Search This Blog

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Preterism versus Dispensationalism. How to put an end to all the Harold Camping/Ancient Calendar end-of-the-world rumors.

My intention this week is was to intersperse a scientific post with an apologetics post.  Instead later on I will post a few links and not stay on this subject in this blog, it is the wrong venue;

In the scientific post made Saturday I presented some serious challenges to those who rest lazily on their laurels of the work of others, referring people to the Big Bang as if they were old men sitting on a porch looking up from a game of checkers and telling a stranger how to get back to the highway and on to Nashville.  What if the old men had never been to Nashville?   What if they were not seriously concerned whether the stranger even made it to the highway?  No responsibility for them, no responsibility to so-called scientists who depend on the Big Bang and yet "there is no there there."  I do not expect much of a response as what I have said about the situation is true and evidence trumps supposition.  If the opposition cannot come up with something new and interesting I might just go right through with the four part Olivet Discourse before turning back to science, so in part it depends upon the response.

So today is an apologetics day, appropriate for Sunday.   I intend to enlist help to take on some very serious topics that often divide good Christians.   The first series is to deal with the concept of the "Left Behind" tribulation scenario versus historical preterism.   The second series will deal with the concept of the One God of Israel nevertheless is actually the revelation of the Triune God, the Trinity of one God in three Persons.  A new team blog (to me) has presented a four part discussion of the Olivet Discourse and this first post is a great one to lead off the discussion.  I think perhaps I will be checking out Pursuing Truth on a regular basis.

My wife wrote a very good introduction to the phenomenon of the changes that impacted the church beginning in the early 1800's that led to the birth of several cults and aberrant Christian movements as well as a focus change that has hindered Christianity ever since.  Cue Mrs. Radar -

"The early 1800s in the United States was a time when people were at least semi-Bible literate. However the Bible was being subjugated to new scientific and spiritual interpretations. Many novel theories and doctrinal distinctions began to be promulgated in the Church. The most compelling new doctrines had something to do with the end of this present age and the Second Coming of Christ. 
Adventism became the focal point of doctrine rather than the focal point being the Cross. The Cross is the new covenant and it is what binds the Kingdom of God together. Adventism however focuses on a coming Kingdom. It is this coming Kingdom focus that spread through churches that made semi-Bible literate people ready to follow persuasive prevaricators." 
Adventism has been termed Dispensationalism which contends that a Great Tribulation will be coming soon that Christians may or may not be required to experience in whole or in part albeit in a less disastrous way that unbelievers while Jews may or may not be crucially involved.   Many people believe the Temple will be rebuilt and all Jews saved while unbelievers and the Earth itself is continually punished with exotic and frightening torments and woes.
Classic Preterism teaches that Jesus foretold the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 AD and that John's Revelation was a warning to all Christians that the destruction was about to take place, identifying Nero as the Caesar who would be in charge when the war on Jerusalem would be fought.  I have written this before, but the fact that the veil in the Temple was ripped from the top down when Christ was crucified, that the Presence of God left the Holy of Holies meant that any sacrifices and ceremonies that were performed after the execution and resurrection of Christ were meaningless.   But those Jews who did not follow the Messiah were, more than anyone else the people who most sought to hunt down and kill the followers of Christ and the eyewitnesses to the events.
But the Temple, albeit now without real significance to God otherwise, stood as a  symbol of those who persecuted Christ and had him executed and also a symbol of the Old Covenant which Jesus Christ had replaced by accomplishing the establishment of the last and best New Covenant of Salvation.  The New Covenant was only available by faith in Jesus Christ whose life, death and resurrection allowed the remission of sins by the blood of the  Lamb of God, the Second Adam and the Last Sacrifice.   The Temple was therefore an affront to God and to Christians and was symbolic of the hypocritical and ungodly Pharisees and Sadducees who despised Christ as a threat to their cushy existence in partnership with Rome and the dedicated Old Covenant Jews (Like Saul of Tarsus) who saw Christians as blasphemers against the Creator God.   Bible scholars throughout most of the history of Christianity have considered the destruction of the Temple and murder of well over one million Jews in the Roman conquest of Jerusalem to be the fulfillment of the prophecies of both Jesus Christ and Daniel.   Preterists continue to hold this viewpoint.  Shall we begin? 
 

