The Dark Ages saw persecution, the Inquisition and a falling away from the Bible. The papacy held power over the European rulers and their people and did so with an iron fist. But in the middle of all of this darkness and in the heart of papal country, was a people who clung to the Bible, the Waldenses. These people were also called the Albigensians or the Vaudois. They lived in the mountain region of Italy and Switzerland. They were a very simple people who followed the Bible completely. The children were taught to memorize the Bible at a very early age. The Waldensians took on the trade of itineranttraders and wherever they went they carried the scriptures with them. Wherever they found an interest, they would leave portions of the scripture. So even in the darkest spiritual times, God still had a true people who loved Him and although the flame was flickering, it never went out. It was from these people that the reformation started.
Before We Start
Our Father in heaven. We thank you for your mercies and your grace and especially for your love. Please give us wisdom as we continue to study your word. Amen
John Wycliffe - The Morning Star of the Reformation
One way the papacy kept its hold on the people was through limiting access to the Bible. In those days, the Bible was available in Hebrew (Old Testament),Greek (New Testament), or Latin. The Bible was not available for the common people to read, except for the excerpts that the Waldenses would distribute. In the 1300’s, an Englishman by the name of John Wycliffe, changed all that. By about A.D. 1384, he and his associates had translated the Bible from Latin into English. He was hated by the papacy so much, that in 1428, his body was exhumed, burned and the ashes scattered.
Jan Hus (John Huss)
Born a few years after Wyliffe, Jan Hus, a Bohemiam, was influenced by Wycliffe. His writings were based on the works of Wycliffe and he extended these writings into Czechoslovakia, Poland, Hungary, Croatia and Austria. He fought against the indulgences and many other abuses of the church. After many attempts to get him to recant his teachings, the papacy burned him at the stake.
The next major reformer to come on the scene was a German monk named Martin Luther. He started out to become a lawyer but then afraid of dying he joined a monastery. At first he tried to obtain salvation through penance and self-deprivation. After some time of being depressed and putting himself down, he found a Bible chained to a monastery wall. In studying it, he found the message of God’s grace. Instead of working for his salvation, he realized that it was a gift from God and required faith and belief in God rather than works. At the time, one of the biggest money makers in the catholic church was the sale of indulgences. The church claimed that you could buy these indulgences to remove any sins you might have committed or may commit in the future. You could also buy indulgences for family members that had died so they could be forgiven. In October, 1517, he published a documentcontaining 95 Theses against the practices of the catholic church. Apparently there seems to be some discussion as to whether they were nailed to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg or mailed to the Bishop of Mainz. But these 95 Theses shook up the papacy and the spiritual world atthe time. Martin Luther died a natural death in spite of the many attempts to burn him at the stake.
John Calvin (Jean Cauvin)
The next reformer to come on the scene was a Frenchman by the name of Jean Cauvin (John Calvin). At an early age, he became involved in the church. As he got older, he became a humanist lawyer. During this time in his life he had a religious conversion. In 1530, he broke away from the Catholic Church and three years later, under pressure of persecution in France, he fled to Switzerland. He became active in the reform movement in Switzerland and in 1542 published a couple of books on prayer and music in the church. He died from an illness. John Calvin’s teachings became well known and are known today as Calvinism. Many churches still base their beliefs on his interpretation of the scriptures.
About this same time, a group of people called the Remonstrants were led by a Dutch Reformed theologian, Jacobus Arminius. Arminius was opposed to the teaching of John Calvin. Although he died before an official review of his teaching were presented before the State General of Holland, his followersprovided a five point paper on their beliefs. This discussion between Calvinism and Arminianism continues to this day with some churches following Calvinism, some churches following Arminianism and some churches a mixture of the two.
A little older than Calvin, Zwingli was a Swiss Reformer. Zwingli had a number of followers but in 1525, some of the younger followers wanted faster reform, especially in the area of eliminating infant baptism. Konrad Grebel, along with two friends, Felix Manz and George Blaurock and twelve others, split from him and formed the Anabaptists. Although they were promoting adult baptism by immersion, the group did not become as strong as the Baptists which formed later.
John Smyth was an English Separatist who started the first Baptist church in 1609 in Amsterdam. His main teaching was the elimination of infant baptism and baptism by immersion. His teaching spread to England and to the New World. Later he left the Baptists and asked to join the Anabaptists. When he left, Thomas Helwys, a layman took over.
In 1703, John Wesley was born in England. He was raised an Anglican. In his early 30’s, John and his brother Charles sailed to America. During the voyage, a severe storm broke out and all the passengers were terrified except for a band of Moravians. Wesley was impressed with their inner peace and it affected his future ministry. After some problems in America, he returned to England where he studied with a young Moravian named Peter Boeller and eventually went to Germany to study the Moravian faith. After some time he broke with the Moravians and because most churches were closed to him, he ended up preaching in an open field. Realizing that he could reach many people in the open who could not or would not come to church, he continued preaching in any place that he could. He eventually formed theMethodist Society in England, ordaining preachers who the Anglican Church would not ordain. He later ordained ministers to go to America and establish the Methodists there. One of the biggest issues that Wesley tackled was the teachings of Calvin. Wesley opposed those teachings and instead became a follower of Arminius.
