Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: Jesuits

Get out of the bus and walk

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Sunday morning. Dad had come in with pails of steaming milk and was cranking the cream separator, Mom was getting breakfast ready and I was setting the table. Over the radio came the voice of Ernest Manning, telling us again how world events were shaping up just as foretold in the book of Daniel and in Ezekiel 38 and 39. Gog and Magog (Soviet Russia) and their allies were on the verge of attacking Israel, which would trigger the Battle of Armageddon.

Dad had experienced crushing disappointment when the Wesleyan Methodist Church that he had been raised in disappeared into the United Church of Canada. This was a church that now taught that Jesus, if he ever really existed, was our model for setting to rights the evils of society. Dad had no use for this Social Gospel, he wanted to hear about the Jesus who could save us from our sins.

Shortly thereafter he heard William Aberhart preaching on radio and had gone to Calgary to visit the Prophetic Bible Institute. When Aberhart formed the Social Credit Party (which was the complete antithesis to the social gospel) and was elected Premier of Alberta in 1935, Dad decided the way to defeat the Social Gospel, Socialism and Communism was to elect Christian statesmen to government. When Aberhart died in 1943, Ernest C Manning took his place as head of the Prophetic Bible Institute, speaker on Canada’s National Back to the Bible Hour and Premier of Alberta and held those roles for another 25 years.

We listened to Manning every Sunday morning and once when the broadcast team held a service in Regina we went to hear him preach in person. I suppose he spoke about other things in all those years, but all I remember is Gog and Magog and the Russian bear.

I was aware that there were people propounding other versions of Bible prophecy. I had listened to the Voice of Prophecy a couple times, out of curiosity. According to them, the “voice of prophecy” the only reliable source of Bible truth, was the writings of Ellen G White. They also talked about a millennium, but had a different interpretation. And they had a lot to say about the Sabbath day. People calling themselves Jehovah’s Witnesses occasionally showed up on our doorstep. Dad called them Russellites, after Charles Taze Russell, their founder. They had another explanation of how things would work out when Jesus returned.

In 1970 I was converted and then married. In the winter of 1971-72 an aged minister conducted a series of Bible studies in which he expounded the dispensational pre-millennial doctrine. We drank it all in. After all, he had Bible verses to prove every point and the way he told it, it seemed completely relevant to events in the world at that time. I got myself a Scofield Reference Bible and read books by Lewis Sperry Chafer, Dwight Pentecost, John Walvoord, Hal Lindsey and others.

Those four were all prominently associated with Dallas Theological Seminary, but I began to note a few discrepancies. Then I began to wonder if those Bible verses the old preacher had quoted actually fit together the way he said. It seemed that it would not be possible to find those meanings just by reading the Bible, you needed a guide to show you how to take the Bible apart and put it together the right way. At that point, my confidence in their teachings crumbled.

It seemed to me that all the different prophetic teachings that I had ever heard were like tour buses, taking people on a tour of ancient cities and each one only showing the sites they wanted you to see, in the order they wanted you to see them. I decided it would be better to get off the bus and hike through the Bible myself, with only the Holy Spirit to guide me.

Later, I have read how that the whole millennial fever was sparked by Jesuit writers trying to counter evangelical criticism of the papacy. Anabaptists identified the papacy as the Antichrist hundreds of years before the Reformation. Luther and Calvin picked up on that and repeated it in their attacks on the Roman Catholic Church.

In order to defend itself, the Roman Catholic Church first decreed that its members could only read books approved by the church. Two 16th century Jesuits wrote books explaining how Antichrist was not the papacy, but an individual who would appear at the end of the Christian era, become ruler of the world and abolish Christianity. Those books weren’t read by many people, but in 1791 another Jesuit, Manuel Lacunza of Chile wrote a book under the assumed name of Rabbi Ben Ezra. This book was translated into English and French and seems to have been the springboard for the millennial fervour which followed.

Edward Irving, a former Presbyterian, formed the Catholic Apostolic Church in England and began to expound on Lacuna’s teaching of the end time Antichrist. John Nelson Darby, a former Church of England clergyman joined the Plymouth Brethren, took on Lacuna’s teachings and expanded them into the dispensational pre-millennial doctrine that I was taught 45 years ago.

A fifteen-year-old girl from Irving’s church had a dream that Christians would be removed from the earth before the coming of Antichrist. Darby also went to hear the young lady tell her dream. This is the origin of the secret rapture teaching. No one has ever found that teaching in the Bible, since all the mentions of Christ’s return talk about the trumpet sounding, the voice of the archangel, and “every eye shall see him.”

