Subscribe via RSS Feed Connect on Instagram Connect on YouTube

The “Invisible Church” Theory

Filed in Articles by on July 29, 2013 0 Comments • views: 1275

Prologue

While the greater part of the Protestant world talks about an “invisible Church”, which cannot be traced in History as a church with a specific structure, hierarchy and faith (striving thus to justify their sudden appearance after the 16th century) and instead claims that the Church is supposedly comprised of all who are faithful to Christ, regardless of the thousands of dogmatic differences (their familiar “branch theory”), there is one, much smaller portion of that world – the so-called 7th Day Adventists – who maintain that it is prophesied in the Book of Revelations that the Church will supposedly remain in hiding during the persecutions and would reappear during a specific point in time, near the End Times.

We shall take a look at what the Adventist author says in brief, also what the 12th chapter of Revelations actually says, then we shall comment on the errors that we located in the author’s arguments and afterwards point out what Christ and the Fathers had said about the persecutions against the Church.

invisible-church

Part 1

What the author says, in a few words:

Basing himself on the 12th chapter of Revelations, the author teaches that “the true Church could not have appeared before the year 1798.” We will follow his train of thought and identify the mistakes and the arbitrariness he resorts to, in order to convince about things that are not supported by the Holy Bible, nor of course by the Book of Revelations. The basis of his overall theory focuses on the 1260 days mentioned in the 12th chapter. Now, as to how the author denies the crystal-clear words of Christ, Who spoke of a Church that is VISIBLE in the world (“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden” – Matth.5:14), and how the kingdom of heaven could have possibly multiplied throughout the world from a “hidden and invisible church”, much like a mustard seed, (“which a man took and sowed in his field, which indeed is the least of all the seeds; but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches” – Matth.13:31-32), by misinterpreting the Book of Revelations, is for the author to explain. The reason he did this, I believe is obvious. It is because they cannot prove they are a historical continuity of the ancient Church.

What does the 12th chapter of Revelations tell us, in a few words?

The 12th chapter of Revelations describes the history of the Church, with the use of symbolic images. Saint Hippolytus of Rome (200 A.D.) mentions: “The woman therefore who is ‘clothed with the sun’ clearly implies the Church” (Library Hellenic Fathers 6:218). Of course, according to Orthodox hermeneutic tradition, the woman also relates to the Most Holy Theotokos. However, we shall focus on her significance as “Church”.

We are presented with a three-fold vision. All three parts belong to the same vision. We are firstly presented with a woman who is ready to give birth; then there follows the Archangel Michael’s battle, and finally, the dragon’s anger directed at the woman. In the segments that will follow, we shall give an outline of the Orthodox interpretation by Fr. Athanasios Mytilinaios.

Part 2

The 12th chapter of Revelations, in somewhat more detail.

On the first vision:

We see a woman who is in labour, ready to give birth. This woman is the Church, suffering birth pangs until She gives birth to Christ. She is enrobed by the sun, because She is gestating Christ, Who is the Sun of Righteousness. The Moon, which is a symbol of an altered secular lifestyle, is below Her feet, thus symbolizing that She has conquered the secular phronema. The 12 stars represent the teaching of the 12 Apostles, upon which the Church is built. Christ is born noetically inside every faithful, which is why the the Church has labour pains until the faithful are reborn, according to Saint Andrew of Caesaria. But the Apostle Paul says the same about himself, in his Epistle to Galatians: “My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you” (Gal.4:19). (Fr. Mytilinaios, Interpretation in Revelations, homily 48, 4/4/1982)

On the second vision:

This is the battle waged between Christ and the Devil. The Devil had strived numerous times to exterminate or devour the child that the woman had given birth to – that is, Christ. He used Herod, he fought Him in the desert, he fought Him throughout His entire earthly life, and he finally nailed Him to the Cross, without realizing that this would also be his demise. In here is described the historical birth of Christ, His entry into the world and the history of mankind, and His Ascension following His glorious victory – that is, His exit from human history. Having undertaken all the above, He opened the path towards heaven.

