Is persecution a problem for amillenialism? (Plus a summary history of anti-Catholic persecutions.)

Ever since I started studying Catholic apologetics, I’ve been interested in Catholic versus Protestant interpretations of the Book of Revelation. Based on St. Augustine, it is my understanding that the 1000 year period mentioned in Revelation 20:2-3 is a time of freedom for the Gospel to be proclaimed throughout the world. The time of freedom is now. I understand this interpretation is called amillenialism because it interprets the 1000 years as a figurative reference to an indefinite period of time that we are living in today.

But I have a difficulty with this interpretation that I would like some input on, and my difficulty is this: the time we are living in now, along with the past 2000 years, do not seem to match up with how Revelation 20:2-3 describes the millenial period.

Rev. 20:2-3 says, “[Jesus] he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years were ended. After that he must be loosed for a little while.”

It seems to me that Satan has had no problem deceiving the nations for any space of 1000 years from Jesus’ time up to today. I can’t seem to find even a 200 year period, let alone a 1000+ year period, of peace for the Church. In every age the great nations in which Christianity has gained a foothold have persecuted the Church due to the false beliefs held by their leaders and a desire to make the Church conform to them.

In the first century Ciaphus and the Herod kings persecuted both Jesus and His disciples. Then Nero and Domition did so as rulers of the Roman Empire. Over the next two hundred years the Church witnessed 8 more empire-wide persecutions, right up to the conversion of Constantine.

The legalization of Catholicism didn’t stop the persecution either. Constantine’s son Constantius II persecuted the Church for not adopting Arianism, and so did Emperor Valens in the second half of the fourth century.

In the fifth century the Vandals persecuted the Catholics in Africa, and in the heart of Christendom there was no peace either: Emperor Theodosius II persecuted some Eastern Catholic bishops for not adopting the monophysite heresy, and Emperor Zeno expanded the persecution by requiring all Eastern Catholic bishops to sign the heretical Henoticon or be exiled – all while the pope was trying to stop Attila the Hun from destroying Rome and its people.

Zeno’s successor Emerpor Anastasius I continued the Henoticon policy into the sixth century, around the same time that King Leovigild in Spain started imprisoning Catholics and requiring them to join the Arian “Church” or be killed.

The seventh century found us persecuted under the Monothelite emperors. Emperor Heraclius succeeded in having the pope himself exiled and eventually martyred. Meanwhile, Islam started persecuting Catholics in the Middle East, and by the end of the century they had taken over North Africa and martyred the Catholics in Egypt and Carthage. Plus, Emperor Justinian II sent an army to imprison the pope because he wouldn’t give the emperor the right to rule the Church, though the Italian militia stopped their approach.

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The eighth century saw the expansion of Islam into Spain and France, with many martyrs in its wake, even while the Eastern Catholics suffered under the reign of the Iconoclast emperors Leo III and Consantine V, who sent an army against the pope himself, though it was destroyed by a storm. The Iconoclast persecution only ended with Empress Irene and the 7th Ecumenical Council.

The ninth century saw the persecution of the Cordoba Martyrs and a revival of the Iconoclast persecution under Emperors Leo V, Michael II, and Theophilus. Meanwhile, the pope was under attack by the armies of King Lothair II in Germany, because he wouldn’t recognize the king’s divorce and remarriage.

The eleventh century saw the dramatic persecution of Emperor Henry IV where the pope’s only defender was St. Matilda of Tuscany and her armies north of Rome. This was over the issue of Investiture, which the emperor believed he should control. At the same time, Catholic pilgrims in Israel were slaughtered by the Seljuk Muslims as well as by one of their predecessors, giving rise to the Crusades to free Catholics in the Holy Land.

In the twelfth century Emperor Frederick I revived the Investiture controversy and exiled all the Catholic bishops in his domain unless they abjured the pope. Emperor Frederick II was even worse, and besides killing or exiling all the clergy in Sicily, he imprisoned the Church’s Cardinals and held them captive for two years so that no new papal election could take place. (They were only freed by the negotiations of King St. Louis IX.)

The thirteenth century saw St. Peter of Verona and Blessed Pierre de Castelnau killed by the Albigensians. In the fourteenth century the pope was imprisoned by Philip the Fair for defending the right of the Church in France to its property, which the French king had confiscated.

The sixteenth century witnessed the barbarity of Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth, who revived the policy of Frederick I and killed St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher. The genocide of Irish Catholics by Charles I for not accepting Protestantism matched anything the early Church had faced from the pagan Romans. The Calvinists persecuted us in the Netherlands, the Japanese martyred the Catholic missionaries there, in India our priests faced a similar fate, and in America St. Juan de Padilla is an early example of a North American Martyr.

He found comrades in the seventeenth century, when St. Isaac Jogues and companions found themselves tortured and killed by the Iroquois in New York and Canada. William and Mary intensified the persecution in the U.K. and Maryland was taken over by Protestants in the U.S. colony who then executed the Catholic founders of the state.

In the eighteenth century the Church in France was nearly annihilated by the atheists in France because we stood opposed to their beliefs, and the pope was imprisoned and killed by Napoleon as part of the French effort to destroy the Church.

In the nineteenth the martyred pope’s successor was captured by the same beast of a ruler, who crowned himself Emperor and laid waste to the Catholic kingdoms of Europe. His defeat at Waterloo is celebrated every May 24 in the Church as part of the Feast of Mary Help of Christians. In the same century the Church in China was destroyed by the Boxer Rebellion and Tsar Alexander II persecuted the Church in Russia.

In the twentieth century the Church underwent more persecution than in all the prior centuries combined, and the twenty-first century has found ancient Christian cities depopulated by jihadists in the middle-east – and we’re just starting.

At any time during this 2000 year history, can we honestly say that Satan was unable to deceive the nations? Most of the persecutions I’ve mentioned were because someone wanted to spread a false faith and the Church stood in their way, or because the Church wanted to spread the true faith and the persecutors stood in their way. Either way, a deception was the cause of the persecution, and it just seems like no time in our history has matched the description in Revelation 20:3, where Satan has no power to decieve. Is this a problem for the amillenial interpretation?

I would guess yes as an answer to your question, it certainly seems that, on earth right now, we have not seen the “thousand years” yet.

I am not really sure though.

The Haydock interprets Augustine’s commentary regarding the binding of Satan as meaning a lessening of his power…The devil is said to be bound, that is, his power much lessened and restrained, in comparison of the great and extensive power he had over all nations before Christ’s incarnation;…

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