Apostasy. “When the early church became corrupted by departing from the simplicity of the gospel and accepting heathen rites and customs, she lost the Spirit and power of God; and in order to control the consciences of the people, she sought the support of the secular power. The result was the papacy, a church that controlled the power of the state and employed it to further her own ends, especially for the punishment of ‘heresy.’ In order for the United States to form an image of the beast, the religious power must so control the civil government that the authority of the state will also be employed by the church to accomplish her own ends. …
“It was apostasy that led the early church to seek the aid of the civil government, and this prepared the way for the development of the papacy—the beast. Said Paul: ‘There’ shall ‘come a falling away, … and that man of sin be revealed’ (2 Thessalonians 2:3). So apostasy in the church will prepare the way for the image to the beast.
“The Bible declares that before the coming of the Lord there will exist a state of religious declension similar to that in the first centuries.” The Great Controversy, 443, 444.
“After the warning against the worship of the beast and his image the prophecy declares: ‘Here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus’ (Revelation 14:12). Since those who keep God’s commandments are thus placed in contrast with those that worship the beast and his image and receive his mark, it follows that the keeping of God’s law, on the one hand, and its violation, on the other, will make the distinction between the worshipers of God and the worshipers of the beast.
“The special characteristic of the beast, and therefore of his image, is the breaking of God’s commandments. Says Daniel, of the little horn, the papacy: ‘He shall think to change times and the law’ (Daniel 7:25 R.V.). And Paul styled the same power the ‘man of sin’ (2 Thessalonians 2:3), who was to exalt himself above God. One prophecy is a complement of the other. Only by changing God’s law could the papacy exalt itself above God; whoever should understandingly keep the law as thus changed would be giving supreme honor to that power by which the change was made.” Ibid.