Unification News for December 2001

DP 6 - 4

In the same way that esoteric, apocalyptic imagery and symbolism has proved enigmatic, the issue of the historical moment of the Parousia has also been a question for believers throughout the centuries. As we have indicated, the occasions of hope—and subsequent periods of dismay—have been many. The Gospel of Matthew's warning that "of that day and hour no one knows" (Mt 24:36) perhaps should have been given more heed than it has.

On the other hand, there is reason to believe that the climactic time can be known. In Amos 3:7, for example, we are told that "Surely the Lord God does nothing without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets." Consistent with such a reassurance, instances of Yahweh's revelation of His purposes and plans to Old Testament figures abound: God revealed the coming of the Great Flood to Noah; He told Lot of the imminent destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah; He indicated to the family of John the Baptist and others that Jesus would be born.

In like manner, although two thousand years ago no one did know the "day or the hour," Divine Principle affirms that at the appropriate time God will make known the moment of the Second Advent. Indeed, given the importance of such an event to the Lord's own purposes, it is virtually inconceivable that He would not.

In their discussion of Israelite history, Judaism, Christianity and Islam by Janet O'Dea et alia, we are reminded of the special relationship between God and man, because of which God is given to communicating His intentions and activities: "Yahweh had revealed himself in history to his people and had determined their historical destiny. The Israelites...were partners with Yahweh in carrying out his plan for mankind."

The Hebrews' relationship with God thus centered around a concept not only of law but also of covenant. Such a covenant is at the basis of Yahweh's revealing His will to Noah, Lot, and the family of John the Baptist. As He announced His ways to them prior to significant Old Testament events, in a similar way God will communicate His purposes today. After all, the cooperation of partners requires it.

Before we proceed to discuss the present day, those historical patterns which suggest the significance of the twentieth century should be noted. While Divine Principle affirms that we are living today in a time of unparalleled importance, it nevertheless recognizes that this is possible only on the basis of prior spiritual developments. Let us examine them.

Patterns in History

Since the restoration of God's creation is to be consummated through the Messiah, we may imagine that this person is the center of God's hopes. Accordingly, God's work in human society has focused on preparing a foundation for his coming. The foundation was originally established through the Israelite people and their Jewish faith. As we know it, it is in Hebrew culture that the idea of a universal messianic figure first emerged.

When the Hebrew people failed to recognize the Anointed One when he came, however, they missed their chance to serve as the soil for the new messianic civilization. As Jesus indicated, their privilege was passed to a new nation (Mt 21:41-43). History would subsequently show that this was to be the multi-racial Second Israel, consisting of the devout of the Christian faith.

As we will demonstrate, in studying the histories of Israel and Christianity a certain parallelism in the developments of these two Israels can be detected. For Divine Principle the reason is clear. Since God is a God of principle and law, the history of the Second Israel, Christianity, must both follow the same pattern for preparing for the Messiah. The history of the two societies differ in terms of their historical eras, specific events, geographical settings and cultural backgrounds. Nevertheless, as both of these dispensations were to prepare for the foundation for the Messiah, the purpose underlying them was one and the same.

The history of Israel from Jacob to Jesus was divided into six major sub-periods—those of slavery in Egypt, of Judges, of the United Kingdom, of the Divided Kingdoms of North and South, of Jewish Captivity and Return, and of Preparation for the Messiah. These six sub-periods actually comprise one dispensational age of 1930 years, a period in which God sought to consummate His salvific efforts. When through the crucifixion of Jesus the goal remained unattained, however, the time was unavoidably extended—into what we now know as the Christian era.

This era, from Jesus to the Second Coming, may also be divided into six major frames—the periods of Persecution in the Roman Empire, of the Patriarchs, of the United Christian Kingdom, of the Divided Kingdoms of East and West, of Papal Captivity and Return, and of Preparation for the Second Coming. These six sub-periods also span a time totaling 1930 years. Let us look at these stages in greater detail, both in order that the specific parallelism of these two histories may be made evident and so that the probable timing of the Second Advent may be substantially identified. We will begin with Israel's period of bondage.

Egypt and Rome

Divine Principle points out that the periods of suffering by the Jews in Egypt and the Christians under the Roman Empire are distinctly comparable. After the spiritual accomplishments of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Jacob's twelve sons and seventy kinsmen entered Egypt. Here their descendants were enslaved by the Egyptians.

Even in the midst of their suffering and deprivation, however, the Hebrews maintained their faith. They performed the rites of circumcision, offered sacrifices and kept the Sabbath. Similarly in the centuries immediately following Jesus' death, the Christians were persecuted by the Roman Empire. It is said that Nero's palace grounds were once lit by the burning bodies of crucified Christians. Regardless of such atrocities, the Christians also preserved their faith.

After the 400-year period of slavery in Egypt had ended, the Book of Exodus tells us that God chose Moses to subjugate Pharaoh and lead the Israelites to the new land of Canaan. In a parallel development, at the end of the period of martyrdom in the Roman Empire, Jesus influenced the Emperor Constantine to recognize Christianity publicly, which he did officially in 313. In 392, approximately 400 years after its inception Christianity became the state religion.

Having led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt, Moses brought them the Ten Commandments. Similarly, after the period of oppression by the Roman Empire, the early Christian Church developed a stable core of doctrine to guide its faithful. The New Testament was canonized and certain affirmations of faith, such as the Apostles' Creed, were formulated. Both accomplishments were possible only on the basis of the 400 years' indemnity paid by persecution, first in Egypt for the Hebrews and later in the Roman Empire for the Christians.

Judges and Patriarchs

A comparison between the Old Testament judges and the patriarchs of the early Christian Church is also evident. During the age of the judges, which began after Joshua had led the Israelites into Canaan, the tribes of Israel were governed by a series of administrators and military heroes known as Judges.

Just as the period of Egyptian domination lasted a reported 400 years, so—we are told by the Hebrew scripture—the period of rule by the Israelite Judges lasted an identical period. While both numerical figures may be symbolic, for Divine Principle they nevertheless indicate distinct phases of God's dispensation.

Leadership functions for the early Christian Church were fulfilled by Patriarchs. A patriarch was the bishop of one of the chief cities of the Roman Empire, primarily Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch or Jerusalem.

In some cases a patriarch's influence extended well beyond his immediate domain. At the height of his power, for example, the patriarch of Antioch governed the Christians of Syria, Lebanon, southern Asia Minor, Cyprus, Palestine, Iraq, Iran, Georgia, and South India. In general, just as the Jews were governed by judges, Christians looked to patriarchs who represented for them wisdom, power and authority.

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