The Roman Catholic Church considers herself to be the “mother church,” claiming to have originated with Jesus and the apostles, and therefore the Roman Church is the oldest church and contains the apostolic succession ordained by Jesus. Believing that they are the “mother church” and the original form of Christianity, the Roman Church considers herself to be the head of all Christians, and her doctrines and teachings to be infallible. Pope Francis has stated that there is no such person as Christian outside of the Roman Catholic Church, and that “the mother church that gives us Jesus gives us our identity.”
The message from The Roman Catholic Church is very clear, they are the head of the church and all other denominations must fall under their authority. It is therefore extremely important to study the history behind the rise of the Roman Catholic Church to prominence, and come to a conclusion regarding the veracity of its claim to be the “mother church.”
The Genesis of the Roman Church
The early Roman Church started as a small Jewish fellowship that consisted of the God-fearing Jews, who attended the Feast of Pentecost in Jerusalem (Acts 2:10), and while they were there they witnessed to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the disciples. Over time, through the witnessing of these Jewish believers, Gentile believers were added to the Church, resulting in the Roman church consisting of more Gentiles than Jews. Tragedy struck the church in AD 49, when Emperor Claudius banished the Jews from Rome (Acts 18:2), removing the leadership of the church and leaving the Church entirely Gentile. This meant that the Church in Rome was very likely the first Church ever to be comprised entirely of Gentiles. It also meant that all the teachers and elders who had nurtured, instructed and guided the Church was gone. The Gentile Christians left behind were faced with the daunting challenge of running the Church.
When Nero came to power after Claudius died, he invited the Jews back to Rome in AD 54 because they benefited the cities trade. After an extended absence, Jews such as Aquila and Pricilla having left Rome because of the anti-Semitism of Claudius (Acts 18:2), returned to Rome and looked to resume their roles in the Roman Church. The cultural and religious problems between the Jews and the Gentiles had spilled over from the community into the Church during the reign of Emperor Claudius, and continued to be a problem among the Roman Christians. The Gentile Church refused to accept the returning Jews, believing that the banishment from the capital of the empire by Claudius was evidence enough that God had rejected the Jews and had elected the Gentiles to replace them. Paul’s second letter to Timothy (4:19) reveals that Priscilla and Aquila once again left Rome and settled in Ephesus, a symptom of the division that had occurred between the Jewish and Gentile Christians in Rome. This was the first instance of Replacement Theology in the early Church. Replacement Theology (also known as Supersessionism) is defined as the belief that the Church has replaced Israel in God’s plan, so the Jews are no longer God’s chosen people, and God’s covenants with them have been cancelled. The situation was serious and the ideology spread throughout the Roman Empire to the Christian churches.
The “Epistle” of Romans
It is logical then that the main reason for Paul writing the letter to the Romans, was to counter the arrogance of the Roman Church Gentiles, who believed that they were better than the Jews and showed contempt towards their Jewish brothers in Christ. It is unfortunate that the “Epistle” of Romans has been treated like a book, and has been divided into chapters and verses, as this has caused problems in the understanding of the letter, allowing the interpreter to see sections, divisions and even parenthesis instead of a detailed, flowing explanation written in a letter. The book of Romans must not be interpreted as a document split into sections, but rather as a continuous thought process revealing great logic and reasoning. The error of division is especially evident in Romans 9 to 11, with many interpreters seeing these chapters in which Paul speaks on Israel, as a parenthesis, digressing from the theme of the book.
At the end of chapter 8 Paul eloquently explains that nothing can separate us from the love of God; without chapter divisions, the flow of the letter takes the reader from God’s unbreakable bond of love for us into the reasoning of how this also applies to the Jews. Nothing can cause God to break His covenant relationship with the Jews. When the book of Romans is viewed in divisions and the background to the book is ignored, the document is interpreted as being in three sections: Paul suddenly pauses after reaching a climax in chapter 8, after giving a wonderful explanation of God’s salvation plan, then writes a unit about the Jews in chapters 9 to 11, which allegedly deviates from the theme of the letter and is often incorrectly left out of our thinking about Romans. After the supposed parenthesis, Paul continues with the practical side of God’s salvation plan (Christian service) from chapter 12 onwards. But the fact that Paul suddenly stops to write about his brethren does not make sense in that context of the letter. Even worse is that some commentators say that Paul stops to discuss disobedience to the Gospel and uses the Jews to highlight the theme! This sort of interpretation is used to support Replacement Theology, and only serves to distance the Jew from the Christian.
Paul had the difficult task of having to write a letter to the Gentile Christians in Rome; he had not founded the Church of Rome and they did not know him personally. Since they did not recognise his authority, Paul had to tread carefully and could not openly rebuke them. Paul embarked on writing his longest letter in an attempt to right a serious wrong as tactfully a he could. He had to prevent the cancer of anti-Semitism from spreading. David Pawson in his book Israel in the New Testament, points out that Paul wisely starts the letter by dealing with the issue of unity in the Gospel. In the first three “chapters” Paul explains to the Jewish and Gentile Christians of Rome that they are one in Christ.
In his tactful approach, Paul only deals directly with the arrogance of the Roman Gentiles in Chapter 11, where Paul gives a historical review of the Jewish people which extends into the future – an ideal time to cover the arrogance of the Gentiles. David Pawson points out that arrogance always brings with it contempt for those who are perceived as being inferior. Contempt for the Jews would be the seed of anti-Semitism in the Church. Paul repeatedly warns the Roman Church not to be boastful (verse 18), arrogant (verse 20) and conceited in their selection (verse 25) as if it were in place of the Jews because, although they have hard hearts, there will be a time in the future when all Israel will be saved (verse 25-26).
Paul ends his letter to the Romans (chapters 12-15) by dealing with the problems that could arise from cultural differences when Jews and Gentiles are together in the body of Christ, encouraging them to live in harmony with one another. Paul covers the two main cultural differences that would cause division: special days and diet (chapter 14). It is clear that there must have been arguments about worshipping on the Sabbath, or on a Sunday and whether to eat kosher food or not. Pawson sums up Paul’s writing on the cultural differences by saying, “You have got to be one in love, practical love, adjusting to one another, recognising people who have still got scruples in their conscience, adjusting your behaviour to theirs. That means the broad minded adjust to the narrow minded in love.” The practical lessons Paul gives to the Christians of Rome are the lessons aimed at unity in the Church.
Some aspects of Paul’s letter to the Romans need to be discussed to help clarify the points made above. Romans 9:4-5 describes Israel’s treasured heritage and prophetic destiny, Paul starts by reminding the Roman Church of the important position that the Jews hold writing, “Theirs [Israel] is the adoption as sons”, which is a reference to Jeremiah 31:20:
“‘Is not [Israel] my dear son, the child in whom I delight? Though I often speak against him, I still remember him. Therefore my heart yearns for him; I have a great compassion for him’, declares the Lord”.
Israel is the older brother of the Church – an elder brother in whom our father delights. God has not forsaken Israel. As the first born of the adopted sons, Israel will receive its inheritance in the fullness of the promise of God during the Millennium. Notice that Paul clearly states, “Theirs is the adoption as sons”, not “was”. They are still very much a part of God’s plan, and will continue to be until Jesus returns. Paul is emphasising that the covenants that God makes with His people are everlasting and God is faithful. Those who teach that God has broken His covenant with the Jews and that the promises to Israel now belong to the Church are teaching a false and dangerous doctrine. One needs also to consider that if God – because of the fallibility of the Jews – broke covenant with them, what scriptural justification do Christians have that God will not break covenant with a fallible Church?