Also mentioned here is the Church’s flight into the desert and the perennial persecutions She is subjected to. Historically, we have Her first major flight just before the siege of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.. The historian Eusebius of Caesaria gives the following amazing information:

“… Besides, the people of the Church in Jerusalem had been ordered by a certain oracle – given to them through a revelation to the tried men there – to move out of the city and migrate to a city of Peraia named Pella. Those who had believed in Christ migrated to that place from Jerusalem, and, since the holy men had entirely abandoned the Judean royal metropolis and the entire land of Judea, divine justice thereafter pursued the rest because they had committed so many transgressions against Christ and His apostles, and it entirely obliterated from the world that generation of the irreverent …” (3rd book, 5th chapter)

This was the first major flight of the Church following a relative prophecy which had been given at the time. God protected the Christians from the pursuant cruelties and violence by the Romans against the Judeans. Christ had said the same: “And when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those who are in the midst of her depart, and let not those who are in the country enter her” (Luke 21:20-21).

Later we have the catacombs, and at the very end of the end, we will have the persecution by the antichrist, where the Church will again seek refuge in the desert and in remote places.

The persecution of the Church continued, even after the official cessation by the Decree of Milan, albeit under various guises. Even just a few decades ago, the Russian faithful were performing their Liturgies in remote regions. Fleeing to deserted places is a perennial element in the life of the Church. (Fr. Athanasios Mytilinaios, Interpretation in Revelations, homily 49).

Besides, a Christian’s mystic life is about replenishing the shortage of Christ’s tribulations; to fill the body of the Church with all the afflictions and tribulations that Christ did not have enough time to undergo, on account of the limited time of His stay on earth. The Apostle Paul writes: “I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the Church” (Colos.1:24).

Also described is Lucifer’s fall. This, according to Saint Andrew of Caesaria, is discerned in two phases: Lucifer’s fall on account of his arrogance (Isaiah 14:12-15 and Ezekiel 28:13-19), and the one that befell him due to the Crucifixion of Christ. (Fr. Athanasios Mytilinaios, Interpretation in Revelations, homily 50 on 2/5/1982).

Part 3

On the third vision:

Here we see the dragon’s anger vented towards the woman, but we also see God’s protection. The woman receives two eagle wings, and with them, flies off to the desert. Wings are a symbol of divine protection (Exod.19:4). This is the final display of anger, which will manifest itself during the antichrist, who will be a political personage.

Her flight will literally be to a desert region. In fact, the duration of Her stay there will be “one time and times and half a time” – in other words, three and a half years. We see the serpent spewing water out of its mouth like the flow of a river, in order to drown the woman. The river, as a sign of a catastrophe, represents the flood of major persecutions that the Church undergoes, from Her founding through to the end of Time, as well as the heresies that deprive Her of the genuine theognosy and the anti-Christian systems that seek to eliminate the Church.

The Church of course cannot be vanquished, because She has God as Her leader. The devil merely lashes out at the remnant of Her seed. This remnant is comprised of those who have preserved the will of God; who have been born of God; who are the genuine faithful. Among the baptized, among God’s people, only a portion preserves the Church. The Apostle Paul says of this remnant: “God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel, saying, ‘Lord, they have killed Your prophets and torn down Your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life’? But what does the divine response say to him? ‘I have reserved for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.’ Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace. (Romans 11:2-5).

Just as during the time of the Prophet Elijah the greater portion of God’s people were worshipping Baal whereas the lesser portion worshipped the true God, so it is today in the Church. (Fr. Athanasios Mytilinaios, Interpretation in Revelations, homily 51 on 9/5/1982).

Moving on, to the author’s errors.

1st error. The author says:

“This description provides only a small indication of the horror of the violence that had broken out against the apostolic church. In actual fact, all of the initial disciples and the heads of the church had martyred for their faith. The cruel pagan emperors had turned their arenas into theatres of death for those who had followed the true Gospel. Very soon, pagan Rome had turned into a pagan, Papist Rome and the persecution continued with renewed vigour. Millions had found tragic death under the atrocious inquisitions that strived to exterminate any reaction whatsoever to the Papal system. Historians estimate that during the Medieval age, more than fifty million people preferred to give their life rather than give up their Protestant faith.”

