John the Baptist 27 AD "The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand." (Matthew 3:2) 27 AD "Who warned you to flee from the wrath about to come?" (Matthew 3:7) 27 AD "The axe is already laid at the root of the trees." (Matthew 3:10) 27 AD "His winnowing fork is in His hand." (Matthew 3:12) 27 AD "The kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Matthew 4:17) 27 AD "The kingdom of God is at hand." (Mark 1:15) 27 AD “Who warned you to flee from the wrath about to come?” (Luke 3:7) 27 AD “The axe is already laid at the root of the trees. " (Luke 3:9) 27 AD "His winnowing fork is in His hand…." (Luke 3:17) Jesus the Christ 28 AD "The kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Matthew 10:7) 28 AD "You shall not finish going through the cities of Israel, until the Son of Man comes." (Matthew 10:23) 28 AD "....the age about to come." (Matthew 12:32) 28 AD “The kingdom of God has come near to you.” (Luke 10:9) 28 AD “The kingdom of God has come near.” (Luke 10:11) 30 AD "The Son of Man is about to come in the glory of His Father with His angels; and will then recompense every man according to his deeds." (Matthew 16:27) 30 AD "There are some of those who are standing here who shall not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom." (Matthew 16:28; cf. Mark 9:1; Luke 9:27) 30 AD "'When the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vine-growers?' '....He will bring those wretches to a wretched end, and will rent out the vineyard to other vine-growers, who will pay him the proceeds at the proper seasons.' '....Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you, and be given to a nation producing the fruit of it.' ....When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard His parables, they understood that He was speaking about them." (Matthew 21:40-41,43,45) 30 AD "This generation will not pass away until all these things take place." (Matthew 24:34) 30 AD "From now on, you [Caiaphas, the chief priests, the scribes, the elders, the whole Sanhedrin] shall be seeing the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven." (Matthew 26:64; Mark 14:62; Luke 22:69) 30 AD "What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the vine-growers, and will give the vineyard to others. ....They [the chief priests, scribes and elders] understood that He spoke the parable against them." (Mark 12:9,12) 30 AD "This generation will not pass away until all these things take place.” (Mark 13:30) 30 AD “What, therefore, will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and destroy these vine-growers and will give the vineyard to others." …The scribes and the chief priests …understood that He spoke this parable against them.” (Luke 20:15-16,19) 30 AD “These are days of vengeance, in order that all things which are written may be fulfilled.” (Luke 21:22) 30 AD "This generation will not pass away until all things take place.” (Luke 21:32) 30 AD "Daughters of Jerusalem, stop weeping for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming when they will say, 'Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.' Then they will begin to say to the mountains, 'Fall on us,' and to the hills, 'Cover us.'” (Luke 23:28-30; Compare Revelation 6:14-17) 30 AD "I will come to you. …In that Day you shall know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.' …'Lord, what then has happened that You are about to disclose Yourself to us, and not to the world?'" (John 14:18,20,22) 30 AD "If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you?" (John 21:22) The Disciples 30 AD "We were hoping that He was the One who is about to redeem Israel.” (Luke 24:21) Paul the Apostle to the Gentiles 52 AD “…we who are alive, and remain until the coming of the Lord… …We who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds… …You, brethren, are not in darkness, that the Day should overtake you like a thief.” (1 Thessalonians 4:15,17; 5:4) 52 AD “May your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thessalonians 5:23) 52 AD “It is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire.” (2 Thessaloniams 1:6-7) 56 AD “The time has been shortened.” (1 Corinthians 7:29) 56 AD “The form of this world is passing away.” (1 Corinthians 7:31) 56 AD “Now these things …were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.” (1 Corinthians 10:11) 56 AD “We shall not all fall sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52) 56 AD "Maranatha!" [The Lord comes!] (1 Corinthians 16:22) 56 AD “Godliness …holds promise for the present life and that which is about to come.” (1 Timothy 4:8) 56 AD “I charge you …that you keep the commandment without stain or reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Timothy 6:14) 56 AD “…storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for that which is about to come, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed.” (1 Timothy 6:19) 57 AD “He has fixed a day in which He is about to judge the world in righteousness…” (Acts 17:31) 58 AD “Not for [Abraham's] sake only was it written, that [faith] was reckoned to him [as righteousness], but for our sake also, to whom it is about to be reckoned.” (Romans 4:23-24) 58 AD “If you are living according to the flesh, you are about to die.” (Romans 8:13) 58 AD “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is about to be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:18) 58 AD "It is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. The night is almost gone, and the day is at hand." (Romans 13:11-12) 58 AD “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.” (Romans 16:20) 60 AD “There is about to be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked.” (Acts 24:15) 60 AD “As he was discussing righteousness, self-control and the judgment about to come…" (Acts 24:25) 61 AD "...not only in this age, but also in the one about to come.” (Ephesians 1:21) 61 AD “In the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self… …Avoid these men. For of these are those who enter into households and captivate weak women… …These also oppose the truth… …But they will not