The Story of the Christian Church
By Winthrop S. Hudson
Chapters 2 to 4
The Church of the Martyrs, The Church of the Emperor, An Imperial Church
THE CHURCH OF THE MARTYRS
Any attempt to reconstruct the developing life and organization of the early church must begin with an acknowledgment that much of our information is meager and fragmentary, and that there is much that is obscure and uncertain. We have no minute books, no diaries, no journals. But we do have scattered letters, reports, treatises, sermons, church manuals. While we could wish for much more additional information, the main lines of development are sufficiently clear.
The mission of Christ was to summon a remnant of Israel to be the saving instrument of God for the redemption of mankind. To accomplish this purpose, he had gathered about him TWELVE disciples, corresponding to the Twelve tribes of Israel...
Twelve? Indeed. Follow the course of History, from Genesis in the West to Revelation in the West again. The whole of it has passed right over the head of Rome.
A Mystery sealed with Seven Seals. Malachi, chapter 4; Hebrews, chapter 12.
Though the biblical scholar John Allegro fails to see into the depth of the Christ mystery himself--sublime and suprahistorical, and beyond his own immediate comprehension, as it is--he nevertheless comes close to the truth when he says:
"They (the rabbis, and the orthodox church fathers who came to define Christianity from the third and fourth centuries on) took what they believed to be the essentials of their Faith, discredited any practice or belief which conflicted with their ideas and promulgated their their refined code as the original religion revealed by their god, claiming that over the course of time it had become perverted through man's sin. Certain myths handed down over the centuries...were 'historicized', and theology was made to hang upon the actions and words of their legendary characters as real people. The Jewish 'Exodus-Sinai' myth became thus actual history, belief in every word of which was made obligatory on the faithful as the 'Jesus crucified' story was within a generation or so of its devising made for Christians a central feature of God's redemptive activity in man's history...
Today we know this story to have been quite imaginary, and its composition and transmission devised for an esoteric purpose connected with the secret nature of the cult. (At the time of its inception the real nature of the Jesus legend must have been well known, certainly among its originators and, as we can show, even among Jews outside the cult for some considerable time afterwards). But 'orthodox' belief came to insist upon the myth's historicity (for reasons that the orthodox, nor Allegro can understand yet), and those who disagreed, including presumably those who knew the truth and wished to preserve it at least among the initiates of the secret society, were driven out into the wilderness." The End of the Road, by John M. Allegro, pp.8-11.
(continued)...After Christ had been crucified and buried (Hebrews 5:10-14), he appeared again to his disciples (Exodus 23:20-23; 24:10)--first to Peter and then to the Twelve--confirming his mission and entrusting it to them. They returned to Jerusalem (Let the reader understand...Matthew 24:15. It was not to any city in Palestine that they returned...Acts 1:12)...
...and there the miracle of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4) occurred, transforming a small band of disciples into a dynamic community with a message and a life that turned the world upside down.
1. The Early Christian Community
The Christian community sprang from the apostolic witness. Christ was the Foundation Stone of the community, and the apostles were the "pillars." Without the apostles there could have been no Church, for a historical revelation must be reported and announced by those who were eyewitnesses to it. But beyond the stabilizing element of the apostolic testimony, it was a formless community which was gathered by the telling of the Christian story. In the words of Paul: Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us. (1 Corinthians 5:7,8).
Deuteronomy 21:22,23; Galatians 3:13
Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection (thus the First Death): on such the Second Death, (the death of the mortal body itself), hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Christ a thousand (10 X 10 X 10) years...(Revelation 20:6, Revelation 21:16).
For the preaching of the Cross (the crucifixion of the old nature--the natural, literal man) is to them that perish foolishness; but unto them that are saved it is the Power of God...(1 Corinthians 1:18).
(continued)...What distinguished this early Christian community was not a pattern of organization but a way of life. "Since our persuasion by the Lord," Justin Martyr was later to write, "we who valued above all things the acquisition of wealth and possessions now bring what we have into a common stock and communicate to everyone in need (they were in every sense of the word, spiritual communists); we who hated and destroyed one another, and on account of their different manners would not share the hearth with those of another tribe, now, since the coming of Christ, live on intimate terms with them, and pray for our enemies and endeavor to persuade those who hate us to live according the good precepts of Christ, so that they may become partakers with us of the same joyful hope." This was true from the very beginning. It was a new society that had come into existence in the midst of the old society--a society in which there were no distinctions of race or class or nationality or culture, a society in which no person should ever be in need or want, a society in which the stranger should feel himself welcome and at home, a society open to all, whether Jew of Gentile, through faith in Christ.
In a sense, it is curious that Christ should have laid down no detailed instruction for the outward organization of the Church. (These instructions were already implicit in the Law and the Prophets, and in the oral traditions of the Essenes). In this respect, life under the New Covenant differed greatly from the minute prescriptions by which the life of Israel was ordered under the Old Covenant (Understand Jeremiah 31:31-34). But in a deeper sense, it is not strange that Christ should have left the outer structure of the Church to be shaped by the growing and changing needs of the Christian community, for to do otherwise would have been to run the risk of diverting attention from his basic concern to foster a true fellowship of persons and of centering it instead upon details and organization. Christ had insisted again and again that in the new society there was to be no preeminence. (But also the words: For the mystery of Iniquity doth already work, 2 Thessalonians 2:7; Acts 20:25-38; And there must be heresies among you so that they which are approved may be manifest, 1 Cor.11:17-34). When a dispute broke out among the Twelve, after the request of the sons of Zebedee that they be given positions of honor and privilege in the coming kingdom, Jesus acknowledged that in the larger society in which they lived the great ones (the kings, the popes, and presidents) exercised lordship and authority, but, he reminded them, it is not so among you. (Nor must it ever come to be so...John 8:31,32; 1 John 2:18,19). The principle by which they were to be governed was the one which he had so often repeated, that whosoever would be chief among you shall be a servant (not in the ritual sense as a papal title but in actual reality. John Paul II is presently carried around on a Papal Throne).
Thus the outward structure of the Church grew out of the needs of daily life--the sociological needs of individual Christian communities. Actually no fellowship can exist without accepted patterns of doing things and getting things done. Means of conducting business must be devised. (No usury, no oppression, no injustice, no earning one's own living on the labors of other men...Ezekiel 18)...
2. The Church orders Its Life
It has been suggested that "the early church lived like those on the American frontier." There was no trained clergy. Scattered groups of Christians had been gathered by itinerant evangelists. These itinerants were the ministers, and their duties involved preaching or prophesying and administration of baptism and the Lord's Supper. (Blending the rites of Dionysus with the epic meaning of Passover). They had been commissioned directly by the Spirit, and were attached to no local congregation...
