Sunday, April 20, 2008

Is the Rapture a Biblical Doctrine? Part 5

The Earth belongs to HaShem
"The Earth Belongs to HaShem and the Fullness Thereof."

Is the Rapture a Biblical Doctrine? Part 5
(To read the entire piece now go to my Noahide Nazarene Site)

By Ben Ruach ha Kodesh (John of AllFaith) © 4.16.08

Go to:
Part One:
Part Two:
Part Three:
Part Four

The Seven Periods of the Church

In the book of Master Y'shua's prophecy to John he explains that the Church would pass through seven distinct periods of time before finally embracing the role of Babylon the Great and being rejected by God and man. These "churches" existed in the cities referenced, but the meaning is deeper, signifying the future of the Church. We are currently living in the seventh and final of these periods, Laodecia. What follows is a list of the Seven Churches of Revelation and their approximate dates. These dates are given only as markers because the distinguishing traits of each period bleed over into the others in the continuous flow of prophetic time. This list should not therefore be taken as giving exact dates for the periods they reference. In these letters the Master, through his Beloved Disciple, addresses those who hold true to his Way in the various churches and the ages they signify.

The Church of Ephesus:

    70 CE - 170 CE: As the Jews, including the followers of the Jewish Master Y'shua, were expelled from Zion (as the Master predicted in Matthew 24) the Nazarenes (the followers of Y'shua of Nazareth) began to lose faith in the Way. They had hoped the Jewish Moshiach had come, but now with the utter destruction of Israel they felt rudderless. According to the prophets Moshiach would establish Israel, not oversee its destruction! The Master was dead, the Temple lay in rubble and the Gentiles ruled supreme while the Jews fled for their lives into the lands of infidels! In their confusion certain of the followers of the Way began embracing various non-Abrahamic doctrines. Having lost their homes and being dispersed throughout the world they began compromise their beliefs and to accept doctrines never taught by Moses, Master Y'shua, or the Jewish Scriptures.

      Revelation 2:
      1 Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks;
      2 I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars:
      3 And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted.
      4 Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.
      5 Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.
      6 But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, which I also hate.
      7 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.

    There were devout (Written) Torah Observant Nazarenes still and they were struggling to maintain the true faith of the Master and his reformed Jewish beliefs. Others however were claiming to be apostles of the Master when in truth they were introducing false doctrines and leading the Nazarenes astray. Among these heretics were the Nicolaitanes (Nicolaitans or Nicolaites). While neither the texts we have today in the Bible nor external information positively identifies this sect, we do have clear identification of who they were. This sect (in verse 14) held to the error of Balaam as we will see below. The error of Balaam was the merging of Judaism with other religions and rites, thus leading them astray from the God of Israel. God is the God of the whole world and Master Y'shua taught that there were other, non-Jewish (and non-Nazarene) "sheep," however he had come solely for the House of Israel (Matt 15:24). The Nicolaitanes were leading the mainly Jewish (at this point) followers of the Master away from Judaism into a religious synthesis that was the hallmark of Roman religion. As is well known, whenever Rome conquered a people their gods were merged into Roman pantheon. The Nicolaitanes were seeking to merge the God of Israel into their Universal Pantheon. This Church period precedes the creation of the Roman Papacy but in the Nicolaitanes we see the trend the Church would follow. The Nicolaitane Heresy prevailed.

The Church of Smyrna:

    170 CE - 312 CE: As the followers of Master Y'shua and other Jews held firm to their devotion to the God of Israel they experienced severe persecution. During this period there was little time to debate doctrine, the followers of the Way were struggling to survive! It was during this period that the Maranatha fish was developed as a secret identifier by which the followers could come toward. For information on this and similar symbols and how they eventually led to the renaming of Master Y'shua, read my study IHS, Chi-Rho and the Name of Master Y'shua

      Revelation 2:
      8 And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive;
      9 I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.
      10 Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.
      11 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.

    Here we see the Nicolaitane Heresy clearly identified. These people were claiming, "to be Jews," but they were not. Rather, they were laying the foundation for a new religion that would be the bane of Jewish existence for the next 2000 years. Master Y'shua was Jewish. ALL of his disciples were Jewish. As Gentiles initially embraced his Way they considered themselves converts to Judaism. The difficulty was of course that the Jewish hierarchy did not accept the reformation of Prophet Y'shua and hence rejected the conversions of his Gentile followers. This situation is described in painful detail in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles. The final decision of the Apostles was that those who wished to enter into the Nazarene Congregation would not be required to formally convert into Judaism (via circumcision, the acceptance of the Jewish authorities etc).

    This ongoing controversy empowered those who wanted to transform Master Y'shua's reformation of Judaism into a new Universal Church that would be distinct from Judaism and hold the authority and blessings of Rome. At this point, 170-312 CE the true followers of the Master, Jews and the Noahides (Gentiles) alike, still considered themselves to be Jews as this verse makes clear. The Nicolaitanes however were clearly abandoning the precepts of Judaism and seeking to establish something entirely different: Modern Christianity. This abandonment of Judaism by the followers the Way was a development, "which I also hate" (vs.6). As the followers of the Way approached the 300's the Nicolaite heresy was gaining popularity. This was partly because those who surrendered to Roman rule faced less persecution and partly due to the growing, even rampant, antisemitism of the day.

    Unlike many of the followers of the Way, the Jews who had not embraced Master Y'shua were adamant in their rejection of Rome and its developing Universal religion. The Jews were praying for a return to their God-given Holy Land, for the coming of the true Moshiach, and now they had to contend not only with overt Pagans who hated them and had destroyed their Holy City and Temple, but also new Pagans who claimed to be the true Jews! These Roman Pagans actually claimed the God of Israel had rejected His people in favor of infidels!

    As the new Catholic (lit. "Universal") Church gradually developed based on the Nicolaite heresy, they established their power base upon the "Holy See" at Rome. Soon persecution against the "Christians" subsided and the Vatican and its priesthood amassed great power both religiously and materially. For the Jews however life only got harder and their struggle for survival showed no sign of easing.

Part Six Coming Soon!

To read the entire piece now go to my Noahide Nazarene Site)

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