In the world of 2017 truth is stranger than fiction. There are reasons in the spiritual realm which shed light on mysterious developments in the relationship between the United States and the papacy together on the one hand, and Putin's Russia on the other:-

In 2 Thess. 2 the Apostle Paul predicted a time of "strong delusion," and he linked it directly to the papacy (verses 3-10a,) and failing to receive the love of the Truth. This failure to receive the love of the Truth stretches back into past centuries, but has been particularly prevalent since the beginning of the final phase of Jesus' ministry in the heavenly sanctuary in 1844. There has been a greatly accelerated process of spiritual declension and increasing ignorance of Bible Truth since then, inevitably linked with increasing ecumenical union between the Protestant churches and the Church of Rome. Can anyone doubt that Paul's prophecy is meeting its ultimate fulfillment now, in our time? There are also other major prophecies which establish this fact with certainty.

Delusion is rampant on every side and the author is Satan, by every agency available to him. The following prophetic statement is found in Spiritual Gifts, Vol. 2, published in 1858:

I have been shown that Satan has not been stupid and careless these many years, since his fall, but has been learning. He has grown more artful. His plans are laid deeper, and are more covered with a religious garment to hide their deformity. The power of Satan now to tempt and deceive is ten-fold greater than it was in the days of the apostles. His power has increased, and it will increase, until it is taken away. (2 SG, p. 277; underscored emphasis added)

Consider how much more Satan's power to deceive has increased since 1858! He has been studying the human mind for millenia. Ellen G. White has made this statement about the influence of Satan on the unregenerate human mind:

For thousands of years Satan has been experimenting upon the properties of the human mind, and he has learned to know it well. By his subtle workings in these last days, he is linking the human mind with his own, imbuing it with his thoughts; and he is doing this work in so deceptive a manner that those who accept his guidance know not that they are being led by him at his will. The great deceiver hopes so to confuse the minds of men and women, that none but his voice will be heard." (2SM 352.3; underscored emphasis added)

Jesus said of the devil that he "abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it (John 8:44b.) If none but Satan's "voice will be heard," we know from the words of Jesus that nothing but a flood of lies can be expected.

The major prophecy predicting the release of such a flood of lies that produces gross delusion, free from restraint by God, is found in Rev. 16:13-14. It is glaringly being fulfilled in our time. The catalyst was fulfillment of Jesus' prophecy of Luke 21:24. Elder Wm. H. Grotheer has written concerning the fulfillment of this prophecy:

The very least that this fulfilled prophecy of Jesus is saying is that God is no longer restraining the power of Satan in his control of the nations of earth. Even though Satan declared that he possessed such power and could delegate it to whomever he chose (Luke 4:6), the book of Daniel draws the curtain aside and reveals that God "ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever He will" (Dan. 4:17). When kings and rulers resisted His purposes, Michael, to whom all earthly authority is given (I Cor. 15:27), comes Himself to influence the outcome of human events (Dan. 10:13). That time is now past, and God has stepped aside and Satan is working his will in the nations of earth. (What is the Fulfilled Prophecy of Jesus Saying?)

That this assessment "holds water" has clearly been established by the march of events since 1980. Among the many manifestations of satanic influence is a delusion concerning Russia and its despotic, murderous President, Vladimir Putin:

The religious right has an unholy crush on Vladimir Putin

Liking Vladimir Putin? Trump and top conservatives have something in common

One of the notable developments in right-wing-watching in recent years has been how enthusiastically many Religious Right leaders have embraced Russia’s anti-democratic president, former KGB official Vladimir Putin. It seems even more remarkable that the Republican Party’s presidential nominee has been lavishing praise on Putin even as Russia maneuvers to diminish America’s influence in the world.

As president, Putin has consolidated his power through attacks on the independent media, the persecution of political opponents, and restrictions on civil society. He has annexed Crimea, supported violent separatists in Ukraine, fostered anti-democratic right-wing forces in Europe, and made the weakening of NATO a major strategic imperative.

