Question: You have referred in your writings and speaking to apostasy as a major sign of the nearness of Christ’s return. Yet you have also said (or at least implied) that the apostasy had begun already in Paul’s day. In fact, you have stated that the Roman Catholic Church has been in apostasy for 1,500 years. How, then, can apostasy be the sign you claim it to be?
Response: It is generally claimed that the Roman Catholic Church was the only representation of Christianity on earth prior to the Reformation. Even today’s evangelical leaders echo the lie of Roman Catholic apologists that, since the Roman Catholic Church was the only church prior to the sixteenth century, then if it was in apostasy, Christ’s promise failed that the gates of hell would not prevail against His church. The truth is, however, as we have documented in prior newsletters, that an evangelical church comprised of millions of true believers always existed and was persecuted by Rome. Martin Luther himself said,
We are not the first to declare the papacy to be the kingdom of Antichrist, since for many years before us so many and such great men (whose number is large and whose memory is eternal) have undertaken to express the same thing so clearly and plainly. (Plass, What Luther Says, vol. 1, 36).
Who were these to whom Luther referred? We have a letter dated 1429 (100 years before the Reformation) from Pope Martin V commanding the King of Poland to exterminate the Hussites. Jan Hus had been martyred in 1415. But for 1,000 years before that there were the Vaudois, Albigenses, Waldenses and other similar groups of evangelical Christians. These simple believers were the object of repeated crusades (larger and more numerous than those fought for the “Holy Land”) in which the popes offered “the remission of all sins to everyone who should slay a heretic.” (Muston, History of the Waldenses, vol. i., 31, cited in R.W. Thompson, The Papacy and the Civil Power, NY, 1876, 489; also in E.H. Broadbent, The Pilgrim Church, London, 1931, 100-101).
Down through the centuries, though the major visible Church with its headquarters in Rome was deep in apostasy, there were millions who gave no allegiance to Rome. They sought to follow the New Testament and remain pure. Then came the Reformation. Since that time, most of these groups have gradually been absorbed by various Protestant groups. And now the Protestants are turning back to Rome (as we have documented), and the apostasy, for the first time in history, is becoming worldwide!