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流亡中的使徒(麦克阿瑟)陈鸽翻译 2018-10-19

启示录的审判

 我们常把《启示录》看成基督二次降临的预言,我们想起那世界末日等候着世人的审判:看哪他驾云降临众目要看见他连刺他的人也要看见他地上的万族都要因他哀哭。”(启1:7当想到神所应许的忿怒,我们往往恐惧战惊;但想到它不会落到我们头上,我们又甚感欣慰、如释重负。

 亚细亚的教会

 然而,在《启示录》揭晓基督再来与审判不悔改的罪人之前,它头三章,先向众教会说话。具体而言,就是基督借着使徒约翰,向亚细亚的七个教会传达了信息:「你所看见的当写在书上,达与以弗所、士每拿、别迦摩、推雅推喇、撒狄、非拉铁非、老底嘉、那七个教会。」(启1:11

 老约翰的使命

 这些都是我们今天所知道的土耳其城镇中实际存在的会众,并且按着古代邮政路线的顺序排列。每一个教会都是当时使徒所建立的(尤其是保罗工作的果效)。以弗所是该地区所有其它教会的母会。约翰到了老年,在以弗所教会服事,这使他与当地所有的教会都建立了亲密的关系。

 然而,当主将《启示录》传给他时,约翰却被流放到满地岩石的拔摩岛上,接受劳动改造。

 主耶稣的预言

 主基督被逮捕的那一夜,亲自告诫他的门徒说,逼迫即将来到:「世人若恨你们,你们知道,恨你们以先已经恨我了……他们若逼迫了我,也要逼迫你们。」(约15:18,20 

 不久,逼迫果然劈头盖脑般临到,教会从一开始就面临来自于以色列宗教领袖的迫害,又继续忍受了罗马帝国敌意的猜忌。罗马文化被异教堕落的信仰完全操纵,在那个邪恶的社会中,基督徒很难适应,天天备受煎熬。并且,对于沉浸在罗马文化中的百姓而言,基督教简直不可理喻。罗马人完全曲解了初期教会的教导与行为,以致诬告基督徒吃人、乱伦、性变态。

 命定中的逼迫

 因为基督徒不肯拜凯撒为神,所以有人谣传他们是无神论者或叛国分子。到了公元后64年,罗马皇帝尼禄就利用这些由来已久的猜疑,来分散大家对他自己罪行的注意力。那年,一场大火摧毁了一大部分的罗马城,人人都怀疑尼禄是罪魁祸首。谁知尼禄反嫁祸于基督徒,推卸了自己的罪疚。他又发起了一场官方的逼迫,在城内外对基督徒进行迫害。

 在尼禄王余下的任期中,这种情况一直持续下去。在这第一波罗马的大逼迫中,彼得和保罗都殉道了,另有无数信徒也一同无情地被猎杀、戏弄、屠宰。

 腥风血雨不断

 并且,在尼禄执政期间,罗马又发起了一场血腥的战争,破灭了犹太人独立的盼望。以色列全境将近一千座城镇与村庄都被烈火烧尽,其中的居民要不被屠杀,要不四处分散。到了公元后70年,耶路撒冷被攻陷,圣殿毁灭。那一度神国地上首府,如今完全沦陷于异教徒的手中。

 就在十多年后,罗马在图密善(Domitian)皇帝令下,又发起了另一轮逼迫。这第二波反对教会的运动时间拖的更长,从公元后8196年,并且范围遍及全地。罗马对教会的围剿,不但按部就班,而且来势汹汹。成千上万的基督徒因此丧命、放逐、逃窜。历史学家告诉我们,提摩太(Timothy)也就是在这段期间被人用棍棒活活打死的。在使徒约翰死后60年出生的特图里安(Tertullian)宣称:“使徒约翰先是被推下滚烫的油锅中,却完好无恙,之后才被流放到孤岛上。”  [1] 由于缺乏亲眼目睹的一手见证,我们不必坚持这一传统的真实性,但的确,它准确地反映了罗马抵挡基督教运动的激烈程度。据说,尼禄用沥青或松脂涂抹在基督徒身上,然后把他们捆绑在纸莎草或木柴捆中,或者把他们钉在浸泡过碳酸油的十字架上,然后,刺穿他们的喉咙,免得他们尖叫,并趁他们还活着的时候放火,把他们当火炬来照亮他的花园宴会。[2]

