In his 2015 encyclical, Laudato Si’, Pope Francis dwelt extensively on the need to preserve the environment, in particular pointing to climate change as a problem that needed to be urgently addressed. He went on to link the problem to the human abuse of the environment by mostly market-driven capitalist countries. In the same year –marked by the unprecedented Pontiff’s address of the Joint Session of the US Congress and the United Nations General Assembly– the Pope urged world leaders to prioritize climate change through international environmental treaties with penalties for those who would fail to comply. Urging leaders to come together for common good, he remarked “International negotiations cannot make significant progress due to positions taken by countries which place their national interests above the global common good.” (Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’ of the Holy Father Francis on the Care of our Common Home, paragraph # 169). And as part of the solution to ‘preserve the planet’ the Pope also urged Sunday as a day of rest for the environment, for families to strengthen ties and to give the poor a reprieve from the dehumanizing cycle of capitalist life.
In September 2019, the Pope issued an invite to world leaders to a summit scheduled for Rome on the 14th May 2020, to sign a global pact to ‘re-educate’ the young on the need to take care of the environment. In the video-recorded invitation, which encompasses leaders in government, business, sports, and virtually all the influential areas of life; the pontiff makes a plea for all peoples and religions of the world to make an alliance to work for the preservation of our ‘common home’, the earth. It is uncertain whether the summit will proceed as scheduled in light of the current COVID-19 disease outbreak. However, it is interesting to note that the Pope has also described the Covid-19 outbreak as being possibly nature’s ‘revenge’ to climate change. He then emphasizes on the need to slow down on production and consumption, and to focus more on understanding and contemplating the natural world.
While preserving the environment is certainly a noble goal, Bible students should be on the wary when religions and world governments make advancement in clasping hands towards a common purpose. Historically, when religions have obtained the consent and power of the state, the results have not been pleasant. In the majority of the cases, the church has used the power of the state to further her ends resulting in intolerance and persecution of those of unpopular and different religious persuasion. And the Scriptures declare that such a situation will exist just prior to the second coming of Christ in power and glory.
The Word of God points us to a threefold union of secular and religious powers in the last days that will combine to enforce a false religious institution and oppress God’s true worshipers. In the book of Revelation, John beholding in vision writes “And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs coming out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.” Revelation 16:13. The Roman Catholic Papacy has a sordid and well-documented history of uniting church and state leading to persecution of dissenters from her faith. The book of Revelation identifies the Papal institution as the beast that arises from the sea (Revelation 13:1), continues for a period of 42 months (1260 literal years) during which it blasphemes God and persecutes the saints of the Most High (Revelation 13:5, Daniel 7:20-25; 8:9-12,24). This is a reference to the papacy’s ascent to power in 538 AD, both as a religious and secular entity, following the emperor Justinian’s decree recognizing the bishop of Rome (the Pope) as head of church and state; up until 1798 when the papacy became weakened, lost control of world governments and the reigning pope at that time was taken captive by the French General Berthier and died in exile in France.
However, Scripture tells that the papacy will regain its lost supremacy in the last days and will re-enact the scenes of persecution as in the dark ages. The apostle John, referring to the same sea-beast writes “And I saw one of his heads as if it had been mortally wounded, and his deadly wound was healed. And all the world marveled and followed the beast.” Revelation 13:3. As in the past the, the book of Revelation reveals that the papal institution will make use of world governments to advance her ends. In the same chapter of Revelation John beholds a second beast arising from the land and this would cause the world to worship the image of the first beast, the papacy. “Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon” Revelation 13:11. He continues, referring to the same land beast “He was granted power to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak and cause not worship the image of the beast to be killed.” Revelation 13:3. The land beast which arises from the earth, pointing to an uninhabited area (Revelation 17:15), and has two horns like a lamb, showing innocence, can only and unmistakably refer to the United States of America which around 1798 was rising to become a world super power.
So in the final days, according to Scripture, the papacy will gain the agency of the United States and other secular governments and through these will enforce her mark on the world inhabitants. A third element in this threefold union is the false prophet according to Revelation 16:13 and this will perform signs and wonders to deceive nations and cause them to worship the first beast. This points to the fallen Protestant charismatic movement with its emphasis on emotional religion, earthly prosperity and miracles. This element will also unite with secular governments and the papacy to enforce false worship. Fortunately however, not all will be misled, there will be a group that will gain “victory over the beast, over his image and over his mark and over the number of his name” Revelation 15:2. This same group is also described as “ they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus” Revelation 14:12. It is your privilege today, by faith, to accept Jesus as your Saviour and through His power to obey His commandments, and someday you will be among those who overcame the beast, his image and his mark; and instead worshiped the Lamb who is forever worthy to receive praise.