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The Three Ecumenical or Universal Creeds -- The Apostles' Creed [The title, Symbolum Apostolicum (Symbol or Creed of the Apostles), appears for the first time in a letter from a Council in Milan (probably written by Ambrose himself) to Pope Siricius in about 390 A.D. - Wiki.com]: I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth. And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary; suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; He descended into hell; the third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead. I believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy catholic [universal] Church, the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen. -- The Nicene Creed [adopted in the city of Nicaea by the first (second) ecumenical council (Jerusalem Acts 15:6 was the first ecumenical Church council), which met there in 325 A.D. - Wiki.com]: I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father; by whom all things were made; who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man, and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again with glory to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end. And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceedeth from the Father and the Son; who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified; who spake by the Prophets. And I believe in one holy catholic [universal] and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen. -- The Athanasian Creed [The use of the Creed in a sermon by Caesarius of Arles, as well as a theological resemblance to works by Vincent of Lérins, point to Southern Gaul as its origin. The most likely time frame is in the late fifth or early sixth century A.D. (475-525 A.D.) at least 100 years after Athanasius (293 A.D. - May 2, 373 A.D.) - Wiki.com]: Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic [universal] faith. Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly. And the catholic [universal] faith is this, that we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; Neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the Substance. For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost is all one: the glory equal, the majesty coeternal. Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Ghost. The Father uncreate, the Son uncreate, and the Holy Ghost uncreate. The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the Holy Ghost incomprehensible. The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Ghost eternal. And yet they are not three Eternals, but one Eternal. As there are not three Uncreated nor three Incomprehensibles, but one Uncreated and one Incomprehensible. So likewise the Father is almighty, the Son almighty, and the Holy Ghost almighty. And yet they are not three Almighties, but one Almighty. So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God. And yet they are not three Gods, but one God. So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Ghost Lord. And yet not three Lords, but one Lord. For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity to acknowledge every Person by Himself to be God and Lord, So are we forbidden by the catholic [universal] religion to say, There be three Gods, or three Lords. The Father is made of none: neither created nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone; not made, nor created, but begotten. The Holy Ghost is of the Father and of the Son: neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding. So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Ghost, not three Holy Ghosts. And in this Trinity none is before or after other; none is greater or less than another; But the whole three Persons are coeternal together, and coequal: so that in all things, as is aforesaid, the Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshiped. He, therefore, that will be saved must thus think of the Trinity. Furthermore, it is necessary to everlasting salvation that he also believe faithfully the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. For the right faith is, that we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and Man; God of the Substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds; and Man of the substance of His mother, born in the world; Perfect God and perfect Man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting. Equal to the Father as touching His Godhead, and inferior to the Father as touching His manhood; Who, although He be God and Man, yet He is not two, but one Christ: One, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh, but by taking the manhood into God; One altogether; not by confusion of Substance, but by unity of Person. For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man, so God and Man is one Christ; Who suffered for our salvation; descended into hell, rose again the third day from the dead; He ascended into heaven; He sitteth on the right hand of the Father, God Almighty; from whence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead. At whose coming all men shall rise again with their bodies, and shall give an account of their own works. And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting; and they that have done evil, into everlasting fire. This is the catholic [universal] faith; which except a man believe faithfully and firmly, he cannot be saved. [article link]

The Nicene Creed (325 A.D.) - The Nicene Creed "I believe in one holy catholic [universal] and ***[A]postolic Church" is the most widely accepted and used brief statements of the Christian Faith - In liturgical churches, it is said every Sunday as part of the Liturgy - It is Common Ground to East Orthodox, Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Lutherans, Calvinists, and many other Christian groups - Many groups that do not have a tradition of using it in their services nevertheless are committed to the doctrines it teaches


