A WARNING FROM JESUS
TABLE OF CONTENTS
(Click on the item below to go directly to that text.)
"When Their Hour Comes"
Possible Confusion in the Gospel Record
The Bitter Harvest of Godlessness
The Kingdom of Heaven
All this I have told you so that you will not go astray. They will put you out of the synagogues; indeed, a time is coming when everyone who kills you will think he is offering service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. I have told you these things so that when their hour comes you will remember that I warned you. John 16:1-4
This warning is contained within the Last Discourse Jesus gave his apostles. It occurs at the end of the Last Supper before he offered his final prayer, and before the group departed for the Garden of Gethsemane.
Much debate centers around this text. Did Jesus address these remarks to his personal apostles, a warning of the suffering they would endure at the hands of fellow Jews? The statement that his followers would be thrown out of the synagogues certainly suggests so. Or did the "time" refer to Roman persecutions; did he speak to generations beyond his apostles? Perhaps his remarks were intended to warn about both possibilities. Or did he speak to the far future, knowing in his divine mind that John would make such a record?
The remark shows religious persecution, not secular oppression. The source of the persecution comes from those who believe they are doing a service for God, not service to
political, social, or ideological concerns. More importantly, the supposed service is to God, and not to pagan gods, nor to human representatives of those pagan gods.
Many persons believe that Jesus' warning pertained to the days of the apostles. But we must be careful. We may encounter logical difficulties if we accept the traditional date for the creation of John's text late in the first century. According to early church historians, Irenaeus and Eusebius, John lived into the reign of Trajan, 98-117 AD. The initial Jewish persecutions were past.
The Jews were then a scattered people, without a home land, and without the presence, authority, or power of the Sanhedrin. Subsequent Jewish persecutions indeed, continued, but they were sporadic and isolated, by local groups in Greek and Roman communities. John would have had no need to record remarks by Jesus which he knew pertained to those years gone by. In fact, warnings about the end of the age in the synoptic gospels, Matt 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21, are not found as such in John's record.
I searched the religious persecutions which are described in the New Testament. They do not fit the tone or evident intent of Jesus' warning.
Acts 4:3f -- Annas and Caiaphas arrested Peter and John because of the healing of a cripple but released them.
Acts 5:18f -- They were arrested again for persisting in their teaching. Gamaliel interceded. The high priest had them beaten and let them go.
Acts 6 -- Believers greatly multiplied.
Acts 6-7 -- Stephen was accused. He was condemned through false witness. He was stoned to death. Saul was consenting, 7:58, 8:1, 22:20.
Acts 8:1 -- On that day a "great persecution" arose against the church, with scattering into the countryside of Judea and Samaria, but the apostles were unmolested.
Acts 8:3 -- Saul ravaged the church, entering house after house, dragging off men and women and committing them to prison.
Acts 9:1 -- He sought letters to the synagogues of Damascus to bring them bound to Jerusalem.
Acts 12 -- Herod laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. He killed James Zebedee. He arrested Peter during passover, but Peter escaped through miraculous help.
Acts 26:10 -- Saul shut many up in prison, and cast his vote for their death.
Acts 26:11 -- Paul states that he was in raging fury against them; he persecuted them even to foreign cities.
Gal 1:13 -- Paul persecuted church violently and tried to destroy it. After his conversion experience he did not go to Jerusalem seeking the approval of the apostles, but rather into the desert of Arabia. He returned to Damascus and then, after three years, he went up to Jerusalem where he visited with Peter and James only. He stayed for fifteen days.
Although Paul says that he persecuted them even to foreign cities this statement may have been one of intent, not actual fulfillment. His desire was cut short by his conversion. The New Testament record does not support the assertions he makes in Acts 26:11.
The time of Paul's conversion can be determined from Galatians 1:15-18, II Cor. 11:31, and Josephus' Archeol. 18:5:1:3. When Paul left Damascus to return to Jerusalem the city was in the possession of the Arabian king, Aretas. According to Josephus a war between Aretas and the Romans began in the year Tiberius died, 37 AD. According to Dio Cassius 59:9,12, the difficulties with Aretas were settled in 38. This would place Paul's conversion in the year 35 or 36, certainly only a few short years after Jesus' death and resurrection. Since the city of Damascus was no longer under siege, three years later he departs and visits Jerusalem, about 38 or 39 AD.
It is important to note that in spite of the vigorous efforts of Paul, and with the enmity of the Jewish leaders, the apostles continued to live in Jerusalem. If he was reaching into private homes to fetch members of the new sect into prison, why did he leave the leaders unmolested? The statements of both 8:3, and 26:10-11 seem exaggerated. Even more, the statement in Acts 8:1 seems self-contradictory. Why would Jewish authorities
scatter abroad the followers of the new sect but permit the leaders to remain unharmed in Jerusalem?
After 14 years, in 52 or 53 AD, Paul again goes up to Jerusalem, Gal 2:1, where he visited with Peter, James and John. Again, the apostles are living unmolested under the very eye of the Sanhedrin and the high priests.
Other evidence attests to the fact that Jewish persecutions were not severe, or even intermittent. Acts 9:31 states that after Paul's conversion the church had great peace. Acts 21:8 shows that Philip, one of seven elected as first leaders of the church, Acts 6:5, evangelized from Caesarea, within the territory of Herod, and had a group of disciples 21:16. While the city may have been under Roman control Jewish authorities certainly could reach individuals there. Agabus, a Christian prophet, presumably lived and taught unmolested in Judea, 21;10.
We do not know how much Paul's conversion may have served to dampen the purpose of Jewish authorities. He was their fair-haired boy. He had letters of commission directly from the Sanhedrin. He was well educated and articulate. He had demonstrated great enthusiasm. He was on fire to eliminate the new sect. Suddenly he turns about. For all the enthusiasm he displayed to suppress the new sect, that much he now turns to support it. Those Jewish leaders had cause for puzzlement, and certainly plenty of discussion and speculation. Perhaps they even feared committing other resources. This conversion event, coupled with other miraculous events, may have created great confusion and irresolution among them.
Several episodes in Acts have been used to illustrate persecution. But consider circumstances. Zealots and other rebel factions may have had much to do with the fear of the Jewish leaders. Unless they minded their relationship with Roman authorities they were in danger of losing their civil autonomy. Concern by Jewish leaders centered on civil threats, not on religious contests. Jesus was executed for political expediency, John 18:14. The Romans did not want to become involved in internal religious disputes. Witness Pilate's hesitation. The Roman Tribune did not recognize serious charges against Paul except for concerns of civil disobedience, Acts 23:29. Before Felix, the governor, Ananias and Tertullus framed their charges against Paul in civil terms, not religious defiance, Acts 24:1-9. In his defense Paul clearly emphasized the obedience of the new sect to civil authority. Refer also to the legal hearings before Festus and Agrippa, Acts 25 and 26. This conduct on the part of Jewish authorities shows their struggle to maintain themselves against the new religious sect; they did not act as a religious people who were in sure command. Under examination the supposed Jewish persecutions appear as not much more than social repression.
Some commentators have suggested that persecution under service to God might include those after the first century. Eusebius and other early Christian historians record individuals who suffered martyr deaths at the hands of Jews and Romans. These include Ignatius, bishop of Antioch, c110-c118, Polycarp of Smyrna, c155, Justin, c155, and so on. Others have suggested that Jewish persecutions during the Barhochba uprising, 132 to 135, might explain the remark by Jesus. But these suggestions are long past apostolic efforts; they are used to justify a statement which has puzzled the generations.
While it is true that Paul's work in Ephesus provoked a riot, this episode was instigated by commercial traders over their concern for contributions to the goddess Artemis, Acts 19. The account is not a good illustration of persecution under service to God. In fact, none of the Roman persecutions were done under service to God. They were done for social and civil concerns, or to preserve the status and authority of pagan gods.
Ancient religions derived from a particular people and state, just as the Jewish religion was unique to the people of Israel. Among the Romans the laws of the Twelve Tables required that any religious worship not publicly sanctioned was penally forbidden, religio illicita. While the religion of Rome was the only official religion she could not hold control over her vast domains without sanctioning the religions of all conquered nations. Thus Roman law was less than absolute. Acceptance of many different pagan religions favored a highly tolerant environment.
Roman pagan religious observances throughout the year demanded that everyone give obeisance to the gods. Citizens of other pagan countries did not object; they merely translated their gods and goddesses to the equivalents in Rome. But this Jews and Christians refused to do. Still, the Romans permitted Jewish religious observances.
Christian religion was uniquely different. Contrary to Jewish faith it did not have a national allegiance; it had no temple, altar, or sacrifice. It excluded all other religions. And it had an invincible belief that there was only one God, in heaven, and that no human being could represent that God, or become the object of worship. Thus Christian belief and practices aroused deep suspicion, among emperors, who were considered as gods, and among the general populace.
As evidence of the uncertainty with which Roman emperors greeted the new religion, consider the following examples. Tertullian (Apologeticus 5:21) relates that Tiberius, upon receiving a report from Pilate about the resurrection of Jesus, proposed to the Roman senate that Jesus should be enrolled among the deos Romanus, but the senate refused. According to Suetonius (Claudius 25), and Acts 18:2, Claudius commanded that all Jews leave Rome. Many of the early Roman Christians
were Jews; thus they were subject to that edict. The first real Christian persecution took place under Nero (54-68). When Rome burned he accused the Christians of starting the conflagration. By this time the general populace, deeply suspicious, readily believed the worst. Ancient inscriptions suggest that the persecutions spread into the provinces. It was during this period that Paul and Peter suffered their martyrdom, and may have been the period of John's exile to Patmos. According to Tertullian and Hegesippus, Domitian planned a persecution against Christians but did not execute it. Upon hearing the phrase "kingdom of Christ" he summoned two of the relatives of Jesus to Rome for examination but soon released them upon finding that they were not suspicious persons. The "good" emperor Nerva (96-98) recalled those who had been exiled for religious purposes, allowed none of his subjects to bring accusations against another, and especially forbade the reception of charges brought by slaves against their masters. Later persecutions by the emperors were sporadic, many half-hearted. They were not done as a service to God; they were done to uphold respect for the pagan gods who came under increasing pressure. Scattered between those emperors who actively pursued Christian persecution were others who ignored the new religion, or even welcomed it. We cannot legitimately regard Roman persecutions as fulfilling this prediction by Jesus.
If we look for religious persecutions later in history to fulfill this forecast can we say that the Protestant Reformation defines that period? Were Joan of Arc, who appeared as a divine prophetess to the French but as a sorceress to English soldiers, or William Tyndale, who gave us the first English translation of the Bible, both of whom were burned at the stake, persecuted under service to God? Is that what Jesus meant?
Are we to say that all religious persecutions took place in the past, and that such warnings could not possibly refer to us? The twentieth century has seen the most horrendous persecution of all time. Hitler systematically killed millions of Jews to "solve the Jewish problem." Stalin killed millions of his fellow countrymen in order to stifle voices against his authoritarian rule. Although we cannot claim such evil as service to God we do not know how future persecution may unfold. The forces of evil today are far stronger than any time in the past, forces we have been unwilling to admit.
