Children, it is the last hour
“And in nothing terrified by your adversaries (=Jews who were zealous of the law) which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God.” (Phil. 1:28)
In the middle of the 1st century AD, the Jewish Apostle John announced to the children of the promise that they were living in the last days of the Old World, [the last days of the century (Grk: Αιώνα) of the Mosaic Law]. The coming of the apostasy and the time of the revelation of the man of lawlessness, the son of perdition, who would oppose and exalt himself against every so-called god or object of worship, were imminent. The coming of the antichrist would take place through the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, among those from Israel who were perishing, because they had not accepted the love of the truth so as to be saved. This event was a sign of the end/completion of the ministry of death (= the Law) and its types (= the terrestrial Temple of Jerusalem and its rituals) and the sign of the coming of the Savior Jesus. (2 Thessalonians 2: 1-4, 2 Corinthians 3: 7-8)
“Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, (apostasy/separation from the first church) but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us. But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge.” (1 John 2:18-20)
A biblical retrospective to understand the historical faits accomplis written by John
Simon told Mary about the 8-day-old Jesus:
“And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the falling and rising up of many in Israel; and for a sign which is spoken against.” (Luke 2:34)
The narrative events by the New Testament writers fully verified Simon's words. The acceptance of Jesus, who is the truth, the life, and the path leading to the Father (John 14:6), was the cause of the resurrection of many in Israel and the refusal / contradiction / opposition was the cause of the fall of many.
This contradiction in Jesus' identity and teaching has its origin to the Jewish deniers and is continued to this day by the dominant religious systems and the various Christian confessions.
"But when the Jews spoke against it, I was constrained to appeal to Caesar; not that I had ought to accuse my nation of.” (Acts 28:19)
“But to Israel he said, All day long I have stretched forth my hands to a disobedient and gainsaying people.” (Rom. 10:21)
Jesus, therefore, was set for the fall and resurrection of many in Israel, and as a controversial point. The historical events of the apostolic generation were the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies with consequences depending on what position the Jews took in front of the truth, the way and the life, which is the heavenly Jesus (I Cor. 15:47).
“When the lord therefore of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those farmers?” (Mat. 21:40)
“Beware therefore, lest that come on you, which is spoken of in the prophets.” (Acts 13:40)
To whom Jesus was sent
Responding to his Jewish disciples when they asked him to lay off the Canaanite woman, Jesus said: “I am not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (Mat. 15:24)
In this way he revealed to them that he was the "good shepherd" who came to gather the scattered sheep of the house of Israel and give them life/immortality according to the scriptures. (John 10:11-17, 11:52, Ezek. 34:6,12, Isaiah 40:10-11)
“And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said to them, You are not my people, there it shall be said to them, You are the sons of the living God. Then shall the children of Judah and the children of Israel (the two Houses) be gathered together, and appoint themselves one head (Jesus), and they shall come up out of the land: for great shall be the day of Jezreel.” (Hos. 1:10-11)
John attests: He came to his own (Jews), and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood (Abraham’s biological seed) nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God (spiritual seed).
“Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which lives and stays for ever.” (I Peter to Jews 1:23)
Where Jesus acted
Jesus acted in Galilee, where the Israelites lived (in the past, some gentiles lived there, therefore the region was also called “Galilee of the Gentiles”) and in Judea, parts of Palestine, which is known as the land of Israel and the Holy Land. He also visited Samaria. Until his resurrection, Jesus' teaching and preaching was addressed to the accountable Jews, who were the recipients and connoisseurs of the Old Testament.
“And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree.” (Acts 10:39)
The Jews were responsible for the observance of the Mosaic Law
The command to the Jews when they received the Mosaic Law was not to proclaim it to the nations so that the gentiles to be circumcised to keep the Sabbath, not eat pigs and to live in Judaism, but to obey to the commandments of their God. Only the ones who were purchased with silver and the proselytes who wanted to celebrate the Passover were excluded from the observance of circumcision. (Genesis 17:13, Exodus 12:48)
They were becoming proselytes from the polytheism or the henotheism of the gentiles to the Jewish monotheism either, voluntarily (Lev. 18:26 LXXE), or because of the fear of the Jews (Esther 8:17), or for political reasons, as did John Hyrcanos (134-104 BC) when he defeated the Edomites and imposed upon them the circumcision and the Jewish customs in order to remain in the area (Josephus Jewish Antiq: Book 13, 9, 258), or for modernity, when many Greeks seeing the brilliance of the Jewish religious ceremonies, decided to copy them (Josephus Jewish War: Book vii, iii, 3).
Many proselytes obeyed to the gospel of life, such as Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch, the Ethiopian eunuch, and others (Acts 6:5, 2:11, 8:27-38, 13:43).
The law works wrath (Rom. 4:15)
The violation of the law by the antidisciplinary Jews, and the opposition of a large portion of them to the teaching of Jesus and the apostles, brought the wrath of God upon them, as it had been heralded according to the written law. (Leviticus chap. 26, 1 Thessalonians 2:16)
The Woes of the Lord to the ones from Judaism, who were opponents, were executed with the destruction of Jerusalem and its Temple in 70 AD, after the great command had been fulfilled. (Romans 10:18, 16:26, Col. 1:6, 23)
“And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” (Mat. 24:14)
Some Historical testimonies for the wrath of God on the disrespectful Jews
Eusebius wrote the information given by Josephus about the disasters that struck the entire Jewish nation. He tells us that the 12th year of Nero's reign a war began where many prominent Jews in Jerusalem were crucified, under Commissioner Floros. The cities in the province were filled with unburied corpses by the Jewish strife, and they expected greater evil than what was already happening (Church history II 26:1-2).
