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Believers Of The Past, What Should We Expect To Find?
To the Chief Musician. On an eight-stringed harp. A Psalm of David. Help, Lord, for the godly man ceases! For the faithful disappear from among the sons of men. (Psalm 12:1)
Even in David's day, in the midst of those who had the oracles of God (Psalm 147:19-20; Romans 3:2), who had the Word of the living God in the correct religion, there were few godly men. There were few who were saved (Matthew 7:13-14), few who knew God and were on their way to heaven, few who would not end up in hell. Solomon wrote,
Most men will proclaim each his own goodness, but who can find a faithful man? (Proverbs 20:6)
With few exceptions, faithful men, men who are saved (Psalm 31:23; 78:8, 37; 101:6; Proverbs 28:18; Matthew 24:45-51; 25:21-23; Luke 12:42-48; 16:10-12; 19:17; Revelation 2:10; 17:14) have always been hard to find.
I. Before The Flood
For the first approximately 1650 years of life on the earth up until the flood, there is not a single woman clearly noted as righteous, and the only godly men clearly identified as such are Abel, Enoch, and Noah (Genesis 4:4; 5:22-24; 6:8-9; Hebrews 11:4-7). This makes a grand total of three! No one else is specifically identified as a follower of Christ, except perhaps for Seth. Although, Seth's godliness is only by implication via Eve's statement, "God has appointed another seed for me instead of Abel." (Genesis 4:25).
Now, this does not mean there were not other godly people on the planet during this time. Genesis 4:26 says,
And as for Seth, to him also a son was born; and he named him Enosh. Then men began to call on the name of the Lord.
Near the time of Enosh's arrival, 235 years from the beginning (Genesis 5:3, 6), men began to call upon God. How many and who they were and how many were actually saved, it does not divulge. But, one fact becomes quite clear. By the time Noah enters the ark and the flood comes upon the world, there are only 8 people, out of the entire population of the planet, spared from the wrath of God via the flood (Genesis 6:5-8, 11-13, 17-18; 1 Peter 3:20). And, out of these eight, only one is clearly identified as righteous before God (Genesis 6:8-9).
Therefore, for the first approximately 1650 years, all we can find for certain, by name, are three godly men, and the reason we know about them, is because God has recorded this information for us in His holy Word. Without the written documentation of holy writ, we would have no certain information of any godly man for this entire 1600 year period of history.
Interesting to note, it was during this time that Enoch prophesied about those "for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness," i.e. false teachers (2 Peter 2:1, 17; Jude 4, 13) and said,
Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him. (Jude 14-15)
Enoch knew of the coming judgment of God upon those who lead people astray. The issue of false teachers goes way back to the beginning, around 700 years from the beginning ("the seventh from Adam," Jude 14).
II. After The Flood To Abram
For the next approximately 350 years, the only men pictured in Scripture after the flood as godly men are Noah and two of his sons. Ham is depicted as an ungodly man in Genesis 9:22 as he saw his father naked and told his two brothers about it. But, Ham's brothers, Shem and Japheth, didn't dare look upon their father's nakedness (Genesis 9:23), but instead covered Noah with a garment as they had their backs and faces turned away. When Noah woke up, he knew what Ham had done to him (Genesis 9:24), so he cursed Ham's son (Genesis 9:25), and blessed Shem and Japheth saying,
"Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants he shall be to his brethren." And he said: "Blessed be the Lord, the God of Shem, and may Canaan be his servant. May God enlarge Japheth, and may he dwell in the tents of Shem; and may Canaan be his servant." (Genesis 9:25-27)
Therefore, for another 350 years, we again only have a total of three godly men recorded in the annals of history (some may include Job in this time, but see below, IV. The Time of Moses). This brings a grand total of only five godly men, and no women, identified in Scripture by name as people of faith for the first approximately 2000 years of history. And, these five are known because of the revelation God has given us in His Word. Take away the record of Scripture, and we would have no certain knowledge of a single saved person who ever walked the earth for the first 2000 years of human history.
III. From Abram To Moses
When Abram was seventy five years old, the Lord told him to depart from Haran (Genesis 12:4). This is the earliest record of God's dealings with Abram. Abram was obedient to the Lord at this time, so, even though Genesis 15 records God's accounting of him as righteous (Genesis 15:6), Abram was a follower of the Lord at least by the age of 75.
Moving from this point in history, finally, after 2000 years, we have a woman recorded as a woman of faith, Sarah (Hebrews 11:11). Actually, moving from Abraham to Moses there is not only Sarah, but Hagar (Genesis 16:7-13; 21:16-19), Rebekah (Genesis 25:22-23), Rachel (Genesis 30:22-24), Leah (Genesis 29:32-33, 35), and the midwives, Puah and Shiphrah (Exodus 1:15-21).
As for godly men we have the prophet Abraham (Genesis 15:6; 20:7), Abraham's servant (Genesis 24), Lot (Genesis 19:29; 2 Peter 2:7-8), Ishmael (Genesis 21:17-20), Isaac (Genesis 25:21; 26:2-5, 24-25, 27-29; Hebrews 11:20), Jacob (Genesis 28:10-22; 32:22-30; Hebrews 11:21), Joseph (Genesis 39:2-3, 9, 23, Hebrews 11:22), and Jabez (1 Chronicles 4:9-10). This gives us a grand total of only eight righteous men and seven godly women that are identified. This does not mean there were not others (Genesis 18:19), but as far as any documentation of godly people, Scripture records only a few for a period of about 400 years (Galatians 3:17). And again, if we were without the Biblical record, we would have no certain information on even these.
IV. The Time Of Moses
It is difficult to give any exact time for when the righteous men Job, Elihu, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar (Job 1:1; 32:1f; 34:2) were on the earth, but the book of Job indicates it was sometime during and/or after the Exodus. This can be seen via the term "Rahab" רַהַב (rahav) found in the book of Job.
In Isaiah 30:7; 51:9; Psalm 87:4; and 89:10 Egypt is called "Rahab." The only other places this same Hebrew word, Rahab, is found is in Job 9:13 (NKJV "the proud") and 26:12 (NKJV "the storm").1 In Job 26:12 Job speaks of God breaking up "Rahab" (NKJV "the storm"), which is the same kind of language found in Psalm 89:10, "broken Rahab in pieces" (NKJV). In the next verse (verse 13) Job speaks of "His hand pierced the fleeing serpent," which is the same kind of thing mentioned in Psalm 74:13-14 and Isaiah 51:9-10 in which both speak in the context of the Exodus when God "divided the sea" (Psalm 74:13) and "dried up the sea" (Isaiah 51:10).
