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Chapter 10 of Revelation prophesies of the strong angel giving to John an open book, which he was to “eat” so that he could prophesy and preach it to all nations. Revelation 10:10, 11 says,
10 And I took the little book out of the angel’s hand and ate it, and it was in my mouth sweet as honey; and when I had eaten it, my stomach was made bitter. 11 And they said to me, “You must prophesy again concerning many peoples and nations and tongues and kings.”
Without the printing press, this book (biblos, or Bible) would not have been “little.” Without faithful men translating it into the common language of the people, few could “eat” its contents. When John ate the book, he did so as a representative of the church and the overcomers alike—all who would go forth as missionaries of the word. John’s very act of eating the book was an obedient act of faith whose consequences, as with Abraham before him, would affect the history of the world.
The opening of the Bible to the common people brought about the Protestant Reformation, as men began to read the Word and see that it differed substantially from what was being taught and practiced in the Roman Church. In fact, it contributed to the rise in the literacy rate itself, for men were now motivated to teach their children to read so that they might study the Word of God that was now readily available to the public.
The sweetness of the word, however, was followed by bitterness in the stomach, as the Roman church opposed the word being distributed among the common people. Rome wanted a monopoly on the word, so that people only heard those portions that seemed to support its authority and teaching. But the word was soon being read by common people everywhere, and it was not long before they saw the contradictions between the word and church teaching.
Recall that all of this Kingdom history was outlined in the earlier prophecies of the seven churches. The fall of Constantinople (1453) and the use of the printing press (1452) fell just 65 years before the end of the Thyatira church era (529-1517). Thyatira was the Jezebel church, which persecuted the prophets and the saints for a thousand years.
In fact, we have not even taken the time to discuss the various Inquisitions, which began in 1184 A.D. when Pope Lucius III issued his papal bull, Ad Abolendam. Up to that time the usual punishment for “heresy” was the death penalty. (This has been called the Episcopal Inquisition to contrast it with the Papal Inquisition that began in 1229.) But the Inquisitions made torture a pious act, supposedly to force heretics to recant, submit to Rome’s official doctrinal stance, and thereby “save” their souls. In 1229 such torture was again authorized by the pope, and again on May 15, 1252 by Pope Innocent IV in his papal bull, Ad Extirpanda.
Daniel 7:21 prophesied that the “little horn” would wage war on the saints and actually overpower them until the transfer of authority occurred at the end of the beast’s allotted time to rule. Likewise, Daniel 12:10 spoke of a time where the saints would be refined and purified by persecution. While this war and persecution has occurred from time to time since the time of Abel, it reached a crescendo in the inquisitions, particularly in the Spanish Inquisition (1478-1834).
The Spanish Inquisition began in the reign of Queen Isabella I of Spain and, ironically, ended with Isabella II in 1834. At first, Pope Sixtus IV did not want to authorize the Spanish Inquisition, but the queen’s husband, Ferdinand (Fernando) threatened to withdraw military support for the war in which the city of Constantinople had recently fallen (1453).
“The Monarchs’ first requests to Pope Sixtus IV to re-introduce the Inquisition were refused – the Roman authorities were apparently concerned about papal authority being weakened – but the ever resourceful Fernando threatened to withdraw his military support for the Papal conflict with the Turks and so permission was granted.”
At first, Jews were persecuted, resulting in 250,000 Jews leaving Spain. Jews had prospered under Muslim rule, but both Muslims and Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492. In the next century the new Protestant movement was the main object of church persecution.
The Role of the Philadelphia Church
The Jezebel church of Thyatira ended in 1517 as Martin Luther nailed his famous “95 Theses” on the church door at Wittenberg. These were his objections to church doctrine and practice. His “protest” over the church’s love of money and its abuse of authority sparked the Protestant movement. It also marked the transition into the Sardis church era, the “precious stone” cut out of the Roman church.
All of this coincided with the early spread of the Scriptures that were being translated, printed, and put into the hands of the common people.
If the Sardis era focused mainly upon the shift in thinking brought about by the Scriptures, it was the next church, that of Philadelphia beginning in 1776 that began the missionary movement to bring the Scriptures to the rest of the world. Here is where we see the greatest connection between the church and the “strong angel” (that is, Peniel) who opened the little book. The Philadelphia church was said to have a little strength and an open door (Revelation 3:7, 8). It was the Hezekiah church, and Hezekiah, who had been given the key of David and the open door in Isaiah 22:22 had a name that means “strength of Yah.”
