One of the most outstanding facts about the period in human history named in prophecy as the time of the end is that it parallels another prophetic period called the time when the leopard beast suffers from a deadly wound, called by the Revised Standard Version "a mortal wound." (Revelation 13:3.) The nature and importance of this period for the work of the gospel deserve our careful study, for hitherto the subject has not been well understood.
Moffatt’s Translation of this passage reads, "One of his heads looked as if it had been slain and killed." Since the seven heads are successive, and we have already learned that the fifth of the series is the one here mentioned, this head was all of the beast then existing; therefore when this head received its deadly wound, it was the beast itself that was put out of action. In other words, the head and the beast are here synonymous. A headless beast would be powerless.
The literal of the Greek is very expressive and seems even stronger than any of the translations would indicate. It means that the creature looked as if it had had "its throat cut to death." It is the same phrase that is used in chapter 5, verse 6, about the Lamb—"as if it had been slain," being thus made ready for sacrifice. But in the passage we are here considering it is added that this had been done "to death."
It must have been with intelligent purpose that Inspiration here uses the very same expression about the beast that it had previously used about Christ under the symbol of a lamb. And then the text records the astonishing recovery of the beast: "And his deadly wound was healed; and all the world wondered after the beast" (Revelation 13:3), or "went after him in wonder," as Moffatt puts it. In Revelation 17:8 we have a similar statement of the astonishment of the people of the entire world at the unexpected recovery of the beast. In both texts the people express their wonder in language that implies that this recovery is similar to a resurrection, proving, as they think, that this recovered beast must be divine. The entire incident seems to be treated as a sort of blasphemous imitation of the death and resurrection of Jesus.
The deadly wound and its healing make clear that the system of anti-Christianity represented by the leopard beast was to exercise its despotic, persecuting power during two distinct periods of time. The first would be long—1260 years. The second will be short—"when he cometh, he must continue a short space." (Revelation 17:10.) These two periods of beastly dominance (persecution) are separated by a period of inaction, called "captivity" in Revelation 13:l0—the period of the deadly wound. As already stated, this period parallels what is called in the Book of Daniel "the time of the end." It is also, to a special degree, the period during which the earth helps the woman and swallows up the flood of persecution that the dragon casts out of his mouth (Revelation 12: 16), during which time the beast of persecution "is not" (Revelation 17:8).
The important feature of this period of the deadly wound, the time of the end, is its religious liberty, i.e., its absence of persecution. So far as precise dates go, it began with the close of the 1260 years in 1798, which is also the date when the pope was taken prisoner by the French armies. But the causes of the deadly wound and of the present period when it is kept from being healed, lie deeper than this very temporary end of papal rule, for several times previously a pope had been defeated or made prisoner, without any such world conditions as we see prevailing today.
Persecution on any general scale ended "a quarter of a century earlier" than 1798 (The Great Controversy, p. 306), which corresponds with the rise of the United States. And it is well worth while for us to consider just what has happened to produce the present order of things, which has now lasted for nearly two centuries. It is plain that the cause of the modern stoppage of persecution is much deeper than the capture of the then-reigning head of the Catholic Church by orders of the French Directory, for it was only a few years more until Napoleon was signing a concordat with another pope. With several more ups and downs in 1848 and in 1870, the pope was made a nominal king again in 1929; and yet the deadly wound obviously is not healed. If it were, how could Seventh-day Adventist sermons be broadcast in Italian by radio throughout the homeland of the Papacy and Adventist literature be sold openly within the shadow of the Vatican? No, the deadly wound is still unhealed. Just what has happened?
But don’t misunderstand me. The wound was inflicted by the French armies in 1798. "At that time , the pope was made captive by the French army, the papal power received its deadly wound, and the prediction was fulfilled, ‘He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity.’ "—The Great Controversy, p. 439. This is the primary, or local, meaning of the prophecy.
