John said he was “carried by the Spirit into a wilderness”1Rev 17:3 to see a woman who was sitting on a scarlet beast. The wilderness was the place of the saints who flew into the wilderness for “a time, times, and half a time,” away from the serpent.
The Dark Ages, the 5th–10th centuries, were called such because the Church used political power to enforce its doctrines.
After the East–West Schism and the advent of Hildebrand, the power of the popes increased significantly, and they became increasingly corrupt. Most were murderers and extortionists. They burned heretics at the stake and sold the forgiveness of sins in indulgences. Many of them had a reputation for their love of money and for fathering illegitimate children.
In his Historical Studies, Eugene Lawrence wrote, “From the twelfth to the fifteenth century the people of Europe were nearly united in opposition to the Roman See…. Every country in Europe swelled with dissidents who repelled as the Antichrist the bishop of Rome.”2Historical Studies, Eugene Lawrence, 1876, pp. 202.
In the 12th century, Peter Waldo became the first person to translate the Bible into the common language. From him came the sect of the Waldenses. Dissident groups like the Waldenses opposed the practices of the Church but remained under its power.
John Wycliffe, who died in 1384, translated the Bible into English and preached that the Bible should be the only authority of the faith. He said that the pope was the Antichrist and that the claims of the papacy were unhistorical. He also claimed that the moral depravity of priests invalidated their sacraments.
John Wycliffe’s preaching found its way to Jan Huss in Bohemia. Jan Huss preached against indulgences more than 100 years before Martin Luther did. In 1415, Jan Huss was burned at the stake. After this, the Bohemian Archbishop Jan Rokycana preached that the Church of Rome was Babylon and that the pope was the Antichrist.