Three Angels Messages Part 63

Thanks for joining us in our study of the Three Angel’s Messages today! We are still examining the message of the third angel, which warns in startling language against the “beast,” his “image” and “mark.” What is the beast? What is its mark? What is its image? All of these questions deserve our attention and close scrutiny. In searching for clues to identify the “beast” that has the “mark,” we have seen that besides what we read in Revelation 13, six other descriptions of this entity, three in the Old Testament, and three others in the New Testament.

Why is describing this power to important to God? It’s because He loves his children deeply, and has revealed in His Holy Word, the Bible, the way to salvation. But Satan has been diligent to withhold this information from God’s children, working through the papal power, distorting, removing or changing the truths of scripture.

This information we share with you regarding the agency of the devil in this project, startling and perhaps unfamiliar to you as it might be, is not at all new. In fact, it’s more than 500 years old! Centuries ago, as godly men began to realize that the Church was promoting a serious departure from truth, and that this “falling away” had been predicted by prophecy, by studying the clues given in the Bible they found that they pointed directly to the Roman Catholic Church as being the tool of the devil in this endeavor. They were not silent in announcing their discoveries, though their testimony was given at great risk. Because they were “protesting” in favor of truth and against error, they came to be known as “Protestants.” Because they aspired to reform the Church and bring back into alignment with scriptural teachings, they are identified as “Reformers.”

First, by comparing the clues given in different parts of the Bible, these Protestant Reformers came to understand that the little horn power of Daniel 7, which grew out of the 10 horns of the fourth beast and removed three of the l0 horns, persecuted the saints, had the eyes of a man and spoke great things against the Most High, thought to change times and laws, and continued for a time, times, and a half of a time, represented the papacy. Likewise the horn power of Daniel 8 and the king of the north of the latter part of Daniel 11 echoed the same information.

The Reformers held that the man of sin spoken of in II Thessalonians 2, which brought about a great apostasy, who opposes and exalts himself above all, who sits in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God, represented the papacy.

The early Protestants believed that the Antichrist spoken of in I John 2 who was to appear in the last time and stand “in the place of Christ” represented the papacy. They concluded that the leopard-like beast of Revelation 13 which opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, made war against the saints, and continued for 42 prophetic months represented the papacy.

Secondly, and the importance of this understanding cannot be overemphasized, the Reformers believed that in these symbolic prophecies, the singular-sounding “little horn,” “man of sin,” “antichrist” and “leopard beast” represented a system, not an individual. This is huge, in that modern prophetic interpretation is looking for a “one person Antichrist.” This view is in total disagreement with the understandings of the Reformers. The Bible is clear that in prophecy a “beast” represents a kingdom, and is not isolated to one person or monarch. Daniel 7:23. Because the time span contemplated by these prophecies is 1260 years and more, it is obvious that only a system can fulfill all the specifications of prophecy regarding this entity, unless one tosses aside the “day for a year in symbolic prophecy” rule which is so well established.

The Protestant Reformers believed that in these symbolic prophecies, based on scriptures like Ezekiel 4:6 and Numbers 14:34, in symbolic prophecy a day stood for a literal year, and thus the period during which this system reigned (the time, times and half a time, the 42 months, and the 1260 days) was actually 1260 literal years. It is interesting to point out that there is perfect consistency when uniformly applying the “day for a year” rule in symbolic prophecy.

Stepping aside for just a moment, we see that the confusion begins when one attempts to apply it in certain circumstances, but not in others. Modern prophetic scholars wish to apply the “day for a year” principle when talking about the period following the rapture being seven “years,” based on a misunderstanding of Daniel 9:25-27, referring to the 70th “week” unjustifiably being wrested from the other 69 “weeks.” But then the “day for a year” is considered archaic and not applicable when discussing the great prophecies of Daniel 7 and Revelation chapters 11-13! Why can one half of the 70th week of Daniel 9 be understood as referring to 3 ½ literal years (based on a “day for a year”), but the 1260 days or 42 months of Revelation 12 not receive the same “day for a year” interpretation and be understood as 1260 literal years? This inconsistency is a big problem.
The Protestant Reformation was built on the platform of sola scruptura, that is “only the Bible” should be our standard in spiritual matters. It was built on the platform of sola gratia, or “grace alone,” representing the Bible truth that we are not saved by our works, but by the grace of God. But equally important to these and the three other sola statements was the understanding that the Bible had predicted the apostasy, and it was this understanding infused them to speak out against the abuses of the Church, and to eventually break away from her grip.

