The Counterfeit Church
December 9th, 1962 @ 8:15 AM
THE COUNTERFEIT CHURCH
Dr. W. A. Criswell
12-9-62 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the early morning message entitled The Counterfeit Church, a sermon on counterfeit religion.
In our preaching through the Bible these many years, we have come to the last and the climactic book, the Revelation. And in our preaching through the Revelation, we have come to chapter 13, and the message this morning is based upon the vision John saw beginning in the eleventh verse of the thirteenth chapter of the Apocalypse [Revelation 13:11]
If you would like to turn to the place in your Bible, this is the reading of the text, Revelation, chapter 13, verse 11:
And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, yet 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 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, 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—666.
Now last Sunday morning we spoke of that whole passage, and this Sunday morning we are going to speak of the religion that is represented by this second monster.
This second beast, the second monster, in the sixteenth chapter of the Revelation, in the nineteenth chapter, and in the twentieth chapter is called the false prophet [Revelation 16:13, 19:20, 20:10]. The beginning of chapter 13 records a vision that John saw as he stood on the sands of the sea [Revelation 13:1].
There was an animal, ferocious, a multiform, fierce, rising out of the raging waters [Revelation 13:1]. And this first beast that John saw represents the final political organization and development in this world, headed up in a final and ultimate tyrant, the great Antichrist. That is the first beast [Revelation 13:1-10].
This second beast that John sees rises out of the earth [Revelation 13:11-18]. The first one arises out of the turmoil and chaotic revolution of the masses of humanity, out of the sea of humanity [Revelation 13:1-10]. The second beast, this false prophet, rises out of the earth, out of developed and ordered civilization. And he represents a religious system that is headed up by what the apocalyptic writer calls the false prophet [Revelation 13:11-18].
The Scriptures indicate without fail, without exception, that the whole history of the world will move toward one great political union, and that the religious development of the world will move toward religious unity. All through the Word of God that is exhibited, and a typical instance of that exhibition and revelation is found here in the thirteenth chapter.
The ten kingdoms [Revelation 13:1], the divisions of the nations of the earth, willingly give their strength and might and sovereignty to this final Antichrist, moving toward one political government [Revelation 17:12-13]. But you cannot have government without religion. There has to be some kind of religious devotion to any reigning power.
Now it may be communist and worship materialism, or it may be Mohammedan and worship Mohammad, but there has to be some kind of religious devotion upon which the government and authority finally is based. And if men do not worship the true God, then they will worship false gods. And this first beast, this political sovereign, has to have a religion, and the religion is furnished gladly and willingly by the false prophet [Revelation 13:11-18].
He is introduced to us in these words, “I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth,” and he looked like a lamb, but he spoke like a dragon [Revelation 13:11]. He looked like a lamb, but he spoke like a dragon.
[This] reminds us of the story of Little Red Riding Hood. The wolf, big and bad, was dressed in her grandmother’s clothes, and he lay, that big bad wolf, in the grandmother’s bed. But the voice was the voice of a wolf, and the teeth were the teeth of a wolf. You remember all that story of Little Red Riding Hood talking to her sweet grandmother, “What makes your mouth so big and your ears and your eyes and your teeth,” you know. Well, that is the way with this lamb. He looks like a lamb, but he talks like a dragon [Revelation 13:11]. And that is God’s picture here of the counterfeit church and counterfeit religion.
Now we are going to use that as a subject this morning and speak of it. The counterfeit church says what the world wants to hear saith, what pleases the world, unregenerate and unspiritual and ungodly men. I could not think of a finer illustration of that than in the story of Micaiah [2 Chronicles 18:4-27].
When Ahab said to Jehoshaphat, Ramoth-gilead belongs to us, let us go against it and take it out of the hands of the Assyrians, why, Jehoshaphat said, “Let us first inquire of the Lord.” So Ahab called together his four hundred prophets, and they all prophesied, saying, “Go up to Ramoth-gilead. God has placed it in your hands” [2 Chronicles 18:3-5].
But as Jehoshaphat the king of Judah listened to those four hundred prophets, he said, “Is there not yet one other prophet of whom we might inquire?” [2 Chronicles 18:6].
