Charlie Hebdo: Attack on Free Speech
By Pastor Hal Mayer
(the above message can be downloaded by clicking the down arrow in the top right corner)
Thank you for joining me today as we explore yet another shocking prophetic development in our times. We are certainly living at the end of time and the movements are so rapid that it seems almost impossible to keep up with it all. But, I want to be on the right side of prophecy as it unfolds before us. But more than that, I want to understand the principles of the scripture so that I may know God’s will for my life in the difficult times we will face in the future. Don’t you? Let us consecrate ourselves to the principles of heaven, so that the Holy Spirit can be poured into our lives.
The recent attacks in Paris, France, on the magazine Charlie Hebdo have unleashed a raging debate on freedom of speech and freedom of the press. All sides in this discussion have strong convictions. Should governments limit freedom of speech, or should there be no curbs at all? But the real underlying issue is something else; something far more important; something much more fundamental and highly charged. These things we will explore today as we study God’s word and the world around us.
But before we begin, let me say how much I appreciate your prayers and support for Keep the Faith. It means so much to me. I am so full of joy with what God has done with Keep the Faith in the last year alone. I can hardly keep it in. We are making huge progress with our health retreats in Australia and I am very thankful that the Lord has opened the way. But your support is needed more than ever as we move forward with God’s work. Stay tuned to our email updates through the KTFInsider. If you haven’t signed up for it yet, please do so. It’s free.
Don’t forget to go to our website and see our two new features, our daily quotes from famous people that have prophetic implications and choice daily statements from the Spirit of Prophecy. You’ll find them interesting and encouraging. You can also see the pictures of what is happening at Highwood by clicking on the link to Highwood Soul on our website. An amazing transformation is taking place there. And while you are at it, click on the link for Amaroo, and have a look at our new health retreat in South Australia near Adelaide if you haven’t already. We’re still in the planning stages, but we hope that it will be open later this year. And lastly, please do continue to pray for Keep the Faith every day.
Let me share with you a statement from Review and Herald, January 27, 1885. “Every child of God should be intelligent in the Scriptures, and able, by tracing the fulfillment of prophecy, to show our position in this world’s history.”
Think about it, my friends. Here is a statement that says we are to trace the fulfillment of prophecy so that we can understand our position in world history. Here we are, my friends, on the threshold of eternity, and more than ever we need to understand the important principles of prophecy and see how it is being fulfilled right before our eyes. Keep the Faith will do our best to faithfully help you keep up to date on fulfilling prophecy.
Let me read on. “The Bible was written for the common people as well as for scholars, and is within the comprehension of all. The great truths which underlie man’s duty to his fellowmen and to his Maker are clearly revealed; and those who really want the truth need make no mistake. The way is not left in uncertainty, as though we were standing where four roads met, not knowing which one to take. The truth is our guide; it is to us like a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.”
Isn’t that a comforting statement? Do you have the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night? The Bible can be understood by all. Our simple minds, in this benighted world are not left in darkness. We have the great light of God’s word to reliably show us the way. I just love the Bible more and more each day, don’t you?
As we begin our study today, let us ask for the presence of the Holy Spirit as we open the sacred pages of God’s word.
Our Father in heaven, thank you for the Holy Scriptures that shine upon our dark world and illuminate everything that we need to see. We pray that we will understand your word more clearly and apply it to ourselves more faithfully as we study today. May Your Holy Spirit enrich us with your presence as we open Your holy word. In Jesus name, amen.
Turn with me in your Bibles, my friends, to 2 Peter 1:19. This verse is powerful as it describes so vividly how the word of God reveals things to us about the dark world around us. The Bible reveals so very much, but most people aren’t willing to see it, so they remain blind. Even religious leaders often remain blind willingly, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men, Matthew 15:19. I don’t want commandments of men. I want the commandments of God. I don’t want policies and practices that are imposed by human agents. I’d rather have Jesus, because His yoke is easy and His burden is light, Matthew 11:30.
Let me refer you to Proverbs 4:18. “But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.” Are we nearing the perfect day, my friends? We know that. But, are we seeing the light more clearly?
We are in a very dark place. It is the darkest place in the entire universe. When we look out into space at night it all seems dark, but when you look at the pictures that come back from the Hubble telescope, you get quite a different picture. But this earth is dark, mainly because of sin. It is spiritually dark. And the people are in gross darkness. Isaiah 60:2
Friends, the master and commander of heaven, Jesus Christ, who was exalted above all else, who has the adoration of angels and who was the song of every choral number, whose word was immediately obeyed by all the angelic hosts; the great and glorious king of heaven, with all that unlimited glory, humbled himself so that He could take on our sinful nature and live among us in our flesh and yet be the sinless sacrifice for our sins. He lived among the most humble, bypassing the learned and erudite schools of the day.
This is the great amazement of those angels over whom He is master and commander, and the glorious angels now understand the true nature of the Son of God. They love Him more now than ever and they do his bidding even more eagerly. They are invisible to our darkened vision, but they are there. Absolutely. Certainly. They collaborate with Him in the salvation of souls, yearning and longing for you and me to yield ourselves to Christ every morning when we wake up and every evening before we retire.
Listen to this wonderful statement from the book Patriarchs and Prophets, page 63.
“The Son of God, heaven’s glorious Commander, was touched with pity for the fallen race. His heart was moved with infinite compassion as the woes of the lost world rose up before Him. But divine love had conceived a plan whereby man might be redeemed. The broken law of God demanded the life of the sinner. In all the universe there was but one who could, in behalf of man, satisfy its claims. Since the divine law is as sacred as God Himself, only one equal with God could make atonement for its transgression. None but Christ could redeem fallen man from the curse of the law and bring him again into harmony with Heaven. Christ would take upon Himself the guilt and shame of sin–sin so offensive to a holy God that it must separate the Father and His Son. Christ would reach to the depths of misery to rescue the ruined race.”
Did you know that you have the privilege to cooperate with the heavenly commander today? You and I can collaborate with holy angels too! What a wonderful work. When I think about it, I’m overwhelmed. O friends, don’t you want to live for Jesus, the great and glorious leader of the heavenly hosts? Don’t you want to live for the one who died for you? If you do, one day you will be able to see them in all their glory. And you’ll see Jesus our loving savior and live forever in our glorious home.
And here is a statement from The Desire of Ages, page 26. “The work of redemption will be complete. In the place where sin abounded, God’s grace much more abounds. The earth itself, the very field that Satan claims as his, is to be not only ransomed but exalted. Our little world, under the curse of sin the one dark blot in His glorious creation, will be honored above all other worlds in the universe of God. Here, where the Son of God tabernacled in humanity; where the King of glory lived and suffered and died,–here, when He shall make all things new, the tabernacle of God shall be with men, “and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them, and be their God.” And through endless ages as the redeemed walk in the light of the Lord, they will praise Him for His unspeakable Gift,– Immanuel, God with us.”
What a wonderful God we serve! I look forward to the time when we will be with Him face to face, don’t you? May God bless you as you order your life by His book. Prophecy is being fulfilled all around us, and though most have no clue about it, you have the privilege to understand most of it right now.
Our world is very dark indeed and it is not our home. Crime, immorality, bloodshed are everywhere you turn. As the Holy Spirit is being withdrawn from the earth, violence increases like it did before the flood. As men’s thoughts are concentrated on only evil continually, his ability to distinguish between right and wrong diminishes. The natural heart is full of hatred. And violence is the result.
January 7, 2015 dawned a rather dreary overcast day in Paris, France. Most of the editorial team of the French satire magazine Charlie Hebdo gathered in the editorial offices for their routine weekly editorial meeting. Little did they realize that on this day they would be involved in the worst security crisis France has had in decades. Little did they know that eight of them would lose their lives plus four others in just a few short minutes that very morning. Little did they realize that they were going to be part of something directly related to the fulfillment of predictions found in scripture. Some members of the editorial committee were late for one reason or another. Perhaps their probation needed more time. Perhaps they were given another opportunity to soften their hearts to the Holy Spirit so that they could respond to Christ. For whatever reason, they were delayed, perhaps by heavenly design. God is merciful even to the rebellious, isn’t He?
Charlie Hebdo is a liberal satire magazine featuring cartoons, reports, jokes and other mockery and polemics aimed at politicians, society, religions and culture. It is strongly secularist, sacrilegious and left wing. It often tried to shock its readers and targets by characterizing them in juvenile and puerile ways. Its religious animus was aimed at Catholics, Jews, Muslims and others. And it has a history of attracting controversy. For instance, the magazine was unsuccessfully sued by Islamist organizations in 2006 under French hate speech laws over its reprinting of the Danish cartoons of Muhammad. The cover of a 2011 edition of the magazine featured a cartoon of Muhammad as guest editor of the magazine. The magazine’s offices were fire-bombed and its website hacked as retaliation. In 2012, it again published pictures of Muhammad, one of them depicted him as naked.
