One Thing You Still Lack
CONT., page 8
HIS-STORY, PART I
Yahweh has for centuries kept in the heart of men this burning urge to disregard the things of this world and live a life free of earthly affections, regarding possessions as no more than provision for the common needs of others, and thereby preparing himself for the Millennial return and reign of Yahshua. What is it about this quest in man that keeps urging him in this direction, despite the seemingly frequent failures, shortfalls, and disappointments. One might look at these deep heartfelt and utopian-like attempts as being an evidence that, see, they do not work. For the skeptic, this is an expected response. But on the other hand, for the sincere and honest inquirer who is willing to take the risk of discovering truth, this continuing repeated quest of men throughout history to seek the kingdom of God by these practices exhibited by the first Remnant, and even before them as we will see, is an affirmation of its Divine purpose.
Men and women throughout the centuries have prepared for the return of Yahshua by devoutly practicing those things that the first Remnant knew to be necessary from their personal relationship with the Messiah and firsthand knowledge of His teachings. Who in history would be better scholars and examples of what must take place to prepare the way for the return of the Messiah than those who were intimately aware of His teachings? And since that time, men and women convinced and anxious for His return have turned to the first Remnant as their example.
In this first section on His-story, we will look at what history up to the 1517 Reformation has equally preserved for us regarding this oft repeated response, and the nature of these practices followed by those who pursued them in their sincere and complete devotion to God. But before we see these, let us see that these practices not only existed before the teachings of Yahshua and the first Remnant, but were taking place in a very successful community at the precise time of these events.
One-hundred years before Yahshua was born, a community of devout men that came to be called the Essenes began to live their lives very similar to what Yahshua would teach. The Essenes are the first in recorded history to adopt the lifestyle of holding all things in common, though undoubtedly there were others before them. The Jewish philosopher of the Egyptian dispersion, Philo of Alexandria, who lived between 30 BC and 40 AD, as well as the contemporary and famous Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus, preserved for us a rather thorough description of these Essenes. There is also a brief account from Pliny the Elder. The Essenes are most often regarded as the source of the Dead Sea Scrolls, where equally codes of conduct and life liken to that of the Essenes were found.
To capture a taste of the zeal, anticipation, and beliefs of the Essenes, let us quote from these two noted historians. For the sake of this writing, we will limit ourselves to those aspects of their lives that have to do with our own quest of understanding the covering over the bride. Here first is an in-part quote from Philo of Alexandria.
They do not hoard silver and gold and do not acquire great landholdings; procuring for themselves only what is necessary for life. Thus they live without goods and without property, not by misfortune, but out of preference. ... They honor virtue by foregoing all riches, glory and pleasure. Further, they are convinced they must be modest, quiet, obedient to the rule, simple, frugal and without mirth. Their life style is communal. They have a common purse. Their salaries they deposit before them all, in the midst of them, to be put to the common employment of those who wish to make use of it. They do not neglect the sick on the pretext that they can produce nothing. With the common purse there is plenty from which to treat all illnesses. They lavish great respect on the elderly. With them they are very generous and surround them with a thousand attentions. They practice virtue like a gymnastic exercise, seeing the accomplishment of praiseworthy deeds as the means by which a man ensures absolute freedom for himself.
They possess nothing of their own, not house, field, slave nor flocks, nor anything which feeds and procures wealth. They live together in brotherhoods, and eat in common together. Everything they do is for the common good of the group. They work at many different jobs and attack their work with amazing zeal and dedication, working from before sunrise to almost sunset without complaint, but in obvious exhilaration. Their exercise is their work. Indeed, they believe their own training to be more agreeable to body and soul, and more lasting, than athletic games, since their exercises remain fitted to their age, even when the body no longer possesses its full strength. They are farmers and shepherds and beekeepers and craftsmen in diverse trades. They share the same way of life, the same table, even the same tastes; all of them loving frugality and hating luxury as a plague for both body and soul. Not only do they share a common table, but common clothes as well. What belongs to one belongs to all. Available to all of them are thick coats for winter and inexpensive light tunics for summer.
