The Bible Translated and Distributed
“When the Lamb opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, ‘Come [and see my action]!’ Then another horse came out, a fiery red one. Its rider was given power to take peace from the Earth and to make men slay each other. To him was given a large sword.” (Revelation 6:3,4, insertion mine)
Seal #2 Red Horse – 1800
I believe Jesus broke the second seal around the year 1800. At that time, Jesus gave the Holy Spirit the “sword” of Truth and sent Him to Earth on a campaign to enlighten the world. The face of the second living creature looks like an ox (Revelation 4:7) because the endeavor would take strength and endurance. In a spiritual context, when Jesus’ teachings and demands become clear, human resistance becomes more hostile and defiant unless the Holy Spirit changes the heart. The Jews killed Jesus because He exposed and condemned false religion. Bible prophecy predicts a day when wicked people will kill (or attempt to kill) the saints because the saints will expose and condemn false religion. Jesus warned His disciples that the carnal heart would respond to His teachings by saying, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the Earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34)
Sometimes, we have to use parallel passages in the Bible to clarify other passages. Since the second seal is somewhat cryptic, consider Jesus’ words, “All this I have told you so that you will not go astray. They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. I have told you this, so that when the time comes you will remember that I warned you.” (John 16:1-4) Jesus made the comment that religious people would persecute and kill His disciples because He wanted His disciples to understand the power and nature of false religion.
Remember the statement, when a man who is honestly mistaken hears the truth, he will either quit being mistaken or cease being honest. When religious people are confronted with divine truth, they react in one of two ways. They either rejoice and submit or they become angry and hostile. During the great tribulation, the saints will be persecuted and put to death because of their loyalty to the Word of God. (Revelation 6:9-11;13:5-7) Therefore, the campaign of the second seal must relate to the death of many saints after 1798 because the Bible says, “Its rider was given power to take peace from the Earth and to make men slay each other.”
John wrote about the final days of Earth’s history, “I saw that the woman [the great whore, Babylon the Great] was drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus. When I saw her, I was greatly astonished.” (Revelation 17:6, insertion mine) Why were they killed? “When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained.” (Revelation 6:9) The primary issue that puts the Word of God into direct conflict with the followers of the Antichrist relates to worship. “And [the Antichrist] caused all who refused to worship the image to be killed.” (Revelation 13:15, insertion mine) The Antichrist and his followers will kill many of those who worship and obey God, and amazingly, the wicked will think they are doing God a service by killing the saints! Keep this thought in mind as we continue to examine the second seal.
The Large Sword of the Second Seal
The apostle Paul writes the Word of God is sharper than “a double-edged sword.” (Hebrews 4:12; Ephesians 6:17) When God’s people present the truth about His will with power and authority, openly rebuking sinful behavior, and exposing evil motives and deeds, rebellious people will be furious because the Bible insults their arrogance and behavior. Remember, King Herod killed John the Baptist, the greatest of the prophets, (Matthew 11:11) for telling King Herod that he had sinned by taking his brother’s wife. (Mark 6:18) Today, every sinner has a bit of King Herod’s arrogance in his heart. If you had sovereign authority and power, you would be tempted to kill someone who publicly insulted and humiliated you, revealing your sins.
Consider the political leaders in all countries today. Evil doers will go to great lengths to avoid the embarrassment and humiliation that comes from having their deeds exposed to the light of truth. The book of Revelation predicts that many, if not all of the 144,000, will be killed during the great tribulation because of the testimony they deliver. (Revelation 16:4-7) In this sense, the sword of truth will cut both ways. When the Bible insults defiant sinners, political leaders will respond by punishing the messengers of God. Both the leaders and God’s messengers get hurt in the process because the sword of truth cuts on both sides.
