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If You Had Lived
in the Time of Christ
Would you have believed Him - turned against
Him - or checked up on Him - which?
Donít be too sure! Hereís a way to test yourself
by Herbert W. Armstrong
Just for the moment, SUPPOSE - suppose you were living in Jerusalem when Jesus Christ was teaching there.
You are walking along with a friend. You come upon a small group. Standing in the center a man is talking, answering questions. He is Jesus of Nazareth. You and your friend find yourselves stopped.
But what would have caused you to stop with this little group - do you know? The reason probably is not what you think. You may suppose that it was the overawing appearance of Christ that would have stopped you. But notice what happens next.
Two men come walking by. It is an unusual coincidence, because one is deaf, and he is leading a man who is blind. The deaf man notices the little group standing, sees the man Jesus in the midst talking to them, is completely unimpressed, continues walking on by. But suddenly the blind man tugs at his arm, stops, pulls the deaf man back. He wants to listen.
Nothing the deaf man saw caused him to stop. But what the blind man heard arrested his attention, surprised and shocked him.
And what about you and your friend?
Your friend at your side is suddenly astonished, angered and resentful. You find yourself caught with mingled feelings of surprise, curiosity and shock.
But it was nothing in Jesusí appearance that would have startled you!
When Jesus returned to the town of His youth, the people of Nazareth were astonished, just like other people. But not because of anything out of the ordinary about His looks. To them He looked just like an ordinary local boy now grown to manhood. The people of Nazareth mocked Him - jeered at Him. Yet they were astonished, angered, even as you would have been.
Put in todayís expressive language, this is approximately what they said: "Now where does he get that stuff? Who does he think he is, anyway? The very idea! An ordinary local man like he is, saying such ridiculous things! Why, he grew up here! We know him.
Heís only the son of that carpenter who lives down the street. We know his mother, Mary. We know his brothers and sisters. Theyíre all just common, ordinary folks like we are. Who does he think he is, saying things like that?" (compare with Matthew 13:54-58). Yes, what Jesus said aroused carnal surprise, indignation and anger in the people of Nazareth. You will notice, in verse 54 of Matthew 13, they were astonished - not at His appearance - not at anything unusual in His voice - but at what He said! He wore no halo over His head!
Had you lived in that time and at that place, you, too, probably would have been astonished when you stopped to join this little group. The REASON is very important to you now!
Had you lived then, you would have been born knowing nothing at birth, even as you were born in our day, knowing nothing. Your mother would have fed you, cared for you, taught you as you grew up, even as mothers do today.
You would have been taught and reared in the concepts, beliefs, ways and customs of that time and place, even as you actually have been reared in the ways and concepts of this day in your country.
Yes, and you would automatically have taken for granted, without question, the beliefs, teachings and ways of life of that people and time - just as today you have grown up assuming, as perfectly natural, the general way of life and general beliefs of this time.
Whatever society accepts and does seems perfectly natural. It becomes part of oneís life - indeed, it is oneís life! It was the same in the time of Christ.
Had you lived then and chanced to walk by this little group, and your ear had caught a few of the words from the lips of Jesus, you, too, in all probability, would have been astonished!
You would have heard this very ordinary-looking man from Nazareth making positive, dogmatic statements totally at variance with the concepts and beliefs you had always heard, been taught and taken for granted. You would have heard Him expounding the Scriptures in a manner absolutely contradictory to what you had been brought up to believe. You would have heard things utterly different from what everybody believed.
Certainly it would have sounded like fanaticism!
And here is the strange paradox: In spite of yourself, what you would have heard Him say would have sounded quite logical and plausible - it would seem, somehow, to ring true - you would find yourself half admitting that it made sense!
Perhaps that is the very reason your friend would have become suddenly angry and resentful. Down deep, he would recognize that this man from Nazareth was speaking the TRUTH! Down deep, he would be forced to the half realization that he had been absolutely wrong! Nothing wounds human vanity quite so much as being told one is wrong! And when one really senses it is true - when one simply cannot refute this emphatic correction - it is humiliating, indeed.
