Beautiful study of how the Protestant Reformation restored God’s truth hidden during centuries of spiritual darkness underneath the traditions of men.
(Music in this podcast courtesy of Derek and Brandon Fiechter).
As you all probably know, 2017 was the 500th. Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. In the year 1517 a young monk by the name of Martin Luther (not to be confused with America’s Martin Luther King) posted 95 theses to the door of Wittenberg Cathedral in Germany. That was the decisive torch lit that brought Europe of out spiritual and intellectual darkness.
The entire historical period called “The Dark Ages” was prophesied in the Bible in the Book of Daniel. We’re going to use scripture and that powerful framework called the Sanctuary to highlight the truths that the Roman Papacy cast to the ground. Then we’ll compare/contrast how the Protestant Reformation restored God’s truth through the successive denominations that came on the scene. The restoration of God’s truths was a pre-requisite for the Second Coming of Christ.
By the end of this study you’ll be able to understand the huge theological differences between Catholicism and true Protestantism. I say true because there have been many compromises of truth by Protestants in order to unite with the Roman Papacy. Most Protestants today have forgotten their theological roots and wouldn’t be able to explain how their religion is different from Catholicism. With the rise of Pope Francis to the world scene as a global spiritual leader you MUST understand these critical theological differences so that you can stand for truth.
This is an awesome, beautiful study and a really important one for our generation.
And if you think I’m being divisive instead of working towards Christian unity, let me tell you: Jesus was divisive. Listen to His words in Matthew 10:34: “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth. I came not to send peace, but a sword”. And what was that sword? The sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. The only unity possible is the one based on the Word of God. We can make no compromise with error. We love our brothers and sisters that may be in error, they are all the Lord’s children. This is why we share truth, that we may all unite on the platform of Bible truth. This is the only way that leads into the Kingdom.
Unity under Rome will lead straight to taking the mark of the beast, receiving the last 7 plagues and being cast into the lake of fire. Make no mistake about it. This is life or death. You choose. Let me read you the words of the Lord through Moses in Deuteronomy 30:19: “I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live.”
Quick reminder to everyone: You will find the full notes of this Bible study on our website at www.citybiblegroup.com. I’d love to hear your questions and feedback. You can post comments directly on our website or email them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Let’s get started!
The Christian Church after Jesus Ascended to Heaven
In the Book of Revelation Chapters 2 and 3 Jesus instructs John the Revelator to write the things that He would speak to the Seven Churches. These churches were both literal churches in Asia Minor at the time that John the Revelator was writing. But more importantly Jesus meant them as prophetic churches that described the character of the entire Christian Church as it would evolve throughout the centuries until Jesus’ Second Coming.
In other words, the first church, Ephesus, is the evolution of the Apostolic Church described in the Book of Acts. The last church, Laodicea, is our contemporary church. Our study today is NOT a full study on the Seven Churches of Revelation, but we are going to cover some aspects of it. Imagine how important it is to understand what the seven churches are about: they’re the starting point of the Book of Revelation. What’s described in symbolic language in Revelation 2 and 3 is the spiritual condition of those Seven Churches that in addition to being seven literal churches also symbolize the seven phases of the history of the Christian Church.
The Church of Ephesus
The problems in the Christian Church started not long after the Apostolic Church, the Church of Ephesus. In fact, the Apostle Paul had talked about the spirit of anti-christ which worked already in his time, but was restrained from full power. Jesus’ disciples kept heresy and apostasy out of the church, and as the Christian message spread in its full purity and power it became a threat to the Roman Empire.
The Church of Smyrna
That’s when persecution started, from the early 100’s to the early 300’s, during the period of the Church of Smyrna. Christians were hounded, tortured, crucified and thrown to the lions to entertain the Romans. The martyrs’ blood was like seed that was sprinkled and produced more and more Christians. At this point, Satan saw that what he was doing wasn’t working, and he decided to change tactics. “If you can’t beat them, join them” became his motto. This gave rise to what the Book of Revelation calls “the compromising Church”, or the Church of Pergamus.
