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The Kingdom and Baptism


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baptismThe Kingdom and Baptism

The ritual

"Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan, And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to [our] father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham." Matthew 3:5-9

Baptism is from the Greek word baptisma which is from baptizo meaning "to dip repeatedly". Baptisma appears 22 times in the New Testament and is always translated Baptism. In the Greek context it simply means "immersion, submersion".

Most people think you enter the Kingdom of Heaven by baptism of water and a profession of faith.

"Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and [of] the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. We are all born of water but not all of the Spirit." John 3:5

Baptism with water has its place as an outward sign of preparation and intent. It serves a useful purpose in the perception of men. Yet, baptism with water is not what John prophesied as the important baptism.

Mark 1:8 "I indeed have baptized you with water: but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost."

I am not speaking against baptism with water but hoping to put it in its true perspective. It is not a magical ceremony but only an outward ritual to demonstrate the direction and intent of entering the Kingdom and its inner sanctuary of God's covering and protection.

1 John 5:7-8 "For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one."

. A man has a body but also has a mind or spirit and he has a soul which is his corporeal and incorporeal status or hereditaments. This is not such a mystery but actually rather simple They should be in agreement to make a complete individual. For this discussion we may assume these are all part of a whole. In other words one may be baptized with water but neither the intent nor the authority of the event took place or attached simply because they were not in agreement.

The Jurisdiction

Historically Baptism had been a regular event among the people of Israel. There was more than one type of Baptism around in the days of John the Baptist. Baptism was not always suggested or recommended as the solution for men who were of a particular status.

Luke 3:14 "And the soldiers likewise demanded of him, saying, And what shall we do? And he said unto them, Do violence to no man, neither accuse [any] falsely; and be content with your wages."

The soldiers did not appear to be baptized nor was it offered to them as an option. They were given an alternative manner in which to seek the kingdom for the time being. Why?

They were under oath to another king. For them to be baptized might be considered a breach of their loyalty to their king and master. This would not be true if baptism was a purely religious ceremony. There was religious freedom in the Roman Empire. Baptism was a distinctive political act whose history stems back at least to man's separation from Egypt and the ways of its civil power of man over man.

Those bound by oath, such as soldiers, could put on the character of Christ seeking the kingdom and when their oath of office had passed or the 'unrighteous mammon', which they served, failed they would be ready to enter the kingdom. Jesus spoke of the Centurion with great faith and told the people to give to Caesar what was Caesar's. He understood that men are bound often by oaths and swearing, that is why he also said in Matthew 5:34:

"But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God’s throne:Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King. Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil."

And in James 5:12:

"But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and [your] nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation."

Later there were Christian soldiers in the Roman army and some may have even been baptized. At first this may not have been a conflict as Rome had recognized Jesus as a king through Pontius Pilate and the ministers of that kingdom were not allowed to exercise authority which in general prevented any conflict of command. We know that many Roman Christian centurions were put to death because they refused to take certain oaths of allegiance and loyalty that were eventually demanded of them by the Emperors in their fight against the terror of the Barbarians.

Luke 16:9 "Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations." These statements are still true now."

Baptized into a kingdom of a god

Who began baptizing the people into the kingdom of Heaven on earth before Jesus began his ministry?

Was John the Baptist the first?

It had been a tradition for years to began a new thing or step toward God and His ways to wash. It was not a new idea to the Jews.

Herod had a grand scheme of a vast world wide membership involving the sending out evangelists and missionaries. To prove you were a member of this society of social security run through the temples you had to show a token in the form of a white stone from the river Jordan with your new Hebrew name carved on it. You would receive that stone with your contribution at you baptism. These temple customs and legal systems had taken on many Roman and Hellenistic ideas of control, commitment, enforced pledges and even social democracy.