The Olivet Discourse: “This” Generation or “That” Generation (Part 1 of 4)

by Adam Maarschalk 

Much attention is being given these days to what is known as The Olivet Discourse, found in three of the four gospel accounts: Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21. Jesus delivered this famous address from the Mount of Olives just days before His crucifixion. Many today are linking this narrative to current events, such as recent large earthquakes and tsunamis in Japan, Haiti, New Zealand, and Indonesia. They believe these are sure signs pointing to the end of the world.

   
         SOURCE                                              SOURCE                                                       SOURCE
Is this how Jesus intended for us to view this prophecy? When He said, “This generation will certainly not pass away until all these things take place” (Matt. 24:34, Mark 13:30, Luke 21:32), was He speaking of a generation 2000 years into the future? Or was He speaking of His own generation, and events which were to take place in their time? When He said “this generation,” did He really mean “that generation” (one that was distant to His first century audience)? This is what we will be looking at in the four posts which will make up this series. We will examine all three accounts of this prophecy side-by-side, as I believe this will be helpful in seeing what Jesus was saying and how He intended to be understood.

In this first post, we will take a close look at the initial remarks made by Jesus’ disciples, His shocking response, and their resulting question(s) which led to His discourse. Here is that text, from the accounts of Matthew, Mark, and Luke.

MATTHEW 24:1-3

MARK 13:1-4

LUKE 21:5-7

1 Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. 2 “Do you see all these things?” he asked. “Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”3 As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?  1As Jesus was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!”2 “Do you see all these great buildings?” replied Jesus. “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”3 As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John and Andrew asked him privately, 4 “Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?
5 Some of his disciples were remarking about how the temple was adorned with beautiful stones and with gifts dedicated to God. But Jesus said, 6 “As for what you see here, the time will come when not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down.”
 7 “Teacher,” they asked, “when will these things happen, and what will be the sign that they are about to take place?

In all three accounts we see one or more of the disciples admiring the beautiful, massive stones which made up the Second Temple. According to some Jews who encountered Jesus early in His ministry (John 2:18-22), Herod’s massive expansion project had already been going on for 46 years. Indeed, history tells us that it began in 19 BC, and that the renovations continued until 65 AD, a mere five years before the temple was destroyed by the Romans. Tacitus (56-117 AD), the Roman historian and Senator, said that the temple “was famous beyond all other works of men.”

Jesus’ response to His disciples’ remarks must have been shocking, in light of the breathtaking sight before their eyes: “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.” Of course, Jesus had said this before. His ominous prophecy, though, is what prompts their next question. Or is it questions (plural)? There is only one specific question asked in all three accounts. In the accounts of Mark and Luke, at least, there should be no doubt that it’s this question which Jesus spends the next 25 or 26 verses answering: “…when will these things happen, and what will be the sign that they are about to be fulfilled?” The only thing Jesus had said would happen at this point was that all the temple’s stones would be thrown down.


Model of the Second Temple; Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Jerus-n4i.jpg

Do we know from history that this temple, the same temple the disciples observed, was destroyed? Yes, we do. Josephus, the Jewish historian, for example, records in astounding detail how Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed in 70 AD after a horrendous 5-month siege (see here, here, and here to learn more about what happened). According to both Mark and Luke, the signs that Jesus gave in the next 25 verses (in Luke’s case) and the next 26 verses (in Mark’s case) were to precede the downfall of the temple. In the next couple of posts, we will look at those prophesied signs, which include earthquakes and other calamities. Many today are saying that these same prophesied signs are happening in our own day, and that this means we are only now about to see Jesus’ prophecies fulfilled. How can this be, though, if they were to happen before a prophesied event which we know took place 1,941 years ago?

Only in Matthew’s account do the disciples perhaps appear to ask two additional questions: [1] about Jesus’ coming and [2] about “the end of the age.” For those who believe that Matthew 24 has yet to be fulfilled, it’s often these questions which are said to indicate a required future fulfillment, despite the fact that they don’t even appear in Mark’s and Luke’s parallel accounts. It’s common these days to see a division of questions, as if the disciples asked about the near future as well as the very distant future, but as this study continues we’ll see that it wasn’t so common in earlier church history. Thomas Newton, a well-known English cleric, scholar, and author, said the following in 1754 about this passage:
‘The coming of Christ,’ and ‘the conclusion of the age,’ being therefore only different expressions to denote the same period with the destruction of Jerusalem, the purpose of the question plainly is, when shall the destruction of Jerusalem be, and what shall be the signs of it?

Background to Jesus’ Promised Coming: Matthew 10:23 and 16:27-28

What prompted the disciples to ask about Jesus’ coming, especially in the context of what He said about the temple’s impending destruction? Where had Jesus previously spoken of His coming, and what had He said about this event? Jesus had in fact spoken of His coming twice already in Matthew’s account. In Matthew 10:23, Jesus made this very interesting statement: “When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.”[i] During the next couple of decades after Jesus said this, we can see numerous examples of Jesus and His followers doing this very thing (e.g. Matthew 12:14-15, Acts 8:1, Acts 9:23-25, Acts 9:29-30, Acts 14:5-6, Acts 17:4-10, Acts 17:13-14).

In Matthew 16:27-28, He was even more descriptive about what His coming would accomplish, and within what timeframe it would take place: “For the Son of Man is going to come with His angels in the glory of His Father, and then He will repay each person for what he has done. Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.”
If this statement was fulfilled in His transfiguration six days later, as some contend, in what sense did Jesus “come with His angels” then and repay each person according to what he had done (a clear picture of judgment)? We know this didn’t happen on that occasion. We also know that none of His disciples died within those six days, but some were indeed martyred before 70 AD when Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed. To believe that Jesus hasn’t yet (in the year 2011) come back as He promised in this passage is to believe either that [a] He lied or [b] there are 2000 year old men still walking around on this planet.[ii] Let’s look at four aspects of this promised coming, as this should help us to know what was in the minds of Jesus’ disciples when they asked Him about His coming in Matthew 24:3.

1. IN HIS KINGDOM: From this text, we know that one purpose for His coming, which He promised would take place before all of His disciples had died, was to establish His kingdom. This fits perfectly with the following prophecy given to Daniel: “And in the days of those kings* the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people” (Daniel 2:44). [*Biblical scholars hold a virtual consensus that the four kingdoms in Daniel’s vision were Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome. Since Rome was destroyed in 476 AD, we know that, for this prophecy to be true, the kingdom was set up before that time.] A first century fulfillment fits; a 21st century fulfillment doesn’t. Furthermore, the kingdom was to be given to the saints (Daniel 7:18, 22, 27). This is reminiscent of Jesus’ words in the Parable of the Tenants that the kingdom of God would soon be taken away from the Jewish leaders and their nation and given instead “to a people producing its fruits” (Matthew 21:43) – a clear description of the body of Christ. This was to happen even as the stone was to crush those who would fall (verse 44) – 1.1 million Jews killed in August/September 70 AD by the Romans would seem to qualify as a fulfillment of this prediction.

2. TO REPAY EACH PERSON: The context of Jesus’ promise to come “to repay each person” for what they had done was His foretelling of His own death and suffering at the hands of the Jewish leaders (Matt. 16:21-23), and also of the suffering that His own disciples could expect (verses 24-26). In other words, it would be for vindication. This is similar in nature to what Paul promised to the Thessalonian believers when he told them that they could expect relief “when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance” (II Thessalonians 1:7), with the purpose being “to repay with affliction those who afflict you” (verse 6). This was imminent in their day, for Paul said that the wrath of God had already come upon the Jewish persecutors (I Thess. 2:14-16). He knew this to be true because Jesus had declared in no uncertain terms (Matthew 23:35-36) that the blood of all the prophets would be required of His own (first century) generation in Israel.

3. WITH HIS ANGELS: Just like Paul’s prophecy to the Thessalonians, Jesus’ promise to come while some of His disciples were still alive (Matt. 16:28) was also to involve His angels (“The Son of Man is going to come with His angels…”). As my good friend, Mark Church, has pointed out, all throughout the book of Revelation we see His angels pouring out judgment upon “the great city” where the Lord was crucified (Revelation 11:8) – that is, Jerusalem, the same city which was marked as a harlot because of its shedding of the blood of the saints and martyrs (Rev. 17:1-6), apostles, and prophets (Rev. 18:20-24). [For those who believe that Revelation remains unfulfilled, is there any modern nation or entity which is responsible for the martyrdom of the apostles?]