Charlie Hebdo’s editors were not merely the passive non-believers that get along ok with religious people, they were on a mission to drive those with religious ideals and practices to abandon them by ridiculing their hypocrisy. The editor Stéphane Charbonnier, known as Charb, said, “We have to carry on until Islam has been rendered as banal as Catholicism.” That’s not likely to happen, but the late editor thought there was virtue in lampooning religion and religious beliefs.
The Bible has something to say about this type of thinking and behavior. Listen to 2 Peter 3:3. The Bible says, “Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts.” Charlie Hebdo and its editors were clearly disrespectful of anything and everything, but especially of religion. But friends, don’t think that your religion or religious beliefs will be left unscathed. We’re at the end of time and those who are given a special message for this time, will suffer mockery, ridicule and scorn.
Incidentally, no true Christian should resort to ridicule and scorn. Never should we be disrespectful of others. Even if they are wrong, we are to entreat them with respect and kindness, showing them what the Bible teaches so that they will accept that they are in error and amend their ways. Ridicule, mockery and poking fun is never appropriate for a Christian to use against the faith of others. But like everything else in this life, this is a voluntary matter. In other words, kindness and respect for others is something that comes through a mature relationship with Christ, not by the human legislative process.
France has a very unique legal environment concerning freedom of speech. Blasphemy laws ceased to exist with the end of the dominion of the Catholic Church during the French Revolution. The principle of Laïcité, or the separation of church and state, was enshrined in its laws in 1905 and its constitution in 1945. Today, the law does not permit expression of religion in public places in France. Religious expression is only permitted on private property. We may think that it is ironic and rather inconsistent that a magazine like Charlie Hebdo is permitted to spew its religious views, or rather its anti-religious views, in public. They are just as religious as any other religious views. But that is the nature of French society, and for that matter many secular societies. It’s ok to take aim at religion, but quite politically incorrect to insult secular ideals and agendas, or in the coming months and years, other religions.
At 11:30 am on January 7, a black Citroen drove up to the offices of Charlie Hebdo. Out jumped two gunmen with AK-47 rifles and other weapons. Corinne Rey, a cartoonist for the magazine, was out on the street returning to her office and the editorial meeting from a day care center. After first attempting to go into the wrong address, the gunmen forced Corinne to enter the code on the keypad entry to the newsroom on the second floor.
They first shot and killed the police bodyguard of the editor, Stéphane
Charbonnier. Then, calling out the names of the editor and four other cartoonists, they killed them execution style. They also killed three other editorial staff and a guest. They left the building shouting “We have avenged the Prophet Muhammad” and “God is Great” in Arabic.
Outside, the gunman exchanged gunfire with police, and during their escape stopped their car, got out and executed a wounded Muslim police officer, probably unaware that he was Muslim. Later, they abandoned the Citroen, and hijacked a Renault Clio and disappeared. The suspects clearly had military training, using military hand signals and handling their equipment in a systematic military style. A massive manhunt began for the shooters.
That same day, in a park in southwest Paris a gunman shot and seriously wounded a jogger. Police later linked the attempted murder to a collaborative effort by another shooter, Amedy Coulibaly.
The next day, about 8:45 a.m. a lone gunman, carrying a machine gun and a pistol, shot and killed a police woman and wounded a man in another Paris suburb. Police later confirmed that this attack was connected to the Charlie Hebdo attack.
About 10:30 that day, the two suspects, brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi, ages 32 and 34 respectively, robbed a petrol station and convenience store with AK-47s and grenade launchers in northeast Paris and led police on a chase through northeastern France. Eventually, they outsmarted the police and disappeared again.
Then on the 9th of January, they hijacked another car in a suburb about 26 miles from Paris and led police on a high-speed chase back toward the city.
The chase ended in a printing establishment in a suburb 22 miles from Paris. Hundreds of armed police officers surrounded the building. Elite forces deployed snipers, helicopters and military equipment.
Inside the building the attackers released a hostage, while another man was hiding in the kitchen in a cardboard box. He was texting police with tactical information about the whereabouts of the suspects during the tense eight-hour siege. Finally, about 5:00 p.m., the two Kouachi brothers came out of the building firing on police. Both suspects were killed and two police officers were wounded. They had told local media that they wanted to die “martyrs deaths.”
Meanwhile, in Paris, yet another siege was underway. The third gunman entered a Kosher market and took 19 people hostage after a shootout with police. Amedy Coulibaly, who had previously killed the police woman, threated to kill the hostages if police didn’t let the Kouachi brothers go free. About 5:15 p.m., just after the siege with the Kouachi brothers ended, special forces stormed the supermarket just as Coulibaly started his evening prayers and killed him, freeing 15 hostages. They also found four dead hostages in the building.
