The Church of Rome Steps Into Apostasy
Mike Gendron

Two streams of Christianity have been operating side by side for nearly 2000 years. One stream is made up of apostolic churches whose members have been hated and persecuted by the world. The other stream contains apostate churches whose members are loved by the world. These apostates follow doctrines of demons and grow worse and worse as the Day of our Lord approaches. A question that is hotly debated among evangelicals today is: which stream is the Roman Catholic Church? Is it "apostolic "as its clergy proclaims or "apostate "as its doctrines demonstrate? To answer the question let us investigate church history through the lens of the seven churches in the book of Revelation.

The letters Jesus wrote to these churches describe not only the conditions that existed in the churches at the end of the first century but also the conditions that would describe the church during different time periods in history. The seven periods of church history that are commonly identified with each church are as follows: Ephesus—33 to 100; Smyrna—100 to 316; Pergamos—316 to 615; Thyatira—615 to 1517; Sardis—1517 to 1750; Philadelphia—1750 to 1850 and Laodicea—1850 to present. It is important to note that Jesus had something against five of these churches. As we study these rebukes against each church chronologically we can see a step by step progression of the professing church into apostasy. (Note: the "professing church" is made up all who profess to be Christians, both genuine believers and those who have never been born again.)

Love of Jesus Is Forsaken

The first step into apostasy is when the church forsakes its love for Jesus, a rebuke Jesus gave to the church at Ephesus (Rev. 2:4). With the growing persecution of Christians in the 2nd and 3rd century the professing church became more concerned about their well being than their unwavering devotion to their Savior. Their minds were led astray from the purity of their devotion to Christ (2 Cor. 11:3). Thus when Constantine offered put a halt to further persecution by making Christianity the official religion of Roman Empire, the church accepted. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money...lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God (2 Tim. 3:2-4). This was hailed as a great victory for the church but ironically it was the beginning of her downward spiral into apostasy. Many believe this was the genesis of the Roman Catholic Church. After the wedding of church and state by Constantine, true believers began to come out of the apostate system.

False Teaching Is Tolerated

The second step into apostasy is when the church begins to compromise God’s word with worldly teachings and traditions, a rebuke Jesus gave to the church of Pergamum (Rev. 2:14-15). The church, which had remained doctrinally pure and been sanctified by the truth of God’s word, was now embracing paganism. The time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires (2 Tim. 4:3). In 431 AD the Roman Church declared water baptism to be efficacious in regenerating the soul. This ritual enabled pagans to enter the church without repentance or faith. "Paganism an often indulgent Church. An intimate and trustful worship of saints replaced the cult of pagan gods...Statues of Isis and Horus were renamed Mary and Jesus...incense, processions, vestments, hymns which had pleased the people in older cults were domesticated and cleansed in the ritual of the Church...the world converted Christianity."1

Sin Is Tolerated

Once a church has forsaken their love for Jesus and compromised His Word, the downward spiral continues as it begins to tolerate sin and sexual immorality. This was the rebuke Jesus gave to the church of Thyatira (Rev. 2:20-23). A major compromise by the Roman Church was to deny God’s judgment upon all sin. A new category of sin called venial was contrived that did not warrant the punishment of hell. Whenever God’s Word is perverted by man, the absolute standard for living sensibly, righteously and godly is impeached. This was evidenced by a period of blatant sexual immorality among Roman Catholic clergy from 615 to 1517 AD. By forbidding its clergy to marry (a doctrine of the devil) the church suffered through numerous sexual scandals. In the 15th century Rome had more prostitutes than any city in the world because it had more celebates.2 Papal promiscuity led to the birth of many known bastards, some of whom would later become popes themselves. Pope Pius II (1458-64) said Rome was "the only city run by bastards."3 Peter clearly communicated the rise of these false prophets: They count it a pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are stains and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, as they carouse with you, having eyes full of adultery and that never cease from sin, enticing unstable souls, having a heart trained in greed, accursed children; forsaking the right way they have gone astray, having followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness (2 Pet. 13-15).

Death Is Imminent

When a church loves the world more than Jesus, perverts God’s word and practices ungodliness and idolatry, it faces certain death. Although the church of Sardis professed the name of Jesus, it was rebuked for being spiritually dead (Rev. 3:1). So it is with the apostate Roman Catholic Church. Many Catholics profess to be Christians but have never been born of the Spirit of God. They have a form of godliness but deny the Gospel and its power to bring life to those dead in their sins (2 Tim. 3:5). Jesus offers a sobering warning for those who are Christians in name only: "many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness’" (Matt. 7:21-23).

Jesus Is Replaced

The last step into apostasy occurs when Jesus is no longer part of the Church as witnessed by the rebuke of the Laodicean church Jesus is on the outside asking to be invited back in: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him, and will dine with him, and he with Me" (Rev. 3:20). What a vivid picture this is of the Roman Catholic Church which has replaced the glorified Jesus Christ with the worship of a lifeless piece of bread. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image (Rom. 1:21-23). The Catholic Church has also replaced Jesus as the only way of salvation by declaring itself necessary for salvation4 and as the only mediator by declaring Mary the mediatrix.5 The church of Laodicea also boasted of being rich and in need of nothing yet unaware of its spiritual poverty. So it is with the Roman Church which has now become the richest institution on the face of the earth.

The Roman Catholic Church is not alone in yielding to these 5 steps of apostasy. Since the reformation there are now a number of protestant churches, denominations, seminaries and ministries in different stages of apostasy. What are we to do? Are there biblical exhortations to follow? If you are one of God’s elect worshipping in an apostate church, the message is clear: come out from their midst and be separate," says the Lord. "And do not touch what is unclean; And I will welcome you. "And I will be a father to you, And you shall be sons and daughters to Me," says the Lord Almighty (2 Cor. 6:17-18). If you are a believer in the midst of apostasy, the message is also clear: do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them (Eph. 5:11). Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds (2 John 9-11).

As we witness the great apostasy enveloping the world it is both discouraging and encouraging. It is discouraging to see so many being deceived and falling away from the true faith. However, it is encouraging to know that the great apostasy must occur before the Lord Jesus returns to take His church home to heaven (2 Thess. 2:3).


1. Will Durant, The Story of Civilization (Simon and Schuster, 1950)
2. Ibid
3. Dave Hunt, A Woman Rides the Beast (Harvest House, 1994)
4. Catechism of the Catholic Church (Ignatius Press, 1994), para. 846
5. Ibid, para. 969

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