There is an interesting connection between the apocalyptic disaster that destroyed Jerusalem in 70 AD and the family of Jesus. That same disaster is shaping up now in the Middle East and for the same reason...our evangelical church leadership like the Jerusalem church leadership has not really come to grips with the real mission of the church.

Some years ago I bought a book called "James the Brother of Jesus" by the Jewish historian and archaeologist Robert Eisenman.  I largely bought it because it was a 1000 pages long and I was intrigued to find our how could you write 1000 pages on an obscure figure like James, the younger brother of Jesus. It turned out to be a fascinating historical research on the times of Jesus and an analysis of the many historical documents available from the 1st, 2nd and 3d century historians about the family of Jesus (His siblings)  and their descendants and how they interacted with the early Christian church.  I liked it so much I bought another book on the same topic "The Jesus Dynasty" by James Tabor.  What emerges from this to me was the interesting influence the brothers of Jesus had on the early church and what problems this caused.  Which is what I want to write about...

The gospels tell us that Jesus had four brothers (James, Joses, Simon and Jude) and at least two sisters (Math. 13:55). By the time we get to the book of Acts we see that His brother James had become a leader in the Jerusalem church even though he was not one of the twelve apostles. But historical records show that in fact James in time became the leader of the Jerusalem church and after he was killed in 62 AD the next brother of Jesus, Simon, became the leader and upon his death another brother, Jude, became the leader.  But this resulted in serious problems for the church...

The first few years after the day of Pentecost outpouring of the Holy Spirit the Jerusalem church suffered a lot of persecution. Stephen was stoned, other disciples were hunted down and imprisoned by the Sanhedrin with Saul (later Paul) being especially active in this persecution.  But as time went by a change happened. The persecution stopped and thousands of Jerusalem Christians would meet openly in the temple. This is told to us in Acts 21:20 as James tells Paul on his last visit to Jerusalem (about 58 AD), "Thou seest brother how many thousands of Jews there are which believe and they are all zealous of the law..."  The persecution stopped because James was leading a church that believed in Jesus but which also practiced all the laws of Moses and now James was urging Paul to show all these believing Jews in Jerusalem that he too was practicing the law of Moses and because Paul had been eating and consorting with gentiles James wanted him to go to the temple for the rite of purification to cleanse himself.

What we know from historical records is that what excited the Jerusalem Jews of the  time was the exciting news that the Messiah was coming...and this was the message of the Jerusalem church...Jesus, the son of David who you crucified rose from the dead and promised to return and He is the promised Messiah.  Everyone in Jerusalem knew the genealogy of Jesus, which is why the blind man cried out "thou son of David have mercy on me".  Which also meant that Jesus had the throne rights to be the king of Israel. And the Messiah was supposed to come and destroy the enemies of Israel and re-establish the Kingdom of Israel.  James as a member of the royal family dynasty was a natural leader therefore for the Jerusalem church and therefore at his death the next in line Simon his brother and after him the next brother Jude.

The Jerusalem church as a matter of historical record believed that Jesus, the son of David was the expected Messiah of Israel and the Son of God (but then Solomon the son of David was also called the son of God). They also believed that His return was imminent and that when he came He would deliver Israel from the Romans and establish His Kingdom of Righteousness on the earth and those in the church would be rulers in this new Davidic kingdom.  This belief would have tragic consequences...

By 62 AD the ferment for revolution was running high. The Messiah surely must appear any moment.  The authorities were becoming hugely alarmed.  They attempted to quell the rising revolutionary movement by arresting the obvious leader of the these Messianic Jews, James the brother of Jesus and executed him.  This only stirred the passions of the people to greater heights as James was acknowledged by all to be a holy and righteous man.

In 64 AD the Messianic revolutionaries decided to precipitate a crisis with Rome to get the revolution started.  They stopped the daily sacrifice and prayer for the emperor of Rome in the temple....a practice started by Octavian (Augustus) on his visit to Jerusalem in 31 BC when he left money with the priests and asked them to pray for him and sacrifice for his sins.  Nero responded in 64 AD by starting a vicious persecution of Christians in Rome. In 66 AD the revolutionaries declared independence from Rome and attacked the Roman garrison. Messianic Jews from all over the Roman empire flocked to Israel expecting the Messiah to set up his kingdom. The war lasted till 70 AD with the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple and the tragedy was that at the end there were more than a million Jews crowded into Jerusalem waiting for the Messiah to deliver them...all of them except about 50,000 were slaughtered. Jesus warned them this was going to happen. Only a handful believed His warning and escaped before hand.