make further progress; for their folly will be obvious to all…” (2 Timothy 3:1-2,5-6,8-9) 61 AD “I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is about to judge the living and the dead…” (2 Timothy 4:1) 62 AD “The Lord is near.” (Philippians 4:5) 62 AD "The gospel …was proclaimed in all creation under heaven." (Colossians 1:23; Compare Matthew 24:14; Romans 10:18; 16:26; Colossians 1:5-6; 2 Timothy 4:17; Revelation 14:6-7; cf. I Clement 5,7) 62 AD “…things which are a shadow of what is about to come.” (Colossians 2:16-17) 63 AD “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son.” (Hebrews 1:1-2) 63 AD “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who are about to inherit salvation?” (Hebrews 1:14) 63 AD “He did not subject to angels the world about to come.” (Hebrews 2:5) 63 AD “…and have tasted …the powers of the age about to come.” (Hebrews 6:5) 63 AD "For ground that drinks the rain which often falls upon it and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is also tilled, receives a blessing from God; but if it yields thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near a curse, and it's end is for burning.” (Hebrews 6:7-8) 63 AD “When He said, 'A new covenant,' He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear.” (Hebrews 8:13) 63 AD “The Holy Spirit is signifying this, that the way of the [heavenly] Holy Places has not yet been revealed, while the outer tabernacle is still standing, which is a symbol for the present time. Accordingly both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make the worshiper perfect in conscience, since they relate only to food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until a time of reformation.” (Hebrews 9:8-10; Compare Galatians 4:19; Ephesians 2:21-22; 3:17; 4:13) 63 AD “But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things about to come…” (Hebrews 9:11) 63 AD “Now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin.” (Hebrews 9:26) 63 AD “For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things about to come…” (Hebrews 10:1) 63 AD “…as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:25) 63 AD “…the fury of a fire which is about to consume the adversaries.” (Hebrews 10:27) 63 AD “For yet in a very little while, He who is coming will come, and will not delay.” (Hebrews 10:37) 63 AD “For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the one that is about to come.” (Hebrews 13:14) Peter the Apostle to the Circumcision 30 AD “This is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel: 'And it shall be in the last days…'” (Acts 2:16-17) 62 AD “…salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” (1 Peter 1:5) 62 AD “He …has appeared in these last times for the sake of you.” (1 Peter 1:20) 62 AD “In the last days mockers will come. …For this they willingly are ignorant of…” (1 Peter 3:3,5) 62 AD “They shall give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.” (1 Peter 4:5) 62 AD “The end of all things is at hand; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer.” (1 Peter 4:7) 62 AD "For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God.” (1 Peter 4:17) 62 AD “…as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is about to be revealed.” (1 Peter 5:1) 62 AD “We have the prophetic word …which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the Day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts.” (2 Peter 1:19) 62 AD “Their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.” (2 Peter 2:3) 62 AD “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God.” (2 Peter 3:10-12) James 62 AD "Speak and so act, as those who are about to be judged by the law of liberty." (James 2:12) 62 AD “Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries which are coming upon you. …It is in the last days that you have stored up your treasure!” (James 5:1,3) 62 AD “Be patient, therefore, brethren, until the coming of the Lord.” (James. 5:7) 62 AD “You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.” (James. 5:8) Jude the brother of James 62 AD “For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation. …About these also Enoch …prophesied, saying, 'Behold, the Lord came with many thousands of His holy ones, to execute judgment upon all, and to convict all the ungodly…'” (Jude 1:4,14-15) 62 AD “But you, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, that they were saying to you, 'In the last time there shall be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts.' These are the ones who cause divisions…” (Jude 1:17-19) John the Apostle whom Jesus loved 62 AD “The darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining.” (1 John 2:8) 62 AD “The world is passing away, and its desires.” (1 John 2:17) 62 AD “It is the last hour.” (1 John 2:18) 62 AD “Even now many antichrists have arisen; from this we know that it is the last hour.” (1 John 2:18; Compare Matthew 24:23-34) 62 AD “This is that of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world.” (1 John 4:3; Compare 2 Thessaloniams 2:7) 63 AD “…to show to His bond-servants, the things which must shortly take place.” (Revelation 1:1) 63 AD “The time is near.” (Revelation 1:3) 63 AD “Nevertheless what you have, hold fast until I come.” (Revelation 2:25) 63 AD “I also will keep you from the hour of testing which is about to come upon the whole world.” (Revelation 3:10) 63 AD “I am coming quickly.” (Revelation 3:11) 63 AD “And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who is about to rule all the nations with a rod of iron.” (Revelation 12:5) 63 AD "And in her [the Great City Babylon] was found the blood of prophets and of saints and of all who have been slain on the earth." (Revelation 18:24; Compare Matthew 23:35-36; Luke 11:50-51) 63 AD “…to show to His bond-servants the things which must shortly take place.” (Revelation 22:6) 63 AD "Behold, I am coming quickly. " (Revelation 22:7) 63 AD "Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near." (Revelation 22:10; Compare Daniel 8:26) 63 AD "Behold, I am coming quickly.” (Revelation 22:12) 63 AD "Yes, I am coming quickly." (Revelation 22:20)

