Part 5 of 7
The chiliasm of the first three centuries of Christianity (i.e., teaching that the Messiah would return to reign over the nations from Israel), early scholars abandoned for Augustine’s idealist doctrine c. 354-430 AD), which teaches that the Church superseded the natural nation of Israel and thus presently reigns as the Messiah’s earthly throne- be it from Rome, Constantinople, or Christianity in general. The Bishop of Hippo believed that saintly believers of Christianity are the “City of God” now on Earth (serving as a title of one of his books), reigning in the millennium with most of the Scriptures fulfilled until the post-millennial destruction of the Antichrist. On Earth the Church is Israel and Heaven is the spiritual reign; but natural Israel is left but a despised, dispossessed, and mostly forsaken relic of God’s past works. Augustine’s view of Revelation, interpreting the book by a largely faulty, allegorical method in his view of Christian glory, as Origen did before him, helped solidify the Roman Church’s claim of Christendom being new Israel and the City of God. Jews, scholars from his time on taught, had lost their historical and Divine place, and the Church was realized as a sort of heavenly Jerusalem already here and presently triumphant, spreading throughout the pagan nations of the world- the City of Satan. In other words, two distinct spiritual worlds are warring in our long-present and figurative millennium. Christ is in control via His reigning from the Right Hand of God in Heaven, and the Roman pontiffs or “vicars” (title meaning “substitutes” given by wicked Pope Innocent III, c. 1198-1216 AD) on Earth are His ruling spokespersons for the Church.
Although Augustine asserted the “whole Church” rather than only the Bishopric of Rome, as having the power to “bind and loose sin” (see On the Gospel of John, Tractate CXXIV.7), the principle of the so-called “Universal Church” having all authority on Earth and over forsaken Israel was embraced over the chiliastic promises given the chosen nation. Christ would not arrive to reign during an appointed Great Sabbath according to amillennial (no millennium) and postmillennial eschatology. For most Roman Catholics the messianic millennium is not an actual period of time, but an age without timely bounds for their glorious Catholicism- trials and triumphs. In other words, they chose the glory of their church and religiosity over what the Word of God actually, plainly discloses. What they could not ignore of the prophecies concerning Israel they usurped or spiritualized away.
During the first three centuries of the new faith, chiliasm was universally accepted by Christians who learned from the Jewish apostles, and some kept that belief prominent for centuries thereafter despite Catholic purging. The coming messianic millennium was rarely questioned and was believed by most in the early centuries, evident via Papias, Justin Martyr, Apostle Barnabas, Methodius, Nepos, Melito, Hippolytus, Irenaeus, Commodian, Coracion, Lactantius, et al., and even by Augustine himself before falling from scriptural truths. For many of them (e.g., Irenaeus), the millennium was clearly part of the greater septa-millennial plan. The first popular Christian to deny it of record- that I am aware of- was Marcion at the end of the 1st cent. and into the 2nd cent. AD, and thus he was quickly and universally branded a “gnostic” for claiming extra spiritual knowledge- a “heretic” against the faith and traditions first received, having also denied that the God of the Tanakh is the Father.
“I and others who are right-minded Christians on all points are assured that there will be a resurrection of the dead, and a thousand years in Jerusalem, which will then be built…Isaiah spoke in that manner concerning this period of a thousand years.” – Justyn Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, Ch. 80
Although many early Gentile scholars and theologians had anti-Judaism sentiments, along with warped new ideas via influences of Greek philosophy and extra-biblical teachings, things which they foolishly brought into the original Hebrew faith, they held on to this basic and important tenet of New Covenant eschatology- the coming reign of the Christ King on Earth at Jerusalem. They kept with the idea that God had laid out His historical plan and appointed generations in His Word, and that plan was directly centered on the future of Israel.
