In the chapter of the Revelation about the Two Witnesses, which we have studied briefly, a special attack upon the Bible is mentioned, which was strikingly fulfilled at the time of the French Revolution.
In Revelation 11:7, A.R.V., we read, "And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that cometh up out of the abyss shall make war with them, and overcome them, and kill them."
This means that when they have finished or are finishing their testimony "in sackcloth" (see The Great Controversy, p. 268), which would be about the end of the 1260-year period, a violent campaign would be let loose against the Holy Scriptures. Every student of history knows that just such a deadly warfare did take place at the time of the French Revolution. Various public ceremonies were held to heap disgrace and contempt upon all religion, specifically upon the Sacred Scriptures. It would be difficult for ingenuity to think of some new method of shame and disgrace against the Bible which was not practiced during this insane period. And we need to remember that for the preceding century or more France had prided herself on being the most cultured and educated country in the world.
The subtle influences that prepared the way for this outbreak of hatred against everything sacred or divine are given in chapter 15 of The Great Controversy, pages 265-288. Only a brief summary can be given here. This national explosion, with many international echoes, was the culmination of a long series of events in which Rome suppressed God’s Two Witnesses, the Holy Scriptures. But this Revolution was permitted to take place as a terrible example, a type, a preview, of what the entire world will yet experience as result of the modern anti-Genesis war against the Bible, under the influence of the modernistic philosophy of evolution.
We have been warned: "… the world-wide dissemination of the same teachings that led to the French Revolution—all are tending to involve the whole world in a struggle similar to that which convulsed France."—Education, p. 228.
The work of the Reformation began early in France. It began among the educated teachers in the University of Paris and among the cultured members of the royal court. But in that age of the world nobody had yet had a glimpse of the idea of the complete separation of church and state; hence those who treasured the Bible and wanted to see its teachings carried out saw no other way than the political and military method for bringing this about. Accordingly, for centuries the conflict went on, legal decrees and armies being employed by both sides, sometimes the Reformers and sometimes the Papists being successful. Finally by the horrible Massacre of St. Bartholomew and by the still more fiendishly successful system of the dragonnades, by which a ruffian and licentious soldiery were quartered in the homes of the Huguenots, the Protestants were at last driven into exile or exterminated; and a dreary economic and cultural paralysis settled down upon the nation.
Since the king had undertaken to regulate the lives of everybody, he naturally had to care for the poorer classes. At length Paris contained so many beggars and so large a proportion of the population lived by the doles from the government, that the city has been compared to a monstrous almshouse. Ignorant, superstitious, penniless, with no useful work to occupy their time, the Parisian mobs became the tools by which wild demagogues could at short notice arouse a frenzy of excitement and lead them to wild and hysterical behavior, controlled by demons and bent on the suppression and ruin of the rulers in church and state, whom they looked upon as the cause of their misery.
Only a few years previously the American colonies had declared their independence, and the wild mobs of Paris were fired by the echoes from across the Atlantic to attempt a similar democratic freedom. But they did not know how. The Americans, with chiefly an intelligent Protestant background, attained their aims without disorder or internecine strife; but the Jacobins, with a background worse than paganism, set the world an example of what human beings are capable of when they throw off all restraint and come under the complete control of demons from the bottomless pit.
Of course, in its sporadic, unorganized form atheism or infidelity has always existed. But in 1793 it was organized and gained control of one of the leading nations of Europe, and with fanatical zeal it set out to subdue or at least propagandize all the rest of the world. In that particular form and manner its day was brief. In 1848, in the form of Marxian communism, it seemed on the point of gaining power again. Then in 1917 it captured Russia, and a little later China; and from these centers it has spread out over more than half of the world’s population.
This is its organized, or national, form. But we must not forget that every college and university throughout Europe and America, every newspaper, and every other source of publicity or entertainment has for more than two generations been engaged in a far more subtle but no less effective campaign against the Bible doctrine of creation, and thus against every other truth of revealed religion, of which creation is the logical and indispensable foundation. This is the beast’s infiltration method, his fifth column. Throughout all of the so-called "free" peoples of the Western World, the philosophy of development or evolution during a thousand million years is almost universally taught and believed, with its corollary that man has grown up from some lower animal ancestors instead of having been created sinless and with no bias toward evil. Logically following the evolution theory is the conclusion that it is not man’s fault but his misfortune that he is a sinner and subject to disease and death; hence if any being is responsible for the evil and misery in the world, it must be God Himself, who made the human race by this strange process of development from animal ancestors by the survival of the strongest and most ruthless.
Such are the radically changed ideas about God and all the fundamentals of ethics and religion which have now become almost universal. Of course, great numbers of the more logical men and women refuse to believe that an all-wise, merciful Creator could ever make the world by such a heartless, bungling process; and so they fall back on the pantheistic view, that, as Le Conte expressed it, "what we call evil is not a unique phenomenon confined to man, and the result of an accident [Adam’s "fall"], but must be a great fact pervading all nature, and a part of its very constitution." This pessi- mistic pantheism is probably the most widely held form of philosophy at the present time. The universe, according to it, is the only deity; and it is intrinsically evil. This is a form of thinking scarcely to be distinguished from the paganism of Greece and Rome.
