True Church That was Driven Into the Wilderness
There are Catholics on SDA Internet groups
teaching that ancient Jerusalem and the apostate Jews constitute the Great
Whore of Revelation 17, 18. They teach
that the 1260 days that the woman (Church) is driven into the wilderness is
literal time rather than day for a year. This is preposterous because the
true Christians were never driven into the wilderness by Jerusalem in A.D.
66, 3 ˝ years before Jerusalem was destroyed in A.D. 70. The true Christians fled to the mountains
of Pella, in the land of Peraea, to escape destruction by the Romans, not
The Catholics are busy trying to come up
with anything that will unmark them as the Great Whore of Revelation 17 and
18, who persecuted God’s church and sent her into hiding in the wilderness
for 1260 years, from A.D. 538, to 1798.
For that reason, it is imperative that you become familiar with and/or
reminded of the following historical data.
Catholics are saying that:
First, Justinian's decree was in 533 not
538, and it was only a revision of a previous decree. Second, the Ostrogoth's were driven out in 537, not 538, they came back in 538 and attacked the city AFTER
they had been driven out in 537, but never held the city in 538 at all.
So this "starting point" makes no sense. Further, there was
no date given, only a year. Finally, 538 + 1260 years of 360 days each
(the Jewish year) does not end up to be 1798, it is 1780)
They thus say that SDA prophetic interpretation does not align with history
or math. It is the purpose of the study to prove
When did the 1,260 years
begin? In 2 Thessalonians 2, Paul gave a clear clue. In verse 6, he made a
definite connection between the removal of the restrainer and the beginning
of the time of the antichrist. Notice carefully. Paul told the early
Thessalonians, "And now you know what is restraining, that he
[antichrist] may be revealed in his own time" (2 Thessalonians 2:6). As
we have previously proven, this restrainer was the fourth beast of Daniel 7, which
was the Roman Empire. In 476 A.D., when Rome fell, the Caesar
restrainer was "taken out of the way" (2 Thessalonians 2:7). Thus
we should expect the 1260-year period to begin shortly after 476 A.D.
H. Grattan Guinness places the beginning of the 1,260-year period shortly
after 476 A.D. He states that it began with "the notable decree of the
emperor Justinian [525-565 A.D.] constituting the
Bishop of Rome as the head of all Churches [in Western Europe]." 
When the Roman Empire collapsed in 476 A.D., there were still rulers in the East.
One of them, named Justinian, believed the key to peace in
Europe was the uniting of all religions under the leadership of the Roman
Church. So he issued his famous decree which made the Pope the legal
"Head of all the Holy Churches." This decree fully established the Papacy's political power
over all of Christianity in Western Europe. Justinian's decree went into
effect in 538 A.D., 
which was shortly after 476 A.D.! That key date - 538 A.D. - marks the
beginning of the time of the antichrist.
Daniel predicted that during the 1,260-year period the tittle horn would
"persecute the saints of the Most High" (Daniel 7:25) – a prophecy
that was fulfilled to the letter by papal Rome during the Dark Ages. By the
end of this Period, enough was enough, and Europe was ready for a change. If
we start at 538 A.D. and count down 1,260 years, this takes us to 1798 A.D.,
the time of the French Revolution.
In the midst of a bloody reaction against the Roman Church and its monstrous
torture chambers, Napoleon finally decided to abolish the papal government
entirely. Can you guess what year this feat was accomplished? 1798! That's
why Guinness marks the conclusion of the 1,260 years at the time of "the
tremendous Papal overthrow in the French Revolution." 
In 1798, a general of Napoleon named Berthier
entered Rome with a French army. He swiftly abolished the papacy, dismissed
the Vatican's Swiss guards, and proclaimed Rome to be a republic for France. "Berthier entered Rome on the 10th of February, 1798, and
proclaimed a republic."  "One day the Pope was sitting on his
throne in a chapel of the Vatican, surrounded by his cardinals ... Very soon
a band of soldiers burst into the hall, who tore away from his fingerhis pontifical ring, and hurried him off, a
prisoner."  Pope Pius VI was taken to France where he died in exile.
"Napoleon gave orders that
in the event of his death no successor should be elected to his office, and
that the Papacy should be discontinued." 
"The Papacy was extinct: not a vestige of existence remained; and among
all the Roman Catholic powers not a finger was stirred in its defense. The
Eternal City had no longer prince or pontiff; its bishop was dying captive in
foreign lands; and the decree was already announced that no successor would
be allowed in his place." 
This happened in the exact year 1798, marking the end of the predicted 1,260-year
reign of the persecuting "little horn." In that very year Protestant
scholars all over Europe and America recognized the fulfillment of the
"In the downfall of the papal government ... many saw in these events the
accomplishment of prophecies, and the exhibition of signs promised in the
most mystical parts of the Holy Scriptures." 
"Is not the Papal power, at Rome, which was once so terrible, and so domineering,
at an end? But let us pause a little. Was not this End, in other parts of the
Holy Prophecies, foretold to be, at the END of 1260 years? - And was it not
foretold by Daniel, to be at the END of a time, times, and half a time? Which
computation amounts to the same period. And now let
us see; hear; and understand. THIS IS THE YEAR 1798." 
"Is it not extremely
remarkable, and a powerful confirmation of the truth of Scripture prophecy,
that just 1260 years ago from the present 1798, in the very beginning of the
year 538, Belisarius put an end to the empire of the Goths at Rome, leaving
no power therein but the Bishop of the Metropolis? Read these things in the prophetic Scriptures;
compare them coolly with the present state of Europe, and then, I say again,
deny the truth of Divine Revelation, if you can. Open your eyes, and behold
these things accomplishing in the face of the whole world. This thing is not
done in a comer." 
Thus many scholars of the
past have applied the 3 1/2-year, 42-month, 1,260-day prediction found in
Daniel and Revelation to a 1,260-year period starting in 538 A.D. and ending
in 1798. These well-respected theologians saw those dates - 538 and 1798 - as
prophetic milestones, and they appealed to the whole world to take note that
God's "sure word of prophecy" (2 Peter 1:19 KJV) had not been
fulfilled in a corner.
Here is a quick summary of biblical and historical facts surrounding "the
time" of the antichrist:
1. Paul clearly wrote that after the restrainer was removed, the
antichrist would be "revealed in his own time" (2 Thessalonians
2. Daniel predicted that after the fourth beast fell, the "little
horn" (the antichrist) would rule for 1,260 years, "making war
against the saints" (Daniel 7:7-8,21,25).
3. Shortly after the Western Roman Empire collapsed in 476 A.D., the Eastern
Emperor Justinian issued his famous decree giving the Roman Church special
power in Europe.
4. Justinian's decree went into effect in 538 A.D., marking the
beginning of 1,260 years of European papal supremacy.
5. During the 1,260 years, the Roman Church did indeed "make war against
the saints" by papal crusades against heretics and through the nightmarish
barbarism of inhuman inquisitors who set up their deadly tribunals in Europe,
England, India, South America, and even Mexico.
Literally millions of "saints" lost their lives.
6. In 1798 A.D., exactly 1,260 years from 538 A.D., Napoleon's general (Berthier) abolished the papacy's political power, thus
ending that long and painful period of papal rule.
So what time is it? If you check your watch, computer, or cell phone you can
discover the exact minute in the Pacific, Mountain, Central or Eastern Time
But only the Bible reveals the precise time of Jesus Christ (490 years) and
antichrist (1,260 years).
