The Apostasy and Restoration
BY HAROLD L. FLEMINGS
THE APOSTASY FORETOLD
The Christian Greek Scriptures foretold that following the Apostolic era the Early Christian Church would suffer an institutional apostasy and that some time would pass before a restoration of the original model would occur. This paper will follow each phase of this prophetic and historical process.
Probably the best scriptural data on the Christian apostasy was supplied by Jesus Christ at Matthew 13:24-30,36-43. Verses 24-30 read as follows:
"Jesus told them another parable: "The Kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. The owner's servants came to him and said, "Sir, didn't you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?" "An enemy did this", he replied. The servants asked him, "Do you want us to go and pull them up?" "No", he answered, "because while you are pulling the weeds, you root up the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned, then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn." (New International Version)
Not leaving this parable/prophecy to a variety interpretations, Jesus explained the symbols in verses 36-43:
"Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, "Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field". He answered, "The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the sons of the Kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his Kingdom everything that causes sin, and all who do evil. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the Kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear."
Jesus' explanation tells us that while he was on earth he, the Son of Man, spread a specific message, "the seed of wheat", that eventually resulted in the formation of a body of followers, "the wheat". However, when his co-workers, evidently his faithful apostles and their principal associates died, or "went to sleep", an enemy, the Devil, now oversowed the body of believers with others, "the weeds", who were not really the same ilk as the original community. This resulted in a contamination, a negative infusion that compromised that which was established by Jesus and his first faithful followers. Only during "the end of the age", the time of the end, would we see a harvesting that would bring together once again the wheat, but separate from the weeds.
The Greek word translated "weeds" is "zizanion" which according to W. E. Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words,
"is a kind of darnel, the commonest of the four species, being the bearded, growing in the grain fields, as tall as wheat and barley, and resembling wheat in appearance. It was credited among the Jews with being degenerate wheat".
A similar comment is found in A Greek-English Lexicon of The New Testament by Bauer, Arndt and Gingrich:
"...a troublesome weed in the grainfields, resembling wheat".
The reason why Jesus selected this particular plant now becomes obvious: The weed represented individuals "planted" by the Devil into the Christian community and who would claim to be genuine Christians, genuine "wheat". Pursuant to the parable, this poisoned version of Christianity would be allowed to persist until the time of the end at which time a separating would transpire, a restoration.
The Apostle Peter noted that just as Israel had been infected with religious apostasy, the Christian Church could expect the same. He wrote:
"However, there also came to be false prophets among the people, as there will also be false teachers among you. These very ones will quietly bring in destructive sects and will disown even the owner that bought them, bringing speedy destruction upon themselves. Furthermore, many will follow their acts of loose conduct, and on account of these the way of the truth will be spoken of abusively. Also, with covetousness they will exploit you with counterfeit words. But as for them, the judgment from of old is not moving slowly, and the destruction of them is not slumbering." (2 Peter 2:1-3) (New World Translation)
Peter not only predicted the general apostasy but its historical impact on people at large, "on account of these the way of the truth will be spoken of abusively". Failing to distinguish genuine Christianity from apostate Christianity, many individuals looking at the less than commendable record of "Christianity" would speak disparagingly of it. This interim form of Christianity would leave a "bad taste in the mouths" of many, not the least being Jesus Christ.
The Apostle Paul's last conference with the Christian elders at Ephesus warned of the coming apostasy and added that it would involve wayward elders:
"I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and days with tears." (Acts 20:29-31) (New International Version)
In Paul's second epistle to the Thessalonian Christians he squashed speculations about the imminence of Christ's second coming and reminded them that a general apostasy would occur before Jesus returned:
"But relative to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Messiah, and our gathering together to [meet] Him, we beg you, brethren, not to allow your minds to be quickly unsettled or disturbed or kept excited or alarmed, whether it be by some [pretended] revelation of [the] Spirit or by word or by letter [alleged to be] from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has [already] arrived and is here. Let no one deceive or beguile you in any way, for that day will not come except the apostasy comes first - that is, unless the [predicted] great falling away of those who have professed to be Christians has come - and the man of lawlessness (sin) is revealed, who is the son of doom (of perdition)." (2 Thessalonians 2:1-3) (Amplified Bible)
This "son of doom" or perdition is shown not to be a person since it was trying to express itself in Paul's day and would be eventually destroyed by Jesus at his Second Coming - hundreds of years later. It evidently is the administrative stratum of the apostate system, a segment demanding submission and obedience, ostensibly representing God but really behaving as a God. All of this is deduced from the remainder of Paul's statement in 2 Thessalonians:
"He [the son of doom] opposes and exalts himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, and even sets himself up in God's temple, proclaiming himself to be God. Don't you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these things? And now you know what is holding him back, so that he may be revealed at the proper time. For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming. The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders..." (2 Thessalonians 2:4-9) (New International Version)
Satan would empower the new form of Christianity through the "son of doom" to mesmerize the masses with miraculous signs and wonders, providing a kind of evidence that this indeed was genuine Christianity, though it was not. If Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43 provides any clue as to the identity of the "he" who was a bulwark against the apostasy until "he" was taken out of the way, it would have to be the co-workers of Jesus Christ in "the field", the apostles and perhaps others like Titus, Timothy, Barnabas and Silas. Recall that Satan infiltrated the field after the men went "to sleep". Once they were out of the picture, Satan forged ahead in his quest to transform Christianity.1
The disciple Jude called for his fellow Christians to tighten up their defenses as the apostasy encroached:
"Dear Friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord... These men are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm -shepherds who feed only themselves... These men are grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage. . ."
