Many Christians today desire to be part of
the Apostolic church that Jesus formed at his ascension but are not willing to
join or be part of any particular denomination. With so many different churches
and denominations the question arises, Will there be another universal
religious power and why are there so many denominations all separated from one
John the Revelator was given a most
astonishing prophecy foretelling what would happen in Christendom and the
future of the Christian church. This was seen in the prophecy of the seven
seals and the four horsemen.
Revelation 6:1, 2 says, “I saw when the Lamb
opened one of the seals and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a
bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to
In one generation the news that Jesus Christ
was the Messiah and that sins could be forgiven simply by coming to Him in
faith, was taken to the whole world. The apostle Paul wrote, “The gospel, which
you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven.” Colossians 1:23.
According to Christian tradition, Andrew went
as a missionary to India and Nicodemus went as a missionary to the area which
today is called the British Isles. The message was spread all over Europe, the
Middle East and Africa. Philip shared with the Ethiopian eunuch who took the
gospel back to Ethiopia and from that time there were Christians in Ethiopia.
The news that Jesus had broken the bonds of death, and that through Him eternal
life was available, electrified the world and believers were added to the
When confronted that this teaching was
contrary to the prevailing ideas of society, the position of the early
believers was that they “ought to obey God rather than man.” Acts
5:29. They had a “primitive godliness” or “Apostolic Christianity” that
every Christian wants but few people have.
The white horse represents the church
following the day of Pentecost that had a pure faith but God foresaw that
things would change.
The apostle Paul said to the elders, bishops
and overseers of the church, “Take heed to yourselves,
and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to
shepherd the church of God, which He purchased with His own blood. For I know
this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing
the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise
up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves.”
Paul says that apostasy would come up from within
the church. The greatest danger to the Christian church has never been from the
outside, but the most dangerous enemies are those on the inside.
The second seal opened: “Another horse, fiery
red, went out, and it was granted to the one who sat on it to take peace from
the earth, and that people should kill one another: and there was given to him
a great sword.” Revelation 6:4.
This horse represents a bloodstained faith.
The pagan Roman government saw that if Christianity was allowed to go on it
would conquer the world so they decided to destroy the church. That resulted in
bitter persecution for hundreds of years and millions of Christians were
martyred for their faith. Some were fed to starving lions, leopards and other
ferocious beasts. Others were crucified or burned to death.
The period of the red horse was from about
A.D. 90 to about A.D. 313. when the edict of Milan was
passed granting, for the first time, official toleration to the Christians.
The next change was represented by a black
horse. “And when he had opened the third seal, I heard the third beast say,
Come and see. And I beheld, and lo a black horse; and he that sat on him had a
pair of balances in his hand. And I heard a voice in the midst of the four
beasts say, A measure of wheat for a penny, and three
measures of barley for a penny; and see thou hurt not the oil and the wine.” Revelation 6:5, 6. Black is the color of apostasy. The
Christian faith was compromised.
Faith in Christ for salvation was replaced by
trust in the church for salvation. During this period of time an attempt was
made to supplant the commandments of God with the commandments of men. The Ten
Commandments of God are unchangeable. Jesus said it would be easier for heaven
and earth to pass than for one of them to fail because they are eternal.
Part of the second commandment says, “You
shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is
in the heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water
under the earth: You shall not bow down to them, nor serve them.” Exodus 20:4, 5.
Christians began to bow before images using
them in their worship services, although this was forbidden in the second
commandment. The pagan’s day of the sun replaced the Bible Sabbath. Christians
did not want to be thought of as enemies of the Roman state so they compromised
and said that they could celebrate on that day too, because that is the day
that Jesus rose from the dead.
The Apostolic Creed, Book 7, Section 2 reads,
“Oh Lord Almighty, thou hast created the world by Jesus Christ, and hath appointed the Sabbath in memory thereof.”
The apostles knew which day the Sabbath was
and that it was given because God was the Creator of the heavens and the earth.
All of the early Christians in the first century kept the Sabbath.
We are told by Eusibius
that Constantine, in order to recommend the new religion to the heathen,
transferred into it the outward ornaments to which they had been accustomed in
their own religion.
The retention of the old pagan name Sunday is
in great measure owed to the union of pagan and Christian sentiment with which
the first day of the week was recommended by Constantine to his subjects, the
venerable day of the sun.
It was during this time when Sunday keeping
came into the Christian church. The Bible says, “And God blessed the seventh
day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work
which God created and made.” Genesis 2:3.
The prophet Ezekiel said that, “Her priests
have violated my law, and profaned my holy things: they have not distinguished
between the holy and the unholy, nor have they made known the difference
between the unclean and the clean, and they have hidden their eyes from my
Sabbaths, so that I am profaned among them.” Ezekiel 22:26.
Concerning this law, God said, “My covenant I
will not break, nor alter the word that has gone out of my mouth.” Psalm 89:34.
Jesus said, “And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one tittle [part of a letter] of the law to fail.” Luke 16:17.
It was during this time period after Constantine in the 4th century that men
started tampering with God’s law, doing away with some and replacing it with
something else. This is the period of time spoken of in the prophecy of the
black horse, a compromised Christianity.
The worst was yet to come. Compromise leads
to a total abandonment of the original principles, or in other words, apostasy.
What happened next? “And when he had opened
the fourth seal, … I looked, and beheld a pale horse:
and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power
was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and
with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.” Revelation 6:7, 8.
The Greek word translated pale actually means
a pale yellowish green like the substance that someone has just vomited.
Because of the compromise, new Christians
were, as far as thinking and habits went, the same old
pagans. “Their surge into the churches did not wipe out paganism. On the contrary,
hordes of baptized pagans meant that paganism had deluded the moral energies of
organized Christianity to the point of impotence.” Centuries of Christianity, the Concise
This resulted in a dead faith. The apostolic
church had the power of the Holy Spirit but when the Christian church started
imitating pagan customs, they lost the Spirit and power of God. They needed
something to replace it to enforce its decrees. They went to the state to get
power which resulted in a union of church and state. Religion then became a
matter of following tradition instead of following the word of God.
Christianity became an established religion in the Roman Empire and took the
place of paganism. Christianity as it existed in the Dark Ages might be termed baptized
The steps of compromise led to:
- Human tradition
being accepted over the Bible;
- The teaching of
faith and works, especially religious rituals, were necessary to be saved;
- The church was
exalted over the word of God; and,
- The commandments
of human leaders were taught instead of the commandments of God.
During this terrible period of time millions
of Christians lost their lives for their faith. It was actually a crime for a
common person to own a copy of the Scriptures. It had to be read in secret for
fear of death. It looked like true religion had just about come to an end. But
the Bible says, “The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.” Proverbs 4:18.
Comparatively speaking, there were very few
Christians in the world at that time. Because of persecution they fled to the
mountains just as it was predicted in Revelation 12. However, the light of
truth penetrated the darkness. Notice what Jude wrote to the Christians:
“Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common
salvation, I found it necessary to write to you, exhorting you to contend
earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.” Jude
The true Christians, even when they were
locked up in dungeons, prisons or exiled, maintained their faith in Jesus unto
death. Bible believing Christians were scattered, many living in hidden homes
in isolated places, especially in the alps of northern
Italy and in the southeast of France. The Waldenses, the
Bordeaux, the Huguenots or Albigenses or Paulicians were among these.
There were no printing presses in those days
so the Waldenses copied the Scriptures by hand, all
the time teaching them to their children. While very few in Europe had them,
the Waldenses had the Scriptures in their own native
language and taught that the Bible was the rule of faith and practice above the
usages of the church.
Jesus said to the devil, “It is written, man
shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth
of God.” Matthew 4:4.