"When Their Hour Comes"
An essential feature of this forecast is the manner in which Jesus framed his remarks. He said a "time" is coming, that it would take place at a certain "hour." Indeed, his phrasing emphasized the difference between expulsion from the synagogues and other persecution. His statement was designed to distinguish between persecutions upon his apostles by Jewish authorities and later persecutions. Unfortunately, the nature of the remarks created such puzzlement for the generations this separation of though has been smothered. Commentators and interpreters have universally lumped the remarks into one historic view.
Consider how the word "hour" is used in the New Testament, and by John.
Matt 24:36 "But of that day and hour no one
knows . . ."
Matt 24:44 "Therefore, you must also be ready; the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect."
Luke 12:46 - ". . . the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know . . ."
John 2:4 "Oh, woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come."
John 4:21 "Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father."
John 7:30 ". . . but no one laid hands on him, because his hour had not yet come."
John 16:1 ". . . the hour is coming when whoever kills you . . ."
I have listed these phrases to show the dramatic context of the word "hour." The word had a meaning which is not lost on modern generations, except to erudite scholars who are annoyed at the significance of the term. They struggle over modifying words, or Greek phraseology, in attempt to deny its crisis portent. Whether we would translate Greek ora as "hour" or "time," the implication is not lost.
The use of "hour" as a predictive term is not some loose or hazy classification but an indicator of specific time. It is often associated through the phrase "of that day and hour," certainly denoting a high degree of locality in time. It offers a method for indicating that an event, a condition, an expectation, or a moment of fulfillment will come according to the unfolding of destiny, according to the schedules of God.
"Their hour" is not a designation for feeble attempts by Jews over several generations to eliminate an upstart Christian sect. Nor is it a description of three hundred years of Roman persecutions upon the rising tide of Christianity. Nor is it a means to characterize centuries of religious harassment by the Roman Catholic church. It is a precise description for a world moment of religious truth. And that recognition of truth will come when all become the target of death, a death wrought by those who believe they are serving God, but truly are not.
"Their" hour will belong to "them," all those who are called to an extremity of human sacrifice, a program to eliminate God's people from the face of the earth. The world has never witnessed that which is about to come down upon all of us.
Possible Confusion in the Gospel Record
In our attempt to understand the context of Jesus' remarks we must distinguish between those statements which pertain
a) to the rigors of new religious belief and the consequent persecution individuals might experience while living in an inimical but organized world, and
b) to that suffering which Jesus expected to occur at a great world extremity, when law and order would break down, and when social consensus of proper human behavior would become chaotic.
Historically, Jews and Romans and Catholics all respected social norms; the world has now lost its social standards.
Jesus spoke of such a time. He reserved remarks on such matters to the end of his earthly life because, as he said, "I was with you." Now he was leaving and he wanted to provide warnings to those who would live in such world extremity.
What was the context of those remarks? Can we determine from comparison among the four gospels more exactly what Jesus meant, and a time of fulfillment?
Two separate discourses may have become confused in our records. The first contained remarks he made to the assembled group Tuesday evening on the Mount of Olives; the second contained those he made Thursday evening at the Last Supper.
The first discourse was provoked by somber events Tuesday in Jerusalem when Jesus severely rebuked the scribes and Pharisees, Matt 21-23. To cheer themselves, and to recover some hope that Jesus might now proceed to take up the throne of Israel, the apostles pointed out the glory of the temple as they departed from Jerusalem, Matt 24:1, Mark 13:1, Luke 21:5. Jesus quickly dashed their hopes to the ground. Not one stone would be left standing upon another. They were a downcast lot as they returned to the Mount of Olives. Later that evening they asked him what he meant.
We should note that the apostles provoked the inquiry about the end of the age, if the New Testament record is reliable; Jesus did not. They could conceive of the complete destruction of the temple only under a great planetary event. They understood that there must be, by God's necessity, an end to the planetary age. At that time God would sum up the age, would assess its accomplishments, would examine it against his goals, and would decree those actions necessary to retrieve his world. That would be a divine judgment. Many ancient people understood such matters; most modern minds do not.
In my Oxford edition of RSV a footnote about Matt
24:1-4, is stated thus:
"These verses, together with the discourse that follows, seem to merge teachings about an immediate destruction of Jerusalem with details associated in Scripture with the end of human history. These teachings were set down by the Evangelist in the light of events between A.D. 30 and 70. It is difficult to be certain what the original form of Jesus' word was."
This footnote is well stated, except the idea that human history will come to an end is a distortion of biblical teaching. Isaiah 45:18 is explicit:
"For thus says the LORD, who created the heavens (he is God) who formed the earth and made it (he established it) he did not create it a chaos; he formed it to be inhabited."
Again, in Psalm 72 we see that an idea of a world
end is an error. A royal son will reign upon the earth for untold ages
"May he live while the sun endures, and as long as the moon, throughout all generations! May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass, like showers that water the earth! In his days may righteousness flourish, and peace abound, till the moon is no more. May he have dominion from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth."
The Greek word for "age" used in the New Testament is aion, and its adjective form, aionos. It is the source of our English word aeon. In Vine's Expository Dictionary aion "signifies a period of indefinite duration, or time viewed in relation to what takes place in the period." The dictionary then goes on to say that aionos denotes that which is "eternal" in contrast to proskairos, that which is temporal. However, this remark carries the meaning of the term too far. A more correct understanding would be in the concept of "dispensations," time structured according to goals of divine administration, a purpose according to God in relation to what takes place during that specific, even if long, period.
