Chapter 18 - The Protestant Era

The Reformation of the Sixteenth Century broke the power of Rome’s spiritual supremacy. Europe was shaken from end to end by a power which it had never known before. The great secret of the early successes of the reformers was their appeal from the decisions of councils and the doctrines and commandments of men to the Word of God itself. And as long as the Word and the Spirit of God were allowed their proper place as the governors of God’s people, the power and inspiration of God rested upon the work of the Reformation. This spiritual work of reformation reached its climax about A.D. 1530, the date of the Augsburg Confession. To this date we must point both for the end of Rome’s universal spiritual supremacy and for the rise of Protestantism.
Within a few years the followers of the reformers were divided into hostile sects and began to oppose and persecute each other. Luther denounced Zwingli as a heretic, and “the Calvinists would have no dealings with the Lutherans.”
The first Protestant creed was the Augsburg Confession, 1530. This date marks an important epoch. From this time the reformation people began to lose sight of the Word and Spirit of God as their governors. They organized themselves into sects, made their own regulations, creeds, and disciplines; and these they upheld by every means possible. From this it will be seen that the rise of Protestantism (organized sectarianism) in 1530 introduced another period of apostasy, or rather another form of the Apostasy, as distinct in many of its features as was that of Romanism before it.

Protestantism in Prophecy

This great system of Protestantism that succeeded Romanism and took first place in the modern religious world was also set forth in the prophecies. The Revelator, after symbolically describing the first beast and its reign, continues:
“And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon. And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed (Rev. 13:11-12).
It is certainly consistent with the divine plan that Protestantism should be portrayed in prophecy. From the time the religion of God became definitely associated with successive world empires and political dominion, beginning with the Babylonian Empire, there has been a corresponding and continuous prophetic outline of God’s unfolding work in the world.
In this description by the Revelator, however, the special actions ascribed to this beast—speaking, working miracles, deceiving, making an image, imparting life to it, all of which belong properly to the department of human life—show conclusively that it is the character of this beast as an ecclesiastical power that is the chief point under consideration. He had political power, it is true, though he was not to become such a terrible beast politically (for his horns were only like a lamb), but “he spake as a dragon.” As soon as we enter the department to which “speaking” by analogy refers us, we find this beast to be a great religious power; and it is in this character alone that he is delineated in the remaining verses of the chapter. That the description of a religious system is the main burden of this symbol is also shown by the fact that this beast is in every case in subsequent chapters of the Revelation referred to as the “false prophet” (16:13; 19:20; 20:10).

The Image of the Beast

This second beast, or Protestantism as a religion, was to make an image of the first beast. “Image” is defined to be “an imitation, representation, or similitude of any person or thing; a copy, a likeness, an effigy.” The second beast, then, is to manufacture something in imitation of the first beast. But which phase of the first beast, political or ecclesiastical, is to be copied? “The image of the beast should … speak.” This directs us by analogy to religious affairs; therefore, the copy is a human ecclesiastical organization in imitation of the hierarchy of Rome.
The Roman Church is a humanly organized institution, governed, like the kingdom of the world, by an authority centralized in a self-perpetuating human headship. Protestant sects likewise are human organizations, each being governed by a man or a conference of men. The Roman Catholic Church makes and prescribes the theology that her members believe. Protestant churches also make their own disciplines and prescribe rules of faith and practice. Such a system is foreign to the original conception of the church as embracing the whole spiritual brotherhood under the moral and spiritual dominion of Christ. It is contrary to the plain teachings of the Bible, which condemn divisions and enjoin unity and oneness upon the redeemed of the Lord.
We freely acknowledge that during the Protestant Era there have been great reformations in which God worked mightily in the salvation of men and women and from which great good has accrued to the race. But looking back from the present point of view, we can see that these reformations were only partial. They did not restore all the primitive truth of Christianity. In fact, when these various movements became thoroughly established and widely known, their people, made confident of God’s approval through past successes, were thereby deceived into taking another step—making an image—and organizing themselves into ecclesiastical bodies with their own disciplines and rules.
It is evident that such an exhibition of churchianity is not a consistent portrayal of pure apostolic Christianity as experienced in primitive days and as recorded in, and required by, the Scriptures of God. *
*For an extended discussion of Protestantism in prophecy, its fundamental character, the “name of the beast,” the “mark of the beast,” the “number of his name,” Protestantism as a persecuting power, the period of Protestant expansion and reign, and other subjects, I urge the reader to consult my book, The Revelation Explained, pp. 186-197.

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