45. Henry Grattan Guinness, Romanism and the Reformation (1887)
(Reprinted by Hartland Publications, Rapidan, VA:
46. lbid, 156.
47. E. B. Elliott, Horae Apocalypticae,
Vol. 1, Fifth Edition
48. David Benedict, A General History of the Baptist
Denomination, 16, n.d.
49. H. Gnnian Grimness, Romanism and the
50. Uriah Smith, Daniel and the Revelation (Nashville, TN:
Southern Publishing Association, 1944) 127, 145.
51. H. Gnnian Grimness, Romanism and the
52. Joseph Rickaby, The Modern Papacy or Lectures
on the History
of Religions, Vol. 3, Lecture 24 (London, England: Catholic Truth
Society, 1910) 1.
53. Arthur Robert Pennington, M.A., F.R. Hist.
Society, Epochs of
the Papacy, (London, England, George Bell and Sons, 1881) 449.
54. The Modem Papacy, 1.
55. George Trevor, Rome: From the fall of the Western Empire,
(London, England: The Religious Tract Society, 1868) 440.
56. John Adolphus, History of France from
1790-1802, Vol. 2,
(London, England: George Kearsley, 1803)379.
57. Edward King, Remarks on the Signs of the Times, (Philadelphia
Edition 1800) 18-19; as quoted by Froom, Vol. 2, 767.
58 David Simpson, A Plea for Religion and the Sacred Writings,
166; as quoted by Froom, Vol. 2, 776-777.
Collision With Prophecy #9:
The Church in the Wilderness and the Great Controversy
By Pastor Larry Kirkpatrick
As you'll recall from our first
meeting, the passage in Revelation containing the main mark of the beast
verses is but a portion of a longer section. Included in
that section is the whole of Revelation chapter 12. If we would
understand the fuller context of the issues involved in the mark of the
beast, then we need to come to grips with Revelation 12.
We saw two meetings ago that the mark of
the beast and the seal of God are about a moral issue. And we've
been seeing that morality has everything to do with obeying God. In our last
meeting, we v3ery carefully identified the
beast of Revelation 13:1-10. Tonight we'll see that
thousands of years and thousands of miles are no barrier for Satan. He will
chase down and destroy every decent god-fearing believer if he possibly can.
He'll run to and fro' throughout the earth for the satisfaction of deceiving
you and inflicting pain upon you and using your life to smear God's name.
If he can.
But we are fare-armed--God has given us the
Scriptures. And we are fore-warned--because tonight we'll look into his plot.
Tonight we'll see the conflict laid out in stark terms. Let us turn to the
Word of the God, not of the dead, but of the living.
A Conflict Involving God's Holy Law
You may or may not know,
that originally, the Bible was not marked-out in chapters and verses. The
text of the Scriptures was split into chapters and verses not many hundreds
of years ago. Most of those chapter-breaks make a lot of sense, but from time
to time they are a bit obscure. The same text is all there, mind you, but in
order that we consider it in the way that makes the most sense, we may have
to include part of the previous chapter. And that's what we find with
Revelation chapter 12. Really, the block of Scripture flowing through chapter
12 begins in Revelation 11:19.
Often, a block of Scripture--a passage of
verses written as a distinct unit--will begin and end with the same idea.
Let's test this with the last verse in Revelation 12:17
And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to
make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God,
and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.
What do we find here? A
distinct people, identifiable (i) by their keeping of God's commandments, and (ii) by their having
the faith of Jesus. Very interesting. Now,
let's look at the last verse in Revelation chapter 11: Revelation 11:19:
And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and
there was seen in His temple the ark of His testament: and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake,
and great hail.
What's that we see? To John's wide and
watching eyes is shown the temple of God in heaven. Just as we've already
seen in Yom
Kippur and End-Time Prophecy, that when the Bible speaks of the temple or
the sanctuary, it is practically speaking of the same thing. So John looks
and sees the heavenly sanctuary. And in vision he is shown "in His
[God's] temple the ark of His testament." The word "testament"
comes from a Greek word translated equally well as "covenant." So
what does John see? The ark of the covenant. And now
let's test our recollection. What position did the ark of
the covenant occupy in the camp of Israel in the wilderness, and in
the sanctuary itself? It is in the Most Holy Place, in the very center. And
what was placed in the center of the ark? The Ten
So what is happening? As God was preparing
John (who was "in the Spirit" on the Lord's day [the Sabbath, see Isaiah
58:13]) to see and understand what He was about to show him in the
vision described in Revelation 12, He made a transition from one scene of the
vision to the next by "cutting to a visual" of the ark in the
heavenly sanctuary. Instead of fading in or out, or wiping left or right, He
uses thunder and lightning and earthquakes and weather-effects. Pretty cool. So just as this section of Scripture ends
with the commandment-keeping people in Revelation 12:17, it
begins with the enshrined commandments of God in heaven in Revelation
Two Wonders at War
Next, contrasted with each other, we see
not one, but two wonders in heaven.
The first wonder (called a "great
wonder"), is a woman, clothed with the sun, standing with the moon under
her feet. On her head she wears a crown topped with 12 stars. But the
description doesn't stop there. She's pregnant--so pregnant that she stands
trembling, in pain of labor, just on the point of giving birth.
In contrast, the other wonder is "a
great red dragon," with not one, but seven heads. He has ten horns
arrayed on those seven heads, and seven crowns. His tail reaches into the
heavens and sweeps fully a third of the stars out of the sky, sending them
crashing to the earth. But the real attention of the dragon is focused on the
belly of the pregnant woman. The giant red monstrosity stands there,
glowering over the woman, drooling in anticipation of eating her child when
it will be born.
Consider the contrasts between these two
wonders appearing in heaven:
1. The woman is clothed with the sun--a blinding
brightness [note: the "sun" in Scripture must be interpreted
according to context, as in some places it represents Jesus (Malachi
4:2), and in others the wickedness of sun worship (Ezekiel 8:16)].
Here, the sun represents Jesus and purity, for this woman represents the
followers of Jesus. The dragon is colored red--the color of blood.
2. The woman is represented as a normal human
female--with just one head. The dragon is a beastial representation, with not one, but seven
3. The woman wears one crown, a stephanos.
The stephanos crown is a
victor's crown, given to one gaining the victory in ancient Greek games of
contest. The dragon wears seven diadamatas,
seven royal crowns. Those who rule don't necessarily earn their rulership by
fitness to rule, but may take it by force.
4. The woman is preparing to give birth, to give life.
The dragon is preparing to take life, to consume the child as soon as
5. The woman is shown in an exalted state--standing
with the moon under her feet and clothed with the sun. The dragon casts stars
to the ground. He's shown with no foundation beneath him and no brightness.
His is the realm of destruction and murder.
There are also similarities. Both are
defined as "wonders." Both are represented as in the sky before
John. They are frozen in mid-action-sequence, the woman already pregnant and
in labor, the dragon already active in destruction (casting the stars to the
ground) and waiting to eat the little baby.
The attention of both is centered on the
imminent arrival of the infant. The woman travails in birth-labor, focusing
on her pain. The dragon also awaits the birth of the baby. He will not have
opportunity to destroy it until it is born.
This brings another important point: the
arrival of the child is out of the dragon's hands. It is not a matter over
which he is allowed to exercise dominion. This event is clearly under God's
timetable and His dominion. The dragon only can wait for it.