After the fall of Jerusalem, Vespasian ordered all descendants of the royal line of David to be hunted down (Church history III 12).
Furthermore, he tells us that the longing of God waited for the Jews for forty years after the crucifixion of Jesus to repent and be saved, so that no harms would come to them (Church history III chapter 7: 8-9).
Peter’s writings to Jews
Peter the apostle of the circumcised as was James and John (Gal. 2:7-8) wrote about the longing of God to the Jews in his second letter to them.
“The Lord is not slow in keeping his word, as he seems to some, but he is waiting in mercy for you (the Jews), not desiring the destruction of any, but that all may be turned from their evil ways.” (2 Peter to Jews 3:9 BBE)
More historical information on what happened in AD 70 in Jerusalem you can read here
The warnings of Jesus towards the first church
“Truly I say to you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.” (Mat. 24:34)
What happened later in the generation of the apostles was of immense importance to the Jewish people and their nationality, since their earthly life was determined by the Mosaic provisions and the operation of the Temple. It was therefore reasonable for the Lord Jesus to warn them of the imminent changes and for everything that would happen to them, to their land and to their nation. In fact, he gave signs to his disciples, which would precede the last days of the end of the law, such as the abomination of desolation, the rise of pseudo-Christs and false prophets who would show lying wonders, the apostasy from the church, the revelation of the son of the lawlessness, the persecutions they would suffer, the internationalization of Christianity, the encirclement of Jerusalem and the trenches around it by the Roman troops, and the burning of the Sanctuary and its symbols. (Luke 21:31-36, Mat. 24:3, 9-13)
The momentous changes that took place in the generation of the apostles
> To Jesus was given all authority in heaven and on earth. (Mat. 28:18)
> The earthly, hand-made temple of the fleshly Israel gave its place to the heavenly temple of Jesus' body, with an immortal, heavenly high priest, and immortal, spiritual priests. (John 2:21, Heb. 9:11, Rev. 21:22, 1 Pet. 2:5)
> The fleshly Israel gave its place to the spiritual Israel. (Gal. 6:15-16, 1 Peter 1:23)
> The carnal worshipers gave their place to the spiritual worshipers. (Heb. 9:9-10, John 4:23-24)
> Death gave its place to the resurrection from the dead. (II Cor. 3:6-9, I Cor. Chap. 15)
> The Old Testament of death gave its place to the New Testament of life. (2 Cor. 3:6-9)
> The old, earthly kingdom of Israel changed and gave its place to the new, spiritual kingdom of the new creation. (Mat. 21:43, Eph. 1:20-23)
> “Wherefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature: the old things are passed away; behold, they are become new.” (2 Cor. 5:17)
The first disciples were Jews
Jesus of Nazareth “as was supposed the son of Joseph”, lived in Judaism, was circumcised on the eighth day, celebrated the Jewish Passover, used to go to the synagogue every Saturday and participated in the reading of the Hebrew scriptures, he was accepted by the Jews as a rabbi, he had the reputation as the Great Prophet, he was in agreement with the doctrine of the Pharisees and the Scribes, but not with their works or oral traditions, he was constantly referred to what was written to the prophets, he ministered among the Jews in the land of Israel, he chose Jewish apostles and after he gave them authority, he sent them to the cities of Israel, revealing to them that they would be persecuted by the Jews, as he himself. (“Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues.”) (Mat. 10: 17). He also revealed to them that they wouldn’t finish going through the cities of Israel before he came again to take them. (John 14:3, Mat. 10:23)
“And into whatever city you enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you, and heal the sick that are therein, and say to them, The kingdom of God is come near to you. But into whatever city you enter, and they receive you not, go your ways out into the streets of the same, and say Even the very dust of your city, which sticks on us, we do wipe off against you notwithstanding be you sure of this, that the kingdom of God is come near to you.” (Luk. 10:8-11)
“But when they persecute you in this city, flee you into another: for truly I say to you, You shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come.” (Mat. 10:23)
So, the first disciples (the beginning) were Jews, and it is obvious that the original genuine Christianity emanates from the prophets of Israel and the law of Moses, not Hellenism or men traditions.
“And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening.” (Acts 28:23)
“And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God, to our fathers: To which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come. For which hope's sake, King Agrippa, I am accused of the Jews.” (Acts 26:6-7)
The message of the resurrection of the dead through Jesus Christ to the nations as well
“Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you (to Jews): but seeing you put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, see, we turn to the Gentiles.” (Acts 13:46)
Of course, the promise of life to Abraham also provided for the participation of the nations, as the prophets foretold, when they spoke of the New Testament of life that God would make with Israel <the sheep> together with the nations <the beasts>.
“And I will make for them a covenant on that day with the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the creeping things of the ground. And I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land, and I will make you lie down in safety.” (Hosea 2:18, Acts 10:11-12)
In the first centuries AD, this guileless message of the quickening of the dead/mortal people through Jesus Christ, which was denounced by His original church, was coupled with the ancient Greek syncretistic thinking and the occult Jewish literature and was turned into a state religion by the contemporary religious and political interests. The new imperial religion, dressed with the incinerated forms/secular elements of Judaism and adopting ancient pagan fantasies (Sibylline oracles, etc.), was imposed with the help of weapons, metal instruments of torture, decapitations, and anti-pagan imperial laws/edicts. By circumventing the "If anyone wishes to come after me...," it became an instrument of power and service of earthly interests, causing long-term spiritual darkness in the west and the east.
