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Verse 5 and 10

    The 5 months or 150 years cover between 1378 and 1528 when change or conversion was very difficult. Finally, in 1528 we see a significant change take place.

   The year of the Schism (1378when two Popes claimed to be head of the church, 1378one in Rome and one in Avignon), provided an opportunity to see what the Papal church was all about. Up until 1378 Wycliff had been occupied in a mixed way with religious and political matters. However, 1378 marked the turning point for him when he focused only on doctrinal matters.

    Wycliff published the New Testament into English in 1378 and finished the Old Testament before he died.  He also wrote some 200 articles mainly defending the ransom.  He spoke out against the doctrine of Transubstantiation, the main teaching of the Catholic Church.

    His success may in part have been due to the problems of the papacy with two Popes striving for ascendancy. They had enough of their own problems within without trying to quench the brush fires started by Wycliff.

    Three papal bulls were issued before the Great Schism to deal with Wycliff’s alleged heresy, however the very year Pope Gregory XI died, both Urban VI and Clement VII (Robert of Geneva) claimed to be Christ’s vicar.

    At Wycliff’s trial, two powerful princes accompanied him, preventing the execution of the judgments against Wycliff. The Lord moved to prevent the powers of darkness from destroying the needful work of this Reformer.

    Sardis, of Wycliff’s period, was a city of Asia Minor, formerly the capital of that wealthy monarch Croesus, king of Lydians. It is difficult to ascertain the meaning of the name Sardis, but Benjamin Wilson in his appendix of the Diaglott provides a different explanation than the traditional "that which remains." He says it means "Prince of joy."

    While this was not a joyous period for the true church, it was a time when Christ’s sacrifice, who indeed was the "Prince of joy" (John 15:11; 16:22), began to be seen as a "once for all" sacrifice. Wycliff had attacked the doctrine of Transubstantiation, which took away the efficacy of Christ’s one sacrifice for sin.

     However, this period was not a happy time for conversion to take place. While the Bible emerged in English, few were available and still fewer could read.

     It was at this time that Revelation 8:13 began and the first of three "woes" began to be heard by the inhabitants of the earth. Conditions were such that people who really wished to step out of shackles of false religion, found themselves made uncomfortable by the flashes of light emanating at that time, but not able to fulfill their desire to have a true conversion.

    This period, while it brought some light, did not provide the conditions necessary for Christian conversion and growth on a larger scale. Even the Lutheran reform of 1517 did not provide until 1528 a strong climate for reform. No one knew how the Reformation would eventuate in those early years.

    The year 1528 was not only a critical year for Protestantism in England but also in Germany. Charles V, Roman emperor of Germany, had risen to power and this emboldened Pope Clement VII (Giulio De’ Medici) to induce Charles V to limit the spread of Protestantism.

    Under the proposed law no Protestant was to convert a Romanist to the reformed faith, nor would it be allowable for Protestantism to spread to other countries. It meant for all Protestants an end such as the Huguenots came to in France, the suppression of the Renaissance with its "increase of knowledge" and the end of the prosperous and comparatively enlightened civilization of modern times.

    The future of the whole world, and of the Divine Plan, was at stake! A general war was barely avoided to destroy Lutheranism. Philip Landgrave of Saxony discovered the plot, took arms, and in 1528 forced indemnity from a Catholic bishop. Other princes of Germany stood with Philip (MARTIN LUTHER, Vol. II, p. 486).

    Quoting from MARTIN LUTHER by Dr. Peter Bayne, LL. D., Vol. II, p. 486: "These (the princes of the reformed faith) were inflexibly determined that the decree of the majority should not be assented to. Philip of Hesse, John of Saxony, Markgraf George the Pious of Brandenburg/Anspach, the Dukes of Lunenburg and Brunswick, the Prince of Anhalt, and the representatives of Strasburg, Nurnberg and twelve other free cities, entered a solemn protest against the prospective revolution. They were called Protestants! All to this hour, who claim that Truth shall be unveiled, and that no Pope, or Kaiser, shall congeal the ever-advancing stream of progress and improvement, may take an honorable pride in tracing their spiritual descent to the intrepid Philip and the magnanimous and simple-hearted John."

