“I will not allow anyone to have it in his power to govern me.” Thus said King Henry VIII during the early years of his reign. This king was truly a great paradox. To his subjects and those with whom he came into contact for the first time, he appeared to be a fun loving, open, supportive, gregarious and trustworthy individual. Perhaps it was these perceived traits that endeared him to his subjects to the day he died. Yet, the other side of him could be frightening, devoid of these worthy characteristics. Indeed, more so as he aged, he would fly into vicious rages and when he did, no one around him was safe. He once boasted that that there was not a noble head in the country he couldn’t make fly. Sadly, throughout his thirty-eight year reign, he was to demonstrate this over and over again as his executioner beheaded the king’s friends and foe alike. Yet, he was one of the most learned monarchs to ever ascend the throne. Initially, he was not meant to be king and so had been brought up devoted to study. He was proficient in music, the languages of Latin, French and Italian and since he was being groomed for the Church, he had been well versed in theology. Contrary to the image of the portly, balding old man reflected in his portrait, the young Henry was handsome, tall, redheaded and extremely athletic. When his older brother Arthur died in 1502 he became heir to the throne and the new king in 1509 when his father, Henry VII, closed his life. His was to be a reign of great significance to still a young Israelite nation, yet, a time of terrible earthly indulgence.
It was said that to be an advisor to Henry was the riskiest of occupations, akin to a nightmare. That once a scheme was fixed in Henry’s mind he could seldom be turned from it. Indeed, to resist only added to his determination and once he reached a certain point, it was very unwise to oppose him. Those that did invariably paid the supreme price. Yet, the story of Hugh Latimer, Bishop of Worcester, showed another side of the king, albeit a rare one. Latimer, as many readers will recall, was burned at the stake for his zeal in supporting the Reformation shortly after Queen Mary ascended the throne. He was immortalized through his words to a fellow victim as the flames were cracking around them, “Be of good comfort Master Ridley. Play the man. We shall this day light such a candle, by God’s grace, in England as I trust shall never be put out.” During Henry’s reign, Latimer was called to preach before the court. Never a shrinking violet, in the bluntest of terms, Latimer denounced the king and his court. The king was furious and demanded retraction the following Lord’s Day. When the day arrived, Latimer entered the pulpit and began by addressing himself in a loud voice. “Hugh Latimer, doest thou know before whom thou art this day to speak? To the high and mighty monarch, the King’s most excellent majesty, who can take away thy life if thou offendest; therefore take heed that thou speakest not a word that may displease! And then consider well, Hugh, dost thou not know from whence comest thou; upon whose message thou art sent? Even by the great and mighty God! Who is all present! And Who beholdest all thy ways! And Who is able to cast thy soul into hell! Therefore take care that thou deliverest thy message faithfully.” Then, to Henry’s and the Court’s astonishment, he repeated his condemnation of the previous week in even stronger terms. All those present were certain that the king would have Latimer beheaded but to their greater astonishment, Henry was subdued by Latimer’s sincerity and exclaimed, “Blessed be God, I have so honest a servant.” Consequently, on this occasion, Latimer was spared.
Yet, whenever history mentions the monarchy of Henry VIII, it invariably centers on his six wives. How he shamefully discredited his first wife, the mother of future Queen Mary, then cast her off because she did not bear him a son. How he first fell in love with Anne Boleyn, made her Queen, then discarded and executed her when she produced only a daughter, the future Queen Elizabeth I. How his third wife did produce a son, the future King Edward VI, only to die in childbirth. How wife number four was considered too homely for consummating the union and the execution of wife number five to make way for wife six. To view his reign in light of all his misdeeds and indulgences, one could scarcely fail to see the wickedness of his autocratic years.
