Dr. Thomas Horn examines the singular most astonishing element most prophecy teachers fail to see
Last Friday an article by Scott Lively caught my attention. It was titled ‘It’s not too early to prepare for the underground church’ in which the author clarified, “What I’m talking about is not just expanding the ‘house church’ movement, but anticipating the need for an ‘underground church.’” He then added: “Probably sooner rather than later, the Bride of Christ will have need of an ‘off the grid’ communication and fellowship network that can’t easily be identified and tracked.”
Lively arrived at these unnerving conclusions largely based on his belief that here in America under the current Covid-19 lockdown, church gatherings have been a major target of government suppression, and he expects that this trend will steadily grow and worsen even after sheltering in place has ended.
While much of what Mr. Lively opined is certainly possible—and if progressives win the presidential election in November, you can bet his worrisome predictions could begin bearing fruit almost immediately—I would add a very important element that he, like many others, has overlooked; an imminent eschatological reality that formed the basis of my bestselling book, Blood on the Altar (get it free in offer here) involving a curious, prophesied prelude to a coming period in history wherein true believers will be “beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God…” (Rev. 20:4). When analyzing this particular end-times Revelation scenario—especially the subject of rigorous persecution—what often goes unnoticed is the role that religious “Christians” are being shaped today to play against the true body of Christ. Even the subtitle of my Blood on the Altar work and the concept of a coming war between “Christians” could seem beyond credulity if it were not for what the inspired texts themselves convey. Jesus predicted a time when “whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service” (John 16:2), and in Matthew 24, He told His disciples:
Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you; and ye shall be hated of all [groups of people] for my name’s sake.
And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.
And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.
And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall grow cold. (Matthew 24:9–12)
Elsewhere in the Bible when describing this coming era of Great Tribulation, it says Antichrist will be able “to make war with the saints, and to overcome them” (Rev. 13:7; see also Dan. 7:21). Immediately following those verses, description of a second beast emerges with “two horns like a lamb” who speaks “like a dragon” (Rev. 13:11). Most evangelical scholars identify this second “beast” as the leader of the end-times religious institution who will be under Satan’s control. The phrase “like a lamb” indicates he will pretend to represent the Lamb of God and the Christian church, while the expression “speaks like a dragon” identifies the devilish source of his authority and power. This final, global, super-church leader will be a murderer not unlike Antichrist and will cause “that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed” (Rev. 13:15).
Thus, the book of Revelation outlines how the political figure of Antichrist derives ultranational dominance from the world’s religious faithful through the influence of an ecclesiastical leader (also called the False Prophet) who will not hesitate to swim in the blood of the genuine saints of God.
In the days between now and when these men of sin are identified, this reality—that latter-day churchgoers will soon believe they are serving the kingdom of God by participating in or approving the death of conservative Christians—is not a concept lost on all contemporary churchmen. There are those who see things taking shape even now for a war that will eventually pit religious “Christians” against the real members of the body of Christ. For example, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the most senior Bishop in the Church of England, Justin Welby, stated not long ago that “modern Christians” will soon be “‘called’ to suffer and even die for the faith” in a new era “of martyrdom.”[i] But a clarifying document that was not supposed to be made public and which was authored by a senior advisor to Welby’s predecessor details how such a time of great persecution is coming because true believers will, according to the letter, be driven underground by liberal Christians and will become a dissident association comparable to resistance movements during World War II.[ii] Dr. J. Vernon McGee, one of America’s most beloved Bible teachers of the past century, taught the same and clarified that these true biblical believers would ultimately be driven “underground” by none other than latter-day denominational churches. Another of the twentieth century’s most perceptive writers was pastor and author A. W. Tozer (who was not usually given to prognostication), who likewise wrote:
Let me go out on a limb a little bit and prophesy. I see the time coming when all the holy men whose eyes have been opened by the Holy Spirit will desert worldly Evangelicalism, one by one. The house [institutional Christianity] will be left desolate and there will not be a man of God, a man in whom the Holy Spirit dwells, left among them.[iii]
These Holy-Spirit-devoid church attenders will soon join internet trolls and other “religious types” to constitute Antichrist’s apostate religious and political order (connected to “Mystery Babylon” in Revelation 17) and, as unfathomable as it may sound, will seek to formulate perhaps the most egregious rank among the Man of Sin’s Gestapo members in their appetite for destroying latter-day, truly born-again believers.
