Friday, February 16, 2018

81 - The Disciples of Christ

This post is an addendum to my previous post about the disciples preaching the Gospel of the kingdom to the whole then known world before the fall of Jerusalem.  This addendum also shows the deaths of many of them.

Many other Jewish Christians were also dispersed to various countries and they also spread the Gospel wherever they went.

The Disciples

Peter - It is traditionally believed that Peter first traveled to Antioch and established a community there. ... After that he may have visited Corinth before heading to Rome. There he helped form the Christian community and was ultimately martyred in the Circus of Nero around 64. 

Andrew - many ancient traditions point to Andrew, Peter’s brother, as the Apostle to the Greeks. It is believed that he preached to Greek communities and was martyred at Patras on a cross in the shape of an X. 

James the Great - (Not the writer of The Epistle of James)  It is held that James was the first apostle to be martyred. In the Acts of the Apostles it reads, “Herod the king laid violent hands upon some who belonged to the church. He killed James the brother of John with the sword” (Acts 12:1-2). He died in 44 AD in Jerusalem.
John - The author of the Gospel of John and the Book of Revelation, John was the only apostle not to have a martyr’s death.  He died around 100 AD and is buried near Ephesus.
Philip - In the years following Pentecost, Philip ministered to Greek-speaking communities. Little is known about his adventures, except that he was martyred around 80 AD. 
Bartholomew - Various traditions have him preaching in different areas. It is believed that he was martyred.
Thomas - The “doubting” apostle, Thomas is widely known for his missionary efforts in India. ... He died around 72 AD and his tomb is located in Mylapore, India.
Matthew - Matthew is most well known for his Gospel. He preached to various communities in the Mediterranean before his martyrdom in Ethiopia. His tomb is located in the cathedral in Salerno, Italy.

James the Less - Scholars believe that Saint James the Less authored the “Epistle of St. James”. After the apostles dispersed and left Jerusalem, James remained and became the first bishop in the holy city. He remained there for several decades until he was stoned to death by the Jewish authorities in the year 62. []

Friday, February 9, 2018

80 - Jerusalem's Fall Predicted

What Shall be the Sign of Your Coming

Matthew 24 and Luke 21 are very difficult chapters to come to grips with as one finds out when one reads the various Bible commentaries.  Some believe that these two chapters hold the bulk of what we know about the Rapture of The Church.  Others believe that these two chapters hardly even mention the Rapture.  So, with that division in mind, we will spend several posts looking at various ideas which have been presented.  

Of course, it must be understood that even if Matthew, Mark, and Luke did not write about the rapture it still does not diminish the fact that Paul and John both did.  What they wrote very closely aligns with what the Gospel writers wrote in these two chapters.  

My point of view is that if we limit these chapters only to the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD we are missing the best, the deepest, the most exciting meaning of these two chapters.  

In the same context, Mark wrote then they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.  And then He will send His angels, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from the extremity of earth to the extremity of heaven. Mark 13:26-27.  It is hard to imagine the Roman army as being the "angels" who went to the extremity of the earth to gather His elect.  In spite of that difficulty that argument is actually made.

as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? And what shall be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the world?
And Jesus answered and said to them, Take heed that no man deceive you.
For many will come in My name, saying, I am Christ, and will deceive many.
And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled, for all these things must occur; but the end is not yet.
For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines and pestilences and earthquakes in different places.
All these are the beginning of sorrows.
Mat. 24:1-8

The End Is Not Yet - 1-8

We learned earlier that when people called Jesus "son of David" they meant "the Messiah".  We also learned that the words "Messiah" and "Christ" have exactly the same meaning.  The disciples had come to believe that Jesus was the Messiah and that, therefore, He would set the Jewish nation free from Roman tyranny.  

They believed this until Christ threw a "curve ball" at them.  He said that He must go to Jerusalem and while there the Jewish leaders would kill Him.  Christ also had said to them,  I am going to My Father and you (will) see Me no more; John 16:10.   

This is not what the disciples expected from their Messiah; The real Messiah must rule as The King now.  However, His story does not stop here; He also said, I will come again and I will receive you unto Myself; so that where I am, there you may be also. John 14:3 

When they could finally speak to Him in private the disciples asked when shall these things be? And what shall be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the world? 

