500 years of Reformation, 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, 95 Theses, A Mighty Fortress Is Our God, bohu, Constantine, Dark Ages, Emperor Constantine, Genesis 1, Johaness Gutenburg, John 1, Martin Luther, Mithras, Pontifex Maximus, printing press, Protestant Reformation, Sun god religion, syncretism, tohu, waters of the deep, without form and void
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth…And the earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep….and the Spirit of God hovered over the surface of the waters. “The earth was without form and void”, this statement of Genesis 1 carries more weight than most people think, for those words “without form” and “void” equal something far more sinister and evil than at first comprehended at a cursory glance, or even a second and third reading. These two words signify that the earth was a formless destroyed waste of confusion and chaos. These words are used throughout Scripture for destroyed cities or land or empty barren wastelands of the earth after God has judged it (Job 26:7; Isaiah 24:10; 34:11; 45:18; Jer 4:23). It is difficult for us in the English language to grasp the enormity associated with these words, but they represent “chaos, confusion, and disorder,” and everything opposed to order and harmony (The Complete Word Study Dictionary of the Old Testament, pgs. 121 #922 bohu and 1214 #8414 tohu). And there was darkness on the face of the deep…This darkness is has been said is a darkness that could be felt, and the “waters of the deep” are not just still and peaceful sitting there doing nothing kind of waters, but instead are an abyss of a surging mass of agitated waters of fathomless depth (Strong’s, #8415 tehom and root word #1949 huwm).
This was not a tranquil scene of still waters and a gentle earth waiting to be formed. No… Genesis 1 presents to us a scene of tumult, judgment and chaos and the darkness that covered all with its barbarous, suffocating tentacles. This is the realm into which God’s Spirit entered, hovered as an eagle over her young (#7363 rachaph), gently moving upon the face of the tumultuous deep. And then it happened, that which shook the world and shattered the tangible darkness sending tremors into the very abyss…Genesis 1:3 states, “then God said, “Let light be!” How incredible those words are, and how much more incredible is the God who spoke them, commanding light to shine forth into a chaotic world filled with destruction and chaos, covered with turbulent waters and blinding darkness. But, at His word, Light overwhelmed and overcame the darkness, and the darkness could not comprehend what had happened.
Even so, in John 1, darkness of ignorance and blindness and hopelessness covered a world overwhelmed by sin and depravity wherein religion held captive the helpless masses. For, into the world stepped the most extraordinary being ever to walk the earth. Though He was clothed in humanity and humility, He was the very Word of God and Light of God entering the thickest, tangible, ruinous darkness and with that entrance saying loud and clear with all authority and power, “Let there be Light!” And the proud, puffed up darkness could not grasp what had happened, nor could it overcome, nor could it seize by force the Word and the Light of the Living Creator God. For the very “I Am” had entered the world, and it could not silence Him. It could not cover Him. It could not hide Him. It could not shake Him. It could not defeat Him!
Time after time, that same darkness has fought to overcome that Light, the Word of God. From the very birth of the Church, it has sought to silence the Gospel of Life and Light, mainly through persecution, fear, and war. Millions of martyrs have spilled their blood for Christ, as Roman emperors crucified them, burned them alive, tortured them, ruined their businesses, and drove them into the catacombs. But, the Gospel was not defeated. The more pressure the darkness placed upon the Body of Christ, the more the Gospel spread.
And so the darkness tried another tactic: infiltration.
In the 300s, the Roman Empire was struggling to hold itself together. Inside the Roman empire there were warring religions and the persecution of Christianity; on the outside of the Roman empire there was resistance and war. No one was getting along. It was then that a Roman emperor observed the disintegration of his empire with great interest. He was the high priest of the Mithras religion (the worship of Apollo the sun god, but he found in Christianity a common bond. For the stories of the sun god Mithras and the Son of God Jesus Christ seemed in his mind, to mesh. It is even said that before marching into battle one day, this emperor while worshiping the sun, saw a vision of the cross and was told by a voice that in this sign he was to conquer. Upon returning from great victory in battle, he realized that all religions must have freedom, and that all religions must find common ground. The Edict of Milan was issued in the year 313, as a joint venture of the Roman emperors of the West and the East. Through this edict it became illegal to persecute Christians, and tolerance of all religions became the law of the land. Everyone was to get along. There was a common prayer that all could pray to the nameless deity all held in common and thus not offend. Syncretism (a blending together of different religions) was put into place as the order of day, worship on Sundays for Christians and the celebration of Christmas was protected, which also meant protection for those of the Mithras religion who also worshiped their sun god (Apollo) on Sundays and celebrated Christmas. Everyone was free to practice their own religion, but the Emperor was to be Pontifex Maximus (the high priest—literally meaning the “greatest bridge maker” – http://www.dictionary.com/browse/pontifex) of them all. This Emperor’s name was Constantine.
