Thursday, March 18, 2021

Church History, Part 8: Rome's Truce with the Church by Steve Gregg


The final Imperial persecution under Diocletian.

After 43 years of respite from the persecutions under the Emperors Decius (249-251) and Valerian (253-260), the church came under its final attack from the Imperial power. Diocletian, at the end of a long and effective reign, strangely ordered the arrest of all bishops and the destruction of all of Christianity’s sacred books and places of worship in 303.

The heroism of the martyrs began to have its effect upon public sentiment. The citizens of Rome became repulsed by the bloodshed and criticized the government’s injustice and cruelty. Some even risked their lives to hide and protect the persecuted.

Persecution was most brutal in the eastern part of the empire. Maximian, Diocletian’s counterpart in the West carried out the persecution edict with force, though Maximian’s subordinate ruler Constantius, ruling in Britain, Gaul and Spain refused to execute anyone on religious grounds.

Diocletian abdicated the throne for private life in 305. Before doing so, he had divided the empire into two great districts, East and West. Each ruled by an Augustus, assisted by a subordinate called a Caesar. By prior agreement, the two Augusti would retire at a designated date, leaving their rule to the two Caesars.

The illegitimate son of Constantius (by a legal concubine Helena), Flavius Valerius Constantinus (Constantine), was born around 272 or 274. Upon becoming ruler, Constantius had been forced by Diocletian to put away Helena and marry Theodora, stepdaughter of Maximian. Constantine remained devoted to his mother, who became a Christian after having been divorced.

Upon Constantius’ death, his soldiers, being loyal to him, acclaimed Constantine his successor in the office of Augustus (in place of Severus). Galerius was too far away to oppose this breach of succession.

Maxentius (son of Maximian), killed Severus and entrenched himself in Rome, demanding that he be recognized as his father’s successor. Galerius did not recognize Maxentius, and appointed Licinius to succeed the dead Severus. Maximian came out of retirement to attempt to reclaim his former title.

To gain supremacy, in 312, Constantine marched against Maxentius in Rome, descending upon Rome from Gaul (France). Though formerly a worshiper of Helios, the sun god, Constantine declared himself converted to Christianity just before attacking Rome. He claimed that he saw a vision of a flaming cross with the word “In this sign conquer.” He also had a dream telling him to put the chi-rho emblem on all his shields.

Maxentius came against Constantine and he and thousands of his troops were defeated on the Mulvian bridge and drowned in the Tiber River. Constantine granted Maximian the courtesy of suicide. Thus Constantine entered Rome as the undisputed ruler of the West. Constantine later moved the capital of the empire to Byzantium, renaming it Constantinople (modern Istanbul).

The wife of Emperor Galerius urged him to make peace with the undefeated God of the Christians. In 311, Galerius issued an edict of toleration, making Christianity legal. In 313, Constantine and Licinius met in Milan and issued the “Edict of Milan,” confirming Galerius’ previous policy of toleration.

Licinius later reneged, and reinstituted persecution in the East–but Constantine became sole ruler in 324, bringing universal toleration. (90 years later, Emperor Theodosius made Christianity official religion and persecuted paganism in 392).

Constantine introduced the following changes:

Restoration of properties confiscated by Diocletian

Rebuilt many of the churches Diocletian had destroyed

Gave money to needy congregations

Granted tax exemption for church property

Granted military exemption for clergy

Gave bishops the authority as judges in their dioceses

At his mother’s (Queen Helena) encouragement, he built the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem.

In 325, called the ecumenical council at Nicea (NW Asia Minor) to settle the Arian controversy.

Revoked religious liberty for heretical sects and destroyed their meeting places


“There is no greater drama in human record than the sight of a few Christians, scorned or oppressed by a succession of emperors, bearing all trials with fierce tenacity, multiplying quietly, building order while their enemies generated chaos, fighting the sword with the Word, brutality with hope, and at last defeating the strongest state that history has known. Caesar and Christ had met in the arena, and Christ had won!”

Negatively, Constantine. . .

Did not get baptized until on his deathbed. Only gradually replaced pagan practices with Christian ones. Made the first day of the week a holiday, called “the venerable day of the Sun” (Sunday). Made December 25th (formerly associated with the festival of the Sun) the official birthday of Christ. Dedicated Constantinople using both Christian and pagan rites. Did not remove pagan images from coins until 317. He restored pagan temples as well as Christian places of worship. Executed his son, his nephew and his second wife (for reasons not clear.)