The political and social environment at the time of Jesus' action
This period of ancient history is the most important one, because during this period momentous rearrangements were made by God regarding the exercise of authorities, ["All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth" (Matthew 28:18), ERV]. The rest of human history up to the present day has been shaped by the effects of acceptance or denial or exploitation by man of this new secular order.
The Jewish people had received strong influences from the cultures of the kingdoms that had conquered them, the Babylonian, the Persian, the Greek, and the Roman ones. In particular, the influence of Greek civilization, which had conquered the Roman one as well, became the main cause of conflict between those who aimed at the Hellenization of the Jewish nation and those who remained faithful to the roots of the Jewish nation. Certain historical circumstances contributed to the necessity of shaping various social classes with the religious element being always intense.
Knowing the political and social environment at the time of the action of Jesus and the apostles, where the prophets' sayings were fulfilled, helps us to understand the conditions that contributed to the formation and reaction of the opposing body of the early church, which opposed everything the church advocated.
The political environment
The civil conflicts of the rulers of Judaism led to the loss of the national independence of the Jewish people. So, at the beginning of the 1st century BC, Judea joined the Roman province of Syria. It was part of the reign of Herod, who was proclaimed the King of the Jews by the Senate (40 BC). The policy of the Herodians was highly Roman, serving Roman interests. When the war broke out in 66 AD, the king was Herod Agrippa II, hated by the Jews, took the side of the Romans, and besieged Gamalla, part of his territory, when its inhabitants took the side of the rebels (Jos. War of Jews: Book IV chapt. I). Archaeologists discovered Roman emperors faces on Agrippa’s coins. The Romans had the supreme power in Judea and practiced it with the commissioners, the only ones who could command the death penalty. The Romans had granted many privileges to Theocratic Israel, especially religiously, by treating it as a separate nation.
The social environment
The social classes of Judea in those times included the following groups:
The Congregation: It is considered a continuation of the councils of Moses' elders. There were the "provincial congregations" with 23 members and the "Grand Congregation" with 71 members. It consisted of chief priests, priests, scribes and presbyters. President was the "chief priest of the twelvemonth". Sanhedrin had a Roman-controlled judicial, religious and administrative power. Its power ceased with the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.
The Sadducees: A class of wealthy, friends of the Romans of unconfirmed origin, they did not believe in resurrection or in angelic spirits or in oral traditions. They were familiar with the Greek language and philosophy and loved the Greek way of life like all the wealthy of the time. Hence, the interaction of the Jewish monotheism with the Greek philosophy was inevitable. They had close relations with the priesthood and the general of the Temple. They were in rivalry with the Pharisees, but they were forced to cooperate with them to get rid of Jesus.
The Pharisees: Fanatic nationalists and formalists. They mainly influenced the popular layers. Unlike the Sadducees they did not agree in Hellenization, they believed in resurrection and in spirits. They knew the scriptures but they were not executives. Most of them were exploiters, unjust, and ambitious.
“But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments.” (Mat. 23:5)
Jesus' woes did not concern all the Pharisees, many obeyed to the faith, such as the apostle Paul and others who maintained a positive attitude to the issue of Jesus, such as Nicodemus and Gamaliel. Also some Pharisees warned Jesus that Herod wanted to kill him (Luke 13:32). According to Joseph, they admitted, like the Greeks, the immortality of the soul, and the incarnation of the good ones in other bodies, (reincarnation), as well as the constant punishment of the wicked after death. (War of Jews: Bool 2, 163)
The Herodians: Jews, friends of Rome, who supported Herod's dynasty. Together with the Pharisees, they accused Jesus and planned how to kill him.
“The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.” (Mark 3:6)
The Elders: Along with the Sadducees, they were the elite of the Judaic society, they participated in the great congregation defining the religious and political line of the nation. They worked closely with the chief priests and the scribes.
The Scribes: Lecturers, interpreters of the Mosaic Law and preservers of oral traditions. They were also called Lawyers, and they were Pharisees' associates and members of the congregation. They always defended the interests of the rich.
The Samaritans: A schematic minority who insisted that God should be worshiped on Mount Garizin (Deu. 11:29). Samaria was the capital of the northern kingdom of Israel (the ten tribes). Assyrian king Assurbanipal (Roman historian Justinus identified him as Sardanapalus) mixed the Samaritans with people from Babylon and caused a change in their population (2 Kings 17:24). That is why the Jews were despising them and so lived isolated, keeping faith in the god of Abraham and the acceptance of Moses' Pentateuch.
The Essenes: A Particular Judean group, with Platonic beliefs, that called themselves "sons of light." They lived separately with their own rules, and they did not participate to the typical Judean rituals. They were expecting the end of the world, and they were commit to the Mosaic law and emphasized purification baths. They maintained a rigorous daily schedule of prayers, meals, and livelihood. They did not have wealth nor did they trade. According to Josephus, they impeded marriage, but adopted children who grew them according to their principles. Some were married, exclusively for childbearing, so that was a small number. Any effort to accept Essenes as Christians is unsuccessful. (War of Jews: Book 2, 119-121 and 154-158).
