Friday, August 18, 2017

Christian Heritage of the Netherlands

Brief History of The Netherlands

Zebulon, "The elevated"Zebulon, "The elevated" Historical accounts of the Netherlands date from the 1st century BC, when Roman forces conquered Germanic and Celtic tribes inhabiting the area. Around 300 A.D., Germanic tribes invaded from the east. By 800 A.D. the territory was ruled by Charlemagne, the greatest of the Frankish kings. During the 9th and 10th centuries, Scandinavian Vikings frequently raided the coastal areas and sailed far up the rivers, which led to the emergence of fortified towns. In the 12th, 13th, and 14th centuries, the area became an important trading centre. The Netherlands and the surrounding area, known as the Low Countries, passed from the control of the dukes of Bourgogne during the early 16th century into the hands of the Habsburg emperor Charles V, who held territories throughout Europe. In 1555 Charles granted control of Spain and the Netherlands to his son, Philip II, whose oppressive Catholic rule led to a war of independence waged by the Protestant Dutch from 1568 to 1648, under the leadership of William of Orange. In 1648 Spain finally recognized the sovereignty of the new Dutch Republic, reigned by the sovereigns of the Royal House of Orange to this present day.
Holland became a world power at that time (The Dutch Golden Age) and through the Dutch East India Company and Dutch West India Company they spread abroad. New York City was once known as New Amsterdam and there are now over 8 million Americans of Dutch extraction in the USA. Follow this link for more details on the Dutch Empire.

Holland – Identified as Biblical Zebulon

Unlike any other country, the Netherlands has from the beginning been built and maintained by holding back and reclaiming land from the North Sea. The first tribe to come and settle in the Netherlands, more than 2,000 years ago, were the Frisians. They were farmers and traders of livestock who began to build artificial hills on which they established their farms to elevate them and protect them from flooding.
Interestingly, Zebulon, the son of Israel/Jacob in the Bible who is proven to be the forefather of the ancient people who founded the Netherlands after migrating across Europe, also means “the elevated”, the one who has been lifted up. But there are more “wondrous parallels” to be found.

WindmillThe Windmills and the Name Zebulon

Holland is famous for its windmills, which grace the whole landscape. They actually tell the world who Holland is. When we look into the meaning of the name Zebulon and break it down we find that it means “to inclose, to reside, to dwell”. It is composed of three Hebrew letters:
Zain meaning fish-hook, hook
Beith meaning house, home, dwelling
Lamed meaning movement, streaming, impulse to action.
So the name “Zebulon” actually describes the function of a windmill. It is a dwelling which ‘hooks’ up water, using the movement of the wind for it to operate.

A Ship – Zebulon’s and Holland’s Symbol

Symbol for ZebulonIn the days of Israel, each tribe had standards. In the case of Zebulon, ancient Hebrew traditions show that the symbol for Zebulon was a “ship”. A ship is also the ancient emblem of Holland and symbolizes Dutch national culture.
“Zebulun shall dwell at the haven of the sea, and he shall be for an haven of ships …” (GENESIS 49:13).
Zebulon would live at the seashore, and much of Holland’s land is quite literally “sheltered from the sea” via its dike system. So the prophetic description of a “haven of the sea” is quite apt. The phrase “haven of ships” indicates that the land of Zebulon must also include a major harbour facility. Speaking about haven in the modern sense, the relatively small country of Holland has the world’s largest port in its borders, namely “Rotterdam Europoort”. Not only is Rotterdam the busiest ocean-going seaport, it is now a gateway to all of Europe.
For more interesting facts on Holland’s Zebulon identity we would highly recommend the booklet “Strange Parallel” by Helene Koppejan.

The Way to Religious Freedom and Pentecostal Revival

Beginning of Reformation

Like almost all other European nations, the Netherlands was also under Roman Catholic rule for centuries, before the Reformation began to dawn on the country in the late Middle Ages. Some pre-reformational activities in the Netherlands include the formation of "The Brethren of the Common Life" by Gerard Goote (circa A.D. 1370), a non-traditional monastic group which emphasized the schooling of youth and the study of the Scriptures. Thomas à Kempis, best known for his book “The Imitation of Christ” (early 1400's), is a well-loved example of Dutch piety from the late Middle Ages.
The activities of the Englishman John Wycliff, who was hated and persecuted by the Catholic Church for his emphasis on the authority of the Bible and his work of translating the Holy Book and placing it in the hands of the people, and in Eastern Europe, John Huss, who preached justification by grace through faith, became well known among the Dutch.
The events in Germany of 1517 (Luther’s publishing of his 95 theses), were known throughout the whole of Europe, and were certainly not lost on the Netherlanders. Printing presses (to which the Dutch lay claim as the inventors, though most of the world credits Gutenberg) produced copies of Luther's pamphlets, and in 1522 the New Testament was published in the Dutch language. In 1527 the whole Bible was printed in Dutch and in the 1530's Calvin's writings began to appear. The Dutch gladly received the Reformation, and many were converted to the evangelical faith.
During the 16th Century, Luther's influence in the Netherlands gradually waned and Calvin's ascended, perhaps because the Netherlands was crossed more and more frequently by those traveling between Switzerland and England, many of whom were Reformed refugees fleeing from France into the Netherlands, bringing their Calvinism with them. Since persecution was so severe in France, the Netherlands became the transit point of choice for Protestants travelling between England and the continent.

The Anabaptists

Led by Jan Matthijs, the first Dutch assemblies of the Anabaptists or “Wederdopers” were set up in the county (not country) of Holland in around 1531. The Anabaptists disagreed with the practice of infant baptism, and advocated a personal conversion to Christ with a conscientious baptism (ACTS 2:38). Wanting to reform the Catholic Church as well as society with their revolutionary Protestant faith, they became persecuted by both Protestants and Catholics, which resulted in much bloodshed. The city of Münster became their centre and haven of refuge, though several of their leaders were martyred there. After these roaring years, the Anabaptists adopted a more peaceful approach, and in 1540 they became a well-organized, biblically well-educated administration, under the leadership of David Joris and Menno Simons. Nevertheless the persecution continued and they fled to Germany. Although they returned to the northern parts of Holland to preach on a regular basis, the name “Mennonites” is not often used there. Nowadays they are referred to as ‘doopsgezinden’ (see also the German and the Swiss Christian history reports).

Struggle for IndependencePrince William of Orange Prince William of Orange

In an attempt to crush the reformed faith already embraced by many of the Netherlands' citizens, Charles V, Spanish Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire and nominal ruler of the Netherlands, ordered a severe repression, sending the infamous Duke of Alva to enforce the awful Inquisition. Prince William of Orange1, a young nobleman of German Lutheran parents, was governing three provinces of the Netherlands at the time and led the Protestant revolt against the Catholic oppressors resulting in the Eighty Years War (1567-1647). In 1584, William was assassinated, but his son Maurice continued the warfare until his death in 1625. In 1648 the war ended and the Protestant Netherlands was granted independence.
With the independence of the Netherlands and establishment of the Republic, the Reformed faith was proclaimed the official faith of the state. The Netherlands continued to embrace religious refugees - the Puritans who were fleeing England, the Huguenots fleeing France, and also many Jews from throughout Europe. Some of these converted to Christianity and were later to become influential leaders of the secession-minded churches.
During the late 17th century humanism came to dominate the schools in the Netherlands at all levels and "reason" was promoted above Scripture. Spinoza, Descartes and Savonarola came to be more widely read and respected than Calvin. By the end of the 18th century, nearly every doctrinal aberration was being tolerated, while Reformed orthodoxy came under increasing attack, especially in the academic world.

Revival of the Real Faith

At the beginning of the 19th century the winds of revival began to sweep through Europe, and a refreshing breeze also came to the Netherlands. The revival was at first a movement among the intellectual elite, and somewhat reactionary, but soon spread to all levels and eventually gained more momentum among the poor and uneducated, many of whom were like the proverbial "sheep without a shepherd", having been alienated by their unconverted leaders.
Within the Netherlands, this "Reveil" had the concrete effect of strengthening the formation of conventicles, groups of evangelically-minded believers who usually met together inside or alongside their churches to pursue Bible study and spiritual exercises. These conventicles, sometimes tolerated and sometimes persecuted, were very pietistic in their focus, with the greatest emphasis being placed on the themes of human worthlessness, total dependence on Christ's redemption, the experience of rebirth and progress in sanctification as seen in rejecting the "things of the world" and in increasing subjection to the law of God (especially, but not only, matters such as Sabbath observance).

