How can we be faithful to what prophecy says about church history and yet, at the same time, be kind and cautious as we present these truths to others?
The ultimate challenge with distorted religion has to do with the picture of God that is portrayed. What kind of God tortures and burns people for eternity? What kind of God plays fast and loose with the very rules He has made? What kind of God is portrayed by a church that burns people at the stake over doctrinal differences? Distorted religion comes to the place where it thinks that in coercing and torturing others it is doing God service (John 16:2). Prophecy is one way that distorted religion is exposed for what it really is.
In confronting distorted religion, however, it is very important that we not fall into the trap of portraying a God who is angry, judgmental and severe. We are told that when Jesus confronted the Pharisees there were “tears in His voice.” With the help of the Holy Spirit we can gently invite people to consider the picture of God their religion portrays, making clear that we ourselves are capable of misrepresenting God every day. People in such faiths need to know that God is on their side, that He does not need to be bought or persuaded by ritual acts. In other words, religious criticism is only appropriate when it comes from a heart of love that can see the value God sees in other people.
As we await the end, what should be our attitude towards Christians in other denominations?
It is helpful to recognize that many Catholics, Muslims and others love God deeply and seek to please Him in every way possible. We need to approach such people with the understanding that the line between good and evil is NOT between “us” and “them,” it runs right down the middle of all of our hearts (1 Tim. 1:15). When we take on an attitude of moral superiority, we may unwittingly convince the very people we are trying to persuade that God is not with us. On the other hand, people are drawn to those who are authentically aware of their own failings and shortcomings. It is from a position of love and humility that confrontation can most often succeed in winning another.