"The aim of gaining six hundred thousand members to form a New Israel was to be achieved by a project of evangelism lasting forty years, the first generation of the millennium."
"The missionaries... with their leather wallets full of white stones, would come back with the same wallets full of money, in foreign currency. Once put into Jewish currency by the money-changers, it would be stored in vaults, ready to be used by Herod for his vast building projects, or any subsequent causes."
"Herod's scheme of initiation into a new form of Judaism was immensely successful. Jews everywhere were willing to join the worldwide society whose meetings were held in the evenings in private houses. Entry was for members only; they had to show at the door an admission token in the form of a white stone from the river Jordan which the missionaries gave them at baptism. On the stone was written their new Jewish name."1

A man named Menahem and his order of Essenes became the of advisers of Herod's kingdom. These Essenes were similar to the Palestinian Essenes "but did not espouse their unworldliness and strict views on morality." They were 'seekers-after-smooth-things'.

Yes, Herod had sent out those Essene missionaries and Pharisee teachers who supported his idea of a vast kingdom of God on earth. It was a system of social security and commercial affluence. He was very successful and built the temple in Jerusalem and many more in other countries. It was a "Great Society".

"Jerusalem was a major city in a cosmopolitan culture. It contained not only the Temple, but also a large arena for chariot and horse races (a hippodrome), a stadium for athletic contests (a gymnasium), and massive Theaters." 2

People needed to be entertained, lulled with security, excitement and pleasured into pacification.

"...In 20-19 B.C.E. Herod the Great set in motion plans to make the Jerusalem Temple the largest and most magnificent religious building in the world. The platform on which it stood, built with huge blocks of stone, stretched a quarter of a mile long by a fifth of a mile wide. Gleaming god plates were set up in the inner courts. From its ramparts silver trumpets heralded each dawn. Twenty thousand functionaries were employed in its servicing, and a further sixteen thousand craftsmen and laborers were drilled as construction and refurbishing teams that would be kept occupied for three quarters of a century. 3

Most people did fine under Herod as most people do fine under existing governments of the world today. Business was good, money flowed and success and prosperity was common if not just around the corner.

"Outside Palestine he [Herod] subsidized games and festivals. And everywhere he provided water; his palaces were supplied by aqueducts, as were Caesarea and Jerusalem (impressive remains are still visible at both). Not only cities, but also the countryside benefited from improved water supplies; thanks to improved irrigation, the kingdom became much more productive agriculturally. And when famine struck at home, Herod supplied grain from his own funds."4

Success was good for everyone. These massive building projects financed by contributions and pledges collected from its ever growing membership brought prosperity and prestige. Harbors and roads expanded and those employed in the task prospered with the stimulating expenditures of great wealth flowing through the heart of Judaism, the city of Jerusalem.

Herod had his enemies but they were quickly dispatched, condemned as antigovernment conspirators or generally frightened into silence. Herod's Kingdom was not yet conquered by Rome but was merely a "client Kingdom" of its Pax Romana. Herod continued to enforce a separation between the religious hierarchy and the political power encouraged by Roman ideology. This was popular with the priesthood which had become increasingly corrupt as long as the privilege of exemption allowed them a comfortable affluence. It was during this time that a violent coup had taken place which caused the death of Zachariah, the father of John the Baptist.

Herod was a god and so was Pontius Pilate.

There are gods many

Pilate was god because he was appointed by the Apo Theos of Rome. Herod was a god because he was the ruling judge of the system of corban, tribute and corvee he and his predecessors had created. Those who believed they were faithful to God by being baptized into obedience under the state religious order of Herod and Rome were actually 'Making the word of God of none effect through their tradition' [Mark 7:13].

Love it or leave it

The Love of Caesar

"Augustus was sensible that mankind is governed by names; nor was he deceived in his expectation, that the senate and people would submit to slavery, provided they were respectfully assured that they still enjoyed their ancient freedom."5

To some Caesar was a great Father of society, the founding father of a new system where society prospered with liberty and justice for all. His promise of returning to the Constitutional Republic, his advocacy of family values, his pledge of welfare reform constantly raised the hopes of the masses. Rome's military success, its system of justice and its golden eagle heralding it as the greatest nation in the world won him great popularity and unquestioning loyalty.