The Zealots: Extreme nationalists, Pharisees, rebels. Judas Galileo is considered to be their organizer. Together with other Jewish nationalist factions, they did not tolerate the Roman occupation “Mortal Lords” and the attribution of taxes to Caesar, with money belonging to the Temple (Jos. War of Jews: Book 2, viii i). They supported the armed liberation struggle and considered traitors those who did not agree with their perceptions. They were the proponents of the armed revolution that led to the war with the Romans and they were particularly hostile to the affluent Jews, because they were tolerant of the Roman occupation. During the war, the zealots ruled over Jerusalem and its temple and as James predicted, they killed plenty of wealthy Jews grabbing their property.
“Your gold and silver is corroded; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. You have heaped treasure together for the last days.” (James 5:3)
The Scarians: (= stabbers) Outrageous Zealots, they murdered plenty of moderate Jews (those who did not want the war) during the revolt to thwart the Roman yoke.
The Chief Priests: The axiom of the chief priest was hereditary, lifelong, and the highest of the Jewish priesthood, consisting of the chief priests, the priests, the levites, and the generals of the temple. At the time we are examining, the succession of the chief priest in the Aaron class was interrupted. During that era, the chief priest was appointed by the Romans, served the Roman interests, and dealt mainly with politics. In the era of Christ, Caiaphas was the active chief priest, the bridegroom of Annas who was appointed chief priest by Kyrinios, the Roman legate of Syria, in 7 AD. Annas was removed from his position by the Roman commissioner Valerios Gratos in 15 AD. Annas had five sons who all served as chief priests since the lifetime of the vocation had been abolished. The fact that Jesus was first led to Annas instead of the active chief priest Caiaphas shows Anna's powerful influence in the political and religious life of the Jews. As administrators of the temple's revenue, the chief priests had accumulated wealth that did not match their vocation.
Josephus mentions Jerusalem as a place worshipped by the whole world [Jos. War of Jews: Book iv, chap.4, 3 ( 262)]. The crowd that went to Jerusalem to worship had to convert its coins, buy animals for sacrifices, and offer gifts and oblations to the temple. Thus, the house of God was transformed into a "house of commerce (John 2:13-16)," hence the wealth of the chief priests.
The plots of the chief priests and the rulers of Judaism, who opposed to Jesus and His church/body
Jesus had to die because he was dangerous to the interests of the ruling class, namely the Herodians, the Chief Priests, the Sadducees, the Elders, the Pharisees and the Scribes. The ruling class had acquired its privileges by practicing Roman-friendly politics and was now in danger of losing them from the Romans.
“If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation.” (John 11:48)
“After two days was the feast of the Passover, and of unleavened bread: and the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might take him by craft, and put him to death.” (Mark 14:1)
The chief priests, the scribes and the people's presbytery lead Jesus to their Congregation, and then they extract the decision of the death penalty deceitfully from the fifth Roman commissioner of Judea Pontius Pilate, accusing Jesus of turning the Jewish people out of Rome and being an opponent to the Roman Empire.
“And they began to accuse him, saying, We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, saying that he himself is Christ a King.” (Luk. 23:2, 14)
“And from thereafter Pilate sought to release him: but the Jews cried out, saying, If you let this man go, you are not Caesar's friend: whoever makes himself a king speaks against Caesar.” (John 19:12)
“But they cried out, Away with him, away with him, crucify him. Pilate said to them, Shall I crucify your King? The chief priests answered, we have no king but Caesar. Then delivered he him therefore to them to be crucified. And they took Jesus, and led him away.” (John 19:15-16)
The chief priests and rulers prevent the propagation of the resurrection of Jesus by bribing the Roman soldiers
“And when they were assembled (the chief priests) with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money to the soldiers, Saying, Say you, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept. And if this comes to the governor's ears, we will persuade him, and secure you. So they took the money, and did as they were taught: and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day.” (Mat. 28: 12-15)
The chief priests and rulers react violently to the action of the church
“But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.” (John 15:21)
The plots of the opposing Jews continued unabated against the church, as Jesus foretold them.
“But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began to contradict what was spoken by Paul, reviling him.” (Acts 13:45)
In every city where the disciples went, in obedience to the command they had received, (“go ye into all the world”), they were persecuted or murdered by Jews and Hellenists [= Jews of the diaspora (Acts 9:29)] who were loyal to Judaism, but opposed to Jesus, the leader of life. In Antioch, in Iconium, in Lystra, in Thessaloniki, in Veria, in Jerusalem, in Damascus, there were persecutions everywhere. All the opposing Jews wanted to kill them (Acts 5:33).
Justin's testimony about the Jews' plots
Justin, in a dialogue with Judah Tryphon 17-1 states that "The Jews not only did not repent, but they sent out elected (agents) to the whole earth in order to vilify and accuse Christians as heretics, illegal and atheists."
At the period of history we study the Romans did not persecute the Christians
The primitive church, therefore, did not face any persecutions by the Romans for its faith in Jesus, but by the disobedient Jews, instigated by the ruling class, as Jesus had told them: “If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” (John 15:20)
The Romans did not distinguish the difference between Christians and Jews, they thought that Christianity was a Jewish heresy and they had no reasons to chase the church, since Judaism had privileged relations with Rome. On the contrary, judgments against the Jews also affected Christians, as in the case of Aquila and Priscilla, when all the Jews were expelled from Rome with orders from Claudius. Separation of the disciples from the synagogue was made by Paul in Ephesus. (Acts 18:2, 19:9)
The historical events confirm the stance of Rome
“And when Gallio [Roman] was the deputy of Achaia, the Jews made insurrection with one accord against Paul, and brought him to the judgment seat, Saying, This fellow persuades men to worship God contrary to the law And when Paul was now about to open his mouth, Gallio said to the Jews, If it were a matter of wrong or wicked lewdness, O you Jews, reason would that I should bear with you: But if it be a question of words and names, and of your law, look you to it; for I will be no judge of such matters. And he drove them from the judgment seat.” (Acts 18:12-16)
“And when he had thus spoken, the king rose up, and the governor, and Bernice, and they that sat with them: And when they were gone aside, they talked between themselves, saying, This man does nothing worthy of death or of bonds. Then said Agrippa to Festus, This man might have been set at liberty, if he had not appealed to Caesar.” (Acts 26:30-32, see also 28:16-20)
And there were members of Caesar's household who had believed in Jesus, with whom Paul was in communion.
“All the saints salute you, chiefly they that are of Caesar's household.” (Philip. 4:22)
Paul, in order to be saved from the wrath of the Jews, invoked the Roman Caesar because he knew that Christianity was not forbidden by Rome, which was more tolerant to all the "gods," and in its pantheon had included many of them. In fact, Eusebius wrote that Caesar Tiberius liked the Christian doctrine and suggested to the senate to include Jesus in the Roman pantheon; his suggestion was rejected but Tiberius threatened the Christian accusers with death (Church History: Book ii chap. 2).
The fire in Rome in 64 AD
Several historians, theologians and scholars, doubt whether the persecution of Nero, which was limited in Rome and of short duration, concerned the faith of Christians. The evidence indicates that Nero's purpose was to punish the guilty of the fire. As a malicious act and according to the Dodecadelto (state laws), the sentences for the arsonists were death by fire and being eaten alive by beasts.
It is noteworthy that according to Latino historian Suetonious, at the same time more other measures were taken place against various groups, such as the persecution from Rome of actors of pantomime performances and the banning of chariot races in honor of gods.
The first century Christians had no reason to burn Rome, they were accused of being responsible. The teaching of Jesus and the apostles prevented violent behavior. Historically, the Jews vilified the Christians.
Τhe professor of the University of Thessaloniki Apostolos Glavinas mentions in his book "The persecution of the church in the pre-Constantine age", Tertios Publications, Katerini, pages 41-42 "The Jews found the opportunity to fuel the political power of Rome with flammable material against the Christians."
The same source, pages 49-50, states that "Christians were not outlaws, no law was enacted against them, and they were not considered as a prohibited religion or different than the Judaism."
“For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect.» (Mark 13:22, Mat. 24:24)
Religion always supported the ruling class (elite), which in turn used it as a tool for manipulating the lower social layers, for the benefit of the retention of power by the rich oligarchs (Jacob 2:6). A powerful link in this interwoven co-operation between religion and power was the false prophets whose oracles guided the people and the "divine" decisions of the rulers. The action of the Jewish false prophets among the Jewish people was in progress during the times of the apostles as well (Matthew 7:15). One of them was the Jewish magician, false prophet, Bar–Jesus or Elymas (Acts 13:6-8).
And Josephus, a basic source of knowledge of the Judaic War (Book vi chap. 5, 3) states that during the war, frauds and false prophets deceived the Jews who did not believe in the true signs of God for the end of Jerusalem. (Rev. 19:20)
“O Israel, your prophets are like the foxes in the deserts.” (Ez. 13:4)
“For here we have no lasting city (earthly), but we seek the city that is to come (heavenly).” (Heb. 13:14)
The term pseudo-Christs was imported by Jesus Himself, and it means false Christ, false Messiah, not the real one; therefore, someone who gives false promises.
“And he said, Take heed that you be not deceived: for many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and the time draws near: go you not therefore after them.” [Luke 21:8]
We could say that Theudas and Judas had characteristics of a pseudo-messiah (Acts 5:36-37). According to the Jewish perception of that time, the coming Messiah/Christ would save them - freed them from the Roman yoke and would restore the earthly kingdom to Israel according to the pattern of David.
“When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone.” (John 6:15)
This perception led to Jews being rebellious (Ezra 4:19, I Pet. 2:17) and often provoking revolts in the region. Many Jewish disciples, seeing that Jesus was not the type of Messiah they wanted, abandoned him (John 6:66). This misconception, the association of the heavenly kingdom of God with the national restoration of the fleshly Israel, is still prevalent today in many religious people, who pay attention to Jewish myths and commandments of people who reject the truth. (Tit. 1:14) (See modern dispensationalism)
The term antichrist/opposed to Christ, is first introduced by John, the apostle of the Jewish (Gal 2:9), to the founded church of Christ at that time, warning them that “it is the last time”. Therefore, the apostle John defines the first church as living in the last days of Judaism and its rituals.
Body of Christ and body of Antichrist
All members of the original church were anointed (baptized with the Holy Spirit) and everyone knew. No one believed that the Antichrist would be a world leader, but they had heard that before the coming of the Almighty Jesus (Rev. 1:8, Heb. 1:3, Zech. 8:18 LXXE) and His wrath on the disrespectful Jews, and the burning of the types of Judaism, the Antichrist would come and act among the perishing Jews.
