Bible Study Guides – The Failure of a Ghastly Experiment

December 12, 2010 – December 18, 2010

Key Text

“And when they [the two witnesses] shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them.” Revelation 11:7.

Study Help: The Great Controversy, 275–288.


“It had been Rome’s policy, under a profession of reverence for the Bible, to keep it locked up in an unknown tongue and hidden away from the people. Under her rule the witnesses prophesied ‘clothed in sackcloth’ [Revelation 11:3]. But another power—the beast from the bottomless pit—was to arise to make open, avowed war upon the word of God.” The Great Controversy, 269.

1 What had God declared of His two witnesses—the Old and New Testaments—during the 1260-year period of papal persecution? Revelation 11:2–6. What was to occur just as they were finishing their testimony? Revelation 11:7.

Note: “[Revelation 11:7 quoted.] The period when the two witnesses were to prophesy clothed in sackcloth, ended in 1798. As they were approaching the termination of their work in obscurity, war was to be made upon them by the power represented as ‘the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit’ [Revelation 11:7].” The Great Controversy, 268.

2 As a nation which had long been a stronghold of papal power and total suppression of God’s Word, why was France ripe for revolution? John 3:19.

Note: “The war against the Bible, carried forward for so many centuries in France, culminated in the scenes of the Revolution. That terrible outbreaking was but the legitimate result of Rome’s suppression of the Scriptures.” The Great Controversy, 265.

3 How did the prophecy of Revelation 11:7 meet its fulfillment?

Note: “The atheistical power that ruled in France during the Revolution and the Reign of Terror, did wage such a war against God and His holy word as the world had never witnessed. The worship of the Deity was abolished by the National Assembly. Bibles were collected and publicly burned with every possible manifestation of scorn. The law of God was trampled underfoot. The institutions of the Bible were abolished. The weekly rest day was set aside, and in its stead every tenth day was devoted to reveling and blasphemy. Baptism and the Communion were prohibited. And announcements posted conspicuously over the burial places declared death to be an eternal sleep.” The Great Controversy, 273, 274.

4 In a spiritual sense, what two characteristics—one of Egypt and one of Sodom—were found in France during the revolution? Revelation 11:8; Exodus 5:1, 2; Ezekiel 16:49.

Note: “ ‘The great city’ in whose streets the witnesses are slain, and where their dead bodies lie, is ‘spiritually’ Egypt. Of all nations presented in Bible history, Egypt most boldly denied the existence of the living God and resisted His commands. No monarch ever ventured upon more open and highhanded rebellion against the authority of Heaven than did the king of Egypt. When the message was brought him by Moses, in the name of the Lord, Pharaoh proudly answered: ‘Who is Jehovah, that I should hearken unto His voice to let Israel go? I know not Jehovah, and moreover I will not let Israel go.’ Exodus 5:2, A.R.V. This is atheism, and the nation represented by Egypt would give voice to a similar denial of the claims of the living God and would manifest a like spirit of unbelief and defiance. ‘The great city’ is also compared, ‘spiritually,’ to Sodom. The corruption of Sodom in breaking the law of God was especially manifested in licentiousness. And this sin was also to be a pre-eminent characteristic of the nation that should fulfill the specifications of this scripture.

“According to the words of the prophet, then, a little before the year 1798 some power of satanic origin and character would rise to make war upon the Bible. And in the land where the testimony of God’s two witnesses should thus be silenced, there would be manifest the atheism of the Pharaoh and the licentiousness of Sodom.” The Great Controversy, 269.

5 How had Rome inflamed the kings against Protestantism at the beginning of the sixteenth century? What scriptural law was now being fulfilled in France? Galatians 6:7.

Note: “It was popery that had begun the work which atheism was completing. The policy of Rome had wrought out those conditions, social, political, and religious, that were hurrying France on to ruin. Writers, in referring to the horrors of the Revolution, say that these excesses are to be charged upon the throne and the church. In strict justice they are to be charged upon the church. Popery had poisoned the minds of kings against the Reformation, as an enemy to the crown, an element of discord that would be fatal to the peace and harmony of the nation. It was the genius of Rome that by this means inspired the direst cruelty and the most galling oppression which proceeded from the throne.” The Great Controversy, 276, 277.

“Unhappy France reaped in blood the harvest she had sown. Terrible were the results of her submission to the controlling power of Rome. Where France, under the influence of Romanism, had set up the first stake at the opening of the Reformation, there the Revolution set up its first guillotine. On the very spot where the first martyrs to the Protestant faith were burned in the sixteenth century, the first victims were guillotined in the eighteenth. In repelling the gospel, which would have brought her healing, France had opened the door to infidelity and ruin.” Ibid., 282.

6 How did Scripture prophesy of the massacre of St. Bartholomew? Revelation 11:9, 10. Into what category will those who lost their lives in this darkest crime of the dark period be reckoned? Hebrews 11:36–38. How many were slain?