Who has performed and done it [declared Israel’s history], calling generations from the beginning [Genesis]? I, the LORD [YHVH], am the first; and with the last I am He. (Isa. 41:4) NKJV; intrpl. mine
Before this corruption of the Christian faith, most believers plainly interpreted and understood the Scriptures that are yet to be fulfilled at Jerusalem of Israel. They understood that God has not simply abandoned His original plans and that He orchestrates the times. A great and dark, global cataclysm would come against Jews and Christians at the hands of the Beast nations and surrounding nations of the False Prophet, but after that the faithful people of God would live in peace and glory:
And the LORD [YHVH] shall be King over all the earth. And in that day it shall be- “the LORD is one,” and His name one…The people shall dwell in it [the city]; and no longer shall there be utter destruction, but Jerusalem shall be safely inhabited. And this shall be the plague with which the LORD will strike all the people [nations] who fought against Jerusalem: Their flesh shall dissolve while they stand on their feet [nuclear blast], their eyes shall dissolve in their sockets, and their tongues shall dissolve in their mouths. It shall come to pass in that day that a great panic from the LORD will be among them. Everyone will seize the hand of his neighbor, and raise his hand against his neighbor’s hand [civil war]. Judah [Jews] will fight at Jerusalem. And the wealth of all the surrounding nations shall be gathered together: gold, silver, and apparel in great abundance. Such also shall be the plague [the flesh dissolving before bones hit the ground] on the horse and the mule, on the camel and the donkey and on all the cattle [all animals] that will be in those camps [military encampments against Jews]. So shall this plague be. And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. And it shall be that whichever of the families of the earth do not come up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, on them there will be no rain. (Zech. 14:9, 11-17) NKJV; intrpl. mine
Clearly none of this or other passages that are just as plain have come to pass. So what happened to cause such a fall from these truths so evident at the roots of Hebrew Christianity, seeing that we yet await the destruction beastly nations and the false religion and false god which surrounds Israel? Why have all the plain prophecies of bold things yet to come to this doubting world been spiritualized away and mostly ignored? Many Muslims could be saved from God’s wrath if Bible-believers revealed these things, and many nations of Europe would know better than to transgress upon the Holy Land and Jews. Why are most Christians not teaching the coming Kingdom and the signs of the times?
Logic provides a very simple answer to why plain things have not been perceived for the coming Day of the Lord: When Christians were martyred and their churches were being persecuted by pagan Romans and zealots of Rabbinical Judaism, they rejoiced in hope of the coming King Messiah and His reign of truth and justice from New Jerusalem, but when latter Christian bishops and their Greek-influenced theologians began to share secular power with Rome and became the decreeing persecutors, they no longer earnestly sought the coming of Messiah and His glorious Kingdom. It was better to presently reign in glory than to rejoice in humbling and cruel suffering, as Peter had thought while attempting to forego the appointed sufferings of Christ, at least before he was corrected and later filled with the Holy Spirit. Thus the Scriptures had to be reinterpreted for the stately rise of Catholicism in a pagan world of biblical ignorance. Scriptures relevant to the coming millennium were spiritualized for the basilicas. Heaven was for the dead, and even salvation in death was institutionalized under the rules of the straying Gentile religion. They purposely confused the spiritual realm of Heaven with the Kingdom of Heaven that is coming to Earth, and most non-clergy believers did not possess copies of Scriptures to challenge them or even know better.
Bishop Augustine, called “the Father of Amillennialism,” was the primary architect of this complete about-face, and thus he is honored as a saint to this day among Catholics. His faulty spiritualism justified the rise of a new sort of Christianity- one that would now self-righteously rule over nations rather than humbly await Christ and His earthly reign. A century earlier and his teachings would have been rejected by the suffering Christians who waited for Christ, but new times called for new teachings to justify the new Hellenized religion. “Thy Kingdom come” was butchered to mean something more like “Thy kingdom is already here.” Although Augustine may have been morally righteous or even saintly, he no less distorted the Scriptures with ease and liberty, especially at Israel’s expense.
And this is not to say that all of Augustine’s works are incorrect, for obviously he understood that a better comprehension of Scripture would someday turn back Jewish hearts, whereas he and others wrote works that strengthened the division of the two biblical faiths.
Of the Coming of Elias [Eliyahu] Before the Judgment, that the Jews May Be Converted to Christ by His Preaching and Explanation of Scripture: After admonishing them to give heed to the law of Moses, as he foresaw that for a long time to come they would not understand it spiritually and rightly…that in the last days before the judgment the Jews shall believe in the true Christ, that is, our Christ, by means of this great and admirable prophet Elias who shall expound the law to them. – Augustine, City of God, Ch. 29; intrpl. mine
Those who know Scripture are able to understand why nations that do not send their leaders or diplomats to pay homage to the Great King of Jerusalem during the Great Sabbath will receive no annual rain. Elijah is to restore Jews and call back the ancient tribes, gathering the faithful for a Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot). This will be during very difficult times, and without it is the promise of “utter destruction.” As a reminder against those who will not heed Elijah and Moses during the Apocalypse, there will be no rain for nations that rebel during the Great Sabbath. The International Feast of Tabernacles will commemorate those who answer the call for a gathering of the lost tribes to Israel, which the nations will vehemently resist. The nations will rage in pitting their secular will against God’s, and the harder their hearts become the more they will endure. Just as they will resist the water of the Word of God from Heaven to Earth which concerns his work, so must they receive physical droughts of water that exemplify their obstinate rebellions. Moreover, as Augustine explained, Israel will come to understand these things, even as the world rebels, and their national atonement will be a great joy, but the heavens will not render rain to nations that do not honor the international moed of Sukkot. What Augustine failed to see is that Christianity needs restoration because he and other early Christians led it astray with errant ideas of the millennium.