The members of the church of Christ, the believers, were body of Christ, and members in particular
“For as the body is one, and has many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.” (I Cor. 12:12, 19-20, Rom.12:5, Eph. 1:22-23)
The Antichrist/Antichrists was/were a collective body, a set of people of a particular ideology and belief, contemporary of the apostles. It was the result of a long-standing debate within the church about the identity and teaching of the Lord Jesus, a debate among the Jews who were both believers and zealous for the law. (Acts 21:20-21, Acts 11:2)
They were in church, they came out of it, and this was the sign/portent of the Second Coming (Parousia3952) and the last days of the century of the law.
The fallacy of the antichrist/s was to him/them an evident token of perdition
There was a certain fallacy that identified someone as an antichrist, but this did not make him a successor to world hegemony, but it was an evident token of perdition.
“For many deceivers have gone out [from the first church] into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in
the flesh (Grk txt: omits, the). Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist.” (II John 1:7 Esv2011)
“Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also.” (I John 2:22-23 Esv2011)
“And every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.” (I John 4:3)
Regarding all the Jews who were resisters (Acts 18:6, Geneva), adversaries (Heb. 10:27, ESV2011), quarrelsome (2 Tim. 2:24), opponents (Phil. 1:28), furius (Acts 7:54), argumentative (Acts 28:19), deniers (2 Pet. 2:1) of the healthful and saving teaching of Jesus, Jude wrote:
“Woe to them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core. These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear (“But they went out from us, that it might become plain that they all are not of us”) clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit wither, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots; Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever.” (Juda 1:11-13)
The reading of the epistles in real time
"Now I beseech [...] that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me; that I may be delivered from them that are disobedient in Judaea ..." (Rom. 15:30-31)
By examining the epistles in real time, we understand the struggle of the apostles and the brothers in Christ, and the polemic they attempted against them, specially they of the circumcision, who had penetrated between them, introducing heresies of perdition - false teachings and refusing the Despot who bought them, creating divisions and scandals. Under these circumstances, Paul struggled, wrote, urging the saints of his age.
“And in nothing terrified by your adversaries: which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God. For to you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake.” (Philip. 1:28-29)
After we perceive the prevailing situation in the church at that time, the struggle of the believers, their sufferings by the Jews, their sociopolitical environment, and their expectation of the imminent coming (parousia G3952) of the great God and savior Jesus Christ to punish Jerusalem’s wicked people and to be glorified in his saints, we can understand the scriptures more precisely.
The Second Epistle to the Thessalonians
Note that the red letters have been inserted by the translators and have no basis in the original Greek text.
“Now we beseech you, brothers, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together to him,  That you be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.  Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away (Grk: apostasy) first and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;  Who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sits in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.  Remember you not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?  And now you know (what withholds) that he might be revealed in his time.  For the mystery of iniquity does already work: (only he who now lets will let, until he be taken out of the way).  And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming:  Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders,  And with all delusion of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.  And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie:  That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” (II Thes. 2:1-12)
Notes to comprehend this part of scripture
I) AKJV verse 6: And now you know (what withholds) (Greek text: το κατέχον) that he might be revealed in his time
Since apostle Paul does not explicitly mention the katechon's identity, the passage's interpretation has been subject to dialogue and debate amongst Christian scholars.
Paul uses the present participle form of the verb katecho first in the neuter (to katechon/το κατέχον) and then in the masculine (ho katechon/ο κατέχων).
The Greek verb katecho [κατέχω] is polysemy, has multiple meanings. When we use it for circumstances - situations - conditions means // I possess the mind (Liddell - Scott).
When we use it on rulers means: I possess // have somebody or something under my authority // I have the control // the power [Liddell - Scott].
So this is what Paul wrote in verse 6: “And now you know “το κατέχον” the katechon [= the possessing evil power/the evil spirit, that he might be revealed in his time (It was acting secretly/invisible)].
II) AKJV verse 7: For the mystery of iniquity does already work: (Only he who now lets will let, until he be taken out of the way).
The last part of this verse, has been inserted by the translators, and has no basis in the original Greek text.
Greek text: "μόνον ο κατέχων άρτι έως εκ μέσου γένηται"
o κατέχων = He who possesses // he who takes control over a person’s mind [= “The prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience." (Eph. 2:1-2)]
άρτι = now έως = until εκ μέσου = out of the midst
γένηται (genetai): it is a second aorist, middle, deponent, subjuctive, of the Greek verb γίνομαι or γίγνομαι (ginomai) = to come into existence // come in to being // to cause to be // to be created // to be born //or to be produced.
So (έως εκ μέσου γένηται) means: until he comes into being out of the midst or until he comes forth out of the midst.
Here is an example for better understanding: “Water came forth from the hole in the wall”.
Let’s see now what Paul wrote: “For the mystery of iniquity does already work only until he who now is the possessor /the controller/the evil power/ho katexon, comes into being/comes forth out of the midst and then shall the lawless be revealed whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming.”
Paul describes the battle between the evil spirit and the Holy one. As God/the Spirit (John 4:24) is present in the midst of his faithful people, so, ho katexon/the evil spirit, was present in the midst of the sons of disobedience. And as God/the spirit was manifest in Christ Jesus, the Holy one, so this evil power was manifest in antichrist the lawless one. Jesus was from above, antichrist was from beneath. (John 8:23)
The apostles were told them these things many times and the Christians knew that every spirit that did not confess Jesus Christ was not from God, but it was the spirit of the antichrist which they knew that it would come soon and it was already in the world at their time and acted among the sons of disobedience and perdition (antichrists), possessing their mind.
