WE LIVE IN PERILOUS TIMES ( part 1 of 2)
As the Lord approaches, as we enter into the times of sorrow, as the birth pangs are beginning that marks the imminent rise of the anti-christ and therefore the return of our Lord and Saviour, we must be on guard and heed the warnings of the Word of God. Jesus plainly told us to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of Herod.( Mar 8:15)
Pharisees and Saducees
Now the leaven here is plainly speaking of false doctrine. And so it is helpful to know who are those who opposed Jesus and why. For the same spirits that opposed Jesus ( we do not wrestle against flesh and blood) are still alive and well and will oppose Jesus, in His followers, and all the more so as that day approaches. So those who opposed Jesus were the Pharisees, the Sadducees and the Herodians. As we describe who they are, you must discern who represents these groups today and see if the motivations which existed in the days of Jerusalem , still exist today. I would argue that they do and that the battle will be the same, just set against a different backdrop.
First we have the Pharisees and the Sadducees. Now they had been enemies of each other in one shape or another for centuries, dating back to post exilic days. The Sadducees were of the priestly class and were wealthy and aristocratic. The Pharisees came from a much poorer background and therefore carried the favor of the common people who made up the majority. The Sadducees were very much " Hellenized," meaning they were greatly influenced by Greek culture which was the predominant philosophy of much of that region. The Pharisees resisted that greatly. Much of today's Christendom has been Hellenized , meaning of course that it has been so influenced by the word that it looks just like the world. The fundamentalists try to hold back this tide of worldliness just as the Pharisees did in their days.
Another difference between these two groups was that the Sadducees greatly emphasised the importance of the second temple and all the rites and services that went along with it, while the Pharisees emphasized the importance of the Mosaic law. Also, the two groups were in complete disagreement when it came to an after-life. The Sadducee rejected that notion while the Pharisee fully embraced the notion of life after death. So as you can see, on multiple different levels, whether cultural or class or religious, these groups were on very different pages.
Now the Herodians were also a sect of the Jews who were the political class and were obviously followers of Herod or the Herodian dynasty , the puppet kings of the Romans. They were more closely aligned with the Sadducees. And so we see the Herodians, aligned with the Sadducess and the Pharisees coming together to bring about the downfall of Jesus. These were groups that were diametrically opposed to each in deep-rooted issues, but for reasons we will speak to, found enough common ground to come together to not only oppose Jesus, but demand His death . ( Matt 22:16, Mar 3:6, Mar 12:13) So we see an unholy alliance of the politicians , the fundamentalists and the priests.
COMMON ENEMY MAKES FOR STRANGE BEDFELLOWS
Even although all these groups were very much divided on these deep-rooted issues, where did they find common ground? Well all of them greatly benefited from the Temple system of worship. This was the money-maker of the day. Today's equivalent is Christendom itself and the established system that we have in place. Of course in the midst of all of that they had a delicate balancing act to play with the Romans. The Romans at any time, and at the whim of any mad emperor , could destroy their whole system overnight. None of this was lost to any of the groups we have been talking about. Now the money generated by the temple system and the hierarchy of power was the key to the survival of the whole system.
It turned out that those with a vested interest in the system itself were not as divided as they may have thought they were. When the system that gave all of these groups their status, their standard of living, their reputations and their total livelihood , came under threat, then they came together to deal with that threat. It turned out that they idolized the system so much that when Jesus stood in the midst of them, the one for whom the temple was built, they not only did not recognize and reject Him, they came together and sought how they could kill him.
2Ti 3:1 "This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come." Brothers and sisters we are in the last days and perilous times are upon us. The forces that came against Jesus and the saints of the early church, the forces that have hunted down our brothers and sisters back through the centuries are gathering for a last great offensive against the children of the light. These forces have always been an amalgam of Pharisees, Sadducees and Herodians and the state. If we are to look for a clue as to who the Pharisees and Sadducees of our days are we must look to Scripture. In John 8 and starting in verse 31 we see Jesus talking to " believing" Jews. Now I want you to think of believing Christians, professing Christians of our day as we consider what Jesus says to them and how they reply. He says "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. (John 8:31,32)
Now , have not the prophetic voices of our age, Tozer, Sparks, Ravenhill , to name but a few, have they not urged professing Christians in the West that they must live and be led by the word of God if they desire to be free and to be true disciples? To come forward at an altar and make a confession is nothing if there are no fruits of repentance. If the Lord sets a man free then He is free indeed, not theologically but actually. And how do we determine that freedom? Well we shall know them by their fruits shall we not? What man or woman of God would not rejoice to hear the these words from the Lord's own lips?
Lets see how these believers reacted to this simple command from the Lord. " They answered Him, We are Abraham's seed and were never in bondage to anyone. How do you say, You will be made free?" (Joh 8:33) You see how blinded they were? They were insulted by the notion that they were not free. They look to their national heritage and fall back upon their founding Father, Abraham. They say to Jesus that they have never been in bondage to anyone. Now obviously the kind of freedom that Jesus was talking about had nothing to with national freedom. He had not come to release them from the bondage of the Romans. Before the chapter is finished Jesus tells them their father is the devil and they pick up stones to kill Him, bear in mind this is " believers."
ARE WE FREE?
What about believers here in America? If Jesus spoke to them and told them that if they wanted to be free and be genuine disciples then they must abide in His word, what would they say? What do they think of when they think of freedom? Is the freedom that they worship and idolize the freedom that Jesus was talking about? Can Americans claim that they are not in bondage? Would the average American believer be insulted if you were to challenge their life-styles and tell them that they are in bondage and if they would be free they must abide in His word? Now please don't get this wrong, Jesus is not compelling the believers to read and memorize Scriptures, He is saying that they must " continue,' in His word if they were to be His disciples.
Continue in it, abide in it, dwell in it, it must dwell in them. The life of Christ must dwell in them and this is not a one time thing, it is a continuous action which is proven by the lives that men live. And while none of us know the secrets of the heart, we can know the actions of men. And if men are not dwelling in and living in and walking in the commands of God then Jesus Himself says that they cannot be His disciples. How this flies in the face of hyper grace teachings of the day and other false teachings. Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees.
Now if a man is not an abider in the life of Christ, in His words and in His commands, if he is a law unto himself and follows his own ways and ways that seem right unto him, then he is a religious man. For the men that Paul describes in 2Tim 3 , the men of the last days which are perilous are men who are " ever learning and never able to come to the full knowledge of the truth." ( 2Ti 3:7) They are Pharisees and Saducees and Herodians. They are an unholy alliance of religious and political men . And despite their seemingly great differences, they will come together in these last perilous days and be a common enemy to the true saints who will tell them straightly that not only do they know nothing of true freedom, but that the political freedoms that they enjoy, their position within the system that they themselves have built , is under judgement and that God will come against them for they do not know Him.