Early Church Persecution
The early home churches under their pastors looked to the authority of the Word as received in the gospel accounts of the life of the Lord and the writings of the Apostles, together with the Old Testament. These pastors and churches had a true and living faith in God’s grace through the Gospel. From the letter of Paul to the Romans one sees that the Gospel was faithfully treasured in those early Roman congregations. At the beginning of this letter the Apostle commends the believers at Rome for their faith, “first, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all,that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world, for God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son.…” Such approvals are infrequent with the Apostle Paul. The faith of the churches of Rome continued to be well known and faithfully lived for two hundred fifty years more under very adverse situations, including extreme persecutions, the most famous being that which took place under Emperor Nero in the 64 A.D. Totally unimaginable for these early believers in Rome would be the present concept of “the most holy Roman Pontiff.” Unthinkable likewise would be the belief that rituals could confer the grace of the Holy Spirit, and that Mary the mother of the Lord, could be addressed in prayer as “the All Holy One.” In the fellowship of believers, a top heavy hierarchical system, from layperson to priest, from to priest to bishop, from bishop to cardinal and cardinal to pope would have been totally abhorrent, as from the world and not from Christ who said, “One is your Master,even Christ; and all ye are brethren.”
The spread of the Christian faith during the first three centuries was extensive and rapid. In the providence of God, the main reasons for this were the fidelity and zeal of the preachers of the Gospel, the heroic deaths of the martyrs, and the translation of the Scriptures into the languages of the Roman world. Under Emperor Septimius Severus (193-211) Christians suffered appallingly. The most severe persecution was under the Emperor Diocletian and his co-regent, Galerius, during the years 303-311. The historian Philip Schaff states that, “all copies of the Bible were to be burned; all Christians were to be deprived of public office and civil rights; and last, all, without exception, were to sacrifice to the gods upon pain of death.” Yet far from exterminating the Christians and the Gospel, the persecution purified those who preached and increased their ability to give the Gospel message.
The Gradual Rise of Papal Rome and Roman Catholicism
The persecution of Christians ended in 313 A.D. when the emperors Constantine in the West and Licinius in the East proclaimed the Edict of Milan. This decree established the policy of religious freedom for both paganism and Christianity. Four vice-prefects governed the Roman Empire under Constantine. Accordingly, under his authority the Christian world was to be governed from four great cities, Antioch, Alexandria, Jerusalem, and Rome. Over each city there was set a Patriarch, who governed all the elders of his domain. (This was later to be a called a diocese.) The mind of and purpose of Constantine was that the Christian churches were to be organized in a fashion similar to the government of the Empire.
The respect enjoyed by the various Christian elders was usually in proportion to the status of the city in which they resided. At that time, Rome was the most powerful city in the world, the principle city of the Empire. Since Rome was the most prestigious city, it stood to unbiblical reason that the most prominent and influential bishop should be the Bishop of Rome. Gradually the honor and respect given to the Bishop of Rome grew, and these bishops in turn desired this adulation from bishops of other cities. The church was in such a decline that with the passing of third and fourth centuries the bishops of Rome began to demand recognition for the exalted position they now considered their possession.
In the fourth and fifth centuries as the true Gospel was watered down, its place was taken by ritualism and ceremony. The true worship of God and the inner conviction of the Holy Spirit gave way to formal rites and idolatry. Pagan practices were also introduced, white washed with an external form of Christianity.
Starting in the 4th Century
The church at Rome in its early beginning was a community of people guided by a few of the local Christian men. The men of this congregation referred to the letters of the apostles, which now compose the Bible as their authority in matters of proper teaching or doctrine. At this time, there was no man within the church having a pompous title or position lording it over the others, in fact, it was forbidden in these letters. 1 Corinthians 4:6 states “And these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos for your sakes; that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another.” The Bible warned that from the midst of the church would arise a power that would attempt to destroy the Gospel and the simple brotherhood of believers. This was nowhere more graphically fulfilled than in the rise of the office of the papacy out of the church that had been established in Rome.
Persecution by The Roman Church
Most people have some knowledge of the holocaust, the six years of torture, death, and atrocities that the Jews, Poles, Gypsies, and a number of other minority groups suffered under Hitler and the Nazis during the Second World War. While in no way downplaying the terrible events of the holocaust, such a massacre does not compare to the severity of the torture and murder that took place under papal authority during the 605 years of the Roman Catholic Inquisition.
