Messianism is the second great heretical tendency, following quickly on the heels, nipping at the ankles of puritanism. The first disciples of Christ held several extravagant notions popular among the persecuted jews of his time. In particular, they believed, Christ himself had said it, that the end of the physical world would come in their own time; and they looked forward to the Last Judgement, the thousand-year reign of the Saints, and the violent destruction of the profane world.
These doctrines, a mixture of Old Testament and Christian prophecies, were brought into sharper focus after the death of Christ, by the great Jewish Revolt and the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem by Vespasian. Their most famous expression was in the book of the Apocalypse, in which the pagan Roman Empire was clearly designated as the earthly Babylon, ripe for destruction.
But, once again the fourth century brought a change. When Rome became a Christian state, and the Christian church began to enjoy secular power, the orthodox gradually lost the taste for revolutionary doctrines. If the secular state were to blow up, the established church would blow up as well, and that did not now seem as desirable as previously thought. So, the old texts were reinterpreted. The Apocalypse was omitted from the canon of Scripture by the Council of Laodicea; Saint Augustine afterward explained it away as a pious allegory; and in 1431 the whole idea of the millennium was condemned at the Council of Ephesus as a superstitious aberration.
Those who insisted on clinging to the pre-establishment ideas of Christianity found themselves as newly minted heretics; and convincing themselves, as heretics tend to do, that they were the only true Christians, they still looked on Rome, though now Christian, as Babylon and on its ruler as the betrayer of Christ, Antichrist.
When Biblical interpretation could lead to such practical inconveniences as this, clearly something had to be done about the Bible. One answer which, as we have seen,was found useful, was to evade inconvenient or unedifying texts by representing them as allegorical. Unfortunately, allegory is a game at which two can play, and before long the established church would find that while its tame theologians were using it to explain away subversive texts, impertinent heretics were using it to explain away useful and orthodox texts. In the end the Church would come to the view that the best thing to do with the Bible was to suppress it altogether: to keep it firmly locked up in dead languages and to dole out to the people only such texts and such interpretations, as could not possibly raise any doubts about the divine basis of the established church and all its practices.