The views regarding the papacy in prophecy were the main planks in the platform upon which the foundation of the Reformation was built. These conclusions were not drawn from a vacuum, but were the result of carefully studying the types and symbols of Scripture. Putting together the specifics of the prophecies, their conclusions were inescapable. They were the result of comparing Scripture with Scripture, meticulously assembling the jigsaw pieces of prophecy, with the knowledge that their conclusions would likely cost them position, their property, and as unfortunately proved true in many cases, their lives. Though there are literally volumes of information available, a few quotations will be given as examples.

Eberhard II, archbishop of Salzburg (l200-l246), drawing largely from II Thessalonians 2, speaking of the papacy wrote (note the references to II Thessalonians 2 and I John 2), “They cannot tolerate an equal, they will not desist until they have trampled all things under their feet, and until they sit in the temple of God, and until they are exalted above all that is worshipped....He who is servant of servants, desires to be lord of lords, just as if he were God....He speaks great things as if he were truly God.  He ponders new counsels under his breast, in order that he may establish his own rule for himself, he changes laws, he ordains his own laws, he corrupts, he plunders, he pillages, he defrauds, he kills--that incorrigible man (whom they are accustomed to call anti-Christ) on whose forehead an inscription of insult is written: ‘I am God, I cannot err.’  He sits in the temple of God, and has dominion far and wide.” Turmair, Johannes. Annalium Boiorum Libri Septem, 1554, p. 684. Quoted by Froom, Leroy Edwin. Prophetic Faith of our Fathers, Washington, D. C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1950. Vol. 1, p. 800. Note that in his day, Eberhard says that they (those of like mind as he) are accustomed to identifying the papacy as the antichrist.

John Milicz of Bohemia became a priest in 1350, after which he became secretary to the emperor Charles IV, king of Bohemia. After this, he became canon and archdeacon of the Cathedral of Prague, and then he resigned this important position and became a humble but powerful preacher whose main thrust was the coming of the antichrist. He said he was “moved contrary to his own will by the Holy Spirit to search the Scriptures concerning the time when antichrist would appear. While doing so, he found that this antichrist had already appeared and is dominating the church of Christ.” George Cunrad Rieger, Die Alte und Neue Bohmische Bruder, Zullichau: Gottlob Benj. Frommann, 1734, Vol. 1, pp. 68, 69. Quoted by Froom, Leroy Edwin. Prophetic Faith of our Fathers, Washington, D. C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1950. Vol. 2, p. 33.

Milicz asked the Lord to free him from these convictions, but finding no rest, he undertook a pilgrimage to Rome and addressed a number of cardinals and fearlessly proclaimed that the antichrist has come. He waited for the pope to arrive but, being delayed, Milicz gave himself to prayer, study, and fasting for a full month. Still the pope did not arrive, whereupon Milicz could not restrain himself any longer, but posted a placard on the very doors of St. Peter’s in Rome that on a certain day he would come and address the crowd. In this announcement, Milicz stated “The antichrist is come; he has his seat in the church.” Gillett, E. H., The Life and Times of John Huss. Boston; Gould and Lincoln, 1863. Vol. 1, p. 23. Quoted by Froom, Leroy Edwin. Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers, Washington, D. C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1950. Vol. 2, p. 34.

The influence of Milicz on later Bohemian reformers like Huss and Matthias of Janow is unmistakable. The latter wrote: “The antichrist has already come. He is neither Jew, pagan, Saracen, nor worldly tyrant, but the man who opposes Christian truth and the Christian life by way of deception;--he is, and will be, the most wicked Christian, falsely styling himself by that name, assuming the highest station in the church, and possessing the highest consideration, arrogating dominion over all ecclesiastics and laymen; one who, by the working of Satan, assumes to himself power and wealth and honor, and makes the church, with its goods and sacraments, subservient to his own carnal ends.” Gillett, E. H., The Life and Times of John Huss. Boston; Gould and Lincoln, 1863. Vol. 1, pp. 30, 31. Quoted by Froom, Leroy Edwin. Prophetic Faith of our Fathers, Washington, D. C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1950. Vol. 2, p. 40.

