We noted that it cannot be stated authoritatively when true Christianity first became perverted and then vanished for periods of time. But we should know it happened just as Christ said that it would.
Humankind can pervert and disassemble just about anything when left to our own devices. Though the Word lives and abides forever, that does not mean it cannot be roundly and completely ignored by “religious people”.
I suggested that you cannot identify an exact point in time when the first Christians left off scriptural authority and embraced what would in short order become known as Roman Catholicism. We do know, from the scriptures, the seed had been sown while the apostles and the first disciples were yet alive. And we have offered scriptural information and then an opinion or two based upon the leftovers of secular history.
The path of religious history occasionally appears to be sparsely marked; and at times, it seems to have vanished altogether, or to be strewn with the bias of the recorders. It gets worse when you look at the divisions and consolidations that were forged from the fifth through the twelfth century. Out of this period you have so many departures, it becomes difficult to list them all. To name a few, you have the schism between Eastern and Western Catholicism, of pope and anti-pope, the rising German influence, the politics of the aristocracy and the popes, the Crusades and many other heretical departures, some that you may be able to put a name to and some that you cannot. Most of the existing history was recorded by willing participants. It is complex; and I would be doing an injustice to the truth by attempting to put it into a few five hundred word essays.
So, it’s necessary to remember the basics: Salvation is in Jesus Christ; and the only record of all things eternal is The Word of God. As part of this reminder, I would refer you to Brent’s appeal in his most recent posts, and to what the scriptures inform us about holiness. In short: it is God, and God alone who decides what is Holy – what is to bear His Name and what, where and when something is to be identified or known as Holy. We should know the Scriptures tell us this is true whether or not we are talking about popes, archbishops, prophets, pastors, later apostles, temples, angels, names, places, commands, assemblies, worship or its patterns — or anything else that has to do or we think may have to do with God and salvation. All that we know about things eternal is contained in what God has left us. And He said it is finished and complete.
As was suggested, the history of apostasy is the result of a process. The amount of time it took to reach some ungodly milestone was directly proportional to the increasing lack of faith and disinterest in the Word of God. This particular fact needs to be burned into our memory chips and remembered as long as we live — if we claim to serve God and Christ. Remember, it took the Hebrews less than forty days to depart from the truth, and to head off into abominable passions and to end up worshipping a golden idol. Centuries later it took the Northern Kingdom of Israel a single generation to forget Jerusalem and God’s commands completely and to set up two more golden calves in Dan and Bethel. The simple cause was failure to do what they had been told to do, and to pay strict attention to the Word of God.
So, is it surprising what began to infect churches while the Holy Apostles were yet alive? The New Testament is rife with warnings and examples. Have we today been suddenly caught unwarned and unawares?
It ought to be abundantly clear. And we all ought to be able to identify ungodliness and what is unholy, whether it started out centuries ago, or comes through the door tomorrow smiling and calling on the name of Christ. We all, every one of us, have Bibles. There is no mystery to it.
Christ asked those who questioned Him “Have you not read?” What is your answer?
And someone said to him, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?”
And he said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. When once the master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then he will answer you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’ Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.’ But he will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil!’ In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God but you yourselves cast out.