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The Tale of Two Emperors - The Book of Revelation
Week 46, 2016
In this study, we have spent the longest time on the church at Thyatira. This church spans the longest period of time in the church age, about 1,260 years. This period is measured from the Roman Emperor’s decree in 538 A.D. that made the Bishop of Rome the head of the church to Napoleon’s decree in 1798 that revoked that authority of the Pope.
History records how Napoleon demoted the Pope’s authority at his coronation as Emperor of what was effectively continental Europe at the time. When the Pope was about to crown him, as he did every other monarch in Europe, Napoleon took the crown out of the Pope’s hands, placed it on his own head, and declared that no man crowned him, but he crowned himself.
This was a shocking rebuke and humiliation for the Pope, but Napoleon would go further. He continued insulting the Pope until he finally had him thrown into prison. The Reformers considered this the fulfillment of the “taunt against the king of Babylon” in Isaiah 14, which is a remarkable parallel. Here we will scan the highlights of this prophecy in Isaiah:
It will be in the day when the Lord gives you rest from your pain and turmoil and harsh service in which you have been enslaved,
that you will take up this taunt against the king of Babylon, and say, "How the oppressor has ceased, and how fury has ceased!
"The Lord has broken the staff of the wicked, the scepter of rulers
"that used to strike the peoples in fury with unceasing strokes, that subdued the nations in anger with unrestrained persecution.
"Sheol from beneath is excited over you to meet you when you come; it arouses for you the spirits of the dead, all the leaders of the earth; it raises all the kings of the nations from their thrones.
"They will all respond and say to you, 'even you have been made weak as we, you have become like us.
'Your pomp and the music of your harps have been brought down to Sheol; maggots are spread out as your bed beneath you and worms are your covering.'
"How you have fallen from heaven, O star of the morning, son of the dawn! You have been cut down to the earth, You who have weakened the nations!
"But you said in your heart, 'I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, and I will sit on the mount of assembly in the recesses of the north.
'I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.'
"Nevertheless you will be thrust down to Sheol, to the recesses of the pit.
"Those who see you will gaze at you, they will ponder over you, saying, 'Is this the man who made the earth tremble, who shook kingdoms,
'Who made the world like a wilderness and overthrew its cities, who did not allow his prisoners to go home?'" (Isaiah 14:3-6, 9-17).
The Pope claimed to be “God on earth,” as well as the titles attributed to Christ in Scripture. He exalted himself “above the stars of God,” or the messengers of God who are in His hand, as we see in Revelation 2 and 3. The Pope not only claimed authority over the apostles of God, but also that his word eclipsed the authority of Scripture. This is why the Reformation’s basic message was “Scripture alone” as the basis for the church’s doctrine.
As the Pope languished in prison, the whole world was astounded, seemingly taking their words straight from Isaiah’s prophecy against “the king of Babylon.” As covered, “Mystery Babylon” was another title for the harlot church in Revelation.
When the Pope finally died in prison, Napoleon refused to let another Pope be appointed. Many considered the papacy to be dead. Seven years later, after Napoleon decided that he wanted the divine right of kings bestowed upon his son as his successor, he allowed another Pope to be appointed to perform this right. Reformers considered this the fulfillment of “the fatal head wound that was healed” (as the Pope claimed to be the head of the church) so that the papacy came back to life.
It also came to the attention of many theologians at the time how Napoleon’s military campaigns and the other commanders of the time seemed to fit with those in the prophecies of Daniel 11. Studies of biblical prophecies and their fulfillment in history, and in their own time, became a great passion of the day. Virtually the entire Protestant movement, and many Catholic and Orthodox theologians, were intrigued with how accurately these prophecies seemed to be fulfilled.
That these were the fulfillment of prophecy became almost a consensus among Protestant Christians until the 1844 Advent Movement. After this movement, the historical view of eschatology seemed almost forgotten by the emerging evangelical church. At the same time, many Protestant churches started becoming so institutionalized that they began doing many of the same things that the Roman Church had done. They also began avoiding biblical prophecy, although there were exceptions. After the 1844 Movement, the most popular books on prophecy were the ones that saw everything futuristically, with two major exceptions: The Advent Movement itself continued to embrace the historic perspective of the fulfillment of biblical prophecies, as did Charles Russell, one of the most widely read authors in the world from the mid-1800s until World War I.
Russell’s movement morphed into the Jehovah’s Witnesses after his passing, when his successor changed many of his teachings. Soon, both of these movements were considered sects or cults by evangelicals, and their eschatology also became anathema in the evangelical world.
Much of the futuristic view has some merit when it takes into account many things that have obviously been fulfilled. However, not all has been fulfilled yet. Adherents of both the historic and futuristic schools of thought that have not examined the other to consider its merits seem to see significant holes and contradictions in them.
For this reason, in this study I draw a lot from the historical view because it has been neglected in recent times, and that is a major mistake. The Lord told John these things would “shortly” come to pass. They did begin to unfold immediately and have continued to today, as we will continue to see.
next week 47