The Church Ages - The 2nd age, Smyrna
Christians were poor, but suffered and died for Christ. They were the only age that the Word of God does not criticize.
Smyrna comes from the word myrrh, which means bitterness and death.
This was a very uncertain and unstable age with many assassinations, as about 80 men declared themselves to be Roman emperor in some part of the empire or in Rome during this interval of 142 years. In the 23 years from 247 – 270 AD thirty men proclaimed themselves as emperor. In the year 238 AD seven self-proclaimed emperors were killed. This totally unstable situation regarding the succession of emperors paralysed the Roman Empire’s defence system, which also undermined the economy. The costly civil wars as ambitious men fought to kill the existing emperors and replace them, drained soldiers away from the frontiers leaving them open to invasion by ferocious German barbarians, and the increasingly powerful Persians.
The Roman empire had a leadership crisis which reflected the growing leadership crisis of the church. Each of the early churches that were established by the apostles had to be run by a group of elders, according to the permanent pattern and principles of the New Testament that needed no modifications or additions to meet the changing circumstances of the ages. The Scriptures were for their unchanging guidance, as Jesus made Himself the centre of each church. That is why Jesus is seen in the midst of the candlesticks. The Christians of this age were scattered much by persecution, civil war, and barbarian and Persian invasions. It was the gathering of the people around the Scriptures as their centre that preserved the genuine believers. Death was a constant companion. This scattering of the persecuted Christians minimised the damaging effects to the true believers caused by the imposing of human leadership over the church.
MATTHEW 18:20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.
Small scattered groups did not need a religious organisation to bind them to some man.
But church organisation was quickly growing as they developed a succession of man-made bishops to rule the church in each city. This "official" church was also becoming bitter towards those who wanted to be Scriptural. A succession of bishops seemed to be the right answer as it gave some stability and order in an age that was extremely unstable. This age is rather obscure, as a thick darkness still envelops much of its history. The fifty years between the years 235 – 284 are particularly poorly illuminated. Fifty years of convulsions caused by civil war and 20 years of invasion by Germanic barbarians (around 245 – 265 AD) made this a time of chaos. Also, the Persian leader Shapur, who was the most dangerous enemy Rome had except for Hannibal, also launched three major campaigns between 242 - 260 AD against Rome. In between the campaigns, he organised annual raids into the Roman provinces.
To combat these uncertain and changing circumstances in these dangerous and hostile times, the churches made a huge mistake by establishing "apostolic succession" in certain select cities in a frantic attempt to defend truth and provide stable leadership. They said that only those churches who were "started" by an apostle could claim to have the truth. This was the lie that was developing and taking over the churches.
249 -260 AD was a particularly vicious eleven-year persecution of Christians amid pestilence and the loss of value of their money as inflation became rampant. Increasingly the Christians got blamed for all these catastrophes, and the empire tried to eliminate them. By 266 AD the Roman empire had split into three sections due to civil wars. At the cost of tremendous resources, and the cost of much human happiness, the emperor Aurelian with great military skill and cruelty, especially towards Christians, reunited the empire in 274 AD before falling to an assassin’s knife in 275 AD. This was an age of drama and violence.
Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons from about 178 AD to when he died just after 200 AD, (many dates are a little vague in this age) was the greatest Bible teacher of the age. He became bishop two years before the semi-mad, depraved, and evil Commodus became emperor from 180 -192 AD. Cruelty, vanity, power mania, and fear formed the toxic character of this emperor. The lazy, pleasure-seeking Commodus promoted a man Cleander to run his government, and historians say that it was the most corrupt Roman government of all time. Such was the leadership chaos at the time that Irenaeus became bishop of Lyons. He was the brightest Scriptural light of his day, but he lived in a time of weird political leadership. Marcus Aurelius, the father of Commodus, was rated as a brilliant Emperor, but he launched excessively cruel persecutions against the Christians. He had them viciously tortured before killing them. This sadistic streak in a man who was a great philosopher was really puzzling. Marcus Aurelius had the bishop of Lyons killed in 177 AD during a cruel persecution. This was the bishop that Irenaeus replaced as bishop of Lyons.
So everyone was desperate for some stable form of church leadership, which would help them endure the shambolic political leadership with its uncertainty and violence. In those troubled times, because the Roman emperor Commodus was so corrupt, and his father Marcus Aurelius had been so murderously cruel towards the Christians, Irenaeus leaned towards making the bishop of Rome, a far more reasonable man than either of those emperors, an example of a defender of truth. But he only mentioned Rome, no other city. Thus it sounded like he said that the Roman bishop is the religious authority. Thus, sadly, the messenger to this second age deviated from Scripture on the issue of recognising the authority of the Roman bishops who “descended” from the Apostle Peter. Remember that this was a very confused and heavily persecuted age as the churches drifted towards human leadership, by claiming that the various bishops who succeeded each other in certain cities where the apostles had established the churches, were the only people who were guaranteed to have the truth.
