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Peter and a Precious, Precious Prophecy
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Wednesday, August 02, 2017
Wendy Wippel

Peter seems to bumble his way through the gospels, always opening his mouth and inserting his foot. Or, as a friend of mine describes him, “ready, fire, aim”. Jesus knew his heart, though. So it shouldn’t surprise us that (when it really mattered), Peter nailed it. Bigtime.

Peter’s best moment occurred as Jesus was winding up His ministry. He had traveled throughout Judea, Galilee and the Decropolis. He had taught in Samaria, Jordan, Perea, and Caperneum.

He talked to the religious elite (the Sadducees and the Pharisees) no more.

Except in parables.

And now Jesus was finally coming home.

When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?”

(Caesarea Philippi is now an archeological site in the Golan Heights.)

14 So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”.

15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”

16 Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

17 Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.

18 And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. (Matthew 16:13-18 NKJV)

Let’s just put to bed now one Very Big misinterpretation of Scripture by one Very Big Church. The one that believes that this statement by our Lord made Peter the first Pope.

(Which doesn’t even make any sense because God made Paul the main witness to the Gentiles, while Peter remained the witness to the Jews. But I digress.)   

The proof, scripturally, that Peter was not made the pope is that two different words for “rock” are used in the verse they claim as a proof text: “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 

And I also say to you that you are Peter (Petros, meaning rock, and on this rock (Petra)  I will build My church."

Petros means a Pebble, a piece of rock. Something that can shift, slide, be carried away. 

Petra means a cliff. A huge solid immovable mass.  

When Simon Peter answered and said,“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus did not say, “You are Peter and on you I will build my church”.

No. He said, "this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood but by God. And on this I build my church."

(That’s the first time that the word “church” is used in the Bible, btw. And it’s not a religious word at all. Just a common word that meant, basically, His groupies, His homeboys, His church.  And people join His church at the God-given moment when, through the voice of God (however He speaks) a human soul hears His voice and responds. That’s faith “Not revealed to you by flesh and blood but by God”.  

That’s the church. And it is a huge immovable mass. Today Christians are estimated at a 2-3 million. But that’s based on butts in the pew (some of whom who only got their religion from flesh and blood, if you get my drift), so maybe a little less. But still a force. The main point is what God promises the church, "The gates of Hell will not prevail against it".

That’s sort of a double prophecy there, right?

First prophecy: The gates of Hell will not prevail against us. But … second Prophecy, the gates of Hell will try.   

To be honest, I have read that a bunch of times without really thinking about its implications. I know I never shuddered.

But an old puritan believer, John Trapp, gave us a definition that did make me shudder. And take notice.

The Gates of any city, apparently, were where officials gathered to decide policy. And they were very well fortified.

And when Jesus said that the Gates of Hell would not prevail against His church, what He was saying was that the results of that unholy, well fortified huddle against us would consist of,  “All the power of Hell and all the policies of Hell aligned against Jesus’s followers.”  Think about that for a minute.

Did it make you shudder?

What’s worse: the words of this prophecy of Jesus—the one that said the gates of Hell would not prevail against His Church—started being fulfilled just about as soon as they were out of His mouth.

Starting with Stephen, stoned. Just a year after His Lord’s crucifixion, a result of Jewish antagonism towards Stephen’s teachings about Christ.  Justin Martyr wrote that,“the  Jews were behind all the persecutions of the Christians. They wandered through the country everywhere hating and undermining the Christian faith".

The Judeans passed the ball to Rome. Starting with Nero. Rome burned in the summer of 64 A.D (with most of the city destroyed) and Nero, not a popular leader was accused of setting the blaze. He passed the blame. The Roman historian Tacitus wrote;

"Therefore, to stop the rumor…Nero falsely charged with guilt, and punished with the most fearful tortures, the persons commonly called Christians, who were  hated …. Christus, the founder of that name, was put to death as a criminal by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea, in the reign of Tiberius, but the pernicious superstition … broke out yet again, not only through Judea, - where the mischief originated, but through the city of Rome also, … where they are encouraged. Accordingly first those were arrested who confessed they were Christians; next on their information, a vast multitude were convicted ." In their very deaths they were made the subjects of sport: for they were covered with the hides of wild beasts, and worried to death by dogs, or nailed to crosses, or set fire to, and when the day waned, burned to serve for the evening lights. All told, an estimated 50,000 Christians were killed."

