First Century Church History
The Worldwide Church of God published a brochure entitled “The History of Europe and the Church,” subtitled “The Relationship that Shaped the Western World!” which contained a ten-part series of articles written by Mr. Keith Stump in 1983 and 1984. The first installment, entitled “The Church Struggles for Survival,” covered how the true church which Jesus started began to transition into what became eventually mainstream Christianity. The parallel between what happened in the first century and what went on very recently with the Worldwide Church of God—what is still going on in the church of God at this moment—is inescapable.
A summary of what Mr. Stump wrote:
Being disappointed at the failure of Christ to return as soon as expected (amid the horrific world events of A.D. 66-70), many Christians became susceptible to innovations in doctrine. There was a shift in focus away from such important matters as Bible prophecy, God’s coming kingdom and the true purpose of life. Heresies crept in. Much of what had once been, or at least seemed to be the true church, was corrupted.
False Christianity began with Simon the sorcerer, high priest of the Babylonian-Samaritan mystery religion (Acts 8, Revelation 17:5). Many Church of God members became exposed to his erroneous ideas, which were a mixture of Babylonian paganism, Judaism and Christianity. The apostles fought Simon's influence as long as they were alive.
Late in the first century, John had received what we call the book of Revelation and it was sent to all the churches. Only now did it become understood that Jesus’ second coming wasn’t as imminent as once thought. The book of Revelation covered many years to come—millennia, as we now know. At the same time, once obscure passages in Daniel became clearer, along with certain of Jesus’ teachings.
Being the last surviving apostle, John was alone in holding back full apostasy from infiltrating the church of God (see 1-3 John). John warned the true church members to remain in fellowship with each other and to refuse to adopt the heretical body of new teaching. When John died, however, error took over the main body of the church.
That’s the summary—it’s incredible to note that the true members eventually had to leave the main body. A few brethren held fast (Revelation 3:11), refusing to go along with what was fast becoming the synagogue of Satan. True brethren had to separate themselves (2 Corinthians 6:17, Revelation 18:4). “It’s as if Keith Stump prophesied what would happen in our time after Mr. Armstrong died!“ Dad noted. It’s of the utmost importance to hold on to the truth, which is clear—it confers a clear understanding of everything. Hang on to what the Church produced when it was on the right track and thinking correctly. Just about everything the splinter groups produce these days is contaminated with wrong thinking. Most of the groups are “in a mental fog” to one degree or another.
It would be well-worth reviewing this article by Mr. Stump, as well as Mr. Armstrong’s 1985 article on the history of the Philadelphia era of the true church—lest history repeat itself upon you!
This Bible study was given by Matthew Kalliman on 8/15/09