SURELY, you would reason, all these religious denominations, recognized by the society of your country, so highly esteemed, could not be wrong! Surely the people of your whole nation could not be wrong!
And yet - what Jesus said did seem reasonable, even though it hit you at first as being some strange new and fanatical religion. You probably would have found your head swimming. You would have felt all mixed up.
You would have found yourself unable to answer Jesusí sayings, or to show anyone where He was wrong. Indeed you would not have been able to convince yourself that He was wrong. Yet everything within you would have rebelled against believing He could be right.
Could this man speaking these unheard-of things be a real prophet, bringing truth? Or was he just a clever false prophet after the money or a following?
Would you have said to yourself: "I know what Iíll do - Iíll check up on this man from Nazareth. Iíll go to the chief ministers of the big, reputable, established denominations. They have standing. Iíll ask them whether he is properly explaining and expounding the Scriptures."
Would you have done this - or would you have simply gone to the sacred Scriptures direct, yourself, and searched through the Scriptures with open mind, - without prejudice, yet cautiously, to PROVE all things, deciding to believe what you found there with your own eyes?
There is a TEST given later in this article by which you can test yourself to know what you would have done.
Had you gone to the officials or top men of the larger recognized and established religious denominations, do you realize what they would have answered?
They would have done everything in their power to discredit Jesus. They would have assured you He was a false prophet, even as they did accuse to those who did listen to Him. They would have warned you against Him.
For they - the very highest ministers of the most reputable established denominations - the CHIEF priests - were the very ones who not only sought to discredit Jesus and turn people against Him - they are the very ones who plotted and conspired to MURDER Him!
Finally, as more and more of the people began to believe what Christ was preaching (John 7:3 1), "the Pharisees and the chief priests sent officers to take Him" (verse 32).
Many people began to believe Jesus - others did not. "So there was a division among the people because of Him" (verse 43). Then the officers returned to the chief priests, who said to the officers, "Why have you not brought Him?" (verse 45).
"The officers answered, ĎNo man ever spoke like this Maní" (verse 46). That was precisely WHY the chief priests were trying to discredit and even to murder Jesus. See how they answered:
"Then the Pharisees answered them, ĎAre you also deceived? Have any of the rulers or the Pharisees believed in Him?í" (verses 47-48).
These CHIEF ministers of the BIG established and reputed denominations said Jesus, the very Christ, was a false prophet. They asked, Have any of the leaders of recognized, established religious groups believed Him? The argument was, If these reputable and important MEN did not believe Him, then you shouldnít!
Yet it was these very same religious leaders of the big, reputable denominations who conspired, and paid Judas 30 pieces of silver to turn traitor and betray Jesus. It was they who stirred up the crowd against Jesus, to demand that He be put to death, when He stood before Pilate. It was they who jeered at Him, mocked Him, caused Him to be MURDERED!
And HE was the Son of GOD! HE was the true MESSIAH! He was your SAVIOR!
Would you, had you lived there and then, have gone to the big religious organizations and asked whether Jesus spoke the truth?
What a terrible, tragic mistake you would have made, had you done that!
Or would you have done as the Bereans were commended for doing when they heard the apostIe Paul? Paul, too, came speaking the same Gospel as Jesus. He, too, preached a message altogether different from the beliefs and customs of the time. These Bereans did not just gullibly swallow whatever Paul said without checking.
How could THEY know? Possibly this Paul was a false prophet. But they did not go to the chief preachers or the big, established denominations. THEY WENT DIRECTLY TO THE SCRIPTURES!
Yes, they checked up on Paul! But they went to the RIGHT PLACE to check up! They did not go to MEN, who could easily have partisan interests to protect. They did not go to Paulís critics or opponents. THEY WENT TO GOD! They knew the Scriptures were Godís WORD! They received Paulís word without prejudice for or against - with open mind - yet they checked up - they PROVED all things - they "searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so" (Acts 17:11).
And that is precisely what YOU should do, today!
But, had you lived in Jesusí day, what WOULD you have done? There is a TEST that will tell you.