    This reconciled Pope Clement VII and Charles V and also provided a basis for reconciliation between Charles V and Francis I of France. The losses sustained by the Pope in losing England and the Reformation factions were rewarded by a better hold on Europe. This is what actually happened in the Sardis and Philadelphia church periods. The "mills of God" were grinding slowly, but exceeding fine.

Verse 15

    The three hundred and ninety year period probably started in CE 1528 when certain princes of Germany came to the rescue of the reformation by fighting against the forces endeavoring to effect a decree of Pope Clement and Charles V which ruled that no Protestant was to convert a Catholic to the reformed faith, nor was Protestantism to be allowed to spread to other countries.

     This Protestant victory was decisive in that it permitted the "slaying" or converting to continue and spread. This three hundred and ninety-year period ended in CE 1918 for the papal powers.

    The judgments of the Lord started in 1878 for the Protestantism and continued for 40 years until 1918. It should not be understood that these four divisions of Protestantism kept themselves from becoming nominal and unfaithful. They simply were used to effect certain parts of the Reformation, and then they come in line for the judgments of the Lord.

    Ezekiel 4:1-6 shows a similar siege against Israel [nominal spiritual Israel, particularly papacy] for the same 390 year period, but also shows that 40 years of siege were to be laid to Judah [Protestantism] which probably occurred from 1878 to 1918.

    The League of Schmalkald [Vol. 3, p. 111; Vol. 1, p. 393, 394; Schmalkald, Vol. 9 of McClintock and Strong, p. 415, February 27, 1531; Treaty of Passan in July 31, 1552], gave Protestants liberty.

    "The Diet of Spires, on the 27th of August, 1526, they [the Papists] succeeded in practically obtaining their object. The Edict of Worms, which had so long hung as a fiery portent and menace of coming wrath in the political firmament of Germany, was not swept finally from the heavens, but it was veiled in softening clouds of compromise and reservation" (MARTIN LUTHER, Vol. II, p. 455). The more liberal Papists were willing to let those areas where the Reformation had taken hold be and only wanted to stop the Reformation from spreading to new areas. This was unacceptable to Protestants. However, this gave Protestants a legal position in Germany. Then, in 1529 another Diet of Spires was held. The reactionary papist leaders would have forced the Diet of 1526 back to the old Edict of Worms with this provision: "Where the Worms Edict had been enforced, it was, they urged, to be maintained; but all further propagation of the reformed doctrines, all religious innovation whatever, was to be forbidden, pending the assemblage of a General Council. That is to say, the friends of reformation were to accept defeat where their adversaries declared themselves in the ascendant, and at the same time to abjure all thought of progress" (MARTIN LUTHER, Vol. II, p. 484).

    This Papal plot formed the basis for Protestants to form the League of Schmalkald, Feb. 27, 1531 and again in 1537 when the reforms drew up articles of common belief (ENCYCLOPEDIA BRITANNICA, 1945 edition, Vol. 20, p. 80).

    This League formed a Protestant wall of defense against the alliance of Charles V and Pope Clement VII to contain the Reformation. Also, in 1528 Henry VIII of England wished an annulment from his wife Queen Catherine of Aragon, aunt of Charles V. When the Papal representatives Cardinals Compeggio and Wolsey did not grant Henry VIII his desires it began moving England away from Rome.

    So bad news for Pope Clement was coming from two fronts-the Protestant wall of defense in Europe and then England also turns away from Rome. In this critical time we see the window of opportunity opened to spread the reformation far and wide. It could not be contained or restrained any longer.

    The period between 1378 and 1528 is the "five months (150 years)" of Rev. 9:5 in which "death" or conversion eluded the honest-hearted. They endured the "scorpion" sting which did not kill or convert them, only succeeding in tormenting their hearts and minds with the realization that door of opportunity for reform had not opened sufficiently for many of them to enter. The help that came to the Reformers was due to the troubled conditions of the papacy. First, Pope Clement VII found himself engaged in warfare with the army of Charles V and was taken prisoner and was finally released in 1527.

    He came out from prison wiser, but not less hostile to Protestants. Fortune smiled upon Pope Clement VII when "Charles [V] linked himself in bonds of family relationship with Clement, by bestowing upon Clement’s nephew, Alexander de Medici, the hand of his natural daughter. Such was the Treaty of Barcelona, signed June, 1529, by which the Vicegerent of Christ cut in before his allies and secured golden terms for himself" (MARTIN LUTHER, Vol. II, p. 483).


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