“Who will also confirm you to the end, that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:8).
We would be remiss to go through this year without remembering the quadricentennial anniversary of the pilgrims’ journey to the New World. This perilous journey not only set the foundation for religious freedom in America but was also a fulfillment of Bible Prophecy.
After King James I ascended to the throne of England at the beginning of the 17th century, he sought to silence dissenters of the Church of England. Many fled this religious intolerance and found refuge in the Dutch Republic. In time, however, pious individuals became concerned about the influence that life in the Netherlands was having on their children. Some of these devout Christians decided to sail to America where they could be free from the religious intolerance of England and the influence of Dutch culture.
So, 400 years ago, in 1620, these pilgrims boarded a ship to sail over three thousand miles to the New World. Far beyond the reach of priests and kings, they were finally able to live according to the dictates of their conscience.
The Bible predicted this journey in Revelation 12. After describing how Satan was cast out of heaven and how Christ came as a child and then went back to heaven, it states that the church (the woman) would fly into the wilderness to escape the persecution of Satan (the dragon and serpent). "So the serpent spewed water out of his mouth like a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away by the flood. But the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed up the flood which the dragon had spewed out of his mouth” (Revelation 12:15–16).
As we see from history, the Bible’s prophecy came true. After Christ rose again, the early church spread the Good News throughout the then known world, to the point that Paul was able to say that the whole world received the gospel (Colossians 1:6, 23). This made Satan, the Dragon, enraged, and he sought to destroy God’s faithful church.
Scripture says the serpent spewed water out “like a flood after the woman.” The flood of water refers to the peoples and nations (see Revelation 17:15) that Satan used to destroy God’s faithful people — those “who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus.” (Revelation 12:17). Satan used the political powers and general populace to drown out (i.e. flood) faithful Christians with false doctrines, worldly influences, and coercion. For most of the first and second millennium, it was Rome that did this — first the pagan Roman Empire and later the Roman Catholic Church.
Thus, for this “time, times and half a time,” God’s faithful followers fled into the wilderness and desolate places of the earth for protection and freedom to worship God according to their understanding of the Bible. First, they escaped to hideaways like the Apennine Mountains and the Alps, but after the expansion of European civilization, they had to find somewhere new.
William Bradford, who sailed on the Mayflower and helped found Plymouth Plantation, wrote that he hoped their descendants might rightly say:
" Our fathers were Englishmen which came over this great ocean, and were ready to perish in this wilderness but they cried unto the Lord, and He heard their voice, and looked on their adversity, &c. Let them therefore praise the Lord, because He is good, and His mercies endure forever. Yea, let them which have been redeemed of the Lord, shew how He hath delivered them from the hand of the oppressor. When they wandered in the; desert wilderness out of the way, and found no city to dwell in, both hungry, and thirsty, their soul was overwhelmed in them. Let them confess before the Lord His loving kindness, and His wonderful works before the sons of men.” Of Plymouth Plantation, by William Bradford (1651).
Bradford’s words echo Revelation 12:14 — they fled to the wilderness of America and the Lord nourished them there. Not only did God nourish them, but He abundantly blessed them, so that what started as a small colony soon gave birth to the most influential nation this world has ever seen. A nation whose government was founded upon civil and religious liberty in which “all men are created equal” and where the law of the land guarantees to the people freedom of religious belief and practice. God had preserved this land to save His people in that time. Truly “the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood” of evil Satan sent to quench the faith of those who held the Bible as their standard.
Unfortunately, religious intolerance in the world is growing, even here in America. We might have religious freedom by law, but social intolerance becomes more and more worrisome. That is why it is vital for us to remember the 400-year anniversary of the Pilgrims’ quest for freedom. Let us remember the faith of those English Puritans who refused to compromise their belief in God’s Word for priestly traditions and royal decrees. Let us remember the courage they had to embark on a dangerous pilgrimage to a desolate and remote land, off the grid and out of the known world, a New World, somewhere they and their offspring could enjoy the freedom to worship God according to the dictates of their conscience. Let us remember their resolve; though faced with starvation, plagues and death, they forged on.
Just like the Bible predicted the religious intolerance that led to the voyage to America, the Bible also predicts a world-wide religious intolerance that will lead to the voyage to Heaven. Revelation 13 describes a universal forced worship, except there is no earthly place to flee this time. Instead, Christ returns and rescues the saints!—"they that keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.” Revelation 14:12.
Call to Action
As things grow worse and worse leading to that glorious and dreadful day, will you have that same faith, courage and resolve as the Pilgrims? You can! The key is to Get Ready now. Deepen your walk with God by spending more time with him, reading your Bible and in prayer. Share His love with others by ministering to their needs, that you might have the opportunity to tell of God’s goodness. He will keep you strong to the end, “that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 1:8.
All scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.