Angelo Siciliano was an Italian-American who weighed in at ninety-seven pound (44 kilogram) at the young age of sixteen. This scrawny weakling was constantly bullied around by classmates and ignored by friend and foe alike. As any physically weak and frail teenager, life at times was not that pleasant. In fact, some days were just miserable. However, one day he saw the statues of Apollo and Hercules in a museum. These images of two muscular Greek gods formed an image on his mind that would not go away. Those statues had a physical presentation that he envied. If he had such a stature, he would be bullied no more. What set this frail statured young man off on his life’s journey to change who he was an event that happened on a day when someone on the beach kicked sand in his face in the presence of his girlfriend. He had had enough, and thus determined to make a change, at least, in his physical well-being.
Angelo was too poor to join the local YMCA, so he simply watched other body-builders, and did the same. Throughout his persistent daily exercise routine that he established for himself, he eventually developed his own exercises. At least in his daily exercise routine, Angelo was able to control of his own destiny through exercise, regardless of the often tormenting world in which he lived. After a few years of persistent struggle with his exercise program, his dreams were realized. He became as those two statures he had seen in a museum many years before. In 1922, upon the suggestion of a friend. The result was that we now read about Angelo today in history books with his new name, Charles Atlas.
Pessimism and unhappiness are twins that sleep in the same bed. Numerous surveys have been conducted concerning the mental state of those who are successful in the business world. Every survey concludes that optimistic, cheerful business people, who always look on the bright side of things, are more successful in the business world than pessimistic people.
Successful people are optimistic about the future. On the other hand, an attitude of pessimism produces unhappiness, and unhappiness produces dis – ease, or better, disease. Pessimism is a “disease” of the mind that hinders our best performance in life, as well as our outlook on life and the future.
Dr. Maxwell Maltz once wrote of a personal encounter he had with a businessman who told him, “I have just lost $200,000 on the stock market. I am ruined and disgraced.” Maltz then replied to the disapporinted man: “It is a fact that you lost $200,000. It is your opinion that you are ruined and disgraced.”
Optimistic people never add their opinion to the circumstances in which they live. Unfortunate present experiences do not deter their thinking that things will always get better. They are simply optimistic about the future. Optimism defines their character and attitude toward life. The great inventor Thomas Edison once lost a multimillion dollar laboratory in a fire. Someone asked him immediately after the fire as he stood in the ashes of his former laboratory, “What will you do now?” Mr. Edison simply replied, “We will start rebuilding tomorrow morning.”
When things look bad, focus on good things to come, even in the present there are many things on which to focus. Truly happy people are incurably optimistic about the future. They always look on the bright side of things. And by looking on the bright side of things, they discover that there are many good things that are happening in their lives.
There was once a preacher who was surviving in a dark and cold dungeon for preaching the gospel. He was facing death. He then wrote a letter to some friends who were deeply concerned for his physical safety and mental well-being. He responded to their concerns with the statement, “Rejoice in the Lord always. And again I say, rejoice!” (Ph 4:4).
GOSPEL RESTORATION BIBLE SCHOOL IN ROME Familiar passages must always be reexamined. And one of those passages that must always be reexamine is the commonly quoted statement of Paul in Romans 1:16:
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel [good news], for it is the power [dunamis] of God unto [eis] salvation to every one who believes ….”
The context that explains this verse begins in verse 13, where Paul informed the Roman Christians that he had planned to come to them. He explains, however, that for some reason, we are not told, that he was hindered. To fully appreciate the significance of verse 16, therefore, it must be clearly understood that in the context Paul was writing his comments to Christians, not unbelievers. He was planning to go to Rome to meet with Christians who had previously heard and obeyed the gospel, possibly on a visit of some Jews to a Pentecost/Passover feast in Jerusalem (See At 2:9,10).
The fact that these were Christians to whom Paul planned to visit clarifies what he wanted to do when he arrived. He wanted to start a gospel Bible class. He explained his objective. He said that he wanted to visit them in order “that I might have some FRUIT among you also, even as I have among the other Gentiles” (Rm 1:13). His use of the word “fruit” would be better understood if he were going to unbelievers and preaching the gospel (See Ph 4:17). But in this context, the “fruit” refers to that which he wanted to produce in the hearts Christians, not unbelievers. This is a very interesting use of the word “fruit.” So verse 16 explains what he meant in reference to the “power” of the gospel that is able to continually produce fruit in the hearts of Christians.
Paul’s use of the word “fruit” in Romans 1:13 is similar to how he used the word in the context of Philippians 1:9-11. He desired that the Philippians “abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment . . . being filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ” (Ph 1:9,11). Paul likewise desired the same in the lives of the Christians in Rome. He wanted to bear the fruit of righteousness in them that began when they first responded to the gospel. Therefore, they would continue in the production of fruit by their continued study of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
So herein lies the key to why Paul wanted to go to Rome. He wrote in verse 15, “So as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you [Christians] also who are at Rome.” This is a very interesting statement in view of the fact that the good news (gospel) of the incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, ascension and coronation of Jesus Christ is a message that is normally preached to unbelievers, not to those who already believe and have obeyed the gospel by immersion into Christ for the remission of their sins.
Some analysis is thus in order. What confuses some is that most translators use the English word “preach” to translate a word that is not the common word that is used for “preach” in the New Testament. The common word for “preach” is kerusso. This is the Greek word that is used to make a public announcement or proclamation about news that affects the community. When proclaiming the gospel to unbelievers, therefore, the word kerusso is the most appropriate word. Preaching is an announcement of good news to unbelievers.
But the word that Paul used in verse 15 is not kerusso, but the Greek word euaggelizo. This word is used to convey the concept of carrying on discussions concerning good news. This is the word that is used when emphasis is on teaching Christians matters concerning the good news of the Son of God coming into this world, His atoning sacrifice, and His present reign at the right hand of God the Father (See At 5:42; 8:4,12,35; 10:36; 11:20).
Contexts in which euaggelizo is used emphasize that the teacher is explaining the gospel to an audience or individual, particularly an audience of Christians. This brings us to the context of Paul’s statement in Romans 1:16. He wanted to go to the disciples in Rome in order to instruct them further in matters concerning the gospel. In the context, he already pointed out the reason for his trip. He wanted to produce the fruit of righteousness among the disciples in Rome. But there is also another understanding that we must take away from Romans 1:16.
Paul wrote that the gospel “is the power [dunamis] of God unto [eis] salvation.” The Greek word for “power” is dunamis, the word from which the English word “dynamite” is derived. We could metaphorically take the function of dynamite back into the statement that Paul made in reference to what a growing knowledge of the gospel does in one’s heart. As dynamite moves great stones, so the gospel of the incarnate Son of God moves hearts. In other words, the good news of the incarnation, atoning death, resurrection, ascension, and present reign of the Lord Jesus, is God’s motivational dynamite to move one into the realm of salvation, and subsequently, into the continued transformation of one’s life.
The gospel is not the salvation, it is the dynamite that motivates hearts to do that which is necessary in order to bring one into the realm of salvation. For this reason, Paul used the linear action of the participle of the word belief (believing). That is, if one begins and continues to believe, then the gospel continues to be the motivating power that leads to a life of continuous behavioral transformation (Rm 12:2).
If one does not continue to believe in the historical events of the gospel, then he will lose his salvation (See 1 Co 15:1,2). If we continue to believe the gospel, therefore, we will continue to allow Christ to be formed in our lives. This was Paul’s fatherly concern for the first generation disciples to whom he had preached the gospel in Galatia. “My Little children for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you” (Gl 4:19). Christ is not completely formed in one immediately at the time he or she obeys the gospel in baptism. “Forming,” or “transformation,” is a lifetime project for those who continue to believe and behave the gospel of Jesus. This point is what makes the statement, “Just believe on, or accept Jesus as your personal Savior,” so shallow in reference to the lifetime struggle to grow in grace and the knowledge of the Lord Jesus (See 2 Pt 3:18).
The gospel was an historical event that revealed the grace of God wherein only there is salvation. In an obedient response to this divine journey of the incarnate Son of God, the “beginning believer” is baptized into Christ (Rm 6:3-6; Gl 3:26-29). And if we are continually motivated by the death, burial and resurrection of the incarnate and reigning Lord Jesus Christ, then we will walk in the abundant life in this life (Jn 10:10), but also into eternal life when the Lord Jesus returns for His own.