(Of course Hudson is not taking into account the early church's direct connection to the religious traditions of upper Europe, and to their already well organized structure of Druid priests, overseers and a presiding High Priest. Aside from the fact that James, and not Peter, was chosen to assume this position among them, it was the early church's intent to dissolve this office with the precepts in Hebrews, chapter 5. The very mystery of Christ itself was now their universal High Priest, until the true high priest of these sacred mysteries should appear again at the end of the age. It was not through other men, or through their religious institutions that the true priests of God are ordained, but by the Holy Spirit of God itself...Herself).
...All the believers who had been gathered by the itinerants were styled brethren or saints, and each member of the community was regarded as a priest belonging to the spiritual tribe of Levi. As in all communities, however, there were certain routine tasks to be performed. Someone had to determine when and where they should meet, to make the necessary preparations, and to preside once the people were gathered together...Following Jewish customs, these administrative responsibilities were usually assumed by a committee of elders--called bishops or presbyters--and in some places they were assisted by deacons and widows. The pattern of administration, however, was far from standardized. In some centers the committee structure persisted well into the second century. In other centers this pattern of organization was displaced by what seemed to be the more efficient procedure of concentrating responsibility in a single pastor or overseer, and the committee of elders was reduced to the status of an advisory council.
The itinerants often presented something of a problem to the established communities. In time some of them became suspected of abusing their ministerial office. The apostle Paul suggested that true prophets and teachers could be distinguished in part by the evidence they gave of possessing the fruits of the Spirit. The Didache was even more explicit when it suggested that, if the preaching or prophesying of an itinerant ended in a demand for food or money by way of reward (does this still sound familiar in our time?) he was to be cast out as a deceiver. The problem posed by the itinerants was ultimately solved by having the bishop or pastor gradually extend his responsibilities to include those of the ministerial office, thus largely displacing the itinerants in the life of the church. (It must also be realized that as all of these organizational adjustments and changes were taking place in the life of the church, the mysteries that were committed to the Church for safekeeping were also slipping into the mist. The individual congregations had the books but no longer knew exactly how to interpret them. They were sealed. The wise, of course, understood this...Isaiah 29:11).
At the same time that the bishop was assuming the duties of the minister, his responsibilities were also undergoing geographical extension. In various important centers the Christian community had enjoyed marked growth and had become too large to meet in one place. Thus it became necessary for the community to divide itself into several distinct congregations meeting in different parts of the city. The bishop or the pastor remained as head of the whole enterprise but presbyters were assigned to take charge of the individual assemblies. And when missionary activity extended into the neighboring rural areas creating Christian groups there, these too were brought under his supervision.
3. The Church Invokes Apostolic Authority
The Christian communities were increasingly troubled by controversy as the years went by. Strange and novel prophetic revelations led to different interpretations of the person and the work of Christ (as well they should have), and of the nature of the life to which the Christians had been called. Thus the gospel seemed in danger of being corrupted and perverted, and the whole movement was threatened with disintegration. To meet this danger, an appeal was made to the apostolic witness as the source of the normative tradition of the church.
After the death of the apostles, many writings had appeared, designed to provide the church with authoritative instruction. As was to be expected, the theological speculation and creative imagination which had led to the controversy was reflected in this literature. Thus the conflict between the new teachings of those who claimed direct revelations by the Spirit and the long-familiar traditions of the church was heightened...
(In essence a Gnostic movement was growing out of the original "gnostic" and "kabbalistic"character of the church itself. Those who were becoming more increasingly concerned for order and for structural and doctrinal integrity within the church--for "the orthodox tradition" as it were--became increasingly at odds with those who held that the orthodox themselves did not know what the tradition handed down to them implied. That in order for the church to remain vibrant and fully alive in the midst of such great Darkness that its doctrines required not only constant attendance, but also constant interpretation, and that its adherents must always be renewing themselves in the "knowledge" of Christ. To many of the Gnostics--regardless of how close or far they were to the actual hidden meanings of the Gospels--the church was not some new planting in the earth, to be tended by a self-selected few. It was a great Tree whose roots were already planted deep in the historical and spiritual consciousness of the entire human family. To the orthodox this view could have no other effect than to lead the Church back into the paganism of the past. The two streams ran current and cross-current with each other until the ultimate victory of the orthodox view and the rise of monolithic Christianity in the fourth century--the State Church. This! said the religious dissidents in every age, was the very error that the precepts of the early church inveighed against from the beginning).
...To provide a dependable check against novel doctrines, the principle was seized upon of limiting authoritive teachings to those writings which most clearly could be regarded as being derived from the apostles. As eyewitness to the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, the apostles provided the only reliable historical evidence concerning the divine disclosure. Their teachings, therefore, was the only trustworthy authority for the church. It was the touchstone by which the true could be detected from the false. All else which claimed the authority of the Spirit must be tested against the teachings of the apostles. (In essence each was a check on the other. To those in the gnostic tradition, every generation is an "eyewitness" to the life, death, and ultimate resurrection of Christ, as Paul wrote: Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect...1 Corinthians, chapter 2, and, That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him. The eyes of your understanding being enlightened...Ephesians 4:17-23). While there continued to be differences of opinion among the scattered Christian communities with regard to a few of the books which were ultimately included in the New Testament canon there was a remarkable degree of unanimity with regard to most of the writings which were judged to be apostolic and thus the source of the normative tradition. (Four primary gospels were eventually agreed upon, out of the many others in circulation, along with a central Book of Acts--whether by osmosis or by some convention--to conform to the structure of the Five Books of the Torah and the Mystery of Christ on the World Tree)...
...When one compares the writings which were rejected with those that were accepted, it is impossible not to be impressed by the sound historical discrimination and judgment that was displayed in the selection made.
4. The Seed of the Church
During the years when the Christian communities were ordering the outward form of their common life and seeking stability by an appeal to the apostolic authority, they were living a precarious existence. Persecution had begun with the stoning of Stephen (Acts 7:58-60), and for three hundred years the threat of mob violence or more drastic action by the state was to hang over their heads.
It seems curious to us that the early Christians should have been persecuted--whipped, stoned, cast to lions, condemned to the stake--for by our standards they seem to have been inoffensive enough. The sum of their offense was that they were different. They were living in the world and for the world, but they were not of the world. Their ultimate loyalty was elsewhere.
Because the Christians were different, vicious rumors circulated concerning them. What dark (Tantric) deeds were thought to take place behind the closed doors of their love feasts. Because Christians were different, it was easy to make them the scapegoats for every disaster that occurred. (Of course many of them were also prophesying these disasters). Whenever there was flood or drought, famine or pestilence, the cry would be raised, "The Christians to the lions." Because the Christians were different (because they were actually walking in the very precepts handed down to them from the time of the apostles), homes were disrupted and family ties were broken. The greatest offense of the Christians, however, was that THEY WOULD NOT WORSHIP THE GODS UPON WHOSE WELFARE THE STATE WAS THOUGHT TO DEPEND. NOR WOULD THEY ACKNOWLEDGE CAESAR AS LORD. They made clear again and again that there loyalty was always and only to Christ. It was a loyalty that overrode all other claims of the community upon them.
