The Restoration Movement: A Biblical Examination
Conservative American Protestantism in the early nineteenth century endured much tumult. The rise of theological liberalism on one side, and the growth of Roman Catholicism on the other, led many religious thinkers to call for a restoration of ante-nicene religious purity. Radical reformers such as Mormon Prophet Joseph Smith and Jehovah's Witness Pastor Charles Taze Russel proclaimed their novel heresies to be restorations of "the fullness of the everlasting gospel." Several more orthodox movements, including those of James O'Kelly, Dr. Abner Jones, Rice Haggard, Barton Warren Stone, and Thomas and Alexander Campbell, became unified in vision and purpose. Joined together, these movements worked toward what they believed to be a revival of the true Christian faith among Protestants. Their common work has become known as the Restoration Movement. Historians trace the origins of three religious communions to this movement; the Church of Christ, the Disciples of Christ, and the Christian Church. Members of the Church of Christ generally consider themselves alone to be the true sons of the Restoration, and label the Disciples and the Christian Church "latter day apostasies."
Those who dedicated their lives to the Restoration Movement are considered by their spiritual descendants to be very different from religious reformers of the past. Church of Christ historian Robert H. Brumback explains:
"All the leaders of the Protestant Reformation had taught that was right was readily accepted by the men of the Restoration movement. The work Luther, Knox, Zwingli, and Calvin attempted was a reformation of the Roman Catholic Church, but (the restorers) were not working for the reformation of any religious group. Their purpose was to bring about a restoration of the teaching of the ONE CHURCH of the New Testament." (1)
Alexander Campbell, the single most influential figure of the Restoration Movement, explained his intentions in the pages of his periodical, Christian Baptist. Unlike the religious reformers throughout the ages, Campbell and his contemporaries did not desire to start a denomination, but restore the purity of faith and practice to the one true Church of Christ. In February of 1826, Campbell wrote:
"I have no idea of adding to the catalogue of new sects. This game has been played too long. I labor to see sectarianism abolished, and all Christians of every name united upon the one foundation on which the apostolic church was founded. To bring Baptists and Paido-baptists to this is my supreme end." (2)
The Church of Christ today considers itself to be the restored Church of the New Testament. While generally holding the pioneer preachers of the Restoration Movement in high esteem for their important work, members refuse to trace their origin to this movement. Rather, in their eyes their founder is Jesus Christ and their own denomination is the Church universal outside of which there is no salvation. They continue the work of the Restoration Movement by calling people to abandon the Catholic and Orthodox Churches and the Protestant denominations and join their Church. Author Danny Brown states:
"The need of the religious world is a complete restoration of the rule of faith and practice, organization, worship, mission, and conditions of salvation which were characteristics of the church revealed in the Scriptures...The church of Christ in your community is pleading for a restoration of the rule of faith and practice, organization, worship, mission, and conditions of salvation which were characteristic of the church revealed in the Scriptures. Will you take your stand with them on this plea?" (3)
Implied at the very core of the Restoration Plea is a belief that the Church established by Christ through the apostles in the first century fell away. To members of the Church of Christ, the Roman Catholic Church is the result of a Satanic corruption of the true Church. She is viewed as an apostate Church, opposed to all that is truly Christian, and, consequently, members of the Church of Christ are very anti-Catholic. Church of Christ propaganda aimed at proselytizing Catholics often relies on the most reprehensible misinformation and the most out dated argumentation. Protestant denominations, one of which the Church of Christ claims not to be, are viewed as only slightly better than Catholicism. They were founded by men trying to improve the Catholic Church, not restore the true Church. Churches of Christ refuse to have fellowship with any other churches, denominations, or religious communities. Many in the Church of Christ reserve the name "Christian" only for themselves, and condemn all non-members to Hell outright. To the member of the Church of Christ, it is truly "my way or the highway," and this highway is the one of which Bon Scott sang. Catholics reject the claim of the churches of Christ to have restored pure New Testament Christianity. The Church established by Jesus Christ, in Catholic thought, is guided by the Holy Spirit and preserved from error. She can neither teach religious error, cease to exist, or dwindle into obscurity. All other Churches and denominations have broken off from her and, if Christian unity is ever to be achieved, they must return to her bosom. For this she pleads, and she waits as a mother with open arms. Those who know the Catholic Church to be the true Church and refuse to become part of her, to the Catholic, cannot be saved.
Proponents of the Restoration Movement, it should be pointed out, are divided into at least two schools of thought. One school holds that, once the Church of Christ went into apostasy, the gospel was lost until the time of the Restoration. While dates on the apostasy vary arbitrarily from publication to publication (ranging from the early second century to the conversion of St. Constantine the Great in 312 to the reign of Pope Boniface III in 607 AD to the schism of 1054), the Catholic Church is believed to have completely enveloped and destroyed the Church of Christ. From that time onward, there were no true Christians. This is the viewpoint defended by David J. Riggs, a former Catholic who does much work to bring Catholics into the Church of Christ.
A second school of thought holds that there were true Christians living in secret from the time of Christ onward. Glenn McClister and Brent Hunter advocate this theory in their tract, Where Did All the Denominations Come From?
"During all these changes [in Church doctrine and practice], most of the people in the Church simply went along with the departures from the New Testament teaching and allowed the innovations and human ideas. Some remained faithful, fought against the apostasy and were excommunicated (or worse). In the hands of the faithful, however, the Lord's Church never ceased to exist no matter how small or historically obscure it became."
Was the Restoration Movement the will of God? Did the true Church fall away? Is the Church of Christ the restored Church of the New Testament or a Protestant denomination? Is the Roman Catholic Church the Bride of Christ or the Whore of Babylon? To answer these all important questions and defend the faith of our fathers, we must first consult the Word of God on the indefectability of the Church, and secondly, we must examine and refute the arguments for the Restoration Movement.
THE MESSIAH AND HIS KINGDOM
The Catholic Church and the Church of Christ agree that Jesus is the Messiah of prophecy. Together they recognize that from the very beginning, it was God's plan that the Son of God should become a man, die for our sins, rise again, and establish his kingdom.
The Kingdom of God is one of the most profound mysteries of the Christian faith. All Christians look to a great event in the future at which time the Kingdom of God will be fulfilled and all pain and suffering will be eradicated. Christians recognize and rejoice in their destiny to spend eternity in the Kingdom of God in heaven. Besides being a great eschatological future event, Christians also recognize the Kingdom of God do be a deep, personal reality. Jesus said in Luke 7:20 that "the Kingdom of God is within you." Christians work to spread this inner kingdom by striving to ease all suffering, assist the impoverished, protect the weak, and advocate social justice for all peoples.
