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Posts Tagged ‘Polycarp of Smyrna

Bausman, Gleason, Dankof, and Polycarp: Counting the Cost in Opposing the New World Order

January of 2020: Mark Dankof in the home of Charles Bausman in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Penned by Lutheran Pastor Mark Dankof on Tuesday, February 23rd, 2021 on the Day of Polycarp of Smyrna, Pastor and Martyr.

Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.

Revelation 2:10 KJV

And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.

Ephesians 5:11, KJV

After this I saw in the night visions, and behold a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth: it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it: and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it; and it had ten horns.

I considered the horns, and, behold, there came up among them another little horn, before whom there were three of the first horns plucked up by the roots: and, behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things.

I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire.

A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him: thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened.

 I beheld then because of the voice of the great words which the horn spake: I beheld even till the beast was slain, and his body destroyed, and given to the burning flame.

Daniel 7: 7-11 on the 4th Beast

And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed. And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.

The Apocalypse of John, Chapter 13, Verses 15-18

In a recent and yet unpublished interview with the Fars News Agency of Iran, I was asked for my opinion of the present state of “American Democracy.”

My response was succinct and clear: “‘Democracy’ in the United States has 5th stage terminal cancer. Both major political parties are financed and controlled by the Military-Industrial Complex, the Central Banks, the National Security State, the Israeli Lobby, and the Multi-National Corporations. All of these entities control Mainstream Media (MSM) in America. True political representation of the average American has evaporated since the Kennedy Assassination in 1963. Add to that the Voting Machine and Mail-In Ballot Fraud in 2020, and the total evisceration of the First Amendment and freedom of speech by the social media giants, and one begins to understand how hopeless the situation really is.”

November of 1963. At age 8 in the Third Grade, Mark Dankof saved these newspapers in Montgomery, Alabama. He sensed even then that the truth was not being told.

I should have added that the New World Order’s demonic brew of Multinational Corporate Capitalism, the Federal Reserve Board, Zionism, and Cultural Marxism is aimed primarily both at any responsible form of Christianity or Islam historically and is the very embodiment of the ideology of the coming Antichrist (2 Thessalonians 2; Revelation 13). Sadly for me as an American, the American Empire is at the center of this Satanic manifestation and is its chief enabler, along with the eschatologically deceptive modern State of Israel, which has absolutely nothing to do with its Old Testament counterpart or the New Testament’s Israel of God, which is the Confessing Church of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The escalation in the persecution of Christians witnessing for their faith and the truth about what has been happening in the United States was evident on this past November 29th with the publication of an article by Charles Bausman, editor of Russia Insider, entitled, “Why This Site Is the Very Opposite of Hateful – A Christian Letter to My Hometown of Lancaster, Pennsylvania.” Anyone who knows Bausman personally, as I do, can testify to the excellence of his web page, his profoundly devoted Russian Orthodox faith, his compassion for people, his innate sense of fairness, his hospitality to a fault, and the Christ-motivated character of what he does within the confines of the respectable and responsible wing of alternative media. The notion that he would become a target of the forces in his own hometown that have targeted me for 20 years is an especially ominous sign of what is just around the corner.

Charles Bausman at home in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Mark Dankof photo.

Then there is his colleague, Father Joseph Gleason of Russian Faith. Even a cursory look at a You Tube video on Father Gleason’s moving of his family and himself to Russia reveals the same type of profile extant in the analysis of Charles Bausman. If one surfs the Internet, it becomes obvious that Father Gleason has been targeted by the same forces as Bausman and myself over time. Buy into their worldview or not, who in their right mind can believe that these men represent malevolent forces targeting their American homeland and communities as agents of evil subversion commissioned by Vladimir Putin himself? The fact that they have been so tagged by the American media and political elite only underscores the reality of the Satanic hijacking of the latter. I now believe that hijacking to be irrevocable and irreversible with the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.