Pentecost in Holland

In the Netherlands Pentecostalism started in 1907, quite soon after the revival led by William Seymour at Asuza Street in Los Angeles in 1906. The founding father was Gerrit Polman, an ex-Salvation Army soldier, who opened the Algemene Christelijke Apostolische Kerk (General Christian Apostolic Church). Many churches were established in other parts of the Netherlands, mostly autonomous and isolated. In the Netherlands this first type of Pentecostalism is called Old Pentecost. During the Second World War some of the fresh new churches formed the Broederschap of Pinkstergemeenten - Fellowship of Pentecostal Congregations.
During the fifties, the Pentecostal movement grew significantly and the great manifestations and rallies attracted many. This was called the New Pentecost. Movements like Stromen van Kracht of Karel Hoekendijk, Wereldzending of Johan Maasbach, and Opwekking of Ben Hoekendijk came to real and vivid life with their dynamic, creative characteristics, use of modern mass media, and preaching of salvation, healing and miracles.

In closing

Since the 1960’s, the Dutch religious landscape has changed dramatically. The dramatic decline in the number of Christians in this generation and the openly permissive society that is replacing the old norms with few restrictions on drugs, deviant lifestyles, prostitution, homosexuality, abortion and euthanasia has led to a deterioration of religion.
It is remarkable to see how modern society tries to ignore our Christian heritage. Who still remembers people like Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920), Prime Minister from 1901-1905 and co-founder of the Vrije Universiteit van Amsterdam, or Groen van Prinsterer (1801-1876), Dutch politician, historian and a confessing Christian? Acting from 1829 to 1833 as secretary to William I of the Netherlands, he wrote in his book “Handboek der Geschiedenis van het Vaderland” (Handbook of History of the fatherland) about the Dutch people’s roots being traceable all the way back to Jacob/Israel.
Or which modern history books mention that people like Huygens (1629-1695), Dutch mathematician, physicist and discoverer of Saturn’s moon Titan, or Anton van Leeuwenhoek (1632-1723), best known for his contributions to the improvement of the microscope and towards the establishment of cell biology, were Bible-believing Christians? Last but not least, what of Queen Wilhelmina, who would probably never have found the courage and endurance to tirelessly encourage the Dutch people and the resistance during WWII, if it had not been for her firm belief in God and the Bible.
How fitting are these words of Abraham Kuyper when we look at our devastated and corrupted society today:
Abraham Kuyper“One desire has been the ruling passion of my life. One high motive has acted like a spur upon my mind and soul. And sooner than that I should seek escape from the sacred necessity that is laid upon me, let the breath of life fail me. It is this: That in spite of all worldly opposition, God's holy ordinances shall be established again in the home, in the school and in the State for the good of the people; to carve as it were into the conscience of the nation the ordinances of the Lord, to which Bible and Creation bear witness, until the nation pays homage again to God."
We as a nation need to turn back to the God of Israel and stand boldly for our beliefs like our forefathers did! More than ever we should pray and call out for a revival, like in the early 20th century.
“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (2 CHRONICLES 7:14).
  • 1. Painting by C Garschagen of William of Orange, made in 1873. Copy of a painting by Antonio Moro, dating from 1555.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Italy’s Christian Heritage

The early settlement of the Italian Peninsula – Israelite heritage

According to legend, Rome was founded in 753 BC by Romulus. Romulus and his twin brother Remus were sons of Mars, the god of war. After having been abandoned by an evil uncle, the two infants were said to have been nursed by a wolf until found and later brought up by a shepherd.
Historical sources, however, indicate that Rome was most probably founded by descendants of Abraham, that is people from the Zarah branch of Judah settling in Italy long before Romulus and Remus. After the fall of Troy in the 12th century BC, which had been a Zarahite colony, the Trojan prince Aeneas (reported by the Greek scribe Homer in his so-called epos) led his followers with ships to their final destination - Italy).1
Later, some of the lost tribes of Israel also made their way through northern Italy. After the Assyrian captivity (deportation 721 BC)2 the ten tribes of the former Northern Kingdom of Israel migrated through central Europe; some passed through northern Italy and left evidence of their movements along the way. For example the river Po used to be called “Eridanus”, including the name of the tribe of “Dan”. Another example is the name of the island Sardinia, which retains elements of “Dan” (Din) as well as “Zarah” (Zar-Din-ia).3 The apostle Paul must have been aware that some of the lost sheep of Israel were to be found in Italy as he stated during his passage to Rome: “… for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain” (ACTS 28:20).
The Apostle PaulThe Apostle Paul What this actually meant was the Roman pagan system of idol worship was transformed into a system that merely appeared Christian and gave birth to the Roman Catholic Church. Accordingly, images like “Fortuna and Jupiter” were renamed as “Madonna with Child”.4 Constantine further transformed the pagan tradition of the worship of Easter (the godess of dawn, and the return of spring) into a national “Christian” holiday. This supposedly gives honour to the resurrection of Christ, but keeps the exact pattern of heathen worship. In fact, the Bible does not give us any instruction that we should celebrate this day.5 Likewise, many Roman temples were transformed into Catholic churches. Events such as these ensured that the Roman church had a rapid increase of new members from a heathen background, and guaranteed a religious influence on a slowly crumbling empire.
Santa Pudenziana, Rome
In 2 TIMOTHY 4:21, Paul mentions his half-brother Rufus Pudens, Claudia (Caractacus’ daughter) and her cousin Eubulus: “… Eubulus greeteth thee, and Pudens, and Linus, and Claudia, and all the brethren.” Linus, Claudia’s brother-in-law, was later ordained the first bishop of Rome by Paul, not the apostle Peter, as Roman Catholic doctrine suggests. 6,7

The Apostle Paul in Rome

Santa Pudenziana, RomeSanta Pudenziana, Rome Paul had been one of the greatest persecutors of the young Christian church in Israel, but through a mighty vision of the Lord Jesus was converted and became one of the most passionate defenders of Christianity. It had been a great burden on his heart to preach the gospel in Rome, the capital of the ancient world, as we read in ACTS 19:21: “After these things were ended, Paul purposed in the spirit, when he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, to go to Jerusalem, saying, After I have been there, I must also see Rome.”
Having preached the gospel in the above destinations, Paul was arrested for this cause. The Lord then appeared to him in another vision recorded in ACTS 23:11: “And the night following the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome.”
After two years of imprisonment through the governor Felix, this prophecy was fulfilled: As Felix handed Paul over to the Jews, Paul, being a Roman citizen, pleaded upon Caesar to judge his cause and save his life. After a long and fatiguing journey by ship, Paul arrived in Rome around 56 AD. The Bible tells us about Paul’s ministry in Rome: “And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him, preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him.” (ACTS 28:30-31). During his time in Rome, Paul wrote some of his well-known letters (Paul did not write the letter to the Romans in Rome - who would have sent greetings to people he could have spoken to himself!). Letters that later became part of the Holy Bible, as well as the letter to Philemon and to the churches of the Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians. According to tradition, Paul was beheaded in Rome around 67 AD.6

Revival and Persecution

Early Christians exposed to deathEarly Christians exposed to death In the year 64 AD, the young church in Rome experienced its first severe persecution through the neurotic emperor Nero. After several years of relative peace the persecution revived under the emperor Domitian. At times, the persecutors didn’t even stop at entering into the catacombs (Christian burial and meeting places), to continue their merciless hunt. This happened despite the Roman tradition of not shedding blood in sanctified places. The emperor Trajan passed the first law concerning the treatment of followers of this new religion in 112 AD: that Christians should not be followed up and denounced. However, Christianity was still a prohibited religion, and as it did not honour the Roman pagan state religion, Christians were considered political offenders. Further systematic persecutions took place under Decius (250 A.D.) and Valerian (257 A.D.) with the purpose of depriving the churches of their leaders and thereby destroying them. The last and most terrible persecution was at the beginning of the 4th century under Diocletian and Galerius, but it did not succeed in suppressing Christianity.
In spite of Christianity being recognized as the state religion under Constantine the Great in 313 AD1, persecution arose with the rise of papal power during the following centuries, and Christians suffered persecution throughout the whole country. Many thousands of so-called “heretics” lost their lives in their battle for freedom from the Roman Catholic Church. Hundreds of thousands died as martyrs, suffering indescribable tortures.

