The visit of Pope Paul VI to the United States is one of the most significant happenings of this century. The purpose of his coming was made clear from the beginning. He came on a peace mission to make an appeal before the United Nations—a truly laudable objective.
It was hoped his coming would not only foster good will but also help to hold in check the forces of hate that threaten the annihilation of civilization. Observers in the city of Rome emphasized another reason for his coming. Such a visit, they said, would build up his image and enhance his prestige as an international figure, something he feels is vital, especially as the successor of the public-spirited and somewhat revolutionary Pope John.
Whatever the underlying reason, the timing of this visit was perfect. For twenty years high-minded leaders have struggled to avert a third world war. Many times it has seemed we were on the verge of a global outbreak. The constant clash of ideologies has kept the United Nations disunited. Now comes this impassioned appeal from this high religious dignitary, something strikingly significant in the light of Bible prophecy. But many are wondering whether the Pope can succeed where the statesmen failed. What does the future hold for the world?
Sixty years ago Adventist preachers were unpopular among both Christians and non-Christians alike, for their sober messages were a contrast with the tenor of the times. Jubilant predictions of peace were being heard on every hand. It is never easy to be a lone voice declaring a message different from others. The present generation may find it hard to realize that the dawn of the twentieth century was hailed by most folk, and especially by some leaders in the churches, as the prelude to the millennium when peace would reign for a thousand years.
Weapons Into Plows
It was understood that the Secretary of State for this great nation, in keeping with the hoped-for universal peace, had a number of paperweights cast in the form of miniature plows. These were made from old steel weapons gathered from the battlefields of the War between the States, which had been such a bitter conflict a few decades earlier. These little ornamental plows were actually symbols of peace and were sent to the Secretaries of State or their equivalents in most of the leading nations of the world. Graven on these were the familiar words from Isaiah, words used again by Pope Paul in his appeal to the United Nations: "They shall beat their swords into plowshares . . . , neither shall they learn war any more."
Peace Come to Stay
A covering letter carried greetings from the United States and emphasized the confidence that peace had come to stay. It was a gentle gesture of good will and reflected perfectly the spirit of the times. This happened the first two weeks of June. Little did anyone dream that before the end of that same month, June 24, 1914, the shot heard round the world would be fired and that in less than three months twenty-nine nations would be in death grips.
The president of the General Conference, A. G. Daniells, was visiting Australia in the early days of World War I, and we were thrilled by his messages as he stirred great crowds with the same prophecies he had preached in those same cities fourteen years before. Nothing essential had to be changed except to emphasize that the prophecies concerning the break-up of great empires were no longer predictions; they were the things that filled the headlines of the newspapers around the world.
Few of our ministers today are able to recall those deadly days, for a new generation of preachers has taken the stage. But in 1914 the world was tragically disillusioned. Instead of peace there was war, and it was a world war. Some journalists declared that the battle of Armageddon had already begun. But that war came to an end in 1918 and a new era was ushered in with peace pacts and programs by the score, each assuring the masses that such a war could never happen again, for we had fought "a war to end war." "Men are now too wise to fight," they said. "All can now look forward to peace and prosperity." Some had reservations, however, but the popular pulpiteers joined the jubilant chorus of voices and began anew to preach peace and safety and the setting up of the kingdom of God on earth.
In spite of popular opinion our Adventist evangelists continued to proclaim their messages declaring there would be no real peace until the coming of the Prince of peace, and that His coming was drawing very near. Some of us who lived in Europe during those jittery years between the two great world conflicts remember the enlarging plans that were laid, the League of Nations being the focal point of interest, for that organization had been created to preserve peace.
During those same years, February 11, 1929, the "Roman Question" was settled. This restored to the Pope his sovereignty as a ruler and opened the way for him to have a voice in world affairs. How different his role now from what it had been since 1870! A payment of nearly $90 million was made to the Church by the Italian Government, which also ceded to the Pope St. Peter's, the Vatican and its environs, the basilica of St. John Lateran and the Lateran Palace, as well as the Villa Castel Gondolfo where the Pope could relax. Thus the Papal State of Rome was reestablished on a grant of land less than one square mile. The pope was no longer a self-styled "prisoner in the Vatican" where Pius IX and his successors had spent fifty-nine years in what was recently referred to as "a period of Papal pouting"; he was free to come and go as he pleased. But it remained for the present pontiff to venture more than a few miles from the Vatican.
We well remember the shock that came to the bishops attending the Second Vatican Council when the occupant of the Papal chair announced his decision to visit the Holy Land, "to tread on soil made sacred by the feet of our Lord." That visit to Palestine made history, for this was the first time any reigning pope had ever journeyed to Jerusalem. How enthusiastically he was welcomed by both Jordan and Israel! Many expressed hopes that his coming might ease the tensions so real in that part of the world. Others, including the Patriarch of the Eastern Orthodox Church, urged the Pope to use the powers of his high office to bring about world peace and inspire some kind of union of religions.
