With any counterfeit you have to know the true in order to recognize the fake. You recognize the fake by comparing to the real. This is commonly done with currency or passports. The new spiritual citizens of the Hebrew nation are distinguished from their old ethnic association by taking on a characteristic hallmark. This has been commonly assumed to be circumcision in the Old Covenant, which was done away in the New Covenant.
It is not.
Circumcision is a mark of only one of God’s covenants with the Hebrew Abraham, this one for land ownership by one of Abraham’s many nations.
“I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee…all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession…This is my covenant…Every man child among you shall be circumcised.“ (Genesis 17)
“Timotheus, the son of a…Jewess, and believed…Paul…circumcised him.” (Acts 16:1-3)
“Titus…being a Greek, was [not] compelled to be circumcised:” (Galatians 2:3)
The mark of the new covenant for all nationalities is just as clearly defined as the mark of circumcision for Jewish inheritance of the land.
It is the mark of crucifixion / suffering onto death.
“If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me…whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26-27)
- “The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected and be slain…
- “then shall they deliver YOU up to be afflicted, and shall kill YOU: and YE shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake.
- And then shall many be offended…many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.” (Luke 9:22-24, Matthew 24:9-11)
Do you recognize how this is the complete opposite of “all the world…worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast”? The mark of crucifixion is so abhorrent to human nature that all the enemy has to do is offer a different, much more comfortable way of salvation to make people flock to his gospel.
“if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed…I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 1: 7-10, 20; 2:20)
“thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience…what persecutions I endured: but out of them all the Lord delivered me. Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” (II Timothy 3:10-12
Paul, like the vast majority of followers of Jesus Christ, wasn’t crucified. But Paul provides an all-encompassing list of marks of the Lord Jesus for those of us who don’t experience nails in the hands and feet and a sword thrust into the side.
From henceforth let no man trouble me [questioning my identity as a true follower of Christ]: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus:
- in prisons more frequent
- in deaths oft
- Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one.
- Thrice was I beaten with rods
- once was I stoned
- thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep
- In journeyings often
- in perils of waters
- in perils of robbers
- in perils by mine own countrymen
- in perils by the heathen
- in perils in the city
- in perils in the wilderness
- in perils in the sea
- in perils among false brethren
- In weariness and painfulness
- in watchings often
- in hunger and thirst
- in fastings often
- in cold and nakedness [inadequate clothing for the weather or dignity]
- Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.
If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities.” (Galatians 6:17, II Corinthians 11:24-30)
Persecution and death were dramatic parts of the lives of the first Christians. It’s difficult to imagine these awful acts of torture, imprisonment, and death, but the fact is these things really happened…
Around 34 AD, one year after the crucifixion of Jesus, Stephen was thrown out of Jerusalem and stoned to death. On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. (Acts 8:1)…
James, the son of Zebedee and the elder brother of John, was killed when Herod Agrippa arrived as governor of Judea. Agrippa detested the Christians…[See the post Everything Old is New Again for background on Agrippa’s hostile attitude towards the Christians.]
Philip…was scourged, thrown into prison, and crucified…Matthew…was preaching in Ethiopia when he suffered martyrdom by the sword. James, the half-brother of Jesus…in Jerusalem…At age 94, he was beaten, stoned, and clubbed to death.
Matthias…was stoned at Jerusalem and then beheaded. Andrew…the brother of Peter who preached throughout Asia…was crucified…Mark was dragged to death by the people of Alexandria in front of Serapis, their pagan idol. Peter was…crucified at Rome…Paul…was ultimately beheaded in Rome.
The list goes on and on — Jude, Bartholomew, Thomas, and Barnabas. Even Luke, the author of Acts and the Gospel in his name, was ultimately hanged in Greece. Only the apostle John escaped a violent death, although he faced torture and banishment during his life.
Yet Christian persecution did not slow the growth of the Christian church during the first few centuries after Jesus. Even as its early leaders were imprisoned and killed, Christianity flourished throughout the Roman Empire. The historical record of martyrdom must be viewed as powerful evidence for the truth of the Christian faith — a faith grounded in historical events and eyewitness testimonies.
After a long period in which the persecutions of Christianity were really spasmodic, local, [and] involved very few people, suddenly in…the year 250, the Emperor Decius decides that Christians are a real enemy of the Roman order, that they must be dealt with empire-wide, with all the police power that the emperor can bring to bear upon them. And he issues a decree that everyone has to sacrifice to the Roman gods and they must produce a certificate signed by a Roman official that they have done so. Why did this happen? Clearly, one of the things which this indicates is that Christianity, which begins with such tiny groups, scattered in various cities across the empire, have become numerous, they have become a significant segment of the population in many places. There is some evidence that in many towns in North Africa, the[y] may actually be a majority already. So they have come forcibly to the attention of the Emperor. At the same time, it clearly indicates that that counter-cultural tendency, which was one aspect of the self-understanding of Christians, from the very beginning…still remains, and the Emperor…says, “This is dangerous…Something has to be done about it….”
