Israel was the chosen nation by God Himself (Deuteronomy 14:2) who would serve Him above all else. But because of Israel’s infidelity (Ezekiel 9:9-10), God the Father sent His only Son (John 3:16) and was born in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:1) to gather His sheep in one fold (John 10:16); thus, He founded His Church (Matthew 16:18).
If Christ was born in Bethlehem, should it follow that the center of Christianity must be in Jerusalem and not in Rome?! But why in Rome?
Before the arrival of the Christians in Rome, the Religio Romana (literally, the “Roman Religion”) was the major religion of the city in classical antiquity. The first gods held sacred by the Romans were Jupiter, the most high, and Mars, god of war, and father of Rome’s twin founders, Romulus and Remus, according to tradition. The Romans are known for the great number of deities they honoured, a capacity that earned the mockery of early Christian polemicists. As the Romans extended their dominance throughout the Mediterranean world, their policy in general was to absorb the deities and cults of other peoples rather than try to eradicate them. Rome, then, was considered one of the centers of ancient paganism. Because of that, would it be enough to disqualify Rome to be the seat of Christendom?
Setting up the seat of Christianity in Rome did not happen by chance or human choice; for God Himself chose the pagan city where He would establish His kingdom that would last forever. Rome was prophesied long before the birth of Christ to be the seat of God’s eternal Kingdom.
In the old Testament (Daniel 2:1-49), the prophet Daniel was called in by King Nebuchadnezzar to interpret a dream. In the dream, various creatures represent four kingdoms: Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome. Speaking of the last kingdom, the Roman Empire, prophet Daniel prophesies. “In the lifetime of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed or delivered up to another people; rather it shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and put an end to them, and it shall stand forever” (Daniel 2:44). Here, prophet Daniel assures us that the Kingdom of God, established in the days of the Roman Empire by Christ through his apostles, will last forever. It will not be delivered up to the Romans or any other nations, but the people of the nations will be delivered up to the Kingdom of God.
NOTE: The interpretation on the Book of Daniel (chapter II) is a traditional view of Jewish and Christian Historicists, Futurists, Dispensationalists, Partial Preterists, and other futuristic Jewish and Christian hybrids, as well as certain Messianic Jews, who typically believe that the kingdoms in Daniel are:
The first kingdom is King Nebuchadnezzar’s own kingdom of BABYLON for, Daniel is told, “the God of heaven has given [Nebuchadnezzar] a kingdom, power, strength, and glory” (v. 38).
The Babylonian kingdom reached its peak during Daniel’s time. After Babylon “shall arise another kingdom, inferior to yours…” (v. 39).
This was MEDO-PERSIA (Achaemenid Empire), led by King Cyrus II, which conquered Babylon in 539 B.C. The story of the conquest is told in the fifth chapter of Daniel, in which King Nebuchadnezzar’s successor, King Belshazzar, sees mysterious fingers writing on the wall. Daniel is called to read the writing, in which God rebukes King Belshazzar for his pride and commits the kingdom of Babylon into the hands of his enemies, the Medes (Daniel 5:1-26). It is from this story that we get the phrase “the handwriting is on the wall.”
After the second kingdom, Daniel is told shall arise “…another, a third kingdom of bronze, which shall rule over all the earth” (v. 39).
This prophecy was fulfilled approximately three centuries after Daniel’s death. At this time, Medo-Persia was conquered by GREECE (Kingdom of Macedonia), led by King Alexander the Great, which rose to worldwide power in the 331 B.C. Just as Daniel foretold, this third kingdom was known for its extensive use of bronze.
The fourth kingdom is somewhat different from the previous three: “And the fourth kingdom shall be as strong as iron, inasmuch as iron breaks in pieces and shatters everything; and like iron that crushes, that kingdom will break in pieces and crush all the others.”
While not specifically identified, the fourth kingdom was ROME (Roman Republic), which conquered Greece sometime between 250 ½-30 B.C. At its height, the Roman Republic comprised almost all of the Western world known at the time, including most of Europe, the Middle East, Egypt, and North Africa. In addition to its size, Rome was notorious for its cruelty.
THOSE who consider the Catholic Church to be a false Church usually accused her of bringing pagan Roman doctrines and practices into the Christian faith. It could be said, then, that the Church was delivered up to the Romans for corruption. This, however, is grossly inconsistent with the message of the prophet Daniel as presented above.
ROME is certainly not the WHORE OF BABYLON but the LIGHT OF THE WORLD.
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.” (Matthew 5:14)
As attested by St. Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, in his Epistle to the Romans, the Church at Rome, which presides in love, is worthy of God.
“Ignatius, who is also called Theophorus, to the Church which has obtained mercy, through the majesty of the Most High God the Father, and of Jesus Christ, His only-begotten Son; the Church which is sanctified and enlightened by the will of God, who formed all things that are according to the faith and love of Jesus Christ, our God and Saviour; the Church which presides in the place of the region of the Romans, and which is worthy of God, worthy of honour, worthy of the highest happiness, worthy of praise, worthy of credit, worthy of being deemed holy, and which presides over love, is named from Christ, and from the Father, and is possessed of the Spirit, which I also salute in the name of Almighty God, and of Jesus Christ His Son: to those who are united, both according to the flesh and spirit, to every one of His commandments, who are filled inseparably with all the grace of God, and are purified from every strange taint, [I wish] abundance of happiness unblameably, in God, even the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ.”
As for St. Paul, those in Rome are beloved of God:
“To all that are at Rome, the beloved of God, called to be saints. Grace to you, and peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Epistel to the Romans 1:7)
. . . who were greeted by all the churches of Christ.
“Greet one another with a holy kiss. The churches of Christ greet you.” (Epistle to the Romans 16:16 KJV)
BLESSED ART THOU, ROME, FOR THY FAITH HAS BEEN PROCLAIMED TO ALL NATIONS.
“I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, because your faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world.” (Epistle to the Romans 1:8)
As what Christ told the apostles:
“Take courage; for as you have solemnly witnessed to My cause at Jerusalem, so you must witness at Rome also” (Acts 22:11).
IT IS TRUE, THEREFORE, THAT ROME IS THE HOLY AND ETERNAL CITY OF THE LIVING GOD.