The World Tomorrow

Early Church Doctrine - Part 2

by Herbert W Armstrong


Well greetings friends. This is Herbert W Armstrong with the Good News of the World Tomorrow.

Yesterday I thought that I had completed all that was essential in the astonishing, eye-opening revelations straight from authentic history of what actually happened to the religion of Christianity during the first fifty, and the first two hundred years after Christ. Showing how the professing Christians became divided into many sects and denominations, and how they began, as prophesied in the Bible, turning away from the truth, from the true gospel, that Christ had taught. From the actual pure faith once delivered unto the saints, the beliefs and the customs of the original Church which Jesus Christ had built. And how they began to turn to pagan doctrines, pagan customs, and as the Bible had prophesied, to fables.

Now I know it's almost impossible to believe today, or to realize at all, that what we have grown up from childhood just accepting as true Christianity, the true Christianity of Christ, and the apostles, of Paul and the early Gentile converts, is actually in many, many cases the very antithesis of that. The exact diametric opposite. That's almost impossible to believe. That's rather shocking, yes, I know, it certainly was to me when I first heard it. And yet, my friends, this exact condition was foretold in all the prophecies that bear on this subject at all. And it is recorded once for all in authentic history. And there it is, the record exactly as it happened.

But after I went off the air in the preceding program; and once again was looking ahead into the following few pages of this authentic history that I'd been reading to you which is Gibbon's Rome, 'The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire', {1} the most authentic history of the time. I began to realize that much of the very most important occurrences of the actual history of this apostasy from the pure truth yet remains to be revealed to you. And so I'm going right back, I want to pick up the rest of it in this particular program before we get away from it.

Now remember we've seen how the Church, at the very first, for the first eleven years, was entirely made up of Jewish-born Christians. I think a lot of people today don't realize that. But it was more than ten years after the Church had started before Peter was sent for the first sermon to the Gentiles, and it was after that the apostle Paul's ministry to the Gentiles began. Even the apostle Paul went first to the little Jewish colonies in the various Gentile cities that he visited. And the Churches raised up through the apostle Paul started out Jewish Churches.

It was only after the Jewish leaders in those cities that turned against Christ and against Paul, as they very soon did after he began to preach, that then Paul turned to the Gentiles in those cities. Of course from that time on in every church, although it had been founded and started among Jewish-born converts, but from that time on, the number of Gentile-born converts increased. Until finally, of course, there were, in most cases, more Gentile-born Christians than Jewish in these various Churches, that were raised up by the apostle Paul.

But we've seen that a jealousy sprang up between the members in the Churches of Jewish and Gentile birth, and the Gentiles became very jealous and prejudiced against anything at all that the Jewish people did. And they began to call some of those original truths and customs that Jesus had brought, that Paul had even taught the Gentiles to begin to practice and to believe. They began to spit out and call them, 'Jewish', and they didn't want any more of it. Now I read that to you from the book of Romans, of that jealousy. What the apostle Paul himself wrote under inspiration, and also from Gibbons history. And I read to you even from this carefully documented history, 'Gibbon's Rome,' how Christianity, in its original purity led by the Holy Spirit, was:

"...armed with the strength of the Mosaic law [as Gibbon worded it, but] delivered from...its fetters." (Gibbon's: 'The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire', Volume II, Chapter XV: Progress of the Christian Religion, {2})

Now in other words the animal sacrifices under the Old Testament had been a substitute for Christ. The rituals, the meat and drink offerings, the washings, the carnal ordinances, physical duties, were given to the Old Testament Israelites to teach them the habit of obedience. And they were merely a substitute for the Holy Spirit.

But now Christ's sacrifice had been made once and for all. And the Holy Spirit had come with them, dwelling in the minds and hearts of believers. People back under the Old Testament, the people of Israel, in those days from Moses until Christ, did not have the Holy Spirit. They were never offered salvation. They were never given the gospel to go out and proclaim to the world. They had nothing to do with the rest of the world.

They merely had a ritualistic religion. And it consisted of animal sacrifices, meat and drink offerings, carnal ordinances, physical duties. And the, well the job of the ministers was not so much to preach; the job of the ministry in those days, the Levites, was to take care of all these physical duties, and take care of these things for the other people.

Now they were substitutes, and the substitutes were replaced by Christ and the Holy Spirit, they were gone. But the strength of the Mosaic Law remains. And the early pure Church embraced it, believe it or not, my friends, contrary to so much of what is commonly assumed today. And you can find it in your New Testament in your Bible, and the actual record of history. And the apostle Paul taught many of these things, even to the Gentile converts, believe it or not.