No informed person can deny that this more polite, fashionable, parlor-pink form of infidelity is today almost universal throughout America and Europe. And this may be what the prophecy means by saying that the beast will again ascend from the bottomless pit, or the abyss.
The Great Controversy, pages 268, 269, explains the similar expression in Revelation 11:7 as meaning the "new manifestation of satanic power" which appeared in the French Revolution, and this we know was a preliminary appearance of what we now see in Russia and China as Marxian communism. This communism, however, is only a cruder form of the anti-Genesis apostasy so nearly universal in America and Western Europe. On this basis, the Americanization of religion throughout the Occidental world is only a variant form of the communism of China and Russia. In the light of heavenly truth these two systems are essentially twins. We know also that historically communism can be traced back through the French Revolution to a human perversion of the "two horns" of civil and religious liberty which lay at the foundation of America.
And all this, or the total intellectual world climate of our day, may be the proleptic, or preliminary, fulfillment of Revelation 17:8 that the beast was about to ascend from the bottomless pit, or abyss. But I think it more likely that this prediction points forward to the horrible time of social chaos and anarchy which is certain to take place at the close of human probation. Then Satan will make a personal appearance. Then mercy and truth will have made their last appeal, and the entire race of mankind will be abandoned by God to the rebel leader whom they have chosen. This time of trouble for the entire world, "such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time" (Daniel 12:1), is vividly described as follows:
The same author gives another picture of this time when the beast from the abyss will have full control :
Finally we have the important statements in the last half of Revelation 17 about the ten kingdoms agreeing to give their power to the beast—obviously the same beast which has been spoken of previously. In verse 8 the angel interpreter tells the apostle that it is "the beast that thou sawest" which he is talking about, not some entirely different one. In other words, it is the same beast power all through this chapter, just different aspects of the same devil-controlled organization, appearing at different times or on different occasions.
The term "bottomless pit" or "abyss" is used as a rhetorical figure to represent the place of the demons. This beast comes directly from the headquarters of the evil spirits and fully represents the cause of Satan. Thus it is wholly evil, the very quintessence of rebellion against God and all that the government of God stands for.
This explanation also fits its use in Revelation 11:7, where it means the anarchistic form of unrestrained wickedness let loose at the time of the Red Terror of the French Revolution. Again at the very end of time the same spirit of unrestrained evil will once more prevail, for evil angels will then have entire control of the finally impenitent.
Exactly the same conditions prevail at the time referred to in Revelation 17:8, after the deadly wound has prevailed for nearly two centuries. As we have learned, this period is at the very last of the time of the end, and the people of all civilized lands have become so accustomed to civil and religious liberty that they think these conditions must always continue. Therefore when the beast of despotism and intolerance appears once more, it is almost as if he had risen from the dead. He seems to come from the bottomless pit, the abyss, for this term is also used to represent the condition of the dead.
Then the angel explains about the ten kings, or kingdoms. At the time about which the angel was making this explanation to the apostle, which we have learned means our own time, the time of the end, the angel says that these ten kings "have received no kingdom as yet; but [will] receive power as kings one hour with the beast." (Revelation 17: 12.) And the angel goes on to state that these ten last-day world powers will "have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast." (Verse 13.) Verse 17 says these ten powers will "agree," and will "give their kingdom unto the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled."
Many have thought that all this refers to the past, during the Dark Ages, when Rome did compel all the kings of Western Europe to do her bidding. Uriah Smith so taught. But this is a mistake. Plainly it refers to the future, to the very closing hours of time. This is the interpretation given by Ellen G. White:
This interpretation brings these closing verses of this chapter into harmony with the preceding part. We can now see this entire chapter in its proper context and understand its importance in the closing gospel work in the very last of "the time of the end," the "time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time." (Daniel 12:1, R.S.V.) As already stated, two previous events were types on a small scale of this final universal chaos and anarchy—the last days of the siege of Jerusalem under Titus, and the period known as the Red Terror in Paris during the Revolution. When all restraint of civil law and social decency is gone, when hatred and the fierce elemental passions reign supreme, when each is determined to have his own way with no regard whatever for the wishes or the rights of others, when all alike are completely under demonic control—can anything more horrible be imagined? The successive stages leading to this final climax:
These conditions will be universal over all the earth. The seven last plagues will be prevailing—even the regularities of natural law will seem to have come to an end, and nature will seem to have gone wild.
During these frightful hours the people of God, scattered here and there over all the earth, will be living in the midst of this chaos and disintegration of nature, with no officiating High Priest to intercede for them, sustained only by their faith in the sure promises of God.
Read Chapter 12 — Armageddon
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