"But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. They said to you, "In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires." These are the men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit." (Jude 3, 4, 12, 16-19) (New International Version)
A rather astounding prophecy regarding the Christian Apostasy is found at 1 Timothy 4:1-5, where the Apostle Paul stated:
"The Spirit distinctly says that in later times some will turn away from the faith and will heed deceitful spirits and things taught by demons though plausible liars - men with seared consciences who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by believers who know the truth. Everything God created is good; nothing is to be rejected when it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by God's word and by prayer." (The New American Bible)
Once more the Divine Text identifies wicked spirits as the source of the predicted falling away. These would integrate non-Christian theology into Christianity. According to the Apostle Paul, two of the non-Christian doctrines that would eventually infect Christianity would be institutional celibacy and dietary restrictions not at all introduced by Christ and the writers of the Christian Greek Scriptures. What is clear from the Bible is that Christians, though encouraged to singleness for the purpose of devoting more time to God, were not forbidden to marry. Elders, or "bishops", and others could marry if they wished; it was a personal matter. At 1 Corinthians 7:36, we read:
"But if anyone thinks he is behaving improperly toward his virginity if that is past the bloom of youth, and this is the way it should take place, let him do what he wants; he does not sin. Let them marry." (New World Translation)
And again at 1 Timothy 3:1-4:
"The saying is sure; If any one aspires to the office of bishop, he desires a noble task. Now a bishop must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, sensible, dignified, hospitable, and apt teacher, no drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, and no lover of money. He must manage his own household well, keeping his children submissive and respectful in every way; for if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how can he care for God's church?" (Revised Standard Version)
The dietary code imposed upon Israel under the Mosaic Law was not repeated upon Christians, for Paul stated,
"Everything God created is good; nothing is to be rejected when it is received with thanksgiving." (See also Mark 7:18, 19; Acts 10:9-15).
Apostate Christianity, under the aegis of the Devil and the demons, would introduce its own dietary restrictions. History confirms that these modifications in time, made their way into the Church as predicted.
With all of the other apostles dead, the aged Apostle John recorded the Closing of the Christian era and the emergence of a Satanic influenced, apostate Christianity. His words at 1 John 2:18-23 declare the unmistakable infiltration of the "weeds", the non-Christian Christians:
"Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come; therefore we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; and they went out, that it might be plain that they all are not of us. But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all know. I write to you not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it; and know that no lie is of the truth. Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus if the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father. He who confesses the Son has the Father also." (Revised Standard Version)
Interestingly, during this period, Cerinthus, Simon Magus, Basilides and others introduced corrupted views about Jesus and God and their relationship to each other. The last hour had come; the Apostasy formally commenced.
Before we move on into the period of the apostasy, let us consider a few Observations regarding the Early Church:
"Membership in the church was not sectional, but universal. Christians were not classed variously according to special views of doctrine or church polity. There was nothing in the early church comparable to modern denominational divisions... This resulted in doctrinal harmony in the church. There were, it is true, certain troublemakers who disturbed the church, but they were the exception and in due time, they were rebuked. There was unity of effort among Christians, for all were members of but one church." Christian Theology, Vol. II, "The Apostasy of the Church", p. 168, by Albert F. Gray, D.D.
"Religiously, Christianity suffered because it was exclusivistic, not tolerant like other faiths of the (Roman] Empire. In fact, it was aggressive in trying to win adherents from other faiths." Highlights of Church History, p. 25, by Howard F. Vos.