Therefore, it appears Job knew of the Exodus and speaks of it in Job 9:13 & 26:12-13. Moreover, it should be noted that after the Israelites left Egypt, the entire world knew about it (see Exodus 9:16; Deuteronomy 2:25; Psalm 98:1-3; Romans 9:17).
Now, with the amazing work of God in the Exodus from Egypt and the awesome miracles God did in the wilderness, would it not be expected that a great work of the salvation of God would have taken place during this time? Surely masses of people were saved? No, actually, just the opposite took place. An amazing work of the wrath of God was wrought upon the Israelites, time and again (e.g. Psalm 78 & 106), because they refused to believe in God and obey Him. Paul wrote of this time saying,
Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ. But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness. (1 Corinthians 10:1-5)
Not being well pleasing to God resulted in the death and subsequent eternal destruction of most of the Israelites. The writer of Hebrews says,
For who, having heard, rebelled? Indeed, was it not all who came out of Egypt, led by Moses? Now with whom was He angry forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose corpses fell in the wilderness? And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief. (Hebrews 3:16-19)
What was the "rest" they did not enter? It was the gospel rest of salvation.
Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it. For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it. (Hebrews 4:1-2)
Even though they were under the law, they nonetheless had the gospel preached to them (Hebrews 4:1-2). Yet, most of them went to hell (1 Corinthians 10:5).
Those indicated as believers during this time are Moses (Matthew 17:3), Aaron (Psalm 106:16), Joshua (Numbers 14:30; Joshua 24:15), Caleb (Numbers 14:24), Phinehas (Numbers 25:10-13), Moses' parents (Hebrews 11:23), probably Jethro (Exodus 18:1, 9-24), and probably Miriam (Exodus 15:20; Numbers 12:1-15; Micah 6:4).
Therefore, of the well over 603,550 people (Numbers 2:32, this number does not count those under the age of 20, all the women, and the entire tribe of Levi, Numbers 1:2; 2:33), we have the names of only 7 godly people. This does not mean there were not more than this (e.g. the sons of Korah? Numbers 26:11), but rather, these are the only ones identified as righteous.
Therefore, from the creation of the world up to and through the time of Moses, there are 24 men (including Job and his friends) and 9 women who are marked as those who walked in the truth (1 Timothy 2:4). Yet, if the Biblical record did not exist, neither would this knowledge of those who walked with God exist.
V. The Time of Joshua
This is a unique time of history. As should be evident already, it is not the norm for the masses of humanity to follow the Lord. But in Joshua's day, and during the lives of the elders who outlived Joshua, the Israelites believed in the Lord.
Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua, who had known all the works of the Lord which He had done for Israel. (Joshua 24:31; see also Judges 2:7)
No one in particular is named and noted as godly other than Caleb and Phinehas (from the prior period), Rahab (Hebrews 11:31) and Joshua (Exodus 33:11; Joshua 24:15), but the text is clear that the masses of Israel "served the Lord." Yet, again, without the Biblical account, we would have no evidence of an entire country that served God for years. Besides this, what about the rest of the world? Are there any people saved outside of Israel? God knows, but we don't.
VI. The Time Of The Judges
Judges names several godly people. Although, unlike the time of Joshua, the time of Judges brings Israel back to their old sinful ways. This time is characterized in Judges 17:6 and 21:25 as a time when "there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes."
Those depicted as godly men and women during this time are, Othniel (Judges 3:9-10), Ehud (Judges 3:15-30), probably Shamgar (Judges 3:31), Deborah and Barak (Judges 4 & 5), an unnamed prophet (Judges 6:8-10), Gideon (Judges 6:11-8:32), probably Jotham (Judges 9:7-21, 57), probably Tola (Judges 10:1-2), probably Jair (Judges 10:3-5), Jephthah and his daughter (Judges 11:36-39; Hebrews 11:32), Manoah and his wife (Judges 13:2-23), Samson (Hebrews 11:32), Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz (Ruth), probably Elkanah (1 Samuel 1:3), Hannah (1 Samuel 1:10-18; 2:1-10), an unnamed man of God (1 Samuel 2:27), and Samuel, the last judge (1 Samuel 7:15). Here we have at the most 19 people identified as people of faith, for a period of approximately 300 years. Yet, again, without this Biblical record, we would have no evidence of their existence, as there is no evidence of any other godly people, from within or without Israel, outside of these mentioned.
VII. The Time Of David
David is the one who wrote, "Help, Lord, for the godly man ceases! For the faithful disappear from among the sons of men" (Psalm 12:1). Who is marked as righteous before God in his time? There are not many. Besides Samuel, there is David's mother (Psalm 86:16), Jonathan (1 Samuel 14; 2 Samuel 1:26), the prophet Gad (1 Samuel 22:5), apparently Ishbosheth (2 Samuel 4:11), the prophet Nathan (2 Samuel 7:2), Abigail (1 Samuel 25:3-35; Proverbs 9:10), the wise woman from Tekoa (2 Samuel 14:1-20), probably Mephibosheth (2 Samuel 19:24-30), the wise woman in Abel (2 Samuel 20:15-22), Asaph (1 Chronicles 16:37; and maybe his sons, 1 Chronicles 25:2; Psalm 50), Heman (and maybe his sons, 1 Chronicles 25:5), and Jeduthun (and maybe his sons, 1 Chronicles 25:1, 3; 2 Chronicles 35:15), apparently some of the mighty men like, Josheb-Basshebeth the Tachmonite (2 Samuel 23:8; Hebrews 11:34), Eleazer the son of Dodo (2 Samuel 23:9-10), Shammah the Hararite (2 Samuel 23:11-12), and possibly others (2 Samuel 23:18-39). Also, in 1 Samuel 19:20 there is a group of prophets.
Twelve men, four women, and possibly a few others can be identified as people of faith during David's time, and, again, without the Biblical record, even these, including David himself, would not be known.
VIII. From Solomon To Babylon
Solomon was a man of faith for much of his life (1 Kings 3:3), but when he was old he turned away from the Lord and went after other gods (1 Kings 11:1-40). His father had warned him before he died with these words:
As for you, my son, Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a loyal heart and with a willing mind; for the Lord searches all hearts and understands all the intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will cast you off forever. (1 Chronicles 28:9)
David's words were fulfilled. Solomon forsook the Lord (1 Kings 11:33), thus God cast him off forever in hell (Ezekiel 33:12-13; Revelation 21:8). So, indeed, Solomon can be named as a godly man for most of his life, but as for him being one who endured to the end (Matthew 10:22), Scripture marks him as one who did not, but turned into an idolater at the end of his life (1 Kings 11:4-9; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10).
