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He was granted power to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed. Revelation 13:15


The beast of the earth made an image to the beast of the sea; in other words, the beast of the earth wanted to look like the beast of the sea. The major churches that came into being during the Protestant Reformation made an image to the beast of the sea, the Catholic Church, through their church structures and rituals. The denominational structures and names were like breath to this image created by the beast of the earth. Those structures gave identity and life to the individual groups that broke away from the Catholic Church. The word breath in the New King James Version is translated life in the King James Version. The Greek word is breath and in this context implies a spirit that gives life.

The spirit that was imbibed during the Reformation was a spirit of division. In time, division became the lifestyle for churches that were born during the Reformation and for the churches that broke away from those churches during the following centuries—including the present time. Jesus prayed for His disciples and the church that was to be born on the Day of Pentecost in John 17:11 & 20–21,


Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are. . . . I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.


Unity is a divine characteristic of the church Jesus built; the church is to be “one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You.” Unity requires people to have a personal relationship with Christ that makes them one with one another. This can only happen through the grace of God and the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. No church, denomination or association can make this happen.

The spirit of division separates Christians and appears to divide Jesus. Can Jesus be the one head over opposing churches? How many bodies can Jesus have? The desire for unity is blocked by the walls of division and different memberships. It is sad to say that in spite of the love for truth, the Reformers and their followers built organizational images to the very Church of Rome they left.


A Change in the Spirit of the Reformation


As the Reformation progressed, an uncooperative, war-like nature developed among the national churches. In addition to this there were movements that responded to the Reformation but refused to submit to the authority of their national churches.

The Protestant reformers demanded religious liberty from the Catholic Church but when faced with Christians whose faith and understanding of God’s word went beyond their creeds they did not give them the same liberty. It is tragic and deplorable that the men God used to restore the essential teachings of gospel salvation would in turn persecute and put to death others through whom God was bringing more understanding. Also, there were some heresies that surfaced during the 16th through the 18th centuries for which the teachers were persecuted and put to death. It is a shame that the reformers advocated such cruelty when it is strictly unscriptural—one would think they would have understood that. Let me add, it was not every reformer or Protestant minister that persecuted these people as there were godly ministers that refused to participate or condone this evil.




There was one particular group that was singled out for persecution during this time, the Anabaptists, commonly called Baptists.

Three ministers of the Zwinglian church in Switzerland by the names Grebel, Manz, and Cajacob gained significant light from the gospel that led them to move beyond state churchism to a true New Testament faith and practice. By the end of 1524, they took a position against infant baptism and advocated a true church composed only of born again baptized members. Rather than imputing a means of grace to the Lord’s Supper, they understood it to be a memorial observance. A dispute arose between Zwingli and these men and was brought before the Zurich city council. On January 18, 1525 the city council decreed that all infants must be baptized within eight days of birth, and those who did not baptize their babies would be banished from the city. Three days later the council forbade all opponents of infant baptism to meet or speak in public.

On the day the first decree was published the three men and some of their followers met together in defiance of the decree but in obedience to the word of God and determined to form a church based upon biblical principles. Cajacob was first baptized by Grebel upon his confession of faith in Christ. Cajacob then baptized others. These first baptisms were done by pouring water but later they adopted immersion as the correct mode of baptism. Within the week 35 more believers were baptized. These people had been baptized as infants, and realized that this was no baptism at all. In being re-baptized as believers they were called Anabaptists meaning to be baptized again.


Persecutions under Zwingli


The Zurich city council issued a decree at the instigation of Zwingli that stipulated: No Scriptural evidence for re-baptism was proved by the three men; the three men preached without the permission and consent of the church; and they taught that infant baptism did not come from God but from the devil. The decree demanded that the people the people that followed their teaching forsake re-baptism and that all infants are to be baptized. Finally, “If any be disobedient and stubborn they shall be treated with severity.” The Anabaptists and their leaders were thrown in jail.

In December 1527 Felix Manz, Jacob Falk, and Henry Reiman were put to death by drowning. The council had decreed “He who immerses shall be immersed.” Their hands were tied, they were taken in a boat onto the lake and thrown into the water. Some of the Protestants mocked the men as they died calling this their “third baptism.”

Balthasar Hubmaier was a close friend of Zwingli having fought together with him against Roman Catholicism. In a book he wrote, Hubmaier stated the case against persecution, that it was not the will of Christ to put men to death for their beliefs and that churches are in the business of saving men, not burning them. He also desired to follow the Bible and rejected infant baptism. He became a Baptist. He was thrown in jail in January 1526 and was severely tortured on the rack. In his weakened condition he agreed to recant but when he stood up to make a public confession he shouted, “Infant baptism is not of God, and men must be baptized by faith in Christ!” He was thrown back in jail. He was burned to death in Vienna on March 10, 1528.

As the Anabaptists increased in numbers over the years the persecution increased. On March 26, 1530 a decree was put out stating: “Baptist leaders, their followers, and protectors shall be drowned without mercy.” This Protestant inquisition was very similar to the Roman Catholic one. The Protestants required that every citizen submit to their doctrine and practice upon the pain of death. They required that every citizen become a spy to report on the presence of dissidents. Not only were dissidents persecuted, so were those who helped them in any way, including those who failed to report them.[1]


Lutheran Persecutions


Martin Luther actually taught that the proper mode of baptism is immersion but at the same time he defended the practice of baptizing infants. In time he became an enemy of the Anabaptists.