325-590AD Overview

(from Schaff's History of the Church, PC Study Bible formatted electronic database Copyright © 1999, 2003, 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

NICENE AND POST-NICENE CHRISTIANITY (A.D. 311-590)

From Constantine the Great to Gregory the Great
A.D. 311-600


1. Introduction and General View.

From the Christianity of the Apostles and Martyrs we proceed to the Christianity of the Patriarchs and Emperors.
The third period of the history of the Church, which forms the subject of this volume, extends from the emperor Constantine to the pope Gregory I.; from the beginning of the fourth century to the close of the sixth. During this period Christianity still moves, as in the first three centuries, upon the geographical scene of the Graeco-Roman empire and the ancient classical culture, the countries around the Mediterranean Sea. But its field and its operation are materially enlarged, and even touch the barbarians on the limit of the empire. Above all, its relation to the temporal power, and its social and political position and import, undergo an entire and permanent change. We have here to do with the church of the Graeco-Roman empire, and with the beginning of Christianity among the Germanic barbarians. Let us glance first at the general character and leading events of this important period.

The reign of Constantine the Great marks the transition of the Christian religion from under persecution by the secular government to union with the same; the beginning of the state-church system. The Graeco-Roman heathenism, the most cultivated and powerful form of idolatry, which history knows, surrenders, after three hundred years' struggle, to Christianity, and dies of incurable consumption, with the confession: Galilean, thou hast conquered! The ruler of the civilized world lays his crown at the feet of the crucified Jesus of Nazareth. The successor of Nero, Domitian, and Diocletian appears in the imperial purple at the council of Nice as protector of the church, and takes his golden throne at the nod of bishops, who still bear the scars of persecution. The despised sect, which, like its Founder in the days of His humiliation, had not where to lay its head, is raised to sovereign authority in the state, enters into the prerogatives of the pagan priesthood, grows rich and powerful, builds countless churches out of the stones of idol temples to the honor of Christ and his martyrs, employs the wisdom of Greece and Rome to vindicate the foolishness of the cross, exerts a molding power upon civil legislation, rules the national life, and leads off the history of the world. But at the same time the church, embracing the mass of the population of the empire, from the Caesar to the meanest slave, and living amidst all its institutions, received into her bosom vast deposits of foreign material from the world and from heathenism, exposing herself to new dangers and imposing upon herself new and heavy labors.

