声音,打断了第四位天使的呼声。毫无疑问,此时有一位正在说话,祂的信息从诸天的一端传到另一端。说话的正是上帝!祂在向一群独特的人讲话——祂亲口称他们为“我的民”。(启18:4)

“我又听见从天上有声音说:我的民哪,你们要从那城出来,免得与她一同有罪,受她所受的灾殃。”(启18:4)现在画面变得越来越清晰,在大淫妇及其女儿所象征的各教会中,皆有上帝虔诚的子民。他们虽受谬道所惑,但却仍凭良心忠于信仰,于是在此,上帝向他们发出了最后慈怜的邀请——这是何等重要的信息啊!无疑,这也是有史以来,在人耳所闻的声音中,最令人震惊、最具革命性的呼吁。

“你们要从那城出来!”这是什么意思呢?答案就是,因由巴比伦体系所象征的宗教团,与圣经的真理背道而驰,相去甚远,以至于上帝不能再承认她们是属祂的教会。因为他们接受人的遗传,而非上帝的诫命。他们不再是可靠的牧人,已丧失了牧养上帝群羊的资格。

几乎在每次布道会上,都有许多来自不同教会的信徒前来找我。他们声泪俱下,询问该怎样对待自己的教会和牧师。那些牧者非但没有给予他们爱的劝勉,以及符合圣经的规劝,反而纵容他们违背上帝的律法。这些教会教导说:“十条诫命早已钉在十字架上,如今你不必再遵守安息日了,可以选择任何日子来安息和敬拜。”

当教会领袖任凭百姓犯罪且加以安慰时,背道和叛教之罪就已达到了忍无可忍的地步。上帝说:“够了!我的百姓再不要留在灵性堕落且教导人违背律法的教会中,快从混乱中出来吧!”对于大多数第一次听到这信息的人而言,这真是一个可怕而又令人激动的命令。我们不难理解他们忧喜参半的复杂心情。他们爱自己的教会,在服侍教会的过程中,留下了他们人生最美好的记忆——受洗、结婚和献身。尽管他们认出了她的背道,必须与之脱离,但这仍是一条最难以服从的命令。

奇怪的是,圣经中最为强烈、最具谴责性的话语,竟被用来责备教会中的信徒。耶稣对那些假装虔诚却违背各项真理原则的法利赛人,宣布了可怕的审判。(太23:1-36)同样,对于那些承认上帝之名,而又故意干犯诫命的人,上帝再次直接从天上发出责备。祂对这两等宗教团体(昔日的法利赛人和今日堕落的教会)极其忿怒——假冒为善、粉饰的坟墓、毒蛇的种类、各种污秽之灵的巢穴、恶魔的住处、各样污秽可憎鸟类的巢穴——这是祂对这些宗教团体所定的部分罪名。这些罪名合理吗?为什么要如此严厉地对待这些“虔诚”人?

这个问题的答案至关重要。这些教会——每一个皆是如此——以人的遗传废弃了上帝的圣言和律法。他们拒绝主的安息日,以异教的日子代之。他们的罪在于教导人违背上帝的诫命,而非教导人学义。耶稣曾说:“他们将人的吩咐当作道理教导人,所以拜我也是枉然。”(太15:9)

那么,巴比伦和她的众儿女是谁?就是当代任何一个与耶稣的教训相悖的教会。谬道和各类虚假的学说会越来越多,但蓄意怂恿人违背上帝的道德律法(十诫),这乃是极其可憎的。这些教会吩咐人违犯安息日——在基督里蒙拯救、得安息的表号和印记——从而成为败坏上帝百姓的人。不久,这些教会要痛恨那顺从上帝诫命的人。他们会聚集一切势力和力量,并通过宗教立法,来强迫人顺从他们设立的伪安息日(星期日)。上帝的真儿女绝不会支持这样的教会,否则就等同于赞成此等错谬的信仰和行为。

难怪上帝用呼天唤地的声音说:“从这些教会中出来吧,我的百姓。你们必须离开这些弃绝我律法的教会!”可是,上帝的百姓从堕落的教会中出来之后,要去哪儿呢?上帝是否要让他们无家可归,没有教会、没有牧师,也没有团契呢?不是这样的。预言中的淫妇代表虚假的宗教,而另一位纯洁的妇人,则象征耶稣基督的真教会。