Nevertheless, the Word of God still prevailed and firmly founded the Church on the Nicene Creed. The Council of Nicaea met in A.D. 325 amidst much argumentation regarding the “substance” of Christ (https://probe.org/the-council-of-nicea/). The Nicene Creed clarified the role of Christ, that He was of the same substance of the Father, was not a created being, and thus, firmly established the doctrine of the Trinity. Furthermore, the temporary peace produced at this time allowed for the historian Eusibeus to carefully organize and affirm the unquestionable books that are contained in our Bibles today. Several councils followed to confirm what Eusibeus affirmed and that the churches had been following from the beginning.
Though this strange peace gave the Church a brief respite from outside persecution and allowed for the Nicene Creed and the books of the Bible to be carefully examined for Canonicity, the pulsating darkness of paganism began to spread within the Church.
By the year 1517 that very darkness had so infiltrated and enveloped the Church that people hopelessly and blindly groped about in great superstition and in an overwhelming fear of death. Owning a Bible was against the law (http://justforcatholics.org/a198.htm), prayers were made to Mary, the saints and angels, relics (even bones stolen from graves that the Roman church claimed were of Stephen or Peter or Paul) were superstitiously bought and venerated, the Pope was seen as Christ (The Vicar of Christ – from the Latin Vicarious meaning “substitute” https://www.thefreedictionary.com/vicar) on earth and his word was infallible, salvation was through works and helped along by buying indulgences (https://www.christian-history.org/indulgences.html). Because people were not good enough to get into heaven and they were taught by the Roman Church that they would eventually upon death go to purgatory (a place where sinners must be purged of their sins before going on to heaven), they desperately struggled to buy indulgences that would free them and/or their relatives from this horrific place. Even perilous pilgrimages were made to Rome where they would pay to kiss statues, kneel on hundreds of steps while praying in a certain fashion, etc. in order to get indulgences that would cut their time short in purgatory. “For hundreds of years (approximately 500-1600 A.D.) through the Roman Catholic Church, the insatiable appetite of evil had taken hold of the people. Though little groups here and individuals there had sought the truth of Scripture, they were mercilessly persecuted and martyred by those who wanted to keep them in tangible darkness. People like John Huss, John Wycliffe and Jerome Savonarola spoke out against the immorality and unbiblical practices of the Roman Catholic church, and because of this they and others like them (thousands upon thousands) were pressured unsuccessfully to recant and then without trial” martyred for their faith (HolyLight Reformation Presentation of October 2016).
The same agitated, tangible darkness that filled the earth with chaos of Genesis 1 sought tirelessly to destroy the body of Christ in the Dark Ages. The same blindness of sin and blackness of despair in Jesus’ day, mesmerized the masses of the Dark Ages. Why? Because the Gospel message was no longer preached nor was it widely known. And this was because the Word of God had been withheld from the common people.
Then, 500 years ago on October 31st of 1517, in the midst of colorful leaves and the crisp cool autumn air, 34 year old Martin Luther placed his 95 Theses on the door of the Wittenberg Castle church in Germany. The pounding of the hammer to the nail echoed throughout the land of Germany, rattled the foundations of the Pope’s Roman residence, shook the powers of darkness, and sent the demons squealing with terror. For not only did Luther dare to nail his 95 theses to the door, but they knew that that the Johaness Gutenburg printing press of 1440 that had at one time printed thousands upon thousands of indulgences now would print not only Luther’s 95 theses as well a multiplicity of his other writings, but would print the Word of God in the language of the people. “By 1519, this unknown monk had become Europe’s most published author, his 45 original compositions [were] republished in nearly 300 editions…Three years later, Luther had produced some 160 writings, the majority addressed to the Christian people of Germany in their own language, even though many of them had never before owned a printed work,” (Colin Woodard, December 2015 article, “The Power of Luther’s Printing Press,” https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-power-of-luthers-printing-press/2015/12/18/a74da424-743c-11e5-8d93-0af317ed58c9_story.html?utm_term=.6230eb429e9d). Furthermore, a copy of Luther’s New Testament translated from Greek into the German language of the people “was released September 21, 1522, and a second edition was produced the same December” (https://www.christian-history.org/martin-luther-bible.html). “In two months, no less than five thousand copies were sold. In twelve years, nearly a quarter of a million New Testaments were distributed amongst the German people” (Captive to the Word: Martin Luther, Doctor of Sacred Scripture, by A. Skevington Wood, chapter “Luther as a Translator,” pg 102, https://biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/asw/captive/captive-to-the-word_09.pdf). Soon Luther’s copy of the Pentateuch followed in 1523. Finally in 1534, the whole of the Bible had been translated by Luther into the German language.