Many different millennial fever tour bus companies were spawned in the mid 1800’s, each offering their own unique view of future events. As you can see, I have gone along on a few of those rides and eventually decided they were leading me away from Jesus, rather than closer to Him.

What I was longing for, and not finding on those bus tours, was a place of rest and joy near to the heart of my Saviour. I have realized that anything that comes between me and that place of rest and joy is Antichrist. That word means “in place of Christ” or “in front of Christ.” If we forget the tour guides and search for Christ alone, we will find Him.

The many faces of antichrist

“They have brought it so far with this ungodly seduction, that they have arrogated to themselves all power in heaven, upon earth, and in hell; they therefore break the bread into three pieces.  With the first, they reconcile God; with the second, they intercede for the world; and with the third, as they pretend, they pray for the souls in purgatory.

“Through this accursed infamy they rose so high in honour, that they are above all the potentates of earth, whom they made their own servants.  By their hypocritical service and enchanting idolatry, they have hoarded money, goods, gold, silver, land, rents, cloisters, cities, principalities and the dominions of this world; because every one loved this splendid service as a holy and divine work; honoured and feared their exalted and pompous names as the messengers of God.

“By this ingenious and subtle magic, the Roman antichrist has gained such respect and authority , that even the imperial majesty , the highest sovereignty on earth, whom we are commanded of God to respect and fear, had to humble himself and kiss his feet; yea, what is still worse, Frederick Barbarossa, a great and renowned emperor, could not be reconciled with Pope Alexander III until he humbled himself at Venice, before the church, and suffered the Pope to tread upon him with his feet!”  Menno Simons (1496-1551)

It is clear from this excerpt that Menno understood the Scriptural references to antichrist to refer to the Pope.  This had been the common Anabaptist understanding for many centuries.  And no wonder, as Pope after Pope made war with the saints, having them hunted down and murdered by the thousands.  The time of the persecution of the church by antichrist, given as 1260 days in Revelation, they understood to mean 1260 years.

The identification of the Pope with the antichrist mentioned in the Bible was later picked up by the Reformers, Luther in particular.  In 1556, a Lutheran writer proposed that the 1260 years would span from 606 to 1866.  Anabaptists generally understood the 1260 years to have begun much earlier, when the Roman church first became the official religion of the Roman Empire.  (It should be noted here that the Protestant state churches were also fierce persecutors of the Anabaptists.)

Jesuit scholars began seeking to divert attention in other directions.  Francisco Ribera, 1537-1591, wrote that the Antichrist would appear at the end of the age and reign for a literal 1260 days, or 3½ years immediately prior to the return of the Lord.  The antichrist, a single individual, would persecute and blaspheme the saints of God, rebuild the temple in Jerusalem, be received by the Jews, pretend to be God and conquer the world.

About the same time Cardinal Robert Bellarmine, also a Jesuit, wrote a book with a very similar teaching, a future antichrist who would be a single man and reign for 3 ½ years.  Manuel Lacunza, 1731-1801, a Jesuit from Chile, proposed that sometime far in the future the Roman Catholic church would become corrupted, abandon the Christian faith and become antichrist.  Christ would return twice, first to judge the living and then many years later to judge the dead.

Edward Irving, a Scottish clergyman associated with the Catholic Apostolic church translated Lacunza’s work into English in 1826.  This was the beginning of the millennial speculations that still plague the Christian church.  Margaret McDonald, a 15 year old member of Irving’s church, had a vision in 1830 that there would be a secret rapture of Christians before the coming of antichrist.

John Nelson Darby of the Plymouth Brethren movement was acquainted with Irving and visited Margaret McDonald to hear her tell her vision.  Darby went on to elaborate the dispensational scheme that is so well known today.  William Miller also became acquainted with the Jesuit writings and began to predict the date of our Lord’s return, thus beginning the Adventist movement.

The whole premillenial movement began as the result of Jesuit attempts to deflect attention from the corruption and oppressions of the papacy.  How many people are aware of that today?

We generally understand antichrist to mean in opposition to Christ.  There is a second meaning, that takes nothing away from this first meaning.  The prefix anti can also mean in front of, or in place of.  Thus any group or theology which says that you can only approach Christ through their teachings, or can only understand God’s Word through their teachings, or can only be reconciled to Christ through the mediation of their priests, is putting itself between Christ and humanity and is thus an antichrist.

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