The Waldenses and the Reformation in Italy

In 1059 AD, as the churches in northern Italy submitted to the Pope, those who did not want to submit fled into the Cottian Alps of Northwest Italy that became known as the Valley of the Waldenses. In the 14th century, Papal troops began entering even those valleys, cruelly massacring thousands of civilians, not sparing infants, women or the elderly. (see theme sheet “The Huguenots, Waldenses, and Catharians”).
Waldensian ValleyWaldensian Valley The Reformation had already been in existence for several years “before the news reached the remote valleys of the Waldenses. When they heard the news, ‘they were like men who dreamed’. They were eager to find out if the reports were indeed true, that a large segment of believers had thrown off the yoke of Rome. In 1526, the Waldensian Synod sent Pastor Martin on a mission of enquiry. He returned with joyous news that the Gospel, so long preached in the Valleys, was now being “proclaimed in many places of northern Europe.”8 “The first noteworthy traces of the Reformation in Italy appeared in the north, at Venice, but the culmination was reached in the south, at Naples between 1520 and 1540.”9
The Roman Catholic Church reacted deliberatetly and systematically and organized “The Inquisition”, which led to the torture and death of numberless so-called heretics throughout all of Europe until about 1570.9 In Italy, especially, the Christian population of the Waldensian valleys in Piedmont and the plains around Venice suffered heavy persecution; the region of Calabria was completely depleted of Christians in a bloody, merciless hunt. Trying to convert the true believers in Christ back to Roman Catholicism, inquisitors tortured thousands to death. Those who would not deny their faith were most brutally tortured beyond imagination and killed. Reports, too disturbing to be mentioned on this site can be gained from “Fox’s Book of Martyrs”.10
Seeking help from Protestant Europe, Oliver Cromwell positioned gunboats to force justice for the Waldensians from the Duke of Savoy in 1655, “but peace was not to last long. In 1686 a decree was promulgated to deny Waldensians of all liberty. The majority decided to go to Switzerland in exile. Of the 12,000 inhabitants from the valleys less than 4,000 reached safety; the rest were martyred or died along the way.”11
“A brief but glorious episode can be revealed when, in 1870, the Papal States were abolished and the city of Rome was opened to all. One of the first to enter Rome was a Waldensian colporteur [missionary] with a bundle of Bibles,”12 preaching the gospel in this, the home of the worst enemy of their faith.

Pentecostal Revival in Italy

Reform preacher being burned alive in FlorenceReform preacher being burned alive in Florence The history of the Pentecostal revival in Italy started with the revival at Azusa Street, Los Angeles, California, where some Italian immigrants caught the Holy Ghost fire. One of these immigrants was Luigi Francescon who would become one of the leading figures of the Pentecostal movement in Italy. Having emigrated to America in 1890, it was not until 1907 that Francescon received the Holy Spirit with the sign of speaking in a new tongue and was baptized after having made contact with the evangelist William H. Durham. Many of his fellow countrymen in America followed his example. In April 1908 the first four missionaries were sent to Italy, but had little success. Only one stayed, the rest returned to America, discouraged by the scanty results of the campaign.
The few converts, as well as some of their relatives, decided to follow the missionaries back to America. Francescon’s former fellow combatant from America, Giacomo Lombarde, finally rejoined him in Italy after he had stayed back on his own. Together God used them mightily to spread the full gospel of baptism with the Holy Ghost fire and full immersion in water, in Italy (JOHN 3:1-8; ACTS 2:37-39). The first assembly was founded in Rome in 1910, and within the following years more churches were planted throughout the whole country.
n the 1930’s, the fascist regime under Mussolini gained power. This led to the passing of a law, in 1935, that restricted the Pentecostal churches by forbidding them to assemble and spread their beliefs. Like in ancient times, believers were again forced to meet secretly in private homes and were subject to severe persecution. After the fall of Mussolini’s regime in July 1943, and the liberation of Italy through allied troops, the persecution of Christians officially ended in June 1944.
Believers from all social classes quickly reassembled in public meetings and during the following years the Pentecostal movement experienced a mighty revival.13 Nowadays, there are a number of little Pentecostal groups and churches throughout the still strongly Roman Catholic-dominated and influenced country. Surprisingly enough, there is a Pentecostal T.V. & radio channel!
Our prayer is that God will pour out His Spirit again on our beloved country in a great revival and that many more souls will be added to His Kingdom!
“Salute all them that have the rule over you, and all the saints. They of Italy salute you. Grace be with you all. Amen” (HEBREWS 13:24-25).
  • 1. a. b. Daniel R. Walsh, Lost Tribes of Israel Study Maps, Vol 1, Celtica (1995).
  • 2. Lutherbibel (1912), LBN La Buona Novella, 1999.
  • 3. Daniel R. Walsh, Lost Tribes of Israel Study Maps, Vol 3, Celtica (1995).
  • 4. See: Christmas: Is it from the Bible - or Paganism?.
  • 5. See: Easter: Is Easter Really Christian? You should know! The Bible does not once command us to observe Easter.
  • 6. a. b. Daniel R. Walsh, Lost Tribes of Israel Study Maps, Vol 4, Celtica (1995).
  • 7. George F. Jowett, The Drama of the Lost Disciples, Covenant Publishing (1993), p. 128.
  • 8. Dr. Bill Jackson, The Noble Army of 'Heretics', chapter 5, par. 3, and Social Constantinianism <angelfire.com>.
  • 9. a. b. K. Benrath, The Reformation in Italy <ccel.com>.
  • 10. John Foxe, Fox’s Book of Martyrs.
  • 11. Dr. Bill Jackson, The Noble Army of 'Heretics' <angelfire.com>.
  • 12. Dr. Bill Jackson, The Noble Army of 'Heretics' <angelfire.com>.
  • 13. Stefano Bogliolo, La storia del Risveglio Pentecostale in Italia, Verso la Meta (2002).

Monday, August 14, 2017

Germany's Christian Heritage

CHRISTIAN ASSEMBLIES INTERNATIONAL, P.O. BOX 888, COFFS HARBOUR N.S.W. 2450, AUSTRALIA

Brief History of Germany

Germany has quite an unsettled history. It is a country much influenced by God, but sadly also much used by Satan.
Throughout the migration period, starting in about 300 AD, tribes of Israelite origin like the Goths, Scyths, Angles and Saxons (descendants from the Israelite tribes of Gad, Dan, Judah and Ephraim), Franks (Reuben), Jutes (Judah), and others moved into and through central Europe, and settled within what is called Germany today. From 500 to 900 AD other tribes flowed into the same area from the East, amongst them the Huns, who are from Assyrian and Gomerian descent. While there was (and is) a majority of descendants of pagan tribes such as Hittites and Assur in the South, the North was mostly of Israelite descent.
Throughout the centuries most of the people of ancient Israelite origin moved on, up to Scandinavia, the British Isles and later to North America and left only remnants, mainly in north and central Germany. But in history, particularly on flags and the coats of arms of German cities and provinces the Israelite heritage can still be seen.
Coat of arms of Lower SaxonyCoat of arms of BremenCoat of arms of Thuringia
 Coat of arms of the German states of Lower Saxony, Bremen and Thuringia
A few of them are shown here, e.g. the sign of the tribe of Gad was the horse which is seen in the coat of Arms of Lower Saxony. In heraldry, the lion represents the tribe of Judah and, often with a crown, the Lord Himself (as seen in the British coat of arms). You can see both of these in the coats of arms of Bremen and Thuringia. The origin of the key in the coat of arms of Bremen is not clear, but might be linked with the scripture in REVELATION 3:7.
Another example of proof of Israelite heritage in history can be seen in the close family ties between relations of the European royal houses. The personal union of the British and German kings from 1714 (George I) until 1837 (Victoria) and their blood line of Israelite desendency can be followed straight back to the Kings of Israel. (See the article ‘The Remnant of Judah Found in Germany’ for more information).
As Germany was not made up of a single homogenous people, it also wasn’t unified under a single political unit until the late 19th Century. The Germans exerted, however, a tremendous influence upon western civilisation from its very beginnings. Basically, there were three ‘German Empires’. The most well known was called the ‘Third Reich’, where Germany was under the infamous Nazi rule, between 1933 and 1945. The ‘Holy Roman Empire’, dating from the 8th Century AD until 1806 AD, was the first German empire. The territory of the empire originally included what is now modern day Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, Switzerland, eastern France, the low countries, and parts of northern and central Italy. After the mid-15th Century, it was known as the "Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation". It was ruled by the Roman Catholic popes of Rome with the German emperors as their henchmen. It was Martin Luther who broke up the absolute power of the Catholic Church, starting with the translation of the Word of God into German.
The time between 1871 and 1918 was known as the ‘Second Reich’. It was a short period where Germany was united through unsteady times of industrialisation, colonialism and huge economic problems. There was a significant increase in the population during this time. In 1914 she went to war and was destroyed. It was also the time of the rise and fall of independent Christian groups who left the State Churches and became part of the worldwide revivals.

