Today As It Was in the 1st Century
In the 1st Century sexual perversion was culturally endemic and seen as normative. . Homosexuality and bisexuality was seen as co-equally normal as heterosexual relationships. What Paul wrote in Romans 1 would have been highly inflammatory. Well, it’s highly inflammatory again. As we speak there’s a preacher in jail in Sweden for preaching, doing exposition, on Romans 1. A Canadian pastor was fined £1,500 for preaching from Romans 1. We’re seeing more and more anti-vilification laws trying to restrict our freedom.
Now of course the way it worked in the Early Church, the way persecution came, the way the Gospel provoked it, had to do with a combination of factors. One, the Roman government’s laws insisted in their multiethnic, multiracial, multireligious empire to maintain social harmony at all costs for political purposes. You had to respect every religion and you had to acknowledge the Pontificus Maximus as the bridge builder between religions. At Ephesus on the gate was a sign, “Caesar, son of Zeus”. “Zeus” – “God”, which was a corruption of “zeus”, of “god”. And by walking under it you would be acknowledging Caesar was the son of God. Of course the believers would not do that, so they took the believers and tied them to posts and they used them as street lamps; they set them alight to illuminate the streets. This really and actually happened, this conflict of cultures between the Judeo-Christian and the popular one. Sexual perversion was culturally endemic.
Secondly, it was a culture of violence where violence was the popular entertainment. Take a movie – someone like Oliver Stone, a serious director – he’ll make movies that contain violence, but he’ll tell a story about El Salvador or Vietnam or something like that. They’ll contain violence but they won't be about violence. Violence is simply subordinate to the plot or to the docu-fiction about what happened. Most Hollywood movies today containing violence are not like that. The plot only exists to facilitate the violence, people going to the movies to see their heads blown off. It’s about violence. Now the Bible contains violence, even graphic depictions of violence, but it never glorifies it and it’s not about violence, it’s about salvation. It includes violence because that’s the way the fallen world is, but that’s not what it’s about. In the Greco-Roman culture violence was popular entertainment.
I once read something a few years ago where the average child by the age of 12 will have watched something like 3,400 murders in television/video games. Kids watch thousands of murders. Crazy! Crazy! Well, the 1st Century was like that. It was a culture of violence.
It was also a culture of perverse standards of justice. Isaiah warned about those who call good evil and who call evil good. (Is 5:20) Well it was like that. You just look now.
I wouldn’t advise you to watch it, but you can go onto one of the Islamic websites and you can watch Ken Bigley being decapitated, or one of the Americans, and they’re screaming as their heads are being sawed off, and they’re singing Islamic hymns and reading from the Quran and praying to Allah and all this while doing it. It’s a religious ceremony to them, decapitating people and putting it on so his family will see it. Do you know what that does to somebody’s family? Screaming while they’re doing it? I only watched one; I couldn’t watch more than one, it was just too ugly but it was horrible. It was absolutely horrible! Now somehow in the thinking of the Guardian newspaper or the Independent newspaper or Channel 4, we’re supposed to be absolutely indignant because the most horrific thing we've ever seen in our lives is American or British soldiers who stripped these Islamo-Fascists naked and put paper bags on their heads – that's the great injustice. “How could you do such a terrible thing? To make a pyramid of them and put paper bags on their heads, how unspeakable!” I’m not saying I agree with it, but somehow we’re supposed to be indignant about that. That’s what was in the newspaper every day. The fact that these are the people sawing people’s heads off because of their religion, don't expect any justice from the media. Well, the Christians experienced no justice in the 1st Century. Don't expect to experience much justice in the last century. There’s not going to be justice. People’s standards of right and wrong – their values and priorities are going to be highly, irrationally convoluted.