Someone may ask, "What about the Apostles' Creed?" Traditionally, in the West, the Apostles' Creed is used at Baptisms, and the Nicene Creed at the Eucharist [AKA the Mass, the Liturgy, the Lord's Supper, or the Holy Communion.] The East uses only the Nicene Creed. I here present the Nicene Creed in two English translations, The first is the traditional one, in use with minor variations since 1549, The second is a modern version, that of The Interdenominational Committee on Liturgical Texts. Notes and comment by [James E. Kiefer] follow. [article link]

Council of Seleucia 359 A.D. - In 358, the Roman Emperor Constantius II requested two councils, one of western bishops at Ariminum and the other of eastern bishops at Nicomedia, to resolve the controversy over Arianism regarding the nature of the divinity of Jesus Christ, a controversy that had divided the fourth-century church - Before the council was convened an earthquake struck Nicomedia, killing many people including the bishop, Cecropius of Nicomedia - As a result on September 27, 359 A.D. the eastern council (of about 160 bishops) met at Seleucia instead - The council was bitterly divided, and disorganized - The two parties met separately and reached opposing decisions - Later that year, Constantius called for a council in Constantinople to consider the decision at Ariminum and resolve the split at Seleucia - This council met in 360 A.D., which did not settle the disputes


Acacius' proposed creed: -- Preface: "We having yesterday assembled by the emperor's command at Seleucia, a city of Isauria, on the 27th day of September, exerted ourselves to the utmost, with all moderation, to preserve the peace of the church, and to determine doctrinal questions on prophetic and evangelical authority, so as to sanction nothing in the ecclesiastic confession of faith at variance with the sacred Scriptures, as our Emperor Constantius most beloved of God has ordered. But inasmuch as certain individuals in the Synod have acted injuriously toward several of us, preventing some from expressing their sentiments, and excluding others from the council against their wills; and at the same time have introduced such as have been deposed, and persons who were ordained contrary to the ecclesiastical canon, so that the Synod has presented a scene of tumult and disorder, of which the most illustrious Leonas, the Comes, and the most eminent Lauricius, governor of the province, have been eye-witnesses, we are therefore under the necessity of making this declaration. That we do not repudiate the faith which was ratified at the consecration of the church at Antioch; for we give it our decided preference, because it received the concurrence of our fathers who were assembled there to consider some controverted points. Since, however, the terms homoousion and homoiousion have in time past troubled the minds of many, and still continue to disquiet them; and moreover that a new term has recently been coined by some who assert the anomoion of the Son to the Father: we reject the first two, as expressions which are not found in the Scriptures; but we utterly anathematize the last, and regard such as countenance its use, as alienated from the church. We distinctly acknowledge the homoion of the Son to the Father, in accordance with what the apostle has declared concerning him, "Who is the image of the invisible God." -- Creed: "We confess then, and believe in one God the Father Almighty, the Maker of heaven and earth, and of things visible and invisible. We believe also in his Son our Lord Jesus Christ, who was begotten of him without passion before all ages, God the Word, the only-begotten of God, the Light, the Life, the Truth, the Wisdom: through whom all things were made which are in the heavens and upon the earth, whether visible or invisible. We believe that he took flesh of the holy Virgin Mary, at the end of the ages, in order to abolish sin; that he was made man, suffered for our sin, and rose again, and was taken up into the heavens, to sit at the right hand of the Father, whence he will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead. We believe also in the Holy Spirit, whom our Lord and Saviour has denominated the Comforter, and whom he sent to his disciples after his departure, according to his promise: by whom also he sanctifies all believers in the church, who are baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Those who preach anything contrary to this creed, we regard as aliens from the catholic church." [article link]