In fact, one has to wonder, “Why did God choose such a man to be an instrument of destiny?” Yet, God had chosen many such men before Henry to be His Servants in bringing about His Plan for Israel, including the kings of Egypt, Assysia and Babylon. Such men achieved what God intended despite human weaknesses, indulgences and self-interests. You know, dear readers, as devoted as Jacob was to the Lord, he used opportunity and trickery to secure the Birthright and Blessing to bring about a plank in God’s Great Plan. God is fully aware of our imperfections, he allows for this in the unfolding of time. Henry VIII was no different; he was to be a monarch of destiny despite his many flaws and selfish motives.
God predestined that three major events would take place during the reign of Henry VIII. The most significant was the separation of the Church of England from Roman Catholicism. It was not an event based on any altruistic motives on the part of the king but was carried out primarily because the king was obsessed with producing a male heir and the Pope would not grant an annulment of his wife of 24 years so a younger woman could take her place. Thus, beginning in 1929, he began passing statutes that effectively broke the power of the Papacy. Although religious reform movements had sprung up as a result of the Reformation ushered in by Luther, there was no great support given these movements by the English people until Henry sought freedom to dispose of his wife. Actually, even after the break, Henry basically still continued to follow the doctrine of Catholicism because as the then Supreme Head of the Church of England, authorized only slight alterations in the worship ritual. Yet, the seed was sown for the Reformation and despite tremendous persecution in the subsequent reign of Queen Mary, it could not be extinguished.
God had allowed for Henry VIII’s imperfections but the awakening of Israel that was revealed to the Apostle John in Revelation 11 was now irrevocable. Verses 7-11 refer to the persecution by the Papacy, a period of silence, a gloating and finally, the awakening. For all of Protestantism, this is a most significant prophecy and should be reviewed as a part of this study.
“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. And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified” Revelation 11: 7-8 (This reflects the Persecution)
“And they of the people and kindreds and tongues shall see their dead bodies three days and a half, and shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves” Revelation 11: 9 (This reflects the Silence)
And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice and make merry, and shall send gifts to one another….” Revelation 11: 10 (The Gloating by the Roman Hierarchy as they rejoiced and congratulated one another for their success, albeit short-lived)
“And after three days and a half the Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet….” Revelation 11: 11 (This reflects the Awakening).
It’s interesting to see how this prophecy unfolded. On May1514 AD, the 5th Lateran Council held in Rome invited dissenters to speak but no one did. This led the Papacy to believe it was the end of resistance to their totalitarian rule. Yet, 3½ years later (a year to a day), on October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his famous “95 Theses” on the door of Wittenburg Church, thus ushering in the Protestant Reformation.
The Historist interpretation of the Book of Revelation understands the Two Witnesses of Revelation 11 to be symbols of Church & State, or Israel & the Church, or The Old & New Testaments or Israel & Judah. The popular futurist intrepretation (that I reject) generally insists the Two Witnesses are two men who will appear only in the future.
It is interesting to view Henr y VIII’s reaction to the emerging Reformation in light of his later desire to throw off the shackles of the church. We must remember that this was a man prepared for the Church and until his request for an annullment was declined, there was no sign that his loyalty swerved in any way. On the contrary, he was so devoted to Catholicism and the Pope that his famous book “Assertio Septem Sacramentorum” was such a condemnation of Martin Luther’s Reformist ideals that Pope Leo X conferred on Henry the title “Defender of the Faith.” Ironically, few today seem to appreciate that the title and the monarch’s oath to defend the Protestant faith originated with Catholicism. Then too, even after the break, Henry VIII played a part in the execution of William Tyndale, who had translated the Bible into English and was persecuted severely by the Papacy. Henry’s vengeance was clearly visible in the strangling and burning of Tyndale more so because Tyndale had opposed his divorce of Catherine of Aragon, Henry’s first wife.
