Baptism in the Fire of Persecutions as the Final Stand for Holiness

Slide15Historical and Doctrinal Formation of Holiness Teachings and Praxis among Bulgarian Pentecostals (Research presentation prepared for the Society of Pentecostal Studies, Seattle, 2013 – Lakeland, 2015, thesis in partial fulfillment of the degree of D. Phil., Trinity College)

The eschatology of the first Pentecostals in Bulgaria was definitely Premillennial, built around the suffering of the church and the coming final deliverance. “Christ shall return in person,” not just in spirit or presence, read the Pentecostal Union’s first Declaration of Faith. But first they were to be tested in a baptism of fire…

After the 1923 unrest in Bulgaria, Pentecostal missionary Dionesy Zaplishny was abducted, severely beaten and held in a well for a week. His health was never the same and he passed away at an early age in 1935. But this was only the beginning of the persecution upcoming with the Communist Regime.

Bulgaria’s Pentecostal movement entered the oppression period split and divided. The westernized denominational structure, which Nikoloff proposed in 1928, never fit the existing Pentecostal churches and was unable to unite them as a whole. When the communists took over in 1944 they used the existing church defragmentation to infiltrate and manipulate the congregations. Thus, the eschatological suffering of the church experienced its prime under Communist dictatorship.

In 1948-49 two consecutive trials targeted evangelical pastors effectively sentenced fifteen of them and virtually beheading the evangelical movement in Bulgaria from its leadership. When a new generation of leaders became involved some 30 years later, another similar trial imprisoned six of them in 1979. The evangelical churches were left without any leaders, except the ones placed under the control of the communist state. The congregations that refused to accept them were outlawed and marginalized with no contact with the outside world. But through all these trials and tribulations, the believers learned how to survive the persecution and overcame…