Friday, June 10, 2011

Damnation by Association

In the previous study, we observed how Jesus oddly told His disciples to pray to God to send more people to help in the harvest of souls, even though God (as Jesus, and being omniscient) already knew that more harvesters were needed. From there, Jesus sent out His Twelve Apostles to preach about the soon-coming Kingdom of God/Heaven to the Jews.

Damnation by Association
Sometimes, the place you choose to live can have dire consequences to your very life. Floods. Tornadoes. Earthquakes. Nuclear radiation. In an instant, your life as you know it can be changed forever, or even cease to be, all because of an unfortunate coincidence of where you are and where a disaster occurs. Did you realize that, Biblically speaking, the same holds true for the fate of your immortal soul? Let us take a close look at what Jesus told the Twelve Disciples when He was sending them out on a mission.

The missionary instructions for the Twelve Apostles are given in Matthew 10, Mark 6:7-13, and Luke 9:1-6. The mission objective? Spread the word to repent because the Kingdom of Heaven/God is near (Matthew 10:7, Mark 6:12, Luke 9:2). This first mission was to the Jews only (Matthew 10:5-6).

Presumably to make these disciples more convincing to the Jews that they were indeed carrying God's message, Jesus grants them with the ability to heal sick people, resurrect the dead, clear up leprosy, and exorcise demons (Matthew 10:8).

Wait, what? Resurrect the dead? So twelve guys roamed the country bringing dead people back to life, and yet nobody, secular or otherwise, records this spectacle outside of the Bible? Even the Bible does not record any specific resurrections on this first mission. At best, you could claim Matthew 11:5 is a reference to these resurrections (although Luke 7:22 has Jesus say the same thing right after He had raised someone from the dead), but it still stands oddly in contrast that neither Mark nor Luke mentions the Apostles' ability to bring people back to life connected with this mission.

(The Gospel of John ignores this missionary story completely. Much, much later in the storyline, Acts 9:36-42 has Peter raise a girl from the dead and Acts 20:7-12 has Paul raise a young man from the dead, but no such resurrections are mentioned in any of the Epistles, and the power to raise the dead is not included in the list of spiritual gifts given in Romans 12:3-8 and 1 Corinthians 12:4-11.)

Back on task, here. Just a little later in the instructions, we find that Jesus told the Disciples that, upon entering a town, they should try to find someone willing to let them live at their house for a while. If they are not successful, they are to condemn the entire household, or possibly even the entire town. Mark 6:10-11 and Luke 9:4-5 too briefly explain what Matthew 10:14-15 divulges in more detail:
“If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town. I tell you the truth, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the Day of Judgement than for that town.” NIV
In Jesus' words, God had a special plan of torment for the households and towns which rejected the Apostles. Keep in mind, this was not every single person in the town rejecting the Apostles, nor every single person in the household being unwilling to listening to the Gospel. The men had the say over admission of household guests, and any small group of men from the town could have started persecuting an Apostle, causing him to flee to another town in obedience to Jesus (Matthew 10:23). Thus, a handful of stubborn, closed-minded, aggressive men could damn an entire town of people.

Thank God that no man ever gets angry when his long-held beliefs are challenged, so I am sure that no households or towns were actually condemned. ;-)

That brings us to the final point in this study; specific households and towns were to be condemned. That means that timing is a factor; that Jesus did indeed think that Judgement Day was near. After all, if more than a generation or two passed on before Judgement Day, than those who were specifically cursed (namely those in a specific house or town at the time of Apostle's rejection) would be long dead.

By this example, Jesus is setting a precedence. You get one chance to believe to believe in Him. If you choose disbelief, to Hell with you. (Oh, and by the way, that decision may be made for you by others.) From that example, you can see the love, grace, and forgiveness of Jesus shine right through.

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