The loss of many Bible truths, injection of dogmas and false doctrines, and loss of dynamic power in the church was the reason for the great Protestant Reformation. God moved upon the hearts of many servants to impress upon them the need to return to the Bible as the absolute for the Christian faith and practice. A man such as John Huss had tried to initiate change in the Roman Catholic Church in the 15th Century, but Martin Luther established the movement proper in 1517. This article examines what was to follow the Reformation, based on scripture.
Need for Change
The need for change arose from many non-biblical practices in the church. These practices started in infancy in the primitive church but became official at the Nicene Council of 325AD. After that, the pace of corrupt teachings coming into the church intensified, such that by the time of rebellion the church looked nothing like the original body of believers. Many false doctrines entered, such as gods, baptism in trinity titles instead of the name of Jesus Christ, infant baptism, sprinkling for baptism, ancestral worship, and celebration of pagan feasts. By the time of the great move of the 16th Century, salvation was for sale and works instead of faith in Christ upheld as the way to eternal life.
Martin Luther and Justification by Faith
Martin Luther was the first major reformer and is indeed the best known to date. He was a leading cleric in the Roman church hierarchy but began to get reservations. Eventually, he concluded that the practices of the church in that day were contrary to God’s word. Besides, he declared that the Pope was the Antichrist. Owing to this, he nailed 95 written protests to the door of Castle Church on 31 October in Wittenberg, Germany. This started the move in Germany and later influenced Europe. The group that believed Luther broke away from the Roman Catholic Church.
The thrust of Luther’s message was justification by faith in the atoning work of Christ alone. He taught that works and offering money to the clergy could not save. Luther, of course, had contemporaries like John Calvin and Zwingli to help advance the cause. The time between Luther and Wesley (the next great reformer) saw the rise of many small movements and emergence of churches. The core of the message was justification by faith, although the movement had doctrinal differences within it. An example of differences was in the doctrines of Calvinism and Arminianism: the former emphasizes grace alone for salvation, whereas the latter includes good works as necessary for salvation.
Despite the great work by Luther, many wrong teachings remained in the church, such as baptism by sprinkling instead of immersion, a trinity of gods, infant baptism, and baptizing in titles instead of the name of Jesus Christ. Thus, the process needed to continue in the succeeding ages.
John Wesley and Sanctification
After Luther and the ministers that resulted from his work, the next great man was Englishman John Wesley. By this time, churches had become formal owing to misinterpreting the teaching on grace. He saw the need for sanctification and holiness for those who were justified. This gave rise to holiness churches.
John Wesley had great men as contemporaries, such as George Whitefield and Jonathan Edwards among others. During this period, the world witnessed the greatest Christian missionary age, with ministers traveling all over the world. Still, many truths were not restored to the church, notably the Godhead and water baptism. Legalism also got hold of many Christians.
Pentecostal Movement Starts on Azusa Street
Following the holiness movement initiated by Wesley, the Pentecostal revival followed. This move broke out in April 1906 on Azusa Street after a meeting led by William Seymour. However, the Pentecostal movement did not have major figures initiating it; rather Christians in different places were praying for a revival.
The heart of the Pentecostal message was the restoration of the gifts listed in first Corinthians chapter 12. The revival in 1906 gave rise to speaking in tongues and interpretation, working of miracles, dancing in the Spirit, faith healing, and prophecies.
In addition, a faction of the movement rediscovered baptism in the name of Jesus Christ instead of titles of father, son, and Holy Spirit. Some also began preaching one God instead of three persons in the Godhead. However, the preaching of one God by the Oneness group was wanting, for it made the man Jesus his own father.
The Pentecostal age was the last part of the reformation. It was higher than both the Lutheran and Wesleyan messages. Still, it did not accomplish full restoration. Wrong teachings such as tongues being the initial evidence of Holy Spirit baptism, women preachers, and misuse of spiritual gifts remained. The movement finally became Laodicean and formalism set in. Laodicea is the last part of the New Testament church age, and is known for paying lip service to Jesus. Eventually, rot set in where the prosperity gospel took over and churches discarded the true gospel. Holiness no longer mattered. Fanaticism, ego-trips, Hollywood kind of evangelism and fake miracles took center stage.
After the Pentecostal Movement
There has not been a clear understanding of what was to happen next. Many people opined that ecumenism was the way to go, bringing all the movements of the past together. Others looked forward to the rising of prophets. Still, others thought it was all over and became complacent.
When we look at all those movements, it is apparent that they never took the church back to the faith of the early apostolic church. Every revival brought correction in a measure. Thus, a final step must happen to bring a full realization.
Prophetic Ministry for Restoration
The final move was to have a prophetic ministry. A prophetic ministry is responsible for catching the mind and mysteries of God and bringing them to the people. The book of Amos 3:7 records that God does nothing without revealing the same to his prophets first. The spirit of Elijah is what the Bible in Malachi 4:5-6 promised for the end time.
The first part of the end time revival is full restoration to the original apostolic gospel. God, in Joel 2:25 and Matthew 17:11, promised to restore the lost things. Elijah spirit is one of restoration as first kings 18:36-39 shows.
Thus, the belief in the one person in the Godhead who incarnated Jesus must return. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were dispensation titles, but God was one person who appeared in the Old Testament as a pillar of fire. The pillar of fire indwelt Jesus and later portions of the same baptized the church from Pentecost onward. The true baptism in the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:38), and not trinity titles must come back. The true doctrine on baptism of the Holy Spirit (the anointing that teaches in first John 2:27) has to make a comeback.
The second part is to announce the second coming of Christ. John the Baptist, with the anointing of Elijah in his day, introduced the first coming of Messiah. The end time Elijah ministry must also open the mysteries contained in the seven seals of Revelation 5, since it is to wind up all prophecies and mysteries. The resurrection of the dead in Christ, change of body for living reborn Christians, and the rapture follow this last move.
Restoration to the original apostolic gospel was to follow the Protestant Reformation that culminated in the Pentecostal movement of the 20th century. Secondly, a ministry to go ahead of Christ’s second coming must come on the scene. The seven seals of Revelation 5 must open to bring the anointing and season of Jesus’ coming. The spirit of Elijah returns to the earth at the end time to accomplish all this.