It is the gospel that motivates those who are willing to believe, and thus be brought into the realm of God’s grace through their obedience that is manifested in baptism. Baptism, therefore, is not an action in reference to simply obeying law, but a response to the gospel. If it were simply a response to law, then we might feel that we have merited our salvation through our legal obedience to law. But if baptism is a personal response to the gospel, then what Paul said in 2 Corinthians 4:15 comes alive: “For all things [in reference to the revelation of the gospel] are for your sakes, so that the grace that is reaching many people may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God.”
GOSPEL RESTORATION BIBLE SCHOOL IN ROME In Romans 1:16 Paul linked gospel and salvation with one Greek word, the word eis. Simply believing in the gospel is not enough to bring one into the realm of salvation. The gospel is only the motivational power to stir one unto obedience of the gospel, and subsequently come into the realm of salvation. It is at the point of baptism that one’s sins are washed away by the gospel offering of the blood of Jesus (At 22:16). It is thus at the point of baptism that one is raised with Christ into a salvational relationship with God (Rm 6:3-6).
The historical event of the sacrificial offering of the incarnate Son of God will stir belief. But this belief must be a participle of action, not a once-off statement of belief in self-declaring one’s salvation. The active belief about which Paul wrote in Romans 1:16 was an action that must continue throughout one’s life. The same thought was stated by Jesus, but in different words: “He who believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mk 16:16). The believer will come into the realm of salvation only when his faith is stirred into action. He will come into this realm through obedience to the gospel wherein one’s sins are initially forgiven. It is also at this time that one’s cleansing of sin begins and continues throughout one’s life if one’s belief does not wane (At 2:38; 1 Jn 1:7). For this reason Paul wanted to go to the Christians in Rome and remind them again of the gospel to which they had responded.
The good news of the Son of God coming into this world, going to the cross, and His present reign, is the power that moves hearts from the time one first believes, until his last dying breath. This is the power that moves one into (eis) the realm of God’s grace, wherein he or she is saved. And thus, “For by grace you are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves [through meritorious law-keeping], it is the gift of God” (Ep 3:8). When the gift of God’s Son becomes awesome in our hearts, it is then that we are moved with thanksgiving throughout our lives. Paul’s going to Rome in order to conduct a gospel Bible class, therefore, should generate a perfect attendance on the part of the Roman Christians.
On the eve of His encounter with the cross, and in the presence of disciples who anxiously shuffled in His midst in an upper room, Jesus took a towel, stooped to the floor, and washed twenty-four dirty feet, 240 grimy toes. He knew that when the disciples eventually understood His actions after His resurrection, they would understand what He meant in a quiet voice, “If you know these things [of what I just did], happy are you if you do them” (Jn 13:17).
“These things” refers to His humble service to others, even washing dirty feet, and finally dirty souls. It can only be through servitude that we discover the secret to true happiness. To feel good you must do good.
Why is it that on our way to the hospital to visit a friend we argue with God? We reason that we have other important things that we could be doing. However, once there, and after a prayer and simple chatter, on our way from the hospital we feel a sense of happiness? We grumble in service, but we rejoice when the service is accomplished. Rejoicing after an act of service should enlighten us to the way we are wonderfully made by God. Service brings happiness, a sense of “well done.” Only when we put our hands to work will we be able to raise our hands in rejoicing. This is the way God created us. You do good and you will feel good.
Solomon was right: “He who has mercy on the poor, happy is he” (Pv 14:21). Christians can rejoice in the Lord always because they are always in service to others. Galatians 6:10 was not written that we do legal actions in order to accomplish a supposed meritorious salvation. “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, especially to those who are of the household of the faith.” This statement was written in order to reflect the nature of true Christianity. It was written to exemplify in the lives of Christians what Jesus said, “If you know these things, happy are you if you do them” (Jn 13:17). Christians are happy, not because they are commanded to be so, but because of what they do. The serendipity of service is always happiness.
Dr. Maxwell Maltz wrote in his best selling book, Psychocybernetics, that people must focus on others in order to be happy within themselves. “One of the most pleasant thoughts to any human being,” Maltz wrote, “is the thought that he is needed, that he is important enough and competent enough to help and add to the happiness of some other human being.” This truth is reflected in Paul’s words of the Holy Spirit, “I have showed you all things, that by laboring as this you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’” (At 20:35). It is more blessed to give simply because one receives the inner satisfaction of happiness when giving things rather than receiving things. We understand from this principle of Jesus that receiving or acquiring things is less blessed than giving things to others. If you would be truly happy, therefore, you must be a giver. The more you give, the happier you are. It is as simple as that.
An amendment of the United States constitution enthrones freedom which includes an article that each citizen has the “right to pursue happiness.” Not only is this the right of American citizens, it should be the right of every citizen of the world. It is what is inborn within every individual. It is what we desire. It is our inner most craving. We want to be happy. Unfortunately, happiness is what everyone wants, but few know where to find it.
A little girl was once sitting at the breakfast table with her mother when the sun made its presence known by rising over the distant horizon. As its morning light beamed through the cottage window and on to the spoon of the child who was sitting with her mother at the breakfast table, she beemed with joy to her mother, “Look mama, I have a spoonful of sunshine!” Solomon was right, “A merry heart does good, like medicine” (Pv 17:22). Every morning we need a big dose of sunshine medicine to brighten our day. We should arise every morning with the declaration, “This is the day the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it” (Ps 118:24). Upon making this declaration, we must make a decision that each day of our lives will be a day of happiness.
It is not totally true what Menchken said, “The only really happy folk are married women and single men.” Nor is it totally true what another proverb stated, “Happiness comes by filling a child’s stomach, a woman’s wardrobe, and a man’s wallet.” And again, happiness is not really acquired as a frustrated younger brother said, “Happiness is having a sister with laryngitis and a TV with only one channel.”
True happiness does not revolve around material things nor pleasurable events. It is almost as someone once said, “Happiness has a habit of pursuing the person who feels grateful to his God, comfortable with his conscience, in favor with his friends, in love with his labors, and in balance with his banker.” But someone correctly advised, “The secret of happiness is learning to accept the impossible, do without the indispensable, and bear the intolerable.”
If we adopt secular and materialistic world view, true happiness will always be elusive. The secular person unfortunately looks to events and activities that will entertain, but will not bring longlasting peace of mind. He forgets that happiness is not something you experience. The materialist always looks for the right possessions, forgetting that happiness is not something that can be bought or owned. Happiness is not yearning for the things that we feel will make us happy. Money cannot buy us happiness. It only prolongs our search in the wrong direction.
Why do people struggle to find that which seems to be so elusive. Too many people find only momentary happiness in things and activities, and subsequently deceive themselves into believing that they have acquired their goal, and thus will be happy. When things become old and activities no longer satisfy our thirst for inner happiness, we often add to our collection of possessions or change to performing other activities in order to get another “happiness fix.” It is too often too late after a lifetime of such misguided searching that we come to the realization of Solomon’s wisdom, “Vanities of vanity, all is vanity” (Ec 1:2).
An activity-oriented culture is always afraid of being bored. The inhabitants of such frenzied cultures have concluded that their happiness is found in their ability to keep themselves involved in a host of events and activities. They are fearful of not having enough to do lest they discover that there is an emptiness inside that cannot be filled with possessions or an assortment of activities. True happiness is an elusive dream to the one who keeps himself busy with earthly diversions. The secularist must remember that happiness is not discovered in the things we want. The philosopher Seneca was right when he wrote, “If you would make a man happy, do not add to his possessions but subtract from his desires.”
We are sure that everyone has asked the question as to why the book of Revelation is a part of the New Testament canon of Scriptures. The answer to the question is somewhat simple, but maybe needs to be occasionally reconsidered, especially when people lose hope during chaotic times.
Revelation has for many been considered an anomaly in reference to the other books of the New Testament. And indeed it is in reference to how it is written. However, when considering the fact that God would not continually send prophets among His people as He did throughout the history of Israel, He knew that His people needed encouragement in times of extreme social chaos and war. So instead of sending a prophet as Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea, or Ezekiel to remind His people to remain faithful and not lose hope, He had the Holy Spirit write one book of encouragement for Christians that would stay with them until the final coming of King Jesus and the end of all things.
God subsequently commissioned the Spirit that one apocalyptic message be written with cryptic symbols that would be a message of continual encouragement for Christians until the final coming of His Son. This one book—Revelation—would remind Christians that as long as they remained faithful to the victorious King Jesus, everything would turn out for good in the end. They too, as those first recipients to whom the book was written, would join in Jesus’ victory over death.
The Old Testament faithfuls had the privilege—if indeed we would use the word “privilege”—of having inspired prophets to remind the people in the midst of kingdom conflicts that their King in heaven was still in charge of all things. They could personally receive the encouragement of the prophets if they had the privilege of being within hearing distance of the prophets’ messages.
Christians today, however, have something that is far better than the occasional prophet who might pass through the village. Every evening the Christian today can sit down in his or her living room, and in the midst of social turmoil and war, be within reading distance of the same message of encouragement that the Old Testament faithfuls received only if they had the opportunity of being within hearing distance of a prophet. The Christian’s blessing over the Old Testament faithfuls, therefore, is tremendous. While bombs may be exploding around us, we can read in the book of Revelation that King Jesus is still “the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords” (1 Tm 6:15).
God the Father “raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in that which is to come” (Ep 1:20,21). The kingly function of the resurrected Son of God is sprinkled throughout the New Testament letters. But it is revealed in visionary pictures throughout the book of Revelation.
So why would we have a written visionary picture of our King in action at the right hand of the Father in heavenly places? If we take time to think about this for a moment, the answer is quite obvious. Throughout the epistles the fact that King Jesus ascended to reign with all authority is stated as a matter of fact. But in the book of Revelation the Holy Spirit wanted to give the people of God, until the final coming of the King, something on which they could rely for hope in the midst of tremendous social or political conflict, especially in times of war.
Throughout the centuries, Christians would not read Revelation as if its prophecies were taking place in their present time of social chaos. On the contrary, they would read with hope, knowing that those first Christians to whom the message of the book was originally written, personally survived the fulfillment of the conflicts that were prophesied to take place in their century.
In order for the Holy Spirit to give the people of God for all time a document of encouragement, He needed to use an in-time example of deliverance from hostile forces that had set themselves against the people of God in the historical context when Revelation was written. Or, if the hardships were not direct upon Christians, the Holy Spirit needed to give hope to the people of God who had to suffer indirectly from hostilities that may be occurring around them. The message of Revelation, therefore, is that we, regardless of any present hostilities that may affect us, will survive as did the early Christians who suffered through the hostilities that are recorded in the visions of Revelation. And since those Christians survived, we too, will be survivors.
Regardless of whether direct or indirect, the Holy Spirit wanted to use some early historical conflict as an example through which the people of God prevailed with their faith, regardless of the political and social conflicts in which they had to live until King Jesus finally came in the end to end all worldly confusion. Therefore, the Spirit recorded an example of an in-time victory of the saints who lived in the midst of persecution or war in order to give Christians for at least two thousand years, a reminder that they too in any century will likewise pass through any social turmoil of the times. Regardless of where they would be in the world in a time of war or social chaos, those Christians who maintained their faith and hope in King Jesus, would be survivors, whether in death, or in actually surviving some social turmoil.
Throughout Revelation, therefore, the Spirit constantly reminded the original readers, as well as Christian readers from the time the book was originally inscribed by John, that times of turmoil would pass, but the body of Christ would survive. This message is sprinkled throughout the New Testament, but consummated in the book of Revelation. Notice in the midst of the book of Revelation the consummation of this message of encouragement: “… from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth” (Rv 1:5). He “made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” (Rv 1:6). “All the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Amen” (Rv 1:7). “I [King Jesus] am the Alpha and the Omega … the Almighty” (Rv 1:8). “Do not fear. I [King Jesus] am the first and the last. I am He who lives. And I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. And I have the keys of death and of Hades” (Rv 1:17,18). “The living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever” (Rv 4:9). “You [King Jesus] are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for You created all things, and because of Your will they were created and have their existence” (Rv 4:11). “Blessing and honor and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb forever and ever” (Rv 5:13).
To add to John’s redundancy on this theme throughout Revelation, consider the theme verse of the entire book: These will make war with the Lamb and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings. And those who are with Him are called and chosen and faithful” (Rv 17:14).
The theme of the book is obvious. The Holy Spirit needed an in-time example of the faithful overcoming those earthly powers who ignored the kingship of Jesus, and thus assaulted Christians directly. He needed a historical message of victory for those who would have to endure wars between earthly states from which they, too, would indirectly suffer hardship until the final coming of King Jesus.
There are two possible in-time conflicts through which the original recipients of Revelation had to remain faithful in the first and second centuries. The reader can make his choice as to which conflict John referred directly, whether Jewish or Roman persecution. But we must be very clear on one point here in making a choice concerning what modern-day self-appointed false prophets have harped for years concerning their twisted interpretation of the book of Revelation. These “theologians” have assumed that the book of Revelation was a prophecy of events that would transpire at the end of time. By twisting the prophecies of Revelation to make them refer specifically to present events, they have stolen the message of Revelation from the original recipients to whom John wrote.
Such “prophetic thieves” have likewise stolen a message of hope in Revelation from centuries of faithful Christians who needed a Spirit-inspired historical record of faithfulness during persecution. But modern-day prophets have stolen away the purpose of Revelation from being an encouraging message to those who had to endure the traumatic experience of social chaos and war when Revelation was first written. For this reason, a great number of discouraged Christians today have simply stayed away from reading the book, even though they are in the midst of great suffering.
Christians throughout the centuries have endured many of the same hardships that the early recipients of Revelation suffered. Christians throughout the years have endured by reading a Book of encouragement that was written in the first century who suffered and survived great social turmoil. We today have been encouraged by the examples of faithfulness of those early Christians who were suffering in the first century when the book of Revelation was first written.
Unfortunately, too many modern-day prognosticators have accused the Holy Spirit of missing the date for the fulfillment of the encouraging prophecies of Revelation by almost two thousand years. When John wrote that the prophecies of the book would shortly come to pass, modern-day prophets assume that “shortly come to pass” means at least two thousand years (See Rv 1:1; 22:6).
The early Christians suffered dismay and death as they struggled through persecution. They did so in hope of deliverance in A.D. 70 with the destruction of Jerusalem. The modern-day prognosticators have likewise accused the Holy Spirit of missing the time for an encouraging prophetic message that was written to those who initially experienced—even being fed to lions in the Roman Coliseum—of the Roman Empire. This persecution was not terminated until the rise of Caesar Constantine and his signing of the Edit of Toleration in A.D. 311. But at the time, the persecuted needed to know that the Holy Spirit had not gone wrong in reference to the fulfillment of the encouraging message of Revelation that God would bring vengeance on their persecutors in their time.
Modern-day prophetic speculators should be concerned about their stealing an encouraging message of hope away from every Christian who has lived in the last two thousand years. Thousands of first century Christians personally endured harsh persecution from Jewish persecutors, and later the Roman state psychopaths who sought to produce entertainment in the Roman Coliseum by throwing Christians to starved lions. By faith these persecuted Christians remained faithful unto death because they believed that King Jesus was King of kings and Lord of Lords (See Rv 2:10). The twisting of these precious words of encouragement for Christians since that first disciple was thrown to a salivating lion will certainly lead to destruction of those who misapply the prophecies of the book of Revelation (2 Tm 4:3,4; 2 Pt 3:16).
As stated previously, we read the book of Revelation to receive hope from the example of the faithful. We do not read the book with fear of some impending prophecy of dread that is about to come upon us in our time. We read the book and glean great encouragement in the fact that since God took the early Christians through great turmoil, He will likewise do the same for us.
Now the in-time chaos through which the early Christians would be victorious could be either the destruction of the Jewish state that ended in A.D. 70 with the destruction of Jerusalem, or the termination of Roman state persecution that ended the first of the fourth century with Contantine’s signing of the Edict of Toleration. If the “beast” and “false prophet” of Revelation refer to the finalization of the Jewish state, then John would have received the prophetic visions before A.D. 70. If the “beast” and “false prophet” refer to the Roman state and state religion, then John could have received and written the prophetic visions before A.D. 97/98 when it is believed that he was eventually martyred by Roman.
Regardless of the immediate historical enemy of those to whom the book was written, the Spirit wanted the book to be written as a prophetic history book for all Christians who lived thereafter. The message of the book was prophetic to the immediate recipients, but now it is a history book of encouragement for every Christian since the prophecies of the book were fulfilled in the first and second centuries. As a history book of conquests, the message of the book is thus quite clear. As our Savior overcame, we too will be victorious in the midst of any social chaos or war in which we might presently be engulfed. As the early Christians overcame when the prophecies of Revelation were fulfilled, we have an example of their victory that we too can overcome.
While the reader makes up his or her mind concerning the date when John received the visions, and when he wrote the book, one must not miss the point of why the book of Revelation is in our New Testament. When considering the theme of the book—the victory of the saints because of the victory of King Jesus—we come to the conclusion that the Holy Spirit wanted to record for posterity an example of Christians overcoming any social chaos and persecution in which they would find themselves until the final coming of Jesus.
If we steal the fulfillment of John’s prophetic visions away from the early Christians who first received the book of Revelation, then we have stolen more than words away from two thousand years of Christians who have read the book in order to receive hope in times of turmoil. We have stolen away from the New Testament a living testimony of Christians who endured far greater hardships than most Christians have endured since then.
Raj (Kunal Nayyar), on the Big Bang Theory TV series, once said to someone during one episode from whom he had asked something, “Please, don’t’ make me beg. I grew up in _ , and I know how to beg.” (You can guess the country.)
As a world evangelist for several decades, we also could say the same. We grew up as evangelists, and we too know how to beg, for there is a little begging in every evangelist.
It seems that in the past we were always asking (begging) someone for something to support somewhere. But those days are long gone for us. We terminated “most” of our begging, finally concluding that if the Lord wanted it done, then He would provide the funds. Nevertheless, we still have a little begging left in us. We cannot help but beg on behalf of so many lost souls throughout the world.
Therefore, we continue to beg the Lord on behalf of others, especially those evangelists—we really do not care what the nationality of their passport is—who are worthy of our support (1 Tm 5:18). Since we have wandered the world for fifty years, we would consider ourselves “foreigners” in reference to our origins in America. Only our passports indicate that we are “American.” But in reference to culture, we are as mongrel dogs straight off the world streets.
Unfortunately, it is the culture of the world to ask. Local poverty-stricken folks have a hard time supporting their evangelists, both in reality, and in mentality. There is a historical reason for this. In the nineteenth century, the colonial nations of Europe ventured throughout the world and built schools, hospitals, roads, and then supported for almost two centuries the administration of the government networks that they had set up in their various colonial “possessions.”
For example, in the scramble for African territory during the nineteenth century there developed a sociological culture that did not exist before the coming of all the well-meaning humanitarian western folks. Most of the colonial arrivals had forgotten that for centuries Africans had existed, doing their own thing and presiding over their own survival. Unfortunately, the colonialist moved independent thinking locals aside in order to teach a “civilization” that would make them dependent on foreign support and control. The self-confidence, or arrogance, of the foreign visitor sometimes moved him to assume control of the local situation.
Of course all the do-goodness of the colonials would filter into the church. The building of schools, hospitals, church buildings, and the supporting of national preachers who lectured western sermons to an assembly of western-nurtured dependents, produced a dependent thinking in the minds and behavior of local folks.
We may have been innocently naive in our desire to clone the “Western Christian.” In doing so, we lost our independent thinking and behavior. As a result, we seem to have never weaned ourselves off the western source of financial benefits. And now, it is unfortunate that local evangelists often have to “beg” local members for support, though the local evangelists continue to faithfully sow the seed of the word freely for the local church. Too many of our faithful preachers have turned into “church thieves” because local brethren have not taken ownership of their responsibility to support them (Study 2 Co 11:7-11). The local church has forgotten that those who preach the gospel have a right to live of the gospel (1 Co 9:14).
We could conclude from the secular society that was groomed after colonialism that it would produce a “colonial church,” which church lives on today in many areas of the world. In other words, if something is needed, or to be done, then we lead ourselves to believe that we can look to an endless financial resource from the colonials in order to fulfill all our local needs, including the support of our preachers.
Since colonialism occurred over a period of centuries, we even now question why the colonial source would refuse our humble pleas (begging). Nevertheless, we continue to ask, though we often do not receive. But we want you (the West) to understand that we do not beg for ourselves, but for the ability to go forth in all our nation, paying bus bills, in order to evangelize our own people. So we beg in the name of Jesus for the mission of Jesus.
A good example is here in order to highlight some problems that have developed throughout the centuries. In our area, the church in America built a particular local church building. After thirty-five years, the roof of the building completely collapsed. (Thankfully, no one was in the building at the time of the fateful event.) Immediately after the collapse, however, the leaders of the small group of about twenty-five members met in order to determine how they would rebuild the roof.
The members met with one particular church leader who had contacts in America, but had never lost his independence. They were about to ask this one wise old member, “Could you go to America and raise funds for this building that the Americans built for us thirty-five years ago?” The wise brother abruptly interjected, “Don’t even think about asking me to do that. After all these years, we must ourselves take ownership of this building.” The wise brother was right. Unfortunately, since the local brethren refused to take ownership of the building over the thirty-five years of their “use” of the building, the building has remained a heap of rubble after all these years since the calamity of the collapse.
Social media now plays the role of making possible sources only a click away from what is believed to be a bottomless pit of money in the West. Whenever a church building is to be constructed—or repaired—emails, facebook and whatsapp accounts often light up. One of the most interesting pleas we received was from one good brother who emailed, “Because of the Covid pandemic, the government will not allow us to meet in the local government school. Therefore, it is necessary that we build our own building. Can you help?”
If we constructed a church building with funds that were contributed mostly by colonial sources, then it may be that the constructed building will never become “our own building,” even after having the keys to the building for thirty-five years. In these matters, it is best that the local folks and foreign folks go into some kind of percentage agreement where everyone is investing in the construction and support.
Nevertheless, we will continue to “beg,” especially for those evangelists of the world who must be supported full-time for the sake of the preaching of the gospel. It is simply right to support such men because they often live in very financially depressed economical environments. They are goodly men who should be supported in order that the gospel of the kingdom be preached in other areas. At least this was what the apostle Paul did in order to prepare the Roman disciples to support him when he passed by them on his way to Spain: “Whenever I make my journey into Spain, I hope to see you in my journey and TO BE [financially] SUPPORTED ON MY WAY THERE BY YOU” (See Rm 15:24). In other words, if you support a worthy evangelist, it makes little difference what the nationality of his passport indicates, as long as he has a passport and is on his journey, as Paul, somewhere to preach the gospel. The following statement is still a command of the Lord: “Even so the Lord has commanded that THOSE WHO PREACH THE GOSPEL SHOULD LIVE FROM THE GOSPEL” (1 Co 9:14).
Our purpose for writing the preceding is based on changes that are rapidly taking place in our world. Consider the fact that the pandemic has greatly minimized church budgets, particularly in the West. Inflation around the world is devastating the contributed dollar, that is, people have less to contribute. As inflation bites into the income of every Christian in the world, especially the West, contribution coffers are being greatly diminished.
Also consider the fact that the West is religiously changing into a nonreligious culture, just as Europe. Subsequently, the Western church is essentially minimizing the number of evangelists that is sent forth into all the world. Missionaries are becoming a rare breed.
Nevertheless, God’s work of gospel preaching should never be confined to contributions. We see contributions as a serendipity in reference to world evangelism. Therefore, we will be content with the widow’s mite that is given out of a dedicated heart. We will continue to beg of you, but we will preach the gospel regardless of whether were are supported.
Grace that is extended to us always results in our sacrifice for others. It is for this reason that grace is the definition of Christianity.
In the New Testament, casual reader discovers that the power of grace (gospel) worked in the hearts of the early disciples. Grace worked to the extent that it moved those first disciples into the realm of personal sacrifice. This nature of grace in the heart of the Christian is expressed in one short statement: “We love because He first loved us” (1 Jn 4:19).
As the grace of God permeated the hearts and lives of the early gospel-obedient disciples, it was only natural that they give out of sacrifice for the One who sacrificed for them. John expressed it in the following words: “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 Jn 4:10).