The Church of Pergamus
During the period of the Church of Pergamus, from the early 300’s to the mid-500’s, major apostasy infiltrated the Christian Church. Pagan doctrines, beliefs and practices penetrated the Church. Constantine brought the Christian religion under the protection of the Roman government. He instituted Sunday – the pagan day of the sun – as the official day of worship throughout the Roman empire. The Bible tells us that God’s day of worship is the Sabbath, the seventh day of the week, not the first day.
Constantine also promoted the introduction of pagan practices such as idol worship, worship of relics and the veneration of Mary. Pagan beliefs, such as the immortality of the soul, man’s consciousness in death and the concept of purgatory entered the Church as well as infant baptism or baptism by sprinkling.
All of these are contrary to Bible teaching. God tells us we are not to bow down to idols or worship any kind of object. The Bible tells us clearly that God alone has immortality (1 Timothy 6:16) and that the souls of the dead are asleep until the Resurrection and the Judgment. (Listen to our podcast “029 – Ye Shall Be as Gods”).
The Bible also teaches that men who don’t accept Christ as their Savior will suffer eternal death. Jesus is the only way to the Father.
Under Constantine’s reign the Bishop of the Roman Catholic Church in Rome (the word Catholic means “universal”) was established as the head of all the churches. The Word of God says that Jesus is the Head of the Church. He has in no wise delegated this authority to any man. It was Satan who instituted the papacy to challenge Jesus’ authority over the Church. The Bible says in Revelation 13:2: “The dragon (meaning Satan) gave him (the anti-christ) his power, his throne, and great authority”. Satan established the pope just as the scripture prophesied: “so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God” (2 Thessalonians 2:4).
The papacy quickly became entangled in politics, so that on two counts the Church committed what the Bible calls spiritual fornication. Spiritual fornication comes from seeking other gods or powers above the one true God. 1) The Roman Catholic Church went after political power. 2) She also worshipped idols and the gods of the pagans or heathen religions. Thereby she lost the purity and chastity of God’s chosen bride. God calls her “the great whore”.
The Church of Thyatira
The Church of Thyatira covers the period from the mid-500’s until the early 1500’s. This is the Church of the Dark Ages or the Middle Ages.
At this point the heresies and pagan doctrines that went completely against God’s Word were firmly entrenched. Europe was covered in intellectual and spiritual darkness. You would get burned at the stake for owning a Bible (or more commonly for possessing parts of the Bible. This was the period right before the invention of the printed press and very few people owned an entire Bible).
The Church institution had become totally corrupt. The Church was selling indulgences, meaning that you could purchase pardon for sins for yourself or for your loved ones, whether alive or dead. Monks and friars who didn’t work went from town to town begging for money to build churches and shrines. In reality they wanted to keep up their lavish lifestyle at the expense of the people. By the sale of indulgences to cover sins the church was saying: Jesus’ perfect sacrifice isn’t enough to guarantee salvation, you have to buy it for a price.
But wait, it gets worse. The Roman Church also betrayed Jesus as the only Mediator between God and man. She established the Pope as the primary mediator between God and men, followed by the priests, the Virgin Mary, the saints and the angels, all counterfeit intermediaries. The Bible says: “For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5).
The Papacy also instituted the confessional, where again a man sits in the place of God to listen to another man’s confession of sins and pardons those sins. The Bible says that only God has power to forgive sins (Mark 2:7 and 10, Matthew 9:6, Luke 5:21).
But the greatest offense of all is the Catholic doctrine of trans-substantiation. This doctrine claims that when the priest offers mass he literally converts the wine and bread into the physical blood and flesh of Jesus. This equates to killing the Lord Jesus afresh every time a mass is offered. It’s also the supreme blasphemy because they claim that through this ritual the priest “creates the Creator” by giving Him form in physical flesh and blood. Please consider how this grieves the Holy Spirit and hurts our Lord Jesus!
