Are you interested in learning about the history of the original early Christian church? Are you willing to consider that perhaps what is commonly taught overlooks much of what really happened? Can you handle the truth, even if it is unpopular? Unlike "The Da Vinci Code," this site teaches that the Bible is the only source of doctrine; but similarly, this site also accepts that there are early historical writings (some of which have been preserved better than others), which can give clues about how the early church understood the Bible.
This site also provides definitions, background, timelines, and other basic information for those who are truly interested in the truth about the real Christian Church--a group which was never intended to be large in this age--as Jesus taught, "Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom" (Luke 12:32) and the Apostle Paul taught, "at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace" (Romans 11:5). Neither a little flock nor a remnant are particularly large. Here is a link to a booklet titled Continuing History of the Church of God; this highlly referenced pdf booklet is a historical overview of the true Church of God and some of its main opponents from c. 31 A.D. to the 21st century.
Where Were the Early Christians?
Although there were early Christians in many places, more seemed to be in Jerusalem, Antioch, Asia Minor, Alexandria, Corinth, Rome, Armenia, and with some even into the Celtic areas, India, Africa, Arab areas, and possibly China. The main location of the early leadership seemed to be Asia Minor. An article of interest may be Location of the Early Church: Another Look at Ephesus, Smyrna, and Rome.
Original Christianity was practiced in Jerusalem up until around 135 A.D., its second A.D. fall (which is when it ceased having Jewish bishops/overseers and changed practices to avoid imperial persecution--more details are in the article The Ephesus Church Era). By the time it first fell in 70 A.D., many Christians fled to Pella, then some returned later to Jerusalem, while others went to Asia Minor and were later called Nazarenes (please also see the article on The Smyrna Church Era). There is an Orthodox Church in Jerusalem which claims it is an original faithful Church, though it has many beliefs that differ from the original ones documented in the articles and books linked on this page.
Antioch was a major city essentially north of Jerusalem. The Bible records that this where believers were first called "Christians" (Acts 11:26). This Antioch was biblically in Syria, but the current border now puts it in the nation of Turkey. True Christianity was, to some degree, predominantly practiced in Antioch apparently throughout the first and second centuries, and until about the time of the death of Serapion (c. 211). and perhaps as a minority faith until the seventh century or so (please see Arabic Nazarenes May Have Kept Original Christian Practices). The Antiochian Orthodox Church and the Syriac Orthodox Church both claim they are the original faithful Church from Antioch, though both have many teachings that differ from the original ones documented in the articles linked here.
According to the New Testament, true Christianity was practiced throughout many areas of Asia Minor in the first century (this area is now in the country of Turkey). Most (between 14-20) of the 27 books of New Testament were written to or from church leaders in Asia Minor. (Even Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox leaders recognized that Asia Minor had early "apostolic succession"; essentially what they refer to as the early "apostolic see of Ephesus.") What scripture clearly shows, is that although there were Christians in various areas, the focus for the New Testament writers were the churches in Asia Minor. And interestingly, the last book of the Bible is specifically addressed to the churches of Asia Minor (Revelation 1:4,11). The last of the original apostles to die, John, died in Asia Minor and his disciple Polycarp of Smyrna was a major leader there. Those there also taught the true gospel of the kingdom and opposed others who promoted a different gospel. There were actually two major groups that claimed Christianity in the late second century that claimed succession from the apostles, and only one of them has remained faithful--for some further details, please see Early Church History: Who Were the Two Major Groups Professed Christ in the Second and Third Centuries?
According to Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Church of God, and other sources, apostolic Christianity was practiced in Asia Minor in the second century and into the third century--and those there that were true Christians were sometimes referred to as Smyrnaeans (or descendants of the Church of God in Ephesus/Asia Minor). Asia Minor is north and north-west of Antioch and Jerusalem, and was in the country now called Turkey. There are at least two churches that claim descent from Asia Minor:
The Orthodox Church of Constantinople (which does not consider itself to be Protestant as it precedes the Protestant Reformation; and it remains in Constantinople, now called Istanbul) and the Continuing Church of God (which also does not consider itself Protestant as it precedes the Protestant Reformation--see also the free online book: Hope of Salvation: How the Continuing Church of God Differs from Protestantism).