Interpreting the Two Wonders
Interpreting these symbols is not
difficult. Throughout the Bible, what does a woman represent? A church, a
nation, or a group of religious people are represented by a woman. For
example, Jeremiah 6:2 says, "I have likened the daughter of
Zion to a comely and delicate woman." Ephesians 5:25 says,
"Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church, and gave
Himself for it, that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of
water by the Word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not
having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and
In Ephesians 5:32, Paul goes
on to say that "This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ
and the church." The church was the woman. Revelation 17
portrays one of the end-time churches represented as a woman "arrayed in
purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and
pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness
of her fornication." She is the Babylon of Bible prophecy, a false
religious structure. She makes an all-out effort to take the world captive.
Genesis 3:15 prophesied of the coming of the Savior as the
"seed of the woman," and of His crushing the serpent (Satan) under
His feet; but Romans 16:20 shows that God would crush the
serpent under our feet in the end. Revelation 12:17 we
saw, identified the remnant of her seed as end-time Christians obedient to
God. But in Revelation 12:1 we saw that the first great wonder
displayed in the vision is a woman "clothed with the sun." Adorned
in purity, in blinding bright whiteness, she is a church. She represents
God's people down through the passage of time.
But someone might say, "wait a minute. The church came after the death of
Christ on the Cross, not before it." But don't forget. The Bible even
calls God's people before Jesus came
a church. Did you know that? Turn to Acts 7:38:
This is he [Moses] that was in the church in the
wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the
lively oracles to give unto us.
Well, we can tell very plainly that this
verse is referring to Moses and Israel in the wilderness, on the journey
between Egypt and Palestine. Here they are called, "the church
in the wilderness." Nor is this a strange translation. The underlying
Greek word here is the same word used throughout the New Testament for
church: ekklesia. An ekklesia literally is a group of those who are
"called out." The Hebrew nation was "called out" of
Egypt, just as we in our day are "called out" of the world.
Consider Jesus Christ. Let me ask you this:
when, in the figurative sense, was Jesus slain? Do you remember that Revelation
13:8 calls Him the "Lamb slain from the foundation of the
world"? When Adam and Eve first sinned, Jesus immediately offered His
life for theirs. He promised to come "in the fullness of time" to
die in their place. In this way He was in fact "slain from the
foundation of the world." Jesus would "come in" to the world,
that He might redeem (buy-back) those "called out" of the world. It
was as a direct result of their sins and His willingness to pay their penalty
that the church can well be said to give birth to the Messiah. If they hadn't
sinned, there'd be no need for a Savior to come and die on the cold Cross.
And so here, in this portrayal of the conflict between good and evil, we see
(so to speak) the church giving birth to Christ, "the Seed of the woman."
The fact we just mentioned certainly
explains the dragon's focus upon the child about to be born! For the woman
represents God's people and the child represents Christ. He would be born,
and after successfully completing His ministry on earth, be "caught up
to God, and to His throne," to "rule all nations with a rod of
iron" (Revelation 12:5; Psalm 2:2-9).
And, speaking of the dragon, how shall we
interpret him? Revelation does it for us. Revelation 12:9
identifies him, as we've already said,
to be "that old serpent, called the devil, and Satan." But notice:
he is portrayed as having seven heads (Revelation 12:3). What
could that mean? How many Holy Spirits are there? There is exactly one Holy
Spirit, called "the Spirit [singular] of truth" (John 16:13).
But in Revelation 1:4 there is reference to "seven churches
which are in Asia," and "the seven spirits which are before His
What's interesting is that it has been
suggested, and it makes a lot of sense, that the seven churches in Revelation
chapters 1-3 represent not only seven literal churches in Asia, but seven
distinct time-frames within which the church functions. Not seven different
dispensations with God operating differently in each period, but simply seven
distinct periods or phases that the world and God's people pass through. The
seven heads of the dragon would represent Satan's working during each of
these periods, and the seven spirits before God's throne represent God's
protection and nourishing of His people through these ages of trial and
persecution. The 10 horns of the dragon represent the 10 divisions of Rome;
the seven crowns, manifestations of Satan's kingdom in each period.
So here we have two wonders locked in
conflict: God's people, His church, face-to-face with the dragon, Satan. The focus of the battle at this stage of the conflict? The infant Christ who would be born. She labors to give
birth. The dragon waits to destroy the child. All eyes are on the belly of
the woman. All eyes are concerned with this "Emmanuel: God with us"
(Matthew 1:23). The battle between good versus
evil smolders. Jesus will come as infant child in the very flesh of
humanity to grapple with the toxic dragon. The war is to be joined.
There was no escape for Christ. For 33
years He lived under severe persecution by Satanic
powers. Satan and his cohort of demons surrounded and dogged His stickery path through our
world. But they did not prevail. The dragon did not eat the child. Satan
through Herod and the Roman government continuously attempted to slay the infant
Savior, but the battle never let up (Matthew 2:1-18). Satan
sought to destroy the tiny group of disciples, but his real focus was on
Christ. Still, nothing that Lucifer could do availed. Christ was caught up to
God and to His throne to complete His work in the heavenly sanctuary
by applying the benefits of the atonement to His people through the linkage
All the years following the death of Christ
on the Cross, persecution grew ever more severe as the followers of Jesus
were hounded and driven through Judea, persecuted with intensifying fury by
the Roman Empire. And so God's people--represented by the woman--were pressed
and attacked. Down through the days of persecution they journeyed, until
finally they passed into a situation the Scriptures call "the
wilderness" (Revelation 12:13-14). First Satan used the
Roman Empire, through its iron strength attempting to annihilate them. But
the church only grew stronger and stronger. Because of this, eventually there
came a dramatic shift in the Satanic strategy. From
the use of coersion and
force, he shifted to infiltration and compromise. The danger faced by God's
people now accelerated almost beyond measure.
Because of Roman antipathy and persecution
of the Jews, some of the early Christians went out of their way to
differentiate between themselves and the
them. Some even gave up the Sabbath. Let it be remembered that
it was something of a fad at that time to be a "Greek." Some Jews
went so far as to have a reverse circumcision (yes, it is said to have been
painful!). In the Greek running competitions men wore no shorts, so one could
readily tell who was or was not circumcised (fortunately, the present
"Olympics" has a different policy).
In the fourth century, the Emperor
Constantine passed a Sunday law as he sought to unite the decaying Roman
Empire under Christianity. True Christians of that age, unwilling to break
the Ten Commandments in any part, continued to live under conditions of
pressure in the surrounding culture. A time was coming in which she would be
propelled into "the wilderness."
War in Heaven
Now the scene shifts. Whereas the first
portion of the vision had portrayed the conflict between God's people on
earth, and between their Savior and their foe, (and their enemies'
redirection of his wrath at the followers of Jesus), now the verses from Revelation
12:7-12 move to portray the conflict in its broader scope. There was
war in heaven. Who fights? Michael (Jesus) and his angels
versus the dragon (Satan) and his angels.
How can Michael stand for Christ? Let's
keep a couple of things in mind:
1. Satan is here represented symbolically by the
"dragon." Christ is described in His infancy only as a "man
child" (Revelation 12:4-5), which was exactly what He was
at that point in time. If Satan is presented symbolically as a
"dragon," it makes sense that Christ also be represented here
symbolically, under the label "Michael,"--a name that in Hebrew
translates to the question, "Who is like God?"
