The Counterfeit Church


The Counterfeit Church

December 9th, 1962 @ 10:50 AM

And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon. And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men, And deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live. And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed. And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.
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Dr. W. A. Criswell

Revelation 13:11-18

12-09-62     10:50 a.m.



On the radio, you’re sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas.  This is the pastor bringing the 11:00 o’clock morning message entitled, Counterfeit Church, a message on counterfeit religion.  In our preaching through the Bible after these many years, we have come to the Apocalypse.  And in our preaching through the Revelation, now these two years, we have come to chapter 13.  And last Sunday, at this hour, we spoke of the false prophet, the second beast which is described beginning at verse 11.  And this morning, we are going to speak of the religion of the false prophet, which I have called the Counterfeit Church.  In the Book of the Revelation, chapter 13, verse 11:


And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, but he spake like a dragon. 

And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast,

And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men. 

And he deceiveth them that dwell on the earth, by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast;

saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast,

And he had power to give life unto the image, that the image of the beast should both speak and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed. 

And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: 

And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name, or the number of the name of the beast. 

Here is wisdom.  Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is six hundred threescore and six – 666,+

[Revelation 13:11-18]


And last Sunday, we spoke of these things.  And this Sunday, we are going to speak of the religion of this false prophet.  In the sixteenth chapter, in the nineteenth chapter and in the twentieth chapter of this Revelation, this second beast is called the false prophet.

The chapter begins with John standing on the sand of the sea, and out of the raging waters he sees a monster arise from the deep.  That is, out of the social chaos and the social turmoil of the nations, the boiling social revolutions, the volcanic eruptions of social life, national, political life, he sees this monster rise.  And that is a picture of the last political government of this earth that is headed up in an ultimate and final antichrist. 

Then John saw another beast, and this one arises out of the earth.  As the first one arises out of anarchy and chaos and social revolution, the raging waters of the sea of humanity, the second one arises out of the earth.  That is, out of civilized, ordered, social government.  And this second beast is the sovereign head of the great and ultimate and final religious system of this earth. 

The Bible everywhere and especially in the Revelation, the Bible says, and all of these things are corroborated in human history, the Word of God reveals that the earth will move toward political unity.  In the last days, even the ten kingdoms into which this whole earth is divided in its national life, even those ten kingdoms will give their sovereignty and their power and their might to that ultimate and final sovereign.  The earth, the Bible says, moves toward one political unit.  And the same Scriptures say that this earth moves toward religious unity.  The development of religious life in this world will be more and more to get together – to combine, to be together – until finally, in this ultimate consummation, all of the religious systems of this world will be headed up in one beast, one monster, one false prophet. 

Now, he describes this false prophet.  "I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he looked like a lamb.  He looked like a lamb, but he spoke like a dragon" [Revelation 13:11].  He looked like a lamb; but actually, he was the mouthpiece and spokesman for the Dragon.  That is the same kind of a thing as you read in Little Red Riding Hood.  That a big, bad wolf is dressed in her grandmother’s garment, and he is sleeping in Grand momma’s bed.  But when Little Red Riding Hood looks at him, he speaks like a wolf, and he has got teeth like a wolf.  And she asks him, "Where did you get those teeth?  Where did you get those eyes and all of those things?"  In Grand momma’s garments, but he is a wolf – just like this: he looks like a lamb, looks like a lamb, but he speaks like a dragon. 

Now, you cannot have government without religious devotion.  That is true of even a Communist government.  They make a religion out of their devotion to materialism and to blasphemy and to atheism.  And without that trust and that march of religious, fanatical devotion, the system could not live.  There has to be a great religious fervor that lies back of any system that obtains or that endures.  So the false governmental leader must have a religion.  The antichrist must have a religion, and the false prophet supplies it.  And he does it through a "counterfeit church," through counterfeit religion. 

