Their Lights also Shone
Who are we referring to?* Hebrews 11:37‑40 (RVIC) says "they were stoned, they were sawn asunder, they were tempted, they were slain with the sword: they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, ill‑treated (of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves, and the holes of the earth. And these all, having had witness borne to them through their faith, received not the promise, God having provided some mightier thing concerning us, that without us they should not be made perfect." So we are going to discuss Christians living in the time periods as covered by Rev.2:1‑22, but mainly the time span from the church of Smyrna to the church of Sardis. Here are the seven churches and the likely time spans.
1.Ephesus, the early apostolic period.
2.Smyrna, covers the time of Pagan Persecution up till 325 A.D.
3.Pergamum, the rise of the Catholic Church and Papacy.
4.Thyatira, the time of the true church in the wilderness while the false Apostate church (Papacy) sat and ruled as Queen and committed spiritual fornication with the kings of the Earth.
5.Sardis, covers a short time till the beginning of the Reformation.
6.Philadelphia, beginning of the reformation until the 19th Century.
7.Laodicea, the true church of God and Jesus, his anointed,
consecrated followers as first gathered by (Pastor) Charles Russell.
After the Apostles passed away it says that the Man of Lawlessness would take control as 2 Thess.2:7‑9 (RVIC) states "For the mystery of lawlessness doth already work: only there is one that restraineth now, until he cometh to be out of its midst. And then shall be revealed the lawless one, whom the Lord Jesus shall slay with the breath of his mouth, and bring to nought by the appearing of his presence; even he, whose presence is according to a working of Satan with all power and signs and wonders of a lie," So from this time period, about 100 C.E. there was a weakening of the gospel message, and as time went on teachings were introduced that were not taught by the apostles in New Testament times, especially with the rise of the Catholic church, during the transition from pagan Rome to the Holy Roman Empire (Catholic Church) nevertheless there was still a Light shining in this spiritual darkness.
Arius lived around 300 C.E. At this time Constantine and the now established Church were trying to extinguish the truth with pagan doctrines, especially the trinity. Arius stood up against this doctrine and would not accept it and said "If the father begat the son, he that was begotten had a beginning of existence: and...there was a time when the son was not". In A.D.325 Constantine decreed, "If any writing composed by Arius should be found, it should be handed over to the flames, and if anyone has hidden a copy, his punishment will be death". Arius was most likely poisoned soon after. There were others as well who stood up for truth before this time period, Clement of Rome (A.D.45‑101), said "Jesus was sent by the Father, so Christ is from God and the apostles are from Christ."
As time progressed the established church, Babylon the great, under Satan's influence grew stronger and the true Gospel becomes less based on 'grace', but on ceremony and pomp and the introduction of man‑made doctrines to corrupt the gospel. There was an outbreak against the worship of saints and images in the seventh century and these truth‑loving Christians were called Iconoclasts, "that is breakers of Images" and they caused a lot of stress to the Catholic Church. In fact it lasted for over a period of 100 years until the false church was victorious and Image worship then became once and for all time firmly established.
There were still a few fearful men in the 12th Century who also stood against the established church and specific doctrines.
Henry of Lausanne was an Italian who preached in the Alps and around the city of Toulouse, as well as in the Pyrenees. He preached against the Church of Rome and its authority, condemned infant baptism, rejected the Eucharist Mass, worship of saints and prayers for the dead. He only recognized the authority of the gospel! So popular was his teachings that the churches in his districts were empty, so he was arrested by the Bishop of Toulouse and imprisoned for life.
Peter de Bruis made the most laudable attempt to reform the abuses and superstitions that disfigured the simplicity of the gospel message, but after having engaged in this cause for over 20 years, he was burned alive at St. Gilles, near Nimes in France in the year 1130AD, by an enraged mob, instigated by the clergy who were worried that the enterprising spirit and message of this reformer would expose them! He also rejected infant baptism and condemned the false added doctrines of the Popes. He taught that the real body and blood of Christ were not exhibited in the mass, but taught that they were merely represented, or symbolized by the emblems used. Also that the prayers and good works of the living, could in no way help the dead, so as stated he was removed and burnt at the stake.
Arnold of Brescia, early in his life, travelled from his native Italy into France. In France he imbibed the spirit of soul‑freedom, and received into his heart the Light of the gospel. He returned to his native city in the habit of a monk, and began to preach the gospel in the streets of Brescia. The people melted and were roused by his fiery appeals. The clergy were alarmed, and at the second Lateran council he was condemned to perpetual silence. It was in the year 1139AD Arnold fled to the wilderness, and in the valleys of the Alps found shelter among the kindred spirits there. He was soon found proclaiming the truth in the canton of Zurich. Conspiracies were formed against him. The whole power of the Roman Church was directed to overthrow him.