The world is developing enormous inertia, resistance, and hatred toward Christians. This growth is to be expected because Paul says the carnal heart is hostile toward God and His laws. (Romans 8:5-8) No one naturally wants to surrender to God’s higher authority and this is where the Holy Spirit comes in. He is always working, trying to have us submit to God’s Word. This is not an easy task because our sinful nature is naturally opposed to God’s will and it is always difficult to go against the ways of unconverted friends and family. (1 Peter 4:4) Jesus said, “This is the verdict: Light [the truth about the will of God] has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth [those who love truth] comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done [the progress he has made] has been done through God [the ministry of the Holy Spirit].” (John 3:19-21, insertions mine)
Even though Martin Luther rediscovered the doctrine of salvation through faith in Jesus soon after he nailed his 95 complaints to the church door in 1517, Protestantism was not free to proclaim the gospel of Jesus until 1798. After General Berthier imprisoned the pope and damaged the Church of Rome in 1798, Protestantism quickly became a significant Christian force in the world. As explained previously, I believe the first seal was broken in 1798. So, the second seal must have been opened shortly thereafter, or about the year 1800. When Jesus broke the second seal, He sent the Holy Spirit out of Heaven’s temple on an amazing, even phenomenal, campaign to translate and distribute the Bible (the sword of truth).
The Holy Spirit motivated Protestants to quickly form Bible Societies throughout Europe and the United States with impressive results. The British and Foreign Bible Society was founded (1804), the Basel Bible Society was founded (1804), the Berlin (later Prussian) Bible Society was founded (1805), the Pennsylvania Bible Society was founded (1808), the Connecticut Bible Society was founded (1809), the Massachusetts Bible Society was founded (1809), the International Bible Society was founded (1809), the Bible Society of India was founded (1811), the Russian Bible Society was founded (1812), the Swedish Bible Society was founded (1814), the Netherlands Bible Society was founded (1814), the Icelandic Bible Society was founded (1815), the Norwegian Bible Society was founded (1816), the American Bible Society was founded (1816), the Bible Society in Australia was founded (1817), and the Protestant Biblical Society of Paris was founded (1818).
The task of translating and distributing the Bible has been labor intensive and very expensive. Many Protestants gave sacrificially to see the Bible translated in multiple languages. The Bible (or portions of it) now exists in more than 2,572 languages and dialects. Since 1908, Gideons International has distributed about 1.7 billion Bibles. Since 1942, Wycliffe Bible translators have helped to complete more than 700 translations. This enormous undertaking, spanning the globe, was not the result of human prowess. The Holy Spirit gave this campaign its strength and success. For two hundred years, no book has outsold the Bible and had its exposure and global distribution.
Prior to the fall of the papacy in 1798, only a few people in Europe owned a Bible. This was either due to the expense, or in some countries, the Church forbade the possession of a Bible. Today, this context seems so foreign. Even the Catholic Church now publishes Bibles, albeit in the archaic Douay Version. I believe the opening of the second seal provided the impetus for this marvelous transition from a few Bibles to the sudden appearance of millions of Bibles after 1800. From 1800 to 1844, the Bible (or portions of it) was translated into approximately 112 languages. By 1944, the number of translations exceeded one thousand. Today, the number of translations exceeds 1,500. As people began to read the Bible, they had varying ideas about what Jesus taught in the Bible. Nineteenth century Protestants were a diverse group of people from the many nations of Europe and the United States. After 1798, Jesus used this diversity and the leadership of godly people to fracture Protestantism into several distinctive denominations.
Protestant America Discovers Two Doctrines
Remember that when the meaning of salvation through faith in Jesus is separated from Law, Grace, and Faith, the assurance of salvation becomes a “theological fantasy.” This altered view of salvation may be wonderful to believe, but it is practically worthless for dealing with the temptations and trials of the human experience. In the early nineteenth century, Jesus used the Holy Spirit to stimulate the Bible societies, translation, printing, and distribution and share the doctrine of “salvation through faith alone.” The Bible is a treasure trove of 66 books and it takes considerable time and effort to become familiar with its gems of truth. Jesus has commissioned the Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth (John 16:13), so the Holy Spirit gives God’s Word special attraction. The Bible becomes interesting to everyone who wants to know more about God.
