This series, following on directly from the last, is in reality a necessary appraisal of all that the Bible declares will happen prior to resurrection. In this first number we shall seek to set the scene in a very general fashion. Most people would imagine that I should start by looking at the Olivet Discourse, found in Matthew 24, Luke 21, and Mark 13. But this is not considered the best place to start, simply because much of the material in those chapters related to events that befell Jerusalem in the Roman war under Titus.
We must ask ourselves what conditions prevailed in the first century of the Christian era, and how they compare with today. Briefly, we find the Jews occupying the land of Israel, under the hegemony of Rome. The Jewish nation consisted of the Tribes of Judah, Benjamin, and some of Levi. Their language was Hebrew. The land of Israel was mainly surrounded by Arabic people who were not all friendly towards the Jews, but were also under the heel of Rome. The Roman Empire had certain geographical limits, which will be set down shortly. The Greek influence was that of the Greek language, with its philosophies and pantheon of gods, and also the Olympic Games, which the Romans copied in their own style in most parts of the empire.
Within Israel, there had been a spiritual earthquake of major proportions in the years AD 29 – 33, as a result of the teaching of Jesus Christ. After His death and resurrection, the early church, through the preaching of the 12 and Paul, had covered almost all of the Roman Empire with the Gospel of Jesus. Believers were filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, and manifested a range of spiritual gifts, which were used in conjunction with their evangelistic drive. However, it attracted much opposition from the countries theyevangelised, as well as from the Jewish people themselves.
Let’s note these facts in tabular form –
- Jews in the Land of Israel. Consisting mainly of the Tribes of Judah, Benjamin, and Levi.
- The land of Israel under the hegemony of Rome.
- The people of the Israeli nation with their Hebrew language.
- Israel surrounded by mainly hostile Arabic peoples, also under the heel of Rome.
- The Roman Empire, consisting of Italy, France, Holland, Belgium, Luxemburg, Greece, Spain, Portugal, Britain, Asia Minor, the Levant.
- The Greek influence, their philosophies, and their language.
- The Greek influence due to the Olympic Games, which Rome copied in her own style.
- The Church influence, as a major force of evangelism, throughout the Roman Empire, to Jew, Greek, Barbarian, Scythian, bondman and freemen.
- The influence of the miraculous, with the use of charismatic gifts amongst believers.
- The rise of political antagonism towards Christians within the Roman Empire, leading to major persecutions.
- The opposition of Jews to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and refusal to accept Him as Messiah.
- The rise of anti-Semitism.
For some reason which the Lord apparently requires in our recent times, all of these 12 factors have been revived. Let’s put them down in tabular form, based on the list above.
- Jews in the Land of Israel, are once again mainly of the Tribes of Judah, Benjamin, and Levi. They became a nation again in May 1948
- The land of Israel is now under the hegemony of the European Nations, and America, even though it claims to be independent.
- The people of the Israeli nation have once again made Hebrew their basic national language.
- Israel is surrounded by mainly hostile Arabic people, who are also under the influence of America in particular, but who also have a new influence due to Mohammed and the religion of Islam.
- The revived Roman Empire began in 1957 with the Treaty of Rome, and has since that time engulfed all the countries mentioned above with the exception of Asia Minor and the Levant. More recently the expansion has grown to include much of Eastern Europe, with Turkey asking for membership, which would be the equivalent of Asia Minor in earlier times.
- The Greek influence of today is mainly in the sphere of education, where philosophy is high on the agenda. The English language is very much dependent on Greek in its formulation.
- The Olympic Games, which were abolished finally by Theodosius in 394 A.D., were reopened in Athens by the King of Greece on April 6th 1896, and apart from the war years, when the games were not held, (i.e. 1916, 1940, and 1944) they have been running ever since, with a four-year Olympiad exactly as held in ancient Greece.
- The great thrust of evangelism throughout the 20th century to every nation on earth, with Bibles translated in over 1,000 tongues.
- The rise of the miraculous, and the use of charismatic gifts, which began with the Pentecostal fellowships round about 1900, and developed into the Charismatic movement in the 1960s.
- The steady rise of opposition and persecution towards all Christians, which has of recent years taken on a far more disturbing aspect.
- The self-same opposition of the Jews to the proclamation of Jesus Christ as the Messiah.
- The enormous rise of anti-Semitism, particularly from Germany and Russia, and more recently the upsurge of Islamic hatred towards Israel.
Is it not very instructive to find that God has been reviving the ancient world stage that existed 2,000 years ago? This has only gradually become apparent since the early days at the end of the 19th century, but has been gaining momentum ever since. In this first number we shall be content just to display the information for comparison purposes, but in following numbers some of these items and parallels will re-appear for further analysis.