1517, A Mighty Fortress Is Our God, Constantine, Genesis 1, good vs evil, John 1, Light overcoming darkness, Martin Luther, Mithras, Pontifex Maximus, Reformation Day, samhain, syncratism, Wittenberg castle
Something not often thought of happened on October 31st, something that has nothing to do with costumes, candy, or carving pumpkins; something that impacted the world; something that paved the way for the founding of America. Indeed, it is so pivotal that if it had not happened, America would not have happened. On October 31st of 1517, the high holy day of Samhain (Satan) lord of death –the holiday now called Halloween– 34-year-old Martin Luther pounded 95 Theses to the Wittenberg Castle church in Germany. Indeed that was the nail and hammer not only heard round the world but one that shook the powers of darkness. But the battle did not begin here, and the battle did not end there either.
The Battle’s Beginning in Genesis 1: Let There Be Light
The battle’s beginning is conveyed in the very first verses of the first chapter of the Bible. “In the beginning God created the heaven 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 moved upon the face 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 than at first comprehended at a cursory glance, or even a second and third reading. 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 have to do with destruction that follows God’s judgment. And there was darkness on the face of the deep. The darkness spoken of here is a darkness that could be felt, and the “waters of the deep” is reference to an abyss of a surging mass of agitated waters of fathomless depth. In other words, this was not a serene 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, 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 void…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 ruinous confusion, 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.
John 1: And the Darkness Could Not Comprehend It
Even so, in John 1, the 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 entering this darkened world and with that entrance saying loud and clear with all authority and power, “I Am the Light of the world!” 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!
Persecution: Like Gasoline on a Flame
Time after time, that same darkness has fought to overcome that Light, that Word of God. From the very birth of the Church, it has sought to silence the Gospel of Life and Light, mainly through persecution and fear. Upwards to 2 million martyrs have spilled their blood for Christ, as Roman emperors burned the Scriptures, crucified Christians, 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. In the words of early church Christian writer and apologist Tertullian of Carthage, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” Truly, persecution was like gasoline to the flame of Christianity.
Temporary Peace and Infiltration: the Dimming of the Light
Then, as the Roman empire began to disintegrate from within and without, an eerie lull descended on the Church bringing at first a needed respite from the fangs of ravenous persecution. Constantine was the Roman emperor who 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” –of them all. Though this temporary amity gave the Church a brief break from outside persecution and allowed for the Nicene Creed (of A.D. 325) and the Canon of the Bible to be compiled, the pulsating darkness of paganism and syncretism began to spread its tentacles within the Church. Christians became comfortable in their new found peace. This led to the Gospel being proclaimed less, until eventually the Word of God was withheld from the common people. Thus, the Dark Ages descended upon the Church.
The Flickering Lights of the Dark Ages
Fear of death dominated people’s minds. Owning a Bible was against the law; 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”) on earth and his word was infallible; salvation was through works and the buying of indulgences. 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), but if they bought indulgences they could cut their time there short and also free other loved ones from that horrific place. 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 obtain indulgences that would shorten their time 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 (quote from “Let Us Not Forget” listed below).
1517: The Light That Pierced the Darkness
By the year 1517, over 1500 years of darkness had suffocated the multitudes with superstition, papal power and frightening visions of purgatory. According to various sources, during that time period between 50 million and 150 million Christians were martyred for their faith, even for simply owning or reading a Bible in their own language.
Then, 504 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 its sparks sent the demons squealing with terror. Indeed, it was the hammer heard round the world! For not only did Luther dare to nail his 95 debate questions 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 the Word of God in the language of the people.
A copy of Luther’s New Testament translated from Greek into the German language of the people “was released September 21, 1522…”. “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”. Finally, in 1534, the whole of the Bible had been translated by Luther into the German language. 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 had desired (also known as “the morning star of the reformation”), every plow boy could read the Word.
The endless night of the Dark Ages ruled by Popes and Bishops, superstition and mysticism was pierced by the blinding, enduring light of God, as Martin Luther nailed the theses to the chapel door and then as he 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. A people who had never owned a printed work in their lives nor the lives of their parents nor grandparents nor great grandparents now embraced a copy of the Word of God. 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.
503 years ago, a young man named Martin Luther risked his life to ask questions that needed to be asked, and though he honored the Roman Catholic Church he dared to question the unScriptural behavior of its 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 that 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). 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)
Because of Martin Luther and a multitude of others who unashamedly declared the truth, because of the handful who translated the Scripture at the risk of their lives and those of their families’, and because of the millions who chose to die for Jesus, one day in 1620 Christian Pilgrims crossed the turbulent Atlantic Ocean to form a nation founded on freedom of worship. Thus, today in America, Christians are free to read a Bible in their own language and can freely partake of Communion in remembrance of Jesus’ death on the cross for our sins. This is the incredible testimony of the great impact the Reformation has had on the world. Without the Reformation there would have been no Pilgrims, no Puritans, and thus no America as we know it today.
I encourage us all to not take for granted what Christ has done for us nor take for granted our religious liberty. 503 years after Martin Luther, our enemy is still at work, and another Dark Ages has descended upon this nation and the western church. Since the foundation of the world until now, the darkness still hates the light.
Let us therefore, today on October 31st, celebrate Reformation Day. Let us celebrate Martin Luther and others who shined in the darkness, and celebrate the light of Jesus that cannot be overcome. Let us celebrate this holiday of light, and not Halloween the holiday of darkness. Let us celebrate this holiday of eternal life, and not Halloween the holiday of death and human sacrifice. Let us not compromise like the Church of Constantine’s day, but instead stand firm like Martin Luther. Let us not be mesmerized by candy-coated Satanism, after all, Halloween really is the devil’s holiday. God is about to judge America for defiant compromise. Let’s not be a part of that! (For an excellent source on Halloween, please check out this article by Good Fight Ministries, “A Christian Response to Halloween,” https://www.goodfight.org/articles/cults-occult/christian-response-halloween/?fbclid=IwAR1mnhYxev1YTAdMpndr21-yVF-RwfUipjdWk-YkocqEQMBjjJ5LQc4fs5U).
Furthermore, let us also keep in mind those such as John Wycliffe, Jerome Savonarola, and John Huss who uncompromisingly laid down their lives, and men like Martin Luther who risked it all so that we today could have the Bible in our own language and worship God freely. Let us remember other Christians throughout the ages who have lived and died as children of light in the midst of grave darkness. I want to encourage my fellow Christians to remember that we too are children of the Light, that we are of the day, that our greatest offensive combat weapon is the sword of the Spirit that is the Word of God, that we wrestle not against flesh and blood. 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.”
A Mighty Fortress Is Our God, by Martin Luther in 1529
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, no thanks to them, abideth; the Spirit and the gifts are ours, thru 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.
The Complete Word Study Dictionary of the Old Testament, pgs. 121 #922 bohu and 1214 #8414 tohu, and #7363 rachaph.
Strong’s, #8415 tehom and root word #1949 huwm
“Numbers and Necessities,” http://webwitness.org.au/estimates.html
“The Trail of Blood,” article by J. M. Carroll, http://www.fbinstitute.com/trail/lect6.htm.
“Let Us Not Forget,” https://holylight4u.wordpress.com/2016/10/27/let-us-not-forget/
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
For an excellent source on Halloween, please check out this article by Good Fight Ministries, “A Christian Response to Halloween,” https://www.goodfight.org/articles/cults-occult/christian-response-halloween/?fbclid=IwAR1mnhYxev1YTAdMpndr21-yVF-RwfUipjdWk-YkocqEQMBjjJ5LQc4fs5U