During Solomon's reign the only believers who can be clearly identified as such, other than those mentioned above, are Hiram the king of Tyre (2 Chronicles 2:3-16), the prophet Ahijah (1 Kings 11:29-40; 14:1-18) and apparently the Queen of the South (Matthew 12:42; 1 Kings 10:1-10). After Solomon we have the prophet Shemaiah (1 Kings 12:22; 2 Chronicles 12:5, 15), the man of God who rebuked Jeroboam (1 Kings 13:1-10; 2 Kings 23:18), the old prophet of Bethel (1 Kings 13:11-32), Abijah the son of Jeroboam (1 Kings 14:1, 13), the prophet Iddo (2 Chronicles 9:29; 12:15; 13:22), the prophet Iddo, father of Berechiah (Zechariah 1:1, 7), King Asa, although he did not endure (1 Kings 15:9-11; 2 Chronicles 16:7-14), the prophet Amos (Amos 1:1), Azariah the son of Obed (2 Chronicles 15:1-17), Hanani the seer (2 Chronicles 16:1-10), the prophet Jehu the son of Hanani (1 Kings 16:1-7; 2 Chronicles 19:2), Elijah (1 Kings 17:1; James 5:17-18), the widow in Zarephath (1 Kings 17:8-24), Obadiah, the 100 prophets he hid, and the unnamed prophets Jezebel killed (1 Kings 18:3-16), the 7000 who had not bowed their knee to Baal (1 Kings 19:18), an unnamed prophet (1 Kings 20:13), an unnamed man of God (1 Kings 20:28), "a certain man of the sons of the prophets" (1 Kings 20:35), the prophet Micaiah (1 Kings 22:8), King Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 17:3-13), Amasiah (2 Chronicles 17:16); Elisha (2 Kings 2:14-15), the widow and her husband who feared the Lord (2 Kings 4:1), the Shunammite woman (2 Kings 4:8-37), Naaman (2 Kings 5:15-19), Jehoiada the priest and his son Zechariah (2 Kings 12:2; 2 Chronicles 24:15-22), the unnamed man of God who came to King Amaziah (2 Chronicles 25:7), the unnamed prophet who was sent to King Amaziah (2 Chronicles 25:15), the prophet Jonah (2 Kings 14:25), the men of Nineveh (Jonah 3; Matthew 12:41), Hosea the prophet (Hosea 1:1), King Uzziah who did not endure (2 Chronicles 26:3-5; 16-21), King Jotham (2 Chronicles 27:1-6), Obed the prophet (2 Chronicles 28:9), King Hezekiah (2 Kings 18:3), Micah of Moresheth (Jeremiah 26:18; Micah 1:1), the prophet Nahum (Nahum 1:1), Isaiah the prophet, who walked naked for three years (2 Kings 19:2; Isaiah 20:2-4), King Josiah (2 Kings 22:1-2), Huldah the prophetess (2 Kings 22:14; 2 Chronicles 34:22), the prophet Zephaniah (Zephaniah1:1), Uriah the priest and Zechariah the son of Jeberechiah (Isaiah 8:2), the prophet Habakkuk (Habakkuk 1:1), Jeremiah the prophet (Jeremiah 1:3), Urijah the son of Shemaiah (Jeremiah 26:20-23), the Rechabites (Jeremiah 35:1-19), Igdaliah (Jeremiah 35:4), Ebed-Melech (Jeremiah 38:7-13; 39:15-18), Baruch (Jeremiah 32; 36; 43:1-6; 45), Ezekiel, whose wife dies for a sign (Ezekiel 1-3; 24:15-24), Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah (Daniel 1:6), Nebuchadnezzer (Daniel 4), and probably sometime within this time, the prophet Joel (Joel 1:1), the prophet Obadiah (Obadiah 1:1), Heman the Ezrahite (Psalm 88), Ethan the Ezrahite (1 Kings 4:31?; Psalm 89), Agur the son of Jakeh (Proverbs 30:1), and King Lemuel (Proverbs 31:1). These individuals are noted for this time, and there are others not so specifically identified (e.g. 2 Kings 21:10).
This period from Solomon to the captivity in Babylon is approximately 400 years, and even though several (60) may be specifically identified as people of faith, overall, most people during this time forsook the Lord (e.g. 2 Chronicles 36:15-16). Micah wrote for his time,
The faithful man has perished from the earth, and there is no one upright among men. They all lie in wait for blood; every man hunts his brother with a net. (Micah 7:2)
Alas, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a brood of evildoers, children who are corrupters! They have forsaken the Lord, they have provoked to anger the Holy One of Israel, they have turned away backward. (Isaiah 1:4)
Unless the Lord of hosts had left to us a very small remnant, we would have become like Sodom, we would have been made like Gomorrah. (Isaiah 1:9)
Someone may be fooled by the 49 names and over 7011 other believers mentioned, thinking this was a time of great spiritual revival. On the contrary, it was not. What we have is simply more detail for this time period than what we've seen so far. Yet, again, without the Biblical record, we would have no certain knowledge of a single righteous man or woman, not only for these 400 years, but for all of human history up until this time.
IX. From Babylon To King Herod (Luke 1:5)
In this time frame, which is approximately 500 years, we have 11 godly people named. They are Darius (Daniel 6:25-27), Cyrus (Ezra 1:1-4; Isaiah 44:28; 45:1-6), the prophets Haggai and Zechariah (Ezra 5:1), Ezra (Ezra 7:8-9), Sherebiah (Ezra 8:18), Hananiah (Nehemiah 7:2; not the Hananiah of Jeremiah 28), Nehemiah (Nehemiah 13:22), Esther and Mordecai (Esther 2:7; 3:3-4; 4:15-16; etc.), the prophet Malachi (Malachi 1:1), some unnamed who feared the Lord, for whom a book of remembrance was written (Malachi 3:16), and those "who know their God" and "those of understanding" (Daniel 11:32-35, given this passage in Daniel refers to this time period). It appears there were others as well, just unnamed (Ezra 6:21).
Someone might appeal to the Apocrypha as recording believers for this time, but this is spurious and cannot be trusted (see our report on the Apocrypha). Therefore, once again, we are completely dependent on the Biblical account for any sure information regarding the redeemed.