Roman Catholicism in Germany

The history of the Catholic Church in Germany began in the 3rd Century A.D. with the founding of dioceses in Trier, Cologne and Mainz. After a short period, due to the decline of the Roman Empire, there was a gradual rising of power by the Roman popes and new dioceses and missions were founded. By the 12th Century the Catholic Church had spread through the whole of Germany and held absolute religious and political power. There were no Bibles available in the language of the common people and therefore the church was able to suppress the continent into a dark age of superstition and brutality. A very powerful instrument which the church used to oppress the masses, even after the Reformation, was the “Holy Office” or the Inquisition. It had begun in the 11th Century after apparent “heretics” like the Waldenses, Albigenses, Baptists and others revealed the lies of the religious system of the papal church. The inquisition rose to such an extent that it is estimated to have caused the death of up to seventy million people in Europe. The German emperors and kings proved to be amongst the most devoted followers of the Catholic barbarism and the “Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation” political power was depending on the grace and mercy of the pope. Heinrich IV, for example, was forced to walk from Speyer in Germany to Canossa in Italy in January of 1077 to show his repentance and devotion to Pope Gregor VII, after he had dared to nominate bishops. The pope banned him for this heresy and part of the journey he travelled bare foot through the icy Alps, which clearly illustrates the power of the papal system of that time.
It was mainly Martin Luther, who broke up hundreds of years of rigid and absolute power of the Roman Catholic system through his courageous teachings.

Martin Luther and the Reformation

Luther (1483-1546 AD) is one of the most prominent notabilities in Germany’s history. After his dramatic conversion, he became an Augustin monk. From 1514 Luther was a professor of theology at Wittenberg University and was also the priest at the city church. During this time Luther observed that many people in Wittenberg were not coming to him for confession and were going to other towns nearby to buy ‘indulgences’. The practice of buying indulgences replaced confession and allowed people to buy their salvation, this completely repulsed Luther. Contrary to the Roman Catholic dogmas, Luther believed that man receives grace from God without works according to ROMANS 3:24.
Martin LutherMartin Luther After 1507 AD, the trade of indulgences increased enormously because the Papal Court wanted to build a new Cathedral in Rome called the “Dome of St. Peter”. To accumulate the funds required, the Dominican monk, Johann Tetzel, sold indulgences in the region of Wittenberg in a very bold manner. People were even made to believe that Tetzel could redeem the sins of the deceased. A well-known saying of Tetzel was, "As soon as the gold in the casket rings, the rescued soul to heaven springs."
Luther had openly preached against the indulgence trade prior to 31st October, 1517. On that day, however, he hammered his famous ninety-five theses against the abuse of the church power onto the door of Wittenberg's church. He also wrote a letter with the same content to his church superiors. Luther did not expect to receive such a prompt response. By the end of 1517, copies of the theses had been printed in Leipzig, Nuremberg and Basel. Some humanists and princes passionately approved of the theses, but the Roman Church completely rejected them. The most vehement voice against the theses was the Indulgence Priest Tetzel, who supposedly categorised Luther as a follower of the heretic John Hus and threatened to have him burned at the stake. Luther did not want an open split in the church and tried to calm the clergy down.
Luther remained firmly based on the Word and later clearly considered the Roman Catholic Church to be the harlot of the book of Revelation and the Pope of Rome the Antichrist: "We here are of the conviction that the papacy is the seat of the true and real Antichrist ... Personally I declare that I owe the Pope no other obedience than that to Antichrist."1 (2 THESSALONIANS 2:4) The avalanche was now unstoppable. The Papal Court reacted drastically and named Luther as a heretic and in 1518 the inquisition began in Rome. This quietened down in 1519 during the search for a successor to the deceased Emperor Maximilian. Once Karl V was elected as emperor, the fight against Luther and his followers continued. Luther was banned from the Catholic Church and in 1521 was officially declared an outlaw and a heretic. At that time Luther already had found shelter through King Frederik the Wise and remained at Wartburg Castle. There, Luther started his most influential work: which was the translation of the Bible into German and his translation was soon widely used as a basis for several European Bible translations. Luther’s teachings had an enormous impact on the French and Swiss reformation movement as well.
Martin Luther, who was Spirit-filled with the sign of speaking in new tongues 2 (ACTS 2:4; MARK 16:17), shaped the Protestant Reformation more than any one else preceding him. Thanks to the printing press, another invention of the time, his pamphlets were well-read throughout Germany, influencing many Protestant Reformers and thinkers and giving rise to revival movements in Europe and elsewhere. Through spreading the Word of God in Germany, Luther can also be seen as a major contributor to the development of the German language. Furthermore, he wrote a considerable number of famous hymns which are sung in churches in the world to this day.
On February 18th 1546, Luther died in Eisleben. He left six children with his wife Katharina Von Bora.

The Anabapists of the 16th Century

The Anabaptists' enemies and opponents named them this as the term means "re-baptisers". Unlike Lutheran protestants or Roman Catholics, they did not recognise infant baptism as biblical but baptised people who were repentant according to ACTS 2:38. Because of this and other Biblical principles even protestants called them heretics. Luther himself called them ‘Schwärmer’ (fanatics, enthusiasts) and supported their persecution.
Persecution of AnabaptistsPersecution of Anabaptists Several denominations of today are the successors of the continental Anabaptists including the Amish, Baptists, Brethren, Hutterites, Mennonites and Bruderhof Communities. The Mennonites, for example, are a group of Christian Anabaptist denominations based on the teachings of Menno Simons (1496-1561). The Amish, however, were named after their founder Jakob Amman (1644-1730) (see the Dutch and Swiss Christian history reports).
During the sixteenth century, the Mennonites and other Anabaptists were relentlessly persecuted. Many of them were killed and the survivors often found their way to foreign countries, first within Europe, and then overseas, predominantly to North America.
Today, these denominations still have large communities in the USA and Canada, often still living in the old ways of their forefathers. More important though is their participation in the founding of the most Bible-based nation in the “New World”, the United States of America.

The Counter-Reformation

In 1534, Ignatius of Loyola founded the Jesuit order in Spain. As the notorious intelligence service of the Roman Church they had a major influence in the Counter-Reformation, which began at the Council of Trent (1545-1563). They aimed to set up a clear distinction between the Catholic dogmas and the opposing Bible-based protestant teachings of that time. A major “success” was the “Augsburger Religionsfrieden” of 1555 that said that the actual ruler of a region could force the people to follow his religious confession (cuius regio, eius religio). It didn’t take long before massive conflicts took place such as at the House of Habsburg, which was re-converted to Catholicism under Rudolf II, with great brutality as tens of thousands were forced to either convert to Catholicism or die. The people of the Bohemian area started a revolt against the re-conversion to the Roman system which finally escalated into the Thirty Years War in 1618. In the Battle of White Mountain (1620) the protestant confederation under Prince Frederik V was beaten by Ferdinand II and he was forced to either leave the country or convert. From this conflict the war spread into Germany and eventually involved Denmark (1625), Sweden (1630), France (1636) and even England.
After the peace of Westphalia in 1648, the war stopped and it left Europe devastated. Between 15-20 percent of Germany’s population were left dead, starving or suffering from famine and endemic diseases (pestilence, typhus and others) took their toll. An immediate result of the war was the enshrinement of a Germany divided among many territories all of which had de facto sovereignty, despite their continuing membership of the Empire up to its formal dissolution in 1806.

