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Previous: Revelation 2:20 continued- 7

20 Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. - Revelation 2:20

The Crusades

The history of the Church during the next several centuries revolved around a series of holy wars, known as the Crusades. The major crusades, from AD 1096 to 1291 were a response to the Muslim conquests, and especially to their occupation of Jerusalem, persecution of Christian pilgrims, and destruction of Christian holy sites. The papacy was strong at that time, after a period of reforms, and convinced European governments to send their knights and all who would volunteer to fight to regain Jerusalem. The name "crusade" was derived from the red cloth crux (Latin for "cross") given to the volunteers by the Pope or one of his representatives.

Of the first eight or nine major crusades, only the first was successful in capturing Jerusalem, and that victory was short-lived. There is no general agreement by historians and theologians that the Crusades were either morally good or bad, or more importantly, whether or not they were the will of God. In fairness, the editor of Christianity Today wrote:

But the crusaders were real Christians. They deplored their sins. They longed for forgiveness. They loved fellow Christians in the East. They yearned to do something noble and lasting for their Lord. They prayed and fasted before battles and praised God after victories. Their devotion and courage make ours look juvenile. (Mark Galli, "The Crusades: From the Editor - The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly", Christianity Today, 10/1/93)

On the "good" side of the question, it did seem right to most Christians to deliver Jerusalem from the Muslims, and to stop their rapid conquest of Christian territories. There was also extensive Old Testament precedent for defending oneself and for fighting against evil powers if directed by God. On the last evening with His disciples, Jesus did tell them to purchase a sword (Luke 22:36), however, it wasn't His will for Peter to use the sword when Jesus was surrendering Himself for His sacrificial death (Luke 22:49-51; John 18:10-11).

On the "bad" side of the crusade issue, nothing Jesus taught could validate the use of force to establish the Kingdom of Heaven. He said, if His kingdom was of this world, then His servants would fight (John 18:36). But His kingdom will not be established on earth until He returns as King of Kings, and when that happens He will do all the necessary fighting (Rev. 19:11-16; 20:1-6).

It does not seem that God was directing the crusades since only the first one was successful, and the victory only lasted for a short time. On the other hand, it can be argued that they stemmed the tide of Islamic conquests, which might have overrun all of Europe otherwise.

There were great mistakes made during the crusades, and unholy actions that have been used to discredit Christianity. Some examples of this were the unnecessary killing of Muslim civilians, the slaughter of Jews in many places, and the growth of a culture of literally hundreds of "holy wars" for some 700 years.

The Knights Templar grew out of the Crusades. They were originally a brave and skillful asset to the wars, but with the passing of time, they developed the prototype of the modern banking system and became what some have called the "first multinational corporation." Their secret initiations made them suspect to church and government powers. In 1312 they were disbanded after many of their members were accused, perhaps falsely, of secrecy, apostasy, heresy, and many other charges, but since torture was used to extract their confessions, it has always been unknown whether or not the charges were true. Freemasonry adopted the titles, symbols and rituals of the Knights Templar in the 18th Century.

On the other hand, the Crusades helped St. Thomas Aquinas develop the "Just War" theory in his Summa Theologica to answer the question of when it is right to respond defensively.

Come back soon for the next installment of our verse-by-verse study of the Book of Revelation. Next: Revelation 2:20 - continued 9


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