4. IN THE GLORY OF HIS FATHER: Jesus also promised to come “in the glory of His Father” (Matt. 16:27). As Don Preston well points out, this can be understood to mean that just as the Father had come in the past, Jesus would also come in the same manner. Don gives as an example Isaiah 64:1-3, where the writer declares that God had “come down” numerous times in the past:
“Oh, that You would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at Your presence – as when fire kindles brushwood, and the fire causes water to boil – to make Your name known to Your adversaries, and that the nations might tremble at Your presence! When You did awesome things that we did not look for, You came down, the mountains quaked at Your presence.”
Just as the Father’s comings in times past had not been bodily, visible, or physical in nature, neither would the coming of Jesus in judgment be bodily, visible, or physical. We will discuss this in more depth when we come to Jesus’ predicted coming in the clouds in Matt. 24:30/Mark 13:26/Luke 21:27. We will see that there are numerous examples in the Old Testament where God is said to have come in the clouds in judgment upon various nations and enemies of His people, even examples where the language is remarkably similar to the language used in The Olivet Discourse.

So we can see from these two passages (Matt. 10:23 and 16:27-28) why Jesus’ disciples expected Him to come again in their own lifetimes. We’re also beginning to see why, in Matthew 24:3, they linked this coming to His dark prediction about the temple’s future. Other strong clues also exist in the previous two chapters (Matthew 22-23).[iii] Kevin Daly, from the South African ministry “Messianic Good News,” has this to say:
"It is Jesus’ confirmation that the Temple’s fate is sealed that leads to the disciples’ question: ‘When will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?’
Some argue this to be three separate questions – so that Jesus’ answer in the subsequent verses must be unraveled and applied to three different events, namely (i) the temple’s destruction, (ii) his coming and (iii) the end of the age. But this is not supported by the parallel accounts in Mark’s and Luke’s gospels. These render the disciples’ question as follows:
‘Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?’ (Mark 13:4)

‘Teacher,’ they asked, ‘when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are about to take place?’ (Luke 21:7)
In Matthew’s wording of the disciples’ question, what Jesus prophesied against the Temple would, by implication, happen at our Lord’s coming in judgment and would also, by further implication, bring about the end of that age.
Matthew phrases the question in the prophetic language of the Old Testament, which was familiar to the Jewish audience for which his gospel was written. In this language, the execution of Divine judgment was commonly spoken of as a visitation of the LORD, as either His coming or His coming in the cloud. [Consider] Micah’s prophecy against the ‘high places’ of Judah - being localities of false worship, which the Temple in Jerusalem had now become:
‘For behold, the LORD comes forth from His place, and will come down, and tread upon the high places of the earth. And the mountains shall be melted under Him, and the valleys shall be cleft, as wax before the fire, and as the waters that are poured down a steep place. For the transgression of Jacob is all this, and for the sins of the house of Israel  …  What are the high places of Judah? Are they not Jerusalem?’ (Micah 1:3-5)."

Micah’s prophecy was fulfilled in 586 BC when Jerusalem fell to the Babylonian armies. We know that God didn’t physically and bodily come down at that time, but He did still “come down” in judgment in fulfillment of this prophecy. It’s this same apocalyptic language that Matthew uses to speak of another and more final judgment which was about to come once again upon Jerusalem. History tells us that it did come. Some readers may be surprised to know that Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758), who preached the famous sermon “Sinners in the Hands of An Angry God,” once made this statement in his work titled “Miscellany #1199”:
“Tis evident that when Christ speaks of his coming; his being revealed; his coming in his Kingdom; or his Kingdom’s coming; He has respect to his appearing in those great works of his Power Justice and Grace, which should be in the Destruction of Jerusalem and other extraordinary Providences which should attend it [So in Luke 17:20 – 18:8].”
The way that the Olivet Discourse is popularly approached today has Jesus effectively saying this to His disciples: “You guys have asked a very interesting question about when this temple will be destroyed, but let Me ignore your question and tell you instead about some events which will begin and end about 2000 years in the future.” Rather than being about us, and our generation, Jesus addressed the concerns of His disciples regarding their own generation.

