THE UPRISE OF CHRISTIANITY
The Son of God was born in turbulent times. He had come to save his people, but was considered a revolutionary and slain.
Three days later, however, he rose from the dead, and proclaimed himself as having the keys of the grave and of death (Rev. 1:18).
But he was rejected by the Jews, and this brought about the development of Christianity. This had been predicted by Isaiah:
“It is a light thing that thou shouldest be My servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob; and restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth” (Isa. 49:6).
Rejected by the Jews, the message of salvation was eagerly embraced by Gentiles, and the foundation of Christianity laid in the preaching of the Apostles.
ROME VERSUS CHRISTIANITY
Rome, particularly under Nero, made determined efforts to stamp out this new sect, but instead it conquered Rome. The arms of the Empire had widened the borders and extended the scope of human experience, as well-made military roads made possible easy access to all parts of the wide-flung Empire. Those roads heard the tramp of marching legions, and also the preaching of the Apostles, calling upon people to separate themselves from Gentilism and give themselves unto God (Acts 15:14).
They proclaimed the hope of a risen Christ who will return to put down all rule and authority, and to assume his rightful place as King over the earth (Acts 2:30; 3:19-21; Isa. 9:7; Zech. 14:9), at which time he will raise his faithful servants from the grave to inherit life eternal (1 Cor. 15:20-25, 51-58).
The world was turned “upside down” by the power of this message (Acts 17:6). In fact, it is claimed that the preaching of the Gospel was a part cause of Rome’s decline. The early Christians were conscientious objectors; they disregarded the call to war. The Gospel had caused them to turn from seeking the things of this world, to seeking salvation at Christ’s coming. This was a stumbling block to national aspirations and ambitions, and Gibbon, the historian, traces the victory of Christianity as partly the cause of Rome’s collapse.
But in the end it was paganism that conquered. The prophecy of Paul was fulfilled in that he predicted the rise of false teachers (Acts 20:29-31) and apostasy (1 Tim. 4:1-3; 2 Tim. 4:1-4). Christianity gave way to a divided and antagonistic Christendom which perverted the original Apostolic faith. Pagan doctrines (such as the immortality of the soul, the trinity, etc.) were superimposed upon the truth, and the two main cities of the Empire – Rome and Constantinople – became the headquarters of the Greek and Roman Catholic systems, which divided the Empire ecclesiastically as it also became divided politically.
Thus the Empire was separated into its western and eastern divisions, as foreshadowed by the two legs of iron in the image-vision recorded in Daniel 2. The prophecy clearly and correctly predicted the course of human history.
Next time…. DIVIDED EUROPE: THE TOES OF IRON AND CLAY
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