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Religious Liberty - The Book of Revelation
Week 45, 2017
Now we come to:
When the dragon saw that he was thrown down to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male child.
But the two wings of the great eagle were given to the woman, so that she could fly into the wilderness to her place, where she was nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent.
And the serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, so that he might cause her to be swept away with the flood.
But the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and drank up the river which the dragon poured out of his mouth.
So the dragon was enraged with the woman, and went off to make war with the rest of her children, who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus.
During this study I have used insights from several different schools of thought on the Book of Revelation, but I have mostly used the generally accepted Protestant version that is a historical view. I have done this because I think there is merit to this view, and it has basically been forgotten and avoided since the 1844 Advent Movement (this was when the doctrines were formulated that the Book of Revelation was just about the end of the age). Revelation itself refutes this at the beginning of the vision when John wrote that the things he saw would “shortly come to pass.”
There probably would not be a legitimate historian that would not agree that the worst Christian persecution in history came during the Inquisition in Europe at the end of the Middle Ages. Halley’s Bible Handbook and other histories estimate that as many as 50 million people who refused to bow the knee to the papacy were martyred during that time. They were not just martyred, but tortured. As we read in Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, and other such accounts, the most grotesque tortures were used in the Inquisition. The devil let loose with “great wrath” is an appropriate description of this most terrible time in history.
Right at the peak of this persecution, Columbus discovered America. That “the earth opened” (literal translation) and swallowed the flood of persecution is an accurate description of what happened. Almost immediately the political and religious powers of Europe turned their attention from eradicating “heretics” and began to focus on the potential for wealth and conquest in the Americas.
Some of the nations that wanted to get rid of their non-Catholic citizens—but were appalled by the cruelty and horrors of the Inquisition—offered to send those citizens as colonists to the new world. So the persecuted fled to the “new world” as colonists, which at the time certainly fulfilled the description of being a “wilderness.”
The symbol of America was also to become the eagle, as the prophecy refers to “the wings of a great eagle” were given to the woman. So this seems to be an accurate prophecy of how America would become the refuge for persecuted Christians that it has became.
In America, the church was also “nourished” just as the prophecy said. In much of Europe, it was still illegal, and even carried the death penalty, to be caught with a Bible. In America, both Bibles and literacy were widely promoted, and therefore the church in America became strong in the Lord and in His Word. This ultimately led to America becoming a center for new Christian movements and the recovery of biblical Christianity. For nearly three hundred years, America has been a center of Christian influence for the world.
Just as the prophecy quoted above states, the devil was still enraged after the flood he had poured out was swallowed, and he went after the rest of the offspring of the woman. For centuries, Europe suffered almost continual religious wars and persecutions. Even though the diabolical cruelty and span of the Inquisition was never repeated, the brutal religious intolerance continued. This fortified in those who had fled to America a devotion to religious liberty and tolerance that is a cornerstone of all other freedoms.
next week 46