STUBBORN AND OBSTINATE IN THEIR REFUSAL TO PERFORM THE RITES OF WHICH THE SAFETY, SECURITY, AND PROSPERITY OF THE STATE WERE THOUGHT TO DEPEND, THE CHRISTIANS COULD ONLY BE REGARDED AS TRAITORS TO SOCIETY, worthy of the martyrdom to which they were condemned. Some were slaves, some were inconspicuous folks, some were distinguished leaders of the church. How many there were, no one knows. But there were many who withstood the temptation to deny their Lord...
For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end...(Hebrews 3:14)
But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved...(Matthew 24:13).
Was martyrdom necessary? No one can answer that question except for himself when it is his own life that is at stake (Leviticus 1:2,3). It is only in the agony of one's own soul that a Christian determines what the decision for Christ and his kingdom must be. But a Christian must be different, and the Christian society, which is the Church, must be different. And because this is so, the Church must expect the recurrent hostility of those with whom it can not finally make a compromise. This much is clear: the Christian church during its days of martyrdom could be neither defeated or suppressed. The gates of hell could not prevail against it. The very blood of the martyrs became the seed of the Church. (These were the Morning Sacrifice).
This day have I begotten thee...Psalm 2:7
Seven Days thou shalt make an atonement for the altar, and sanctify it; and it shall be an altar most holy: whosoever toucheth the altar shall be holy.
Now this is that which thou shalt offer upon the altar; TWO LAMBS OF THE FIRST YEAR DAY BY DAY CONTINUALLY.
THE ONE LAMB THOU SHALT OFFER IN THE MORNING THE OTHER LAMB THOU SHALT OFFER AT EVEN...(Exodus 29:37-39; Numbers 28:1-4).
Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are Perfect; yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world that come to nought.
We speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory...(1 Corinthians 2:6,7).
But exhort one another daily, WHILE IT IS CALLED TO DAY; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.
For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence STEDFAST UNTO THE END...(Hebrews 3:13,14).
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (the Hesus of the Druids and the Crishna of the Vedas), which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you.
Who are kept by the Power of God through faith unto salvation READY TO BE REVEALED IN THE LAST TIME...(1 Peter 1:3-5).
Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him IN PEACE, WITHOUT SPOT AND BLAMELESS...(2 Peter 3:14).
THE CHURCH OF THE EMPEROR
One of the "most profound revolutions" which has occurred "in the entire history of the church," W.E. Garrison has declared, was the transformation of the church, in the fourth century, from "a voluntary society having in its membership only those who were members by their own choice," to "a society conceived as necessarily coextensive with the civil community and endowed with power to enforce the adherence of all members of the civil community." The following discussion attempts to make clear the consequences of this revolution in the life of the church.
For three hundred years Christians lived in danger of mob violence, and toward the end of this period mob action and local persecution had been replaced by a concerted effort to destroy the Christian movement as a whole. Then, with dramatic suddenness, the precarious position of the Christian communities within the Roman Empire was brought to an end. Almost overnight Christianity emerged from its status as an illegal faith into the role of being the favored and then the official religion of the Empire. (Understand Ezekiel, chapter 16; Revelation 17).
The Emperor Constantine had acted on the basis of the old political maxim--"if you can't beat them, join them." The policy of persecution had failed. Far from being suppressed, the Christian communities had spread and multiplied. Other emperors had sought to make the empire strong by destroying the Christian communities. Constantine, finding himself in a difficult situation, tried the opposite policy. He decided that his position might be strengthened by enlisting the Christian God in his service. The gamble paid off (We think not. It resulted in the world wars of the 20th century, and now in the age-ending war of our time), his opponents were defeated, and in anticipation of further benefits to be derived from the Christian God, Constantine took the church under his protection, showered it with favors, and assumed responsibility for directing its affairs. (Please see Isaiah 30:1,2).
1. Triumph or DEFEAT?
Constantine's conversion to Christianity has frequently been interpreted as a triumph for the church. (It was instead the beginning of the foreordained downfall of Christianity itself). It is true that Christianity's new status in society did represent at least one definite gain. Persecution is not a blessing, and the individual Christian could now profess his faith openly and without fear. He could meet freely with his fellow Christians for purpose of worship. Imperial favor and patronage represent more dubious gains. The churches were relieved of certain taxes, ecclesiastical courts were recognized, the clergy were exempted from municipal obligations, and grain was given them to distribute to the poor. (Sound recently familiar)? Public funds were were appropriated to build new houses of worship, and the treasures of pagan temples were transferred to them. The lament of Jerome that "the holy books of the Christians which once were given to the flames are now bound in purple and inlaid with gold and jewels" is one indication of the dramatic shift in fortune which had taken place. From obscurity and peril, the church had traveled the road to security, privilege, and favor...
Take heed to thyself, lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land whither thou goest, lest it be a snare in the midst of thee:
But ye shall destroy their altars (not literally, but out of your own minds and out of your own observances), break their images, and cut down their groves (not literally but out of your own hearts):
For thou shalt worship no other god (nor shall you join in the worship of your own God in those places where Their ways are being perverted): for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.
Lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they go a whoring after their gods (or after their own apostate, or otherwise worldly sense of the the One True God), and do sacrifice unto their gods, and one call thee, and thou Eat of his sacrifice...(Exodus 34:12-15).
...There were other consequences flowing from imperial patronage which suggest that the new position which Christianity had acquired was something less than a full triumph. "The extraordinary change by which Christianity, instead of being the religion of the persecuted minority, became the religion of the Imperial Court," says Edwyn Bevan, "...made a greater difference to the character of Christianity than it did to the character of the world...The disappointing thing is that when the change came about, the world went on very much as before--the institutions of the state were the same, as was the behavior of men in business and pleasure, slavery, wars." But the church did not go on as before. The church was not the same. "The church," as Kenneth E. Kirk, former bishop of Oxford, observed, was "all but completely assimilated to the model of the world." (Please realize that throughout all of this emerging heresy, this unholy and adulterous marriage between church and state, God had kept for Themselves a remnant. [see Matthew 19:11]. Throughout every generation, and in every place, the light of the true faith continued to burn--ever so dimly at times and as a bright burning blaze at others).
2. The Declining Level of Christian Life
One of the consequences of fateful future significance which flowed from Constantine's conversion to Christianity was the vast increase in the number of Christians. "It was inevitable," comments John Baille, "that the majority of Romans would themselves desire to follow the emperor in embracing the new faith...And where Rome led the rest of the Empire would be likely to follow." The ambitious could easily see the political and social advantage to be gained by accepting the emperor's religion, and those who entertained no particular ambitions had long been accustomed to expressing their loyalty to the emperor by worshipping the emperor's gods. Few among the new adherents were more than nominal Christians and many were as pagan as ever at heart. Thus the "high visibility" which had characterized the early Christian communities was obscured and it became increasingly difficult to tell the Christian from the non-Christian.