Christianity in Germany During the 18th Century

ZinsendorfA very influential Christian leader in the 18th century was the Dresden born Count of Zinzendorf and Pottendorf (1700-1760). Zinzendorf wanted to awaken people by preaching, by tract distributing, books and by practical benevolence, as the Lutheran Church of his time had become fairly paralysed. He believed that true Christianity could be best promoted by free associations of Christians, which in the course of time might grow into churches with no state connection. These thoughts could be put into practice through his connection with the Bohemian or Moravian Brethren. Zinzendorf offered asylum to wanderers from Moravia, who fled from the massive Catholic persecution and built the village of Herrnhut for them on a corner of his estate. The brethren who had come from various countries to Herrnhut were united and they all received the Holy Ghost and started a prayer chain which lasted a hundred years!
Although the political and religious scene in Saxony was more relaxed as Herrnhut was surrounded by Protestant communities, these very Lutherans began to regard him as a nuisance and a heretic because he was a disturber of the peace. He was accused of many crimes such as founding a new sect and of holding strange opinions opposing the teachings of the Lutheran Church. Nevertheless, he was able to prove through his testimony that the brethren in Herrnhut were as orthodox as Luther. His methods were bold and straightforward. At one time a Lutheran commission was sent out to find reasons for banning Zinzendorf. Coming back, they stated: “His doctrine is as pure as ours, but we do not possess his discipline!”
However, it was due to the fact that the Assembly in Herrnhut did not join the Lutheran Church, that Zinzendorf was finally banned from Saxony in 1636. He took this as an opportunity to firstly open a new community in Hesse (Herrnhaag) and later start his most influential world-wide mission work.
Missionaries were sent out to the most remote areas in the world, for example, amongst slaves in the Danish-governed West Indies and to the Inuit in Greenland. His contacts with the court of Denmark and King Christian VI facilitated such missionary endeavours. He saw with delight the spread of this Protestant “family order” in Germany, Denmark, Russia and England. He travelled widely in its interests, visiting America in 1741-42 and spending a long time in London in 1750. Missionary colonies had by this time been settled in the West Indies (1732), in Greenland (1733), and amongst the North American Indians (1735). Before Zinzendorf's death the Brethren had been sent from Herrnhut as missionary colonialists to Livonia; to the northern shores of the Baltic; to the slaves of North Carolina; to Suriname; to the Negro slaves in several parts of South America; to Travancore in the East Indies; to the Copts in Egypt; to the Inuit of Labrador and to the west coast of South Africa. John Wesley, founder of the Methodist Church, received great inspiration from Zinzendorf’s mission for his own worldwide missionary work. Zinzendorf also wrote a large number of hymns, including the well known "Jesus, Thy Blood and Righteousness," and "Jesus, Still Lead On".

Pietism, Pentecostalism and the Berlin Declaration

Sadly, by the 17th century the Lutheran Church had become a creed-bound theological and sacramentarian institution and some orthodox theologians ruled with almost the absolutism of the papacy. During that time the Pietism movement arose which also inspired Zinzendorf. The name of “Pietism” (like that of "Methodists" in England) was a term of ridicule, given to the adherents of the movement by its enemies.
As a distinct movement in the German Church, Pietism originated mainly through the work of Philipp Jakob Spener (born 1635). Meetings were held at his house (collegia pietatis) where he performed a new kind of service by inducing those present to join in conversation. His work made a deep impression throughout Germany and while many pastors adopted Spener’s proposals, large numbers of the orthodox Lutheran theologians were deeply offended by Spener's teachings, although its content was purely Biblically based.
The German revivals of the 20th Century started mainly within the official protestant churches following the teachings of Spener and Zinzendorf, as well as those of the revivals in San Francisco (W. J. Seymour) and Topeka (C. Parham) (see Christian History of the USA). These movements originated as a “Heiligungsbewegung” (Holiness Movement) and independent churches arose alongside the Lutheran and Protestant churches. This movement led to great tension within the German churches and culminated in the ‘Berlin Declaration’ of 1909, when the Protestant church accused the Pentecostal movement of being lead by satanic spirits! Subsequently, speaking in tongues and healing through the laying on of hands were forbidden. Shortly thereafter Germany’s troubled history included: two devastating world wars; the satanic regime of the National Socialists, who could openly perform their “new” evil religion; and the dividing of the country with one half under Communist rule for forty years. Lastly, the spiritual decline which can be seen and felt in the country today has occurred as a direct result of quenching the Spirit and turning away from God.

Hope For Our Future If We Turn To God

Today in Germany, Bible-based, Pentecostal and other non-mainstream churches are in the clear minority and are still regarded with great suspicion and hostility. Many Bible-based churches are labelled as “sects” and “cults”. The Lutheran and Protestant Churches have almost forgotten their history and are visibly returning to the beliefs of the Roman Catholic Church under the ecumenical movement.
Only going back to the Word of God can rekindle the fire that spread in the times of Martin Luther, Count Zinzendorf and others. Many of them were martyred or went through great tribulations so that we could have a German Bible and not live in the Dark Ages. It is only if we remember our history, turn to the Word of God and live by God’s law that we, as a Nation, can be blessed again.
HOSEA 4:6 “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.”
JOB 8:8 “For enquire, I pray thee, of the former age, and prepare thyself to the search of their fathers …”

Saturday, August 12, 2017

The Christian History of France

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The Origin of France and of the French people

The French are not a single, homogenous people. France, once called “Gaul”, was settled by Celts who migrated to the South of Gaul in 800 BC. These Celtic Gauls were in fact dispersed Israelites, most likely from the tribe of Reuben.1 In about 600 BC the Phocaeans, a Greek tribe, founded Massalia (Marseilles), France’s oldest city, which also features France’s most ancient harbour. Marseilles was populated by Celts, Greeks and even Phoenicians, and played a crucial role in the development of trade with Greek cities, Northern Europe and even the Atlantic, by which tin from England was transported. The Franks – Germanic people from central Europe – then settled in France in the early third century AD. Additionally, the Vikings from Norway, led by King Rollo in 911AD, settled the area of Normandy, the “Northmen” eventually becoming the “Normans”. They were also of Israelite descent. Thus the ethnic make-up of ancient France was quite mixed, with a sizeable portion of the population descended from the wandering and exiled tribes of Israel.

The First Christians in France

France received its Christianity directly from Jerusalem in the first century BC. After Christ’s death, Christians were persecuted in Jerusalem and in all cities of Palestine. Joseph of Arimathea, Lazarus (resurrected by Jesus), Mary Magdalene, and several other followers of Jesus were all exiled from Israel, and set afloat by their persecutors in an oar-less boat without sail. The boat miraculously reached an area near Marseilles (called today “Les Saintes Maries de la Mer” or “The Holy Mary(s) from the Sea), where Philip had already settled down and begun to preach the Word.2
Joseph of Arimathea was the Virgin Mary’s uncle. He was a tin trader who was well known in Marseille, as his ship would stop there on its way to the tin mines in England. Joseph (with some other disciples) then continued northwards through Gaul, passing through Limoges and Roscoff and across the English Channel before finally reaching Cornwall, where he established the first Christian Church in England (see Christian History of Britain).
Philip (one of Jesus’ twelve disciples) had been given the responsibility of spreading Christianity in Gaul (France), and had commissioned Joseph of Arimathea to help him. Joseph and his group had been in Avalon (modern day Glastonbury, in Cornwall, England) for about four years. During that time, Philip’s disciples won people for Christ and started schools and churches. Philip had sent about 160 Christians from Gaul to be trained by Joseph. In return, Joseph sent many of the workers back to Gaul, including most of the original group that had come with him.
The first one he sent was Lazarus, who was sent to Massialia (Marseilles); Maximin who was “the rich young ruler” and one of the seventy sent out by Jesus, went to Aix. Mary Magdalene, Mary Salome (mother of James and John) and Mary, wife of Cleopas, went to Camargue; Eutropius went to Saintes (in Aquitaine) and later to Orange, Arles and Tarascon. Saturninus went to Toulouse; Martial went to Limoges and Parmenas (one of the deacons mentioned in ACTS 6:5) went to Avignon. Restitutus (the blind man healed by Jesus in JOHN chapter 9) also went to Aix; Zaccheus (who accompanied Joseph of Arimathea) settled in Rocamadour and Sergius Paulus, a deputy of Paphos (the “prudent man” in ACTS 13:7-12) went to Narbonne. Many others who were sent as missionaries to Gaul/France could be mentioned. It should be noted too that Pilate was banished from Jerusalem to Vienne (South Lyon) in AD 38 and Herod Antipas was banished to Lyon in AD 39.3