The endless night of the Dark Ages ruled by Popes and Bishops and by superstition and mysticism was pierced by the blinding, enduring light of God, as Martin Luther nailed the theses to the door and then translated and printed the words of Scripture into the German language. Indeed, in the words of Isaiah 9:2, “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.” And the people in Germany had and did see that great light. Though for hundreds of years the insidious midnight desperately attempted to suppress the truth, to keep the Bible from the people, to steal, kill and destroy all hope of salvation, and to snuff out the last embers of light, the Light of the World still could not be comprehended nor overcome.
And the light spread as the truth of the Gospel was preached in France, Holland, England and beyond. Soon the Bible was translated into other languages of the people, so that, as John Wycliffe (also known as “the morning star of the reformation”) desired, every plow boy could read the word.
October 31st of this year, 2017, marks the 500 year anniversary of Martin Luther nailing the 95 Theses to the Wittenburg Castle Church in Germany. 500 years ago, he risked his life to ask questions that needed to be asked, and though he honored the Church he dared to question the unScriptural behavior of church leadership. Though he knew the flesh and blood that stood against him and sought to kill him, he also was more than aware that he wrestled not against flesh and blood, “but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12). Indeed, one of several hymns he wrote reveals this spiritual warfare reality in the life of Martin Luther, entitled, “A Mighty Fortress is our God.” *Lyrics below
Throughout the years, the darkness has struggled against the light, trying unsuccessfully to extinguish that light. True scholars have fought to preserve the Bible from contamination, and though many versions are based on a polluted, man-made text, the Received Text (Textus Receptus) still endures unconquerable. And in spite of sin’s draw, Great Awakening after Great Awakening reveals that God’s light still pierces the darkness.
Though so many throughout history have risked their lives and families on behalf of the Word of God and have even died simply because they dared to own one in their own language, and though today in third world countries people are desperate to have a Bible and are willing to lay all on the line to obtain one, the Christians of the West have no time for it. According to Barna (A Christian Research Group) “Nearly a quarter of a century ago in 1991, 45 percent of American adults told Barna they read the Bible at least once a week. In 2009, 46 percent reported doing so. These percentages were remarkably consistent over the course of nearly two decades. But since 2009, Bible reading has become less widespread, especially among the youngest adults. As more and more Millennials join the ranks of adulthood, the national average continues to weaken. Today, about one-third of all American adults report reading the Bible once a week or more. The percentage is highest among Elders (49%) and lowest among Millennials (24%)” (https://www.barna.com/research/the-bible-in-america-6-year-trends/) (emphasis added is mine).
Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.
- Hosea 4:6
- My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.
- This lack of knowledge and vision is all about people not knowing the Word of God, and without knowing it, people perish in their minds, in their politics, in their judicial system, in their family structure, in every way.
500 years after Martin Luther, our enemy is still at work. Since the foundation of the world until now, the darkness still hates the light. The battle for the Bible still rages on. Let us therefore remember along with Martin Luther and others throughout the ages that we are children of the Light, that we are of the day, that our only offensive combat weapon is the sword of the Spirit that is the Word of God, that we wrestle not against flesh and blood. Another Dark Ages is now enveloping this nation and the West. Let us not be apart of it. As Philippians 2:15-16 says, Let us truly be “the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; Holding forth the word of life.”
Other Sources Used Not Listed Already Above:
Information regarding Constantine:
*Doc Marquis various dvds
Mithras/Sun god Religion:
*Encyclopedia Britannica (online)
Information about the Reformers/Martyrs:
*Foxe’s Book of Martyrs
Canon of Scripture:
A Mighty Fortress Is Our God
by Martin Luther
A mighty fortress is our God, A bulwark never failing.
Our helper He amid the flood, Of mortal ills prevailing.
For still our ancient foe, Doth seek to work us woe.
His craft and power are great, And, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.
Did we in our own strength confide, Our striving would be losing,
Were not the right man on our side, The man of God’s own choosing.
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He.
Lord Sabaoth, his name, From age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.
And though this world, with devils filled, Should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us.
The Prince of Darkness grim, We tremble not for him.
His rage we can endure, For lo, his doom is sure.
One little word shall fell him.
That word above all earthly powers Not thanks to them, abideth.
The Spirit and the gifts are ours Through him who with us sideth.
Let goods and kindred go, This mortal life also.
The body they may kill, God’s truth abideth still.
His kingdom is forever…