None of that has kept Donald Trump from praising Putin and welcoming Putin’s praise for him. In Wednesday night’s forum on national security issues, Trump said, “I think I would have a very, very good relationship with Putin. And I think I would have a very, very good relationship with Russia.” When asked about some of Putin’s troubling actions, Trump didn’t criticize the Russian president, suggesting instead that he could “start naming some of the things that President Obama does at the same time.”

Trump went on to praise Putin’s leadership and pooh-pooh concerns about Putin’s authoritarianism: “I mean, you can say, oh, isn’t that a terrible thing—the man has very strong control over a country.” Then on Thursday, Trump appeared on RT, a network operated by the Russian government, to slam American media and U.S. foreign policy and dismiss as “unlikely” the idea that the Russian government was involved in hacking the DNC’s email as American intelligence agencies believe.

Some conservatives have criticized Putin’s anti-democratic actions and strategic aims, and some Republicans were not happy about Trump’s recent remarks. But his running mate Mike Pence said it is “inarguable” that Putin is a stronger leader than President Obama.

Republican Rep. Steve King of Iowa, a Trump supporter, told CNN that Putin is a better leader for Russia than President Obama has been for the U.S., praising the increase in “hyper-nationalism” in Russia. Conspiracy-theory-promoting radio host Alex Jones, whose “amazing” reputation Trump has praised while appearing on his show, has expressed his admiration for Putin’s promotion of homeschooling and “masculine men.”

Trump will find himself in friendly company at this weekend’s Values Voter Summit, an annual political gathering for the Religious Right. As Right Wing Watch has documented extensively, many U.S. religious conservatives have been cheerleaders for Putin because of his government’s anti-gay policies and his public support for “traditional values” and “Christian civilization.” Brian Brown, who heads both the National Organization for Marriage and the World Congress of Families, actually traveled to Russia a few years ago to testify on behalf of anti-gay legislation there.

As Right Wing Watch noted last year:

Evangelist Franklin Graham hailed Putin as a hero for taking “a stand to protect his nation’s children from the damaging effects of any gay and lesbian agenda” even as “America’s own morality has fallen so far on this issue”; Bryan Fischer called Putin a “lion of Christianity” and called upon U.S. lawmakers to adopt similar speech prohibitions; Matt Barber marveled that Putin was able to “out-Christian our once-Christian nation”; Sam Rohrer called Putin “the moral leader of the world”; Scott Lively lavished praise on Putin for “ championing traditional marriage and Christian values ”; and Rush Limbaugh applauded Putin for stopping “a full-frontal assault on what has always been considered normalcy.”

In fact, Franklin Graham went to Russia just last fall, where he met with Putin, slammed President Obama for supporting “policies that contradict the teachings of God” and praised the Russian president for “protecting Russian young people against homosexual propaganda.” Graham reportedly said, “I call for prayers for the president of Russia, who is protecting traditional Christianity.” Graham also praised Russian involvement in Syria, which the Russian Orthodox Church has called a “holy battle.”

Putin has developed a mutually beneficial partnership with the Russian Orthodox Church, promoting Orthodoxy as a crucial element of Russian nationalism and a vehicle for extending Russian power and undercutting U.S. influence. Some American Religious Right leaders are taken with Putin’s promotion of a Christian state; the director of last year’s World Congress of Families summit, Janice Shaw Crouse, embraced the blasphemy-law prosecution and jail sentences given to members of the band Pussy Riot for protesting in a cathedral. . .

One can perceive a clever ploy of Satan to use outrage at the flouting of Christian moral standards as a means of empowering State religion and absolute power to persecute. The Religious Right's admiration for Putin's Russia reveals their own disposition and plans to achieve theocratic dictatorship in America:

Why the Christian Right Shares Trump’s Affection for Putin

There are all sorts of theories about Donald Trump’s affinity for Vladimir Putin’s Russia, ranging from shadowy business dealings with Putin or pro-Putin entities, to Russia’s alleged material aid in promoting Trump’s presidential candidacy, to the personal affinity between two men who yearn for recognition as world-historical figures. A related question is why so many Republicans — who four years ago were cheering Mitt Romney’s prophecies of a new Cold War struggle with Russia — have accepted Trump’s Russophilia.