2. To identify Christ as Michael is not to
identify Him as a created being. Christ always existed. He always had life in
Himself--original, unborrowed, and underived. Other groups have called Christ
"Michael" but claimed He was the first created being, or a being
with only a "derived" divinity. As far as we can see, such is not
the testimony of Scripture.
3. The clinching evidence is found in Joshua
5:13-15, where Joshua is standing outside the city of Jericho which
the Hebrews have surrounded
and are preparing to attack. Looking aside, Joshua sees a Being standing with
sword drawn. Moving to face Him, he asks, "Are you for us, or against
us?" In response, Joshua is told, "Nay; but as Captain of the host
of the Lord am I now come." Immediately Joshua drops to the earth and
"worships" this Person, asking "What saith my Lord to His
servant?" In response comes the command, "Loose thy shoe from off
thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest is holy." The only thing
that makes holy is the presence of God. Echoing the experience of Moses and
God at the burning bush, we here find Jesus and Joshua in converse. Here, He
is come "as Captain of the Lord's host." Jesus, in the role of
heavenly General, is one and the same as "Michael" with His angels.
Where did the war begin? "In
heaven." The result? Not the destruction
of Satan and his angels--the third of the stars that were flung to the
ground--but the removal from heaven of Satan and his rebels. They are cast to
the earth--the whole lot of them. Verse nine calls Satan one "which
deceiveth the whole world." In the Greek it is a present active
participle, meaning that it speaks of one presently active in a continuous
effort at deception.
Who is he striving to deceive? The entire oikomenayn; the occupied world. The root here is the Greek oikos, which means a "house,"
literally, "all that are under one roof." If you listen closely to
this word (which we'll see again in Revelation 18:1-5), you'll
hear another word we've become familiar with in recent years: ecumenism.
That's right. That's the English translation. Ecumenism is an attempt to put
all so-called "Christian" belief-systems under one comfortable,
cozy roof--under and into one oikos. And
here stands Satan, cast out of heaven, one who is presently active in
deceiving the whole world--everyone on the planet--trying to get them all yet
more completely deceived, yet more completely "ecumenized." But that's another topic. We
can't share everything in one night now!
Revelation 12:10-12 next treats us to a fascinating angel pronouncement:
come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of
His Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them
before our God day and night. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their
testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that
dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters
of the earth and of the sea! For the devil is come down unto you, having
great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.
When is come what? "Now" is come "salvation,"
"strength," the kingdom of God and the authority of His Christ. The
war in heaven began only after Lucifer forsook his purity. Lucifer (Satan)
was originally a bright and shining angel, pure and true. God didn't make a
devil; He made a beautiful, truth-loving angel.
But pride rose up. He began to look to
himself. Seeing himself in a compartmentalized context--apart from his
dependency upon his Creator--everything became psychologically twisted-up
(See Isaiah 14:9-20; Ezekiel 28:3-19). Lucifer
("star of the morning"), without justification began to seek the
worship appropriate only for God. He rebelled. He deceived a third of all the angelic host. There--in
the very hallways and portals of purity and truth, basking in the pulsating
glow of brightness emanating from God on His throne--there began the mystery
of iniquity; the inexplainable,
unjustified existence of sin. And the battle was carried to earth. Satan was
not then destroyed; he was limited--cast to this earth. God suffered him to
be placed in His perfect Eden garden.
Even in that verdant paradise, even there,
Satan was placed on the shortest of short leashes. He was tied to one tree. Just one. Just one tree on all the planet. That was the only place where he could
tempt Adam or Eve. If (that is) they would even go there. There the mighty
fallen angel brooded, chained--limited to the tree. And of course, there is
where he and Eve had their fatal meeting. Notice this interesting fact: Satan
was not destroyed in heaven, although God instantly could have done
so. And then, Satan was not destroyed on earth, although God instantly could
have done so. No. Satan had made some claims about God: that He was unfair;
that angels didn't need God's law; that no one could really obey it; that God
Himself was unjust.
Charges like that are not answered by
zapping a being out of existence. If God had done that, just think what
questions would remain in the minds of the other beings, along with the added
concern, "If I don't obey God, He may wipe me out too!" Such
precipitous action on God's part would only have inspired the service of fear
among heaven's angels.
So our heavenly Father chose a different
approach. He would deal with the sin problem for the long term, for the
duration. He would end sin once and for all. He would show that it is
unjustified and unnecessary. He would permit the demon a limited period of
time to show (to a point) where his selfish plan for governing the
universe led. God let the devil's leash out, like a rope by which Satan's own
wickedness would finally hang himself.
immediately--Satan's true colors would be shown. Given the time and
opportunity too, Lucifer would expose himself. And so God let out the line.
The result was Satan's murderous rage at the birth and life and death of
Jesus. Satan exposed what he was to a watching universe. Whoever's out there
among the stars, whatever worlds look down upon our sad and blackened corner
of the sky, they see the results of sin painted large. Oh what a shame that we
don't seem to see it right before our eyes in its brutal fullness, right in
"For the accuser of our brethren is
cast down, which accused them before our God day and night."
"Now" is come salvation, announced the angel. When? Where was the
focus of the dragon in the very first part of our passage? On the woman's
womb, within which was the Christ-child! Yes, the fight began ages ago in
heaven, 6000 years or more past. But there are two decisive points in the
battle. At the Cross "her Child was caught up unto God, and to His
throne." According to Genesis three, Satan had been cast out of heaven
right at the time of the beginning of our world, (and hinted at in Ezekiel
28:13-14). So we know that there was a time when he was cast down. But
it is also true that at the Cross, Satan was cast down even further.
If only we had time tonight to go to the
book of Job! In the first two chapters of Job we see that from time to time
there is a gathering of the beings whom
God has granted some authority in the worlds throughout the cosmos that He
has made. According to the Bible's book of Job, on some of these appointed
occasions, "when the sons of God came to present themselves before the
Lord," "Satan came also among them to present himself to the
Lord" (Job 1:6; 2:1). It seems that even after his initial casting out of heaven, there still were
times when he was permitted to return to heaven. Our passage says that he
"accused them [our brethren, i.e. humans. See Ephesians 3:15;
Hebrews 2:12; Revelation 19:10; 22:9. Angels and
humans are "brethren"], before our God day and night." Could
it be that up until the time of the Cross, Satan still had a limited access
to the throne room of heaven?
God and Satan do nothing in partnership:
always they are at odds. But Adam had sinned in Eden, and in doing so he had
given his worship to Satan. Adam had been God's appointed "manager"
of this planet. To humankind, in the pair of Adam and Eve, the charge had
been to exercise "dominion" (Genesis 1:26, 28-30).
Adam's sin granted Satan some measure of control over the earth. Perhaps in
some sense he (Satan) became our planet's (temporary) representative. Until,
of course, the true king, Jesus Christ came, and won it all back. Then was
Satan cast down indeed. And after Jesus successfully lived without sinning,
in a body as human as ours, and condemned sin "in the flesh," Satan
was thrust down to the earth.
Angry Dragon Makes War Upon Woman's Seed
But still He could do battle. He could
strike at heaven through the fallen children of this world. He could poke and
prod and harass and deceive and attempt to coerce them into forsaking their
Savior, casting away their redemption. He could persecute Christ's followers.
He could strike the Son through His followers, and even in His
followers, for Christ resides in the true Christian. Colossians 1:27-29
calls it, "Christ in you, the hope of glory!" Through Christ's
people, Satan could keep gnawing at Christ's heel.