X. From John the Baptist To The Death Of Christ
The New Testament covers the history of mankind from the time just prior to the birth of Christ (e.g. Luke 1) to eternity (Revelation 21-22). It records many godly people both by name and in general. Those people of God who are specifically mentioned before the cross are, Zacharias and Elizabeth (Luke 1:5-6), Mary, the mother of Jesus (Luke 1:26-27), Joseph (Matthew 1:19), the wise men from the East (Matthew 2:1-12), the unnamed shepherds (Luke 2:8-20), Simeon (Luke 2:25), the prophetess Anna (Luke 2:36), John the Baptist (Luke 3:3), Nathanael (John 1:47-49; John 21:2), the Samaritan woman and other Samaritans (John 4:39-42), "a certain nobleman whose son was sick at Capernaum" along with "his whole household" (John 4:46-53), the eleven apostles, Peter, Andrew, James the son of Zebedee, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, Simon the Cananite, and Judas the son of James, who was also called Lebbaeus or Thaddaeus (Luke 6:13-16; Matthew 10:2-4; Mark 3:14-18; Acts 1:13), "Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias" (Acts 1:21-23), the centurion at Capernaum (Luke 7:1-9), the paralytic (Matthew 9:1-2), the woman "who was a sinner" (Luke 7:36-50), Mary Magdalene and Joanna (Luke 8:3; 24:10), Susanna (Luke 8:3), Mary the mother of James and Joses (Matthew 27:55-56; Mark 15:47-16:8; Luke 24:10), the mother of James and John (Zebedee¹s sons, Matthew 20:20-21; 27:56), the man who had a Legion of demons in him (Luke 8:26-39), the woman with a flow of blood (Luke 8:43-48), the "someone casting out demons" who did not physically follow Christ (Mark 9:38-41; Luke 9:49-50), the woman of Canaan (Matthew 15:22-28), the seventy (Luke 10:1-21), the man who was born blind (John 9:35-38), Lazarus (John 11:11/15:14; 11:23-24) and his sisters, Mary and Martha (John 11:1-44; 12:1-11), the woman with the spirit of infirmity (Luke 13:11-16), the Samaritan leper (Luke 17:11-19), the blind man near Jericho (as Christ came near to Jericho, Luke 18:35-43), Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-9), blind Bartimaeus (as Christ left Jericho, Mark 10:46-52), the poor widow who gave two mites (Luke 21:1-4), the woman who poured fragrant oil upon Christ's head (Matthew 26:6-13), the thief on the cross (Luke 23:39-43), the centurion and those guarding Christ (Matthew 27:54), Joseph of Arimathea (Luke 23:50-51), and Salome and "many other women" (Mark 15:40-41; 16:1). Over 130 people are marked as followers of the Lord, but only 32 are specifically named.
Yet, again, take away the written revelation, and there is no certain record of any of these people. How would we know these people existed and that they were in the truth without the New Testament? We wouldn't. Even the record of the early church fathers is dependent on the Biblical account. Take away the Biblical account, and you've taken away the only sure record that exists.
Someone may argue that Josephus, a writer in the later part of the first century, testifies to the followers of Christ, therefore we have a sure testimony of believers outside of the Bible. It is true that Christ, and some who followed Him, are cited in what we now have as The Works Of Josephus, but in this, only James the brother of Jesus and John the Baptist are noted by name. The other followers of Christ are only mentioned in general. The passage which cites John the Baptist reads as follows:
Now, some of the Jews thought that the destruction of Herod's army came from God, and that very justly, as a punishment of what he did against John, that was called the Baptist; for Herod slew him, who was a good man, and commanded the Jews to exercise virtue, both as to righteousness towards God, and so to come to baptism; for that washing [with water] would be acceptable to him, if they made use of it, not in order to the putting away, [or the remission] of some sins [only,] but for the purification of the body: supposing still that the soul was thoroughly purified beforehand by righteousness. Now, when [many] others came to crowd about him, for they were greatly moved [or pleased] by hearing his words, Herod, who feared lest the great influence John had over the people might put it into his power and inclination to raise a rebellion, (for they seemed ready to do anything he should advise,) thought it best, by putting him to death, to prevent any mischief he might cause, and not bring himself into difficulties, by sparing a man who might make him repent of it when it should be to late. Accordingly he was sent a prisoner, out of Herod¹s suspicious temper, to Macherus, the castle I before mentioned, and was there put to death. (Antiquities Of The Jews, book 18, chapter v, 2, bold added)
How accurate is Josephus' account? Josephus writes lies about Herod's dealings with John the Baptist.
Josephus says Herod put John in prison and killed him because he feared "the great influence John had" and he feared a possible "rebellion" by John and the people. This is not why Herod put John into prison, nor is it why Herod put him to death. Scripture gives us the truth.
For Herod himself had sent and laid hold of John, and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip's wife; for he had married her. For John had said to Herod, "It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife." Therefore Herodias held it against him and wanted to kill him, but she could not; for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just and holy man, and he protected him. And when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly. Then an opportune day came when Herod on his birthday gave a feast for his nobles, the high officers, and the chief men of Galilee. And when Herodias' daughter herself came in and danced, and pleased Herod and those who sat with him, the king said to the girl, "Ask me whatever you want, and I will give it to you." He also swore to her, "Whatever you ask me, I will give you, up to half of my kingdom." So she went out and said to her mother, "What shall I ask?" And she said, "The head of John the Baptist!" Immediately she came in with haste to the king and asked, saying, "I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter." And the king was exceedingly sorry; yet, because of the oaths and because of those who sat with him, he did not want to refuse her. Immediately the king sent an executioner and commanded his head to be brought. And he went and beheaded him in prison, brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl; and the girl gave it to her mother. (Mark 6:17-28)
As should be seen, Josephus propagates lies regarding Herod's actions with John the Baptist. Josephus says John was put in prison because Herod feared a rebellion. God says John was put in prison because John rebuked Herod for having his brother's wife (Luke 3:19). Josephus says Herod killed John "to prevent any mischief he might cause." Scripture says Herod killed John "because of his oaths and because of those who sat with him" (Mark 6:26). Knowing this, why would we be inclined to believe his statement that John the Baptist was "a good man" and "commanded the Jews to exercise" "piety towards God"? The only reason we know this is true is because Scripture bears witness to John's character (e.g. Matthew 11:7-14), and that he did indeed preach to the Jews (Luke 3:1-18). Apart from the Word, we would not know when Josephus lies and when he tells the truth.