 为基督而流亡

 约翰告诉我们,他“为神的道,并为给耶稣作的见证”(启1:9),被判处放逐到拔摩岛的牢狱。当时,传福音是一种可以被处死的罪名,拔摩岛也是不像一些人想象中的浪漫乐园岛屿,它乃是一个新月形的岩石,光秃地伸出爱琴海,大约10英里长,5英里宽。在约翰的时代,它是一个荒芜的、与世隔绝之地,离米利都海岸近40英里,在小亚细亚和雅典之间。约翰的判刑,可能包括充公他所拥有的所有产业,并剥夺他所享有的罗马公民特权。 

约翰虽被放逐,但其实等于被判死刑,因他将要终身在采石场上,那缺食艰苦的环境之下接受劳改。那已年逾九十的约翰,也不指望在拔摩岛上活多长久了。

 为众教会挂心

然而,正如在(林后11:23-29)中的保罗一样,约翰所忍受的肉体的痛苦,远不能与他对亚细亚众教会的挂心相比,也不能与他们背弃神话语的权威所带来的痛苦相比。从基督写给七个教会的书信中,我们知道他们犯了各种各样的罪,包括放荡的性生活、敬拜偶像、假冒伪善。他们不但纵容罪恶,并且与周围的异教文化同流合污。他们甘心接待假师傅,甚至帮着他们一起散播异端。从许多方面而言,后世的教会,也步上了他们的后尘,包括当今西方世界的福音派教会。

 使徒一灵所感

 在约翰拔摩岛异象的25年前,使徒保罗就警戒初期教会所面临的危险。他劝勉提摩太说:“你不要以给我们的主作见证为耻,也不要以我这为主被囚的为耻;总要按神的能力,与我为福音同受苦难。”(提后1:813-14节,保罗又嘱咐他:“你从我听的那纯正话语的规模,要用在基督耶稣里的信心和爱心,常常守著。从前所交托你的善道,你要靠著那住在我们里面的圣灵牢牢的守著。”

 沉甸甸的叮咛

 保罗知道,逼迫患难迟早会轮到提摩太;他也深知当牢狱、酷刑、死亡的威胁临近时,人多么容易妥协,甚至崩溃。所以在他最后的书信中,保罗苦口婆心地劝勉他年轻的接班人做好准备,迎接即将来到的考验。第二章,保罗继续说:

 我儿啊,你要在基督耶稣的恩典上刚强起来。……你要和我同受苦难,好像基督耶稣的精兵。(提后2:1,3 

 你当竭力在神面前得蒙喜悦,作无愧的工人,按著正意分解真理的道。但要远避世俗的虚谈,因为这等人必进到更不敬虔的地步。他们的话如同毒疮,越烂越大;其中有许米乃和腓理徒。(提后2:15-17 

 你要逃避少年的私欲,同那清心祷告主的人追求公义、信德、仁爱、和平。惟有那愚拙无学问的辩论,总要弃绝,因为知道这等事是起争竞的。(提后2:22-23 

 假师傅的迷惑

 保罗所关怀的,不仅是提摩太一个人,更是教会整体。他明白神的百姓,时时刻刻所面临的属灵威胁,

 你该知道,末世必有危险的日子来到。因为那时人要专顾自己、贪爱钱财、自夸、狂傲、谤 、违背父母、忘恩负义、心不圣洁、无亲情、不解怨、好说谗言、不能自约、性情凶暴、不爱良善、卖主卖友、任意妄为、自高自大、爱宴乐、不爱神,有敬虔的外貌,却背了敬虔的实意;这等人你要躲开。……只是作恶的和迷惑人的,必越久越恶,他欺哄人,也被人欺哄。(提后3:1-5,13

 在他整个服事当中,使徒保罗总谆谆地告戒我们,面对假师傅的危害,要如临强敌,要慎思明辨,小心防备他们的威胁。

 弟兄们,那些离间你们、叫你们跌倒、背乎所学之道的人,我劝你们要留意躲避他们。因为这样的人不服事我们的主基督,只服事自己的肚腹,用花言巧语诱惑那些老实人的心。 (罗16:17-18

