Then, following the deaths of Paul and John, that prejudice led to the first great "falling away" from the New Covenant teachings as explained by Christ's apostles (2 Thessalonians 2:3).
Before that destructive event, the predominantly gentile congregations raised up by Paul were "imitators of the churches of God which are in Judea " (1 Thessalonians 2:14). They followed the same spiritual way of life the Jewish Christians practiced.
After the fall of Jerusalem, however, living that way of life became much more difficult. A higher level of faith and courage was needed that many converts did not have. As a result, worldly prejudices against all things Jewish began to enter gentile Christianity. Distorted views of Paul's writings from "untaught and unstable" leaders began to undermine the way of life and pattern of worship that former gentile Christians had copied from their Jewish brethren (2 Peter 3:16).
From the last part of the first century though the fourth century, the part of the Christian religion given attention by historians accepted dramatic changes. A new concept of "progressive revelation" allowed church leaders to revise doctrine to suit their perceptions of church needs—instead of adhering strictly to teachings handed down by the apostles. The entire way of life taught by the apostles was steadily abandoned until what most considered the Christian religion bore little resemblance to the original apostolic teachings.
Jesus knew that this distorted, law-rejecting form of Christianity would emerge. He warned: "Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name…and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'" (Matthew 7:22-23).
Those who remain faithful to the teaching of the apostles consistently use the Scriptures as the foundation for how they live. Thus, the Church that Jesus built has remained a "little flock," as He labeled His followers (Luke 12:32). (For more information about how that "little flock" has survived until today, request or download our free booklet The Church Jesus Built.)