Icons in the Mark Dankof radio studio and library include The Ancient of Days from Daniel 7 (top); The Theotokos and The Christ Child (middle); Polycarp of Smyrna (bottom)

Which brings me back to yours truly and an article I penned for both Charles Bausman, Father Gleason, and Texas homeschoolers quite some time ago now. It is entitled, “Christian Martyrdom and The American Empire.” From the time of the commissioning of the assassination of General Qassem Soleimani by Donald Trump in early January of 2020 to the present, the themes of that essay are only accentuated by the relentless developments of the past 14 months. Biden’s wholesale alliance with the LGBTQ and abortion industries, the latest illegal attack on Syria by the United States for Israel, the Gates-Soros COVID-19 Plandemic and its advancement of the American police and surveillance state through the targeted coercion of the globalist medical establishment, the ongoing threat of a regime change war with Iran, and the clear desire to intensify the encirclement and subversion of Putin’s Russia, are but a few of the clear evidences of the evil of the Godlessness engulfing America which will only increase in intensity before the Second Advent of the Lord Jesus Christ. Make no mistake about it. God will judge the United States as comprehensively as Daniel’s 4th Beast.

And as I mentioned in that presentation seemingly authored 1000 years ago in linear time, the intensification of the persecution and demonization of Christians and Christianity in the United States and the West will worsen beyond that seen since the Ancient Roman Empire of Nero and Domitian. I said then that:

Let me add one sobering thought for your long term consideration tonight. My final premise is this:  It may not simply be enough to refuse to kill innocents on behalf of the American Empire and its Emperors.  The Lord may require that we be willing to die a death of Martyrdom Witness by the hand of this Empire at a time of His choosing.  Stephen, Peter, and Paul come to mind instantly as New Testament examples.  Revelation 2: 8-11 and The Cry of the Martyrs found in the 5th Seal of John’s Apocalypse in Revelation 6: 9-11 are verses which accompany these Saints of God in constant reverberations within the heart, the mind, the soul of those in closest union with Christ.

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     And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive; I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan. Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.  . . .

     And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held:

     And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?

     And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellow servants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.

     I believe these cited verses, among others, provide us with a New Testament doctrine of witness and faithfulness unto death.  It is not an accident in redemptive history that the first example this post-apostolic faithfulness unto death proves to be St. Polycarp of Smyrna.

     Polycarp (A. D. 69-155) is one of the 3 chief Apostolic Fathers, along with Clement of Rome and Ignatius of Antioch.  His name translates into Greek as “much fruit” (Πολύκαρπος).  The two chief works which enable us to have some access to his life and death in Christ are The Martyrdom of Polycarp (Μαρτύριον του Αγίου Πολυκάρπουand his Letter to the Philippians (Επιστολή προς Φιλιππησίους). You are assigned each of these for reading and contemplation, as your parents work these into your homework schedules.  Of the many things that are exciting about homeschooling, the experience of an entire family learning together is chief among them.  So shall it be here also.

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The Lord Jesus Christ to the Church of Smyrna and The Israel of God Through the Ages:  “Be Thou Faithful Unto Death, and I Will Give Thee the Crown of Life.”

     Irenaeus indicates that he heard Polycarp in his youth.  Tertullian informs us that Polycarp had been a disciple of John the Apostle, our author of the Gospel of John, 1st-2nd-3rd John, and the Revelation on Patmos.  Jerome later conveys to us the fact that John had ordained Polycarp the Bishop of Smyrna.  Keep in mind that the Church of Smyrna in Revelation 2 was the economically poor but spiritually rich church, the church in Asia Minor warned specifically about the Synagogue of Satan, and the church instructed to be faithful unto death against the backdrop of an evil Roman Empire.  It is the prototype of the remnant Israel of God at the end of history, as the people of Christ watch spiritual darkness and apocalyptic political developments engulf the planet while clinging to the Word of God, the Holy Sacrament, and the testimony of Prophets, Apostles, and Saints.

     Lutheran scholar turned Orthodox, Jaroslav Pelikan notes this backdrop of the execution of Polycarp in Credo:  Historical and Theological Guide to Creeds and Confessions of Faith in the Christian Tradition, page 223:

     When, in the first postbiblical account of a Christian martyrdom, The Martyrdom of Polycarp, the Roman proconsul, Statius Quadratus, the political and spiritual descendant of Pontius Pilate and the representative of Emperor Antoninus Pius, orders the aged Polycarp, “Swear by the fortune of Caesar!” Polycarp instead confesses “with boldness, ‘I am a Christian.  And if you wish to learn what the doctrines of Christianity are, appoint me a day, and you shall hear them.’”  And so he went to his death.  The twentieth century, which saw the rise of both Nazi and Communist totalitarian regimes that were inimical to Christianity, also therefore produced several such confessions that were political acts in this special sense. [see Barmen Declaration of 1934]