Still, how strange it is that God had taken Henry VIII, one of the staunchest supporters of an evil Papacy, a movement that had inflicted unbelievable persecution upon the Israelites as they moved across Europe and settled the Israel nations, and turned him into the instrument to lift the bondage. It reminds us of how the Lord took a vengeful member of the Sanhedrin who had been persecuting Christians savagely, changed his name to Paul and turned him into the greatest Apostle of all. God surely does work in marvellous ways. Yet, it would be the greatest irreverence of all to try to link King Henry VIII to the Apostle Paul. For Henry was almost as motivated by the Papal lands and great wealth he later confiscated as he was to find a way to make Anne Boleyn his Queen and mother to a male heir. He didn’t understand that he was simply a pawn in God’s Celestial Plan.
The second great event of Henry VIII’s reign was the Succession Act of 1543. Perhaps fearing that he would not have a male heir, the Act provided that a female could ascend to the throne. Henry thus ensured that the Tudor reign would continue after his death. Likely he never knew that God Almighty had provided for such a situation thirty centuries earlier. “And thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel, saying, if a man die, and have no son, then ye shall cause his inheritance to pass unto his daughter” (Numbers 27: 8). Henry’s Act later paved the way for two of the greatest monarchs of Britain, Queen Elizabeth I and Queen Victoria. Both are monarchs of destiny in their own right and will be the subject of future articles in this series.
In a way it is unfortunate that the executions and Henry’s shameful treatment of his wives blotted out the significance of the third great event of Henry VIII’s reign. When Tudor Britain emerged at the time his father Henry VII ascended the throne in 1485, the nation had been faced with ruin. The War of the Roses had created much disorder, financial chaos, social unrest, a weakened hold over Wales and a more determined enemy in Scotland. Indeed, the struggles were so overwhelming that the nation entrusted the Tudor sovereigns with absolute authority. It was a time of great change as the Middle Ages gave way to the beginning of the Modern Age and the evolution of a new civilization throughout Western Europe. England could no longer ignore the newly strengthened French monarchy that had united the former loosely group of feudal principalities. The Holy Roman Empire was still a formidable force and Spain possessed her invincible Spanish infantry. It was in this world that King Henry VII and VIII had to move and act with fewer resources than her neighbours. Henry VII was the administrative genius, the diplomat, financially aware. Indeed, Churchill wrote, “this architect was to lead England out of medieval disorder into greater strength and broader times.” By the time the crown was passed to Henry VIII, financial stability had been restored.
Yet, it was under King Henry VIII that Israel Britain for the first time became a European power. He handed the Scots a disasterous defeat in 1513, allied with other nations in a war on France, laid the basis of sea power, revived parliamentry institutions and incorporated Wales as part of England as opposed to a nation state within the kingdom. “Above all,” wrote Churchill, “he strengthened a popular monarchy under which succeeding generations worked together for the greatness of England while France and Germany were racked with internal strife.”
Henry the Eighth! A great king? Or a veangeful despot? No one could ever doubt he was both. Ironically, his son ruled only six years before he died, still a boy of only sixteen. His oldest daughter, Bloody Mary, as she became known, tried to restore the power of the Papacy and initiated a reign of terror that saw hundreds of leading Protestants burned at the stake before she died. Queen Elizabeth I, the daughter of the wife he had beheaded, was a great monarch, yet when she died childless, it marked the end of the Tudor Monarchy. One has to wonder if the Lord intended it to be so as punishment for Henry’s brutality, notwithstanding his achievement of God’s Purpose for him. After all, when Jacob Israel employed trickery to acquire the Blessing from his father Isaac, punishment went hand in hand. For God gave a secondary Blessing to his brother Esau, that he would have the dominion at the end of the age and then put it to the descendants of Jacob. Only the blind cannot see evidence of this today. Another example was the disobedience of Solomon and how ten tribes were removed from the Kingdom upon his death as punishment from God. There are numerous other examples but enough has been said to show that although God uses certain people in His Great Plan, including the unsaintly, He invariably applies justice as well. Still, Henry VIII was indeed a monarch of destiny.