"As a result, however, of its growing importance, the Christian community began to draw upon itself the dislike not only of Jews but also of Pagans. It was naturally difficult for them to understand the exclusiveness of a monotheistic religion... The mutual relations of married couples were often embittered when one of the partners was converted. People whose trade suffered by the spread of the new religion had a serious grudge against it. Social life was made very difficult when one's neighbour could not conform with the most ordinary convention on the ground that it implied the recognition of pagan deities." A History of the Early Church - to A.D. 500, by William Brisbane, p. 16.
"The office of the elder or presbyter ranked highest in the local congregation... The New Testament.., is quite clear in its association of these two names (elder and presbyter) with the same office. (Acts 20:17, 28; Philippians 1:1; Titus 1:5,7) The growth of the office of the monarchal bishop did not come until after the end of the apostolic age in the second century... The early Christians did not think of a church as a place of worship according to the common usage of the word today. A church signified a body of people in personal relationship with Christ. Such a group met in homes (Acts 12:12; Romans 16:5, 23; Colossians 4:15; Philemon 1-4), the temple (Acts 5:12), public auditoriums of schools (Acts 19:9), and in the synagogues so long as they were permitted to do so (Acts -14:1,3; 17:1; 18:4). The place was not as important as the matter of meeting for fellowship with one another and for worship of God... The Christians, who had great appeal for "the lower classes and slaves, were hated by the influential aristocratic leaders of society... The Christians upheld the equality of all men... Christians separated themselves from pagan gatherings at temples, theaters, and places of recreation. This nonconformity to accepted social patterns, brought down upon them the dislike that the nonconformist always faces in any period of history." Christianity Through The Centuries, by Earle E. Cairns, p. 88, 89, 97.
"A careful review of all the information available goes to show that, until the time of Marcus Aurelius [Roman emperor from 161 to 180 C.E.], no Christian became a soldier; and no soldier, after becoming a Christian, remained in military service." The Rise of Christianity, E. W. Barnes, p. 333.
"They refused to take any active part in the civil administration or the military defense of the empire.., it was impossible that the Christians, without renouncing a more sacred duty, could assume the character of soldiers, of magistrate, or of princes." History of Christianity, Edward Gibbon, pp. 162, 163.
It would seem that during the restoration in the time of the end that the latter day Christians would exhibit the same characteristics of their First Century brethren.
THE APOSTASY THAT HAPPENED
Halley's Bible Handbook2 relates that in the 4th Century C.E.:
"The Church had changed its nature, had entered its Great Apostasy, had become a political organization in the Spirit and pattern of Imperial Rome, and took its nose-dive into the millennium of Papal Abominations.., worship, at first very simple, was developed into elaborate, stately, imposing ceremonies having all the outward splendor that had belonged to heathen temples."
Another volume, Great Religions of the World3, reports that after the Council of Nicea in 325 C.E.:
"Now church and state were wed... Emperors helped shape theology, prelates dabbled in statecraft. Basilicas dazzled, their coffers bulged - and deserts began to fill with "anchorites", "withdrawers", seeking alone the purer faith of old", Beyond a shadow of doubt, a new brand of "Christianity" had developed. We shall now look at some of the heretical communities that emerged after the Apostolic period.
One variant group that developed was called the Ebionites.4 Apparently, there were at least two branches of Ebionism. The most numerous branch accepted Jesus as the foretold Messiah, totally man. Contrary to the Christian Greek Scriptures, they also believed that circumcision and observance of the rituals of the Mosaic Law were absolutely required for salvation.5 Added to this, they rejected the epistles of Paul. Some trace their origin to the mid-60's C.E. and feel that by the 4th Century they were nonexistent.
Another group was the Montanists who came on the scene in the 2nd Century C.E. They condemned second marriages, imposed fasts, and taught that miracles in the church extended beyond the apostolic period.6 Montanists also taught that the end of the world was near and that Jesus was due to return in their time.
Perhaps one of the better known parties were the Gnostics. One researcher wrote:
"Gnosticism, the greatest of the philosophical threats, was at its peak of power about 150. Its roots reached back into New Testament times. Paul seems to have been fighting an incipient form of Gnosticism in his letter to the Colossians. Christian tradition related the origin of Gnosticism to the Simon Magus whom Peter had to rebuke so severely... It was also a logical or rational system that illustrated the human tendency to seek answers to the great question of the origin of man. It sought to do this by synthesizing Christianity and Hellenistic philosophy... Dualism was one of the main tenets of Gnosticism. The Gnostics insisted upon a clear separation between the worlds of the material and the spiritual because to them matter was always associated with evil and spirit with good. Hence God could not have been the Creator of this material world... To explain Christ they adopted a doctrine known as Docetism.
