2015-87-Main Body-Constantine the Great
306 – 312
312 – 324
324 – 22 May 337
William Smith (1874) “Immediately after the triumph of Constantine, Christianity having become dominant and prosperous, Christians began to lose their vivid expectation of our Lord’s speedy advent, and to look upon the temporal supremacy of Christianity as a fulfillment of the promised reign of Christ on earth.” (“New Testament History,” p. 273 14-20,24)
WHAT OTHERS HAVE SAID
Eusebius Pamphilius Explains the Labarum
“And besides this, he caused to be painted on a lofty tablet, and set up in the front of the portico of his palace, so as to be visible to all, a representation of the salutary sign placed above his head, and below it that hateful and savage adversary of mankind, who by means of the tyranny of the ungodly had wasted the Church of God, falling headlong, under the form of a dragon, to the abyss of destruction. For the sacred oracles in the books of God’s prophets have described him as a dragon and a crooked serpent; [Especially the book of Revelation, and Isaiah] and for this reason the emperor thus publicly displayed a painted resemblance of the dragon beneath his own and his children’s feet, stricken through with a dart, and cast headlong into the depths of the sea.
In this manner he intended to represent the secret adversary of the human race, and to indicate that he was consigned to the gulf of perdition by virtue of the salutary trophy placed above his head. This allegory, then, was thus conveyed by means of the colors of a picture: and I am filled with wonder at the intellectual greatness of the emperor, who as if by divine inspiration thus expressed what the prophets had foretold concerning this monster, saying that “God would bring his great and strong and terrible sword against the dragon, the flying serpent; and would destroy the dragon that was in the sea.” [Isa. xxvii.] This it was of which the emperor gave a true and faithful representation in the picture above described.” (Oration in Praise of Constantine)
“7. And surely this must appear a wondrous fact to those who will examine the question in the love of truth, and desire not to cavil at these blessings. This is a fair appeal, applicable to his present hearers. It at least was true of Constantine’s reign, that it produced a state of relative peace and prosperity. The falsehood of demon superstition was convicted: the inveterate strife and mutual hatred of the nations was removed: at the same time One God, and the knowledge of that God, were proclaimed to all: one universal empire prevailed; and the whole human race, subdued by the controlling power of peace and concord, received one another as brethren, and responded to the feelings of their common nature. Hence, as children of one God and Father, and owning true religion as their common mother, they saluted and welcomed each other with words of peace. Thus the whole world appeared like one well-ordered and united family: each one might journey unhindered as far as and whithersoever he pleased: men might 607securely travel from West to East, and from East to West, as to their own native country: in short, the ancient oracles and predictions of the prophets were fulfilled, more numerous than we can at present cite, and those especially which speak as follows concerning the saving Word. “He shall have dominion from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth.” And again, “In his days shall righteousness spring up; and abundance of peace.” “And they shall beat their swords into plough-shares, and their spears into sickles: and nation shall not take up sword against nation, neither shall they learn to war any more.” [Psalm lxxi. 7, 8; Isaiah ii. 4. Septuagint.—Bag.] Psalm lxxii., English version.
8. These words, predicted ages before in the Hebrew tongue, have received in our own day a visible fulfillment, by which the testimonies of the ancient oracles are clearly confirmed. And now, if thou still desire more ample proof, receive it, not in words, but from the facts themselves. Open the eyes of thine understanding; expand the gates of thought; pause awhile, and consider; inquire of thyself as though thou wert another, and thus diligently examine the nature of the case. What king or prince in any age of the world, what philosopher, legislator, or prophet, in civilized or barbarous lands, has attained so great a height of excellence, I say not after death, but while living still, and full of mighty power, as to fill the ears and tongues of all mankind with the praises of his name? Surely none save our only Saviour has done this, when, after his victory over death, he spoke the word to his followers, and fulfilled it by the event, saying to them, “Go ye, and make disciples of all nations in my name.” Matt. xxviii. 19. There is an interesting various reading here, where Eusebius, with B. as against Aleph, adds something; but where B. and others have ουν, and D. and others have νυν, Eusebius has γουν. He it was who gave the distinct assurance, that his gospel must be preached in all the world for a testimony to all nations, and immediately verified his word: for within a little time the world itself was filled with his doctrine.” (Oration, Chapter XVI.)
Numismatic Chronicle (1877 PDF)
William Smith (1874)
2. The eldest, who bears his father’s name, he received as his partner in the empire about the close of the first decade of his reign: the second, next in point of age, at the second; and the third in like manner at the thirddecennial period, the occasion of this our present festival. And now that the fourth period has commenced, and the time of his reign is still further prolonged, he desires to extend his imperial authority by calling still more of his kindred to partake his power; and, by the appointment of the Cæsars, fulfills the predictions of the holy prophets, according to what they uttered ages before: “And the saints of the Most High shall take the kingdom.”