Now, we are going to stop an exegesis there, and from now on I am going to speak of the counterfeit church.  I am going to speak of the religion of this false prophet.  There are several things that characterize the counterfeit church and its counterfeit religion.  The first is that it says what the world wants to hear said.  It pleases itching ears of the church, of the world, and its ministers to its desire to hear what it wants to hear. 

I could not think of a better illustration of that than the story of Micaiah.  When Ahab said to Jehoshaphat, "Let us go up against Ramoth-Gilead; it belongs to us; let us take it out of the hands of the Syrians," Jehoshaphat said, "Before we go, let us call the prophets together and ask them whether it is wise, whether God will bless the war or not."  So Ahab gathered together four hundred of his prophets and they all said: "Go up to Ramoth-Gilead.  The Lord will deliver it into your hands."  But when Jehoshaphat looked at those four hundred, he said: "Is there not yet another prophet of the Lord before whom we might inquire?"  And Ahab replied, "Why, yes, but I hate him.  He always speaks evil of me and never good."  Jehoshaphat replied, "Oh, let not the king say so.  Call him." 

So Ahab sent an officer of the government to Micaiah, the prophet of God, to bid him come before the king.  And the officer said to Micaiah, "Micaiah, four hundred prophets are now standing before the king and they all are prophesying good.  Now, Micaiah, you prophesy what will please the king.  You prophesy what is good" [2 Chronicles 18:12]. 

And Micaiah, the man of God said, "As the Lord liveth, what God says, that will I say".  And when Micaiah stood before Ahab, he said, "I saw Israel like sheep scattered on the mountains because their leader was dead."  

And Ahab turned to Jehoshaphat and said, "Isn’t that what I told you?  I hate him.  He blasphemes!"  Ahab said, "Take that fellow and put him in a dungeon and feed him bread of affliction and water of affliction until I come back in peace and in triumph" [2 Chronicles 18:3-27].  So, Ahab went out to war.  And then I had you read the passage.  A man drew back his bow in a venture – he did not aim it – drew back his bow in a venture and let fly the arrow.  But God guided that arrow and it entered the joint in the harness of Ahab, in the armor of Ahab.  And his blood flowed out by the wound.  And they washed the chariot and the dogs licked up the blood according to the great saying of Elijah the prophet [2 Chronicles 18:33-34].  The point of the story is what the officer said to Micaiah, "Tell him something good," say it beautifully, say what he wants to hear said.  That is counterfeit religion, the false prophet [1 Kings 22: 3-27].

It is a rare thing that a prophet of God, a true prophet of God will ever say what the world wants to hear said.  When Zedekiah, the king of Jerusalem – when Nebuchadnezzar and his Chaldean army surrounded it like a man who would hold a iron in a grasp, in a vice – when Zedekiah said to Jeremiah, "Is there a word from the Lord?"  Jeremiah said, "There is.  There is."  And Zedekiah said, "What does God say?" And Jeremiah said, "If I tell you, you will slay me.  You will put me to death."  Zedekiah said, "Your life will be precious in my sight, I swear.  What does God say?"  And Jeremiah said, "God said this city shall be burned with fire, the Chaldeans shall take the people into captivity, your eyes will be put out and in chains you’ll be carried to Babylon and die in a dungeon" [Jeremiah 38:14-23]. 

It is a rare thing that a man of God will deliver to the world a message the world likes to hear.  When the man is suave, and sweet, and pacifying, and placating in what he says, the chances are he’s that counterfeit.  He’s a representative of the religion of the false prophet.  For the first characteristic of counterfeit religion is that it says what the world wants to hear said, not what God says. 

A second characteristic of the counterfeit church, of the religion of the false prophet: it teaches what the world wants to hear taught; he believes what the world wants to believe.  You know, it is a remarkable thing, the religion of the false prophet and the religion of the counterfeit church is one that looks upon all of these old doctrines as being outmoded and, "We have outlived the usefulness of the old-time faith and now we have progressed in this enlightened scientific era to where we need a new theology and a new sophistry and a new enlightenment."  And it is remarkable how they purvey that and how they preach that, this counterfeit doctrine and this counterfeit religion of the counterfeit church. 