The name comes from a Greek word dokeo meaning "to seem". Because matter was evil, Christ could not be associated with a human body despite the Bible to the contrary. Christ as absolute spiritual good could not unite with matter. The man Jesus was either a phantom with the seeming appearance of a material body (Docetism), or Christ came upon the human body of Jesus only for a short time - between the baptism of the man Jesus and the beginning of his suffering upon the Cross."7
One Protestant writer gave his view of this era this way:
The Apostasy is traceable back to apostolic times. Evidences of it appeared in the seven churches of Asia and other glimpses of it are seen in the Bible record. From that small beginning it expanded in the centuries that followed... This apostasy changed the early Catholic Church into the later Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Churches... Among the many false doctrines and practices introduced may be mentioned the following: ...infant baptism, sprinkling or pouring for baptism, the sacrifice of the Mass, penance, absolution, auricular confession, veneration of images, prayers to saints, purgatory, the sale of indulgences and papal infallibility..."8
Certainly, the dominant movement that arose to challenge all other "Christian" groups was the Roman Catholic Church. Over time, this entity became a very powerful religious, political and economic presence. According to one authority:
"One of the leading features of the Roman Catholic system - the absolute supremacy of the pope as vicar of Jesus Christ and head of the Church in all ecclesiastical affairs - is largely due to the influences proceeding from Gregory VII and his successors. The fundamental idea of Gregory VII, however, was never fully carried out. He had clearly conceived the plan of converting the Roman Catholic Church into a universal theocracy, with the pope at its head as sole sovereign in temporal affairs as well as spiritual. ...By the semi-military organization of the religious orders, the popes had a well-disciplined and trustworthy corps of officers at their disposal, who frequently fought their battles even when bishops ceased to side with them."9
History's Hildebrand The Monk became Pope Gregory in 1073 C.E. In Dictatus PaDae Grecrorii VII, Pope Gregory VII formulated the policy that helped secure papal authority. In part that document read:
"That the Roman Church was founded by the Lord alone...
That [the Pope] alone can depose or reestablish bishops...
That it is permitted to [the Pope] to depose emperors...
That his decision ought to be reviewed by no one, and that he alone can review the decisions of everyone...
That he ought to be judged by no one..."10
There can be no doubt that there is a spirit in this document that runs counter to that of the Christian Greek Scriptures.11 But Roman Catholicism had originated long before Pope Gregory VII. Some trace that beginning to the 4th Century during the time of Roman Emperor Constantine. Since no other system professing to be Christian can authoritatively prove a longer continuous history, the Roman Catholic Church can state without wavering that it is the oldest. Under its leaders, numerous new doctrines and practices were introduced among them, according to Roman Catholic Cardinal John Henry Newman:
"The use of temples, and these dedicated to particular saints, and ornamented on occasions with branches of trees; incense, lamps, and candles; votive offerings on recovery from illness; holy water, asylums; holy days and seasons, use of calendars, processions, blessings on the fields; sacerdotal vestments, the tonsure, the ring in marriage.., are all of pagan or sanctified by their adoption into the Church."12
In the late 4th Century, the seeds were sown for a split in the relatively new Roman Catholic system. Over time, the churches in the Roman Empire of the East drifted away from the hegemony of Rome and the Western churches - the final split occurring in 1054 C.E. Rome remained the seat of authority for Roman Catholicism; while in the East, the Eastern Orthodox community evolved producing the Syrian, Russian, Serbian Bulgarian, Romanian Albanian, Greek and Georgian Orthodox Churches.13
Until the 16th Century and the Protestant Reformation, attempts by others to secede from the Roman Catholic Church were met by stiff unrelenting opposition, many times resulting in death. Indeed,
"An important part of the legal machinery of the church, and one of its chief means of control over life was the Inquisition. This was the church's organization for running down and punishing heresy, or dissent from its teachings... Heresy was rebellion, and must be crushed."14
Victims were tortured and killed. Victims of Catholic action included the Albigenses of the 12th and 13th Centuries, the Waldenses who originated in the 12th Century, and others.