"The year 2 B.C. marked the 25th anniversary of Caesar Augustus's rule and the 750th anniversary of the founding of Rome. Huge celebrations were planned. The whole empire was at peace. The doors of the temple of Janus were closed for only the third time in Roman history. To honor their emperor, the people were to rise as one and name him pater patriae, or Father of the Country. This enrollment, described in the Book of Luke, which brought Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem, has always been a mystery since no regular census occurred at this time. But the pater patriae enrollment fits perfectly."6

Even the benevolent benefactor of Augustus Caesar was impressive to the people of Judea. He was not the hated tyrant with occupying army. Things were good or getting better. Taxes were getting higher but so were profits as the concept of inflation began to insidiously creep into their lives. Eventually a series of devastating recessions would bring down the economy of Rome and all those who were plugged into its flow of power and affluence but for now things were good.

All Jews did not hate the Emperor (Emperator,7 the commander in chief ) of the mighty multinational military force that kept the peace throughout the world.

"The annual Temple-tribute was allowed to be transported to Jerusalem, and the alienation of these funds by the civil magistrates treated as sacrilege. As the Jews objected to bear arms, or march, on the Sabbath, they were freed from military service. On similar grounds, they were not obliged to appear in courts of law on their holy days. Augustus even ordered that, when the public distribution of corn or of money among the citizens fell on a Sabbath, the Jews were to receive their share on the following day. In a similar spirit the Roman authorities confirmed a decree by which the founder of Antioch, Seleucus I. (Nicator),[d Ob.280 B.C.] had granted the Jews the right of citizenship in all the cities of Asia Minor and Syria which he had built, and the privilege of receiving, instead of the oil that was distributed, which their religion forbade them to use, [e Ab. Sar ii. 6] an equivalent in money. [Jos.Ant. xii. 3. 1] These rights were maintained by Vespasian and Titus even after the last Jewish war, not with standing the earnest remonstrances of these cities. No wonder, that at the death of Caesar [g 44 B.C.] the Jews of Rome gathered for many nights, waking strange feelings of awe in the city, as they chanted in mournful melodies their Psalms around the pyre on which the body of their benefactor had been burnt, and raised their pathetic dirges."8

Jews did not hate Rome for the most part. Many loved and desired their protection, generosity and social security, besides they were good for business. There were rebels, as always, malcontents and doomsdayers. There were tax protesters, religious zealots and extreme fundamentalists who spoke of moral declines. The Roman system was prepared for these rabble. As long as the people were generally comfortable and busy and divided the local courts and their judges and centurions could handle the riffraff and rebels that resist the progress of society and liberal morals.

The Rulers and Caesars were the protector of the peace, the benefactor of their welfare.

There was corruption, as always with a balancing distribution of reform. But as mires will do the more the people struggled the deeper they sank.

2 Peter 2:22 "But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog [is] turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire."


"His reign gave them a third of a century of peace and prosperity and the new harbor at Caesarea increased trade. But Herod's lavish building programs cost immense sums of money and taxes were necessarily high. By the standards of the time he was not a bad ruler. He was brutal but far less so than the Hasmonaeans. Herod's greatest asset was in fact the very thing for which Jews most criticized him - his half-hearted attitude towards Judaism. Augustus had realized Herod's true value when he gave him Samaria and the coastal strip for although Herod was careful not to offend the Jews he did not oppress the Samaritans and non-Jews. A Hasmonaean ruler would certainly have persecuted them and similarly a non-Jewish ruler would have had little sympathy with the Jews."

"Herod's greatest fault was his ungovernable passion both in love and hate. This coupled with his constant fear of losing this throne led to most of his 'crimes' especially those committed within his own family."9

Herod entertained and cultivated his relationship to Essene prophet, like Menahem, who had predicted his rise to power when he was a boy. There are reports that Herod had even agreed to divide his dominion with the Messiah whose arrival was also expected and prophesied. Herod's popularity, though great, was not universal and as economies stumbled the people look for scapegoats real or imagined.