Note: “Blackest in the black catalogue of crime, most horrible among the fiendish deeds of all the dreadful centuries, was the St. Bartholomew Massacre. The world still recalls with shuddering horror the scenes of that most cowardly and cruel onslaught. The king of France, urged on by Romish priests and prelates, lent his sanction to the dreadful work. …

“Throughout France the butchery continued for two months. Seventy thousand of the very flower of the nation perished.” The Great Controversy, 272.

7 What are we all to learn from the real cause of the shame and reproach that came upon France? Proverbs 14:34.

Note: “The fatal error which wrought such woe for the inhabitants of France was the ignoring of this one great truth: that true freedom lies within the proscriptions of the law of God. …

“Atheists, infidels, and apostates oppose and denounce God’s law; but the results of their influence prove that the well-being of man is bound up with his obedience of the divine statutes. Those who will not read the lesson from the book of God are bidden to read it in the history of nations.” The Great Controversy, 285.

8 Upon what does the welfare of the family, the church, and the nation depend? Proverbs 1:33; Isaiah 48:18, 22.

9 What does God declare in the midst of crises such as happened in France? Jeremiah 16:20, 21. How did His two witnesses vindicate His name in that nation—and touch the lives of people all over the world? Revelation 11:11, 12.

Note: “God’s faithful witnesses, slain by the blasphemous power that ‘ascendeth out of the bottomless pit,’ were not long to remain silent. ‘After three days and a half the Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which saw them.’ Revelation 11:11. It was in 1793 that the decrees which abolished the Christian religion and set aside the Bible passed the French Assembly. Three years and a half later a resolution rescinding these decrees, thus granting toleration to the Scriptures, was adopted by the same body. The world stood aghast at the enormity of guilt which had resulted from a rejection of the Sacred Oracles, and men recognized the necessity of faith in God and His word as the foundation of virtue and morality. Saith the Lord: ‘Whom hast thou reproached and blasphemed? and against whom hast thou exalted thy voice, and lifted up thine eyes on high? even against the Holy One of Israel.’ Isaiah 37:23. …

“Since France made war upon God’s two witnesses, they have been honored as never before.” The Great Controversy, 287.

10 When was the period of papal domination to end? Daniel 7:25; Revelation 12:4–6.

Note: “The periods here mentioned—‘forty and two months,’ and ‘a thousand two hundred and threescore days’—are the same, alike representing the time in which the church of Christ was to suffer oppression from Rome. The 1260 years of papal supremacy began in A.D. 538, and would therefore terminate in 1798. At that time a French army entered Rome and made the pope a prisoner, and he died in exile. Though a new pope was soon afterward elected, the papal hierarchy has never since been able to wield the power which it before possessed.” The Great Controversy, 266.

11 What prophecy of Jesus indicated that the Lord in His mercy would cut short the tribulation within that period? Mark 13:19, 20.

Note: “The persecution of the church did not continue throughout the entire period of the 1260 years. God in mercy to His people cut short the time of their fiery trial. In foretelling the ‘great tribulation’ to befall the church, the Saviour said: ‘Except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.’ Matthew 24:22. Through the influence of the Reformation the persecution was brought to an end prior to 1798.” The Great Controversy, 266, 267.

Personal Review Questions

1 What were the seeds of the French Revolution?

2 What was the blackest blot in the Dark Ages and how many were directly affected?

3 What restrained the tyranny even before the time had fully elapsed?

4 How were the persecutors finally rewarded?

5 What is given men to keep them from falling into such traps?

Additional Reading

“Then came those days when the most barbarous of all codes was administered by the most barbarous of all tribunals; when no man could greet his neighbors or say his prayers … without danger of committing a capital crime; when spies lurked in every corner; when the guillotine was long and hard at work every morning; when the jails were filled as close as the holds of a slave ship; when the gutters ran foaming with blood into the Seine. … While the daily wagonloads of victims were carried to their doom through the streets of Paris, the proconsuls, whom the sovereign committee had sent forth to the departments, reveled in an extravagance of cruelty unknown even in the capital. …

“All this was as Satan would have it. This was what for ages he had been working to secure. His policy is deception from first to last, and his steadfast purpose is to bring woe and wretchedness upon men, to deface and defile the workmanship of God, to mar the divine purposes of benevolence and love, and thus cause grief in heaven. Then by his deceptive arts he blinds the minds of men, and leads them to throw back the blame of his work upon God, as if all this misery were the result of the Creator’s plan. In like manner, when those who have been degraded and brutalized through his cruel power achieve their freedom, he urges them on to excesses and atrocities. Then this picture of unbridled license is pointed out by tyrants and oppressors as an illustration of the results of liberty. …

“The fatal error which wrought such woe for the inhabitants of France was the ignoring of this one great truth: that true freedom lies within the proscriptions of the law of God. ‘O that thou hadst hearkened to My commandments! then had thy peace been as a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea.’ ‘There is no peace, saith the Lord, unto the wicked.’ ‘But whoso hearkeneth unto Me shall dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil.’ Isaiah 48:18, 22; Proverbs 1:33.” The Great Controversy, 284, 285.

©2005 Reformation Herald Publishing Association, Roanoke, Virginia. Reprinted by permission