Imagine a door. A door that only opens once or maybe twice in a lifetime. The door has incredible powers. It has the ability to cleanse you. It has the ability to pardon and cast your sin as far as the east is from the west. In fact there isn’t just one of them, there are four, and they are opened only once every 25 years in the city of Rome. Since you were a kid you were told that these doors had the ability to cleanse you from every sin you have ever committed, as long as you walked through them.
I wish this were a fairytale.
Millions of Roman Catholics around the world will be heading to Rome this year, thinking that there they will be able to be absolved of all their sins. By getting on a plane and saying a few prayers, they assume that their actions will assuage the wrath of God.
Have you ever seen a desperate person lost in false religion? Desperately trying to earn their way to heaven?
I can still picture the crying lady, crawling on her knees as it was yesterday. Tears filled my eyes as I watched this lady do everything she could to get God’s attention, who was promised that if she crawled up these “holy steps” with the right attitude and with the right amount of prayers she’d be able to receive “grace” for herself or more likely for a family member currently in purgatory. I couldn’t help but think about Jesus’ words in Matthew 11:28, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.”
Most false religions have man-made rules like these that promise to save people from their sin. And we can’t help but watch them, and be heartbroken, over their misunderstanding of grace. Sometimes though, it is easier to jump through all kinds of hoops in order to keep oneself from actually repenting and acknowledging our bankruptcy before God.
That’s why for centuries the Roman Catholic Church has had Jubilee years. It is a quick way to get many people to Rome. Boost the economy, give exorbitant amount of money to the church and sustain them for decades to come.
Relics have always played a huge part in the Roman Catholic Church. Luther pointed out that it appeared as if “Rome had enough nails from the Holy cross, to shoe every horse in Saxony.” He went on to say that, “18 of the 12 apostles were buried in Spain.”
From the shroud of Turin, to the crying Mary statues, to the Holy steps, all with great power to dispense forgiveness of sins, but none of them can do what four doors in the city of Rome can do every 25 years.
If you walk through them in this year of 2016 you are promised to have your sins forgiven, or in Roman Catholic terms, “The jubilee is a special year of remission of sins and universal pardon.”
The idea of a special pilgrimage to a holy city is not unique to Roman Catholicism.
Once a year Islamic men from all over the world travel to Mecca in order to obey Islamic law. The Hajj (pilgrimage) is one of the five pillars of Islam. At least once in his lifetime, a Muslim male must, as long as he is physically and financially able to provide for his family in his absence, go to Mecca in order to be forgiven of sins and to be looked upon favorably by Allah. Why Mecca? Because it was the birthplace of Mohammed.
In 1300 Pope Boniface VIII instituted a similar thing for Catholics. For those who wanted to have their sins forgiven, he instituted a year of Jubilee to be observed every 50 years. If you were truly a faithful Catholic and if you wanted to have your sins forgiven, then you would travel to Rome and walk through the doors of the biggest basilicas in Rome, that were opened only on that occasion. For 49 years these doors remain closed, and once every 50 years they are opened and they have the ability to wash away the sins of any baptized Catholic who walks through them.
The 50-year rule only lasted two times perhaps because this event brought significant financial wealth to Rome, so they made it every 25 years. It didn’t take long to add a rule that a pope could institute extraordinary jubilees in order to dispense more forgiveness of sins. Generally, popes stayed away from these events, although there have been times where the pope declared them. Pope Urban VIII in particular, because of the unsuccessful jubilee year of 1625, gave one in 1628 and because of its great success, instituted it again in 1629.
“Well,” you may say, “this is something the Roman Catholic Church believed during the years of the Reformation and since has changed its view on this issue.” Well, you would be wrong. They have consistently declared jubilee years like clockwork while also instituting special jubilees. Between the years of 1900 and 2000 there were eight of them. And finally, Pope Francis declared that this year, the year of 2016 is a year of Jubilee. This means that your Roman Catholic friends down the street have been promised by their Pope that if they travel to Rome and walk through one of these special doors, that they will receive forgiveness for their sins.
For many years we have been told that the differences between Roman Catholicism and true Christianity are minor; that belief in Jesus is all that is necessary to enter into heaven. While belief in Jesus is necessary, it is critical that we believe in the same Jesus.
If I had access to a door that was able to purify people of their sin, I wouldn’t have it opened once every twenty five years, I would do everything in my power to not only leave it open permanently but to bring as many people through it as I possibly could. In fact, it is eerily similar to the charlatans like Benny Hinn who, despite holding in their coats incredible miraculous power, only seem to use their powers at their big events, rather than visiting every hospital they can possibly get to.
Every 25 years, then, Roman Catholicism reveals its true colors. Maybe because of incredible financial opportunity they are willing to at least partially show their cards. The works-based system is in full effect when you tell people that simply by walking through some special doors that their sins will be forgiven.
In less than a month, I and a group of young adults will be heading to Rome, Italy for a mission trip. Please pray for the millions of Catholics traveling to Rome this summer, possibly one of your family members or neighbors, that they will come to grips with their sin, realize that there is nothing they can do to overcome it on their own and that they will trust in. and cast their burden upon. Christ our sweet and more-than-sufficient Savior. Also, be in prayer for the missionaries like those in Italy who labor to bring Roman Catholics to Christ.