Wikipedia: Gregory of Nazianzus - Gregory of Nazianzus (329 - January 25 390) - also known as Gregory the Theologian or Gregory Nazianzen was a 4th-century Archbishop of Constantinople - He is widely considered the most accomplished rhetorical stylist of the Patristic Age [generally reckoned as Church Fathers - A rough classification of these patristic writings is as: Apostolic Fathers and the 2nd century; 3rd century; 4th century; 5th century; and 6th century] - As a classically trained orator and philosopher he infused Hellenism into the early church, establishing the paradigm of Byzantine theologians and church officials - Gregory made a significant impact on the shape of Trinitarian theology among both Greek and Latin-speaking theologians, and he is remembered as the "Trinitarian Theologian" - Much of his theological work continues to influence modern theologians, especially in regard to the relationship among the three Persons of the Trinity [Father, Son, Holy Spirit] - Along with the two brothers Basil the Great and Gregory of Nyssa, he is known as one of the Cappadocian Fathers - Gregory is a saint in both Eastern and Western Christianity - In the Roman Catholic Church he is numbered among the Doctors of the Church; in Eastern Orthodoxy and the Eastern Catholic Churches he is revered as one of the Three Holy Hierarchs, along with Basil the Great and John Chrysostom


Priesthood: In 361 Gregory returned to Nazianzus and was ordained a presbyter by his father, who wanted him to assist with caring for local Christians. The younger Gregory, who had been considering a monastic existence, resented his father's decision to force him to choose between priestly services and a solitary existence, calling it an "act of tyranny". Leaving home after a few days, he met his friend Basil at Annesoi, where the two lived as ascetics. However, Basil urged him to return home to assist his father, which he did for the next year. Arriving at Nazianzus, Gregory found the local Christian community split by theological differences and his father accused of heresy by local monks. Gregory helped to heal the division through a combination of personal diplomacy and oratory. By this time Emperor Julian had publicly declared himself in opposition to Christianity. In response to the emperor's rejection of the Christian faith, Gregory composed his Invectives Against Julian between 362 and 363. Invectives asserts that Christianity will overcome imperfect rulers such as Julian through love and patience. This process as described by Gregory is the public manifestation of the process of deification (theosis), which leads to a spiritual elevation and mystical union with God. Julian resolved, in late 362, to vigorously prosecute Gregory and his other Christian critics; however, the emperor perished the following year during a campaign against the Persians. With the death of the emperor, Gregory and the Eastern churches were no longer under the threat of persecution, as the new emperor Jovian was an avowed Christian and supporter of the church. Gregory spent the next few years combating Arianism, which threatened to divide the region of Cappadocia. In this tense environment, Gregory interceded on behalf of his friend Basil with Bishop Eusebius of Caesarea (Maritima). The two friends then entered a period of close fraternal cooperation as they participated in a great rhetorical contest of the Caesarean church precipitated by the arrival of accomplished Arian theologians and rhetors. In the subsequent public debates, presided over by agents of the Emperor Valens, Gregory and Basil emerged triumphant. This success confirmed for both Gregory and Basil that their futures lay in administration of the Church. Basil, who had long displayed inclinations to the episcopacy, was elected bishop of the see of Caesarea in Cappadocia in 370. -- Gregory at Constantinople: Emperor Valens died in 378. The accession of Theodosius I, a steadfast supporter of Nicene orthodoxy, was good news to those who wished to purge Constantinople of Arian and Apollinarian domination. The exiled Nicene party gradually returned to the city. From his deathbed, Basil reminded them of Gregory's capabilities and likely recommended his friend to champion the trinitarian cause in Constantinople. In 379, the Antioch synod and its archbishop, Meletios, asked Gregory to go to Constantinople to lead a theological campaign to win over that city to Nicene orthodoxy. After much hesitation, Gregory agreed. His cousin Theodosia offered him a villa for his residence; Gregory immediately transformed much of it into a church, naming it Anastasia, "a scene for the resurrection of the faith". From this little chapel he delivered five powerful discourses on Nicene doctrine, explaining the nature of the Trinity and the unity of the Godhead. Refuting the Eunomion denial of the Holy Spirit's divinity, Gregory offered this argument: "Look at these facts: Christ is born, the Holy Spirit is His Forerunner. Christ is baptized, the Spirit bears witness to this… Christ works miracles, the Spirit accompanies them. Christ ascends, the Spirit takes His place. What great things are there in the idea of God which are not in His power? What titles appertaining to God do not apply also to Him, except for Unbegotten and Begotten? I tremble when I think of such an abundance of titles, and how many Names they blaspheme, those who revolt against the Spirit!" -- Gregory's homilies were well-received and attracted ever-growing crowds to Anastasia. Fearing his popularity, his opponents decided to strike. On the vigil of Easter in 379, an Arian mob burst into his church during worship services, wounding Gregory and killing another bishop. Escaping the mob, Gregory next found himself betrayed by his erstwhile friend, the philosopher Maximus the Cynic. Maximus, who was in secret alliance with Peter, bishop of Alexandria, attempted to seize Gregory's position and have himself ordained bishop of Constantinople. Shocked, Gregory decided to resign his office, but the faction faithful to him induced him to stay and ejected Maximus. However, the episode left him embarrassed and exposed him to criticism as a provincial simpleton unable to cope with intrigues of the imperial city. Affairs in Constantinople remained confused as Gregory's position was still unofficial and Arian priests occupied many important churches. The arrival of the emperor Theodosius in 380 settled matters in Gregory's favor. The emperor, determined to eliminate Arianism, expelled Bishop Demophilus. Gregory was subsequently enthroned as bishop of Constantinople at the Basilica of the Apostles, replacing Demophilus. [article link]

