Rome--a Christian Nation: Part 2
Jan 10, 2007
Throughout most of the fourth century, the Roman Empire was still undivided. Recall that Daniel's prophecy of the nameless beast with iron teeth (Dan. 7:7) corresponds to the two iron legs in Nebuchadnezzar's dream (Dan. 2:33). Thus, Rome was destined to divide into two legs. This did not happen (permanently) until the death of Theodosius in 395 A.D. Upon his death, he bequeathed the empire between his two sons, Arcadius and Honorius, in order to ensure that they would not engage in civil war to obtain the throne.
As early as 380 A.D. the Emperor Gratian began to transform Imperial Rome into a Christian Nation. This was completed by Emperor Theodosius (392-395 A.D.) We read in Ferguson and Bruun's A Survey of European Civilization, page 95,
"In 380 he [Emperor Gratian] issued an edict threatening all heretics with legal punishment, and the following year summoned the second ecumenical council of the church at Constantinople, which confirmed the Nicene Creed and condemned Arianism. . . . Meanwhile, Gratian was taking steps to stamp out paganism, and in 391 and 392 [Emperor] Theodosius issued stringent laws against idolatry. Sacrifice to pagan gods, whether in public or private, was to be regarded as treason, and paganism gradually died out during the following century. The legal triumph of the church over heresy and paganism and its evolution from a persecuted sect to a persecuting state church were complete."
Most of the Roman Senate had been pagan up to this time, but they saw by example how the Emperors treated dissenters, and so they converted to the Christian religion in order to avoid punishment. Gibbon says in The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, pages 412 and 413,
"The hasty conversion of the senate must be attributed either to supernatural or to sordid motives; and many of these reluctant proselytes betrayed, on every favourable occasion, their secret disposition to throw aside the mask of odious dissimulation. But they were gradually fixed in the new religion, as the cause of the ancient became more hopeless; they yielded to the authority of the emperor, to the fashion of the times, and to the entreaties of their wives and children, who were instigated and governed by the clergy of Rome and the monks of the East."
The conversion of the Empire occurred just before its final collapse. In fact, because of invading armies, Rome had already begun withdrawing troops from Britain as early as 383. Perhaps the Christian emperors thought that by eliminating paganism and creating a Christian Empire they could avoid collapse. Biblical precedent seemed to support this.
But in 410, just fifteen years after Theodosius' death, Alaric the Goth plundered the city of Rome. This caused Augustine to write his book, City of God, to explain how God could allow a Christian Empire and the "eternal city" to be so treated. He argued that the New Jerusalem was not Rome or any other physical city, and in this he was correct. Historical events had proven Christian thinking to be incorrect.
As I said, by this time, the Christian Roman Empire had been divided in 395 between the two sons of Theodosius. Both were Christian, because the edicts of Theodosius were made before the division. The West collapsed finally in 476. The East lasted until 1453 when Constantinople was conquered by the Turks.
It should be apparent by now that a Christian Nation is not the same as the Kingdom of God. A Christian Nation is man's attempt to simulate the Kingdom of God. I am not saying that men should avoid establishing a Christian Nation. I am only saying that a Christian Nation is an imperfect imitation, based upon faith in the religion and its human administrators, rather than by faith in God. It is based upon a person's relationship with the Church or State, rather than upon one's relationship with God.
As history shows us, all four of the beast-empires of Daniel became Christian Nations when they declared the God of the Bible as their sovereign. But they all failed to implement His will in those same nations. And so, because this captivity would last over 2,500 years, God divided up the time of captivity among these four beast-empires. Each one was given its share of time of authority to see if they would actually bring righteousness into the earth.
They all failed, and each was forced to pass this authority to the next beast system waiting its turn.
Religion is no substitute for a personal relationship with God. Force and violence is no substitute for the Holy Spirit. If the emperors of Rome had been filled with the Holy Spirit and had learned the mind of God, rather than the mind of the bishops of religion, they might have had opportunity to convert men by the demonstration of the Spirit, rather than by coercion. If the Christian emperors had been overcomers, they might have had opportunity to establish the Kingdom of God.
But as we know from Daniel's prophecy, God was giving other nations the opportunity to be "chosen" in order to manifest to the world their utter inability to fulfill their obligation that came with this authority. When all contenders have had their opportunity, God will then transfer jurisdiction to the overcomers, called in Daniel 7:22, "the saints of the Most High."
Overcomer-administrators are required for a Christian Nation to truly manifest the Kingdom of God. One must have administrators who truly know the mind of God, and who live by the power of the Holy Spirit, otherwise, the Christian Nation will be imperfect and will decay and die. Chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation speak of "those who overcome." The end of the book describes them as being of the first resurrection from all past ages, joining with those overcomers who are alive in that final generation.
These will reign with Christ on the earth (Rev. 5:10). They will succeed where all previous kings have failed. This does not mean that the earth will suddenly be perfect. Far from it. Yet by the influence of the Holy Spirit emanating through the overcomers, the earth will progress until the knowledge of the glory of the Lord covers the earth as the waters cover the sea.
The overcomers have been trained throughout the past, largely by persecution and trials. Their time is yet to come. Their job has not yet really begun, for the Stone Kingdom has not yet smashed the image on its feet. Jurisdiction over the nations has not yet been given to the overcomers, for we are still in the final lingering hours of the previous carnal administration.
Now is the time of training. Whether the overcomers live into that Age or die beforehand is of little consequence in the face of the coming resurrection. Those qualified to rule will be given life in "The Age," so that they may administer life and truth to all men by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Our next studies will deal with the "little horn" of Daniel 7:8, how it came to power out of the ruins of the Roman Empire as the Roman Church System. We will see how the Saul-Church failed to live up to the obligations of its calling, even as King Saul failed in the Old Testament. Saul's temporary calling was legitimate, and his anointing was genuine, but nonetheless, he failed and had to give way to David, the overcomer type.
When we understand the progression of empires and understand their purpose and divine calling in the big picture, then we can have a better grasp of our own calling at the end of this present age. Then, too, we can know better how to prepare ourselves for The Age to come. Those who are faithful today in their training will be given authority in the Stone Kingdom to come.
This is the second part of a series titled "Rome--a Christian Nation." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones