The Falling Away of Israel

Part 3 – Final installment

 

 

In the previous two installments we have been considering the failings of Israel as an example for the believer on what pitfalls to avoid in how to acceptably serve Yahweh.  We have covered the Children of Israel from the time of the Exodus through the period of the prophets of Israel shortly before their destruction by the Assyrians and Babylonians.  We continue now with the time after the Exile.

 

 

After the Exile

 

After Judah’s 70 years captivity, a series of four decrees, the first being by Cyrus around 540 B.C., begin to allow the Jews to return to the land of Israel.  The Jews at this time were more determined to revitalize the Law and its services, but again it did not take long for them to fall into old habits.  The books of Ezra and Nehemiah and the words of the prophet Malachi deal in detail with the events after the Exile.  But despite the efforts of Ezra and later Nehemiah, the people and especially the leaders and priests fell back into a cycle of insincere service.  Malachi covers three shortcomings of the priestly service in the first chapters.

 

1.      Ignorance

2.      Indifference

3.      Self seeking

 

They would basically continue on in this state up to the time when they would reject Christ and give him up to the Roman authority.  Their unrepentant attitude would be maintained on through the destruction of the Jewish Commonwealth and the complete scattering of its people by the Romans in 70 A.D.  This time, instead of 70 years, almost 2,000 years would be the extent of their punishment.

 

 

Spiritual Israel

 

We now move on in our consideration to a different aspect of the lessons we find in the scriptures.  The failings of God’s people are not limited to the natural Jews or Israelites – so our lesson does not stop with the destruction and scattering of the Jewish nation.  After the ascension of Jesus to the right hand of the Father, we of course know that the way of salvation by coming inheritors of the Promises made to Abraham was made available to the Gentile as well through baptism into Christ’s death (Gal. 3:27).  Once the Gospel message was extended to the alien there was an explosion of people that heard and accepted “The things concerning the Kingdom of God and the Name of Jesus Christ.”  The message of salvation spread quickly through the then known world.  It was the will of God that it should be that way, but the success of the Gospel’s spread would soon be clouded.  Though the name of Christianity would dominate the world for the next 1,800 years, it would not be the same Hope, the same Gospel message believed and taught by Christ’s faithful apostles and those who would immediately follow after them.  The New Testament scriptures deal very plainly with the rise of apostasy (falling away) that would take place among those who claimed to be followers of Christ.  In 2nd Timothy 4: 3,4 we read, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.”

 

It would not take long for this apostasy to form for it was beginning to take hold even during the time of the Apostles.  As Paul states in his warning of the coming Apostasy in another epistle – “For the mystery of iniquity doeth already work.” (II Thess. 2:7).  

 

Major difficulties in both doctrine and behavior were already taking hold of the brethren, even as some of the Apostles still were alive.  Some still possessed the Holy Spirit gifts when the false teaching and wicked moral practice were gaining in their influence.  The brethren of this unique time in history had many things going for them in regards to the Truth, but not heeding the experiences of Natural Israel, they sadly followed in their footsteps.  We can find an excellent account of the decline of the early Ecclesia in Eureka.  Bro. Thomas does an excellent job of historical research to help us understand how something as wonderful as Christ’s Ecclesia could become so perverted.  By the 3rd century A.D., any evidence of those that held to THE FAITH, “as once delivered unto the saints” all but disappears from the historical record, being replaced by the Great Harlot system we know as the Roman Catholic Church – which dominates the world seen for centuries.

 

The change did not come about all at once but was a very subtle, patient process that fed on peoples pride and lusts, and their desire to hear what they wanted to hear rather then accepting God’s Word in its beautiful simplicity.  Most would not recognize the changes taking place.  Those who did would be mocked, ridiculed, and eventually killed when apostasy had completely taken over - The same fate that befell Christ and many of the prophets that came before him.  Is there a lesson here for us?

 

 

What about the Protestant Movement?