Elijah once said, “As the LORD God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there will be neither dew nor rain in these years, except by my word.” And so shall the great shadows of old confess their fulfillments in our days for all Israel and nations abroad. Muddied doctrines that are available on Earth will still be shared by stubborn religionists, but the fresh waters of the Word will not come from Heaven except by the true exegeses of Elijah’, and holy Prophet Moses walks with him. Nations that resist them will be set rendered recompense during the Apocalypse, and during the Great Sabbath they will receive no rain if they do not keep the international feast that honors the restoration and gathering unto Messiah.
Cherished teachings of a coming Sabbath millennium of Christ became subtly rejected until ultimately despised, as evident via The Nicene Creed and The Athanasian Creed. The Second Council of Constantinople rejected the millennium c. 381 AD. Later, at the Council of Ephesus c. 410 AD, Catholics condemned the original Hebrew faith of the first centuries of Christianity, branding it superstitious. Pagan Roman emperors were no longer of the antichrist spirit, but became state leaders of a growing faith, at least after the Edict of Milan was signed by Emperor Constantine c. 313 AD. Bishops and critics who opposed what was happening to Scripture-based Christianity were quickly and intolerantly deemed heretics and Judaizers, even removed from their basilicas and replaced. Their bishoprics were supplanted by cherry-picking biblical theologians in compliance with the new eschatology of the glorious age of Catholicism. The original Ekklesia or “called-out assembly” of Bible-believers, as strangers and sojourners on Earth who faithfully awaited the glorious Kingdom of God, began to reign over the Roman world. Gentile scholars and errant priests became drunk on their new power to the point of senseless blasphemy, to the extremities that Eusebius c. 270-340 AD) counted the future banquet of Messiah fulfilled via their feasting with Emperor Constantine, whom they call “The Great” to this day. All prophecies were subjected to the erring priesthood’s reinterpretation for the federation of parish churches, but the liberty of interpretation did not extend to those who faithfully awaited the restoration of Israel and the reign of Messiah.
To this day a myth is repeated that the spread of the faith was saved by the merger of pagan Rome and straying Christianity. This discounts how greatly the faith had previously spread despite a plethora of Roman persecutions. So they still resist truths and twist Scriptures in rejection of the coming reign of Christ. Many still dishonor the Jewish roots of the faith for a religion. Still they praise the ancient Roman world, though several of their emperors blamed all sorts of trouble to Rome on Christians and murdered en mass. They still bow before idols of saints crafted by human hands. We may never truly know how much the Ekklesia could have grown had it stayed at odds with pagan religions and the beastly empire, but we can be sure that its history would be more honorable today had it remained humble and stayed true to the Word of God. And there could have been a kinship between Christian and Jew, possibly even a bond of fellowship. Indeed, much of the resentment for the faith is rooted in the Dark Ages of a violent Catholic Church. Yet still they choose religion over truths.
Some Catholic theologians amazingly brag that the “Catholic Church never changes,” although it did through the centuries, for the worse. It still changes today with the priesthood coddling to homosexual activists and Marxist ideology. It changed because it once ruled over Western nations, whereas now popes appease before the U.N. as their worldly masters. The only thing they have not changed in is distortion of the faith. They have never cleansed their house, for to do so would be a further loss of power when their devout masses realized how fallible they have always been as mere religious men. And if anyone thinks that I am being too harsh on fellow Christians, let them first learn the good and evil history of the Catholic Church, as well as Bible so that they will discern how many practices of their religion conflict with the will and commandments of God.
Whereas Eusebius embraced the new amillennial doctrine for the glory of dining with the emperor, Augustine embraced it, with a post-millennial Apocalypse, because banqueting with Christ on Earth was too carnal of an event for his mind to permit, saying, “This opinion [future millennium of Christ at Jerusalem] might be allowed, if it proposed only spiritual delight unto the saints during this space (and we were once of the same opinion ourselves); but seeing the avouchers thereof affirm that the saints after this resurrection shall do nothing but revel in fleshly banquets, where the cheer shall exceed both modesty and measure, this is gross and fit for none but carnal men to believe. But they that are really and truly spiritual do call those of this opinion Chiliasts [1000ers].” In other words, believers cannot “live and reign with Christ for a thousand years” because none of us can be carnally trusted but to partake in vain pleasures, even with Messiah leading the elect nation; so the great day must therefore be spiritual. Donatists ruined the idea for him, so Augustine concluded that Church theologians could not allow the cherished beliefs of Jewish apostles’ to prevail. Chiliast became a dirty word for Christians who were awaiting the messianic Kingdom, when Christ would come in the flesh and usher in the Day of the Lord.