Ironically, Irenaeus had the most truth for his age, yet he was bishop of the city of Lyons which had no apostolic founder. The folly of this approach was that Martin of Tours, Columba of the island of Iona, Luther of Wittenburg, Wesley of England, and William Branham from Jeffersonville in America would all rise up to restore truth from cities that never saw an apostle, and had no continuous link of bishops over the ages. Irenaeus was human and messed up badly on this point. Never trust a clever human opinion. Stay with what is written in the Bible.
This apostolic succession seemed a great idea at the time as Rome, Antioch, the rebuilt Jerusalem, and Alexandria gained pre-eminence amongst the Christians. The churches in smaller cities could learn from them. One of these important churches could act as a counterweight to another important church. These few important churches could thus keep each other in check. But the Muslim Arabs wrecked that plan when they swept out of the Arabian deserts in 634 AD and conquered Antioch, Jerusalem, and Alexandria by 641 AD. Those churches were then lost prominence for the Christian cause, and Rome gained even more prestige as the only western church that was started by an apostle. Greece had churches that were started by apostles, but Greece was part of the eastern empire. This is a classic illustration of why we must never depart from Scripture. We cannot predict the future, so the plans that sincere men made to deal with the hectic problems of their age merely ended up eventually boosting the wrong church and making it even more powerful. So much for truth was being entrusted to the "succession of bishops". This whole concept was very short-sighted and very unscriptural.
Irenaeus wrote, “That tradition derived from the apostles of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known church founded and organised at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul; as also [by pointing out] the faith preached to men, which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops. For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of its preeminent authority”.
Irenaeus said that Peter founded the church in Rome. This is completely wrong. Peter never was in Rome.
He then stated that the succession of the Roman bishops was true to the apostolic faith and should be held in preeminent authority. But Rome was the church that Scripture would classify as the mother harlot.
This also indicates how the rumours of Peter being in Rome had been repeated so often that everyone now believed them. So much for human opinions and advice. Even the best leaders get things wrong. So do not rely on your pastor and his opinions, but rather rely on what is written in Scripture.
Irenaeus maintained that the bishops in different cities are known as far back as the Apostles and that those bishops provided the only safe guide to the interpretation of Scripture. His writings, with those of Clement and Ignatius, are regarded as among the earliest attempts to develop the doctrine of the primacy of the Roman church. This doctrine which made the Roman bishop the boss of all the other bishops was soon to be a disaster.
Irenaeus mentioned the Roman church as an example of the unbroken chain of authority. This doctrine meant that certain cities would always be more important than others. This is the key to Nicolaitanism, having a more important bishop elevated above a less important bishop.
With the lists of bishops to which Irenaeus referred, the doctrine of the apostolic succession was firmly established in the Church at this time. This succession was important to establish a chain of custody for what they thought was the truth. Irenaeus felt it important, however, also to speak of a succession of elders (presbyters). But this last suggestion was not taken as seriously as his comments about the chain of bishops.
The Carthage bishop Cyprian, a very influential church writer who died in 258 AD, wrote in favour of increasing the authority of the bishops over the church. He said,
“No one can have God for his Father if he does not have the church for his mother”.
The church could only be your mother if you obeyed the bishop of the church.
Irenaeus also claimed that the Nicolaitanes were the followers of that Nicolas who was one of the seven deacons first ordained by the apostles. He said that they lead lives of unrestrained indulgence. On this point, he completely missed the mark. Christians are easily fooled by plausible rumours.
The succession of bishops, as elevated leaders above the congregation, was the Nicolaitans. Thus the church in the second church age was deviating away from the apostolic pattern of the New Testament. The original light of the apostles was dimming.
The second candlestick had been lit. The light of this age was becoming different to the first age and dimmer.
Savage persecution by Roman emperors saw the church, most surprisingly, grow more rapidly than what the outside forces of the Roman empire were able to destroy it. The persecutors and witnesses of the Christian sufferings often became converts which swelled the Christian ranks. About ten brutal and murderous persecutions by the Roman emperors, starting with Nero in 64 AD, finally ended in 312 AD. About three million Christians had been killed. Many of these cruel Roman emperors ruled during the second church age. By 312 AD Satan had learned a harsh lesson: no brutal earthly power could crush Christianity by attacking the church from without.
The Roman empire had been gradually drawn into an attack on the churches which grew in intensity until the Empire’s whole power and resources were put forth to crush and destroy the churches, who now desperately needed help and safety. The Roman church had the resources to help many of the persecuted, and these Christians naturally looked up to the Roman church as being a caring mother church.
REVELATION 2:8 And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive;
This was an age in which it was easy to die. Fifty years of civil war. Twenty years of invasions and border wars against the German barbarians and Persian armies. Many vicious persecutions by the Roman emperors.
Smyrna comes from the word myrrh -- a bitter oil from a tree resin that was used to embalm the dead.
So Jesus comforts the many who will be killed in this age by starting with His death and then pointing to His resurrection where He showed Himself alive again. Death must not scare the Christian because death opens the door to Heaven and eternal life for the believer who has repented. Jesus is first and last which means that when the persecutions hit, Jesus is the first to enter the killing fields and strengthen the Christians for their ordeal, and then He is the last to leave. That way there is no Christian who has to die alone. Jesus' secret Presence is always with us.
He is the first and the last. He wants the last Christians to be like the first Christians because He never changes.
HEBREWS 13:8 Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.
But this second age was not to be the last age of the Christians because they were moving away from the New Testament church.
REVELATION 2:9 I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.
These Christians were poor in this world’s goods, but they were rich in faith because they stood for God’s Word even if they had to die for it. In this life, they suffered for a while, but in the next life, they have treasures beyond counting for all eternity. Thus they had no regrets for their temporary losses on earth as their rewards in Heaven are so fantastic. Just like a woman who struggles to give birth, but somehow the memory of her pain and suffering fades as she holds that precious little bundle in her arms.
These Christians were very sensible. If they had built up treasure on earth, the greedy Roman emperors would have robbed them of it, and they would have nothing anyway. So they ignored earthly success and stood for Scripture. The treasures of their faith were thus far beyond the grasping hands of the emperors. When they were killed, they simply went to join their treasures that were eternally safe in Heaven. This age knew how to think. They had few goods, but an abundance of insight into what really matters.
They were poor, but God never criticised them. There is an important lesson in that. In contrast, the last age, Laodicea, is rich, but God never compliments them. So what are we doing wrong at the end time?
A synagogue is an assembly or gathering. Satan assembles people when the assembly is done in an unscriptural manner.
ISAIAH 54:15 Behold, they shall surely gather together, but not by me:
So the Devil first focused on setting up an unscriptural church system.
The original twelve apostles who had the truth were Jewish. Claiming to be a Jew meant that these people claimed that they had the original truth. But the Bible says that they were liars. Tell a lie, and stick to it for long enough, and eventually, people will believe you. So the Roman Catholic church was going to rise up to power on the basis of lies.
The first church age ended when the Christians accepted the lie of Nicolaitanism, the elevation of a holy man above the congregation, who imposed human leadership and opinions on the church. This lie claimed that each church had to have a priest or presbyter in charge of the church, and then each city had to have a bishop in charge of all the priests. Thus even Irenaeus, the great saint of that age, was fooled into becoming the bishop of the city of Lyons around 178 AD. No such office as the bishop of a city was ever held by a man in the New Testament. But that tradition had been started by Ignatius who called himself bishop of Antioch, soon after the apostle John died around 100 AD.
Error was springing up all over, and Christians decided to combat these errors with another even bigger error called "apostolic succession". The Orthodox faith was claimed to be held by a bishop of a city who could trace a succession of bishops back in time that linked them back to an original apostle who had started the church in that city. This man-made system seemed clever but was seriously flawed. Many cities like Lyons and Tours in France would make a strong stand for truth, despite never being visited by an apostle. Rome was where the apostle Paul stayed for a while, yet it would later become the mother harlot. Some cities, like Ephesus, were by 170 AD already disappearing off the map because the great harbour had silted up.
This doctrine of apostolic succession gave the cities of Rome (where Paul had ended up), Antioch, Jerusalem, and Alexandria (who claimed that Mark had gone there) great pre-eminence over other churches in smaller cities because these cities were big and wealthy. This prestige that elevated one bishop above another bishop was unscriptural. The fallacy here was that the future emperor Constantine would build the city of Constantinople. The bishop of Constantinople would have just as much prestige as Rome, Antioch, Jerusalem, and Alexandria because it was the capital of Eastern Roman Empire, which was wealthier than western Rome, as well as having the backing of the emperor who lived there. Yet no apostle had visited Constantinople as it was only built around 330 AD. Worse still, when the Arabs burst out of the Arabian deserts around 634 AD, after the death of Muhammad, they rapidly conquered Antioch, Jerusalem, and Alexandria. Those important churches disappeared as the Muslims took over. Then only Rome and Constantinople were left. So now everyone in the west had to look to Rome as it was the only church that could claim apostolic succession. In those chaotic times, the true churches would appear and disappear and then reappear elsewhere as the Holy Spirit worked in the hearts of individuals. But for the false vine, Rome was the great survivor. The Roman Catholic church was the only Roman institution that survived the breakup of the Roman empire. Apostolic succession gave Rome great credibility in the eyes of the world. The Roman bishop, who around 400 AD became the Pope, began to enforce his domination over other bishops. By 606 AD he would declare himself Universal Bishop because he was the only man in the West who could claim an unbroken succession of previous bishops in Rome, who linked him back to an apostle who was in Rome. Thus the doctrine of apostolic succession, started in the second church age as a clever idea to protect truth against the many doctrinal errors that sprung up, had now bred out a monster church organisation called the mother harlot by Scripture. So much for clever human thinking. We must learn to just stay with Scripture. When we cook up bright ideas to help God, we are no better than Abraham was when he produced Ishmael. From him came the Muslim Arabs, and some of today’s endlessly violent Muslim extremists. Error will always be around. Today there are approximately more than 45 000 different kinds of denominational and non-denominational church systems that flash their various lights onto the stage. The net effect of all these flashing lights is simply to blind us with their glare. So we are in a Dark Age, because of too many conflicting lights and opinions, while we think we are enlightened. The only way to establish truth is from the King James Bible. The chances of your church being right is one chance in 45 000. It is safer to believe that all our churches are blind, as that is what the Bible says about the last church age Laodicea.
REVELATION 3:14 And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write;
:17 Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:The claim of the Roman bishop, that he had authority over other bishops, developed slowly. This was the spirit of Rome, the urge to domineer and crush dissidents until they became submissive to her iron rule.
Clement (91 – 100 AD) wrote to the Corinthians in the name of the Roman church with no hint of papal authority over them.
Bishop of Rome Anicetus (154 -168 AD) was unsuccessful in persuading Polycarp to change the date of the Easter from 14 Nisan, the day of the full moon.
Bishop of Rome Victor I (190 – 202 AD) threatened to excommunicate the eastern churches for not changing the date of Easter from 14 Nisan. The Roman church was calling the Jews “Christ killers”, and refused to have Easter on the Jewish date of 14 Nisan. They wanted to enforce this on other churches too. (Even today we hardly ever have Easter on the day of the full moon). But then Bishop Irenaeus of Lyons rebuked Victor for trying to dictate to other churches.
Roman bishop Stephen I (253 – 257 AD) tried to intervene in a North African dispute over baptism, but Bishop Cyprian of Carthage told him to stay out as each bishop was supreme in his own diocese.
So in this second church age, the Roman bishop established his credentials by claiming apostolic succession from Paul and Peter. By the time the second church age had started, virtually everyone believed the lie that Peter had been killed in Rome. Even Irenaeus recognised the Roman bishop as an authority for holding the truth, which was a bad mistake.
So in the second church age, the Roman bishop was struggling to impose his authority over other bishops.
But soon after 400 AD, the barbarian Vandals overran Carthage in North Africa, and in 476 AD the last western Roman emperor was deposed by the barbarians. In the chaos and uncertainty that followed, Christians were happy to look up to the Roman bishop for leadership and financial support. At that time they would accept anyone’s human and material leadership. The church as a whole had lost confidence in the New Testament teachings. Small, scattered groups of Christians gathered around the Scriptures, but the majority went for the large visible church organisation that was increasingly centralised around the control of the bishop of Rome.
Another dramatic lie was surfacing which would give the Roman bishop great power over the barbarian tribes who had destroyed the empire.
Roman bishop Calixtus I (218 – 223 AD) was the first to claim that Peter was the “Rock” of the church and that this applied also to the Roman bishop. Tertullian, a famous Christian writer and bishop of Carthage, then called Calixtus a usurper.
But as the chaos, murderous violence, and financial uncertainty of the second church age grew worse, so more and more churches and bishops were helped by the resources of the Roman church, and were then obliged to look up to the Roman bishop as their leader.
Thus the Roman church developed what was going to be one of their most spectacularly successful lies -- "Peter had the keys to open Heaven’s door, and he had passed on this authority to the bishops of Rome, who now have control over those who will and who will not get into Heaven." This gave the Roman bishop huge clout.
The Roman church had gradually built up this clever idea that enhanced their fame, especially among the pagans.
Petr was the Egyptian word for a priest or "interpreter" of the mysteries of the gods.
Petr Roma was the sacred book used to celebrate and interpret the Eleusinian mysteries of the ancient Greeks, which were highly regarded by many pagans. Eleusis was a city close to Athens. So the Roman Catholic church began to develop the rumour that Peter was the first bishop of Rome.
This was based on a magnificent fluke that “Peter of Rome” sounds very much like “Petr Roma”. So the pagans could easily be persuaded that Peter was the great interpreter of their hidden mysteries.
Peter himself is last mentioned in Chapter 12 of the Book of Acts. After that, he fades from our view and there is no definite history of him other than his two letters that were written from Babylon, as he was the apostle to the Jews.
Mystery Babylon was not a reference to pagan Rome.
The scarlet woman, who was mystery Babylon, was the Roman Catholic church that first had to rise to sufficient power so that her bishop could dominate the Christians of the city of Rome. This would only happen around the year 250 AD. Then to become Mystery Babylon she had to begin to accept the mysteries of Babylon as her official belief, which started at the Nicaean Council in 325 AD. Then followed a century of uniting Christian words with pagan beliefs, like the birthday of the sun god on 25 December becoming the birthday of the Son of God, Jesus. The eggs and rabbits of the Spring fertility celebrations of the goddess Ishtar became Easter eggs and Easter bunnies. This marriage of faith and paganism resulted in Pope Leo I, around 450 AD, claiming the title of Pontiff -- the high priest of the Babylonian mysteries.
Then to qualify as the woman who rode on the beast and had authority over the beast, the Pope had to gain political control over the city of Rome which could only happen after the western Roman emperor was deposed in 476 AD. Only then could it be justified in saying that Rome was Mystery Babylon.
We know that Jesus prophesied that Peter would be killed. Legend claims that this was probably by crucifixion. Some claim that he asked to be crucified upside down, but historians don't seem to be able to prove this. Unfortunately, concerning Peter’s later life, facts are about zero, and legends are abundant. Historian John Julius Norwich in his book ‘The Popes, a history’ says on page 4 “All that can be said for sure is that by the middle of the second century (around 150 AD) – which could well be during the lifetime of the grandchildren of people who had actually known them - it was generally accepted that Peter and Paul had both been martyred in Rome”.
There are no historical facts to support this statement that Peter was killed in Rome. It was simply an untruth that became believed because people endlessly repeated the idea. Even today, Christians endlessly repeat that the wise men went into the stable. The Bible says in Matthew they went into a house. But because everyone keeps repeating that they were in the stable, that untruth has now become accepted as the factual truth. All propagandists know that if you repeat a lie often enough, it will finally be accepted as the truth.
MATTHEW 2:11 And when they (the wise men) were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother,
So why this obsession to insist that Peter was in Rome? It does not really fit the facts.
Paul greets at least 28 people in the last chapter of his letter to the Romans. Yet there is no mention of Peter. Thus Peter obviously was not there, much less being in charge as a bishop. There is no Scripture that says Peter was a bishop.
MATTHEW 8:14 And when Jesus was come into Peter's house, he saw his wife's mother laid, and sick of a fever.
Peter was married. The Popes are not allowed to be married. So claiming Peter as the first Pope is wrong.
Enemies of Rome were executed and their bodies were thrown into the fast flowing river Tiber. The chances of any “criminal” apostle, especially an unsophisticated fisherman from a remote province called Palestine, getting a proper burial were highly unlikely. Since Peter never was in Rome, he obviously never died in Rome.
Thus trying to make Peter the first Pope in Rome does not fit the facts.
But there was a special mystique to Rome as events conspired to make her a natural leader in times of trouble and persecution. This second church age would see the Roman emperors launch ferocious persecutions against the Christians. The Roman church had the resources to help others, and she seized the opportunity to make her mark.
After he had approved the final choice of Books for the New Testament the Apostle John died around 100 AD, and various city churches began to compete for leadership of the Christians churches. Local churches were supposed to be run by groups of elders, who kept them true to the New Testament pattern of the Apostles.
A treatise known as the Shepherd of Hermas, written in Rome shortly after the year 100 AD, always speaks of ‘the rulers of the church’ or ‘the elders of the church’.
In terms of historical facts, though slightly fuzzy, the first bishop of Rome appears to be Anicetus from about 155 – 166 AD. But Rome had many different church groups, and it was only around the year 250 AD before any real claims could be made for one man to be regarded as the supreme bishop of Rome.
By AD 70 most of the apostles had been killed or had moved beyond the borders of the Roman empire, and Jerusalem had been destroyed by the Roman army who killed over a million Jews. There was then no obvious centre for Christianity. But ambitious church leaders were also slowly growing in power.
The Roman church, owing to its prestige as the church of the capital of the Roman empire, found that it naturally had a pre-eminence amongst the churches.
After 180 AD, insecurity and anxiety were more acute and desperate than ever before. The Roman government relied on ruling by autocratic force. Increasingly formidable German tribes forced Rome into expensive wars on the river Danube frontier, which produced a grimmer age of intensified and forcibly collected taxation that kept increasing. Rome’s eastern enemy Parthia had been replaced by the far more dangerous Persians. Pestilence and 50 years of civil war added their stress. Barbarian German invasions intensified around 240 – 260 AD. Currency collapse and price inflation followed. Christians were blamed for all these calamities, so they were punished and killed in many persecutions. The empire then briefly split into three portions thanks to civil war. Aurelian, a brilliant cavalry commander, became emperor and reunited the empire. To celebrate, he named 25 December as the birthday of his sun god in 274 AD. Sun god worship helped to produce a revival of official paganism. Diocletian became emperor in 284 AD. He built palaces of unprecedented splendour and expense, expanded the civil service, and doubled the size of the army. All this required a crushing toll in taxes. Diocletian established a totalitarian state with complete political, social, and cultural control over the people. To all this, he decided to add religious control by exterminating all Christians and uniting the people around the pagan gods. Around 303 AD he launched the cruellest of all persecutions, as well as an empire-wide program to destroy every Bible. After two years, in 305 AD, he abdicated, but the vicious persecutions continued for a further eight confused years until 312 AD.
During this violent age the Roman church was very generous in helping those churches that were ravaged by the barbarians, the civil wars, or the horrific persecutions. These circumstances encouraged many churches to look up to the Roman church as their sponsor, and thus leader. If anyone gives us money when we are in need, then it is very easy to accept that person as our boss, and we are more inclined to obey that person without arguing.
Greek philosophers explored the “mysteries” that lay behind the outward forms of the pagan religions. Christians began to use Greek philosophy to blend pagan ideas into Christian doctrine. The church, in its attempts to combat this error, introduced a system of human leadership that affected the church negatively, even more than the errors that they were trying to combat. Nicolaitanism was the system of elevating a holy man above the congregation, which soon began to seriously modify the character of the churches. Priests were put in charge of each church, and then bishops were put in charge of the priests. By 170 AD, when the first church age ended, a church hierarchy was established with a bishop in charge of the churches of each city and its surrounding areas. Then came the idea that truth was only really held by a succession of bishops in a city where the church was started by an apostle.
By 250 AD the resources of the church of Rome had grown very big. They supported 1 500 widows and needy people, which was good. They supported the bishop who was the head of the church, 46 presbyters, 7 deacons, 7 subdeacons, 42 acolytes, 52 exorcists, readers and doorkeepers. An unscriptural organisation was starting to grow apace.
Emperor Decius, who had a short reign full of disasters, in 250 AD launched a savage persecution against Christians. Many refugee bishops from various cities fled to Rome, where they could hide in the vast city and be supported by the Roman church. The Roman church granted much charity to believers and non-believers who were in need. This greatly strengthened the reputation of the Roman church.
260 AD saw emperor Gallienus make an edict of toleration towards Christians. Money and land started being bequeathed to the Roman church in people’s wills. The wealth of the church kept growing. Thus they were able to help more churches in the Empire, and these churches looked up to Rome as a leader, especially in these times of trouble, persecution, and financial shortage.
Meanwhile the Roman church was seeking for some justification for the natural pre-eminence that its status and circumstances were granting it. A possible Scripture was at hand if they could just fool people into thinking that Peter had been in Rome.
MATTHEW 16:18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
:19 And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.Rome was a pagan city. Peter having the keys to Heaven opened the door to immense possibilities amongst the pagans. They would happily serve Peter if he would open the Door to Heaven for them.
With the error of apostolic succession being established by great men like Irenaeus, the bishop of Rome could then claim to be the successor of Peter, and have the authority to use his keys. No other apostle had the keys to Heaven. The Roman bishop, as Peter's successor would be the top bishop. Salvation would then depend on the Roman bishop, who could open the door to Heaven, not on Jesus. It would be a brilliant fraud.
Petr Roma (which sounds just like “Peter of Rome”) was the sacred book used to celebrate the Eleusinian mysteries, associated with Artemis - who is called the goddess Diana. These were the ancient rites of Greece from about 700 BC, that later went to Rome. These mysteries were widespread amongst the pagans, and if they believed that Peter was in Rome, they would accept him as the interpreter (or Petr) of the pagan mysteries that opens the door to Heaven.
In addition, the words of Jesus made Peter the man who opens the door to Heaven for the Christians too.
So if Peter could be hijacked by the Roman church, it would give them have a superlative asset. The interpreter (notice the word ‘peter’ hidden in the word ‘interpreter’) of pagan Greek mysteries in Rome was also the man who has the keys to the Christian Heaven.
Greek philosophy was brilliant. So once the Greek philosophers had polished up a pagan mystery, it was far more captivating and convincing. Now the Romans had all these Greek mysteries to interpret to the pagans. And Peter, the only man in all history who had the keys to Heaven, was the great interpreter.
In addition, Jupiter was the chief Roman god. And his name was pronounced Ju-peter. Peter again.
So the propaganda machine swung into action. Peter was dead and could not refute their arguments. After Acts Chapter 12 Peter had faded from view. The next generation was fuzzy on the facts of his life. The grandchildren knew even less of the facts of his life, and as persecution made churches look to Rome for help, those Christians who needed Rome’s help would not oppose the claims of Rome that Peter had died in Rome. Around the year 250 AD, the Roman Catholic church was dominant enough to claim their leader as bishop of the city. Once their man was the bishop in charge of the Rome, then Peter’s position was backdated to be the first bishop of Rome. Before AD 70, while Peter was still alive, there was no single bishop in charge of a city. A bishop or overseer was simply an elder. Every church had a number of elders - also called bishops. In the city of Philippi:
PHILIPPIANS 1:1 Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons:
Once people believed that Peter was the first bishop of Rome, a hierarchy of bishops was invented to link Peter to the existing bishop of Rome. This was apostolic succession. There are different ancient lists of Roman bishops that disagree with each other, so the succession of bishops gets off to a bit of a fuzzy start.
But as time went on, this chain of bishops that started with Peter developed into the spectacularly successful doctrine of 'apostolic succession'. The existing bishop of Rome then claimed that Peter’s authority to open Heaven’s door was passed on to Peter’s successors, who were the bishops of Rome.
This idea immediately gave the bishop of Rome incredible pre-eminence. He was the only man on earth who could open Heaven’s door to you. But he would not do that unless you were in submission to his beliefs. But worse still, if he did not like you or your beliefs, he would close the door on you and then you could not enter Heaven. How was this possible? The bishop of Rome claimed to be Peter’s representative on earth, and thus Peter only opened the door to Heaven for those who the Roman bishop approved of.
The Roman bishop now had incredible authority. Your final eternal fate was in his hands. This was a scary thought.
After 400 AD when the bishop of Rome had got powerful enough to call himself Pope, then the title of Pope was backdated, and Peter was called the first Pope.
Thus the Popes are now the longest line of dictatorial rulers on planet earth.
REVELATION 17: 8 The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition: and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.
The Pope is the figurehead of this big powerful Roman Catholic political-religious system or beast. At any time in history a Pope was ruling the church, then he dies, and is not, and yet is because a new Pope is elected to take his place. So the succession of Popes continues. The whole basis of their power is the claim that they are Peter’s earthly representative with his keys which gives them power to open or close Heaven’s door.
The blue figures represent the Popes from the past when each one was Pope. The red figure represents the Pope who is not as he has just died. The black figure in front represents the Pope who yet is because he has just been elected.
The succession of Popes looks just like the Trail of the Serpent which is awaiting its head, the final superman antichrist Pope of the great Tribulation. Maybe he will call himself Pope Peter II.
Notice the departure from Scripture. Jesus is the Door to Heaven, but Peter has the keys and decides whether to open the door or not. And Peter will only do what the Pope tells him to do.
So Jesus is no longer the Saviour. Peter holds your fate in his hands as door keeper. Actually, the Pope holds your fate because he tells Peter what to do. Satan had pulled off a masterpiece by effectively removing Jesus as the Saviour.
So what did Jesus mean when He gave Peter the keys to bind and loose in Heaven?
ACTS 2:38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
:39 For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.Repentance opens the door to Heaven. Then we get baptized in the Name of Jesus Christ to become a member of His Bride because a bride takes on the name of her husband.
Peter then locked the door of John's baptism because that no longer applied.
But, since repentance and baptism in the Name of Jesus is the key that opens the door to Heaven for the Bride, it is going to be attacked by the Devil. Churches would emerge that do not preach about a heartfelt repentance of sin that leads to a born again experience where Jesus is accepted as a personal Saviour Who turns the individual away from sin, and then controls the person’s life. Repentance is the key that opens Heaven's door.
But there are a Bride and a sleeping virgin, both of whom are saved.
But only the Bride is ready for the second Coming of the Lord, because only the Bride takes on the Name of Jesus Christ in baptism. Mr Jesus Christ will only go home with Mrs Jesus Christ. Mr Jesus Christ will not go home with Mrs Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. So Satan would attack the human Name of God, which is Jesus Christ. Satan set out to reduce Jesus to only be the Son of God. Thus the Name of Jesus Christ would be removed from the water baptism, and be replaced with three titles.
An ultimate irony is that the Roman Catholic church claimed Peter as their first infallible Pope, yet they refuse to follow his baptism in the Name of Jesus Christ.
They claimed to tell us the truth, but they lied. Truth only comes by quoting Scripture, not modifying the Bible verses.
JOHN 17:17 Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.
REVELATION 2:10 Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.
This church age, in God’s big picture, had a mission to accomplish. They had to keep believing in Jesus no matter what cruelties were imposed on them. They were not on earth to enjoy a prosperous life. Their enjoyment would come in the next life. They had to prove to Satan that death, destruction, and suffering could not destroy Christian faith. Satan went beserk with a murderous intensity to eliminate them. Wave after wave of persecution and distress swept over them, but as each wave subsided the true believers were still standing on the real Rock, which is the personal revelation of who Jesus is to the individual. Jesus living in a Christian heart that is centred on the Word of God will take that person through any outside attack. As each wave of terror subsided, Satan saw to his horror that the remnant that was still standing was actually stronger than when the attack started. The blood of the martyrs was the seed of the church that kept sprouting up.
These Christians understood that Death was simply the open door to a much better life in Heaven. They went to their fate with incredible courage and faith, based on their love of Jesus and His Word.
The ten-day tribulation was the final devastating ten-year persecution launched by Diocletian from 303 – 312 AD. A day can represent a year in Scripture.
GENESIS 29:27 Fulfil her week, and we will give thee this also for the service which thou shalt serve with me yet seven other years.
A week is seven days which represented seven years of service.
Jacob had served seven years and gained the older sister. Now he had to serve seven more years for the younger sister.
What did this represent?
In the Old Testament God guided the Jews through seven ages, starting with Abraham who left his first love when he handed his wife Sarah over to another man to marry her. The second age was when Joseph was afflicted of his brothers and sold as a slave and sentenced falsely to years in prison. Everything went against him as he stood up to the tests and tribulations that life threw at him.
Then Moses had to combat the love of money as the religious leader Aaron built a golden calf (sound familiar?). Then he had to fight the doctrine of Balaam who corrupted the Jews by using Moabite women (symbolising churches) that were similar to, but not the same as Jewish women. Balaam was told what to do by a politician, the king Balak. Constantine, a politician who became emperor, corrupted the church at the Nicaean council in 325 AD, and made them intermarry with politics and paganism. Pergamos means thoroughly married.
Then Elijah came in the dark ages of Israel, who had sunk low when the evil king Ahab ruled and was dominated by his even more evil wife, the painted face Jezebel (symbolic of the dominating Catholic church in the Dark Ages). Thyatira means a dominating woman.
Ezra restored the treasure to the rebuilt temple. Symbolic of Martin Luther who restored salvation, our real treasure, by faith in Jesus Christ to God’s Temple, His church. Thus the Protestants escaped from the grip of the Roman Catholic church. Sardis means the escaped ones.
Nehemiah rebuilt the city walls which made the city of Jerusalem strong. The strength of Christianity is holiness, and outreach based on brotherly love (Philadelphia). John Wesley in England led this movement that laid the foundation for the great missionary age.
Then John the Baptist came in the seventh Jewish age, and introduced the Messiah who was to marry the Jews. But they rejected Him and killed Him. The Jews were the older sister (a woman symbolising a church) that God had worked for in the Old Testament. Now He had to start all over again as He worked for His Gentile bride, the younger sister or church. God would finally guide the Gentile church through seven church ages until He could restore them back to the original New Testament doctrines.
REVELATION 2:11 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.
Every age is told to hear what the Word says. Don’t change Scripture to suit your present circumstances, because you then create even bigger errors. Just stay with Scripture, despite any circumstances that you find yourself in. The worst that can happen is that we die. But this second church age is all about death, and the fact that it is part of God’s plan. Jesus has the keys of death and hell. No Christian can die unless Jesus gives permission. When Jesus does give permission, then our deaths are in His will, and thus they are the best thing that can happen because His will must always over ride our selfish little wills.
The second death in the lake of fire is too awful to contemplate. I would rather die now and be in Heaven later, than live now and be in the lake of fire later. Compared to the future lake of fire, the second death, we have a much easier option when required to die for Jesus in this life. If you die to yourself and are born again, then when you die physically you can call that your second death. Thus you can't go into the lake of fire as that would be your second second-death which is unscriptural.
We all have to die twice.
So if we are born once, we die twice. Physically (our first death) and in the lake of fire (our second death).
If we are born, and then die to self (first death) so that we can be born again, then when we die physically, that is our second death.
This second church age emphasised the second death.
Those who had died to themselves (first death) and were born again then faced their second (physical) death bravely as they knew it could not hurt them. Their second death merely opened the door to Heaven for them. Thus they would also never face the lake of fire which is the second death for the unbelievers.
This second church age was one of suffering and death. There was no chance of a complacent, comfortable lifestyle. To be a Christian was hard. Personal ambitions were all too often shattered in the convulsions and hardships of the age. But please notice something very important. Jesus does not criticize this age in any way.
Those Christians were just like us, fallible human beings. They also made mistakes. But they got something right that was essential. They died to their self-will. Self-will centres on material success and comfort. These Christians focused on suffering for Jesus, even if His will demanded their deaths. They did what He wanted them to do, not what they wanted to do.
Millions died for Him, and He never even mentioned any mistakes they made. Putting God’s will first is the key ingredient to impressing God.
Who cares what happens to my life, as long as I can faithfully submit to His will. That is the secret of Christianity.
Satan had failed to destroy the church by an outward show of force.
He had learned a hard lesson, and in the next age decided to change his tactics to the infiltration of the church with a counterfeit gospel.