The author quite correctly speaks of the general and local persecutions that Christians had suffered during the three first centuries. The most terrible, major persecutions had indeed taken place between 64 A.D. and 311 A.D. (Feidas’ Ecclesiastic History, Vol. A, pp.114-129). However, after this (and with the expression “very soon”), the author leaps to events that took place entire centuries later, in order to turn against Papism. In fact, he also mixes in Protestants. From 311 A.D., he “very soon” shoots over to the age of the Holy Inquisition of the Papists, and the Reformation! This is at an era where the Schism between the Westerners and the Easterners had already taken place; where the Church in the West had been turned into a Papist one. We are all familiar with Rome’s arbitrariness, which is why we won’t expand on this point. The Reformation reached its peak during the 16th century A.D., during which time the severing from the Papists had taken place, while the Holy Inquisition had been established as the instrument for dealing with heretics much earlier, under Pope Gregory IX (1227- 1241). (Feidas’ Ecclesiastic History, Vol. B, pp.458- 459).

Clearly, we also do not condone these anti-Christian methods. However, they do not pertain to the Orthodox Eastern Church, but the Papist one, which had fallen into heresies after severing itself from the Eastern Church, having thirsted for secular power.

The question is: From around 311 A.D. when the persecutions officially ceased, up until 1227 A.D. when the Holy Inquisition was enforced (obviously after the Schism of 1054 A.D.), what became of the Church? Did Her history come to an end? Because the Papists’ Holy Inquisition and the Protestants’ Reformation were formed entire centuries after the 4th-5th century A.D..

2nd error. Further along in his article, the author has taken all that Revelations mentions in the 12th chapter and has ARBITRARILY adapted it to the Protestants of a much later era, with total disregard for the interim persecutions that the Orthodox had undergone (even after the Faith had been officially recognized by the now Byzantine empire), by emperors who had a distorted religious conscience and had often collaborated – each for his own purposes – even with heretics. One striking example is the formidable era of Arianism during the 4th century, during which Orthodox Hierarchs and faithful had been persecuted. Or, even the era of Iconomachy later on. And these are not the only instances. If one examines History, many similar incidents will be found. The reason the author has ignored the Orthodox Church is obvious. He focuses on the Protestants, because further along, from among various arbitrary interpretations, he will conclude that the true church is that of the 7th Day Adventists – which arose from the Protestants.

3rd error. The author of the article has taken a passage from the Book of Revelations that speaks of the persecution of the Church and Her flight into the desert; he has also taken other, irrelevant passages from other books of the Holy Bible, and then reaches the following conclusion: “The true church could not have appeared before the year 1798. It had to have remained hidden “in its place” until the end of the 1260 years, and that period ends in 1798 A.D.”

4th error. Take note of the calculations and the mistakes:

“How long was that church to remain hidden? The prophecy states that it would be for “a time, and times, and half a time”. There you have the mystery! What could this strange description of the specific time mean? The answer is given in verse 6: “Then the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, that they should feed her there one thousand two hundred and sixty days.” (Revel.12:6). Now the picture begins to clear. The one verse says that the woman was in the wilderness for 1260 days, while the other verse says “a time, and times, and half a time”. These two periods are equal, which means that the one “time” must be one year (according to the prophetic symbolism); the “times” are two years, and the “half a time” means half a year. When we add them together, we find three and a half years. And they add up to 1260 days, by using the biblical accounting method that 30 days are one month. There is another principle that we need to take into account here. In the symbolic prophecies of the Bible, one day is always reckoned as one year. You will find the key to this principle in Ezekiel 4:6: “A day for a year I have assigned you.” Elsewhere, we find: “According to the number of the days in which you spied out the land, forty days, for each day you shall bear your guilt one year, namely forty years…”.

After quite correctly telling us that “a time, and times, and half a time” (ie 1 + 2 + ½ = 3½ years) is equal to 1260 days (1260 / 365 = 3,45), he then tells us that “in the symbolic prophecies of the Bible, one day is always reckoned as one year”, and he quotes verses from Ezekiel and Numbers – which are cases where God is actually speaking of specific issues, to specific people, regarding specific eras – then arbitrarily applies them to the prophecy of Revelations!