Today you hear an astonishing broadcast, The World Tomorrow, on radio and television! On it, I CLAIM to be preaching the very same identical Gospel Jesus preached. I literally preach THE BIBLE. I expound it, as Jesus did.
And today, even as then, THE PEOPLE ARE ASTONISHED! What I preach, right out of the Bible, is just as different from what YOU have been brought up to believe today as Jesusí teachings were different from what people then believed!
And it is the same today. The message catches the interest of people. The ratings of listener interest are unbelievably high. Millions are listening. They are astonished, surprised, often shocked. Somehow, down deep, it does seem to ring true! It does seem to MAKE SENSE!
But it is SO DIFFERENT from what many have been brought up to believe. Surely this couldnít be right? ó and yet, listeners by the thousands begin to realize they canít refute it!
One woman who claimed to be an atheist listened awhile. Then she shrugged her shoulders. "I canít refute what he says, but Iím just not interested."
A nationally known artist chanced to listen to one program. He was a skeptic - an agnostic. He was a little upset, because what he heard was so logical - seemed to make so much sense - he could not refute it. Yet it was the opposite of what he thought he believed.
"Iíll listen again," he said. "Next time Iíll have the satisfaction of being able to answer his statements."
But next time he was more confused than ever. He could not resist listening. It was a challenge. He wanted to be able to refute the truth to his own personal satisfaction. But he couldnít! Finally he searched the Scriptures. He was more astonished than ever! With his own eyes he saw that the BIBLE does not say what he supposed it said! It made sense. It punctured and deflated his vanity to have to acknowledge he had been wrong. After six months he did.
He repented of what he was, what he had thought, what he had done. He accepted Jesus Christ as Savior. He was baptized. His whole life became changed! That was many years ago.
What OUGHT you to do? Remember that on The World Tomorrow and in The Plain Truth and The Good News we say, "DONíT BELIEVE US - donít believe MEN - check up in your BIBLE - believe what you see with your own eyes there!" Thatís what you should do!
But today, as in the time of Christ or of Paul, if you go to men - or to religious denominations - and put your trust in MEN, do you know what they will tell you?
Yes, thatís right! Just as those teaching things different from Jesusí teaching in that day accused HIM of being a false prophet, so it is TODAY! Any who are teaching things different from CHRISTíS OWN GOSPEL, heard on The World Tomorrow and appearing in The Plain Truth and The Good News, will naturally disagree, oppose this true message, probably accuse us, today, of being false prophets.
They may even attempt to discredit - to impute evil and diabolical motives - to accuse of dishonesty - to try to assassinate character. Possibly they will malign, impugn, use every psychological trick to set up PREJUDICE, so that you wonít listen or check up, for yourself in your own Bible!
They will not say to you: "Go and look in your own Bible, for yourself, and see WHETHER these things be so. Just take him at his own word - check up in your own Bible for yourself." No, they will not answer you that way.
Stop and think! IF any religious person does not teach the same GOSPEL of the SAME CHRIST that we teach right out of the Bible, he cannot endorse us or what we proclaim! IF HE DID THEN HE WOULD HAVE TO PREACH THE SAME TRUTH, ALSO!
NOWHERE does your Bible tell you to RELY on MEN. Donít go to MEN to learn whether we preach the TRUTH! Unless they accept it, too, they cannot endorse it! Your Bible tells you NOT TO PUT YOUR TRUST IN MEN (Ps. 146:3). So we say, DONíT put your trust in US - or in any man or men. Donít believe it because WE say so. Check up, in your own Bible, for yourself. BELIEVE YOUR BIBLE! BELIEVE GOD, not man!
We do not want to discredit anyone. We do not need to refute the errors of others. We merely point you to the very Word of the living GOD. But we can tell you, now, what some few are saying.
A very small printed bulletin was sent to us some little time ago, warning people against Christís own Gospel, which we preach, calling it "religious rubbish." Of course, such expressions are designed to discredit and set up prejudice.
Then followed the false accusation that we preach "a religion of works for salvation." All who listen regularly or read the magazines know we preach nothing of the kind!