Impossible, some might say? Tell that to the trainloads of Jews who vanished beneath the brutality of Nazi Germany members who maintained their Protestant faith or to the hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children who have died since the days of Christ’s crucifixion and the martyrdom of His disciples at the hands of institutional church authorities and holy temple leaders. The European wars of religion (sixteenth and seventeenth centuries) are further examples of such mayhem by very religious people, as could also be considered the Muslim conquests (seventh to nineteenth centuries), the Crusades (eleventh to thirteenth centuries), the Spanish Reconquista (eighth to fifteenth centuries), the Ottoman wars in Europe (fifteenth to nineteenth centuries) and the Inquisition of the Roman Catholic Church (twelfth to fourteenth centuries).
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“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” – George Santayana
But now, what was old is new again, and as a militant spirit of evil is pushing through the ecclesiastical veil toward a final supernatural conflict, violent clashes over matters of faith are once more boiling around the globe with seething hatred of conservative Christians also swelling in America. Consequently, brutality wrought by the final Antichrist and his end-time Christian assassins will soon make the combined depravities of those wars mentioned above look like child’s play. When he raises his fist, “speaking great things…in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven” (Rev. 13:5–6), at his right hand will stand those devoted house-of-worship attendees who are vividly described in the final book of the Bible as “drunk with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus” (Rev. 17:6) as they dance and sing “in the spirit” of their mega-church “habitation of demons, and the hold of every foul spirit” (Rev. 18:2).
How could such a nightmarish reality develop in modern times and within advanced society? Part of the answer includes a unique, if not disturbing, study in human psychology, repeatedly verified in university and military experiments, which we will now briefly consider.
Stanford and the Lucifer Effect
Perhaps unknown to some readers is a most notorious experiment that took place in America more than forty years ago. Commonly referred to today as “The Stanford Prison Experiment,” in 1971, a group of student recruits participated in a study at Stanford University, where they were instructed to act out roles of detainees and guards in a makeshift prison in the basement of the school. What resulted in the test was an unexpected and almost immediate breakdown in normative social behavior that illustrated such astonishing cruelty on the part of the participants that it was quickly shut down, leading the organizer and director, Professor Philip Zimbardo, to embark on a larger quest of discovery regarding how “the majority of us can be seduced into behaving in ways totally atypical of what we believe we are.”[iv] The program graphically illustrated that, given the right set of circumstances, a majority of people are capable of monstrous inhumanity against others. The Wikipedia entry on the Stanford Prison Experiment explains what happened:
Participants were recruited and told they would participate in a two-week prison simulation. Out of 70 respondents, Zimbardo and his team selected the 24 males whom they deemed to be the most psychologically stable and healthy. These participants were predominantly white and middle-class. The group was intentionally selected to exclude those with criminal background, psychological impairments or medical problems. They all agreed to participate in a 7–14-day period and received $15 per day (roughly equivalent to $85 in 2012).
The experiment was conducted in the basement of Jordan Hall (Stanford’s psychology building). Twelve of the twenty-four participants were assigned the role of prisoner (nine plus three alternates), while the other twelve were assigned the role of guard (also nine plus three alternates). Zimbardo took on the role of the superintendent, and an undergraduate research assistant the role of the warden. Zimbardo designed the experiment in order to induce disorientation, depersonalization and deindividualization in the participants.