 家贼防不胜防

 然而,他也明白:保守教会道理与道德纯正的争战,不仅仅是外在的,教会的内部也有许多的威胁。

 因为时候要到,人必厌烦纯正的道理,耳朵发痒,就随从自己的情欲,增添好些师傅,并且掩耳不听真道,偏向荒渺的言语。(提后4:3-4

 当他准备离开以弗所教会的时候,保罗郑重地嘱咐当地的长老,要为交付他们的羊群尽忠守望。

 我知道,我去之後必有凶暴的豺狼进入你们中间,不爱惜羊群。就是你们中间,也必有人起来说悖谬的话,要引诱门徒跟从他们。所以你们应当警醒。(徒20:29-31

 爱心渐渐冷淡

 然而,不到三十年后,那个教会对基督的爱心,已经减退到空洞的敬虔,而周围的几个教会也堕落了,保罗所警戒的腐败全都呈现在他们当中。

 呼吁教会悔改

 身为最后一位活着的使徒,约翰经历足够的年数,亲眼目睹保罗所预言的话成就在亚细亚他所爱的许多教会的里面。如今,他蒙教会元首的呼召,要呼吁这些教会悔改。


(改编自:基督的呼召,教会要改革)

 ———————–

 An Apostle in Exile

 by John MacArthur

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

 We often think of Revelation as a prophetic look at thesecond coming of Christ. We think of the judgment that awaits the world because“He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those whopierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him” (Revelation1:7). We tend to look at the promise of God’s wrath in horror, but alsowith a sense of relief that it will not fall on us.

But before the visions of the book of Revelation revealthe subject of God’s judgment against unrepentant sinners and the return ofChrist, it opens with three chapters addressed to churches. Specifically,Christ dictates a message through the apostle John to the seven churches inAsia Minor: “Write in a book what you see, and send it to the seven churches:to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and toPhiladelphia and Laodicea” (Revelation 1:11).

 Those were actual congregations located in townsthroughout what we know today as Turkey, listed in an order that follows theancient postal route. Each of these churches were founded as fruit of theapostles’ ministry (primarily Paul), with Ephesus serving as the mother churchfor all the others in that region. Toward the end of his life, John ministeredin the church at Ephesus, giving him an intimate connection to all thosecongregations.

 When the Lord delivered to him the Revelation, however,John was living in exile in a penal colony on the rocky island of Patmos.

 On the night Christ was arrested, the Lord Himself hadwarned His disciples that persecution was coming: “If the world hates you, youknow that it has hated Me before it hated you. . . . If they persecuted Me,they will also persecute you” (John 15:18,20).

 It did not take long before persecution was in fullforce. The church faced opposition from the very beginning, initially fromIsrael’s religious leaders. Likewise, it endured the hostile suspicions ofRome. Roman culture was dominated by pagan and debauched religion. Christianscould not fit in or partake of much that constituted everyday life in thatwicked society. Moreover, Christianity simply made no sense to people steepedin Roman culture. The doctrine and practice of the early church was so utterlymisunderstood that the Romans falsely accused Christians of cannibalism,incest, and other sexual perversions. Rumors spread that Christians wereatheists and political dissidents because they would not worship Caesar as god.In AD 64, the Roman emperor Nero played on these long-held suspicions todistract from his own misdeeds. That year, when a fire devastated much of thecity of Rome, the public suspected Nero was to blame. Nero shifted his deservedblame to the Christians, instituting an official campaign of persecutionagainst them across the city and beyond. It continued throughout the rest ofhis reign. During that first wave of Roman persecution, both Peter and Paulwere executed, along with countless others who were hunted down and slaughteredfor sport.

 Also during Nero’s reign, Rome waged a bloody war tosuppress Israel’s hopes for independence. Nearly a thousand towns, villages,and settlements across Israel were burned to the ground, with their inhabitantsmassacred or scattered. In AD 70, Jerusalem was overthrown and the templedestroyed. What was once the capital city of God’s kingdom on earth was now inthe total control of pagans.