Now next we saw how, in the Roman world, and remember of course, that the pagan Roman Empire dominated in the time of Christ, and even for hundreds of years after; that in that time the pagan religious customs and beliefs, were so interwoven with all business, and legal, and government duties, duties that were imposed on all citizens, including Christians, that unless they wanted to face martyrdom, the Christians were practically forced to participate in many pagan customs and beliefs.

Of course they were severely brought to task for it by the preachers of the true Christian Churches in those days. But nevertheless most of them began to get into the habit of doing it. It was very severe pressure brought by custom and by, actually, the government, which was pagan in those early days, to force the Christians to adopt pagan customs and ways. And I showed you how it was just intertwined and interwoven with business and with duties that were imposed on all citizens.

Addition to Previous Broadcast (PLAY FROM 07:42)

Alright now let's proceed from there. Now here's something that I had overlooked however back on page 390 first, {3} this is volume one {4} of Gibbon's history of Rome; 'The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.' and this is on page 390. Now he mentions here that:

"...the spiritual authority of the prevailing party was exercised with increasing severity [the prevailing party usually carried the top authority as the Church was developing in those very early years, now the leading party about this time seems to have been the Gnostics, and Gibbons says here on page 390, the middle of the page]...The Gnostics were distinguished as the most polite, the most learned, and the most wealthy of the Christians, [and let's see, here's another little excerpt]...They were almost without exception of the race of the Gentiles [of course they were prejudiced against the Jews, of course]...The Gnostics blended with the faith of Christ..." (Gibbon's: 'The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire' Volume II, Chapter XV, Progress of the Christian Religion)

Notice what they did now. They got a mixture of truth from Christ and pagan error. You know that's what Adam and Eve took in the Garden of Eden, a mixture; the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. You know what we need to do, and what Christianity teaches, my friends, is separation between good and evil; and to get rid of the evil and accept the good. The Bible doesn't tell you to get rid of any of the good in human nature, just the evil. But what we need to replace that evil with is, is all of the good from God and from His Holy Spirit.

And the Christian, my friends, is the one who is constantly making a difference between the holy and the profane.You find much in the Bible of how God scorns the people, or scolds them rather, for putting no difference between the holy and the profane, and between truth and error, and that sort of thing. Now a real Christian will do that; he'll come out from among the people of the world and from their ideas and doctrines and customs, and be separate. Christianity is a religion of separation. It's separation from the world, separation from error, and accepting the truth. Now the Gnostics didn't do that. Here's one of those early sects back here within the first two hundred years after Christ. Listen, from Gibbon's history:

"The Gnostics blended with the faith of Christ many sublime but obscure tenets [or teachings, beliefs] which they derived from oriental philosophy [and certainly we call oriental religions heathen, I suppose they call ours heathen too, so when I say heathen I don't mean any disrespect to the people, because God loves all people regardless. Nevertheless, the Gnostics blended with the faith of Christ many of these tenets, or beliefs, of the Orientals], and even from the religion of Zoroaster, concerning the eternity of matter, the existence of two principles, and the mysterious hierarchy of the invisible world." (Gibbon's: 'The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire', Volume II, Chapter XV, Progress of the Christian Religion)

Getting into the spirit world which has to do with - well, such things as people have come to believe about heaven and hell, and purgatory, and things of that sort. And, my friends, strange as it may seem, believe it or not, most modern beliefs have come from such sources, not from Christ, not from the apostles, not from the Bible. Now Gibbons says a little further here:

"...the Gnostics were imperceptibly divided into more than fifty particular sects..." (Gibbon's: 'The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire', Volume II, Chapter XV, Progress of the Christian Religion)

Now the Gnostics were only one division of the professing Christians. Christianity was divided in many different divisions, major divisions, and one of the major divisions was the Gnostics; and the Gnostics, themselves, were divided into more than fifty sects, or denominations. Did you know that Christianity got all divided up like that in the early years? Well it did. That's another thing that not many of us have understood at all. Now:

"Each of these sects could boast of its bishops and its congregations, of its doctors and of its martyrs [every one of them]..." (Gibbon's: 'The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire', Volume II, Chapter XV, Progress of the Christian Religion)

The Second Coming of Christ and the Millennium (PLAY FROM 12:17)

Alright now let's go on from where we were yesterday. I think we'd gotten over here to about page 397 {5}:

"In the primitive church [I think I did read this portion, but I want to refresh your mind of it:] In the primitive church...It was universally believed that the end of the world and the kingdom of [God] were at hand. The near approach of this wonderful event had been predicted by the apostles; the tradition of it was preserved by their earliest disciples, and those who understood...the discourses of Christ Himself were obliged to expect the second and [the] glorious coming of the Son of Man in the clouds..." (Gibbon's: 'The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire', Volume II, Chapter XV, Progress of the Christian Religion)

Now my friends do you realize that the doctrine of the Second Coming of Christ got lost? And of the Kingdom of God to reign on the earth, got lost and mixed up somewhere, until just a little over one hundred years ago. And do you know that of the various divisions of Christianity today a very few of them proclaim it?