"As an Idumean he {Herod] was disliked by Judeans; as the usurper of the Hasmoneans he was resented by the aristocracy. During his reign he succeeded in creating his own 'aristocracy' from those loyal to Rome and appointed by himself."10

This magical system of prosperity and social welfare was sweet in the mouth but sower in the belly. All things that are to good to be true eventually come to an end and Herod's Great Society and Social Experiment was no exception to the rule.

"Herod was forced to tax the Palestinians beyond their abilities to pay, eventually in many cases seizing others' wealth for himself and reducing many Jewish landlords to tenant farmers (Ant 17.304-9). Property (chrema and ousia are the Greek words employed) was seized; in addition to the taxes,. 'tribute' was imposed 'on everyone each year,' and these entailed 'lavish extra contributions' (Ant 16.308)."11

Before the end of the century a series of devastating recessions or "dearths"12 had spread across the Roman Empire. Popularity of Rome, along with its comforts and privilege diminished, as the power over its subject and client states shifted from social benefits to compliance and heavy tribute or taxes. To pay for excesses the power of this created authority would only relent after the people were expended, exhausted and oppressed.

Two kingdoms

The other King.

The promoters and ministers of Herod's kingdom of God on earth were not the only evangelists and missionaries of that time who followed the traditions of Israel in the "washing" of new members into the kingdom. There were others who were involved in such baptismal matters with a different paradigm and Essene teachings.

They too were also baptizing with the waters of the Jordan. By another "authority" these people began a journey into a different kind of Kingdom of Heaven on earth. This other king was not Idumean nor a foreigner [Deuteronomy 17:15]. He establish his Kingdom not by Corban schemes of old age benefits and social security nor did he collect the contributions of the people with Mokhes and Gabbai publicans who by the accounting of the scribes and the force of tax collectors filled the treasure house of Herod's Kingdom.

This other King was the Highest Son of the House of David, a righteous king and Son of Adam. He walked amongst the people and his disciples were not of the ruling elite but working men like themselves. This other King operated by faith, hope, charity and love. His ministers were servants of the People who operated on Faith, Hope and Charity under the perfect law of liberty.

He too offered baptism and spoke of white stone.

"To him who conquers, I will give a white stone, with a new name written on the stone which no one knows except him who receives it." Revelations 2:17

 

 

Footnotes:

1 Jesus and the Riddle of the Dead Sea Scrolls by Barbara Thiering, Harpercollins (May 1992).

2 Jesus Within Judaism by James H. Charlesworth, SPCK Publishing (March 30, 1989).

3 Jesus, The Evidence, Ian Wilson, Regnery Publishing, Inc.; 1 edition (October 1, 2000).

4 The Old Testament World, John Roberson and Philip Davies, Cambridge University Press (March 9, 1989).

5 Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Chapter 3

6 The Star of Bethlehem by Crag Chester, Imprimis D/96 Hilsdale College.

7 Emperator, emperatoris m. commander in chief. Collins L.E. Dict. '62.

8 Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah Chapt. V

9 Living in the Time of Jesus of Nazareth by Peter Connolly, Oxford University Press (October 20, 1983).

10 The Old Testament World by John Roberson and Philip Davies, Cambridge University Press (March 9, 1989).

11 Jesus and the Dead Sea Scrolls (1992), p. 170 James H. Charlesworth, Anchor Bible; 1st Paperback Ed edition (July 1, 1995).

12 Acts 11:28 "And there stood up one of them named Agabus, and signified by the Spirit that there should be great dearth throughout all the world: which came to pass in the days of Claudius Caesar." dearth 3042 limos probably from 3007 (through the idea of destitution); AV-famine 7, hunger 3, dearth 2; 12 1) scarcity of harvest, famine

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