 

The 15th and 16th centuries have come to be known as the Reformation, a time of religious exploration and reawakening to the teachings of Scriptures verses the man-made traditions and endless false teachings that had been developed or adopted by the Catholic System.  The availability of the Bible due to the invention of the printing press and the efforts of men such as William Tyndale to translate the Scriptures created a great stir among those who were then able to see that the long held teachings and traditions of Catholicism did not match up with the clear and simple teachings of the Scriptures.  Many “Protestant” movements came out of the Reformation and to some degree were able to shake off numerous “Christian” superstitions that had dominated men’s beliefs for centuries.  The Immortality of the soul; Belief in a Supernatural Devil, Heaven as a reward, the Trinity, etc. were all questioned to a great degree and many of the protesting movement rejected these ideas as false. 

 

We will not take the time to explore the many facts of history here, but there was an amazing (though not perfect) effort to finally cast off the darkness of apostate teaching.  A group which is noteworthy to modern day believers is that of the early Baptists.  According to “The Baptist Confession of Faith, 1660”, which was presented to Charles II in London and which many Christadelphians have a copy, we have evidence that the Baptists once believed in a future Kingdom on Earth centered in Jerusalem, that being a part of this Kingdom was the future reward of the saints, and that resurrection was the only hope that men have from death.  How far away from these teachings have the modern day “Baptists” come!  What happened?  Many of the Protestant religions were able to cast off to some degree the falsehood of Rome, but yet all of the mainstream Protestant religions have fallen back to beliefs and practices that all but mirror the apostasy as seen in the Catholic Religion.  As far as “doctrine” is concerned there is basically no difference.  All accept the “Immortality of the Soul”, “heaven going” at death, the Trinity, and all other teachings that come out of these foul and unscriptural dogmas.  Again we ask the question, what happened?

 

Clearly, the maintaining of Bible Truth in teaching and in practice is very difficult to sustain.  When one factors in liberal thinking and attitudes, a paid clergy system that is held prisoner to the desire to tell people want they want to hear rather then want they need to hear, a desire for looser moral standards – all which can be wrapped up in the term the “thinking of the flesh” – then it makes the preservation of Truth basically impossible.  The Scriptures and history plainly spell this out to us.

 

 

What about us?

 

Now, how does this exercise in reviewing such negative and unpleasant subject matter relate to our situation as believers in these last days before Christ’s return?  We have heard it mentioned many times how the ecclesia of Laodicea represents the modern day condition of the Brotherhood.  Clearly, and we must speak frankly here, it is a community that increasingly demonstrates no real conviction or love for the Truth as it once was believed and practiced in the early days of our Community.  We seem to be a group that is satisfied with what this world has to offer but yet still clinging to some form of religion – truly being a mixture of the world and Truth.  Not a very good concoction considering that Christ stated that He would spue this lukewarm blend out of His mouth.  Is this something that we find acceptable?  If we take an honest look at ourselves and our community and if we compare it to the Scriptural teaching and the history of the Christadelphian community we are forced to recognize that something is seriously wrong with the Household.

 

We have tried to show that not only can we find connection with Laodicea, but that we should seriously consider and learn the lessons from God’s people throughout the ages.  We should take serious notice that through the pattern of history, when Truth has been established or re-established, there has always been deterioration and not strengthening through the course of time (more often then not within a 30 to 40 year time period).  We have heard some Christadelphians proclaim that “the Brotherhood has never been stronger”.  Are we to think differently of our generation some 150 years after the revival of Apostolic Faith?  Have we beaten history?

 

Are we prepared to realize that these matters that we have considered are truly matters of life and death?  Do we wish to play games with the offer of salvation that has been given us?  We must face the sad condition of the Brotherhood honestly.  We must realize that we are no different, that are mistakes and flirtations with the world are no less critical then what God’s people have always faced.   Let us not fool ourselves, but repent while there is still time allowed to us by the Father to do so.  Let us redeem the time given us.  As in the words of Revelation 3:19-22, “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.  Behold, I stand at the door, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me.  To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with Me in My throne, even as I also overcame, and am sat down with My Father in His throne.  He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.” 

 

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