Hope of Israel Ministries (Ecclesia of YEHOVAH):
The Seventh-Day Baptist Church In PROPHECY
Do you know that the 7th-Day Baptist Church is mentioned in the Book of Revelation and is, in fact, the modern-day equivalent of the 1st-century Pergamum Church of Asia Minor? WHAT does the notorious King Henry VIII and the Church of England have to do with the 'throne of Satan'? WHAT does the 'teaching of Balaam' have to do with those overseeing the early 7th-Day Baptist congregations in Britain and the U.S.? Read about the brutal martydom of John James and the incredible story of the English Nicolaitans!
by John D. Keyser
Around the year 1585, 1260 years after the Church of God was forced underground by the edicts of Constantine, a revival took place -- this time in England during the reign of Elizabeth I. Chambers' Encyclopedia states that at this time "many conscientious and independent thinkers... advocated the seventh-day [Sabbath]" (Article "Sabbath").
John Stockwood, writing in the year 1584, noted that: "A great diversity of opinion [existed] among vulgar people and simple sort, concerning the Sabbath day, and the right use of the same." Some writers claimed that there were those who kept the seventh-day Sabbath during the earlier reign of Edward VI (1507-53); however this is hard to verify.
The writer Gilfillan reports: "Some [are] maintaining the unchanged and unchangeable obligation of the seventh-day Sabbath. At what time the SEVENTH-DAY BAPTISTS began to form churches in this kingdom does not appear; but probably it was at an early period; and although their churches have never been numerous, yet there have been among them almost for two hundred years past, some very eminent men."
We can see that Sabbath keepers were now commonly coming into historical view; and a number of them were publishing books concerning the observance of the Seventh-day Sabbath.
In the early 1600s a man by the name of John Trask appeared on the scene, and began to powerfully preach that the Church of England was observing YEHOVAH's Sabbath day at the wrong time. Trask also taught the annual Sabbaths! A Short History of Quakerism, by Elizabeth Emmott, states that "the Traskites...observe[d] MANY Jewish ceremonies."
In the year 1616 or 1617, John Trask came to London from Salisbury, and started to hold revival meetings there. Four evangelists were ordained and many in the area of London were brought to real conversion.
Being a very bold and zealous man, he soon came to the notice of the Church of England, which immediately set about curtailing Trask's efforts. He was soon afterwards arrested, censured in the Star Chamber, set on the pillory and publicly flogged.
He then was incarcerated in the Fleet Prison. "After enduring the misery of his prison for one year, he recanted his doctrine," and finally obtained his release, and shortly "afterwards relapsed, not into the same, but other opinions rather humorous than hurtful" (Cox's Literature of the Sabbath Question, Vol. I, p. 157.).
His wife died in prison after being confined for 15 years for her unyielding belief in YEHOVAH's Sabbath day.
It has been said that Trask founded the MILL YARD CHURCH in London shortly after he arrived there from Salisbury; however some writers have mentioned that this church was established as far back as 1580 -- long before Trask arrived on the scene.
Another man, JOHN JAMES, is also considered to have founded this church. A History of the True Religion, by Dugger and Dodd, states "That John Trask AND John James were the founders of the Mill Yard Church, London, 1616-1661" (page 246). However, the Seventh-Day Baptist Church considers John James the SOLE founder since Trask was an Episcopal (Church of England) minister and not a Baptist. James was also associated with the Bull-Stake Alley Church in London. Unfortunately, the records of the Mill Yard Church up to 1673 were destroyed in the fire of 1790, making it impossible to ascertain the facts with any degree of certainty.
Another man who shared Trask's Sabbath belief was Theophilus Brabourne, a former Puritan minister from Norfolk. It was this area of England where many ANABAPTISTS from Holland had migrated. In 1628 and 1632 Brabourne published some books advocating the Biblical Sabbath, and sent a copy of one of his works to King Charles I, urging him to use his royal powers to change the national day of worship from Sunday to Saturday. Unfortunately Trask, and those who followed him, did not realize that YEHOVAH's weekly Sabbath day conforms to the lunar calendar just like the annual Feast days.
The king, however, was immersed in the problems of the nation and had little time for Brabourne's arguments. Consequently, he handed the matter over to a church official by the name of Francis White, who brought official pressure to bear upon the unfortunate Brabourne. According to Cox, Brabourne "became a convert, conforming himself quietly to the Church of England. His followers, however, did not accompany him back to orthodoxy" (Cox's Literature of the Sabbath Question, Vol. 2, p. 6).
Cox makes mention, in Volume 1 of the same work, that Brabourne "may be regarded as the FOUNDER IN ENGLAND of the sect at first known as Sabbatarians, but now calling themselves SEVENTH DAY BAPTISTS...This sect arose in GERMANY in the 16th Century" (Page 220). This means that the originators of the Seventh-Day Baptist movement had been among those known as ANABAPTISTS -- many of whom were Sabbath keepers.
According to J.N. Andrews, in his work History of the Sabbath:
About this time Philip Tandy began to promulgate in the northern part of England the SAME DOCTRINE [as Brabourne] concerning the Sabbath. He was educated in the established church [Church of England], of which he became a minister. Having changed his views respecting the mode of baptism and the day of the Sabbath, he abandoned that church and 'became a mark for many shots. ' He held several public disputes about his peculiar sentiments.
Another book discussing the true Sabbath was written by James Ockford and published about 1642. J.N. Andrews explains:
James Ockford was another early advocate in England of the claims of the seventh day as the Sabbath. He appears to have been well acquainted with the discussions in which TRASK AND BRABOURNE had been engaged.
Being dissatisfied with the pretended conviction of Brabourne, he wrote a book in defense of Sabbatarian views, entitled, The Doctrine of the Fourth Commandment. The book, published about the year 1642, was burnt by order of the authorities in the established church [Church of England]. -- History of the Sabbath.
It is very difficult to get a clear picture of the congregations and local members of YEHOVAH's Church in England during the early decades of the 1600's. Aside from the destruction of the Mill Yard Church records in the 1790 fire, secrecy prevailed amongst the Churches because of persecution from the Church of England; and records were kept to a minimum.
This was a perilous time for the seekers of YEHOVAH's truth. We know that a minister of the Seventh-Day Baptist congregations in London was MARTYRED for preaching and conducting services outside the established church.
We have also learned that the Mill Yard (London) Church goes back at least to the time of Trask and the four evangelists ordained by him; and positive evidence also exists showing the viability of several other congregations in the 1650s.
The Bible Correspondence Course, published by Ambassador College, states that "By 1668, there were in England 'nine or ten congregations besides numerous scattered believers in other places.' So wrote the famous seventh day minister, Edward Stennett, to Rhode Island [U.S.] members not yet organized into a local church" (Lesson 53, p. 5).
About 1675 two brothers -- Frances and Thomas Banefield (also spelled "Bampfield) -- wrote and published books on the seventh-day Sabbath and other truths of the Bible. One of the brothers, Frances, published an autobiography entitled, The Life of Shem Acher, in which he draws a parallel between his own calling and ministry and that of the Apostle Paul.
Ivor Fletcher, in his book The Incredible History of God's True Church, outlines the life of Frances Banefield:
Born in Devonshire in 1614 it was said that he was "designed for the ministry from his birth." He entered Wadham College, Oxford, in 1631 and left in 1638 with a degree in the Arts. Shortly after this he was ordained a deacon in the Church of England by Bishop Hall.