身穿白衣的妇人

由于时间关系,我们只能浏览启示录12章的大概,该章记载了真教会激荡人心的历史。你可以通过奇妙真相出版的《寻找真教会》(Search For the True Church)一书,对此进行全面而深入的学习。

约翰这样描述那位身穿白衣的妇人:“天上现出大异象来:有一个妇人身披日头,脚踏月亮,头戴十二星的冠冕。她怀了孕,在生产的艰难中疼痛呼叫。”(启12:1, 2)

本章要继续讲述这位美丽的孕妇及其孩子的故事。她站在新约时代的荣光之中,且即将生下一个男婴,但在她面前站着一条可怕的大红龙,等待着要杀害那将要出生的婴孩。而龙的计划并未得逞。之后,妇人所生的男孩被提到了上帝的宝座那里。这个婴孩是谁?约翰称,这个婴孩将要用铁杖辖管地上的万国——祂就是耶稣,也只有祂,曾被提到上帝的宝座那里。

此后,代表真教会的妇人逃到旷野的藏身之所,在那里躲避了1260天。预言中一日顶一年,也就是妇人必须躲藏整整1260年。(参见 结4:6)历史证明,教皇实行民事统治的时间,恰是1260年——公元538—1798年。在这期间,许多忠心的圣徒遭到天主教当局的迫害。在中古黑暗时期,圣经被查禁,真教会也不得被世人看见。

然而,在1260年的末了,或者说是在1798年之后的某个时间,真教会便从她的藏身之所出来。约翰生动地描述了这位妇人将在末时出现,撒但将一如既往地镇压这妇人,免得她对全世界作真理的见证。“龙向妇人发怒,去与她其余的儿女争战,这儿女就是那守上帝诫命、为耶稣作见证的。那时龙就站在海边的沙上。”(启12:17)

这节经文包含了圣经中最振奋人心的启示:它揭示了真教会的余民或最后一代信徒的特点,就是遵守上帝的诫命。在启示录17章,那位穿朱红衣服的淫妇已经弃绝了上帝的律法,抛弃了安息日,并使真教义与人的遗传发生了属灵的淫乱。而如今,那在末了的纯洁妇人的后裔,也就是余民教会,使律法的破口得以修好,最初的真理得以恢复。

最后,以赛亚的预言终必应验:“那些出于你的人,必修造久已荒废之处。你要建立拆毁累代的根基,你必称为补破口的,和重修路径与人居住的。你若在安息日掉转(或作:谨慎)你的脚步,在我圣日不以操作为喜乐,称安息日为可喜乐的,称耶和华的圣日为可尊重的,而且尊敬这日,不办自己的私事,不随自己的私意,不说自己的私话,你就以耶和华为乐。耶和华要使你乘驾地的高处,又以你祖雅各的产业养育你。这是耶和华亲口说的。”(赛58:12-14)

至此,整个背道体系大白于天下。从创世记3:15节女人的后裔,到启示录12:17妇人其余的儿女——真教会为抵挡教义的混乱,经历了许多残酷的争战。在最后一战中,穿朱红色衣服的淫妇,似乎因多数人的支持而得胜,但纯洁的妇人,其为数不多的忠心后裔——“守上帝诫命”的余民,却获得了最终的胜利。启示录记载,那只流血的羔羊最终将战胜所有凶猛的兽。借着羔羊的血,我们都将相聚在锡安山,在那里享受永远的平安与安息。


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英文:


The Scarlet Woman

By Joe Crews

Introduction
Everywhere people are asking the same questions about the modern church. Why does it appear so weak and compromised? Where is the old-time fire and power that marked the church of a generation ago? These are questions which prey on the minds of many Christians as they witness the dwindling influence of religious institutions. Something seems to have gone wrong. Church members spend more time in places of entertainment and amusement than they do in the house of God. There is little firmness of faith, and almost no discipline for those who weakly bend to the indulgent lifestyle of the flesh and the world. 