Enduring consequences of Constantine’s conversion:

1. Fashionableness of Christianity among unregenerate pagans who were baptized.

2. Blurring of distinction between Christianity and paganism: the paganization of the church

3. Blurring of distinction between church and state: the regulation of the church by government

Orthodoxy enforced by state law.

Athanasius would later ask: “When did a judgment of the church receive its validity from the emperor?”

Hosius of Cordova criticized Constantine’s son Constantius, saying:

“Do not intrude yourself into church matters, nor give commands to us concerning them...God has put into your hands the kingdom; to us he has entrusted the affairs of his church...It is written, ‘Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s.’”

4. God’s sanction invoked upon warfare: the secularization of the church’s mission

5. Political power of bishops strengthened: the politicizing of the church

Monday, March 15, 2021

When Shall These Things Be? (Eschatology) Part 3: The Millenium as the Fulfillment of Israel’s Hope


3) The Millennium – (from lecture #3)

a) Very definitive in determining your whole outlook on eschatology.

i) Influences your outlook on end times and the times we live in.

ii) How will promises of God to Israel be realized?

(1) Genesis 12:1-3 Abraham is promised to be father of many nations and will be blessed.

(a) Through his seed, all nations of the world will be blessed.

(b) Down through the generations we see how God selected the lineage of Jesus.

(c) Promises began to be fulfilled through nation of Israel

(d) God sent judges, prophets, and kings speaking of God’s ultimate purposes.

(e) Through prophets we have passages of the glorious kingdom.

(i) Ruled by Messiah

(ii) Kingdom of peace

(f) In all these prophesies, Israel played a significant role.

(i) Restoration of people to the land God gave them

(ii) Return from exile (Most were written during the Babylonian exile)

(iii) Restoration of the temple, worship, sacrificial system, etc.

(iv) 4 Great Kingdom Age Psalms

1. Psalm 2 – Messianic Psalm

2. Psalm 45 – Wedding Psalm

3. Psalm 72 – Dominion Psalm

4. Psalm 110 – Messiah at right hand of God

(g) Almost all prophets also speak about this age

iii) Look at word “Millennium”

(1) Revelation 20 is only place where we find this idea of 1000 years.

(2) None of the OT passages speak of an actual 1000 years. They speak of a Kingdom Age.

(a) Almost always speak of it as being forever.

(b) Rev 20 is picture of saints reigning with Christ 1000 years.

(c) 1000 years in Rev 20 often identified with and applied to these Kingdom Age

passages in OT (rightfully so). Speaking of same age, using that term.

(i) True of both A-mils and Pre-mils, and mostly the Post-mils as well.

(3) Two principle poles on this passage

(a) Pre-millennialists

(i) Believe Messiah will return in 2nd coming and set up this Kingdom in Jerusalem.

This is a literal, political kingdom.

(ii) Believe there’s no way this kingdom age can happen with mankind the way it is.

It must be done forcefully by Jesus himself with rod of iron.

(iii) Not everyone will be a Christian at that time, but will be forced to live and obey

under this worldwide theocracy.

(iv) Believers will enjoy glorified status reigning with Christ.

(v) Satan will be loosed at the end of the 1000 years to decieve the nations before

he’s done away with with fire from heaven.

(vi) All people from all nations will make annual pilgrimages to Jerusalem.

(vii)This fulfills God’s promises to Israel.

(b) Amillennialists

(i) No literal 1000 years, but symbolic of long, undetermined duration.

(ii) Represents the time between 1st coming and 2nd coming, church age.

(iii) Binding of Satan represents Christ’s victory over Satan at the cross

1. Renders him incapable of resistance.

(iv) Rev 20:9 Fire from heaven represents actual 2nd coming.

(v) Believes OT Kingdom passages apply to the whole church age.

1. Must take many of these passages in non-literal sense.

a. Example: Isaiah 2:2-4

Isa 2:2-4

2 Now it shall come to pass in the latter days

That the mountain of the LORD's house

Shall be established on the top of the mountains,

And shall be exalted above the hills;

And all nations shall flow to it.

3 Many people shall come and say,

"Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,

To the house of the God of Jacob;

He will teach us His ways,

And we shall walk in His paths."