During the nineteenth century, some Protestants discovered two new Bible doctrines, “soul sleep” and “the obligatory nature of the Ten Commandments.” Although mainstream Protestantism in Europe and the United States did not embrace these two doctrines, many people began to believe these doctrines and God’s Word became brighter. Remember, truth is always true, regardless of who believes it or rejects it, and the fulfillment of prophecy reveals who had the truth!
Dr. Edward White (1819-1898), a Congregationalist minister in Britain, is credited with uncovering (or discovering) the doctrine of soul sleep. His discovery began when he rejected John Calvin’s (1509-1564) view of predestination. Calvin taught that only a predetermined number of people could be saved and the rest were doomed to suffer in eternal hell. Dr. White argued that God alone is immortal (1 Timothy 6:15,16) therefore, man’s soul cannot be immortal. Since the soul is subject to death, the souls of sinners cannot be tormented forever. At that time, a few Protestants accepted White’s views and the doctrine of “soul sleep” was added to the “fringe” of Protestantism’s theological fabric.
The basic idea behind soul sleep is that when a person dies, he is not judged nor does he go to his eternal reward. Instead, he “sleeps,” that is, he has no awareness or intelligence while in the grave. At the appointed time, each dead person is judged according to the record of his life. The judgment of mankind will be completed before the Second Coming. When Jesus appears at the Second Coming, the Lord will resurrect the righteous dead to meet Him in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:16,17) and the Lord will slay the wicked who are still alive at that time. (Revelation 19:19-21) At the end of the thousand years mentioned in Revelation 20, the Lord will resurrect the wicked dead of all ages to meet their Maker in a great white throne judgment scene. (Revelation 20:12) After Jesus informs the wicked of His judgment decision, He will sentence the wicked to suffer for their cruelty to others. The Lord will then punish them with fire and annihilate them because their souls are mortal. (Ezekiel 18:4) Protestantism, in general, has rejected this doctrine even though it is one of the five essential doctrines needed to understand the book of Revelation. Most Protestants today believe, as Catholics do, that at death, people either go to Heaven (paradise) or they burn in Hell for eternity.
Another essential doctrine took root in the United States during the nineteenth century. The doctrine of the perpetuity of the Ten Commandments also came from England. This doctrine teaches that God requires man to obey all Ten Commandments, including observing the seventh day Sabbath (the fourth commandment). To many Protestants, observing the fourth commandment, unlike the other nine commandments, seems contradictory to the doctrine of salvation through faith in Jesus.
In 1664, Stephen Mumford, a member of the Bell Lane Seventh Day Baptist Church in London, came to Rhode Island. Because he could not find any Seventh Day Baptists, he worshiped with Sunday keeping Baptists for a while. Eventually, five Baptist families adopted Mumford’s view that the Ten Commandments were obligatory and the Seventh Day Baptist Church in the United States began in 1671. By 1802, there were twenty churches with two thousand members in the United States. Increasing numbers of immigrants were arriving in America each month. Bibles were available and affordable and the Baptist church was a respected Protestant denomination, so interest in the seventh day Sabbath continued to grow. However, Sunday-keeping Baptists were strongly opposed (and remain opposed) to the idea that Jesus requires mankind to observe the fourth commandment.
When we consider that as a part of the first seal, Jesus was found worthy and inaugurated in 1798 and that Protestants were freed to believe that salvation came through Jesus shortly thereafter, we can understand how the second seal followed shortly after 1798. So, the second seal appears to have been broken around 1800 with the immediate establishment of Bible societies in Europe and the United States. The large sword of truth that the Holy Spirit carried throughout the Earth represents the Bible, the only book that authoritatively reveals Jesus’ teachings. Of course, Jesus’ teachings reveal the Father’s will; this is why Jesus is called “The Word.” Ultimately, the saints will experience deadly consequences during the great tribulation due to Bible (the great sword of truth) translation and distribution. The doctrines of “salvation through faith in Jesus,” “soul sleep,” and “the obligatory nature of the Ten Commandments,” including observing our Creator’s seventh day Sabbath rest will all play crucial roles in coming days.