It is truly unfortunate that KJV translated the phrase as "end of the world." This depended on the understanding of the King James translators at the beginning of the seventeenth century, but conditioned many following generations to the idea that the world would end. The ancients did not view time as coming to an end. Even in II Peter 3 the idea of the heavens being on fire, and the elements melting away with fervent heat led to renewal, new heavens and a new earth were expected wherein would dwell righteousness. We take these spectacular descriptions of nuclear abominations raining fire from the sky, and literal melting of the elements of the earth under their scorching heat, and transpose them into an idea that Peter believed one grand conflagration would end all creation.
Without question, Jesus warned his followers about the coming destruction of Jerusalem. He did not want his fledgling flock to be destroyed in the political turmoils of the near future. Neither did he want them to be ignorant of events of a farther future. His immediate apostles and disciples needed warning; his people of the farther future also needed warning. These two crisis periods may, indeed, have become confused in the Synoptic gospels. But John was not thus confused. In his gospel he did not provide us with an account of Jesus' remarks about the destruction of Jerusalem. He had no need to do so. First, the destruction of Jerusalem was past; his audience had no need for such warning. Second, events of the far future were described in his Apocalypse. Further commentary in his gospel would have been redundant. Therefore, he did not refer to the "end-of- the-age" as such. He merely gave an account of Jesus' remarks and concentrated on those subjects which could be instructive to the future. The fact that he did not report on the Tuesday evening discourse shows that he felt it unnecessary; he placed the end-of-the-age warning into the discourse at the Last Supper.
We must examine John's record in the context of possible confusion among the discourses of Jesus, the limitations he imposed upon himself in the formulation of his remarks, the dramatic nature of Jesus' statements, and the recognition by John that he was leaving important information to the future. We must especially remember that his later work was conditioned by his vivid experience on the island of Patmos.
I shall now proceed to gospel parallels. I shall demonstrate that the remarks by Jesus which John places at the Last Supper were part of the discourse about the end of the age. Mark and Luke make these part of the Tuesday evening discourse. Matthew divides into two different sections, part on Tuesday evening, and part as an earlier exhortation to the twelve apostles to teach among the Jewish people. I use the passages from John 15:18-27 and 16:1-4, Matt 10:18-24 and 24:9-14, Mark13:9-13, and Luke 21:12-17. I restrict reference to other parts of the respective passages to limit this immediate discussion. I also relocate individual phrases to draw out the parallels. For convenience of complete text refer to Table I.
John 15:18 If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.
John 15:21 But all these things they will do unto you because of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.
Matt 10:22 . . . you will be hated by all because of my name.
Mark 11:13 . . . you will be hated by all because of my name.
Luke 21:17 . . . you will be hated by all because of my name.
It is part of my purpose in these letters to demonstrate the textual difficulties we encounter in a serious attempt to understand messages from the Bible. The placement by John of details into the Last Discourse, while Mark and Luke place them at Tuesday evening, and fragmenting of the same remarks by Matthew into two different scenes, clearly shows human elements which affect our traditional text. Different writers had different motives with obvious difference in understanding of Jesus' purpose. Such human factors modify how we understand.
John expands upon the thoughts. While the synoptic gospels state simply that we will be hated because of Jesus' name, John felt impelled to elaborate and elevate to higher conceptual levels. He casts the remarks into a personal light, centered on Jesus, and repeatedly introduces the Father as an important part of the message. We can easily conclude that he was concerned that the heart of Jesus' message not be lost in the information. That heart was Jesus' love for us, and how he had given of himself because of his love.
John's technique shows that he had the synoptic texts with him, and referred to them, as he composed his document. He was dissatisfied with their simplicity and lack of understanding of Jesus and Jesus' purpose. He not only does away with the Tuesday evening discourse; he reframes.
In spite of this, we do not lose the essential message. Jesus' people should not expect open arms from the world; the world would hate them, not because they represented darkness and evil, but because they represented light and truth. The world does not want to know truth.
In the versions the phrase is translated as "for my name's sake." What does that mean? Literally, in Greek, it is "on account of the name of me," or, in modern English, "because of my name." It seems ridiculous that translators would carry such antique expressions into a modern world where they do nothing but confuse. Jesus was warning that anyone who would identify with his name would suffer persecution. They would die if they expressed loyalty to him. In a world which was so familiar to us for its great freedoms, untold numbers of people hate the name of Jesus. Modern minds do not want to recognize or express spiritual loyalties. They are not responsible to anyone. They demand spiritual "freedom."
John 15:20a "Remember the word that I said to you, `A servant is not greater than his master.'"
Matt 10:24 "A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master . . ."
John 15:20b If they persecuted me, they will persecute you . . .
Matt 10:23 When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next . . .
Luke 21:12 But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you . . .
Jesus was warning those who would take up his service that they should expect to be treated as he was. The price of service to God was persecution. The meaning of the Greek word is to "put to flight" or "to pursue." It suggests an extreme social action; the persecuted are not allowed to perform their service with freedom. The meaning is much more than neighbors spurning one another because they attend different churches. These individuals are subject to active pursuit and apprehension. Furthermore, if Jesus suffered pursuit, his followers should expect to suffer pursuit. If he was killed in service to his Father, his servants should expect to be killed in service to him.