There is no question that this event marked the beginning of the deadly wound. But in reality what was then happening was vastly more than the defeat and capture of Pius VI. As has been stated, on more than one previous occasion the then-reigning pope was defeated or driven into exile. But around the turn from the eighteenth to the nineteenth century, the Catholic cause was everywhere subjected to humiliation and repression. One historian tells that every Roman Catholic government in the world experienced a revolution. Never since has the old power of dealing with "heretics" been permitted on anything like a general scale.
Just what was then taking place, and what causes brought about the change in the intellectual and cultural thinking of the whole civilized world?
The beast from the abyss is not a nation; it is an ideology, international in extent. Even the modern Catholic Church, though exemplified by the Vatican in Rome, is not limited by any national boundaries; it is an ideology that pervades the entire world. The work of God is global, and the opposition to it is also worldwide. Thus the change which came over the world a century and a half ago was a fundamental change of ideas. France was the concrete agent which initiated the change; but it was the ideology then dominating the Directory, the ruling power in Paris, which was behind the change. This fact calls for emphasis and explanation.
The five men composing the Directory, the government of France from 1795 to 1799, were in spirit only a second edition of the Jacobins of the Red Terror a few years before. They were starry-eyed, utopian fanatics, obsessed with what they thought was science and progress, and hypnotized with the resolve to impose the Revolution and all it stood for on all the surrounding countries of Europe. Since they did not like the lenient way that their general, young Bonaparte, was dealing with the pope and the Church of Rome, they sent Berthier down to Italy with specific orders of what to do. This was why the sick, aged pontiff was seized with studied disrespect and brought as a prisoner to France.
One of the cardinal ideas of the Revolution which these leaders of France were determined to spread by force to the rest of the world was the complete separation of church and state. They were constantly prating about civil and religious liberty, the same two lamblike ideas which had been incorporated into the American Constitution a quarter of a century previously.
Right here we need to keep our chronology straight. Many otherwise well-informed people seem to think that the atheistic French Revolution came first and that the American Revolution came afterward and copied from the French, whereas it was just the other way around. Lafayette, who afterward became one of the leaders in France, had come to America as a young man, where he acted as assistant to Washington. After returning to his native country, he tried to put into effect the ideas and methods which he had seen established so successfully across the Atlantic. Berthier had also come to America as a young man and served for a while under Washington. But tyranny and religious bigotry had prevailed so long in France that when the Revolution once started, it soon got out of hand—and then a thousand moderates like Lafayette could not stem the awful torrent of destruction and ruin.
We need to remember that what happened in France was permitted by a merciful Providence as a warning, a horrible example, a preliminary rehearsal on a small scale, of what the entire world is rapidly coming to in the near future. "The same teachings that led to the French Revolution … are tending to involve the whole world in a struggle similar to that which convulsed France."—Education, p, 228.
Of course it is unthinkable that the evil one deliberately planned to have intolerance and religious persecution stopped by what his puppets were doing. But the wise and merciful Manager of the universe overruled in this case, as in countless others, to bring about affairs according to His will. Assyria was used as a rod for the accomplishing of God’s purpose. "Howbeit he [Assyria] meaneth not so" (Isaiah 10: 7), for those cruel, headstrong people thought they were just having their own way. God similarly used the French revolutionists in the capture of the pope and in all the other events of that time to bring about the modern age of freedom and liberty, symbolized in the prophecy as the deadly wound, the death stroke. And these providences of God are still effective in keeping this wound from being healed.
From the beginning of Luther’s work the question of the proper relationship between the state and the church had been discussed. But while Luther himself at first wished to keep the church free from any entangling alliances with the civil government, not one of the post-Reformation churches followed this principle. Without exception they all kept drinking the wine of Babylon by all accepting subsidies from the state and by keeping up with varying degrees of intimacy the same old union with the civil power which had been maintained since the days of Constantine.
But the farseeing plans of divine Providence were making provision for a new style of civil government, one that would not be oppressive of any form of religion, yet would not try with unholy hands to steady the sacred ark when apparently in danger of collapse. Long ago God had tried the plan of a genuine theocracy, under the direct rulership of men of His own appointment, a plan that lasted several centuries among the Israelites. It was a dismal failure--not on God’s part, but on that of the people. This plan was discontinued after the solemn warning was given that this divinely appointed rulership would be overturned, overturned, overturned, and would then "be no more, until he come whose right it is; and I will give it him." (Ezekiel 21:27.)
