Towards the end of his ministry, knowing from Jesus’ prophecy that Jerusalem and the temple would be destroyed during “this generation“, i.e. by 70 AD, and that this would end the The Church of God’s base there, Paul set about establishing a new base of operations and leadership.
“To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints…your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. (Romans 1:1-3)
Paul was not exaggerating.
But contrary to the later political spin that named Rome as the central office of the faith, at the time this was written Rome’s acceptance of the faith in the Jewish Christ
- was being spoken of
- as having finally reached the Antichrist’s castle
- beyond the Anatolian heartland of the faith.
“because that Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome:” (Acts 18:2)
“Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus…disputing daily in the school of one Tyrannus…two years; so that all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks. So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed…After these things were ended, Paul purposed in the spirit…I must also see Rome.” (Acts 19)
“For God is my witness…that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you, (but was let hitherto,) that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles…So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also.” (Romans 1)
“And when we came to Rome…Paul was suffered to dwell by himself with a soldier that kept him…Paul called the chief of the Jews together: and when they were come together, he said unto them,
- Men and brethren, though I have committed nothing against the people, or customs of our fathers, yet was I delivered prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans.
- Who….would have let me go, because there was no cause of death in me [Jewish religion with its sects were allowed]
- But when the Jews spake against it, I was constrained to appeal unto Caesar; not that I had ought to accuse my nation of.
- For this cause therefore have I called for you, to see you, and to speak with you: because that for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain.
And they said unto him, We neither received letters out of Judaea concerning thee, neither any of the brethren that came shewed or spake any harm of thee. But we desire to hear of thee what thou thinkest: for as concerning this sect [of Judaism], we know that every where it is spoken against [obviously by the Jews]. And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus [as the prince who is to come] both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets.” (Acts 28)
A sample of Paul’s testimony of Jesus’ rulership in the kingdom of God – in opposition to the Jewish priests, scribes, lawyers, etc. – is found in John’s testimony of Jesus.
“When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John, [i.e. becoming an even bigger threat to their authority than John] He left Judaea, and departed again into Galilee. And he must needs go through Samaria. Now Jacob’s well was there…
There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink. (For his disciples were gone away unto the city to buy meat.) Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him..the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.
Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water…
The woman saith unto him…
- Our fathers worshipped in this mountain;
- and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.
Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews.
But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things.
Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he.
The woman then left her waterpot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men, Come, see a man…Then they went out of the city, and…besought him that he would tarry with them: and he abode there two days. And said unto the woman, Now we believe…for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world.
Then when he was come into Galilee, the Galilaeans – “sinners above all” (Luke 13:2) received him, having seen all the things that he did at Jerusalem at the feast: for they also went unto the feast.
And some [of the Jewish leaders in Rome] believed the things which were spoken, and some believed not. And when they agreed not among themselves, they departed, after that Paul had spoken one word; Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet unto our fathers,
- Saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive:
- Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear / receive it.” (Acts 28)
This sentence has been grossly misinterpreted to deny salvation to the Jews.
The correct interpretation is found in the original prophecy quoted by Paul, where it is clear that it is responsibility for being God’s messenger that is being transferred from one people to another.
Isa-iah, whose name is identical to Yeshua / Jesus – YHHV is Salvation – was like Paul, God’s messenger during a time of great tribulation brought on by the anointed leadership’s refusal to submit to YHVH’s authority.
“The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah. Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the LORD hath spoken, I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me…Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the LORD, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward.” (Isaiah 1:1-4)
Like John the Baptizer through his priestly father and Jesus as the heir to David’s throne and Paul through his training under Gamaliel, Isaiah was a close associate of the ruling elite, but an outsider at the same time for refusing to collaborate with them.
Isaiah’s style of writing reveals a well-educated background. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia states, “For versatility of expression and brilliance of imagery Isaiah had no superior, not even a rival. His style marks the climax of Hebrew literary art” (“Isaiah,” vol. II, p. 885). The style of writing of epigrams, metaphors, interrogation, dialogue, hyperbole and parables “characterize[s] Isaiah’s book as the great masterpiece of Hebrew literature” (ibid.).
“In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also [evidently having personally attended king Uzziah’s funeral rites] the LORD sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphims…And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory. Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.
Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.
Also I heard the voice of the LORD, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?