Reports have come that some here or there have claimed, falsely, that I have been a Seventh-day Adventist, a Jehovahís Witness and many other such things. I have been - before conversion - a Quaker and a Methodist. But I have never, directly or indirectly, in any form, shape or manner, had any affiliation, association or connection with ANY other denominations. Incidentally, the TRUE Church that Christ established is not denominational!
We do not need the recommendations of men. We seek not their endorsement, but GODís. Like the apostle Paul, we need no letters of approval or commendation from MEN.
The true Gospel going to the whole world in POWER - the thousands of converted, changed lives that are the FRUITS the living Christ has produced through this Work - they are our letter of approval written in their hearts by Godís Holy Spirit (II Cor. 3:12)!
Now back to our original question. If you had lived in the days of Jesus of Nazareth, WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE DONE?
Would you have gone to the chief priests, the scribes and Pharisees and believed them? Would you have allowed them to cause you to reject the very Savior and His TRUTH?
Again, DONíT BE TOO SURE!
There is a TEST that will tell, definitely and absolutely, what you would have done! It is a BIBLE TEST! Jesus Christ Himself gives this test. To those who then denied Him, turned against Him, rejected the very living Gospel - the message of LIFE sent by God the Father through Christ - He said, "And say, ĎIf we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophetsí" (Matt. 23:30).
Yet those who said "If we had lived back in that day, we would not have been a partaker in the killing of the prophets God sent" were the very ones who did partake in MURDERING THE CHIEF PROPHET OF ALL - the GREATEST minister God ever sent!
Jesus says, then, in plain language, that the test is THIS: Whatever you do today is precisely what you would have done then. They DID participate in murdering the greatest of ALL prophets! Most certainly they would have been party to killing a lesser prophet, had they lived in a previous generation.
Today Jesus Christ has raised up a WORK. It is GODíS WORK! It is proclaiming the very same identical MESSAGE - the SAME GOSPEL - Jesus brought and proclaimed. Jesus only started this Work. Today He continues it from heaven where He directs those of HIS CHOOSING.
He said that if they persecuted HIM, they would persecute those of us whom He sends!
"You did not choose Me," said Jesus to those He was sending out with His message, "but I chose you and appointed you... If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you... Remember the word that I said to you, ĎA servant is not greater than his master.í If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept MY WORD, they will keep yours also" (John 15:16-20).
Today many listen, are astonished, then GO TO GOD by checking in the Bible. They PROVE for themselves whether these things be true. And if, seeing the TRUTH with their own eyes in their own Bibles, they BELIEVE it and follow it, then these are they who, had they lived in Jerusalem in Jesusí day and had heard Him, would have believed and followed Him!
But if there are any today, being astonished at Christís Gospel, which may sound as strange as it did 1,952 years ago, WHO THEN GO TO MEN, AND TAKE THE WORD OF PARTISAN MEN about the message of Christ - THEY are the ones who, had they lived then, would have gone to the chief priests and the Pharisees - Christís enemies! They are the ones who would have believed these enemies instead of Christ!
They are the ones who would have rejected Christ and His message - WHO WOULD HAVE BEEN PARTY TO MURDERING THE VERY SAVIOR!
Yes, strong words, those!
But Jesus Christ Himself has given you that test! WHAT would you have done, had you lived then? Precisely what you DO, today!
If you will not hear and believe Christís message today, even if heard from one persecuted, defamed, warned against by some MEN (even as Christ Himself was), then you would NOT have believed Jesus Christ, nor followed Him, had you lived then! That is CHRISTíS OWN TEST! It is HIS WORD! And it is THE WORD THAT SHALL JUDGE YOU at the final judgment!
Again and again we say, DONíT believe BECAUSE it was on The World Tomorrow program or in The Plain Truth. or The Good News! Donít follow us or any MEN. Go to YOUR BIBLE! "To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them" (Isa. 8:20). The expression "the law and... the testimony" simply means the BIBLE.
But if we DO speak according to this Word, then YOU HAD BETTER BELIEVE GODíS HOLY WORD! It is LIFE-giving knowledge! Even though some label it a "strange religion" - even though astonishing!
BELIEVE GODíS WORD, regardless of men.