The researchers held an orientation session for guards the day before the experiment, during which they instructed them not to physically harm the prisoners. In the footage of the study, Zimbardo can be seen talking to the guards: “You can create in the prisoners feelings of boredom, a sense of fear to some degree, you can create a notion of arbitrariness that their life is totally controlled by us, by the system, you, me, and they’ll have no privacy.…We’re going to take away their individuality in various ways. In general what all this leads to is a sense of powerlessness. That is, in this situation we’ll have all the power and they’ll have none.”
The researchers provided the guards with wooden batons to establish their status, clothing similar to that of an actual prison guard (khaki shirt and pants from a local military surplus store), and mirrored sunglasses to prevent eye contact. Prisoners wore uncomfortable ill-fitting smocks and stocking caps, as well as a chain around one ankle. Guards were instructed to call prisoners by their assigned numbers, sewn on their uniforms, instead of by name.
The prisoners were arrested at their homes and charged with armed robbery. The local Palo Alto police department assisted Zimbardo with the arrests and conducted full booking procedures on the prisoners, which included fingerprinting and taking mug shots. They were transported to the mock prison from the police station, where they were strip searched and given their new identities.
The small mock prison cells were set up to hold three prisoners each. There was a small space for the prison yard, solitary confinement, and a bigger room across from the prisoners for the guards and warden. The prisoners were to stay in their cells all day and night until the end of the study. The guards worked in teams of three for eight-hour shifts. The guards did not have to stay on site after their shift.
After a relatively uneventful first day, on the second day the prisoners in Cell 1 blockaded their cell door with their beds and took off their stocking caps, refusing to come out or follow the guards’ instructions. Guards from other shifts volunteered to work extra hours to assist in subduing the revolt, and subsequently attacked the prisoners with fire extinguishers without being supervised by the research staff. Finding that handling nine cell mates with only three guards per shift was challenging, one of the guards suggested that they use psychological tactics to control them. They set up a “privilege cell” in which prisoners who were not involved in the riot were treated with special rewards, such as higher quality meals. The “privileged” inmates chose not to eat the meal in order to stay uniform with their fellow prisoners. After only 36 hours, one prisoner began to act “crazy,” as Zimbardo described: “#8612 then began to act crazy, to scream, to curse, to go into a rage that seemed out of control. It took quite a while before we became convinced that he was really suffering and that we had to release him.”
Guards forced the prisoners to repeat their assigned numbers to reinforce the idea that this was their new identity. Guards soon used these prisoner counts to harass the prisoners, using physical punishment such as protracted exercise for errors in the prisoner count. Sanitary conditions declined rapidly, exacerbated by the guards’ refusal to allow some prisoners to urinate or defecate anywhere but in a bucket placed in their cell. As punishment, the guards would not let the prisoners empty the sanitation bucket. Mattresses were a valued item in the prison, so the guards would punish prisoners by removing their mattresses, leaving them to sleep on concrete. Some prisoners were forced to be naked as a method of degradation. Several guards became increasingly cruel as the experiment continued; experimenters reported that approximately one-third of the guards exhibited genuine sadistic tendencies [doing things we will not publish here]. Most of the guards were upset when the experiment concluded after only six days….
Zimbardo argued that the prisoners had internalized their roles, since, even though some had stated that they would accept “parole” even if it would mean forfeiting their pay, they did not quit when their parole applications were all denied. Zimbardo argued they had no reason for continued participation in the experiment after having lost all monetary compensation, yet they did, because they had internalized the prisoner identity.
Prisoner No. 416, a newly admitted stand-by prisoner, expressed concern over the treatment of the other prisoners. The guards responded with more abuse. When he refused to eat his sausages, saying he was on a hunger strike, guards confined him to “solitary confinement,” a dark closet: “The guards then instructed the other prisoners to repeatedly punch on the door while shouting at 416.” The guards stated that he would be released from solitary confinement only if the prisoners gave up their blankets and slept on their bare mattresses, which all but one refused to do.