But the Head of the church had still another plan, partly as the outgrowth of the principles of the Reformation, but chiefly as a special providential preparation for the development of a perfect and complete church to meet Him as a pure bride at His second coming. He planned to show the world and the onlooking universe an example of a civil government that would protect the soul liberty of its citizens, yet would keep from meddling with religious affairs in any way, teaching its people to render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.
These two freedoms, civil and religious, seemed to originate with this young republic of the West. Humanly speaking, this is true. But these principles are of heavenly, not human, origin. And from the West they have spread abroad until essentially all the peoples of earth profess acceptance of them. These ideas, without possible contradiction, are the real cause of the deadly wound, and the continuing cause of its still remaining unhealed.
But what would be the natural results of these two freedoms?
From its beginning this new world power has been successful and prosperous. So spectacular have been its achievements that large parts of the world have tried to imitate its example in the two basic ideas of democratic processes and liberty of conscience. Thus the deadly wound has been extended and kept from healing. For almost two centuries persecution for religion has practically ceased throughout the civilized world, largely because of the example and influence of what we may call the dream of Protestant America.
Plainly it is not Protestantism alone, for neither in Germany nor in Scandinavia nor in England was this style of civil government developed. But in the New World, with the prejudices and hampering habits of centuries left behind, the two basic principles of civil and religious liberty, characteristic of true Christianity, could develop and mature. By their glorious fruitage and contagious influence they have for nearly two centuries prevented the deadly wound from being healed.
"Puritanism," said James Russell Lowell, believed itself to be pregnant with the seed of religious liberty, but "laid without knowing it the egg of democracy." The two ideas when united have proved the most dynamic in spectacular achievement that have ever shaped the national history of any people. Lowell goes on to say that when, in addition, education was made universal and in a sense compulsory, the American dream became a reality.
This American dream may seem abstract and intangible, but its world influence has been and still is profound. Nothing is more real and invincible than a prophetically predicted idea whose time has come.
On first thought it seems inconsistent to say that the beast from the abyss, in the person of the French Directory, gave the deadly wound in 1798, yet that it is the kindly, tolerant spirit of the modern intellectual world climate that now prevents a return to the religious bigotry and persecution of the past, that still keeps this wound from being healed.
In reality there is nothing strange or inconsistent in this, for the wise and all-powerful Manager of the universe is continually making the wrath of man to praise Him and restraining the remainder. (Psalm 76:10.) The beast from the abyss was allowed to bring about the end of religious persecution; but when this beastly power seemed about to get out of control, the little corporal on horseback, with his whiff of grapeshot, restored more or less the previous status quo. Various ups and downs have since occurred. Though a large proportion of the population of the world is now in the grip of this same satanic power, and although its doctrines and practices have infiltrated the social and the intellectual life of the West, yet religious and civil liberty still prevail in actual practice, and will thus prevail until God’s last message of warning and salvation has gone to every people in every clime.
The fact that a quarter of a century before 1798 "persecution had almost wholly ceased" (The Great Controversy, p. 306) is good proof that the primary cause of the deadly wound was something preceding and vastly more important than the French Revolution. It is highly probable that the great social and religious uprising at the close of the eighteenth century was itself only a by-product of something larger and more important than what took place in Italy and France in 1798. The captivity of the pope has served admirably to focus the attention of the world on what was then happening, but it was merely a symbol of that paralysis of the satanic beast power which was then taking place and which has continued ever since.