The Kingdom of God has many aspects. Of these, the most concrete, visible, tangible aspect is that of the Church. While looking to spread the kingdom through peace and justice and hoping for an ultimate fulfillment in the Second Advent, Christians of both the Catholic Church and the Church of Christ understand that the Kingdom of God was established in this world in history in the foundation of the Church. Addressing his disciples and a crowd which had gathered to hear him, Jesus assured them: "Amen, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see that the Kingdom of God has come in power." (Mark 9:1) In promising to build his Church, Jesus said to St. Peter, "I will give to you the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven." (Matt. 16:19) Instituting the Eucharist, Jesus said to his apostles: "I shall not drink of the fruit of the vine until the day when I drink it with you new in the Kingdom of my Father." (Matt. 26:29) As he was preparing to surrender his spirit, however, he cried out in thirst and drank sour wine. With that, he passed from this life. Having accomplished the redemption of the world, he has purchased the Church with his own blood and established the Kingdom of God on earth.
All of this, so far, is acceptable to Catholics and members of the Church of Christ. These simple truths, however, when accepted as they truly fit into God's eternal plan, will prove the downfall of Church of Christ Restorationism. An examination of the Sacred Scriptures, accepted by Catholics and Protestants alike as the life giving fountain of divine knowledge, will demonstrate that the Kingdom of God on earth, Christ's Church, could not possibly and will not ever fall away, thus disproving any claims to have restored her. From the earliest foreshadowing of the Church in prophecy, to the words of Christ preparing to enact the New Covenant, to the epistles of the first leaders of the infant Church, scripture is clear that the Church can not fall away from the truth.
THE EARLIEST PROPHECY OF THE CHURCH
From the very dawn of creation, mankind has abused its free will and defied God. God in his infinite mercy has never given up on his people, but has always reached out to offer salvation. Immediately following the original sin, God established a covenant with Adam and Eve, telling of one who would come to do battle with Satan.
"I will put enmity between you (Satan) and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel." (Gen. 3:15)
As the human family grew, its attachment to Satan only increased. Rejecting the God who demanded ethical behavior but offered eternal salvation, the tribes of the earth turned to demon gods who offered sex, money, and power, as well as eternal damnation. By the dawn of the second millennium before Christ, every tribe of the earth had fallen into idolatry except for a Semitic clan led by Abram. God chose Abram and renamed him Abraham, the Father of Nations. In a covenant with Abraham, God promised to use his descendants, the Jews, to again reach out to the nations which had rejected his kindness.
"I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and curse those who curse you. All the communities of the earth shall find blessing in you." (Gen. 12:2,3)
THE LION OF THE TRIBE OF JUDAH
This reunion of all earthly communities is the first glimpse the scriptures give of the Catholic Church. Abraham's grandson, Jacob, was renamed Israel and chosen to be the Patriarch of this great nation. Each of his twelve sons were fathers of one of the tribes of Israel. In his deathbed blessing of his son Judah, Jacob gives the next important insight into the nature of the Church.
"You, Judah, shall your brothers praise--your hand on the neck of your enemies! The sons of your father shall bow down to you. Judah, like a lion's whelp, you have grown up on prey, my son. He crouches like a lion recumbent, the King of Beasts--who would are rouse him? The scepter shall never depart from Judah, or the mace from between his legs, while tribute is brought to him, and he receives the people's homage." (Gen. 59:8-10)
This prophecy places Judah in charge of the nation of Israel. Judah is to rule forever. All ready, advocates of the Restoration Movement need to consider this carefully. Jesus Christ, of course, is of the tribe of Judah, and it is in him that Judah reigns forever. Members of the Church of Christ might hesitate to assert that Jesus ceased to rule during the centuries of apostasy, but a man's rule is little more than a joke if he lacks subjects. The words of Jacob to his son Judah imply an eternal Judaic rule under which are many people subject. These people, the sons and daughters of the Church, bring "tribute" and "homage" to their king, Jesus Christ, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. This prophecy found fulfillment in the advent of King David.
Centuries after the death of the Patriarch Jacob, the Israelite people grew into a large sovereign nation. It was with this nation that God made the Mosaic Covenant. Each of the sons of Jacob begot an Israelite tribe, and each tribe was given a portion of the land of Israel. After many years of virtual anarchy and continual warfare with the neighboring pagans, the Israelite people demanded a king to unify them. After the rise and fall of King Saul, the Lord through the Prophet Samuel chose David, the youngest son of Jesse of the tribe of Judah, and anointed him king. God sent the Prophet Nathan to King David to reveal a prophetic message. Included in this message is the future establishment of the Catholic Church:
"The Lord also reveals to you that he will establish a house for you. And when your time comes and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your heir after you, sprung from your loins, and I will make his kingdom firm. It is he who shall build a house for my name. And I will make his royal throne firm forever. I will be a father to him, and he shall be a Son to me. And if he does wrong, I will correct him with the rod of men and with human chastisements; but I will not withdraw my favor from him as I withdrew it from your predecessor Saul, whom I removed from my presence. Your house and your kingdom shall stand firm forever." (2 Samuel 7:11-16)
Immediate fulfillment of this prophecy came in King Solomon, the son of David. It was he who built the Holy Temple of Jerusalem as a house for God. Falling into sin, God punished him and brought him back into salvation. After Solomon, his son Rehoboam ruled the people. During his reign, a schism occurred, and only the southern tribes remained under rule of the Davidic dynasty. As long as the Southern kingdom retained sovereignty, the dynasty of David and, in him Judah, retained the scepter of power. Eventually, the Babylonian Empire conquered the Hebrews, and it seemed that the promises of God to make David's kingdom firm had failed. Ultimate fulfillment, however, came in Jesus Christ, a descendant of David, who, centuries later, established the Church as the Kingdom of God. Jesus, though sinless, became sin and suffered the chastisements of men to free mankind from sin and bring all nations into God's fold. In Christ, the promise to Abraham is fulfilled and all communities of the earth find blessing. It is in Christ and his Church that David's house and kingdom stand firm forever. Although the events which would lead to the rise of the Holy Catholic Church, God's firm and eternal kingdom, would not come for centuries, King David, through the Holy Spirit, enjoyed a keen insight into her future. In his Psalms, the beautiful poems and songs of praise to God which Catholics and members of the Church of Christ both dearly love, David provides truth seekers with very vital evidence against the Restoration Movement.
