WHY THE IGLESIA NI CRISTO
EMERGED ONLY IN 1914
IF the true Church of Christ was established in the first century, how can the Iglesia Ni Cristo claims that she is the true Church established by Christ if she emerged only in 1914? The Iglesia Ni Cristo emerged emerged only in 1914 because the first century Church of Christ was apostatized. It was the Lord Jesus Christ Himself who attested that apostasy will take place in the first century Church of Christ:
“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.” (Matthew 24:9-11, NIV)
The Lord Jesus Christ Himself warned His disciples that: (1) they will be handed over and persecuted and put to death”; and (2) many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.” Because of these “false prophets,” the Lord Jesus Christ also warned us that “many will turn away from the faith.” This is also mentioned by Apostle Paul:
“Now the Holy Spirit tells us clearly that in the last times some will turn away from the true faith; they will follow deceptive spirits and teachings that come from demons.” (I Tim. 4:1, New Living Translation)
Thus, both the Lord Jesus Christ and His apostles warned us that many of the disciples will “TURN AWAY from the faith.” These words, “turning away from the true faith,” is synonymous with the word “apostasy”:
“But the Spirit speaks expressly, that in latter times some shall APOSTATISE from the faith, giving their mind to deceiving spirits and teachings of demons.” (Darby Bible, emphasis mine)
How many will be deceived? In Weymouth translation of Matthew 24:11, this is what we could read:
“Many false prophets will rise up and lead multitudes astray.” (Matt. 24:11 Weymouth)
The Lord Jesus Christ Himself told us that His faithful servants will be persecuted and be put to death, and the multitudes will be led astray by false prophets. Thus, this is the reason why the first century Church of Christ did not remained.
APOSTASY AFETER THE DEATH OF THE APOSTLES
Regarding the apostasy that will take place in the first century Church of Christ, Apostle Peter also wrote the following:
“But there were also false prophets among the people, even as THERE WILL BE FALSE TEACHERS AMONG YOU, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed.” (II Peter 2:1-2, NKJV, emphasis mine)
Apostle Peter said. “there will be false teachers among you.” He also said that these false teachers “will secretly bring in destructive heresies.” Take note that these false teachers will rise AMONG the first Christians and will secretly bring destructive heresies INSIDE the Church. Also, Apostle Paul wrote the following:
“I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even FROM YOUR OWN NUMBER men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.” (Acts 20:29-30, NIV, emphasis mine)
According to Apostle Paul, “Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth.” He is referring to “bishops” of the Church (cf. Acts 20:28). Thus, both Apostle Peter and Apostle Paul talking about apostasy that will take place in the first century Church of Christ and that the false teachers that will lead astray the disciples will came from “among them” or “from their own number” – among the teachers and the bishops of the Church.
According to Apostle Paul, the apostasy will occur “after I leave,” referring to his death (Cf. Acts 20:29-30, 24-25 and 37-38; I Tim. 4:6-8). Thus, the apostasy will be manifested after the death of the apostles or the apostolic period (after the first century AD).
Take note that the apostles prophesied that after their death or after the apostolic period, those that will come immediately after them were those that will led astray the first century Church. Isn’t that the Catholic Church claim that they are the successors of the apostles?
NOTE: Full discussion of the facts and process of the apostasy will be tackled in the series of articles titled “The Church in History.”
THE FULFILLMENT OF THE PROPHECY
Christ said that “you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me.” Indeed, the first century Christians were persecuted and put to death. There’s the Jewish persecution where Stephen was one of the Christians who were put to death. Then came the imperial persecution of the Church started by Roman Emperor Nero in 64 AD:
“Tacitus recorded the rumor that Nero had ordered the fire that destroyed part of the city of Rome. This rumor was so widely accepted by the people that Nero had to find a scapegoat. He diverted feeling against himself to the Christians by accusing them of arson and by engaging in a saturnalia of destruction of the Christians.” (Christianity Through the Centuries, p. 91)
Then, another imperial persecution broke out still in the first century AD, this time by Emperor Domitian:
“Persecution broke out again in 95 during the reign of the despotic Domitian. The Jews had refused to pay a poll tax that had been levied for the support of Capitolinus Jupiter. Because the Christians continued to be associated with the Jews, they also suffered the effects of the emperor’s wrath. It was during this persecution that the apostle John was exiled to the Isle of Patmos, where he wrote the Book of Revelation.” (Christianity Through the Centuries, p. 91)
Thus, what the Lord Jesus Christ prophesied in Matthew 24:9 was fulfilled. The faithful, including the apostles, were put to death during the imperial persecution. Indeed, many Christians were put to death during these two imperial persecutions of the Church in the first century. Apostle John was exiled in an island called Patmos. He died in c. 90-100 AD. With the death of the apostles, however, something happened to the Church:
“For the years after the record in Acts ends, evidence for the history of the Christian Church becomes more scanty. There began to be passing references to it in pagan writers. These writers make it seem likely that the Roman Emperor Nero blamed the Christians for the burning of the city of Rome in A.D. 64. It is also very likely that Saint Peter and Saint Paul were put to death at Rome about this time… .