This all began on the first day of the existence of Christians. On that first day of the existence of the church in Acts 2, and before the garments of those first converts had dried from the waters of baptism, “they [the local resident Christians] sold their possessions and goods and divided them to all, as everyone [baptized visitors] had need” (At 2:45).
A similar awesome response to the gospel of grace is illustrated by the sacrificial giving of the Philippians. After Paul and Silas stayed only a few days in the city of Philippi, both men and women responded to the grace of God by being buried with Christ in baptism. Paul then went on to Thessalonica. It was while he was in Thessalonica that the dripping wet disciples in Philippi “sent once and again” for the needs of Paul (Ph 4:16; see At 16:12).
Grace permeated the hearts to the early Christians. By the time Paul wrote the 2 Corinthian letter, a great famine was occurring in Judea. Consequently, all the disciples in the province of Macedonia—this would include the church in Thessalonica and Philippi—“in a great trial of affliction, and abundance of their joy and their DEEP POVERTY, abounded in the riches of their liberality” to contribute to the famine victims in Judea (2 Co 8:2).
The Holy Spirit moved Paul to testify of this gospel-driven sacrificial giving: “For I testify that according to their ability they gave of their own accord” (2 Co 8:3). But we must not stop here. The Holy Spirit drove Paul to write that the disciples in Macedonia had to beg us “with much urgency that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of the ministering [contributing] to the saints [in Judea]” (2 Co 8:7).
Grace always reverses the order of begging. Instead of begging to get, grace changes our hearts to the extent that we beg others to receive our gift. It is a marvelous transformation of the heart (See Rm 12:1,2).
Four chapters before Paul wrote the preceding in 2 Corinthians 8, he explained why Christians, even new Christians, give out of their poverty: “For all things are for your sakes, so that the grace that is reaching many people may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God” (2 Co 4:15).
Those Christians who try to excuse themselves from sacrificial giving because of some self-proclaimed poverty, are perpetuating their unchanged lives. They are refusing to allow grace to transform their hearts. They are expecting others to pay for that for which they must take responsibility themselves. They are thus not in fellowship with all the saints in ministering to the needs that may occur in another area of the kingdom.
We realize that the famine contribution to Judea was a onetime sacrifice on the part of those who gave. But the need brought out of gospel-responsive disciples their appreciation for the tremendous heavenly sacrifice that was made in order to bring us into a realm of eternal existence.
We must add to this the fact that those who do not take personal ownership of fulfilling their own needs, are also not responding to the grace of God. In fact, Paul was so direct on this matter that he set an example for the new disciples in Thessalonica by writing the following back to them about six months after they had obeyed the gospel: “… nor did we eat any man’s bread without paying for it. But we worked with labor and hardship night and day so that we might not be a [financial] burden to any of you” (2 Th 3:8). What was lacking on the part of the Philippians sending “once and again” to him while in Thessalonica, he worked making tents in order to supplement the financial gap.
In this way, Paul and Timothy did not walk disorderly among the Thessalonians (2 Th 3:7). Unfortunately, those in Thessalonica who did walk disorderly by not working to support their own needs, were to be disfellowshipped from the fellowship of the disciples (2 Th 3:6). In his letter to Timothy, Paul revealed that if “one does not provide for those of his own household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever [infidel]” (1 Tm 5:8). This mandate was based on the principle “that if anyone is not willing to work, neither let him eat” (2 Th 3:10). When one becomes a disciples of Jesus, therefore, he must work to support his own needs. The church is not a welfare society for those who can work, but do not want to work.
When one becomes a Christian, he or she must take ownership of his or her physical needs, as well as the needs of family members who are under their care. But this care can, on special occasions, extend beyond one’s own family. Reconsider the care of the local Christians in Judea when they sold their possessions in order that nonresident visiting Christians continue receiving teaching and fellowship at the feet of the apostles (At 2:42). This too was a onetime sale of personal goods and lands. But it was a contribution that revealed the desire of the local Christians to maintain fellowship among all those of the universal body of Christ.
Other than occasions as this, Christians are not obligated to contribute to the needs of those who have the responsibility to work with their own hands, but do not. They have the option of doing so, but if such folks have been given everything all their Christian lives, or supported with outside sources throughout the history of the church in their area, then there may be some church colonialism going on that hinders the spiritual growth of the church. It may be for this reason that local members are not taking ownership of their responsibility to support local evangelists.
Cooperation among disciples in the matter of giving can sometimes be very challenging. This is especially true when local autonomous groups are not willing to partner with one another in a particular region. Because they do not desire to fellowship with one another in the matter of giving, they often do not support the local evangelists who go about the entire region where all the churches are based.
Therefore, when studying the subject of grace, it can be quite unsettling, for grace assumes that grace-orient disciples will always partner with one another in Christ in order that the gospel of grace be preached to others. It is for this reason that when one grows in grace, he or she starts to ask, “How has the grace of God caused thanksgiving in my own heart to respond to the needs of others and the preaching of the gospel?” We must continually ask ourselves the question, “Am I sacrificing in order that the gospel grace be preached to the world?” (See 3 Jn 5-8).
CUSTODIANS OF CONTINUED RESTORATION If in one’s personal study of the word of God he discovers truth that is contrary to the accepted theology of his present religious heritage, then it is incumbent upon him to teach what he has learned through his studies. If he does not do this, then the blood of those whom he would teach is on his shoulders (Ez 3:18,19). This responsibility is the inspiration for restoration, and thus the heart of our continued call for a restoration to the authority of God’s word.
However, we must regularly remind ourselves that the curse of any restoration “movement”—we do not really like the word “movement” in reference to faith—is that such movements seem to always circle around. They circle around and become the very form of religion that the fathers of the “restoration” originally fled.
We would judge the Pharisees on this point. Centuries before the coming of the incarnate Son into this world, Israel turned from the word of God in order to create religious beliefs and behavior after the religions around them. By forgetting what their Bibles taught, they established their own idolatrous faith (Hs 4:6). As a result of their apostate deed of turning from the word of God, they were subsequently scattered by God throughout conquering nations, first by the Assyrians (722/21 B.C.), and then by the Babylonians (586 B.C.).
Nevertheless, God promised to the scattered that a repentant remnant of all twelve tribes of Israel would eventually be restored to the land of Palestine, though the land of their fathers to which they would be restored would be governed by foreign empires. Regardless of this, however, they would be blessed in the land if they restored themselves to the word of God (See Dt 30:1-10; Ez 6:8; 14:22).
From the time of their last return to Palestine in 444 B.C., it was four centuries before the incarnate Son of God arrived on the scene. By the time of His arrival, the religious leaders of Israel, however, had again hijacked the faith of the people. They were so effective in this that the Holy Spirit revealed through Paul that the religious leaders had created the “Jews’ religion,” which we commonly refer to as Judaism (Gl 1:13,14). This was a legal-oriented religion that was based on the authority of traditional interpretations of the Sinai law, with the added religious rites and ceremonies the Jews had accumulated over the centuries. Except for references to the Sinai law, Judaism was a compilation of a host of religious traditions that the Jewish leadership considered to be binding as law, and thus, the identity of Judaism (See Mk 7:1-9).
Judaism took centuries to develop into a religious system that even opposed the incarnate Son of God. The Jewish restoration movement of the remnant of Israel eventually turned against the God who had brought the captives out of the bondage of foreign nations. And finally, after four centuries of religious heritage building, the restored remnant even crucified the One for whom they were restored to receive as the Messiah and Savior of the world.
(Legalized restoration movements will usually crucify those who call for a restoration to the authority of the word of God within the confines of an established religion. The leaders of the movement will often adopt a catechism of theology that should not be questioned or attacked by anyone who might have Bible questions about certain beliefs or behavior.)
Israel’s legalization of their restoration after their return to Palestine was no different than all legal restorations since that time. Restoration movements are often stimulated by sincere Bible students who renew continually their desire for Bible authority in all matters of faith. In their studies, sincere Ezras and Nehemiahs of the restoration will discover points of truth that have been ignored or violated by the religion in which they find themselves. And herein is embedded a danger.