However, he also fails to mention other verses which also speak symbolically, where one day is reckoned as one thousand years. In the Apostle Peter’s words: “with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8). In Psalm 90 it says “because a thousand years in Your sight are like the day of yesterday that passed and a watch in a night.” (verse 4) Not only as one day, but also as a night-watch, which is about 3-4 hours’ duration! From the moment we cannot know for sure (because Time does not exist for God), we cannot base our teachings on such unstable foundations. In Revelations – the par excellence book that uses symbolisms – could the 1000-year kingdom be exactly that? Further along, we shall prove from the Holy Bible itself that the 1260 days or the 3½ years or the 42 months are the same thing and that they are meant word for word, not symbolically, and that they pertain to the End Times, when the antichrist will be hunting down the Church.

Let us examine some verses in parallel:

In Daniel, it says about the antichrist: “And he shall speak words against the Most High and shall wear out the holy ones of the Most High and shall consider in order to change seasons and law, and it shall be given into his hand for a time and times and half a time.” (Daniel 7:25)

Hippolytus of Rome explains: “…for it shall be given unto his hand for a time and times and half of a time, which signifies three and a half years…” (Library of Hellenic Fathers 6:83) The duration of his main activity, when his true person is revealed and he persecutes the truly faithful, will be 3½ years.

In Revelations, it says that the two prophets whom God will send, will prophesy for 1260 days, or otherwise 42 months: “And they will tread the holy city under foot for forty-two months. And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth.” (Revel.11:2-3)

Saint Hippolytus again explains: “…While the two witnesses will be preaching for three and a half years, the antichrist for the remainder of the seven (years) will be fighting the saints and laying waste the world…” (Library of Hellenic Fathers 6:105). In other words, the time and times and half of a time are literally 3½ years, during which the antichrist will be persecuting the Church.

In Revelations, it says:

“And he was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and he was given authority to continue for forty-two months. Then he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven. It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation.” (Revel.13:5-7)

“Then the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, that they should feed her there one thousand two hundred and sixty days.” (Revel.12:6).

“But the woman was given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness to her place, where she is nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent.” (Revel.12:14).

The above references (in which are mentioned the 3½ years) all have as their common theme the persecution of a VISIBLE, NOT a “vanished” Church. It is not likely, that the antichrist or the prophets would be alive for 1260 years! The devil, (or, “God’s ape” according to the blessed Augustine), strives to mimic Christ; Christ’s ministry lasted for approximately 3½ years? So will the antichrist’s. This is interpreted for us by saint Hippolytus of Rome in his work “On Christ and the antichrist”, when he writes: “For in everything does the deceiver want to simulate the Son of God….” (Library of Hellenic Fathers 6, 199).

Part 4

5th error. According to the author: “This places the woman at her place of refuge in the desert for a period of 1260 years. Our conclusion therefore must be that the true church could not have appeared in the world, except only after the 1260 years were completed. Did something like that occur with God’s chosen ones? For how long did the papal system continue to oppress the true dogmas through the enforcement of religious-political power? This is a breathtaking part of History: In 538 AD, a decree was issued by the emperor Justinian, which gave absolute spiritual supremacy to the church of Rome. Gradually, this religious tyranny joined forces with the political powers, up until the point where the kings had to finally obtain the pope’s approval before they could begin to reign. This power remained in force until the year 1798, during which Europe was shaken by the French revolution. Then followed the revolution by the oppressed peasants against the feudal lords, and the pope was arrested in 1798. The papal fortunes were confiscated and the French government issued a decree by which the bishop of Rome was abolished. The pope’s oppressive rule came to an end, exactly 1260 years after its inauguration in 538 AD.”

It is a well known historical fact that the Schism – which led Papism to its decline and finally to its full religious-political power – took place in 1054 AD. But – did Justinian actually issue any decree that gave the church of Rome “absolute supremacy” in 538 AD? The author does not present us with this decree. And even if it did exist, we have an extremely important piece of information, which comes after 538 AD. In the 6th Ecumenical Council in 691 AD, the 36th Canon (below) clearly decrees equal privileges between the Patriarchate of Constantinople and Rome:

Canon XXXVI (36)

Renewing the enactments by the 150 Fathers assembled at the God-protected and imperial city, and those of the 630 who met at Chalcedon; we decree that the See of Constantinople shall have equal privileges with the See of Old Rome, and shall be highly regarded in ecclesiastical matters as that is, and shall be second after it. After Constantinople shall be ranked the See of Alexandria, then that of Antioch, and afterwards the See of Jerusalem.