THE END OF THE AGE

Having now given considerable space to the question of Christ’s coming, we’ll give only brief space here to the disciples’ question about the end of the age. The King James Version used the expression “the end of the world” in Matthew 24:3, but most newer translations use the expression “the end of the age.” Clearly, Jesus tied the end of the age that they were speaking of to the time of His coming, which we have seen was promised to occur in their own generation.

Therefore, the disciples weren’t asking about the final days of this planet. Their question was about the end of the Old Covenant age. That age came to an end along with the destruction of the temple in 70 AD. This “end” was spoken of by Daniel and other Old Testament prophets. The book of Hebrews even speaks of the Old Covenant “becoming obsolete and growing old…ready to vanish away” (Hebrews 8:13). It vanished along with the temple. We are now in what the New Testament frequently called “the age to come.” A great transition took place a long time ago, and we are privileged to live in the New Covenant age. The heavenly Jerusalem is a present reality for God’s people (Hebrews 12:22-24). Regarding “the end” spoken of in both Matthew and Daniel, Kevin Daly provides this helpful chart:

you will hear of wars and rumours of wars … but the end is not yet
war will continue until the end
and there will be famines and pestilences and earthquakes in different places
and desolations have been decreed
 then the end will come
the end will come like a flood:
 Matthew 24:6,14
Dan 9:26b

“The end” spoken of in Daniel’s prophecy was clearly to be the destruction of “the city and the sanctuary” (Daniel 9:26). We know as an indisputable fact of history that Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed in 70 AD. That brought about the end of an age, the Old Covenant age. It is popularly taught today that we are living in what the Bible calls “the last days,” and that these last days began on the Day of Pentecost because of Peter’s reference to Joel’s prophecy about an outpouring in “the last days.” However, this cannot be true, because Hebrews 1:1-3, Hebrews 9:26, and I Peter 1:18-20 tell us explicitly that Jesus’ incarnational ministry took place in the last days. Therefore, Jesus appeared and ministered in the last days of an age that had clearly begun quite some time before He appeared. That age still had not ended when Paul wrote his epistle to the Corinthian church, but it was drawing even closer to the end, for he told his readers that they were those “on whom the end of the ages has come” (I Corinthians 10:11).

Rather than open this up further, or to try to defend this premise in greater depth here, I’d like to point to an earlier post on this subject which I believe you’ll find to be a good explanation of these things (HERE). You’ll see that the New Testament placed Jesus’ ministry, death, etc. in “the last days” and at “the end of the age,” and that after Jesus’ ascension the apostles still spoke of their time in the same terms. Jerry William Bowers Jr. has also compiled a very informative article, based on David Green’s 101 Time Statements showing that John the Baptist, Jesus, and the early church were not only consistent, but also correct, when they repeatedly stated that certain events were near, at hand, about to take place, etc. That article can be seen (HERE).

In the next post, we will look at the beginning of Jesus’ reply to the disciples’ question about the signs which would lead to the destruction of the temple, His coming, and the end of the age. We will examine Matthew 24:4-14, Mark 13:5-13, and Luke 21:8-18 side-by-side.

———————————————————————————————————————————-
A THOUGHT: Do you find it interesting that John, in his gospel account, omits the Olivet Discourse entirely, even though he was no doubt present when Jesus spoke these things? One likely reason for this curious fact is that the book of Revelation, which he authored, actually functions as his exposition of the Olivet Discourse, though in much greater detail. Therefore, he felt no need to include the Olivet Discourse passage in his gospel account, especially if the book of John was written after the book of Revelation.

QUOTES TO NOTE

Eusebius (314 AD): “If any one compares the words of our Saviour with the other accounts of the historian (Josephus) concerning the whole war, how can one fail to wonder, and to admit that the foreknowledge and the prophecy of our Saviour were truly divine and marvelously strange” (Proof of the GospelBook III, Ch. VII).

John Wesley (1703-1791): “Josephus’ History of the Jewish War is the best commentary on this chapter (Matt. 24). It is a wonderful instance of God’s providence, that he, an eyewitness, and one who lived and died a Jew, should, especially in so extraordinary a manner, be preserved, to transmit to us a collection of important facts, which so exactly illustrate this glorious prophecy, in almost every circumstance” (Explanatory Notes Upon the New Testament, 1754).
——————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————-

[i] John Wesley (1703-1791) is one of many in church history who taught that Jesus was referring in Matt. 10:23 to a judgment coming in 70 AD in which He would “destroy their temple and nation” (John Wesley, Explanatory Notes Upon the New Testament, 1754).

