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.
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?
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 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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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