They apply it first of all, to the Book itself – to the Book itself.  "Why, no man in this scientific and enlightened age could believe in the miracles of the Bible.  No man who lives in our day and in our generation could look with any other eye in that Book except as an antiquarian would look upon it."  Way back yonder they wrote Aesop’s Fables.  And the man looks at Aesop’s Fables and he thinks, and he has these attitudes toward Aesop’s Fables.  And then, way back yonder, Homer wrote his Iliad and his Odyssey, and all about those Greeks and their mythology and their legends.  And so he picks up the Bible, and here is an example of those myths and of those legends.  And he reads here in the Bible, as he would read about Jason and his Golden Fleece.  And he empties the Bible of all of its supernatural and all of its miraculous power.  And he looks upon religion as being a thing evolved like what he supposed the evolution of a whole race.  "We all come from tadpoles and green scum and we gradually evolved until our arboreal ancestors quit hanging on their tails and went and walked upright.  And he was a man, and behold, here we are."  And that is the way they look upon religion; it was back there in those primitive Stone Ages.  And then he gradually evolved until finally we have what we have today, and that to them, is the religion of the Book, and the God of the Bible.  And they have with it – they have with it the same new and modern idea concerning the old-fashioned piety and the reverential awe and fear that God has taught us in the Book by which a man ought to walk humbly before the great God, his Maker.  "But all of that is past and now we have new rules and we live in a new day.  We have been freed from the old bondage of a morality and the piety of that old medieval and superstition and religion found in the Bible.  This is a new day and we have new rules to go by." 

This last week, a precious mother – the family does not belong to our church – but a dear mother came to me.  Her daughter, who is but a child, her daughter is going to be an unwed mother.  And so the mother, in her distress and agony said, "I took the girl, my girl, and I took the boy, and I brought them to his church and to his minister.  And this man of the cloth turned to the two children and he said to the girl, "You – this is your fault; you should have protected yourself.  This is not the boy’s fault.  He was just indulging in permissible pre-marital experience, and the reason you are in the condition you are, is because you did not protect yourself.  The boy is not to blame at all." 

This is a new day, this is a new theology, this is a new morality!  When you empty the Book of its God and when you empty the message of the gospel of this great supernatural moral character, well he is as right as anybody else.  For morality fundamentally is anchored in the character of Almighty God.  When we come to the new sophistry and the new enlightenment and the new age and the new rules, why, this minister of the cloth is correct.  It is her fault, she should have protected herself.  For this boy was just engaging in legitimate, and permissible, and expected pre-marital experience.  That is the religion of the false prophet!  That is the religion of the counterfeit church! That is the religion of the Dragon. 

The same attitude expressed toward the great doctrines of the faith: in this enlightened age, whose cultivated ears, whose cultural tastes, whose aesthetic nature would respond to a religion of blood – blood atonement?  And they refer to it as "the religion of the slaughterhouse.  This is the religion of shambles.  This is the religion of the packing plant – of the butcher shop."

I have preached in churches where every hymn on the blood has been purged out.  It is offensive to our aesthetic natures and it violates our cultural consciences – this religion of blood – but all through the Word of God, that story of blood atonement follows through like a scarlet thread in the Bible.  And the difference between religion ultimately is this: as God said in the land of Egypt, "Sprinkle the blood on the lintels and on the door posts in the form of a cross, above and on either side, that there may be a distinction between My people and the world" [Exodus 11:7; Exodus 12:22-23].

You can classify all religion in two, in those twain: the religion of works – whether it is Mohammedanism in Africa and Indonesia, whether it is Romanism, whether it is humanism, whether it is Shinto or Buddhism – all religions that are based upon works and then that one separate and unique Gospel of the Son of God, the religion of the blood.  "When I see the blood, I will pass over you" [Exodus 12:13], and "they washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb" [Revelation 7:14], and the humanist and the counterfeit hates the religion of the blood!  