Paul in Rome
It was an amazing series of events that saw Paul eventually finding himself in Rome, the great capital city of the empire. At the completion of his third missionary journey in A.D. 57, Paul returned to Jerusalem. While on the Temple Mount religious leaders accused Paul of polluting God’s Holy Place by bringing Greeks into the Temple. While under arrest in Jerusalem, God revealed to Paul that he was to go to Rome (Acts 23:11). After two years of imprisonment in Caesarea, Paul as a Roman citizen requested that his case be heard by Caesar and his request was granted. Finally, after a very eventful journey and many hardships, Paul arrived in Rome in AD 60.
During his two-year imprisonment in Rome Paul was permitted to live in his own rented dwelling, though bound with a chain and in the company of a guard (Acts 28:16, 30; Eph. 6:20). Luke only touches briefly on Paul’s activities during these two years, recording two meetings that Paul had with Rome’s leading Jews. While some of them stubbornly disbelieved his message, others were persuaded by the things he proclaimed (Acts 28:24). Thus, Luke indicates that Paul had a fruitful ministry in the city, which no doubt, would have included discipleship of the Roman church, “teaching the things concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness, none forbidding him” (Acts 28:30-31).
What else happened during this two-year period?
- An angel informed Paul, “You must stand before Caesar” (Acts 27:24), so we can assume that Paul in his defence was able to share the gospel, as he did in Caesarea, in the courts of Rome before Emperor Nero.
- The majority of theologians agree that during his two years in Rome Paul wrote four epistles: Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians and Philemon.
- Two of the letters written in Rome by Paul, Colossians and Philemon, reveal that regardless of the circumstances, regardless of the trials, there are benefits for the Gospel of Christ. Despite being a prisoner in chains, Paul was able to teach people the good news that would not have been reached in another way.
The Early Roman Church
From the book of Acts and Paul’s epistles, we can accurately assume that Paul’s two years in Rome were very beneficial to the Roman Church and that he left it in a spiritually healthy state. This is confirmed in the leadership of Clément (AD 30-101), the third bishop of Rome (possibly the Clément mentioned by Paul in Philippians). What we know of Clément is gleaned from a letter he wrote to the Corinthian church in AD 96, regarding conflict and division that had arisen there; it seems false leaders were attempting to take over from the eldership of the church. Clément’s uses of Old Testament scriptures and the writings of the apostles in his letter, displays a man well versed in scripture. Up till this time the Roman Church appears healthy, with only the dormant virus of Replacement Theology as a threat. Clément reveals no evidence that he held any authority over any other church other than his own. This clearly refutes the claims of the Roman Catholic Church that the Bishop of Rome has always held supremacy. Further evidence against the claim of the Roman Church’s supremacy is:
- Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna and the disciple of the apostle John, visited Rome in AD 155 and met with Bishop Anicetus of Rome on equal terms. From the record of their meeting that the bishop of Rome did not hold a claim to authority over any other churches.
- Cyprian bishop of Carthage (AD?-258), strongly believed in the autonomy of each bishop in his own church. This caused a conflict between himself and Bishop Stephen of Rome, who demanded submission to his decree on the baptism of heretics. Cyprian stood firmly against this authoritarian attempt by Rome to dominate other churches.
So, the arrogant belief of the Roman bishops, that they were superior in authority, was the start of the rot in the Roman Catholic Church. What other factors caused the Roman Church to fall into error? Historic evidence points the finger at the rise of Constantine to Emperor, and his adoption of Christianity as the faith of the Empire.
Constantine Corrupts the Church
Emperor Constantine’s “conversion” to Christianity, occurred after the battle of the Milvian Bridge in October, AD 312. This was the key battle in the civil war fought for control of the empire between Constantine and Maxentius. Before the battle, Constantine supposedly had a vision of a flaming cross in the sky with the inscription in Greek “by this sign conquer.” We are required to believe that Constantine was told by the Prince of Peace, Jesus, to use the sign of the cross to go out and slaughter his enemy! The sign Constantine observed in his vision was a Chi-rho cross, a pagan sun symbol, which has become a symbol of the Roman Church. It is interesting to note that two years earlier, in AD 310, Constantine claimed he saw a vision of the sun god Apollo and publicly made vows to serve him. After his victory against Maxentius, Constantine went to Apollo’s shrine to make sacrifices. His victory, however, did enable Constantine to come to power as Emperor of Rome.
Constantine made Christianity an official religion of the Roman Empire in March AD 313, with the edict of Milan. During the rule of Constantine, the position of Emperor would go from god to Vicar of Christ.
Constantine’s rule showed that His sudden conversion to Christianity was not a sincere conversion, but rather a means to an end. The battle of the Milvian Bridge saw the end of six years of civil war, which had divided the empire. Constantine realized that he needed to unite the diverse sections of the empire and ensure loyalty to himself as their new Emperor. After Christianity had been declared illegal by Rome in AD 64, it has been estimated that as many as two million Christians were martyred by AD 306. Constantine was impressed by the Christians moral uprightness and willingness to die. He saw in the persecuted church a means to bring about changes in the divided empire, unfortunately for the Church it would also mean the beginning of drastic changes within the Church.
From the time Mark Antony had hinted at Julius Caesars divinity during his eulogy at Caesars funeral, the Roman emperors had been deified by the people. So, after Constantine’s victory over Maxentius he could have attained the status of a god in the Roman pantheon. However, Constantine ensured he attained something even better by adopting Christianity as faith of Rome, he held onto the title of Pontiff Maximus – he was the bridge between man and God. He became the divinely sanctioned leader of an all-powerful God, with his subjects becoming the new chosen people. Constantine had added the title of “high priest” to Emperor, this gave him not only temporal authority, but also spiritual authority, with the power of excommunication and the loss of salvation. Constantine was now in a very powerful position indeed.
The claim that Constantine’s sudden conversion to Christianity was not a sincere conversion, but rather a means to an end, is evident in the following acts committed by him:
- Constantine built an arch celebrating the victory at Milvian Bridge. The arch was decorated with images of the goddess, Victoria and sacrifices were made to Apollo, Diana, and Hercules. Furthermore, on the east side of the arch, facing the rising sun, is a rendering of the sun God Apollo. Then on top of his arch Constantine erected a bronze statue of himself, in a chariot with four horses in the same manner as Apollo was depicted when traversing the sky each day. Any evidence that Constantine was grateful to Jesus for his victory was absent from the Arch.
- He kept on minting coins with an inscription to Apollo.
- The imperial cult of Rome worshipped the Emperor and Apollo above all else, during his reign as Emperor Constantine did not put an end to Emperor worship, in fact he did much to elevate himself as a god in the eyes of Roman citizens. He erected a 12m statue of himself in the centre of Rome, with the Apollonian sun-rayed Diadem emanating from his head, giving the impression that he was larger than life, a god man.
- In AD 321, Constantine, in keeping with the practice of sun-worship, instructed that all Romans, both Christians and non-Christians, should unite in observing the venerable day of the sun (Sunday). Constantine chose the first day of the week for this honour, as it was the day that Christians met to remember both the resurrection of Jesus and Pentecost.
- At the dedication of the new capital of Constantinople, Constantine wore the Apollonian sun-rayed Diadem. There were no Christian symbols present during this very important ceremony.
- Under the palace that Constantine built in Constantinople, Archaeologists have found the largest known temple to the sun god Mithras.
- There were no Christian emblems in Constantine’s new city, but Constantine erected a hundred-foot column with a statue of Apollo on top. The column is in the process of being rebuilt in Istanbul. Further evidence that Constantine encouraged Emperor worship was that in place of the face of Apollo, Constantine had his own face engraved on the statue.
- He continued to offer sacrifices to Jupiter.
- He had his eldest son Crispus executed, and drowned his wife Fausta in boiling water in AD 320.
The evidence that Constantine did not convert to Christianity, and was a diehard pagan is so strong, historians are changing their minds about him. Some historians now believe that he was attempting to convince the people of Rome that he was the second coming of Jesus.
