Let’s Take a Walk Through the Centuries and See 2 Paths Over 2,000 Years


Article #376

by Bill Nugent


There have always been two major paths in life. God has given us a choice between light and darkness, blessing and cursing, the narrow way or the broad way. Each century gave humankind a choice between two paths.


“I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants” (Deuteronomy 30:19 NASB).


The New Testament contains a similar passage.


“Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide, and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter by it. For the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14 NASB).


We are in the 21st century looking back through the corridors of time to 2,000 years of church history. Let’s take a brief look back at the centuries and see how the narrow way and the broad way were defined.


The First Century


In the first century the teachings of Jesus Christ were presented by Christ Himself and He worked miracles to prove to all that He is indeed the only begotten Son of God. He is the promised Messiah of Israel. Jesus gave us the narrow way.


Jesus taught that He came to die for the sins of the people. People do their best to live a good life but they cannot earn paradise by good deeds. People must turn to Christ who took the penalty of our sins upon Himself. This is the narrow way, the way of the cross.


The broad way that leads to destruction was the way of the Pharisees. They opposed Christ very defiantly. The Pharisees thought they could be good enough by their own self-effort to do good works to qualify for Paradise. That’s the broad way to destruction.


The 2nd Century


The second century was a time of great conflict and persecution of Christians. The ancient Roman government persecuted the church.


In the second century those who opposed the church from a spiritual and doctrinal standpoint were the early Gnostics. The Gnostics taught a very bizarre, twisted form of Christianity mingled with paganism that did not bring salvation. They led many astray into religious error.


The narrow way was expressed by the early church fathers who taught from the sacred scriptures, both Old and New Testaments. They continued to teach that Jesus died for our sins and that we must rely upon Him because we cannot qualify for heaven by our own good works. The Bible teaches that we must obey Christ and do good works, yet good works don’t earn heaven. Only Christ opens heaven’s doors for us. (Luke 6:46, Romans 4:3-5; II Timothy 2:19-22; Titus 3:5)


During those early years of church history, missionaries went out and founded churches in India, China, Africa and other parts of the world. The churches prospered for a time and many people came to Christ for salvation in those lands. However, heavy persecution came upon the churches and they were largely persecuted out of existence.


Only in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East did the church expand and and become accepted by whole nations.


Medieval Times: 300 – 1500


More than a thousand years, from about 300 up until about 1500 is the medieval period of church history. It was a time when church leaders were educated in the classical Greek philosophers, not just the Bible. They interpreted the Bible and viewed the Bible through the lens of the pagan philosophies of Plato and Aristotle.


The narrow way, the way of Christ was largely obscured during this lengthy time of church history. People were so beguiled by the pagan philosophies of Plato and Aristotle that they began to embrace the broad way which claims that heaven can be earned by good deeds.


The ancient Greeks believed that hell or Hades had two compartments. One compartment was called Tartarus which was the place of the wicked and they were damned. And there was another compartment in Hades called Elysium. They taught that Elysium is where the virtuous enjoyed the pleasures of paradise.


The Greeks’ teaching on the afterlife claimed that people could qualify for Paradise simply by being virtuous. They trusted in human self effort. Many in the church adopted the pagan claim that heaven can be earned by good works without reliance on Christ who died for our sins.


The Bible was obscured by pagan philosophy. Only a tiny proportion of the population could read or write. Only the leaders of the church and leaders of the governments in those centuries had access to the Bible which was written in Latin or in Greek. In spite of the strong influence of Platonism and Aristotelianism, the leadership of both church and state, over the centuries, began to slowly form a biblical worldview.


Europe made slow progress towards a Christian worldview. The Christian worldview influenced the outworking of government and economics. Europe was the first continent to abolish slavery. Chattel slavery was abolished in Europe by the late medieval period.


It’s a shame that in the 1400s Europeans began to oppress people of Africa whom they regarded as illiterate forest dwellers with no permanent architecture. They regarded them as subhuman. Slavery of Africans continued for more than 400 years until the 1800s.


Some Light Begins to Shine in the 1200s


In the 1200s we see the beginnings of what we call today modern, experimental science. This was because of the work of Roger Bacon (1214-1294). Science was called natural philosophy back then.


The Christian worldview gave rise to science because the Bible teaches that God is transcendent and is separate from His creation. The Bible teaches that God gives moral laws and provides order for humanity. The early scientists rightly assumed that since God Gives moral laws, God also gives laws governing the natural world.


I’ve written about the reasons why modern science arose in the Christian West and not in the pagan East. Paganism regards nature as chaotic, random or a mere illusion. They didn’t do experiments in a rigorous way. They didn’t do modern science.


During the 1300s and 1400s progress was very slow because only a tiny part of the population had access to the Bible to read it and study it. The vast majority of people were ignorant of the Bible.