James 1:18 says, “Of his own will he brought
us [the church] forth by the word [the Bible], that we might be a kind of first
fruits of his creatures.”
The Word of God, the Scriptures, produced the
church and not the church producing the word of God. There are hundreds of
people confused about this today. Simply said, the word is not the child of the
church, but is the parent or the origin of the church.
During this period of the Dark Ages, millions
of people went to prison and lost their lives because they would not consent to
compromise the faith of the Bible. We are not to disobey the commandment of God
in order to obey any human edict or any church or government. “We must obey God
rather than men.” Acts 5:29. This might be called the
creed of the martyrs during the Dark Ages.
Only the final Day of Judgment will reveal
the exact number, but estimates are that 50–70 million Christians were martyred
during the Dark Ages. In 1517 Martin Luther nailed his 95 thesis to the church
door in Wittenberg, Germany. He discovered through his study that we are saved
by grace alone, through faith alone, which is contrary to the doctrine that men
were saved by both faith and works, which was then commonly believed.
“For by grace you have been saved through
faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest
anyone should boast.” Ephesians 2:8, 9.
In the 16th century there were still many
truths of the New Testament that had been lost, and it was impossible that even
the best scholars could come to the full knowledge of all Bible truth in one
Jesus understands that. He said, “I still
have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.” John 16:12. You
can’t take all the truth right now.
Martin Luther was an instrument of God to
bring the entire Christian world back to the apostolic teaching that we are
saved by grace alone. But that was not all that God’s children needed to learn.
Other teachers were raised up by God to lead His people slowly back to
apostolic Christianity. The Lord wanted His children to grow in the knowledge
of the Christian lifestyle and come to Christian perfection. Christian
perfection is not a popular doctrine today, but it is Biblical. Peter said,
“Grow in grace.” II Peter 3:18. And Jesus said, “Be ye therefore perfect, even
as your Father in heaven is perfect.” Matthew 5:48.
Those following the increasing light learned
that infants were not baptized in the apostolic church, but only those who were
old enough to manifest their faith. The idea of infant baptism commenced during
the Dark Ages.
Jesus said, “Go therefore, and make disciples
of all nations … Teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you:
and, lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew
Martin Luther was not the only one to be
persecuted but every reformer to which God revealed new truth from the Bible.
The people, later called Anabaptists, who discovered the need to be old enough
to reason, or come to the age of accountability before being baptized, were
persecuted. At that time it was a capital crime not to believe in infant
baptism. Once when I was in France, I was shown a bridge where at one time
Anabaptists had been beheaded and their heads posted on both sides of the
Later, John Wesley and others studied and
learned that God expected His followers to become holy people. Paul wrote,
“Follow peace with all men and holiness, without which no man shall see the
Lord.” Hebrews 12:14.
John Wesley, who was a member of the Church
of England, wrote much on this subject of holiness. His followers later became
known as the Methodist church.
When Jesus left this world it was with the
promise that He would return. “This same Jesus, which
is taken up from you into heaven, is going to come in like manner as you have
seen him go into heaven.” Acts 1:11.
Toward the end of the 18th century and the
beginning of the 19th century, there was a great religious awakening. Bible
students around the world began to see that they had reached the period of
earth’s history that the Bible described as the last days or the time of the
For the first time in history, God began to
move upon His servants all over the world and in many different churches to
proclaim the news that the second coming of Christ was approaching. Within just
a few years, earnest Bible students in many countries learned principal
doctrines of the apostles that had been lost during the Dark Ages. Some of
these included the Sabbath of the fourth commandment, health principles, how to
live as Christ’s followers, and what happens after death.
There are really only two kinds of religion
in the world, the true religion that the apostles had which comes from God and
teaches, “We ought to obey God rather than men.” Acts 5:29,
or the other religion that Jesus described in Matthew 15:9, “And in vain they
worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.”