3. A Developing Trust in External Rites for Assurance of Salvation
The general decline in the level of life within the post-Constantinian church accentuated the tendency to seek an external assurance of salvation. The church could no longer pretend to be a fellowship of the redeemed--a new society of men markedly different in character from the larger society about it. The minimum standard of behavior which could be required of so heterogeneous a company as now constituted the church was not sufficiently rigorous to cultivate the illusion of spiritual security. In this situation, the only way by which the necessity for personal repentance and humble submission in trust to God could be evaded was to place one's reliance upon the efficacy of the rites of the church to secure the blessings of heaven. (Of course, for those walking in the light of the true faith this was not so. These, also of course, would over time become the object of the authoritive wrath of the now Holy and Apostolic Catholic Church).
One curious phenomenon was the postponement of baptism until the final moments of one's life--a custom which became a common practice (made up for now in the just-as-meaningless rite of infant baptism, which cannot assure the soul a place in the heavens above, only a place in the structure and character of the Catholic Church--admittedly for good in many cases but for evil in so many others). There were many who were not anxious to incur the apparent risk involved in postbaptisimal sin. Following the example of Constantine (who throughout his life, even throughout his Christian life, was a cold-blooded murderer), they delayed their baptism until the moment death was at hand, when there would be little opportunity to fall from grace. This was not an entirely satisfactory solution to their problem, for they might either wait too long to be baptized and be thwarted by a sudden death or unexpectedly recover from what they thought to be a mortal illness and be exposed to the continuing temptation of earthly existence. Ultimately an adjustment was made by introducing the sacrament of penance to take care of postbaptismal sins and by the use of extreme unction to prepare the soul for death. (The ultimate number of Sacraments, Seven, eventually conformed to the completion of the Mystery here in the West--which culminates in the fulfillment of the Sacrifice of the Mass itself).
The mood which was reflected in the increasing dependence upon the rites of the institution is not unlike that of some modern Protestants who achieve what they believe to be real spiritual security by attending Sunday morning worship regularly and making a generous pledge of support to the church (see Matthew 7:21-27). It is a relationship to an institution which constitutes for them the badge of a Christian. The men and women of an earlier day were merely somewhat more imaginative in defining practices by which their piety could be demonstrated and merit accumulated.
4. Clerical Office as a Bone of Contention
A direct consequence of the reliance upon the rites and ceremonies of the church was the creation of a sharp cleavage between the clergy and the laity (a sin attributed to the Nicolaitans...Revelation 2:5,6). During the fourth and fifth centuries, the laity increasingly became onlookers rather than participants in the actual life of the church. The number of communicants dwindled, and by the sixth century the custom of habitual communion had almost disappeared. The service was performed for them rather than by them. The concept of the church as a community of the faithful was fading and being replaced by the concept of the church as a clerical institution.
The gap between the clergy and laity was further accentuated by the privileges which Constantine and his successors bestowed upon the clergy. In the early days, the men who presided in the communal acts of worship were in ordinary life indistinguishable from other members of the Christian community. For the most part they supported themselves by some secular employment. All this was changed when the churches became wealthy and privileged institutions. Regular salaries were assigned to the clergy from funds derived from confiscated properties of pagan temples and from appropriations by the state. Immunities of various sorts from burdens borne by ordinary men, which previously the pagan priests had enjoyed, were conferred upon the Christian clergy. In addition, the clergy were given certain disciplinary powers over the lives of the people, and the sanctuary rights of pagan temples were extended to include the Christian churches. Thus the clergy constituted a privileged, influential, and frequently wealthy class in society, and a clerical career was to be coveted for reasons quite divorced from any real religious concern. (Understand Hebrews 5:1-4). Disgraceful scenes of conflict and disorder not infrequently accompanied an election to the more important posts within the church. Scarcely more than fifty years after Constantine had issued the Edict of Milan, Ambrose as governor of Milan thought it necessary to be present with his troops at the election of the local bishop in order to preserve order and avoid bloodshed. This was no unnecessary precaution, for only a few years earlier the election of Damascus as bishop of the church in Rome had provoked a pitched battle between the adherents of the contending parties, and before it was over a hundred corpses littered the floor of the church. After Damascus had made good his election by slaughter, the pagan prefect of the city is reported to have said to him: "Make me bishop of Rome, and I will turn Christian at once."
5. THE PERSECUTED BECOME THE PERSECUTORS
Thus far the Christian church had simply been recognized as a legal religion and had been the recipient of official patronage and favor. It was but a short step, however, from official approval and patronage of one religion to discrimination against other religions. Before the end of the fourth century, the Emperor Theodosius had issued an edict which began with the words: "It is our desire and will that all peoples which are governed by the moderation of our clemency should follow the religion which was given to the Romans by St. Peter the Apostle." Christianity was now compulsory, conversion was henceforth to be largely by the sword, and the persecuted were to be the persecutors. (Please follow this realization into the 20th century, and then open up the books of Jeremiah and Ezekiel, one in the center of Europe and the other here in America).
With the exception of concessions which were ultimately to be made to the Jews and Moslems, every member of society was henceforth required to make a Christian profession. The non-Christian and even the unorthodox Christian were to be outlaws, having no rights, living outside the protection of the laws, and subject to immediate execution if apprehended. The ultimate identification of the Christian society with the political has been described by Sir Ernest Barker in these words: "The excommunicated person could not enter either the church or the law court; could not receive either the Eucharist or a legacy; could not own either a cure of souls or an acre of soil." As J. N. Figgs describes the fully developed system, there were no non-churchmen, or if there were, they were occupied with being burnt." Christianity had become a faith to be maintained and perpetuated by coercion, by the exercise of police power and the utilization of the sword.
6. The Church loses Its Independence
Perhaps the most serious consequence of Constantine's action in assuming the role of protector and patron of the Christian`church was the loss by the church of its freedom...
Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty...(2 Corinthians 3:17)
And when they were come to Capar'naum, they that received tribute money came to Peter, and said, Doth not your master pay tribute?
He saith, Yes. And when he was come into the house, Jesus prevented him, saying, What thinkest thou, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers?
Peter saith unto him, Of strangers. Jesus said unto him, THEN ARE THE CHILDREN FREE?...(Matthew 17:24-27).
