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An Epistle of Hope for Persecuted Christians
The First letter by Apostle Peter, written in AD 64 to persecuted Christians. A title could be Grace Under Fire, or A Letter to Persecuted Christians. It is an Epistle of Hope. As John is known as the Apostle of Love and Paul is known as the Apostle of Faith, the Apostle Peter can be known as the Apostle of Hope. Biblical hope means future certainty.
The Apostle of Hope
This is the second of seven general epistles in the New Testament. All of them are titled according to the author who wrote them. They are not addressed to a specific church. They do not have the name of a city mentioned. Peter is the best known of all the Apostles, whom Jesus chose, during His life on earth, along with Paul, they dominate the New Testament dramatically. The Apostle Peter’s name is mentioned over 150 times in the New Testament. His brother was Andrew, who brought Peter to the Lord.
"For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." Mark 10:45
Who was Mark?
John Mark was born in Cyrene in Africa, of the tribe of Levi. While John (Johanna) is a Hebrew name meaning The Lord has shown grace, Mark comes from the Latin Marcus. John Mark was a cousin of Barnabas (Colossians 4:10) and of the apostle Peter. His mother, Mary, played an active role in the early days of the Church in Jerusalem. John Mark received an excellent education and was fluent in Hebrew, Greek and Latin. He had the privilege of growing up in a God-fearing home and surrounded by the leaders of the early Church.
The Upper Room
His mother, Mary's, upper room was the venue for the Passover supper, used by the Lord Jesus for His Last Supper with His disciples. It was in the same upper room that the Lord appeared to the disciples after the Resurrection. It was to John Mark's mother's home that Peter went, when freed from prison (Acts 12:12).
John Mark was present at the Wedding at Cana in Galilee (John 2:1-11). He was one of the 70 disciples sent out to proclaim the Gospel (Luke 10:1-17). Mark was the young man, who, on the night that the Lord was betrayed, was following the Lord wearing a linen garment (Mark 14:51-52).
John Mark accompanied the Apostle Peter on his Missionary journeys in Jerusalem and Judea. He was also privileged to be part of the Apostle Paul's first Missionary journey (Acts 13). Although he failed to complete his mission, he later repented, restored and made restitution to rebuild Paul's trust in him. So much so, that Paul, in his pastoral letter to Timothy, describes Mark as "helpful to me in my ministry" (2 Timothy 4:11). Mark became a co-worker with the Apostle Peter (1 Peter 5:13). Mark established churches in Pentapolis and in Alexandria, Egypt.
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“All who dwelt in Asia heard the Word of the Lord Jesus…” Acts 19:10
Colosse in the Province of Asia
Colossians is a prison Epistle written in Rome while Paul was in prison there. The Church at Colosse was founded at the same time as the Church in Ephesus. The Epistle to the Colossians was written at the same time as the Epistles to the Ephesians. Epaphras carried the three letters to each destination. Colosse was a cultural and religious melting pot. There were Greek, Jewish and Oriental religious ideas merging together. Colosse was once an important town, but by the time this letter was written, Colosse had been side-lined and overshadowed by nearby Laodicea, which was receiving far more traffic. Colosse became more of a market place and today is completely uninhabited and does not exist.
Colossians and Ephesians
Both Colossians and Ephesians contain great doctrines of the Gospel which was read aloud to the churches, but each was written for very different sets of circumstances. Ephesians is calling believers the Body of Christ. Colossians talks about the Head of the Body, Jesus Christ. In Ephesians, the Church of Christ is the important emphasis, but in Colossians, it is the Christ of the Church that is emphasised. Both are needed. You cannot have a body without a head.
False Christology is at the Root of all Heresy
Heresy has broken out in the church of Colosse, misleading the young believers and calling for strict observance of Jewish ceremonies and rituals. The message of Colossians was written to counter these false teachers that is leading them away from the pre-eminence of Christ. The place that Christ holds in any religion determines how true or how false it is. Every cult has a false idea of Christ. They either deny His finality, or His divinity. Misrepresenting the truth of who Christ is and what He has accomplished and His person in His work is the root of all heresy.
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“Paul and Timothy, bondservants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:1-2
The Macedonian Call Led to Imprisonment in Philippi
Paul is on his second Missionary journey in Europe, he is writing this letter from Rome where he is literally in chains in prison. He is writing to a church that was born from his earlier prison experience. On his Mission to Europe the first church to be planted was in response to the Macedonian call which he received in Acts 16. Paul’s divine deliverance from prison led to the conversion of the Philippian jailer and the beginning of the congregation in Philippi with Lydia and other converts.
A Strategic Roman Colony
Philippi was historically, militarily, economically and spiritually strategic. Philippi was a Roman colony in Northern Greece, linking Italy with Asia Minor (today, Turkey) on a very strategic road between East and West. Philippi is located on the same plain where Mark Anthony defeated the forces of Brutus and Cassius (who had murdered Julius Caesar). Philippi was the church that Paul, Silas, Luke and Timothy had planted. The jailer who had been led to the Lord by Paul is one of the pillars of the church.
Positive Prison Epistle
Written in AD62 during Paul’s first imprisonment in Rome, this letter is a thank you for sending Epaphroditus: Thank you for your encouragement and thank you for your support. It is one of the most positive books in the Bible. Paul is overflowing with joy and gratitude and is rejoicing in how strong they are in the Faith, how steadfast and effective they are!
Who, When and Where?
This is the last Epistle written by the Apostle Peter, written in haste, in AD 67 from Rome, during Nero’s persecution. Written shortly before the Apostle Peter’s death by crucifixion, upside down. It is similar to the Apostle Paul’s last letter, 2 Timothy, which was also written at the same time period, during the aftermath of The Great Fire in Rome, which Nero blamed upon the Christians, as scapegoats, to distract people from his own evil activities.
This Book is a reminder of Christian Doctrine and Devotion. It is a warning against false Doctrine and false teaching. It deals with worldviews, authority, warnings and threats to the Church. He warns about two types of threats: threats from outside, such as from persecution; and threats from inside, through false teachers, false prophets, false shepherds, those who, through heresy and apostasy, corrupt the church from within. It is the inside threat that is the most serious and dangerous.
Faith and Conduct
To counteract the influence of false teaching, both the Apostle Peter and Paul, recommend to their people sound Biblical teaching. Work your way through the whole Word of God. The Apostle Peter points out that we live in perilous times, when false teaching and apostasy is prevalent. Guard against corruption from within by Biblical Faith and holy conduct. The emphasis is: Be alert and beware of false teachers! Live each day in the sight of the Master – the Day of Judgement – live in the light of Eternity. Ethics and Morality in the light of the Lord’s Coming, the Day of Judgement. We are to know God and make Him known. We are to know the Word of God and know the God of the Word.
John was the youngest of the Apostles, the Disciple whom Jesus loved. John was the last living Apostle. In many ways he seems to have been the one Disciple who was Jesus’ best friend on earth. He is the only one of the Apostles who did not die for the Faith, but he was persecuted and exiled to the remote island of Patmos. These letters were written by John while in Ephesus, before his exile to Patmos. John also wrote the last of the four Gospels. John’s Gospel was written so that you might believe. 1 John is written so that you might know. 1 John is the fourth of the seven general Epistles. These Epistles are not addressed to any specific church and only known by the name of the author, even though he does not mention his name in it.
Contrasts and Conflict
There are many contrasts: between light and darkness, between life vs. death, love vs. hate and love vs. lust, truth vs. falsehood and lies, righteousness vs. lawlessness, God's Law vs. lawlessness, Heaven vs. hell. Children of God vs. children of the devil, love for God vs. love for the world and ultimately Christ vs. anti-Christ.
There is no neutrality. We are either for Christ, or against Him. Choose you this day. The Word of God vs. the world. 1 John was written to counteract false teachers who deny the deity of Jesus Christ, those who deny that Jesus is the Messiah, those who deny that Jesus had come in the flesh. Many people have developed a relaxed attitude towards sin. We must stand firm on Christian belief and for Christian behaviour, opposing false teaching and enduring persecution.
“To the elect lady and her children whom I love in truth, not only I, but all those who have known the truth because the truth which abides in us and lives in us forever. Grace, mercy and peace in truth and love”. John is balancing light and love. The wrath of God and the love of God. Truth and love.