The second Psalm, a song for the occasion of a royal coronation, foretells the advent of Jesus Christ and gives a stern warning to the heathen:
"Why do the nations protest and the peoples grumble in vain? Kings on earth rise up and princes plot against the Lord and his anointed...I myself have installed my king on Zion, my holy mountain. I will proclaim the decree of the Lord, who said to me, 'You are my Son, today I am your Father. Only ask it of me, and I will make your inheritance the nations, your possession the ends of the earth. With an iron rod you shall shepherd them, like a clay pot you will shatter them." (Ps. 2:1,6-9)
The rule of Christ is, according to this prophecy, to encompass all nations. Proponents of the Restoration Movement must then be asked: When did the Church of Christ ever spread to the ends of the earth? This sentiment is echoed in the Prophets Isaiah and Malachi. Also, David sees the spread of the Church as bringing an end to pagan rule where it spreads. The Church of Christ, on the other hand, argues that the Church, as it spread, brought pagan elements into herself, thus corrupting the gospel. This important prophecy is later echoed by St. Daniel the Prophet. Psalm 22 foretells the death and resurrection of Christ and the establishment of his kingdom upon the earth. The words of this prophecy are so bone chillingly accurate that they should give pause to skeptics who reject the Bible as mythical. The Psalm begins with the words of agony spoken by Jesus from the cross:
"My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? Why so far from my call for help, from my cries of anguish? My God...all who see me mock me; they curl their lips and jeer; they shake their heads at me: 'You relied on the Lord--let him deliver you; if he loves you, let him rescue you...' Many dogs surround me; a pack of evildoers closes in on me. So wasted are my hands and feet that I can count all my bones. They stare at me and gloat; they divide my garments among them; for my clothing, they cast lots."
The tone of the Psalm quickly changes to rejoicing, as David sings of the resurrection of Christ and the upbuilding of his disciples:
"Then I will proclaim your name to the assembly; in the community I will praise you...For God has not spurned or disdained the misery of this poor wretch, did not turn away from me, but heard me when I cried out."
Immediately following the suffering and rescue of God's servant, the Psalmist sings of the spread of the Church:
"All the ends of the earth will worship and turn to the Lord; all the families of nations will bow low before you. For kingship belongs to God, the ruler over the nations. All who sleep in the Lord will bow low before God; all who have gone down into the dust will kneel in homage. And I will live for the Lord; my descendants will serve you. The generation to come will be told of the Lord, that they may proclaim to a people yet unborn the deliverance you have brought."
In this Psalm, the history of salvation is laid out for all to see. Christ suffers (1-22), God raises him up and strengthens his disciples (23-27), the Kingdom of Christ is spread to the ends of the earth (28-29), the dead are raised (30), and this gospel message is passed down from generation to generation (31-32). Nowhere in this picture is there room for such an anticlimax as a total apostasy among the people of God. Where David sees his Kingdom standing firm, spreading to the ends of the earth, and shattering paganism like an iron rod to a clay jar, the Church of Christ insists that, shortly following the apostles, the people of God chose to abandon his rule. Restorationism, it seems, is irreconcilable with the prophecies of David. Over and over again in the Psalms, David sings of the triumph of God's Church over the powers of sin and idolatry in the world.
"Your throne, O God, stands forever; your royal scepter is a scepter for justice...I will make your name renowned through all generations; thus nations shall praise you forever." (45:7,18) "Be still and confess that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, exalted on the earth." (46:11)
If, as the Church of Christ insists, the Church fell into apostasy and, even to this day, all who are outside of this one small predominantly American denomination are false worshippers, where is the exaltation of God among the nations? How was the name of Christ renowned in the many generations of apostasy? Once again, the inspired scriptures exclude the Restoration ideals. The Psalms have vindicated the indefectability of Christ's Church. (4)
VENI, VENI IMMANUEL
In the second chapter of his book, the Prophet Isaiah laments the sins of the people of Judah:
"You have abandoned your people, the house of Jacob, because they are filled with fortunetellers and soothsayers, like the Philistines they covenant with strangers." (Isaiah 2:6)
For the next two chapters, the woes of God's judgement are outlined. This prophecy found immediate fulfillment in the Babylonian captivity. This blow did not stamp out the sinful tendencies among God's people, and these words again came true in the Roman conquest of Judea. God next reveals to Isaiah the glory that is to come after the punishment of God's people. Isaiah speaks of the Israelite people as the Lord's branch. In the Messiah, men and women of all nations were grafted onto this olive branch. It is the Church, the New Israel, the Heavenly Jerusalem, whose people are called "saints" or "holy ones," that is the object of this prophecy:
"On that day, the branch of the Lord will be luster and glory, and the fruit of the earth will be honor and splendor for the survivors of Israel. He who remains in Zion and he that is left in Jerusalem will be called holy: every one marked down for life in Jerusalem. When the Lord washes away the filth of the daughters of Zion and purges Jerusalem's blood from her midst with a blast of searing judgment..." (4:2-5)
In this passage, the inspired writer portrays the establishment of the Church as the end of apostasy. God's people fell away and he punished them. That, however, is in the past. Christians live in a new era. Salvation has been brought down, and there are no more constant apostasies and restorations. The new remnant is holy and marked down for life. The Church is "luster and glory," and the "honor and splendor" are in store for her. Continuing in his prophecy, Isaiah foretells the infallible leadership of the Church's Magisterium:
"...Then will the Lord create, over the whole site of Mount Zion and over her place of assembly, a smoking cloud by day and a flashing fire by night. For over all, his glory will be shelter and protection: shade from the parching heat of the day, refuge and cover from storm and rain." (4:5,6)
There was no actual cloud of smoke or pillar of fire to accompany the Church after her foundation as there was in the days of Moses. However, the imagery is clear. The Shekinah Glory Cloud represents to presence of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit provides shelter and protection to the people of God. The suffering of Christians for the cause of Christ at the hands of sinners illustrates that the "storm and rain" are not physical ailments. The true Gospel is not one of health and wealth. Rather, the Spirit of God, as real as the cloud and fire of old, protects the Church from the storms and winds of doctrinal error. This theme is a constant in Isaiah's Messianic prophecies. Later, Isaiah reveals to Ahaz the coming of Jesus Christ:
"Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign: the Virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and shall name him Immanuel." (7:14)
Immanuel, God with us, is presented in Isaiah as bringing the Gentiles back into God's fold, as he had promised over a thousand years earlier to Abraham:
"Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the Gentiles, by the way of the sea, along the Jordan. The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the shadow of death a light has dawned." (9:1,2)
Where the Prophet of God sees "no more gloom" for the "people walking in darkness" once they have seen the light, the Church of Christ insists that, shortly after the death of the apostles, the darkness and gloom of religious error crept into the Church. Only with the advent of the Restoration Movement did the light return and, at least in theory, that light could fade away into darkness and gloom today with the touch of a button-or, more accurately, the touch of a piano key. Describing the advent of Immanuel and his Church, Isaiah the Prophet here gives the most straight forward rebuttal of Restorationism:
"For to us a Child is born, to us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this." (9:6,7)
The Church of Christ is forced to assert that from the time of the Great Apostasy (whether it be the second century, the fourth, the seventh, or the eleventh) until the Restoration, the Church ceased to grow. Even those who adhere to the idea of an underground secret society of true Christians admit that it was dreadfully "small and historically obscure." (5) Contrary to the Restoration image of a Church which fell away quickly and which could, theoretically, do so again tomorrow, Isaiah paints a picture of a Church established and upheld by divine guidance. By the zeal of the Lord, the Church was to remain righteous and just and continue to grow "from that time on and forever."