Wikipedia: Augustine of Hippo - Augustine of Hippo (November 13, 354 - August 28, 430), also known as Augustine, St. Augustine, St. Austin, St. Augoustinos, Blessed Augustine, or St. Augustine the Blessed, - was Bishop of Hippo Regius (present-day Annaba, Algeria) - He was a Latin-speaking philosopher and theologian who lived in the Roman Africa Province - His writings were very influential in the development of Western Christianity


According to his contemporary, Jerome, Augustine "established anew the ancient Faith." In his early years he was heavily influenced by Manichaeism and afterward by the Neo-Platonism of Plotinus. After his conversion to Christianity and baptism in AD 387, Augustine developed his own approach to philosophy and theology, accommodating a variety of methods and different perspectives. He believed that the grace of Christ was indispensable to human freedom, and he framed the concepts of original sin and just war. -- When the Western Roman Empire was starting to disintegrate, Augustine developed the concept of the Catholic Church as a spiritual City of God (in a book of the same name), distinct from the material Earthly City. His thoughts profoundly influenced the medieval worldview. Augustine's City of God was closely identified with the Church, the community that worshipped God. In the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion, he is a saint and pre-eminent Doctor of the Church, and the patron of the Augustinian religious order; his memorial is celebrated 28 August, the day of his death. ... Works: Augustine was one of the most prolific Latin authors in terms of surviving works, and the list of his works consists of more than one hundred separate titles. They include apologetic works against the heresies of the Arians, Donatists, Manichaeans and Pelagians, texts on Christian doctrine, notably De Doctrina Christiana (On Christian Doctrine), exegetical works such as commentaries on Book of Genesis, the Psalms and Paul's Letter to the Romans, many sermons and letters, and the Retractationes, a review of his earlier works which he wrote near the end of his life. Apart from those, Augustine is probably best known for his Confessiones (Confessions), which is a personal account of his earlier life, and for De civitate dei (Of the City of God, consisting of 22 books), which he wrote to restore the confidence of his fellow Christians, which was badly shaken by the sack of Rome by the Visigoths in 410. His De trinitate (On the Trinity), in which he developed what has become known as the 'psychological analogy' of the Trinity, is also among his masterpieces, and arguably one of the greatest theological works of all time. He also wrote On Free Choice Of The Will (De libero arbitrio), addressing why God gives humans free will that can be used for evil. ... Influence on St. Thomas Aquinas: For quotations of St. Augustine by St. Thomas Aquinas see Aquinas and the Sacraments and Thought of Thomas Aquinas. On the topic of original sin: Aquinas proposed a more optimistic view of man than that of Augustine in that his conception leaves to the reason, will, and passions of fallen man their natural powers even after the Fall. Influence on Protestant reformers: While in his pre-Pelagian writings Augustine taught that Adam's guilt as transmitted to his descendants much enfeebles, though does not destroy, the freedom of their will, Protestant reformers Martin Luther and John Calvin affirmed that Original Sin completely destroyed liberty (see total depravity). Abortion and ensoulment: Like other Church Fathers such as Athenagoras St Augustine "vigorously condemned the practice of induced abortion" as a crime, in any stage of pregnancy. [article link]