3. And thus the Almighty Sovereign himself accords an increase both of years and of children to our most pious emperor, and renders his sway over the nations of the world still fresh and flourishing, as though it were even now springing up in its earliest vigor. He it is who appoints him this presentfestival, in that he has made him victorious over every enemy that disturbed his peace: he it is who displays him as an example of true godliness to the human race.
4. And thus our emperor, like the radiant sun, illuminates the most distant subjects of his empire through the presence of the Cæsars, as with the far piercing rays of his own brightness. To us who occupy the eastern regions he has given a son worthy of himself; a second and a third respectively to other departments of his empire, to be, as it were, brilliant reflectors of the light which proceeds from himself. Once more, having harnessed, as it were, under the self-same yoke the four most noble Cæsars as horses in the imperial chariot, he sits on high and directs their course by the reins of holy harmony and concord; and, himself every where present, and observant of every event, thus traverses every region of the world.
5. Lastly, invested as he is with a semblance of heavenly sovereignty, he directs his gaze above, and frames his earthly government according to the pattern of that Divine original, feeling strength in its conformity to the monarchy of God. And this conformity is granted by the universal Sovereign to man alone of the creatures of this earth: for he only is the author of sovereign power, who decrees that all should be subject to the rule of one.
6. And surely monarchy far transcends every other constitution and form of government: for that democratic equality of power, which is its opposite, may rather be described as anarchy and disorder. Hence there is one God, and not two, or three, or more: for to assert a plurality of gods is plainly to deny the being of God at all. There is one Sovereign; and his Word and royal Law is one: a Law not expressed in syllables and words, not written or engraved on tablets, and therefore subject to the ravages of time; but the living and self-subsisting Word, who himself is God, and who administers his Father’s kingdom on behalf of all who are after him and subject to his power.
7. His attendants are the heavenly hosts; the myriads of God’s angelic ministers; the super-terrestrial armies, of unnumbered multitude; and those unseen spirits within heaven itself, whose agency is employed in regulating the order of this world. Ruler and chief of all these is the royal Word, acting as Regent of the Supreme Sovereign. To him the names of Captain, and great High Priest, Prophet of the Father, Angel of mighty counsel, Brightness of the Father’s light, Only begotten Son, with a thousand other titles, are ascribed in the oracles of the sacred writers. And the Father, having constituted him the living Word, and Law and Wisdom, the fullness of all blessing, has presented this best and greatest gift to all who are the subjects of his sovereignty.
8. And he himself, who pervades all things, and is every where present, unfolding his Father’s bounties to all with unsparing hand, has accorded a specimen of his sovereign power even to his rational creatures of this earth, in that he has provided the mind of man, who is formed after his own image, with Divine faculties, whence it is capable of other virtues also, which flow from the same heavenly source. For he only is wise, who is the only God: he only is essentially good: he only is of mighty power, the Parent of justice, the Father of reason and wisdom, the Fountain of light and life, the Dispenser of truth and virtue: in a word, the Author of empire itself, and of all dominion and power. (Eusebius’ Oration In Praise of Constantine, chapter 3.)
Another beast arises out of the earth, or land, which speaks “as a dragon.” He exercises all the power of the first beast, and does great wonders. This beast symbolizes the proconsular and priestly power of Rome as impersonated in Gessius Florus; and the persecuting power is also rampant in him, for he causes that “as many as should not worship the image of the beast should be killed” (chap. xiii, 15).
The ten kings which receive power with the beast, and give their power and strength unto the beast, make “war against the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them, for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings” (chap. xvii, 12, 13, 14).
Then in the nineteenth chapter the revelator says: “And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat upon the horse, and against his army. And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought the signs in his sight, wherewith he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshiped his image: they twain were cast alive into the lake of fire that burneth with brimstone: and the rest were killed with the sword . . . which came forth out of his mouth: and all the birds were filled with their flesh” (vers. 19-21). Here we have the prefigurement of the repression and cessation of the persecuting power of the Roman nation, through its imperial, senatorial, military, and judicial functionaries. We are to translate all these concrete figures back into the abstract, and see in this description the one great fact that pagan persecution, from national sources, ceased to be practiced.
There should be no chapter division between this vivid and graphic description of the revelator and the next paragraph, for now follows merely another scene in the same drama: the punishment of the arch enemy of Christianity and the great instigator of all this malice against its adherents. The dragon himself is seized by the angel and cast into the abyss, and shut up and sealed, “that he should deceive the nations no more, until the thousand years should be finished.”