One authority painted the picture this way:
"Thus the papacy became but another Italian court, characterized by all the intrigue and bribery to be found elsewhere. The increased centralization of the administration of the Church in Rome created a bureaucracy where ecclesiastical offices could be bought by the highest bidder, indeed, often by the two highest bidders, with resulting lawsuits before ecclesiastical courts between the two men involved and new income f or the papal treasury. In Rome, it was said, everything could be bought from top to bottom. The Church at large followed this example and at the eve of the Reformation corruption was by no means limited to the top... A reaction was inevitable. A great number of popular pamphlets scorned and denounced Church and clergy - from Sebastian Brant’s The Ship of Fools to the Letters of Obscure Men. The increasing financial burden placed upon the people, the immorality and ignorance of the clergy, the simony of church offices, the trade with indulgences and relics became increasingly subject to biting attacks..."15
On November 10, 1483, a baby boy was born to the family bf John and Margaret Luther in the town of Eisleben in Saxony. The boy was named Martin Luther. After a celebrated education at the University of Erfurt, where he obtained Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy degrees, he entered a Catholic monastery and became a monk. After he was a monk for nearly two years, he was ordained a priest. Later, a visit to Rome in 1510 profoundly soured him on his beloved Roman Catholic Church. He saw such corruption and hypocrisy in this seat of Catholicism that it initiated a chain of events in his life, resulting in his severance from the Church and the birth of the Lutheran community.
Writer Edith Simm offered this bit of history:
"In November (1520) came still another blow at the church. In the Treatise on Christian Liberty, Luther declared that man was bound only to the law of the Word of God, and the Word of God was Scripture. From this it followed, in his view, that the clergy, though it had legitimate functions in administration and teaching, was not to be elevated above the rest of mankind, for all believers were priests. Luther prefaced this work with a conciliatory letter to Pope Leo X, making his last attempt to avoid a break with the church, hoping instead it would reform itself. But in June the papacy had already acted. From his hunting lodge in the countryside near Rome, the Pope issued a bull condemning Luther's works and ordering them to be burned. Luther was given 60 days to recant or be excommunicated... Luther was no more daunted than the people. He responded with a blast headed Against the Execrable Bull of Antichrist in which he declaimed: "(This] bull... is the sum of all impiety, blasphemy, ignorance, impudence, hypocrisy, lying - in a word, it is Satan and his Antichrist... You, then Leo X, you cardinals and the rest of you at Rome... I call upon you to renounce your diabolical blasphemy and audacious impiety, and, if you will not, we shall all hold your seat as possessed and oppressed by Satan, and the damned seat of Antichrist"... Luther's excommunication followed."16
Those who "protested" the authority of the Pope were called "Protestants". Luther is credited with starting this religious movement. Others took courage prom Martin Luther and they too separated from Roman Catholicism.17
Was this the restoration predicted in the Christian Greek Scriptures? Without a doubt, many viewed the Reformation as a significant step in the right direction. Certainly some non-Christian doctrines and practices were abandoned. But history demonstrates that the restoration mentioned in the Bible did not occur. We shall consider the Biblical evidence for this assertion in the following segments.
Before long, bloody fighting broke out between Catholics and Protestants, evidence that the promised restoration was not in place. Edith Simm noted:
"During the first half of the 16th Century, most of the conflicts between Catholics and Protestants were purely verbal. But after 1550, blood was shed in religious battles all over Europe. In France the tensions that had been developing between Catholics and Calvinists (called Huguenots) were triggered by a political power play and culminated in 1572 in the gory Massacre of St. Bartholomew... The Protestant leader, Admiral Coligny, was decapitated and his head was sent to Rome. There Pope Gregory XIII received it joyfully, and struck a commemorative medal celebrating this latest Catholic triumph."18
The 1500's saw the births of several major Protestant churches: Lutheran, Baptist, the Church of England, Mennonites and Presbyterian. What did not happen was the Restoration.
The Predicted Restoration
Jesus made it clear in Matthew 13:39 when the "harvest" and the restoration would occur. Let us consider various translations of this cite:
"...and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the close of the age..." (Revised Standard Version)
"...and the enemy that sowed it is the devil; and the harvest is the final time..." (Bible in Living English)
"The enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age..." (Revised Berkeley Version)
The harvesting and separating takes place during "the close of the age", "the final time" but how are we to understand this?
In Jesus' great prophecy of the "time of the end" at Matthew 24, he definitely indicates that the restored Christian community would be present. This then defines the "close of the age" at Matthew 13:39. The "close of the age" is the "time of the end". Let us look at the passages mentioning the Christian Church during the "time of the end" to see what we can find.