Those in the Continuing Church of God consider Polycrates (the late 2nd century Christian who refused to accept the authority of Roman Bishops) to have been an important and faithful leader, but the Orthodox Church is more guarded about that. Also, although the Church of God teaches that Polycarp is a successor to the apostles that it traces its history through, the Orthodox Church of Constantinople does not include him in their successor list, nor do any of the other Eastern "Orthodox" churches, even though they acknowledge that Polycarp was a successor to the apostles. After persecution and the alleged appearance of a false 'Marian' apparition in the third century, the Orthodox Church gained more control in Asia Minor (see also The Smyrna Church Era). False 'Marian' apparitions were later also involved in spreading the Greco-Roman version of claimed Christianity in other areas, including Russia and even Latin America (for more information, you can also check out the book Fatima Shock! What the Vatican Does Not Want You to Know About Fatima, Dogmas of Mary, and Future Apparitions).
Alexandria is in Egypt, north Africa. It is unknown how long any true Christians were there. Certain ones have made claims that conflict with the biblical record as some claim that the Gospel writer Mark led the Church from there for 20 years (while the Bible shows Mark in different parts of the world during that time). Many non-apostolic practices, such allegorizing scripture, were promoted from this area, from even the first century. The largest Alexandrian church split in the year 451 into the Coptic Church and the Orthodox Church of Alexandria. Both of those groups have many beliefs different from those documented here.
There were (and still are) true Christians in various parts of Africa and elsewhere around the world.
According to the New Testament, there was a troubled, but faithful church in Corinth in the first century. It eventually seemed to accept Roman influence.
According to the New Testament, there was a faithful church in Rome in the first century (one New Testament book was addressed to it and several were written from there), but it does not clearly list any who later became known as "Roman bishops" as holding any office of importance there (please see the article What Do Roman Catholic Scholars Actually Teach About the Early Church?). There were also faithful Christians in Rome in the second century, though many heresies affected that area according to Roman Catholic, Church of God, and other sources. The Roman Catholic Church claims that it is still the faithful Church, the one that has supremacy over all Christendom, and that it has Apostolic Succession, but it has changed many beliefs that many it calls saints had (please see Which Is Faithful: The Roman Catholic Church or the Continuing Church of God?). It is of interest to note that even many Roman Catholic scholars have long held that the Churches in Asia Minor in the second century held to the original teachings of the apostles.
Most Protestants come from groups that were affiliated with Martin Luther's teachings and/or his departure from the Roman Church (see also Hope of Salvation: How the Continuing Church of God Differs from Protestantism). And some groups, such as the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons) and the Jehovah's Witnesses, claim that the true church essentially had to begin again as essentially the Protestant reformation did not go anywhere near far enough. There was no major group in the first or second centuries that resembled modern Protestantism, though some claim the apostate Marcion did (see Marcion: The First Protestant?).
According to various legends and historical writings, there were true Christians in the Celtic areas of the British and Irish islands from perhaps the late first century until sometime after the Council of Nicea (s0me information is included in the article on The Pergamos Church Era). There is a third century report that the Apostles Thomas and Bartholomew got the gospel to India in the first century (and that perhaps Thomas went to China or Malaysia); and there are later reports that the church in India remained opposed to the Roman Catholic Church for centuries.
Hippolytus' third century report on where he believed the original 12 apostles, plus Paul, went to is included in the article The Ephesus Church Era. Some of the Kelts (see The Pergamos Church Era), who had certain practices closer to those of the Church of God than the Church of Rome, said that they descended from the "apostolic see of Ephesus" (which essentially was the faithful leading group in Asia Minor until about the mid-third century).
Most do not know the history of true Christianity. And that includes Baptists (whose historical claims are discussed in the free online book: Hope of Salvation: How the Continuing Church of God Differs from Protestantism).
The late 20th century Cardinal Jean-Guenolé-Marie Daniélou wrote that church history is mistaught and misses many aspects of what he calls Jewish Christianity. He wrote that this has led to a “false picture of Christian history” (Daniélou J, Cardinal. The Theology of Jewish Christianity. Translated by John A. Baker. The Westminister Press, 1964, Philadelphia, p. 2). And while there are issues with his research, he was correct that the vast majority have not been properly taught the truth of church history and overlooked Christianity that is more “Jewish” than that accepted by most of the mainstream churches. The Franciscan Jean Briand reported that, historically, “the official Church systematically ignored the Judeo-Christians” (Briand J. The Judeo-Christian Church of Nazareth. Translated from the French by Mildred Duell. 1st edition, Franciscan Printing Press, Jerusalem, 1982, p. 66).
Because of this and other factors, many still do not understand what the beliefs and practices of early Christians were (for some details, check out the free online books: Beliefs of the Original Catholic Church and Continuing History of the Church of God).
Beliefs: How Was Early Christianity Practiced?
While scholars have a variety of opinions, this page itself will simply mention the following beliefs held by true Christians in the second century, with links to highly documented articles on each subject (which are primarily based on the Bible and early historical writings).