But as Peter Beinart points out at The Atlantic, there is actually a strain of conservatism in which a fondness for post-communist Russia and its leader are not at all out of place . . .

That’s right, Donald Trump and his alt-right fanbase are hardly the only Americans who deeply admire Vladimir Putin: He has a fairly large fan club among politically active U.S. Christian conservatives.

It includes some pretty big names, like conservative Evangelical leader Franklin Graham, National Organization for Marriage leader Brian Brown, and American Family Association spokesperson Bryan Fischer. In almost every case it has been his distinctive combination of homophobia and Islamophobia that has made Putin one of the Christian right’s favorite international figures. The cultural conservative preference for authoritarian Christian Slavs who are fighting Muslims has, as Beinart notes, carried over from the Serbs to their traditional sponsors in Moscow, and most especially to the former KGB officer who has revived Russia’s pre-communist tradition of militantly traditionalist Christianity. . .

Meanwhile, Putin’s long war with Chechen Muslim separatists has earned him Christian admiration along the lines Beinart is talking about. And Russia’s long-standing partnership with Syria’s Assad regime — regarded as the protector of the country’s ancient if dwindling Christian minority, threatened by virtually every Islamic group in the region — has recently given Putin some additional Western Christian street cred. Putin’s own association with end-times speculation hasn’t hurt, either.

So the cultural conservative affinity with Putin’s Russia goes a little deeper, and is more religious in nature, than Beinart’s analysis suggests. But there is one problem in Russia that could drive a wedge between Trump and his conservative Evangelical fans: the tradition of Russian Orthodox Church intolerance toward competing Christian faith communities, which very recently popped back up in a law on proselytization signed by Putin in July . . .

This law is one of the reasons conservative Evangelical writer Eric Metaxas, who got a lot of attention this fall for claiming that like-minded people had a religious obligation to vote for Donald Trump, isn’t buying into any “man-crush” when it comes to Putin . . .

So there is a paradox at the center of Christian-right attitudes toward Putin’s Russia: His own conspicuous traditionalist Christianity, which makes him an ally against gay and Muslim agendas, makes him an enemy of conservative Evangelicals in his own country. Since Putin’s not likely to abandon his position favoring a near-monopoly for the Russian Orthodox Church, that makes him disappointing as a heartthrob for the Focus on Family crowd. But there’s still Donald Trump. (Underlined emphasis added; Cf. Can Evangelicals Help Trump Thaw Relations With Russia?)

It is to be expected that the Church of Rome has a deep interest and involvement in developments between Russia and the West. Strange questions arise out of Pope Francis' relationship with the Russian Orthodox Church and Putin's Russia:

The Pope, the Patriarch, and Putin’s ‘Peace’ Gambit

The Kremlin hopes Pope Francis will say things that soften its image, and enlisted the Russian Orthodox Patriarch to try to persuade him.

The leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, flew from icy Moscow to the warmth of Havana on Thursday for an historic meeting at the airport with Pope Francis. This was the first time leaders of these two great Christian churches have met, much less embraced, in almost 1,000 years, after long and bitter divisions over dogmatic and canonical issues.

But momentous as the meeting may appear in ecclesiastical terms, much of the impetus for it was purely political at a moment of dangerous confrontations and delicate diplomacy between Russia and the West. As some influential voices in Moscow have started talking about the risk of a Third World War, the pope and the patriarch spoke of the need to protect "the future of human civilization."

In fact, Russian President Vladimir Putin asked the Moscow patriarchate to play a diplomatic role, to help convince Pope Francis—whose good offices did much to end the decades of hostility between Cuba and the United States—that he should help smooth the way for better understanding between Washington and Moscow.

According to one official close to the Kremlin, who spoke privately to The Daily Beast, the message is supposed to be that Russia is kind-hearted, that it cares about Christians everywhere, and that the West should be careful not to provoke a widening war. The official claimed the patriarch might also complain about “irresponsible American politicians,” including Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, who has taken the point on U.S. policy toward Ukraine.