(1) Our first text is found at Matthew 24:9. There Jesus stated:
"Then they will deliver you up to tribulation, and put you to death; and you will be hated by all nations for my name's sake". (Revised Standard Version)
This verse not only establishes that a restored Christian organization would be in existence during the "time of the end", but describes an international attitude towards it. Every nation on the face of the globe would find this relatively new group objectionable. Whether we traveled to the United States, Ethiopia, India, Japan, etc., this restored Christian assembly would not be liked.
This is one way of identifying the true Christian organization. Obviously, members of the "weed" system would still claim to be Christians but could be measured against Matthew 24:9.
(2) Another "end time" passage describing the restored congregation is found at Matthew 24:14, where Jesus said:
"And this good news of the Kingdom (the Gospel) will be preached throughout the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then will come the end." (Amplified Bible)
This comment tells us the specific central message of the restored church and informs us that it would be active in this activity internationally, in "the whole world". Churches generally have a main course message - it may be "personal salvation", "positive thinking", exposing cults, sabbath observance, contemporary social issues, etc. Notwithstanding the relative merits of these various themes, the re-established Christian community would be principally promulgating the gospel of "the kingdom". This also was the main theme of the Early Church.19
(3) We discover another clue at Matthew 28:19, 20. There the resurrected Jesus Christ imparted this command to his faithful disciples:
"Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you. And, look! I am with you all the days until the conclusion of the system of things." (New World Translation)
There is a process described here that is crucial to identifying the restored church. Jesus instructed his disciples to go and make other disciples; that, obviously involved a teaching and preaching activity. Next, he told them to baptize those who accepted the message and became disciples. Then, he directed that these new disciples do the same thing that their instructors were told to do. This clearly meant that they too would have to go and disciple others. Every baptized Christian, therefore, would be a disciple-maker.
Jesus' words at verse 20 indicated that down until the "end" this procedure would be applicable. During the "time of the end" every baptized, loyal member of the restored Christian organization would be active in spreading the message of "the Kingdom".20
(4) At Acts 15:13-17 the Christian overseer. James in speaking to an assembly of Christians said:
"... Brethren, listen to me, Symeon has related how God first looked graciously on the nations to take from among them a people to be called by His name. And this is in harmony with the language of the Prophets, which says: "Afterwards I will return, and will rebuild David's fallen tent. Its ruins I will rebuild, and I will set it up again; that the rest of mankind may seek after the Lord - even all the nations which are called by My Name, says the Lord, who has been making these things known from ages long past". (Amos IX.11,l2) The New Testament in Modern Speech by Richard Weymouth.
This unquestionably closely links the true Christian community to the very name of God, which is Jehovah (Yahweh).21 All this signifies that one would associate this group with God's holy name.
(5) Still another identifier is provided in Jesus’ words at John 13:34, 35:
"I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must love one another. By this they will all know that you are my disciples - by your love for one another." (An American Translation)
When one surveys the Christian Greek Scriptures to get a feel for the Early Church, although there are comments about congregations having difficulties, the picture, as a whole, is that of a loving, caring union of people.22 The restored Christian congregation would stand out in its showing of love just as the First Century congregation.
Interestingly, Revelation 7:9-14 reveals that "end time" Christians would come from "all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues", a cross cultural, polyracial, multinational set of people. The challenge to love one another with that wide range of differences would be met by the restored Christian community.23
(6) The First Christians were not denominationalized they were a single group with common beliefs as the following scriptures indicate:
"Now may the God who supplies endurance and comfort grant you to have among yourselves the same mental attitude that Christ Jesus had, that with one accord you may with one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." (Romans 15:5, 6) (New World Translation)
"Now I exhort you, brothers, to keep your eye on those who cause divisions and occasions f or stumbling contrary to the teaching that you have learned and avoid them." (Romans 16:17) (New World Translation)
"Now I exhort you, brothers, through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ that you should all speak in agreement and that there should not be divisions among you, but that you may be fitly united in the same mind and in the same line of thought." (1 Corinthians 1:10) (New World Translation)
This unity of the First Christians meant that there was not a Petrine Church, a Pauline Church, a Markan Church, a Johanine Church, etc. There was just one undivided Christian body - until the apostasy. Naturally, it would mean that the restored Christians would not be segmented into differing Christian groups or "churches".24
(7) It also makes sense to expect that the re-established body of Christians would be doctrinally congruent with the First Christians. We will consider just four doctrines and practices.