The union of church and state extends its influence, now healthful, now baneful, into every department of our history.
The Christian life of the Nicene and post-Nicene age reveals a mass of worldliness within the church; an entire abatement of chiliasm with its longing after the return of Christ and his glorious reign, and in its stead an easy repose in the present order of things; with a sublime enthusiasm, on the other hand, for the renunciation of self and the world, particularly in the hermitage and the cloister, and with some of the noblest heroes of Christian holiness.

Monasticism, in pursuance of the ascetic tendencies of the previous period, and in opposition to the prevailing secularization of Christianity, sought to save the virgin purity of the church and the glory of martyrdom by retreat from the world into the wilderness; and it carried the ascetic principle to the summit of moral heroism, though not rarely to the borders of fanaticism and brutish stupefaction. It spread with incredible rapidity and irresistible fascination from Egypt over the whole church, east and west, and received the sanction of the greatest church teachers, of an Athanasius, a Basil, a Chrysostom, an Augustine, a Jerome, as the surest and shortest way to heaven.

It soon became a powerful rival of the priesthood, and formed a third order, between the priesthood and the laity. The more extraordinary and eccentric the religion of the anchorets and monks, the more they were venerated among the people. The whole conception of the Christian life from the fourth to the sixteenth century is pervaded with the ascetic and monastic spirit, and pays the highest admiration to the voluntary celibacy, poverty, absolute obedience, and excessive self-punishments of the pillar-saints and the martyrs of the desert; while in the same degree the modest virtues of every-day household and social life are looked upon as an inferior degree of morality.

In this point the old Catholic ethical ideas essentially differ from those of evangelical Protestantism and modern civilization. But, to understand and appreciate them, we must consider them in connection with the corrupt social condition of the rapidly decaying empire of Rome. The Christian spirit in that age, in just its most earnest and vigorous forms, felt compelled to assume in some measure an anti-social, seclusive character, and to prepare itself in the school of privation and solitude for the work of transforming the world and founding a new Christian order of society upon the ruins of the ancient heathenism.

In the development of doctrine the Nicene and post-Nicene age is second in productiveness and importance only to those of the apostles and of the reformation. It is the classical period for the objective fundamental dogmas, which constitute the ecumenical or old Catholic confession of faith. The Greek church produced the symbolical definition of the orthodox view of the holy Trinity and the person of Christ, while the Latin church made considerable advance with the anthropological and soteriological doctrines of sin and grace. The fourth and fifth centuries produced the greatest church fathers, Athanasius and Chrysostom in the East, Jerome and Augustine in the West. All learning and science now came into the service of the church, and all classes of society, from the emperor to the artisan, took the liveliest, even a passionate interest, in the theological controversies. Now, too, for the first time, could ecumenical councils be held, in which the church of the whole Roman empire was represented, and fixed its articles of faith in an authoritative way.

Now also, however, the lines of orthodoxy were more and more strictly drawn; freedom of inquiry was restricted; and all as departure from the state-church system was met not only, as formerly, with spiritual weapons, but also with civil punishments. So early as the fourth century the dominant party, the orthodox as well as the heterodox, with help of the imperial authority practised deposition, confiscation, and banishment upon its opponents. It was but one step thence to the penalties of torture and death, which were ordained in the middle age, and even so lately as the middle of the seventeenth century, by state-church authority, both Protestant and Roman Catholic, and continue in many countries to this day, against religious dissenters of every kind as enemies to the prevailing order of things. Absolute freedom of religion and of worship is in fact logically impossible on the state-church system. It requires the separation of the spiritual and temporal powers. Yet, from the very beginning of political persecution, loud voices rise against it and in behalf of ecclesiastico-religious toleration; though the plea always comes from the oppressed party, which, as soon as it gains the power, is generally found, in lamentable inconsistency, imitating the violence of its former oppressors. The protest springs rather from the sense of personal injury, than from horror of the principle of persecution, or from any clear apprehension of the nature of the gospel and its significant words: "Put up thy sword into the sheath" (John 18:11); "My kingdom is not of this world" (John 18:36).