This was a great crisis in the world’s history. There was a marked and decisive check given to the persecuting power of pagan nations, and the power of the devil, which deceived them into thus persecuting the Church of Christ, was for a time, at least, entirely broken. It was, as Schlegel describes it, “the decisive crisis between ancient and modern times;” and he asserts that the introduction and expansion of Christianity “has changed and regenerated not only government and science, but the whole system of human life” (Philosophy of History, page 276).
This era of the Church’s rest from persecution was fully inaugurated at the accession of Constantine, A. D. 312, and the issuance of his edict of toleration in 313. McClintock and Strong say: “In January, 313, he published the memorable edict of toleration in favor of the Christians, by which all the property which had been taken from the Christians during the persecutions was restored to them. They were also made eligible to public offices. This edict has been regarded as marking the triumph of the cross and the downfall of paganism” (art. “Constantine”). “Heathenism seemed to be annihilated at one blow” (Uhlhorn). From that time this edict “was received as a general and fundamental law of the Roman world” (Gibbon, Decline and Fall, chap. xx).
What is very remarkable in this connection is that the Christians of that time, with Constantine himself, believed that his edict and its results were the fulfillment of this very prophecy in the book of Revelation. The well-known labarum was made, which consisted of a Roman standard with the first two letters of the name of Christ (^) upon it, and a monument was erected representing the emperor with a cross over his head, and under his feet Satan as a serpent falling headlong into the abyss. Uhlhorn, as quoted by Warren, thus describes it: “At the entrance of the imperial palace there attracted the gaze of all who went out and in an immense picture representing Constantine himself with the labarum, the banner of the cross, in his hand, and under his feet pierced with arrows a dragon, the dragon of heathenism.” And Eusebius says: “For the sacred oracles in the books of God’s prophets have described him as a dragon and a crooked serpent; and for this reason the emperor thus publicly displayed a painted resemblance (cera igne resoluta) of the dragon beneath his own and his children’s feet, stricken through with a dart and cast headlong into the depths of the sea. In this manner he intended to represent that concealed adversary of the human race, and to indicate that he was consigned to the gulf of perdition by virtue of the trophy of salvation placed above his head.” So Schaff: “This rising significance of the cross was a faithful symbol of the extraordinary change in the empire. . . . The despised religion exerted a molding influence upon civil legislation, ruled the life of the people, and began to control the general course of civilization.” Davidson says: “This leads to the ancient view, namely, that the period [of the millennium] is past, not future. It will be observed that the beast and the false prophet are both destroyed (chap. xx).
Now, the beast cannot mean the papacy, as has been often assumed. It refers to the heathen power which was opposed to Christ and his religion. Hence the millennium began after the abolition of paganism in the Roman empire” (Interior, vol. iii, page 630). Professor C A. Briggs: “The millennium begins not with any definite event or year of time, but in general with the supremacy of the Church or kingdom of Christ over the Roman empire or world power. . . . John Fox is said to be the first who dated it from Constantine. He was followed by Lord Napier, Patrick Forbes, Hugh Broughton, and most interpreters since” (Independent, August, 1883). (These last three quotations from Warren’s Parousia of Christ.)
“And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus, and for the word of God, and such as worshiped not the beast, neither his image, and received not the mark upon their forehead and upon their hand; and they lived, and reigned with Christ a thousand years. The rest of the dead lived not until the thousand years should be finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: over these the second death hath no power; but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years” (vers. 4, 5, 6).
These “souls” which John sees seated on thrones are, as we have previously shown (Chapter X, Part I), the same “souls” that were seen under the altar. They appear again in chap. vii, 13-17. They are alluded to in chap. x, 7: “Then is finished the mystery of A Resurrection 367
God, according to the good tidings which he declared to his servants the prophets.” Again we meet them in chap. xi, 18: “And the time to give their reward to thy servants the prophets;” then again in chap. xiv, 1-5, they stand with the Lamb on Mount Zion; in chap. xv, 2, we see them standing on the glassy sea, and still later (xix, 14) they are the armies on white horses in fine linen, white and pure. All this is in exact accordance with the iterative character of the book; it gives the same events over and over.
This sitting on thrones of those who were previously under the altar is called a “resurrection” not because it is a rising from the graves of bodies which had been dead. There is nothing said of the resurrection of bodies. “This resurrection is to be explained as a resurrection from Hades to heaven. Those who have suffered in this world and have been slain ascend to their thrones in heaven” (Professor Briggs). “The resurrection is ascribed to these persons only in a figurative sense; that, namely, of a transition into a new and glorious existence; as is indicated by the expression This is the first resurrection’ ” (Heng- stenberg). Hence in the original this resurrection is denoted by a phraseology differing from that which is applied to the resurrection of mankind in general. It is lost sight of in our English version, but it is a peculiarity of too much importance to be rightfully disregarded. The latter is usually styled simply the resurrection of the dead; that of Christ and his martyrs, the resurrection from or from out of the dead. So, in the Vulgate, the resurrectio a or ex mortuis is distinguished from the resurrectio mortuorum. (See Rom. viii, 11; x, 7; Eph. i, 20; Heb. xiii, 20; I Pet. i, 3, 21.) It implies that out of the whole number of the departed there shall be those who attain a peculiar honor, one which they do not share in common with the rest.
