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Jesus Is Coming Again

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The first half of the fourth century in Christendom was a turning point in the History of the Church; a time that brought freedom, acceptance, and even favoritism by the state to the previously persecuted and outwardly oppressed community of believers; this was heralded the age of the Emperor Constantine the Great, (312 to 337 A.D), who was both the inward life and outward strength of the Church. The Roman Catholics present him as laying the foundation for the Papacy, Protestants see him as the one responsible for leading the early Church away from the simplicity of the pure gospel and turning it into an institutional Church. Thus this short paper seeks to explore the life of Constantine and his contribution to the Christian church.
Family and Birth of Constantine:
Flavius Valerius Constantinus, known as Constantine the Great, was born on February 27, c. 280, in Naissus, in the province of Moesia Superior (Serbia). Constantine's mother was named Helena, described as a barmaid, and his father was a military officer named Constantius. Constantius would become the Emperor Constantius I (Constantius Chlorus) and Constantine's mother would become famous as the canonized St. Helena. Helena is thought to have found a portion of the cross of Jesus.Constantine had for siblings, three half-sister and three half-brothers, the products of his father's marriage to a second woman of less shady background than Helena's.
On October 28, 312, Emperor Constantine met Emperor Maxentius, his major rival to the imperial throne, in battle just outside the city of Rome at the Milvian Bridge. The day before the battle, Constantine appealed to the God of the Christians to give him victory over the pagan Maxentius. In response, God gave him and his army a vision of a shining cross in the sky with the inscription, “In this (sign) conquer.” That night, Christ reportedly appeared to him in a dream and instructed him to place the sign of the cross on the shields of his soldiers. In any case, Constantine won the battle; his opponent, Maxentius, drowned in the Tiber River. As a result, Constantine and Licinius, his brother-in-law, became co-emperors, Constantine ruling in the West and Licinius in the East. This battle is one of the most important events in the history of Christendom, since it was through Constantine’s victory that Christendom began.
Constastine embrace of Christianity in 312 was no ordinary conversion, for in the roman tradition, the emperor himself was considerd akin to a god, a personage who ruled over the earthly Christian empire as God ruled heaven. This commingling of state power with supernatural power (that of the divine god) propagated caesaropapism and this term indicate “the unity of the empire” meaning one church, one state, both under the rule of God’s representative or viceregent on earth, the Basileus (emperor). In other word, God and state came together in the form of constatine to form a powerful alliance. Thus the constatine conversion amnd granting of official status to Christianity imbued the religion with a new religious legitimacy.

Conmstaine was involved in a building program of immense proportions. Though the number of bulding built are not known, he was involved in the construction of many of the most influential of their day, including the basilica salvatoris at the laterani palace near rome,now known ass st john lateran, the church of the holy sepulcher in Jerusalem and the church of the nativity in Bethlehem. The Christian architecture in this buildings was radically different from the modest vernacular buildings of earlier Christians, as it demanded an architectural expression commensurate with its new social, political, and spiritual prestige. The purpose of this was more than for worship rituals as they were a symbol of both religious and imperial pewer.

Constantine did not publicly embrace Christianity until 324, and he was not baptized until he was on his deathbed in 337. He delayed on the theory that he could continue his sinful lifestyle and then receive complete remission of sins in the end.
In January 313, Constantine and Licinius held a summit in the northern Italian city of Milan. They reached an agreement, called the Edict of Milan, that guaranteed full religious freedom to Christians. The policy proclaimed absolute freedom of conscience, placed Christianity on a full legal equality with any other religion of the roman world. The agreement also orded the restoration of all church property confisticated in the resent persecution, and compensation provided where legally appropriate. This concordat marked the end of the persecutions, the most severe of which had occurred not long before, in 303-4 under the emperors Diocletian and Galerius. The edict made Christianity a legal religion and not only that the primary religion of the empire.

The edict in milan also applied to jews, although the primary objective of the edict was special patronage for the Christians who ahd been persecuted until that time. Judaism continued to rank as a permitted religion (religio licita) and its official representatives, patriachs, archisynagogues, and presbyters enjoyed the same privileges as priests of other faiths.. however signs of hostility toward the jews became evident. The emperor was undoubtedly influenced by the Christian bishops who surrounded him, and who quickly changed from the persecuted to the persecutors. In 315 the jews were forbidden to convert Christians of their faith, as well as to presecute their brethren who converted to Christianity. Thedecrre states that “we are warning the jews, their elders and patriarchs, that when this law is enacted, if any one dare attack the apostates who left their baneful sect and have embraced the cult of \god, wth stones or any other ,manner, shall be deliverd to the flames,. Together with their complices. The council of nicea demonstrated fervently triumphant Christianity endeavored to break every bond with Judaism.the council dertemined that Christians must celebrate their pasover at a different time from the jews, and fixed the festival for the first Sunday following the full moon, as the case in some western Christian communities. Before this council the jews and Christians celebrated the Passover or easter simultaneously with the jews, ie in the month of Nissan. Constine actually declared the Christian should have nothing in common with this odius people because Christ has shown the Christians another path.the christain communities in the orient which refused to abide by the decision of the council were ostracized. It was forbidden to participate in jewish festivals. The observance of Sabbath as the day of rest was also forbidden: “let the Christians not emulate the jews, and not be idle on the Sabbath; they have to work on that day, as Christian they must honor only the day of Christ ‘s resurrection, Sunday. A law of the year 321 corroborated again the duties of the jews to hold posts in the municipal administrations. An edict of 321 ordered Sunday to be celebrated by cessation of all work in public. He also forbade the jews to perform the rite of circumsion upon slaves of Christian or other faith.
Licinius, the emperor of the East, quarrelled with Constantine, and persecuted the eastern Christians cruelly, but Constantine defeated him in battle (AD 324), Despite his solemn pledge not to do so, in 325 he had Licinius executed and the whole empire was once more. After his victory over Licinius, Constantine declared himself a Christian, which he had not done before; and he used to attend the services of the Church very regularly. The winning of the church’s freedom from its enemies.