The passage that records Jesus and his disciples, and is probably the most well known passage, says,
Now, there was about this time, Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works,- a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ; and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principle men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him, for he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him; and the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day. (Antiquities Of The Jews, book 18, chapter 3, 3)
Josephus errs in this text as well. Josephus says, in the context of Christ being condemned to the cross, that His disciples "did not forsake him." The truth is, they did forsake Him (Matthew 26:56; Mark 14:27, 50). Moreover, Josephus puts in question a serious truth by saying, "if it be lawful to call him a man." It is lawful to call Christ a man (1 Timothy 2:5). Those who do not are antichrist and deceivers (2 John 7).
Furthermore, Origen, an "early church father," who is reported to have lived from 185 to 254 A.D. writes concerning Josephus:
For in the 18th book of his Antiquities of the Jews, Josephus bears witness to John as having been a Baptist, and as promising purification to those who underwent the rite. Now this writer, although not believing in Jesus as the Christ, in seeking after the cause of the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple, whereas he ought to have said that the conspiracy against Jesus was the cause of these calamities befalling the people, since they put to death Christ, who was a prophet, says nevertheless - being, although against his will, not far from the truth - that these disasters happened to the Jews as a punishment for the death of James the Just, who was a brother of Jesus (called Christ), - (The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. IV, p. 416; Origen Against Celsus, book I, chapter XLVII, bold added)
This puts in question the authenticity of the Josephus passage. Did Josephus actually write this? Why did Origen say that Josephus was one who did not believe "in Jesus as the Christ," if Josephus had written in the very same book Origen mentions, "He was [the] Christ"? Is Origen right or wrong?
Moreover, if the paragraph mentioned above is taken out of Josephus, it reads quite well with no loss of any train of thought. The paragraph has the appearance of being a later insertion.
The final excerpt from Josephus is the one which mentions Jesus' brother, James.
Festus was now dead, and Albinus was but upon the road; so he assembled the sanhedrim of the judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others, [or some of his companions;] and when he had formed an accusation against as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned: but as for those who seemed the most equitable of the citizens, and such as were the most uneasy at the breach of the laws, they disliked what was done; they also sent to the king [Agrippa] desiring him to send to Ananus that he should act so no more, for that what he had already done was not to be justified: nay, some of them went also to meet Albinus, as he was upon his journey from Alexandria, and informed him that it was not lawful for Ananus to assemble a sanhedrim without his consent: . . . (Antiquities Of The Jews, book 20, chapter 9, 1)
This account does not fit well with the Biblical account of the Jews or believers in Christ. The Jews found it quite pleasing to have a believer put to death (e.g. Acts 12:1-3; 21:30-31; 22:22). In Josephus' account he records "the most equitable of the citizens" "uneasy" with how James was killed. If these "citizens" were Jews, this appears to be pure fantasy. If these "citizens" were suppose to be believers, the New Testament records no such like behavior by Christians in the entire book of Acts, or anywhere in the New Testament, even with all the persecution and injustices that took place (e.g. Acts 4:1-31; 5:22-42; 6:8-7:60; 8:1-3; etc.). This account in Josephus, when compared to the Biblical text, does not appear to be true.
Yet, despite Josephus' lack of integrity, or the integrity of those who may have added to Josephus' writings, the bottom line remains; the Biblical text is the only certain document we have regarding the existence of true believers in the past.
XI. From The Resurrection To The Revelation
After Christ physically came back to life, it is recorded that there were approximately 120 disciples (Acts 1:15), most of whom were people we have already mentioned, the exceptions being, at least those recorded, Jesus' brothers. Jesus' brothers were unbelievers before the crucifixion (John 7:1-5), but after Christ rose from the dead, we find them numbered among the disciples (Acts 1:14). Jesus had four brothers, James, Joses, Judas, and Simon (Mark 6:3; Matthew 13:55). Others who are named among the saints are, "Joses who was also named Barnabas" (Acts 4:36), probably Theophilus (Luke 1:3-4; Acts 1:1), Stephen, Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas (Acts 6:5), Paul (Acts 9:1-19), Ananias (Acts 9:10), probably Aeneas (Acts 9:32-35), "Tabitha, which is translated Dorcas" (Acts 9:36), Simon the tanner (Acts 9:43; Matthew 10:40-42), Cornelius (Acts 10:1-2), the prophet Agabus (Acts 11:27-28; 21:10), "Mary, the mother of John whose surname was Mark" (Acts 12:12), Rhoda (Acts 12:13-14), "John whose surname was Mark," the cousin of Barnabas (Acts 12:25; 13:5, 13; 15:37-39; Colossians 4:10; 2 Timothy 4:11; 1 Peter 5:13), "Simeon who was called Niger" (Acts 13:1), "Lucius of Cyrene" (Acts 13:1; Romans 16:21?), and "Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch" (Acts 13:1), the proconsul Sergius Paulus (Acts 13:7-12), the prophets Judas, who was also called Barsabas, and Silas (Acts 15:22, 32), the apostle Timothy (Acts 16:1; 1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2:6), Lydia in Philippi (Acts 16:12-15), Jason (Acts 17:5-9; Romans 16:21), Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris (Acts 17:34), Aquilla and Priscilla (Acts 18:1-3, 18, 26; Romans 16:3-4), Justus (Acts 18:7), Crispus (Acts 18:8; 1 Corinthians 1:14), Sosthenes (Acts 18:17?; 1 Corinthians 1:1), Apollos (Acts 18:24-28), Erastus (Acts 19:22; Romans 16:23; 2 Timothy 4:20), Gaius (Acts 19:29; 20:4; Romans 16:23; 1 Corinthians 1:14; 3 John 1), Aristarchus (Acts 19:29; 20:4; 27:2; Colossians 4:10; Philemon 24), Sopater, Secundus, (Acts 20:4), Tychicus (Acts 20:4; Ephesians 6:21; Colossians 4:7; 2 Timothy 4:12; Titus 3:12), Trophimus (Acts 20:4; 21:29; 2 Timothy 4:20), Eutychus (Acts 20:9-12), Mnason of Cyprus, an early disciple (Acts 21:16), Phoebe (Romans 16:1), Epaenetus (Romans 16:5), another Mary? (Romans 16:6), the apostles Andronicus and Junia (Romans 16:7), Amplias, Urbanus, Stachys, Apelles, Herodion, Tryphena and Tryphosa, Persis, Rufus, Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermas, Patrobas, Hermes, Philologus and Julia, Nereus, Olympus, (Romans 16:8-15), Sosipater (Romans 16:21), the apostle Tertius (Romans 1:5; 16:22), Quartus (Romans 16:23), Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus (1 Corinthians 16:17-18), the apostle Silvanus (2 Corinthians 1:19; 1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2:6; 2 Thessalonians 1:1; 1 Peter 5:12), Titus (2 Corinthians 2:13; Titus 1:4), Epaphroditus (Philippians 2:25-30), Euodia, Syntyche, and Clement (Philippians 4:1-3), Epaphras (Colossians 1:7; 4:12; Philemon 23), Onesimus (Colossians 4:9; Philemon 10), "Jesus who is called Justus" (Colossians 4:11), Luke the beloved physician (Colossians 4:14; Philemon 24), Nymphas (Colossians 4:15), Archippus (Colossians 4:17; Philemon 2), Onesiphorus (2 Timothy 1:16-18), Crescens (2 Timothy 4:10), Carpus (2 Timothy 4:13), Eubulus, Pudens, Linus, Claudia (2 Timothy 4:21), Artemas (Titus 3:12), Zenas the lawyer (Titus 3:13), Philemon, Apphia (Philemon 1:1-2), and Demetrius (3 John 12).