Many Jews and Christians today believe they suffer persecution. And indeed, Jews suffered severe persecution in this century in various countries. But we cannot consider that the vast body of Christians throughout the world have suffered persecution within recent centuries. Certainly not after large segments of western civilization became liberated from the Roman Catholic church, and religious freedoms infiltrated western culture. Migrations from Europe to the New World to escape religious persecutions brought an end to that era. The so-called western countries are now socially Christian; their governments and social norms derived from Christian principles and standards. They have great religious tolerance. Christianity today composes the body of modern western culture, from the spectrum of liturgical and mainline "conservative" churches to fundamentalist groups. Those Christian groups and individuals who cling to and espouse the current civil order cannot claim persecution in recent centuries. They are the accepted social norm.
Nor would they be the ones to bring persecution in the sense indicated by Jesus. The modern Christian world is highly tolerant; it would not institute persecutions for mere religious differences. Therefore, if we are to understand this passage we must look for activity which falls outside accepted social Christian norms. If the followers of Jesus, certainly not modern Jews, are to be persecuted at the end of the age the persecution cannot come as part of today's accepted social regime. It cannot be ordinary Christian, of any class.
Many fundamentalist Christian groups, in order to salvage this prediction by Jesus, then conceive a social order which comes under the direct supervision of "the devil." They believe this is the origin of the so-called "new world order" or "one world government," brought about by individuals in powerful economic or civil positions conspiring to obtain world control. Their concept is one of political persecution by malicious satanic governments. In order to shape this idea to the biblical predictions they conceive that this malicious world rule will demand obeisance to satanic personalities who take power. If they are "God's people" they will refuse such obeisance; hence the persecution will be upon them.
Because of confusion in understanding of biblical passages their framework is awry. They have not arrived at the possibility that these persecutions arise outside the scope of civil regimes; or beyond the context of social norms.
Something totally unexpected is about to occur, but no one, from the most liberal social scholar to the most adamant fundamentalist group, has been able to penetrate this forecast by Jesus, or to perceive or predict that which is about to unfold
John 15:27 And you also are witnesses, because you have been with me from the beginning.
Matthew 10:18 And you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear testimony before them and the nations.
Mark 13:9 But take heed to yourselves; for
they will deliver you up to councils; and you will be beaten in synagogues;
and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear testimony
Luke 21:12 . . . delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name.
We must keep in mind the circumstances which conditioned Jesus' remarks. If he were to speak of future Christian gentile groups, and they were not pagan, he could not use the word "temple." That would denote pagan religious worship. He did not have the word "church"; he had only the word "synagogue." This use has forced biblical students, scholars, and theologians to believe that Jesus spoke of Jewish persecutions upon the new religion. This lack of perception has thrown them back into early apostolic days for their time reference. As a consequence, great confusion has arisen out of these forecasts, a confusion which left an indelible imprint upon all Christian understanding. If Jesus was placing his forecasts into the end of the age the word "synagogue" must mean "church." Persecution by Jews is not realistic in this modern era, although these witnesses may be brought up to synagogues for their testimony.
The scope of this activity is indicated further by the witnesses being brought up before governors and kings and councils. They are not brought up to those civil authorities because they are under criminal indictment; they are brought up because they are witnessing to a phenomenon which those governors and kings do not understand. Something so dramatic is taking place it does not fit ordinary human understanding. Then the beating in "synagogues = churches" arises because of the extreme disturbance the members of those religious groups feel about this testimony.
This view should be an indicator to those who seek recourse in conspiracy theories. It is highly improbable a world government, under the direct supervision of the "devil," or any of its divisions, would be soliciting testimony from God's people, or would be tolerant of such testimony if it were offered voluntarily.
With comparison against the synoptic gospels John's statements now take on a different complexion. His comments about witnessing appear to be directed exclusively to his personal apostles, "because they have been with him from the beginning." This raises a question about the style of the passage from John: did he compose Jesus' remarks to reflect a discourse devoted exclusively to the apostles?
It is not my immediate purpose to go into such analysis. I m here devote myself to remarks which could fit the end of an age. However, it is important to note that our record displays a confusion in accounts, and that John's composition does not necessarily reflect Jesus' actual discourse. Rather, it seems to reflect the fact that Jesus made such remarks, that John was dissatisfied with the synoptic record, and that he redrafted to suit another purpose. The many parallels are much too powerful a testimony to the fact that Jesus made such remarks. We are left with the important question why the synoptic record would apply these remarks to the end of the age, while John would place them in apostolic days. Did John compose from memory, or did he rework from the synoptics? The strength of the parallels suggest that he adapted. This is further attested by other parallels.
John 15:26 But when the Counselor comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, even the Spirit of Truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness to me;
Matt 10:19-20 For when they deliver you up, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
Mark 13:11 And when they bring you to trial and deliver you up, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say; but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit.
Luke 21:13-15 This will be a time for you to bear testimony. Settle it therefore in your minds, not to meditate beforehand how to answer; for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict.
Here is the crux of the revelation. The circumstance is one for which no preparation can be made. These are not theological dissertations, and they are not sermons from a pulpit. Witnessing will be in secular as well as religious environments, spontaneous from the heart, as given by God's Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth.
Matthew and Mark offer confirmation of "that hour." The revelation does not speak of two thousand years of Christian struggle, nor of complacent social religion. The passages show a time of extreme world condition, to appear at a brief moment of world destiny. Again we see how John differs from the synoptics. He uses a unique term, the "paraclitos." In Greek this means an advisor or counselor. It does not mean one who comforts. This is a spirit helper who comes directly from the Father to teach us in that hour of need. The word "pneuma=spirit" used in the synoptics does not capture the true intent of Jesus' remark. John attempted to set the record straight.
John 16:2 They will put you out of the synagogues; indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God.
Matt 10:21 Brother will deliver brother to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and put them to death.
Matt 24:9 Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and put you to death; and you will be hated by all nations because of my name.