Stand fast therefore in the Liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, AND BE NOT ENTANGLED AGAIN WITH THE YOKE OF BONDAGE...(Galatians 5:1; Hebrews 6:3-6)
..."As an emperor who without benefit of clergy or sacraments had chosen to serve the Supreme Divinity whom the church professed to worship"--to use the vivid words of Shirley Jackson Case--Constantine "felt no hesitation of chiding schismatics, giving orders to clerics...or addressing the most august Christian assemblies convened by his authority." Even though he had not been baptised, Constantine assumed the right to call synods of the church and to enforce their decisions, to intervene in the appointment of the clergy and to serve as final judge of their actions. Nor did he hesitate to dismiss and banish those who ran counter to the policy which he adopted for the church. HENCEFORTH THE CHURCH WAS TO BE REGARDED AS AN ARM OF THE GOVERNMENT. This state of affairs was to continue in the Eastern portion of the Empire until its collapse on the eve of the Reformation, and it has been perpetuated to the present day in some Eastern churches, and to various degrees in the Church of England and the various Lutheran territorial churches. The most conspicuous modern illustration of the unhappy consequence of this tradition are to be found in the events which befell the church in Russia during the Revolution and in Germany under the Nazi regime, but the control of the Church of England by Parliament, however benevolent that control has been, has not been an altogether happy situation.
And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more.
WHEREFORE I TAKE YOU TO RECORD THIS DAY, THAT I AM PURE FROM THE BLOOD OF ALL MEN. (Which means, that if anyone should come after Paul, and in the name of that Christ which Paul preached, and should have anything to do with the oppression and persecution [the torture] of others, or with war, and the shedding of the blood of any man, regardless of the political or religious rationale, that person, or that institution, is "antichrist").
For I have not shunned to declare unto you All the counsel of God.
Take heed therefore unto yourselves and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.
For I know this, that after my departing shall GRIEVOUS WOLVES enter in among you, not sparing the flock.
Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.
Therefore watch and remember that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn everyone night and day with tears.
And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.
I HAVE COVETED NO MAN'S SILVER, OR GOLD, OR APPAREL.
Ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my own necessities, and to them that were with me.
I have showed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, It is more blessed to give than receive...(Acts 20:25-35).
AN IMPERIAL CHURCH
The Christian church has had a strange odyssey, and one of the most remarkable chapters in its history was the attempt to fashion an imperial church to rule the world. The aim was to introduce order, peace, and unity into a society that was badly disordered and plagued by constant strife. In the pursuit of this goal, the church itself became infected by the evil which it sought to cast out.
Kenneth Scott Latourette has characterized the period 500 to 1500 as "the thousand years of uncertainty." It was a period of confusion, when expressions of Christian faith and life were multiform and variegated, when strife and conflict were endemic, when changes occurred so slowly as to be imperceptible. One conspicuous feature of these ten centuries, however, was an attempt to fashion an imperial church to replace the Empire, which had crumpled in the West. As a result of its close connection with the Empire--with dioceses, provinces, and an incipient tendency in some quarters of the West to centralize authority in the hands of a singular ruler, the bishop of Rome.
1. The Petrine Theory
The preeminence of Rome among the churches of the West is easily to be understood. Rome was the imperial capital, the Eternal City, the only major city in the West; and the Roman church was the largest and wealthiest church, with a reputation for orthodoxy and charity. In addition, while several churches in the East could claim an apostolic foundation, this was true of Rome alone in the West...
(The author has not taken into account here the church established by the apostles in Britain, and in upper and Western Europe, the Keltic church, which was not only not beholding to the greater church at Rome until long after the timeof Patrick, and the legendary Arthurian period, but until that time was more or less oblivious to its emerging heresies, and upon initial contact its enemy. The two eventually found common ground, but only in places far away from the Imperial court at Rome. The Keltic church did not support or subscribe to the Petrine Theory).
...As the back-country churches of colonial Massachusetts and even the Presbyterian churches of colonial New Jersey frequently appealed to the ministers of Boston for counsel and advice in their controversies, so the churches of an earlier day often looked to Rome for help in settling their differences. (Not the back-country Keltic churches, who only went to Rome to defend themselves from Rome's decrees themselves. Nor has the author accounted for the forms of Christianity that were being established in Africa, India and as far away as America). But even men like Irenaeus and Cyprian, who supported the leadership in Rome in the defense of orthodoxy did not hesitate to dissent when they felt that Rome was in error. The bishops of Rome, on the other hand, tended to feel that they had peculiar prerogatives which ought not to be slighted. (Irenaeus, from Gaul, was much closer geographically to those independent and "druid-like" dissidents to the West, an independence which afterwards had virtually faded out of existence, no doubt for expedience' sake, through concession and comprimise. Where the comprimises would not be made, the dissidents were eventually driven out of existence militarily by the now Roman/Catholic forces).
To support the Roman pretensions Leo I, in the middle of the fifth century, developed a theory of Petrine succession based upon the text: Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my church. (Matt.16:18). The theory was that Peter was the prince of the apostles (Prince? Peter was a hippie-Buddhist-Hasidic-Franciscan-Jew, an Essene), to whom had been given authority over the other apostles and the church that Peter was the first bishop of Rome, and that his authority had been transmitted to succeeding bishops of Rome. This was not a succession of persons, as was true of the theory of apostolic succession, but a succession in office. The authority was not conveyed from one occupant of the office to another by the laying on of hands, for an interval always occurred between the death of a bishop of Rome and the election of his successor. (See it in the Dark Crystal)
There were several difficulties in making use of this text for such a purpose. First, Peter had just confessed his conviction that Jesus (the Druid HESUS) was the messiah, and the majority of the church fathers were in agreement that the rock upon which the Church was established was not Peter but the conviction he had expressed. Second, the Gospels make it clear that preeminence among the followers of Christ was not to be after the pattern of the princes of the world who exercise lordship and authority, but in terms of humble service (1 Corinthians 2:1-8, KJV)...
The rulers of the Gentiles exercise authority over them...IT SHALL NOT BE SO AMONG YOU...(Matthew 20:25-29).
There is a time when one man ruleth over another to his own hurt...(Ecclesiastes 8:9)..