Where can we find courageous pastors who fear not to call sin by its right name? Paul urged the shepherds of his day to "Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine." Then, he made this astounding prediction: "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables." 2 Timothy 4:2-4. 

These words are being fulfilled before our very eyes. Fables are being taught, doctrinal messages are drying up, and millions are turning from truth to pleasing platitudes. Any sermon that demands obedience or self-denial is rejected out of hand as legalistic and judgmental. The voice of rebuke is seldom heard, and pointed preaching which identifies the biblical antichrist is looked upon as harsh and unloving. 

Have we overdrawn the picture? I don t believe any careful observer of the religious scene would contend that we have. Surely Satan is working harder inside the church than he is on the outside, and his plan is to produce the most clever counterfeit of truth that has ever existed. By creating a diabolical parallel system of doctrinal error within the church itself, he has already led millions into a false worship. The nefarious plot was recognized and exposed by the Holy Spirit shortly before the great deceiver began to implement the major elements of his plan in the post-apostolic church. 

But before we turn to John s inspired account of the sordid story in the book of Revelation, let s read another prophetic description of the spiritual state of that turbulent period. Paul warned: "For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock." Acts 20:29. Again, he wrote, "Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposethand exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God." 2 Thessalonians 2:3, 4. 

Paul s words do not reveal the nature of the apostasy nor the identity of the "man of sin" who would assume the prerogatives of God, but the program would clearly begin to unfold in the early church. Shortly after Paul s cryptic caution about an antichrist movement within the church, the beloved John began to record his mysterious apocalyptic visions on the isle of Patmos. As the symbols of those revelations have been more clearly explained through comparative study of the prophecies, it is easy to see that John was simply enlarging upon Paul s earlier oblique references to a developing dichotomy of good and evil within the post-apostolic church. 

Without understanding the historical significance of his own enigmatic language, John faithfully described the cosmic controversy between Christ and Satan from it s very inception. The age-old conflict would finally focus upon the emergence of a counterfeit Christ manipulated by Satan himself, who would seek to destroy God s law, His government, and His people. In a climactic clash called the battle of Armageddon, the great adversary would consolidate both secular and religious powers of earth against the minority group of faithful loyalists who would refuse to transgress the commandments of God. The antichrist system, under the control of Satan, would be the major force to suppress truth and to seek the death sentence against those who refused to cooperate with the evil confederation. 

In his epistles the beloved John had declared, "And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world." 1 John 4:3. Because he recognized that the "spirit" of that prophesied antichrist was operating in his own day, John cooperated fully with the Holy Spirit by clothing his exposé that power with symbolic lan- guage, unrecognizable to enemies who might have sought to exterminate the inspired record altogether. 


The Two Sides in Conflict
John used a variety of colorful types and symbols to portray the elements involved in the final controversy between Christ and Satan: for example, a dragon, a lamb, and two fierce wild beasts. But the most prominent representation of the two sides centers in the two striking women described in chapters 12 and 17. No words could be found to identify more vividly the nature of the contending forces in this contest. On one side is the pure woman of Revelation 12, clothed in the glory of the sun, wearing a crown of stars, and standing on the moon. Here is represented the true church, the bride of Christ. The prophets had written, "I have likened the daughter of Zion to a comely and delicate woman." Jeremiah 6:2. "Say unto Zion, Thou art my people." Isaiah 51:16. 

Later, Paul used the same symbolism of the church when he wrote, "I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ." 2 Corinthians 11:2. 

On the other side, John wrote in Revelation 17 of the activities of a drunken, scarlet-clothed harlot, sitting upon many waters and holding a golden cup of abominations in her hand. Here is the antithesis of the pure woman of chapter 12. The woman still symbolizes a church, but one which has committed spiritual adultery. Her cup is filled with fornications. According to the Bible, this represents a turning away from Christ and unfaithfulness to His Word. "Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that friendship of the world is enmity with God?" James 4:4. Although married to Christ, this church has been disobedient to His Word, taken the teachings of the world, His enemy, and therefore become a spiritual harlot. The fornications in the cup would constitute false teachings and doctrines that would be contrary to Christ, the true husband. 

Just as the book of Revelation classifies all the world s inhabitants as ultimately following Christ or the dragon, obeying truth or error, receiving the mark of the beast or seal of God, so it pictures every individual at the end of time on the side of the symbolic harlot or the side of the pure virgin. What a solemn thought it is that everyone reading these words right now will belong to one category or the other. There will be no middle ground. It will be the camp of the saved or the camp of the lost. The prophet looked on one side and saw the wrath of God falling upon those with the mark of the beast (Revelation 14:10, 11). Then, he looked on the other side and declared, "Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus." Revelation 14:12. A faith experience - a Jesus experience - that produces obedience to His commandments, is the chief distinction between the followers of Christ and the followers of the beast. 

The Harlot System
Since most of our study is to focus upon this false religious system which gradually evolved from an early church apostasy, we should read the full description of the "great whore" as given by John. "And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and talked with me, saying unto me, Come hither; I will shew unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters: With whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication. So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication: And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration." Revelation 17:1-6. 

It is no exaggeration to observe that our eternal salvation could well depend upon a proper identification of this corrupt church system. The Revelator declared that "all the world wondered after the beast." Revelation 13:3. There is no time to assemble the persuasive list of Bible characteristics of the beast power in this study, but it has been dealt with fully in the Amazing Facts book entitled The Beast, the Dragon, and the Woman. Here we will consider the contextual evidence of Revelation 17 to identify the fallen woman and her daughters who are assigned the name of "Babylon." 

Let us keep the points in clear, logical perspective as we look at the revealed facts. First, the woman has been shown to represent a religious system, howbeit a false one. Secondly, she is being supported by a dragon-like beast with seven heads and ten horns. Who is this beast holding up the woman? Again, we cannot exhaust the evidence for lack of time, but verse 9 gives us a very strong clue. "The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth." 

These words strike a very familiar chord. What city is built on seven hills? The old pagan Roman Empire had its center in the city of Rome, which was sprawled across seven hills by the river Tiber. Even though this mystery beast involves much more than pagan Rome, we have sufficient evidence that Rome was definitely a part of that which gave support to the harlot church system. This leads us to the question, what church received support from the pagan Roman Empire? Only one, of course, and that was the Catholic Church, whose papal head also assumed the title Pontifex Maximus, as the direct successor of the Roman caesars. 

The second line of evidence which points to the papacy is found in verse 6. "And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus." History reveals only one church which waged such a frenzied warfare against faithful Christians. Over 50 million martyrs fell victim to the terrible inquisitions of the Church of Rome, according to the most conservative estimates. It was indeed a persecuting church. Multiple evidence, including admissions of the church itself, could be presented to support this particular mark of identification. 

Another interesting clue is found in verse 4: "And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour." Anyone who has visited the Vatican can confirm that these are the predominant colors which are in evidence around St. Peter s Square. Scarlet-robed cardinals are among the most frequent visitors to the papal head of state and church.

John observes further that the woman was "decked with gold and precious stones and pearls." What a contrast to the simplicity of the pure woman of Revelation 12 who has no artificial adornment at all - only the glory of her raiment of light. Throughout the Bible, jewelry and articles of adornment are used symbolically as indications of apostasy and unfaithfulness. (With such negative spiritual connotations, the true Christian should avoid the vanities of such fleshly display and pride.) 

In passing, we should also note that the beast on which the harlot sits has ten horns. The angel explained them in these words: "The ten horns ... are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast. These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast. These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: ... these shall hate the whore, and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire." Revelation 17:12-16. 

This prophetic scenario is very interesting indeed. Since the number ten designates earthly completeness, just as seven indicates divine perfection, we can recognize in this prophecy a universal confederacy of earthly governments giving support to the beast for a certain period of time. Just as pagan Rome was one of the major political powers passing on its strength to the papal system we now see at the endtimes a joining together of all the kings of earth in support of Catholic aims. John declared that "all the world wondered after the beast." Revelation 13:3. 

But a change was to take place just before the judgment of the great whore. The earthly kingdoms, apparently, would recognize that they had been duped by the Babylon system and would withdraw their support. The prophetic language leads us to believe that at the very end they violently turn against the woman and "make her desolate ... and burn her with fire." 