“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” (Eph. 6:12)
“Why I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.” (I Cor. 12:3)
“And every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.” (I John 4:3 ESV 2011)
"We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” (I John 4:6)
“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience.” (Eph. 2:1-2)
“But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world has blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine to them.” (II Cori. 4:3-4)
What the believers of Thessaloniki understood when they received the second letter from the apostle Paul
They understood that prior to the second presence (parousia) of Jesus for which they waited to take place in their generation and their assembly on him (I Thes. 4:13-18), the apostasy/separation from the church the body of Christ, would happen "first" and the man of lawlessness would be revealed, the antichrist, the man doomed to perdition, the one who would oppose and would exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshipped, the one who would set himself up in God’s temple [the earthly temple of Jerusalem, which the Jews admired (Mat. 24:1)], proclaiming himself to be God.
The identity of the son of perdition, the antichrist
1) He revealed himself, he was unveiled. The event denotes past secret action. The mystery of lawlessness was already acted and the lawless was revealed.
2) He was the man of lawlessness, a Jew who knew the law, but he was breaking it.
3) He was among those who left the primitive church, a renegade. The apostasy had to come for him to be revealed.
4) He was a false teacher, teaching heresies of perdition since he was the son of perdition.
5) He was a dissident, an antichrist, refusing the only despot and Lord Jesus Christ.
6) He was overpowered, he lifted himself above all deities or venerations. (the Roman emperors were also called "sebastoi = venerable ones," and the temples where the imperial cult was celebrated were called "sebasteia = venerable ones" --Ed.), therefore, he had no connection to them, as many claim that the antichrist could have been Nero or Titus or any other emperor, or the Pope of Rome in later assumptions.
7) He revealed himself to the generation of the apostles, sat in the temple of Jerusalem proving that he is a god before the destruction of the temple in 70 AD.
8) He was a false prophet; his coming was after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in all perished Jews.
9) He acted among the perished Jews who had heresies of perdition, they committed iniquity, they were against Jesus, they had not accepted the love of truth in order to be saved and they were possessed by the wicked spirit (the possessing and the possessor) that acted and had the power between the sons of disobedience (Eph. 2:1-2, I John 4:3).
10) This action of fallacy, the antichrist, was sent by God to the disobedient Jews (the perished ones) in order to believe in falsehood, and those who did not believe in the truth, "the heavenly Jesus Christ", but were in favor of injustice, to be judged.
“I am come in my Father's name, and you receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him you will receive.” [John 5:43]
The first brothers in Christ, who possessed the truth, knew that the geographical area of action of the antichrist was the land of Israel, where the temple was built, and the time of his action was their generation. They also knew that the role of the antichrist was not to replace the Roman empire or any other future empire in order to become a world leader, but to act among the perished ones with signs and lying wonders in order to believe in the lie and be judged, unlike the signs and true wonders that were acted by God through the apostles "upon the people."
“And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders worked among the people; and they were all with one accord in Solomon's porch.” (Acts 5:12)
The beast that comes out of the sea and the beast that comes out of the earth
“Daniel spoke and said, I saw in my vision by night, and, behold, the four winds of the heaven strove on the great sea. And four great beasts came up from the sea, diverse one from another.”(Dan. 7:2-3)
“ [As for] me Daniel, my spirit in my body trembled, and the visions of my head troubled me. And I drew near to one of them that stood by, and I sought to learn of him the truth of all these things: and he told me the truth, and made known to me the interpretation of the things. These four beasts are four kingdoms [that] shall rise up on the earth: which shall be taken away; and the saints of the Most High shall take the kingdom, and possess it for ever and ever.” (Dan. 7:15-18 LXXE)
The book of Daniel interprets that the four great beasts that came out from the sea are kingdoms that raised up on the earth of Israel. These four great kingdoms were Babylonian, Persian, Greek, and Roman.
The identification of the antichrist with the beast that had 7 heads and 10 horns (Rev. 13:1) lacks any biblical basis. The things described in the book of revelation are about Rome (the beast from the sea) and Israel (the beast from the earth of Israel, which had two horns like a lamb and it spoke like a dragon) that were in a state of war. The two horns of the beast from the earth are the political and religious power of Israel accompanied by false prophets. At that time, every Jewish power was Roman-friendly (he spoke like a dragon) and acted for the interests of Rome, thus achieving the preservation of its privileges. The narrative events have nothing to do with the end of the world; they tell us what happened during the period of the Jewish war against the Romans which was the cause of the fall of Jerusalem. They have to do with events of that time, such as:
1) Forced worship of Rome and its emperors (Rev. 13:11-12) as proof of submission to the then master of the earth of Israel and the overthrow and punishment of the revolutionary Jews. The worship of the emperors contributed to the political and religious cohesion of the Roman state, whoever denied it was characterized as his enemy.
The edict concerned only those who lived in the land of Israel to whom they had been given the right to worship their own God instead to worship Caesar and the goddess Roma and it was legislated by the beast from the earth. The other provinces of the Roman Empire worshipped the goddess Roma as a protector and benefactor and each Caesar willingly, pursuing the title of the Sebastian Neocorus (Neocora = the privilege of building an imperial temple), on which their financial strength and their cultural and social perspective depended.
[For more details about the worship of goddess Roma see the book of Mellor R. “The Goddess Roma in the Greek world (Hypomnemata) Gottingen 1975”].