Also:

CANON XXVIII (28)

Everywhere following the decrees of the Holy Fathers, and aware of the recently recognized Canon of the one hundred and fifty most God-beloved Bishops who convened during the reign of Theodosius the Great of pious memory, who became emperor in the imperial city of Constantinople otherwise known as New Rome; we too decree and vote the same things in regard to the privileges and priorities of the most holy Church of that same Constantinople and New Rome. And this is in keeping with the fact that the Fathers naturally enough granted the priorities to the throne of Old Rome on account of her being the imperial capital. And motivated by the same object and aim the one hundred and fifty most God-beloved Bishops have accorded the like priorities to the most holy throne of New Rome, with good reason deeming that the city which is the seat of an empire, and of a state, and is equal to old imperial Rome in respect of other privileges and priorities, should be magnified also as she is in respect of ecclesiastical affairs, as coming next after her, or as being second to her.

Their privileges are equal. The fact that the Patriarchate of Rome is mentioned as first in line, does not signify that it was superior to the others. It merely enjoyed honorary privileges among the other, equal Patriarchates. Perhaps numerically first in mention when being addressed, but still, equal to the others. It was not dominant throughout all of Christendom.

A second element that is mentioned in a later period than 538 is that the Papal throne autonomized itself from the Byzantine Empire during the reign of Charlemagne (768-814), when the Arian-believing Franks had taken over all the West (Feidas’ Ecclesiastic History, Vol.B, p.96). The first Papal state was founded in 754 AD with the contribution of Pope Stephen II and the Frankish king, Pepin the Short. It was from then on that the Papal arbitrariness expanded. We were unable to locate the decree that the author so vaguely mentioned. We did however locate information that would have refuted the decisions of that decree – even in the event that it had existed. At least up until 691 AD, no absolute power was recognized for Rome, by both the Church and the State, and the creation of the Papal State is placed much later than 538 AD, to 754 AD.

6th error. “The woman (=church) simply could not emerge before the interceptive powers of the papal reaction were done away with. This prophesied event took place in 1798 and the truth which had until then been hidden away began to emerge from obscurity, in the form of a glorious “remnant of her seed” from the woman.”

Why has the author presumed as a given fact that the persecutions the woman in the 12th chapter of Revelations (=the church) suffered were necessarily those that happened to the Protestants and the Papists? The author himself had stated earlier that “This description provides only a small indication of the horror of the violence that had broken out against the apostolic church. In actual fact, all of the initial disciples and the heads of the church had martyred for their faith. The cruel pagan emperors had turned their arenas into theatres of death for those who had followed the true Gospel.” And yet, he now claims that “The woman (=the church) simply could not emerge before the interceptive powers of the papal reaction were done away with”! Does that mean the Apostolic Church that was being persecuted during the first 300 years was “hidden”? That the people weren’t aware of Her existence? And if She was hiding, if She had gone to a remote desert, then how come we have been left with murals in catacombs, how come we are in possession of ancient ecclesiastic texts of that period, and generally speaking, how is it that we know about Her today? If She was indeed obscure – in the sense that She was unknown – then we should not be in possession of so many historical, archaeological and literary records. Does this also apply to 7th Day Adventism? Can they prove to us that what they believe in today, was believed by the Church during EVERY century? And how do we know that Adventism is being prophesied here, and not the other groups also, which emerged from Protestantism? Which is the “remnant of Her seed”? Even if we did follow the author’s train of thought as regards his erroneous calculations, we would still see that numerous other groups had emerged after 1798. It was not just the Adventists, as the author claims:

“The only church that fulfills the prophetic descriptions that pertain to the remnant of the church is the church of the 7th Day Adventists. It appeared around 1844 and began the program of restoring the truth which had been lost or distorted during the Middle Ages.”

Well, we can enumerate other such movements and groups which make the same claims: the “Holiness Movement” (1867), the “Laestadian Movement” (1840), the “Divine Healing Movement” (1850), the “Keswick Movement” (1875), the “Catholic Apostolic Church” (1820), the “Disciples of Christ (Campbell) Movement” (1809) etc… All of these entities could easily have asserted the same things.