This helps us understand another symbolic account of the woman s experience. Although she was seated on "many waters," those waters were to be "dried up." Revelation 16:12. The angel explained, "The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues." Revelation 17:15. 

When those waters, of people and nations, turn away from their support, there is truly a drying up of the waters which held the Woman in her position. The details of this future development is impossible to define in detail, but the broad picture stands clearly before us in the language of the prophet. 


The Harlot s Golden Cup
Now, we need to give closer attention to the contents of the golden cup in the harlot s hand. We have already established the spiritual nature of those abominable fornications. A church can only commit such infidelities by turning away from the law of her husband, which is Christ. Without question, the cup overflows with unscriptural doctrines and practices. Many of them are easily identifiable because they have been absorbed by other subsequent religious bodies. Of these we will have more to say a bit later. 

In the cup can be found sprinkling in place of baptism. Here is a custom never practiced or endorsed by our Lord. When Jesus spoke of baptism, He used a special word that has only one possible definition. It cannot connote sprinkling or a partial effusion of water. It literally means to dip under and totally immerse. 

Also included in the cup would be the teaching of Sunday-keeping instead of Sabbath observance. Nowhere in the Bible has God s great hand-written law of Ten Commandments been abrogated or changed. Jesus kept the seventh-day Sabbath, "as his custom was," and knew absolutely nothing about the observance of the first day of the week. Luke 4:16. The pagan "day of the sun" was adopted long after the days of the apostles in order to placate the massive influx of Mithraic sun worshippers and their professedly "converted" pagan emperor Constantine. 

A major element in the golden cup would undoubtedly be the Graeco-pagan concept that man s naturally immortal soul flies away at death to either eternal punishment or reward. The truth is that the Bible nowhere speaks of undying souls. Jesus called death a sleep. According to His doctrine, there is an unconscious, dreamless sleep of death in the grave from which all will be awakened in the day of judgment to receive everlasting life or eternal death. "Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation." John 5:28, 29. 

Jesus also contradicted another popular fallacy held in the golden cup of abominations. The doctrine of eternal torment in an endless fiery hell has been responsible for turning multitudes away from the gracious provisions of a loving Saviour. Again, the words of Jesus are clear and unambiguous: "And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." Matthew 10:28. 

This text establishes beyond question and on the highest authority that the soul is subject to death. Only the righteous receive the gift of eternal life. "The wages of sin is death." Romans 6:23. "The soul that sinneth, it shall die." Ezekiel 18:4. "All that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, ... And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet." Malachi 4:1, 3. 

The consistent testimony of Scripture points to a final execution of judgment upon the wicked in the lake of fire. It will be an eternal death from which there can be no survival or resurrection. Since the soul is not immortal by nature, all the wicked will suffer the fate so vividly described by Jesus, "destroy both soul and body in hell." 


The Harlot s Name
These and numerous other "isms" and perversions of true doctrine may be identified in the mystery cup of the harlot. Every one of them constitutes disloyalty and infidelity to the spiritual relationship which every true Christian should sustain with Christ. This is why the woman carries the name on her forehead "Mystery, Babylon the Great, the mother of Harlots and abominations of the earth." What a title! 

The word "Babylon" denotes confusion. It originated with the Tower of Babel where God confounded their language so that they could not understand each other. We speak of a babbling of voices. God calls this woman Babylon because of her unholy blend of truth and error which causes "the inhabitants of the earth" to be "made drunk with the wine of her fornication." In other words, the whole world will be contaminated and confused by her teachings. 

But now, let s look at that emblazoned name more closely. Notice that it is obviously a family name, because she has daughters; and they are designated as harlots, just like their mother. Having established that women symbolize churches in these prophetic writings, we now inquire as to the identity of these daughters. Since they are guilty of infidelity also, we must conclude that they are churches which share some of the same false doctrines which constitute spiritual fornication. In other words, they would be drinking out of the same golden cup with its unscriptural potion of pseudo-Christian teachings. Whatchurches could be represented by these daughters? Since the mother has been identified as the Catholic Church, we must look for other religious bodies that came forth from the mother church of Rome and carried with them some of the same confused doctrines of that church. 

