Dear Associates, Students and Friends:
One simple description of history is “what happened, and when.” This month’s article by Dr. Ernest L. Martin discusses “The Importance of First Century History.” It presents background and significance to historical events that occurred 11 years after Christ’s resurrection. To those who lived at the time, these events seemed to mark the beginning of the last generation leading up to the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth. 1 Those who believed that to be the case were wrong.
The topic under discussion surrounds well-documented historical events that occurred in 40–41 AD involving a mad Roman emperor and a statue that seemed to be fulfilling a major biblical prophecy from the Book of Daniel. Furthermore, the events also seemed to fulfill major prophetic teachings of Christ that He gave to His disciples. These events had a profound and frightening effect upon all Jews in Palestine and around the world, 2 no doubt leading directly to a heightened awareness of prophecy in the Old Testament. This in turn set the stage for the Jewish rebellion that 25 years later was to break out in Galilee and Judea that would lead to the destruction of the Temple, the city of Jerusalem, and the Jewish nation by Roman legions.
These events of 40–41 AD also seemed to miraculously show God’s care and love for His Temple in Jerusalem. At the same time other less public events were indicating that mankind’s obligations toward the Temple and the Mosaic Law by Jews were being radically changed, the relationship of Jew and Gentile to God and to each other were also being changed radically. One wonders, considering that God is in charge of both events, what was God doing? Why did God seem to allow mixed signals to be understood by His people who loved the Word of God?
God allowed the prophetic expectations of Jews and Christians, believers and non-believers, to appear to be coming to prophetic fulfillment. Yet no fulfillment occurred. Even the apostles of Jesus, personally taught by Him for 2+ years before and for 40 days after His resurrection, were allowed to believe that Christ would return within two, three or at most four decades. They were wrong, but for the right reasons.
Within a short period of time seeming contradictions are shown. On the one hand God miraculously protects and seems to again validate the Temple and His chosen people. On the other, God gives clear indications that the Temple is irrelevant. Eventually He removes the Temple from existence on earth while He gives Gentiles His Holy Spirit, not requiring them to be circumcised, or to practice the Law of God given through Moses.
The answer, of course, is that God the Father is totally sovereign in His actions, purpose, and counsel as the apostle Paul explains:
“Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he has purposed in himself: That in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who works all things after the counsel of his own will: That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.”
The apostle Paul understood that we must try our best to do the right thing in every situation, to do that which is grounded in love — love for God and love for man. By so doing we will fulfill the counsel of His will even when we do not fully understand the totality of “the mystery of His will” — yet. In other words, “according to His good pleasure” God enlightens us of His will as it suits Him to do so. At present we have everything we need to know about spiritual matters from His written word, the Holy Scriptures. The more we know the Word of God, the better we can act in accord with His will in this present age.
Let me make two suggestions. First, after reading this month’s article reread this Newsletter. Then go back and consider the information given in Dr. Martin’s presentation “Development of New Doctrine” at http://askelm.com/doctrine/d090501.htm. That article and this one interweave their information.
Dr. Martin’s work is a tremendous heritage of teaching for all of you who study this material now, and to those who will read, listen, and study it in the future. As always, the purpose of Dr. Martin’s work and of ASK is to help you study your Bible more intelligently and plainly, and to know the Word of God better. Imagine if you had to print out all the material from the articles and books on the ASK website, or download all the articles and book chapters to your own computer, or all of The Byte Show programs, and other presentations, how long would that take you? ASK is a legacy of love that God and Christ have made available to you, the family of God, and to the world through Dr. Martin’s works and research, and we are privileged to assist in that work being preserved, and hopefully grow so we can better serve you all.
If you have a legacy to leave to your family, please consider leaving a bequest from your estate to continue the work of ASK. Some of you have been faithful supporters of ASK over decades and your financial support would be missed. Such an action on your part will help.
I mentioned this one time before, years ago, but occasionally I need to remind everyone that ASK does accept legacies from wills, bequests, and memorials from estates. Unfortunately sometimes such bequests are not fulfilled as intended. Therefore, if you intend to make such a bequest to ASK, please let us know. Inform us of your bequest intention in a letter to us so your desires can be fulfilled. Family comes first.
The article this month is longer than usual. I felt that the information was important and it could not be broken up into two parts. It was information that you need to know about for your biblical studies, so we went to extra expense to bring it to you.
Some of you have found great value in the ASK educational material. Some of you have learned more about the Bible and God’s plan for all mankind than you ever dreamed was in the Bible. Yet some of you have never helped us with the expenses it takes to produce this material to others. I invite you to share with ASK in a manner that reflects the benefits of knowledge, understanding, and wisdom that you have learned and gained from our teaching. It is important that we are able to produce this valuable biblical, historical, and prophetic material you will not find elsewhere. For each of you who contribute materially to ASK (and you know who you are) we are grateful and thank you for your contributions. For those who have not, perhaps your time to help has arrived. Your encouragements and especially your prayers to God on our behalf are greatly desired by us. Until next time, God bless you all.
David W. Sielaff
1 This month’s article provides background historical information for two other articles by Dr. Martin. The first is his 1979 article “The Expectation of Christ's Second Coming in Apostolic Times” at http://www.askelm.com/prophecy/p790201.htm which gives information about 63 AD being a significant crisis time. The other is “The Prophetic Environment of the First Century” at http://www.askelm.com/restoring/res019.htm which expands on the earlier article. It comes from Chapter 14 of Dr. Martin’s book Essentials of New Testament Doctrine.
2 The usual estimate (little more than a guess) for the Jewish population during the 1st century was that it comprised about 10% of the total population of the Roman Empire which ranged between 50–60 million. The largest populations of Jews were in Judea, then Syria, then Egypt. Jewish unrest had a great impact on various sectors of the Roman economy and trade.
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