The third period (Epistle to the Church of Pergamon)
This period begins with the official recognition of Christianity at the beginning of the fourth century and continues until the beginning of the seventh century. Christ dictated to the Apostle John this message: “And to the angel of the Church of Pergamum write: thus says he who has a sharp sword on both sides: I know your works, and that you live where the throne of Satan, and that you contain My name and have not renounced My faith…”(Rev.2.12-13).
For nearly three centuries no persecution could suppress Christianity. But since the time of the Emperor Constantine, a terrible menace of a different character has hung over Christianity, more dangerous than all the persecutions put together. If under pagan emperors Satan approached the Christian Church in the form of an angry lion, in the reign of Constantine he crept up to it in the form of a cunning serpent. People poured into the Church showered with Royal favors not for the sake of their religious beliefs, not for the love of Christ, but for the sake of profit. The Church began to grow quantitatively with incredible rapidity, but spiritually with the same rapidity it began to lose its power. The clergy received many privileges from the Emperor, they were showered with gold; and many of the clergy began to forget their duty to the Lord, Christianity began to be adjusted to the interests of the powerful who had joined the Church. To the Christians of such a Church the figurative words of Christ are justly addressed: “Thou livest where the throne of Satan is” (Rev.2.13). Yes, the Church allowed Satan to set up his throne. But even in such a spiritually fallen Church there were many sincerely loving Christ Ministers and ordinary believers, to whom Christ says:”…thou hast kept My name, and hast not renounced the faith.”2.13).
In the third period of Christianity, a number of deviations from first Christianity were made in dogmatic matters. For example, in 342 the baptism of infants was everywhere legalized; in 375 the worship of the virgin Mary, the apostles, and other great ascetics was officially recognized, in violation of the clear indication of the Word of God: “One is God, one is the mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim.2.5). In 400, prayers for the dead (dirges, funeral services) were introduced.