And Ahab, the husband of Jezebel, said, “Yes, there is another prophet, but I hate him because he always prophesies evil of me.” And Jehoshaphat said, “Let not the king say so. Send for him” [2 Chronicles 18:7].
So, a king’s officer sent for Micaiah, the true minister of God 2 Chronicles 18:8. And do you remember what that officer said to Micaiah? That’s the point of my illustration. When the king’s officer came to Micaiah, the king’s officer said, “Micaiah, four hundred prophets are standing before Ahab right now, and every one of those four hundred prophesies good concerning Ahab. Now, Micaiah, you prophesy what is good. You say the thing that pleases Ahab. Do it, Micaiah, do it” [2 Chronicles 18:12].
But the man of God replied, “As the Lord liveth, what God says shall I say” [2 Chronicles 18:13]. Do you remember the end of the story? Doesn’t have anything to do with my subject right now, but let me finish the story. When Micaiah stood before Ahab, he said, “I saw a vision, and the sheep of Israel were scattered abroad on the mountains because their leader was dead” [2 Chronicles 18:16]. And Ahab turned to Jehoshaphat and said, “Is that not what I told you? I hate him. He always prophesies evil” [2 Chronicles 18:17].
Then these other four hundred prophets said, “Micaiah, Micaiah is prophesying to you not in the power of the Spirit of the Lord. You are going to win” [2 Chronicles 18:12].
Micaiah said, “God has not spoken to me if you come back alive from this campaign” [2 Chronicles 18:27].
And Ahab said, “Take Micaiah, this prophet I loathe, take him and feed him in a prison, in a dungeon, bread of affliction and water of affliction, until I come back in triumph and in victory” [2 Chronicles 18:26].
Then when the battle was joined at Ramoth-gilead, the Bible says that a man, an archer, drew back his arrow at a venture; that is, he did not even aim it. He just drew back his bow and let fly the arrow without aiming it [2 Chronicles 18:33]. But God aimed it. And that arrow entered the joints of the harness of Ahab, and his blood poured out in the chariot, and he died [2 Chronicles 18:33-34]. And they washed his chariot by the pool of Jezreel, and the dogs licked up his blood, according to the saying of the man of God, Elijah [1 Kings 21:17-19, 22:38].
But the point of my sermon is, “Micaiah, say that, that pleases the king. All of his other prophets are speaking nice things and fine things and beautiful things. Now, Micaiah, you say that! You do that” [2 Chronicles 18:12]. That is the word of the false prophet, and that is the counterfeit church. It pleases the ungodly and the unregenerate and the worldly. It says what the world wants to hear said.
You will find in the Word, God, rarely that a man of God will say things that please the world, rarely. For example, in the thirty-seventh chapter of the prophet Jeremiah, Zedekiah the king sent to Jeremiah and said, “Jeremiah is there a word from the Lord? Is there a word from the Lord?” [Jeremiah 37:17]. The Chaldeans under Nebuchadnezzar were holding Jerusalem like a man would put a piece of iron in a vise.
“Is there a word from the Lord?” said Zedekiah.
And Jeremiah said, “There is, there is” [Jeremiah 37:17].
And Zedekiah said, “What does the Lord say?”
And Jeremiah said, “If I tell you, you will put me to death.”
“No,” said Zedekiah, “I swear before the Lord thy life shall be precious in my sight. What does God say?” [Jeremiah 38:14-16].
And Jeremiah replied, “God says that for the iniquity of this people, judgment comes upon Jerusalem. And this city shall be taken and burned with fire, and you shall be taken before the king, and your eyes put out, and your children slain. And you will be carried in chains a captive to Babylon, and there shall you die, a prisoner of Nebuchadnezzar” [2 Kings 25:7, Jeremiah 38:17-23].
The counterfeit church and the counterfeit preacher and the false prophet always are saying things that the world loves to hear said, but the true prophet of God rarely ever delivers a message that pleases the itching ears of an unregenerate world, the counterfeit church, and the false prophet.