Then said I, Here am I; send me.
And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not.” (Isaiah 6)
Isaiah was tasked with announcing that rule over God’s earthly seat in Jerusalem was being taken away from the Jews because of their rebellion against their Maker.
“Woe unto them that decree unrighteous decrees, and that write grievousness which they have prescribed; To turn aside the needy from judgment, and to take away the right from the poor of my people, that widows may be their prey, and that they may rob the fatherless! And what will ye do in the day of visitation, and in the desolation which shall come from far? to whom will ye flee for help? and where will ye leave your glory? Without me they shall bow down under the prisoners, and they shall fall under the slain. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still. O Assyrian, the rod of mine anger, and the staff in their hand is mine indignation. I will send him against an hypocritical nation, and against the people of my wrath will I give him a charge, to take the spoil, and to take the prey, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets.” (Isaiah 10:1-6)
This was still not a popular message when John the Baptizer repeated it.
“In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand…Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan, And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.” (Matthew 3:1-10)
Nor when Jesus repeated it.
“woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.” (Matthew 23:13-15)
Nor when Paul repeated it.
Like John who was beheaded by Herod and Yeshua who was crucified under Pilate and Paul who was beheaded under Caesar,
Jewish tradition says Isaiah was killed by being sawn in two by King Manassh, the son of King Hezekiah. This seems to be alluded to in Hebrews 11:37.
The biblical record cites King Manasseh of Judah as a ruler who “seduced” his subjects “to do more evil than the nations whom the LORD had destroyed before the children of Israel.” He was a monarch who “shed very much innocent blood, till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another” (2 Kings 21:9, 16). It thus seems likely that Isaiah suffered a gruesome death at the behest of King Manasseh.
So what Paul is announcing to the Jewish leaders as Rome on the eve of the latest iteration of the destruction of Jerusalem by a foreign power is that
- Jerusalem is going to be trashed once again because of their theocratic rulers’ corruption and
- the kingdom of God – not just territory – but rule in the spirit dimension is being transferred to Gentiles.
And John the Apostle confirms this.
“John to the seven churches which are in Asia:” (Revelation 1:4
Paul only reluctantly transferred leadership from the Jews to Gentiles. For starters, he knew that Israel would suffer from its failure to live up to its mandate to provide leadership.
“The stranger that is within thee shall get up above thee very high; and thou shalt come down very low…he shall be the head, and thou shalt be the tail…Because thou servedst not the LORD thy God with joyfulness.” (Deuteronomy 28)
Then, there wasn’t a strong base of Gentile leadership yet, let alone much training to raise up a smooth transition of succeeding generations of leaders.
In desperation for both Israel and the plan of salvation as a whole, Paul writes the letter to the strongest Gentile church positioned both spiritually and geographically to shepherd the flock.
“all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks.” (Acts 19:10)
The letter to the church at Ephesus is the first, and only, letter to a Gentile Church urging them to take charge, and proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that prior to this there was a clear separation between Jewish believers – the leaders – and Gentile believers – the led.
The majestic chapters of Ephesians emphasize the unity in the church of Christ that has come about for both Jews and Gentiles within God’s household / administration (Eph 1:15–2:22, especially Eph 2:11–22)…Yet the concern is not with the church for its own sake but rather as the means for mission in the world (Eph 3:1–4:24). The gifts Christ gives its members are to lead.
Notice how circumstantially Paul delivers this assertion. He lays out rationale after rationale why they should believe him, before he finally spits it out. This – the inclusion of Gentiles into leadership and not simply membership within the kingdom of God – is THE supreme revelation given by Jesus to Paul. Paul was unquestionably one of the Pharisees who did see Jesus again after, as promised to these very Pharisees, accepting him as coming in the name of the Lord, i.e. speaking with the same authority as Moses.
The post A Melchizedek like Moses provides evidence that Paul is also a priest-king under the Order of Melchizedek. Paul’s letter to the 1st century AD Gentile Ephesians carries the same weight as Moses speaking to the international multitude of Hebrews gathered at Mount Sinai in the 2nd millennium BC.