Zimbardo aborted the experiment early when Christina Maslach, a graduate student in psychology whom he was dating (and later married), objected to the conditions of the prison after she was introduced to the experiment to conduct interviews. Zimbardo noted that, of more than fifty people who had observed the experiment, Maslach was the only one who questioned its morality. After only six days of a planned two weeks’ duration, the Stanford prison experiment was discontinued.[v]
Following the Stanford Prison Experiment, Zimbardo wanted to continue his research into the dark side of human psychology to decipher under what conditions “it” can be uncaged. His next big opportunity came in April 2004, while on a business trip to Washington, DC. That’s when he saw the American television show 60 Minutes airing images taken from the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq of naked detainees forced to simulate fellatio in front of mocking US soldiers. Other prisoners were unclothed and made to lie atop each other; a female soldier was seen leading a naked Iraqi around like a dog, complete with leash and collar, and electric wires were attached to a hooded inmate who was balancing on a small box. Later, it was learned that this type of torture had become sexualized and included examples of a male prisoner being sodomized by a guard using a chemical light and a female prisoner being raped. While Americans were aghast at the images and information, Zimbardo had seen such sadism before, right there at Stanford University years earlier, where his undergraduates had forced fellow students to simulate sodomy, among other things. Although Zimbardo’s “guards” knew their classmates had actually done nothing to deserve the maltreatment, he later wrote, “some…were transformed into perpetrators of evil,” illustrating that “most of us can undergo significant character transformations when we are caught up in the crucible of social forces.”[vi]
In January 2008, Random House published Zimbardo’s impressive yet chilling study on the subject in a book titled The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil. In it, Zimbardo, who was called as an expert psychologist to testify during the trial of one of the Abu Ghraib guards, dismantled what happened at that military facility while also reflecting on his earlier Stanford experiment to conclude that wherever conditions allow for what he calls “deindividualization,” the foundations for the towers of evil are laid and a line between good and evil can be crossed in nearly any heart.
Interestingly, Zimbardo actually drew parallels between his findings and the biblical story of the fall of that once-powerful angel named Lucifer:
According to various scenarios of early Christian Church Fathers (from Cyprus, Armenia, Greece, and France), Lucifer was God’s favorite angel.… His sin, and the origin of his transformation into the Devil, stems from his envy of man and disobedience to God… Apparently a cosmic battle ensued in which…Lucifer and the fallen angels were cast out of heaven into Hell. Lucifer is transformed into Satan, the Devil, following his fall from grace.… Thus, “The Lucifer Effect” represents this most extreme transformation imaginable from God’s favorite Angel into the Devil. My work has focused on lesser transformations of human character not as dramatic as this one, in which ordinary, even good people begin to engage in bad deeds, for a short time or longer, that qualify as “evil.”[vii]
Zimbardo went on to describe how, given the right situational conditions, ordinary persons can be transformed from good to evil and will proceed to engage in malevolent activity, even to the point of setting aside “personal attributes of morality, compassion, or sense of justice and fair play.”[viii]
Of course, what Zimbardo’s research reflects was revealed beforehand in the Bible: “The [unredeemed] heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jer. 17:9). Given these facts about fallen human nature, is it much of a stretch to imagine the role that the Lucifer Effect will play in the lead-up to—and during the reign of—Antichrist and his religious followers?
Milgram Experiment on Obedience to Authority Figures
Similar to the findings of the Stanford Prison Experiment but in many ways more disturbing was the 1961 “Milgram Experiment” that has since been repeated on numerous occasions with consistent results. The test measures the willingness of participants to obey authority figures who order them to go against expected restrictions of human conscience in performing acts of cruelty against other study participants.