In the early years of a restoration focus is usually on legal points of difference between the existing theology of a religion and Bible truth. What the early restorationists often do not understand is that in their legal opposition to erroneous theology, they invariably establish a legal road map to direct sincere people out of the quagmire of past ritualistic religion. But in establishing a legal system to escape legalized religiosity, a canonized legal theology often comes out on the other side of the movement. The movement subsequently becomes just another legal religion. The zealous followers of the movement thus circle around from one legally defined religion to establish their own legally defined religion.
Essentially, the justification for the fathers’ flight from traditionally defined religion was usually based on establishing Bible authority in all matters of faith. The fathers of the restoration movement discovered points of difference between the Bible and the unbiblical traditions that were bound on adherents. They discovered that what was bound was nothing other than matters of opinion and tradition, with an assortment of religious rites and ceremonies mingled in with the religious behavior of loyal adherents.
Unfortunately, as stated before, the fathers’ original restoration was often based on a legally defined road map of proof texts that moved them and their followers to establish another legally defined religion. Instead of founding their “movement” on the gospel in order to establish unity among believers, they established a systematic legal theology to which all adherents of the movement must confirm in order to be considered faithful. The restoration, therefore, was established on law, not gospel. Legal restorationists often forget that we “are not under law, but under grace” (Rm 6:14).
In these two millennia since the cross, grace and gospel in religious restoration movements are often minimized in religious debates in order to establish points of doctrine to which adherents can come together to produce some sense of unity within any particular movement. And because of this, the supposed restoration movement to a gospel oriented-church eventually circles around to become just another denominated church that is validated by a legal catechism of doctrine, rather than the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The hermeneutic, or system of Bible study in legal restorations, is often a misguided effort to establish a doctrinal outline by which the adherents of a particular movement can be identified. But in reality, legal hermeneutics are more often an effort to establish some system of theology to produce an “intellectual unity” that is based more on the mental skills of noted interpreters, than the simple gospel. If our faith is established in this manner, then we will end up in a movement that is quite denominational. The hermeneutic is inherently divisive because in the theology of the movement, religious rites, rituals and ceremonies slip into the behavior of the people as law, and thus, divide believers in the gospel from one another. This is what happened among the Christians in Galatia who ended up biting and devouring one another because some were preaching “another gospel” (See Gl 1:6-9).
The preceding happens when the gospel alone is not established as the foundation upon which the church is built and united (See Mt 16:16-18). We must remember that we are one man IN CHRIST, not one man in doctrine (See Gl 3:26-29). We are reconciled in one body by the cross, not by a common belief in a catechism of doctrine (See Ep 2:14-16).
Unfortunately, if there are any gospel-oriented prophets who would rise up to continue a valid restoration among the people, and by doing so, inherently contravene some point of the legal catechism of the heritage of the now denominated religion, these prophets are often nailed to crosses in order to preserve the movement and keep the theology of the movement pure of “false doctrine.”
True leaders must look in their own hands an find a Bible, not a hammer and nails. If our gospel is to defend the heritage of the fathers, then we know that the original fathers of the movement have been betrayed.
In the final years of a restoration movement, the “hammer-and-nail” defenders are actually promoting a heritage that has digressed into just another religion. The failure of a restoration is identified by the efforts of “hammer-and-nail” crusaders who seek to defend a legalized theology, and not the gospel, which gospel foundation has long been forgotten within the movement. As in the final years of Israel’s apostasy, the religious leaders put to death those prophets who spoke out against the established religion of the day (See Hb 11:32-39). They eventually put to death the One who came to reveal the gospel to the world.
People of faith know that they are a part of a failed restoration movement when they no longer subject themselves to the final authority of the word of God in all matters of faith. They know that they have failed when the gospel is not the foundation of their faith.
If we are not motivated primarily by the truth of the gospel of the incarnate, crucified, resurrected and reigning Son of God, then our attempts to restore the body of Christ that is founded on the gospel will fail. We must not forget that it is the gospel that is the power of God in our lives (Rm 1:16). When we search for this gospel in our Bibles, the more we learn about the gospel, the more God’s power is released to continue the restoration of the Son of God in the lives of people.
Crosses are often reserved for those who would question the heritage of any particular religious group. When there are those with hammers and nails among the leaders of any restoration movement, then we know that that “restoration movement” has gone astray. Just ask Jesus about this matter. It is for this reason that we would exhort the reader to read again 2 Timothy 4:1-5.
We have discovered that Bible students sometimes have a difficult time understanding the behavior, or response, of the early Christians because of our difficultly of placing ourselves in their historical context. We have this desire to study the New Testament documents from our perspective today. As an even greater handicap in our modern age of shallow Bible study, we often have a very difficult time of getting beyond favorite passages, which passages are often taken out of the context of the whole text of the Scriptures. But more specifically, scripture statements are too many times taken out of their historical context. Extracting favorite statements of Scriptures from the text of the Bible does not encourage people to consider the whole text of the Bible. It does not encourage people today to study the Spirit-inspired documents that were initially written to encourage people in the first century.
The Holy Spirit wrote the following statement for the exhortation of everyone who would seek to study the Bible: “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, so that we through patience and encouragement of the Scriptures might have hope” (Rm 15:4). This is learning far beyond favorite passages. Focusing only on favorite passages often leads us into a shallow understanding of the word of God. If we extract favorite passages from their historical context, then we will end up with a very limited understanding of the Bible as a whole. In doing such, the Bible often becomes a catechism of legal doctrines that must be obeyed without any motivational background. If one does not place himself or herself in the historical context of the events that were revealed through the incarnation and ministry of the Son of God, then it will be somewhat difficult to understand the reaction of those who initially experienced the revelation of the gospel. We must be encouraged to learn from their response to the gospel in order that the gospel come alive in our own lives. The initial documents of the New Testament were written in the historical context of the first recipients. The better we understand their historical context, the better we will understand what was written to them. When we turn to the documents of the New Testament, it is imperative that we understand why and when these documents were written. In order to understand the full impact of the message that the Holy Spirit wanted to communicate to us today, we must first consider the possible dates that the Spirit inspired the New Testament documents to be written. Knowing these dates helps us understand better the historical environment in which the early recipients lived. And when we understand the unique trials through which they were going, we will enhance our appreciation of the New Testament Scriptures. It is not necessary to understand the historical background of the New Testament documents that is outside the recorded history of the documents themselves. However, it is certainly in our interest to better understand the context in which the early disciples were living when they initially received these letters from the Holy Spirit.
If we can place some possible date of writing on a particular letter, then we can better understand the purpose of the document, as well as the response of those who initially received the document. For this reason, therefore, we offer some possible dates for the writing of the New Testament documents that fit into the historical context of the times. Though these dates can never be substantiated to be precise, at least they are accurate enough to give us some understanding of why the documents were first written.
Our understanding of the “timing” of the writing of the New Testament documents is predicated on a very important statement that Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians. He wrote in the context of division and confusion in the organic function of the body of Christ in the province of Achaia.
“Love never fails. But where there are [the miraculous gifts of] prophecies, they will be abolished. Where there are [the miraculous gifts of] languages, they will cease. Where there is [the miraculous gift of] knowledge, it will vanish away. For we [at this time] know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is complete [perfect] has come, then that which is in part will be done away” (1 Co 13:8-10).
There has been too much debate over this statement that Paul made to the saints in Achaia. Nevertheless, if we keep in mind that both 1 & 2 Corinthians were written to all the saints in the province of Achaia, not just to those who lived in the city of Corinth, then we will begin to understand the historical context of the statement (See 2 Co 1:1). Paul’s explanation to what he had in mind as the “complete” or perfect, is explained by the illustration of his growth out of childhood. “When I was a child I spoke as a child. I understood as a child. I thought as a child. But when I became a man, I put away childish things” (1 Co 13:11).
Some have suggested that the imperfect, or incomplete, about which he wrote in 1 Corinthians 13:8-10 referred to love. But this does not fit his illustration of maturing from childhood. Love is an emotional attitude. But in 1 Corinthians 13:11 he speaks of the actions of mental processes: “spoke,” “understood,” and “thought.” He was not speaking of “loving” as a child, and then growing into a “complete” love. On the contrary, he was speaking of childish mental actions that he put away when he matured. His speaking as a child, understanding as a child, and thinking as a child were put away when he grew up. In other words, when he was a child, his mental processes and speech were as a child. But when he matured, the immature thinking and behavior of his childhood had to give way to his adulthood.