That "true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world" often suffers so much chromatic aberration because of the miseducation and perversity of human beings that it sometimes shows strange forms and colors. The essential idea of the Protestant Reformation was the individual’s personal accountability to God and his inalienable right to soul liberty and freedom from every form of religious domination. George Washington and his compatriots, with their Christian environment and upbringing, succeeded in separating church and state and in establishing these freedoms in an orderly, dignified manner. The mobs of Paris, with their essentially pagan environment, tried to imitate what had just then occurred across the Atlantic, but did not know how, and made a sorry mess of their work. The world in general had wild dreams about the innate goodness and perfectibility of human nature and the inevitability of progress, dreams which in our day have expanded into the evolution theory and the so-called scientific view of the world. But the result of all this has been the fulfillment of the prophecy we are here studying, the infliction of the death stroke to all forms of religious persecution—a death stroke which only now, after almost two centuries, shows marked signs of healing.
In Revelation 13:3 the same sentence that mentions the deadly wound goes on to say, "And his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast." From the close sequence of the two statements many have drawn the mistaken conclusion that the healing follows almost immediately after the infliction of the wound. But the deadly wound was something vastly more important than the interval of a year or two between the death of the exiled pope and the election of his successor. The wound means much more than the temporary interruption of some of the functions of the Catholic Church. To revert to the symbols given in chapter 17, it was not the woman that received the wound, but the beast. Obviously the wound means the taking away of the beastly power to dominate the world and deal with "heretics." This deadly wound will not be healed until the old power of persecution is restored.
How is it that so many people point to the present popularity and prosperity of the Catholic Church as proof that the deadly wound is already healed? Why do they not see that they are confusing the symbols of woman and beast, and crediting the still defunct beast with the church’s health and prosperity, which are never once threatened in prophecy until its final, inglorious end by fire in Revelation 18?
The nearest to something like a threat against the church’s prosperity is found in Revelation 18:7, where great Babylon boasts that she is a queen, and no widow, plainly implying that her paramour, the "beast," has come to life again, or recovered from the death stroke. But being a widow for a time is vastly different from being dead from a death stroke.
A large part of the message of the present study is to clear up this confusion in order to enable Adventists to present a clear and convincing message to the world in the days ahead.
There can be no dispute about the present growth and prosperity of the Church of Rome. The three traditionally Protestant nations-Germany, Great Britain, and America—are visibly journeying toward Canossa. On every side are signs of reviving respect for the name and the ways of Rome. All this indicates a changing world climate more favorable for the healing of the deadly wound of nearly two centuries ago, but of themselves these shifting attitudes are far short of the prophesied healing. Not until Rome again has the power to make her will and doctrines effective through cooperating legislative enactments and judicial decrees will the wound be healed. But such a day is coming on apace.
Perhaps right here a misunderstanding needs to be cleared up. The wound is mentioned in chapter 13 in a symbol where the church and the state are not differentiated, the two being combined under the one symbol of the leopard beast; but in chapter 17, where a clear distinction is shown between the drunken woman and the beast upon which she rides, the woman is not said to be wounded or out of action. The beast only is affected, and it is completely paralyzed—it "is not." (Verse 8.) In chapter 18, meaning a later period, the woman congratulates herself that she is no longer a widow; but it is plain that no part of the prophecy ever represents the Catholic Church as having been wounded or even hurt at all. Her paramour is the one who suffers the wound, and he is completely out of action.
This is exactly the situation. The woman is alive, obviously healthy and strong; but the beast which she formerly drove as she wished, now refuses to obey her dictates. Nevertheless the prophecy tells plainly that a change is coming; the deadly wound is going to be healed. The beast is going to "ascend out of the bottomless pit." (Revelation 17:8.) On every side we see ominous signs of just such a resurgence of the beastly intolerance of past ages.
Of course, a radical change in the public opinion of the world will be necessary in order to bring about such a condition. Just how this change will come about only the future will reveal, but the Manager of the universe has His own ways of bringing about the fulfillment of His Word. A restoration of the power to deal with "heresy" is plainly foretold in several of the prophecies; and in the face of these predictions we have faith to believe God’s Word instead of any human opinions or guessing.
When this restoration of the power to deal with "heretics" does take place, when the deadly wound is really healed, the prophetic time of the end will be near its close, and the climax of the ages will follow.
Read Chapter 6 — The False Prophet
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