Although unwarranted, the early philosophers apparently thought it was a menial thing that Catholic rhetoric might distort apostolic traditions and the scriptural beliefs that they had received from faithful Hebrews. As Jerome, another millennium-denier, said of Augustine, he “established anew the ancient faith,” but “anew” does not necessarily mean restored when straying philosophers take it upon themselves to trespass upon prophetic Scriptures that they either never truly comprehended or simply rejected for their own lofty ideas. Nevertheless, Augustine and other early philosophers were indeed saints in comparison to many of the theologians and bishops and popes who came after them, for once the coming Kingdom of God was denied, the gates of Hell were opened for various diabolical practices and doctrinal distortions to creep in, which I cannot here stray into the historical details thereof. The ancient faith needed not to be “established anew,” for it was established by God, and the new things that they brought in only led it into a world of darkness.
The claim for a Christian hierarchy, with the pope being head of the Catholic Church, which they consider the Church, is primarily based on their Primacy of Peter doctrine which asserts that the commissioned, leading apostle passed down his earthly mantle of authority over “spiritual Israel” to his papal successors. Although there are no scriptural mentions of this mystical mantle being passed down from Peter, they, from Linus onward, supposedly carried it through history, along with the famous Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. The Universal Church, placing greater emphasis on Living Magisterium, extra-biblical liturgical practices, and influences of pagan philosophical sources’ than Scriptures, became an earthly throne for God’s judgments, issuing bold decrees to structuralize spiritual Israel. Indeed there were times when their extolled Roman bishops reigned as totalitarian kings in the kingdom-now ages of Christendom. And thus the first centuries of Catholicism brought a claim of equal authority with Divine Scriptures, which allowed them to produce several volumes of haughty literature on their replacement of the Jewish people and nation.
The seat of Roman emperors moved with Constantine from Rome to keep security in Constantinople (eastern empire), and the popes were left after warring successors sitting as the new Pontifex Maximus of the West- an official Christian empire. Progressively they gave their papal ideas and developing traditions higher authority than Scriptures, allowing for this since the Roman hierarchy claims to be the scriptural Wife of Christ. From there the heights of papal grandeur ascended through the centuries beyond all reasonable expectations of sensible authority, to the point that a claim of papal infallibility (on morals and biblical doctrines) was popularized by evil Innocent III. Only the popes and their agreeing cardinals could perfectly interpret the mysteries of Scripture- the “dead letter” (as some of them called it) that served them well as a license to tyranny. How many Catholic popes have been saints throughout the long duration of Christian history, God only knows and will judge, but the historical record left us reveals that in the corporeal realm they often ruled quite madly, and the totalitarianism of the Church often rivaled the cruelest of secular dictators and pagan warmongers.
Augustine’s published work, Tract against the Jews, along with an onslaught of anti-Jewish works from the fathers of the Roman Church and other parish bishops, coaxed the majority of early Christianity away from its original Hebrew roots, and in doing so they have long-since distorted the plainest prophecies of both Revelation and its supporting network of apocalyptic literature in the Old Testament (Hebrew Tanakh and Greek Septuagint). Primarily since Augustine’s time, all future glories coming to Israel were transferred to the Catholic Church as a wholly and separately chosen people of God, and most of the prophetic holy days of Scripture, which were only partially understood by them, became despised and forgotten, even forbidden at times- all but Shuvuot (Pentecost) and Pesach, which in appeasement to the pagan culture became known as “Easter.” The prophetic judgments of Divine Scripture were left to the accursed Jews of natural Israel, but all future glories and promises were transferred to the Catholic Church. (See Hippolytus, Expository Treatise Against the Jews; Tertullian, An Answer to the Jews; Cyprian, Three Books of Testimonies Against the Jews; et al. for more early works against Jews, the holy days, and Rabbinical Judaism.)