In the Epilogue, we shall refer to what the Holy Bible says, regarding the ever-persecuted Church.

7th error. In his attempt to justify his arbitrary arguments, the author writes: “Satan intends to war against the REMNANT of the true church. Which is that remnant? It is the endmost segment of the fabric of a garment. It is the same as the first segment that was cut off from the same fabric, except that it lies at the other extreme of the fabric – at the end – and it also happens to be a small segment. What does this tell us about the woman’s remnant? That it is the last segment of the true church, at End Times, which will be observing the exact same teaching as the original, apostolic church.”

The Church always has a remnant, IN EVERY era. It is not a supposed “cut-off segment”, because Christ Himself had spoken of His Church, that He was to be with, for all days, until the end:

“…and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matth.28:20). The word “always” denotes exactly an unbroken continuity, beginning from the first apostolic century, through to the End Times. Since the Lord therefore remains with Her always, through to the End Times, then there cannot be any margins for “torn off segments”. Furthermore, the Lord also gave another promise. He told us:

“And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” (Matth.16:18). These “gates of Hades” – according to the interpretation of the ancient Church – are the heresies and the heresy leaders. “…and the Gates of Hades are heresies and heresiarchs…” (Saint Epiphanios of Cyprus)

When saying “remnant”, we mean those few who actually believe and who actually follow the Lord Jesus Christ – and they were always the few. The Lord Himself said: “For many are called, but few are chosen” (Matth.22:14). This fact is dependent on the predisposition of each person, and not on God. In the parable, He had said: “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet that was cast into the sea and gathered some of every kind, which, when it was full, they drew to shore; and they sat down and gathered the good into vessels, but threw the bad away.” (Matth.13:47-48). The “bad fish” that the net contained are the Christians who – albeit churchgoers – merely adhere to formalities, far away from the essence of our faith. In Revelations, the Angel tells John to take a reed (a measuring instrument of the time) and to measure the Temple and those worshipping there. But he instructed John to exclude the courtyard of the Temple, because it was given to the Gentiles:

“Then I was given a reed like a measuring rod. And the angel stood, saying, “Rise and measure the temple of God, the altar, and those who worship there. But leave out the court which is outside the temple, and do not measure it, for it has been given to the Gentiles. And they will tread the holy city underfoot for forty-two months.” (Revel.11:1-2).

The Apostle Paul mentions:

“God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel, saying, ‘Lord, they have killed Your prophets and torn down Your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life’? But what does the divine response say to him? ‘I have reserved for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.’ Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace.” (Rom.11:2-5).

Just as in the time of Elijah there was a remnant in the people of Israel – God’s people in the Old Testament – so it is nowadays. The “remnant of the seed of the Church” is all those who were born “above”. And yet, the author suggests that the sum of heresies and schisms constitutes the Church, and Adventism as the tiny “remnant”!

8th error. In his attempt to support his claim that Adventism is the “tiny remnant of End Times”, the author again falls into absurdities. He regards those “who preserve God’s commandments” as the ones who keep the 10 Commandments. The truth is that the 10 Commandments are interpreted by Jesus Christ Himself, during His Sermon on the Mount. There, our Saviour analyzes them and explains what true sanctification is. Thus, it is not enough for one to not commit murder (as the commandment says), but to not even become angered! However, when speaking of the 10 commandments, the author omits all the other ones that the New Testament mentions on various issues – as, for example – the instruction for Baptism in water. Of course, all of God’s commandments aspire to one purpose – the fulfilment of love: “…therefore love is the fulfilment of the law.” (Romans 13:10). The author believes that the “true church” observes the Sabbath; however, Christians from the very beginning have honoured the Sabbath day as a preparatory day for Sunday (or, “the ONE”, according to Moses) and have dedicated it to the souls of the deceased. In the New Testament we do not celebrate Creation, but the re-Creation of everyone – which began with the Resurrection of Christ – each Sunday. There is sufficient data evidencing that the ancient Church regarded Sunday as the par excellence day of worship, and not the Sabbath (Saturday).