Amazingly, a leading Protestant scholar (H. Brown) has admitted:
It is impossible to document what we now call orthodoxy in the first two centuries of Christianity (Brown HOJ. Heresies: Heresy and Orthodoxy in the History of the Church. Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody (MA), 1988, p. 5).
In other words, much of what now passes for "orthodox Christianity" did not exist in the first two centuries after Jesus was crucified and resurrected. This is basically because while there was only one original church, another major group emerged in the second century who changed certain original Christian practices and became what most now seem to feel represent "orthodoxy" (for details, please see Early Church History: Who Were the Two Major Groups Professed Christ in the Second and Third Centuries?).
Also, notice what one Roman Catholic writer has written:
Protestants of many traditions are now espousing recent Protestant traditions and modern schisms; yet they all claim the early Church as their own--asserting that they are the rightful heirs to the teachings of our Lord, the apostles, and the Fathers of the apostolic Church. Are they? Do they have a legitimate claim to the theology of the early Church? Was the "early Church essentially Protestant" in her theology and polity, or was she Catholic? (Ray, Stephen K. Upon This Rock. St. Peter and the Primacy of Rome in Scripture and the Early Church. Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 1999, p. 15).
Well, what if the early Church was the Church of God with its "Nazarene practices," which is neither Protestant nor Roman Catholic? What if that is what the Bible and early writings from original "catholic" saints demonstrate?
(That is documented in the free online book: Beliefs of the Original Catholic Church.)
Notice the following teachings of early Christianity--all of which are accepted by the true Church of God (often called Nazarenes in the first four or five centuries) and only a relatively few of which are practiced/taught/still accepted by Roman Catholics, Orthodox, or Protestants (though early leaders considered as "saints" by the Catholics also held them):
Apokatastasis was understood in a way different than what Origen seemed to propose.
Baptism was by immersion and did not include infants.
The complete Bible with the proper Old Testament and New Testament was relied on by the true Church in Asia Minor (see also Who Gave the World the Bible? The Canon: Why do we have the books we now do in the Bible? Is the Bible complete? ).
A Binitarian view, that acknowledged the Holy Spirit, was held by the apostolic and post-apostolic true Christian leaders.
Birthdays were not celebrated by early Christians.
Born-Again meant being born at the resurrection, not at the time of conversion.
Celibacy for Bishops/Presbyters/Elders was not a requirement.
Christmas was not observed by any professing Christ prior to the third century, or ever by those holding to early teachings.
Church Governance was hierarchical.
Church Services were scripturally, not ritualistically, focused, and did not resemble modern "mass."
Circumcision, though not required, was long practiced by original Nazarene Christians.
Confession of sins were not made to priests and did not require penance.
Deification of Christians (which begins after the first resurrection) was taught by the early leaders of the Church.
Duties of Elders/Pastors were pastoral and theological, not predominantly sacramental--nor did they dress as many now do.
Easter per se was not observed by the apostolic church.
Eucharist, in the ceremonial sense, referred to Passover services and did not involve round hosts or leavened bread.
The Fall Holy Days were observed by true early Christians.
The Father was considered to be God by all early professing Christians.
The True Gospel included the kingdom of God and obedience to the law of God and was so understood by the faithful.
Heaven was not taught to be the reward of Christians.
Holy Spirit was not referred to as God or as a person by any early true Christians.
Hymns were mainly psalms, not praises to Christ.
Idols were taught against, including adoration of the cross.
Immortality of the soul or humans was not taught.
Jesus was considered to be God by the true Christians.
The Kingdom of God was preached.
Leavened Bread was removed from the homes of early Christians when the Jews did the same.
Lent was not observed by the primitive church.
Limbo was not taught by the original church.
Mary was the mother of Jesus, was blessed (Luke 1:28) and called blessed (Luke 1:48), but was not prayed to, etc. by true early Christians.
Military Service was not allowed for true early Christians.
Millenarianism (a literal thousand year reign of Christ on Earth, often called the millennium) was taught by the early Christians.
Monasticism was unheard of in the early Christian church.
Passover was kept on the 14th of Nisan by apostolic and second century Christians in Asia Minor.
Pentecost was kept on Sunday by certain Jews and was observed then by professing Christians.
Purgatory was not taught by the original apostolic church.
The Resurrection of the dead was taught by all early Christians.
The Sabbath was observed on Saturday by the apostolic and post-apostolic Church.
Salvation, was believed to be offered to the chosen now by the early Church (see also the free online booklet: Is God Calling You?), with others being called later; though not all that taught that (or other doctrines) practiced "the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3).
God's Six Thousand Year Plan for humankind to rule itself was believed by early professors of Christ.