We cannot contemplate the lion courage of Luther at Worms without emotions of enthusiastic admiration, and this admiration is just. But the stand that Arnold took was fully equal to, if not superior to Luther's, but is seldom mentioned. A lone man, in a still darker age, unsupported by the presence and sympathy of Princes, as Luther was, he berated and defied the might of the Roman church. Driven from his shelter, he crossed the Alps and planted himself in the midst of his foes, yes, he entered Rome itself, where he flashed the light of truth in burning eloquence in the district of the seven hills.
Freedom triumphed for the hour. Rome awoke from the slumber, and religious slavery of ages. "But the fervor of the people is less permanent than the resentment of the priest" (Gibbon). The powers of the clergy were again concentrated and directed against him. The heresy of Arnold was considered two‑fold. He dared to quote the language of Christ, "My kingdom is not of this world", also that the church was a distinct and spiritual assembly of baptized believers, so as a consequence, the heinous crime of rejecting infant baptism was laid on him. "He was arrested, condemned, crucified and then burned on the stake, his ashes thrown into the river Tiber".
The Waldenses were a large group living in and around the French/Italian Alps also during the 12th Century, who were targeted by the Catholic Church as heretics. This was because they rejected several of the Catholic Church's teachings as false. In fact they regarded her as the whore of Babylon as described in the Bible. They believed also in the separation of church and state, rejected the mass, they also believed that the bread and wine were symbols only, they rejected infant baptism, rejected the clergy laity class and rejected extreme unction, which is the use of oils as a religious rite. In addition they rejected purgatory and prayers for the dead, as well as praying to saints, rejected confessing of sins to priests, as they believed in forgiveness of sins comes from God alone. They had their own version of the bible called the "TEPL."
Their area of dwelling was around the French/Italian borders, "The Mighty Alps." This area was always known for its opposition to the Papal Throne, as early as the 9th Century, Claudius, Bishop of Turin was preaching against the apostasy in the Catholic Church. He spoke out against the excesses of the church on such matters as Image worship and relics, pilgrimages, prayers to the saints, worship of the cross, and also that there was no successor to Peter and that the Pope did not possess the keys of heaven. So it is no wonder the established Church sent all its might and heresy hunters into these regions to punish these groups. To counter this the Waldenses and other groups moved into more remote areas to escape the power and persecution of the church. We have no idea how great their suffering was nor the amount that these agents "The Catholic Church" slaughtered. When we read of their plight and suffering we should be humbled and shocked. No wonder the Book of Revelation speaks of a great crowd, which no man was able to number standing before the throne worshipping our heavenly Father. Nothing can prepare us for the torture and sufferings that these searchers of truth endured and it went on from the 14th Century up till the start of the protestant Reformation. Untold thousands of men, women and children were butchered, tortured and burnt alive on the stake or hacked to death. In fact the Nazis during the World War Two were not beginners in this art, the established church far outshone them in cruelty. As stated this persecution went on until and after the Reformation. In fact in the early 16th Century the Waldenses on hearing that the reformation had started appealed to the Protestants in Geneva to send them spiritual help, so a young minister was sent to them.
His name was Jean Louis Paschale, and he was dispatched to Calabria (Region in Southern Italy ) where he preached full of zeal and this helped to revitalize the Waldenses, and this small dim flickering light that had nearly been extinguished by the Church of Rome, started to glow again, too bright in fact it aroused the priests and clergy of the established church who conspired to have this young preacher arrested and thrown into the dungeons for 8 months, and in the year of 1560 he was brought before a Papal Tribunal and sentenced to death. The young man, tied to the stake turns to the Pope and condemns him as the persecutor of his flock, the antichrist and warns him and all the assembled cardinals that they will have to answer for all their crimes and murders before the throne of God and his Lamb. He is then strangled and burnt on the stake and after his ashes were scattered.
What faith, what courage was shown by these men who followed the truth. How important is our light? Do we let it shine? Do we feel as the apostle Paul did in Romans 8:35‑39 So whatever the season, 'Let our Light Shine forth' and at all times praise our Lord the risen Christ.
Romans 8:35‑39 (RVIC) "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or anguish, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Even as it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; We were accounted as sheep for the slaughter. No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
*Heb. 11 refers to those who lived before the Christian Era