“When the original Apostles died, the leadership of the Church was taken over by local pastors known as bishops. Under them were ministers of lower rank, known as presbyters and deacons. The Church organized the area of the Roman Empire into provinces. The bishops at the head of the Christian communities in the large cities such as Rome, Antioch, Alexandria, and Carthage ranked highest.” (The New Book of Knowledge, vol. 3, pp. 280-281)
Thus, when the Apostles died, not much was recorded on what went on in the Church of Christ but during this period of silence the administration of the Church fell into the hands of the bishops. Soon after the bishops took over the administration of the Church in the second century, the doctrines of this Church began to be infected with poison:
“At first the history of the Roman Church is identical with the history of the Christian truth. But unhappily there came a time when streams of poison began to flow from the once pure fountain.” (The World’s Great Events, vol. 2, pp 163-164)
This control of the Church administration by the bishops who began to teach different doctrines was the fulfillment of what Apostle Paul prophesied concerning the overseers (bishop):
“Also of YOUR OWN SELVES SHALL MEN ARISE, SPEAKING PERVERSE THINGS, to draw away disciples after them.” (Acts 20:30, KJV, emphasis mine)
DEPARTING FROM THE TRUE FAITH
The great apostasy did not consist in the destruction of the first century Church of Christ and the establishment of another one. It consisted in the deterioration of the Church established by Christ. Immediately after the death of the Apostles, during this period the bishops took over the administration of the Church and the Church became very different from what Christ founded (or the first century Church):
“For fifty years after St. Paul’s life a curtain hangs over the church, through which we strive vainly to look; and when at last it rises about 120 A.D. with the writings of the earliest church-fathers, we find a church in many aspects very different from that in the days of St. Peter and St. Paul.” (The Story of the Christian Church, p. 41)
The differences between what used to be the Church of Christ in the first century and the Church that was revealed in the second to the fourth centuries are profound:
“It is necessary to note that we should recall the reader’s attention to the profound differences between this fully developed Christianity of Nicaea and the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth….What is clearly apparent is that the teaching of Jesus of Nazareth was a prophetic teaching of the new type that began with the Hebrew prophets. It was not priestly, it had no consecrated temple, and no altar. It had no rites and ceremonies. Its sacrifice was ‘a broken and contrite heart’. Its only organization was an organization of preachers, and its chief function was the sermon. But the fully fledge Christianity of the fourth century, though it preserved as its nucleus the teachings of Jesus in the Gospels, was mainly a priestly religion, of a type already familiar to the world for thousands of years. The center of its elaborate ritual was an altar, and the essential act or worship the sacrifice, by a consecrated priest, of the Mass.” (The Outline of History, pp. 552-553)
These profound changes, made on the original teachings of Christ, dealt great violence on the teachings of the Bible for the purpose of enhancing the interests of the Catholic Church:
“Jesus too, being a Galilean, was of Aryan stock, a remarkable man whose teachings had, in the course of centuries, been deformed out of all recognition in the interests of the Catholic Church.” (The Vatican in the Age of Dictators, p. 168)
Adding insult to injury, Catholic authorities acknowledge such changes without shame and even with pride:
“We Catholics acknowledge readily, without any shame, nay with pride, that Catholicism cannot be identified simply and wholly with primitive Christianity, nor even with the Gospel of Christ, in the same way that the great oak cannot be identified with the tiny acorn.” (The Spirit of Catholicism, p. 2)
Catholic authorities even boast that they did not derive their faith in Jesus from the Scriptures:
“ ‘Without the Scriptures’, says Mohler, ‘the true form of the sayings of Jesus would have been withheld from us….Yet the Catholic does not derive his faith in Jesus from Scripture’.” (Ibid. p. 50)
Hence, those responsible for this apostasy of the first century Church of Christ were the bishops under whose administration these profound changes took place. The first bishop identified as having introduced changes into the Church was Ignatius, bishop of Antioch who was martyred in Rome about 110 A.D. He was the first to use the term Catholic Church in reference to the Church of Christ:
“The name Catholic as a name is not applied to the Catholic Church in the Bible. ..St. Ignatius of Antioch, writing to the Christians of Smyrna about the year 110, is the first to use the name ‘The Catholic Church’ …” (The Question Box, p. 132)