He was later given a position, within that church, in Dorset with a salary of 100 pounds per year. A zealous and hardworking minister, he purchased books and Bibles for his congregation out of his own pocket.
His personal study of the Bible brought him to an understanding of the truth of God. For a time he was permitted to preach these newly discovered truths to his Dorset congregation; in 1662, however, he was forced to make a decision -- would he obey God or the State?
The Ambassador College Bible Correspondence Course picks up the story from this point:
Francis Bampfield was driven from his Church of England pastorate in Devonshire by the 1662 Act of Conformity. Much of his remaining life was spent in various jails. He raised up a small Sabbath-keeping congregation within the walls of Dorchester jail. When released, he began to hold meetings in London in his own hired house -- much like the Apostle Paul did in Acts 28:30-31 -- and then organized a congregation that continued over a hundred years. When seized again, he soon died in prison. -- Lesson 53, p. 5.
Edward Stennett, whom we mentioned earlier, then became the pastor of this church.
Due to the persecution of the times, these Sabbath-keeping churches in London were reduced from seven congregations in 1646 down to three in 1677. However, YEHOVAH God had not forsaken His Church!
YEHOVAH God's Church in America
During this difficult time, when God's Church in England was being worn down by persecution from the Church of England, the Eternal God caused His Church to be established across the sea in America. The Seventh-Day Baptist Church, free from much of the persecution and other restrictions suffered under the reign of Charles II and the Restoration, would be able to flourish and grow in the New World.
According to R.C. Nickels, in his book entitled Sabbatarian Baptists in America:
Stephen Mumford came over from London in 1664, and brought the opinion with him that the whole of the ten commandments, as they were delivered from Mount Sinai, were moral and immutable; and that it was the Antichristian power which thought to change times and laws, that changed the Sabbath from the seventh to the first day of the week...Mumford, who originally came from Tewkesbury, was sent to Newport, Rhode Island, by the Bell Lane Sabbatarian Church of London...
Mumford may have been induced to come by Dr. John Clarke, pastor of the Newport First-Day Baptist church, who was agent of the colony to the court of Charles II. The King's charter held by Clarke granted 'unlimited toleration in religion to all people of Rhode Island. ' Mumford could thus be escaping religious persecution by coming to the New World.
Mumford did not succumb to Sunday-keeping, nor did he keep his Sabbath beliefs to himself.
Evidently one of his first converts -- possibly the first person in America to start keeping the seventh-day Sabbath (unfortunately according to the Gregorian calendar and not according to the moon's cycles) -- was a woman by the name of Tacy Hubbard. Her husband Samuel joined in the observance a short time later. The little group gradually EXPANDED; and in 1671 Stephen Mumford, Samuel Hubbard and some others, officially formed the first Seventh-Day Baptist Church in the American colonies.
As this group of YEHOVAH's people in America increased in size, the "mother church" back in England steadily DECLINED. A. Underwood, in his treatise called A History of the English Baptists, observes that "The middle of the eighteenth century marks the virtual disappearance of the Seventh Day Baptist churches [in England]. Their numbers had never been considerable but they had several churches in London and the Provinces. By 1754, there was no Seventh-Day minister left, though ordinary Baptist ministers were willing to do double duty" (page 147).
By 1848, there were only three churches left out of the eleven that existed one hundred and fifty years previous; and in 1901 there was only one Seventh-Day Baptist Church left. Statistics from the Seventh-Day Baptist headquarters in Plainfield, New Jersey, show that by 1984 only fifty members were left in the entirety of Britain.
Meanwhile, across the ocean in America, a number of Sabbath-keeping congregations were being formed in different parts of the country; and the gospel was spreading from state to state. Unfortunately, along with this growth came a watering down of YEHOVAH God's truth; and by 1802, when they began to arrange themselves into a General Conference, many of them began teaching the pagan Trinity concept and the immortality of the soul.
Ivor C. Fletcher maintains that "The nineteenth century saw a growing acceptance of Catholic and Protestant doctrines by Seventh-Day Baptists. Their 1833 General Conference produced an 'Expose of Sentiments' which included a statement on the Trinity" (The Incredible History of God's True Church, p. 213).
By 1846 their numbers had increased to 6,092; and they maintained that level through to 1917. By 1984 there were 5,150 Seventh-Day Baptists in the United States, and a worldwide total of 52,700.
Message to the Pergamum Church
With this brief overview of the Seventh-Day Baptist Church, we are now in a position to discover what Yeshua the Messiah, in His Word, has to say about this Church.
Let's turn to Revelation 2:12:
To the angel of the church in PERGAMUM write:
These are the words of him who has the sharp DOUBLE-EDGED SWORD. I know where you live -- WHERE SATAN HAS HIS THRONE. Yet you remain true to my name. You DID NOT RENOUNCE YOUR FAITH IN ME, even in the days of ANTIPAS, MY FAITHFUL WITNESS, WHO WAS PUT TO DEATH IN YOUR CITY -- where Satan lives.
Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: You have people there who hold to the TEACHING OF BALAAM, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by EATING FOOD SACRIFICED TO IDOLS and by COMMITTING SEXUAL IMMORALITY. Likewise you also have those who hold to the TEACHING OF THE NICOLAITANS. Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a WHITE STONE with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it. -- NIV.
Before we go through and analyze these verses in Revelation 2, let's get some BACKGROUND INFORMATION on the first-century city of Pergamum to help us understand the full intent of the message to this Church.
The City of Pergamum
Pergamum was a city in the district of Mysia -- part of the Roman province of Asia -- and lay some 15 miles from the Aegean Sea. It sat at the origin of an important imperial trade route that traveled south to the Mediterranean at Attaleia. Five of the seven cities of Revelation lay in order along this roadPergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea. Pergamum commanded the valley of the Caicus River, and lay between two streams that fell into the Caicus about four miles distant.
This CAPITAL CITY of Mysia was considered by Pliny to be "by far the most distinguished city in Asia." Built on a cone-shaped hill one thousand feet in height, it dominated the surrounding valley. This hill eventually became the site of the Acropolis and many of the chief buildings of the later city. Its name in Greek (Pergamon) means "citadel."
The site appears to have been inhabited from prehistoric times, and there is some uncertainty as to the origin of its people; but there is evidence to suggest they came from Achaia in Greece. This would likely make the inhabitants Israelite in descent.
By 420 B.C. Pergamum was striking coins, and in the next century Xenophon mentioned it as a fortified city. Following the death of Alexander the Great, it became part of Lysimachus' territory; and Lysimachus' lieutenant Philetaerus became ruler of the city and surrounding territory, thus beginning the reign of the Attalids under whom Pergamum became a wealthy and important city.
During the reign of Eumenes II (197-159 B.C.) Pergamum became "the finest flower of Hellenic civilization" (Hough, IB, XII, p. 385). It boasted an immense library of more than 200,000 volumes -- rivaling the famous library in Alexandria. According to legend, writing parchment (charta Pergamena) was invented in the city at this time to overcome a shortage of papyrus when the supply was cut off from Egypt.
The last of the dynasty of the Attalids -- Attalus IIIbequeathed his kingdom, with the exception of Phrygia Magna, to the Romans; whereupon the city became the CAPITAL OF THE ROMAN PROVINCE OF ASIA.