Third, Peter continued to be notoriously unstable (for all didactic purposes), being immediately rebuked by Jesus and called Satan for not understanding the things that be of God, denying his Lord in the moment of crisis...and being criticized by Paul as an unreliable disciple. Fourth, the theory assumes that the grant of authority was not to Peter but to his office as bishop of Rome, but this identification of authority with a particular office is nowhere to be found in the text. Lastly, assuming that Peter was given authority over the rest of the disciples, there is not a single basis for the notion that this power was to be transmitted to anyone else. (When in fact it was James, and not Peter, who was chosen as leader of the community--and to preside from Jerusalem nor Rome (Again, let the reader understand... Matthew 24:15):
The oldest churches in Christendom, of course, were in the East (the author unknowingly says), and there was never to be any acknowledgment among them of any superior authority to be exercised by the bishop of Rome, and when the imperial capital was transferred to Constantinople even the customary precedence in honor which had been accorded to the Roman church was to be challenged by the church in New Rome. (Moscow was later to be called The Third Rome). Furthermore, in northern Europe, the non-Roman Christianity of Ireland was to be the vital and dynamic force in the conversion of the northern peoples. Only slowly over the centuries did the Roman church establish itself in Western Europe as the symbol of orthodoxy which enjoyed a primacy of esteem and a presidency of honor. (Only after it attached itself to the powerful and pervasive force of the Roman Empire, and eventually to the Holy Roman Empire to which it became its unholy consort...Revelation, chapter 17). It was one thing to be in communion with Rome as the Anglican churches are today in communion with Canterbury; it was quite another matter to acknowledge Rome's superiority in jurisdiction. There was always a gap between the role which Rome claimed for itself and the authority which others were willing to acknowledge, and kings and princes were usually careful to safeguard the prerogatives of their own bishops. On occasion, of course, bargains were struck which were mutually advantageous.
2 The Struggle for Independence
The Christian church has never felt completely at ease in a subservient status to the state, and this was especially true of the church at Rome. During the century following Constantine's death, the disintegration of the imperial authority in Italy gave the church an opportunity to assert its independence. The earliest resistance to the imperial control was led by Ambrose, bishop of Milan, at the close of the fourth century. In the sixth century, Gregory the Great (ahem!) succeeded in putting together a papal kingdom in the central portion of the Italian peninsula. (Enter the reign of the Philistines). Elsewhere in western Europe, the new chieftains and kings took bishops into their courts as officers of the state, and this status tended to be universalized when Charlemagne assumed the role of Constantine in a resurrected Roman Empire. It was not until the eleventh century that Hildebrand hammered out the theory and to a degree the fact of the independence of what by now had become the papal church. Even so, the notion that the bishop was the king's man did not completely disappear, and councils of the church continued to be called and presided over by kings and not by churchmen.
Hildebrand had come to power at the end of one of the most disastrous epochs in the history of the papal church. (By now the reader must be fully informed that this is not the church that Christ established, what, with all its division and confusion, and complete ignorance of its own mysteries, but the church that the spirit of Antichrist was establishing in the earth. The church at Rome created a Corporate structure of itself and arrogated to itself the authority and the instructions of Christ that pertain to individual believers alone). There had been ten bishops of Rome in the last decade of the ninth century. One of them had been strangled after he had dug up the corpse of his predecessor, stripped of its pontifical garments, and ordered the body thrown in the Tiber. It was a time when petty local tyrants made and unmade popes at will. The first half of the eleventh century witnessed the scandalous rule of Benedict IX. Benedict had been consecrated bishop of Rome as a child of ten or twelve years, and lived to behave like one of the most monstrous of the pagan emperors. He achieved the difficult feat of equaling the disgraceful record of two or three of the popes in the period immediately preceding the Reformation. In 1046, having tired of his papal office, Benedict put it up for sale. The purchaser, who took the name of Gregory VI, sought to effect some reforms, whereupon Benedict's family rebelled and reinstated Benedict in the Holy Office. Another faction had installed Sylvester III, so that there were three claimants to the papal honors. In response to an appeal to put an end to this disgraceful state of affairs, the Emperor Henry III intervened. Sylvester was imprisoned, Benedict's resignation was accepted, and Gregory VI was deposed and exiled. Henry insisted that only a foreign pope, protected by the emperor, could avoid the factional quarrels among the Roman populace which had debased the papacy. The next six popes were to be Germans, nominees of the emperor. They were able men, but none of them lived very long. The most distinguished was Leo IX, under whom Hildebrand became an influential figure...
3. "The Intoxication of Victory"
Independence was not all that Hildebrand sought. Arnold Toynbee suggests that he became intoxicated by his success in winning the independence of the church and was led to overreach himself and claim the imperial power itself for the church. Others suggest that the course Hildebrand pursued was merely due to the fact that the church had lived too long in intimate association with the state to be content with its freedom alone.
This much is clear: the church in Rome had become infected by the imperial spirit and it longed for political power to fulfill its own imperial destiny. Thus not only did Hildebrand seek the freedom of the church to control its own life; he desired above all else that it should be supreme in political affairs as well. "The pope alone," he declared, "may use the imperial insignia; all persons shall kiss the foot of the pope alone; the pope has power to depose emperors; his decree can be annulled by no one; he can annul the decrees of anyone; he can be judged by no one." "If a man consider the original of this great ecclesiastical dominion," said Thomas Hobbes, "he will easily perceive that the papacy is no other than the host of the deceased Roman Empire, sitting crowned upon the grave thereof. For so did the papacy start up on a sudden out of the ruins of that heathen power."
The actual temporal power exercised by Hildebrand and his successors has been greatly exaggerated. Rulers acquiesced to papal decrees when it was to their own advantage to do so, and ignored them when it was not. (Likewise, the leaders of the world generally ignore the decrees and empty pontifications of the present Pope John Paul II--his empty appeals for peace--while paying him honor as a historical figure at the same time. And this is exactly what the Lord of heaven and Earth would have us to see. The papal office has almost no effect on the amount of good that is accomplished in the earth in the name of Christ, but rather, in its unholy alignment with the nations of the earth, with the vast amount of evil that is being accomplished in the world in the name of Christ. Quite unconsciously, but nevertheless, by acting out the Catholic church's historic marraige--its entanglement--with the temporal powers of the earth, the present pope is helping to lead them all to the great battle of Armageddon). Thus William the Conqueror was easily persuaded to invade England with the papal blessing when Hildebrand wished to get rid of the archbishop of Canterbury. But, once having seized the English crown for himself (a crown which still sits upon the imperious heads of Elizabeth and the present succession of English monarchs)...
PONTIFF & QUEEN MEET AT VATICAN
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS__Pope John Paul and Queen Elizabeth shared their hopes for progress in Christian unity during her first visit to the Vatican in 20 years.
The two shook hands warmly as John Paul greeted the queen at the entrance to his private library for her 20-minute audience, a highlight of her four-day visit to Italy. The queen's husband, Prince Phillip, the Duke of Edinburgh, accompanied her.
"A great pleasure to see you again," Elizabeth said, as both recalled that their last meeting was at Buckingham Palace in 1982. Both had prepared speeches, but rather than read them, they handed each other the texts. (how merciful).
The queen emphasized progress made toward peace in Northern Ireland in the conflict involving Catholics and Protestants. "We are most grateful for your help and support for this process," she told the Pope. (He graciously accepted).
The queen is temporal head of the Church of England, which had expressed concern over a document the Vatican issued last month that stressed the primacy of the Catholic Church among Christian communities. (After all these centuries it is still at it). The queen's speech, however, emphasized progress made in recent years. "I trust we shall continue along the path which leads to Christian unity," the speech said. For his part, John Paul assured the queen in his prepared remarks that "there can be no turning back from the ecumenical goal."
