Take Heed, Watchman Nee
And there came one of the seven angels that had the seven bowls, and spake with me, saying, Come hither, I will show thee the judgment of the great harlot that sitteth upon many waters; with whom the kings of the earth committed fornication, and they that dwell in the earth were made drunken with the wine of her fornication. And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness: and I saw a woman sitting upon a scarlet-colored beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and tens horns. And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and decked with gold and precious stone and pearls, having in her hand a golden cup full of abominations, even the unclean things of her fornication, and upon her forehead a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF THE HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. (Rev. 17.1-5)
Today we will discuss the matter of idol worship. Revelation 17.4 states: “the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and decked with gold and precious stone and pearls, having in her hand a golden cup full of abominations, even the unclean things of her fornication.”
*This message by the author should not in any sense be construed by the reader as an attack on the communicants personally who are within the Roman Catholic Church. It is, however, to borrow a phrase from Paul the apostle of the Lord, a “speaking of the truth in love” where there has been a departure from Biblical truth as a consequence of Roman Catholic teaching and practice. In that sense, the message has been included in the present volume as a warning to new believers against whatever is not of God.
Additionally, the reader will notice that on several occasions the author is found quoting statements and passages from an unnamed source but which he has described as “a well-known and approved book of the Roman Church.” Unfortunately, this particular reference volume, apparently written by a member of the Roman Catholic Church and apparently approved by it, could not—after an extensive search—be located by the translator. The latter has therefore been forced in most instances to translate directly from the author’s text regardless whether or not the results in English constitute exact quotations of such statements or passages as have been derived by the author from that work.—Translator
This woman points to the Church system of Roman Catholicism.* As with the woman here portrayed in Revelation 17, so Romanism is full of gold, silver and precious stones and is also resplendent with purple and scarlet. The Catholic pope wears two crowns: one is ecclesiastical, the other is political. These are made of gold, with 146 large precious stones and 540 pearls. The golden cup full of abominations signifies idolatry, as the following passages of Scripture will affirm.
“The graven images of their gods shall ye burn with fire: thou shalt not covet the silver or the gold that is on them, nor take it unto thee, lest thou be snared therein; for it is an abomination to Jehovah thy God. And thou shalt not bring an abomination into thy house, and become a devoted thing like unto it: thou shalt utterly detest it, and thou shalt utterly abhor it; for it is a devoted thing” (Deut. 7.25-26). “He shall make a firm covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease; and upon the wing of abominations shall come one that maketh desolate; and even unto the full end, and that determined, shall wrath be poured our upon the desolate” (Dan. 9.27). “He [Manasseh] did that which was evil in the sight of Jehovah, after the abominations of the nations whom Jehovah cast out before the children of Israel” (2 Chron. 33.2). “I said unto them, Cast ye away every man the abominations of his eyes, and defile not yourselves with the idols of Egypt; I am Jehovah your God. But they rebelled against me, and would not hearken unto me; they did not every man cast away the abominations of their eyes, neither did they forsake the idols of Egypt. Then I said I would pour out my wrath upon them, to
*The reader should consult the pertinent portion, “Babylon and Her Destruction (17.1-20.6),” of Watchman Nee’s commentary on the complete book of Revelation entitled “Come, Lord Jesus” (New York: Christian Fellowship Publishers, 1976), pp. 178-216 especially pp. 178-189, wherein the author thoroughly discusses the reasons for why he believes this woman points to religious Rome, i.e., the Roman Catholic religious system.—Translator
accomplish my anger against them in the midst of the land of Egypt” (Eze. 20.7-8). In all these passages, abominations refer to idols.
The points to notice are: (1) the woman holds in her hand, and uses, “a golden cup full of abominations” (idols) and other “unclean things of her fornication”; and (2) she gives, to the point of drunkenness, this cup of abominations to the people who dwell on the earth—which means, therefore, that she spreads idolatry to the entire world (see both Rev. 17.4 and 17.2, respectively). Now of all the idols they worship, that of Mary tops the list. Because there was no goddess in early Christianity, the Roman Church specially created such a goddess. They picked out Mary to be worshiped. From the veneration of Mary, it gradually developed into the worship of Mary. She is considered to be holy. Many things have been said about Mary.
In a well-known and approved book of the Roman Church, these words of different Catholics are recorded: None can be saved without Mary. The way of salvation is opened through her. Why hesitate and not pray to her? The holy God of glory calls us to seek for grace; but without the intercession of Mary no one could receive grace. Whoever prays for grace without the intercession of Mary is like one who tries to fly without wings. When people asked Pharaoh for food, he sent them to Joseph. Today Christians can say to Mary that their salvation is in her hand. Raymond Jordan (?) said, “Our salvation is in Mary’s hand.” Another has said, “All who are saved must depend absolutely on the favor and protection of Mary. All who are so favored and protected by her are saved; otherwise they will perish instead of being saved.”
Thus does the Roman Church join salvation and Mary together. Now look at the relationship of Mary to the Lord. The same book cited above continues by saying that Mary is eternally grateful to the Son for having chosen her to be His mother. Neither can it be denied that the Son is grateful to Mary, because she gave the human nature to Him. As a recompense to her, Mary receives special honor and all her requests will be answered.