And from Josephus we read:
They despise riches. When they enter the sect, they must surrender all of their money and possessions into the common fund, to be put at the disposal of everyone; one single property for the whole group. Therefore neither the humiliation of poverty nor the pride of possession is to be seen anywhere among them. ... They are not just in one town only, but in every town several of them form a colony. They welcome members from out of town as coequal brothers, and even though perfect strangers, as though they were intimate friends. For this reason they carry nothing with them as they travel: they are, however, armed against brigands. They do not change their garments or shoes until they have completely worn out. They neither buy nor sell anything among themselves. They give to each other freely and feel no need to repay anything in exchange.
The Essenes were also celibate, and their community was essentially for men only. This practice of celibacy was often a part of American Christian communal groups as well. And as a final historical account, let us see what Pliny the Elder wrote regarding them.
To the west (of the Dead Sea) the Essenes have put the necessary distance between themselves and the insalubrious shore. They are a people unique of its kind and admirable beyond all others in the whole world; without women and renouncing love entirely, without money and having for company only palm trees. Owing to the throng of newcomers, this people is daily reborn in equal number; indeed, those whom, wearied by the fluctuations of fortune, life leads to adopt their customs, stream in in great numbers. Thus, unbelievable though this may seem, for thousands of centuries a people has existed which is eternal yet into which no one is born: so fruitful for them is the repentance which others feel for their past lives!
According to historical accounts, it appears that the Essenes existed for the remarkably long period of about 100 BC to 100 AD, and were one of three prevailing religious divisions at the time of Yahshua - the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Essenes. Thus, when Yahshua was traveling around Palestine and teaching others to sell all and give to the poor, this was nothing new; there were numerous communities of Essenes practicing this. When the first Remnant were harkening to the teachings of Yahshua and holding all things in common, this practice was not foreign to them. There are even some today who attempt to identify John the Baptist and some of Yahshua's disciples as being Essenes.
What else did the Essenes hold to? What other similarity do we find with the first Remnant and those who since then have set all things aside in great anticipation of Yahshua's return. History reveals that the Essenes were equally preparing for the return of the Messiah. Their highest aim was to become the temples of the Holy Spirit, when they could prophecy, perform miraculous cures, and become the Elijah as the forerunner of the Messiah.
However, the Messiah they were looking and preparing for was not the Messiah that came. They, like the rest of the Jews, were looking for a Messiah that would come as a military victor. While the Essenes were devout pacifists in regard to the wars and conflicts of the day, they fully anticipated bearing arms when the Messiah came to rule upon this earth.
But until He came, they were intent on devoting themselves to a lifestyle that would separate them from the cares and distractions of this world, preparing not only their hearts but the way for the coming of the Messiah.
Is it not remarkable that, yes, He did come during their time, but not in the way they expected. And when He departed, His disciples adopted in many ways the very lifestyles of those waiting ones. They too began to hold all things in common, and whatever they possessed, they did not regard as their own; whoever had possessions began to sell them so that there was not a needy person among them. Like the Essenes, they devoted themselves to study, prayer, and acts of benevolence and goodness. No, this brief and sudden community of first believers who quickly were more numerous than the Essenes, were not an entirely new phenomenon to the people of Palestine. But they were a new beginning - a beginning of the kingdom of God for which the Essenes had thought they were preparing, but failed to recognize.
Were their actions wrong? No. For in the heart of man there is an awareness that the Messiah who is coming to this world is coming for a people who are not attached to it, but are waiting for His return. And even though the Essenes missed Him as a group, they did not misunderstand the requirement of the coming Messiah, the very practice that those who did recognize Him immediately followed.
Both the Essenes and the disciples thought that Yahshua would come in military conquest. The disciples learned in time that He had come in peace. The Essenes, even following the conquest of Rome in 70 AD, continued to wait for this great military leader. Today, Christians are once again in this place of looking for One who will make "military" conquest over the nations by equally destroying them (but this time from heaven). Have they not learned anything from the first disciples or the Essenes? While they fill the air with their graphic visions of wholesale Apocalyptic destruction and wrath, there is one essential law that continues to escapes their notice. This is the prevailing law found in the book that Martin Luther mistakenly called a "book of straw." In James 2:13, we read the powerful and deciding declaration - "mercy triumphs over judgment"!
Mercy will prevail over judgment, for even as the law of aerodynamics is a greater law than the law of gravity, so mercy is a greater and higher law than judgment. Despite what men may teach, despite what men have thought, despite what Yahweh or Yahshua may have even planned and declared, despite the fact that men, all men (including the church), deserve judgment, mercy will triumph! (This is not the first time Yahweh will have changed His mind and shown mercy.)