In 1 Corinthians 13:12, Paul clarified that about which he was speaking: “For now [at this time when he was writing] we dimly see in a mirror, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know [the mind of God] just as I also am known [by God].” This surely is not referring to loving one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. In using the third person plural pronoun “we,” he was referring to all of us as the whole body, not to individual members of the body.
Some individual members of the body in Corinth, as the household of Stephanas, had grown in great love immediately upon their obedience to the gospel (See 1 Co 16:15,16). Growing to a “complete” (perfect) love would seem to be ignoring the loving service of these first converts in Corinth who exercised great love as soon as they came out of the waters of baptism. There was something more significant about the coming “perfect” than simply growing in their love for one another, which growth is actually a lifetime process (See 1 Th 1:3).
This brings us to the context of how the gospel was first revealed on the Pentecost of A.D. 30, and subsequently preached throughout the Roman world by the time Paul wrote the statement of Colossians 1:23 in A.D. 61,62. At that time Paul exhorted the disciples in Colosse that they not be “moved away from the hope of the gospel that you [Colossians] have heard, which was preached to every creature that is under heaven.” From A.D. 30, to the time when Paul wrote Colossians 1:23 in A.D. 61,62, the gospel had been fully revealed and verbally preached “to every creature that is under heaven.” At the very time Paul wrote this statement, that which was verbally preached was now being written as Scripture, both by Paul and the other New Testament writers. Once all that which was first verbally preached had been written concerning the gospel, copied and circulated throughout the first century world, then there was no more a need for the miraculous gift of prophecy to verbally preach the gospel. This would also be true in reference to the prophets continuing their instruction of the church in the word of God. When all the truth of the word was recorded, then the prophets lost the reason for their inspiration to both speak and write the truth of the gospel. If anyone wanted to know the gospel, then he or she simply needed to study the written word of God.
When the perfect word of the gospel was written, then there was no more a need for prophets to receive and preach the gospel verbally. When the last person died on whom a Christ-sent apostle had laid hands to receive the gift of prophecy (teaching), then the written record of the gospel took the church from there unto this day. The “imperfect gap” had been closed with the complete recording of the word of God by the end of national Israel in A.D. 70. It was during the few years leading up to the close of the ministry of the miraculous gifts that the Holy Spirit reminded everyone:
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, or correction, for instruction in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tm 3:16,17).
In this statement, the Holy Spirit went beyond the recording of the message of the gospel. He took those as Timothy into accepting all instruction in reference to gospel living. This was “Scripture,” which was able to take the church unto the time that Jesus would come at the end of time.
2 Timothy 3:16,17 was written about three to five years before the consummation of national Israel in A.D. 70. We believe that this statement to Timothy is significant in that the Holy Spirit, through the hand of Paul, wanted all the disciples, especially those as Timothy who were gifted with prophecy, to understand that they needed to turn their attention from individuals who imparted the word of God verbally, to the written word of God itself. So about three years before the end of national Israel, the Holy Spirit, through Peter, once again reminded everyone: “His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who has called us to glory and virtue” (2 Pt 1:3). There was finality in the revelation of the truth of God to man. At the same time Peter wrote the letter of 2 Peter, Jude also concurred that his readers “earnestly contend for the faith [of the gospel] that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jd 3).
Notice from the following chart the possible dates when the documents of 1 & 2 Corinthians were written. The dates are at least twenty years after the revelation of the gospel in A.D. 30. The Corinthians were at least five years in the faith at the time of writing. Though their relationships with one another were not yet perfect in love, their growth in love was a work in progress.
But in the context of 1 Corinthians 12 – 14, the function of the body in reference to the miraculous gifts was under consideration. Function in reference to the miraculous gifts was the problem when those in Achaia came together in a common assembly in the city of Corinth (See 1 Co 11:18). Some of the gifted disciples were competing with one another in reference to the use of their gifts. Paul wanted to remind them that that over which divided them, and were in competition with one another, would pass away as the complete revelation of the word of God was recorded and distributed throughout the church of the first century. Those gifts over which they competed with one another would soon be gone. They would be gone because the recording of all the information concerning the gospel, as well as all truth that God desired should be revealed. Within a little over a decade after the time he wrote, the written word would supplant that which was used to communicate the truth in the gap between the initial revelation of the gospel in A.D. 30 and the recording of the last New Testament document. That over which they competed with one another (prophecy and languages) would soon pass away. The “vehicle” by which the gospel was preached and the church was edified, would give way to the necessity of their study of the inspired letters of the word of God. These letters were that at the time being copied and circulated among the churches. Once all the letters were written, this would mean the termination of the miraculous gifts. The chart on this page gives a visual interpretation of the age of the function of the miraculous gifts (“the imperfect”) that would give way to the communication of the Spirit through the inspired New Testament documents that were completed a little over a decade before A.D. 70. We understand the dating of the New Testament documents in view of the consummation of national Israel in A.D. 70. In view of the decade of their writing before A.D. 70, we assume that the Holy Spirit wanted to terminate the ministry of the miraculous gifts by A.D. 70. At the same time, He wanted to prepare the Jewish disciples for the consummation of their Jewish heritage.
Following the suggested dates on the chart of the documents of the New Testament gives some general reason for the writing of each particular letter in the context of the lives of those to whom the letters were first written. Regardless of any exact date for the writing of each New Testament document, one thing if obviously clear. The writing of all the New Testament books, with possibly the exception of Revelation, took place within about a decade before the historical event of the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. There was a gap of at least twenty-five years from the time of the revelation of the gospel to the apostles on the day of Pentecost in A.D. 30 and the fifteen years within which the New Testament documents were finalized before A.D. 70. It was during this twenty-five year gap that the word of the gospel went forth verbally until the time when the Holy Spirit deemed it necessary to begin the inscription of the New Testament documents. This leaves little doubt that the gap was the time of the “in part” about which Paul wrote to the Corinthians and the “complete” (perfect) that would be consummated in the completion of the canon of New Testament documents by A.D. 70.
It is true that there never in the history of the world has been a pandemic as the one that the world is now experiencing. We read in history that the Black Plague (Bubonic Plague) of the early 1300s took away, in some places of Europe, about one third of the population. But that plague did not extend globally into every population group of the world. It was not a pandemic as the present Covid pandemic that is now cursing humanity worldwide.
And then there was the “Spanish” flu (Influenza) pandemic of the early 1900s that possibly took the lives of at least fifty million people worldwide. The world at that time was connected globally with travel only on ships that moved slowly around the world. But the Influenza pandemic also, as the Black Plague, was limited, both geographically and in the devastation of humanity.
The impact of the Covid virus, on the other hand, is global. Not one nation of the world is escaping its carnage. The reason for this is quite simple. We live in a travel-oriented world that is connected by passenger airliners. Added to this is the fact that there are more people living today than when earlier pandemics swept across the face of the earth. And unfortunately, the majority of the population of the world today lives in clusters of people in large cities. People are clumped up in cities as opposed to the more rural population of the world until modern times.
Therefore, we are living in apprehensive times, that on the part of governments, assumes some decisive action. However, it is in times like these that autocratic leaders often arise among us, and subsequently slip in their mandates that often infringe upon the freedom of the individual citizens. Nevertheless, in times of war, society must have decisive leadership. For example, it is often in many countries of the world today as it is with President Museveni, who has been president of Uganda since 1986. In reference to the present pandemic, he stated to the people of Uganda:
“We are today in a war against this [Covid] virus. And in a war you have no human rights. Therefore, when the vaccination is available in your area, line up and take the jab.”
And certainly in a global war in which we are now engaged against the Covid virus, the President’s words are indicative of those who would use the occasion for their own autocratic adventures in democratic societies. Nevertheless, in times of “war,” leaders must make mandates to protect the people. Without the approval of a legislative congress, Museveni took action as an autocratic leader, though he had his people foremost in his mind.
When the Covid pandemic began the first of 2020, Uganda shut down all their schools throughout the country. When they recently reopened after being closed for two years, an interviewed teacher on international news said, “Don’t worry, we will be back to our normal educational level in three years.”