And believe it or not, in preaching that which was the very doctrine of Jesus, which was the very teaching of Jesus and the apostles, and the belief of the early Church as I've just read it out to you, out of history here, and you can find it in your Bible. I have received many, many letters from many listeners, who have said; "Why the idea that Jesus Christ is coming back to this earth again - that He's going to rule the earth?" Why they've never heard of such a thing before. Now that's rather astounding. Yes I was very much astonished. I didn't know there was anybody living today that never heard about the Second Coming of Christ. Well that was the original truth. Now here's some more of it:

"The ancient and popular doctrine of the Millennium..." (Gibbon's: 'The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire', Volume II, Chapter XV, Progress of the Christian Religion)

Or the thousand years during which Christ will rule the world, and all the governments of the world. He'll direct all of its business and its economics, all of its education and: "...the earth [will then] be full of the knowledge of the [Eternal]..." (Isaiah 11:9)

It's not very full of the knowledge of the Eternal today. Our knowledge today that we disseminate is mostly knowledge of technical and mechanical gadgets, and electronics, and of technologies, and things of that kind. We're developing wonderful powers and machines. But we're not developing men to guide and control those powers and machines into right directions. The man we're neglecting, we're devoting our attention to technologies, and the things of that kind, but God is left out of the knowledge, as it's being disseminated mostly in our nation today.

My friends that's one reason that I say to you, on the authority of God Almighty, that as long as we continue on that course, America, the United States of America, is riding to the greatest fall that ever happened to any nation, because we've been on the highest pinnacle that ever a nation reached. Even ancient Rome never reached the high pinnacle of wealth and of power that we have reached, and we're going the way of Rome. And if we don't arrest it, and if we don't stop it, and turn around and go the other way, and if we don't begin to train the man, instead of just developing the machine, America is riding to a tremendous fall. God help us to wake up. That's the nation you live in, my friends. That's the way we're going, God help us.

"[Now that...] ancient and popular doctrine of the Millennium was intimately connected with the Second Coming of Christ [in that original Church, even with all of its sects; they didn't get away from all of the truth at once. They began, gradually, to mix some pagan superstitions, pagan errors, pagan beliefs, and pagan practices and customs in with it, it came gradually. Now]. As the works of the creation had been finished in six days, their duration in their present state...was fixed to six thousand years [and that's true incidentally, they believed that truth]... this long period...would be succeeded by a joyful Sabbath of a thousand years; and that Christ, with a triumphant band of the saints and the elect who had escaped death, or who had been miraculously revived [that is, resurrected from the dead], would reign upon earth till the time appointed for the last and general resurrection." (Gibbon's: 'The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire', Volume II, Chapter XV, Progress of the Christian Religion)

They even believed in the two resurrections. And the early Church believed in a resurrection. And today, my friends, why is it we don't hear much believed or practiced or preached, that is, around or spoken of in Christian circles today about a resurrection, until we come to the day of Easter; and then they just talk about the fact that Jesus rose from the dead? And they don't even know what day He rose on. They don't know what day He was crucified on, believe it or not. Oh how we have gotten things mixed up. I know this is shocking. Why it's almost impossible to believe, certainly, I know that.

My friends I'm not trying to preach just what is popular in that sense. If I were I would make no difference between that which is false and that which is true. Because it would be very popular to pick up a lot of things that are false that a lot of people seem to like to believe. You know it takes a little bit of courage to sometimes tell you the truth. Well God help us to open our eyes. Now continuing here, page 398,{6} here sets in some of the apostasy:

"But when the edifice of the Church was almost completed [that is the way the Church finally developed] ...The doctrine of Christ's reign upon earth was at first treated as a profound allegory, was considered by degrees as a doubtful and useless opinion, and was at length rejected as the absurd invention and heresy and fanaticism." (Gibbon's: 'The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire', Volume II, Chapter XV, Progress of the Christian Religion)

Think of that; now that's the way they got rid of truth; that's the way pagan ideas replaced it and came in.