The Dark Ages

In the following centuries, the French Christians suffered greatly from the Roman Catholic persecutions, and the faithful became increasingly isolated. The Roman Catholic religion, a blend of Christianity and heathen festivals and practices, became stronger and stronger over the following centuries throughout the Roman Empire, including Gaul. The true Gospel was lost in most parts of France and Europe, wars raged, and barbaric invasions muddied things further with their heathen religions, superstitions and ignorance. All the Kings, including the most famous ones such as Clovis and Charlemagne, supported the Roman Catholic church fully, which took the true basis of the Gospel and the work of the disciples, and twisted them into a cruel parody of what the Bible commands the church to be like. In order to maintain supremacy throughout Europe, the Roman Catholic church would persecute, imprison, torture and kill all those opposed to their doctrine. Their victims throughout the centuries numbered into the millions. Yet even in this dark time there were still witnesses in France for the Truth.

The Albigenses

The massacre of Bezier The Albigenses (also called “Cathars”) originated in the area of Albi and Toulouse around 1100 AD. A revival “wind” came from Eastern Europe, bringing the light of the Gospel to the common man. The Albigenses were “reformers before the reform”, believing in salvation through receiving the Holy Spirit and being changed by the Word. They read the Bible in the common language (The Latin Vulgate ), which was forbidden by the Roman Catholic church. As a result, they were accused of heresy for using a non-Catholic Bible. They increased so rapidly that many cities were inhabited exclusively by them, and several eminent noblemen embraced their doctrines. Among the latter were Raymond VI, Earl of Toulouse, and the Earl of Foix.
Pope Innocent III thus initiated a crusade against them. He was helped by Simon of Monfort and the Northern Barons. The Albigenses were viciously tortured and killed, regardless of sex or age. In Bezier, those who refused to abjure their faith were taken in a storm of cruelty. The Catholic legate, during these infernal proceedings, enjoyed the carnage, and even cried out to the troops “Kill them, kill them all, kill man, woman and child. Kill Catholics as well as Albigenses, for when they are dead the Lord knows his own.” Bezier was reduced to a heap of ruins and 60,000 people were murdered.
Some of the Albigenses fled to the Piedmont area where the Waldenses also found refuge after suffering persecution from the Catholic Church. Despite the small number of Albigenses who escaped the persecutions, they kept firm in their faith.

The Waldenses

Many people place the Waldenses as having started in the 12th century, but they date their lineage as being much earlier. Their teaching can be traced back to the 4th century. Although many churches along the centuries had already been brought under the power of the Papacy, Bible doctrine was still preached in many of the churches of Lombardy and Piedmont. Images were removed from churches, justification by faith was preached, and purgatory and the use of relics and pilgrimages to attain merit were rejected.
In 1059 the churches in Northern Italy submitted to the pope, and though the plains were conquered, the mountains remained free. Those who did not want to submit fled into the Cottian Alps of North-West Italy. The Bible-believing churches held a strong evangelical testimony and were fiercely persecuted. Some of the Christians crossed the Rhine and preached the Gospel as far as Cologne, where they were branded as Manicheans, and many were burned at the stake.
In 1173, Peter Waldo, a wealthy merchant from Lyon, France, was converted. Some say that he received his surname through his association with the Waldenses, who most certainly had an evangelical testimony before the time of Waldo. While a majority of historians name Peter Waldo as the originator of the Waldenses, the Waldensian ‘Noble Lesson’ dates from at least the year 1100, long before Waldo was born. Waldo was excommunicated in 1183, after being denied the right to preach. His followers were dispersed, and a number of them fled to the Waldensian Valleys. The great Dominican persecution of the Albigenses began in the 13th century. Many of these Christians also fled to Waldensian safety.
The importance of the Waldenses as a cause of the Reformation is often overlooked. They were evangelistic as well as being evangelical. They travelled throughout southern and central Europe, often disguised as peddlers, until they brought forth from their hearts treasures greater than the gems and silks they sold. They penetrated into Spain, and went as far east as Germany, Bohemia and Poland. Their footsteps can be traced not only by the evangelical churches that were founded, but by the stakes upon which many were martyred. The seed of the Gospel was often watered by the blood of those who had sowed it.

The Reformation in France and the Huguenots

The persecution by the Roman Catholics plunged France into spiritual darkness for several centuries. In 1517 Luther nailed his 95 theses on the door of his church in Wittenberg, Germany, criticizing Roman Catholic doctrines. This was the starting point of the Reformation that spread throughout Europe. Calvin, a French reformer convinced by Luther’s ideas, was forced to leave Paris and stayed in Basle, Strasbourg and Geneva, where he settled in 1541 (see the Christian History of Switzerland). In France, the followers of the Protestant faith were called Huguenots.
The Huguenot coat of armsThe Huguenot coat of arms. The 4 hearts represents loyalty and the dove represents the Holy Spirit.
After a long period of troubles in France, the Roman Catholic church, seeing they could not overcome the Huguenots by open force, began to devise how they might entrap them by subtlety, and that by two ways: first, by a pretend commission sent into the Low Countries, which the prince of Navarre and Conde was to command. The aim was merely to learn what power and force the Admiral de Coligny, one of the leaders of the Protestant Party, had under him, and who they were.
The second was by a marriage between the Prince of Navarre (who was Huguenot) and the king’s Roman Catholic sister, Queen Margot, to which were to be invited all the principal protestants of France. Even the Prince’s mother, the famous Jeanne d’Albret came to Paris. She fell sick shortly after her arrival and died within five days, not without suspicion of poison (the Roman Catholic king’s mother, Catherine de Medicis was an expert on that matter). Notwithstanding, the marriage still proceeded. All the protestant chiefs were invited by letter from the Roman Catholic king, which guaranteed safe passage to and safety within Paris. The trap was now set and the marriage took place on the 19th of August, 1572. Four days after this, the Admiral de Coligny, returning from the council table, was shot at with a pistol charged with three bullets, and wounded in both arms.

St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre (24th August 1572)

Soldiers had been appointed to different parts of Paris, to be ready at the command of the king. Upon the watchword being given, they burst forth, slaughtering all the Protestants, beginning with the leaders and the Admiral himself, who was cast out of the window into the street, where his head was struck off, embalmed and sent to the pope. His martyrdom had no sooner taken place, than the troops, with rage and violence, ran about slaying all the Protestants they knew or could find within the city gates. This continued many days, but the greatest slaughter was in the first three days in which more than 10,000 men and women, young and old were murdered.
This massacre extended to other cities like Lyon, Orleans, Toulouse and Rouen, where the cruelties were, if possible, even greater than in the capital. In one month, 30,000 Huguenots were slain.4 When he was crowned king, Henri IV denied the Protestant faith and made compromises with the Roman Catholic Church. He brought peace back to the land in 1598 with the Edict of Nantes that granted religious freedom to the Protestants.3
One famous protestant leader, John Welch, son-in-law of John Knox, was exiled to France in 1606 for 14 years until Louis XIII attacked the area of La Rochelle. He was in St. Jean d’Angely, where it is recorded that he raised the dead; was protected from cannonballs when Louis XIII’s army surrounded the city; made the army flee and then even preached while the king was residing in the city, which was forbidden.5
Then came the Thirty Years War - a war waged by the Roman Catholic countries against those areas that accepted the Reformation.