From the beginning of the papacy, until the present time, it is estimated by credible historians that more than fifty million men and women have been slaughtered for the crime of heresy charged against them by Papal Rome. This is documented in John Dowling’s The History of Romanism, Book 8, Ch. 1, pp. 542, 543: “From the birth of Popery in 600, to the present time, it is estimated by careful and credible historians, that more than FIFTY MILLION of the human family have been slaughtered for the crime of heresy by popish persecutors, an average of more than forty thousand religious murders for every year of the existence of Popery.” The main credible historians on the Inquisition, besides Dowling himself are Lea, Vancandard, Maycock, Coulton, and Turberville.
Secondly, Scott’s Church History gives a few sets of numbers, with the qualification, “No computation can reach the numbers who have been put to death, in different ways, on account of their maintaining the profession of the Gospel, and opposing the corruption of the Church of Rome. A MILLION of poor Waldenses perished in France; NINE HUNDRED THOUSAND orthodox Christians were slain in less than thirty years after the institution of the order of the Jesuits. The Duke of Alva boasted of having put to death in the Netherlands, THIRTY-SIX THOUSAND by the hand of the common executioner during the space of a few years. The Inquisition destroyed, by various tortures, ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY THOUSAND within thirty years. These are a few specimens, and but a few, of those which history has recorded; but the total amount will never be known till the earth shall disclose her blood, and no more cover her slain.”
The torture chambers of the Inquisition lasted 605 years and were found throughout the nations controlled by Rome. They had their beginning under Pope Innocent III in 1203 until the Inquisition’s final dissolution in Spain, Portugal and South America in 1808.
The Reformation spanned many centuries and was led by a succession of men raised up from within the walls of the Roman Catholic religion. They were Catholic priest who desired to offer the words and message of the Bible in the common language of the people. They were persecuted, men of sound minds, thoroughly trained in all things Catholic, priests and scholars who dared to exposit the Holy Scriptures. Their message was not of a new brand of Protestant Christianity but a revival of what was taught in the beginning. They joined the ranks of those since the time of the apostles who proclaimed the free grace of salvation. Long before catholicism had its start in the late 4th century and throughout its controlling dark ages stood many Christians who never partook in her rituals and sacraments. These early Christians were a pivotal influence on such early reformers as John Wycliff. The Reformation eventually broke down the papal walls of tyrannical control and laid the foundation for the spread of liberty and biblical faith that still exist today.
John Wycliffe 1320’s-1384
John Wycliff, the “Morning star of the Reformation”, was born almost 200 years before the Reformation had been popularized. However, his beliefs and teachings closely match those of Martin Luther and John Calvin. John was born at Ipreswell (modern Hipswell), Yorkshire, England, between 1320 and 1330, he later died at Lutterworth on December 31, 1384.
The influence of the Christian, non Roman Catholic, people known as the Waldensians or Vaudois had been having a dramatic impact upon John. Wycliff was a highly educated Roman Catholic priest and theologian who took to heart the lives and testimonies of these people who had a faith grounded in the word of God and not in a church. John initiated the first English translation of the Bible. As he grew in his understanding of holy scripture, he openly began to criticize the abuses and false teachings in the Roman Church. His followers, known as the Lollards, were itinerant preachers that he sent throughout England, inspiring a spiritual revolution.
John Huss 1369-1415
John Huss (Jan Hus) was born in Bohemia which is now part of the Czech Republic. He was ordained a priest in 1400 and began preaching at the Bethlehem Chapel in 1402. John was a popular preacher and writer and his congregation was often more than 3,000 people. Having been influenced by the writings of Wycliff, he preached godliness and openly criticized the Catholic clergy for their drunkenness and immoral living.
On December 20, 1409 the Pope issued a bull forbidding John’s teachings and ordered all of his books to be burned. In November of 1414, John was betrayed, arrested and taken to a dank dungeon where he remained in chains for seventy-three days. In the spring of 1415 John was brought to trial with 30 false charges leveled against him. He was repeatedly asked to recant his beliefs which he refused unless convinced by scripture of his errors.