Mark 13:12 And brother will deliver brother to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and put them to death.
Luke 21:16 You will be betrayed by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death.
In John's amplified account reference is made to synagogues. In this respect his statements reflect a warning to the apostles, not a warning to the far future. However, "their hour" shows a specific moment which is not further defined. The remark about killing emphasizes that future moment.
In Matthew and Mark the translators used the phrase "and have them put to death." This reflects the notion that delivery will be to civil authorities; relatives and friends will bring charges against them in criminal courts. Again we have one of those unfortunate cases of translation conditioned by the notions of the translators. The phrase in Greek is certain: "and put them to death." The hand of death will be directly by relatives and friends, not by government agencies. The phrase "You will be delivered up" given in some translations, rather than "You will be betrayed," again falsely suggests the same concept of delivery to civil authorities, not delivery up to death.
The difficulty which faced the translators was this persecution unto death by relatives and friends. Where in history did such action take place? We might cite numerous historic episodes where relatives and friends brought accusations against those who believed in Jesus. But that suggestion is another attempt to understand a forecast which has puzzled the generations. This death will come directly from the hand of those whom we know and love. Brother will kill brother; son and daughter will kill mother and father; friend will kill friend.
The Bitter Harvest of Godlessness
Man has been unwilling to accept that he brings about his own judgments. He does not hold himself accountable for his actions. If the fate of this world is judgment by fire then man has acted to bring execution by fire. First, there is a desire to obtain material power; men of this age do not seek spiritual growth as their first priority. Second, there is a desire to obtain the maximum of material power; men of this age do not pursue worldwide devotion to God. Without worldwide allegiance to God all "other" peoples and nations are enemies. Therefore, and third, maximum material power is not implemented in devotion to the common good of mankind; it is implemented in weapons of destruction, to ensure ultimate "victory" over the enemy. Then the secret of maximum power gets loose in the land and the nations spiral down to certain doom. And all because we were devoted to material security and not devoted to God.
This modern godless generation detests previous generations who were so "intolerant." They perceive strict moral and religious standards as "Victorian" and anachronistic. They take the weaknesses of those generations as justification for condemnation, not recognizing that moral and religious structure was the glue which kept civilization together, in spite of imperfections.
Prior generations focused on God; that focus gave life direction. They had purpose, they had worth, and they had hope. Whether they were elite noblemen or peasant workers they lived daily with concentration toward that ultimate goal. When we threw God away we lost focus; we lost direction; we lost worth; we lost hope. We then degenerated into mere fleshly and material gratifications.
The modern generation seeks "freedom," and freedom means tolerance. Most anything goes; there are no strict standards of conduct. Social behavior is now conditioned by consensus, not by rigorous principles.
This is a "new age." The old ages and the old fashions have passed away. The human race is now liberated from the old nonsense.
This is "devil" time. He rejects all obligations to his Creator. He introduces into the world a renunciation of those principles which provide wholesome integrity of society. His purpose is to create an environment in which he can carry on free intercourse with men. He nurtures the spiritual milieu of "freedom and liberty"; this provides social conditions which permit him to gain entry into human mind.
In that Last Discourse Jesus provided other information which should alert us to this impending world disaster. The Prince of this World was coming. He has now come in full force.
John 14:30-31 I will no longer talk much with you. The Prince of this World is coming. He has no power over me. I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.
By creating a "new age" environment, with its great tolerance of any "spiritual" exploration, human dabbling in communication with the "spirits" is no longer under social restraint. It no longer carries the strong social stigma which prevailed in prior ages. Many more human beings begin to see a new "spiritual age." They can now commune directly with the "spirit realms." They can receive messages from "above." They can be taught the most devious and insidious concepts of human purpose. And they can have their minds conditioned to new perspectives of human relationships.
Such is the framework for the coming spiritual judgment of mankind. We wanted new spiritual "freedoms"; we shall reap the rewards of spiritual apostasy.
If we had remained righteous, if we had held true
to God, and to a firm will of his purpose, we would not have opened ourselves
to this extreme world danger. But when we "liberated" ourselves we set
up conditions for our own judgment. As God provided the resources for material
power, so he provided the resources for spiritual power. Our former Prince
remained on this planet at the mercy of God; he will now come into execution
of his malicious schemes simply because we did not remain true to God.
He will bring the judgment; we permitted him to do so.
Matt 13:24-43 Another parable he put before them, saying, "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. And the servants of the householder came and said to him, `Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then has it weeds?' He said to them, `An enemy has done this.' The servants said to him, `Then do you want us to go and gather them?' But he said, `No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.'" . . . Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples came to him, saying, "Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field." He answered, "He who sows the good seed is the Son of man; the field is the world, and the good seed means the sons of the kingdom; the weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the close of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the close of the age. The Son of man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and throw them into the furnace of fire; there men will weep and gnash their teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.
We should not jump to the conclusion that, somehow, if we believe in God, we shall escape tribulation. Nothing could be more personally deceptive. Matt 24:30-31 and parallels show clearly that the sign of the Son of Man in the heavens, and the appearance of his angels, will be after the Great Tribulation. All mankind upon this planet must suffer these woes. There is no human being living on this world who is worthy of rescue from the judgments now about to come down upon us.
Revelation 7:9f is also clear. The great multitude standing before the throne of God were those who came out of the Great Tribulation. They did not wash their robes and make them white except through that cleansing fire.
An inherent part of God's mercy is to give every human mortal an opportunity to demonstrate spiritual allegiance, clearly and unequivocally. Men cannot do so unless they are provided with extreme spiritual trial. The complacent environment of a stable social order does not bring human mortals to spiritual trial; it merely offers opportunity to display social allegiances.