The original tests began at Yale University in the early 1960s under psychologist Stanley Milgram. At the time, it was just three months into the trial of Nazi war criminal Otto Adolf Eichmann, a German Nazi colonel deemed highly responsible for organizing the Holocaust, and Milgram had designed his test to try to answer the burning question on people’s minds then: “Could it be that Eichmann and his million accomplices in the Holocaust were just following orders?”[ix] Milgram came to believe that much of that sentiment was true, and that “the essence of obedience consists in the fact that a person comes to view himself as the instrument for carrying out another person’s wishes, and he therefore no longer regards himself as responsible for his actions.”[x] Milgram first described his research in 1963 in the Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, then later in greater detail in his 1974 book, Obedience to Authority: An Experimental View. Milgram explained how participants were taken into a laboratory and, in the context of a learning experiment, were told to give increasingly severe electrical shocks to another person (who was actually an actor). The purpose of the assessment was to see how far a subject would proceed before refusing to comply with the experimenter’s instructions.
The test used three individuals: #1 was THE EXPERIMENTER—the authority figure running the trial; #2 was THE LEARNER—an actor pretending to be a test subject; and #3 was THE TEACHER—a volunteer who believed he or she was actually to administer voltage to THE LEARNER whenever he or she failed to answer a question correctly. The wiki on the way this test proceeded says the TEACHER and the LEARNER (actor) both drew slips of paper to determine their roles, but unknown to the TEACHER, both slips said “teacher.” The actor would always claim to have drawn the slip that read “learner,” thus guaranteeing that the unwitting volunteer would always be the “teacher.”
At this point, the “teacher” and “learner” were separated into different rooms where they could communicate but not see each other. In one version of the experiment, the confederate was sure to mention to the participant that he had a heart condition.
The “teacher” was given an electric shock from the electro-shock generator as a sample of the shock that the “learner” would supposedly receive during the experiment. The “teacher” was then given a list of word pairs which he was to teach the learner. The teacher began by reading the list of word pairs to the learner. The teacher would then read the first word of each pair and read four possible answers. The learner would press a button to indicate his response. If the answer was incorrect, the teacher would administer a shock to the learner, with the voltage increasing in 15-volt increments for each wrong answer. If correct, the teacher would read the next word pair.
The subjects believed that for each wrong answer, the learner was receiving actual shocks. In reality, there were no shocks. After the confederate was separated from the subject, the confederate set up a tape recorder integrated with the electro-shock generator, which played pre-recorded sounds for each shock level. After a number of voltage level increases, the actor started to bang on the wall that separated him from the subject. After several times banging on the wall and complaining about his heart condition, all responses by the learner would cease.
At this point, many people indicated their desire to stop the experiment and check on the learner. Some test subjects paused at 135 volts and began to question the purpose of the experiment. Most continued after being assured that they would not be held responsible. A few subjects began to laugh nervously or exhibit other signs of extreme stress once they heard the screams of pain coming from the learner.
If at any time the subject indicated his desire to halt the experiment, he was given a succession of verbal prods by the experimenter, in this order:
The experiment requires that you continue.
It is absolutely essential that you continue.
You have no other choice, you must go on.
If the subject still wished to stop after all four successive verbal prods, the experiment was halted. Otherwise, it was halted after the subject had given the maximum 450-volt shock three times in succession.
The experimenter also gave special prods if the teacher made specific comments. If the teacher asked whether the learner might suffer permanent physical harm, the experimenter replied, “Although the shocks may be painful, there is no permanent tissue damage, so please go on.” If the teacher said that the learner clearly wants to stop, the experimenter replied, “Whether the learner likes it or not, you must go on until he has learned all the word pairs correctly, so please go on.”[xi]
The amazing findings from this experiment tallied 65 percent of the volunteers (including women) administering the final, massive, 450-volt shock even though they exhibited signs that they were uncomfortable doing so (pausing, questioning, sweating, trembling, biting their lips, digging their fingernails into their skin, and/or laughing nervously), but in the end they did it anyway on the advice of the authority figure (the experimenter). When some ethical criticisms were made in opposition to Milgram following his original study and conclusions (which have since been repeated around the world in different social settings with similar results), he said he believed the arguments developed because his research revealed something disturbing and unwelcome about human nature. He then summarized his findings and warned in his 1974 article, “The Perils of Obedience”:
The legal and philosophic aspects of obedience are of enormous importance, but they say very little about how most people behave in concrete situations. I set up a simple experiment at Yale University to test how much pain an ordinary citizen would inflict on another person simply because he was ordered to by an experimental scientist. Stark authority was pitted against the subjects’ [participants’] strongest moral imperatives against hurting others, and, with the subjects’ [participants’] ears ringing with the screams of the victims, authority won more often than not. The extreme willingness of adults to go to almost any lengths on the command of an authority constitutes the chief finding of the study and the fact most urgently demanding explanation.
