Is the pope Catholic?
It’s not a punch line.
It’s a question being asked about the current head of the Roman Catholic Church, Francis, who critics believe is showing signs of abandoning fundamental Catholic doctrines – including the existence of hell.
In a recent address, Pope Francis declared “everything will be saved” upon Christ’s return.
“The thought that at the end of our history there will be merciful Jesus suffices in order to have faith and not to curse life,” the pope said. “Everything will be saved. Everything.”
That would suggest the church is opening up to “universalism,” the doctrine that everyone will ultimately be given salvation, according to Eugenio Scalfari, founder of the Italian newspaper la Repubblica.
Scalfari, a major Italian journalistic and cultural influence, believes Francis has “abolished the places where souls were supposed to go after death: hell, purgatory, heaven.”
Instead, the souls dominated by evil will “cease to exist.” The pope has also been accused of even warping the words of Scripture to make God appear less judgmental.
Father Thomas Weinandy, a member of the Vatican’s International Theological Commission, accused Francis of presiding over “a chronic confusion” in a letter.
The former chief of staff for the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Doctrine said the pope had demeaned the importance of doctrine and undermined church unity. Weinandy was asked to resign from his position not long after sending the letter.
The pope’s reign has long been marked by attacks on conservatives both within the church and the larger Christian community. Many Christian leaders are becoming fed up.
“This man has turned the papacy into a social justice organization that seems far more concerned with global warming and poverty than the proclamation of the gospel,” said Jan Markell of Olive Tree Ministries.
“Catholics should be very concerned. Pope Francis is a type of the false prophet who will reign with the antichrist. I am not saying he is the false prophet, but he has characteristics that would suggest a man just like him could step into that role. If I were a Catholic, I would be looking either for another pope or another faith such as Protestantism. Heaven and hell represent eternal issues that are sacred and no human being should be trying to alter them.”
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“From a biblical perspective, there never has been a purgatory, so that is a strictly Catholic issue,” said Joseph Farah, author of “The Restitution of All Things: Israel, Christians and the End of the Age.” “Unfortunately, what the pope said about heaven and hell sounds a lot like universalism. That’s the conclusion most would derive from his statement, ‘At the end of our history there is the merciful Jesus. … everything will be saved. Everything.’ Though he suggested there is a hell for ‘cowards, the unfaithful, the depraved, murderers, the unchaste, sorcerers, idol-worshipers, and deceivers of every sort.’ It’s a little confusing – and ambiguous. This is why the unchanging Word of God in the Bible needs to be our one true guide.”
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What the Bible actually says may be surprising to many Christians, says Joe Kovacs, author of “Shocked By The Bible 2.” Even if it is true Pope Francis is changing certain Catholic doctrines, many of those doctrines are built upon a misreading of Scripture, he believes.
“The so-called essential Christian doctrines on what happens after someone dies have been greatly misunderstood and taught with astonishing errors for thousands of years now, simply because people are ignoring what the Bible actually states,” he said.
“First of all, the word ‘purgatory’ is nowhere in Scripture, and neither is the concept. People don’t have ‘immortal souls’ that go somewhere else when we die. You won’t even find the phrase ‘immortal soul’ anywhere in Scripture, because we are mortal beings who will be resurrected from the dead at the future return of Jesus. The Bible does not teach that Christians are immediately floating on clouds in heaven once they die on Earth. That belief comes from the original lie of the devil thousands of years ago.
“Fake news began in the garden of Eden when Satan, the master of deception, told Eve she wouldn’t die if she disobeyed God. And to this day, millions of people cling to this nefarious lie that we don’t really die when we physically die. They forget that Jesus said in John 3:13 that no one has ever gone to heaven except Himself. God has set before us two simple choices: the ways of life – that’s everlasting life – and the ways of death. We’re commanded to choose life. If we don’t choose life, the only other option is death, and that’s an eternal death, not everlasting existence in a never-ending fire.”
Kovacs also says the debate over doctrine risks concealing what the Bible actually says about the eternal fate of sinners. While there is no universal salvation, Kovacs argues the Bible has a message that may be startling to many Christians.
“If people absolutely refuse to repent of their sins, the Bible does talk about destruction in a lake of fire that causes the second death,” he said. “This is the final, permanent death from which there is no further resurrection. It is complete annihilation from existence as people will be incinerated into dust and ashes.
“People are rarely taught clear verses from Scripture indicating this, such as the fourth chapter of the Book of Malachi, where God says ‘the arrogant and the wicked will be burned up like straw. They will be consumed — roots, branches, and all. … Then you will trample on the wicked; they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I act’ (Malachi 4:1-3). There is no eternal suffering taking place for millions upon billions upon trillions of years. That’s simply a myth.”
Like Farah, Kovacs urges Christians to turn to the Good News contained within the Bible rather than trusting in temporal leaders.
“If Bible readers connect the relevant dots in Scripture, there is very good news about a series of resurrections to take place in the future,” he said. “The First Resurrection takes place when Jesus comes back, and that’s for the true believers when they’re granted eternal life. Then, in the 20th chapter of Revelation, we see that a thousand years after Jesus returns, ‘the rest of the dead’ are restored to life in the Second Resurrection. Why don’t Christians ever talk about this? Because they’ve been tricked for all these years, as the devil doesn’t want people to know there’s still another chance to get with the divine program to become the literal sons and daughters of God.
“The sinful people raised to temporary life in the Second Resurrection will be judged – meaning they’ll be taught, coached, examined and evaluated – so they can have a shot at everlasting life as well, since God does not want anyone to perish. However, if people continue their rebellion against their Maker, Revelation 21:8 says ‘the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars’ will be tossed into the lake of fire, causing the second death as they are incinerated into ashes.'”
Pastor Carl Gallups, who analyzes current events from the standpoint of end times prophecy in “When The Lion Roars,” argues the pope’s tilt towards universalism is yet another sign the last days are coming soon.
“This is yet another example of the apostasy prophesied to accompany the last days before the return of Jesus Christ,” he said. “Of course, evangelicals and Protestants have long held to the belief that the Roman Catholic faith system was particularly vulnerable to heretical teachings and practices. Many of the classic conservative commentaries even speak of the ‘Romanish’ or ‘Papal’ system as being at least a part of the last days ‘antichrist’ system. That point is debated among scholars of today; however, it’s hard to imagine how the largest ‘sect’ of Christianity on the planet can dive off into such unbiblical teachings as espoused by Pope Francis without being at least heavily influenced by the spirit of antichrist.
“These newest teachings of the pope are decidedly of the universalism ilk of heresy. Interestingly, many prophetic writers of the past predicted that the Roman Catholic system would eventually plunge all the way down this hill. It certainly seems that Pope Francis is shoving the whole thing off the cliff with this newest round of ‘instruction’ from the papal offices.”
Gallups agrees with Catholic dissidents that the pope has thrown the Catholic Church into confusion.
“He has often been quoted as making completely unbiblical declarations only to have Catholic officials take to the media to explain ‘what the pope really meant,'” said Gallups. “I’m certain this latest declaration will have the same effect. The Bible simply does not support the heresy of the doctrine of universalism. Not all will be eventually saved. There is heaven and there is hell. There is eternity with God and there is eternity without God. One’s eternal state depends entirely upon what one does with God’s offer of salvation in Jesus Christ.
“Thus far, Pope Francis appears to have thrown the Catholic Church into further confusion since his reign. We are undoubtedly living in profoundly prophetic times. How people can miss this truth, right before our eyes every day, is beyond comprehension.”
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