God will determine who is his true child, and he will do so under circumstances which will leave no room for equivocation.
We should recognize that the Prince has come, is now in his power, and has planted his seed among mankind. He did so while mankind slept. The weeds grow with the wheat, and coexist, side by side. Relatives, friends and neighbors are they.
It has been customary for Christians to conceive of this coexistence as those who publicly espouse a devotion to Jesus, and those who do not. But such public display is mere social appearance. Unfortunately, for their sad disappointment, the forces now shaping around us are not so neatly defined. The forces are far more insidious and deadly.
If death is to be brought by family members, relatives, friends, and neighbors, by what preposterous stretch of the imagination could such event take place? There must be a rationale, a reason, a justification, a motivation, and an influence which would bring ordinary men and women, all those lovely and loved ones, all those gentle women and kind men, to an extreme which reaches beyond any conceivable human possibility.
In this century we have become accustomed to genocide and persecution unto death of entire segments of population. Whether it was Germany and murder of millions of Jews out of despise, or Russia and murder of millions of citizens to eliminate threat to dictatorship, or Cambodia and the murder of millions of fellow human beings to gain political control, or other programs of mass human extermination we have witnessed in the past hundred years we cannot raise our imagination to the possibility that mass human murder will now come by the hands of seemingly sane comrades and jovial companions living in the midst of civil order.
The key to understanding was provided by John, and only by John. It is supposed service to God. These individuals will believe that they are obeying the instructions of God. They will
be given the rational, the reasons, the justification, the motivation, and the "spiritual" influence to believe they are offering a service to God.
This truly diabolical action will come out of "new age" persons who have placed themselves under the psychic and spiritual influence of the former Prince of this world. They did not have
their hearts centered on God; they knew neither Jesus nor the Father. They were after new "spiritual" experiences and communications; they are now receiving them with a true vengeance.
Emerging today, around our planet, are large masses of people who experience new psychic phenomena. They hear quiet voices within their minds that are not quite voices. They produce a literal flood of "new revelations" from those voices which are not quite voices. And they experience intimations of new "spiritual" bliss which they heartily believe is coming directly from God.
Mark Farley, of Corvallis, Oregon, made the following
statement in the spring of 1994.
"And so I started my quest for my teacher. I didn't have any guidelines so I just made up everything as I went along. During the hour that I commuted each way to work I began talking to my teacher and listening for answers. I half expected to hear audible voices, even though other transmitters had told me that the teachers' voices sound like your own thoughts at first . . . "I sat in the car a long time. I knew I was at a spiritual junction. I just sat there and watched the trees move in the wind and the river flow by. I thought about the cycles and my place in the world. I tried to feel lonely but I couldn't. I realized that I would never feel or think the same way again. I had already changed. Something within me had made up its mind to see where this road would lead."
They believe they are the pioneers of a new planetary
age. They believe the earth will be renovated and that they are the agents
of such renovation.
"What the mission means to me has evolved and matured as I have become involved with it, and it becomes apparent that we will be instrumental in what is to come. The few flashes of the future that I have received from the teachers make me wonder if I will be up to the challenge . . . I found myself wanting all the challenges the universe could give me so that I could grow enough to be involved in whatever the teaching mission would become . . . I have waited all my life for the fulfillment of the purpose that I have always felt within me. I will not allow my fear, prejudice, and self-loathing to stand in the way of becoming what the Father intended me to be. I wanted a taste of it on this planet . . . We all need to become projectors of the Father's love. I have experienced a few brief flashes of that love in moments when my guard was down and I can tell you that it's potent medicine. I would give anything to be able to spread that love around. I think I have had glimpses of what this mission is really about and I pledge myself anew every time I get an expanded view . . ."
At the moment of this writing they are being conditioned to new attitudes of reality, to different mental frameworks, to strong psychic readjustments. They are being conditioned to accept the instructions of that Master Mind who has gained entry into their minds, with a control they do not recognize because of the subtleties of his technique. While he is conditioning them they continue to believe they are free agents. And they will continue to believe they are free agents as he leads them into the most horrifying human action of all planetary time.
A constant theme runs through all of the messages
received from that "spiritual God."
"This time is indeed the early stages of the mission, the testing ground, as it were. Although this stage reaches around the globe, in the years to come you will barely recognize this mission for what it appears today . . . You concern yourselves overmuch with this process, breaking your hearts against the rejections and the falseness that appear to batter you . . . The outcomes are not yours . . . Think not that I will ever abandon you as you struggle on this rocky and lonely road, and know that wherever possible, I will not only light your path, but show you the wonders that all who seek reality will see along the way. You will not regret this, however many dark hours you must bear. There will always be the light . . . . . . there are enough souls present to minister to wherever you pass by. You are the leaven in the dough. Not all can be the leaven, and there is no shame in this, but you will lighten the entire population of the world . . . Trust in me; trust in my mission . . . Know that I love you, each one of you, tenderly and truly and personally. When you are uncertain, my spirit is with you, my mind is available to you . . ."
The emphasis is mine.
Christians customarily believe in two types of diabolical influence. The first is the "spirit of sin" which now pervades our world, a spiritual atmosphere which conditions our lives but from which we are safe as long as we remain true to God in righteousness. The second is diabolical possession in which the victim is subjected to actual seizure by "evil spirits." These traditional views have frozen into mythical notions which do not reflect a recognition of the true reality of spirit realms. Christians who explore these areas remain bound by those notions. Even though their literature is filled with "new age" concerns, they do not recognize the middle ground, where neighbors and friends have subjected themselves to literal mental and psychic conditioning while going about ordinary lives.