Wikipedia: Jerome - Saint Jerome (347 - 30 September 420) was a Roman Christian priest, confessor, theologian and historian, and who became a Doctor of the Church - He was the son of Eusebius, of the city of Stridon, which was on the border of Dalmatia and Pannonia - He is **best known for his translation of the Bible into Latin (the Vulgate), and his list of writings is extensive - He is recognized by the Catholic Church as a saint and Doctor of the Church, and the Vulgate is still an important text in Catholicism - He is also recognized as a saint by the Eastern Orthodox Church, where he is known as St. Jerome of Stridonium or Blessed Jerome {Note: That the discipline, of sticking strictly to the Bible of the earlier Church Fathers and Church Theologians has already began to diminish as the newer generations of Roman Theologians, no longer preoccupied with persecution, were able to speculate more widely about possible Biblical scenarios. -- Also Note: Already during the time of Jerome that Christian Theology was shifting into a primary focus of End Times. That the End Times were soon to unfold and unfold within the context of the events of their day.}


Eusebius Sophronius Hieronymus was born at Stridon around 347. He was not baptized until about 360 or 366, when he had gone to Rome with his friend Bonosus (who may or may not have been the same Bonosus whom Jerome identifies as his friend who went to live as a hermit on an island in the Adriatic) to pursue rhetorical and philosophical studies. He studied under the grammarian Aelius Donatus. There Jerome learned Latin and at least some Greek, though probably not the familiarity with Greek literature he would later claim to have acquired as a schoolboy. As a student in Rome, he engaged in the superficial activities of students there, which he indulged in quite casually but suffered terrible bouts of repentance afterwards. To appease his conscience, he would visit on Sundays the sepulchers of the martyrs and the Apostles in the catacombs. This experience would remind him of the terrors of hell: Often I would find myself entering those crypts, deep dug in the earth, with their walls on either side lined with the bodies of the dead, where everything was so dark that almost it seemed as though the Psalmist's words were fulfilled, Let them go down quick into Hell. Here and there the light, not entering in through windows, but filtering down from above through shafts, relieved the horror of the darkness. But again, as soon as you found yourself cautiously moving forward, the black night closed around and there came to my mind the line of Vergil, "Horror unique animos, simul ipsa silentia terrent. Jerome used a quote from Vergil - "The horror and the silences terrified their souls" - to describe the horror of hell. Jerome initially used classical authors to describe Christian concepts such as hell that indicated both his classical education and his deep shame of their associated practices, such as pederasty. Although initially skeptical of Christianity, he was eventually converted. After several years in Rome, he travelled with Bonosus to Gaul and settled in Trier where he seems to have first taken up theological studies, and where he copied, for his friend Tyrannius Rufinus, Hilary of Poitiers' commentary on the Psalms and the treatise De synodis. Next came a stay of at least several months, or possibly years, with Rufinus at Aquileia, where he made many Christian friends. Some of these accompanied him when he set out about 373 on a journey through Thrace and Asia Minor into northern Syria. At Antioch, where he stayed the longest, two of his companions died and he himself was seriously ill more than once. During one of these illnesses (about the winter of 373-374), he had a vision that led him to lay aside his secular studies and devote himself to God. He seems to have abstained for a considerable time from the study of the classics and to have plunged deeply into that of the Bible, under the impulse of Apollinaris of Laodicea, then teaching in Antioch and not yet suspected of heresy. ... The works of Hippolytus of Rome and Irenaeus greatly influenced Jerome's interpretation of prophecy. He noted the