Diocletian, took the Roman throne in 302 and ramped things up in what came to be known as The Great Persecution. His first act was to order an influential Christian in Antioch to have his tongue removed for disrespect to the Roman God. Then the unfortunate saint was executed. Diocletian then, seeking a policy on the Empire’s Christians in general, sought the advice of the oracle at Didyma, who said only that “the impious on earth prevented her from responding.” Diocletian’s advisors interpreted the “impious” as Christians.

And the purge was on.  At least 3,500 Christians perished under his reign.

Shapur II, King of Persia killed 16,000 Christians under his reign (345)

The Zoroastrian, Shapur II ordered the massacre of all Christians in the Persian, Sassanid Empire. 1,150 died. (341)

The Yemenese warlord, Yousef offered Christian subjects the choice between conversion to Judaism or death, with 20,000 massacre (516). Inscriptions by Yousef himself show the great pride that he expressed after killing more than 22,000 Christians in Zafar and Najran. (516)

The King of Himyar,  a city in Yemen, took the city of Zafar, burned down its churches and massacred all civilians who would not abandon Christianity. (20,00 killed) and sent letters, detailing the news of his deeds to Al-Mundhir III ibn al-Nu'man and Kavadh I of Persia, recommending they do the same. (584) 

The Greek Patriarch of Antioch, Anastasius I of Antioch was slaughtered, mutilated, and dragged through the streets in Antioch, Byzantine Empire. (599).

Shortly after the Persian conquest of Jerusalem in 614, the Jewish governor and his ‘council of the righteous' were killed. The Persians laid siege to Jerusalem and after 19 days broke through the wall. According to Sebeos, 17,000, Christians were massacred.

The gates of Toledo were opened to the invading armies of the Umayyad Caliphate while Christian defenders of the capital city were celebrating Palm Sunday at San Locadia church. Many, many Christians were killed. (711)

Around the same time Islamic hoards conquered the areas now represented by Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Turky, Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan, Sudan, Tunisa Morocco, and Algeria; at the time those areas were heavily Christian. As (inferior) non muslims, the Christians were ruled by a very strict set of laws, many of which carried a penalty of death. 

Tamerlane instigated large scale massacres of Christians in Mesopotamia, Persia, Asia Minor and Syria in the 14th century AD.

Recurring, Muslim Massacres of Christians, from the 8th century on, extinguished the lives of an estimated 200 million Christians. And that doesn’t count the millions sold into slavery.

The French Revolution sought to eradicate Christianity as well as its adherents from France. Clergy were condemned to death, churches were destroyed, worship and religious education were forbidden.

One group that resisted, the Vendeans, were taken prisoner and methodically killed, primarily by drowning. Eight thousand Vendeans, mostly women and children were tied in groups in barges that were then sunk into the Loire River. Those that weren’t killed had their crops, forests, and villages burned. These efforts by French intellectuals, in the name of “Reason”, is now recognized as the first modern genocide.

And we haven’t even touched the massacre of Christians in places like India. And China. And The Soviet Union. And Armenia. And Japan. And the Ottoman Empire. And Germany. And Madagascar. And every other corner of our globe. But it’s more of the same.

Because Jesus said it would be, didn’t He? Jesus said, “you shall be hated of all men for my name's sake.” That’s a promise. If we aren’t hated, we aren’t doing our job.

But we will not be vanquished. That’s a promise too. The promises made to both Jews and The Church – the prophecies that have been fulfilled in startling detail, should lay the question of divine inspiration to rest. At least in my book.

The Gates of Hell have tried.

But it’s a funny thing.  The observation has been made that the passage in Matthew regarding the pearl of great price has kind of a hidden problem. That being that the pearl is the product of an unclean animal. The Oyster. But that kind of makes sense, as the treasure in the field would describe God’s love for Israel, and the pearl of great price—though unclean, another group that God loves.

Not convinced?  The pearl is the only gemstone that is derived from a living being, and is the only gemstone that increases as the consequence of pain.

And we are promised, if we follow Jesus, that our trials will build us up.

“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials,  knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing." (James 1:2-4)

The gates of Hell will not prevail against us.

Onward Christian Soldiers.  Marching as to war. With the cross (and help) of Jesus going on before!

About Wendy Wippel

Last week: Hope and Change in the Time of Job

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