Sunday was not observed by the apostolic and original post-apostolic Christians.
The Ten Commandments were observed by the apostolic and true post-apostolic Christians--and in the order that the Church of God claims they are in (see also the free online book The Ten Commandments: The Decalogue, Christianity, and the Beast).
Tithes and Offerings were given to support the ministry, the churches, the needy, and evangelical travels and gospel proclamation.
Tradition had some impact on the second century Christians, but was never supposed to supercede the Bible.
The Trinity was not a word used to describe the Godhead by the apostolic or second century Christians, though a certain threeness was acknowledged.
Unclean Meats were eaten by the early allegorists, but not by true Christians.
The Virgin Birth was acknowledged by all true ante-Nicene Christians.
What About Today?
Almost none who profess Christianity hold to all of those beliefs.
It is the Philadelphia remnant of the Church of God, represented by the Continuing Church of God (which happens to also be a "little flock" as well as "remnant") that agrees with all the positions above, that were part of "the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3).
The Continuing Church of God also specifically traces its history from the Apostles like Peter, Paul, and John through Polycarp, Polycrates, and other early leaders in Asia Minor. Here are links to free books: Beliefs of the Original Catholic Church and Continuing History of the Church of God.
What Happened to the Early Church that Led to Modern Mainstream Christianity?
There are many articles linked to on this page that provide specific details as to what happened to the early church that led to a separation between the true Church of God and the formation of various mainstream churches. However a brief overview may be helpful here.
Jesus taught that the true church would be a “little flock” (Luke 12:32), hated by the world (Matthew 10:22), and persecuted (Matthew 10:23). He also taught only a few would find the way to eternal life in this age (Matthew 7:14; 20:16). The Apostle Jude indicates that the number of saints was relatively small (Jude 14), while the Apostle Paul called the small group a “remnant” (Romans 11:5). The Apostle Peter encountered Simon Magus in Acts 8:5-25, whom he condemned. Yet, Simon Magus spread his false religion (see also Simon Magus, What Did He Teach?) and various false ones arose and practiced false forms of the religion they claimed were 'Christian.'
In the first century, apparently a false apostle, who is now called Mark, preached a false and possibly allegorical interpretation of scripture in Alexandria. Alexandria was one of the most important intellectual centers of the Roman Empire in ancient times and had much influence in the Greco-Roman world. The falsely titled "Epistle of Barnabus" came from Alexandria in the early second century and also preached allegorical interpretation of scripture (see its chapter 10:2). The second century Gnostic heretics Valentinus and Basilides were Alexandrian. Enchantments (cf. Isaiah 47) and claimed 'Marian' messages (starting with Gregory the Wonder Worker) also affected many (see also Mary, the Mother of Jesus and the Apparitions).
Although most in Rome itself were apparently faithful in the first century, after being influenced by Simon Magus, Marcion, Valentinus, and others, Rome compromised by the middle of the second century. Leaders such as Anicetus, and seeminly several of his predecessors, were not faithful to apostolic Christianity.
Within the Roman Empire the religion of Mithraism was increasing in popularity while versions of Christianity also were. Some considered that the two religions were in competition with each other (though that was really only the case with the compromisers and the followers of Mithras). Mithras was a pagan sun-god. Many beliefs and practices associated with Mithraism started to rub-off on many who professed Christ in the second through fourth centuries.
According to Eusebius, in the early second century, Thebutis arose having been somewhat affected by heretical followers of Simon Magus, like apparently Marcion. The 18th century historian E. Gibbon, around 135 A.D., many who professed Christ in Jerusalem chose to be led by a Latin leader who urged them to compromise with God's law (which Gibbon calls "the Mosaic law," see article on the Ephesus Church era) in order to be tolerated by the Roman Emperor Hadrian. Certain compromises in Rome apparently occurred around the same time, apparently for the same reason (see articles Arab Nazarenes and Passover).
The acceptance of some of the doctrines held by other heretics (such as Simon Magus, Marcion, and Montanus) spread to many who professed Christ. Various allegorical heretics, such as Valentinus, went from Alexandria to Rome and elsewhere and began spreading various Gnostic and semi-gnostic teachings. And while history shows that second century leaders from Asia Minor opposed these heretics and their teachings, many of them were tolerated, at least for decades, by the main churches in Rome and Alexandria.