After the Essenes and the beginning of the church, history then entered into the dark ages and there is little recorded testimony or witnesses of this "Elijah" practice until the twelfth century. But before we look at that which history has left us, let us see where history will lead us.
The next great turning point in the church (the first being the death of Stephen and the dispersion of the Remnant) was the Reformation of 1517 when Martin Luther's Ninety-Five Thesis was nailed to the door of Castle church. This event and those that followed brought dramatic change to not only the church, but to the governments of nations as well. But 1517 did not come onto the scene as an isolated event lacking any preceding thoughts or preparatory actions. The seeds of Reformation were sown many decades and even centuries earlier in other men's hearts and lives. Reformation was birthed not out of one generation's zeal, but out of a preluding swell of devotees for generations before. Let us now briefly consider what took place leading up to the 1517 Reformation.
Some of the earliest recorded objectors to the excesses and worldliness of the church, along with its many false teachings, date back to the 1100's. In Italy two different groups came to the recognition of the Catholic Church (thus affording us their history). These were the Arnoldists and the Humiliati, both of Northern Italy. The Arnoldists were led by Arnold of Brescia, who was twice excommunicated from the Church and in 1155 was hanged and burned as a heretic. The Humiliati, whose origin is obscure, were excommunicated from the Church in 1184, later taken back in, but in time were once again condemned.
In France the Waldenses were on the same departing course of these two groups in Italy. The Waldenses were organized by Peter Waldo of Lyons. And in time all of these groups came to be identified under the common name of Waldenses. But in separate identities they were equally known as The Poor of Lyons, for those in France, and The Poor of Lombardy, for those in Italy. Why did these early reformers bear such names? Because in each case they followed one common and declared practice - they all embraced a vow of poverty, simplicity, and devotion. Whether it was The Poor of Lombardy or The Poor of Lyons, each group faced the test of overcoming the errors of the Church with one common strength - leaving the cares of this world and identifying not with the lifestyle of the Church, but with the lifestyle of its founder, Yahshua.
Peter Waldo was a wealthy merchant of Lyons who gave away his property and went about preaching apostolic poverty as the way to perfection. Part of his wealth was used to translate the gospels and other texts into the common language. To those who ridiculed him for his actions, Waldo explained - "Citizens and friends, I am not out of my mind, as you seem to think, but I am avenging myself on those who are oppressing me in making me a lover of money more than God. This act I do for myself and for you: for me, so that if from now on I possess anything you may call me a fool; for you, in order that you, too, may be led to put your hope in God and not in riches."
Recruits to Waldo's Poor of Lyons came from all levels of society. A few were priests, but most were laymen. The Waldenses proclaimed the Bible as the sole rule of life and faith. They rejected the papacy, purgatory, indulgences, and the mass, and laid great stress on gospel simplicity. Worship services consisted of readings from the Bible, the Lords Prayer, and sermons, which they believed could be preached by all Christians.
Because of numerous outspoken differences with the Catholic Church, the Waldenses came under immense persecution, and by the 13th and 14th centuries were almost completely stamped out by the church.
While in time the Waldenses departed from the Papal Church and were excommunicated and persecuted, there arose another poor group during this time that stayed faithful within the Church (though the Church was in time not faithful to their founder's convictions). Another Italian, this one from Assisi, in 1205 rejected his father's inheritance and committed his life to poverty and to preach and serve others. The earliest rule of these followers of the "Poor Little Man of Assisi" was this, as established in 1209/10:
The rule and life of these brothers is this, namely: "to live in obedience, in chastity, and without anything of their own," and to follow the teaching and footprints of the Lord Jesus Christ, Who says: "If you wish to be perfect, go, sell everything you have and give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me." And: "If anyone wishes to come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me."
This rule of St Francis was central to the affairs of his small band, which experienced immense success and growth. By 1219 Francis' followers numbered in the thousands and had spread throughout Europe and penetrated the East. But with the approval and sanction it gained from the Church, along with the new leadership it accepted so that Francis could continue to go out as he had from the beginning, soon the quality and sincerity of devotion which had set this group apart in its founding was replaced by prevailing Church practices. In 1230, four years following the death of Francis at the age of forty-five, the Pope declared the original rule of poverty unbinding to the order. Whether it was the Waldenses who were persecuted by Rome, or the Franciscans who were altered by the governing hierarchy, the Church always chose to abide by the materialistic system they had built up since Constantine.
