What was the main pillar of the Protestant Reformation and does it have any prophetic significance for us today?
Podcast Transcript: To listen to full episode click HERE
Have you ever wondered why there are so many different Christian denominations?
I know I have.
I mean you just have to get in the car and start driving around town and right away you will notice different churches with different names standing side by side to one another.
Some of the most common denominations include:
The Roman Catholic Church
Branches of the Eastern Orthodox Church
Protestant Branches including…
The Episcopal or Anglican Church
Beyond those you will find different varieties of Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, and Pentecostal churches
Then you get to your smaller denominations like one I am apart of – The Seventh-day Adventist Church and finally an endless number of non-denominational ones
In fact, some have estimated that there are over 33,000 denominations made up of over 2 billion Christians world-wide today.
Now I am not sure if anyone can really measure these numbers with any degree of absolute certainty, but the point is clear: unified Christianity is a thing of the past.
How did all this happen?
How did one book – the Bible – that itself has remained remarkable unchanged – produce so much confusion?
Of, course, as is usually the case, the answer is found in history.
Because if you go back 2000 years there was only one church that was organized by Jesus and the original 12 apostles.
And if you go back as recent as 500 years ago there was only two organized churches in the world: Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox.
So what happened 500 years ago?
Well on October 31, 1517, a German monk by the name of Martin Luther nailed what later become known as the 95 thesis to the front door of his hometown church in Wittenberg.
These 95 Thesis were soon reprinted and decimated all over Western Europe sparking a protest movement concerning the abuses of the church that eventually resulted in this power’s deadly wound as described in Revelation 13 (more on that later).
Those who opposed the abuses of the Medieval Church eventually became known as Protestants – as we mentioned earlier.
And essentially, Protestants, at the time of Luther, staked their protest on three main pillars:
Sola Scriptura – the Bible alone
Sola Fida – faith alone (not by individual works)
Sola gratis – grace alone (god’s grace not the church’s)
Now we have discussed these subjects at length in previous episodes of Adventology – but today I want to come back around and take another look at the importance of the cardinal principle of the Reformation: “Sola Scriptura”
the Bible and the Bible alone!
You see because on our last episode entitled the Rise of Antichrist – we were able to identify the organized Medieval Church as the Antichrist Beast the Bible warned us about in Revelation 13 and Daniel chapter 7. A church who derived its primary authority from traditions of men rather than the word of God.
Of course the Bible in Daniel chapter 7 predicted it would have eyes like the eyes of a man and that it would think to change the times and laws of God – and persecute those who challenged her authority to do so.
This is exactly what happened during the dark ages all throughout Europe. The common man was not allowed to own a Bible – much less read it. It was not written or read in the common language of the people – thus all were dependent on the priests to read and interpret what the Bible said. Salvation was connected to absolute obedience to whatever the church said you had to do and those who questioned the church’s authority were either tortured or killed.
Not only was the Bible restricted but the Bible was changed as well. Particularly the Ten Commandments: The 2nd commandment forbidding idol worship was removed and to make up for it – the Tenth Commandment concerning coveting was divided into 2. But that wasn’t all. The 4th commandment was changed as well – from commanding the observance of the Sabbath the 7th day of the week to Sunday the first day of the week. (See Episodes 4-6, 13, 15)
Interestingly both Daniel 7 and Revelation 13 predicted the reign of the antichrist would last 3 and 1/2 years or 42 months which both add up to 1260 days. And in Bible prophecy a day always stands for a year. So for 1260 years the Bible predicted this antichrist power would reign in Europe and so it did.
Of course according to Daniel 7 – this reign could only begin after the fall of the Roman Empire in the West in 476 and sure enough beginning in 538 the church of Rome begins her unobstructed rule in the place of the Roman Empire
The pope had now taken the place of the Caesar.
The government had changed but the power structure had not.
It is in this context that we find a parallel prophecy to the antichrist in the book of Revelation –
Lets turn to Revelation chapter 11 beginning in verse 1:
“Then I was given a reed like a measuring rod. And the angel stood, saying, “Rise and measure the temple of God, the altar, and those who worship there. But leave out the court which is outside the temple, and do not measure it, for it has been given to the Gentiles. And they will tread the holy city underfoot for forty-two months. And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth.”
These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands standing before the God of the earth. And if anyone wants to harm them, fire proceeds from their mouth and devours their enemies. And if anyone wants to harm them, he must be killed in this manner. These have power to shut heaven, so that no rain falls in the days of their prophecy; and they have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to strike the earth with all plagues, as often as they desire.”
(Revelation 11:1–6 NKJV)
So just who are these mysterious witnesses?
There are several clues in these verses that help us identify them. However let’s begin with verses 1-2. When the Revelator was given a rod to measure the temple, the altar and those that worship – here we find the language of judgment happening among God’s people.
During this time period of 42 months or 1260 days – God would be doing a work of separating or sifting the faithful from the unfaithful – the true church from the false.
The true church (the woman of Revelation 12) would go into hiding seeking shelter in the wilderness from persecution while preserving the light of truth and the gospel – while the antichrist church would hunt her down and seek to wipe her out (we will come back to this more later)
So with that said – let’s begin looking at the clues provided in the passage so that we can identify who exactly these two witnesses are.
– Given Authority – Reference to Divine infusion
– Prophesy 1260 years – which corresponds to the reign of antichrist.
– Clothed in sackcloth – signifying morning over the condition of the church
– Two olive trees and lampstands – in other words they are not just lamps they are lamps burning with an unlimited supply of oil. (see Zechariah 4 and Matthew 25)
– There is a judgment declared upon any who would harm them.
– No rain – reference to Elijah – who also prophesized from the wilderness for 1260 days
– Striking the earth with plagues is a reference to Moses
It is also worth noting that when Christ was transfigured on the mountain in the presence of Peter, James, and John – who was there with him witnessing to Christ’s divinity?
Moses and Elijah.
But we know Revelation 11 – like the whole book – is symbolic.
So the next question we have to ask ourselves is what could Moses and Elijah together symbolically represent?
When Jesus was raised from the dead – before revealing himself to the believers on the road to Emmaus – do you remember what he did?
“And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?”” (Luke 24:27–32 ESV)
Moses and the prophets otherwise referred to as the law and prophets in the New Testament – were simply a reference to the entirety of the Holy Scriptures.
Those the Two Witnesses simply represent the Bible – the word of God – Sola Scriptura
Although it was outlawed from the mainstream church – it was preserved in the underground church.
It was in fact that rediscovery of the Word of God that lit the fire of the Reformation – especially when it was printed and translated into the common languages of the day.
The Antichrist tried to prevent the two witnesses from completing their mission by banning and burning the word of God but in doing so the beast was only heaping judgment upon itself.
The prophecy predicted that eventually the medieval Church’s reign over Europe would come to an end (deadly wound) – but what would happen to the two witnesses?
“When they finish their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit will make war against them, overcome them, and kill them. And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified. Then those from the peoples, tribes, tongues, and nations will see their dead bodies three–and–a–half days, and not allow their dead bodies to be put into graves. And those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them, make merry, and send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth.
Now after the three–and–a–half days the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. And they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here.” And they ascended to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies saw them.”
(Revelation 11:7–12 NKJV)
As the Protestant Reformation that began with Luther’s 95 Thesis swept over Europe and eventually North America – not every country welcomed the reformed faith.
In fact even at Protestantism’s high point in its march across Europe – most countries resisted its influence.
While reformers were very successful in Germany, Scandinavia, and the British Iles it struggled to move south and East.
Violent counter reformatory movements sparked up everywhere led by a new order of Catholic Priests called the Society of Jesus or Jesuits for short.
The sole purpose of the orders existence was to root out Protestantism and reestablish papal supremacy.
In predominantly Catholic countries they succeeded in defending the invasion through the reinstallation of the dreaded Inquisition.
However in countries that were neutral or friendly to the Protestant Reformation the Society of Jesus took a more behind the scenes approach to gaining influence.
Perhaps the greatest victory of the Jesuit order against the spread of Protestantism happened in the Country of France in 1572 when they along with the mother of King Charles the IX succeeded in convincing him to kill a group of Huguenot leaders (French Calvinists) that quickly spread to a gene the slaughter of Protestants throughout Paris. Lasting several weeks, the massacre expanded outward to other urban centers and the countryside taking the lives of an estimated 70,000 men, women, and children.
It has ever since gone down in infamy as the St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre.
The massacre succeeded in crippling the protestant movement in France – preventing it from becoming an influential power even to this day.
Back in Rome Pope Gregory XIII was so happy with the news that he had a gold coin struck in the massacre’s honor and ironically designated September 11 as an annual day to commemorate the event.
Needless to say – the massacre was an event that delighted some but for the most part horrified the rest of the world – especially the educated classes.
However – what the Papacy celebrated initially as its greatest victory actually resulted in sowing the seeds of its greatest defeat
While the Jesuit priests in had been successful in uniting the people to resist and overcome the progress of the Protestant Reformation in France – it did not come without moral consequences.
The law of sowing and reaping not only applies to us as individuals but it also applies to nations.
Without a moral compass overtime –the unchecked abuse of power by the church and monarchy sowed the seeds of contempt and revolution among the common people toward both institutions in tandem.
By the 1790’s the French Revolution – otherwise known as the Reign of Terror was in full effect.
What was the French Revolution remembered most for: Her rejection of God and her embrace of licentiousness: The two sins of Egypt and Sodom.
God was declared dead and the goddess of reason was worshiped in his place.