Part of the reason for that acceptance of certain Gnostic teachings was that it greatly increased the number of Gentiles into those churches. Notice what one historian wrote:
The Gnostics blended with the faith of Christ many sublime but obscure tenets ... the Gnostics were imperceptibly divided into more than fifty particular sects, of whom the most celebrated appear to have been the Basilidians, the Valentinians, the Marcionites... Each of these sects could boast of its bishops and congregations, of its doctors and martyrs; and, instead of the Four Gospels adopted by the church the heretics produced a multitude of histories in which the actions and discourses of Christ and of his apostles were adapted to their respective tenets. The success of the Gnostics was rapid and extensive. They covered Asia and Egypt, established themselves in Rome, and sometimes penetrated into the provinces of the West. For the most part they arose in the second century...
The Gentile converts, whose strongest objections and prejudices were directed against the law of Moses, could find admission into many Christian societies, which required not from their untutored mind any belief of an antecedent revelation. Their faith was insensibly fortified and enlarged, and the church was ultimately benefited by the conquests of its most inveterate enemies (Gibbon E. Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Volume III, Chapter XXVII. ca. 1776-1788).
While I do not agree with Gibbon that the true church "ultimately benefited" from this compromise as he indicated, this compromise did allow the mainstream Greco-Roman churches to "enlarge" as Gibbon wrote and become the majority of those who professed Christ. They added rituals and did not stay with the type of church services early Christians had (see also What was the Liturgy of the Early Church?).
Although many seem to accept blending of pagan ideas with their understanding of Christianity, this is not the way it was supposed to be. Notice, for one example, one of the accomplishments of Nehemiah:
30 I cleansed them of everything pagan. (Nehemiah 13:30)
However, many who professed Christ in the first few centuries did not share Nehemiah's view as they included pagan concepts in their faith. Jesus Himself warned about adopting pagan practices of prayer (Matthew 6:7). Christians are not supposed to have the "spirit of the world" (1 Corinthians 12:12) nor love its practices (1 John 2:15).
Despite biblical warnings, in the second century, one or more semi-gnostic schools developed in Alexandria, including the one headed by the semi-gnostic Clement of Alexandria and then Origen, whose teachings greatly influenced professing Christians in the Greco-Roman world. However, many of the teachings of the main school there have been condemned as heretical, even by Greo-Roman Catholic and Protestant sources--and although many had pagan ties, many who profess Christianity still have been influenced by them.
Notice what Dr. John Walvoord, who taught at the Dallas Theological Seminary for fifty years wrote about that school:
In the last ten years of the second century and in the third century the heretical school of theology at Alexandria, Egypt advanced the erroneous principle that the Bible should be interpreted in a nonliteral or allegorical sense. In applying this to the Scriptures, they subverted all the major doctrines of faith ... the Alexandrian school of theology is labeled by all theologians as heretical ... (Walvoord, John F. The Prophecy Handbook. Victor Books, Wheaton (IL), 1990, pp. 9,15).
Over time, some of the more obvious Gnostic concepts (like Aeons) were never formally adopted as the Gnostics taught them, but others that the allegorists felt had some type of support from tradition and/or scripture were adopted by the forming Greco-Roman "Catholic/Orthodox" confederation. And although leaders stood up to the early allegorists (for two see What is the Appropriate Form of Biblical Interpretation?), the allegorizers continued to increase their influence. The Orthodox and even the current Pope Benedict XVI have praised Origen (who ran that Alexandrian school in the early third century) even though some his beliefs have been portrayed as heretical by the same Pope Benedict (see Did The Early Church Millenarianism?).
After a local persecution by Roman Emperor Septimius Severus who died in 211 A.D., the church in Antioch ended up a leader (Asclepiades) that was acceptable to those who compromised in Jerusalem and apparently other areas. Also in the early third century, a compromising Roman leader (Callistus) allowed abortion and generally lowered moral standards, which resulted in great increases among his and related churches.
Around 244 A.D., one "Gregory the Wonder Worker" of Neocaeseria claimed to see apparitions and apparently had mystical powers (Mary, the Mother of Jesus and the Apparitions). He has been trained by Origin. Through the combination of Gregory's influence (cf. Isaiah 47:5-6,12), Imperial persecutions, the rise of the allegorists, and doctrinal compromise, changes occurred in Antioch and Asia Minor. Allegedly Gregory "could cast his cloak over a man, and cause his death ... he could bring the presiding demons back to their shrine" (Roberts A, Donaldson J, Volume 20, p. 3). He apparently was scarily impressive.
