The True Church That was Driven Into the Wilderness

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Dear Reader,

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 Jerusalem! 

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 otherwise.

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]." [49] 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., [50] 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." [51]

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." [52] "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." [53] 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." [54]

"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." [55]

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 prophecy.

"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." [56]

"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." [57]

"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." [58]

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 2:6).

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 zones.

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: 1995), 84.
46. lbid, 156.
47. E. B. Elliott, Horae Apocalypticae, Vol. 1, Fifth Edition
(1862) xxii.
48. David Benedict, A General History of the Baptist
Denomination, 16, n.d.
49. H. Gnnian Grimness, Romanism and the Reformation, 84.
50. Uriah Smith, Daniel and the Revelation (Nashville, TN:
Southern Publishing Association, 1944) 127, 145.
51. H. Gnnian Grimness, Romanism and the Reformation, 84.
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 Commandments.

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 11:19.

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 heads.

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 opportunity permits.

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 without blemish."

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 throne."

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.

The Great Escape?

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 of faith.

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:

Now is 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.

Eventually--perhaps not 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 our midst!

"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 when?

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 Justiniani, 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."

For awhile.

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 could desire."

"Just sell-out to me."

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 . . .

No more.

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 June 2001

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Another View—The Church in the Wilderness

IIn 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.

Several problems 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).

The Church 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 2:10.

When Constantine 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 [29] 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 Armenia

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?

According to 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 outside observers.

Christ's message to this third stage of God's Church (Paulicians) is characterized by the Church at Pergamos (Rev. 2:12-17). The word Pergamos means "fortified," 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 Maximus ("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 Church--the Paulicians--geographically relocated to that same area after Constantine enforced Sunday keeping on the Roman Empire.

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 unscriptural.

In the 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 idols..." (Encyc. 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" (Encyc. 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, 477-478).

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 and Waldenses.

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, 11th ed.).

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:

Investigators made 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, 236-237].

Compromising Once More

There was, 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 of Protestantism."

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 of God.

God's people 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" (Heb. 12:1).


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