At first Luther did not agree with persecution and bloodshed however he changed his opinion during the Peasant War of 1524–1525 in which he encouraged the nobility to swiftly and violently eliminate the rebelling peasants. Luther also turned against the Anabaptists with whom he had once been in sympathy and advocated their extermination.

The Diet of Speirs in 1529 was a council consisting of Catholic and Protestant princes and heads of state pronounced the death sentence on all Anabaptists. As much as the Catholics and Protestants hated each other, they hated the Anabaptists more.

The Lutheran lawyers of Wittenburg condemned one man for being a Zwinglian in addition to condemning several Anabaptists.

In 1538 The city council of Protestant Augsburg, which had banned all Anabaptists in 1534, proclaimed that anyone that returned to the city would have a finger cut off, be branded on the check and if they returned again they would be drowned. The proclamation stated: “We do this, not to make men believe as we do. It is not a matter of faith, but to prevent division in the Church.” It seems as if the division did have to do with matters of faith.


John Calvin was also a persecutor


In October 1563 Calvin supported the Geneva government in burning people to death for heresy. Calvin was so supportive of putting heretics to death that he wrote a treatise in favor of the practice. Calvin wrote a letter to the Lord Protector of England urging him to put Anabaptists to death.


Persecution of Arminians


James Arminius was a Dutch Reformed clergyman and professor at Leiden University. Arminius disagreed with the Calvinistic view of predestination and saw that the Bible taught that people are moral agents with will having the ability to either respond to God’s offer of salvation or reject it. Pastors and theologians that agreed with Arminius’ position were banished, imprisoned, or beheaded. Arminius would have been executed but he died in 1606 of natural causes.


Persecutions by the Church of England


The Anglican Church was formed in 1534 when King Henry VIII broke away from the Roman Catholic Church. Anabaptists and anyone who refused to submit to the national church were persecuted from then until the end of the 17th century.

In 1535 28 Hollanders living in England were arrested and 14 including one woman are burned to death for supposedly denying that Christ was both God and man.

In October 1538 Thomas Cranmer prosecuted Anabaptists and confiscated and burned their books. In 1539 two more Anabaptists were burned.

Even though England sided with the Reformation, there were constant struggles between Catholics and Protestants for control of the country. Catholics persecuted Protestants and Protestants persecuted Catholics. In 1547 Edward VI, son of Henry VIII, stopped the persecution of Protestants but continued the persecution of Baptists. Joan of Kent was burned to death on May 2, 1550. She was an Anabaptist and loved the new Tyndale New Testament. She was falsely accused of heresy.

Queen Elizabeth I gave freedom to Protestants and treated Catholics leniently but treated Baptists severely. She issued a proclamation that Anabaptists should be located and transported out of England. The Act for the Uniformity of Religion was put into effect in 1559 that made the doctrine and practice of the Church of England the law of the land.

Persecutions continued well into the 17th century. Among many others, John Bunyan was kept in prison for 12 years; many were tortured and died in prison.

In 1665 the Five Mile Act forbade non-conformist preachers to go within 5 miles of any town or city that had a Church of England congregation.


Persecution in America


America, the land of religious freedom, also has a record of religious persecution by Protestantism.

The Puritans, who were themselves separatists, brought with them the false concept of a state church and a persecuting spirit. They persecuted Baptists and Quakers and others that differed from them.

The first settlers in Virginia established the Anglican Church and passed laws that required all its citizens to follow the doctrine and practice of the church. Persecutions were common until after the Revolutionary War when Virginia became part of the United States.


What Have We Learned


So we find that the beast of the earth giving life to the image of the beast—its own replica of the beast of the sea.

The Protestant Reformation was a powerful moving of God that restored much of the teaching of gospel salvation. But the Reformers did not stop with the message of salvation; they built an image of the beast by organizing themselves into separate national churches. Even with much in the way of continuity of doctrine, there was no unity of the spirit.

Even with their belief that Jesus is the head of the church, they did not permit Jesus to be the head of the church. With their divisions they ended up with a divided Jesus, which is no Jesus. They put together a Christ-less religion. Without Christ as the head of the church, Protestantism fell into the familiar habit of the beast of the sea—persecuting those that are different. Unwittingly, the Protestant persecutions were levied at those to whom God gave more understanding of the Word of God.

The history of religious persecution is horrible and so opposite true Christianity and the church built by Jesus. We covered only a brief outline of the persecutions as we looked at the persecutions under Catholicism and Protestantism. Those are times of which all of us must be ashamed. We must be honest to admit they happened.

While some of the people doing the persecuting were far from Christian it is not our place to condemn everyone living in those times. It is best for us just to acknowledge what happened, who did it and leave them all in the hands of our just God.

Persecution under Protestantism for the most part has stopped, but it leaves a far worse inheritance with an ongoing spiritual consequence: the mark of the beast.

[1] David Cloud;  Way of Life Literature.