"No More War—Never Again"
Now the Pope has come to New York, and the police estimate that 4,000,000 people saw him during the fourteen hours he was in the city. Scores of millions also witnessed these spectacular events on television. His address before the United Nations as well as his celebration of the mass in the presence of 90,000 people in Yankee Stadium has been flashed to the earth's far ends. As we listened to his earnest appeal for peace and noted the wholehearted applause by all the delegates present, we realized the importance of this visit on public opinion in almost every country of the world. Repeating the impressive words of the late President Kennedy, "Mankind must put an end to war or war will put an end to mankind," the Pope said, "There must be no more war—never again." The effect of his appeal has been tremendous. He spoke, of course, not only as the head of the largest segment of Christendom but also as a sovereign, a ruler of a kingdom, small to be sure (only 180 acres), but a kingdom that exerts an influence wider in extent than any other in the world. His coming to America has been hailed as a world event. And it is. His opening words before celebrating the mass were taken from Scripture: "'This is the day which the Lord hath made, let us be glad and rejoice in it.' This is a day we have looked forward to for centuries, the day when the Pope could set foot on American soil."
From our very early beginnings Adventist preachers, through the study of prophecy, have declared that Roman Catholicism will rise to the place where she will ultimately become the voice of the religious world. For many decades there was no indication that such a thing would or even could ever happen. The study of prophecy also convinced us that the United States before our Lord's return will increase in prestige until she becomes the most influential nation in the world. As such she will play a leading role in bringing about the full and final exaltation of the Papacy.
As this journal goes to press, the shaping of events leading to these conditions is very clear. Fellow preachers, we have not followed cunningly devised fables. The prophecies of God's Word, which are "a light that shineth in a dark place," should mean more to us today than ever, for we can surely "see the day approaching."
The Roman Catholic Church is not only willing but eager to assume the role of mediator in world affairs, and many of the strongest leaders of the nations, including some even within the Communist block, are looking to Rome hoping that so important a personage as the Pope will be able to find a way through the confusion of our time. Everything seems favorable for this religious and political power to move into her destined role.
Deadly Wound Healed
A century and a half ago the Papacy was reeling from the effects of the "deadly wound" inflicted by the Napoleonic wars, and a further humiliation awaited her when under Garibaldi's revolution Italy was united.
When Victor Emmanuel II moved in to occupy Rome, September 20, 1870, that brought the complete downfall of the Papal States. But those losses were largely restored under Mussolini's rule when the Concordat was signed by Cardinal Gaspari and Mussolini, February 11, 1929. Since then she has been increasing in international prestige and power. Her rapid rise from defeat and almost political obscurity to the place which she holds today has scarcely any equal in history. Soon the "deadly wound" will be completely healed, and then as the Scripture says "the whole earth" will go after her "in amazement and admiration" (Rev. 13:3).*
These prophetic truths Adventists have been declaring for many decades. Nor has there ever been any equivocation on thepart of our preachers in presenting these things, for our interpretation of the three angels' messages of Revelation 14:6-10 and 18:1-4 have always involved the restoration of Papal authority, culminating in a world religion. The rapidity with which some of these prophecies are being fulfilled should stab us wide awake. But it is easy to become so accustomed to the rapid change of the international scene that we fail to discern the importance of what we see. It is possible to become so blinded by the glare of oncoming events that we miss the landmarks that tell us where we are. "Blessed is he that watcheth" is one of the beatitudes of the Revelation. An oft-repeated sign on one of our interstate highways reads: "Stay awake and stay alive." But if one is going to stay awake he must first be awake. Are we as awake as were our forefathers? Jesus said: "Do not let your minds be dulled . . . so that great Day closes upon you suddenly like a trap. . . . Be on the alert, praying at all times for strength to pass safely through all these imminent troubles and to stand in the presence of the Son of Man" (Luke 21: 34-36). t
Never was there a time so propitious for the presentation of our risen Lord, particularly in the setting of the great prophecies of Revelation. Our own members as well as the public need to know the meaning of the things they read and hear. They and our heavenly Father expect much of us in these critical days. John Wesley used to say, "I like to read the newspapers to see how God is running the world." Is that how we read the newspapers? What do we see as we look out upon the world? To His disciples the Master said, "Many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them" (Matt. 13:17). "But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear" (verse 16).
To us as heralds of the coming King comes this counsel: "Those who stand before the people as teachers of truth are to grapple with great themes. . . . We are to keep abreast of the times, bearing a clear, intelligent testimony, guided by the unction of the Holy Spirit."—Evangelism, p. 151.
May God help us as ministers and teachers of the Word measure up to our responsibility.
* The Amplified New Testament. Used by permission of The Lockman Foundation.
+ The New English Bible, New Testament. 0 The Delegates of the Oxford University Press and the Syndics of the Cambridge University Press 1961.