John Wycliffe (c.1328-1384) translated the Bible from Latin to English. Wycliffe’s writings influenced Czech reformer Jan Hus (1369-1415).


The 1500s Protestant Reformation


Things changed rapidly in the 1500s with the Protestant Reformation. In England, in 1538,  the Bible was commanded to be read in the churches. People came out to the churches and listened to public readings of the Bible. Sometimes, even during the church service on Sunday, people were in a corner of the church reading the Bible out loud.


In the 1500s there were two ways that were set before mankind: The broad way was the way of a works-based salvation that was taught by the Roman Catholic Church. In the 1500s you had the choice between Luther or Erasmus. Luther (1483-1546) taught that Jesus died for our sins and you must come to Christ to receive forgiveness.


Erasmus (1466-1536) was a humanist. There was a great movement of humanism in the 1500s focusing on humanity more than on God. Erasmus was called “the prince of the humanists.” The teachings of the humanists contradicted the Bible’s message of salvation.


The Bible became available in the languages of the people throughout all of the continent of Europe for the first time in world history. Not only people in monasteries and universities but even farmers and tradesmen became acquainted with the Bible and were taught the biblical worldview.


Scientific Breakthroughs in the 1600s


The biblical worldview led to the breakthroughs of science that occurred in the 1600s. Francis Bacon formulated the scientific method. Devout Christian Robert Boyle turned medieval alchemy into modern chemistry. Sir Isaac Newton revolutionized physics with the laws of gravitational motion.


The Puritan writers of England and Scotland taught the narrow way of salvation through Christ alone. The Puritans were John OwenJeremiah BurroughsJohn Bunyan and in France, Blaise Pascal. The important philosopher John Locke (1632-1704) was raised as a Puritan and he wrote the famous work “The Social Contract” that would strongly influence Thomas Jefferson and other founding fathers of American freedom.


Two Enlightenments in the 1700s


The 1700s was a very dramatic century. It was the century of the Enlightenment. Actually there were two Enlightenments. There was a Christian enlightenment led by Montesquieu, Edmund Burke, Jonathan Edwards, George Whitfield, John Wesley and many others who preached and taught about the narrow way of Christ.


There was a secular enlightenment led by largely by French philosophers such as Diderot, Voltaire and Rousseau. That was the broad way. The secular enlightenment led to the French Revolution with its terrible brutality.


The Christian enlightenment led to the first Great Awakening in England and the birth of the United States. There was a new birth of freedom and human rights derived from the biblical worldview.


The 1800s: Evolution, Existentialism and the Beginnings of Communism


The 1800s saw very dramatic changes in the expression of philosophy and political power. The 1800s saw the rise of George F. W. Hegel, Karl Marx, Charles Darwin, Soren Kierkegaard and Frederich Nietzsche. Charles Darwin provided the pretext for atheism with his theory of evolution and the claim that human beings evolved from apes and have no souls.


George F. W. Hegel, a German philosopher, made the claim that “government is God upon the earth.” Karl Marx took that a step further to claim that human beings are naturally good and don’t need a Savior and therefore all power can be entrusted to a dictator who can centrally plan the entire economy and abolish all freedom of the individual.


You can see that the broad way, the way to destruction, was paved with good intentions by Hegel, Darwin, and Marx. They laid the groundwork for totalitarian government.


During the 1800s there was a great explosion of missionary evangelism in Asia, Africa and the Americas. We had the Second Great Awakening mid century. Evangelists such as William booth, Charles Finney, Billy Sunday, and Dwight L Moody preached Christ crucified. They preached the cross. They preached that Christ died for us and we are not good enough to earn heaven on our own. This is the narrow way.


They taught that the Bible teaches that people must obey Christ and do good works but  they preached that good works are not enough to get us into heaven. We must have the grace of Christ and the atoning work of Christ to bring us to paradise.


The 1900s: World Wars and Genocide


In the 1900s we saw the flowering of totalitarian governments with their unspeakable brutality. We saw the rise of Lenin and Stalin in Russia, Hitler and the Nazis in Germany, Mussolini and the fascists of Italy. This led to two world wars and the mass murder of Jews and many others.


The 1900s was the bloodiest century of all but I have a feeling that this record will not stand long. I’ll discuss that when we talk about the 2000s.


In philosophy, the 1900s gave us modernist and postmodernist philosophers. Jean Paul Sartre and Albert Camus were postmodern existentialist philosophers. Postmodernism is a denial of absolute truth.


Postmodernism claims that each person essentially makes up their own truth. Each society makes up its own truth. This is moral relativism. This is in sharp contrast to the biblical worldview in which God gives us absolute truth by revelation. The Ten Commandments and The Sermon on the Mount apply to all generations, to all people and all civilizations at all times. This is absolute truth.