Jesus is The Way, The Truth and The Life
Jesus is the life (1 John)
Jesus is the truth (2 John)
Jesus is the way (3 John)
We are lost. Jesus is the way.
We are deceived. Jesus is the truth.
We are dead in our trespasses and sins. Jesus is the life.
“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through Me’.” John 14:6
Helping or Hindering
In 3 John, he speaks of Gaius and Diotrephes. Gaius is helping the Kingdom. Diotrephes is hindering the cause. Are you helping or hindering in the service of God? We are called to be fellow workers for Truth.
Walk in Truth
“The Elder, to the beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth: Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers. For I rejoiced greatly when brethren came and testified of the truth that is in you, just as you walk in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth. Beloved, you do faithfully whatever you do for the brethren and for strangers, who have borne witness of your love before the church. If you send them forward on their journey in a manner worthy of God, you will do well, because they went forth for His Name’s sake, taking nothing from the Gentiles. We therefore ought to receive such that we may become fellow workers for the truth. I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence among them, does not receive us. Therefore, if I come, I will call to mind his deeds which he does, prating against us with malicious words. And not content with that, he himself does not receive the brethren and forbids those who wish to, putting them out of the church. Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. He who does good is of God, but he who does evil has not seen God. Demetrius has a good testimony from all and from the truth itself. And we also bear witness and you know that our testimony is true. I had many things to write, but I do not wish to write to you with pen and ink; but I hope to see you shortly and we shall speak face to face. Peace to you. Our friends greet you. Greet the friends by name.” 3 John 1-14
Jude, the brother of James, was the half-brother of Jesus. “Is this not the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary? And His brothers James, Joses, Simon and Judas?” Matthew 13:55. Here Jude is mentioned fourth, so he could be the youngest of Mary’s sons. “‘Is this not the carpenter, the Son of Mary and brother of James, Joses, Judas and Simon? And are not His sisters here with us?’ So they were offended at Him.” Mark 6:3. Here Jude is mentioned third, so certainly one of the youngest brothers. Judas, or Jude was a common name, but because of the treachery of Judas the apostle, most people who had the same name, quickly changed it to the abbreviation Jude.
A Stern Warning
This is a general Epistle written before AD 67. It is a letter of warning, very similar to 2 Peter, and written about the same time. Jude is a challenge to action during a time of apostasy. Jude is a strong and sharp letter, a stern rebuke.
The message is to stand firm, to be grounded and rooted in the Faith, to build up your faith, to grow in your faith, to contend for the Faith, to be loyal to Jesus Christ. Be faithful in fighting for the Faith. Expect opposition. Resist false teachers. Oppose apostasy. Refuse to compromise to the spirit of godlessness in the world. Apathy assists apostasy. Care enough to confront. Truth conquers. Holiness matters. Jude describes false teachers and he calls us to defend the Gospel. Here is an anatomy of apostasy and the antidote to apostasy. Solus Christus! Sola Gratia! Sola Scriptura!
John, the author of the fourth Gospel and the three Epistles, was the last surviving Apostle. While in exile on the small, barren island of Patmos, located in the Aegean Sea, John received a series of visions from our Lord Jesus Christ.
Dating the Book of Revelation
Revelation 2:9 and 3:9 also indicate that the book of Revelation was written prior to the Jewish War of AD 67-70, because Christian Jews and unbelieving Jews were still intermingled at the time of writing. A sharp religious, cultural and legal division between Christians and unbelieving Jews ensued after AD 70. Therefore the Book of Revelation had to have been written prior to the destruction of the Temple in August AD 70; before the death of Nero 8 June, AD 68; before the Jewish War began in AD 67, but after the outbreak of Nero’s persecution of Christians in November AD 64.
When Was Revelation Written?
Revelation was written by AD 65 and it speaks to the first century Church concerning the tribulation which they were entering: “I, John, who also am your brother and companion in the tribulation and in the Kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ…” Revelation 1:9. Revelation 11:1-2 indicates that the Temple was still standing in Jerusalem when the book of Revelation was written. Luke 21:5-7 and Luke 21:24 were fulfilled in the Jewish War with Rome, from Spring AD 67 to the destruction of Jerusalem in August AD 70, a period of 42 months - which fits the precise measurement of the prophecy in Revelation 11:2.