The setting up of the image of the beast is not something that happens without cause. Rather it is the result of the outworking of certain steps and certain decisions that have been made along the way, and is the logical and inescapable culmination of those steps. It is something to which the church and the state, having set their feet in certain paths, must of necessity come to in the end.

For us who are called upon by God to be faithful Bible students it is not enough to know that the image is to be set up and to know what is involved in the setting up of that image. We must know how it comes to be set up. We must understand as far as it is revealed and as far as it is possible for the human mind aided by the Spirit of God to understand the outworking of the very principles that lead up to this situation. It is an important part of the study of prophecy.

What was it then that led to the setting up of the beast in the first case and to the setting up of the image of that beast in the second case? Inasmuch as the setting up of the beast is the result of the outworking of certain forces and the setting up of the image is the same result except at a later date, then it follows that the same forces that resulted in the setting up of the beast must have been again at work to set up the repetition of that beast in the image of it. Therefore to understand that which is yet to be we must study carefully that which has already been and can be clearly seen.

That then is the question, and the answer is given to us in language clear and plain. "It was apostasy that led the early church to seek the aid of the civil government, and this prepared the way for the development of the papacy, the beast. Said Paul, 'There shall come a falling away... and that man of sin shall be revealed.' 2 Thess.2:3. So apostasy in the church will prepare the way for the image of the beast." G.C.443,444.

Now, why is it that the setting up of the beast and then of the image is the natural and inevitable consequence of the apostasy?


The word apostasy or falling away means to fall away, or to depart from the truth of God. This is only to fall away from the power of God and thus to leave the church powerless. To be powerless means to be without any ability to accomplish anything at all. This then means that the church has lost all right of existence when it has come to this place where she has nothing at all to attract the people, and she finds herself drifting more and more into insignificance. Therefore, the church must seek another power to attract the people other than the power of God. But what other power was there? There was only one other power and that was the power of force. If the people would not of themselves come to the churches and support them then they must be forced to come.

But the power of force rested not in the hands of the church. The state was the custodian of that. Therefore it followed that by some means or the other the church must win the support of the state until they could finally control it and use it to force the people to do exactly what they wanted them to do.

There could be no other possible outcome than this. It was the inevitable step by step development of it all. And it was not a sudden thing. No apostasy or the result of it is ever sudden. It is a process. And inasmuch as that power is firmly held in the possession of the secular authorities who have been put in the world to rule those who cannot rule themselves, it follows that the church must gain the control of the State in order to control the power of the State. And when that is accomplished, then the beast is formed.


It is important for our future study to spend a little space in the study of the development of the original Sunday law which is, in other words, the study of the development of the control of the church over the people by the force of the power of the State.

The time had come when the churches so lacked the power of God that they could no longer attract the people at all and on the Sunday, and special feast days, the priests found that the people would rather work than come to church. This would never do, for not only was it a serious blow to their pride and prestige, but a decided threat to their livelihood. Having in the meantime gained great favor and power with the Emperor they went to him and secured the law that forbade all work on the first day of the week. Neander in his history of the Christian Religion and Church, vol.2. section 3, part 2, div.3, pa. 4, records the fact in these words, "By a law of the year 386, these older changes effected by the Emperor Constantine were more rigorously enforced; and, in general, civil transactions of every kind on Sunday were strictly forbidden. Whosoever transgressed was to be considered, in fact, guilty of sacrilege."

"As a direct result of this law, there soon appeared an evil which, under the circumstances and in the logic of the case, called for further legislation in the same direction. The law forbade all work. But as the people had no such religion as would cause hem to devote the day to pious and moral exercises, the effect of the law was only to enforce idleness. Enforced idleness only multiplied opportunity for dissipation. The natural consequences was that the circuses and the theatres throughout the empire were crowded every Sunday." A.T. Jones, Great Empires of Prophecy, p.488.

What to do now? The answer was simple. Having entered upon this wrong path there was nothing left to do but to go further along that path and accordingly they worked till they had a law that closed the theatres on the Sunday. At the council of Carthage in June A.D.401, the following canon was enacted: "Canon 5. On Sundays and feast days, no plays may be performed." This they carried to the Emperor Honorious and requested that he pass this into law. "The church members had not enough religion or love of right to do what they professed to believe was right, therefore, the State was asked to take away from them all opportunity to do wrong; then they would be Christians! Satan himself could be that kind of Christian in that way, and he would be the devil still." Ibid, 490.

In 425 this came into law and the priests were now confident that the churches were to be filled with a people who, not being permitted by law to work on the Sunday or to play either would now come to church. But again they were disappointed for the people would rather do nothing at all than come to the church which held nothing for them. Accordingly they rested at home on the Sunday and the church was as empty as ever.

"In the logic of this theory there was one more step to be taken. To see how logically it came about, let us glance at the steps taken from the first one to this point: First, the church had all work on Sunday forbidden, in order that the people might attend to things divine; work was forbidden, that the people might worship. But the people would not worship; they went to the circuses and to the theatres instead of to church. Then the church had laws enacted closing the circuses and the theatres, in order that the people might attend church. But even then the people would not be devoted, nor attend church, for they had no real religion. The next step to be taken therefore, in the logic of the situation was to compel them to be devoted, to compel them to attend to things divine. This was the next step logically to be taken, and it was taken. The theocratical bishops were equal to the occasion. They exactly met the demands of the case; and one of the grandest of the Catholic Fathers and Catholic saints was the father of this Catholic saintly theory. He wrote:

"It is indeed better that men should be brought to serve God by instruction than by fear of punishment or by pain. But because the former means are better, the latter must not therefore be rejected.... Many must be often brought back to their Lord, like wicked servants, by the rod of temporal sufferings, before they attain the highest grade of religious development." Augustine, Ibid, p.491.


And in this fashion and along this course of development, which step by step was the only possible outcome in the nature of the situation as it stood, came the development of the beast in the early days of the Christian dispensation. Of course the majority of people who before did not have enough religion to take them to church now went, for they did not have enough religion in them either to discern the nature of this force to offer any resistance to it.

But now the true people of God began to find themselves in difficulty. They could obey a civil law that forbade work on the first day of the week, and the law that forbade them from going to the circuses and the theatres did not touch them either, but when a law came into being that demanded that they worship on the false sabbath, then they found that they had to disobey that law.

So they found themselves suffering the civil penalties of breaking a law that the church had caused the State to enact in the selfish interests of a church which, having lost the power of God, had no right to even exist as a church. And when the church found that such punishments as were inflicted did not cause the true ones to waver and to obey, then, in the ultimate, they brought in the death decree and as history attests, they slew with savage and heartless cruelty the thousands who would not yield but would obey God rather than man no matter what the price might be.

Such was the history of the setting up of the beast. "It was apostasy that led the early church to seek the aid of the civll government and this prepared the way for the development of the papacy." G.C.443.

Thus it was with the setting up of the beast an so will it be in the setting up of the image to the beast. The one is a matter of the past, but the other is yet in the future and terrible will be the repetition of this thing.

In the historical word we have the story of the rise of the beast. In the Prophetic word we have the story of the rise of the image. It is time to spend a little time and space on the story of the rise of the image. This will be the subject of the next chapter in this series.

Advent Believer

[This message has been edited by adventbeliever (edited February 13, 2001).]