The Church Councils, Final
Sep 08, 2019
It took most of the fourth century to transition from pagan Rome to Christian Rome. What began in 313 with Constantine’s Edict of Toleration ended with Theodosius’ edicts making Christianity the State religion by the time of his death in 395.
In 310, before the battle of the Milvian Bridge, Constantine reported having a vision of a cross in the sky accompanied by the words, “By this, conquer.” As a military man, not well schooled in the character and teachings of Jesus Christ, he was unaware of the spiritual implications of using the cross as a sword.
When men use the sword as an evangelistic tool, they forcibly convert men to mere religion. The sword cannot change the heart, and this is why hammers and other tools were banned when constructing an altar to God. When men are forced to accept religion, the religion brings into its fold men carrying the spiritual curses of many past generations. The church hierarchy failed to recognize these spiritual forces as their ranks swelled with new members with the hearts of pagans.
Even in later years, when their children and grandchildren became avid followers of Christian religion, they carried with them the spiritual problems of their forebears, which plagued their personal character in ways that they never understood.
The Christian Church in the fourth century failed to recognize this basic principle that the cross is a symbol of self-sacrifice, not a sword by which to sacrifice others on the altar of Christ. And so paganism was conquered and absorbed into the Church institution and religion, where it festered as it paganized the Church itself.
Some centuries earlier, Judaism had used its Macabbean “hammer” to force the Edomites to convert to Judaism. The Church did the same by turning the cross into a sword. The Edomite tendency toward violence, as depicted often in Scripture, was thus infused into Judaism itself, adding to the radicalism that eventually brought Jerusalem to destruction. The same then happened to Christian Rome.
Divine Judgment upon Christian Rome
Theodosius’ final edict in 394 established Christianity as the State religion, and he died the following year, leaving the empire to his two young sons, Arcadius, 18, and Honorius, 11. God then gave Rome a period of “silence” for 15 years, in which they had time to repent in the face of impending judgment. They failed to repent, however, maintaining confidence that God would never allow a Christian empire to be destroyed. Yet in 410 Rome itself was invaded and sacked for the first time in its long history.
The year 395 is important, because (from the Historicist view of Revelation) it marked the beginning of “silence” before the opening of the seventh seal in Revelation 8:1,
1 And when He broke the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.
In long-term biblical prophecy, a day is a year (as in Ezekiel 4:5, 6), which can be expressed as 360 days or even 360 years. By that rule, an hour is one-twelfth of 360, or a period of 30 years. Thus, “half an hour” in Rev. 8:1 speaks of a period of 15 years. I believe it speaks of the 15 years from 395-410 A.D. The seventh seal described the period from 410-476, from the sack of Rome to the eventual collapse of the western empire in 476.
See chapter 10 of The Revelation, Book 3.
In 410 Alaric the Goth took the city of Rome and sacked it for six days. His army removed all the gold, silver, and gems that they could find and even tortured those they suspected of hiding their treasures. Within a week, the great and wealthy city of Rome was reduced to abject poverty. Gibbon writes of this on page 456 of The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire, “The awful catastrophe of Rome filled the astonished empire with grief and terror.”
Alaric sacked most of Italy as well. Revelation 8:7 speaks of this invasion in symbolic terms, saying “all the green grass was burned up.” Isaiah 40:6 tells us that “all flesh is grass,” that is, fleshly people. The plunder of Italy caused much starvation, for his troops ate what they wished and destroyed the rest of the food.
Alaric then attempted to take Sicily as a steppingstone to Africa. But as Gibbon writes on page 459,
“Yet as soon as the first division of the Goths had embarked, a sudden tempest arose, which sunk or scattered many of the transports; their courage was daunted by the terrors of a new element; and the whole design was defeated by the premature death of Alaric, which fixed, after a short illness, the fatal term of his conquests.”
Hence, God unleashed the first of the divine judgments upon Rome and then stopped it abruptly for a season to give the church another opportunity to repent. However, the Church did not repent, but sought to explain how the Christian city could be invaded and sacked.
Augustine immediately wrote his famous book, The City of God, in which he argued that Rome was NOT the New Jerusalem, as so many had believed. He explained that the City of God was a spiritual city. In this he was certainly correct, but the book did little to reverse the trend toward Christian paganism which God was judging.
The Overthrow of Universal Reconciliation
Meanwhile, during this “half hour of silence,” an extraordinarily important doctrinal controversy took place. Recall that most of the fourth century Church was consumed with the conflict with Arianism over the idea of the Trinity. But as the year 400 drew near, the focus shifted to the previously uncontested idea of Universal Salvation.
As I showed in my booklet, A Short History of Universal Reconciliation, Theophilus, the corrupt bishop of Alexandria, became offended when a rich widow donated money to one of his presbyters to be used to help poor widows, instead of allowing him to spend it on building projects. The presbyter had been writing a compilation of teachings about Universal Reconciliation, and so Theophilus banned his book out of sheer spite.
This occurred in the year 400. The political turmoil resulted finally in the overthrow of John Chrysostom, Bishop of Constantinople, and the rejection of Universal Reconciliation itself. What had been almost universally taught in the Church suddenly became the object of anathemas in the Church Councils for the next few centuries.
Because this doctrinal conflict arose during the half hour of silence leading to the sack of Rome, it seems apparent that it was the final act of corruption and rebellion against God before divine judgment was unleashed upon Imperial Christian Rome. Instead of repenting with a genuine change of heart, the church (as a whole) became more and similar to pagan Rome, complete with bloody persecutions, executions, and violent threats.
The Church Councils thereafter became even more corrupt and political. The spirit of error only deepened over time. And yet their decrees were enforced as if God Himself condoned their carnality and as if God put His stamp of approval upon their creeds and anathemas. Yet at the same time, they could not ignore the fact that Christian Rome had fallen and that western civilization was plunging into the Dark Ages.
A New Church is Arising
The Roman Church, however, found itself to be the only stabilizing force in the region, and so ironically, it gained spiritual (religious) power as the civil authorities lost theirs. The moral corruption reached its peak in the 18th Jubilee of the Church when, as Church historians tell us, it was the Golden Age of the Pornocracy (or, “rule of the harlots”). It began with Pope Sergius III in 904 and ended with Pope John XII in 964.
The 18th Jubilee of the Church correlates with the 18th year of King Saul, at which time God pronounced judgment upon him. 1 Samuel 15:23 says,
23 For rebellion is as the sin of divination [witchcraft], and insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He has also rejected you from being king.
Saul continued to rule Israel for another 22 years, but he had lost the right to establish a dynasty that would continue on after his death. So also the church, in its 18th Jubilee, lost its divine right to rule the Kingdom into the Tabernacles Age, notwithstanding their widespread belief that the Roman Church is “eternal.”
The Church Councils did not establish the will of God nor even the truth of Scripture. We are not to view them as if they were inspired by the Holy Spirit nor their decisions as if they were an extension of inspired Scripture. Even so, instead of merely criticizing or castigating them for their failures, we ought to concern ourselves with following the leading of the Holy Spirit and doing what the Councils failed to do.
We must do so, however, without encumbering ourselves with those past creeds. We need a fresh start and a fresh look at the Scriptures themselves. The age of the Saul Church is ending; the age of David is upon us. A new Church is arising, one that will fulfill Jesus’ misunderstood words in Matthew 16:18. The Holy Spirit is about to be poured out in a new and greater way, giving us greater clarity of understanding, where obscurity once darkened the pages of the word.
This is part 7 of a series titled "The Church Councils" To view all parts, click the link below.