All right, a second thing about the counterfeit church and counterfeit religion, it teaches what the world wants to hear taught, it believes what the world is pleased to believe. Somehow, the counterfeit church is able to convince itself and its communicants that we have done with this old fashioned religion. We have somehow outgrown it. And now, in this new enlightenment, we need a new sophistry and a new theology. And the old religion and the old revelation of God are outmoded and out-worn. They are medieval. And they apply that every part of the religion of Christ. They apply it to the Word of God itself, the Bible. The counterfeit church and the false prophet, the counterfeit preacher, look upon the Word of God as they look upon any other antiquity. They might study Aesop’s fables and say thus and so about Aesop’s fables. And they pick up the Bible and they say thus and so about the Bible. It has an antiquarian interest for them, but nothing more; this is not the Word of God. And the Bible and its miracles is not supernatural, but we read about those marvelous things in Jason’s fleece, Jason and the Golden Fleece. And we read about these marvelous things in the Iliad of Homer and the Odyssey of Homer. And we read those same things of antiquity and antiquarian interests in the Bible.
And they look upon religion as having evolved like all other things, they think, have evolved, and religion evolved. There was no revelation from God and no interposition of God in human life, but like we came up from tadpoles and snakes and snails and serpents and finally evolved into our present human status. Why, so we have evolved religion, and the record of that evolvement is to be found in the Word of God. No miracle in it, no supernatural, no voice from heaven but just the natural evolution of the human race reaching up after something above itself.
That is the attitude of the counterfeit church and the counterfeit religion toward the Bible. And they have that same attitude concerning the piety, the holy reverential awe and morality by which we are enjoined to walk humbly and obediently before our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ [Micah 6:8]. All of these old rules of morality and life are outmoded. We belong now to a new day and a new hour, and the old piety has no place in our modern enlightened society.
This week I have been and shall continue to help a dear family in our city. They do not belong to our church. Their little girl is going to be an unwed mother. So they took the little girl and the boy to the minister of the cloth. And the minister of the cloth said to the little girl, “It is your fault. Don’t you know anything about protecting yourself? This boy was just experimenting, and he needed these premarital experiences! And it is not the boy’s fault at all, it is your fault. You should have protected yourself, for premarital experience is something that every boy ought to learn.” This, the advice of a man of the cloth, the old ideals of morality and purity and virtue belong to a past out of which we have evolved in this modern and enlightened days; this in one of the leading ministers in the city of Dallas this week.
Why, when you run into things like that, you want to fight. You want to go to war. There is no such a thing as great virtue and morality that is not bounded and ground and founded in the revelation of Almighty God. All morality lies in the character of God. And when you read out of the Book the revelation of God, then there is always eagerly there the false prophet to offer a cheap and a counterfeit religion.
Not only that but the attitude of the false prophet and the counterfeit church for the great doctrines of the Bible is something to behold. For example—we just barely touch these things; for every word that I say, there are libraries to be said—for example, the old doctrine of the blood atonement which is through this Book like a scarlet thread, the blood, the blood; the counterfeit church, in this new and enlightened age, the counterfeit church would say that is butcher shop religion! That is slaughterhouse theology!
I have preached in churches where they had been purged from the hymnbooks every song, every hymn on the blood, not a one. Not a song left about the blood that washes [us] from our sins [1 John 1:7; Revelation 1:5]. That is superstitious, a primitive religion, blood, blood! And they make fun of the doctrine of atonement.
I have not time to expatiate on it, but you can put in a common denominator every religion outside of the blood atonement of Christ in this earth. They are all based upon good works, whether it is over there in China, whether it is over there in India, whether it is over there in Afghanistan, whether it is in Africa, whether it is in Rome, wherever. You can put them all in a common denominator, religion by works!
And the unique and separate religion of this earth, which is the revelation of God, is the religion by blood atonement [Romans 3:25]. As the Lord said when He spoke to the children of Israel, “Put the blood, put the blood on the lentils and on the doorposts in the sign of a cross that the whole earth above and below may see that I place a difference between these under the blood and those in the darkness of the world” [Exodus 11:7; Exodus 12:7, 13, 22-23]. It is the blood that separates.
I say one other; I mention one other doctrine that is ridiculed in the counterfeit church. It is the doctrine of the judgment of God. Why, you mean you believe in hell? You believe in the judgment of God? You believe in punishment?
“Ah, ah, let us take a positive approach,” they say. “Let us teach our children sweet things and all things nice, and they will never know sin. And out of the positiveness of our approach, having not taught sin and the judgment of God upon it, they will never sin.”
Ooh, don’t you wish that would work? I tell you, those little ol’ divinities, when they are born in this world, they come a-screaming, and their faces get red, and they get mad before I can even understand their language, what they are mad about. It is just that way. That is what the old-timers call the doctrine of depravity. The black drop is born in us; conceived in iniquity and born in sin [Psalm 51:5].
The counterfeit church and the false prophet; their doctrine is humanism. Their god and object of worship is man. And their paradise, their heaven, is the socialistic welfare state in this earth, the counterfeit church and the false prophet.
Another thing, not only does it 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 the false prophet enjoy what the world enjoys. They like it.
There are great, great cities in America in which the councils, the city councils, the elected commissioners and councilmen, can do nothing in the face of the terrible inroads of gambling because the church subsidizes itself from the revenues it gains from sponsoring gambling.
America, like France, more and more is being plunged into alcoholism because of the approval of the counterfeit church and the false prophet.
At a funeral service this week, Dr. Fowler and I were seated side-by-side, waiting for the service to begin. And while we were seated there, a big man came up and stood before us. And as he began to just say a word or two, he so filled up he could hardly speak. When he gained his voice, he said, he said, “Preacher, I want to thank you for the service last Sunday night. I listened to it over WRR, over this radio at this hour. I listened to it over WRR last Sunday night.” And he said, “It gave me hope. It gave me hope, for,” he said, “my boy and my daughter-in-law both are alcoholics.”
What he was referring to, last Sunday night I told a story of a man who got on an airplane with me in another state as I was going to preach through an evangelistic conference. And I asked him where he was going, and same city I was. Well, I said I was going there to preach through an evangelistic conference. He said, “Yes, that is why I am going. Wherever you are, if you are in my part of the world, I try to hear you preach.”
And I said, “That is an amazing thing. Why? I never saw you before.”
Then he told me the story of his life. He became an alcoholic and lost a chain of stores and lost his home and his wife. And upon an occasion somewhere and I had forgotten where, he had heard me preach. And he had given his heart again to Jesus. And he had come back to the Lord. And he went back home, and his wife received him back, and now he has a bigger chain of stores than he ever had before. The wonder and the marvel of God in his life, and he is a deacon in his church, and he is the treasurer of his church, and he is the head usher in his church. He is a man of God today. Well, that was the story. And this man said, “I want to thank you. It gave me hope. It gave me hope.”
You know why these things develop in this earth? It is because of the approval of religion. The approval, the approbation before a legislative committee holding hearings on a liquor bill, there stood up a man of the cloth, a bishop, speaking for the divine right of men to drink. Even though it means slaughter on the highway, even though it means the breaking of wedding bands, even though it means the orphaning of children, even though it means the destruction of the home, even though it means the disintegration of a nation, yet speaking for the liquor bill.
And when he sat down, there was another man unknown who stood up and said these brief words to the committee appointed by the legislature to hold the hearings. He said, “My wife and I had one son, and he became an alcoholic. And through tender care and encouragement, we won the boy back to a life and to the glory of God and the joy of our homes. And upon an occasion he was at a beautiful social gathering. And in that social gathering, there was a minister of the gospel who stood up and spake words encouraging the drinking of liquor as he drank himself. And my boy was there, and seeing the minister encourage that practice, he himself followed after. And that is all that it took to plunge him back into the old way and the old habits. And our boy died of delirium tremens, and, gentlemen, the minister of the cloth who that night held up that glass and encouraged all to drink is the bishop you have just now heard address you.”
