Read history. Christians have been declaring the end of the world since the beginning of the Church. And every generation was sure that their time had all the signs that “this is it!” “Things couldn’t possibly get any worse.” Scholars tell us that the first Christians, even Paul himself, believed they wouldn’t make it out of their century before Christ returned in judgement. The Anabaptists during the time of the Reformation were sure their days were the last, and that infant baptism was the mark of the beast, since the practice was tied up with citizenship. And non-citizens had no rights. They could neither buy nor sell. They were non-entities. If I had lived then I may have been persuaded by such reasoning as it seemed very plausible.
And now all the faithful will throw 2 Peter 3:3-7 at me. The pseudonymous author of 2 Peter (most scholars agree Peter did not write this epistle) wrote this section because people (perhaps both Christian and non-Christian) had already realized that Christianity had claimed a quick return of Christ that never happened. So they needed a reinterpretation. And that has been the sad history of Christianity ever since. One long reinterpretation.
3 First of all you must understand this, that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and indulging their own lusts 4 and saying, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since our ancestors died, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation!” 5 They deliberately ignore this fact, that by the word of God heavens existed long ago and an earth was formed out of water and by means of water,6 through which the world of that time was deluged with water and perished. 7 But by the same word the present heavens and earth have been reserved for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the godless. (NRSV)
This passage also creates fear in the faithful as the author makes it clear that doubting the literal and bodily Second Coming of Christ makes you a wicked reprobate worthy of fire that is coming to burn the world up!
Going back to the idea of Christianity being one long reinterpretation. Why, even today we have people who claim to have re-discovered a so-called Super Gospel where they smash all existing Gospels together. Doesn’t matter if they are Gnostic or proto-Orthodox. We have others who are now attempting to return to “Pristine Christianity”. A return to the Ante Nicene faith. Others are trying to develop their own form of what they see as “Pure” Christianity by obeying and considering Jesus’ Words Only as Scripture. All of these groups are admittedly small, but it goes to show that the re-imagining of Christianity continues unabated. And at the same time these re-imaginings are imagined to somehow be a return to orthodoxy and all competing forms of the religion are denounced in the strongest terms as hellish counterfeits. But is this not just the same old, same old that has been going on for the last 2000 years?
Here are some links to the movement I mention in the article:
The Super-Gospel: http://scriptural-truth.com/
Ante Nicene Restorationism: www.scrollpublishing.com
The man who is almost single-handedly behind the whole modern movement is David Bercot. He wrote a book in the 1980’s called Will the Real Heretics Please Stand Up? Where he make a convincing case that all of modern Christianity has strayed very far from Ante Nicene Christianity. Here’s his personal website: www.davidbercot.com/
The movement I got involved in after reading Bercot’s book seems to have vanished. They had quite an interesting website (EarlyChristianFellowship.org) with articles mainly written by William Leary. The articles covered various topics written from an Ante Nicene point of view, defending or explaining it. I parted with them after I found anomilies with their own reinterpretation of Ante Nicene Ecclesiology. I basically discovered that no church on earth today, including theirs was able to satisfy the requirements for being the true Church. At least not according to the standards of men like Tertulliand and Cyprian (who had different standards by the way… Just to confuse things a little more).
Here’s another seemingly defunct Ante Nicene Fellowship: http://www.ante-nicenechurch.org/
And here’s one that seems to still be going. I may have had interaction with these guys years ago. If I remember they are bit more “Catholic” than the group I was with who had a distinctively Protestant feel about them.
So it seems this “mighty move of God” has died before it has really taken off. A blip in the footnotes of Church history.
Jesus’ Words Only: www.jesuswordsonly.com
Paul fought the Judaizers in his day and they are back. And guess what? The modern Judaizers hate Paul too! This group claims that Paul is false prophet! Intriguing to say the least. If you have an inquisitive mind and don’t mind being influenced by a bit of heresy then this will interest you. The founder is busy building Christian fellowships that only accept Jesus’ words and the OT as inspired and who also believe it is necessary to follow the Law. They seem to be doing better than the Ante Nicene fellowships did…