None can escape the conclusion that those daughters are Protestant churches who have inherited many of the empty traditions of their Catholic forebears. Whether we like it or not, we must admit that many of the most popular doctrines of the established Protestant churches are rooted in that quasi-Christian twilight period when the post- apostolic church was being overwhelmed by pagan influences. 

We need only look at one example of the moral law to see how seriously the infiltration affected the teachings of the church, both then and now. With the most explicit words of the Ten Commandments before them, "The seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work," those leaders of the early church yielded to the political clamor to take in millions of former sun worshippers who did not want to give up their custom of worshipping on the first day of the week- a day they named and observed in honor of their venerable sun-god. 

The Catholic Church hierarchy simply changed the day of worship from the seventh to the first day, under the claim that God bestowed such power upon them. Millions of Protestants continue that altered practice, even though it rests solely upon the illegitimate actions of the apostate Catholic system. No human church leaders, whether bishops, priests, or pope, have been given any authority to change the great moral law of the universe, the Ten Commandments. 

Isn t it interesting that the daughters blindly followed the majority practice of the compromised Catholic Church even though they properly identified her as the antichrist power of prophecy? How could this be? Why was it so easy to accept something that was such a flagrant violation of a plain command of God? Perhaps the answer to that question will be more apparent as we ourselves are confronted with a command just as concise and specific. We turn now to the crux of this tremendous prophecy and ask the question: What does God think about this woman and her daughters? 


The Call Out of Babylon
The answer is found in the first few verses of Revelation 18. Here also we find the command of God which few are willing to obey in our day. "And after these things I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power; and the earth was lightened with his glory. And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird. For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies. And I heard another voice from heaven saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues. For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities." Revelation 18:1-5. 

A close examination of these verses reveal that a very special message is being proclaimed which will profoundly affect every corner of the planet. Under the symbol of a powerful fourth angel, a warning sounds forth against the counterfeit gospel being communicated through the woman and her daughters. Not only is she spiritually fallen from favor with God, but her wine of deceptive doctrines have placed her in unholy alliance with the kings of the earth. All nations are represented as committing fornication with her by giving support to her false teachings. They use the illicit relationship to their own political advantage, and "wax rich through the abundance of her delicacies." 

But then, suddenly, the call of the fourth angel is cut off by an even more urgent voice which sounds forth from heaven itself. This time there is no doubt about the one whose message rolls from one end of the heavens to the other. God is speaking! And He is speaking to an exclusive group. He addresses Himself to "my people." 

Here are the exact words, "And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues." Revelation 18:4. Now the picture becomes more distinct. There are sincere people in all of those fallen churches represented by the harlot mother and her daughters. Because they have been faithful to all the light of truth which had been revealed to them, God extends a final invitation of mercy. But what a message! This is undoubtedly the most shocking and revolutionary call to ever fall on human ears. 

What does it mean? There is only one answer. Those religious bodies represented by the fallen Babylon system have departed so far from the foundations of Bible truth that God can no longer acknowledge them as His. By choosing the traditions of men over the commandments of God they have disqualified themselves as reliable shepherds of the flock of God. In almost every crusade, members come to me from a variety of churches weeping and asking what they should do about their church or their pastor. Instead of receiving loving counsel and Bible answers, they are being taught to break God s law. "The ten commandments were nailed to the cross. You don t have to keep the Sabbath today. You can choose any other day of rest and worship," they are told. 

Apostasy and betrayal has reached its limits when leaders comfort people in their practice of sin. God says, "This is it, my people. You can no longer remain in fellowship with a church that is so spiritually fallen that it teaches you to break my law. Come out of that confusion." What a fearful and emotional command that is to most people who hear it for the first time, and how easy it is to empathize with their mixed feelings. They love their church. Their fondest memories revolve around its ministry - baptism, marriage, and commitment. And even though they recognize the apostasy and the necessity to separate, it is one of the hardest commands to obey. 