Pergamum continued to rank -- for two centuries -- as the capital of Asia, and subsequently, with Ephesus and Smyrna, as one of the three great cities of the province. The devotion of its former kings -- those after Attalus III -- to the Roman cause was continued by its citizens, who erected on the Acropolis a temple to Caesar Augustus, thereby making Pergamum the CHIEF CENTER OF THE IMPERIAL CULT during the early empire. It was the FIRST city of Asia to receive permission to build a temple dedicated to the worship of a living ruler.
Pagan Religion and the Imperial Cult
In 29 B.C. Augustus granted permission that this temple be built in Pergamum to "the divine Augustus and the goddess Roma" (Tacitus, Ann. iii. 37). A second temple was built in Pergamum in honor of Trajan, and a third in honor of Severus. As a result, Pergamum was the center of the IMPERIAL CULT which was the keystone of imperial Roman policy.
Pagan religion flourished and was greatly stressed in Pergamum; and it seems that at the fall of Babylon in 539 B.C. Chaldean Magi (astrologers) fled from Babylon to Pergamum, where they set up their central college of the ancient Chaldean mystery religion. The city was also the center of worship for FOUR OF THE MOST IMPORTANT PAGAN CULTS OF THE DAY -- Zeus, Athena (the patron goddess), Dionysos, and Asklepios; and most of these were centered on the upper terrace of the acropolis. The temple of Athena crowned the steep hill; and jutting out directly beneath it was the huge altar of Zeus.
The shrine of Asklepios, the god of healing -- known as the Pergamene god -- attracted people from all over the world. Galen, one of the most famous physicians of the ancient world, was a native of Pergamum and studied medicine there.
The IMPERIAL CULT, however, was the one to have the most dramatic impact on the people of YEHOVAH God living in this city.
The Double-Edged Sword
In the last part of the 12th verse of Revelation 2, we read the following: "These are the words of him who has the sharp, DOUBLE-EDGED SWORD." What significance does this "double-edged sword" have in the message to the Pergamum Church? Why did Christ choose this particular imagery?
A Commentary on the Revelation of St. John the Divine, by G.B. Caird, answers in this way:
The senatorial governor of Asia was a proconsul and therefore possessed for the period of his office an almost UNLIMITED "imperium," of which the symbol was a SWORD (Rom. 13:4). This explains the choice of imagery in the opening sentence [of the message to the Pergamum Church]. The Christians are reminded that, although they live under the authority of one who holds the SWORD OF IMPERIAL JUSTICE, they are citizens also of the GREATER empire of him who needs no other weapon than the spoken word, the sword of his mouth, which is the WORD OF GOD...(Harper & Row, publishers, New York. 1966, pages 37-38).
Since Pergamum was the PROVINCIAL CAPITAL, the proconsul had the "right of the sword" (ius gladii) -- the POWER TO EXECUTE AT WILL. Remember this, because it has a bearing on a FUTURE FULFILLMENT to occur in another capital in another time.
Pergamum -- The Throne of Satan
Let's continue. Verse 13 of the message to the Church in Pergamum states: "I know where you live -- WHERE SATAN HAS HIS THRONE. Yet you remain true to my name. You DID NOT renounce your faith in me, even in the days of ANTIPAS, MY FAITHFUL WITNESS, who was PUT TO DEATH in your city -- WHERE SATAN LIVES."
Why was Pergamum the city "where Satan [had] his throne?" Why was it the city "where Satan [lived]?"
Let Robert H. Mounce, in his work The Book of Revelation, answer these questions:
The risen Christ knows where they [the Pergamum Church] live (the Greek word suggests permanent residence): it is "WHERE SATAN SITS ENTHRONED" (Moffatt, The NT: A New Translation)...The expression is best understood...in connection with the prominence of Pergamum as the OFFICIAL CULT CENTER OF EMPEROR WORSHIP IN ASIA. In addition to the erection of a temple to AUGUSTUS in 29 BC, a second temple was built in the time of Trajan when the city acquired the title "twice neokoros (temple warden)." It was here that SATAN HAD ESTABLISHED HIS OFFICIAL SEAT or chair of state. As ROME had become the center of Satan's activity in the West (cf. 13:2; 16:10), so PERGAMUM had become his "THRONE" in the East. -- William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, MI. 1977, pages 96-97.
As a result, of all the seven cities of Revelation 2 and 3, Pergamum was the one in which YEHOVAH's Church WAS MOST LIABLE TO CLASH WITH THIS IMPERIAL CULT. Why was this so? Because the imperial cult was the KEYSTONE of imperial policy, and refusal to take part in it CONSTITUTED HIGH TREASON TO THE STATE!
"Pergamum summed up in itself the intolerable offense and horror that such a cult, the OBSERVANCE OF WHICH WAS SYNONYMOUS WITH LOYALTY TO THE EMPIRE, provoked in the mind of our author [the apostle John]. It is here and NOWHERE ELSE that we are to find the explanation of the STARTLING phrase 'where Satan has his throne,' in [verse] 13...the imperial cult...menaced with ANNIHILATION the very existence of the Church" (A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Revelation of St. John, by R. H. Charles. T. & T. Clark, Edinburgh, 1920 . Vol. 1, pages 60-61).
The Broadman Bible Commentary adds:
Satan's throne is probably a reference to the IMPERIAL CULT which had its center in the city. Even in the shadow of this temple, these Christians still said "Jesus is Lord" and refused the OATH TO THE EMPEROR...The Romans offered Christians an opportunity to reject Christ and live. This took the form of cursing or denying Christ and repeating the FORMULA OF REVERENCE to the emperor. -- Vol. 12. Broadman Press, Nashville, TN. 1972, pages 266-267.
Worship of the emperor had been made the criterion or "test" of CIVIL LOYALTY, so that a faithful member of YEHOVAH's Church, however loyal to the secular authority of the State, was branded as a TRAITOR! We learn from Pliny's letter (Ep. X. 96) to the emperor Trajan (98-117 A.D.) and from the story of the martyrdom of Polycarp, that in the second century it was part of Roman LAW COURT PROCEDURE that those accused of being Christians should be invited to exonerate themselves by cursing the Messiah.
It is easy to see why this imperial cult had such a profound effect upon the Church of YEHOVAH God in Pergamum.
There is another reason why Pergamum was the city where Satan lived. Let the Ambassador College Bible Correspondence Course explain:
Pergamos was the ORIGINAL SEAT of Roman civil government in the province of Asia (western Asia Minor). But long before that, the city had ALREADY become a SEAT OF SATAN when one of the chief colleges of the ancient Chaldean mysteries migrated there after Babylon fell in 539 B.C. DOUBLY, when John [the apostle] wrote, this WAS "Satan's seat"! -- Lesson 50, 1968, page 7.
We should consider the fact that this Chaldean Mystery Religion eventually made its way to Rome where, under the guidance of Simon Magus (Acts 8:9-24), it became the FOUNDATION of the Roman Catholic Church! Keep this in mind!
According to Henry Barclay Swete: "If Pergamum had no Artemission, it was RICHER in temples and cults than Ephesus. Zeus Soter, Athena Nikephoros, Dionysos, Asklepios were the chief local deities; the temple of Athena crowned the steep hill of the Acropolis, and beneath it on the height was a great altar of Zeus" (The Apocalypse of St. John, Macmillan and Company, Ltd. London, 1909, page 34).