 Just over a decade later, Rome initiated another wave ofpersecution under the emperor Domitian. This second campaign against the churchlasted longer—from AD 81 to 96—and extended throughout the empire. Rome’sassault on the church was organized and militarized. Thousands of Christianslost their lives while others were banished or fled. Historians tell us it wasduring this period that Timothy was clubbed to death. Tertullian—who was bornabout sixty years after the apostle John died—claimed that “the Apostle Johnwas first plunged, unhurt, into boiling oil, and thence remitted to hisisland-exile!” [1] Lacking firsthand witnesstestimony, we needn’t insist on the veracity of that tradition, but it doesaccurately reflect the ferocity of Rome’s campaign against Christians. Nero wassaid to smear Christians with pitch or pine resin and bind them in papyrus orbundles of wood. Or he might crucify them on crosses soaked in creosote. Hewould then pierce their throats so they could not scream, and set them ablazewhile still alive, using them as torches to illuminate his garden parties. [2]

 In Revelation 1:9,John tells us he was sentenced to the island prison of Patmos “because of theword of God and the testimony of Jesus.” Preaching the gospel was a crimepunishable by death. Patmos is not at all the island paradise some mightinitially imagine. It’s actually a crescent-shaped rock jutting up out of theAegean Sea, roughly ten miles long and five miles wide. In John’s day, it was adesolate, isolated place, nearly forty miles off the coast of Miletus, betweenAsia Minor and Athens. John’s sentence likely included the forfeiture of allhis property and possessions, along with any civil rights he enjoyed underRoman law. Although he was living in exile, he was essentially given a deathsentence, since he would spend the rest of his life doing hard labor in thequarries, with meager food and desperate living conditions. Already in hisnineties, John could not have expected to survive for long on Patmos.

 Like Paul in 2Corinthians 11:23-29, however, the physical pain John enduredcould not compare to his anguish over his beloved churches in Asia Minor andtheir defection from the authority of God’s Word. From the letters Christdictated to the individual churches we know they were engaged in a variety ofsinful behaviors, including sexual immorality, idolatry, and hypocrisy. Theywere tolerating sin and compromising with the pagan culture surrounding them.They willingly accommodated false teachers and even helped spread their heresy.In many ways, they were examples that would be emulated by churches insubsequent ages, including evangelical churches across the Western world today.

 Twenty-five years before John’s vision on Patmos, theapostle Paul warned of the dangers facing the early church. He urged Timothy,“Do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but joinwith me in suffering for the gospel” (2 Timothy1:8). In verses 13–14, Paul charged him to “Retain thestandard of sound words which you have heard from me. . . . Guard, through theHoly Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you.”

 Paul knew persecution and suffering would reach Timothy’sdoorstep. He also knew how easy it would be to crumble and compromise whenthreatened with prison, torture, and death. Throughout his final epistle,he sought to prepare his young apprentice for future trials. He continued inchapter 2:

Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. . . .Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 2:1, 3)

 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as aworkman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness,and their talk will spread like gangrene. (2Timothy 2:15–17)

 Flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness. . . .But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations. (2Timothy 2:22–23)

 Paul’s concern wasn’t just for Timothy, but for the wholechurch. He understood the spiritual threats that loomed on the horizon forGod’s people:

 In the last days difficult times will come. For men willbe lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedientto parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips,without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited,lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness,although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these. . . . But evilmen and imposters will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.(2Timothy 3:1–5,13)

 Throughout his ministry, the apostle Paul carefullywarned about the danger of succumbing to false teachers and the need to bevigilant and discerning in the face of their threat.

 Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those whocause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned,and turn away from them. For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but oftheir own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive thehearts of the unsuspecting. (Romans16:17–18)

 But he also understood that the fight to maintain thedoctrinal and moral purity of the church is not exclusively external—thatplenty of threats come from within as well:

 For the time will come when they will not endure sounddoctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate forthemselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn awaytheir ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. (2Timothy 4:3–4)

 As he prepared to leave the Ephesian church, Paul gave theelders there a vivid warning to guard the flock God had entrusted to them:

 I know that after my departure savage wolves will come inamong you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men willarise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.Therefore be on the alert. (Acts20:29–31)

 Not thirty years later, that church had drifted fromtheir love for Christ into empty piety, while several of the surroundingcongregations had succumbed to some of the very corruptions Paul warned of.

 As the oldest surviving apostle, John had lived longenough to see many of his beloved churches in Asia Minor succumb to Paul’sprophetic words. And now he was going to receive a call for their repentancefrom the Lord of the church.


(Adapted from Christ’s Call to Reform the Church)

关于作者: 陈鸽

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