Their attitude is the same expressed toward the revelation of God concerning damnation and perdition and the judgment of Almighty God: Why, there is no such thing – not to the counterfeit, not to the false prophet – there’s no such thing as the judgment of God.  There is no such thing as the perdition and the fire of hell and eternal damnation, "For these things are superstitions; they are hangovers from a primitive and superstitious past.  And we must be positive in our approach today, if you will not teach your children about sin, they will never sin.  Let us be positive about it." 

Isn’t it a funny thing, every one of those ten commandments is a negative?  "Thou shalt not," says the Lord God.  You never heard anything about this new sophistry of a positive approach, "Don’t ever mention sin, and there won’t be sin.  Don’t ever teach your children about the judgment of God, and they will never fall into aberrations."  God’s Book says we are born in sin and conceived in iniquity, [Psalm 51:5] and the black drop of depravity is in all of our veins. [Romans 3:23, 5:12]  We are born into that kind of a judgment.  But that doctrine is unacceptable to sophisticated and modern ears. 

The counterfeit church and counterfeit religion, their God is man whom they worship; and their doctrine is humanism and their paradise and Eden is the socialistic welfare state.  That is the counterfeit church, that is the false prophet, and that is the counterfeit religion. 

Not only does the counterfeit church say what the world wants to hear said, not only does it teach what the world wants to hear taught, but the counterfeit church and counterfeit religion, enjoys what the world enjoys.  There are great cities in America where the councilmen elected are powerless and helpless before the rising tide and scourge of gambling because the Church finds its greatest lucrative source of revenue from gambling.  And the city is powerless before the racketeers, and all of the dark underworld that follows, wherever gambling is regnant.  And this nation of America is being plunged into the depths of alcoholism like France, because of the approval of the counterfeit church and counterfeit religion. 

More and more and more, our beloved America is on a toboggan road, down and down and down.  The family is destroyed by it – the homes that are broken by it, the wedding bands that are snapped by it, the children that are orphaned by it – the men’s lives that are destroyed by it; the weakness of a whole nation in the aegis and in the approval and in the approbation of a counterfeit church. 

This week, Dr. Fowler and I were seated side by side in a funeral home, waiting for the service to begin.  While we were seated there, a big man came and stood in front of us and calling me by name, then could not speak for a moment, so filled up.  Then he said, "I just wanted to thank you for the sermon last Sunday night.  I listened to it on the radio and it gave me hope.  It gave me hope.  For you see," he said, "my son and my daughter-in-law both are alcoholics."  What he was referring to was last Sunday night I spoke of a man who sat by me on an airplane in a distant state.  And when I asked him where he was going – same city I was.  Well, I said, "I’m going there, why are you?"  He said, "I am going to hear you preach."  I was going there to preach to a state evangelistic conference.  "Well," I said, "that is most unusual.  Why are you going down there to hear me preach?"  Well, he said, "I had a series of stores, a chain of stores and a beautiful home.  And I lost my stores and I lost my home in liquor, in drink.  And," he said, "I lost days when I was cast out, I could not go home, I was not allowed.  Lost everything."  He said, "I went to a service, and I heard you preach and I gave my heart to God.  And I went back, and my wife took me into her heart and home again.  And now," he said, "I have more stores than I ever had before.  I have a bigger chain now than I ever had."  And he said, "I am a deacon in my church and I am the treasurer in my church and I am the head usher in my church, and God has blessed me."  And he said, "Wherever you are in my part of the world, if I can get there, I will always go to hear you preach."  That is the thing briefly that I spake of last Sunday night.  And then that father said, "I just want to thank you.  It gave me hope.  It gave me hope for my boy and my daughter-in-law."  Ah, any man in this earth who stands up and says that that is a legitimate business, to destroy homes and to destroy lives and to orphan children and to destroy the souls of men, that man is a counterfeit; I do not care who he is or what his name. 

