The Great Apostasy was Foretold

Parent page: Apostasy

Earliest Christians foresaw apostasy

In the earliest Christian writings we often come across the prediction regarding the future of the church that the sheep would turn to wolves. What would they be in that case—a new breed of sheep? Not a bit of it: the sheep as such would cease to exist, however loudly the wolves might continue to call themselves sheep and parade their Christian background and tradition and name. The Lord and the Apostles use the examples of the salt that is spoiled, the tares that destroy the wheatfield until they can be burned, the wolves that destroy the flock, and the sheep that turn into wolves, precisely because weeds and wolves, briers, and salt that has lost its savor are things that can never be reformed: they are beyond saving. "In the days of old," writes Duchesne, "Christians had cursed the Babylon of the Seven Hills; now they were conquering her and were going to convert her. What triumph could be more desirable?" That was the fourth century view, but, as Duchesne knows, for the true Christians Babylon was never going to be converted or reformed. Babylon, like the tares and the brambles, had but one fate in store for it—it was reserved for the burning. It was common for the earliest Christian writers to speak of the church as a virgin. "Up to that time," wrote Hegesippus, speaking of the end of the apostolic age, "the Church had remained a pure and uncorrupted virgin."3 Can that status when lost—and Hegesippus says it was lost—ever be acquired again? What about repentance, you ask; wasn't Israel, though her sins were as scarlet, to be washed white as snow? (Isaiah 1:18). Yes, but never by reformation—always by restoration. If Israel is ever renewed, it must be by a new covenant and a new Jerusalem—and such can never be worked out by men here below; they must always come from above.[1]


  1. Hugh W. Nibley, The World and the Prophets, 3rd edition, (Vol. 3 of Collected Works of Hugh Nibley), edited by John W. Welch, Gary P. Gillum, and Don E. Norton (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Company; Provo, Utah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1987), Chapter 13, references silently removed—consult original for citations.

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