The Olivet Discourse – Betraying One Another

21Jun11

The next warning sign Jesus gave His disciples in the Olivet Discourse is really a subset of the previous warning of coming persecution, but for the sake of brevity in the previous post I separated this one under it’s own heading. Along with coming persecution Jesus told the disciples that they should expect their friends and family members to betray them. This should not be surprising given the great gulf between the Jews and the People of The Way and the Christian’s embrace as Jesus as their Messiah. One of the great early persecutors of the Church would actually become it’s greatest proponent and missionary, one Saul of Tarsus.

Matt 24: 10 And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another.

It should be noted that this betraying is much more personal than “spies” sent by the Jews or simply enemies of the new church “ratting out” those they believe are a part of this new sect. The fist part of the verse explains that those that will end up betraying the Christians will actually those who were seemingly a part of them. It will be those who fall away who will be the main culprits in this persecutions.

Though there is not enough time, nor it it the point of this blog to deal with the theological ramifications of the term “falling away,” but a better term would be to say it is those “who return” to their Jewish roots. I would argue, and since the bulk of Scripture supports this idea, that they were never truly part of them for as both Paul and John declare.

1 Cor 11:19 for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized.

1 John 2:19 They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.

But for our purposes here we must note the true anguish those early church members must have felt to discover that they were betrayed by those they loved, nourished and blessed. That must truly have been a sorrowful experience. But how prevalent of a problem was this and can we consider this situation bleak enough in the first century to see this warning as being fulfilled at that time?

Note how often in just the handful of verses we discover the falling away and betrayal of those early Christians.

  • Galatians 1:6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel
  • 1 John 2:19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.
  • 2 Tim. 1:15 You are aware that all who are in Asia turned away from me, among whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes.
  • 2 Tim. 4:10 For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica…
  • 2 Tim. 4:16 At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them!

Judaizers, Gnostics, Neo-Hymenaeans, Antinomians, Immoralist are included among those false doctrines meant to lead the young Church member astray. The early Church fought vigorously against these heresies but lost many who would then turn against their former friends and betray them. Even the secular historian of the first century, Tacitus, wrote, “Nero had several self-professing Christians arrested, and upon their information, had large numbers of others condemned.”

The greatest of all the heresies was possibly that of the Judiazers who firmly taught that conversion to the Gospel of jesus Christ was inadequate and that one must also live according to Old Testament law to find salvation. They demanded that Gentile converts to Christianity must also be circumcised and celebrate the feasts, make sacrifices, etc. These damning doctrine of returning to the shadow is most effectively critiqued in the book of Hebrews.

But for our discussion here it is obvious to note that this warning, another of the birth pangs signalling the soon coming destruction of the Temple (vv 1-3) was fulfilled within the time parameter accounted for in “this generation.”

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