To the Ugandans, the sacrifice of two years of avoiding contact spreading of the Covid virus in schools was worth the lives of thousands of parents and grandparents throughout the nation. And when these students grow into adulthood, they will be thankful that class was dismissed for two years for the sake of their parents and grandparents. (Fortunately, these children do not live as Western children. During the two-year school closure, there were gardens to keep and livestock to herd.)
In times of social crisis (war and pandemics), politicians of necessity sometimes become dictators by ignoring legislative control over a people. When politicians ignore, or bypass, an elected congress, it is then that democracy is threatened, if not terminated, as with Nazi Germany of the past. Democracy is threatened because autocratic dictators often change the rules in order to keep their power. True democratic leaders, on the other hand, allow the people to change them when they go wrong.
In times of war we need decisive leaders. But when the war is over, it is often difficult for decisive leaders to relinquish the power that they exercised in order to win the war. This is the reason why leaders of rebellions have a very difficult time being the heads of state in a new democracy after the war has been won. What usually happens in the transition from a dictatorial state to a sought-after democratic state, is when the revolution is won, the rebel leaders simply become the new dictators. It is almost impossible for a personality that leads on the streets to be challenged and changed by the votes of the people they led in the streets.
We can see this happening around the world in reference to the present pandemic. We see in the pandemic, not so much the human toll on the population of the world, but the fact that the pandemic has become the opportunity for some elected officials in democratic systems of government to morph into autocratic leadership. If you question this, check out a book–download–on the Russian Revolution of 1917/18, as well as Hitler’s rise to power during the early 1930s.
Nevertheless, and regardless of the potential rise of dictators among us, we do not have to die as in the days of the Black Plague pandemic, and the Spanish or Asian flu pandemics. When it comes to winning this war, who cares who makes money off the vaccines that we are offered to use to arm ourselves against an enemy we cannot see. After all, we won the war against smallpox by choosing to arm ourselves with a vaccine of which some pharmaceutical company produced and made money. We were vaccinated, and the smallpox war was won.
Some people need to reflect on their inconsistent arguments on this matter. We inject our children with the smallpox and measles vaccine to “protect them.” But hang on for a moment. “Protect them” against what and who? The “what” is easy to answer. We seek to protect our children against the smallpox virus. But who carries around in their bodies the smallpox virus? The unvaccinated! The virus is spread through sneezing and coughing droplets of the virus in the air by “other” people who have not been vaccinated. It is carried about by infected individuals who infect others.
We protect our children and ourselves, therefore, from others who have not been vaccinated against smallpox. In like manner, we choose to be jabbed with the Covid vaccine in order to “protect ourselves” from others who have Covid, or may be asymptomatic carriers as ourselves, and thus unknowingly infecting others. In other words, if we are concerned about other children, then we will have our own children vaccinated against the smallpox virus. If other parents have little concern for the health of their own children, and possibly allowing their children to be carriers of the virus, they will not have their children vaccinated against smallpox.
Keep in mind that the smallpox virus has been eradicated from the world because of the smallpox vaccine, and the choice of parents to have their children vaccinated. However, the virus can still make its way come back into society if people stop vaccinating their children.
So recently one of the members of our four-teamed evangelistic group here in Cape Town received a call that there was an America missionary family, with the parents of the wife visiting from America. They were passing through our area and wanted to meet with us. We wanted to meet with them. We did not want to be known as the “isolated church.” Unfortunately, in order to meet we could meet with them for only a few hours, we could meet only in an unventilated restaurant.
Unfortunately, we are not the most healthy group of evangelists. Three of us have two heart stints each; one has asthma; one struggles with high blood pressure; one’s heart is pumping blood at only 80% efficiency, having a damaged heart value that is waiting to be replaced; one has already had a heart attack; one had recently had emergency surgery to correct an internal organ dysfunction. All four of us were in the age group of 60 to 74. Would you say that we four have extenuating health conditions, and should be rightly concerned about the Covid virus? Fortunately at the time, all of us had been vaccinated against the Covid virus, but that was about five months before the meeting. Our residence to Covid at the time was down to about 20% to 30%. (All of us have since received the booster injection to get our resistance back up to 80% to 90%.
Nevertheless, we agreed to meet with the foreign visitors who had flown into South Africa a week before and were touring throughout the country. And since they would be in Cape Town, they wanted to meet with us. However, after the meeting, and after the visitors left for Johannesburg a day later, we received an urgent call from Johannesburg two days later that three of their group of five tested positive for Covid, and thus were confined to quarantine. They wanted to warn us about their Covid infection in order that we be on the guard since they were Covid carriers at the time of our meeting.
Now you can imagine the apprehension of the four of us as we waited out the five-day incubation period of the Covid virus. All four of us had been vaccinated, but still this is not a 100% protection against the Covid virus. You can understand that among ourselves as a fellowship of disciples, we lean on one another to be vaccinated in order to protect one another. This is our choice. So we freely choose to vaccinate ourselves in order to protect ourselves as a group from one another, and thus continue to meet together in order to execute the work of the Lord.
Nevertheless, in view of what we experienced, we must not become victims of autocratic leaders who would use our present despair in a time of a pandemic in order to leverage their thirst for power over us. We seek a choice concerning “protecting” ourselves in order that we do not become subjects of a totalitarian state. We are not establishing the “vaccinated church,” as opposed to the “unvaccinated church.” Nevertheless, we choose to be vaccinated against Covid in order to protect others. We look out for the interest of the brotherhood of believers through self-protection against an unseen enemy (See Ph 4:3,4).
Churches do not have the authority to make mandates outside clear Bible teaching on any particular subject. Church leaders can only use Bible principles to love one another as the foundation to establish behavior upon which they as a group can make the best decisions possible. However, we are vaccinated in order to protect one another to the best of our ability. It is first a matter of our mutual concern for one another as fellow citizens of the state, not primarily in obedience to a state mandate that would work against our freedom as citizens of the state. We are free to choose. But our love for one another has moved us to chose to vaccinate in order to protect one another.
We have the freedom not to be vaccinated in times of a pandemic. The church has no authority to bind medical practices on the church. But notice what we have just stated. “We” have the freedom. Individually, there is some self-centeredness in the statement. If we bring ourselves into close fellowship with one another in a confined space, whether seated in a small building, or passing by one another in the confinement of a foyer, then are we not infringing on one another’s freedoms in order to conduct a safe assembly? At least this is something about which to think as we tout our antivaccination rights in view of the following thought:
In South Africa it has been quite revealing to watch the Covid infection statistics every week. Since the incubation period of the Covid virus is about five days, you can guess when and where most people initially contacted the virus. On Thursdays and Fridays, the positive tests for the Covid-19 virus, specifically the Omicron variant, is almost three times for these two days than the rest of the days of the week. Count back five says (the incubation period), and thus, most people became infected on the weekends. On the weekends we have all our Sunday assemblies, political meetings, funerals, memorials, family fellowships, etc. Covid seems to be invited to each one of these occasions, but does not make itself known until Thursday or Friday.
Testing positive with the virus is the result of social events, whereas the rise in the number of deaths that follows the end-of-the week infections, is a measure of the severity of the virus.
So consider that in the heat of a pandemic some churches have called up their elders (usually those about 60 and older), and asked them not to be present in the traditional assembly, but rather electronically Zoom the assembly in the safety of their own homes. If we do this, then something may have gone wrong in our behavior and thinking.
But when there are no electronic options, as well as no vaccines in one’s village, town or city, then the leadership of the church must make sure that everyone at least wears a mask. At least this reveals that we are concerned for one another in the heart of a pandemic. Otherwise, we must ride out the curse of a cursed world until our Lord comes or we come to the Lord in death.
When the Romans were breathing death down upon the first century Christians, did the early Christians resort to Zoom assemblies and Zoom preaching, just to be “safe” during the “Roman pandemic,” which “pandemic” lasted for at least 150 years?
In the city of Rome, the first Christians simply went underground during times of persecution. They hid in the caves that were under the city of Rome. When they were being sought in order to add another attraction for a barbaric audience in the Coliseum by being fed to lions, they went into hiding in inconspicuous groups of two or three, and sometimes just alone in a forest. We wonder what most of those today, who have been bred and sustained in their faith on a concert every Sunday morning, would do in such a social environment? Would even a pandemic detour their craving for a large assembly?
Persecutions, as well as pandemics, have a way of revealing those who have a true faith in God, regardless of being hindered in assembly with one another.