The terrible and tragic revenge attacks were the deadliest act of terrorism in France since 1961 when 28 people were killed in a train bombing by a dissident paramilitary organization.
In the aftermath of the attacks, the surviving staff of the magazine continued publication. The next issue sold seven million copies in six languages, whereas the normal print run is merely 60,000 copies in French only. It featured a picture of the prophet Muhammad on the cover with a sign saying “I am Charlie” and a headline “All is Forgiven.”
At least 54 anti-Muslim “incidents” erupted in France during the week following the shootings, including violent attacks on mosques and Islamic centers, threats and insults, and the like.
January 7, the night of the attacks, a total of more than 100,000 people gathered in cities all around France. Thirty five thousand people gathered in Paris carrying signs that read “Je suis Charlie” (I am Charlie). Then on January 10, in what officials said was the largest public demonstration since World War II, approximately 3.7 million people marched quietly in cities all over France in protest of the attacks (1.2 – 1.6 million marched in Paris alone). Some were chanting “liberte” and “Charlie.”
Forty-four world leaders started the march in Paris, linking arms in a show of solidarity. They included, French President François Holland, British Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, EU President Donald Tusk, Italy’s Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, Switzerland’s President Simonetta Sommaruga, and Jordan’s King Abdullah II. Conspicuously missing was any representation from the United States of America. The White House sent no one to join the march in Paris.
“We’ve just been hit at the heart of our liberty.” Said Anne Hidalgo, mayor of Paris. And François Holland, president of France said of all the world leaders present, “Paris is the capital of the world today.”
The attacks raised difficult questions about freedom of speech. And many have called for limits on freedom of speech. “The head of France’s 550,000-strong Jewish community, Roger Cukierman… called for limits on hate speech and more control on suspected jihadists.”
Journalists and others around the world engaged in the heated debate. Here were some of their comments.
“There needs to be a line that people can’t cross… there has to be a distinction between legal free speech and basic human decency.”
Here’s another comment. “Free speech is a necessity… We need those rights to progress as a society. However, there should be no need to use it as an excuse to recite racist, homophobic, sexist, ableist [which is discrimination against disabled people], Islamophobic, or generally hateful things.”
The Muslim extremists accomplished something along the lines of their goals. According to a poll taken after the attacks, a whopping half of the French population supports restrictions or limits on free speech. And 42% of them believe that magazines and newspapers should avoid publishing cartoons “that made Muslims feel injured or threatened.” In other words the attack has cowed at least some people into thinking that they should accommodate Muslim’s sensitivities in order to avoid violent attacks.
In the aftermath of the attacks, government leaders also called for more stringent counter-terrorism laws. French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve… “called for the creation of a European database of airplane passenger names and said Europe should fight against abusive use of the Internet to spread hate speech.” The European Union has since approved a plan to do so.
Ironically, France already has a new anti-terror law that criminalizes certain forms of free speech, namely, “defending, condoning or provoking terrorism.” Germany, France, Austria, Belgium, Hungary, Israel, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, and many other countries have laws against denying the holocaust. Will there come a day when France and other nations will have laws that define criticisms of any religion, even those criticisms found in the Bible against spiritual Babylon as provoking terrorism, or inciting hatred?
Since January 7, there have been at least 486 legal cases linked to the Charlie Hebdo attacks, 257 of which were cases in which the defendant was accused of condoning or provoking terrorism. Eighteen people have been given prison sentences so far for this very crime.
British Prime Minister David Cameron has invoked public safety to call for an extension of surveillance laws to include a ban on encrypted messages. “The question remains:” he said, “are we going to allow a means of communications where it simply is not possible to [intercept it]? My answer to that question is: no, we must not. The first duty of any government is to keep our country and our people safe.”
But the deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, surprisingly took quite a different position and actually criticized Cameron. “The irony appears to be lost on some politicians who say in one breath that they will defend freedom of expression and then in the next advocate a huge encroachment on the freedom of all British citizens.”
Meanwhile the British Home Secretary, Theresa May, put forward a proposed code of practice that would give police sweeping new powers to access phone records of journalists, lawyers, doctors, priests and other professionals on their own authority without review and authorization by an independent judge.
Many British journalists, and no doubt others, object to the code because it would compromise their sources, which would no longer be confidential. Confidentiality of sources is a key element of freedom of the press. Bob Satchwell of the Society of Editors said: “Journalism isn’t a crime and should not be treated as such.”
Confidentiality is also a key element of other important professions as well. At stake are the sources of information of journalists, confessions made to priests and lawyers, tests and records of doctors and discussions of political leaders. The protection of digital information like mobile phone calls, browsers, records on file, etc., is at the center of the debate.