Around 250 A.D., during the severe empire-wide persecution by the Emperor Decius, the most public leader of the church in Smyrna (Eudaemon), apostatized (though Pionius did not as he was martyred for adhering to the faith). Shortly after this persecution, something new happened: A new leadership was installed throughout Asia Minor that was commended by the allegorist tolerating Bishop of Alexandria (Dionysius) who reported:
But know now, my brethren, that all the churches throughout the East and beyond, which formerly were divided, have become united. And all the bishops everywhere are of one mind, and rejoice greatly in the peace which has come beyond expectation. Thus Demetrianus in Antioch, Theoctistus in Cæsarea, Mazabanes in Ælia, Marinus in Tyre (Alexander having fallen asleep), Heliodorus in Laodicea (Thelymidres being dead), Helenus in Tarsus, and all the churches of Cilicia, Firmilianus, and all Cappadocia. I have named only the more illustrious bishops, that I may not make my epistle too long and my words too burdensome (Cited in Eusebius. Church History, Book VII, Chapter V, Verse I).
Notice that the Alexandrian bishop acknowledged that those in the East (Asia Minor) had been divided from the Alexandrian and Roman churches, were no longer divided. This is because there were no longer any doctrinally original Christians leading them, but only those who tended towards allegory and non-biblical traditions. Is your religion one that followed the faithful or those who followed the compromisers?
And shortly after this time is the first recorded instance of the Italians being able to influence a Roman Emperor enough so that they could install a bishop of their choice (probably either Dmonus or Timaeus) in Antioch (circa 270-273 A.D.) (please see the article The Smyrna Church era).
In the fourth century, the unbaptized, unrepentant, sun-god worshipping, Roman Emperor Constantine arose and persuaded many who professed Christ to turn their back on Christian pacifism and become militaristic (Military Service and the Churches of God: Do Real Christians Participate in Carnal Warfare or Encourage Violence?). He also got other doctrines associated with Mithraism accepted.
Hence, essentially due to compromise and persecutions, the semi-gnostic allegorizers tended to become the main group of professing Christians. For example, by the third and fourth century, the Roman Church no longer taught many apostolic teachings that it once had and instead included more and more teachings that did not originate in the Bible (this is documented in the article Which Is Faithful: The Roman Catholic Church or the Continuing Church of God?). While true Christians remained throughout history (please see the article The Churches of Revelation 2 & 3), they were often a persecuted minority (see also Persecutions by Church and State), and were more specifically persecuted by the State beginning after the Council of Nicea in the fourth century and the subsequent "edicts against heretics" by Emperors Constantine (who had been a follower of Mithraism) in 331 and Theodosius in 381 (prior to that the Roman state normally persecuted Greco-Roman professors of Christ and original believers together)--so they fled into the wilderness for 1260 years (cf. Revelation 12:6).
Throughout time, God raised up faithful Church of God leaders and groups that kept "the faith once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3)--for documentation please see the article The Churches of Revelation 2 & 3.
Over time people, like the Protestant reformers, sometimes stood up against those who often relied on allegory and tradition in an attempt to reverse some of the false doctrines that dominated mainstream Christianity. However, even though they were successful in removing some non-biblical practices (such as many idols and icons), they often retained many of the doctrines that the Alexandrian and Roman churches had accepted (some of this is documented in the free online book: Hope of Salvation: How the Continuing Church of God differs from Protestantism).
In the 21st century, many in the mainstream are hoping to end division and to have ecumenical unity between the Catholics of Rome, the Eastern Orthodox, and with many of the Protestants--thinking that this is God's will.
They, however, would do well to recall what Jesus said:
Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division (Luke 12:51).
Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able (Luke 13:24).
Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it (Matthew 7:14)
Hence, for any to suggest or imply that Jesus is behind the current ecumenical bent of many should be biblically questioned (also the Bible indicates when there is an essentially one-religion prior to the second coming of Christ, that it is not good--see Revelation 13:3-4,8-15)--the "many" are not to be able to enter the Kingdom in this age per Jesus' words in Luke13:24 and elsewhere.
Thus, the true and genuine Church of God will be somewhat small, like the faithful Continuing Church of God.
Was the Headquarters of the True Church To Remain in the Same City?
While as this page mentioned above, there are several churches that claim direct descent from places such as Alexandria, Antioch, Asia Minor, Jerusalem , and Rome, an important question to answer is: Was the headquarters of the true church to remain in the same city?
The answer, from a biblical perspective, is no.
The Apostle Paul taught that it was impossible:
For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come (Hebrews 13:14).
Let us look at what Jesus taught on this matter:
And you will be hated by all for My name's sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in this city, flee to another. For assuredly, I say to you, you will not have gone through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes (Matthew 10:22-23).
Jesus, of course, has not yet returned. Whatever Christians there have been in the area of Palestine have been chased through all the cities in that geographic region since Jesus stated this (the Crusades helped insure this). Thus Jesus must be referring to more cities than just those in the area of Palestine (such as those Jacob was alluding to in Genesis 49:1-27). Jesus, thus, seems to be prophesying that it would not be possible that the headquarters of the true church could permanently remain in any one city for hundreds or nearly two thousand years. These statements from Jesus and Paul clearly indicate that only a church whose headquarters moved relatively often could possibly be true.
