A preamble to explain the title and why I am using it. First, I’m more or less Augustinian which means in last things (eschatology) I am an amillenialist (as compared to the various pre/post-millenialists). What that really means is that I read the book of Revelation’s images as cyclical symbols. All these things take place during the time of the church which itself is the millennium. I am not looking for the perfect kingdom and the reign of Christ on earth outside the church before the new heavens and the new earth.
One of those symbols is the false prophet or the second beast. John introduces this symbol first as the second beast in Revelation 13:11-18. The beast is referred to as the false prophet in Revelation 19:20. This is the work of the false prophet: a) makes the earth worship the 1st beast (which has historically been taken as a symbol of political power), b) deceives the inhabitants of the earth by a great show, c) gives breath (i.e. spirit) to the political beast and d) marks those who are able to participate in the market. The ultimate goal of the false prophet is to turn the worship of people from the true God to anything infernal. He will do this by: simple deceit, conversion to a false spirit or as a last resort persecution for those who don’t conform through loss of material goods (or perceived material goods). There have been and probably will be more false prophets through the ages until Christ returns. As Jesus said, many will come saying “I am the Christ” (Luke 21:8-9).
Knowing this, we Christians should be able to do just what Jesus says, “don’t go after them”.
All that for this. Here is a link about a Good Friday Service spoken at by Episcopal Bishop (Ret.) John Spong. Some excerpts from his sermon…
Spong argued that Jesus could say “I and the father are one” only because he was inviting his disciples “to enter a mystical reality of divine human oneness.”…Spong quickly targeted the church’s historic councils and creeds…John’s Jesus is not about saving sinners and rescuing the lost. It is about moving beyond self-consciousness to universal consciousness…“She [Mary] is there as a symbol of transition from Judaism while the Beloved Disciple is a symbol of new consciousness,” Spong interpreted. “See God as universal and embrace all human differences. These are Jewish gifts to the world,” the Bishop added, naming race, gender, and sexual orientation as the differences to be embraced. “Christianity has not embraced this fact, but it will, and it must”…Spong also attacked atonement theology, dismissing blood washing away sins as an “evangelical mantra” and a “barbaric theology” that turns God into an ogre…John’s Gospel would never say ‘Jesus died for my sins’…As evolving creatures, the problem is not that we have fallen, but that we are not yet fully human.”…We are not sinners, the church got that wrong, we are rather incomplete human beings.”
I don’t think you could get a more complete picture of the words and tactics of the false prophet. Simple deceit – “the reality of divine human oneness” – check. Conversion to a false spirit – “Jesus is not about saving sinners…but moving beyond self-consciousness to universal consciousness.” – check. Threats of being made to conform and worship of the political beast – “naming race, fender and sexual orientation as differences to be embraced. Christianity has not embraced this fact…and it must.” – check. It is not that there aren’t good half truths in there, it is that those truths are reached for outside of Christ’s work for us. Spong wants nothing to do with Christ himself. We can speak of divine human oneness only when we are talking of being conformed to Christ, being sanctified by word and sacrament, by receiving and being part of the body of Christ. We can talk about moving beyond self-consciousness not in a work of moving beyond it but in Spirit enabled willful submission to Christ. A losing of our lives in order to find it eternally in Christ, not some vague universal consciousness. We can talk about embracing differences, but not as good things in themselves, but as part of God’s good creation that God wishes to repent and live.
The pastor of that church should be ashamed for letting the devil have his pulpit on Good Friday non-the-less. Irenaeus tells a little story about the Apostle John meeting a gnostic (like Spong) named Cerinthus in the public baths of Ephesus. Says Polycarp through Irenaeus, “John ran screaming from the baths lest they fall, for the enemy of truth is within.” Christians need to learn to recognize the false prophet, the enemy of truth within, and not to go after them. Days are coming when that will make eternal difference.
Note – the image is an icon of the good shepherd, the exact opposite of the false prophet.