Friday, November 27, 2015

The Great Apostasy from the faith.

After the death and resurrection, of Jesus. Part 19

By Terry Cropper.

Jesus warned his disciples regarding the gosple. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. Luke 21:16-17 (NKJV) The worse days lay ahead for God’s Church. Storm clouds were also building over Judah and Rome at this time.

During the early days of the first century Christianity was seen as just another sect of Judaism, a legal religion. (Acts 2:47) "These earliest Christians had no thought of being anything but good Jews. Soon the Jewish authorities felt threatened by this oddball new religion and forbid Christians to speak the name of Jesus. (Acts 4:1-22) Because of this we are immediately told "there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem;" and that "they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles. (Acts 8:1)

Early Christians were persecuted for their faith at the hands of both Jews from whose religion Christianity arose and the Roman Empire which controlled much of the land across which early Christianity was distributed.

The Roman Empire was generally quite tolerant in its treatment of other religions. The imperial policy was generally one of incorporation - the local gods of a newly conquered area were simply added to the Roman pantheon and often given Roman names. Even the Jews, with their one god, were generally tolerated. So why the persecution of Christians?

It was in 64 A.D. that Nero began his persecution of Christians from Rome. Nero was an inhuman, insane egomaniac. In A.D. 64, Rome burned to the ground. For six days and nights, a great fire raced through the capital city. Thousands of terror-stricken Romans were left homeless. The fire reduced the most heavily populated areas of the city to rubble and ash.

Historical traditions say Nero watched this incredible sight from his balcony. Why was he so fascinated? Because he desired to rebuild the city to an even greater glory. A rebuilt, more glorious Rome would immortalize the name of Nero. The rumor that Nero had burned Rome spread through the shaken city. In fear of his life, Nero blamed the fire on the Christians.

The Romans believed him. Christians were already mistrusted and despised and enduring tribulation by the Judaizes because of their beliefs. To a Roman, Christians were different. They would not worship the old Roman gods. They refused to worship the emperor as divine, which was interpreted as treason.

The Christian teaching of Jesus Christ as King of kings sounded like revolt. It was easy for Nero to plant the idea that the fire could be the beginning of a revolution. The mad emperor ordered the punishment of Christians for burning Rome.

A full-scale persecution began. Nero personally devised some horrible tortures and executions for the falsely accused Christians. Some Christians were crucified, some were torn apart by wild dogs in the Circus Maximus, and others were set ablaze for Nero’s garden parties. Out of the Roman distaste for
Christianity, arose a sense that it was bad for society.

Because of this open persecution at the hands of the Jewish authorities who hated Christ and that of Nero many of the Jews were defecting from the faith and returning under the Mosaic covenant of the Law.

The term apostasy comes from the Greek word apostasia ("ἀποστασία") meaning defection, departure, revolt or rebellion. When individuals or groups of people turn away from the principles of the gospel, and returned under the Mosaic, law they are in a state of apostasy. Apostasy means to fall away from the truth. In the Old Testament, God warned the Jewish people about their idolatry and their lack of trust in Him. The New Testament, epistles warn them not to fall away from the truth.

During this time in the wilderness their faith was being tested in the fury fires of purification or persecution to see who genuine believers in Christ were. 1 Peter 1:7 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ,

This does not mean that their faith was much more precious than gold, but that the testing of it, (δοκίμιον dokimion,) the process of showing whether it was or was not genuine, was a much more important and valuable process than that of testing gold in the fire. The test, is showing what is their real nature. Zechariah 13:9-10 I will bring that group through the fire and make them pure. I will refine them like silver and purify them like gold. They will call on my name,and I will answer them. I will say, ‘These are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The LORD is our God.’”

The intense persecutions, trials and tribulations (was to show how they were to conduct themselves when suffering unjustly). During this refining process many of the Jews were going apostasy from the faith and returned under the Mosaic, law.

The Apostle John and his congregation experienced this firsthand. John write his letters and gives evidence of the departure from the faith - cf. 1 John 2:19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us. These Jews were former Church members who went apostasy from the faith.

Paul also experienced abandonment firsthand. This you know, that all those in Asia have turned away from me, among whom are Phygellus and Hermogenes. (2 Timothy1:15a). These Asiatics had gone to Rome for the purpose of being a witness in Paul’s favor. However, finding that Paul was in position when they arrived terrified them of the extreme danger if being associated with Paul and they forsook him and fled.

Paul warned Timothy some would depart from the faith - (1Timothy 4:1) Paul was inspired write this letter to the Timothy (between the years (63-66 A. D) the apostasy was already on the way.
When Paul wrote this letter to Timothy the Temple was still standing and “falling away” refers to those who were returning back under the Mosaic Covenant. The defection from the faith characterized the latter or last days of the old covenant had already set in. The pull of the Old Covenant world system continued to draw many away from Christ.

The book of Hebrews is replete with warnings to Jewish Christians who were in danger of falling from the faith. The issue is that these passages in Hebrews have not been put into their biblical/historical context. Specifically, Hebrews 10:26 requires a contextual understanding for proper interpretation; then we can easily see why God is very judgmental toward His very own stumbling children. The first thing we must understand is that the Book of Hebrews was written somewhere between AD 30 and AD 70.

Paul warns of this strong pull in Hebrews 10:26 For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins. What kind of sin could they possibly remove the saving sacrifice of Christ?

The whole idea of "deliberate" sin doesn't involve things like saying a swear word or skipping church or being in a bad mood or stealing a car. Hebrews 10:26 is about something much more serious-a deliberate, premeditated rejection of Christ. This was a warning against offering animal sacrifices for the atonement of sin. The reconciliation of God to all mankind is through Jesus Christ. Anyone who deliberately sinned and offering animal sacrifices for the atonement of sin there no longer remains the sacrifice of Christ for their sins.

Hebrews 10:26, is (the strongest) of the "apostasy warning passages." Paul was talking about Jews who knew the sacrifice of Jesus to save sinners through his perfect blood and then returned to sacrifice through the blood shedding of bulls and goats. If Jesus isn't enough for you, there is no other way your sins can be forgiven.

The Judaizes' error gave birth in the book of Galatians and the possibility of apostasy. Paul ask the Churches of Galatia, I marvel that (you are turning away) (PRESENT TENSE) so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. (Galatians 1:6-7)

What was the different gospel which is NOT another? The gentiles must be circumcised according to the custom of Moses. (Acts 15:1) These Judaizes were teaching a doctrine which "troubled the saints" and was a perversion of the gospel of Christ (Galatians 1:7). Those who taught this doctrine were accused of God (1:8-9). Paul described these men as "false brethren" (2:4). The Great Apostasy form the faith was alive and will during forty years of wandering in wilderness of the Church. May of the Jews going apostasy from the faith and returned under the Mosaic law.

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