It is noted, in Then is Finished the Mystery of God, published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, that:
The worship of the Roman emperor as well as of Zeus or Jupiter is really the worship of the great Resister of Jehovah God [Satan], and for this reason Pergamum could be said to be "where the throne of Satan is" and "where Satan is dwelling." -- 1969, page 130.
No wonder Pergamum had an almost exclusive right to be called "the city where Satan's throne is" and "the center of Satanic worship"!
London -- "The City Where Satan Lives"
Now, is there another city in the world -- one that used to be a major city of the Roman Empire -- which became a major "religious center" where Christians were required to take an oath to the emperor or king -- a city that was the seat of civil government?
Indeed there was -- during the time when the later Pergamum era was coming into ascendancy the CITY OF LONDON in the British Isles fulfilled all of these requirements!!
Roman Catholicism arrived in England with Saint Augustine and his missionary companions from Rome in the year 597. With the ensuing fusion of Celtic and Roman influences, the Celtic forms gradually gave way to the liturgy and practices of the Roman West.
During the next four centuries, the church in Saxon England exhibited the same lines of growth and development that followed the Catholic Church everywhere in the early Middle Ages. The synagogue of Satan had become firmly entrenched in the far reaches of the old Roman Empire.
After the Norman conquest in 1066, Catholic influence from the Continent greatly strengthened the links between the English church and the papacy. Due to the vigorous efforts of the popes from Gregory VII to Innocent III, the POWER OF ROME increased immensely between the late 11th century and the early 13th century. This was felt in England as it was on the Continent, and clerical influence and privilege were widely extended into SECULAR AFFAIRS.
Several times during the medieval period, English kings sought to limit the power of the Catholic Church and the pope, along with its independent canon law, but were unsuccessful until the reign of Henry VIII.
Just as ancient Pergamum had become the "city where Satan lives" when the Chaldean (Babylonian) Mystery Religion set up its headquarters there after the fall of Babylon, so too did the capital of England -- LONDON -- become the "city where Satan lives" in the far West. All we need now is to see what happened, during the reign of Henry VIII, to turn London into the "THRONE OF SATAN"!
London -- The "Throne of Satan"
In 1527 Henry announced his desire to divorce his wife -- Catherine of Aragon -- on the grounds that the papal dispensation making the marriage possible was invalid. The main reason for the divorce was that Catherine had failed to produce a male heir. Also, Henry was in love with Anne Boleyn, a young and beautiful lady-in-waiting of the queen. When it became apparent that the prospect of securing a papal annulment was hopeless, Henry took matters into his own hands. Dismissing his chancellor and papal appointee Thomas Wolsey, he replaced him with Sir Thomas More and made Thomas Cromwell his chief advisor.
Funk and Wagnalls New Encyclopedia records what happened next:
Henry then proceeded to DISSOLVE ONE BY ONE the ties to the papacy. With the aid of Parliament [which he cleverly packed] legislation Henry first secured control of the clergy, COMPELLING that group in 1532 to ACKNOWLEDGE HIM AS HEAD OF THE ENGLISH CHURCH...Although Henry was immediately excommunicated he REPUDIATED PAPAL JURISDICTION in 1534 and made himself the SUPREME ECCLESIASTICAL AUTHORITY in England. The English people were required to AFFIRM UNDER OATH Henry's supremacy and the act of succession. Sir Thomas More and the English cardinal John Fisher (1459-1535), were executed for refusing to accept the religious supremacy of the English monarch.
Henry quickly realized the EXTENT OF HIS OWN POWER as he marshaled, for his own ends, the widespread national antipathy to papal jurisdiction in England; AND HIS APPETITE FOR POWER GREW.
The Encyclopedia Britannica adds that "The functions withdrawn from the pope were ACCUMULATED ON THE MONARCH. Henry VIII., uniting in his own hands the plenitude of power BOTH CIVIL AND SPIRITUAL, became in Bishop Stubbs's notable phrase, "THE POPE, THE WHOLE POPE, AND SOMETHING MORE THAN THE POPE" (Vol. 5, 1943. Article "Church and State," p. 673).
The Encyclopedia Britannica also states that "The supremacy which the royal headship implied was a NEW THING IN CHRISTENDOM, and had no real precedents in history. It owed its origin to the novel conditions of the age, and its FORM to the MASTERFUL DESPOT [Henry VIII] who arrogated it to himself."
Actually, there WAS a precedent in history -- that of the IMPERIAL CULT which had its provincial center in Pergamum!
Do you now see how LONDON came to be the city where the "THRONE OF SATAN" was located?
It must be remembered that Henry's argument was NOT with the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church -- but with the power and control the pope exercised in England! Henry was a CATHOLIC AT HEART and did not seek to deviate from the principles of Roman Catholicism.
The Encyclopedia Britannica makes this quite clear:
The papal power was extirpated by statute, PARLIAMENT AT THE SAME TIME DECLARING THAT NEITHER THE KING NOR KINGDOM WOULD VARY FROM THE "CATHOLIC FAITH OF CHRISTENDOM"...The publication of the "ten Articles" (1536), the "Bishop Book" (1537), the "Six Articles" (1539) and the "King's Book" (1543), SHOWED that Henry, while changing many things in the church, WOULD NOT ALLOW ANY DEVIATION IN ESSENTIALS FROM THE RELIGION OF CATHOLIC EUROPE... (pp. 468-469).
The "THRONE OF SATAN" was now firmly entrenched in London!
The "Right of the Sword"
Now, what about the "right of the sword" (ius gladii) -- THE POWER TO EXECUTE AT WILL? Did Henry VIII exercise this "right"? ABSOLUTELY! Whenever he met with opposition, he ENFORCED HIS WILL AS A DESPOT!
"Although he altered the church, Henry DID NOT WISH TO INTRODUCE PROTESTANT DOCTRINE. THOSE WHO REFUSED TO ACCEPT CHURCH OF ENGLAND TEACHINGS AS WELL AS THOSE WHO REJECTED HENRY'S AUTHORITY OVER THE CHURCH WERE EXECUTED" (Funk and Wagnalls New Encyclopedia, Vol. 12. Article "Henry VIII," p. 316).
Henry VIII did not give the church freedom, but substituted the despotism of the papacy with his own, thus reintroducing emperor worship and the "imperial cult."
Will Antipas Please Stand Up?
Now that the scene has been set, let's introduce ANTIPAS into the picture. Remember, Antipas was put to death in the city "where Satan [had] his throne" -- Pergamum. Was there another "Antipas" who was put to death in LONDON -- "where Satan [had] his throne"? The answer is, incredibly, YES!
Who was Antipas? Unfortunately, history or the Bible has not left us with a clear record to his identity. The name is found in a third-century inscription of Pergamum (Deissmann, Bible Studies, p. 187), and he is mentioned by Tertullian (Scapul. 12). There is a legend that appears in some later biographies of the saints (Simon Metaphrastes, the Bollandists) that Antipas was slowly roasted to death in a brazen bull during the reign of Domitian, but this cannot be verified.
It is apparent, however, WHY he died. The Aid to Bible Understanding, published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, states: "Since the martyrdom of Antipas is mentioned in the same verse as "the throne of Satan," he may have been killed for refusing to worship Caesar" (Article "Pergamum," p. 1290).