[ii] John Wesley, again, is one of many in church history who taught a 70 AD fulfillment of Matthew 16:27-28, saying, “For there is no way to escape the righteous judgment of God. And, as an emblem of this, there are some here who shall live to see the Messiah coming to set up His mediatorial kingdom with great power and glory, by the destruction of the temple, city, and polity of the Jews” (John Wesley, Explanatory Notes Upon the New Testament, 1754). Some believe this is also identical to the prophecy Jesus gave in Revelation 22:12, revealing why John’s 1st century audience was to understand that He was about to come: Behold, I am coming soon, bringing My recompense with Me, to repay everyone for what he has done.”

[iii] In Matthew 22:1-14 we read the Parable of the Wedding Feast. In this parable, speaking of the kingdom of heaven (vs. 2), a king (God) was to prepare a wedding feast for his son (Jesus), but those who were originally invited (the Jewish nation) refused to come (vss. 3-5) and even killed the king’s servants who had invited them (v. 6). Therefore, these murderers were destroyed (cf. Matthew 23:29-38; Rev. 16:4-7, 17:6, 18:20, 18:24), and their city was burned (cf. Rev. 18:8-10, 18; 19:3). This is precisely what we see having happened in Jerusalem’s destruction and burning in 70 AD. The invitation then goes out to others (Gentiles as well as Jews; vss. 9-10), but only those with proper wedding garments were allowed to remain (vss. 10-14; cf. Rev. 19:8). Those who lacked these garments remained in outer darkness and were not part of the chosen people of God (vss. 13-14; cf. Matt. 8:11-12).

In Matthew 23:29-38, we see that in the 7th woe pronounced upon the Scribes and Pharisees, Jesus charges them with shedding the blood of all the prophets (vss. 29-31). He even says that they will kill, crucify, flog, and persecute others from town to town (verse 34). As a result, He says, they would be held responsible for all the shed blood from generations past up until their own generation. He concludes, Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation (verse 36). He then lifts up a lament for Jerusalem, whose house, He said, was left to them desolate. This would naturally remind His listeners of Daniel 9:26, where it was said that “the city and the sanctuary” would be destroyed, with desolations decreed. The expected timeframe for this judgment was “this generation” (Jesus’ first century audience).

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
If you like, a review of several posts that are pertinent to the discussion and the historical support for the view that all of the New Testament books were written well before the Fall of Jerusalem.   I will give one short post and links to several others:

Hit or Myth scholarship

The holidays are over and some commenters have speculated that Christianity is simply mythology. For some of them, such speculation is perhaps of some comfort. Yes, crack open a cold one and long for the days when Christianity is forgotten. Fat chance!

After the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, the primary persecutors of Christians were the Jews, who sought to imprison and even kill Christians as "heretics." Wikipedia notes that later the emperor Nero decided to make Christians scapegoats:

"The first documented case of imperially-supervised persecution of the Christians in the Roman Empire begins with Nero (37-68). In 64 A.D., a great fire broke out in Rome which destroyed vast portions of the city and economically devastated the Roman population. Nero, whose sanity had long been in question, was widely suspected of having intentionally set the fire himself. In his Annals, Tacitus, states that "to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace" (Tacit. Annals XV, see Tacitus on Jesus). By implicating the Christians for this massive act of arson, Nero successfully capitalized on the already-existing public suspicion of this religious sect and, it could be argued, exacerbated the hostilities held toward them throughout the Roman Empire. Forms of execution used by the Romans included systematic murder, crucifixion, and the feeding of Christians to lions and other wild beasts. Tacitus' Annals XV.44 record: "...a vast multitude, were convicted, not so much of the crime of incendiarism as of hatred of the human race. And in their deaths they were made the subjects of sport; for they were wrapped in the hides of wild beasts and torn to pieces by dogs, or nailed to crosses, or set on fire, and when day declined, were burned to serve for nocturnal lights."