For all the good done by the Catholic Church and their millions of martyrs at the hands of Muslim hordes, this departure from the Jewish roots of the faith was indeed a darkening of scriptural truths. This was when truths fell from the assemblies of Christianity, for within the holy days of Torah are Divine keys that unlock all the doors for a prophetic understanding of the coming messianic Kingdom. Without understanding Torah (Pentateuch in Greek), with the moedim (appointed times to meet with God), only distorted doctrines can be constructed. This is why complete confusion of Scriptures, leading to tens of thousands of denominations, has long plagued divided Christianity. Genesis, Revelation, and other books concerning end-times have been severely misinterpreted at best, abandoned by many, and this in turn has left the Christian faith with a complete lack of clarity on ancient biblical truths, which is needed for spiritual unity of the faith. Thus, even when we see pontiffs (John Paul, Benedict, Francis) acknowledge our Jewish roots, we cannot forget that historical actions speak much louder than kind words, and returning to the ancient truths of Moses and the prophets’ is far from papal minds. Thus, it divides the hearts of those who want to honor such an ancient Church of the faith, yet just as Scriptures called most of the kings of Judah and Israel evil, and their sins against God could not be whitewashed, so too must we realistically review Church history.
After the forced unity of Christianity in the Catholic Church was broken-up during Europe’s turbulent Protestant Reformation, there emerged daughter churches that retained many faulty traditions and beliefs of Catholicism. They never returned to Sabbath worship or surrendered pagan influences, and repenting to the early apostolic faith and doctrines sadly never came about. The writings of Paul, who sought to show truths from witnessing shadows of the Law to substantive truths in Christ- battling legalistic restrictions that some Jewish Christians placed on Gentiles, who were not called under the agricultural covenant of national Israel- were handily distorted by Protestants to stigmatize the entire Torah as irrelevant and even evil if practiced. Thus the treasures of ancient truths remained lost, but characteristics from the mother church are still perceivable centuries later in her daughter churches.
Much has been lost by Christianity so quickly abandoning the nation of Christ and not learning of the holy feasts that Israelites were commanded to keep. The Gentiles have Jesus, whom Jews collectively deny, but how many of the great scriptural mysteries have Christians misunderstand via their creating new traditions without understanding the original oracles and fundamentals within Jewish culture? In fact, a ban on Jewish biblical interpretations was sent throughout the Roman Empire, where the rabbis were forbidden to teach on the Scriptures in their synagogues. They were allowed to read them, as per the edict of Emperor Justinian, but they could not interpret them to the masses with support from traditions. To assure this, the empire dispatched officials to attend each synagogue and monitor their compliance:
The Holy Scripture may be read in synagogue- the rabbis shall not be allowed to corrupt the Hebrew text. We strictly forbid these rabbinic interpretations. This is our will to be observed by officials who shall subject those who dare resist it or hinder it in any way to corporeal punishment first [violent acts], then force them to live in exile and confiscate their property, so they may not act disrespectfully against God and the Emperor. – Byzantine Edict of 553 AD; intrpl. mine
Zeal for the Scriptures and God is good, but how often has zeal been misplaced to organize ignorance and excuse hate- to cover undue fears? The understanding Bible student is correctible, teachable, and is subject first to God and His Spirit for true understanding. He or she places little faith in an institutional religion or traditions when they lack the validation of inspiration and clearly trespass on the Word. We test all claims alongside the Word of God and welcome that which brings enlightenment, but we must be allowed to hear them in order to make those distinctions. Censorship of biblical ideas is detrimental to all believers since it is done under the premise that the one censoring party possesses all truths and others cannot be trusted to come to truths for themselves. A smart move would have been to set aside the fact that rabbis did not perceive Yeshua HaMashiach in Scriptures, for they yet had many great things to teach, which could have helped Christians comprehend much of their roots.
How much could the world have been a better place for near two millenniums had the two faiths learned together for better understanding of the Scriptures, rather than both suffer the results of religious pride and misplaced zeal, leaving the ancient world in a bloodbath? Truth prevails on His own merit if men and women are given to reason and study rather than building walls. Christians were purblind to the Kingdom and Jews to the King, and each took their versions of the Book to go their separate ways, never trusting anything the other one had to say. Little did they know that it would take both to unveil the Great Mystery of God.
Twice a year rabbis were allowed to give sermons, which were the Sabbath before Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) and the Sabbath before Passover (Pesach). And since the rabbis took advantage of these special occasions to legally teach long sermons- of course on non-controversial matters, such as the number of glasses for the Passover Seder- the Great Sabbath that the ancients awaited was mostly forgotten and modified for one that became known as the Great Sabbath (Shabbat Hagadol) for the extra-long Sabbath services. And since the Jewish teachers were monitored and could not be fervent in any of their disagreements, the rabbis would say, “Till Elijah comes,” meaning he would come to resolve them. This was a saying even over the issue of how many glasses of wine were to be placed on the Seder table, and the phrase was carried down through the ages.