London Metropolitan Police have already secretly accessed phone records of journalists for over four hundred leaks to the press in the last couple of years. Opponents of the new practice say that it amounts to “state interference with press freedom.”
Friends, put not your trust in princes, the Bible says in Psalm 146:3. If you live in Britain, these men can’t protect you no matter how tough their laws are. Only God can protect you. David Cameron, François Holland, and others, are doing what politicians normally do. They never let a good crisis go to waste. They seize upon it to increase government power. It happens that the powers Cameron is seeking would not have hindered the attackers had they been used in Paris.
Clegg had even more to say. “People who blithely say they are happy for their communications to be open to scrutiny because they have ‘nothing to hide’ have failed to grasp something fundamental about open democratic societies: We do not make ourselves safer by making ourselves less free…
“Let me be really clear,” he continued, “we have every right to invade the privacy of terrorists and those we think want to do us harm… but we should not equate that with invading the privacy of every single person in the UK. They are not the same thing. [The new police powers] would be a new and dramatic shift in the relationship between the state and the individual.”
This is classic double speak. Clegg is not saying that government should not invade private citizen’s data. He’s actually saying that they should be able to seize data from anyone they think will harm society. In other words, Clegg supports limits on free speech. And one day, those tools will be misdirected and be aimed at innocent people, just as it was in the days of Hitler. One day the tools that are being developed to deal with terrorism will be aimed at those who have to pointedly expose the false worship and corruptions of Babylon and warn people of the world to come out of Babylon and join God’s true people.
Freedom of speech is under assault everywhere. The chairman of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Joel Simon wrote, “A global battle for freedom of expression is upon us, and the casualties are mounting.” In 2014, according to the CPJ, there were 221 journalists imprisoned for doing their job in various countries. That’s up from 80 in the year 2000. Some 69 more professional journalists were killed in the line of duty. Thirty years ago, identifying oneself as a journalist was a way of making yourself safer in areas of war or violence, but not today.
With the power and ubiquity of digital media in full swing, it has become more difficult to censor outlets making it relatively easier for governments or extremists to focus on individual journalists, be they professionals, media assistants, activists or citizen reporters and intimidate them with violence and imprisonment.
Freedom of the press and freedom of speech was also discussed at the World Economic Forum in Davos Switzerland after the Charlie Hebdo attacks. The main talking point in the discussion on freedom of speech was the murders in Paris, but the real underlying issue was how to deal with the a global, unfriendly world for reporters. “Reporters languishing in jail in Egypt, cartoonists shot in France, Saudi Arabian bloggers imprisoned for filming beheadings,” all pose challenges for freedom of speech and freedom of the press.
As an aside, I might add that there is a growing fear among the world’s super-rich about another related issue that was also discussed at Davos, which is an indicator that it will soon burst on the consciousness of the public. The rapidly increasing income and wealth inequality has the super-rich running so scared that they are buying up farms and airstrips in relatively remote places, like New Zealand, to which they can escape from any mass discontent over their extreme wealth. They saw what happened in Ferguson, Missouri. They saw what happened with the “Occupy” movement. They saw what happened in other places. They understand that there is a seething anger under the surface and that even small insignificant events can trigger big reactions. So, they are getting prepared.
Shouldn’t God’s people be getting out of the cities into the country places, just as God says? Friends, if you live in a city, you will be vulnerable when there is discontent and violence. Cities are almost always the places where violence is concentrated in such times. The super-rich have their own reasons for their escape plan. And the Bible says that in some ways “the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.” Luke 16:8
As the world converges around media and technology, there are new problems arising that undermine freedom of speech. No longer are there guarantees for independent reporting or journalism. But that also means, consequently, that there are no longer guarantees for freedom of speech at an individual level no matter how many politicians stand up to defend it. And though it is a crime, often people take matters into their own hands and kill over something as trivial as a parking space.
The problem that Islamic extremism imposes on western nations is whether there is a “right not to be offended” that supersedes the right to freedom of speech. And if we lose the right to offend, we will cower into a corner and do or say nothing because almost anything one says these days, particularly if it is related to religious convictions is likely to offend someone, somewhere. And if we abandon the right to offend, we lose our ability to speak truth and plainly reveal what God’s word actually says about the powers that be in the world in the last days.
If there are certain “sacred topics” that are not to be commented on, who decides what they are? And where does that authority come from? Would it be the Muslim Imams and the Quran? Would it be the United States which has dominant control of the internet? Or would it be the Pope? And whose sensitivities would take precedence? Muslims, Catholics, Buddhists or Sunday keepers. And if you adopt the view that everyone has the right not to be offended, then you have to shut up, and say nothing. For, if you open your mouth, you will surely get yourself in trouble with someone.