Nero was an equal-opportunity hater, and his enmity towards the Jews led to the eventual destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem and the mass slaying of perhaps a million Jews. This destruction was predicted by Jesus as recorded in the book of Matthew and also in the Revelation of John.

"The destruction of Jerusalem was more terrible than anything that the world has ever witnessed, either before or since. Even Titus seemed to see in his cruel work the hand of an avenging God." (C.H. Spurgeon, Commentary on Matthew, p. 412)

After that event, the Jews ceased to be effective persecutors of Christians, but Romans took over that job. Some Roman emperors largely ignored Christians, but others made it their mission to wipe Christianity from the face of the globe.

The first documentable Empire-wide persecution took place under Maximin, though only the clergy were sought out. It was not until Decius during the mid-century that a persecution of Christian laity across the Empire took place. Gregory of Tours glosses the persecutions in his "History of the Franks" written in the decade before 594:

"Under the emperor Decius many persecutions arose against the name of Christ, and there was such a slaughter of believers that they could not be numbered"...

...The persecutions culminated with Diocletian and Galerius at the end of the third and beginning of the fourth century. Their persecution, considered the largest, was to be the last, as Constantine I soon came into power and in 313 legalized Christianity.


Diocletian erected a monument to the end of Christianity. Constantine later converted that monument to a Christian memorial.

Once people tried to kill off Christians, and they failed. Now there are those who make the lame attempt to defeat Christianity by the multitude of their words and a pathetic attempt at scholarship called "Textural Criticism."


Now that we are nearly 2,000 years beyond the writing of the first scriptures, so-called scholars arise to try to cast doubt on the Bible and the events described therein. Actually, this attempt began shortly after Darwinism became popular. I see it as a pathetic attempt to try to justify belief in no God. How can these so-called scholars make a study of original documents when such documents are now long gone and all we have left are copies several generations away from the first books? Only a strong desire to try to disprove God as God explains such efforts, since the New Testament books were established as reliable early in the second century and treated as such thereafter. There is no doubt that the miracles of Christ are headliners of all four Gospels and receive occasional mention in other accepted Bible texts as well.

I addressed this subject here, and here, among other posts on the subject.

Not only did Josephus confirm that Christ existed and that the miracles were reported by witnesses at the time of Josephus, Jewish writings confirm much of this as well, despite the obvious disadvantage to the non-Christian Jews inherent in confirming even the existence of Christ. There is even a mention in Roman writings that survive, oddly enough. Odd since at the time of Christ Judea was considered an unimportant backwater province.

Choose one!

A) The story of Christ and Christianity is a compelling one. His disciples witnessed His miracles and resurrection and spread the word around the area. They were quite willing to both live and die for this cause. While they were killed in droves, their claims were never refuted and in fact the verity of their witness was instrumental in the rapid spread of Christianity.

B) The story of Christ and Christianity requires an acceptance of supernatural occurrences and no matter what evidence now remains, anything not naturalistic is totally unacceptable/unbelievable.


From this great historical distance from the time of Christ, one cannot either prove or disprove the life and miracles of Christ. One either accepts the witness of the times, which is conclusively in favor of both. Or, you can ignore all scholarship that occurred within a reasonable time span and try to disprove both Christ and His miracles from a great distance and with no evidence in hand. One simply needs to suspend logic and voila, Christ is made to disappear!

There were many prophecies made in the Bible and all that could have been fulfilled have been fulfilled. Only a few remain. None have ever failed. The Bible has proven to be an archaeological handbook for excavating in the region of the Bible lands. The genealogies of the Old Testament have been revealed to have been evidenced in the writings of peoples around the globe, including peoples who had no knowledge of the Bible itself. I stand confident in the Bible as a reliable historical and spiritual document and I believe that Christianity will be alive and well long after Darwinism has gone the way of spontaneous generation, the philosopher's stone and the concept of a flat earth.  Please see Textual Criticism for more...

Enough for this Sunday.

4 comments:

Hawkeye® said...

Hi Radar,

Well, you and Debbie both know my views on this subject. I'm sure you've been closely following every word I have ever offered on the topic.

Since this is no place for a meaningful discussion on such a complex issue, I merely offer for you and your readers here my 53 chapters (and counting) on the subject...

http://jjprzy.envy.nu/testimonium/index.htm

(:D) Best regards...