And so he persecuted and sniped and bit and
scratched, and with all of his ferocity he drove the woman into the
wilderness. And had not God reached out to protect them there, nourishing
them and sustaining them, they would not have survived. But through the power
of His intervening grace, through the "power of His Christ,"
"They overcame him [the accuser, Satan] by the blood of the Lamb, and by
the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the
death" (Revelation 12:11).
What about the mystery of the 1260 days?
We'll, what did we already discover about prophetic time periods, a
few meetings back, when we talked about the longest
time prophecy in the Bible? In apocalyptic Bible prophecy, a day equals
or stands for a year (See Numbers 14:34; Ezekiel 4:6).
If this is true, then what do we have here? Another long
prophetic time period, this time reaching for 1260 literal years. In
fact, this very same period occurs exactly seven times in the Bible, all in
the apocalyptic books of Daniel and Revelation! In fact, all seven of these
texts refer to the same 1260 year period: Daniel 7:25; 12:7;
Revelation 11:2, 3; 12:6, 14; 13:5. So the question is, from when to
We know that it has to be within the time
window following the death of Christ on the Cross and a period of persecution
(Revelation 12:13), and when we work closely with our upcoming
topic "America in Bible Prophecy," we'll see that the period ends
with the first beast of Revelation 13:1-10 receiving a
"deadly wound." It must come about the time of the rising of the
image beast (Revelation 13:11-18).
The image beast persecutes the
commandment-keeping followers of Jesus in the end-time, during the period
when the sanctuary is being cleansed, which we know from our study on Yom Kippur and
End-time Prophecy. Our study of the longest
time prophecy in the Bible showed that the final period began in A. D.
1844. So without going a notch further than what we've already covered, we
know that this 1260 year period fits somewhere between the death of Christ
and A. D. 1844. Fortunately, finding an exact fit within that time-frame is
not difficult at all. Let's proceed.
In A. D. 533 as Emperor Justinian was
anxious to begin his war against the Vandals (remember, he had rooted them up
before the close of A. D. 534), he mailed a letter to the Pope. Because of
the significance of this letter, I reproduce it below in full:
Justinian, victor, pious,
fortunate, famous, triumphant, ever Augustus, to John, the most holy
Archbishop and Patriarch of the noble city of Rome. Paying honor to the Apostolic See and to your
holiness, as always has been and is our desire, and honoring your blessedness
as a father, we hasten to bring to the knowledge of Your Holiness all that
pertains to the condition of the churches, since it has always been our great
aim to safeguard the unity of your Apostolic See and the position of the holy
churches of God which now prevails and abides securely without any disturbing
trouble. Therefore we have been sedulous to subject and unite all the priests
of the orient throughout its whole extent to the see of Your Holiness.
Whatever questions happen to be mooted at present, we have thought necessary
to be brought to Your Holiness's knowledge, however clear and unquestionable
they may be, and though firmly held and taught by all the clergy in
accordance with the doctrine of your Apostolic See; for we do not suffer that
anything which is mooted, however clear and unquestionable, pertaining to the
state of the churches, should fail to be made known to Your Holiness, as
being the head of all the churches. For, as we have said before, we are zealous
for the increase of the honor and authority of your See in all respects. Codex
lib. 1, tit. 1; translation as given by R. F. Littledale, The Petrine Claims, p. 293.
History knows this document as "the
decree of Justinian"--the landmark declaration of the supremacy of the
Pope in Rome over all Christendom. But the Ostrogoths held the city of Rome and had to be
rooted out before the Pope could come and lay full claim to his seat there.
Wars proceeded over the next few years as the power known as the "little
horn" of Daniel 7 plucked up the last of the three horns:
the Ostrogoths. After
five years of war the Pope could finally wield the power granted to him in
533 by Justinian. Thus, A. D. 538 marks a critical milestone in the history
surrounding the age during which the woman (the true church) was persecuted
by the dragon through Rome.
When we take A. D. 538 and add 1260 years
to it and see what comes out at the other end, we see something of great
interest. When you do the math, you'll see that this takes us to A. D. 1798
as the time marking the end of the period of wilderness terror and
persecution. What happened in 1798? Of particular interest to you will be
that Napoleon sent his General Berthier
to Rome in A. D. 1798. He took Rome in February of that year. The Pope was
taken prisoner and died in captivity. The Papacy received a deadly wound. It
was even declared that never again would the Papacy be permitted to exist.
Down through the ages though, there were
developments. The early 16th century saw the arrival of the Protestant
Reformation. Battle was joined between the Protestants and the Papacy for
many years. But after awhile the tide began to turn and the Reformation
became more subdued in the European lands. The noble history of that period
is wonderful and lively. O that we might retell it right here! But our time
for tonight is gone. Suffice it that we say this for now: as the practice of
religious freedom was waning on the European continent, a group of weary but
staunch believers in Jesus Christ were driven across the ocean to a new
country opening up. Hailed as "a country without a king and a church
without a pope," a new power was rising. The United States of America
would soon be born.
look with me at Revelation 12:15 "The
serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman to cause her
to be carried away by the flood." And just down the page, at Revelation
12:16: "And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her
mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his
mouth." A fresh, new, sparsely populated land received the persecuted
people of God. The power of Rome was unenforceable in the "new world."
But only for awhile. For we find in Revelation 12:17 that
the dragon never would let a mere ocean stop him; still he would hunt his
prey . . .
And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to
make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God,
and have the testimony of Jesus Christ."
And so, as we've already seen, as this
passage of Scripture begins with the Law of God, so to it ends with it. Satan
is angry with those refusing to bow to his revised version of God's law. An
ocean or even a constitution won't stop him. Not for long. And only the
restraining hand of God has prevented him from wiping out all those who would
worship their Creator according to the dictates of their conscience. We said
there were two climax-points in the war between good and evil--the great
controversy. The first climax point was Christ giving His life at the Cross
of Calvary providing a sacrifice sufficient to atone for humankind. But that
first climax point makes possible also the last climax point: the coming of a
time when God produces a people willing to receive, in its fullness, the
applied benefits of that very atonement He is now making for them in heaven.
Heaven purposes to display, in the last moment of time, a people who keep all
of God's commandments, who have the testimony of Jesus Christ. In short, a
people willing to follow the Lamb whereever
He goes (Revelation 14:4). A people who
live--by choice--with Christ in them, "the hope of glory" (Colossians
1:27-29). And that opportunity has
now come to us--to you and I. God calls us off the sidelines and into the war.
Conclusion and Preview
And so tonight we've seen, spread out
before us, the holy adventure of God's people. We today can stand in
continuity and solidarity with them. The dragon is wroth with the woman
today, more than ever. He is filled to a
frenzy with anger against this faithful band of Jesus-followers
ready, in the end-time--at the very height of deception and
smooth-preaching--to "follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth" (Revelation
14:4). He is purple with rage against those who, embracing the
empowering grace of God stand up for Jesus at the end of all things,
faithfully keeping the commandments of God and having the testimony of Jesus
(Revelation 12:17; 14:12).
Satan says "I will ascend into heaven,
I will exalt my throne above the stars [angels] of God [For stars as angels,
see Job 38:4-7]: I will sit also upon the mount of the
congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of
the clouds; I will be like the most High" (Isaiah 14:13-14).