This period is a unique time of history, as Judges, in which a large number of people come to salvation in Christ. Besides those specifically mentioned above, we also have the 500 to whom Christ appeared after his resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:6), the approximate 3000 who believed on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1, 41), the people who were added daily (Acts 2:47; 16:5), the man lame from his mother's womb (Acts 3:1-12; 4:1-3, 5-7, 10, 14, 16-22), the approximate 5000 (Acts 4:4), the multitudes in Samaria (Acts 8:6, 14), the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:26-39), the disciples in Damascus (Acts 9:25), the churches in Galilee (Acts 9:31), all who dwelt at Lydda and Sharon (Acts 9:35), the many who believed in Joppa (Acts 9:42), Cornelius' friends and relatives (Acts 10:24, 44), a great number in Antioch (Acts 11:20-21, 24, 26), Jews and Gentiles in Antioch in Pisidia (Acts 13:14, 43, 48), a great multitude in Iconium (Acts 14:1), the lame man crippled from his mother's womb and others in Lystra (Acts 14:8-10, 20, 21-23), many in Derbe (Acts 14:20-21), Timothy's mother (Acts 16:1), the keeper of the prison in Philippi with all his house (Acts 16:27-34), probably others in Philippi (Philippians 1:1), some Jews and a great multitude of devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women in Thessalonica (Acts 17:1-4), many in Berea (Acts 17:10-12), some in Athens (Acts 17:16, 34), all of the household of Crispus (Acts 18:8), many Corinthians (Acts 18:8-11), many in Ephesus (Acts 19:1-7, 18-19), apparently disciples at Troas (Acts 20:6-12), disciples at Tyre (Acts 21:3-4), brethren at Ptolemais (Acts 21:7), Philip's four virgin daughters (Acts 21:8-9), Paul's sister's son (Acts 23:16; Mark 9:40), brethren at Puteoli (Acts 28:13-14), the brethren on the way to Rome (Acts 28:15), believers in Rome (Romans 1:7), those of household of Aristobulus and Narcissus (Romans 16:10-11), the mother of Rufus (Acts 16:13), the brethren who were with Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermas, Patrobas, and Hermes (Romans 16:14), Nereus' sister (Romans 16:15), all the saints who were with Philologus and Julia, Nereus, and Olympus (Romans 16:15), the one who was caught up to Paradise, who was not Paul (2 Corinthians 12:2-5), those in Galatia who did not follow another gospel (Galatians 3:26; 5:1-4), "those of Caesar's household" (Philippians 4:22), those in Colosse (Colossians 1:2), the brethren in Laodicea and in the house of Nymphas (Colossians 4:13, 15), those in Hierapolis (Colossians 4:13), the household of Onesiphorus (2 Timothy 1:19; 4:19), some among the twelve tribes which were scattered (James 1:1), those of the Dispersion (1 Peter 1:1), "she who is in Babylon" (1 Peter 5:13), "the elect lady and her children" (2 John 1), "the elect sister" and her children (2 John 13), the churches of Smyrna and Philadelphia (Revelation 2:8-11; 3:7-13), and any who may have overcome in Ephesus (Revelation 2:1-7), Pergamos (Revelation 2:12-17), Thyatira (Revelation 2:18-29), Sardis (Revelation 3:1-6), and Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-22).
As can be seen, great numbers came to Christ during this time. 102 can be named and masses more are noted. Yet, again, as many individuals named and people there were who were saved, without the Biblical account, we would have no certain record of any of these people. Even documents like the letter Pliny wrote to the Emperor Trajan (Pliny Letters with an English translation by William Melmoth, Vol. 2, p. 401-405) which speaks of his persecution of "Christians," does not give us any sure account of the godly. We can only assume this historical document is true, and those mentioned are true Christians. Just as Josephus' writings mixed truth with fable, so it may be with Pliny's, or any other historical document of this time. We cannot know, for certain, apart from the Biblical record, what is fictitious and what is not.
Yet, someone still might argue, "Without the Biblical record, we would know about some of these people of faith via the writings of the early church fathers." In other words, "we could believe the writings of the early Catholics." Those known as "the early church fathers" are actually "fathers" of the Catholic Church (see our report on Early Church Fathers).
The problem is this: Catholics are not trustworthy (see our report on Catholicism). God has warned us that they speak lies in hypocrisy (1 Timothy 4:1-3). With this kind of warning, are we going to believe their testimony about those they claim are people who have been in the truth (Proverbs 14:15)? The truth to them is not the truth (John 14:6)! [See "A False Christ" on our Catholic report.]
XII. From Then To Now
From the beginning of time to near the end of the first century A.D., we have about 256 godly people specifically named, and thousands of others mentioned. After the last book of the Bible, Revelation, we have no more revelation. We have no more sure prophetic word (2 Peter 1:19) that gives us any information on any true believers of the past 1900 years. Does this mean there were none? No (Psalm 145:4), it just means we cannot name anyone, and the truth of Ecclesiastes stands true.
There is no remembrance of former things, nor will there be any remembrance of things that are to come by those who will come after. (Ecclesiastes 1:11)
Not only do the godly become forgotten memories of the past, but the ungodly as well.
For there is no more remembrance of the wise than of the fool forever, since all that now is will be forgotten in the days to come. (Ecclesiastes 2:16)
Likewise, Psalm 103:15-16 says,
As for man, his days are like grass; as a flower of the field, so he flourishes. For the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.
