Chapter Nineteen: Revelation, Idolatry, and the Third Millennium

The Church Now Enters its Third Millennium

Look back in history two millennia to the Apostolic Church. The Early Church almost 2000 years ago labored to keep itself free from false images to represent Christ. As the church quickly spread across the Roman world, that first church communicated the Gospel without using false images of Christ. In word and deed it did communicate the knowledge of Christ to pagans who otherwise thought of deity in images. That church established forever the precedent and the success of preaching the Word while rejecting dead images. That early church demonstrated Christian missions and Christian education at their finest: teaching people the knowledge of the living God, establishing them in the biblical faith.

Look back into history one millennium to the Catholic Church. The church of 1000 A.D. (at the end of the first Christian millennium) failed to stand up against idolatry at that time. Pictures were the books—the “Bible”—of the people. Those pictures kept the people in ignorance about God (while at the same time making them feel enlightened about). Image-worship was the official worship in those days. An intermediary priesthood and intermediary rituals were developed to use the intermediary images. Image users felt enlightened, but those were the Dark Ages.

Look ahead to the third millennium of the church. The church at the beginning of the third millennium will follow either the First Order precedent given by the apostles who rejected false pictures of Christ, or by default it will follow the Second Order image-using church of the Dark Ages.

At the present time the church universally follows the Second Order of Christianity—the order that started with representative images, then developed a representative order of mediatory priests who serve under the authority of the man who is called the vice-regent of Christ. Protestants and Catholics now both teach the world to think of God in terms of mediatory pictures. They are blind to any other way.

The church is teaching the world to think monistically of the God of the Bible, making the Creator to be no different than a created being. Evangelism that uses monistic pictures of “Christ” thereby confirms the world’s monistic concepts of God, making the church defenseless against all other monistic religions and faiths that rule the world.

The present generation is not only passing the monistic torch to the church of the third millennium, the present church is the church of the third millennium. The more a man seeks “Christ” in the present age, the more the church gives him pictures which he assumes are legitimate representations of Christ. Pictures make the most devout people become the most image-using, the most idolatrous.

Coming persecution may drive Protestants more to “Christ.” But is “Christ” anything other than a picture to Protestants? Prayers are directed mentally toward a “Christ” that looks like the pictures. Is this not idolatry?

Because this book traces the ages-long battle between iconodules (image-users) and iconoclasts (image-breakers), it is appropriate to end this book by observing how the idolatry battle is described in Revelation. Who wins?

The book of Revelation is located at the end of the Bible. It summarizes—often in a symbolic way—major themes of the Bible, showing the triumph of Christ over this evil, idolatrous world. The battle between God and idolatry is an especially prominent theme in Revelation. Here are some practical applications of this theme in Revelation. While no one can expect everyone else to agree with his own interpretation of the symbols in Revelation, nevertheless, the following three principles do seem obvious:

Idolatry Will Be Nearly Universal Before the End

The following passage pictures mankind committed to idolatry—so committed to idolatry that when plagues come, the survivors focus their attention more intently on their idols.
By these three was the third part of men killed, by the fire, and by the smoke, and by the brimstone...

And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk:... (Rev. 9:18,20)
When a third of the population is killed for its wickedness, the remainder does not repent of idolatry and its related sins. People go desperately to their idols in this time.

This pictures what happens today when people think they are turning to Christ; the church then gives them images to represent Christ. People turn to the images, thinking they are turning to Christ. For instance, when the U.S.S.R. collapsed and its people were ready to turn to Christ, the western church rushed in with images to represent Christ, images to interpret the Bible into monistic categories. The same thing happens on mission fields of Asia, Africa and South America. Missionaries give the people pictures to represent Christ and the people accept these pictures as Christ. The same thing happens in the Sunday schools of North America. Teachers give children pictures to represent Christ, and the children accept these pictures as Christ.

The more that people turn to pictures called “pictures of Christ,” the more they turn to what the Bible defines as idols. If we are approaching the time described in the Book of Revelation, or if now is the time described in the Book of Revelation, we should not be surprised to see universal image worship—in fact, we should be surprised not to see it now.

Religious Leadership Will Deceive People Into Idolatry
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 his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone. (Rev. 19:20. See also references to the false prophet in Rev. 16:13 and Rev. 20:10)
Revelation shows that the people are deceived into image worship. Deceived, of course, means they think they are doing one thing, when they actually are doing something else. Image-worshipers don’t think they are image-worshipers. They think they worship God through the image.

Deception is no new theme in the Bible. In Old Testament times people who used images to worship God were a deceived people, too. Idol worshippers usually are deceived people, doing one thing but thinking they are doing something else, i.e., literally worshiping the symbol when they think they are symbolically worshiping God.

A “false prophet” will deceive the world into worshiping the beast and the image of the beast. The prophet will be false, but the world will not recognize that he is false. False prophets may be sincere—but sincerely wrong. False prophets may not think they are false. The world would reject a prophet who served notice that he was false. Nobody follows a prophet who says he is false. But this prophet persuades the world to worship images. In this way the book of Revelation shows how deception about God may be nearly universal at the end of the age before Christ returns.

Idolatry Will Focus on One Particular Image
they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, (Rev. 14:11).
Revelation warns that the world will be worshiping the image of the beast. The identity of the symbolic “beast” is not known. Will the beast wear beast’s clothing (“I am the beast!”), or sheep’s clothing (“I am a Christian!”), or Shepherd’s clothing (“I am Christ,” or “I represent Christ!”)? The beast deceptively may wear Shepherd’s clothing, and persuade the world that it is Christ, or the true representative of Christ. Reformation leaders, seeing the idolatry in the church, said this beast was the Roman church or the pope (who called himself “the vice-regent of Christ”). But times have changed, and the modern Protestant churches use images as much as do the Catholics.


Are we not today living in tragic days of false christs and deception? The safest way to avoid idolatry and its consequences is to avoid letting any false image stand in Christ’s place in our minds. This includes false image that would stand mentally in Christ’s place as a representation of Him. This means the church should disciple itself to avoid false images of Christ—avoid them like the abomination of desolation standing in the holy place.