The Revocation of the Edict of Nantes and the Wilderness Period

In spite of the Edict of Nantes which “officially” brought peace for Protestants for some decades, the Hugenots were in fact still constantly persecuted. Children were taken from their families, and fathers and preachers sent to the galleys or imprisoned, if not executed. Many Protestants fled abroad (see histories of South Africa and Canada). King Louis XIV then argued that considering there were no Protestants in France anymore, he could revoke the Edict of Nantes, as it was no longer relevant.
The Revocation (or cancelling) of the Edict of Nantes, signed by Louis XIV in 1685, caused more French Protestants to flee. Pastors were commanded either to leave the kingdom or be sent to the galleys as punishment. Furthermore, Protestant churches were closed down and destroyed.
Protestants were forbidden to praise God either in public or at home. For this reason many attempted to flee, but were captured and sent to the galleys as slaves. This was a very dark time for Protestants. Protestant children born after 1685 also had to be baptised by Roman Catholic priests. Those who had decided to stay assembled secretly in houses, but when this became too dangerous, they met in forests and in quiet, deserted places in the South of France. These meetings were called “wilderness gatherings”.3
In July 1702, the War of the Cévennes began, also called the War of the Camisards, which set a whole area (Montélimar-Le Puy-Montpellier) on fire from 1702 to 1704. The royal troops of Louis XIV tried to slaughter the population of this mountainous central area, where thousands of Protestants found refuge. This war was prolonged until 1710 with many tragic episodes, which included the famous "burning of the Cévennes" in December 1703. The War of the Camisards mobilized 20,000 men of the royal troops and resulted in the death of 25-30,000 men, women and children of both Catholic and Protestant confessions.
During the whole 18th century, persecution of the Huguenots continued. Their civil rights were abolished and faithful preachers and believers who did not want to compromise were sent to the galleys. About 250,000 French Protestants left France during that period, as the only choices they had were to convert to Catholicism, be deported or sent to the galleys, or to die. Thousands of tradesmen, professors, qualified workers, farmers, doctors, etc left France with their families and belongings and migrated to England, North Germany, Holland, Switzerland and even to South Africa or North America.
In 1787, Louis XVI proclaimed the Edit de Tolérance, which gave some liberty to the Protestants again. During the French Revolution, with the Declaration des Droits de l’Homme proclaimed in 1789, the Church and the state were separated and each person was free to choose their religion.

The Christian Awakening in the Late 19th Century

The beginning of the 19th century was quite tragic for France, with incessant wars. More than a quarter of the French population died during the slaughters of the revolution and the Napoleonic wars. During the whole century, the Roman Catholic religion was still the most wide-spread in France and people had to wait for the peace following the 1870 war (the first French-German war) to see the light of the Gospel shine again. It came mostly from across the Channel, as missionaries were sent from England to France (Normandy), and some areas like Chambon (in the Cévennes, between St. Etienne, Le Puy and Valences in Southern France) experienced revival. The people also rose up against the rigid protestant institutions, which had grown cold and formal over time.
The Chambon had a long protestant history, with the first preachers arriving there in 1491. Since this time, there was always a very strong and lively protestant influence that never ceased, despite persecution. Pastors also held “Wilderness gatherings” there during the 18th century. The Protestant children escaped Catholic schools and found themselves in unofficial schools run by courageous teachers. At the end of the 19th century, teaching farms were created to help city children and teach them about the Gospel. Those who went to these schools were taught how to work on a farm as well as to restore their faith and learn about the Word.
In 1881, the Salvation Army (see the Christian History of Britain) was established in Paris by Kate Booth, the 22-year-old daughter of General Booth (the second building was built in Le Chambon in 1882). Helped by three comrades of her own age, Catherine settled in the popular district of Belleville-Ménilmontant. The beginnings were hard as they suffered scoffing, gibes and uproars (Catherine was called "the Marshal's wife" by the Parisians). “Night after night, for six months, she stood out against a grimy wine-flushed audience of taunting ‘ouvriers’. At last, when they sought to convert a prayer meeting into a riotous dance, Kate turned the tide with a clever challenge: “Mes amis! I will give you twenty minutes to dance if you will give me twenty minutes to speak!” At once a dark handsome workman in a blue blouse leapt to his feet: “Citizens, it is only fair play.” Then, standing watch in hand, he timed their capering to the minute, before calling on Kate. Eighty minutes later, with her audience still spellbound, she knew that God has granted her a precious victory. Soon she was preaching nightly to crowds 400 strong: by year’s end, only a new hall on the Quai de Valmy, seating 1,200 could contain them.”6 The Evangelisation was accompanied by a great social work involving popular hotel trades, houses for vulnerable girls etc. Many stations of the Salvation Army were created throughout France.

Christianity in the Twentieth Century and the Pentecostal Movement

From the beginning of the 20th century until the 1930s, there were two main events in the Pentecostal movement in France. One was brought about by the revival which took place in Wales at the same time (see Christian History of Britain); people prayed and worked to see the same revival in France. Many meetings were also held in an alcohol-free hotel-restaurant, the "Blue Ribbon" in Le Havre (Normandy), owned by Miss Hélène Biolley. Missionaries arrived there and Smith Wigglesworth, the famous British evangelist, visited several times. People received the Holy Spirit and were healed; they prayed for a revival in France. Miss Biolley’s "Blue Ribbon" quickly became the Christian evangelical centre in Normandy. Books were translated there (mainly from M.B. Woodworth Etter), and those who were converted could then go to England to Bible schools (such as the Elim Biblical Institute in London).
 Douglas Scott and his wifeDouglas Scott and his wife
In January 1930, Douglas Scott and his wife, newly married, arrived at Le Havre to learn French as they planned to move to the Congo as missionaries. Without waiting to learn the language, Douglas Scott immediately began to preach the Gospel. He held meetings, and people were baptised with water and received the Holy Spirit. Many were healed of various diseases. Converted alcoholics stopped drinking and thieves gave back the goods they had stolen. Until the late 1930s, baptism services were organized every 5th day. However, this small revival did not spread beyond Le Havre and was also limited in duration.
In general, there are very few Pentecostal or Evangelical churches in France, which has remained mostly Roman Catholic.

Conclusion

After the severe persecution French Protestants have undergone throughout the centuries, France has now become a “secular state”, which means that there is a clear separation between state and religion. However, as the most established religion in France is Roman Catholicism, there has been a growing suspicion toward Christian churches in recent years. The 2002 “Anti-Cult Law” shows this very clearly. Since the law’s implementation, true Christian churches have suffered persecution, since no difference is now made between pagan sects and real Christians. Article 10 of the French Constitution states that “nobody should be troubled as to their own ideas, including religious ones, as long as they do not disturb the public order as established by the Law”. Although this was originally intended for the protection of individual freedom of religion, it is now being used to stop the spreading of the Gospel and to undermine freedom of speech, making it an offence to tell someone they must obey the Bible to be saved in eternity. As a result, France has slid into an ever-worsening state of sin and corruption.
We pray that the French nation turns again to the Bible that many of its people once believed in, and starts following God’s command as described in JEREMIAH 6:16: “Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls …”
  • 1. Valerie Martlew, A Remnant of Israel in France
  • 2. John W. Taylor, The Coming of the Saints, Coventant Publishers (1969)
  • 3. a. b. c. Henry W. Stough, Dedicated Disciples, Artisan Publishers (1987)
  • 4. John Foxe, Fox’s Book of Martyrs, edited by William Byron Forbush
  • 5. Ethel Barrett, The Man Who Couldn’t Be Stopped - John Welch
  • 6. Richard Collier, The General Next to God, The Story of William Booth and the Salvation Army, Collins (1965)

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Denmark's Christian Heritage

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Danish shield - A crown above three blue rampant lionsDanish flagDanish coat of arms - Two men on either side of the coat of arms
Denmark is the smallest of the three Scandinavian kingdoms, and is located on numerous islands and the mainland peninsula of Jutland. Though Denmark is small, it is one of the very oldest continually existing national states, tracing its kings and queens back to before the 9th century. The name “Denmark” is called “Danmark” in the Danish tongue, and means “the border district of the Danes". It was used from sometime earlier than the 10th century by the dominating tribe of the Danes.
In ancient times, all the Norse peoples, kingdoms and tongues, referred to themselves as “The Danes”, as the chronicle writer of Norse mythology, Snorre Sturlasson of Iceland (12th century), writes in the history of the Norsemen, The Younger Edda. In these ancient chronicles of the Norse peoples, Snorre writes that the Norsemen came to Scandinavia as the twin-people of the Aser and the Vaner, led by the chieftain with the name (or rather title) Odin, who ruled in a kingdom at the Black Sea in Eastern Europe. In the Norse tongue, this distant eastern homeland of the Norseman was called Svithjod the Great: which is equivalent to Scythia the Great. It is here that we find the connection of the Danish people with the Israelites of the Bible. After their deportation by Assyria, the Israelites took on various names, one of them being Scythians, who moved from their original place of exile around the Caspian Sea to the Northwest (see 2 KINGS 17:6), eventually arriving in Scandinavia.
Picture of a dolmen - an ancient grave for noblemenAccording to biblical prophecy, the tribe of Dan, one of the ten Israelite tribes, left its mark wherever it went (see GENESIS 49:17 and JUDGES 18:29). Thus, the present day Russian river Dniepr, which was originally called Danapir; the Danube; and, of course, Danmark are other geographic names named after Dan. (see ‘What Does the Topic of National Israel Mean?’)
Across the Danish landscape are more than 5,000 dolmens: ancient graves for noblemen consisting of huge rocks. When the dolmens were erected is uncertain, but they are also found across Western Europe, the Western Mediterranean, and in Palestine. Everywhere Israelite people went, these dolmens can be found. The national song of Denmark mentions them in one verse, as being built in very ancient days.