On July 6, 1415, John’s hands were tied behind his back and a chain was hung around his neck. Wood and straw were placed all around him and his writings were used as kindling for the fire. Before the fire was lit, Count Palatine gave him one last chance to recant, he responded, “God is my witness that the evidence against me is false, I have never thought nor preached except with the one intention of winning men, if possible, from their sins, today I will gladly die.” As the flames began, he sang in Latin, “Christ, thou Son of the living God, have mercy upon me.” His ashes were scattered in the Rhine river.
William Tyndale – The English Reformer : 1494-1536
William Tyndale was born in approximately 1494, in a small village near Dursley, Gloucestershire England. William was admitted to Oxford University and obtained the degrees of Bachelor and Master of Arts. In the year 1515, he was ordained into the Roman Catholic Priesthood. William was a gifted linguist, fluent in French, Greek, Hebrew, German, Italian, Latin, and Spanish.
William Tyndale eventually became one of the most wanted men in England. Pursued by the Cardinal Wolsey, the pope’s personal legate, William darted across Europe to avoid capture. Tyndale was always pushing to complete the task of translating the Bible into English. Since the Bible was outlawed by the Roman Catholic Church, he had made it his goal to publish the scripture for his fellow Englishmen. He is known today as “the Father of the English Bible”. He was eventually jailed, tried for heresy and burned at the stake by his roman catholic persecutors.
Martin Luther – The German Reformer : November 10, 1483-February 18, 1546
Martin Luther was a German Roman Catholic monk, theologian, university professor and church reformer whose ideas inspired the Protestant Reformation and changed the course of Western civilization. Luther’s theology challenged the authority of the papacy by holding that the Bible is the only infallible source of religious authority. Luther proclaimed the Bibles message that salvation was a free gift of God, received only by true repentance and faith in Jesus, a faith and repentance given by God and unmediated by the church.
Luther’s confrontation with Charles V at the Diet of Worms over freedom of conscience in 1521 and his refusal to submit to the authority of the Emperor resulted in his being declared an outlaw of the state as he was excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church. Because of the perceived unity of the medieval Church with the secular rulers of western Europe, the widespread acceptance of Luther’s doctrines and popular vindication of his thinking on individual liberties were both phenomenal and unprecedented.
Ulrich Zwingli -The Swiss Reformer : Jan. 1, 1484 – Oct. 11, 1531
Ulrich Zwingli was born on New Year’s Day, 1484 in Wildhaus, Switzerland. Ulrich studied at the University of Vienna, Berne and at the University of Basel. He was highly educated in the classical studies of poetry, philosophy, music, astronomy and physics. He acquired his B.A. degree in 1504 and Master of Arts in 1506 at the University of Basel. In the year 1506 he was ordained into the catholic priesthood. In 1515, he moved to Einsiedeln, where he saw, up close, the blatant evil inherent in many roman catholic practices such as the buying of indulgences.
In 1520, the plague had struck Zurich and destroyed nearly a third of its inhabitants. Zwingli himself who had been faithfully ministering to the needs of his people, had also been struck, however, he emerged from his near death experience as a changed man. After recovering from the plague he was fully converted to biblical faith and began preaching against the evils of the roman catholic church. Zwingli earnestly began fighting for strict obedience to the literal teachings of scripture. What followed was a unstoppable reformation movement that resulted in the demise of Catholicism in Switzerland.
Zwingli’s beliefs were simple and straightforward: the Bible is truth; anything not in the Bible is not truth. It was the simplicity of this message that garnered him great public support from the people in Switzerland; and eventually outrage, and even war, from Roman Catholic officials.
John Calvin – The French Reformer
John Calvin, the French reformer was one of the most influential men of the Reformation movement. John was born on July 10th, 1509 in Noyon, France. He was raised in a staunch Roman Catholic family and eventually ordained into the catholic priesthood in the town of his birth. In a 1533 He underwent a “sudden conversion” and dedicated the rest of his life to developing a deep and thorough explanation of Reformation beliefs and the biblical gospel.
In 1536, he published The Institutes of the Christian Religion which was then, and is still today, considered the most comprehensive single volume written on Reform theology. Calvin is credited with advancing the cause of the Reformation to such diverse locations as Geneva, America, Holland, Poland and Scotland. His teachings continue to strongly influence Protestant theology today.