Constine also became the negotiator, participator, mediator and leader in cases of friction and division in the Christian church. As early as 321 he decreed that Sunday should be a day of rest for people in cities. From 322 on the Christian banner with the device of the labarum wass to be carried in front of the army. He tried to increase the sense of sacredness in marriage by reducing the number of divorces which could be punished by exile. He orded that the state give assistane to poverty stricken parents in order that they need not sell their children. He forbade bloody spectacles and dismissed the gladiators in 325.
Constantine also felt strongly that it was his duty to resolve schisms in the church. This could be done through the bishops as they were representative of communities.
These bishops served to prevent the Christian communities from splintering into diverse and independent traditions. During this time, 322, the Christian church had as many as six million members and the bishop was the figure who gave Christianity cohesion and stability.
Constaine decoded to call a meeting of individual bishops at nicea(presnt day Iznik) in 325. This became known as the council of nicea. It was motivated by the actions of the bishop Arius who subordinated Jesus Christ, the Son, to the father, god. This concept gained many supporters.
Constine tried to restore peace by asking for mutual toleration of differences of opinion. This failed and he thus proceeded to summon his great council at the lakesidecity of nicea. It is most of the famous council ass constatineentered into an alliance with bishops which established a precedent in the west and a lasting arrangement under the eastern Byzantine empire for more than elen hundred years. Despite the council being significant in Christian history they are no official record of the proceedings. However they is a creed or statement of the Christian faith which is still used today in Christian churches and twenty canons or rulings on church law and discipline that the council passes. Also there is a letter of constatine urging acceptance of the decision of the council on the date of easter. There is a brief account of the opening debate from eustathius the bishop of Antioch who was also present and an account by bishop Athanasius regarding the creed. The council wass formally opened on may 20, 325.
Over three hundred bishops attended the council. Nicea is about sixty-five miles from Constantinople on the asian was founded in 316BC by one of the generals of Alexander the great who named it after his wife.

In the meantime, Constantine realized that a great controversy over the deity of Jesus Christ threatened to divide his newly won empire, and in 325 he convened the first ecumenical council to resolve this problem. As this controversy seemed to be against his motto of “ one lord, one faith, one church, one empire, one emporer. It met in Nicea, a crossroads in Bithynia (northwest Asia Minor), twenty miles from the imperial residence in Nicomedia. Constantine paid the expenses of the delegates and opened the council as the honorary presiding officer. Athanasius is the man who undeniably led the church out of this swamp of confusion and into creedal and theological clarity.he attended the council as deacon. The council came to an end on july 25, A.D 325 after a nearly seven weeks deliberation on various topics beyond the arian heresy. They debated on eighty four subjects rwnging from the date of easter, whether the clergy could marry and the jurisdiction of metropolitan bishops. The topics also included pratical items such as the posture of prayer and aslo voluntary castration.

Constantine used his influence with the king of Persia, whose name was Sapor, to obtain good treatment for the Christians of that country; and the Gospel continued to make progress there. But this naturally raised the jealousy of the magi, who were the priests of the heathen religion of Persia.

[ 1 ]. Theodore Bergenske, eJournal Index , Vol. 1 No. 1 ,St. Constantine the Great
[ 2 ].
[ 3 ]. David K. Bernard, A History of Christian Doctrine, Volume One, (Word Aflame Press,USA,1995), 89
[ 4 ]. * Jeanne Halgren Kilde Professor, Sacred Power, Sacred Space : An Introduction to Christian Architecture and ...( Oxford University Press, 39
[ 5 ]. Jeanne Halgren Kilde Professor, Sacred Power, Sacred Space : An Introduction to Christian Architecture and ...( Oxford University Press,40
[ 6 ]. David K. Bernard, A History of Christian Doctrine, Volume One, (Word Aflame Press,USA,1995),90
[ 7 ]. David K. Bernard, A History of Christian Doctrine, Volume One, (Word Aflame Press,USA,1995),90
[ 8 ]. Williston Walker, A history of christian church, (T and T Clark, edinburgh, 1970),101
[ 9 ]. Paul Johnson, A history of christianity, (athenuen N.N 1976), 67
[ 10 ]. Faith of Our Fathers: A Study of the Nicene Creed By L. Charles Jackson(Canon Press & Book Service,, 129
[ 11 ]. History of the Jews By Simon Dubnov, Moshe Spiege(, 172
[ 12 ]. History of the Jews By Simon Dubnov, Moshe Spiege(,173
[ 13 ]. Faith of Our Fathers: A Study of the Nicene Creed By L. Charles Jackson(Canon Press & Book Service,Amazon.com0, 130
[ 14 ]. Sketches of Church History - Volume 1,22
[ 15 ]. Terry Julian, Constantine the Great, Christianity, and Constantinople, 81 [ 16 ]. 82
[ 17 ]. 83
[ 18 ]. 86
[ 19 ]. Faith of Our Fathers: A Study of the Nicene Creed By L. Charles Jackson, Canon Press & Book Service, 135
[ 20 ]. 141
[ 21 ]. Sketches of Church History – Volume1, 25

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