All moral restraint was removed. The seven-day week was replaced with a ten-day week.
Royalty, Priests, and nobleman alike were all sent the guillotine.
Chaos ruled – and it was believed that Christianity – both the false and the true versions of it – along with the Bible had been put to death.
For 3 ½ days the prophecy predicted the death of the two witnesses and for the 3 ½ literal years – Beginning in November of 1793 and ending in the Spring of 1797 – the French Revolution seemed to have wiped the God of the Bible out of the consciousness of the country.
But in the end instead of being a deathblow to the spread of the gospel – it only ended up leading to the complete overthrow of the political power of the papacy in France and eventually the world -when soon after revolution’s completion – in 1798 the French general Berthier – marched an army of soldiers to the Vatican and captured and imprisoned the pope until his death.
Thus ending the Roman churches formal political power.
This was the Beast’s deadly wound.
And what became of the word of God according to the prophecy?
Just as Satan received his death sentence after the death of Christ (the word made flesh) – who was immediately resurrected to heaven – so we see that beast received his deadly wound immediately after the two witnesses (the word of God) are put to death – and then are symbolically resurrected to heaven.
So what does that mean?
How could the word of God be put to death and then resurrected to heaven?
In other words – no longer would the dragon or the beast have power to restrict spread of the word of God around the world.
Before 1798 the word of God had more the most part only been translated in the languages of the countries that had embraced the reformation.
Afterward though the British and American Bible societies were formed that resulted over the next century in the Bible being translated into nearly every language of the world.
After the French and American Revolutions – not only did the papacy fall – but monarchies all over the world began to topple over and be replaced by free societies that allowed the freedom of religion to flourish.
Not only do we see a resurrection of the Bible after 1798, but we also see an unsealing of the book of Daniel.
If you remember Daneil 12:4 says:
““But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end; many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase.””
(Daniel 12:4 NKJV)
This text refers to an increase in Bible knowledge of the last days that is made possible by the free distribution of the word of God to the common man in the common language.
Could 1798 be the start date to the time of the end?
If so then what does that mean for us today?
222 years is a long time to be living during the time of the end.
What significance does it have for us today?
Does the reformation that started with Martin Luther 500 years ago still have relevance for us today?
Could the Bible and the Bible only – sola Scriptura – still be a heart of the Great Controversy as we near the 2nd coming of Jesus?
It is true – that we still live in a time of religious freedom – but how much longer will this freedom last?
We will answer these questions and more in our coming episodes…
Unfortunately the Bible says one day the deadly wound of the Beast is going to be healed and the world is going to return to policies of the Medieval Church of the Dark ages when it comes to the Bible and religious liberty
Revelation 13:3-4 says
“And I saw one of his heads as if it had been mortally wounded, and his deadly wound was healed. And all the world marveled and followed the beast. So they worshiped the dragon who gave authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?”” (Revelation 13:3–4 NKJV)
This day is coming sooner than you think.
Are you ready?
To stand in the last day we will have to have the spirit of the reformers of Martin Luther’s day.
When brought before the political and religious authorities of his day to answer for the position he had taken against the church he said:
“Since your most serene majesty and your high mightinesses require from me a clear, simple, and precise answer, I will give you one, and it is this: I cannot submit my faith either to the pope or to the councils, because it is clear as the day that they have frequently erred and contradicted each other. Unless therefore I am convinced by the testimony of Scripture or by the clearest reasoning, unless I am persuaded by means of the passages I have quoted, and unless they thus render my conscience bound by the word of God, I cannot and I will not retract, for it is unsafe for a Christian to speak against his conscience. Here I stand, I can do no other; may God help me. Amen.” (Great Controversy, 160)
Is your conscience bound by the word of God?
It is only possible if we spend time every day studying it
Eternity alone will reveal how many people shed their blood so that you and I can have both the opportunity and freedom to acquaint ourselves with it.
The apostle Peter said it this way:
“For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain. And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts;” (2 Peter 1:16–19 NKJV)
Peter here is referring to the mount of Transfiguration – but what he doesn’t mention here is that this is where he also saw Moses and Elijah talking to Jesus – the two witnesses.
Just as the two witnesses pointed to Jesus then – through the pages of the Bible – they are pointing to Jesus today
And not only that but the two witnesses ultimately represent the two groups of people who will be saved in the end
Moses represents those who die in the Hope the resurrection of the saints in glory and Elijah represents the last generation of believers who live to see the Hope fulfilled in their own lifetime
Thus not only live on in the pages of the Bible – but more importantly in the hearts of God’s people today who have fortified their minds with the word of God.
Jesus said it best:
“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.””
(Acts 1:8 NKJV)
Won’t you choose to be a witness for Jesus today?
Won’t you embrace the great protestant principle of sola scriptura – the Bible and the Bible alone in all areas of your life today?