distinction between the original Septuagint and Theodotion's later substitution. Jerome warned that those substituting false interpretations for the actual meaning of Scripture belonged to the "synagogue of the Antichrist". "He that is not of Christ is of Antichrist," he wrote to Pope Damasus I. **He believed that "the mystery of iniquity" written about by Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2:7 was already in action when "every one chatters about his views." To Jerome, the power restraining this mystery of iniquity was the Roman Empire, but as it fell this restraining force was removed. He warned a noble woman of Gaul: "He that letteth is taken out of the way, and yet we do not realize that Antichrist is near. Yes, Antichrist is near whom the Lord Jesus Christ "shall consume with the spirit of his mouth." "Woe unto them," he cries, "that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days."... Savage tribes in countless numbers have overrun all parts of Gaul. The whole country between the Alps and the Pyrenees, between the Rhine and the Ocean, has been laid waste by hordes of Quadi, Vandals, Sarmatians, Alans, Gepids, Herules, Saxons, Burgundians, Allemanni, and-alas! for the commonweal!-- even Pannonians. His Commentary on Daniel was expressly written to offset the criticisms of Porphyry, who taught that Daniel related entirely to the time of Antiochus IV Epiphanes and was written by an unknown individual living in the 2nd century BC. Against Porphyry, Jerome identified Rome as the fourth kingdom of chapters two and seven, but his view of chapters eight and 11 was more complex. Jerome held that chapter eight describes the activity of Antiochus Epiphanes, who is understood as a "type" of a future antichrist; 11:24 onwards applies primarily to a future antichrist but was partially fulfilled by Antiochus. Instead, he advocated that the "little horn" was the Antichrist: We should therefore concur with the traditional interpretation of all the commentators of the Christian Church, that at the end of the world, when the Roman Empire is to be destroyed, there shall be ten kings who will partition the Roman world amongst themselves. Then an insignificant eleventh king will arise, who will overcome three of the ten kings... after they have been slain, the seven other kings also will bow their necks to the victor. In his Commentary on Daniel, he noted, "Let us not follow the opinion of some commentators and suppose him to be either the Devil or some demon, but rather, one of the human race, in whom Satan will wholly take up his residence in bodily form." In interpreting 2 Thessalonians's claim that the Antichrist will sit in God's temple, Jerome preferred the view that the "temple" should be interpreted as the Church, not as the Temple in Jerusalem. Jerome identified the four prophetic kingdoms symbolized in Daniel 2 as the Neo-Babylonian Empire, the Medes and Persians, Macedon, and Rome. Jerome identified the stone cut out without hands as "namely, the Lord and Savior". Jerome refuted Porphyry's application of the little horn of chapter seven to Antiochus. He expected that at the end of the world, Rome would be destroyed, and partitioned among ten kingdoms before the little horn appeared. Jerome believed that Cyrus of Persia is the higher of the two horns of the Medo-Persian ram of Daniel 8:3. The he-goat is Greece smiting Persia. Alexander [the Great] is the great horn, which is then succeeded by Alexander's half brother Philip and three of his generals. [article link]

Introduction: Already by the early 400's A.D. Christians had become so comfortable in their association with secular Rome that Jerome believed that the restraining force of "the mystery of iniquity" (sin) written about by Paul the Apostle in 2 Thessalonians 2:7 was in action via Rome - To Jerome, the power restraining this mystery of iniquity was the Roman Empire, but as Rome fell this restraining force was removed - {Note: Common Christianity has almost universally considered the "restrainer" (2 Thessalonians 2:7) from sin to be the work of the Holy Spirit and not the works of man alone or of human agencies.}

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