16.1 Descent into Darkness
16.1 Descent into Darkness
© 2016 Christ Revealed Bible Institute
Descent into Darkness
Paul wrote his first letter to the Thessalonians in AD 52 and his first letter to the Corinthians in AD 57. In his letter to the Thessalonians Paul referred to: We who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord. In his letter to the Corinthians Paul stated that: “We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed.”
We can infer from Paul’s words that he himself expected to be among those who experienced their physical bodies being swallowed up by life as the gospel promised. Thus we can also conclude that those who heard Paul teach shared a similar expectation. Everything Paul said about dead Christians was only to reassure the living in their hope for life.
Gone in Four Years
Then, in horrifying rapidity, across the span of four short years, the entire world of the Christian church was absolutely decimated. Paul’s head was chopped off; Peter was crucified upside down. All the other disciples save John were executed in similarly grisly ways. Jerusalem was surrounded by armies; all Christians fled Judea. And then, in 70 AD, Jerusalem was utterly destroyed and over a million Jews died.
The apostles were gone. Jerusalem had ceased to exist. Where was the Lord Jesus Christ?
John was still around, ministering to the churches in Asia.
I read an argument attempting to place John’s writing at the same time as the others, prior to AD 70. I found zero evidence in that argument, but only a desire to prevent me from finding any relevant Word of Christ for us now in John’s vision. The arguers were not seeking for Jesus in John’s vision; it is no surprise at all that they did not find Him.
John did not write until the mid-90’s, a far more terrible decade for the church of Christ than the 60’s. Nero was a child compared to the violence and hatred against the church unleashed by Domitian, AD 81-96.
We can be sure of this, after the terrible events culminating in the elimination of the city of Jerusalem, any thought of “I will not see death, but I will be among those whose present bodies are swallowed up by life” vanished from polite conversation.
Paul, as he passed for the last time through Ephesus in AD 58, warned of ravenous wolves already snarling around the church of Christ. Paul was thinking mostly of the Judaics, those who wanted to impose the Torah upon our interpretation of the gospel. Yet John, in his writing, was heavily engaged against a different heresy, this time, the Gnostics. Traditional, Nicene Christianity is the triumph of both.
The Spirit of Anti-Christ
Traditional Nicene Christianity, the thinking of Catholics, Orthodox, Protestant, Pentecostal, and deeper truth, is defined by new-age deception merged with Augustine’s City of God. Earth and flesh are evil – to be controlled. Purity and life are confined to heaven and only AFTER death takes you out.
John, however, did not call it “new age deception”; he called it the spirit of anti-Christ. And he said, most clearly, that this spirit of anti-Christ was a spirit found among Christians and was presently operating in the world, even before the end of the first century. This spirit of anti-Christ would do everything in its power to separate Jesus from our present human flesh.
A Two-Pronged Attack
And so we see this two-pronged attack against the gospel of Christ. On the one hand were those who would separate the word of God from Jesus our only life and place that word again upon God’s people as an obligation of performance, just like the Old Covenant, just like the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And on the other hand were those who would drive the Lord Jesus far away from our fleshy lives on this earth, confine Him to heaven only, calling life on this earth EVIL, and life in heaven-only pure and “eternal” life.
Thus by the beginning of the second century after Christ, DEATH had become the way to heaven, the only way to “life.”
Now, lest we view things wrongly, we must separate totally between Christian thinking and Christ Himself. At no point has the Lord Jesus ever been absent from His body; rather, He has lived each one who belongs to Him all the way through death and into life.
Thus the church continued to spread like wildfire without any form of outward evangelism. People became Christians because of love outpoured and the reality of Christ Jesus seen in those who loved Him. Wrong thinking does not bother or hinder God nor does it prevent Jesus in any way from carrying all the sinfulness of His own ones into the empty grave.
False doctrine, no matter how noxious, cannot remove Jesus from the earth nor can it remove from Christ those whom the Father has given to Him. Every single individual person whom the Father gave to Jesus was inside of Jesus when He said, “Here am I.” They have never been anywhere else.
The evil of false doctrine is only that it prevents our precious brethren from knowing Jesus Sent, the One who lives in their hearts, as He really is. And because they do not know Jesus as He is, alive in their hearts, they look to death as the only way to know Jesus. And thus death has continued triumphant over the church.
Now, my purpose is not to recount church history, but rather to find the reasons for the rejection of Christ walking this earth now in His body and the adoption of another Christ, the Nicene Christ, separate from the flesh and far away.
I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ (Galatians 1:6-7). – I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached… (2 Corinthians 11:3-4).