Before one of our legislative committees appointed by the legislature, listened to the discussion of a liquor bill, the bishop stood up and spoke of the liberty and the right of a man to drink.  And when the bishop got through speaking his spiel before the legislative committee, a humble unnamed man stood up and he said, "My wife and I had an only son, an only child, and he fell into the terrible throes of the alcoholic.  And we won, in love and in tenderness, our boy back to life again.  And as our boy was ascending and God’s favor was upon him, he was invited to a social gathering.  And at that social gathering, a minister of the cloth stood up with a liquor glass in his hand and said, ‘This is the right of any man,’ and he drank and encouraged all of the others to drink.  And my boy was there, and seeing a man of the cloth lead the way, he followed after.  And our boy, our boy was on the toboggan road down, and our boy died of delirium tremens.  And gentlemen, "the man said, "gentlemen, the man of the cloth who did that that night to our boy is the man of the cloth who has just addressed you." 

When the Eighteenth Amendment was destroyed, William E. Borah of the Senate of the United States said, "God will punish America for bringing back the legalized liquor traffic."  From that day until this, America has stumbled into one tragic crisis down into another.  And what William E. Borah said of the nation of America in legalizing the liquor traffic, that same God Almighty that judges America is the same Lord God Almighty that shall judge the counterfeit church. 

Somebody says to me, "Preacher, is there any word in the Bible about liquor?"  My soul, in all of the language of the literature of the earth there was never written as scathing, as terrible a castigation as you find in the Word of God.  Listen to the words of the wisest man who ever lived:


Who hath woe?  Who hath sorrow?  Who hath contentions?

Who hath babbling?  Who hath wounds without cause? 

Who hath redness of eyes?  They that tarry long at the wine. 

They that go to seek mixed drinks. 

Look thou not upon the wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup,

At the last, it biteth like a serpent and stingeth like an adder

[Proverbs 23:29-32]. 


Whoever fools with that thing, fools with death.  He jeopardizes the life of his children and of other children.  Don’t you ever persuade yourself that when a guy is in the gutter, and he is down and out, that that is a temptation to a fine, upstanding young boy.  He sees that fellow in his vomit and in his filth and in his rags and in the gutter and it is offensive to him and he passes by.  Don’t ever think that he is the one that destroys the boy.  The man that destroys the boy is the big executive in his swivel chair, in those beautiful, beautiful offices.  And he drinks, and that fine upstanding young fellow coming up, he sees the big executive and he follows after him.  And that boy is destroyed.  One out of every nine become problem drinkers and cannot help themselves. 

And the man that leads the boy into that debauchery and into that ruin and into that damnation is accountable unto God.  And the church that approves it is a derelict and a counterfeit church.  This is the religion of the false prophet.  He encourages to enjoy what the world enjoys.  Bless you, I do not attend them, but you can go to endless social gatherings in this city, and whatever the violent, riotous, drunken debauched world is doing, there will you see the minister and there will you see the communicant – all of them enjoying alike, drunken alike, in the orgy alike.  That is the counterfeit church.  And that is counterfeit religion.  It is impossible, it is unthinkable to the true child and the true prophet of God. 

We are speaking of the false prophet who looks like a lamb; he is soft and he is sweet and he is easy.  And he counsels people and he speaks of their consciences and of their souls; but he is the most dangerous monster of the two, for his heart and his leadership is of the Dragon.   I speak of the last.  I have spoken: the counterfeit church says what the people want to hear, saying it believes it teaches what the world wants to hear taught.  It enjoys what the world enjoys.  I have a last characterization that is the truth of God: it offers an institutional salvation.  The counterfeit church, counterfeit religion, the false prophet; it offers an institutional salvation.  That is, "You go with us and we will take you all to heaven by virtue of the fact that we are the church of God." 