He also had words of praise for the queen: "For many years now, and through times of great change, you have reigned with a dignity and sense of duty which have edified millions of people around the world."
England broke from the Catholic Church under King Henry VIII in the 16th century. British monarchs have paid visits to Popes since Edward VII in 1903.
...William refused to do homage for it to the pope, installed his own men as bishops, refused to permit them to make any appeals to Rome without his consent, and would not allow any papal bull or letter to be received in England or any other papal legate to be admitted without his approval. On those occasions when a temporal ruler seemed to knuckle under to the papal will, it was often the result of more compelling pressures than papal displeasure. King John surrendered England to Innocent III and received it back as a fief in a desperate effort to save himself from the consequences of his own folly in alienating all possible support. The gamble, however, was unsuccessful, for he was forced to come to terms with the barons and signed the Magna Carta at Runnymede in 1215. Nor could Innocent help him by declaring the Great Charter null and void. The papal decree was flouted, excommunications were ignored, and the Charter became the symbol of English liberties. Even the Emperor Henry IV, who humbled himself before Hildebrand at Canossa, was not tamed, and it was Hildebrand who died in exile.
While the papacy had difficulty making good its claims, it paid a stiff price for the attempt. In its endeavor to establish political authority over the peoples of Europe, the papal monarchy transformed itself into the image of its adversaries. Like the empire that it sought to replace, the papacy engaged in diplomatic intrigue, maintained armies, and fought wars to achieve its ends. The popes became secular princes, living in ostentatious splendor and frequently spending as much as two-thirds of the income of the Holy See on their military budgets. The early christians, James H. Nichols has commented, were willing to die rather than burn incense to Caesar; now much more than incense was being sacrificed to Caesarism. Those, like the Spiritual Franciscans among whom evangelical faith had been awakened by hearing the gospel, were often condemned to the stake or slain by the sword. For reasons Constantine would readily understand, Nichols has commented, the new papal Caesardom shed--according to the estimates of the historian Lecky--"more innocent blood than any other institution in human history."
(John Paul II is still trying to apologize somehow for all of this bloodshed, which he cannot. The only apology is the complete dissolution of the Roman Catholic Church, along with its sister and daughter institutions in both the East and West...Understand Revelation, chapter 17).
A CLOUD WITHOUT RAIN
POPE LIGHTS BEACON OF HOPE
By BBC News Online's Peter Gould in Assisi
Judged as a spectacle, the Pope's day of prayer for world peace was certainly impressive. Two hundred religious leaders from around the world followed John Paul II into the pilgrimage town of Assisi. Walking side by side and exchanging greetings were patriarchs and imams, monks and rabbis. There were robes of every style and colour, and an eye-catching array of clerical headwear. The watching crowds, largely Italian, responded with cheers and prolonged applause as the Pope welcomed his guests, and urged them to join his quest for peace.
But what impact will his initiative have on the streets of the world, among those who engage in violence against those other faiths? Symbolic gestures do not usually persuade such people to lay down their weapons. But the Pope knows that creating a better understanding between the world's religions, after centuries of mistrust and hostility, HAS TO START AT THE TOP.
He has been clearly alarmed by the events of September 11 and distressed by the latest upsurge of violence IN THE HOLY LAND. He wants to create a climate of religious tolerance that makes it difficult for extremists to justify violence by referring to their faith.
"Tragic conflicts often result from an unjustified association of religion with nationalistic, political and economic interests," the Pope told his audience. "It is essential that religious people and communities should in the clearest and most radical way repudiate violence, starting with the violence that seeks to cloth itself in religion. THERE IS NO RELIGIOUS GOAL WHICH CAN POSSIBLY JUSTIFY THE USE OF VIOLENCE BY MAN AGAINST MAN."
For many shall come in my name...And there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and will shew great signs and wonders: insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect...(Matthew 24:3-25)
THE GREAT PRESENCE
As the religious leaders lined up to be presented to the pontiff, there was nothing forced about the warmth of their greetings. Many were clearly delighted at the opportunity to meet A MAN WHO STILL HAS GREAT PRESENCE and a sharp mind, despite his obvious physical frailty
The different faiths separated into smaller groups to offer prayers for peace in accordance with their own rights...
We looked for peace, but no good came; and for a time of health, and behold trouble...(Jeremiah 8:15).
In the latter days ye shall consider it perfectly...(Jeremiah 23:13-20).
The Pope prayed in the Basilica of St. Francis, which contains the tomb of one of the Catholic Church's best-known saints. His SIMPLE LIFESTYLE, several hundred years ago, has made Assisi a place of pilgrimage. John Paul II has made several visits here during the 23 years of his papacy. He chose the town for his first day of prayer for peace in 1986, when the main threat to the world was considered to be nuclear war. (Continued)....
POPE CALLS FOR PEACE IN BLOODIED HOLY LAND
By Stephanie Holmes, Reuters, 1/2/2002
VATICAN CITY - Pope John Paul II said yesterday that violence in God's name was never justified and that a ''cry of blood'' in the Holy Land must persuade Christians, Muslims, and Jews to seek peace.
Speaking on the Roman Catholic Church's World Day of Peace, the pontiff said ''perverse interests'' threatened to turn the world into a ''theater of war.'' ''Throughout the world a piercing cry invoking peace rings out,'' he said in a sermon in Saint Peter's Basilica.
John Paul said the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States had shaken the world. He condemned the use of violence in the name of God, but urged people not to fall prey to despair. ''No one, for any reason, can kill in the name of God,'' he told the packed congregation in an impassioned address.
''However humanly difficult it may seem to look toward the future with optimism, we must not give in to the temptation to be discouraged,'' he said. ''On the contrary, we must work toward peace with courage, confident that evil will not prevail.'' He called on monotheistic religions to condemn the use of violence and said Christians, Muslims, and Jews must restore peace to the Holy Land. ''The cry of blood calls to God from that land, the blood of brothers spilt by brothers, all sons of the same Patriarch Abraham, sons, as are all men, of the same Holy Father.''
After the Mass he told a crowd gathered in Saint Peter's Square for his regular noon address that, even in tormented periods of history, ''we must respond with the logic of love and justice to those negative forces, guided by perverse interests which seek to transform the world into a theater of war.'' He did not elaborate on what he meant by ''perverse interests.''
The message that there can be no peace without justice and no justice without forgiveness was the theme of this year's World Day of Peace.
ON DEC.11 THE POPE SAID THAT SELF DEFENSE AGAINST TERRORIST ATTACKS WAS LEGITIMATE, but that the offended parties had to be careful to single out for blame the individuals responsible rather than entire groups or religions. (And herein lies the crux of the whole matter. How is it that the supposed high priest and interpreter of the Christian mysteries absolutely does not understand what is happening in the earth at this present time? How much clearer could the prophets have been)?...