The problem of the Jerusalem church and its Jesus family dynasty leaders was that they were too close to the human incarnation of Jesus. They longed for the return of a physical Jesus they remembered and loved and they wanted a warrior king to destroy their enemies and set up a restored Israel kingdom that would rule the world. They were totally wrong.  And our current popular evangelical prophecy preachers who believe and preach the same errors are also leading the church into the same error.

Paul never met Jesus in the flesh but he met Jesus Lord God of heaven and earth on the road to Damascus and was totally stunned...after that he went to the desert for 3 years with his bible to figure out the question he asked Jesus, "Who art thou Lord?". When he came out of the desert he knew who Jesus was and what He came to do on earth and what the mission of the church was and what the problem with Israel and the Jews were. But he figured this out only because as he told the Corinthians "now we know no man after the flesh" which was the Jerusalem church's problem and that was also why he warned Timothy and Titus about the nonsense of "genealogies and Jewish fables".  (1 Tim 1:4, Titus 1:14).

Jesus tried to warn the churches of the Jerusalem church error and the disaster that was coming.  John was taken prisoner during Nero's persecution after 64 AD. On the island of Patmos he received his incredible visitation from Jesus. He wrote the Apocalypse of Jesus there addressed to the seven churches in Asia who were being infiltrated by heresies and deception. Apocalypse means "revelation", not destruction.
The churches needed to understand who they were dealing with. This was not the Jesus they grew up with. This was God! They were obsessed with the idea of "son of David" but Jesus declared "I am the root and offspring of David", meaning He created David as well as being his descendant.

In Rev. 1:8 Jesus makes this incredible declaration: "I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is and which was and which is to come, the Almighty."  Now I am going to show you the important implication of this statement by showing you the first verse of Genesis written in the original Hebrew:

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Hebrew reads from right to left. From the right the Hebrew says "In beginning, he created. God" and then after "God" (Elohim) there are two Hebrew letters that are not translated. They are the letters A (Aleph) and T (Tov) which in the Hebrew alphabet are the first and the last letters. In Greek alphabet they would be Alpha and Omega. Jesus is quoting Genesis 1:1 and says He is the almighty that created the heavens and the earth. The Yahovah of the Old Testament is the Jesus of the New Testament! Get your eyes off the incarnate man Jesus and realize you are dealing here with God Almighty.  He is enthroned in the heavens surrounded by the armies of heaven. He is not interested in ruling from an earthly Jerusalem. He is making a New Jerusalem which is His bride.  He does not dwell in a physical body any more, His body is His church the new temple of God where He now dwells in the midst of His people.

This reality the Jerusalem church did not understand and that is why God destroyed earthly Jerusalem and the earthly temple in 70 AD.  But our evangelical leaders today also just cannot grasp this reality. They also want a restored Jewish empire. They want a rebuilt temple in Jerusalem. They want a Jesus coming with a sword in His hand and slaughtering hundreds of millions of people to set up His millennial kingdom in an earthly Jerusalem. And like the Messianic Jews of those days they grow weary of waiting for the kingdom of God and the coming of the they are doing everything possible to push America to more wars in the Middle East. John Hagee and his supporters want America to bomb Iran and start another war.  They want to destroy the Dome of the Rock on Temple Mount so a new Jewish temple can be built and thereby precipitate Armageddon and force Jesus to intervene and save Israel.  This is all madness that will end in great tragedy.

The tragedy is that they do not see that the Kingdom of God has already come, Jesus is already Lord and manifest in all the earth in His body the church. Jesus the great God of heaven and earth already rules over all the nations and none can stay His hand or prevent Him from spreading His Kingdom till it fills the earth. He is now resident on earth, incarnated in His church and incarnated in every person who receives Him as Lord and savior.  There is no need for another Jesus in another body living in Jerusalem. It is not going to happen. So lets get on with the job that He gave us to go forth and spread the gospel of the Kingdom and make disciples of all nations.

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