Why were the Christians persecuted?… They are a people that, in a way, declare their boundaries over against the larger society by their very rituals that lead to conversion – turning away from the gods and turning to the one God, living and true, as Paul puts it in his First Letter of the Thessalonians. That means that they are not going to participate in a great many of not only the religious, but the civic functions, which emerged in the ordinary society of a Roman or Greek city…that are necessary to maintain the relationship between our society and the gods…
Paganism is, in a sense, the religious articulation of citizenship. Civitas is city. A civis is a citizen, and… the analogy between family and city is made continuously, in philosophy, and in popular piety. To exempt yourself from that, then, would have real social consequences…Christians, who exempt themselves from this are…have made themselves outlanders in their own town. And therefore, they are used as an explanatory device whenever there are the usual natural insults of human existence. Plague. Earthquake. Flood. It’s because the Christians, as gentiles who are not doing their duty to heaven… why should the gods do anything for the city then? And that’s how you get Christians dragged before Governors and before these circuit courts and named as troublemakers…
when the empire is being battered on every frontier by invading armies, when there’s absolute rampant inflation, [there is] incredible governmental instability…That’s also the point at which you begin to get the imperial expression of persecution of Christians….There are all sorts of different ways that people deal with this. But some people absolutely refuse to oblige by this rule at all. And those are the people – again, it’s the heroic minority – who end up being martyred by government force…
We don’t have tens of thousands of people being martyred. What we do have, is tens of thousands of people admiring the few who are martyred.
Those of us who live in a Christian country don’t experience much political, religious or social persecution. But there is one enemy we all face on a daily basis.
“we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal [flesh with hormonal drives], sold under sin…For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not….I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 7:14-25)
In contrast to Christ, Antichrist denies the existence of sin by the simple expedient of changing the label on self-destructive behaviors. The cause of evil in this world is blame shifted, and responsibility for fixing the cascade of resulting problems lifted from the perpetrator to “the enemy”.
- The true Messiah saves us from our own self-destructive (sin) nature through restoring unity Creator God / Singularity source of all power.
- The Antichrist promises to save us from other people’s sins through war by slaughtering the enemy.
Whoever accommodates sin while blaming the consequences of our sin on someone else and promises to fix our sin problems by eliminating someone else is an antichrist.
“And he said unto them, Ye are from beneath; I am from above: ye are of this world; I am not of this world. I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in YOUR sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in YOUR sins.” (John 8:23-24)
The soul is the primary battlefield, where lies are infiltrated, received and believed with horrific consequences. No, not by the terrorists. By us “decent citizens.”
How do cruelty and meanness become normalized?….”humans can shift our minds into making sense of and accepting things that, before we became insiders of utterly distorted systems, we would have found impossible to imagine ourselves approving of, let alone doing…”
Warnings are issued…suspicion takes root, and rumors abound. Fear infects people’s thought processes. As the fear increases, [the enemy] go from being shunned, to being taunted, to being hunted and killed. Some of the greatest sci-fi movies of the fifties, The Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and the adaptation of George Orwell’s books, 1984 and Animal Farm (the 1954 American animation was funded by the CIA), aptly symbolize our fear of “aliens,” the national paranoia of communism at that time, and the surreality of living under absolute power. Orwell’s books, in particular, depict how the accretion of propaganda can numb our brains and change our hearts and minds…
In the preliminary stages of propaganda, people’s perceptions of the Other change…feelings about a person change…The vilification of another leads to his objectification. We know from history that if we dehumanize a person, it’s easier to take violent action against her…
psychoanalyst Christopher Bollas lists the mental mechanisms we use to dispassionately de-personalize the Other. The list includes distortion or slander of the other’s point of view; denigration or belittling of the other; caricature, or the cartooning of the other individual; character assassination; change of name as in labeling, and name-calling…
What we do know is that when propaganda and the distortion of truth rule, we have stopped paying attention to reality and have ceded moral reflection and self-awareness to an authority outside the Self. [Emphasis added.]
When there is a clear connection between individual cause and social effect the solution is for the individual causing the problem to stop the behavior. Society cannot compensate for every individual’s self destructive behaviors and so society sags and breaks under the weight of accumulating problems.
When we understand that the mark of Christ is personal responsibility, self-sacrifice, suffering, and acceptance of consequences including death, it is easy to recognize the mirror image mark of Antichrist is blame shifting, self-exaltation, self-indulgence and denial of consequences up to and including death.