So we see Peniel’s background role in establishing the work of the Philadelphia church in feeding the word of God to all nations. As we will see later, Peniel was to be assisted by the Angel of Hastening Hope to bring the gospel of the Kingdom to all parts of the earth. According to my own personal revelation, this is the angel mentioned in Revelation 14:6,
6 And I saw another angel flying in midheaven, having an eternal gospel to preach to those who live on the earth, and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people.
Meanwhile, however, as the little book began to open, and as men began to eat the word of God, it was inevitable that opposition should rise up against such feasting. After all, Amos 8:11 had prophesied of a famine of the word, which had indeed occurred during the entire Thyatira church era. Although this famine was broken by the open book, it has continued in other ways to the present time. It has been said (in the 1970’s) that there is an average of six Bibles for every household in the United States. Yet there is very little understanding in spite of this. It appears that a spirit of stupor has settled upon the church as a whole, even as it had come upon Israel in ancient times. Paul says in Romans 11:7, 8,
7 What then? That which Israel is seeking for, it has not obtained, but those who were chosen obtained it, and the rest were hardened; 8 just as it is written, “God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes to see not and ears to hear not, down to this very day.”
In other words, just because someone reads the Bible does mean that he hears the word. Neither does memorizing Scriptures necessarily give a person either revelation or even understanding. Traditions of men are too easily substituted for the word itself, giving men the illusion of understanding while, in fact, they invalidate the word by their traditions (Matthew 15:6). This has been the problem since the beginning.
Opposition to the Word
During the Philadelphia era, many great missionary societies were established in the 1790's and into the 1800's. In 1792 the Baptist Missionary Society was established. Three years later the London Missionary Society was founded. In 1797 came the Wesleyan Missionary Society. In 1800 came the Anglican Church Missionary Society. In 1804 came the British and Foreign Bible Society. In 1806 came the Hibernian Bible Society of Ireland. In 1816 came the American Bible Society. In 1861 came the National Bible Society of Scotland.
This began the great missionary movements of the next 200 years, which spread the word of God into all parts of the world. This fulfilled the Word to the Church of Philadelphia, “Behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it” (Revelation 3:8). He that had the key of David had opened a new door (Revelation 3:7), giving Christians of all denominations the opportunity to spread the Gospel to all parts of the world.
Up to that time, only Roman Catholicism had had such opportunity, but they had spread their message primarily through conquest, rather than by love. Furthermore, they spread religion with very little understanding of the word. Their focus was to put men in submission to the pope, rather than to Christ, for they could see no difference. They did not comprehend—and still do not—the story of King Saul and how the people had rejected the rule of God, as we read in 1 Samuel 8:7.
Pope Leo XII (1823-1835) wrote of the Roman church’s attempt to stop the spread of Scripture. His words are recorded in Cormenin's Complete History of the Popes, Vol. II, pp. 426-427,
“There is a sect, my brethren, who arrogating wrongfully to themselves the name of philosophy, have rekindled from their ashes the dispersed phalanxes of errors. This sect, covered externally by the flattering appearances of piety and liberality, professes toleration, or rather indifference, and interferes not only with civil affairs, but even with those of religion; teaching that God has given entire freedom to every man, so that each one can, without endangering his safety, embrace and adopt the sect or opinion which suits his private judgment.... This doctrine, though seducing and sensible in appearance, is profoundly absurd; and I cannot warn you too much against the impiety of these maniacs...
“What shall I say more? The iniquity of the enemies of the Holy See is so increased, that besides the deluge of pernicious books with which they inundate Europe, it goes so far as to turn the religion of the holy scriptures to detriment. A society, commonly called the Bible Society, spreads itself audaciously over the whole earth, and in contempt of the traditions of the holy fathers, in opposition to the celebrated decree of the council of Trent, which prohibits the holy scriptures from being made common, it publishes translations of them in all the languages of the world. Several of our predecessors have made laws to turn aside this scourge; and we also, in order to acquit ourselves of our pastoral duty, urge the shepherds to remove their flocks carefully from these mortal pasturages.... Let God arise: let him repress, confound, annihilate this unbridled license of speaking, writings, and publishing—.”
This ban on Bible translations remained in effect at least until the Roman Church officially gave up trying to suppress the Scriptures in the 1890's. Even so, it was not until Vatican II in the early 1960's that the Roman Church completely stopped trying to prevent Catholics from reading the Bible. The Church then simply stopped talking about those earlier “infallible” decrees banning the Scriptures and pretended that they had always advocated the study of the word. The Roman Church could not close this open door that God had opened, so they joined the crowd and pretended that previously-locked door never existed.