Who Could Have Foreseen These Radical Steps to Christian Unity?

The 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation demonstrates massive changes in the way Protestants and Catholics treat each other.

The following is from a Trumpet Brief sent out yesterday. These daily e-mails contain personal messages from the Trumpet staff. Click here to join the nearly 20,000 members of our mailing list, so you don’t miss another message.

Today is the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. The way it is being memorialized demonstrates a massive change. This change will have a major impact on religion, the world as a whole, and your life individually!

Relations between Christian denominations have changed radically in the last half of the 20th century. Once bitter enemies are now close friends.

But one man forecast all of this.

Herbert W. Armstrong said for years that Catholics and Protestants would unite. The earliest example of this that I could find came from the August 1939 Plain Truth magazine.

Think what an odd forecast this would have seemed at the time. Barely 10 years before, America had its first major Catholic presidential candidate, Al Smith. Other Christian groups rallied against him. One survey found that out of 8,500 Southern Methodist ministers, only four publicly supported him. His religion wasn’t the only factor in his defeat, but it was a major one. In 1922, the state of Oregon passed a law designed to prevent children from attending Catholic schools. The Supreme Court struck down the law in 1925, but it reflected a national concern.

Just a few months after Mr. Armstrong wrote that article, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed the first U.S. emissary to the Vatican since the dissolution of the Papal States in 1870. The move provoked outrage among American Protestants.

I’m citing these examples not to accuse anyone of prejudice. There was justifiable suspicion of Catholicism. After all, the Civil War was still within living memory, and the pope was “the only European prince of the day to recognize—at least in a de facto way—the Southern nation, the Confederate States of America,” as Catholicism.org wrote. In 1864, Pope Pius ix vehemently rejected the idea of separation of church and state, the principle of freedom of religion, and even said the Catholic Church had the right to promote its religion by force in his Syllabus of Errors. So it’s understandable that many feared the pope’s teachings couldn’t mesh with America’s Constitution.

I cite these examples to illustrate the massive gulf that existed between the Catholic Church and Protestants of all stripes at the time of Mr. Armstrong’s forecast. And this continued for years. Grant Wacker wrote in his biography on Billy Graham, “In 1950, evangelicals and Catholics eyed each other with deep suspicion. Most evangelicals felt that Catholicism was sub-Christian at best, and many believed that it was not Christian at all.”

Now look at how Protestants and Catholics commemorated the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. At today’s service in Westminster Abbey, the Anglican Communion presented a formal resolution, adding its support to an agreement between the Catholic Church and Lutheran World Federation, “resolving the theological dispute behind the Reformation,” according to the Church of England’s website. These groups, as well as the World Methodist Council and the Communion of Reformed Churches, “are agreed on the essential aspects of our salvation in Christ,” said Dr. John Gibaut, director of Unity, Faith and Order for the Anglican Communion.

“Just 100 years ago, the idea of a joint commemoration of the Reformation anniversary probably would have seemed almost unthinkably or, at the very least, terribly avant-garde,” said John L. Allen Jr., as he conducted an interview for Crux Now.

Now, not only are these groups memorializing the Reformation together, but almost all the major disputes that went into the Reformation are solved. Trumpet writer Kieren Underwood has a great article on our website right now detailing the monumental steps these two have taken toward unity and the monumental changes that have taken place in the way these Christians view each other.

As these groups commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, they have settled Martin Luther’s biggest disagreements. In a great many cases, they recognize each other’s baptisms as valid. As a speaker at Kenneth Copeland Ministries—a large American Pentecostal group—put it, “Luther’s protest is over.”

What Mr. Armstrong wrote back in 1939 has been proved right!

Just like all his other forecasts, Mr. Armstrong based this one on Bible prophecy. I’m well aware this is not a popular method of news analysis. To many, it seems backward, even superstitious. But look at the results! No matter how much someone may dislike the method, there’s no arguing with those results.

In 1939, Mr. Armstrong based his analysis on biblical prophecies about a great church ruling Europe. The Bible forecast that church ruling a European power and enforcing a day of worship. But Europe is split between many different groups. For this prophecy to be fulfilled, the Catholic Church would have to bring religious unity to Europe.

“There has already been much agitation to bring about a reunion between Catholic and Protestant church organizations,” Mr. Armstrong wrote. “Combined, they could wield enough influence during the turbulent, chaotic, revolution-endangered days just ahead” to bring about some radical changes in the world.

Mr. Armstrong repeatedly came back to this forecast. In 1948, he wrote that communism could provide “the unifying opposition which welds together all professing Christian elements throughout Europe.” Catholicism would be the state religion of Europe, he wrote.

Then again, in 1961, he wrote: “The pope will step in as the supreme unifying authority—the only one that can finally unite the differing nations of Europe. The iron jurisdiction over both schools and religion will be turned over to the Roman Catholic Church. Europe will go Roman Catholic! Protestantism will be absorbed into the ‘Mother’ Church—and totally abolished.”

In 1962, the Good News laid out the Bible prophecy behind this forecast in more detail:

You can expect, moreover, generally favorable comments from Protestants as to the possibility of one giant, super-Christian monopoly in the not-too-distant future. You will begin to hear the Catholic Church boast not 550 millions, but close to 900 millions of adherents, with the addition of the Orthodox ranks; in a few years—with Protestants added—well over a billion!

Emphatically, dogmatically, we state positively that church unity will come! How can we be sure? Simply that God has revealed it through the Prophet Isaiah over 2,700 years ago!

Speaking of the Catholic Church (daughter of Babylon), Isaiah says, “And thou saidst, I shall be a lady for ever: so that thou didst not lay these things to thy heart, neither didst remember the latter end of it. Therefore hear now this, thou that art given to pleasures, that dwellest carelessly, that sayest in thine heart, I am, and none else beside me; I shall not sit as a widow, neither shall I know the loss of children”! (Isaiah 47:1, 7-8).

Did you grasp the tremendous significance? This event is for the latter end, nearing the climax of this age when Christ will set up His government (Revelation 11:15). This “mistress” (or lady, defined in 2 Corinthians 11:2 and Revelation 19:7 as a church) will say, “There is none else beside me” or, “I am the only ‘Christian’ church in existence.”

Now it should be clear that in order to fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah for the latter days, the Roman Catholic Church must regain daughter churches she has mothered—either through political moves for unity or through forced conversion in the Tribulation. Once reunification is achieved, she becomes “the only” “Christian” church. To be the only church in existence (“none else beside me”), she must either bring competing churches back to the fold or erase them from the Earth!

The latter part of some of these prophecies may sound extreme. But foretelling unity between Catholics and Protestants would have sounded extreme in 1939! Yet look at what has happened since.

The events of today are leading to the arrival of this unified religious power in Europe. In that way, these events are going to affect everybody on Earth. But these events can have an even greater impact on your life today. Use these events of fulfilled prophecy to prove the Bible reliable. That’s a lesson that carries eternal benefits. For more on this prophecy, read “Returning to the Fold” from our free booklet He Was Right.