There are thousands of religions today, all
with conflicting creeds, but they all have one thing in common—they teach the
commandments of men. Most people who call themselves Christians have a religion
that is a mixture of the word of God and the commandments of men. God predicted
that in the last days there would be some people who would repair the breach
made in God’s law which is the attempt to destroy the Sabbath.
Notice what Isaiah says: “You shall be
called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of
streets to dwell in. If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, from doing
your pleasure on my holy day; and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy day of
the Lord, honourable.” Isaiah
God’s people, in the last days, will be a
commandment keeping people. John describes the two identifying characteristics
that His people will possess. “Here is the patience of the saints,
here are they that keep the commandments of God.” Revelation 14:12.
There are eight issues in the last days to
God’s truth—Religious authority comes from
God’s word. His word is sufficient to bring the Christian to perfection. II
Timothy 3:16, 17.
authority comes from man and groups of men, such as church councils or
theologians. Church laws are decrees.
God’s truth—Prayer is made to God the Father
and is offered in the name of Jesus Christ alone.
Satan’s counterfeit—Prayers are made to the
dead, to angels and saints with the use of images.
God’s truth—Salvation can be received by
grace alone, through faith alone. The good works of the Christian do not earn
any merit; we are saved by the merits of Christ alone. See Ephesians 2:8, 9;
Satan’s counterfeit—Salvation comes partly by
grace and partly earned—either by the works of the believer or by the good
works of saints.
God’s truth—The Christian goes to Christ
alone as his intercessor and receives forgiveness for sins by the merits of
Christ alone. The Bible says, “There is one God, and
one mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus.” I Timothy 2:5.
Satan’s counterfeit—The Christian goes to
human intercessors to receive forgiveness for sins.
God’s truth—“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six
days you shall labour, and do all your work: But the
seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God.” Exodus 20:8–10. Writing several
decades after the cross Paul, speaking of the seventh day, says it remains. Hebrews
Satan’s counterfeit. Many worship on Friday,
and many worship on Sunday—the ancient pagan solar holiday.
God’s truth—“The dead do not praise the Lord.”
Psalm 115:17. “Dust you are, and to dust you shall return.” Genesis 3:19.
“Jesus spoke of His death: but they thought
He was speaking about taking rest in sleep.” John 11:13.
“There will be a resurrection of the dead,
both the just and the unjust.” Acts 24:15.
Satan’s counterfeit—When a person dies he
goes to heaven or hell or some other undesirable place.
by immersion and “He that believes, and is baptized, shall be saved.” Mark 16:16. You cannot be an infant; you must first
baptism of sprinkling or pouring which is not taught in the Bible.
health laws of the Bible are eternal and we must keep them if we are to be
God’s children. “Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. You are not your
own; you were bought at a price.” I Corinthians 6:19, 20.
“If any man destroy
the temple of God, God will destroy him.” I Corinthians 3:17.
Jesus said, “Other sheep I have, which are
not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and
there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.” John 10:16.
health laws of the Bible have been abolished and we can eat and drink as we
Who are the people who Jesus will recognize
as belonging to Him when He comes? “Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of
life and may enter through the gates into the city.” Revelation 22:14. NKJV.
Those who are loyal to the laws of the
heavenly government will have the right to the tree of life, and may enter in
through the gates into the city.
There will be some who will not enter the
city. Revelation 22:15 says, “Outside are dogs,” then is listed specific ones,
“the sexually immoral [the seventh commandment], the idolaters [the second
commandment], those who are liars [the ninth commandment].”
Notice in verse 14 that the people who keep
the commandments will be recognized by Jesus as belonging to Him. When Jesus
comes, will you be one of those who are welcomed into the holy city, or will
you be left on the outside?
“Now is the day of salvation.” II Corinthians
6:2. “Today if you hear his voice, do not harden your heart.” Hebrews 3:7, 8.
Pastor John Grosboll
is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church in Wichita,
Kansas. He may be contacted by e-mail at: email@example.com, or by
telephone at: 316–788–5559.