Did the pope just kiss Putin’s ring?

Russia wants its people to believe that Western publics are not as hostile as their leaders. Pope Francis just helped

TO HIS millions of admirers, Pope Francis seems possessed of an almost angelic spirituality. But after his meeting with the Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill on February 12th, some were left wondering whether the pontiff had rushed in where angels fear to tread. The meeting with his Russian counterpart drew Francis deep into geopolitics, and led him to condone Russia’s foreign policy and critique the West’s in ways that have infuriated some of the Catholic church’s supporters.

It is easy to see why the meeting appealed to Francis. Reconciliation is at the core of his world view. “Bridges last, and help peace. Walls do not,” he told an interviewer from Corriere della Sera, an Italian daily, before the meeting. With militant Islamism going from strength to strength and Christians in the Middle East being persecuted for their beliefs, Catholic leaders privately lament that many churches are divided over theological issues to which most lay Christians are indifferent. They will be heartened to see that the first non-ecclesiastical issue dealt with in the joint declaration issued at the end of the meeting was the plight of Christians in the Middle East and north Africa. . .

The clergymen’s encounter is only the first step on a long road toward mutual understanding between their two churches. For Russia’s government, however, it is a diplomatic victory. The Russian Orthodox Church and the Kremlin often operate in tandem, and Patriarch Kirill could not have agreed to meet the pope without the blessing of Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin. Mr Putin has emphasised that Orthodox Christianity is a pillar of Russia’s national identity, appealing to conservative religious values to shore up his rule. When speaking on world affairs, the church is not an independent institution but, to some degree, an extension of the Russian state.

Russia’s ambassador to the Vatican said Francis and Mr Putin shared a “mutual affection”. That may or may not be true. But Francis made clear in his interview before the meeting that on certain issues he agrees with Mr Putin and disagrees with America and its allies. Speaking much more specifically than popes usually do on geopolitical matters, Francis contended that the disastrous outcome of the invasion of Iraq and the disappointing upshot of the Arab spring were predictable. His remarks on Iraq were not terribly controversial (popes routinely denounce the use of force), but the mention of the Arab spring seemed to suggest that the region’s strongmen should have been left in place. On Libya, where Western powers helped to bring down former dictator Muammar Qaddafi, the pope was explicit: “The West ought to be self-critical.” And he continued: “In part, there has been a convergence of analysis between the Holy See and Russia.”

Francis did add that one should not go too far in endorsing the Kremlin’s views, because Russia “has its interests”. That is an understatement. Mr Putin has faced implacable hostility from Western states since his intervention in Ukraine. In response, says Alexander Baunov of the Moscow Carnegie Centre, he is attempting to “show that the traditional, religious West is less hostile”. The meeting with Francis has helped to underscore Russia’s renewed standing as a global power. Mr Putin’s spokesman called it “a mutual step forward” between Russia and the West.

From the United States under Donald Trump to the papacy under Pope Francis, a complicated panorama of both conflicting and converging interests is displayed. This includes conflict with the Muslim world, which raises the question whether it is a precursor to the fulfillment of Dan. 11:40-44 - or is fulfillment already unfolding? One certainty is that Vladimir Putin's influence is bound to fade. Rev. 13 establishes conclusively that the United States remains the dominant political power until she cedes it completely to Rome, and ultimately to Satan. An evil, supernatural master manipulator is in control of the minds of the participants, and will ultimately sort out the morass to achieve his purpose.

As to the collective pseudo-Christian Religious Right in America, they have made a pact with the devil. They will reap their due reward for destroying the last vestiges of true Christianity in the world at large, with the exception of a remnant (Rev.12:17) - Christ's "little flock" (Luke 12:32.) The due reward of the "False Prophet" is coming in calamities before the end, and final destruction by fire together with the first beast of Rev. 13, when the true Christ is revealed (Rev. 13:11-14; 19:20.) This is the true spiritual reality!