The consequence is that society will end up in the moral equivalent of the Middle Ages again, where freedom of speech, freedom of worship and even freedom of thought were limited to the politically correct definition. If a nation fears the consequences of offending, and makes laws that criminalize offensive ideas, the nation will take on the very characteristics of the medieval times that were dominated by the established religious power. And that is exactly what is predicted in scripture.
Speaking of the United States, Revelation 13:12 says “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.” That beast with the deadly wound referred to is the Holy See. The Vatican and the United States are working together to arrange the final assault on God’s people who will not go along with Rome’s worship laws.
The pope weighted in on the Charlie Hebdo massacre too. Aboard a plane to the Philippines from Sri Lanka, Pope Francis explained his view to journalists aboard with him. The pope said though freedom of speech was a fundamental human right, “every religion has its dignity” that should be respected.
When asked about the Charlie Hebdo attack, he said, “One cannot provoke, one cannot insult other people’s faith, one cannot make fun of faith. There is a limit. Every religion has its dignity … in freedom of expression there are limits.”
“If my good friend Dr. Gasparri [who was standing next to him] says a curse word against my mother,” he continued, “he can expect a punch. It’s normal. It’s normal. You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others.” We are obligated to speak for the “common good,” he added.
In other words, even the pope does not believe in unfettered freedom of expression. Considering the history of Rome during the inquisition, that should be obvious to all. It was the principle of medieval times when the Catholic Church dominated society. During those times freedom of expression was persecuted. And note his expression concerning the common good. This is a papal concept that all must work toward the collective ideal of what is in the best interests of all, not just the individual. This is essentially saying that individual rights do not supersede the rights of society, a classic papal concept that directly relates to freedom of religion. In other words, freedom of religion, or any other freedom, for that matter, must be subject to the needs and best interests of the society in which we live, and can be taken away if it doesn’t fit in.
For 1000 years, the Waldenses traversed Europe undermining the teachings of Rome by the Bible. They exercised freedom of speech even when it was punishable by death. And many of them lost their lives because of it. If freedom of speech is curtailed by law, there will always be some who will get caught in the legal web. The day will come when it will be criminal to give the last message of the Bible to the world and expose Rome’s iniquity as described in Revelation 14:8-11.
While the papal comments seemed to justify the Muslim violence to some people, Francis’ words also made it very clear that those who give the final warning against Rome, as the Bible requires, will get the papal “punch” of persecution.
Pope Francis spoke of this issue in the most endearing terms. He spoke of his mother. Most people love their mothers and it would be an emotional thing for them to hear abuse of their mother. But his comment about religion being like his mother also implies that for him speaking against his religion is a very emotional issue. Could the pope have been referring to the “mother church,” when he made those remarks? Rome likes to call herself the mother religion.
While the cartoons of Charlie Hebdo were not directed at Catholicism, the pope is no doubt taking advantage of the event to tell us what he thinks about people who criticize or ridicule the Catholic Church. He wants you and me to know that Rome, the mother church, is getting ready to “punch” those who expose her corruptions and call people out of her. Like the Muslim murderers, who bided their time until French intelligence agencies weren’t closely watching them, so, the Vatican is waiting for a maturity of issues to punch those who oppose and expose her.
But the pope’s remarks go even further. He is preparing the minds of millions to object to the message of Revelation 18:2-5. Listen to what it says. “And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird. For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies. And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues. For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities.”
My friends, you and I are called to give the last warning message found in these verses. This is a message to warn people to separate from Rome and come into line with Jesus Christ and His law. We are to call people away from worshiping on Rome’s Sunday and worship the God of the seventh-day Sabbath of the fourth commandment.
Pope Francis is preparing to oppose the soul winning that you and I must do. He is saying at least symbolically that you are not to attack his mother, the Catholic Church or you will get a “punch.”
But the pope has been even more blunt and open about this. The pope recently called for Christian leaders to stop proselytism. Here is what he said in relation to so-called Christian unity. “Our shared commitment to proclaiming the gospel,” he said of the various churches working with Rome, “enables us to overcome proselytism and competition in all their forms.” Though he was talking to Catholics and a few representatives of other churches at an ecumenical service, he was not primarily talking about Roman Catholics, but those who are aggressive in their evangelism, such as Latin American Pentecostals, Baptists and probably Adventists, among others.