Christ answered their questions but He did not go directly to what shall be the sign of Your coming.  Reading between the lines, what He said might have been something like, first of all, there is something vitally important for you to think about.  Jerusalem is about to be overthrown, but before that happens here are some warning signs:
  1. many will come in My name, saying, I am Christ, and will deceive many.  Among these are mentioned particularly Dositheus, the Samaritan, who affirmed that He was Christ; Simon Magus, who said He appeared among the Jews as the Son of God. [Barnes]   Simon Magnus is mentioned early in the life of the church.  [Acts 8]
  2. you will hear of wars and rumors of wars.  Rome constantly needed to defend its outlying territories.
  3. nation will rise against nation.  For example Rome against Great Britain and also against Judea.
  4. And there will be famines - these are a natural outcome of wars as we have recently seen in Syria and many other countries.  It is very remarkable that not a single Christian perished in the destruction of Jerusalem, though there were many there when Cestius Gallus invested the city; ... when he unexpectedly and unaccountably raised the siege, the Christians took that opportunity to escape. [Gill]   I have trouble accepting this statement as fact, but if it is true it could be because the Christians took seriously the warnings Christ had given His followers, about fleeing from Jerusalem, about 40 years earlier.
and pestilences - diseases naturally follow wars and famines. 
earthquakes in different places. Tacitus mentions one in the reign of Claudius, at Rome, and says that in the reign of Nero the cities of Laodicea, Hierapolis, and Colosse were overthrown, and the celebrated Pompeii was overwhelmed and almost destroyed by an earthquake. [Barnes]

Christ continues by saying All these are the beginning of sorrows, but the end is not yet.

In Christ's answer, it seems as if there is a distinct change between verses 8 and 9. In the first eight verses, He spoke of the events which affect people at large.  Then, starting in verse 9, He limits His predictions to those who will follow Him in the early Church.

You Shall Be hated - 9-14

Then they will hand you over to tribulation and they will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations, on account of My name. 
And then many will fall away, and they will betray one another, and they will hate one another. 
Then many false prophets will be raised up, and they will deceive many. 
And because lawlessness will increase, the love of many will grow cold. 
But he who endures to the end shall be saved. 
And this good news of the kingdom will be proclaimed in all the world for a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come. Mat. 24:9-14

The nonchristian world will blame followers of Christ for natural tragedies and anything else they can "hang" them for. 
  1. they will hand you over to tribulation; (to be afflicted - KJV).
  2. they will kill you [as noted in my next post]
  3. you will be hated by all nations, on account of My name. It is not at all unusual for non-Christians to blame Christians when things go wrong.
  4. then many will fall away. Many Christians will turn away from following Christ because they are afraid of persecution and death. 
  5. they will betray one another.  To save their own lives they will snitch on a fellow Christian. Father will be divided against a son and a son against father, a mother against a daughter and a daughter against a mother, a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law." Luke 12:53.
  6. they will hate one another.  In every house the merest hint of food sparked violence, and close relatives fell to blows, snatching from one another the pitiful supports of life. [Josephus]
  7. many false prophets will be raised up.  They did come and many people followed them to their death in various wildernesses.[Josephus]
  8. because lawlessness will increase, the love of many will grow cold.  If you can't trust your policemen and soldiers you start looking after yourself without any concern for anyone else.
Christ also said this good news of the kingdom will be proclaimed in all the world ... and then the end will come.  Concerning the statement, in all the world, we need to remember that the people in the near East, living in the first century, and many centuries before that, thought of the area around the Mediterranean Sea, and a few other not so distant countries, as being the whole world.  As Christ had predicted the good news of the kingdom had been preached in all the (then known) world before the fall of Jerusalem happened. [as noted in the next post]

Even though Christ is ranked as a prophet, it did not need the insight of a prophet to see that the fall of Jerusalem was imminent.  The way the "would-be rulers" of Judea kept on harassing the Roman powers it was bound to lead to a showdown and catastrophic loss for Judea's capital - Jerusalem.

then the end will come.  According to some teachers, this does not refer to the end of the Church age, not the end of time, but the end of Judea as that generation knew it. That is what Christ describes for us in Mat. 24:15-28.  

