|Posted by Murphy Henderson on June 3, 2010 at 8:15 PM|
by J. R. Church
Shortly after his historic meeting with Jewish elders in Rome, in A.D. 64, as reported in Acts 28, the Apostle Paul wrote a series of epistles — one to the Jews (the book of Hebrews) and seven to Gentile congregations. Among them was the letter to the Philippians, in which this passionate apostle wrote, "The Lord is at hand" (Phil. 4:5).
He wrote this incredible statement only seven years before the destruction of Herod's Temple. Why not? There was still time for Nero, the supposed Roman Antichrist, to commit the abomination of desolation, enslave the world and bring on the battle of Armageddon.
Even after the Jewish elders rejected Paul's message about their Jewish messiah, and his announcement that he was going to take the message of the Gospel to the Gentiles, the apostle was still convinced that Christ would soon return.
A decade before, in A.D. 54, Paul had penned his first two epistles (I&II Thessalonians), in which he taught the doctrine of the rapture and resurrection. In fact, all of the apostles were preaching on prophetic subjects, expecting Christ to return in their generation. It was a popular doctrine in the first century.
In Hebrews 3:9, Paul reminded the Jews that God only gave them forty years in which to repent. It is possible that Paul was alluding to the fact that Christ was crucified around A.D. 30, and that they only had about six more years to repent.
Nero was the Roman emperor at that time and, because his name added up to 666 in Hebrew gematria, many considered him as the prophesied Antichrist. Nero came to power on October 13, A.D. 54, following the death of Claudius — the same year that Paul wrote II Thessalonians 2:3&4, in which he mentioned the "man of sin ... the "son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped, so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God."
He is the emperor that had Paul beheaded on June 29, A.D. 66 — the same year that the Jewish revolt started in Jerusalem. However, two years later, Nero was deposed by a military coup and, facing execution, Roman historians claim that he committed suicide on June 9, A.D. 68.
The Burning of Rome
On July 18, A.D. 64, a fire started just south of the Circus Maximus in shops that sold flammable goods. To Paul, this burning of Rome may have seemed like the fulfillment of a mysterious prediction about the burning of Mystery Babylon. In short, it seems like those seven years prior to the destruction of Herod's Temple were typical of the future Tribulation Period. Nero blamed the Christians, but many historians believed that he had the city torched.
The Jewish Revolt
The Wikipedia (an encyclopedia on the Internet) mentions a possible Jewish connection with Nero: "At the end of A.D. 66, conflict broke out between Greeks and Jews in Jerusalem and Caesarea. According to a Jewish tradition in the Talmud (tractate Gitin 56a-b), Nero went to Jerusalem and told his men to shoot arrows in all four directions. All the arrows landed in the city. He then asked a passing child to repeat the verse he had learned that day. The child responded "I will lay my vengeance upon Edom by the hand of my people Israel" (Ezek. 25,14). Nero became terrified, believing that God wanted the Temple in Jerusalem destroyed, but would punish him if it was. Nero said, "He desires to lay waste His House and to lay the blame on me," whereupon he fled to Rome and converted to Judaism to avoid such retribution. Vespasian, head of the Roman army, was dispatched to put down the rebellion. The Talmud adds that the sage Rabbi Meir Baal HaNess, a prominent supporter of the Bar Kokhba rebellion against Roman rule, was a descendant of Nero."
The Wikipedia also adds: "In A.D. 422, Augustine of Hippo wrote about II Thessalonians 2:1–11, where he believed Paul mentioned the coming of the Antichrist. Though he rejected the theory, Augustine mentioned that many Christians believed that Nero was the Antichrist or would return as the Antichrist. He wrote, so that in saying, ‘For the mystery of iniquity doth already work,' he alluded to Nero, whose deeds already seemed to be as the deeds of Antichrist."
The Rise of Vespasian
Vespasian, the father of Titus and Domitian, was a successful military commander, partaking in the Roman invasion of Britain in A.D. 43, and subjugating Judea during the Jewish rebellion of A.D. 66. While preparing to besiege Jerusalem, Nero committed suicide, plunging the Roman Empire into a year of civil war known as the "Year of the Four Emperors."
After Nero's removal Galba, and then Otho, ascended the Roman throne. Both men perished in quick succession. Vitellius became the emperor in mid A.D. 69. In response, the Roman armies in Egypt and Judea declared Vespasian emperor on July 1.
In his bid for imperial power, Vespasian joined forces with Gaius Licinius Mucianus, the governor of Syria, who led the Flavian forces against Vitellius, while Vespasian himself gained control over Egypt. On December 20, A.D. 69, Vitellius was defeated, and the following day, Vespasian was declared emperor by the Roman Senate. He ruled for a decade, while his eldest son, Titus, led the Roman army against the Jewish rebellion.
In A.D. 70, Titus surrounded Jerusalem and began to starve the people, hoping to secure the city without destroying it. On the 9th of Av, his troops overran the Temple Mount, killing over 100,000 Jews and burning Herod's Temple.
During all of this, Jesus did not return to judge the wicked and establish the messianic kingdom. It must have been a great disappointment to all Christians, since Paul had announced, "The Lord is at hand."
Paul wrote these words in the second year of a Sabbatical cycle. The previous Sabbatical year was observed from September of A.D. 61 to September of A.D. 62. The chart is as follows:
61/62 - Sabbatical Year
62/63 - First year
63/64 - Second year - Paul met with Jewish elders
64/65 - Third year
65/66 - Fourth year - Apostle Paul beheaded
66/67 - Fifth year
67/68 Nero - suicide on June 9.
68/69 - Sabbatical Year
69/70 Temple burned Av 9. Titus took 100,000 captives.
Note that the Temple was burned in the year following a Sabbatical year. Therefore, even though Paul wrote his epistle to the Philippians in the first of seven years before the destruction of the Temple, these events did not occur within a seven-year Sabbatical cycle.
As we reported in last month's article on page 34, Paul wrote four epistles in A.D. 64. They were Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon.
In Ephesians, Paul alluded to the messianic kingdom as one of the ages or dispensations. He said that Christ was seated at the right hand of the Father that he might reign over all, "not only in this world, but also in that which is to come" (Eph. 1:21). He said that Christ has raised us up, "that in the ages to come, he might show the exceeding riches of his grace" (Eph. 2:7). In Eph. 3:2, he spoke of the "dispensation of the grace of God," and distinguished it from "other ages" (v. 5). These references tell me that Paul expected the messianic era to appear soon.
In Colossians, Paul writes about "the hope which is laid up for you in heaven" (Col. 1:5,6). He speaks of God, "Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son" (Col. 1:13). He tells them that he is "a minister according to the dispensation of God" (Col. 1:25). He says that holy days, new moons and sabbaths ... "are a shadow of things to come" (Col. 2:17). And finally, Paul tells the Colossians, "When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory" (Col. 3:4). All of these terms allude to the expected return of Christ.
Finally, Paul writes a short epistle to Philemon, a rich slave-owner with vast holdings. One of his slaves had run away, only to find the Apostle Paul and be converted. Paul asks Philemon to receive the converted runaway, not as a slave, but as a brother in Christ. It is a shining example of the rapture and resurrection, in which all believers, once enslaved to sin, will be received into the portals of glory, not as sinners, but as family. It seems to me that Paul continually thought about the return of Christ and the establishment of heaven's kingdom.
Categories: The Soon Coming King!