DogMaBlog said...

I hope that people will read this post and Hawkeye's testimonium series of posts and decide which is a more consistent biblical exegesis.

Many sincere Christians have different points of view, but unless you see other points of view its easy not to think about it at all.

I was taught the dispensationalist view but when I discovered the preterist view the whole bible really came alive to me and prophecy was no longer like a puzzle but I could now see the whole picture!

Now like in any interpretive system there are those that take it way too far into heresy. R.C. Sproll wrote a great book called "The Last Days According to Jesus" debunking them. The heretical bunch say that everything was fulfilled at the destruction of 70 A.D. even the resurrection of the dead! So we must never get carried away by an interpretive system.

DebB

Anonymous said...

[Yo Radar, I saw this on the web & want to share it. Tyrell]

Pretrib Rapture Pride

by Bruce Rockwell

Pretrib rapture promoters like Thomas Ice give the impression they know more than the early Church Fathers, the Reformers, the greatest Greek New Testament scholars including those who produced the KJV Bible, the founders of their favorite Bible schools, and even their own mentors!
Ice's mentor, Dallas Sem. president John Walvoord, couldn't find anyone holding to pretrib before 1830 - and Walvoord called John Darby and his Brethren followers "the early pretribulationists" (RQ, pp. 160-62). Ice belittles Walvoord and claims that several pre-1830 persons, including "Pseudo-Ephraem" and a "Rev. Morgan Edwards," taught a pretrib rapture. Even though the first one viewed Antichrist's arrival as the only "imminent" event, Ice (and Grant Jeffrey) audaciously claim he expected an "imminent" pretrib rapture! And Ice (and John Bray) have covered up Edwards' historicism which made a pretrib rapture impossible! Google historian Dave MacPherson's "Deceiving and Being Deceived" for documentation on these and similar historical distortions.
The same pretrib defenders, when combing ancient books, deviously read "pretrib" into phrases like "before Armageddon," "before the final conflagration," and "escape all these things"!
BTW, the KJV translators' other writings found in London's famed British Library (where MacPherson has researched) don't have even a hint of pretrib rapturism. Is it possible that Ice etc. have found pretrib "proof" in the KJV that its translators never found?
Pretrib merchandisers like Ice claim that nothing is better pretrib proof than Rev. 3:10. They also cover up "Famous Rapture Watchers" (on Google) which shows how the greatest Greek NT scholars of all time interpreted it.
Pretrib didn't flourish in America much before the 1909 Scofield Bible which has pretribby "explanatory notes" in its margins. Not seen in the margins was jailed forger Scofield's criminal record throughout his life that David Lutzweiler has documented in his recent book "The Praise of Folly" which is available online.
Biola University's doctrinal statement says Christ's return is "premillennial" and "before the Tribulation." Although universities stand for "academic freedom," Biola has added these narrow, restrictive phrases - non-essentials the founders purposely didn't include in their original doctrinal statement when Biola was just a small Bible institute! And other Christian schools have also belittled their founders.
Ice, BTW, has a "Ph.D" issued by a tiny Texas school that wasn't authorized to issue degrees! Ice now says that he's working on another "Ph.D" via the University of Wales in Britain. For light on the degrees of Ice's scholarliness, Google "Bogus degree scandal prompts calls to wind up University of Wales," "Thomas Ice (Bloopers)," "be careful in polemics - Peripatetic Learning," and "Walvoord Melts Ice." Also Google "Thomas Ice (Hired Gun)" - featured by media luminary Joe Ortiz on his Jan. 30, 2013 "End Times Passover" blog.
Other fascinating Google articles include "The Unoriginal John Darby," "X-raying Margaret," "Edward Irving in Unnerving," "Pretrib Rapture Politics," "Pretrib Rapture Secrets," "Pretrib Rapture Dishonesty," "Pretrib Hypocrisy," "Pretrib Rapture Secrecy," and "Roots of Warlike Christian Zionism" - most from the author of "The Rapture Plot," the most accurate documentation on pretrib rapture history.
Can anyone guess who the last proud pretrib rapture holdout will be?

radar said...

Tyrell,

I am thankful for the information, should give me some interesting hunting and reading! Thanks for commenting, really appreciate it!