A similar measure was taken during the war in Antioch as Josephus writes: “When the war was announced, the Jews were hated by everyone. One of them named Antiochus, his father was the ruler of the Jews of Antioch, renounced both Judaism and his father, and accused some Jews publicly of conspiring to burn Antioch. The result was that the Antiochians burnt the accused Jews to save their city. Then, he forced the Jews to sacrifice in the Greek way in order to reveal the conspirators, some sacrificed while others were killed. So with the consent of the Roman general, Antiochus became governor of the Jews, forcing them to work on the Sabbath day. The abolition of this holiday was soon spread to other cities.” (The Jewish War vii chapter 3, 4)
2) Control of trade in the land of Israel "economic blockade - sanctions" where nobody could buy or sell if he did not have the necessary certification "mark" that he was a friend of Rome rather than a foe.
The phrase "mark" is reminiscent of the old Eastern custom of engraving or stamping the name of a carnal or spiritual master with a burning instrument on the hand or forehead of mercenaries or slaves, people or gods.
3) The old-known and always up-to-date method of misinforming and deceiving by fake signs and miracles through the organs of the Roman-friendly Judaic power, the false prophets, aiming at the rescue of its privileges again.
The historical circumstances of that time made the primitive church face up to its own confession that Jesus Christ is the true God and eternal life (I John 5:20).
“And another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast (Roman empire) and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also will drink the wine of God's wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. (See 2 Thes. 1:7). And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name. Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.” (Rev. 14:9-12)
Many Jewish Christians and ethnic Christians that refused to sacrifice and worship in the national idolatrous way were killed, blessed by the Lord.
“And I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from now on: Yes, said the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; and their works do follow them.” (Rev.14:13)
Also, the Judaists that refused to worship the image of the beast were similarly killed, thus remaining faithful to Judaism, which was to be abolished (Heb. 8:13).
Some claim that the mark might have been a technical term of the imperial stamp or the emperor's own currency. However, we have a literal historical incident of mark during the reign of Ptolemy IV Philopator (222-204 BC), who forbade all Egyptian Jews to worship their God and enter into their synagogues. Instead, they had to be enrolled in the slaves' lists and be marked with burning iron, the sign of god Dionysus "ivy leaf" or be killed. Those who wanted to take part in the worship of the idols became equal citizens of Alexandria. Some succumbed, while others were killed or tried to avoid their registration on the slaves' lists with money (III Maccab. 2:25-33).
Also, the Roman emperor Caligula marked with red-hot iron the Senators who were in disfavor, forcing them to work on the streets or in the mines.
Six hundred and sixty six
Thus the Roman Empire (the beast from the sea) is not identified as "Antichrist" with the information given by the apostles, because they did not expect it to come, it already existed before Christ, it was already worshipped as "the goddess Roma, the benefactor and protecting dominant power," it was neither a part or member of the church of Christ nor it came out - it defected, it was not a man, but the number of that name was the number of a man, and the number of him was six hundred and sixty-six, and not 666, that is a triad of the same numbers (Rev. 13:17, Ezra 2:13).
To understand the difference between 666 and six hundred and sixty-six let's see a related article from the Christian magazine "Tyxikos, Sept.-Oct. 2002 Issue."
The number 666
“Regarding the secret number 666 that we find in the book of Revelation, many scholars get carried away with the similarity of the three digits of 6 that form the number as we understand it after the introduction of the so-called Arabic numbers - many centuries after the writing of the New Testament texts.
However, when the Revelation was written, a combination of three similar mathematical digits had not passed through the writer's mind. In fact, in the critical editions of the text, the number is not even attributed to the letters of the Greek alphabet - χξς - but the number is written in full, that is "six hundred and sixty-six." It is known that the people of that time if they wanted to express this number "numerically", they would not write "ςςς", but the Greeks would have to write ΧΞCΤ or χξς [as in the papyruses p18 and p47], and the Romans would have to write DCLXVI . They would never write 666.
Although the Jews applied a similar system after the Babylonian captivity, they never used it in the Bible, where the numbers are always written with whole words. (In I Kings 10:14, 666 is written in full as "six hundred and sixty-six talents of gold").
According to the above, none of the first-century Christians ever thought that one day the arithmetic expression "six hundred and sixty-six" would be depicted with three identical digits, tricking those who try to rely on the similarity of the three sixes and identify the number 666 with the bar code system that contains a 6 at the beginning, a 6 in the middle and a 6 at the end of it.
If they want to insist on any "disguised" meaning of 6, then they must know that there are not 3 but 111 sixes in 666 (111 x 6 = 666).
From the above, it seems that the claims of those who think they will "solve" the problem based on the number 6 either as a symbolic number of a human being or as a symbol of imperfection and other similar forms (tricks) appear to be unsubstantiated.” (Source: http://www.tyxikos.gr/02-9-28.html)
Also, AD. Grenfell and Hunt discovered a papyrus in Oxyrhynchus, Egypt showing the number as 616.
Papyrus 115 (P. Oxy. 4499, designated by [P]115 in the Gregory-Aland numbering) is a fragmented manuscript of the New Testament written in Greek on papyrus. It consists of 26 fragments of a codex containing parts of the Book of Revelation.
In closing, we would like to ask the brothers in Christ not to turn their attention to Hollywood's profitable film productions regarding antichrist, but to remember together the apostle Paul's statement.
“And now, brothers, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.” (Acts 20:32)
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with our spirit, brothers. Amen.
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