POPE JOHN-PAUL, THE AUGUSTINIAN
For when the time that we ought to be teachers, we have need that one teach us again what be the First Principles of the Oracles of God...(Hebrews 5:12).
HEAR O ISRAEL, THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE...(Deut.6:4).
THE LORD IS KNOWN BY THE JUDGMENTS THAT HE EXECUTETH... (Psalm 9:16).
I am the Lord, and beside me is none else. There is no God beside me. I form the Light, and create Darkness; I make Peace, I create Evil; I the Lord do all these things...(Isaiah 45:5-7).
Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people be not afraid? shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord hath not done it?...(Amos 3:6)
Woe to them who say the Lord will do neither good nor evil...(Zephaniah 1:12).
God hath formed all things for Himself, even the wicked for the day of evil...(Proverbs 16:4).
There be spirits created for vengeance, which in their fury lay on strong strokes; In the time of destruction they pour out their force and appease the wrath of Him that made them...(Ecclesiasticus 39:28).
He hath prepared for Himself the instruments of death...(Psalm 7:13); The sword to slay, dogs to tear, the fowls of heaven, and the beasts of the earth to devour and destroy...(Jeremiah 15:3).
Evil shall slay the wicked...(Psalm 34:21). (The Evil Americans against the wicked Saddam).
For a Fire is kindled in mine anger, and shall burn unto the lowest hell, and shall consume the earth with her increase, and set on fire the foundations of the mountains...(Deuteronomy 32:22).
And they shall know that I am the Lord, and that I have not said in vain that I would do this evil unto them...(Ezekiel 6:10; Ex.32:12).
I will come up in the midst of thee, in a moment,and consume thee...(Ex.33:5).
By wars and great terrors...(Deut. 4:34; Jeremiah 25).
Oh that we would consider our latter end...(Deut.32: 29).
See now that I, even I, am He, and there is no god with me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal: neither is there any that can deliver out of my Hand. For I lift up my Hand to heaven, and say, I live forever...(Deut.32:35-40; Daniel 12:7; Revelation 10:5,6).
It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God...(Hebrews 10:31).
Woe to them that devise iniquity, and work evil upon their beds; when the morning is light they practice it because it is in the power of their hand,
And they covet fields and take them by violence, and houses, and they take them away, so they oppress a man and his house, even a man and his heritage...
Therefore, thus saith the Lord, Behold, against this family do I devise an evil, from which ye shall not remove your necks; neither shall ye go haughtily; for the time is evil...(Micah 2:1-3).
Woe unto you that desire the day of the Lord! to what end is it for you? the day of the Lord is darkness, and not light.
As if a man did flee from a lion, and bear met him; or went into the house, and leaned his hand upon the wall, and a serpent bit him.
Shall not the day of the Lord be darkness, and not light? even very dark, and no brightness in it?...(Amos 5:18-20).
And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie:
That they all might be damned who believe not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness...(2 Thessalonians 2:11,12).
Therefore speak I unto them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.
And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive:
For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them...(Matthew 13:12-15).
Behold, saith the Lord, I will bring plagues upon the world, the sword, famine, death and destruction, for wickedness has exceedingly polluted the earth, and their hateful works are fulfilled...(2 Esdras 15:5,6).
For this reason have I even raised up Pharaoh (the first of many Antichrists in the earth), to demonstrate my great power in him (by rising up against him in all of the other powers of the earth)...(Romans 9:17).
The way of the wicked is darkness, they know not at what they stumble... (Proverbs 4:19).
Do no evil and shall no harm come to thee...(Ecclesiasticus 7:1-3). (Do the righteous and the innocent suffer with, and for the wicked? Yes, always. But the righteous and the innocent proceed to Life while the wicked mind is dissolved).
For horrible is the end of the unrighteous generation...(Wisdom of Solomon 3:19).
(Continued)...The United States and its allies have been waging a war in Afghanistan to punish Taliban rulers for sheltering Osama bin Laden, the Islamic militant blamed for the September attacks.
The pope said yesterday that forgiveness was an essential step toward peace and was crucial to justice. ''Only forgiveness can quench the thirst for revenge and open the heart to a real and lasting reconciliation between peoples.''
The 81-year-old pope, whose health appeared shaky over Christmas, seemed in relatively good form yesterday and read his homily in a firm and clear voice. In his traditional New Year's Eve sermon, to the delight of his congregation, John Paul prayed for the strength to continue. ''I ask God for the strength to carry on, for as long as He wants me to, in faithful service to the Church of Rome and to the entire world,'' he said as the crowd broke into applause.
What the Pope proposes, and what he hopes in his own imagination to accomplish, is to leave the ones who are presently in charge of the world, still in charge of the world, with himself and his successors as as the world's High Priests. God has no such intentions)
PONTIFF PLEADS FOR PEACE
"May God want this conflict to finish soon, to make space for a new era of forgiveness, love and peace."
VATICAN CITY__Pope John Paul II pleaded yesterday for a swift end to the conflict in Iraq, expressing special concerns for civilians affected by the fighting. The pontiff, who has strongly opposed the military action, told followers gathered for his weekly address in St. Peter's Square that working toward peace is a "permanent obligation."...
I will overturn, overturn, overturn it: and it shall be no more, until he come whose right it is; and I will give it to him...(Ezekiel 21:27; Hebrews 5:1-4).
"The reality of these days demonstrates this in a dramatic way," he said. "In particular, my thought goes to Iraq and to all those involved in the war that rages there. I think in a special way about the defenseless civilian population that in various cities is undergoing a hard test," he told the crowd. (Then why doesn't he order every Roman Catholic within the sound of his voice off the battlefield--and out of military service while he is at it)?
In the months before the Iraq war, the pope lobbied for a negotiated settlement, meeting with key players and sending envoys to others. He said there was no legal or moral justification for the U.S. military action, and has worried about its effect on relations between Christians and Muslims. (How is it that John-Paul does not believe the words of the Prophets in these matters? Because he believes that he is the Prophet).
LAMP OF PEACE
At the end of Thursday's event, the representatives of the world's religions assembled again in the main square next to the basilica to make a joint commitment to work for peace. Speaking for the Roman Catholic Church and its one billion members around the world, the Pope told them: :NEVER AGAIN VIOLENCE! NEVER AGAIN WAR! NEVER AGAIN TERRORISM!
IN the name of God, may every religion bring upon the earth justice and peace, forgiveness and life, love!" HE THEN LIT A LAMP SYMBOLISING PEACE. HE WANTS IT TO BECOME A BEACON OF HOPE FOR A TROUBLED WORLD.
Even so, come Lord Jesus.
They that have an ear, let them hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the Tree of Life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God...(Revelation 2:7).