The false doctrines that have led to the fallen condition of Babylon developed slowly and were perfected during the Middle Ages. The Protestant Reformation made major progress in overturning these errors, accepting righteousness by faith alone and the sole authority of the scriptures, and rejecting some of the worst of these doctrines, such as the mass, the priesthood, the doctrines of confession and penance, the worship of the saints and the authority of the pope and tradition. But despite this, the Book of Revelation teaches that end-time Babylon is much broader and inclusive than just the Roman Catholic Church. The title on the forehead of the great harlot is “The Mother of Harlots,” indicating that she has daughters which share in her characteristics.

Certainly the Eastern Orthodox Church, although it has been at odds with the papacy for a millennium, shares almost all of her doctrines and practices. Furthermore, nearly all the Protestant churches have retained some of the Catholic doctrines that constitute the wine of Babylon, such as the immortality of the soul, eternal hell, consciousness in death, rejection of the Seventh-day Sabbath, feasts of pagan origin, and infant baptism. Even though they have these points in common, the Protestant Churches since the time of the reformers have staunchly refused to enter into communion and fellowship with the Roman Catholic Church. But according to scripture this will change, and in fact it is changing right before our eyes, as more and more Protestants and Catholics are cooperating for common social and political agendas, and even worshiping together.

What is the “glue” that is allowing Protestants and Catholics to stick together despite their still considerable doctrinal differences? One of the major factors is the hyper-polarization of politics and the politicization of the church. Politics have become like team sports, with extreme partisanship and fierce rivalry that transcends the political issues, and the church has gotten caught up in this. The Catholic Church has always pushed for cooperation or even union with the state to further its agenda, but as a minority in America they have needed allies. In recent decades Eveangelical Christians have also sought to influence the state on issues that are important to them such as opposition to abortion, and have found Catholics to be powerful and effective partners. Catholics and Protestants find themselves on the same "team," and these political alliances could easily evolve into the persecuting image to the beast and ultimately Babylon during the chaos and stress of the time of trouble.

Another factor is Pentecostalism,[1] a movement that has swept around the world, both in Protestant and Catholic churches. Doctrinal differences are minimized because it is an experience-oriented movement that emphasizes music, drama, speaking in tongues, personal prophecy; in other words, the worship experience. Those who share in emotional worship feel that they have unity of the Spirit, so division on the basis of doctrine seems to be a denial of the Spirit’s moving and presence in the lives of their fellow worshipers, no matter what their denominational persuasion may be.

Although many Pentecostal churches are Bible based and have few differences with other Evangelical churches, there are others that make the “gifts of the Spirit” the main focus of their faith and worship. Pentecostalism has crossed all denominational barriers, and in fact has been a much more unifying force than the ecumenical movement, which is based on attempts to resolve doctrinal disagreements.

Unfortunately, it is a unity based on unscriptural elements. Speaking in tongues, for example, is found in many non-Christian religions, which shows that it is not necessarily generated by the Holy Spirit. A study of recordings of tongues by linguists has shown that it is not a known language, nor does it have the linguistic components of a true language.[2] This is in contrast to the gift of tongues as recorded in the book of Acts, which was definitely a language that could be understood by the hearers.[3] Some Pentecostals, faced with this reality, have claimed that the gift of tongues is a “heavenly language,” but there is no scriptural evidence that the speaking of a heavenly language was ever a part of the experience of the early church.[4] Apparently “speaking in tongues” (not the biblical gift, but as practiced today in Pentecostal churches) is a human capability that can be learned through modeling and coaching. As such it is not necessarily “of the devil.” The problem arises when it is considered to be a “direct line to God” that does not have to be submitted to the body of Christ and the Word of God for confirmation.[5]

Likewise, personal prophecies, in which Christians who possess the “gift of prophecy” give “messages from God” to their fellow believers, often do not pass the scriptural test, which is that the predicted event must come to pass.[6] It is not at all uncommon for personal prophecies or a “word of knowledge” to fail to come to pass in the Pentecostal Churches, which is not surprising since those with the “gift” often take it very casually, not realizing how serious it is to speak in the name of the Lord.

This is not to say that those who speak in tongues or give personal prophecies are wicked people or are possessed by an evil spirit; to the contrary, they are often sincere Christians who are simply following the teaching and traditions of their churches. However, the unscriptural aspects of the Pentecostal movement can be used by the devil[7] and are fast becoming the common elements that bind disparate Christian denominations together into what will become the final manifestation of Babylon.