“Friends, that’s Bible work, he’s talking about. That’s evangelism. While it is certainly important to reach the unreached, yet, God’s people in the last days, must reach out to all those who are in false religion of any kind, including Roman Catholics. But if you do, remember that the pope has now threatened you with the “punch of persecution.”
Let us think for a minute about the counsel of the Lord concerning the way we should act toward other faiths and in particular Roman Catholics in the last days. This is going to become very important in the future when God’s people face hostility for not being ecumenical and for exposing Rome’s false religion.
Here is one from Counsels to Writers and Editors, page 63.
“It is true that we are commanded to “cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and show My people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins.” Isaiah 58:1. This message must be given, but while it must be given, we should be careful not to thrust and crowd and condemn those who have not the light that we have. We should not go out of our way to make hard thrusts at the Catholics. Among the Catholics there are many who are most conscientious Christians, and who walk in all the light that shines upon them, and God will work in their behalf. Those who have had great privileges and opportunities, and who have failed to improve their physical, mental, and moral powers, but who have lived to please themselves, and have refused to bear their responsibility, are in greater danger and in greater condemnation before God than those who are in error upon doctrinal points, yet who seek to live to do good to others. Do not censure others; do not condemn them.”
Friends, we are to be kind to all, especially to those who are caught up in the Roman Catholic system. The spirit of debate, the spirit of condemnation of those who do not believe as you do, and the spirit of ridicule and sarcasm are to be left out of our writings and discourse. We do our best at Keep the Faith to follow this counsel by using documented information linked with the inspired statements of prophecy. Even with that, at times, it is important to be careful what is said and how it is said. We are also careful not to overstate things because we know that we are being tracked by eyes and ears that we do not understand.
Here is another statement from Counsels to Writers and Editors, pages 64 and 65. “Brethren, I feel hurt when I see that so many decided thrusts are made against the Catholics. Preach the truth, but restrain the words which show a harsh spirit; for such words cannot help or enlighten anyone… But for Christ’s sake heed the admonitions which have been given in regard to making scathing remarks about the Catholics.”
While we should be clear in our presentations, we should always be careful not to mix in words that are scathing or harsh. If we truly love lost souls, we will do all in our power to win them and to avoid anything that will turn them away from the truth for this time.
Here is another angle on the same issue. Some people like to take almost everything that happens in society and label it as a Roman Catholic or Jesuit plot. And they cannot conclusively document from credible sources what they say. This leaves the impression that they are extreme and excessive in their feelings toward Roman Catholics. While there is plenty to document, they still go beyond it and say what they want without regard to the credibility of their sources. Be careful about that.
And here is one last bit of counsel concerning how to act toward those who do not have the same privileges and experience that you and I may have. It is from Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 9, page 244.
“Among the Catholics there are many who are most conscientious Christians, and who walk in all the light that shines upon them, and God will work in their behalf. Those who have had great privileges and opportunities, and who have failed to improve their physical, mental, and moral powers, but who have lived to please themselves, and have refused to bear their responsibility, are in greater danger and in greater condemnation before God than those who are in error upon doctrinal points, yet who seek to live to do good to others. Do not censure others; do not condemn them.”
God knows what He is doing, my friends. He knows how to reach sincere and open hearts if He is not hindered by those who make hard statements against those who don’t have as much light.
The terrorist attacks on the magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris was aimed at freedom of speech. But even the terrorists probably didn’t understand that there is a far more important target to the enemy of souls. The attack on freedom of the press is very significant in its own right. But the real aim that the enemy is targeting is freedom of religion, a far more important goal that he has in mind. He is working to destabilize freedom of speech and freedom of the press, two very important principles in the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution and a key component in many other constitutions of the western world. First freedom of speech must be undermined. Once that is accomplished, along with all the other elements of freedom that have been compromised, then he can make a direct assault on freedom of religion and freedom of worship. We are almost there, my friends. We’re almost there.
Muslim extremists are very quickly bringing us back to the same principles that the Catholic Church used in medieval times. They are essentially of the same philosophy in regard to certain things. For instance, Muslim extremists use the same tactics as were used in medieval times by Roman Catholicism. Though their barbarity is jarring in modern times, we need to understand why it exists. For a long, long time, Hollywood has been conditioning people to think in terms of violence and barbarity. Now it is taking on a real life significance in the actions of ISIS and its global franchises. That which repulses people, once seen often enough will become less repulsive until it is tolerable. Then once tolerable, it will even become acceptable. And finally, it becomes a recognized tool of the very society that had once repudiated it. In other words, my friends, we are seeing beheadings, burnings and other forms of cruel and barbaric behavior, which will desensitize us to its horrors. Eventually, these things will be used against God’s people. After all, we are told in Revelation that there are those who will be beheaded for the sake of Christ.