The change for the Christian church was enormous, from being an illegal religion in the empire, targeted for persecution and eradication, they became the dominant religion in the empire. The benefits along with the elevation in status included the financial backing of the empire, with Constantine funding the building of churches, and the council at Nicaea, which cemented Church doctrine and the suppressed heresies within the Church, also, Constantine paid for the copying and dissemination of scripture. Many in the Church therefore believed they owed a great debt to Constantine, and consequently were amenable to the many changes he brought with the new found freedom, the cost to the Church however would prove in time to be enormous. The consequences included:
- With the emperor becoming a “Christian” it became politically expedient for pagans to “convert”, a nominal Christianity was therefore allowed, if not encouraged. The consequences were that the Church made compromises with paganism, allowing pagan practises and traditions to take root in Christianity, and thus over time man’s traditions superseded God’s Word within the Church – the seed of the serpent took root and grew. It is important to note that the Roman Church continued to use this pragmatic evangelism throughout its history to the present day, resulting in the Roman Catholic Church becoming 70% pagan in nature.
- The once Jewish origins of Christianity were erased by paganism, firmly driving a wedge between Christians and Jews and making Christianity repugnant to the Jew. James Carol in his book titled Constantine’s Sword: The Church and the Jews, reveals that it was Constantine, the first Christian Roman Emperor, who was the one largely responsible for the Biblical reinterpretations that would label the Jews as being responsible for the death of Jesus. With the break of Christianity from its Jewish roots, the scriptures were then ripe to be fashioned by Gentile philosophies.
- With the federal funding the Church received and its rise in prominence in the Empire, the Church became wealthy and showed more of a tendency to worldliness and the love of luxury. The opulence and grandeur that was the pride of paganism became the norm for the Church; the Church forgot that Jesus was born in a stable.
- With his increase in power and authority, Emperor Constantine became vain and would dress in splendid decorative robes. Constantine presented a set of these robs as a gift to the bishop of Jerusalem, which rivalled even the pagan priests in splendour. This was the first-time pagan vestments were used in the Christian Church. The Roman Church soon adopted the wearing of vestments for its Bishops, and before the end of the fourth century bishops were wearing special clothes known as mass vestments, some for high mass and some for low mass. The wearing of vestments served to distinguish the priest from the congregation, further broadening the gap between clergy and laity.
- As mentioned earlier, Constantine convened the first ecumenical council of Nicaea (325 AD), to solve the problems raised by Arianism (denying the divinity of Jesus). The council not only defined Christianity, but it also purged Arianism, whose adherents were banished for not seeing Jesus as God, making heresy a crime – this would have drastic consequences during the time of the inquisitions. Over the centuries of the many inquisitions, millions of people were ladled heretics and put to death, their property was then seized by the Roman Church.
- Also, at the council of Nicaea, the determination of the pagan Easter celebration was made. The date of the spring equinox, and the celebration of the Queen of Heaven was chosen. This was done in order to further separate Christianity from Judaism.
- The adoption of Christianity by Constantine brought an end to the belief in pre-Millennialism for many centuries. How could Christians tell the Emperor that they owed so much to, that they believed that Jesus was going to return at any moment to establish the Millennial Kingdom, and in the process destroy an evil ruler! Some Christians even interpreted Constantine’s rise to power as the fulfilment of the Millennial promise.
- The building program started by Constantine erected churches over the sites of Pagan temples, showing no concern for the demonic influences at those location. The practise continued through the ages with the majority of Cathedrals in Europe being built over pagan temples.
- At the council of Nicaea, it was determined that Easter would be celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the Vernal Equinox. This date was the day pagans celebrated the queen of heaven and was chosen to further separate Christianity from Judaism. Further evidence of the pagan connection to Easter are seen through the actions of Constantine’s Mother Helena. The year after the council of Nicaea, Helena miraculously discovered the grave of Jesus; coincidently she found it in the temple of Venus. The Babylonian queen of heaven “Ishtar,” (Easter) was known in ancient Canaan as Astarte, and her counterparts in the Greek and Roman pantheons are known as Aphrodite and Venus. So, the death and resurrection of Jesus would now be linked with the queen of heaven. It all came together, the resurrection of Jesus from the grave took place in the temple of the queen of heaven, who was celebrated on the spring equinox, a time of celebrating the newness of life. The Holy Sepulchre, built over a site of the demonic influence of the queen of heaven, has become the most holy site in both Catholic and Orthodox faiths.
Constantine likely never became a Christian, despite his being baptised shortly before his death. Constantine was a sun worshipper, showing allegiance to Mithras, Sol and Apollo throughout his life. Combining His belief in the sun God with the Son of God was an easy step for him. Evidence of this corruption is seen in the solar halo of his personal god Sol Invictus, becoming a Christian symbol. Pagan symbolism entered into Church art.
Thanks to Constantine Christianity began to develop a decidedly pagan Roman face.
Syncretism Enters the Church
The next explanation for the corruption of the early church starts with the domination of the Greek culture in the Mediterranean cities, especially Alexandria, which became the focus of syncretism in the early Church. While the churches at Carthage and Antioch in Syria emphasized the truth of scripture, Alexandria loved philosophy (man’s wisdom), and loved to theorize and express theological ideas in philosophical terms.
The word “idea” comes directly from the Greek language. The Greeks believed in the importance of sharing of knowledge. So, when a city was conquered by the Greeks, there was a sharing of ideas that took place; Greek knowledge was implanted into the culture, but also local knowledge was gleaned and applied.
The syncretic influence in the Alexandrian School of Theology
There was no more cosmopolitan city than Alexandria, trading with cultures from India to the Atlantic. Alexander’s general Ptolemy I, believed in this sharing of ideas, and built a massive library at Alexandria. Ships entering the port had to hand over all their manuscripts, which would be copied by scribes in the library. The library became the centre of knowledge in the ancient world.
It should come as no surprise then, that the Greek philosophers were held in high esteem by the academics of Alexandria, and their ideology played a major part in the founding of Alexandrian thought. With a sharing of ideas being common, the church in Alexandria was drawn into the error of syncretism, where man’s philosophies began to mix and contaminate God’s word. This saw the rise of allegorical (underlying, deeper meaning) interpretation of scripture, as opposed to a literal interpretation.
Heresies of Alexandria
The two greatest threats to the existence of the Fledgling Church had their genesis in Alexandria, caused by the earnest search for knowledge (gnosis), resulting in man’s wisdom contaminating God’s word – a detestable practice. The two heresies were Arianism and Gnosticism:
Arianism: Arius a presbyter of Alexandria, was the force behind the heresy that came to be named after him. The essence of the heresy was that Arius denied the hypostatic union of Jesus – that He was both all man and all God. Arius believed that Jesus was created by God the Father, so even though He was the first and noblest of created beings, He was still inferior to the Father both in nature and dignity.
The heresy caused much harm and disruption within the Church and it was the main motivation behind Constantine calling for the gathering of minds at the council of Nicaea in AD 324.
Gnosticism: Most theologians would argue that there is no one single point for the origin of Gnosticism, but the heart of the cult was certainly Alexandria, with the two most brilliant Gnostic teaches, Valentinus and Basilides, both connected to Alexandria. Gnosticism came from the Greek word gnosis meaning knowledge, and has Jewish Christian origins. The Gnostics however believed that God was pure and holy and that the world – matter – was evil, so God could not have been directly involved with creation.
The influence of eastern religions in Gnosticism, can be seen in the belief that Jesus was a man who attained divinity through gnosis, and taught his disciples to do the same – much as a guru (god man) would do in India.
The Greek influence is seen in Platonic dualism, and the belief that God could not have created the earth with matter being evil. Gnostics taught that matter was utterly evil and salvation could only be attained in overcoming and eliminating it. Plato’s philosophy is also seen in the belief that knowledge (gnosis) could only come to the deeply spiritual (pneumatic), Plato believed that only a select few were able to grasp the fullness of the spiritual realm, having done so, they then are able to pass on this “gnosis” to others.
The purpose of identifying the two heresies of Gnosticism and Arianism is to emphasize the ease with which man’s wisdom, motivated by hubris, can contaminate God’s word, the great harm it can cause, and how Alexandria was the centre of these heinous practices in the Roman world.
Eschatology of the Early Church Fathers
The contamination of scripture by Greek philosophy is easily seen in the study of eschatology (study of Last Days prophecy). The earliest writers after the apostles held to a literal interpretation of prophecy believing that:
|Christ would physically return to earth, earthly reign of Christ, the future Anti-Christ, a bodily resurrection of believers, and a final judgment of the unsaved.|
|The Second Coming is an imminent hope (Maranatha).|
|The visible appearing of Jesus Christ at the Second Coming.|
|Believed in an eschatological (future) Antichrist as a real person.|
|A practical Focus on the hope of the resurrection of believers.|
|An anticipation of a future bodily resurrection of believers.|
|The time of the judgment of the unsaved was seen to be at the Second Advent.|
Examples of the eschatological beliefs of the early Church Fathers may be seen in he writings of:
Papias (70-155 A.D.): “There will be millennium after the resurrection from the dead, when the personal reign of Christ will be established on this earth” (~ Ante-Nicene Fathers, “Fragments of Papias,” VI, from Eusebius Ecclesiastical History III, 39, 1: 154).
Justin Martyr (100-168): “…There will be a resurrection of the flesh, and a thousand years in the city of Jerusalem, built adorned, and enlarged, according as saith of this thousand years… Moreover, a certain man among us whose name is John, being one of the twelve apostles of Christ, in that revelation which was shown to him prophesied, that those who believe in our Christ shall fulfil a thousand years at Jerusalem; and after that the general, and in a word, the everlasting resurrection, and last judgment of all together. Whereof also our Lord spake when He said, that therein they shall neither marry, nor be given in marriage, but shall be equal with the angels, being made the sons of the resurrection of God.”
D. Tertullian (160-240): He attempted to list the order of last day events: (1) the plagues, (2) Babylon’s doom, (3) Antichrist’s warfare on the saints, (4) the devil cast into the bottomless pit, (5) the advent, (6) the resurrection of the saints, (7) the judgment, (8) and the second resurrection, (9) with the harvest at the end of the world, (10) and the sixth seal extending to the final dissolution of the earth and sky, in which he included the stars (Tertullian, On the Resurrection of the Flesh, chap. 25, in Anti-Nicene Fathers, 3: 563; Against Hermogenes, chap. 34, 496-97).
He also believed that the Millennium follows the resurrection of the dead: “Our inquiry relates to what is promised in heaven, not on earth. But we do confess that a kingdom is promised to us on the earth… (Tertullian, Against Marcion, book 3, chap. 25 in Anti-Nicene Fathers, 3: 342-43).
Hippolytus (170–235 AD): In his commentary on Daniel, in common with other church fathers, believes that he was waiting for the division of the Roman Empire into ten predicted kingdoms which in turn would be followed by the coming of the dread Antichrist, who would terribly persecute the saints. All of this would then be terminated with the glorious personal advent, accompanied by the first resurrection (that of the righteous) to establish the earthly physical kingdom, with the Antichrist destroyed at His arrival. Then will follow the fiery damnation of the wicked (Hippolytus, Fragments from Commentaries, “On Daniel,” fragment 2, chaps. 3-4, in Anti-Nicene Fathers, 5: 179). Hippolytus’ “Treatise on Christ and Antichrist” is one of the most incredible expositions of predictive prophecy from the third century.
Part 2 of The Rise to Power of the Roman Catholic Church and the Pope will reveal the contamination of eschatology through syncretism within the Alexandrian church, and how it resulted in Amillennialism becoming the eschatological doctrine followed by Roman Catholicism.