"April 2, 2005 brought the I passing of Pope John Paul II. t The outpouring of sympathy ( and respect was nothing short *J *of phenomenal! It was if the I world stood still to pay tribute I to the most popular and most c traveled pope of any in the I Roman Catholic Church’s r history. Three American I presidents knelt at the body of i the pontiff offering prayers in , his behalf. 18,000 mourners I per hour moved pass the ( beloved Papa as Rome’s I population doubled during the funeral proceedings.
As the masses and media, riveted their attention upon, the death of John Paul one; couldn’t help but think of Revelation 13:3 that says, “all , the world wondered after the. beast.” John Paul II’s reign’ brought the Catholic Church to world prominence as no other time since the Dark Ages. He was the *PR Pope. *His charisma and integress life won the affections and admiration of an entire planet. The world took notice of this Pope and his pontificate and couldn’t ignore it. So popular was John Paul that former US President, Bill Clinton, once quipped “I am glad I am not having to run against him!”
Then came John Paul’s successor, the former Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, who took the title Benedict XVI only three days after his 78th birthday. Ratzinger was the right hand man of John Paul, hand picked in 1981 , for the purpose of towing the doctrinal line. As Cardinal he was head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and he was unafraid of welding his power and had removed many liberal priests from office. Andrew Sullivan, writing an essay about Ratzinger in TIME magazine, correctly entitled the piece, “The Vicar of Orthodoxy.” The title couldn’t be better. Benedict XVI is the *Policy Pope. *He is and will continue to be an advocate for the conservative stance in Catholicism. This staunch-for-the-faith man reveals that indeed, “The Roman Church is unchanged.” and “The papal church will never relinquish her claim to infallibility.” (GC 571,564) And more to the point, “Let the restraints now imposed by secular governments be removed and Rome be reinstated in her former power, and there would speedily be a revival of her tyranny and persecution.” (Ibid)
But is Benedict XVI the final pope as some in the church believe and teach? Here we must have wisdom and tread this path gingerly. There is a belief that has floated around for years that the seven heads (mountains, kings) of the beast in Revelation 17 gives us a succession of popes since the papacy’s reinstatement in 1929. The conclusion by those that hold this view is that this present pope is the seventh since he is, in fact, the seventh pope since 1929. In other words, Benedict XVI is the last pope before Jesus comes.
I want to say up front, and kindly so, that this kind of reasoning is just another species of “time setting” that we are to avoid at all costs. God’s people must be exceedingly careful that we don’t become “tabloid” (the idea that every sensational media covered event somehow fulfills prophecy) interpreters of prophecy. Superficial readings and renderings of meaning in the book of Revelation is a dangerous practice that can lead, and has led to, all sorts of heretical errors. Be careful not to fall for this Revelation 17 belief that the seven heads are popes. It doesn’t hold up to close and careful scrutiny.
I have received an excellent short essay by Jon Paulien Professor of New Testament at AndrewsUniversity, perhaps the foremost authority on the book of Revelation in the AdventistChurch. I will gladly give anyone who desires a copy of this biblically based essay. Just call me or e-mail me and I will send a copy your way. When you read this study on Revelation you quickly see how superficial renderings of the chapter are insufficient for coming to correct conclusions about its meaning.
Certainly the recent change in the Papal leadership reveals a *prophetic trend. *The Catholic Church is enjoying an influence upon the masses like no other time in history. The Papacy holds tremendous power among nations. The world stage is being set every day for the final events that we are told will be rapid ones. Continue to read, pray and cautiously come to conclusions about prophetic fulfillment. Above all, when studying the book of Revelation, remember that it is the unveiling of Jesus Christ first and foremost. Let the image of His glory captivate your imagination and affections becoming more transformed into His likeness. As you do this, the meaning of Revelation and all of last day prophecies will become better understood and more soundly grounded providing a solid anchor hold in these tumultuous times."