For out of Zion shall go forth the law,

And the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

4 He shall judge between the nations,

And rebuke many people;

They shall beat their swords into plowshares,

And their spears into pruning hooks;

Nation shall not lift up sword against nation,

Neither shall they learn war anymore.


b. Pre-mils take this passage literally

i. Zion and Jerusalem interchangeable

ii. All nations flow into it

c. A-mils take this to be the age of the church, (can’t take this literally)

i. We don’t make pilgrimages,

ii. There isn’t an end to all war, etc.

iii. Mount Zion is not the highest of all hills

d. Recognized symbols here:

i. Zion and Jerusalem are frequently used in NT to refer to the

church. (spiritual city).

ii. Jesus refers to disciples as a “city on a hill”

Matt 5:14

14 "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.


iii. Paul says “heavenly Jerusalem” (the church) is our mother

Gal 4:22-26

23 But he who was of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and he of the freewoman through promise, 24 which things are symbolic. For these are the two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar-- 25 for this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children-- 26 but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all.


iv. Writer of Hebrews says:

Heb 12:21-24

22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, 23 to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, 24 to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel. NKJV

v. People from “All nations” (gentiles) have been coming into church (spiritual Israel) and learning all that Christ commands for thousands of years.

vi. “Mountain of Lord’s House”? Mountains are often used as symbols for governments in OT. This simply means that the authority of God’s kingdom is greater than the authority of all other kingdoms.

vii. “Lord House”? The church is the house of the Lord.

1 Peter 2:5

5 you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. NKJV


1 Tim 3:15-16

I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. NKJV

viii. “beating swords into plow shares” and “they shall not learn of war anymore”? Believers, put away their hostilities toward one another based on national and ethnic interests. They’re now concentrating on agriculture (spiritually), sowing the seeds of the gospel.

ix. If we’re to take this passage literally, Mt Zion has to be put on top of all the other mountains of the world, nations are going to have to take their weapons (swords and spears) and turn them into farming implements (plow shares and pruning hooks).

2. Compelled to this view by what NT writers say on this subject.

(vi) Believes that the promises of God to Israel are fulfilled in the church (Spiritual Israel).

1. He established the promised Kingdom. Not political kingdom, but Spiritual Kingdom.

2. Although He’s referred to as a King, Jesus is not a political King, but His kingdom is not of this world.

John 18:36

36 Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place." NIV

3. Not stealing promises from Israel, but sees Jew and Gentile in one fold and promises being fulfilled in this one entity, the church.

a. Misunderstanding of what God considers “Israel”

b. Example: John the baptist tells the Pharisees:

Matt 3:9

9 And do not think you can say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. NIV

i. Something (or presumably someone) that has no physical lineage to Abraham can be a child of Abraham. God is able to do it.

c. Also: Jesus said to Pharisees.

John 8:39-41

"If you were Abraham's children," said Jesus, "then you would do the things Abraham did. 40 As it is, you are determined to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. NIV

i. Jesus saying you must have the faith of Abraham to claim him as your ancestor.

d. Also: Paul says Jew is not a Jew outwardly, but inwardly.

Rom 2:28-29

28 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; 29 but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God. NKJV

e. Also: Paul talks about fulfillment of promises which seem to remain unfulfilled. He counters that by saying:

Rom 9:1-7

9:1 I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, 2 that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh, 4 who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises; 5 of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen.

6 But it is not that the word of God has taken no effect. For they are not all Israel who are of Israel, 7 nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham; NKJV

f. Also: Jesus consoles a persecuted church of Smyrna in Rev 2:9.

Rev 2:9-10

9 "I know your works, tribulation, and poverty (but you are rich); and I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. NKJV

g. Also: Jesus tells church of Philidelphia that the Jews will know that He loves them.

Rev 3:9

9 Indeed I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, but lie--indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you. NKJV

h. Also: Not only is a Jew not always a Jew, but sometimes a Gentile is a Jew. Jesus says:

John 10:16

16 And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd. NKJV

i. Not two flocks (type of people), but one.

i. Also: Paul says (quoting OT passages)

Rom 9:23-27

23 and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory, 24 even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles? 25 As He says also in


"I will call them My people, who were not My people,

And her beloved, who was not beloved."

26 "And it shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them, 'You are not My people, 'There they shall be called sons of the living God."

27 Isaiah also cries out concerning Israel: "Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, The remnant will be saved. NKJV

j. Also: Peter expresses to the church:

1 Peter 2:9-10

9 But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy. NKJV

i. All those terms are used of Israel in the OT.

ii. Even the word church (Ekklessia – called out ones) is used of the faithful remnant, the congregation, in the Septuagint.

k. Paul says to Galatians:

Gal 3:16

16 Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, "And to seeds," as of many, but as of one, "And to your Seed," who is Christ. NKJV


Gal 3:29

29 And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs

according to the promise. NKJV

i. This would seem to settle the matter of who Israel is.

ii. What other interpretation can we have of this passage?

l. God has always favored and saved people by faith, not by ethnicity or geneology (see Hebrews 11).

i. If you have faith, you’re a Christian, not a Jew or Gentile. And if you’re a Christian, you are part of the church (called out ones)

