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Sixth Edition, 1915
By Dr. John Thomas (first edition written 1861)



Chapter 3


Apostolic State of Christendom




The spiritual condition of the ecclesias in this state of things may be learned from the writings of the apostles and others as extant in the New Testament. Their faith in the "things of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ" was unmixed with Nikolaitanism, or "philosophy and vain deceit after the tradition of men, and the elements of the world;" and it worked by love and purified the heart (Gal. v. 6; Acts xv. 9). There was among christians, as the rule, a perfectly unselfish devotion to the interests of the truth, and to the wellbeing of one another. Their works, labor, and patience, were without rebuke. They labored for the name, and did not faint, although their labor endangered their lives, liberty, and goods. The rule was "poor in this world, rich in faith;" the reverse of this was the exception. When they received the word, they received it gladly and were immersed; and then "continued steadfastly in the apostles' teaching and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers;" and while in their "first love," "the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul; and great grace was upon them all." In this primitive condition of affairs, the ecclesias were all the heritages, or clergy, of God, constituting "the flock;" while "the rulers" or "elders" were its feeders under the supremacy of the Chief Shepherd at the right hand of the Majesty in the heavens. These ruling brethren took the oversight of the flock, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; and they demeaned themselves, not as lords and reverends, but as examples to the generality of their brethren in the faith.

What precise number of years "the heritages of the Deity" continued in this happy and uncorrupted condition, it is impossible to define. We know when the state began, but cannot tell the first year when the devil, or the flesh, began to pervert the truth. We may remark safely, that there is no well defined chronological line between the Apostolical State and the Ephesian State, by which it was succeeded. There was "One Body," consisting of many ecclesias, pertaining to the Apostolical State; and before that body could be said to have passed into the Ephesian State, the Angel Presbyteries of the ecclesias or heritages generally must have responded to the apocalyptical description of the angel at Ephesus. This transition would therefore be gradual; for on the supposition that "men speaking perverse things to draw away disciples after them," first arose in the Ephesian Angel, it would have taken several years to leaven all or a majority of the ecclesias extant with their tradition so as to give character to the Body. The entrance of the body into a new phase would be progressive; the process would be insidious; a change would come over it, and be discerned, not so much in the growing from month to month, as in the growth accomplished after a lapse of years.

Now, in the Apostolic State, which had not entirely passed till the destruction of Jerusalem, A.D. 72, the "first love" of the Angel-Presbyteries began very early to be impaired at different points. The agents of this unholy enterprise emanated from Judea, and began the work of "subverting souls" at Antioch and Syria and Cilicia. These were of the sect of the Pharisees, who enjoyed the fellowship of the apostles, and consorted with them in their meetings. They had, therefore, ample means and opportunities of knowing the truth. Aware that it would be useless for them to broach dogmas in their presence, "they went out from them and troubled the Gentile brethren with words." What they dared not teach in Jerusalem they taught in Antioch and other places; and "as the serpent through subtilty" sought to corrupt their minds "from the simplicity that is in the Christ." But, although this attempt was opposed, and apostolically denounced, the enterprise was not abandoned by the christianized Pharisees. They determined to popularize christianity so as to make it palatable to the Jews, in the hope that it would cause them to cease persecuting those who believed in Jesus as the Christ. They therefore taught that men should believe the gospel, be immersed, then be circumcised, and keep the law of Moses, if they would be saved. This was Judaizing and "inventing a lie." The apostles taught no such doctrine as this; and in the decree they published, declared all beyond believing the gospel and being baptized, was unnecessary and vain.

The invention of this lie was the beginning of troubles to the body of Christ. Its inventors found their advantage in propagating it in defiance of the apostles. They made proselytes to their tradition both among the elders and private members of the flock; and wherever they succeeded in establishing their influence, there, and to the same extent, the authority of the apostles was set aside. They became the adversaries of these holy and self-denying men, and are therefore styled in the Apocalypse, "the Satan," and their "church.," "the Synagogue of the Satan," of which we have spoken at large elsewhere.

But others arose after these, and added new elements to "the lie." Truth is fixed, but lies never diminish in circulating, but always increase. Pious Jews began the work of corrupting the faith; and pious Gentiles, who had been subverted, added some of their "philosophy" and "gnosis," or "science falsely so called," to the original stock, and in their combination, produced what Paul styles, in 2 Thess. ii. 7, THE MYSTERY OF INIQUITY. This, he says, was "already working;" and in its working through Judaizing and philosophizing teachers, gave him all the trouble and mortification he laments in his several epistles.

While, then, christendom was, as we have described it in the beginning, pure and uncorrupt in faith and practice, it had sadly degenerated at the time when the apostles had all finished their course, except John. The Apostolical State of the Body was not, therefore, all rose-coloured, but was defaced by many unsightly blemishes. The seeds of death and corruption had been sown in it by the enemy; the germ of a Body of Death had been deposited in its womb; even of that Body Ecclesiastic styled popularly in our day "THE CHURCH," and apocalyptically, "the Mother of Harlots and of all the Abominations of the Earth." A thoughtful perusal of the epistles will convince the reader that by the time of the apostles' decease, the One Body was in a fallen or Ephesian State, and that consequently, the Apostolical State of things was pregnant with the Ephesian, as the Ephesian afterwards was of the Smyrnean, and the Smyrnean of the Pergamian, and the Pergamian of the Thyatiran, and the Thyatiran of the Sardian, and the Sardian of the Philadelphian, and the Philadelphian of the Laodicean, and the Laodicean of vomiting, corruption, and death.

The Mystery of Iniquity, then, had its beginning in the Apostolical State. The seeds of it were then sown broadcast by the enemy. But they did not ripen as soon as sown; they only began to grow. The fruit was to be "the Lawless One." But fruit, when first formed, is not mature. Considerable time passes from the first appearance of the fruit to the time of ingathering because of ripeness. So with the Lawless One, he had to appear as the fruit of the Mystery of Iniquity; but after his appearing, he had to grow and ripen for the vintage, when he should be "consumed with the spirit of the Lord's mouth, and destroyed with the brightness of his coming."

Now the matter of the apocalyptical epistles in part consists of accusations, which, when put together, form a formidable indictment against the professing Christian community. These charges, as they increase, show also an increase in crime, until a climax is reached, which exposes the criminal to the most ignominious and condign punishment. The following ordinal summary will make this apparent to the reader. The Spirit accuses the Christian Body, saying, I have against thee --

1. That thou hast left thy first love;

2. That thou hast them that hold the teaching of Balaam, and the teaching of the Nikolaitans, which thing I hate;

3. That thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, who calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed to idols;

4. That thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead;

5. That thou hast little strength; and,

6. That thou art wretched, and pitiable, and poor, and blind, and naked.

Paul said that there would be "a falling away," and here we behold it. As years rolled on, things waxed worse and worse, until the false apostles of the Synagogue of the Satan gained the ascendancy, and their chief, the Man of Sin, was brought forth of their mother Jezebel, as Constantine the Great. The falling away, or apostasy, was obviously progressive, and its progress may be clearly traced in the writing of the men whose names occupy the third column of the Chronological Tableau of the Apostasy, already before the reader. In concluding, then, my exposition of the seven ethical states and stages of the falling away, I shall furnish specimens of the notions current as indicative of each. And first of the Ephesian State




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