Around thirty years after the initial proclamation that millennia of prophecy had been fulfilled in the coming of the Redeemer of mankind, a most disheartening thing began to occur with some of the first generation of believers. As national Israel neared its end in A.D. 70, the “signs of the times” began to appear over the western horizon as Rome was determined to silence forever the rebellious Jews of Palestine. In fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy of the doom of Jerusalem (Mt 24), the rumbling march of Roman soldiers was heard who were on their way to the heart of Jewish patriotism, Jerusalem. The city would soon be doomed to fulfill the prophecy of Daniel that national Israel would come to a close (See Dn 12).
In Palestine, Jewish patriotism was reaching its climax. Judaism, the national religion, was revitalized in the early and mid 60s. Intimidation to the nationalism of all Jews who lived in Palestine became intense. Jews were recruited to maintain their faith in national Israel by joining in the rebellion against the foreign occupation of Rome.
On his final trip to the “mother city” of Jerusalem, Paul wanted to give a last chance to his “brethren in the flesh,” his fellow Jews (See Rm 9:1-3; 10:1). He arrived in Palestine first at the coastal city of Ceasarea. Understanding the fearlessness of Paul, and the imminent danger in Jerusalem, the Jewish disciples in Caesarea “pleaded with him not to go up to Jerusalem” (At 21:12). Nevertheless, Paul persisted in his determination to give the Jews his last efforts to believe in Jesus. He comforted the disciples in Caesarea with these words: “What do you mean by weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus” (At 21:13). These were the words of a brave-hearted disciple for Jesus who had weathered the storm of persecution for two decades. However, not all the Jewish disciples at the time could make this statement. This was the problem in Judea.
When the apostle Paul eventually arrived in Jerusalem around A.D. 59, the Jewish elders of the church urged him not to do anything that would further inflame the irrational nationalism of overzealous Jews who were prevalent in the city. The elders advised Paul that he purify himself according to Jewish law, pay the temple expenses of four other men, and then enter the temple in order to make a show that he was not against Jewish customs (See At 21:17-25). But this was to no avail because God had plans to get Paul to Rome in order to testify before Caesar concerning Christ. God wanted the world to know that Christianity was not a sect of Judaism, but was the result of His sending of the Christ for the salvation of the world (At 23:11).
Regardless of all efforts of Rome to pacify the Jewish nationalists in their insurrection against Roman occupation of Palestine, the decade of the 60s eventually culminated with the destruction of Jerusalem and national Israel in A.D. 70. Leading up to this date, the decade of the 60s was a time of intimidation for formerly converted Jews. Their fellow unbelieving Jews sought to intimidate believing Jesus away from Jesus in order that they return to the religion of their forefathers. As a result, some Jewish Christians in Palestine were forsaking Christ in order to return to the Sinai law. The letter of Hebrews was written in order to combat this apostasy. Hebrews 6:4-6 is one of the most disheartening passages that ever came forth from the pen of an inspired writer:
For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and have become partakes of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame.
The apostasy that was taking place at the time this statement was made occurred because there were those who were not willing, as Paul, “to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus” (At 21:13). Regardless of any individual reasons for forsaking Jesus in order to conform to a dead law, and particularly to a religion that was based on the traditions of the fathers (Mk 7:1-9), one can still crucify Jesus today. Modern-day crucifixion of Jesus continues when individuals “crucify to themselves the Son of God” with those sins that originally led to the crucifixion of Jesus in the first century.
[See you tomorrow.]