This same Ignatius introduced the doctrine that Christ is both God and man:
“He asserted unequivocally both the divinity and humanity of Christ, the Savior.” (New Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. 7, p. 353)
Ignatius belongs to the so-called “Church fathers.” These Church Fathers were the source of the teachings that the Catholic Church taught and implemented beginning the second century. However, such persons were not immune from errors and yet, the apostatized church approved their teachings:
“Obviously much that Christ and the apostles preached was in time reduced to writing. Hence there grew up a library composed of men called ‘the fathers of the Church’. They were called so because in apostolic days the word ‘father’ also meant teacher of spiritual things, and these were among her earliest teachers. But, unlike the apostles, all of whom enjoyed infallibility, they were not immune from error nor inspired as the scriptural writers had been. In so far as they dealt with questions of faith and morals, much of what they wrote was approved by the Church, and thus, became part of written tradition.” (Whereon to Stand: What Catholics Believe and Why, p. 142)
As a result of the teachings of these early Church Fathers, the Church of Christ or Christianity became Roman Catholicism, the last and the greatest of the mystery religions:
“On that dies Domini, or Lord’s Day, the Christians assembled for their weekly ritual. Their clergy read from the Scriptures, led them in prayer, and preached sermons of doctrinal instruction, moral exhortation, and sectarian controversy…
“By the close of the second century, these weekly ceremonies had taken the form of the Christian Mass. Based partly on the Judaic Temple service, partly on Greek mystery rituals of purification, vicarious sacrifice, and participation through communion, in the death-overcoming powers, of the deity, the Mass grew slowly into a rich congeries of prayers, psalms, readings, sermon, antiphonal recitations, and, above all, that symbolic atoning sacrifice of the ‘Lamb of God’ which replaced, in Christianity, the bloody offerings of older faiths. The bread and wine which these cults had considered as gifts placed upon the altar before the god were now conceived as changed by the priestly act of consecration into the body and blood of Christ, and were presented to God as a repetition of the self-immolation of Jesus on the cross. Then, in an intense and moving ceremony, the worshippers partook of the very life and substance of their Saviour. It was a conception long sanctified by time; the pagan mind needed no schooling to receive it; by embodying it in the ‘mystery of the Mass’, Christianity became the last and the greatest of the mystery religions.” (Ceasar and Christ, pp. 599-600)
Thus, the claim of the Catholic Church that they succeeded the apostles is not a proof of being the true Christ founded by Christ, but instead, a strong proof that the Catholic Church is indeed the apostate Church, the fulfillment of what the Bible prophesied that after the death of the apostles, among the ranks of the bishops will rise false teachers that will distort the truth.
THE LORD JESUS CHRIST PROMISED THAT THE
CHURCH OF CHRIST WILL BE RE-ESTABLISHED
It was the Lord Jesus Christ Himself who prophesied that multitudes of His disciples will be led astray. However, even though the first century Church of Christ will be apostatized, this is what the Lord Jesus promised:
“And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.” (John 10:16 NKJV)
The Lord Jesus Christ said that “other sheep I have.” He called them His “other sheep” because they “are not of this fold.” He will bring them also and they will hear His voice and they will be “one flock.” The “fold” or “flock” mentioned refer to the “Church of Christ” (Acts 20:28 Lamsa). Thus, when the Lord said that He have other sheep “not of this fold,” He meant, He have other sheep “not of THIS Church of Christ.” The “other sheep” are not of the Church of Christ of the first century. Remember that the first century Church of Christ was apostatized.
Thus, even though the first century Church of Christ was apostatized, Christ said He has “other sheep.” He said that he will bring them also and will be “one flock.” Therefore, Christ prophecy regarding His “other sheep” is His promised of the re-establishement of the Church of Christ.
Thus, the gap between the first century Church of Christ and the Church of Christ that emerged in the Philippines was because the first century Church was apostatized. However, Christ promised that He is going to re-establish the Church of Christ. Hence, the emergence of the Iglesia ni Cristo in the Philippines in 1914 was the fulfillment of Christ’s promise of re-establishing His Church.
The Iglesia ni Cristo in 1914
“The Emergence of God’s Messenger in these Last Days:
A Brief Biography of Brother Felix Y. Manalo”