Lesson one continued
The early Christians expected trials and tribulations because they remembered what Yeshua/Jesus told them. Opposition came from:
- The Sanhedrin, the highest judicial court in Jerusalem, under the authority of the high priest. The word ”Sanhedrin” comes from the Greek noun “synedrion” which was used to indicate a council or civil court. The Sanhedrin had seventy-one members of leading aristocrats. It was controlled by lay representatives, mostly Pharisees, with some priestly Sadducees. Even during direct Roman rule, the Sanhedrin had authority over Jewish matters, even in many capital cases.[i]James, the brother of Jesus[ii]was publically executed by the high pries Ananus. Since the Sanhedrin had Roman permission to supervise the civil and religious life of the state, they defended their prerogatives as interpreters and priests of the law.[iii]The Church’s authority was Yeshua/Jesus: a direct threat to Jewish leaders.
- The Roman Imperial Cult was based on the deification of Raman emperors. The dead emperor was given the status of a god by the Roman Senate and the ruling emperor was supposed to be possessed by his spirit. It was to the living emperor his subjects offered sacrifices. The practice of emperor worship was meant to unify the people and test their loyalty. Law breakers could be executed, but in the beginning Christians were considered a Jewish sect so they were allowed to worship as Jews. Archeological excavations have revealed synagogues with Christian symbolism near Nazareth and Capernaum.[iv] But soon the Church leaders were arrested, people were put out of the synagogues because of their faith in Mashiach/Christ, suffered physically, and had their property seized.[v]After the Jewish Christians refused to participate in the revolt of A.D. 66-70 and their flight from the city as Yeshua had directed[vi]the breach between the Jewish Christians and non-Christian Jews widened. As soon as Christians were distinguished, by Rome, as separate from Judaism the Church was classes as a secret society and considered a threat to the Roman State. The State was united in religion in order to promote unity and stability. Christianity’s claims on its people of moral and spiritual loyalty made it impossible to put Caesar first. The Roman State considered this a disloyal act of treason (they were accused of trying to set up a state within a state). The exclusive sovereignty of Mashiach/Christ threatened Caesar’s claim to sovereignty. Spiritual, internal worship of Christians was incomprehensible to the Romans.[vii] Peter and Paul were both executed during Nero’s reign. There was bloody persecution all over. Nero is said to have burned Christians alive, using them as human torches to light the night games, etc.[viii]
- The restaurants in the temples were places where worshipers could go to feast together on the meat that had been sacrificed to the idols. Eating the meat was a demonstration of loyalty to the idol. Shopkeepers and craftsmen risked loss of income by refusing to join guilds, but their meetings included meals to patron deities. Aspects of emperor worship also affected most every guild. Christians of those days knew first-hand what it would be like to live during the reign of the Beast of Revelation.[ix] Unions today give money to support abortion, etc. and unusually demand loyalty to its chosen standards even when they are contrary to objections based on religious beliefs. They are an example of what early Christians had to make choices about; to risk their monetary security if they were to be faithful to Mashiach/Christ. They are also a shadow of what Christians in Arab countries today have to face, and what the future holds for all of us. James had to warn the Church of his day (and Ruach ha Kodesh/the Holy spirit tells us today through the scriptures) not to think it odd that tests and challenges come from all sides.[x] Peter also reminded his readers[xi]that being abused for the sake of Mashiach was a good thing and much better than what the abusers will get when God avenges their abuse.
The book of Revelation was communicated to John.[xii] John was the son of Zebedee and calls himself the disciple that Yeshua loved, probably as a constant reminder to the reader that, “Jesus loves you” and love is the controlling factor in our relationship with Yeshua.[xiii]A codex papyrus, the oldest copy of any portion of the new Testament, testifies that John’s gospel was being read in Egypt by the first half of the second century A.D. It was most likely written before A.D. 70. John was an Elder, a leader in the churches. He wrote I, II, Ii John to the churches on the mainland whose primary task was worship, according to the writer of the Message Bible. John was a pastor and poet who was passionate in his desire to bring his readers into the presence of Yeshua in unquestioned belief and adoration, as his other books testify.[xiv] He was ranked with Peter as a leader.
To be continued
[i] Archaeological Study Bible, page 1821.
[ii] Ibid 1997
[iii] Christianity through the Centuries, Cairns, page 66, Ancient Church History, 1954, 1981, Zondervan.
[iv] Archaeological Bible, page 1997.
[v] Hebrews 10:32-39.
[vi] Matthew 24.
[vii] Cairns, Christ or Caesar, 87-95; Barkley, Vol I, pages 23, 24.
[viii] Archeological Bible, 1931.
[ix] Revelation 13:5-8, 13-17.
[x] James 1:2-4.
[xi] I Peter 4:12-19
[xii] Barkley, volume I, top of paragraph, page 2 and pages 15, 16.
[xiii] Revelation 12:12.
[xiv] Cairns, 31.