The Prince is real. He is alive. He is a personality. He thinks. He plans. He acts. And he watches to see who will become his son or daughter. When we literally open our minds to him he readily jumps in. And then we become his.
Christians cannot grasp the reality of living spirit personalities. They do not understand that the Prince is part of the Kingdom of Heaven. They do not apprehend that the Kingdom is real. They have not formulated a scheme which would permit them to place different spirit personalities within the Kingdom. They do not conceive of structure, or spatial dimension, or administrative purpose. For them the Kingdom of Heaven is mystical, words pronounced without content.
The mystical Christian view is unable to grapple with the reality of the phenomena now unfolding about us. Hence Christians are unable to recognize these forecasts by Jesus, the significance of these forecasts, or the manner in which they will be implemented.
A network of influence now exists all around our globe. It is not a network of formal human structure. From my personal contacts with these people I know they have had difficulty organizing. The Prince does not want them to become organized at the human level; they would interfere with his plans. He wants to maintain individual control which will permit him to direct their actions as suits his purpose. The network is his, not theirs.
Paul told us that the "god of this age" comes as an angel of light. That is, he has appeared to individuals in the past as a being of light. But this is not the significance of the "revelations" now being given to the servants of the Prince. He will provide them, literally, with light. It will be such a powerful influence they will not be able to deny it. It will give them absolute conviction that it is from God himself. And it is from their God.
Indeed, they will enlighten the entire population of the world. This will be a worldwide action, to cleanse the human race according to his criteria. And they will do so because he has made his mind available to them. When he opens his mind to them they will see his light. It will appear glorious to them.
This leaves us with a disturbing situation. Christians today are ineffective in thwarting this upsurge of "psychic" social formations because they cannot shake the mystical attitudes in which they stumble. How many of them are willing to give credit to the living power of this fallen being? How many are willing to accept that, indeed, he will provide such light? Christians are subject to distortions of spiritual realities which prevent them from contributing to the salvation of God's people.
This means that the witnesses who will be brought up before governors and kings and before churches and synagogues will not come from the ranks of ordinary Christians. They must be from other ranks who have an understanding of the reality of this fallen being, and who have been prepared for this service.
This does not mean that a few Christians here and there may not become part of the witness service. But it does mean that the rank and file of Christians will not be able to serve in this capacity. They are too constrained by their conventional and traditional mythical and mystical notions.
The Kingdom of Heaven
Matt 24:10-14 And then many will fall away, and betray one another, and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because wickedness is multiplied, most men's love will grow cold. But he who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, as a testimony to all nations; and then the end will come.
The gospel preached at the end of the age is the gospel of the Kingdom, not the gospel of personal salvation. This is not to say that personal salvation was not the business of God over the past two thousand years. Paul was commissioned to take this gospel to the Gentiles. The other apostles understood their service also as that of the gospel of personal salvation through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, who became a savior to all members of the human race who believed in him.
But now God has a different need: to salvage this
planet and his people on this planet. Christian theologies and views are
not adequate to that task. The gospel of the Kingdom to the world would
not be possible within the context of traditional Christianity. Christians
have not known that gospel for two thousand years. They are unaware of
the administrative structure of the Kingdom, or even the location of that
Kingdom. C. S. Lewis, one of their favorite champions, stated it succinctly:
"What we need for the moment is not so much a body of belief as a body of people familiarized with certain ideas. If we could even effect in one per cent of our readers a change- over from the conception of Space to the conception of Heaven, we should have made a beginning."
The Kingdom of Heaven is within space and time. The fallen One wanted to ascend above the stars, to place his throne on the Mount of Assembly in the far north, above the heights of the clouds, and make himself like the Most High, Isa 14:13- 14. The far north cannot be in some mystical heaven; it must have a spatial reference in a three-dimensional universe. But Christians have no understanding of such matters, in spite of the revelations they carry with them to church each Sunday morning. They know there are Michaels, and a Gabriel, and many Melchizedeks, and seraphim and cherubim, but they have not the slightest notion how they relate to one another. Michael is a Chief Prince, a Prince above all Princes, Dan 10:13, but Christians do not know what that means. Furthermore, he is only one of many Chief Princes, but Christians flee, frightened by such revelations.
It is this gospel of the Kingdom which must be preached to all nations then the end will come. The gospel of the Kingdom cannot be preached until a dramatic change in world attitude occurs, until Christians are willing to reexamine where they stand. And they will not reexamine where they stand until they are brought out of their arrogance to their knees in more certain humility. And that striking result will only be brought by persecution unto death. Our God will change the attitudes of this world, and he will use the devil to do it. Our God will bring a spiritual judgment upon all of us, and we deserve it.
What will men and women do when slaughter goes on all about them? Who can be trusted? How many will seek to save their skins by betraying neighbor and friend and brother? What will become of all the brotherly love which so many espouse today? We all can make claims of our respect for others, and the "Christian" fellowship we share, within a comfortable and safe social environment. But we will turn an altogether different face when death comes to our doorstep.
Many false prophets will arise. Those who teach that God's people will be rescued from all trouble and woe are false prophets. Those false prophets are in many Christian pulpits around this planet. But the truly wicked false prophets will be those who serve the fallen Prince. They will teach a new world order, and claim themselves as the agents of that new order. And they will lead many astray.
God is bringing a spiritual judgment upon mankind.
Men and women everywhere will show their true colors in a time of trial
this world has never before witnessed.
Ernest P. Moyer
PO Box 1206
Hanover, Pennsylvania 17331
September 17, 1996