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The Rise and Spread of Futurism
Summary: The doctrine of futurism was introduced in order to counter the Protestant Reformation's declarations of truth.
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Modern Christianity has largely forgotten the importance of the Protestant Reformation, which took place during the 1500s.
For almost a thousand years Europe had been ruled by the iron hand of Rome. Only a few Bibles existed then, and Christianity was largely permeated with superstition. Faith in Jesus Christ, heartfelt appreciation of His love, and a simple trust in His death on the cross were almost unknown. The New Testament truth about grace, full forgiveness, and the free gift of eternal life to believers in the Son of God (see Romans 6:23) had been buried under a mass of tradition.
Then, Martin Luther arose like a lion in Germany. After a period of tremendous personal struggle, Luther began teaching justification through faith in Jesus Christ, rather than through reliance on creature merits or any human works (Romans 1:16; 3:26, 28; 5:1).
Eventually Martin Luther turned to the prophecies. By candlelight he read about the little horn, the man of sin, and the Beast. He was shocked as the Holy Spirit spoke to his heart. Finally, he saw the truth, realizing that these prophecies apply to the Roman Catholic Church.
As he wrestled with this new insight, the voice of God echoed loudly in his soul saying, “Preach the word,” (2 Timothy 4:2). And so, at the risk of losing his life, Martin Luther preached to an astonished people, publicly and in print, that papal Rome was the Antichrist of Biblical prophecy. Because of this dual message of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ apart from works and of papal Rome being the Antichrist, the river of history changed its course. Hundreds of thousands of Europeans left the Catholic Church.
“There are two great truths that stand out in the preaching that brought the Protestant Reformation,” American Bible Commentator, Ralph Woodrow, reminds us; “The just shall live by faith, not by the works of Romanism, and the Papacy is the Antichrist of Scripture.” It was a message for Christ and against Antichrist. The entire Reformation rests upon this twofold testimony.i
It has been said that the Reformers first discovered Jesus Christ and then, in the blazing light of Christ, discovered the Antichrist. This mighty Spirit-filled movement, for Christ and against the Antichrist, shook the world.
H. Grattan Guinness wrote these memorable words:
From the first, and throughout, that movement [the Reformation] was energized and guided by the prophetic word. Luther never felt strong and free to war against Papal apostasy till he recognized the pope as antichrist. It was then that he burned the Papal bull. Knox’s first sermon, the sermon that launched him on his mission as a reformer, was on the prophecies concerning the papacy. The reformers embodied their interpretations of prophecy in their confessions of faith, and Calvin in his “Institutes.” All of the Reformers were unanimous in the matter, even the mild and cautious Melanchthon was assured of the anti-papal meaning of these prophecies as was Luther himself. And their interpretation of these prophecies determined their reforming action. It led them to protest against Rome with extraordinary strength and undaunted courage. It nerved them to resist the claims of the apostate church to the utmost. It made them martyrs; it sustained them at the stake. And the views of the Reformers were shared by thousands, by hundreds, of thousands. They were adopted by princes and peoples. Under their influence nations abjured their allegiance to the false priest of Rome. In the reaction that followed all the powers of hell seemed to be let loose upon the adherents of the Reformation. War followed war; tortures, burnings, and massacres were multiplied. Yet the Reformation stood undefeated and unconquerable. God’s word upheld it, and the energies of His almighty Spirit. It was the work of Christ as truly as the founding of the church eighteen centuries ago; and the revelation of the future which he gave from heaven—that prophetic book with which the Scripture closes—was one of the mightiest instruments employed in its accomplishment.ii
The Catholic Church would not allow this movement to continue. Read about the Counter Reformation and the false doctrine spread from it
i. Michael de Semlyen, All Roads Lead to Rome (Dorchester House, England: Dorchester House Publications, 1993): 202, 203.
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