760. III. THIS LAST TIME OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH IS THE VERY NIGHT IN WHICH FORMER CHURCHES HAVE COME TO AN END.
That there have been in general four churches on this earth since its creation, one after the other, can be seen from both the historic and the prophetic Word, especially in Daniel, where these four churches are pictured by the statue which Nebuchadnezzar saw in his dream (chap. 2), and afterward by the four beasts coming up out of the sea (chap. 7). The first, which should be called the Most Ancient church, existed before the flood; and its consummation or destruction is pictured by the flood. The second, which should be called the Ancient church, existed in Asia, and a part of it in Africa; it was consummated and destroyed by idolatries. The third church was the Israelitish, which began with the promulgation of the Decalogue upon Mount Sinai, was continued by means of the Word written by Moses and the prophets, and was consummated or brought to an end by the profanation of the Word; which profanation was complete at the time of the Lord's coming into the world; and in consequence they crucified Him who was the Word. The fourth is the Christian church, which was established by the Lord through the evangelists and apostles. Of this church there have been two epochs, one extending from the Lord's time to the Council of Nice, and the other from that Council to the present day; but in its progress it has been divided into three - the Greek, the Roman Catholic, and the Reformed. All these, however, are called Christian churches. Furthermore, within each of these general churches there have been a number of particular churches; and these, in spite of their secession, have retained the general name, as heresies in the Christian church.