The Emperor Caligula gave birth to a daughter and proclaimed him a son. And by law the kid was legally established to be something it was not. It did not have the benefits of transsexual surgery. Today we do have the benefits of so-called transsexual surgery – there was one on Channel 4 to entertain people – however, we are what we are chromosomally, X and Y. DNA in every cell of the transsexuals’ bodies still says they’re a male, not a female. Scientifically it’s irrefutable, they’re still a male, but we’re expected to legally establish that they’re females. Now in Connecticut and America one of these people was a policeman who is now a police woman and we’re expected – we’re expected – to accept something that is completely irrational, void of any scientific basis. That's the way it was in the 1st Century. Things that were utterly depraved and just abnormal and made no sense make a big comeback. What they were up against then is what we'll be up against as we preach the Gospel in the Last Days.
Here’s something I got in a newspaper yesterday. I don’t usually read tabloids, ( I read the Telegraph, personally) but I couldn't resist buying this: “Christmas Banned in Religious Education”. It’s a video. Hundreds and hundreds of schools around the country ordered this video. It has Ramadan, it has Chinese new year, it has the Bali for the Hindus, but no Christmas, no Easter. It’s put together by a former producer for Channel 4, filmmaker Katie Jones, and she says, “I don't understand what the fuss is about. How will others learn of tolerance?” So we have to teach our kids about Hinduism, Taoism, Islam. Why don’t they have to teach the Hindu kids and the Muslim kids about Christianity? We talked about this in the 1st Century, every religion was “religio elicita” (legal) except Christianity was “religio illicita” (illegal); it's getting more like that. And we see it happening right before us. It’s getting more like that. As we think about preaching the Gospel in the Last Days let's look at a few other things.
The fastest growing so-called Christian sect in the United Kingdom, as you heard me point out every year for the last few years: the Mormons. Of the original Mormons in Utah, 70% of them came from the north of England. The biggest Mormon temple in the world, therefore, is in the north of England in Chorley, no longer in Salt Lake City. Quite a thing! Now Mormonism – we’ll look at this next in Five Questions for Mormons, but Mormons believe what Catholics believe: You can save people after they’re dead. And of course they do this by taking a verse in Corinthians out of all context, getting baptized on behalf of the dead – it’s actually a pagan practice.
You can save people posthumously and they issue baptismal certificates for them and they issue eternal marriage certificates for them. They “saved” Christopher Columbus. You laugh, but they have. At least they say they have; I’m not kidding you. I picked these up in the States a few weeks ago, I am not kidding you. I have here a baptismal certificate – I didn’t even know he was a Mormon – for a certain gentlemen and his wife. Place of birth, Braunau, Austria; baptized September 30, 1993; endowed into eternal heaven 27th of April 1994; name, Adolf Hitler. Hitler was a Catholic – he must have changed his religion after he died. I’m not kidding you! This is real! Here is Eva Braun’s, and here’s their wedding certificate. I don’t blame you for laughing; I was laughing for about two hours. But they believe this! They believe it! That is the fastest-growing Christian sect in this country.
“Preachers Angry at Leaflet Law”. The possibility of a £500 pound fine for distributing Gospel literature. “Five police arrest and handcuff preacher, second appearance due” – Victoria Station, London. He preached there for years, now it’s “lock him up, a preacher without a license”. The state has to approve what you preach – that’s the way the law is going. Here in the United States, it’s the police dragging away and handcuffing a man who disagrees with the court decision to take the Ten Commandments out of a court building.
We warn people when the liars of Satan, when the backsliders running the mainstream denominations, are saying it was a revival and of course we said it was a counterfeit. They was saying “prepare for blessing”, it’s coming from Toronto or Pensacola or something like that; we were telling people to prepare for persecution. I haven't seen the revival – but the persecution?
Poor Harry Hammond. They spent £2,000– £2,500 of your money to fly a witness from Australia to testify against a 69-year-old street preacher in Bournemouth. One of the policemen forced to arrest him didn’t want to do so and attempted to testify for the defense and a policewoman arrested him. He was attacked by a gang of homosexuals throwing handfuls of dirt and water at him and they were not arrested, he was. They’re trying to appeal the case posthumously, but it takes a lot of money. One newspaper was not backing it. Not easy! It’s going on and on and on.