- he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy
- predestinated us unto the adoption of children
- made known unto us the mystery of his will that in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in The Promised Seed / Christ,
- ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise are made nigh by the blood of The Promised Seed / Christ
- For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us
- Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints,
- and [more than just faceless, nameless citizens] – of the household of God; [remember the household are the ministers, not an insult, but closest to the king, known personally to the king, highly valued in a king’s entourage]
- And [even more – unity in relationship!] are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone…ye also are builded together [with them] for an habitation of God through the Spirit.
For this cause I Paul,
- the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles [appealing to their sentiment],
- If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: [appealing to shared history]
- How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; [appealing to spiritual authority]
- (as I wrote afore in few words, Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) [not sure what this is, maybe a previous letter they simply threw away]
- Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; [appealing to rule of two or more witnesses, and Peter steps up as seen below]
That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs / rulers, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel:
Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power. Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given,
- that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; [beyond simply salvation]
- And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:
- Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,
- To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church / congregation of believers including those following Moses at mount Sinai / and the originally solely Jewish New Testament Church the manifold wisdom of God
- According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord…
- For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,
- That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man…
- May be able to comprehend…
- And to know the love [unity] of Christ, which passeth knowledge
- that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.
- Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,
I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity [of the long-standing conflict between Jews and Gentiles] of the Spirit in the bond of peace.“ (Ephesians 2-4)
And Peter steps up and provides the necessary second witness to this doctrine as truth.
”to the strangers [aliens, non-Jews] scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia…
- ye are a chosen generation,
- a royal priesthood,
- an holy nation,
- a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light;
Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God…among the Gentiles: that…they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.” (I Peter 1:2, 2:9-12)
After Paul’s letter resulted in all in Asia – Ephesus’ sphere of influence – abandoning Paul’s leadership, Paul writes the instructional pastoral manuals to his spiritual sons Jewish Timothy and Gentile Titus.
Think about it. Paul would have written these at the beginning of his missionary journeys if Gentiles had qualified for these positions at that time!
“Titus, [a Gentile yet] mine own son after the common faith…For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee [because there were church splits between those who followed Paul’s Gentile appointments and those who remained under Jerusalem leadership] :
If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly…as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate; Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers…Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth.” (Titus 1:4-14)
We should also expect that the wrath of Rome against the Jews would make the average Gentile Christian shy away from any association with them. Unlike some of those suicidal pastors in Germany under the Nazis, they didn’t need to add the Jewish question to their troubles. They were experiencing their own persecution.
Christianity was identified at first with Judaism, but people quickly came to see it as a different religion…a strange, new cult…spread across people groups and geographical boundaries. People felt threatened by this oddball new religion.
The next problem was with the religious activities of the Christians, with what they did do and didn’t do…
First, because they didn’t participate in pagan rituals but tended to keep to themselves, Christians were considered anti-social…Second, since Christians wouldn’t join in with the religious activities which were believed to placate the gods, they became a threat to the very well-being of the community. Writing in about A.D. 196, Tertullian said, “The Christians are to blame for every public disaster and every misfortune that befalls the people. If the Tiber rises to the walls, if the Nile fails to rise and flood the fields, if the sky withholds its rain, if there is earthquake or famine or plague, straightway the cry arises: ‘The Christians to the lions!’”
With respect to what they did do in their own religious practices, talk of eating the body and blood of Jesus, and the customary greeting with a kiss, brought charges of cannibalism and incest.
The third problem was the nature or content of Christians’ beliefs. The historian Tacitus spoke of Christians as a “class hated for their abominations” who held to a “deadly superstition.” A drawing found in Rome of a man with a donkey’s head hanging on a cross gives an idea of what pagans thought of Christian beliefs.
