12 February 2009

The End of the World

...When the Roman Empire fell in 476 A.D, Christians and Pagans alike felt the tremble of its death throes. For centuries Christianity had suffered persecution from the Empire. Then under Constantine it had been elevated to the religion of Rome. Now, with barbarian hordes swarming the city, every Christian man and woman must have been asking the same question – why?

...Christianity was born in the Roman world. Because of Rome the gospel had spread hastily on sturdy roads in the universal Greek tongue. The world was one unified country; the Christians had felt the need to do the impossible task of raising Christianity to the highest circles of Rome’s society – without abandoning the masses in their simple faith. Every obstacle was overcome in time until Rome itself became the stable and unifying power of Christianity. What could not be accomplished with Rome at the Churches back? It was the fulfillment of a dream.

...Then the barbarians struck. The Empire was already weak – for centuries she had been spiraling downward with little hope of return to her former glory. She was spent, both politically and economically. Despite all of Diocletian and Constantine’s reforms the Empire could not withstand the nomadic push of spreading civilization. Christians watched in horror as “barbarian” people, uneducated in anything but war, took away the kingdom that had just become theirs. Was the blood of the martyrs wasted? What would become of Christianity now? Would they have to start all over again?

...Surely the verses from Thessalonians 5:2-3 came to mind, “For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape.” When Rome fell it was a terrible destruction – and probably felt like the end of the world. Rome had been the world’s peace and safety. For centuries Pax Romana had reigned in the lands.

..But in this as in all things God was accomplishing His will. When Rome fell it shook everyone to their core. No one could walk away unchanged. To the Pagan Roman it brought either despair which leads to death, or a renewed search for meaning which led them to Christ. For the Barbarian it offered the opportunity for civilization and most importantly their encounter with Christ; it is amazing how many Goths and Vandals responded to the power of the gospel – they too were hungry for spiritual food. The Christians themselves learned the hard lesson of faith in difficult circumstances, faith which many of them may have begun have in the Empire instead of Christ. The fall of Rome challenged them anew in their search for the souls of men and the establishment of a heavenly kingdom in the midst of earthly disorder.