William Miller was born in Massachusetts in 1782. Although raised a Baptist, when still a young man, he rejected the Baptist faith and became a Deist. He filled a number of civil service positions and served in the militia. In the War of 1812, he served in Vermont. His experiences in the war caused him toreflect on death and his future. He returned to the Baptist church and eventually became fully converted. As a youth, he would pick apart the Bible and ridicule the inconsistencies. He now decided to go back and reconcile all the consistencies he used to ridicule. Using only a Bible and a concordance he began to study in earnest. As he continued his studies, he came upon the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation. The more he studied these, the deeper grew his conviction that Jesus was coming back to this earth. The text in question was Daniel 8:14 regarding the cleansing of the sanctuary at the end of the 2,300 day prophecy. He hesitated to set a date but under pressure from his followers, according to his calculations, the 2,300 day would end on March 21, 1843 or 1844. Miller was a reluctant preacher. He did not want to spread his findings, but as more and more churches found out about his research, he became a highly sought after speaker. His sermons were not hellfire and brimstone, but very serious and thought provoking. The mistakemade by Miller and his followers was that they believed the earth to be the sanctuary and they had no comprehension of the heavenly sanctuary until after the Great Disappointment..
The Sanctuary Restored
In the previous lesson, we showed how Satan tore down the teachings of the heavenly sanctuary through the papal system. As we have gone through the various reformers, each one of them contributed to the rebuilding of the heavenly sanctuary through their teachings. Each reformer set the foundation for the next one to come along and build on the prior teachings. As new light was given, the reformation became stronger and the churches would break away to some degree from the papal system. Unfortunately, the churches following a particular reformer would stop in their growth. Instead of growing as light was provided, they fossilized and continued to follow the same teachings. (1) The Sabbath and the Sanctuary doctrines came from the group that remained after the Great Disappointment, before the Seventh-day Adventist Church formed. (2) Wikipedia incorrectly identifies Jehovah’s Witnesses as a direct descendant from the Millerites. They actually started in the late1870’s from the Zion’s Watch Tower Tract Society. Their beliefs do not mirror what Miller taught. Development of Protestant Thought During and After the Reformation There were four schools of religious thought that developed during the Reformation. We will look at the first three in a little more depth since these are the three that dominate the Protestant Christian world today. 1. Lutheranism 2. Calvinism 3. Arminianism 4. Pelagianism, Semipelagianism (Roman Catholic monk)
Comparison Among the Three Main Protestant Religious Schools of Thought
If you look-up “Remonstrants” in Wikipedia, you will see that the five topics listed in the table correspond to the five items that the Remonstrants put forth as their beliefs. Basically, ALL protestant churches have adopted some of the beliefs from either Calvin or Arminius. Advocates of both Arminianism and Calvinism find a home in many Protestant denominations, and sometimes both exist within the same denomination as with the Puritans.Faiths leaning at least in part in the Arminian direction include: Methodists, Free Will Baptists, General Baptists, Disciples of Christ Church of the Nazarene, Seventh-day Adventists, The Salvation Army, Mennonites, Pentecostals, and Charismatics. Denominations leaning in the Calvinist direction are grouped as the Reformed churches and include: Particular Baptists, Reformed Baptists, Presbyterians and Congregationalists. The majority of Southern Baptists, including Billy Graham, accept Arminianism with an exception allowing for a doctrine of eternal security. Many see Calvinism as growing in acceptance, and some well-known Southern Baptists such as Albert Mohler and Mark Dever have been trying to lead the Southern Baptist Convention to a Reformed theological orientation. The Lutherans hold to a view of salvation and election distinct from Calvinism or Arminianism.Arminian theology usually falls into one of two groups — Classical Arminianism, drawn from the teaching of Jacobus Arminius — and Wesleyan Arminian, drawing primarily from Wesley. Both groups overlap substantially. (For further reading look at Wikipedia under any of the following links: Reformation, Calvin, Calvinism, Lutheraism, Arminianism, Depravity, Augustinian, etc. There are NUMEROUS links from these to other articles. This gives you an idea on how religious thinking developed during the reformation and how it affects our current belief systems.)
Even though the light from the Word of God was almost extinguished during the Middle Ages, God continued to have a people who were faithful to Him. As time passed and the 2,300 day prophecy was coming closer to the end, God raised up various reformers to bring new light to the people. Little by little as the people learned new truths, they left the papal system and started worshipping God according to the new light. Soon after the 2,300 day prophecy was completed, God had brought back all the truths of the original teachings of Jesus and His Disciples. The people now had a choice of worship. Instead of being forced to worship under the rules of the papacy, they could now choose to worship as they chose. Religious freedom had finally appeared.A review of our lesson shows: 1. In the 1300’s a breaking away from the papal system began 2. In almost every hundred year period since then, new light was given to show more of God’s teachings 3. One by one, the teachings relating to the sanctuary were restored through the various reformers 4.Three main schools of thought began to develop 5. These three schools of thought are found in every church today to some degree 6. Many churches today accept these three main schools of thought and do not progress as new light is available from the Bible
How Does This Show God’s Love?
Instead of leaving the world in darkness, God raised up men and women who stood strong for their faith. He is trying to give us every advantage. He wants us ALL to be saved. As we look back over the ages and see the examples of faith and belief, it gives us hope as we go forward. Some people focus on the martyrdom and ask, “How can God be a good God and still allow this?” Don’t forget what happened to Jesus. This just goes to show the extent to which Satan will go in his war against God. Let’s read Matthew 10:28-39 (Jesus is speaking) : Matt 10:28 And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. 30 But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows. 32 Whosoevertherefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. 33 But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven. 34 Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. 35 For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. 36 And a man's foes shall be they of his own household. 37 He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. 39 He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.
In addition to the topics given earlier in this lesson, you may also want to look-up Albigensian Crusade, Waldensians, Piedmont, St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, Protestant Reformation, and any of the names of the reformers.