But the roadway to reformation was being prepared in the hearts of men by these Poor; and though the Waldensen were beat down, there was yet to be another wave of Poor that would once again rise before reformation would yet completely take hold under Luther. These would be the "Poor Priests," or Lollards, that would take the Bible and the teachings of their leader, John Wycliffe, throughout all England.
With Wycliffe's completion of his Bible in the common language of English in 1390, he followed the practices of the Waldenses and St Francis and sent out his Poor Priests with their Lollard Bible in hand. While The Poor of Lyons wore simple gray colored clothing, the Poor Priests of Wycliffe were clad in russet robes of undressed wool, without sandals, purse, or scrip, and bore a long staff in their hand. They were dependent for food and shelter on the good will of their neighbors. And borne within their hearts were the words and instruction of their leader:
Firstly, that all good things of God ought to be in common. The proof of this is as follows: Every man ought to be in a state of grace; if he is in a state of grace he is lord of the world and all that it contains; therefore every man ought to be lord of the whole world. But because of the multitudes of men, this will not happen unless they hold all things in common: Therefore all things ought to be in common.
Armed with the simplicity of these gospel convictions, Wycliffe's Poor Priests soon became a powerful force in England, until fifty percent of all England were Lollard converts.
In one of Wycliffe's actions, he published the rule of St Francis and pointed out how far friars had departed from it for wealth and luxury. One of Wycliffe's followers wrote:
Friar, what charity is this
To be pleased that whoever lives after your order
Lives most perfectly (so well),
And next follows the state of the Apostles (the Lollards, etc.)
In poverty and penance:
And yet the wisest and greatest clerics of you
Wend or send or procure to the court of Rome,
...and absolve the vow of poverty.
Once again, of course, the flames of persecution came from the Rome Church. The Poor Priests and their followers were sorrowfully assailed up to the time in which Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Thesis on the church door. But the Church was then not so much afraid of Lutherism, as they were of the increased life it might give to the surviving Poor Priests. One Bishop wrote concerning Luther's teachings - "In it is no question of pernicious novelty, it is only that new arms are being added to the great band of Wycliffe heretics." (Oh the great value of being called a heretic!)
But the swell and success of the Poor Priests and Wycliffe did not come as a "pernicious novelty" either; for they too had their roots in the devotions and fervor of those before them. Each of these were ever climbing upward and questioning the established thoughts, beliefs, and practices of the Church. Among these reformers, their beliefs varied somewhat; yet there was one practice common to them all - they took the words of Yahshua literally and forsook everything to follow Him. While the printed Scriptures in the words of the common people were the torch that lit men's hearts and minds, it was without a doubt the lives of those who committed themselves to poverty and bore that torch throughout the land through whom the fire was so effectively spread.
Let us note most importantly here that the Reformation that is credited with changing not only the church but the world as well, was ignited first with the fires that burned in the hearts of the ones who went by the names - The Poor of Lombardy, The Poor of Lyons, and Poor Priests; men who took the teachings of Yahshua literally and forsook all to follow the Poor Savior and spread His word.
Even as the church began with the unique practice of holding all things in common, and initiated for all to follow the truth and hope that would change the world; so time once again repeated itself and the Reformation that would revive and cleanse the church, was equally preceded by a people who despised the things of this world for the greater reward of the kingdom of heaven.
And may we point out here parenthetically that it is not without Divine design and purpose that the Reformation began at the beginning of the 1500's. As has been pointed out in these writings, the church has an allotment of 3,000 years for its work, bringing it to the eighth day which is Christianity's day of rest (Sunday). There are many testimonies in the Scriptures that Yahweh changes His mind in the "middle" (2 Kings 20:1-7 , John 7:8-14 , Mark 6:47-52 , Habakkuk 3:2); and precisely in the middle of the church's period, the 1500's, Yahweh began a new work.
We will want to move along in our look at His-story and Yahweh's testimony that holding all things in common evidences, but while we are here at this matter of the Reformation, let us consider some additional information. Unfortunately we will have to be brief. This is a most important and meaningful witness which Yahweh has provided.