In the third chapter of this book approved by the Roman Church, and in that chapter’s first section, it is written that as the Scriptures record that just as for the sake of love the Father gave us His Son to die for us, so also did Mary. Whenever she permits, she gives us His Son. There is also in this section of Chapter Three of the book a story about a bird being taught to say “Hail, Mary.” When a big bird came to catch it, it chirped “Hail, Mary,” and the big bird fell down and died. And the interpretation given in the book is that even as an ignorant bird is answered by calling on Mary, so much more shall a person who calls upon her be delivered. The book went on to indicate that all who hold offices in the Holy Church should raise their voices to chant “Hail, Mary” or to declare that she is the hope of sinners.
A Catholic canonized saint once declared that the blessed Virgin can do whatever she pleases in heaven or on earth. Then addressing Mary directly, this same Catholic saint said the following: All the powers in heaven and on earth have been given to you. There is nothing you cannot do. You can cause all the disappointed to receive salvation. The Lord has already exalted you. Whatever He can do, you can also do, for this is His good pleasure.
One Catholic has said: Mary, your protection is almighty. Another answered: Indeed, Mary is almighty; her authority extends throughout the earth and transcends the law of any nation. Whatever the authority of the Son is, so is the authority of the Mother. An almighty Son, an almighty Mother.
Someone else declared: God has not only put the whole Church in the grace of Mary, He has also placed it under her authority.
In the record of the holy chronicle, there is discussed a parable of two ladders. The Lord stands at the top of the red ladder, while the holy Mother stands at the top of the white ladder. Many who climb the red ladder tumble down. Hence they are told to climb the white ladder. It is easy to climb up, for the holy Mother stretches out her hand to help them to get to heaven.
Is not such a parable as the above ridiculous?
A Catholic, Dennis (?) by name, has said: Who are the saved? Who are the people who will reign in heaven? They are those for whom the compassionate Mother has interceded. Mary says (quoting from Proverbs): “By me kings reign, and princes decree justice” (8.15). Through my intercession, she adds, souls may reign as well as control their lusts. Dennis went on to say that in the future all who reign in heaven will confess that it is Mary in heaven who permits them to enter into heaven according to her will and command.
Such is the glory of Mary in the eyes of Catholic writers.
Heaven and earth and light were created through the word of God. This is made clear in the Bible. But Catholic teaching propounds the idea that in like manner God became Man such as we are through the command of Mary. Catholic teaching propounds further that the virgin became what it calls “the Mother of God.” Therefore, the Catholic Church reasons, she must be exalted to the level of the Godhead. Moreover, no one can be saved without the help of Mary; in the thinking of this Church God has ordained that He will give no grace except through the hand of Mary.
How deep is the fall of Roman teaching! We must show new believers what Mary herself announced: “My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour” (Luke 1.46-47). Mary needed the Savior just as we do. It is only through the Lord Jesus that anyone can come to God. The Catholic teaching puts Mary in the place of the Son as the one through whom men come to the Father. The very nature of the gospel has been confused. Our Lord said, “I am the way” (John 14.6a). He also declared: “I am the door” (John 10.9a). He is the One who sits on the throne of grace. If Mary is brought in, the Lord has to abdicate His own throne. This truly is heresy. The center of heresy is with Mary.
Once a friend of D. M. Panton visited Rome and saw many people worshiping Mary. If the Lord manages salvation, but Mary is easier to approach and ask, then she takes away the Lord’s position. The fact is that only the Lord is our Savior before God. How many are the idols worshiped in the Roman Church! People have worshiped the statue of Mary, the statue of God the Father. There is an image of the Son, there are images of the twelve apostles and of many canonized saints. To be canonized two requirements must have been fulfilled: a person must (1) have performed miracles, and (2) have lived a holy and pious life. In Catholic teaching saints such as these not only have satisfied God’s demand, they also have more virtues in surplus. Accordingly, they have the authority to dispense their extra virtues to us. It is really surprising how people could believe in such a thing. The famed Catholic theologian of the thirteenth century, Thomas Aquinas, wrote in his work the following thoughts: These saints have additional virtues left over and stored up. They are so compassionate that they allow the Church to dispense these accumulated virtues at will. These virtues are sinless, therefore a portion of them may be taken out to meet the need of your sin, thus delivering you from that particular sin.
Such a theory by Thomas shows a total ignorance of the Lord, for is there any sin too great for the Lord to forgive that the saints must be invoked? What grace is there that people cannot obtain from the Lord, so that they must needs seek the help of Mary? Truly the golden cup of religious Rome is full of idolatrous abominations.
[Translator’s Note: The author here makes a digression of several lengthy paragraphs dealing with the inquisition and other unbiblical past practices indulged in by Roman Catholic authorities that are not germane to the central issue of idol worship under discussion.]
The Roman Empire will be revived; and along with it, religious Rome will flourish in even greater measure than she has in the past. We need to read to young believers the word in Revelation 18.4: “I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come forth, my people, out of her,* that ye have no fellowship with her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.” We would warn all the children of God to keep themselves from the Roman Catholic Church system. We should be alert to its teachings and its practices especially with regard to the worship of Mary and other idols in its midst. May the Lord deliver us from such entanglement.
*For a thorough discussion of how the word “her” is interpreted by the author as referring to religious Rome (i.e., Roman Catholicism) as well as political Rome, see again Watchman Nee, “Come, Lord Jesus”, pp. 201-5, especially p. 201f. The reader should note particularly page 202, where the author writes: “‘Come forth, my people, out of her’—This is a command. Although it is given at this juncture [Rev. 18.4], it certainly is applicable to those in view in Chapter 17 as well, because there are true believers in the Lord even in religious Rome.”—Translator