Finally, Christians’ reluctance to offer worship to the emperor and the gods was considered madness, considering what would happen to them if they didn’t. Why not just offer a pinch of incense to the image of the emperor?…
Claudius Nero was named emperor at age 16 and reigned from A.D. 54-68…Christians became the object of his ire following the Great Fire of Rome in A.D. 64. Some people suspected that Nero started the fire himself, so he pointed the accusing finger at Christians. The fact that he felt confident in doing this indicates the low regard in which people held Christians already. Historian Philip Schaff says that “Their Jewish origin, their indifference to politics and public affairs, their abhorrence of heathen customs, were construed into an ‘odium generis humani’ (hatred of the human race), and this made an attempt on their part to destroy the city sufficiently plausible to justify a verdict of guilty.” Schaff says that “there began a carnival of blood such as even heathen Rome never saw before or since….A ‘vast multitude’ of Christians was put to death in the most shocking manner.” Some were crucified, some sewn up in animal skins and thrown to the dogs, some were covered in pitch, nailed to wooden posts, and burned as torches. It was in the fallout of this that Peter and Paul gave their lives for their Savior, probably within a year of each other…
Emperor Trajan ruled from A.D. 98-117…Persecution was especially bad in Syria and Palestine during Trajan’s reign. In 107 he went to Antioch and demanded that everyone sacrifice to the gods. Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch and pupil of the apostle John, refused and was martyred by being thrown to wild animals. Ignatius wrote this to Polycarp, another disciple of John, on his way to Rome: “Let the fire, the gallows, the wild beasts, the breaking of bones, the pulling asunder of members, the bruising of my whole body, and the torments of the devil and hell itself come upon me, so that I may win Christ Jesus [quoting Paul.”
Emperor Hadrian…hated Jews, and was somewhat “indifferent to Christianity from ignorance of it.”…“It was beside the point for Christians to argue that the malicious tales circulated about them were false,…Deeds, not words, were required by the state; and if they were in fact loyal citizens, as they protested, there was a simple way of demonstrating their loyalty; let them offer a pinch of incense in honour of the Emperor, let them swear by his divinity, let them invoke him as ‘Lord.’”
During these growing pains of Christianity, Antioch in Syria and Ephesus in Asia Minor became the centers of Christianity for the logical reason that this was where the greatest majority of Christians lived.
Will Durant, famed author of the 11 volume History of Civilization, devotes an entire book entitled Caesar and Christ to this challenge. It which concludes with “The Triumph of Christianity”.
Bear in mind, Durant is a secular historian and his perspective is political. His perspective is also proven accurate when we see what came to pass after a critical mass of membership and leadership shifted from the Jews to the Gentiles. The Roman state religio-political complex substituted worship of the Christ with his Spirit for worship of the Caesar with his genius – guardian deity or spirit, incarnation, prophetic skill, generative power – with virtually no changes in pagan practices.
the Kingdom of God was established on earth by Jesus Christ in the year 33 AD, in the form of His Church, led by Peter. And where is the Kingdom of God on earth? It would be in the Tabernacle at each and every Catholic Church, where Jesus Christ is truly present, body, blood, soul, and divinity, in the Eucharist! He’s waiting for you to come see Him and talk to Him, right now!
There may have been a Reformation against Constantine’s Church, but did the churches of God simply substitute Luther, Calvin, Knox, Darby, and a host of other teachers for the apostle and prophets?
Interestingly, today’s Messianic Movement is recognizing the need to re-establish strong Jewish leadership among God’s people – by encouraging Gentile converts to Judaism.
I was privileged to be asked to draft a proposal for the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations Theology Committee on the subject of the conversion of Gentiles to Messianic Judaism…I and a growing number of Messianic Jewish leaders have come to believe that offering a formal conversion is essential for the future health and vitality of our movement, the spiritual and emotional well-being of the people in our care, and the good of the Jewish people…
Clearly, the intended path for non-Jews who enter the community of faith in the Messiah is not conversion at all…the non-Jewish peoples of the world are invited into Abraham’s enlarged tent not by becoming Jews, but by trusting in the Risen One and by obeying the overarching ethical imperatives of the Torah…
the larger biblical picture demands that the Jewish people-Israel-remain a distinct people for the sake of the world. According to Messianic Jewish understanding, the destiny of the world depends on the ongoing vitality of the Jewish people because the Jewish people have always been and will always be a conduit of his blessing to the entire world…Messianic Jews are God’s partners in this great task, helping the Church to stay properly connected to its Jewish roots and helping the Jewish community take “a second look at Yeshua for the first time.” At another level, we sense the vital role the Jewish people have played in many areas of civilization-building in the Western world, from medicine to principles of jurisprudence to the very concept of a single deity who loves his creation…
Consistent with Scripture…Some Gentiles may wish fully to identify with the Jewish people by actually joining themselves via conversion. I am arguing this is not only permissible, but an absolutely necessary option in a Messianic Jewish context (as it is among other forms of Judaism). The overarching message of the Bible with respect to the unique calling of the Jewish people, demands such an approach to the (relatively) few non Jews who seek full identification with the physical seed of Abraham.