     And so we come to the end of the hour with the question of the day being this:  While virtually everyone here will accept at face value the evil character of Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon, the Ancient Roman Empire, or the Hitler and Stalin regimes, is the American Empire somehow a beacon of light and hope to the world as our educational system, pastors, and churches often insist that it is, or is the verdict of the Activist Post more devastatingly accurate over 7 years ago in its essay, “10 Reasons America Will Be Judged as the Most Brutal Empire in History?”  Put another way, will our young people be doing the will of the Lord in serving in The Empire’s War on Terror, or is the way of Polycarp, the way of Peter and Paul, and the exilic path of John, Solzhenitsyn, Sununu and Assange, His will for the lives of those who gathered here tonight if the situation so requires?

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American Christians:  Shall They Support the New World Order’s War on Putin’s Russian Orthodox Christian Renaissance?

     For the Christian living in the United States, that question will not go away.  I hope each person here tonight will avail himself or herself of the links to articles and broadcasts over time necessary to examine the question at hand, and to search the Scriptures prayerfully and diligently.  I am thankful that a remnant of people in this city have sought to examine the evidence for themselves and to allow the Lord to lead them in the truth over time as He wills.  And in these dark days and nights, with the eschatological time clock of God ticking to the end of this present cosmos and the beginning of eternity, let us think tonight not only of our own families and friends, but those around the world already mentioned as among those most presently persecuted and endangered.  The Lord’s admonition of Revelation 2:11 echoes once again in our hearts, our minds, and our souls:  “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death. . . .

     And so we close tonight with that prayer.  May we have ears to hear.  May we hear what the Spirit says to the churches.  May we overcome.  May we be spared the second death in the Lake of Fire.  For the end fast approaches.  Amen.

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The Mystery of the Word Who Became Flesh and Dwelt Among Us, The Light Who Permeates The Darkness.

And so I now conclude on this Day of Polycarp of Smyrna, Pastor and Martyr on February 23, 2021, that the Christian believer in the United States and the West must be more deeply in prayer, meditation, and study of the Word of God than ever before. The increasing danger to the Confessing Church of Christ posed by the New World Order has its counterpart in the blessings of God for those who remain faithful unto death (Revelation 2: 10-11). Time’s speed increases as the cosmos hurtles toward the last events in history before the return of Christ. Watch. Wait. Be ready.

There is a sobering corollary. Those who worship the American Empire as the personification of Christ shall die the Second Death (Revelation 20: 14). And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul; but rather fear Him which is able to destroy both body and soul in hell (Matthew 10: 28).

He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches (Revelation 2:29).

Father Joseph Gleason of Russian Faith: Follow Him Out of Dodge If You Can

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Polycarp of Smyrna and Christian Martyrdom: One of Mark Dankof’s icons on his studio/library wall.

 

     It goes without saying that Father Joseph Gleason of Russian Faith is making his mark in the world for the Kingdom of God in Jesus Christ.  His theological journey has finally taken him into the priesthood of the Russian Orthodox Church.  Geographically, the journey he and his family have embarked upon has taken them from the United States to Russia and a place called Rostov-The-Great.  His is a story worth following on an ongoing basis.  I sense his personal odyssey may prove larger in history than he or anyone else imagines right now.

  His most recent entry on the Russian Faith website is entitled, “Homosexuals Persecuting Christians in America:  Do You Feel The Walls Closing In?” This marvelous piece is 5,050 words long.  My succinct initial response to his labors before even reading the essay itself was–and is–a simple “Yes.”

     I do not come to this conclusion quickly or without study and engagement.  Since 9-11, I have set aside most of the rest of my life to attempt to bring the people of America to an awareness of how late the hour is, and the perilous state of both individual souls and a collective people that has turned its back on God in favor of an Empire built on narcissism, militarism, usury, and sodomy.