ISAIAH'S ETERNAL TABERNACLE
Elsewhere, Isaiah again speaks of the restoration of the people of Israel. However, return from captivity was not the ultimate fulfillment of Isaiah's words. After the return from exile, the people again fell into sin and were again punished. Isaiah's words about Jerusalem are fulfilled in the New Jerusalem, the Bride of Christ, and his words about the Holy Temple are fulfilled, not in the Jerusalem Temple, but in the Church, a Temple of living stones.
"He that walketh in justice and speaketh truth...shall dwell on high, the fortification of rocks shall be his highness: bread is given him, his waters are sure. His eyes shall see a king in his beauty, they shall see the land far off...Look upon Sion the city of our solemnity: thy eyes shall see Jerusalem, a rich habitation, a tabernacle that cannot be removed: neither shall the nails thereof be taken away forever, neither shall any of the cords thereof be broken." (33:15-17,20)
This passage does not refer to the Jewish Temple, but the Christian one, which is the Church. The Jewish Temple was removed. Every nail and cord was destroyed by the Romans. The Church, however, cannot be destroyed. Here again, Restorationism has been shown to be contrary to the divinely revealed plan of salvation.
THIS IS THE NEW COVENANT: MY WORD SHALL NEVER DEPART
In the 59th chapter, Isaiah again speaks of the great sins of God's people and his desire to save them. In this passage, Isaiah reveals that God himself would come to the Jews as a Redeemer, and bring the peoples of the earth from east to west back into his family:
"The Lord saw this...so his own arm brought about the victory, and his justice lent him its support. He put on justice as his breastplate, salvation, as the helmet of his head; he clothed himself with garments of vengeance, wrapped himself in a mantle of zeal. He repays his enemies their deserts, and requites his foes with wrath. Those in the west shall fear the name of the Lord, and those in the east, his glory; for it shall come like a pent-up river which the breath of the Lord drives one. He shall come to Zion a Redeemer to those of Jacob who turn from their sin, says the Lord." (59:15-20)
What follows it perhaps the clearest scriptural proof of the infallibility of the Church. Where the Church of Christ claims that the Church fell away by adopting false doctrines, Isaiah demonstrates that such a notion is contrary to the very heart of the New Covenant:
"This is the Covenant with them which I have made, says the Lord: My Spirit which is upon you and my words that I have put into your mouth shall never leave your mouth, nor the mouths of your children, nor the mouths of your children's children from now on and forever, says the Lord. Rise up in splendor! Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you." (59:20-60:1)
The Prophet, having laid out the horrors of sin (59:1-15), the coming of the Savior and the establishment of the Church (59:16-20), and the guarantee that the Holy Spirit will keep the words of truth on the lips of the sons of the Church forever (59:21-60:1), spends the next three chapters joyfully singing of the glory of the Church. The Prophet tells of the spread of Christianity to every nation. He speaks of the prosperity of the Church, something for which many in the Church of Christ and other Protestants look down upon her. The rise of the Church from a hated and persecuted sect to a grand institution, now encompassing over a billion people, is sung about in a hymn from centuries before Christ:
"The smallest shall become a thousand, the youngest, a mighty nation. I, the Lord, will swiftly accomplish these things when their time comes." (60:22)
PRIESTS IN THE TRUE CHURCH OF CHRIST
The Prophet ends his book with a final Messianic prophecy. In this last prophecy, the seer speaks again of the spread of the Church to all nations, including, in the opinion of some, a prophecy of the discovery and conversion of the American continents. Also included in this prophecy is the fact that God will call Gentiles to be priests of his Church:
"I come to gather nations of every language; they shall come and see my glory. I will set a sign among them; from them I will send fugitives to the nations: to Tarshish, Put and Lud, Mosoch, Tubal and Javan, to the distant coastlands that have never heard of my fame, or seen my glory; and they shall proclaim my glory among the nations. They shall bring all your brethren from all the nations as an offering to the Lord, on horses and in chariots, in carts, upon mules and dromedaries, to Jerusalem, my holy mountain, says the Lord, just as the Israelites bring their offering to the house of the Lord in clean vessels. Some of these I will take as priests and Levites, says the Lord...All mankind shall come to worship before me, says the Lord." (66:18-21,23)
AN END TO LAMENTATIONS
The Prophet Jeremiah saw much tumult in the land of Judah during his lifetime. In his early years, he counseled St. Josiah, the pious king who brought great religious reforms to the people. As time progressed, he saw the Jews turn away from the teachings of Josiah and fall back into idolatry. It was in his lifetime that Nebuchadnezzar conquered Judah. Jeremiah revealed to the people God's promises to bring a remnant back to the promised land. Like most prophecies of Israel's restoration, those of Jeremiah did not find ultimate fulfillment in the Jewish people, who again fell away and were again conquered, but in the Church. The seer writes:
"The days are coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and Judah. In those days, in that time, I will raise up for David a just shoot; he shall do what is right and just in the land. In those days Judah shall be safe and Jerusalem shall dwell secure; this is what they shall call her: 'The Lord our justice.' For thus says the Lord: Never shall David lack a successor on the throne of the house of Israel, nor shall priests of Levi ever be lacking, to offer holocausts before me, to burn cereal offerings, and to sacrifice victims." (Jeremiah 33:14-18)
Writing to a broken and enslaved people, Jeremiah understood that some might doubt his promises that God's people would dwell secure in his kingdom, that the Son of David would rule eternally, or that there would always be priests of God. Very telling to those both of Jeremiah's day and today's Church of Christ who would deny the indefectability of God's Covenant family and kingdom are the strong words the prophet uses to seal his promises:
"This word of the Lord also came to Jeremiah: Thus says the Lord: If you an break my covenant with day, and my covenant with night, so that day and night are no longer alternate in sequence, then can my covenant with my servant David also be broken, so that he will no have a son to be king upon his throne, and my covenant with the priests of Levi who minister to me. Like the host of heaven which cannot be numbered, and the sands of the sea which cannot be counted, I will multiply the descendants of my servant David and the Levites who minister to me." (33:18-22)
THE VISION OF NEBUCHADNEZZAR
St. Daniel the Prophet also ministered during the Babylonian captivity. He became a respected advisor of King Nebuchadnezzar. One evening, God revealed to the king who had enslaved his chosen people the rise and fall of future empires. Here the prophet reveals to the king his dream:
"In your vision, O king, you saw a statue, very large, and exceedingly bright, terrifying in appearance as it stood before you. The head of the statue was pure gold, its chest and arms were silver, its belly and thighs bronze, the legs iron, its feet partly iron and partly tile. While you looked at the statue, a stone which was hewn from a mountain without a hand being put to it, struck its iron and tile feet, breaking them in pieces. The iron, tile, bronze, silver, and gold all crumbled at once, fine as the chaff on the threshing floor in summer, and the wind blew them away without leaving a trace. But the stone that struck the statue became a great mountain and filled the whole earth." (Daniel 2:31-35)
The prophet goes on to reveal that the statue represents four kingdoms. The Church of Christ's Robert H. Brumback, in his History of the Church, states that the kingdoms are most likely Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome. The marginal notes of the Catholic New American Bible interpret the passage only slightly differently, stating that "the four successive kingdoms in this apocalyptic perspective are the Babylonian (gold), the Median (silver), the Persian (bronze), and the Hellenistic (iron)." For the purposes of this Bible study, we will accept Brumback's proposition. The slight difference should not be overestimated, inasmuch as the Roman Empire was an outgrowth of the Greek. Romans of Christ's time and the centuries that followed were Greek speaking and worshipped the Greek gods. Says the prophet:
"This was the dream; the interpretation we shall also give in the king's presence. You, O king, are the king of kings; to you the God of Heaven has given dominion and strength, power and glory; men, wild beasts, and birds of the air, wherever they may dwell, he has handed over to you, making you ruler over them all; you [Babylon] are the head of gold. Another kingdom [Medo-Persia] shall take your place, inferior to yours, then a third kingdom [Greece], of bronze, which shall rule over the whole earth. There shall be a fourth kingdom [Rome], strong as iron; it shall break in pieces and crush everything else. The feet and toes you say, partly of potter's tile and partly of iron, mean that it shall be a divided kingdom, but yet have some of the hardness of iron. As you saw the iron mixed with clay tile, and the toes partly iron and partly tile, the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly fragile. The iron mixed with clay tile means that they shall seal their alliances by intermarriage, but they shall not stay united, any more than iron mixes with clay." (2:37-43)
Having given King Nebuchadnezzar a unique insight into the coming centuries of geopolitical turmoil, the prophet turns to the rise of Christ Jesus and his kingdom:
"In the lifetime of those [Roman] kings, the God of Heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed or delivered up to another people; rather, it shall stand forever. That is the meaning of the stone you saw hewn from the mountain without a hand being put to it, which broke in pieces the tile, iron, bronze, silver, and gold. The great God has revealed to the king what shall be in the future; this is exactly what you dreamed, and its meaning is sure." (2:44,45)
Neduchadnezzar's response to the Word of God coming from this most glorious and mighty saint:
"Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell prostrate before Daniel and paid him honor and ordered that an offering and incense be presented to him. The king said to Daniel, 'Surely your God is the God of gods and the Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, for you were able to reveal this mystery." (2:46,47)
To this day, Catholics continue to venerate this great seer who, by the gift of the Holy Spirit, revealed to us such profound truths about the true Church of Christ. So great is the contribution of this prophet to the ultimate glorification of God among the heathen that, in this author's diocese, St. Daniel is the only Old Testament patron saint of a local parish. Members of the Church of Christ must contend with a clear and concise refutation of Restorationism from the pages of holy writ. The prophet reveals that, in the days of the Roman Empire, God's kingdom, the Church, would be established. The Church is to last forever, infiltrating the realms of all previous great kingdoms. Advocates of the Restoration Movement insist that Church adopted Roman pagan ideas and practices and, therefore, was delivered up to pagan Rome. Daniel, on the other hand, asserts that the Church will never be "delivered up to another people; rather, it shall stand forever." So great is to be the growth of the Church, that is will break into pieces the great empires of the past. As Our Lord revealed before Pilate, God's kingdom destroys pagan kingdoms, not be taking up the sword and conquering, but by preaching the Word of God. Just as in Isaiah 59, then, Daniel here assures us that the Church has never, will never, and can never cease to teach the truth. Even Hunter and McClister of the Church of Christ cite this passage as proof that "the Lord's Church never ceased to exist." (6)
THE PERSECUTION AND EXPONENTIAL GROWTH OF THE CHURCH
Later in his prophetic book, Daniel writes of his vision of four beasts. Each beast represents a kingdom, and the kingdoms are again the Babylonian, the Median, the Persian, and the Hellenistic. The evils of the fourth beast found immediate fulfillment in the persecutions of Antiochus IV, who forced Greek culture upon the Jews and set up an idol to Zeus in the Holy Temple of God in Jerusalem. Ultimate fulfillment came in the Roman Empire, which persecuted the Church for centuries. In 2 Thessalonians, St. Paul applies this prophecy to the Emperor Caligula. This prophecy offers a keen insight into the suffering of the Church, followed by her triumph during the Middle Ages, and her ultimate triumph in heaven. Christians should take note and be on guard. Since this prophecy has all ready come true at least twice, the advent of a future Anti-Christ can not be ruled out. St. Daniel testifies:
"The fourth beast shall be a fourth kingdom on earth, different from all the others. It shall devour the whole earth, beat it down, and crush it. The ten horns shall be ten kings rising out of that kingdom; another shall rise up after them, different from those before him, who shall lay low three kings. He shall speak against the Most High and oppress the holy ones of the Most High, thinking to change the feast days and the law. They shall be handed over to him for a year, two years, and a half-year. But when the court is convened, and his power is taken away by final and absolute destruction, then the kingship and dominion and majesty of all the kingdoms under the heavens shall be given to the holy people of the Most High, whose kingdom shall be everlasting: all dominions shall serve and obey him." (Daniel 7:23-27)
Here Daniel gives to the Church dominion over the world. This dominion should not be confused with the pope ruling over the temporal affairs of nations, violating their sovereignty. Rather, it speaks of a time when the leaders of nations are Christians ruling according to Christian principles. From the time of St. Constantine the Great until the break down of Christendom with the rise of Protestantism, out of which grew secularism and atheism, followed by communism and fascism and, most recently, globalism, this was the order of the world. In no way can the Church of Christ claim to have fulfilled this prophecy by breaking under the yoke of paganism and ceasing to exist for centuries upon centuries.
THE CITY OF BREAD AND THE BREAD OF LIFE
The indefectability of the Church is clearly stated in the Book of the Prophet Micah:
"But you, Bethlehem-Ephrathah, too small to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me a ruler in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient times. Therefore the Lord will give them up, until the time when she who is to give birth has borne, and the rest of his brethren shall return to the children of Israel. He shall stand firm and shepherd his flock by the strength of the Lord, in the majestic name of the Lord, his God; and they shall remain, for now his greatness shall reach the ends of the earth; he shall be peace." (Micah 5:1-4)
HOSANNA TO THE SON OF DAVID
The Prophet Zechariah speaks of the glory of the Church, once all nations are gathered into one fold under the humble but mighty shepherd, Jesus Christ. Advocates of the theory that the Church went into historical obscurity during the time of the apostasy should consider the grandeur of this prophet's language. Also of interest is St. Zechariah's prophecy of the Holy Eucharist. The Church of Christ can not claim to have fulfilled the prophecy that "they shall drink blood like wine." (Zechariah 9:15) The prophet writes:
"Rejoice heartily, O daughter Zion, shout for joy, O daughter Jerusalem! See, your king shall come to you; a just savior is he, meek, and riding on an ass, on a colt, the foal of an ass. He shall banish the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem; the warrior's bow shall be banished, and he shall proclaim peace to the nations. His dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth. As for you, for the blood or your covenant with me, [that is, the blood of the Passover lamb] I will bring forth your prisoners from the dungeon. In the return to the fortress of the waiting prisoners, this very day, I will return you double for your exile. For I will bend Judah as my bow, I will arm myself with Ephraim; I will arouse your sons, O Zion, against your sons, O Yavan, and I will use you as a warrior's sword. The Lord shall appear over them, and his arrow shall shoot forth as lightning. The Lord God shall sound the trumpet, and come in a storm from the south. The Lord of hosts shall be a shield over them, they shall overcome slingstones and trample them underfoot. They shall drink blood like wine, till they are filled with it like libation bowls, like the corners of the altar. And the Lord, their God, shall save them on that day, his people, like a flock. For they are jewels in a crown raised aloft over his land. For what wealth is theirs, and what beauty! Grain that makes the youths flourish, and new wine, the maidens!" (9:9-17)
THE HOLY MASS
St. Malachi spoke the oracles of God to the people of Judah who had been restored to the land after Babylonian captivity. Again, the people had turned to sin. The priests and Levites were offering unworthy sacrifices to God, and the people were marrying foreigners and mistreating their wives. God's frustration which is evident throughout this book demonstrates that the return to the promised land was not the ultimate fulfillment of the earlier prophecies, but that they would find fulfillment in the Messiah and his Church. Here the prophet informs his readers that, in Messianic times, pure and holy sacrifices to God would never cease. This is a foretelling of the Holy Mass, an understanding which is clearly present in the writings of the earliest Christians. Writes the seer:
"Oh, that one among you would shut the temple gates to keep from kindling fire on my altar in vain! I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord of hosts; neither will I accept any sacrifice from your hands, for from the rising of the sun, even to its setting, my name is great among the nations, and everywhere they bring sacrifice to my name, and a pure offering; for my name is great among the nations, says the Lord of hosts." (Malachi 1:10,11)
THE WISE MAN BUILT HIS HOUSE...
In the fullness of time, the Lord Jesus came into this world to save mankind form sin. He established the Church by bringing people from all communities of the earth together into the family of God. Christ's Church was not an afterthought. Rather, it had been the subject of centuries of prophecy. Gathering his apostles at Caesarea Philippi, Christ confirmed that he was building the Church of prophecy, that he was appointing shepherds to guide it, that this Church would stand up against all attacks, and that the leaders of the Church would speak with Christ's authority. All of this had been revealed "in partial and various ways to our ancestors through the prophets," but here it was all laid out for us "through a Son, whom he made heir of all things and through whom he created the universe, who is the refulgence of his glory, the very imprint of his being, and who sustains all things by his mighty word." (Hebrews 1:1-3) Says Our Blessed Lord:
"And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this Rock I will build my Church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." (Matthew 16:18,19)
THE GROWTH OF THE CHURCH
In his parable of the mustard seed, Jesus envisions the growth of the Church from an obscure and persecuted Jewish sect to the grand institution she is today. All of this had been revealed in bits and pieces by the prophets of old, particularly the in the visions of St. Daniel. Our Lord declares:
"The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed that a person took and sowed in a field. It is the smallest of all the seeds, yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants. It becomes a large bush, and the birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches." (Matthew 13:31-33)
ST. PAUL'S INSIGHTS INTO THE CHURCH
The letters of St. Paul offer a very unique insight into the nature of the Church. The majority of Biblical testimony regarding the Church comes from prophets who never lived to see her advent. Of greatest import are the words of Jesus; however, even in Christ's words, the Church is a future reality. In writings of St. Paul, we have the inspired and inerrant testimony of one who had experienced hands-on the Kingdom of Heaven, the Holy Catholic Church, for decades. In his letter to the Ephesians, the Apostle states that it is the Church which is commissioned to bring the gospel, not only to the nations, but even to the spirit realm, and that this is, indeed, the eternal plan of God. The apostle writes:
"To me, the very least of all the holy ones, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the inscrutable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for all what is the plan of the mystery hidden from ages past in God who created all things, so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the Church to the principalities and authorities in the heavens. This was according to the eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Ephesians 3:8-11)
In a beautiful exultation of praise to Christ, the inspired and inerrant St. Paul reveals that the Church will exist to glorify God in all subsequent generations:
"Now to him who is able to accomplish far more than all we ask or imagine, by the power at work within us, to him be glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen." (Ephesians 3:20,21)
In his first letter to St. Timothy, the Apostle, in the midst of his words of encouragement, expresses his inspired and inerrant conviction that the Church teaches only the truth and is, indeed, the standard by which all teachings are to be measured. Caught up in the Spirit, the Blessed Apostle composes a short hymn of praise to God for the success of his Holy Church:
"I am writing to you about these matters, although I hope to visit you soon. But if I should be delayed, you know how you should behave in the household of God, which is the Church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of truth. Undeniably great is the mystery of devotion:
Who was manifested in the flesh,
Vindicated in the Spirit,
Seen by angels,
Proclaimed to the Gentiles,
Believed in throughout the world,
Taken up in glory." (1 Timothy 3:14-16)
In the letter to the Hebrews traditionally credited to him, St. Paul uses language reminiscent of Daniel's four kingdoms to describe the Church:
"See that you do not reject (Jesus) who speaks. For if they did not escape when they refused the one who warned them on the earth, how much more in our case if we turn away from the one who warns from heaven. His voice shook the earth at that time, but now he has promised, 'I will once more shaken not only earth but heaven.' That phrase, 'once more,' points to the removal of shaken, created things, so that what is unshaken may remain. Therefore, we who are receiving the unshakable kingdom should have gratitude, with which we should offer worship pleasing to God in reverence and awe. For our God is a consuming fire." (Hebrews 12:25-29)
Great kingdoms have come and gone, says the Apostle, but Christians, having been added by the Lord Jesus to his Holy Catholic Church upon baptism, have inherited a kingdom which cannot be shaken. Here the inspired writer echoes the sentiments of the holy men of two thousand years. The Church, God's Covenant family and kingdom, his qahal, or assembly of those called out as sheep among wolves, is not an afterthought or a coincidence, but is itself the solution to the problem of sin. The peoples of the world turned away from the God of heaven and sought after false gods and demons. Further and further they fell into sin, but where sin abounded, grace abounded that much more. The God of heaven chose Abraham, and promised to gather all communities of the earth into one family and one kingdom-one fold under one shepherd. The community of faith would never fall away, never cease to exist, never teach error, never cease to offer the Lord holy and priestly sacrifices, all the while bringing the message of salvation into all the world, crushing the empires of paganism, the loyal servants of Lucifer, the Prince of this World. This is the gospel message in all its splendor-this is the New Covenant. Praise be to God! Having examined the words of Sacred Scripture, we now turn our attention to possible Biblical arguments for the Restoration Movement.