One generation of people come and go and another generation arises, and soon, truly, it is all forgotten; and the only reason anything is ever historically known, is because it has been written down. God's writing of the past is certain and accurate. Men's writings are as reliable as toilet paper in a rain storm. Newspapers illustrate this quite well. How many times has this "news" been found to be inaccurate, bias, or insufficient in giving a true account? Typically, what is written is only a few hours old, and the veracity of it is already in question. How much more then when it comes to historical documents! We might get a glimpse from the past, but what is solid truth and what is mixed with fantasy cannot be known; unless it is compared to the revelation of God, if any be available; and then, it would not be needed information if it covers what is already revealed in holy writ. Yet, for this 1900 year period of time we have no written revelation. There is no divine statement on a single godly man or woman. We have no sure Word letting us know about the redeemed of the past.
Even if we were to look at the annals of history in searching for a record of true believers, the likelihood of any true record of them would be slim. Those who walked in truth would be slandered (as we are today, 1 John 3:13), because of false teachers, as 2 Peter 2:2 says,
And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. (2 Peter 2:2)
Those in the truth would be in "the way of truth" and they would be blasphemed; i.e. evil would be spoken of them. Therefore, they would most likely be recorded in history, if recorded at all, as evil people who did not walk in truth; even though, in reality, they did follow Christ (John 14:6; Ephesians 4:21).
At this point someone may cry, "What about the great men of the past like Martin Luther, or Jonathan Edwards, or John Wesley, or Charles Spurgeon?" If what we have of their preaching and writing is actually what they preached and wrote, then they were among those who secretly brought in destructive heresies (2 Peter 2:1). Even though these men are touted as great godly men of the past, their teaching, when compared to the Word (Hebrews 4:12-13), exposes them (Ephesians 5:11) as those who do "not abide in the doctrine of Christ" (2 John 9). See, for example, our report on Charles Spurgeon. He taught the exact opposite of Christ's teaching (Matthew 7:13-27), and we document this in our article.
As we have a heap of false teachers today who "appear righteous to men" but are "full of hypocrisy and lawlessness" (Matthew 23:28; 2 Corinthians 11:15), so have the prior generations had their share of "evil men and impostors" who were "deceiving and being deceived" (2 Timothy 3:13). "There is nothing new under the sun" (Ecclesiastes 1:9). As they are presently prevalent (Matthew 7:21-23; 2 Peter 2:2), so they have been ever present in the past (Psalm 118:22-24; Jeremiah 2:8), just as the word predicted (2 Timothy 4:3; 2 Peter 2:1-2).
XIII. What Should We Expect To Find?
Although Scripture gives no record of any godly people of the past 1900 years, the Word does give us a general description of this time. The general description is bad.
Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. (1 Timothy 4:1-3)
1 Timothy 4:1-3 describes much of "historical Christianity," because 1 Timothy 4:1-3 describes, at the very least, the Catholic Church (see our report on Catholicism). The majority of what is commonly called "Church History" is Catholic. For proof of this, take a good look at the 38 volumes of The Early Church Fathers edited by Philip Schaff and Alexander Roberts. This covers "the first 800 years of the church" (Christian Book Distributors, January/February 2001 catalog, p. 42), that is, the Catholic Church. Much of "church history" is Catholic (see our report on the Early Church Fathers). In other words, although acclaimed as a record of the godly, when compared to the doctrine of the Word (2 John 9), much of "church" history (provided the documents are accurate) is about those who departed from the faith, gave heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, and spoke lies in hypocrisy (1 Timothy 4:1-3).
God's description continues:
But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! (2 Timothy 3:1-5)
These are the Lord's words regarding "Christianity" in the last days. How do we know it is "Christianity" to which He refers? He says they have "a form of godliness," and this passage is within a "Christian" context (2 Timothy 2 & 4).
How soon did these "perilous times" come? Paul warned Timothy they would come in his days.
I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. (2 Timothy 4:1-4)
Who are the "they"? Who are the ones who "will not endure sound doctrine . . ."? The only people in the context are those to whom Timothy was to preach. The reason Paul said, "Preach the word," "convince, rebuke," etc., is because Paul was warning Timothy that he had better do this while he can. "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables" (2 Timothy 4:1-4). It's been bad since Timothy's time!
Actually, things began to go awry quite early on in that early church. The Galatians were fed a false gospel (Galatians 1:6), and Paul wrote them saying,
I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel. (Galatians 1:6)
The Corinthians had several problems (read 1 Corinthians), and Paul warned them they could not continue in sin and enter the kingdom (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). In 2 Corinthians they even questioned Paul's apostleship being heavily influenced by false apostles (2 Corinthians 11:1-15). Thus, Paul wrote them saying they should examine themselves to see whether they were even in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5).
In Philippians Paul mourns over "Christians" that had already turned away from Christ.
Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern. For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame - who set their mind on earthly things. (Philippians 3:17-19)
While Paul was still on this earth there were "many" who had turned from heavenly mindedness to earthly mindedness, having set their minds on the things of the flesh (Romans 8:5). Likewise, during Paul's days there were already "so many, peddling the word of God" (2 Corinthians 2:17). These are those false Christians "who suppose that godliness is a means of gain" (1 Timothy 6:5). Paul said, even in his time, there were "so many."
The writer of 3 John wrote about a false teacher who had actually taken over the church.
I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence among them, does not receive us. Therefore, if I come, I will call to mind his deeds which he does, prating against us with malicious words. And not content with that, he himself does not receive the brethren, and forbids those who wish to, putting them out of the church. (3 John 9-10)
Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ. (Jude 3-4)
Even though Jude says they actually "deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ," he most profoundly points out that these ungodly men had "crept in unnoticed." How could they be "unnoticed" if they deny the Lord? Surely, believers would immediately notice anyone who denied the Lord. The problem is, they deny Him deceitfully, as Titus dictates,
They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work. (Titus 1:16)
When we come near to the end of that first century, what do we find in those seven churches mentioned in the book of Revelation? Only two out of the seven, Smyrna and Philadelphia, do not get rebuked. Ephesus had lost their first love (Revelation 2:1-7). Pergamos had a problem with idolatry, immorality, and "the doctrine of the Nicolaitans" (Revelation 2:12-17). Thyatira had a false prophetess teaching immorality and idolatry (Revelation 2:18-29). Sardis was dead (Revelation 3:1-6), and Laodicea was lukewarm (Revelation 3:14-22). Other than the churches of Smyrna and Philadelphia, the churches were either in serious trouble, as in Ephesus, or they were downright lost, as in Laodicea. Overall, things were not going well.