Although the true Church was prophesied to continue (Matthew 16:17-18), it was also prophesied to move to different locations (Matthew 10:23; Hebrews 13:14). It is the true Church of God and its doctrines (Jude 3; 1 Timothy 4:16; 2 Timothy 3: 14-16; Galatians 2:5; Colossians 1:21-23; Acts 14:21-22) not a city, that continues until Jesus returns (Matthew 10:23; 16:17-18).
Furthermore, since John prophesied a time that the church would flee into the wilderness for apparently 1260 years (based on each day representing one year, such as shown in Numbers 14:34 and Ezekiel 4:6) in Revelation 12:6, this strongly suggests that the original church would be hard to locate for a very long time--and this simply is not the case with the Roman or Orthodox Catholic Churches. In Revelation Chapters 2 & 3, Jesus has the Apostle John list various churches that while also contemporaneous, provided a prophecy in advance of what would happen to those churches (for more information, please see the article The Churches of Revelation 2 & 3).
Perhaps it should be noted that even Catholic scholars admit that there is a biblical prophesy related to Rome that is less than flattering as the commentary in the 1582 version of the Rheims New Testament (the Roman Catholic standard English translation) states:
The author of the Commentaries upon the Apocalypse set forth in St. Ambrose name, writeth thus: This ... sometime signifieth Rome, specially which at that time when the Apostle wrote this, did persecute the Church of God. But otherwise it signifieth the whole city of the Devil, that is, the universal corps of the reprobate. Tertullian also taketh it for Rome, thus, Babylon (saith he) in St. John is a figure of the city of Rome, being so great, so proud of the Empire, and the destroyer of the saints. Which is plainly spoken of that city, when it was heathen, the head of the terrene dominion of the world, the persecutor of the Apostles and their successors, the seat of Nero, Domitian, and the like, Christ's special enemies, the sink of idolatry, and false worship of the Pagan gods (Annotations on Chapter 17 of the Apocalypse. The Original And True Rheims New Testament Of Anno Domini 1582. Prepared and Edited by Dr. William G. von Peters. Ph.D. 2004, copyright assigned to VSC Corp. Page 583).
Hence Bible prophecy seems to exclude Rome and many other places as the likely leader of true Christendom. Information on some of the early leaders from these cities can be found in the article titled Apostolic Succession.
A comparison of teachings that early Roman Catholic accepted leaders held and those held by the Church of God can be found in the article Which Is Faithful: The Roman Catholic Church or the Continuing Church of God?
Some terms of Possible Interest
The period of early Christianity has many names. So if your seeking background on Christianity, you may see these terms:
1) Ante-Nicene Christianity, which means that this covers Christianity prior to the Council of Nicea which was held at the request of the Emperor Constantine in 325 A.D. Post-Nicene Christianity covers everything since the 325 A.D. council.
2) Original Christianity, which means what the beliefs and practices were of the original apostolic catholic church of God (also called Primitive Christianity or Nazarene Christianity). Essentially from the death of Jesus (31 A.D.) until 325 A.D., as well as any who still have the same beliefs and practices today.
3) Apostolic Christianity, which means what the beliefs and practices were of the original Christian church while the original apostles were alive. Essentially from the death of Jesus (31 A.D.) until the death of the Apostle John around 100 A.D., as well as any who still have the same beliefs and practices today.
4) Post-apostolic Christianity, which means what the beliefs and practices were of the original Christian church from the time of the Apostle John's death until perhaps as late as 325 A.D., as well as any who still have the same beliefs and practices today. Specifically, those who claimed they held to the apostle's teachings on specific matters. The second century was the immediate post-apostolic period.
5) Second Century Christianity which means what the beliefs and practices were of the original Christian church from the time of the Apostle John's death around 100 A.D. until 200 A.D.
6) The time of "the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3) which means what the beliefs and practices were of the original Christian church while the original apostles were alive, as well as any who still have the same beliefs and practices today (true Christianity).
7) Biblical Christianity and Nazarene Christianity are intended to mean the same as the above.
8) Real or Genuine Church of God intended to refer to those of the true Church of God (not groups who use that title) in which there are believers with the Spirit of Christ and to hold to Jesus' basic teachings (cf. Romans 8:9).
9) Philadelphia remnant of the Church of God intended to refer to those who hold to the principles and priorities of the Philadelphian portion of the Church of God (Revelation 3:7-13), which also by definition, makes them part of the real or genuine Church of God.