THE RESTORATION HAS OLD TESTAMENT PRECEDENT
One argument used by the Church of Christ on behalf of the theory of apostasy and restoration is that such events have precedent in the Old Testament. It is argued that since the people of God under the Old Covenant fell away from the true faith and were restored, it is false to assert that the same not occur under the New Covenant. Mr. Danny Brown, in his Restoring the True Church, gives two examples with commentary:
"First, from the story of Isaac: " 'And Isaac departed thence, and pitched his tent in the valley of Gerar, and dwelt there. And Isaac digged again the wells of water, which they had digged in the days of Abraham his father; for the Philistines had stopped them after the death of Abraham: and he called their names after the names by which his father had called them.'-Genesis 26:17,18.
"The second example is taken from the work of Nehemiah in the rebuilding of the walls about the city of Jerusalem which had been broken down by Nebuchadnezzar.
" 'And I went out by night by the gate of the valley, even before the dragon well, and to the dung port, and viewed the walls of Jerusalem, which were broken down, and the gates thereof were consumed with fire.'-Nehemiah 2:13.
" '...come let us build up the wall of Jerusalem, that we be no more a reproach.'-Nehemiah 2:17.
" 'So build we the wall; and all the wall was joined together unto the half thereof; for the people had a mind to work.'-Nehemiah 4:6.
" 'So the wall was finished in the twenty and fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty and two days.'-Nehemiah 6:15.
"In each of these example there was no attempt to establish anything new or different, but to restore-to rebuild that which had been in existence in times past. In Isaac's case they removed the pollution's of the Philistines to restore the wells Abraham had dug. In Nehemiah's case they overcame ridicule, threats of open, and the appeal of compromise to restore the wall about Jerusalem." (7)
Mr. Jack Meier offers a third example of supposed Old Testament precedents for the Restoration Movement:
"I feel close to King Josiah (1 Kings 22:8-11) because of my discovery of the Bible after many years of ignorance, being raised in the Catholic Church. My revelation is very similar to Josiah's discovery of the scriptures. I, like Josiah, repented and obeyed the commandments of God when my eyes were opened. " '(1 Kings 22:8-11) And Hilkiah the high priest said unto Shaphan the scribe, I have found the book of the law in the house of the Lord. And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan and he read it. And Shaphan the scribe came to the king, and brought the king word again, and said, Thy servants have gathered the money that was found in the house, and have delivered it into the hand of them that do the work, that have the oversight of the house of the Lord. And Shaphan the scribe showed the king, saying, Hilkiah the priest hath delivered me a book. And Shaphan read it before the king. And it came to pass, when the king had heard the words of the book of the law, that he rent his clothes.'" (8)
The example of Isaiah restoring the well of his father can be easily dismissed as irrelevant. The other examples, however, do show God's people falling away and being restored. It is true that the Old Testament is replete with examples of God's people turning away from him, being punished, and being restored. This is, in fact, the main theme of the Book of Judges. However, unlike what the Church of Christ claims happened to the infant Church, the Old Testament apostasies were never total. A faithful remnant was always left. This is evidenced by the fact that there were men and women whom God made his judges and prophets. Although they were often very widespread, the Old Testament apostasies never encompassed the entire Hebrew people. The supposed falling away and restoration of the Church does not fit the pattern of the Old Testament precedents. In the Old Testament, in each case, a large portion of the people would turn away from God. God, never abandoning his people, would shortly thereafter send prophets to warn the sinners to turn away. As previously mentioned, the very existence of prophets, many of whom had faithful disciples, demonstrates that the apostasies were not all encompassing. The people would ignore the prophets, and God would allow them to continue in their sin until a day of punishment came. The punishment, often a decimation by the hand of a foreign enemy would last only for a set period of time, during which there was a constant faithful community praying for God's help. Eventually, their prayers would be heard, and God would choose leaders to save his people.
In the mythical falling away of the Church on the other hand, the entire faith community all over the world adopted at the same time and in the same way pagan doctrines and practices. God did not send any prophets to warn the people, inasmuch as there were no true Christians from whom to choose a prophet. The apostate Church grew in respect, power, and wealth. Over 1700 years later, men who were not even a part of the original apostate Catholic Church to begin with, restored the true Church of Christ. Since no punishment came, the false Church, plus 20,000 smaller false Churches, continued to exist. Meanwhile, the restored Church splintered time and time again into rival factions, each of which condemned each other as "latter day apostasies."
There are some in the Church of Christ who, without any historical evidence, assert that a small remnant of true Christians existed under ground from the time of the apostasy until the time of the Restoration Movement. It is granted that such a notion, while lacking in evidence, does seem to fit at least somewhat with the Old Testament precedents. This, however, ignores the previously cited prophecy from Isaiah which portrays the New Covenant as an end to apostasies. The prophet new all too well the sad history of his people, as well as the sad events which were to occur. He encourages his readers to take heart in the fact that there will be "no more gloom" for the people who were enlightened by the gospel. Says the prophet:
"Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the Gentiles, by the way of the sea, along the Jordan. The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the shadow of death a light has dawned." ( Isaiah 9:1,2)
NEW TESTAMENT WARNINGS
The falling away of the Church of Christ which resulted in the establishment of the Catholic Church, argue many in the Church of Christ, was clearly predicted in the words of the New Testament. Catholic recognize that the scriptures speak of apostasy and the rise of heresies, however, an examination of these passages demonstrates that these were fallings away from the Church, not the falling away of the Church. In his farewell message to the Church of Miletus, St. Paul offers this warning:
"I know that after my departure savage wolves will come among you, and they will not spare the flock. And from your own group, men will come forward perverting the truth to draw the disciples away after them. So be vigilant and remember that for three years, night and day, I unceasingly admonished each of you with tears." (Acts 20:29-31)
St. Peter issues a similar warning in his second letter:
"There were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will introduce destructive heresies and even deny the Master who ransomed them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. Many will follow their licentious ways, and because of them the way of truth will be reviled. In their greed they will exploit you with fabrications, but from of old their condemnation has not been idle and their destruction does not sleep." (2 Peter 2:1-3.)