The Bible says that Jesus died once and for all: Romans 6:10, 1 Peter 3:18, Hebrews 7:27 and Hebrews 10:10. His sacrifice was perfect and covered all sins, past, present and future. Jesus’ sacrifice doesn’t need to be repeated ever again, let alone every time mass is offered.
In the 13th. Century or the 1200’s, still during the Church of Thyatira, the Roman Catholic Church conducted the Inquisition, a cruel and brutal persecution of anyone opposed to the Catholic faith. Millions of faithful Christians died across the Roman Empire and beyond. “I saw the woman (referring to the harlot church), drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus” (Revelation 17:6).
“But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound” (Romans 5:20). It was during this period that the seeds of the Protestant Reformation were planted. They were to blossom and yield a mighty harvest.
In the Alps in northern Italy was a people called the Waldenses, Bible-believing Christians who refused to yield to the papal power. They lived very rough and simple lives in the mountains. They were self-sustaining and used their trade to spread the Word of God as missionaries. Rome tried many times to exterminate them. Some of them compromised but many remained faithful to the truth, hiding themselves in the altitudes of the Alps. They would carry around with them small segments of the scriptures even though they’d be killed if caught. Their lives were rough and tough in the cold mountains, but also very pure.
In the 14th. Century or the 1300’s brought the true originator of the Protestant Reformation, John Wycliffe. Wycliffe was a brilliant scholar and teacher. He became a true convert to Christ when he was exposed to the Bible in Latin as part of his work teaching theology at Oxford University. Wycliffe became on fire for the Lord and launched into the huge work of translating the Bible into the English language. Wycliffe was one of the greatest reformers of all time. He was the “John the Baptist” of the Reformation who announced a new era in the Church. Wycliffe was the first to articulate the foundational doctrines of Protestantism based on Bible teaching:
- sola scriptura: the Bible alone is the foundation of all truth, not the traditions of men
- sola fide: salvation and righteousness by faith in Jesus Christ
- sola gratia: salvation by God’s grace and not by man’s merit
God protected John Wycliffe so that despite risking his life daily for God’s truth his enemies were never able to kill him.
The Church of Sardis
From the early 1500’s to the mid-1700’s was the period of the Protestant Reformation. This period is prophesied in the Book of Revelation as the Church of Sardis. This is the period during which most of God’s Bible truths were restored. We’re going to say a lot more about that shortly.
In 1517 Martin Luther nailed the 95 theses to the door of the Wittenberg Cathedral in Germany, which started a huge wave of controversy inside the Church. In those famous 95 theses Luther he was simply declaring Bible truth, such as:
- we’re saved by faith in the grace of God
- we can repent of our sins come directly to God to confess them and we’ll be pardoned
- we can’t buy forgiveness of sins, it only comes through the grace of God
- our works can’t save us, only faith in Jesus Christ
- we should believe the Bible over the teachings of men.
Martin Luther also offered to hold a public debate in the town university against anyone willing to defend the pope’s position. After this very brave act Martin Luther was summoned to Rome. His friends were terrified because very few so-called “heretics” came back from Rome alive. On his way to Rome Martin Luther wrote one of the most beautiful hymns ever written, called “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”. The Lord protected Martin Luther and he was able to escape from the hand of his accusers. Although he was excommunicated he continued to teach truth and further solidified and developed the Protestant credo: sola scriptura, sola fide, sola gratia.
Fast forward to 2017: Last November the Roman Catholic Pope went to Wittenburg, Germany to celebrate the 500th. Anniversary of the official beginning of the Protestant Reformation. The Lutherans made a great show of unity and reconciliation with the Pope and the Catholic Church. As one of the Pope’s ambassadors to the Evangelical community said a couple of years ago, “the protest is over”. Or so they think…
Daniel Prophesied the Desecration of the Sanctuary
Let’s go deeper now into our understanding of the anti-christ power through the study of two inter-related prophetic passages in the Book of Daniel: Daniel 7:25 and Daniel 8:9-14. Before we start reading, let me just clarify one thing: in the Book of Daniel the anti-christ power is called “the little horn” that emerged on the head of the fourth beast which represented the Roman Empire. The anti-christ was to be a Roman power. In the Book of Revelation however that same anti-christ power is called the beast, and is described in detail in Revelation 13 and 17. But it’s the same power. All the fathers of the Protestant faith knew that the papacy was the anti-christ. Sadly our generation has forgotten.