Another publication says much the same thing: "Antipas must have been killed on the issue of IMPERIALISM, refusing to WORSHIP CAESAR, the deified head of the Roman Empire, as god, and choosing to continue worshipping Jehovah as the divine Head of all the living universe and as the only living and true God" (Then is Finished the Mystery of God, pages 131-132).
The future "Antipas," therefore, would meet his fate for refusing to worship or obey the unGodly edicts of a "Caesar" or king of his day.
The Worldwide Church of God claims that Constantine of Mananali, a 7th Century church leader, was the future "Antipas"-- however, this is simply NOT TRUE. They base their claim on a MISTRANSLATION of the name "Antipas," saying it means "against the pope." Therefore, according to their reasoning, since Constantine of Mananali preached against the papacy, he must be the future "Antipas"! We will show, as we go along, the fallacy of this argument.
Having said this, let us see if we can identify, in the city of London, the REAL "ANTIPAS" that we are looking for.
Robert G. Torbet, in his book A History of the Baptists, makes the identity plain:
Another case in point, less familiar to be sure, is that of a company of sabbatarian General Baptists who held their assemblies for public worship on Saturday. This congregation met in LONDON at Bull-Stake Alley, Whitechapel, under the leadership of JOHN JAMES. On October 19, 1661, James was removed forcibly from his pulpit by a justice of the peace and a constable, and CHARGED WITH TREASON for having called Jesus Christ King of England, Scotland, and Ireland. In spite of proof in court that four witnesses had been coerced to testify FALSELY against him, he was convicted and HUNG, DRAWN, AND QUARTERED on November 26. The thirty members of his congregation were taken in groups to a justice of the peace to take the OATH OF ALLEGIANCE [to the King]; as many as refused were committed to Newgate Prison (Third Edition, 1980. Published by The Judson Press, Valley Forge, pages 51-52).
The Seventh-Day Baptist Church itself comments that "The first pastor [of the Mill Yard Church], JOHN JAMES, was put to death by KING CHARLES II in 1661 after the RESTORATION OF THE MONARCHY because of his Fifth Monarchy views, the LITERAL reign of Christ on earth during the Millennium. Revelation 11:15 was his favorite text. The king FEARED this doctrine, because fanatics used it as a reason for rebellion, seeking, like Thomas Vennet, to overthrow his earthly monarchy and establish the kingdom of the saints. John James was of the MODERATE party who preached simply the coming kingdom of Christ, but DID NOT attempt to establish it by force" (Directory of Sabbath-Observing Groups, published by The Bible Sabbath Association, Fairview, OK. 1974, pg. 148).
Background to John James' Death
The reason the king was so sensitive and feared this doctrine was because the monarchy had recently been RESTORED after the Great Rebellion of Oliver Cromwell. Not only was the monarchy being restored, but also the hegemony of the Church of England. In other words, a restoration of the "THRONE OF SATAN" was taking place!
Both the church and the monarchy were trying to regain and solidify their POWER, and in so doing resorted to many of the measures originated earlier by Henry VIII. When King Charles II was invited to restore the monarchy in 1660, the measure of RELIGIOUS FREEDOM that had flourished during the Commonwealth under Oliver Cromwell, was not to continue.
Let Raymond W. Albright, in his book A History of the Protestant Episcopal Church, tell the story:
Many dreams were rudely shattered when Charles proved himself no devout son of a churchly father but rather a SELFISH ABSOLUTIST WITH STRONG LEANINGS TOWARD ROME. Puritans suffered under the vengeful hands of the new king and his fully reconstituted Parliament, while the Church of England was reestablished, its surviving bishops restored to their respective sees, new bishops chosen for all vacant sees, and previously held church properties restored...Although Charles II rigorously regulated the lives of Nonconformists, even forbidding the assembly of more than five persons for worship, he consistently FAVORED ROMAN CATHOLICS, liberalizing their privileges and allowing Masses to be celebrated in private homes. Meanwhile, Charles had secretly sought military and financial aid from France with the understanding that, when possible, he would RESTORE ROMANISM in England. -- The Macmillan Company, New York. 1964, pg. 9.
We can see here that Charles was bent on restoring the "THRONE OF SATAN" to his country after the interregnum when England enjoyed some measure of religious freedom under Cromwell.
Following the armed uprising of Thomas Venner [t?] in early 1661, which was aimed at overthrowing the newly installed king, Charles issued a ROYAL PROCLAMATION (Jan. 10, 1661) forbidding the assembly for worship of "anabaptists, quakers, and other sectaries." Since some Baptists were involved in this rebellion, ALL Baptists and some other groups became suspect.
During the eighteen weeks between Venner's insurrection and the king's coronation, about four hundred were crowded into Newgate Prison alone, while other city prisons were similarly filled.
At the coronation, King Charles issued a general pardon, but in MAY, persecution was revived when a bill was introduced in Parliament for the PROMPT SUPPRESSION OF BAPTISTS AND QUAKERS. As a result of this bill, John James was arrested and placed on trial for preaching to a public assembly -- in defiance of Parliament.
This is the background to the story of John James -- the ANTIPAS of the Pergamum Church in the 17th century.
A Martyr's Death
Ivor Fletcher's book, The Incredible History of God's True Church, adds some more detail to this amazing fulfillment of Biblical prophecy:
"It was about this time [A.D. 1661], that a congregation of Baptists holding the seventh day as a Sabbath, being assembled at their meeting-house in Bull-Stake Alley, [London] the doors being open, about three o'clock p.m. (Oct. 19), whilst Mr. JOHN JAMES was preaching, one Justice Chard, with Mr. Wood, an headborough, came into the meeting place. Wood commanded him IN THE KING'S NAME to be silent and come down, having SPOKEN TREASON AGAINST THE KING. But Mr. James, taking little or no note thereof, proceeded in his work.
The headborough came nearer to him in the middle of the meeting place and commanded him again in the King's name to come down or else he would pull him down; whereupon the disturbance grew so great that he could not proceed."
Ivor Fletcher continues with James arrest and trial:
John James was arrested and brought to trial, found guilty under the new law against nonconformity [?]. He was sentenced to the barbaric fate of being HUNG, DRAWN AND QUARTERED.
It was said that "This awful fate did not dismay him in the least. He calmly said 'Blessed be God, when man condemneth, God justifieth'!"
James was held in high esteem by many and whilst in prison under sentence of death several people of rank and distinction visited him and offered to use their influence to secure his pardon. His wife sent two petitions to the King, but all these moves failed to save him.
In his final words to the court he simply asked them to read the following scriptures: Jer. 26:14-15 and Ps. 116:15. In keeping with the gruesome custom of the time, after his execution his heart was taken out and burned, the four quarters of his body fixed to the gates of the city and his head set up on a pole in Whitechapel opposite to the alley in which his meeting-house stood. -- Pages 175-176.
Such was the horrible price that "Antipas" paid for obedience to YEHOVAH God in seventeenth-century England.
What's In a Name
It is fascinating to realize what the names "Antipas" and "James" have in common. According to most sources, the name "Antipas" (An'ti.pas) is a shortened form of "Antipater," meaning "IN PLACE OF THE FATHER." The name "James," which is a reduced English form of Jacob, means "SUPPLANTER!" And what does "supplant" mean? "TO TAKE THE PLACE OF ANOTHER!"
Isn't that incredible?
The Ambassador College Bible Correspondence Course (Lesson 50) states that "Antipas is merely a short form of the Greek name Antipater. It may be FREELY [emphasis mine] translated 'against the Pope.' (Latin 'pastor' is equivalent to modern 'papa' -- 'Pope' in English!). "Freely translated" is an understatement!
Robert H. Mounce observes that Antipas' name "has been taken to mean 'against all,' and the idea that he gained the name by his HEROIC STAND against the FORCES OF EVIL is UNFOUNDED (The Book of Revelation, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI. 1977, p. 97).
Cardinal Alford sums it up by writing, "It is hardly possible to withhold indignation at the many CHILDISH symbolic meanings which have been IMAGINED for the name [Antipas], in DEFIANCE of philology and sobriety alike" (p. 569).
We don't have to twist the laws of philology or "sobriety" here -- a SIMPLE comparison of the meanings of the names "Antipas" and "James" will suffice !
Let's take a look at some of the sources mentioned earlier:
(1) ANTIPAS (An'ti.pas) [perhaps, a shortened form of Antipater, IN PLACE OF THE FATHER]. -- Aid to Bible Understanding, page 85.
(2) JAMES [A reduced English form of Jacob, meaning, taking hold of the heel; SUPPLANTER]. -- Aid to Bible Understanding, page 66.
(3) JAMES (Heb.) SUPPLANTER. -- Baby Names from Around the World, by Maxime Fields.
(4) SUPPLANT 1: TO TAKE THE PLACE OF (ANOTHER) esp. by force or trickery 2: REPLACE syn. displace, supersede. -- The Mirriam-Webster Dictionary.
(5) SUPPLANT 1. TO TAKE THE PLACE OF; displace. 2. To take the place of (someone) by scheming, treachery, etc. 3. To replace (one thing) with another; remove; uproot. -- Funk & Wagnalls Standard Desk Dictionary.
Religious Freedom Limited
Following the death of John James, Parliament went forward with a number of measures designed to seriously LIMIT THE FREEDOMS of those who did NOT conform to the teachings of the Church of England.
The Encyclopedia Britannica outlines these:
The BISHOPS returned to the Upper House [of Parliament] on Nov. 20, 1661. On May 19, 1662, the Act of Uniformity was passed, enjoining the use of the Book of Common Prayer, which had been specially revised, and included new services of Jan. 30 and May 29 (the dates of the execution of Charles I. and the Restoration), as a result about 1,200 of the clergy, who REFUSED TO CONFORM left their livings on St. Bartholomew's Day (Aug. 12); another 800 had already been ejected. The Puritans, who had hitherto tried to gain control of the national Church while remaining within it, took up a position definitely OUTSIDE of it; they came to be known as NONCONFORMISTS OR DISSENTERS. Charles tried to relieve...the Roman Catholics by a declaration issued on Dec. 26, 1662, but was opposed by Clarendon and by Parliament; and a SERIES OF ACTS was passed, including the Conventicle and Five Mile Acts, FORBIDDING THE NONCONFORMISTS THEIR SPECIAL FORMS OF WORSHIP...The Corporation Act (1661) drove the Nonconformists from power in the burroughs; the Press Act (1662), established a censorship, and the repeal of the Triennial Act (1664) completed the RECONSTRUCTION of the Constitution. -- Article "Charles II," p. 272.
It was principally these acts and the resulting persecution that drove YEHOVAH's Church across the sea to America, where it blossomed under the auspices of religious freedom.
The Trade Guilds of Pergamum
Returning to Revelation 2, let's note some more aspects of the Pergamum Church: "Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: You have people there who hold to the TEACHING OF BALAAM, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by EATING FOOD SACRIFICED TO IDOLS and by committing SEXUAL IMMORALITY." (Verse 14).
What does "eating food sacrificed to idols" entail? And how is it linked to "sexual immorality?
The population of Pergamum, like the city of Thyatira, was divided into TRADE GUILDS. Each of these guilds had its PATRON GOD, its FEASTS, and its SOCIAL OCCASIONS which at times could become immoral parties. In order to survive economically, most people belonged to a certain guild determined by the type of work they did.
According to A Dictionary of the Bible, edited by James Hastings, these guilds did NOT promote or enhance true Christianity:
The objection to the guilds from the Christian point of view was twofold. In the first place, the bond which held a guild together lay always in the common religion in which all united, and in the common SACRIFICIAL MEAL of which all partook; the members ate and drank fellowship and brotherhood in virtue of the PAGAN DEITY whom they served. In the existing state of society it was IMPOSSIBLE TO DISSOCIATE MEMBERSHIP OF A GUILD FROM IDOLATRY, and the idolatry was a kind that by its symbolism and its efficacy exerted great influence on its adherents, making them members of a unity which was essentially NON-CHRISTIAN AND ANTI-CHRISTIAN. In the second place, the common banquets were celebrated amid circumstances of revelry and enjoyment that were FAR FROM CONDUCIVE TO STRICT MORALITY....
To fully understand this, an article in the Bible Review (June, 1994) outlines the customs of the day:
Another kind of exception was an invitation to dine with a social superior, or to PARTAKE OF A MEAL because one belonged to a TRADE ASSOCIATION or burial society that would host a dinner IN THE PRECINCTS OF A TEMPLE and provide a meal of MEAT SACRIFICED IN THE TEMPLE....Both Roman and Greek sources indicate that various temple precincts were in effect the PUBLIC RESTAURANTS of the day. We actually have the form of invitations preserved in Greek papyri: "Chaeremon requests your company at dinner at the table of the lord Sarapis in the Sarapeum tomorrow, the 15th, at 9 o'clock." Or again: :Apollonius requests you to dine at the table of the lord sarapis on the occasion of the coming of age of his brothers in the temple of Thoeris." This created a DILEMMA for Jews and some EARLY CHRISTIANS invited to dinners held in the precincts of a PAGAN TEMPLE. -- Article "Why Not Idol Meat?" by Ben Witherington III, p. 39.
The reason WHY meals were held in the temples is explained by the author:
In wealthy private homes, the dining room was called a triclinium, so named because the room was lined with couches on three sides forming a kind of rectangular C. This arrangement, in which the guests reclined while eating, would normally seat 12 at a maximum. Hence larger gatherings were held either in the DINING ROOMS OF PAGAN TEMPLES, where 22 or more could be accommodated, or sometimes under a tent in the temple precinct. As the Roman historian R. MacMullen comments, "'Devotees of Hercules,' 'the devotees of Jupiter Axoranius,' 'the association of Aesculapius and Hygia' assembled at periodic dinners IN TEMPLES...[T]he same customs could be found in the Greek provinces." Many temples "had commodious facilities for private banquets, either built permanently in stone or less elaborately in the form of arbors over stone couches. -- Ibid., p. 40.
Author Witherington further notes: "Not being able to partake of these meals in the temple precincts would put a significant crimp in the style of some of the more well-to-do GENTILE MALE CONVERTS [to Christianity], many of whom likely made business contacts and furthered important patronage relationships during the course of such meals" (Ibid., p. 42).
The statement that "the common banquets were celebrated amid circumstances of revelry and enjoyment that were FAR FROM CONDUCIVE TO STRICT MORALITY" is an understatement to say the least!
According to Witherington:
The normal order of events was a meal, followed by a DRINKING PARTY. Entertainment might include anything from a rhetorician or philosopher discoursing on some topic, to musical entertainment, to SEXUAL DALLIANCE. For this reason, Roman dinner parties, especially those held in temple precincts, were largely ALL-MALE AFFAIRS, at least after the dinner itself. Even in a private house, it was customary for the wife and daughters, if they appeared at all, to come for the dinner, and then retire before the HEAVY DRINKING began. After dinner the only women normally present were those who entertained or acted as "companions" (hetairac), THE ANCIENT EQUIVALENT OF CALL-GIRLS FROM AN ESCORT SERVICE. The ensuing SEXUAL TRYSTS were both heterosexual and HOMOSEXUAL, the latter usually confined to pederasty -- ADULT MALES HAVING SEX WITH ADOLESCENT OR YOUNG BOYS.
This clearly demonstrates that the eating of "food sacrificed to idols" in verse 14 of Revelation 2 refers to the COMMON SACRIFICIAL MEALS that were eaten by members of the various guilds -- NOT to the things sacrificed to idols in the Chaldean sanctuary located in Pergamum, as some have supposed.
The words "sexual immorality" refer to RELIGIOUS INFIDELITY as well as the physical, and this is exactly what happened when those of YEHOVAH's Church partook of guild functions. Many of YEHOVAH's people in Pergamum took the guild parties or "feasts" lightly, arguing that they had to belong to these organizations in order to put meat on the table. Instead of relying on YEHOVAH God, they thought, it seems, they could coexist with sin and false doctrine and not have it rub off, little realizing the IMPOSSIBILITY of such logic. When these people were permitted to fellowship with the local guilds, the corruption only spread to other members of YEHOVAH's Church.
Error of the Overseers
Did a similar thing happen to the Seventh-Day Baptist people in England and, later, in America? Unfortunately, YES.
The Ambassador College Bible Correspondence Course explains how:
Consider, for example, the further history of the congregation founded by Francis Bampfield.
For many years another separate seventh-day congregation also met in the same hall. One church met in the morning, the other in the afternoon. Through the years and several changes of meeting places the two congregations continued to use the same hall. They DIFFERED on the question of "Calvinism." (The Seventh Day Baptists in Europe and America, p. 65)
For lack of qualified ministers, services were often conducted by the ministers of OTHER CHURCHES. During one period, four DIFFERENT Baptist ministers preached to the afternoon congregation. Similar instances seem to have occurred in the morning church as well. Gradually the two congregations MERGED... Later, this "combined" congregation merged again -this time with the so-called "Mill Yard church." Significantly, in the Mill Yard church building, also, there had been separate morning and afternoon services with separate ministers since 1754. And Mill Yard church records of that very year contain...mention in England of a group known as "a congregation of Protestants dissenting from the Church of England, commonly called Seventh-day Baptists" (The Seventh Day Baptists in Europe and America, p. 42).
That there were two separate groups of seventh-day churches in England during this time is also indicated by the fact that ministers were often required to be re-ordained to come from one Sabbath-keeping congregation to another (ibid., p. xxiv).
By the late 1700's, these people had so adopted PROTESTANT VIEWPOINTS that they began to elect their ministers, instead of relying on Jesus Christ to select them. And some of these ministers -- even seventh-day believers -- had long PASTORED "FIRST-DAY" CONGREGATIONS ON SUNDAY, as well as congregations of the Church of God on the Sabbath! (Belcher, Religious Denominations in the United States, pages 232, 235, 238) -- Lesson 53, pages 6-7.
The only possible result of all this was an almost total lack of feeding the flock of YEHOVAH God, with the subsequent result of a "watering down" of YEHOVAH's truth -- just like Churches of God are doing today!
Also, to be sure, some of YEHOVAH's people compromised with their faith to avoid the persecutions of Charles II and his "Church of England" Parliament. The various acts that Parliament pushed through during the Restoration made it very difficult for true Christians to earn a living without prostituting their beliefs. Another prophecy UNERRINGLY CAME TO PASS!
The "Sect of Nicolaus"
In the 15th verse of Revelation 2, Jesus Christ makes this accusation: "Likewise you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Repent therefore!" Who were these Nicolaitans? What were their "doctrines" or beliefs? Were they the same group as those promulgating the "teaching of Balaam"?
There is some uncertainty regarding the origin of the Nicolaitans or the "SECT OF NICOLAUS" as they were commonly called.
The Ambassador College Bible Correspondence Course makes these claims:
Note that the Nicolaitanes also existed in the days of the "Ephesian" Church, which hated their deeds. What was it they did?
From the Catholic Encyclopedia: the Nicolaitanes "led lives of UNRESTRAINED INDULGENCE." They "claimed to have derived from NICOLAS the 'DOCTRINE OF PROMISCUITY.'"
Who was NICHOLAS? Not the "deacon" Nicolas of Acts 6:5 as some have supposed. This Nicolas of Antioch is identified in Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible with a Bishop Nicholas of SAMARIA, a heretic of Simon Magus' company (Acts 8)!
But why then was he called Nicholas "of Antioch"? Eusebius gives us a clue. Before Simon Magus went to Rome -- probably 42 A.D.-he was in Antioch for a while. Eusebius tells us that Jesus' Apostle Peter was sent to Antioch (Gal. 2:11 -- A.D. 42) to counteract the poison of Simon Magus.
From there he went to Rome. It is possible that the two names refer to the SAME MAN and Nicholas of Samaria was Simon himself. Or, Nicholas was SIMON'S SUCCESSOR after Simon left for Rome (Lesson 50, 1968, page 10).
The Dictionary of Sects, Heresies, Ecclesiastical Parties, and Schools of Religious Thought, has a different viewpoint, and argues that the "sect of Nicholaus" was indeed founded by the deacon Nicholas: "Whether the Nicolaitanes RIGHTLY claimed Nicolas the Deacon, and proselyte of Antioch, as their leader, has been much disputed. The balance of early testimony appears to be IN FAVOUR of their claim, and to shew that one of the seven [deacons] became a heresiarch. Irenaeus and Hippolytus STATE IT UNHESITATINGLY [Ire. adv. Haer. i. 26; Hippol. Refut. Haer. vii. 24], and Hippolytus does not appear to have rested on the authority of Irenaeus, but to have given an INDEPENDENT ACCOUNT" (Edited by John Henry Blunt. Rivingtons, London. 1874, pg. 372).
Due to the uncertainty expressed by some as to the origin of this sect, it seems best, on the whole, to fall back upon the fact that a sect bearing this name existed in Asia when the Book of Revelation was written. Whether it owed its origin to NICOLAUS OF ANTIOCH, which is quite logical, or to some other false teacher of the same name, is not crucial to our understanding of the Pergamum Church of the time.
A discussion of the sect's "DOCTRINES," however, will be quite revealing:
As to their [Nicolaitans] teaching, it is CLEAR that they DISREGARDED the restriction imposed upon the Gentile Churches by the Apostolic council held at Jerusalem in 49-50 with the practical result that they encouraged a return to the PAGAN LAXITY OF MORALS...It would be nearer to the truth to say that they were the spiritual descendants of the LIBERTINES who PERVERTED the Pauline doctrine and against whom St. Paul strongly protests. In the next century [2nd] these views were embraced by certain GNOSTIC TEACHERS...
To get more detail on the beliefs of this sect, let's see what the early writers have to say. According to Irenaeus, they lived "lives of UNRESTRAINED INDULGENCE," teaching that "ADULTERY and eating things sacrificed to idols" are a matter of "indifference." Clement of Alexandria speaks of their souls as "BURIED IN THE MIRE OF VICE." Tertullian lambastes them for destroying the "happiness of sanctity in their maintenance of LUST AND LUXURY." Ignatius brands them as "IMPURE LOVERS OF PLEASURE," and as "addicted to calumnious speeches."
It seems that in addition to immorality the Nicolaitans were tainted with the trappings of GNOSTICISM. Tertullian writes of the Cainite Gnostics of his time as MODERN NICOLAITANS, while Philastrius includes the Nicolaitans among the Gnostics. The Nicolaitans were, for all intent and purposes, ANTINOMIANSthose who believed the moral law was of no use or obligation, faith alone being necessary for salvation.
The English "Nicolaitans"
Now we come to the fascinating part -- was there a 17th CENTURY COUNTERPART of the "sect of Nicolaus" operating in England that would warrant a "WARNING" to the Pergamum Church of the time? Unbelievably, THERE WAS!! Let Robert G. Torbet relate the incredible story:
A case in point concerns a group of so-called ENGLISH Anabaptists, known as the FAMILY OF LOVE. They were present in the country during the reign of Queen Elizabeth, who came to the throne in 1558. This sect has its origin on the continent with HENRY NICHOLAS (NIKLAES), a native of Munster, who migrated to Amsterdam in 1530 to establish his business as a mercer [dealer in fabrics]...he reputedly heard in 1540 a call to become a PROPHET. Six years later he wrote a little book, still to be found in the Mennonite library at Amsterdam, entitled "Of the Spiritual Land of Promise, Of the Heavenly Jerusalem, and the Holy People." In this work he advocated and defended "SPIRITUAL MARRIAGE," somewhat akin to Mormon teaching in nineteenth-century America. He also taught that NOTHING IS UNCLEAN IN THE BODY. On the continent, "NAKED RUNNERS," as they were called, appeared in many cities. These "naked runners," who reputedly were Anabaptist FANATICS, seem to have been NICHOLAS' DISCIPLES. The sect, as TRANSLATED TO ENGLAND, was known as FAMILISTS and gained an UNSAVORY REPUTATION FOR IMMORALITY, much as did the Mormons in America three centuries later.
Nicholas is known to us through the writing of his biographer and disciple, TOBIAS. According to the latter, Nicholas...traveled to England...the ablest APOSTLE OF NICHOLAS' TEACHING IN ENGLAND was Christopher Vitell, a Southwark joiner, who translated many of Nicholas' writings from the Dutch into English. Toward the close of the sixteenth century and the first part of the seventeenth, several tracts appeared attacking and defending the doctrine of H. N., as Nicholas was known....
Torbet continues: "It appears that [one] Edmond Jessop about 1620, after he had become a Anabaptist, nearly fell in with the Familists. He knew of them, therefore, from experience, when he wrote his account of their views and described them as EXTREMELY MYSTICAL and not typical of traditional Christian teaching concerning Christ and redemption. They regarded their Family of Love as the PERFECT CHURCH, of which all other churches were but shadows and types." -- A History of the Baptists, third edition. The Judson Press, Valley Forge. 1980, pages 26-28.
According to the Encyclopedia Britannica Nicolas visited ENGLAND in 1552 or 1553, and there joined himself to the Dutch congregation of Anabaptists in London, where he reportedly "seduced a number of artificers and silly women, amongst whom two daughters of one Warwick, to whom he dedicated an epistle, were his principal perverts." (Fuller's Church History)
The sect spread in the EASTERN COUNTIES of England in spite of repressive measures from the government, and REVIVED DURING THE COMMONWEALTH to linger on into the early years of the 18th CENTURY.
"Niclaes claimed to have an IMPARTIAL ATTITUDE towards all existing religious parties, and his MYSTICISM, derived from David Joris, was undogmatic. Yet he admitted his followers by the rite of adult baptism, and set up a HIERARCHY among them on the ROMAN MODEL. His pantheism had a ANTINOMIAN DRIFT; for himself and his officials he claimed IMPECCABILITY..." (Encyclopedia Britannica, vol. 9, 1943. Article "Familists," page 59).
The Dictionary of Sects, Heresies, Ecclesiastical Parties, and Schools of Religious Thought, takes it a step further by stating that "from all accounts of the Familists...they were EXTREME ANTINOMIANS" (page 159). They evidently "held the...opinion of the deification of humanity, and its Antinomian consequence, that of the IMPOSSIBILITY of any act being sin in persons so deified" (pg. 371).
This volume continues by saying: "Indeed Strype mentions two sections of them, the 'Family of the Mount,' and the 'Family of the Essentialists,' who DENIED that there was such a thing as sin [Strype's Ann. II. i. 563, ed. 1824]. IMMORALITY was, therefore, VERY COMMON among them. William Penn says of them, that 'divers fell into gross and enormous practices, pretending, in excuse thereof, that they could, without evil, commit the same act which was sin in another to do' [Penn's Journal of Fox, pref. i.7, ed. 1852]." (Edited by John Henry Blunt. Rivingtons, London. 1874, pages 159-160).
Like the Nicolaitans of old, the Family of Love lasted but a short time, its doctrine of LIBERTINISM eventually attaching itself to other forms of UNGODLY BELIEFS, thus disappearing from view to reemerge under a different name.
Church Eras are NOT Successive!
With this we rest our case. The story of the Seventh-Day Baptist Church and the martyrdom of Antipas -- JOHN JAMES -- by the "throne of Satan" in London, could only have been the future fulfillment of the intricate prophecies found in the letter to the Pergamum Church of Revelation 2. This is further confirmed by the preordained appearance of HENRY NICOLAS in England with his "Family of Love" -- an almost perfect reincarnation of the ancient Nicolaitans! How marvelous, and how DETAILED are the prophecies of the Eternal God!
As we unravel the truth concerning the history of YEHOVAH's true Church, it is quite apparent that the different "church eras" were NOT SUCCESSIVE, but existed together -- side-by-side -- from the first century down to our time today. The seven churches of Revelation in the first century (and the personalities involved with each church) are TYPES of a later fulfillment in the history of these churches -- and help us to identify these churches in the present age.
The idea of successive church eras was invented and promulgated by certain individuals to strengthen and maintain unbiblical church authority within certain sects and cults -- and hence "the only true church" syndrome amongst these groups!
With a CORRECT understanding of this vital subject we can soon realize that any church that claims to be "the only true Church of God" on the face of the earth today (such as does the Worldwide Church of God and the so-called Philadelphia Church of God) is LYING "and the truth is not in him" (I John 2:4).
There are SEVEN "true Churches of God" -- each with different amounts of understanding or truth -- here amongst us today, and it is our responsibility, indeed our duty, to reach these people with the message of Elijah. May YEHOVAH God help us to carry out His great commission to His people and to the world at large!
Hope of Israel Ministries -- Taking the Lead in the Search for Truth!
P.O. Box 853
Azusa, CA 91702, U.S.A.
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