Summary: Now we come to the days of Jesus and the church's formation, to see how Babylon relates in that time period.
PART II: ROME, PAGAN to PAPAL
A.D. 100 to A.D. 1300
"We wrestle not against flesh and blood." (Ephesians 6:12)
It is not men to whom we look as we seek the origin of the conspiracy against Christ and His church. We worry not whether mere mortals were aware of the part they played in the unfolding drama. We look behind the scenes to view the master conspirator, and to expose him. It is Lucifer who is behind the priesthoods of men. He is the one whose earthly throne always contains a chief priest, or pontifex maximus, offerer of the sacrifice. Wherever this supreme pontiff sits can be labeled Babylon. We ask not whether the man is good, or better than others, or possessor of certain acceptable doctrines. We ask if he sits in Satan's seat. Judge for yourself the progression of the following events.
SIXTEEN: THE EARLY CHURCH
c. A.D. 30
During and following the days of the foundational writers, the church is new, strong, and freshly filled with the Holy Ghost. False teachings abound, but what a church is forming! Here is a brief sketch of that church, as a backdrop against which the other church can be set, for your later comparison. Whatever your present affiliation, it will be difficult to compare it favorably to those first days of the church.
The first Christians have all things in common. Not forced, all voluntary. They meet daily, in various homes or existing buildings or special hiding places, to keep themselves safe from the present "Babylon," Pagan Rome. No church buildings. No air conditioning. No loudspeaker systems. No mikes. There is a simplicity about their meetings which varies from town to town, but has the same basic elements, inspired by the same Spirit, and recorded by Luke in the book of Acts and Paul in his epistles:
1) the teachings of the apostles, Acts 2:42
2) prayers, Acts 2:42
3) worship, I Corinthians 12, 14
4) manifestations of the Spirit of God, I Corinthians 14
6) often, fellowship dinners - love feasts - are a part of the meeting, but they soon become a problem (I Corinthians 11)
And, the Lord keeps adding to the church those who are being set free from sin, that is, saved. Great grace is upon them.
To see an involved pagan ritual in old Pagan Rome, and then to see a simple meeting of God's people is to see two totally different events, not even close to comparison. At least in the beginning, no one could compare Christianity to paganism. But things change.
In their personal lives, and in their communal life, the early Christians are a separated people. They use the world as needed, but keep their eyes on the heavens, whence they look for Christ to return at any moment.
People such as the above described have their descendants among us today: simple men and women, children too, who want nothing but the Word of God, the Spirit of God, the People of God, and a God-given job to do while waiting for Jesus' return.
But slowly another people evolve. Things are added. Things are subtracted. An evolution takes place, a mixing of good and evil, which always produces evil.
Now, Edward Gibbon, author of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, is not known to be a defender of the faith. In fact, one might label him a cynic, as he closely views the growing church of antiquity and grows sick watching. But his candid comments are worth hearing as he traces this development. From pages 376-383 of Volume I:
"The primitive Christians were dead to the business and pleasures of the world; but their love of action...soon revived and found a new occupation in the government of the church...The ambition of raising themselves or their friends to the honours and offices of the church was disguised by the laudable intention of devoting to the public benefit the power and consideration which, for that purpose only, it became their duty to solicit...and while they concealed from others, and perhaps, from themselves, the secret motives of their conduct, they too frequently relapsed into all the turbulent passions of active life...The government of the church has often been the subject, as well as the prize, of religious contention. The hostile disputatnts of Rome...struggled to reduce the primitive and apostolic model to the respective standards of their own policy."
Gibbon continues with a summary of the evolution of church government:
"The public functions of religion were solely intrusted to the established ministers of the church, the bishops and presbyters; two appellations which, in their first origin, appear to have distinguished the same office and the same order of persons...the order of public deliberations soon introduces the office of a president...the lofty title of Bishop began to raise itself above the humble appellation of presbyter...this episcopal form of government appears to have been introduced before the end of the first century...(it is ) still revered...as a primitive and even as a divine establishment...It is needless to observe that the pious and humble presbyters who were first dignified with the episcopal title could not possess, and would probably have rejected, the power and pomp which now encircles the tiara of the Roman pontiff..."