May I speak of it briefly?  And I need an hour more here; may I speak of it briefly in two ways?  They offer a national salvation by their institutional organization, the counterfeit church.  The world likes to have one religion so it can dicker with it, so it can write concordats with it, so it can make treaties with it, so it can use it.  It pleases the world to have "a church and a religion."  Then they can do, they can assemble, and they can write, and they can discuss, and things are simplified.  However the truth of God may be, however the obedience of the Almighty may be, if they can just have a religion in a counterfeit church, why, it simplifies for the world, "There it is.  There it is.  You do not have to worry about what God says.  You do not have to worry about what the will of the Almighty is.  Here is religion and we can handle it, and use it, and dicker with it, and mold it, and plaster it, and compromise with it, and make laws concerning it, and write treaties with it; do anything we want to.  Just forget about God, just forget about the will of heaven, forget about the Bible; this is religion here."  And the national life is framed according to the organized expression of religion in a counterfeit church and the false prophet.  I go to the last: and it offers institutional salvation to the individual heart, the counterfeit church and the counterfeit religion.  You belong to mother church and mother church will take you to heaven.  And outside of mother church is damnation and hell.  And in that awful, awful, fearful thing they hold over the heads of their people.  They live in panic and in fear at the very thought of being separated from the church, for outside of that institution there is no salvation, nothing but damnation and hell.  And they live in fear and in trembling. 

Oh, ah!  The awful power that lies in the minister of the cloth, among people who believe in that in his institution, in his organization, in his church is all salvation.  And what he says is the rule of my life and my soul.  And so he says, All of you live in adultery, all of you – all of you.  You were married by Baptist minister, you live in adultery.  You were married according to the laws of the State of Texas – you are all living in adultery.  You were married by a Baptist minister, all of your children are illegitimate, all of them – all of them.  They are all illegitimate, for you were married by a Baptist minister.  And you have committed a mortal sin, you are in a Baptist church and listening to a Baptist minister.  And that awful fear by which they govern their people makes it almost impossible to pull somebody out of it.  Because to them, to leave it is to be damned.  To marry outside of it is to live in adultery and to bring up your children illegitimately.  You could go on for the hour and the hours; this counterfeit church, a counterfeit religion, the doctrine of the false prophet.  And it pleased the world to have it so. 

I must close.  Like I pled with a sweet, precious, little girl last night, just building her home; I said, "Listen, sweet, precious little child," building a home, "Listen, sweet, go to God for yourself, for yourself.  Pray to God for yourself, for yourself.  Do not confess your sins to a man, never; confess them to God."

He is a great High Priest who can be touched with the feeling of our infirmities;

for in all points was He tried as we are though without sin. 

Wherefore, come boldly unto the throne of grace and find grace to help in time of need

[Hebrews 4:15, 16], 


Come for yourself, ask for yourself, pray for yourself; confess your needs to God, for yourself.  And listen to the voice of the Lord who will answer by power, who will answer by word, who will answer by strength and by might and by power, who will answer from heaven.  Go to God for yourself.  Ask Him for yourself.  Pray to Him for yourself.  Look to God for yourself.  "Come," says the Lord, "come."  This is the true religion.  This is the true church.  And this is the true prophet of God. 

And the Spirit and the Bride say, Come. 

And let him that heareth say, Come. 

And let him that is athirst come. 

And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely"

[Revelation 22:17]


Come, come for yourself.  Let God speak to you, heart to heart, face to face, and find life and assurance and salvation and truth in the blessedness of the name of our glorious and incomparable Redeemer.  Come, come.  God bids us find help from His gracious and precious hands. 

We must close, and should have before.  While we sing our hymn, while we sing our hymn, somebody this morning to give his heart to Jesus, come and stand by me.  Somebody today to put his life with us in the fellowship of this precious congregation, come and stand by me.  "Today, preacher, today, this day, I give my heart to God.  I give you my hand.  I give my life in trust to Jesus."  Come just as you are, let God battle by your side, war down the way with you. 

We have a pilgrimage remaining and we need the help and the direction, the succor, encouragement and the strength of our blessed Jesus.  Come, come.  "Lord, I bring myself to Thee; all the problems I have: the house in which I live, the home that I have built, the children God hath given us, the couple that we are, the one somebody that I am.  Preacher, here I come.  I give myself to the Lord, I make it now.  I make it now."  While we stand and while we sing.