The Vikings

Over time, the Danes didn’t lose their sense of adventure. As Vikings in their longboats they set about pillaging many monasteries and settlements along the coasts of England and the continent and were dreaded by the Catholic monks. During and after the Viking age, most of Scandinavia and the main part of England were under the Danish Crown.

Catholic Conversion

In the year 1000 AD under King Harald the Blue Tooth, the Danes (as we know them today) converted to Catholicism, as witnessed by the so-called “baptismal stone of Denmark”, which Harald erected near the southern Jutland town of Jelling.
From the 10th century to the 16th century, Denmark was the predominant power in northern Europe. Queen Margrethe I of Denmark (1387-1412) at one time united all of Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Finland, the Faroe Islands, and Greenland under her Crown in the Kalmar Union.

1536 - The Danish Reformation

When the German monk Martin Luther began Northern Europe’s spiritual revolt against the bondage of Rome (see the German Christian history page;), Luther’s German pupils had a great impact on the Danish clergymen. In particular, he influenced Hans Tausen, who preached Luther’s teachings openly in Viborg, and who was defended by the local populace against the guards of the bishop of Viborg. In 1536, Denmark was one of the first nations to formally convert to the teachings of Martin Luther’s Protestant Christianity. In contrast to what occurred in Germany and England, there was no shedding of blood. Subsequently, Lutheranism became the country's official religion and remains so to this day.
King Christian III locked up the Catholic bishops, banned all Catholic monk orders, and put all of the property of the wealthy Catholic Church under State control. Christian III was himself a preacher, and gained much help for the Reformation of the Church from Peter Palladius, who made the Lutheran theology understandable for common people.
The Reformation Monument in CopenhagenOne of the godliest kings of Denmark was Christian VI, although he was not very popular with his subjects as he tried to impart his biblical beliefs on them. As a friend of Count Zinzendorf (see the German Christian history page;), he opened the Danish colonies in the West Indies and Greenland as missionary fields for the Moravian brethren. Politically, King Christian VI remained neutral and didn’t involve Denmark in any of the wars of his time.
Unfortunately, not too many Danish kings were as God-fearing as Christian VI. Neither did they possess his good political judgment. In the following centuries, there was constant conflict between Sweden, who was rising in power and Denmark, whose power was receding. In the infamous Thirty Years War (1618-1648) which tore Germany apart, the Swedish King Gustav Adolph proved to be a champion of the Protestant Faith in the Protestant-Catholic struggle in Germany (see the Swedish Christian history page;). The Danish King Christian IV, however, chose to attack Sweden, and Gustav Adolph turned against Denmark. The Swedish siege of Copenhagen remains a fearful memory even today in the minds of Copenhageners. It ended in capitulation with Denmark seceding its eastern third: and this southern part of the Scandinavian Peninsula, the Skåneland, is still a part of Sweden today.
During the Napoleonic Wars, Napoleon was able to get Denmark, with its great navy, second in might only to that of Great Britain, on his side. The British Admiral Nelson bombarded Copenhagen twice (1801 and 1807), and razed half of Copenhagen to the ground. Nelson sailed away with the entire Danish Navy, the pride of Denmark. The Danish state became bankrupt in 1813 and, after Napoleon’s fall, Denmark eventually lost Norway, which until then had been under the Danish Crown. Denmark was now a small and poor country.

Religious Movements in the 19th Century

Logo of the Home MissionReligious movements were an important part of these developments. In the 1820’s, many of those who lived in the countryside, particularly in Funen and Zealand, became involved in the religious revival which, through widespread lay preaching, urged followers towards personal acceptance of Christian principles.
During the 19th century, two movements originated that influence Danish thinking even today: Grundtvigianism with a moderate, compromise-seeking view on life; and the Home Mission, a revival movement based on fundamental biblical beliefs.
Pastor N.F.S. Grundtvig combined Christianity with the national love of the history of the Danes. Grundtvig wrote prolifically on Christian and Danish history and on the peculiar national spirit of the Danes. Even today, more than one third of the 700 psalms in the Hymn Book of the Lutheran Danish People’s Church, are written by him. As Grundtvigianism spread, free schools and folk high schools were established and a number of elective congregations (which chose their own minister), as well as independent congregations, began to appear. All these had a lasting effect on the culture of the rural population.
Having originally been established as a layman’s association in 1853, the Home Mission became a strong revival movement within the Danish National Church during the 1860’s. The Home Mission had its roots in Evangelicalism, and was characterised by the demand for personal conversion. It became particularly popular during the 1890’s. The movement has a conservative approach to the Bible. In public debate, the Home Mission often speaks critically about the church. The Home Mission is opposed, among other things, to the ordination of women as ministers and to the benediction of homosexual couples.
On 13th September, 1861, the Church Association for the Inner Mission in Denmark (Danish: Kirkelig Forening for den Indre Mission Danmark), commonly called the Inner Mission, was founded. The Inner Mission has its historical roots in the Reformation period and the revivals of the 1800's. It is a fundamentalist Lutheran Christian Church and is believed to be the largest revival movement within the Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church. From its very beginning, the movement has emphasised two important aspects of its work. Firstly, the movement is a church-based movement, where believing pastors and lay people work together. Secondly, the movement aims to bring about a revival in the Christian faith and create a fellowship of believers in the Communion of Saints.
The Inner Mission has, as its basis, the Bible and the Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church's articles of confession. The movement stresses the importance of the Bible as the Word of God and a clear Lutheran understanding of the Sacraments. The Inner Mission is therefore a non-ecumenical movement, and has the twin objectives of reviving and preserving faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour.

Pentecostal Revival in Denmark

One of the people who experienced the new “Pentecostal Revival” was the Norwegian Methodist Pastor, Thomas Ball Barratt. He was in the USA collecting funds for a church building in Norway, and by chance heard about the happenings in Azusa Street (where the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that began in Los Angeles, California in April 1906). He was in contact with people from Azusa Street and experienced the baptism of the Holy Spirit for himself. Barratt took his experience back to Norway (see the History of Norway) and with the aid of Revival Meetings was instrumental in the Revival that spread throughout Scandinavia. The Pentecostal Revival in Denmark started in Copenhagen in 1907-09, through Barratt’s meetings. The first Danish Pentecostal Church was established in 1908.

During the 2nd World War

On 9th April, 1940, Denmark was occupied by the German Army. This five-year occupation was the first real occupation of Denmark since time immemorial, though casualties were very small compared to the rest of Europe. The five years of foreign rule were unlike anything else in the history of the Danes. One of the greatest events was the fact that the Danes saved almost all the Jews and managed to get them to Sweden where they were safe.

Denmark Today

Recently Denmark, especially in the larger towns, has become more international and is losing its national identity: partly as a result of the large influx of immigrants from Muslim countries. Denmark has also become very liberal; among other things allowing the civil and church marriage of homosexuals. Although the general view of the people appears to be more conservative, there is too much apathy and political correctness to become involved in such issues.
Throughout history, GOD has chosen men and women to bring His people back to the truth, and when there was a longing for more of GOD, HE heard the prayer of HIS people and fulfilled their longing. GOD can bring revival to Denmark in these latter days if there are people who are prepared to become HIS instruments.
PSALM 85:6 “Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee?”
LUKE 11:9 “And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.”