From as early as the apostolic era, the Apostle Paul had said: ” So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.” (Coloss.2:16-17)

Around 107 AD, Saint Ignatius said: “…for, if those of old had converted by the writings and had come to a renewed hope, they never again Sabbatize, instead living a Sunday life, in which our life also has risen through Him” (Ignatius the God-bearer, “Epistle to Magnesians” 9:1).

Saint Justin Martyr around 150-160 AD mentions: “My friends, is there any other accusation you have against us than this, that we do not observe the Law, nor circumcise the flesh as your forefathers did, nor keep the Sabbaths as you do? (Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Tryphon the Judean, 10:1)

We shall not comment on this article further, given that we believe we have adequately proven the errors in the author’s reasonings. We shall conclude, by exposing the absurdity in his central reasoning, which has the persecuted Church described in the 12th chapter of Revelations as supposedly “hidden” and reappearing at the End Times.

Part 5

What do Christ and the New Testament say about the persecutions against the Church? Do they speak of a Church which, because of the persecutions She was to undergo, would remain hidden and only be revealed at a specific, given point in time? We would indicatively like to mention:

«…they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons. You will be brought before kings and rulers for My name’s sake. But it will turn out for you as an occasion for testimony.» (Luke 21:12-13).

According to Christ’s words, persecution is an opportunity for WITNESS. Witness cannot be given by a hidden and invisible church.

«“Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you”.» (Matthew 5:11-12).

When the Prophets of the Old Testament were being persecuted, they were not invisible. Neither was the Church.

«Now Saul was consenting to his death. At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. […] Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word.» (Acts 8:1-4).

Here too, we see that the Church evangelized the word of God, as a result of persecution.

«For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God which are in Judea in Christ Jesus, because you also suffered the same things from your own countrymen, just as they did from the Judeans, who killed both the Lord Jesus and their own prophets and have persecuted us and they do not please God and are contrary to all men, forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they may be saved, so as always to fill up the measure of their sins. But wrath has come upon them to the uttermost.» (1 Thess.2:14-16).

The persecuted Church of Thessaloniki was likewise not invisible. If She were invisible, She could not have been persecuted.

What do the Fathers say about the persecutions?

Saint Hippolytus of Rome (200 A.D.) in his memorandum on the 12th chapter of the Book of Revelations places the persecution described therein around the era of the antichrist. «And as for the persecution and the tribulation that will be imposed on the Church by the Opponent, John also says: “…and I saw a great sign and wondrous; a woman clothed with the sun” (Library of Hellenic Fathers 6:218). In fact, Hippolytus takes the 1260 days mentioned therein literally, as pertaining to the “time and times and half a time.” “…a time and times and half a time from the presence of the Serpent. These are the one thousand two hundred and sixty days, the half of the total seven (Daniel’s note) during which the tyrant will prevail while persecuting the Church, who will flee from city to city and will be hiding in the desert and in the mountains…” (Library of Hellenic Fathers 6:219). The wings that are given to the woman are interpreted by Hippolytus as divine protection; in fact, the protection that springs from faith in the Cross of Christ. “Two wings of the great eagle, that is, of the faith in Christ Jesus, Who, when stretching out His holy arms upon the wood of the Cross was stretching out two wings.» (Library of Hellenic Fathers 6: 219).

Saint Cyril of Jerusalem (348 A.D.) mentions the following about the persecutions: «Well, this Church, with Her offensive and defensive weapons of justice, having tried glory and dishonor had – during older times of persecutions and tribulations – crowned the holy martyrs with the various and many-blossomed wreaths of patience…» (18th Catechism, 27).

On the persecutions during the time of the antichrist he mentions the following: «I wonder, who will that blessed person be, who will be martyred for Christ with faith during that time? I say that the martyrs of that period will be above all martyrs; because the previous ones had fought against men only, whereas in the days of the antichrist, they will be fighting against satan himself.» (15th Catechism, 17).

It is therefore obvious that when the Bible speaks of the persecutions against the Church, it in no way implies that She will be hidden and invisible, and that She will suddenly appear out of nowhere, without any continuance and history. Even during the days of the antichrist, the Church may seek refuge in Her desert, but She will not remain invisible – just as She did not remain invisible during the 300 years of persecutions that She was subjected to by the idolaters.

cover

a study by Stelios Bafitis

compilation by Sophia-Siglitiki Drekou

source

Tags: ,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *