The main view of early Christianity was that if a person confessed their sin, the Lord was faithful and just to forgive them. But in time, this was going to change, too. If you did not confess the Lord facing death, they felt this sin was unforgiveable. Later, this list grew to anyone involved in idolatry, murder and gross sins.
This is ironic because by this time Christianity was full of idolatry. Why didn’t they see what they were doing as idolatrous? Because it had the sanction of the Church, just like today. We have discussed that baptism was seen as a cleansing act and all previous sins were forgiven. This totally ignored the biblical truth that all sin was forgiven by faith and repentance, not baptism. They classified the three sins mentioned above as “deadly sins” but all sin is deadly. Also, all sin was forgiven in Yeshua and that included all future sin as well, but they wanted the people to be in fear and it forced the people to have a dependence on the Church.
Eventually the question arose as to when a sinner had done enough to be restored and believed that Peter was given the power to forgive sin, based on a perversion of Matt 16.19 and this “power” included any church officials. In other words, the bishop had this power to absolve all sin. They also taught that anyone who faced torture or prison could also forgive sin because they were “filled with the Spirit.” These people were called “confessors” but some did not like this authority.
What this doctrine actually was teaching is that you had to earn forgiveness and grace has been replaced. A Roman bishop named Kallistos (217-222 AD) took this doctrine further when he issued a statement in his own name that said he would absolve sins on proper repentance. Denial of the “faith” was the most serious of sins and not even Kallistos promised to forgive that. What is interesting is that while the Church went through persecution and while it was going on, the same people persecuted those who observed the Torah, kept Sabbath, festivals and the dietary laws.
While discussions and arguments over what sins could be forgiven raged on, eventually it was agreed upon around 251 AD in Rome that all sin could be forgiven, put the power to do this was now firmly in the hands of the clergy of the Church. Who made up the Church was also in question.
In the first century, anyone who was truly born again made up the eschatological congregation that was promised in the Scripture. Eventually, people saw Christianity as a new faith, in truth, it really wasn’t, but that is the reference point the Church comes from today and by the third century there were many who had descended from true believers who now thought of themselves members, even though they had not experienced being born again. They didn’t worship with pagans and had been baptized as an infant and instead of being a congregation of believers, the Church was now a dispenser of salvation.
Kallistos of Rome said the Church was made up of wheat and tares and likened it to Noah’s Ark, which carried both the clean and the unclean. Instead of observing the Torah, the Christian ideal was to live a life of poverty, celibacy, and to be separate from the world. All of this was in contrast to the message of the Scriptures where a person confesses his sin and he has been redeemed by faith. Yeshua is the agent of that redemption and you walked in the Torah as it applied to you.
While all of this was going on, pagan religious forces were working from the outside. Mithraism was a heavy influence in the empire. It was very popular in the army and several emperors, who had army experience, were greatly influenced by Mithraism. Greek philosophy greatly influenced Christian theology and by the sixth century it permeated through the teachings of Augustine.
Another movement called Manichaeism was preached by a man named Manis in Babylon. He was martyred in 277 AD. This belief absorbed, blended in and tried to synchronize with other faiths. He borrowed from Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, Judaism and Christianity and believed all of these were preparations for a universal message. Good and evil were constantly in conflict and his ideas about spirituality and the material world was similar to Gnosticism. Man is imprisoned in a material world and can only be freed through “messengers of light” which included “Jesus” but not limited to him. Salvation is based on the correct knowledge of man’s true nature and a desire to return to the kingdom of light. Membership in this belief consisted of the perfect and the listeners.
Manichaeism was a rival to Christianity and it spread in the Roman Empire. It attracted people from Mithraism and Christian-Gnostic groups and made it into the Middle Ages through various sects that kept these beliefs.
By now you are probably saying to yourself “why should I study all this” and you may feel this is a waste of time. But, as you study the Torah and come up against those who may oppose you, you will find out that they will quote these very Church Fathers and you need to have a good idea what these people believed and taught. How did Christianity get to this place? How did these doctrines come to be accepted as Scriptural? We need to know what we are dealing with and we are not criticizing these things just for the fun of it.
A word of caution, don’t spend your whole life on this, but it is like “spiritual medicine” that we need to take in order to get better. We need to get past the sickness so we can move into other areas and have an answer for those who don’t believe like we do.
All of this is leading to a final confrontation between Rome and Christianity. Diocletian became emperor in 284 AD. He was a soldier and raised to this position by the army. He was a great organizer made many changes that needed to be made and swept aside senatorial influence and the republican ideals that was so much a part of Rome.
When it came to dealing with Christianity, he could either force it to submit and break its power or to come into an alliance with it. Constantine chose the latter, but Diocletian chose to persecute the Church. Christians were removed from imperial service and churches were destroyed. Holy books were taken and clergy were put in prison and forced to sacrifice to Roman gods by torture.
By 304 AD, all Christians were required to offer sacrifice and many were killed. The popular feeling among the Roman people was not as strong against the Christians as before. Diocletian retired around 305 AD and Constantine was named Emperor. Because Diocletian had named several people as ruling subordinates, a struggle over leadership ensued. An edict of toleration was issued and Christianity gave Constantine their favor. Some have said that Constantine was a believer by this time but that was not the case. He was a pagan and a political opportunist.
For example, he declared the first “Christmas” in 312 AD, which united Christianity with Mithraism. He said that the Christian God gave him his position and many have taken this as a sign that he was a believer, but he retained pagan emblems and kept the title of Pontifex Maximus, which means he was the head of all the Roman religions. As the one, true ruler of Rome, Constantine was the man who set Christianity free from all persecution. However, it was now under the control of the Roman government and this union with the state would have dire, spiritual consequences.
By this time, there was so much “bad” already in the Church and its theology, and the green light by Constantine only encouraged it to add more. He is seen as a hero of the Christian faith, but he never even confessed Christianity until his deathbed. On the other hand, his favorable policies with the Christians was not to be experienced by the Jews.
By 32o AD, Jews were forbidden to perform circumcisions on slaves or to have Christian slaves, the death penalty was given for anyone who embraced the Jewish faith and that extended to those Jews who were well versed in the Torah who taught them. On the other hand, Jews who converted to Christianity were protected from those who tried to convince them otherwise. Jews and Christians were forbidden to marry and the death penalty was given to those who did. Judaism was spoken of as a religion for beasts and this hostile attitude for Jews was a trademark of Constantine, even going so far as to forbid Jews from entering Jerusalem.
Why was Torah observance an issue? Because there were those, Jew and Gentile, who were observing it and it was perceived as a threat to Christianity. Around the same time, Christian clergy were exempted from public obligations and Sunday work was forbidden in the cities. Clergy were given gifts and great churches were built in Rome, Jerusalem, Bethlehem and other places.
However, Constantine only showed favor to the strong, close-knit organized sect that called itself “catholic” and other sects were deemed heretical. As you go through this, the word “heresy” jumps out at you. Everything these guys are doing is a contradiction to Scripture. Salvation belongs to the church, eating the Eucharist (a sacrifice and a sacrament which says the bread contains the real presence of the Lord) and baptism are real perversions. How could an organization stand based on these Church Fathers? Why didn’t more people call these people heretics?
Protestants will say “I’m not Catholic so this doesn’t apply to me” but it does. Many practices that are seen in Protestant churches originated in Catholicism, and are in contrast to the truth of Scripture. Martin Luther and his Reformation was not about doctrine, but the indulgences and the excesses seen in the clergy. He retained much of the doctrine and it can still be seen today. Many have never been exposed to what we have gone over and that is why they don’t understand what they are doing.
This study is not in the depth that it would be if it was taught in person, so there was a lot of information that did not make its way into the study, but there is enough here to upset anyone. Hopefully, if one wanted to get into this further there are plenty of “springboards” to get started. Reading about these Church Fathers and the development of Christianity is hard for true believers.
We could go on and on about this but hopefully you have a better idea about Replacement Theology and in the conclusion, we will take a look at the Council of Nicaea and then try to pull all this together and give a basic summary for those who want a new start and want to pull way from the influence of Replacement Theology. We will also talk briefly about the prophetic implications of Replacement Theology and how this will be the religion of the False Messiah and the False Prophet.