“He [the beast from the land] performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men. And he deceives those who dwell on the earth by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who was wounded by the sword and lived.” Revelation 13:13-14
The fire from heaven, the Scriptures have already shown us, is the wrath of God against men. Fire from heaven destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, and Jesus’ disciples wished to call down fire from heaven, so that the wrath of God might consume the rejecters of Jesus. Jesus, however, rebuked His disciples, saying, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of.” The implication is that neither this desire nor this power at this point in history was of the Holy Spirit. Why? Jesus Himself explains it in the same passage: “For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them,” (Luke 9:56). Since the advent of Jesus and the completion of His work on the cross, God has been extending grace toward men, not wrath! The door to heaven is standing open! Jesus came, not to condemn the world, but so that the world might be saved through Him!
There is a time for the wrath of God, but it is not until the day of wrath and the revelation of the righteous judgment of God. As we see with our own eyes every day in the newspaper headlines, it is not now, nor has it been at any time during the past 2000 years, during the age of grace!
However, the beast from the land has not hesitated to take up the terror of the wrath of God, and wield it for the solidification of his own power and the advancement of his own purposes, all in the name of Jesus. The beast from the land, we saw, looks like Jesus but speaks the words of the Devil. This beast is the office of the papacy, and in no way has it more effectively exercised a usurped claim to the wrath of God than in the papal power of excommunication. It means little to us today, but in the days of the Holy Roman Empire (the image of the beast from the sea), the time period about which this chapter in Revelation is prophesying, excommunication resulted in the actual cursing of life in this world and (as everyone believed) the one to come:
“The prophecy found a striking fulfilment in the papal interdicts and excommunications so frequent in the Middle Ages, and not unknown in even our own day. These ebullitions of pontifical vengeance, it was pretended, were fire out of heaven: the fire of the wrath of God which the Pope had power to evoke, therewith to burn up his enemies. The blinded nations believed that in the voice of the Pope they heard the voice of God, and that the fulminations of the Vatican were the thunderings and lightnings of Divine wrath. A papal excommunication was more dreadful than the invasion of thousands of armed men. When launched against a kingdom what dismay, misery, and wailing overspread it. The whole course of life was instantly stopped. The lights were extinguished at the altar; the church doors were closed; the bells would not be tolled; marriages were celebrated in the graveyard; and the dead were buried in ditches. Men dared not make merry, for a sense of doom weighed upon their spirits. These terrible edicts pursued men into the other world, and souls arriving from the unhappy realm overhung by the papal curse found the gates of paradise shut, and had to wander forlorn till it should please the divinity of the Seven hills to lift off his sentence. Thus did the Papacy cause “fire” to come down from God out of heaven, and men, believing it to be real fire, were scorched by it.”
“To the mightiest sovereign even the papal excommunication was a dreadful affair. He shook and trembled on his throne for his army could give him no protection; it was well, indeed, if both soldiers and subjects did not unite in carrying out the papal behest by driving him from his kingdom, if some fanatic monk, by the more quick despatch of the dagger, did not save them the trouble. European history furnishes a list of more than sixty-four emperors and kings deposed by the Popes. In the number is Henry II. of England, deposed by Alexander III.; King John, by Innocent III.; Richard and Edward, by Boniface IX., Henry VIII., by Clement VII., and again by Paul III.; Elizabeth, by Pius V. … Almost all the bulls against crowned heads have contained clauses stripping them of their territories, and empowering their neighbour kings to invade and seize them; and influenced partly by a desire to serve the Pope, and partly by the greed of what was not their own, they have not been slow to act on the papal permission.”
“The Romanists themselves have chosen the very figure of the Apocalypse, “fire from heaven,” to designate the Papal excommunications and anathemas. Thus Gregory VII. spoke of the Emperor Henry IV. when excommunicated as “struck with thunder.” (Afflatum fulmino -Danburg, 587. ) To the same effect is the account of the excommunication of the Emperor Frederick by Pope Innocent at the first Council of Lyons. “These words of excommunication, uttered in the midst of the Council, struck the hearers with terror as might the flashing thunderbolts. When with candles lighted and flung down, the Lord Pope and his assistant prelates flashed their lightning-fire terribly against the Emperor Frederick, now no longer to be called emperor, his procurators and friends burst into a bitter wailing and struck the thigh or breast on that day of wrath, of calamity, and of woe!( & Harduin, vii. 401.)
The Papacy is the Anti-Christ: A Demonstration by Rev. J. A. Wylie, LL.D., 1888; pages 33-35.
To be continued …
Update: continued in Revelation 13: marked on the hand and forehead