Miracles in the Early Church (PLAY FROM 18:33)

Now coming on over to page 400 {7}, volume one {8} of Gibbon's Rome, the original Church had a lot of miraculous powers in it. Now let's go back, and here's some of the original Church, and see how we got away from this, and see how different it was then from the way it is today. Listen:

"The supernatural gifts, which even in this life were ascribed to the Christians above the rest of mankind, must have conduced to their own comfort, and very frequently to the conviction of infidels." (Gibbon's: 'The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire', Volume II, Chapter XV, Progress of the Christian Religion)

That is, infidels were convicted and converted when they saw the miracles happening, because there were real miracles in that original Church. You read of them in the book of Acts - there's where the history starts - in the book of Acts, the Acts of the Apostles, in your Bible. Read of the miracles that happened there: the apostle Peter, and of John, and the apostle Paul, and of the others and the things that they did. Now when did those miracles stop? Well here we find history of one, two hundred years after Christ and some of those miracles still going on in this history of Gibbon's Rome. Let's continue, page 401:{9}

"...the Christian Church, from the time of the apostles and their first disciples, has claimed an uninterrupted succession of miraculous powers [or it did at that time] ...of prophesy, the power of expelling daemons, [and] of healing the sick..." (Gibbon's: 'The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire', Volume II, Chapter XV, Progress of the Christian Religion)

That was in the Church. But you see they gradually began to get rid of these things; just like I read to you here about the Second Coming of Christ and His reigning over the earth for a thousand years. They treated it, first, as an allegory; and then, by degrees, as doubtful and useless opinion. Then they rejected it as the absurd invention of heresy and fanaticism. And that's the way they did with healing. That's the way they did with any miracle. Alright, the middle of page 401, {10} Gibbons history:

"The expulsion of the daemons from the bodies of those unhappy persons...was considered as a signal, though ordinary, triumph of religion, the most convincing evidence of the truth of Christianity." (Gibbon's: 'The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire', Volume II, Chapter XV, Progress of the Christian Religion)

And it really had an effect on people. That's one reason that so many of the Gentiles began to come into the Christian religion. Of course they didn't give up their Gentile practices and beliefs, but they were awestruck by this thing. So they said, "Let's join it!" They hadn't really repented, they hadn't really been converted. Their hearts and lives hadn't been really changed, and so they brought their old customs and ideas with them. And pretty soon that's what - well, that type of people, became the overwhelming majority in the visible Church.

But I was explaining to you a few broadcasts back here how the real Church that Jesus built is composed of those individuals who have, and are led by the Spirit of God, not the visible majority that meet in a certain building, not at all. So pretty soon they were a church of this world, and not the Church of Jesus Christ. That's what happened. Alright over on page 403 {11}, listen:

" the first stages of Christianity [says the Gibbon's history] ...The most curious, or the most credulous, among the Pagans were often persuaded to enter into a society which asserted an actual claim of miraculous powers." (Gibbon's: 'The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire', Volume II, Chapter XV, Progress of the Christian Religion)

Now there's where pagans began to come in with them.

The Early Church Believed in 'Doing' the Law (PLAY FROM 22:05)

Now I want to show you again that the original Church, my friends, were doers, they believed in 'doing' the law. You don't hear much of that anymore today, oh no! I imagine that there'll be some that come out and try to refute even the theology of what I'm reading to you, as actual fact, right now, and this was actual fact. This is in Gibbon's history. This isn't guesswork, my friends, this is carefully documented. This is true, this is fact, it is history. Listen:

"...the primitive Christian demonstrated his faith by his virtues; it was very justly supposed that the divine persuasion, which enlightened or subdued the understanding, must, at the same time purify the heart, and direct the actions of the believer." (Gibbon's: 'The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire', Volume II, Chapter XV, Progress of the Christian Religion)

It had to do with changing his whole self, getting right down into his heart, and really changing him. It wasn't just a matter of saying; "Well I profess something" and join a club because you like the social end of it.

You know as I look back shortly after Mrs Armstrong and I were married; we lived in a suburb of Chicago, and we went around some of the different churches. And do you know why we picked the church that we joined? It was because of two things: we liked the people, and we liked the little social things that they had in meeting in their various homes, and, of course, we sort of liked the preacher. We didn't know what he preached. As a matter of fact, I don't remember now; I don't know what he preached. I don't know whether he preached the truth or error, because we didn't pay much attention to that. I wonder how many of you people are like that today?