“Woe to the Papists who have no other rule of faith than the tradition of the Church. As for us, let us remember that the Son of God, who alone can and ought to pronounce in this matter, approves of no other faith but that which comes from the doctrine of the Apostles, of which we find no certain testimony except in their writings.” ……John Calvin
John Knox – The Scottish Reformer : 1505-1572
John Knox is considered to be the greatest Reformer in the history of Scotland. John was educated at the University of Glasgow, and ordained as a catholic priest in 1530. John had been serving as a priest for 10 years when he was converted to biblical Christianity through the study of the Bible and the writings of Augustine and Jerome. His witness to the killing of George Wishart, who was burned at the stake by catholic authorities had also left a deep impression on him.
John Knox spoke boldly in opposition of the roman church, continually confronting her grievous errors and anti-biblical teachings. John abhorred the mass as an abominable idolatry and viewed the office of the pope as the great anti-Christ apostasy and Babylonish harlot predicted in the Bible. One day, after preaching to the soldiers in the garrison of St. Andrew’s, he was taken prisoner by the French fleet (1547), and made a galley-slave for nineteen months. When called upon to kiss an image of the Holy Virgin, he declared that it was ‘no mother of God, but a painted piece of wood, fit for swimming rather than being worshiped;’ and he flung the picture into the river Loire. Later when freed, he preached in England until the reign of the Roman Catholic Queen, Mary Tudor, know as Bloody Mary.
The Benefits of the Great Reformation
The Reformation brought about liberty and freedom. With its fruit being a civilized society with blossoming growth in the arts, humanities, sciences and the basis of Law and limited government. The Heritage of the Reformation is essential to our present time. If personally, and in your church, you return to the foundational authority of Scripture alone, deeply experience grace alone through faith alone, and comprehend all blessing in Jesus Christ alone, then indeed, you will live proclaiming all glory and praise to the Lord God alone!
Failure to recognize the historical facts of the brutal works of the Roman Catholic Church leaves a people and nation prey to the very political and religious system lead by the very AntiChrist of scripture.
From the Reformation to Modern Time : 1798-Present
Quiet, calculated, and premeditated legal agreements between civil authorities and Papal Rome have made the horrors of history possible. In the past as well in these modern times the Roman Catholic Church has proclaimed that salvation is only by means of her sacramental system, and therefore of necessity. She has always needed a legally engineered force to silence the true Gospel and those who proclaim it. The Catholic Church’s apostasy from the Gospel has not changed in the 193 years since the Inquisition officially ended, as Vatican Council II (Oct. 11, 1962 to Dec. 8, 1965) and the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1994) clearly show. At this present time, in a calm and deliberate manner, the Roman Catholic Church has designed civil agreements between herself and most nations of our day. To keep current on these agreements please visit:
From all credible historians, it is clear, the pages of Roman Catholic Church history have been written in blood. The Reformation allowed biblical Christianity to blossom and spread out and away from the Roman Catholic religious system. However, the religious system of Roman Catholicism has not change, and its true nature needs to be exposed just as in the days of old.
20th CENTURY ATROCITIES OF THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH
If you think the Catholic Inquisition was a thing of the far distant past, think again. Most people are shocked to learn of the gruesome history of the Roman Catholic church in the 20th century; a history that, for the most part, has been suppressed and or re-written. And as a result, most people in the 21st century know little or nothing of true Catholicism.
Did you know over 200 French Calvinists were murdered in Florida in 1565 by the Roman Catholic Spanish? They were murdered because they were considered enemies to the Holy Roman Catholic Church.
Vatican Control Though Civil Law
Cardinal Secretary of State, Eugenio Pacelli (later to become Pope Pius XII) signs the Concordat between Nazi Germany and the Vatican at a formal ceremony in Rome on 20 July 1933. Nazi Vice-Chancellor Franz von Papen sits at the left, Pacelli in the middle, and the Rudolf Buttmann sits at the right. The Concordat effectively legitimized Hitler and the Nazi government to the eyes of Catholicism, Christianity, and the world.
Today’s Vatican is eager to join hands with evangelicals and all religions worldwide.