(A) Since God had turned from natural Israel to the Christianity system, Early Christians believed that now all nations are under the influence of Satan the Devil, a very unpopular stand that did not enamor the Early Christians to political authorities. (Matthew 4:8,9; Luke 4:5-8; 2 Cor. 4:3,4; Ephesians 6:10-13; 1 John 5:19; Rev. 12:9)
(B) The Early Christians rejected religious titles. No administrator in the Early Church was called "Father", "Master", "Rabbi", or the like. All Christians were brothers or sisters and addressed as such. (Matt. 23:1-13; Luke 22:25,26; Compare with Hebrew Scripture reference Job 32:21, 22.)
(C) On the question of the nature of the human soul, the Early Christian believed that the soul could die, that it was not immortal. The view accepted by the other major religious communities, that the soul could never die, was rejected. (Acts 3:23; James 5:20; Revelation 16:3)
(D) In the Early Church, unrepentant offenders were excommunicated, disfellowshipped. The spiritual integrity of the community was esteemed above the numbers of people that could be brought into the fold. Inveterate fornicators, practicing homosexuals, murderers, robbers, persistent drunkards and the like, were not permitted to remain a part of the church if after efforts to reform them they continued such practices. Be that as it may, the "shunned" one could be reinstated after sincere repentance. (1 Cor. 5:1-13; 2 Cor. 2:6-8; 1 Tim. 1:18-20; 2 John 9-11)
A survey of the present mainline churches will show that few subscribe to the foregoing. This then becomes a means of identifying the correct institution and dismissing others, notwithstanding their meritorious characteristics like religious sincerity, work among the disadvantaged, relief efforts and the like.25
SUMMARY OF THE "RESTORATION" DATA
The foregoing data relates to the restored Christian organization:
(1) It would be organized during the "time of the end".26 This would clearly mean that it would not have a long history of existence.
(2) It would be "hated by all nations".
(3) Its principle message would be "the Kingdom of God by Christ".
(4) It would be active all over the world.
(5) All baptized members would be expected to disciple others.
(6) It would be closely associated with God's name which is Jehovah (Yahweh).
(7) It would have an international profile of showing love within the community.
(8) It would not be subdivided into denominations.
(9) Its doctrines and practices would be like those of the First Christians.
If it is true that we are now in the Biblical time of "the end", it means that the restored Christian church is present among us. This discussion has attempted to establish from the Bible that the Early Church suffered an apostasy and that a Restoration of the Church was predicted to occur during the "time of the end". It is clear that the Bible did not leave us without the tools to determine where the real Christian community is found. It is equally clear that the "weed" Christianity mentioned by Jesus is facing a catastrophic fate.27 That makes this issue very significant, one that cannot be brushed aside without far-reaching consequences.
(1) The Disciples of Christ Church, on the question of the Restoration, stated:
"Early in the movement (of the Disciples of Christ), Walter Scott popularized the term "restoration", by which he meant the restoration of the New Testament pattern and practice... Some hold that belief in the Virgin Birth is definitely necessary to a Christian's faith; others take a more liberal view, and do not consider it an essential. Some take a literal view of heaven and hell; other believe that reward and punishment should be left in the hands of a loving God... But there are other areas of general agreement and acceptance. The Disciples are firm in their belief in immortality but do not accept the doctrine of original sin; they hold that all men are of a sinful nature until redeemed by the sacrifice of Christ; they are "trinitarian" but not "Trinitarian" and are not concerned with speculation about the Trinity and the nature of a triune God." (Frank S. Mead, Handbooks of Denominations in the United States, 6th Edition, pp. 80, 81)
(2) The Worldwide Church of God, regarding the Restoration, stated:
"The Worldwide Church of God is the One True Church, and the Gospel it preaches is the only true Gospel. The historic churches have been false and apostate since A.D. 69, but the truth appears again in the advent of Dr. (Herbert W. J Armstrong and the Worldwide Church." (Frank S. Mead, Handbook of Denominations in the United States, 6th Edition, pp. 95, 96
(3) The Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, on the Restoration, stated:
"In the philosophy of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, there are two words that play a very important part - "apostasy" and "restoration"... On April 6, 1830, the church of Jesus Christ once again was organized by the power and authority of God, according to the pattern reflected in the New Testament with apostles, prophets, seventies, high priests, elders, teachers, deacons, pastors and evangelists." (John W. Ruston, Apostasv and Restoration; Herald House Publishers, 1957, pp. 1, 26)
1. According to M'clintock & Strong's Cyclopedia, Tertullian, Chrysostom, Hippolytus and Jerome felt that the Roman Empire was the bulwark against the anti-Christian movement.