Members of the Church of Christ see in these biblical warnings prophecies of the rise of the Catholic Church. According to them, influential men from within the Church's bosom began to teach falsehoods and led many people astray. Every Catholic doctrine which is rejected by the Church of Christ supposedly originated in this way. Very often, members of the Church of Christ will produce arbitrarily chosen dates for the "invention" of various Catholic doctrines and practices which generally have little or no foundation in reality. A historical study which is beyond the scope of this essay would demonstrate that the false teachers who arose from within the ranks of the Church were the leaders of the early heretical movements, such as the Judaizers, the Gnostics, the Montanists, the Arians, and many others. These movements arose within the Catholic Church, broke away from her, and opposed her. The Catholic Church consistently resisted each and every one of these movements, preserving with a rigid conservatism the faith of her fathers. These biblical warnings have proven true even down to our day, when new heretical movements, including the Restoration Movement, invent new and fanciful twists on the gospel message.
The scriptures themselves give us an important insight into the nature of these false teachers. St. Jude writes of them:
"But these people revile what they do not understand and are destroyed by what they know by nature like irrational animals. Woe to them! They followed the way of Cain, abandoned themselves to Balaam's error for the sake of gain, and perished in the rebellion of Korah. They are blemishes on your love feasts, as they carouse fearlessly and look after themselves." (Jude 10-12)
St. Jude's comparison of the heretics of his day with Korah of old demonstrates that these false teachers are not the leaders of the Catholic Church, but those who oppose them. Korah was a Levite during the time of Moses. He and his party resented the authority of the leaders whom God appointed. His words attacking Moses could easily have been uttered by the pioneer preachers of the Restoration Movement in attacking the Catholic Church:
"Enough from you! The whole community, all of them, are holy; the Lord is in their midst. Why then should you set yourselves over the Lord's congregation?" (Numbers 16:3)
The response of Moses to the heresiarch is also very telling:
"Listen to me, you Levites! Is it too little for you that the God of Israel has singled you our from the community of Israel, to have you draw near him for the service of the Lord's Dwelling and to stand before the community to minister for them? He has allowed you and your kinsmen, the descendants of Levi, to approach him, and yet now you seek the priesthood too. It is therefore against the Lord that you and your band are conspiring." (Numbers 16:8-11)
The scriptural warnings against apostasy do not invalidate two thousand years of prophecies about the Church. Every day new religious movements begin which pull people away from the Catholic Church. These heresies are the subject of the warnings from Paul, Peter, and Jude. To avoid being caught up in heresy, the Bible offers Catholics some very simple advice:
"Obey your leaders and defer to them, for they keep watch over you and will have to give an account, that they may fulfill their task with joy and not with sorrow, for that would be of no advantage to you." (Hebrews 13:17)
THE THIRD ARGUMENT:
Advocates of the Restoration Movement argue that the Church does not have to visibly exist on the earth at any given time in order to fulfill the prophecies of her indefectability. According to many in the Church of Christ, the Church continues to exist and stand against the gates of Hell as long as the Bible is available to the people. David J. Riggs explains:
"Some claim that a church must be able to authentically trace its history back to Christ in order to be the true church. However, we do not need a continual succession back to the original church for that same church to exist today. We need only to plant the word of God (the incorruptible seed of the kingdom-Luke 8:11; Matt. 13:13; I Pet. 1:23) in the hearts of individuals. Those who believe and obey the word constitute the church in any given locality." (9)
An examination of the parable of the sower demonstrates that Mr. Riggs has missed an essential point in the passage:
"A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path and was trampled, and the birds of the sky ate it up. Some seed fell on rocky ground, and when it grew, it withered for lack of moisture. Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew with it and choked it. And some seed fell on good soil, and when it grew, it produced fruit a hundred fold...The seed is the word of God." (Luke 8:5-7,11)
Mr. Riggs and those in the Church of Christ who use the seed argument have neglected an important figure in the parable: the sower. Since the true Church supposedly fell away, the seed laid dormant on a shelf until Campbell and his contemporaries taught themselves the truth. This is entirely inconsistent with the picture presented in the parable. For the gospel message to reach the world, it must be proclaimed by a teacher. This teacher must be reliable. He cannot err in his presentation of the gospel lest he lead souls into error. This teacher is the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. In the previously cited passage in Ephesians, St. Paul explained that it is through the Church that the gospel is made known. That the Church is reliable in her presentation of the gospel is confirmed by the same apostle in 1 Timothy 3:15:
"The Church of the living God [is] the pillar and foundation of truth."
The seed argument utterly fails to answer the wealth of biblical testimony regarding the rise, growth, and triumph of the Holy Catholic Church.
One who attends a worship service in the Church of Christ will notice that each service is concluded with an "invitation," where people are invited to receive baptism or to make a public confession of sins. This is, in essence, an outgrowth of the Baptist "altar calls" with which the early leaders of the Restoration Movement were familiar. This author has witnessed hundreds of invitations and has personally given a number of them. They are indeed very powerful and moving experiences. This Biblical study, like all in the Church of Christ, will end with the Lord's invitation. If you're reading this and you're a member of the Church of Christ, please prayerfully consider everything which you have read. While you follow the Lord as best you can and serve him well, we can't just ignore things which we don't want to hear. God's purpose from the very foundation of the world, the very reason he sent his Son to suffer on a tree, was to bring men and women of all nations into one Church, and to preserve that Church for all ages. What you've been taught your whole life about the falling away of the early Church simply does not fit with the Bible which you know and love. With great prayer and careful study, it is important now to ask yourself: what is more important-the tradition of your Church or the Holy Bible? This is an important question, and perhaps one on the receiving end of which you never thought you'd be. Jesus Christ invites you to come home to his one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church. Won't you?
(1)Robert H. Brumback. History of the Church Through the Ages: From the Apostolic Age, Through the Apostasies, the Dark Ages, the Reformation, and the Restoration. Lufkin, TX: Select Books, 1957. p. 353.
(2)Alexander Campbell. Christian Baptist, Vol. III, No. 7, February 6, 1826.
(3)Danny Brown. Restoring the True Church. pp. 1, 29.
(4) This has been only a small sampling of passages in the Psalms which speak of the spread of the Catholic Church throughout the earth, the downfall of paganism, and the indefectability of the Church. Others include Psalm 2:9, 65:3, 66:5, 68:32, 69:36, 72:3ff, 85:11ff, 86:9, 87:4, 89:26ff, 96:12ff, 102:13ff, 110:4, 113:4, 118:25, 126:6, 132:16ff, 138:5, 145:11.
(5) Glen McClister and Brent Hunter. Where Did All the Denominations Come From? p. 4.
(7) Brown, pp. 2,3.
(8) Jack Meier. Christ (sic) Church is Not the Roman Catholic Church. p. 2.
(9) David J. Riggs. "Succession Necessary?"