Friday, February 2, 2018

79 - Bickering Over Important Matters

Slow to grasp

He said to His disciples,
Let these words sink down into your ears, for the Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men."
But they did not understand this saying, and it was concealed from them so that they did not perceive it; and they were afraid to ask Him about this saying.
Luke 9:43-45

Let these words sink down into your ears. Christ knew that what He was about to say would be hard to grasp, so He gave them a "heads up" by saying; now, pay close attention.

The disciples had come to believe that Jesus was The Messiah, The Christ, but because of what they had heard all their lives they also believed that when the Messiah came He would come as a king and get rid of those Romans once and for all.  Now this man is talking about being killed by the Jews. The Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men, and they will kill Him. Mat. 17:23.   They just could not grasp that idea; it was much too wild.

They were afraid to ask Him about this saying.  That is probably not very surprising.  It was not so long before this that He reprimanded them for misunderstanding His meaning about a certain issue.  Namely, Then Peter answered and said to Him, "Explain to us this parable." So Jesus said, "Are you also still without understanding?" Mat. 15:15-16.  No one likes to hear their teacher ask, Are you really so much slower than average?  Or, as Mark puts it, Having eyes, do you not see? And having ears, do you not hear? And do you not remember? Mark 8:18  

Who Will Be the Greatest?

Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Him, saying, "Teacher, we desire that You to do for us whatever we may ask."
And He said to them, "What do you desire Me to do for you?"
They said to Him, "Grant us that we may sit, one on Your right side and one on Your left side, in Your glory." ...
to sit on My right side and on My left side is not Mine to give, but to those for whom it has been prepared."
And having heard this, the ten began to be indignant with James and John.
Mark 10:35-41

Then a dispute came up among them as to which of them might be greater.
But Jesus, having seen the thought of their heart, taking a little child, He stood him beside Himself, 
and said to them, "Whoever receives this little child in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me. For he who is least among you all shall be great."
Now John answered and said, "Master, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow with us." 
But Jesus said to him, "Do not forbid him, for he who is not against us is for us."
Luke 9:46-50.

Shortly before this scene, Jesus asked His disciples who do you pronounce Me to be?. Simon Peter answered and said, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."  In response Christ answered, You are Peter and upon this rock I shall build my Church.  Most of us can get jealous over almost any trifle.  This, however, was more than a trifle. They had understood that Christ had given Peter first place in the kingdom and so a dispute came up among them as to which of them might be greater.

Each one may have thought something like this about the others:

  1. Surely, not Matthew, He was just a tax collector before Christ called him.
  2. Definitely, not John, he is too hyper-active to be great.
  3. Jame's, the brother of John, is so much like John, Jesus actually called them the sons of "commotion" [Strong G993]Mark 3:17
  4. As to Philip, his theology is way off base, he even asked Christ to show Jehovah to us disciples.  Philip said to Him, "Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us." John 14:8.  He certainly cannot be the greatest.
  5. I don't trust Judas.  He is the treasurer of our group and sometimes there is not as much money left over as I know there should be.  John 12:5-6.
  6. Peter, he, for sure, is out of the running, his personality is much too abrasive.
So, maybe, each one thought of the other disciples and decided that he personally should be chosen to be the greatest.

So Christ explained greatness to them.  He took a child and said, look, here is greatness made up of innocence, trust and humility.  If you want to be great in my kingdom practice being like this child is and quit bickering among yourselves.

Possibly John felt that his toes had been stepped on by Christ.  He was quick to change the subject and said we saw someone casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow with us.  

In a previous post, (, we learned that some of Christ's disciples could not cast out demons and now John relates that some other followers of Christ were casting out demons. This must have been frustrating to the disciples, because it showed that other followers of Jesus were able to cast out demons when they (the disciples) were not. No wonder John wanted them to stop! [Guzik]

Maybe, but John was with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration and he personally was not picked on when nine other disciples proved that they could not cast out demons. Would one of those nine not be the one who would be first to change the subject?

Jesus said to him, "Do not forbid him, for he who is not against us is for us." Jesus taught them to have a more generous spirit.  There are many that are wrong in some aspect ... yet they still set forth Jesus in some manner. Let God deal with them. Those who are not against a Biblical Jesus are still on our side, at least in some way.[Guzik]

There are many in the church who would rather condemn free thinkers than allow freedom of Bible study!  This is why the church is just spinning its wheels in the same old rut!