Many Americans bristle when hearing a universal judgment is coming. They’re surely not in the condition of Genesis 6:5, where “The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.”
Take no comfort in that deceit. We don’t have to equal that depravity. To equal it would deny Christ’s powerful influence on humanity’s morality, even where he isn’t personally obeyed. We need only approximate it as an example of what we would have been if Jesus hadn’t come.
We understand that Jesus came in the fullness of time—at the right time Galatians 4:4. Have we appreciated that he came at the most critical time, with humanity at a moral and spiritual crossroads: by having the Law of Moses rejected by Gentiles and the same Law so poorly lived by Jews that it had lost its purifying, penetrative power?
With the impact being that, without a new recuperative spiritual influence, humanity would inevitably fall into the whirlpool of sin that swirled downward into such depravity that God would once again decide to destroy.
God instead sent Jesus to spiritually revitalize humanity. To assure that, at the crossroads where life either got better or worse, Christ made it better. Think of the Roman world: suffused with such idolatry that their pantheon included every possible deity. Which meant that religious parity existed. Which meant that few absolutes could exist, other than pinching incense before a bust of Caesar in admission that he remained all-powerful. Which meant that tolerance of all faiths as equals became a state law.
All the while gladiatorial contests consumed 12,000 lives a month. All the while slavery shackled millions deprived of Roman citizenship. A senator once suggested that slaves be ordered to wear designated colors—Nazi Germany in prospect. A motion quickly forgotten when another senator said it would empower the slaves to recognize their superior numbers. All the while child infanticide discarded unwanted or defective children—the 20th and 21st century America in prospect.
Judaism, meanwhile, the only monotheistic faith capable of halting mankind’s downward spiral into chaos, had become spiritually effete by being politicized and institutionalized. In fact, Paul’s arrival in Ephesus proved how impotent Judaism had become as a spiritual force.
The synagogue had been in Ephesus for centuries without impacting throngs at Diana’s fabled temple. Through those years the Jews had grown content with the “permission to exist” (PTE) tolerance of city authorities. PTE if they didn’t disturb the religious status quo by insisting on monotheism. PTE only by accepting society’s rules. PTE so long as it didn’t intrude on religious beliefs held by the vocal majority devoted to Diana.
That reminds me of an unnamed church building on an unnamed street. It has a sign on the street that points to the nearly invisible building several hundred feet off the street. Indeed, the nearly invisible building betrays the name on the sign. After passing it a number of times, I finally realized the spiritual lesson involved. It symbolizes society’s attitude towards Christianity. It wants Christians to stay in the background of life, keeping quiet, invisible, practicing our faith as Worship only, inside our sacred walls, but not bothering to publicly witness for Jesus; not attacking godlessness or wickedness; not preaching Christ’s singularity and Christianity’s sole, last, full revelation from God.
In short, society wants Christians to hide their witness like that church hides its building. “Be content to believe without imposing demands on others.” The very disposition Jesus removed from his FAITH by outlining its UNIVERSAL proclamation Matthew 28:10-20; by demanding we be CITIES on a HILL—visible from long distances and inviting all to the many activities available.
That church symbolized Judaism in first century Ephesus when the apostle Paul entered the city and proclaimed Jesus Christ as Sole Lord of life.
To abbreviate his influence contrasted with Judaism’s: while the silversmiths considered Jews as devotees of an invisible faith, they immediately opposed Paul as the outrider of a visible Spiritual Powerhouse!
So effete had Judaism become in Ephesus that, when Jews in the theater pushed their own Alexander forward to distance Judaism from Christianity (we’re with you Romans, not these heretics), the anguished, angered crowd rose as one to shout its derision of both hated monotheistic groups.
That scene proved why Christianity was necessary to the Roman Empire. Judaism, the only other religion that could have made a difference, couldn’t, because it had become isolated. Like the church today has become too much like the society we should instead be converting to Christ’s altogether new life.