2. 24th edition, p. 760.
3. Published by the National Geographic Society, 1978, p. 319.
4. According to McClintock & Strong Cvcloiedia, Vol. II, under "Ebionites", the term Ebionites was at one time applied to all Christians and later to just Jewish Christians.
5. See Colossians 2:13-17; Galatians 3:19-25; 2 Corinthians 3:1-17
6. See 1 Corinthians 7:39-40; Mark 2:18-22; 1 Corinthians 13:8-13
7. Earle E. Cairns, Th . B., Ph.D., Christianity Through The Centuries, p. 106
8. Albert F. Gray, D.D., Christian Theolocry, Vol. II, pp.172, 173
9. McCljntock & Strong CvcloDedia, Vol. IX, p. 72
10. Quoted in The Course of Civilization, Volume One, p. 292, Strayer, Gatzke and Harbison
11. The Roman Church was not founded by Christ since his church was replaced by apostate forms of Christianity. (Matthew 13:36-43) Christian leaders do not depose emperors since they are not involved with politics. (John 18:36; Luke 4:5-8) The decisions and actions of all Christian leaders can be reviewed and judged. (Galatians 2:11-14; Acts 15:1-6)
12. Cardinal John Henry Newman, Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, p. 373
13. Eastern Orthodoxy rejects the dogma that the pope is the sole vicar of Christ on earth. Also, the use of carved images is forbidden and purgatory is denied. They are Trinitarian and rever the saints.
14. Robert Hastings Nichols, The Growth of The Christian Church, p. 132
15. The Reformation - A Narrative History Related by Contemporary Observers and Participants by Hans J. Hillerbrand, pp.19, 20 (Harper & Row, Publishers)
16. Edith Simm, The Reformation, pp. 41, 42 (Time-Life Books)
17. "The Reformation, as it broke in the year 1517, brought to the fore several leading reformers, such as Martin Luther in Germany, John Calvin in Geneva among the French, giving rise to the Huquenot movement, Ulrich Zwingle founder of Protestantism in Switzerland, John Knox in Scotland and the Protestant martyrs Thomas Crarimer, Nicholas Ridley and Hugh Latimer in England." Theocratic Aid to Kingdom Publishers, p. 310 (Watchtower Bible & Tract Society)
18. Edith Simm, The Reformation, pp.116, 117
19. See Matthew 4:23; 6:10, 33: 9:35; Luke 4:43; 8:1; Acts 8:12; 19:8; 20:25; 28:23
20. See Daniel 11:32-35; 12:3,4 and Revelation 12:10,11.
21. The name noted in the Hebrew text at Amos 9:11, 12 is Jehovah (Yahweh) - not Jesus (Joshua). These names are differentiated at Proverbs 30:4 and Revelation 14:1.
22. Compare Acts 15:37-40; 1 Cor. 1:11; 4:18, 19; 5:1-12; 6:1-5; 1 Car. 11:17-19; with Acts 2:44,45; 4:32-37; 9:31; Romans 16:1-16; 1 Cor. 16:24; 2 Cor 13:11-14
23. Early Christians refused to participate in the military - a rule that if violated, could have found them in a position of fighting from both sides of a conflict and which would have made it difficult f or them to "love one another". One source stated: "The first Christians thought it was wrong to fight, and would not serve in the army even when the Emperor needed soldiers." The New World's Foundation in the Old by R. and W.M. West, 1929, p. 131
24. According to Frank Mead's Handbook of Denominations in the United States (Sixth Edition), in 1978 in the United States there were 4 different Adventist bodies, 28 different Baptist groups, 8 different Lutheran communities, 13 different Mennonite churches and 19 different Methodist organizations.
25. Although sincerity is crucial to a relationship with Jehovah and Jesus, sincerity is not sufficient, as these passages demonstrate: Romans 10:1-3; Proverbs 16:25. Note how evidently sincere religious people would persecute true Christians: John 16:2-4
26. Bible prophecy shows that the actual beginning of the restored congregation would occur shortly before the Parousia of Christ: "Who really is the faithful and discreet slave whom his master appointed over his domestics... Happy is that slave if his master on arriving finds him doing so." (Matthew 24:45) (NWT)
27. See Matthew 13:40-42; 2 Peter 2:2-3; Matthew 7:21-23