Listen to these words from the Apostle John from Revelation 20:4. “And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.”
This verse is telling us that during the millennium there will be thrones of judgment. Those who sit on them are the ones who were persecuted for their witness for Christ, especially those who went through the last moments of earth’s history when the mark of the beast is imposed on the nations. They refused to go along with global worship. They are the ones who will judge those who persecuted them.
Friends, we should not be surprised at burning people to death, such as ISIS did to that Jordanian fighter pilot. We should not be surprised at beheadings. These things will come back into our modern and so-called “enlightened” world according to the Bible. Nothing is new under the sun, my friends. Let us remember that history repeats itself. And as we near the end, we will see more of such things to get us ready for its application on a wider scale, or aimed at people who are innocent of any wrongdoing, except for their testimony of Jesus and their witness to the word of God.
Freedom of speech is close to being the last bastion of defense to freedom of religion. If you take away freedom of speech you will inevitably remove freedom of religion and worship. It has been quite a progression. I have long wondered when freedom of speech would come under serious assault. Now it is clearly on the radar. Think about what has happened over the last decade and a bit since 2001. After the terrorist attacks of September 11, we saw the United States begin to use barbaric forms of so-called “enhanced interrogation,” which was a euphemism for torture. Even though torture has recently been discredited in a high-level U.S. Senate report that said those methods were brutal and ineffective, Dick Cheney, the U.S. Vice-President at that time, recently said “I’d do it again in a minute.”
These techniques were reminiscent of the Roman Catholic Inquisition of the Middle Ages. And President Obama reminded everyone of that in the 2015 National Prayer Breakfast in Washington DC. He said, “And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ.” While his remarks were offensive and insulting to many Christians, it is a fact that his remarks were true.
During that time, after the September 11 attacks, there were also other actions that reflected back on the Inquisition, such as freezing the assets of the terrorists (which is a no-trade, or no-buy, no-sell law), confiscation of assets, unlimited detention in secret prisons, suspension of habeas corpus, suspension of the right to legal counsel for the accused, the assumption of guilt, trial by tribunal as opposed to trial by jury, all of which were characteristics of the ancient Inquisition. And many of these were carried out not merely on foreign fighters, but on U.S. citizens as well. All of these undermined constitutional guarantees that were protecting religious liberty. And all of these were carried out on “religious extremists.” We have also seen the rise of the surveillance state, the rise of militarized police, and other elements that continue to chip away at personal freedoms, all in the name of fighting terrorism. Now freedom of speech is under assault. And it will eventually come around to include criticism of at least certain religious ideas or entities in spite of what government leaders have said in the past about never restricting free speech in religious matters. That is now going to change.
It wasn’t all that long ago that the U.S. Homeland Security department published a secret police advisory in which military veterans and others were fingered as potential violent extremists who should be watched. Included in the list were those who preach on end-time prophecies. When the document was leaked to the press, it created such a furor that the Homeland Security revised it and republished it without the offensive list. But the original list reveals what was on the minds of the authors. Eventually, those who teach the full truth of end-time Bible prophecy will certainly be accused of being an extremist.
Federal agency warns of radicals on right
Homeland security chief apologizes to veterans groups
Federal agency warns of radicals on right
Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment
Napolitano Apologizes for Offending Veterans After DHS Eyes Them for ‘Rightwing Extremism’
Report citing veteran extremism is pulled
Law Center challenges basis of DHS report on right-wing extremist threat
These things take direct aim at your religious liberty and mine, my friends. We need to prepare for what is coming. Your heart and mine must be united with Christ, or these fearful things will overwhelm us. Only in Christ are we safe and secure. Even if you end up in some dungeon, or you are beheaded for the witness of Jesus, you can still have His peace in your soul. You can still walk in confidence. But many of God’s people are not prepared to think about these things, or let go of their sins and their lifestyles that are not in harmony with heaven. Make God first in your life, my friends. Put Christ at the center of your hopes. Cease from your dependence on the flesh, either your own or others. You can’t depend on any human being other than Christ. And, may God bless you as you deepen and broaden your faith.
Let us pray. Our Father in heaven, thank you for Jesus Christ who has promised to stand by our side if we are faithful to Him. We want to have His peace that passes all understanding in our hearts. We thank You for revealing to us in Your word how end-time things will unfold in the near future. Please Father, show us how to overcome the temptations of the devil and let us understand the true nature of our situation in these last days. Thank you for Your promise of strength to meet every emergency. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.