The Church in the Wilderness
Lesson 29

The church in the wilderness is the connecting link between apostolic Christianity and the remnant church of God. This church was not made up of dissident members of other faiths, nor was it the possessor of a newly found faith. The religious faith and truths that it held were a sacred legacy from the days of the apostles.

Already in the apostles’ day the seeds of corruption were at work within the Christian church. Though restrained for the time, the day was to come when this power would work without restraint.

1. Having been defeated in his personal combat with Christ, where did the dragon turn his attention?

Revelation 12:13
Revelation 12:13

2. What treatment did Christ warn His disciples to expect?

John 15:19–20
John 15:19–20

Note: The pure religion of Christ has always been an unwelcome intruder, disturbing the carnal security of those who desired to be left alone. We need never look to the courts of kings or to the high places of earth to find the true church of Christ. Only by a compromise of its standards can Christianity find social respectability, for the primitive Christianity of Christ and the apostles ever represents a cross to be born, an offense to be avoided by the majority of even the professed followers of Christ. See Matthew 7:21–23.

3. From where was this threat to appear?

Acts 20:29–30
Acts 20:29–30

Note: Paul would have the leaders of the church to understand that it was not from outside the church, but from within, that the church’s most severe test would come.

4. By what term did the apostle refer to the element of apostasy that even in his day was working within the church?

2 Thessalonians 2:7
2 Thessalonians 2:7

5. What did Paul say the church would receive rather than the truth?

2 Timothy 4:3–4
2 Timothy 4:3–4

Note: During the centuries of papal supremacy, a flood of false teachings were put forth in an effort to obscure truth.

6. After bringing forth the man child, where was the woman forced to flee?

Revelation 12:6
Revelation 12:6

Note: During the first few centuries of the Christian church, multitudes of Christians were martyred. In spite of the persecution, paganism, suffering defeat on every front, melted away before the preaching of the gospel. Through various governments Satan had sought to overthrow the truth, only to meet with defeat in the end. Changing tactics, subtlety took the place of open opposition. Instead of attacking the church from without, Satan sought to bring the principles opposed to truth, within it.

Following the death of the apostles, almost imperceptibly the customs of heathenism found their way into the Christian church. Large numbers of Christians laid aside the simplicity of Christ and His apostles for the pomp and pride of pagan priests and rulers. From time to time great church councils were convened, which church dignitaries from all over Christendom attended. Each of these councils resulted in exalting to a higher degree human tradition and further suppressing pure Bible doctrine, thus fulfilling the words of Christ: “Howbeit in vain do they worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” Mark 7:7

Already by the second century the second and fourth commandments, the two longest and most detailed commandments of God’s law, had been tampered with. In Alexandria and Rome the Sabbath of the fourth commandment was set aside in favor of the observance of the first day of the week.

The nominal conversion of Constantine in the early part of the fourth century opened the way for the apostasy to progress more rapidly

7. Who is to be the head of every man?

1 Corinthians 11:3
1 Corinthians 11:3

8. What did Paul warn that Satan, working through the coming apostasy, would seek to do?

2 Thessalonians 2:4
2 Thessalonians 2:4

Note: Just as Satan had coveted God’s place in heaven (see Isaiah 14:12–14), he sought on the earth, to usurp His place and authority in the church.

In the early part of the fourth century the Council of Nicea was called, resulting in the Nicene Creed. Seventeen bishops refused to subscribe to it. The emperor commanded all to sign it under penalty of banishment. This ultimatum brought to terms all but five of the bishops. Eventually, as the result of imperial pressure, all but two were induced to affix their signatures to the creed, and these two were banished.

The realm of thought is the realm of God. Whosoever would attempt to restrict or coerce the free exercise of the thought of another, usurps the dominion of God. It is evident that this type of coercion moved some of the bishops to act contrary to their honest convictions. Worse than this, however, was the establishment of the assumption that religious truth and doctrine are subject to the decision of the majority, when nothing could be further from the truth. Men had presumed to replace God as the head of every man in matters of religion, thus fulfilling the words of Paul: “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.” 2 Thessalonians 2:3–4

9. For how long a period of time was the church to be nourished in the wilderness?

Revelation 12:6
Revelation 12:6

Note: In vision Daniel beheld a little horn that was to bear rule for 1260 years. During this time it was said that it would wear out the saints of the most High. See Daniel 7:25. It was shown that this power would arise out of the Roman empire. We cannot, therefore, confuse this persecution of God’s people with the persecution suffered by the early Christian church under the emperors of Rome.

10. How did the church prevail over the persecution?

Revelation 12:11
Revelation 12:11

Note: The unswerving integrity of the few disturbed the peace of the larger party who were willing to compromise and just as Cain slew Abel because he hated his righteous ways, a persecution was begun that surpassed anything the pagans had inflicted upon the church. From the days of Abel until now, Christ’s faithful disciples have excited the hatred and opposition of those who love to follow the ways of sin. What false doctrine failed to do, persecution attempted to accomplish. The pages of history are stained with the blood of millions of martyrs who laid down their lives for the truth.

11. What did the serpent then cast out of its mouth after the woman?

Revelation 12:15
Revelation 12:15

Note: Water represents people. See Revelation 17:15. Changing tactics, another subtle method was used to destroy the church. What he had failed to do by persecution, the enemy now attempted to attain by false education. About the time that papal persecution ceased, a flood of teachers steeped in false humanistic philosophies and evolution flooded the world with their speculative theories attacking Bible truth.

12. From where did the woman receive help?

Revelation 12:16
Revelation 12:16

Note: To meet the attack of higher criticism of the Bible, “the earth opened her mouth.” Through the centuries the earth had helped the woman, providing her a place of refuge. Most particularly was this true in the opening of the New World. Now, however, the new science of archaeology opened up. Beginning with the discovery of the Rosetta Stone, discovered in 1799, scholars found evidence confirming the Bible. Thousands of discoveries were made that substantiated Bible truth.

13. Against what does the serpent make his last desperate attack?

Revelation 12:17
Revelation 12:17

In the last great crisis, God will have a people who will be faithful. This remnant, in the long line of faithful, will be characterized by their loyalty to God and to His commandments. It is against these that Satan stages his last desperate attempt to sweep from the world the truth of God.

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