How strange it is that the strongest and most condemnatory language in the Bible is used against religious people. Jesus pronounced terrible judgment upon the Pharisees who pretended to be so righteous while violating every principle of truth. Similarly, God speaks again directly from heaven against those who profess His name while willfully transgressing His commandments. His extreme displeasure is revealed toward both religious groups - hypocrites, whited sepulchres, generation of vipers, hold of every foul spirit, habitation of devils, cage of every unclean and hateful bird - these are some of the charges He leveled against them. Are they justified? Why such a scathing reaction against those who were so very religious? 

The answer to this question is important. These churches - every one of them - had allowed the popular traditions of 
men to crowd out the self-denying truths of His Word and His law. Rejecting the Sabbath of the Lord in favor of a pagan substitute, they had been guilty of condoning sin instead of righteousness. Said Jesus, "In vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men." Matthew 15:9. 

Who then is Babylon and her children? Any contemporary church who teaches contrary to Jesus. Errors and "isms" could be multiplied, but the height of abomination was reached by giving deliberate encouragement to the breaking of God s great moral law. By teaching men to break the Sabbath, the sign and seal of our salvation-rest in Christ, the churches became the spoilers of God s people. Very soon those same churches will be so bitter against the obedient ones that they will lend their influence to force compliance by religious legislation. To such organizations no true child of God can give support. It would be equivalent to subscribing to the erroneous beliefs and actions of those church groups. 

No wonder then, that God sounds that radical call, "come out of her, my people. You must leave those churches which have rejected my law." But where should they go when they come out of the fallen churches? Does God want them now to be rootless, with no church, no pastor, and no fellowship? Indeed not. Just as surely as there is a harlot woman of prophecy representing a counterfeit religion, there is also a pure woman who symbolizes the true church of Jesus Christ. 


The Woman in White
We only have time for a brief look at Revelation 12 where the exciting history of the true church is recorded. A complete in-depth study is found in the Amazing Facts booklet entitled The Search For the True Church. 

John begins his narrative of the woman in white with this description: "And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars. And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered." Revelation 12:1, 2. 

The remainder of the chapter follows the course of this beautiful pregnant woman and her offspring. Standing in the glorious light of the New Testament age, with the symbols of the 12 apostles on her head, she is about to give birth to a baby. A terrible red dragon stands before her to destroy the child as soon as it is born, but the baby boy eludes the dragon. Later, he is caught up to the throne of God. Who was the baby? John declares that he was to rule all the nations of earth; therefore, we must conclude that it was Jesus. He was also the only one caught up to the throne of God. 

Afterward, the woman, the true church, fled into a wilderness hiding place for 1,260 days. Since a prophetic day equals a literal year, the woman had to be hidden away for exactly 1,260 years (Ezekiel 4:6). History confirms that the total period of papal civil rule, during which the true saints were persecuted, was from 538 A.D. until 1798 A.D. During those Dark Ages, the Bible was suppressed, and the true church was not to be seen before the world. 

Nevertheless, at the end of the 1,260years, or sometime after 1798, the truth was to emerge from its hiding place. John provides a dramatic description of the woman as she would appear at the very end of time, and how Satan would still be trying to silence her witness of truth to the world. "And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ." Revelation 12:17. 

This verse contains one of the most exciting revelations in the Bible. It reveals that the remnant, or last part, of the true church will be characterized by obedience to the commandments of God. The scarlet woman of Revelation 17 had turned away from God s law, rejected the Sabbath, and spiritually adulterated the doctrines with traditions of men. Now the breach is healed and the original truths are being restored by the last part of the pure woman s seed, the remnant church. 

At last, the prophecy of Isaiah will be fulfilled: "And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in. If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth." Isaiah 58:12-14. 

So the whole circle of apostasy has been uncovered. From the seed of the woman in Genesis 3:15 to the seed of the woman of Revelation 12:17, the true church pressed its relentless warfare against confusion of doctrine. In the final contest, the scarlet woman seemed at times to prevail with a majority support, but the faithful little remnant of the woman in white which "keep the commandments of God" ultimately triumphs. And out of all the fierce beasts portrayed in the book of Revelation, it is the bleeding Lamb who prevails in the end. Through the blood of that Lamb may we all be gathered to Mount Zion, the place of rest and eternal security.