How many of you people check up on your preacher to see whether what he preaches is according to the Bible? Well I ask you to check up on me, now, if I happen to be your minister, your radio minister. I want you to check up. I want you to get your Bible open, open it whenever I come on the air, because usually I'm reading right out of the Bible. I happen to be reading a little bit of history in this program, but I want you to follow these passages in the Bible with me. And search the scriptures after I go off the air whether these things be so. And you believe what you find in your Bible. I'm not looking for followers for myself, my friends, I ask you to; "...follow me only as I follow Christ. " (I Corinthians 11:1) That's what the apostle Paul said for his listeners to do, and I can say that. Alright listen, the bottom of page 404 {12}:

"The friends of Christianity may acknowledge without a blush that many of the most eminent saints had been before their baptism the most abandoned sinners." (Gibbon's: 'The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire', Volume II, Chapter XV, Progress of the Christian Religion)

They really changed the lives of people in those days. It wasn't just nice people joining a nice society. No, some of the worst criminals, their whole lives were changed. And that's when they were brought into the Church, when God put them in. Now page 405{13}:

"As they emerged from sin and superstition to the glorious hope of immortality..." (Gibbon's: 'The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire', Volume II, Chapter XV, Progress of the Christian Religion)

A hope of immortality! Why, today they tell you you've already got it, you don't need to hope for it. Now where did we get that idea? Well we got it from the Gnostics back there, and a lot of those people that came out of pagan superstitions, and the ancient Grecian philosophers and Roman philosophers, that's where it came from. It did not come from God. It came from Satan, if you want to know where it came from. My friends, how come that we're getting those things? Alright now, then, we go over a little further, page 410 {14}:. and listen to this:

"The primitive Christians were dead to the business and the pleasures of the world; but their love of action...soon revived, and found a new occupation in the government of the church [now instead of continuing the government that Jesus Christ put in His Church, they'd gotten away from that, and now they began to think out human ideas of getting human government into the Church. That's come on down to today, too]. A separate society [says Gibbon], which attacked the established religion of the empire, was obliged to adopt some form of internal policy..." (Gibbon's: 'The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire', Volume II, Chapter XV, Progress of the Christian Religion)

You see the Empire was pagan, and they had to, for their own protection, adopt some form of internal policy. Now Jesus Christ had set His government in the Church. You will read in the book of Acts, you read the epistles of Paul, you read his letters to Timothy and Titus and so on, of instruction and the orders that he gave, and you'll see there was authority there. And there was government in the Church in those days. It was the government of God and it came right down from God. And when Paul wanted to go to Rome one time, God wouldn't let him go, not until later. And later God did let him go. But he had to wait until God's time came. He couldn't do it when he wanted. Paul was merely an agent of Christ, he was merely an instrument being used by Christ. And Christ is the head of the Church, He was the head of the Church then.

Now as people began to reject Christ as the head, well then they weren't in His Church any longer. They were just in the - well this world's groups. Now page 411 {15}:

"The government of the Church has often been the subject, as well as the prize, of religious contention [how true that is]. The hostile disputants of Rome, of Paris, of Oxford, and of Geneva, have alike struggled to reduce the primitive and the apostolic model to the respective standards of their own policy [human ideas of government] ...the apostles declined the office of legislation [you see God is the legislator, there's one lawgiver and that's God the Father] ...The scheme of policy which, under their approbation, was adopted for the use of the first century may be discovered from the practice of Jerusalem, of Ephesus, and of Corinth [that's where they had God's government, but they gradually got away from it; now] ...A regard for the public tranquillity...induced the [original] Christians [back there] to constitute an honourable and a perpetual magistracy, and to choose one of the wisest and most holy among their presbyters to execute, during his life, the duties of their ecclesiastical governor." (Gibbon's: 'The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire', Volume II, Chapter XV, Progress of the Christian Religion)

But in the original Church God chose them, and men didn't vote them in at all.

I see I'm not going to have time to finish it. It continues to show us how human government got into the Church and how they continued to apostatize and get away from the truth of God.


{1} All quotes from Gibbon's 'The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire' are taken from Volumn II, chapter XV, Progress of the Christian Religion. Page numbers vary depending on the edition, and this link to the 1906 edition is given for your convenience to check accuracy of quotes:

{2} page 267 in the 1906 edition

{3} page 276 in the 1906 edition

{4} Mr Armstrong meant Volume 2

{5} page 288 in the 1906 edition

{6} page 291 in the 1906 edition

{7} page 295 in the 1906 edition

{8} Mr Armstrong meant Volume 2

{9} page 295 in the 1906 edition

{10} page 296 in the 1906 edition

{11} page 299 in the 1906 edition

{12} page 300 in the 1906 edition

{13} page 301 in the 1906 edition

{14} page 308 in the 1906 edition

{15} page 310 in the 1906 edition