William E. Borah said—the great incomparable senator from Idaho—William E. Borah said, “When they destroyed the eighteenth amendment,” he said on the floor of the senate chamber, “God will punish America for bringing back the legalized liquor traffic.” And what Borah said of America, which is come true, from that day unto this, America has lived in one horrible crisis and judgment after another. What the great senator said about the nation, God says about the church. God will judge that counterfeit church, that false prophet that encourages and teaches its people to drink.
Sometimes, every once in a while somebody will say to me, “Is there anything in the Bible against liquor and against drinking?” My soul, I have never read in language, in syllable or in sentence, I have never read anything as strong as I read in the Word of God, the wisest man who ever lived:
Who hath woe? Who hath sorrows? Who hath contentions? Who hath babblings? 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 not thou 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.
There is a judgment of God upon the consumption of liquor, whether it is upon a nation or whether it is upon a family or whether it is upon a home. There is a judgment of God even upon an individual soul.
Don’t you ever persuade yourself that it is that drunk, that sot in the gutter that a young man follows. He is not going to follow him. He is going to follow the big executive with a champagne glass in his hand, his ideal of success and achievement. It is not the drunk that destroys the boy; it is the social drink of the executive that ruins that boy’s life, and destroys that boy’s home, and orphans that boy’s children, and breaks that boy’s life. The counterfeit church approves it. The false prophet is pleased, pleased to defend it.
Oh, my time is gone, and I have come to the most important of all! The counterfeit church and the counterfeit religion offers an institutional salvation without exception. It offers it to a nation. They encourage the idea of one great church, presided over by one tremendous ecclesiastical authority. Why? Because it is easy to dicker with one religious organization, it is easy to sign concordance with it. It is easy, it is easy to pamper it, then to control it, and to do what you want to with it.
That pleases the world, an institutional salvation for the nation, and an institutional salvation for the individual soul. That’s why it is hard, difficult to persuade people to come out of it, simply because it is ingrained in their heads that to be saved is to belong to the Church, and if I am excommunicated, I am lost, I am damned. Ah, the terrible power in the hands of the prelate who says, “I can consign your soul to hell,” the fear of those people who live in dread and in such superstition.
And the power they have in the individual life; twice this week, and I live in this world all the time, I never get away from it, I never get away from it, “You are living in adultery. You are living in adultery. Your children are illegitimate.” And so they come to see me; “Am I living in adultery? And are my children illegitimate?”
“Well, what makes you think you are living in adultery? You were married. You got a license, and a Protestant minister performed the ceremony and added God’s blessings to it. What makes you think you are living in adultery? And what makes you think that your children are illegitimate?”
“Oh, the man of the cloth said so.” The awful power they seek to hold in their hands over the minds of their dukes; “you are living in adultery, you are living in adultery. All of you are living in adultery, all of you. All of your children are illegitimate, because you were married by a minister of God, and according to the laws of the State of Texas; you were married not by a minister of the cloth.”
Oh, oh! What does God say about being saved? “It is repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” [Acts 20:21]. It is something not between a third intermediary. It is something between a man and his God.
I said to a sweet little wife last night, I said, “Oh, dear child, go to God for yourself. Go to God for yourself. Don’t confess your sins to a man. What can he do with them? Take your sins to God. Ask God to forgive. Ask God to save. Ask Him for yourself.” “For we have not an High Priest that cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but in all points was tried as we are, though without sin. Come therefore boldly; boldly to the throne of grace, that ye may find grace to help in time of trouble” [Hebrews 4:15-16]. Go for yourself. Go for yourself. Ask for yourself. Pray for yourself. Ask Jesus to see you through.
That is the simple message of faith and religion in the Book of God. You, you ask; you seek, and God will reply to your soul and to your heart.
On the first note of this first stanza, somebody you, give his heart to Jesus [Romans 10:8-13]. Somebody you, put his life in the church [Hebrews 10:24-25]. While we sing this song, come and stand by me. We will sing one stanza, one stanza, and if we stop singing while you are coming from that farthest balcony, you just keep on coming down, keep on. We sing one stanza. Give your heart to the Lord, or put your life with us in the church, while we stand and sing.