Modern philosophy makes the claim that truth, even absolute truth could be found by human reasoning without the aid of revelation. Modernists believe in absolute truth. However, they don’t believe that absolute truth comes from God. Modernists think people can discover absolute truth on their own by rationalism and empiricism. Modernism and postmodernism is the broad way that leads to destruction.


During the 1900s there were some of the greatest moves of God in all of Church history. There was the revival of 1906, called the Azusa Street Revival. There was the Latter Rain Outpouring of 1948. There was the Jesus Movement from 1967 to 1973 which impacted the entire world. Great evangelists Billy Graham, Oral Roberts, Pat Robertson and others led multitudes to Christ. This is the narrow way.


The 2000s: Postmodernism, Globalism and Mass Murder


This brings us to our own century: the 2000s. In the 2000s we see postmodernism rising and blossoming in full flower. Modernist philosophy is being supplanted by postmodernism.  We see anti-intellectualism that rejects modern philosophy with its rationalism and empiricism. We also see a wide open rejection of biblical revelation by western civilization.


Postmodernism goes a step further than modernism. It makes the broad way even broader. It makes the wide gate even wider. LGBTQ+ is not only tolerated but celebrated. Abortion is legal and over 100 countries and millions of babies die. We have a globalist one world government movement under the direction of the World Economic Forum led by Klaus Schwab and others.


We have dictators such as Xi Jing Ping of China and Vladimir Putin of Russia. They have formed a new axis and they are rattling their swords very loudly. There’s likely to be a nuclear third world war. That’s the broad way.


For the narrow way we look to the continuing growth of the church and it’s maturity as we enter the end times just before the second coming of Jesus Christ. We have evangelists such as Greg Laurie, Franklin Graham and hundreds of others.


Our Future


I want to look further and be a bit bold in my predictions for the next 30 or 40 years as we move into the 2030s, 2040s and 2050s. I believe that we’ll see many of the prophecies in the book of Revelation fulfilled. We’ll see the 144,000 come forth. We’ll see the manifestation of the sons of God. We’ll see the victorious Church. We’ll see the overcomer company come forth, doing great exploits and great healings and miracles. This is the narrow way.


Regarding the broad way that leads to destruction, you can read Revelation chapter 13 about the great dictator, who is called the beast. John 2:18 says: “ye have heard that antichrist shall come.” The antichrist will seek to impose a global government and an economic system in which no one can participate unless they receive the mark of the beast.


I believe many individuals will escape the global system and some countries will not submit to the global government. The church will remain triumphant until the end and we will see the second coming of Jesus Christ!


So we see it down through the centuries. There’s always been a narrow way and a broad way. The broad way is taking many forms such as pagan religion, salvation by self-effort, embrace of self-indulgent lifestyles, totalitarian government, mass murder in the form of genocide and killing babies in the wombs of their mothers.


The Gates of Paradise


The church has always maintained the narrow way which is the way of the cross. It’s the way of trusting in Jesus Christ who died for our sins and rose from the dead. Christ came in fulfillment of over 300 Messianic prophecies that spoke beforehand of His coming to die for our sins.


Old Testament Judaism required animal sacrifices to cover sins so people could obtain forgiveness. When Jesus, the promised Messiah of Israel came and died for us, His blood washed away our sins and removed our sins from us forever! Jesus fulfilled all the Old Testament laws and Messianic prophecies.


Jesus is the Son of God! Jesus paid the penalty for our sins when He died for us. I invite you to turn to Christ today to receive forgiveness of sins.


September 10, 2023

Steps to salvation:

Jesus said “Ye must be born again” (John 3:7).

  • 1) Believe that God created you and loves you and sent the Messiah (Messiah is Hebrew for Christ) to redeem you.
  • 2) Believe that Jesus Christ came in fulfillment of over 300 Bible prophecies to die for you, to take upon Himself the penalty of your sins (Isaiah 53:5-6, John 6:29, Romans 4:5, First Peter 3:18).
  • 3) Turn from sin and call on the name of Jesus to receive forgiveness of sins (Romans 10:13).
  • 4) Receive Jesus as Savior and experience the new birth (John 1:12, Acts 2:38).
  • 5) Follow Jesus Christ as Lord (John 14:21).

Prayer to receive salvation:

“Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13).

To receive the salvation that Jesus purchased for us at the terrible cost of His suffering and death on our behalf I invite you to pray this simple prayer:

“Dear heavenly Father, I thank you for sending Jesus, the promised Messiah, to die for my sins. I admit that I am a sinner. I repent of my sins and I ask for your forgiveness on the basis of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I ask you to fill me with your Holy Spirit to empower me to serve you under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, Amen.”

If you prayed this prayer in the humble sincerity of your heart then you have received everlasting life, which includes power to live right in this life and entrance into heaven in the afterlife!

(C) 2016 William P. Nugent, permission granted to email or republish for Christian outreach.

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