In such thoughts and words, he says "worship me. Live my way. Obey my
laws. Let me run things around here. My laws are better than God's laws. They
are more convenient. Just worship me and I'll give you all that your heart
"Just sell-out to
But tonight we've seen that Satan has come
down having great wrath. Why? Because he knoweth that he hath but a short
time. Tonight friends, God is calling me and he's calling you. He's
calling us. He's calling this generation to live for Him. He's
calling us to forsake sin, to leave it behind, to turn our backs on it
forever; to receive His power and live for Him alone. Oh friends, don't be
deceived. Don't sell-out for a piddly
moment of self-destructive indulgence. The pleasures of sin are for only a
season. But what does God have? The Scriptures tell us that at God's right
hand for us are "pleasures forever more" (Psalm 16:11).
So let's be honest. We've all been wimps. We've all celebrated sin. We've all
managed to indulge ourselves at Jesus' expense and to the destroyer (Satan's)
most exquisite satisfaction. But let us purpose in our heart tonight . . .
As we've seen tonight, God's people have
been very active down through the ages of history. The devil has tried his
best to make certain they have received no rest. But the Bible also tells us
that truly there is "No Rest for
the Wicked" either. Tomorrow night we'll explore exactly why that
is. But now let us pray . . .
Larry Kirkpatrick, Last modified 30
us at firstname.lastname@example.org
View—The Church in the Wilderness
In the aftermath of the Council of Nicea, Emperor Constantine and
his successors sought to stamp out all non-conforming brands of Christianity.
Groups which refused to conform to the teachings and practices of the
"established" church, which now called itself the Catholic
(universal) Church of God, were viewed not merely as heretics, but as
subversive enemies of the Roman state.
The true Church,
symbolized by a woman in Revelation 12, was forced to flee into the
wilderness for 1,260 "days." In Bible prophecy, a "day"
often represents a year (Num. 14:34; Ezek. 4:6). Thus, the true Church would
have to remain in hiding for 1,260 years following the Nicene Council.
Historically, that is what happened. In this chapter of Church history, we
are going to examine the story of God's people from the Late Antiquity period
into the Middle Ages. Though these were truly dark
ages, there was a light which continued to burn. Its flame sometimes
flickered, but it was never extinguished.
confront any church scholar or historian who wishes to trace the wanderings
of the true Church during this 1,260-year period. This is because the true
Church's history is not about one continuous human organization. The preserved
history of the Sabbath-keeping Church of God has been almost entirely written
by its enemies who viewed it as heretical. We read of groups labeled by
hostile outsiders with such names as Paulicians,
Bogomils and Waldenses--of whom smaller or
larger segments of these groups, at different times, appear to have been true
Christians in the mold of the Jerusalem Church of God in the first century
A.D. Another difficulty is that the teachings of each of these groups changed
over a period of time, generally becoming more like those of their Catholic
and Protestant neighbors.
Also we find that
writers often lumped together various groups of "heretics,"
including the true Church, under the same name, not truly distinguishing the
differences in their teachings. As Dean Blackwell succinctly put it in his
1973 thesis, A Handbook of Church History, "The big problem in
church history is to find out when the church ceased being the true church
and when God removed that church to another place, which we'll see that He
did" (p. 7).
Flees to the Wilderness
During the first
three centuries of its existence, the Church of God faced intermittent
periods of harsh persecution. However, during those times, they were not
singled out, but were generally lumped in with the Jews and a wide range of
Christ-professing sects. Those persecutions were of limited duration and
local in scope. The Roman Emperor Diocletian, from 303 to 313 A.D., unleashed
the worst of these pre-Council of Nicea
persecutions. These are the "ten days" referred to in Revelation
consolidated his power in the Empire, things changed significantly. Gibbon
tells us that Constantine's religious devotion was "peculiarly directed
toward the genius of the Sun... and he was pleased to be represented with the
symbols of the God of Light and Poetry. The unerring shafts of that deity,
the brightness of his eyes... seem to point him out as the patron of a young
hero. The altars of Apollo were crowned with the votive offerings of
Constantine; and the credulous multitude
were taught to believe that the emperor was permitted to behold
with mortal eyes the visible majesty of their tutelar deity.... The Sun was
universally celebrated as the invincible guide and protector of
Constantine" (The Triumph of Christendom, p. 309).
Four years prior
to the Council of Nicea,
Constantine proclaimed a law for the Roman Empire that was to have
far-reaching implications for God's people. "The earliest recognition of
the observance of Sunday as a legal duty is a constitution of Constantine in
321 A.D., enacting that all courts of justice, inhabitants of towns, and
workshops were to be at rest on Sunday (venerabili die solis, i.e., venerable day of the Sun)....
This was the first of a long series of imperial constitutions, most of which
are incorporated in the Code of Justinian." About forty years later, the
Catholic Church followed up on this imperial edict in "canon  of the
Council of Laodicea [363 A.D.], which forbids Christians from Judaizing and resting on the
Sabbath day, and actually enjoins them to work on that day" (Encyclopaedia
Britannica, 11th ed., "Sunday").
The very fact
that, in the latter fourth century, the Roman Church felt the need to
legislate against Sabbath observance shows that faithful remnants,
particularly in Asia Minor, persevered in the Truth. This increasingly
powerful church insisted that all must now accept the
"Christianized" brand of Roman Sun worship. Those who refused were
easily identified and could no longer function if they remained in the urban
areas of the Roman Empire. Consequently, in the fourth century, those
Christians labeled as Nazarenes disappeared from the populous areas of Asia
Minor. For three centuries the remnants of the true Church had sojourned
there, but with the enactment of this Sunday law by Constantine, they were
forced to flee.
The "Paulicians" Appear in
In the fifth
century, the Church appeared in remote areas of eastern Asia Minor near the
Euphrates River and in the mountains of Armenia. These people were labeled by
their contemporaries as "Paulicians."
Who were they?
Armenian scholar Nina Garsoian
in The Paulician
Heresy, "It would, then, appear that the Paulicians are to be taken as the survival of the
earlier form of Christianity in Armenia" (p. 227). The author also
states that the Paulicians
were "accused of being worse than other sects because of adding
Judaism" (p. 213).
The accusation of
"adding Judaism" has been a common charge against the remnants of
God's true Church down through the centuries. As was detailed in the
preceding chapter, this line of attack had its origins with the second
century Catholic Church fathers, especially Ignatius, Barnabas of Alexandria
and Justin Martyr. To this day, the world does not discern the genuine
differences between "Judaism" and the religion practiced by the
Jerusalem Church of God in the first century A.D. Their common practices in
observing the Sabbath and Holy Days made them indistinguishable to most
to this third stage of God's Church (Paulicians)
is characterized by the Church at Pergamos
(Rev. 2:12-17). The word Pergamos
and the Church members of this era were noted for dwelling in remote,
mountainous areas. In Revelation 2:13, Christ said of the Pergamos Church that they dwell where Satan's seat
is. Pergamum was a center of the ancient Babylonian mystery religion. In 133
B.C., Attalus III, the
last "god-king" of Pergamum, died and in his will bequeathed his
kingdom and his title, Pontifex
("Supreme Bridge-builder" between man and God), to the Romans. The
Roman rulers took the title and held it until Emperor Gratian bestowed it on
Pope Damascus in 378 A.D. The Catholic popes continue to use that title to
this day. Also, historically, the term "Satan's seat" alludes back
to Nimrod's ancient kingdom which, in distant antiquity, included Armenia and
the upper Euphrates (Gen. 10). The Pergamos
relocated to that same area after Constantine enforced Sunday keeping on the
As far back as the
fifth century, we find the Paulicians
condemned as heretics in Catholic documents. However, the first
prominent leader among them with whose name we are familiar is Constantine of
Mananali (c. 620-681
A.D.). Constantine of Mananali
was a well-educated man who was given a copy of the Scriptures. When he began
to study them, he was amazed at what he found. About 654 A.D. he began to
preach, helping to revitalize the Church. Prior to Constantine of Mananali's ministry, most of
the Church membership consisted of descendants of Christians who had fled
Greece and Asia Minor over two centuries earlier. They preserved the names of
their original congregations and continued to refer to themselves as the
"church of Ephesus" or the "church of Macedonia" though
they were located hundreds of miles from the original sites.
Constantine of Mananali was executed by
Byzantine (Eastern Roman) soldiers commanded by an officer known as Simeon in
681 A.D. Simeon was so overwhelmed by the example and teachings of
Constantine that, in 684 A.D., he returned, not as a Roman soldier, but as a
convert. Simeon became a zealous Paulician
preacher and he, in turn, was martyred three years later in 687 A.D.
In 1828 the
manuscript of an ancient book entitled The Key of Truth was discovered
in Armenia. Portions of the book date to 800 A.D. and it provides us with the
greatest detail of the teachings of the Paulicians. Translated into English by Fred Coneybeare around the beginning
of this century, we learn from it that the Paulicians assailed the use of the cross in
worship and religious art, calling it a cursed implement. They condemned
warfare and observed the Passover on the fourteenth day of the first month.
The Paulicians rejected
the claims of the Catholic Church to be the Church of God along with papal
claims of "apostolic succession" and other pretensions. They
regarded the Trinity, purgatory and intercession of the saints as
introduction that he wrote for the English translation of The Key of
Truth, Dr. Coneybeare
provides invaluable historical background on the practices of the early Paulicians. "We also know
from a notice preserved in Ananias of Shirak
that the Pauliani, who
were the same people at an earlier date, were Quartodecimans, and kept Easter in the primitive
manner at the Jewish date. John of Otzun's
language perhaps implies that the old believers in Armenia during the seventh
century were Quartodecimans,
as we should expect them to be" (Coneybeare,
intro., clii). Dr. Coneybeare further states,
"The Sabbath was perhaps kept and there were no special Sunday
observances" (p., cxiii).
He goes on to say of the Paulicians
that "they were probably the remnant of an old Judeo-Christian Church,
which had spread up through Edessa into Siuniq and Albania" (p., clxii).
At some point
in their history, however, many Paulicians
succumbed to a fatal error. They reasoned that they could outwardly conform
with many of the practices of the Catholic Church in order to avoid
persecution as long as in their heart they knew better. This road of compromise led many to have their
children christened and others to attend mass. Christ prophesied of this,
admonishing the Church at Pergamos
about those who held to pagan, immoral doctrines (Rev. 2:14-15). The result
of their compromising was that Christ allowed severe persecution to come upon
them. When persecution came, some of the beleaguered Paulicians decided that the solution to their
trouble lay in entering into an alliance with the Moslem Arabs who were then
making serious incursions into the Byzantine (Eastern Roman) Empire.
Controversies among the Paulicians
during these years created various splits in the group.
Prior to 800 A.D.,
a leading Church personality, a man named Baanes, came to the leadership of the Paulicians in Armenia and
promulgated a doctrine of military retaliation. Shortly thereafter, another
church minister named Sergius
became prominent within the Paulicians.
Because Sergius condemned
warfare, disagreeing with the position taken by Baanes, he was accused of causing a schism within
the group. But, in spite of difficulties, Sergius' ministry lasted over 30 years. After his
death, however, most of his followers began to take part in warfare as well.
Rise of the Bogomils
In the eighth and
ninth centuries, many Armenian Paulicians
were forcibly resettled in the Balkans by Byzantine emperors. They were
placed there as a bulwark against the invading Bulgar tribes. Relocated to the Balkans, the Paulicians came to be called Bogomils.
The origin of the
name has been usually found in the frequent use by them of the two Slavic
words Bog milui,
"Lord, have mercy." A more likely explanation derives it from Bogumil,
"Beloved of God,"... But not less probable is its derivation from a
personal name. Two early Bulgarian MSS [manuscripts] have been discovered
which are confirmatory of each other in the common point that a
"pope" [leader] Bogomile
was the first to promulgate the "heresy" in the vulgar [common]
tongue under Bulgarian Tsar Peter, who ruled from 927 [A.D.] to 968 [A.D.]
[James Hastings, Encyclopaedia
of Religion and Ethics, vol. 2, p. 784].
What did these Bogomils teach? "Baptism
was only to be practiced on grown men and women... images and crosses were
Britannica, 11th ed., "Bogomils").
They also taught that prayer should be done at home, not in separate
buildings such as churches. They taught that the congregation consisted of
the "elect" and that each individual should seek to attain the
perfection of Christ. Their ministry is said to have gone about healing the
sick and casting out demons.
In the tenth and
eleventh centuries many Bogomils
spread westward and settled in Serbia. Later, large numbers took refuge in
Bosnia by the end of the twelfth century. These Bogomils were "only one version of a group of
related heretical sects that flourished across Asia Minor and southern Europe
during the Middle Ages under a variety of names, the best-known being the Patarenes, Cathars and Albigensians"
Britannica, 15th ed., vol. 29, p. 1,098). They were condemned as heretics
due to their belief that "the world is governed by two principles, good
and evil, and human affairs are shaped by the conflict between them; the
whole visible world is given over to Satan" (Encyc. Britannica, p. 1,098). From their
Balkan base, the Bogomils'
influence, initially fostered by a merchant's trading network, extended into
Piedmont in Italy and also southern France.
What were these Bogomil "colonies" in
the Piedmont and Lombard areas of Italy and southern France teaching? First,
they thought that the law of Moses ought to be
observed under the New Testament with the exception of sacrifices and
accordingly, they practiced circumcision and believed they should abstain
from the meats prohibited by Moses. They observed the Sabbath of the Jews and
the like. Secondly, they corrupted [i.e. rejected] the doctrine of three
persons in the divine nature (John von Mosheim, Institutes of
Ecclesiastical History, Ancient and Modern, vol. 2, pp. 463-465,
But the Bogomil position in Bosnia was
tenuous due to their challenges to the authority of the established church.
"Both Roman Catholic and Orthodox powers had conducted sustained
campaigns of persecution against the Bogomils,
and [Ottoman] Turkish promises of freedom found a responsive hearing among
them.... Large numbers of Bogomils accepted Islam,
however, and they were followed by a significant proportion of the
aristocracy, who saw in conversion the opportunity to retain their lands and
titles" (Encyc. Britannica, 15th ed., p. 1,100). In 1463 Mehmed II, the Ottoman sultan, conquered Bosnia with the
help of compromising Bogomils.
One of the surprising facts of history is that some of the Bosnian Muslims
under siege today in ex-Yugoslavia are the descendants of apostate Bogomils!
By the time the
Ottoman Turks assumed power in Bosnia, the seeds of the Truth had spread to
the Piedmont, Provencal and Alpine areas of Europe. When God's people next
appear in history, they are labeled by outsiders as Cathars, Albigenses
The Cathars and Waldenses
In the beginning
of the twelfth century, there was a revitalization of the Truth with the
raising up of the next phase of the Church under the leadership of Peter de Bruys in southeastern France.
This stage in church history is characterized by the Church at Thyatira in
Revelation 2. The Piedmont valleys of southeastern France were described by
Pope Urban II, in 1096, as being "infested with heresy." It was
from one of these valleys, the Valley Louise,
that Peter de Bruys
arose in 1104 and began to preach repentance. He gained many followers among
the Cathars, initially,
and later among the general public.
The Cathars (meaning
"puritans"), among whom de Bruys
originally preached, were remnants of earlier Bogomil settlements. However, by this time, most
had accepted a variety of new and strange doctrines and were quite divided
among themselves. His preaching, and that of his successors, brought about a
revitalized Church during the first half of the twelfth century in the
valleys of southeastern France. De Bruys
professed to restore Christianity to its original purity. At the end of a
ministry of about 20 years, he was burned at the stake. In rapid succession
after him, there arose two other strong ministers, Arnold and Henri.
After the death of
Henri in 1149, the Church languished and seemed to go into eclipse. A few
years later a wealthy merchant in Lyons, Peter Waldo, was struck down by an
unusual circumstance and began preaching the Gospel in 1161. After being shocked
into contemplating the real meaning of life as a result of the sudden death
of a close friend, Waldo obtained a copy of the Scriptures and began studying
God's Word. He was soon shocked to find that the Scriptures taught the very
opposite of much of what he had learned during his Catholic upbringing.
Historian Peter Allix, quoting from an old Waldensian document, The
Noble Lesson, tells us: "The author upon supposal that the world was
drawing to an end, exhorts
his brethren to prayer, to watchfulness.... He repeats the
several articles of the law, not forgetting that which respects idols" (Ecclesiastical
History of Ancient Churches of Piedmont, pp. 231, 236-237).
Elsewhere Dr. Allix writes that the Waldensian leaders
"declare themselves to be the apostles' successors, to have apostolic
authority, and the keys of binding and loosing. They hold
the church of Rome to be the whore of Babylon" (Ecclesiastical
History, p. 175).
Peter Waldo made
Lyons, France, the center of his preaching from 1161 until 1180. Then,
because of persecution, he relocated to northern Italy. From about 1210 until
his death seven years later, Waldo spent his time preaching in Bohemia and
Germany. "Like St. Francis [of Assisi], Waldo adopted a life of poverty
that he might be free to preach, but with this difference that the Waldenses preached the doctrine
of Christ while the Franciscans preached the person of Christ" (Encyc. Britannica,
What were some of
the other doctrines taught by the Waldenses?
Is there evidence that the early Waldenses
were Sabbath-keepers? One of the names by which they were most
anciently known was that of Sabbatati!
In his 1873 work, History of the Sabbath, historian J. N. Andrews
quotes from an earlier work by Swiss-Calvinist historian Goldastus written about 1600. Speaking of the Waldenses, Goldastus wrote, "Insabbatati [they were called] not because they
were circumcised, but because they kept the Jewish Sabbath"
(Andrews, p. 410). Dr. Andrews further refers to the testimony of Archbishop
Ussher (1581-1656) who acknowledged "that many understood that they [the
names Sabbatati or Insabbatati] were given to them
[Waldenses] because they
worshipped on the Jewish Sabbath" (p. 410). Clearly even noted
Protestant scholars at the end of the Middle Ages
were willing to acknowledge that many Waldenses
had observed the seventh-day Sabbath.
In his 1845 work, The
History of the Christian Church, William Jones wrote:
a report to Louis XII [reigned 1498-1516], king of France, that they had visited all the parishes
where the Waldenses
dwelt. They had inspected all their places of worship... but they found no
images, no sign of the ordinances belonging to the mass, nor any of the
sacraments of the Roman church.... They kept the Sabbath day, they
observed the ordinance of baptism according to the primitive church,
instructed their children in the articles of the Christian faith and the
commandments of God....
The Waldenses could say a great
part of the Old and New Testaments by heart. They despise the sayings and
expositions of holy men [Roman Catholic Church fathers], and they only plead
for the test of Scripture.... The traditions of the [Roman] church are no
better than the traditions of the Pharisees, and that greater stress is laid
[by Rome] on the observance of human tradition than on the keeping of the law
of God. They despise the Feast of Easter, and all other Roman festivals of
Christ and the saints [A Handbook of Church History, pp. 234,
however, a serious problem that dogged most of the Waldensian groups through the latter Middle Ages
just as it had dogged the Paulicians.
This was the tendency of many to allow Catholic priests to christen their
children as well as their willingness to attend mass. Knowing that such
ceremonies were useless in gaining salvation, many felt that outward
conformity with Rome would avoid persecution and allow them to privately
practice the Truth. This tendency was prophesied of the Church in
Thyatira in Revelation 2:20-24. From God's standpoint, what they were doing
amounted to spiritual fornication and partaking of Catholic communion was
"eating things sacrificed to idols."
What happened to
the Waldenses? "Waldenses slowly disappeared
from the chief centers of population and took refuge in the retired valleys
of the Alps. There, in the recesses of Piedmont... a settlement of the Waldensians was made who gave
their name to these valleys of Vaudois....
At times attempts were made to suppress the sect of the Vaudois, but the nature of the country which they
inhabited, their obscurity and their isolation made the difficulties of their
suppression greater than the advantages to be gained from it" (Encyc. Britannica,
11th ed., "Waldenses").
In 1487 Pope
Innocent VIII issued a bull calling for their extermination and a serious
attack was made on their stronghold. A fog settling over and encircling the
Catholic armies saved the Waldenses
from total destruction. However, most were simply worn out and had lapsed
into a spirit of compromise. When the Reformation began a few years later,
the Waldensian leadership
sent emissaries to the Lutheran church. "Thus," as the Encyclopaedia
Britannica writes, "the Vaudois
ceased to be relics of the past, and became absorbed in the general movement
As total apostasy
swallowed up most remnants of the Waldenses
by the end of 1500s, God preserved a faithful remnant. Individuals who were
the fruit of the last seven years of Waldo's ministry had been converted in
Bohemia and Germany in the thirteenth century. In remote areas of the
Carpathian Mountain area of central and eastern
Europe, individuals and small groups survived--in fact a faithful remnant has
survived in isolation in those areas down to modern times (cf. Rev. 2:24-25).
As the seventeenth
century approached, the next era of God's Church was ready to emerge on the
stage. Remnants of German Waldensians,
sometimes labeled Lollards
by outsiders, had penetrated into Holland and England as early as the
fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. However, it was only in the final decades
of the sixteenth century that the Church could begin to emerge openly in
Germany and Britain. In the next chapter, we will examine these
"Anabaptists" and see how Sabbath-keeping congregations emerged,
seemingly out of nowhere, and spread across the Atlantic Ocean from England
to Rhode Island.
What happened to
the Church that Jesus built? It endured and it survived against incredible
odds! The men and women who were the spiritual ancestors of God's people
today exemplified faith and courage. Time after time through the centuries
they had to relocate in order to remove themselves from either outside
persecution or internal apostasy and compromise. At those times, when it
seemed that the flame of God's Truth flickered most dimly, Christ always
raised up another faithful leader to rally His people and revitalize the Work
during the Middle Ages,
like the prophets of old, "wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in
dens and caves of the earth." They were among those of whom Christ
testified that "the world was not worthy" (Heb. 11:38). They
constitute part of that great cloud of faithful witnesses whose lives should
encourage us to "run with endurance the race that is set before us"
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