By early Christianity, this page is specifically referring to the beliefs originally held by true Christians through the fourth century that they received from Jesus, the Apostles, and the writers of the New Testament (and also the Hebrew scriptures). It includes Roman Christians, but not Christianity as now normally practiced by Roman Catholics or others professing Christianity where they deviate from those early beliefs. True Christianity is another term for the type of Christianity practiced by those who still practice apostolic Christianity.
Churches of Revelation 2 & 3: Approximate Timeline of Predominance
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Note to visitors: Many of the doctrines expounded upon at this site are probably different than you have heard. It is certainly understandable that you may question what is taught here. Please understand that when the Bible teaches that Satan deceives the whole world (Revelation 12:9) that means we all have been deceived (all of us have sinned too, Romans 3:23).
Could a small group actually be the remnant of the original church? Or must it be relatively large organization? Would Jesus’ true church be scorned by the world or a major player on the world scene?
Jesus clearly said His True Church would be a "little flock" and be around until He returns. The Continuing Church of God is such a little flock that traces its history from the Book of Acts, throughout the ages, and into the 21st Century. Would you like to learn more about this faithful remnant?
Recall Jesus taught:
"Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it" (Matthew 7:14).
"And you will be hated by all for My name's sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in this city, flee to another. For assuredly, I say to you, you will not have gone through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes (Matthew 10:22-23).
16b..."I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it." (Matthew 16:18)
"Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom" (Luke 12:32).
"And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me" (Matthew 11:6).
Although we in the genuine Church of God are a small, but international, flock, it needs to be understood that not only do we NOT teach that we are the only ones who will be saved, we believe that the Bible clearly teaches that God will save the vast majority of humankind after the church age (this is documented in the free online books
Hope of Salvation: How the Continuing Church of God Differs from Protestantism and Universal OFFER of Salvation, Apokatastasis: Can God save the lost in an age to come? Hundreds of scriptures reveal God’s plan of salvation). Actually, one of the biggest problems with "worldly Christianity" is that most of it simply does not properly understand God's plan of salvation (which God revealed in scripture and shown through His Holy Days).
If you believe God may be calling you to a possibly different understanding about the true Church, please pray, meditate, fast, and study your Bible. Search the scriptures daily to see if these things are so (as did the Bereans, Acts 17:10-11). To learn more about the faithful remnant, please check out the Statement of Beliefs of the Continuing Church of God. If you believe there are any factual errors at this website, please explain where and why as I am happy to correct any errors of fact (as no man, other than Jesus, is perfect).
A free book of possible interest for some may be The MYSTERY of GOD’s PLAN: Why Did God Create Anything? Why Did God Make You?
Here is a link to a free online book: Beliefs of the Original Catholic Church. Did the original “catholic church” have doctrines held by the Continuing Church of God? Did Church of God leaders uses the term “catholic church” to ever describe the church they were part of? Here are links to related sermons: Original Catholic Church of God? , Original Catholic Doctrine: Creed, Liturgy, Baptism, Passover, and What Type of Catholic was Polycarp of Smyrna?, Tradition, Holy Days, Salvation, Dress, & Celibacy, and Early Heresies and Heretics, and Doctrines: 3 Days, Abortion, Ecumenism, Meats, Tithes, Crosses, Destiny, and more, and Saturday or Sunday?
Here is a link to a booklet titled Continuing History of the Church of God This pdf booklet is a historical overview of the true Church of God and some of its main opponents from 31 A.D. to the 21st century. Three related sermon links would include Continuing History of the Church of God: c. 31 to c. 300 A.D. and Continuing History of the Church of God: 4th-16th Centuries and Continuing History of the Church of God: 17th-20th Centuries. In Spanish: Marque aquí para ver el pdf folleto: Continuación de la Historia de la Iglesia de Dios.
Here is a link to a booklet titled Where is the True Christian Church Today? This free online pdf booklet answers that question and includes 18 proofs, clues, and signs to identify the true vs. false Christian church. Plus 7 proofs, clues, and signs to help identify Laodicean churches. A related sermon is also available: Where is the True Christian Church? Here is a link to the booklet in the Spanish language: ¿Dónde está la verdadera Iglesia cristiana de hoy? Here is a link in the German language: WO IST DIE WAHRE CHRISTLICHE KIRCHE HEUTE? Here is a link in the French language: Où est la vraie Église Chrétienne aujourd’hui?.
COGwriter (c) Thiel B., Ph.D. History of Early Christianity. www.cogwriter.com.earlychristianity.htm (c) 2006/2007/2008/2009/2010/2011/2012/2013/2014/2015/2016/2017/2019/2020 /2021 0911
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