“Being the most exalted state of future reward, it became the object of intensest desire on the part of persecuted saints. Even Paul declared that he made it the object of his most strenuous effort (Phil. iii, 10- 14): ‘If by any means I might attain unto [Gr.] the resurrection which is from among the dead.’ It was the same inspiring hope that actuated the Christians of the succeeding centuries and led them to seek the bloody crown of martyrdom, the pledge of the crown of victory above. So the sneering Gibbon, chap. xvi” (Parousia of Christ, pages 200, 201).” (Christ Came Again, pp. 366-370)
Israel P. Warren in “The Parousia”
David Chagall (2001)
This doctrine was certified by the Emperor Constantine in 325 AD, who saw Christ reigning through the Roman Catholic Church and empire Rome had established. It was given intellectual justification by the Roman lawyer Augustine of Hippo. According to the new doctrine of final things, all biblical prophecies in Matthew 24 and 25, Mark 13, Luke 21, and the book of Revelation were totally fulfilled in the first century with the sole exception of the new heavens and earth to descend from heaven for creation’s eternal state (Rev. 21 and 22).” (Does God Predestine People to go to Hell?)
David Hocking (2005)
Tommy Ice (1999)
MODERATE preterists believe that almost all prophecy was fulfilled in the A.D. 70 destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans. They do believe that a few passages still teach a yet future second coming (Acts 1:9-11; 1 Corinthians 15:51-53; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17) and the resurrection of believers at Christ’s bodily return.
EXTREME preterists, or consistent preterists, as they prefer to be known as, hold that all future Bible prophecy was fulflled in the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. If there is a future second coming, they say, the Bible does not talk about it. Extreme preterists believe that there is no future bodily resurrection, which place them outside the realm of Christian orthodoxy
J. Hampton Keithly
Clarence Larkin (1920)
Numismatic Chronicle – Constantine (1877 PDF)
As the first emperor to embrace the Christian faith, we might expect that Constantine’s religious convictions would figure prominently on the coinage of his reign. The degree to which this was actually the case has provoked great deal of scholarly argument and, in so doing, has provided a number of fascinating insights into the development of religious symbolism in the fledgling Christian Empire.
The mint of Constantinople was in operation by AD 327, some three years before the formal dedication of the city. A series of bronze coins of that year celebrate the defeat of Licinius. The reverse of this issue bears the legend Spes Publica, and portrays a serpent being pierced by a Chi-Rho topped labarum.
For Alfoldi (p. 39), ‘The spectacle of the Christian monogram on works of art and coin-types, the blaze of the initials of Christ on the labarum, the new imperial banner, were all propaganda in the modern sense’. Even Bruun (p. 64), whilst generally dismissive of the existence of Christian symbols on the coinage of Constantine, is forced to concede that ‘The problem of the labarum piercing the dragon on the Constantinopolitan Spes publica bronzes remains.’
Whilst rarely used during Constantine’s reign, the Christian labarum becomes a frequent and recurrent feature of the coinage following his death, normally being closely associated with a representation of a victorious emperor. One particular issue, struck at Siscia in AD 350, makes specific reference to Constantine’s vision, bearing the labarum accompanied by the legend Hoc Signo Victor Eris – ‘In this sign shalt thou conquer’.
Whilst there can be little dispute that the Coinage of Constantine the Great did indeed express his religious convictions, it is equally true that it was not exceptionally rich in Christian symbolism. As Bruun (p. 64) reminds us however, ‘There was no independently Christian artistic tradition. The Christian ideas now about to conquer the State had to employ old means to express new conceptions.’
Constantine was nevertheless recognised by his contemporaries and near-contemporaries as the first Christian emperor, and through the writings of Eusebius, certain elements of his coinage came inextricably to be associated with the triumphant faith. As Bruun correctly records, ‘The victor is the official interpreter of history, and Christianity was the true victor of the Milvian Bridge and Chrysopolis. Thus Constantine’s victorious sign, his helmet, his seeming cross-sceptre and the aura around his head were adopted by posterity as Christian symbols, Christian signs of power.’ The Cross truly had triumphed.” (Christian Symbolism on the Coinage of Constantine the Great)