John Wycliffe (c. l324-l384), the “morning star of the Reformation,” professor at Oxford and later leader of the Lollards spoke openly of the papal antichrist. “Why is it necessary in unbelief to look for another antichrist? Hence in the seventh chapter of Daniel antichrist is forcefully described by a horn arising in the time of the fourth kingdom (which has) eyes and a mouth speaking great things against the Lofty One, and wearing out the saints of the Most High, and thinking that he is able to change times and laws.” Wyclif, John. De Veritate Sacrae Scripturae. Wyclif Society by Trubner & Co., 1907. Vol. 3, pp. 267, 268. Quoted by Froom, Leroy Edwin. Prophetic Faith of our Fathers, Washington, D. C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1950. Vol. 2, p. 55. After quoting Daniel 7:25 concerning this horn Wycliffe expressly states, “For so our clergy forsee the lord pope.” Ibid.

One of Wycliffe’s followers, Sir John Oldcastel (1360-1417), also called Lord Cobham, wrote: “But as touching the Pope and his Spirituality, I owe them neither suit nor service, forsomuch as I know him by the Scriptures to be the great Antichrist, the Son of Perdition, the open Adversary of God, and the Abomination standing in the holy place.” Foxe, John. The Acts and Monuments of John Foxe: A New and Complete Edition; With a Preliminary Dissertation, by the  Rev. George Townsend. London: R. B. Seeley and W. Burnside, 1841. Vol. 1, p. 636. Quoted by Froom, Leroy Edwin. Prophetic Faith of our Fathers, Washington, D. C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1950. Vol. 2, p. 88.

John Purvey (1354-1428) was a student at Oxford when the influence of Wycliffe was at its height. He later became the leader of the Lollards after Wycliffe’s death and wrote an impressive commentary on Revelation, a copy of which found its way l00 years later into the hands of Luther. Luther had it reprinted, and wrote this impressive preface to the new edition: “This preface, noble reader, you may understand was written by us for this reason--that we might make known to the world that we are not the first who interpret the Papacy as the kingdom of Antichrist.  For many years prior to us, so many and so great men (whose number is large, and their memory eternal) have attempted this so clearly and openly, and that with great spirit and force, that (those) who were driven by the fury of the papal tyranny into the farthest boundaries of the earth, and suffering the most atrocious tortures, nevertheless bravely and faithfully persisted in the confession of the truth.” Luther, Martin, Preface in Commentarius in Apocalypsin Ante Centum Annos Editus. Wittenbergae: 1528. Quoted by Froom, Leroy Edwin. Prophetic Faith of our Fathers, Washington, D. C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1950. Vol. 2, p. 94.

Luther wrote: “We here are of the conviction that the papacy is the seat of the true and real antichrist, against whose deceit and vileness all is permitted for the salvation of souls. Personally I declare that I owe the Pope no other obedience than that to Antichrist.” Luther, Martin. Dr. Martin Luther's Sammtliche Schriften. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1881-1910. Vol. 15, col. 1639.  Quoted by Froom, Leroy Edwin. Prophetic Faith of our Fathers, Washington, D. C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1950. Vol. 2, p. 256.

Luther was joined in this declaration by virtually all Protestant reformers, including Andreas Osiander of Bavaria, by Zwingli, Leo Juda, Theodor Bibliander and Heinrich Bullinger of Switzerland, by William Tyndale, Robert Barnes, George Joye, Nicholas Ridley, John Philpot, John Hooper, John Jewel and Thomas Cramner of England, many of whom gave their lives as martyrs for their faithful witness. John Knox and John Napier from Scotland joined the rising chorus identifying, on the basis of scripture, the papacy as the antichrist of prophecy.  Because it identified the antichrist as the historical papacy, this teaching became known as historicism.
Of course, with this clear declaration identifying the papacy as the subject of Bible prophecy, you wouldn’t expect the devil to stand idly and let these assertions go unchallenged. In our next segment, we will explore how he inspired Jesuit scholars to invent other interpretations of scripture to remove the divine indictment. Please join us then, as we continue our exploration of Bible truth.

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