4. Not “replacement” theology, but “fulfillment” theology.

a. In a sense, “replacement” is true. Jesus proclaimed it in the parable of the vinedressers:

Matt 21:43

43 "Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it. NKJV

b. However, God didn’t take it from one ethnic group and give it to another ethnic group, he gave it to a spiritual nation, the church. It’s not the “gentile” church, it’s just the church, Jews and Gentiles both.

i. Even in OT, only the faithful Jews were saved. (see Romans 9).

ii. In every generation, some were chosen, some were not, even though they had ethnic qualifications.

iii. God told Elijah, there was a remnant preserved.

c. Jews didn’t have a better track record of being faithful to God, only more chances.

i. Disobedient to God for the majority of their history.

d. Only the ones that were obedient have right to claim His promises.

Ps 50:5

5 "Gather My saints together to Me,

Those who have made a covenant with Me by sacrifice." …


16 But to the wicked God says:

"What right have you to declare My statutes,

Or take My covenant in your mouth,

17 Seeing you hate instruction

And cast My words behind you? NKJV

i. He’s talking to Jews here, those who take God’s covenant in their mouth, not Gentiles.

e. The remnant was in reality who the whole nation was supposed to be in theory. The remnant were the only one’s who were ever really God’s people.

5. Remnant of Jesus’ day

a. Born into house of Joseph and Mary (both faithful)

b. John the Baptists’ family

c. Old man Simeon in the temple and Anna looking for the redemption of Israel.

d. Disciples of John the baptist (that became disciples of Jesus)

6. Gentiles that came into the church were not a separate people, but now a part of the faithful remnant of Israel.

Eph 2:19-22

19 Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. NKJV

7. There were some Gentiles saved in OT

a. Ruth the Moabitess

b. Rahab of Jericho

c. Some foreign slaves

8. In NT it was mostly Jews, a trickle of Gentiles, then a flood of Gentiles, but the entity of the remnant (the church) never changed.

a. Just as prophets predicted in OT.

b. Abraham has become the father of many nations.

Gal 3:7-9

7 Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham. 8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, "In you all the nations shall be blessed." 9 So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham. NKJV

c. If OT was left alone, we might conclude that the nation of Israel was to be the beneficiary of these promises, but fortunately we have the inspired NT writers (Jesus, Paul, Peter, etc.) to interpret those promises for us.

9. Ryrie says in his book “dispensationalism today”: “New revelation can’t mean contradictory revelation, later revelation on a subject does not make earlier revelation something different...”

a. Claims that applying promises to Israel to the church would be contradictory.

b. However, God just revealed in the NT what the kingdom of God really is.

Rom 14:17

17 for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. NKJV

i. Spiritual peace and righteouness, not political.

c. Natural man cannot discern the things of God, they must be spiritually discerned.

1 Cor 2:14

14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. NKJV

i. Jews without Holy Spirit could not understand what God was saying at the time. So God gave it to them in terms they could understand.

ii. When Holy Spirit came, man could then perceive spiritual things

and therefore was taught in that manner. Just like Jesus telling his

disciples that John the Baptist was Elijah if they could receive it.

d. It’s not God’s fault that the Jews could not grasp the spiritual concept.

2 Cor 3:14-15

14 But their minds were blinded. For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament, because the veil is taken away in Christ. 15 But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart. NKJV

e. Jesus said the kingdom does not come with observation.

Luke 17:20-21

20 Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, "The kingdom of God does not come with observation; 21 nor will they say, 'See here!' or 'See there!' For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you." NKJV

f. The kingdom is different than the Jews thought because they still have a veil over their heart (as Paul says).

1 Peter 1:10-12

10 Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, 11 searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. 12 To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven--things which angels desire to look into.NKJV

i. Prophets themselves (let alone their listeners) didn’t quite understand what they were predicting.

ii. They predicted what we are now experiencing.

iii. Only passages in OT about salvation are these kingdom passages.

iv. Peter understood the glorious kingdom to be now, the church.

v. May not look glorious outwardly, but it’s an inward, spiritual kingdom.

g. Peter, in Acts, describing “these days”.

Acts 3:24-26

24 Yes, and all the prophets, from Samuel and those who follow, as many as have spoken, have also foretold these days. 25 You are sons of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying to Abraham, 'And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.' NKJV

i. Not a future millennium, he says “these days”

ii. Jesus was said to open the understanding of the Apostles so they would understand the scriptures

Luke 24:44-45

44 Then He said to them, "These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me." 45 And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures. NKJV

iii. OT were only scriptures at that time.