When Paul met with the elders of Ephesus in Acts 20, what was his warning to them? Basically, that things were going to get bad!
For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God. Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears. (Acts 20:27-31)
Paul knew that trouble was coming and that false spiritual leaders would arise, even from among those to whom he spoke. So Paul warned them, day and night with tears.
Likewise, the New Testament warns over and again about being deceived and led astray and the importance of sound doctrine (e.g. Romans 16:17-18; 1 Corinthians 6:9; Ephesians 5:6; Colossians 2:4-10; 1 Thessalonians 5:20-22; 2 Thessalonians 2:3; 1 Timothy 1:3-6; 4:16; 6:20-21; 2 Timothy 1:13; Titus 1:9-16; 2:6-8; 3:9-11; 2 Peter 3:17-18; 1 John 4:1-6; 2 John 7-11; etc.). The early church was not oblivious to the kinds of perils we see in our day. They were repeatedly warned, and yet still, many fell (e.g. Philippians 2:19-21; 3:17-19; 1 Timothy 1:5-7, 18-20; 5:11-15; 6:10, 20-21; 2 Timothy 1:15; 2:17-18; 4:10; Titus 1:10-11).
In 2 Peter, Peter came right out and said, "there will be false teachers among you," and that "many will follow their destructive ways" (2 Peter 2:1-2). False teachers are nothing new, and the reality of "many" following them is also not peculiar to our times. False Christianity has been active since that first century, just as false Judaism has prevailed throughout history (e.g. Exodus 32:5; Psalm 78:34-37; Isaiah 29:13; Matthew 15:8-9; Romans 10:1-3; Revelation 2:9; 3:9). True Judaism and true Christianity are one and the same (Romans 2:27-28; Galatians 3:6-9; Philippians 3:3; Colossians 2:11). And, as Scripture repeatedly testifies most of the time, the false prevail, even as far back as Cain and Abel. Cain worshipped Yahweh (Genesis 4:3), and even spoke with Him (Genesis 4:5-15). Yet, Cain was a child of the Devil (1 John 3:10-12).
So, what should we expect to find when it comes to real Christianity? Given the above, particularly the reality of 2 Timothy 3:1-5 and 4:3-4, what should we Biblically expect in these last days? Does Scripture describe an abundance of real, true, Spirit-filled believers? No, on the contrary, just the opposite is depicted (2 Timothy 3:1-5; 4:3-4; 2 Peter 2:1-2). In fact, Jesus asked a similar question, and by it, indicated the possibility of little to no believers on the planet in the last days.
I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth? (Luke 18:8)
Literally, in the Greek, Christ says, "will He really find the faith on the earth?" The question here is not whether or not Christ will find people of great faith when He returns, but rather, will He find anyone who truly believes in Him when He comes back! Will He find the faith on the earth? Will the faith even be on the planet? The fact that Christ even asks this question implies perilous times for the last days, particularly those last days immediately before His return.
To press this point home even further, when was the last time you heard of a Christian praying for justice and vengeance? This is the context in which Christ spoke (Luke 18:1-8), and this is the kind of faith that describes the faith of the elect. As Christ said in this same text,
And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them? I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find the faith on the earth? (Luke 18:7-8, NKJV with "the" added before "faith" in keeping with the Greek)
Therefore, in keeping with the Word of God, what should we expect to find in these last days? Should we expect to find many believers, or very few? Actually, with the Words of Christ in mind, we might even expect to find none! Yet, 1 Thessalonians 4:15 & 17, indicate that there will be, at the very least, two or more.
In 1 Thessalonians 4:15 Paul writes, "we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord," and in verse 17 "Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds." These, "we who are alive and remain" dictate that there will be true believers who are alive on the planet when Christ returns. How many? Paul doesn't say. But, nonetheless, there will be some, at least two, because he says "we."
XIV. What About The Future?
From 2 Timothy 3:1-5, 4:3-4, 2 Peter 2:1-2, and Luke 18:8, it is apparent that few indeed (Matthew 7:13-14), even among the "Christian" population, will be true believers up until the time of Christ's return. Sometime in the near future (Revelation 1:1-3), Elijah will come back (Malachi 4:5; Matthew 17:11; Mark 9:12), and Romans 11:5 describes our time as yet still having a "remnant" of believers who are physical descendants of Jacob.
Furthermore, once the day of the Lord hits (1 Thessalonians 4:15-5:3), things will be astronomically very different and unlike anything ever recorded. When Christ comes back, "every eye will see Him" (Revelation 1:7). He will be "revealed" (Luke 17:26-30) to all. This is a strong hint as to the nature of the time and the sudden change in the salvation of men.
Before this, Scripture is quite clear the Lord will be saving very few, right up to the point of His return (e.g. Luke 18:8). Deception will overwhelming prevail (2 Timothy 3 & 4; etc.). Yet, after He is revealed, we see things drastically change into a massive salvation of men (Revelation 7), which dictates a massive enlightening of men, who "come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Timothy 2:4). The Truth (John 14:6) will be revealed to all (Revelation 1:7). Yet, amazingly not all will believe (Revelation 13:8).
In this time, called "the great tribulation" (Matthew 24:21; Revelation 7:14), the Word reveals there will be specifically 144,000 Jews who will be saved (Revelation 7:1-8; 14:1-5). Romans 11:25-27 and Revelation 12:6, 13-16 indicate this is when "all Israel will be saved" (Romans 11:26). Also, Revelation 7:9-17 records a mass number of people "of all nations" who are saved. They are "the ones who come out of the great tribulation" (Revelation 7:14, or "the ones coming out" present participle). This number is so great the Lord calls it "a great multitude which no one could number" (Revelation 7:9-17). From what we have recorded in Scripture, this time is a time unlike any in the history of mankind in which untold thousands, if not millions, are redeemed. God does a great work of salvation in the final days. Praise the Lord!
Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever. (Psalm 136:1)
1. The meaning of Rahab appears to be "tumultuously proud one". The related verb, רָהַב (râhav), is found only in Psalm 138:3 ("made . . . bold"); Proverbs 6:3 ("plead"); Song of Solomon 6:5 ("overcome"); Isaiah 3:5 ("insolent"). The related adjective is found only in Psalm 40:4 ("the proud", רְהָבִים [rehâviym], more literally, "proud ones"). The related noun, רָהְבָּם (râhbâm), is only found in Psalm 90:10 ("their boast").
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