Let’s start with Daniel 7:25:
“And he shall speak great words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time” (KJV). Let’s read it now in the New King James Version: “He shall speak pompous words against the Most High, shall persecute the saints of the Most High, and shall intend to change times and law. Then the saints shall be given into his hand for a time and times and half a time”.
This first prophecy is giving us some very important information:
1. The little horn or the anti-christ power speaks great words or pompous words against God. What exactly are those words? We get additional insight in Revelation 13:6: “And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven”. So those “great words” or “pompous words” are in fact blasphemies against God.
2. The little horn or anti-christ power intended to change times and laws. This actually means two things:
- First, the anti-christ tampered with God’s Law, God’s Ten Commandments, and changed them. It got rid of the Second Commandment which prohibits idol worship. It also changed the day of worship specified in the Fourth Commandment from Saturday to Sunday.
- Second, and this is something that very few Christians understand, the anti-christ power also changed prophetic time. This has confused many Bible students and teachers and has led to an incorrect interpretation of prophecy. The scrambling of prophetic time was accomplished through the Jesuit counter-reformation in the 1600’s. Before the Jesuit counter-reformation all Protestants and Bible scholars knew that the Roman Catholic Papacy was the anti-christ. The correct interpretation of Bible prophecy using the historicist method leads you to correctly identify who the anti-christ power is. When the Jesuits introduced preterism and futurism as methods of interpreting Bible prophecy and started teaching those methods many Bible students and teachers became confused about the identity of the anti-christ. That’s exactly what the Jesuits wanted. The stakes were high to blur the prophetic trail that led to the anti-christ. It’s for this reason that most Evangelical prophecy teachers are incorrectly looking to the Middle East for the fulfillment of Bible prophecy.
3. The anti-christ power will persecute the saints of God. It’s a historically verifiable fact that the Roman Catholic Papacy committed great atrocities against God’s people who stood true to His Word.
4. The anti-christ would be allowed to prevail against the saints of God for 1260 years. Where does that number come from? Time, times and half a time or time, times and the dividing of time refers to prophetic time. We’d already studied the rule that when prophetic time is expressed in days it actually means years. So how do we get 1260 years? Let’s do the math together: every Bible year has 360 days. In Bible language “a time” equals a year, “times” equals two years, and “the dividing of time” or “half a time” equals half a year. Therefore:
- “time” equals 360 years because every year had 360 days, plus
- “times” equals 2 x 360 = 720 years, plus
- “half a time” or “the dividing of time” equals 360/2 = 180 years
- Total of all the years: 360 + 720 + 180 = 1260 years
Indeed the Roman Catholic Papacy was officially a state power since the year 538 AD and remained in power until one of Napoleon’s generals took the pope prisoner in the year 1798. That event – the pope’s deposition by Napoleon’s army- is what’s referred to as the “wounding of the beast”. The Book of Revelation tells us that the wound will be healed and the papacy will regain the same kind of global power it once had to persecute God’s saints.
The prophecy we just considered, Daniel 7:25, gave us a lot of information that helps us to verify the identity of the anti-christ power. Now we’re going to consider the second prophetic passage, Daniel 8:9-14. We’ll layer on some additional information about how this power offended and attacked God. You’ll see that this passage uses Sanctuary language to describe the offenses. Why Sanctuary language? Because ultimately this anti-christ power wants to sit on the throne of God, which is in the Most Holy Place of the heavenly Sanctuary.
So let’s consider Daniel 8:9-12.