Ordinary people, simply doing their jobs, and without any particular hostility on their part, can become agents in a terrible destructive process. Moreover, even when the destructive effects of their work become patently clear, and they are asked to carry out actions incompatible with fundamental standards of morality, relatively few people have the resources needed to resist authority.[xiii]
Besides similarities between the Milgram and Stanford experiments, Philip Zimbardo reveals that none of the few participants who refused to administer the final shocks in the Milgram test insisted that the experiment itself be shut down. And when they were finished with their participation, none bothered to check the health of the victim they believed was potentially severely traumatized and/or physically harmed.[xiv] Years later, when researchers Charles Sheridan and Richard King speculated that some of the Milgram Experiment volunteers in the role of TEACHER may have suspected their victims were faking the trauma, they set up a similar trial using a “cute, fluffy puppy,” which obviously would not know how to “fake it.” In this case, the electrical shocks were real—albeit, unknown to the participants, harmless. Their findings—published as “Obedience to Authority with an Authentic Victim”—were reported during the proceedings of the eightieth annual convention of the American Psychological Association and surprisingly verified Milgram’s conclusion. As in the Yale University experimentation, most subjects in the Sheridan-King research illustrated high levels of distress during the ordeal, yet 50 percent of the male subjects and 100 percent of the females obeyed the authority figure and continued to “electrocute” the puppy until the end.[xv]
So now you must ask yourself, what could this research suggest the majority of people might be willing to do when the utmost fearsome “authority figure” ever to walk planet earth arrives (a time when Jesus said people’s hearts will fail them for fear [see Luke 21:26]) and begins ordering his followers to kill all who will not accept his leadership?
[i] John Bingham, “Christians Called to ‘Martyrdom’ Says Welby,” The Telegraph, January 14, 2014, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/10572539/Christians-called-to-martyrdom-says-Welby.html.
[ii] Ruth Gledhill, “Church Faces Implosion and Life Underground,” Virtue Online, December 10, 2004, http://www.virtueonline.org/portal/modules/news/article.php?storyid=1782#.UvFfmvldXKc.
[iii] A. W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith: Awakening from Spiritual Lethargy (Gospel Light Publications, 2012) Google eBook, 14–15.
[iv] Alastair Leithead, “Stanford Prison Experiment Continues to Shock,” BBC News, August 17, 2011, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-14564182.
[v] “Stanford Prison Experiment,” Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Stanford_prison_experiment&oldid=605102500 (accessed April 21, 2014).
[vi] Edward Marriott, “Torture as Second Nature,” April 28, 2007, http://www.theguardian.com/books/2007/apr/29/politics1.
[vii] Philip Zombardo, “Who Was Lucifer and How Did He Become the Devil,” Lucifer Effect, http://www.lucifereffect.com/lucifer.htm.
[ix] Harold M. Schulweis, Conscience: The Duty to Obey and the Duty to Disobey (Jewish Lights Publishing, 2010) Google eBook, 106 (retrieved February 6, 2014).
[xiii] Stanley Milgram, The Perils of Obedience,” http://www.physics.utah.edu/~detar/phys4910/readings/ethics/PerilsofObedience.html.
[xiv] “The Milgram Experiment,” Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milgram_experiment#cite_ref-11.
[xv] Charles L. Sheridan and Richard King Jr., “Obedience to Authority with an Authentic Victim,” http://www.holah.co.uk/files/sheridan_king_1972.pdf.