This article continues a series of weekly posts originally authored by David Lipscomb, an important figure in the Churches of Christ in the 1800s. Learn more about Lipscomb’s background here and here, and see other references to him on LCI here. The series is titled “The Church of Christ and World-Powers”, and it was also originally published as a series of 18 articles in The Gospel Advocate in 1866. (To read from the beginning of the series, start here.)
Lipscomb now addresses the symbols in Revelation in greater detail, ultimately to level a scathing indictment of the 19th-century church. Some protestants interpret the “mother of harlots” as the medieval era Roman Catholic Church (Constantine and beyond). Fine, Lipscomb says, but who are the daughters of this harlot? Are they not the protestant churches? He argues that the clear behavior of the “paedo-baptists” and the “immersionists” (he is distinguishing those in the Luther/reformed heritage versus those in the baptist heritage) is that they have followed after Babylon as well. They are no better. Plank-in-eye, meet mote, and etc. In other words, say what you will about the Roman Catholic Church’s history, but Protestants are guilty as well. The call to repent is the same. Come out of the beast, Lipscomb tells us. You will “never [see] the beast help, or carry, or aid the virtuous woman, the Church of the true and living God.” John’s Revelation warns and pleads with us not trust in the kingdoms of this world to uplift the church.
The Church of Christ and World-Powers (8) — David Lipscomb in The Gospel Advocate, April 13, 1866, pp. 209-213.
We found that God, while giving full and complete instruction for man’s guidance in every relationship of life, in which it was possible for a Christian to enter, he had utterly failed to give one word of direction for his guidance in the relationship in which, above all others, if it is admissible for him to occupy, he needs guidance on account of the number and character of the difficulties that surround him, and the great interest committed to his trust in the position. The conclusion to which we are forced by this negative testimony is in harmony with the plain, express, positive teachings of the Bible, that these institutions are worldly, are of the wicked one, and God’s children can take no part in managing their affairs. We wish to offer some additional considerations of a similar character from the prophecies of both the Old and New Testaments.
Daniel presents to us the conflicts of the world kingdoms with one another, their final destruction and the triumph of God’s Kingdom. He, in these prophecies, uses types and figures, by which he represents these kingdoms and others, also, by which he represents the Church of God. The term “beast” is used frequently, and always when used it denotes an earthly kingdom. Special names of beasts are sometimes used to denote the different world-powers. Daniel 7 and 8. The head and horns of these beasts denote the different divisions that arise in those kingdoms or the separate kings who rule over them. Now Daniel saw the conflicts of these different beasts between themselves, and with the Church of God, till their final and complete destruction. He saw them subdue and destroy one another. He saw them “speak great words against the Most High, and think to change laws and seasons.” He saw “them given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time.” He saw “the judgment sit and take away his dominion to consume and destroy it unto the end,” or complete, final destruction. He saw then “the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole Heaven, given to the saints of the Most High, whose kingdom is everlasting kingdom, and all nations shall serve and obey him.” “Hitherto,” or at this point “is the end of the matter.” Dan. 7:25-28. Daniel saw the rise and fall of one after another of these earthly kingdoms—saw their strifes—saw their persecution of and triumph for a season over the Saints and Church of God—saw their final and complete destruction—saw with it the wonderful and full triumph of that church, when cometh the end of all things. As Paul says, “Then cometh the end, when he (Christ) shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule, and all authority, and power.” Daniel saw all this, but with all his prophetic ken and Divine foresight, never saw the “beast,” the earthly kingdoms, helping, aiding, or strengthening the Saints of the Most High or building up the Church of the Living God.
John also was blessed by God, through Jesus Christ, with a revelation of things yet to come to pass. These visions are given to us in what are technically termed in our Scriptures, “Revelations.” While much of the teaching of this book is enveloped in mystery, there are still some plain, palpable truths lying upon its surface that the simplest may appreciate. It tells things to come to pass with reference to the Church of God, the apostacy and the world of political institutions. Divine inspiration makes this plain to the simplest mind. It typifies the church in the figure of woman. The true church as a virtuous, pure woman—the false, apostate church as an adulterous woman.
In reference to the kingdoms of this world, it uses much the same imagery that it had done to Daniel. The beasts, the heads and the horns stand forth as the representatives of the world-kingdoms, their divisions and different kings or rulers. From the beginning of the fourth chapter onward, the conflicts of those nations with one another, and the destruction of one after another, and their opposition to mad persecution of the witnesses and worshippers of God are clearly set forth, under various types and highly colored imagery. The evil one is typified as the dragon, the serpent, etc. 12:17. “The spirit reveals that 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.” 13: “They (the heads or kings) worshipped the dragon who gave power to the beast, and they worshipped the beast, saying, who is like unto the beast? Who is able to make war with him?” Here it is plainly told us that it is the dragon that gave power to “the beast” or world-power, and the kings of the earth worship” or serve the dragon and the beast. Verse 5. “It was given unto him to make war with the Saints, and to overcome them, and power was given him over all kindreds and tongues and nations. And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”
It is further revealed here that all who dwell upon the earth shall worship or serve this beast or world-power, save those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life. Those shall not worship or serve the world-power. [The] 17th chapter brings to our view the church that has served the beast. She rides upon a scarlet colored beast. She is carried and helped by the beast. Her name is “Mystery Babylon the Great, the Mother of Harlots and Abominations of the Earth. I saw her drunken with the blood of Saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.” What gave her this character? Certainly her association with the kings and governments of the earth. Her participation in and services of the earthly governments. But says one, “this is the Roman Catholic Church.” What made the Roman Catholic Church a whore? An adulteress in the sight of God? Was it not her alliances with and service of earthly kingdoms? Will not, and does not the same course give every church that professes to be of God, yet pursues this course, the same character before God? Rome may be the mother, the leader in this direction, but who are the daughters? The daughters were harlots, unfaithful to Christ as their husband, as well as the mother?