The organization of the church adapts itself to the political and geographical divisions of the empire. The powers of the hierarchy are enlarged, the bishops become leading officers of the state and acquire a controlling influence in civil and political affairs, though more or less at the expense of their spiritual dignity and independence, especially at the Byzantine court. The episcopal system passes on into the metropolitan and patriarchal. In the fifth century the patriarchs of Rome, Constantinople, Antioch, Alexandria, and Jerusalem stand at the head of Christendom. Among these Rome and Constantinople are the most powerful rivals, and the Roman patriarch already puts forth a claim to universal spiritual supremacy, which subsequently culminates in the mediaeval papacy, though limited to the West and resisted by the constant protest of the Greek church and of all non-Catholic sects. In addition to provincial synods we have now also general synods, but called by the emperors and more or less affected, though not controlled, by political influence.

From the time of Constantine church discipline declines; the whole Roman world having become nominally Christian, and the host of hypocritical professors multiplying beyond all control. Yet the firmness of Ambrose with the emperor Theodosius shows, that noble instances of discipline are not altogether wanting.

Worship appears greatly enriched and adorned; for art now comes into the service of the church. A Christian architecture, a Christian sculpture, a Christian painting, music, and poetry arise, favoring at once devotion and solemnity, and all sorts of superstition and empty display. The introduction of religious images succeeds only after long and violent opposition. The element of priesthood and of mystery is developed, but in connection with a superstitious reliance upon a certain magical operation of outward rites. Church festivals are multiplied and celebrated with great pomp; and not exclusively in honor of Christ, but in connection with an extravagant veneration of martyrs and saints, which borders on idolatry, and often reminds us of the heathen hero-worship not yet uprooted from the general mind. The multiplication and accumulation of religious ceremonies impressed the senses and the imagination, but prejudiced simplicity, spirituality, and fervor in the worship of God. Hence also the beginnings of reaction against ceremonialism and formalism.

Notwithstanding the complete and sudden change of the social and political circumstances of the church, which meets us on the threshold of this period, we have still before us the natural, necessary continuation of the pre-Constantine church in its light and shade, and the gradual transition of the old Graeco-Roman Catholicism into the Germano-Roman Catholicism of the middle age.
Our attention will now for the first time be turned in earnest, not only to Christianity in the Roman empire, but also to Christianity among the Germanic barbarians, who from East and North threaten the empire and the entire civilization of classic antiquity. The church prolonged, indeed, the existence of the Roman empire, gave it a new splendor and elevation, new strength and unity, as well as comfort in misfortune; but could not prevent its final dissolution, first in the West (A.D. 476), afterwards (1453) in the East. But she herself survived the storms of the great migration, brought the pagan invaders under the influence of Christianity, taught the barbarians the arts of peace, planted a higher civilization upon the ruins of the ancient world, and thus gave new proof of the indestructible, all-subduing energy of her life.

In a minute history of the fourth, fifth, and sixth centuries we should mark the following subdivisions:

1. The Constantinian and Athanasian, or the Nicene and Trinitarian age, from 311 to the second general council in 381, distinguished by the conversion of Constantine, the alliance of the empire with the church, and the great Arian and semi-Arian controversy concerning the Divinity of Christ and the Holy Spirit.

2. The post-Nicene, or Christological and Augustinian age, extending to the fourth general council in 451, and including the Nestorian and Eutychian disputes on the person of Christ, and the Pelagian controversy on sin and grace.

3. The age of Leo the Great (440-461), or the rise of the papal supremacy in the West, amidst the barbarian devastations which made an end to the western Roman empire in 476.

4. The Justinian age (527-565), which exhibits the Byzantine state-church despotism at the height of its power, and at the beginning of its decline.

5. The Gregorian age (590-604) forms the transition from the ancient Graeco-Roman to the mediaeval Romano-Germanic Christianity, and will be more properly included in the church history of the middle ages.


(from Schaff's History of the Church, PC Study Bible formatted electronic database Copyright © 1999, 2003, 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)