Here is the dilemma in which we find ourselves. The different gospel and the other Jesus of which Paul spoke are the “death is salvation” gospel and the “deified” Jesus far away from us that is at the center of the Nicene Christianity in which our brethren dwell. Everything in Nicene Christianity is defined by the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, right and wrong, sin and righteousness, heaven and hell.
The Jesus Paul preached fills our hearts with His glory; He is our life and we are His flesh. And all things are God through us reconciling the world to Himself. How was Paul’s Jesus replaced with another Jesus?
The Church Fathers
From the passing of John just before the beginning of the second century, until Augustine three hundred years later, the leaders of the church are called the “Church Fathers.” The first of these was Ignatius of Antioch and Clement of Rome. Their writing reflects, not God’s “removal of apostleship from the earth,” as most claim, but rather a loss of the knowledge of Christ our only life. The first step into darkness was the exaltation of individual ministries, bishops, over the brothers and sisters of Christ. Always, this step was taken in order to “defend God’s people from heresy.” In other words, “Jesus is absent, and now we have taken His place – to keep you safe.”
Replacing Christ with Flesh
In this session, we are concerned with the time period from AD 100 to 311, a time of intense persecution occurring at the same time that Christianity is spreading like wildfire. Four more sessions will cover the major “Church Fathers” and the perversions of Christ from AD 311 to 410. AD 311 marks the greatest perversion of all, the perversion of the Cross.
Between AD 100 and 311, however, we find two things taking place simultaneously, the exaltation of death over Salvation, and the exaltation of the flesh over Christ. Christ could be “deified” only after the sinful flesh nature had replaced Him in the eyes of believers.
Sin, Not Christ
How did the flesh take the place of Christ in the sight of believers in Jesus? You see, it really is this exchange that causes all other perversions of the gospel. Most Christian parents teach their children that sin is in their gut, that Jesus is “up there,” and that if they want to know Jesus someday, they have to “stay away” from sin. I teach my children that Jesus is in their gut and that sin is peripheral to them, that as they know Jesus, He will take care of sin. The “flesh” as defined by most Christians is “sin in the gut,” and not the dwelling place of God.
Who Is in Charge?
The issue is entirely one of control. Who is in charge? When Christians as sheep and goats gather together, they are always butting heads. Someone must keep the peace. Who is in charge?
It is already an utter failure for you that you go to law against one another. Why do you not rather accept wrong? Why do you not rather let yourselves be cheated? (1 Corinthians 6:7) David let himself be cheated; Jesus let himself be cheated. The issue is NOT found in the weakness of human flesh; the issue is always found in identity – IF you are a son of God!
Keeping Christians “Safe”
IF you are a son of God – PROVE It! If you are some great ministry of Christ, then demonstrate your authority over these stupid, squabbling, flesh-ridden sheep.
And thus the ascendancy of a single bishop over a single area, such as Antioch or Rome, as the authority of Christ to keep the Christians “safe,” that is, under control, is the first major symptom of the church embracing living in the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Yet we must understand that during this time there was no New Testament. Every wild fanatic and his brother were staking claims to a new “revelation of Christ.” And Christians were being put to death by pagans everywhere.
The Church Never Really Knew
I draw some of my understanding of this time from Philip Schaff’s History of the Christian Church, a seven volume set. Schaff (1819-1893) is the typical mix of modern evangelical Protestant understanding of Paul’s “by grace through faith,” joined together with a full acceptance of Nicene and Augustinian definitions. He gives the real clue behind the rapid departure of Christianity from the knowledge of Christ by insinuating that the church never really knew Paul’s gospel of Christ our life or, by extension, John’s “I in you and you in Me.”
More than that, any actual working of the Holy Spirit came by (not through) powerful men who set themselves above others.
The Wolves and the Sheep
Thus, the history of Christianity is the history of wolves herding sheep. Here is the prevailing rule of this Christianity. You are out of control; you must get yourself under control; and we will help you do that. And the foundational theology is: God has set salvation into the human experience; now He is far away, watching to see what we will do with what He has extended to us.
But the outward practice is a split in the church between those who are “close to God” by their outward performance, and those who are “lesser” and too fleshy, who are maintained in grace by remaining under the direction of the church leaders.
The Truth Unknown
The idea that God is all here now. The idea that Jesus IS Lord, that He IS planted in the earth, living in His Body, and that He is the One who carries each one of us through death and into life, according to His purposes for our seasons. The idea that we are IN Jesus and that Jesus is IN us. The idea that creation is God’s travail, giving birth to His desire to be known. These things are unknown anywhere in this Christianity.
In the next lesson, we will look a bit more at how the exaltation of the flesh worked in a Christianity carried by Christ, but ignorant of the gospel.