By Berit Kjos
Almost two millennia ago, Jesus called His Church to follow Him, delight in His Word and spread His gospel. Thousands did. By faith, they faced torture and persecution, hatred and death. Yet they rejoiced, for they knew they were sharing the life and suffering of Jesus! His eternal Kingdom was far more precious to them than any earthly treasure.
Twelve centuries later, dark clouds shrouded Europe. During the Middle Ages, the “common people” could neither own nor read the Latin Bible. So when John Wycliffe’s first English Bible became available around 1390, a virtual war on Biblical Christianity began. In the years ahead, thousands of faithful martyrs were tortured and killed by Europe’s corrupt Catholic hierarchy for owning the new Bible and spreading God’s Word. For example:
In 1413, John Oldcastle was hanged and burned in Wales. His sin? Living by the truths he found in his new Bible! “Do with me what ye will,” he told his executioners. “Though ye judge my body… ye can do no harm to my soul…. I will stand [true to His Word] to the very death by the grace of my God.”
“The established ‘church’ in Bohemia, accused John Hus of heresy for teaching God’s Word. “Tried” and found guilty in 1415, he was mocked by the crowd and led naked to the stake to be burned. “We commit your soul to the devil,” cried a bishop. When offered a last chance to recant, he answered, “In the truth of the Gospel which I have written, taught, and preached I am willing gladly to die today.” Then the fire was lit using pages from the forbidden Wycliffe Bible as kindling. Immersed in flames, he sang, ‘Christ, thou Son of the living God, have mercy upon me.'”
In Germany, the Anabaptists were hounded for their faith. Their emphasis on pacifism and adult baptism offended other Protestant groups as well as the Catholic establishment. So in 1527, when leader Michael Sattler refused to recant his faith, he faced a cruel sentence: the hangman would “cut out his tongue, then chain him to a wagon, tear his body twice with hot tongs… then burn his body to powder as an arch-heretic. Before he died, he prayed with slurred speech, “Almighty eternal God. Thou art the way and the truth…. I will, with Thy help on this day, testify to the truth and seal it with my blood.”
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