While the middle of the church's 3,000 year period was marked by the 1517 Reformation, there is another reformation that will be even more important in the church. We already mentioned that Yahshua could come either in the second watch or the third watch (Luke 12:38), meaning that His coming could be after 2,000 years or 3,000 years. Which will it be? If He comes in the second watch, or at the end of 2,000 years, this means that His coming would be very soon. And, this of course means some most meaningful events should precede His coming. What could happen? Let us see.
While 1517 marked a most significant time in the history of the church, that has come to be called the Reformation, in truth there yet remains a Reformation that will be even more significant. In Hebrews 9:8-10 we read:
The Holy Spirit is signifying this, that the way into the holy of holies has not yet been disclosed, while the outer tabernacle (or, the holy place) is still standing; which is a parable for the time present, ... (where practices are performed that are) regulations for the body imposed until the time of reformation.
The practices that occurred in the holy place (the "outer tabernacle") were intentionally left out here so that you did not get distracted by the practices, and fail to notice the point that the Holy Spirit was explicitly making - that the way into the holy of holies was not disclosed until the holy place was torn down. When this tearing down occurred, this would be the true Reformation of Hebrews 9:10. The big question is - What is the holy place that must be torn down? It certainly was not the entire physical temple destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD. In that slaughter, holy place as well as holy of holies were both torn down. So what is it that must be torn down?
In a very true sense, the Reformation of 1517 was a reformation that brought the destruction of the "outer tabernacle" of old, meaningless, and in fact imperfect and even fleshly and false activities, in order that the way into the more perfect could be opened. The death-hold that Rome had on the church was broken or torn down, in order that a new work could be disclosed and entered into, providing a purer, more vibrant, and life-giving experience.
But while this Reformation took place in 1517, even this new work is equally a shortfall. One does not have to look very far into Protestantism to see that a new and true Reformation must still take place. When this Reformation takes place, the true way into the holy of holies will be opened and a people will enter into heaven alive and enjoy true and perfect union with the Father.
What in fact then is the "outer tabernacle" that must be torn down? It is precisely what Luther thought it was; but only, in truth, it included him as well. The outer tabernacle that must be torn down for men to truly enter into the holy of holies, is the "outer" or preceding work of Christianity. Luther identified the problem as being the Catholic Church. And it is in its truest sense; for the word "Catholic" means "universal," and it is the universal church, that men have known for 2,000 years, that is imperfect and must be torn down in order to open the way into the holy of holies. Christianity will never bring one into the holy of holies. The end of Christianity for all men has been and is the grave, death, and not life. And the holy of holies is life forever.
Thus we see that the Reformation of 1517 was a prelude, a parable in and of itself, a foreshadowing of what the true Reformation must be - a tearing down of the universal church (or, Christianity) so that the way into the holy of holies can be disclosed. What will that way be? The way of the Remnant - the tree of life work.
Now, all of this was actually said in order to bring to your attention the revealing nature of the 1517 Reformation in pointing to the true fulfillment, which hopefully will take place at the second watch, or now. The reason this is presented is for you to note the primary issue that was the cause of this preluding 1517 Reformation. Keeping in mind that the 1517 Reformation was a foreshadowing parable of the needed true Reformation, and considering that the covering over the bride is the first Remnant practice of holding all things in common, and noting that the only way this is legally possible is for the giving up of our worldly possessions to have the power of being "atonement money," it is ENTIRELY interesting and undoubtedly highly relevant that the 1517 Reformation began over the issue of "indulgences" - the question as to whether atonement was possible through money!
While parables are not perfect in their representation, while they are not the true fulfillment, they do offer highly revealing evidences as to what Yahweh is going to do and what He is telling us. It is most important that the issue of whether giving money has the power of atonement was the question that began the 1517 Reformation, when in all appearance we are at the beginning of the much needed true Reformation and now the same issue is before us. That common issue is the question of the power of atonement money. The specific issue before us now is - Does giving all have the power of atonement or the power of covering that is necessary for the Remnant bride?
It is a great encouragement that Yahweh has provided the testimony of the 1517 Reformation, affirming to us that He is preparing to begin His true, and again, much needed Reformation that brings a people into the holy of holies. Both Reformations have the same beginning - the question of atonement money.
This now brings us from the time of the first Remnant, and even before, through the period prior and leading up to the 1517 Reformation. Let us continue our study of His-story to see what more we can learn regarding this first Remnant practice of holding all things in common.
Continue to page 9 of One Thing ... for HIS-STORY, PART II
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