“The daughters are the protestant churches that have sprang from the Romish church, the Paedo-Baptist churches, especially those that have had state alliances,” respond our immersionist friends. But wherein have the protestant Paedo-Baptist state churches been guilty in their alliances with the world-powers, beyond the immersionists of the last one hundred and fifty years? Have not immersionists of the last one hundred and fifty years, educated and trained their children for service to the earthly government? Have they not encouraged them to enter that service? To spend their lives, devote their energies, and consecrate their talent to the upbuilding of the earthly government? Have not the churches, in upbuilding schools for the education of her children, made full as ample provision for their instruction and training for service in the earthly kingdom as the Heavenly? Have you not freely given the lives of your own children to sustain the world-powers ? Have you not drawn your own life’s blood until you are more dead than alive, this day, to sustain the world-powers? When did Paedo-Baptists ever do more? When did Romanism ever do more?
The difference between Romanism, Protestantism and immersionists is, that the former gave their service to the world-power or human government for some especial protection or favor in return, and these latter render just the same service without compensation, but are anxious to find opportunities thus to serve the world-power without hire. The condition of the Paedo-Baptist and Immersionist Churches are, to my mind, typified, in the Jewish dispensation, by Samaria and Judah. Samaria, first by her alliance with the world-powers, was rejected by God as an unfaithful wife. He long recognized Judah as his wife. She finally follows the footsteps of her elder sister, and commits adultery. He then chides her with her adulteries-shows that they are more inexcusable than those of her sister, inasmuch as her sister and other harlots commit adultery for hire, but then scorned hire. Ezekiel 16:32-34. “But as a wife that committeth adultery, which taketh strangers instead of her husband! They give gifts to all whores: but thou givest all thy gifts to thy lovers, and hirest them, that they may come unto thee on every side for thy whoredom. And the contrary is in thee from other women in thy whoredoms, whereas none followeth thee to commit whoredoms: and in that thou givest a reward, and no reward is given unto thee; therefore thou art contrary.”
Whether intended as a Divine type, or not, of the present course of the immersionist body and the former course of Romanists and other state religions in their association with the world-power and human governments, it is a striking, though severe illustration of the actual state of the respective parties. Romanism and all state religions gave their strength and power, the life’s blood of their children to the world governments for protection and support in return. Immersionists give the same without any compensation seek to give it without being sought after as a body. If Romanism is guilty of adultery in her association world-powers, wherein are those churches less guilty, who, in their general meetings and counsels, pass resolutions commending, and use every instrumentality within their power to induce their children to give their life to the support of the world-governments? Did the Romish Church ever do more, except to ask compensation in return? The church that does this, teaches her children to love and serve the world governments, thereby weaning their affections, diverting their talent, time and energy from the upbuilding of the spiritual kingdom and the service of the Heavenly Master, to that of the earthly. “Ye cannot serve two masters.” Did Romanism ever do more for the earthly? Where? When? How? If her alliances and service for hire has been adultery, what has ours without hire or compensation been? Then let us cease to speak of Rome as the mother of harlots, until our own garments are free from the spots of adultery produced by-our alliances with and service to the earthly kingdoms.
But to return. The spirit sees the beast carry this base woman. Rev. 17:7. It sees the different kings and kingdoms that arise, “make war with the lamb and the lamb overcome them.” 14th verse. It sees, 16th verse, these kings come to hate the base woman, “make her desolate and naked, and eat her flesh, and burn her with fire.” In other words the false church will finally be destroyed by the kingdoms with which it has formed alliances by which it has been upheld. “For God hath put into their hearts to fulfill his will and to agree and give their kingdom unto the Beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled.” Verse 17, The spirit sees the final fall of this mighty Babylon. 18th chapter, 9th verse, “the kings of the earth, who have committed fornication and lived deliciously with her, bewail her, and lament for her.” Sees 19th chapter, the purification and perfection of this virtuous woman, the true church, 7th verse, the Lamb’s marriage with her when she hath made herself ready. Sees the bride “arrayed in fine linen, clean and white, for the fine linen is the righteousness of the Saints.” The spirit sees Heaven opened. Him that is called faithful and true come forth, 16th verse, he has on his thigh a name written, King of Kings and Lord of Lords. The spirit sees “an angel stand in the sun and cry with a loud voice, saying, to all the fowls that thy in the midst of Heaven, come, and gather yourselves together unto the supper of the Great God: that ye may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of the mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, both small and great. And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army. And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped the Image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone.” The spirit sees the resurrection, the final judgment, 20th chap. – sees, 21st chap., the New Jerusalem, the happy estate of the blessed, the accursed condition of the damned, the bright glories of the heavenly land, but never sees the beast, help, or carry, or aid the virtuous woman, the Church of the true and living God.