Continue to next section: 18:4,5 COME OUT OF HER MY PEOPLE

[1] Pentecostalism is considered to have originated at the Azuza Temple in Los Angeles in 1906, although most of the elements, including speaking in tongues, were present in some churches much earlier. Speaking in tongues was very much of a fringe phenomena, confined to fundamentalist “holy roller” churches until the 1970’s when the Pentecostal worship style, combined with contemporary music, took over the “Jesus” movement.

[2] See Gerhard Hasel, Speaking in Tongues, 1994, Adventist Theological Society Publications.

[3] Acts 2:6-11. Luke makes it a point to name the many different languages that were spoken. This, along with Acts 10:46 (“They heard them speak with tongues and magnify God”) are scriptural examples in which it is possible to see the characteristics of the gift of tongues. In later instances in the book of Acts Peter either said that the gift was given in the same way as at Pentecost (ie. foreign languages, Acts 10:44-46, 11:15-17) or the nature of the gift was not specified (Acts 19:4-6). In 1 Corinthians 12-14 there are verses which support both foreign languages and an unknown prayer language. But a basic principle of scriptural interpretation is that clear passages should be used to explain unclear ones.

[4] Obviously the “tongues” spoken at Pentecost was not a heavenly language—the Greek word for tongues (“They…began to speak in tongues” Acts 2:4) is plural, showing that they were not speaking one heavenly language but many earthly languages (and the passage goes on to list the many languages spoken). It is true that Paul said, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love…” (ICorinthians 13:1), but this is just the first of a list of hypothetical, “ultimate” spiritual experiences which Paul himself did not have. For example, he did not “understand all mysteries and all knowledge” (v.2, compare 1 Corinthians 13:9) or have “all faith” (v.2, compare 2 Corinthians1:8) nor did he bestow all his goods to feed the poor (v.3, compare 2 Timothy 4:15) or give his body to be burned (v.3, compare Acts 25:11). Actually, a careful study of 1 Corinthians 12-14 shows that Paul was confronting the same problem that is present in Pentecostal churches today: 1) an insistence that the gift of tongues should be present in every believer who has been “baptized by the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:7-11, 30, 14:1,2,12) 2) a failure to give a message which edifies the church, but instead edifying themselves by publicly displaying their “gift” (1 Corinthians 14:4-6, 12, 16, 19, 26), 3) a confusing, disorderly service which is repulsive to unbelievers (1 Corinthians 14:16, 22, 23, 27,33,40). Although there are a few verses which could be interpreted as supporting unintelligible, ecstatic speech (1 Corinthians14:2, 9,14), Paul speaks of them negatively and they do not overturn the clear teaching of Acts 2:6-11. Although 1 Corinthians 14 is the favorite “tongues” passage, most of the verses support tongues as a foreign language that can be interpreted and understood (1 Corinthians 14:5,9-11,13). At any rate, if Pentecostal churches today carefully followed the worship guidelines given in 1 Corinthians 14:26-40 there would be none of the noisy, hyper-ecstatic services that characterize some Pentecostal churches.

[5] Jeremiah devotes nearly a whole chapter (Jeremiah 23:9-40) to false prophets in Israel who “speak a vision of their own heart” (v. 16). His message is summarized in vs. 31,32, verses which are very relevant today: “Behold, I am against the prophets’, says the Lord, ‘who use their tongues and say, ‘He says’. Behold, I am against those who prophesy false dreams’ says the Lord, ‘and tell them, and cause My people to err by their lies and by their recklessness. Yet I did not send them or command them; therefore they shall not profit this people at all’ says the Lord”.

[6] “The prophet who presumes to speak a word in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die. And if you say in your heart, ‘How shall we know the word which the Lord has not spoken?’—when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken: the prophet has spoken it presumptuously” ( Deuteronomy 18:20-22).

[7] There may be some validity to the idea that the deceptive activity of the beast from the earth (apostate American Protestantism, see 13:13,14 Fire from Heaven) is modern extreme Pentecostalism. The verse “He 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” brings to mind the day of Pentecost. “Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues” (Acts 2:3,4). The prophecy of Joel, which Peter quoted that day (Acts 2:16-21), obviously in its context has a last-days application, so Pentecost will be repeated. It would be just like Satan to counterfeit what he knows is coming in order to prevent many from receiving the true blessing.