“9 And out of one of them came forth a little horn, which waxed exceeding great, toward the south, and toward the east, and toward the pleasant land.
10 And it waxed great, even to the host of heaven; and it cast down some of the host and of the stars to the ground, and stamped upon them.
11 Yea, he magnified himself even to the prince of the host, and by him the daily sacrifice was taken away (Note: Some versions say “the continual sacrifice” – this is important. We’ll come back to that) and the place of the sanctuary was cast down.
12 And an host was given him against the daily sacrifice* by reason of transgression, (Note: The NIV says this more clearly: “Because of rebellion … the Lord’s people were given over to it”) and it cast down the truth to the ground; and it practised, and prospered”. *Again, the Revised Standard Version and the Wycliffe version say “the continual sacrifice”. (Daniel 8:9-12 KJV).
Ok, what is this passage telling us? Something extremely important that we want to understand. Let’s take it verse by verse:
Verse 9: The little horn waxed great. The little horn increased to the south and the east and the Holy Land (the Wycliffe version uses the word “strength” that in several Bible passages is associated with God’s Sanctuary).
Verse 10: The little horn grew until it reached the host of heaven. Who’s the host of heaven? The angels. It says that it threw some of them to the ground. Who are those that were thrown to the ground? The covering cherubs that sit on top of the mercy seat and the four living creatures that surround God’s throne in heaven. Why were they cast to the ground? Because the little horn tries to sit in the place of God. The sacred role of these high angels was defiled as the anti-christ power presumes to occupy the place of God.
Verse 11: “Yea, he magnified himself even to the prince of the host” – Jesus is the Prince of the Host. The anti-christ presumes to take the place of Jesus Christ Himself. He cast down the Sanctuary – the Sanctuary is where Jesus performs His work as High Priest of God’s people. The little horn comes against Jesus as High Priest and Divine Intercessor. Most translations also say that the little horn took away the daily sacrifice. Let’s try to understand that statement.
In the ancient Hebrew Sanctuary the daily sacrifice was the burning of sacrificial animals “to atone for sin”. These sacrifices were offered every day during the morning and evening services. I’m very uncomfortable with the translation that says “he did away with the daily service”. So what if the little horn did away with the daily sacrifice? So did Jesus. That was the whole point of Jesus’ one-time sacrifice: to atone for all sin once and for all in order to do away with the daily sacrifice. So the anti-christ could not have done away with the daily service because by the time the anti-christ appears on the scene Jesus Himself had already done away with the daily service.
Therefore, this verse isn’t referring to the daily sacrifice of burnt offerings. Rather, I believe that the RSV and the Wycliffe translations use a better word: they talk about the “continual sacrifice for sins”. This is a better translation, not perfect but it’s closer to what I believe the text intends to say. The Hebrew word translated as “daily” or “continual” depending on Bible version is the word “tamiyd”. This comes from a root word that means “to stretch”. It does have the meaning of “daily or regular”, but it also has the meaning of “continual, constant, perpetual”.
This second meaning is more relevant to the verse. The sacrifice of Jesus is a persistent sacrifice. It stretches to cover all sin for all mankind until the end of time. It’s a perpetual or constant sacrifice meaning that it doesn’t need to be renewed every day.
This is what the little horn took away – Jesus’ perfect, one-time sacrifice – by teaching that salvation and the forgiveness of sins are achieved by works and by the purchase of indulgences. The Roman Papacy also claims that priests and the pope have the power to forgive sin, thereby superseding the power of the blood of Christ to wash away sin.
Verse 12: This verse tells us that God’s people were given into the pope’s hand. The papacy cast down truth to the ground and prospered in everything it did. The Dark Ages weren’t called the Dark Ages for nothing! For centuries superstition reigned among the ungodly, and among the saints, fear of persecution. The Papacy built up impressive wealth and political clout through all of its alliances and bribing of souls.
Stay tuned for Part 2 to finish off this study.
(Special thanks to Derek and Brandon Fiechter. Check out their beautiful CD of medieval music).