After Christ’s death and resurrection, He left the leadership of His church under the apostles. Peter was the prophet, head of the 12 apostles, followed in authority by James and John. They served as special witnesses of Christ and received revelation from Him for the churches established in different cities. Hence, they wrote the Epistles as guides and instruction to those members.
Unfortunately, these cities needed the direction because the church members were falling away from the original teaching. The epistles directed the people back towards the truth. Many people were led astray by their personal desires and the cunning words of men during the days of the apostles, creating an apostasy.
An apostacy, or falling away from truth, can be both personal and universal. As individuals fall away from the truth, they fall into a personal apostasy while when a group as a whole falls away, they create a general apostasy. Such was the case during these days.
Along with the false teachings the apostles warned about, many nations and cultures persecuted the Christians. By 64 A.D. Nero was emperor in Rome and the persecution became organized. John, the prophet at that time, was exiled to Patmos where he wrote the book of Revelation.
Persecutions continued until the days of Constantine around 325 A.D. who made Christianity the empirical religion and declared himself the head of the church. They called the Church universal, or catholic, and it was led by a man not called of God, but self-appointed.
And the Dark Ages began. Men believed the heavens were closed; God had ceased to speak. The doctrine of the church was decided by councils of men rather than revelation from God and many plain and precious truths were lost, prophesied by Isaiah, Amos, and Malachi.
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