RussiaInsider08

     But the painful truth is that I have failed.  I have lost 17 years of my life in the process. I admitted as much some years ago in a well publicized essay entitled, “Why We’re Finished.”  Later, I found myself being pilloried by the Jerusalem Post and the international Jewish press for telling Press TV Iran the truth after the infamous Obergefell Supreme Court decision of 2015 about who played a pivotally disproportionate role in bringing this latest advance of Cultural Marxism to pass in the United States, as was the case in the Roe v Wade decision of January of 1973.  Joseph Biden said the same thing I did, only he hailed the development as a new dawning in America.  I didn’t.  Thus, I was in the crosshairs of the usual suspects.  Not one of my Lutheran colleagues in the United States came to my public defense.  I was on my own and I knew it, just as I have been for years in these circles for discussing 9-11, Empire foreign and military policy, the Kennedy Assassination, and the abortion and LGBTQ issues among many others.

     Nothing in the last 4 years has changed the equation.  I said as much in an essay entitled, “A ‘Communist’s’ Thoughts on the 4th of July,” appropriately retitled, “Russia is a Beacon of Promise for a Christian Future” for Russia Faith and Russian Insider readers.  The thousands of hits on those sites revealed I had struck a chord or a raw nerve depending on the perspective of the reader, which is why editors like Charles Bausman and Father Joseph Gleason have increasingly come under attack by MSM rags in the United States like The Daily Beast as agents of the Kremlin, which assaulted me well before it did these fine people.  I wore that as a badge of honor. I still do.

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The Ancient of Days (Daniel 7) on Mark Dankof’s radio studio/library wall.

     Which brings me back to Father Gleason’s latest post.  His conclusions about what the LGBTQ movement and the power elite’s goals are in both the United States and globally in regard to authentic Christianity and its adherents are no different than what Rod Dreher wrote in Time Magazine after the Obergefell decision, only sharper in focus in the implications.  This sharpening of focus leads the American Christian who prayerfully contemplates the reality of the homeland advances of the New World Order to examine his or her position very carefully as the Holy Spirit of God leads and directs.

     For the record, after examination over time, I humbly conclude personally that: 1) Father Joseph Gleason has made the right decision for himself and his family in moving to Russia; 2) Recent developments in that country and elsewhere make it clear to me that Orthodoxy is especially being used of God in the proclamation of the Gospel in an age of advancing heresy and apostasy–not declining Lutheranism, Catholicism, or a Protestant Evangelical movement overcome with worship of Zionism and increasing pop accommodation to cancerous American and European cultures headed for absolute shipwreck;  3) For young believers around the world including a couple I have recently read about in Brazil, and young American Christians feeling bewildered and embattled as they Feel the Walls Closing In, examine the Lord’s will very closely in regard to the beckoning of Father Gleason and his migrating minions to the place that the Triune God is restoring at this eschatological hour in history to counter the evil plans of a Western Globalist and Zionist movement bent on using moral and sexual perversion, mass media manipulation, consumerism, economic sanctions, and overt military aggression to achieve Satan’s final victory in this present realm;  4) The latest actions of the United States in the Ukraine in sewing discord in the Orthodox Church only underscore the depths to which the political leadership in America will go on behalf the objectives of the New World Order, along with the entire spectrum of moves being made by The Empire against Iran, Syria, Russia, and Venezuela;  5) When all of this is understood in discernment by the Christian believer in the West in terms of prophetic developments, those of us whose circumstances mandate remaining in our earthly homeland in exile must do so only in the clear understanding that the outcome is not merely an exilic experience of alienation and marginalization, but one which promises martyrdom itself.

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     My last public address to a Lutheran group discussed this.  I’m still not sure those in the lecture hall in upstate Wisconsin last year really had the foggiest notion of what I was trying to say in the Lord to them.  But Father Joseph Gleason knows of what I speak, and so do most of his readers at Russian Faith. There are a few Christian homeschoolers in Texas who certainly understand. For those in the United States and the West in a position to make choices for themselves and their families on the basis of their individual circumstances and Christian witness for the truth in history, follow him to higher ground.  Get out of Dodge while you can.

     I believe God has truly raised this man up at this most critical and final hour in world and redemptive history. Consider his witness and his words carefully. That is my best advice to you.  The clock is ticking to midnight.

Written by Mark Dankof

January 31, 2019 at 9:19 pm

The Church of Smyrna speaks to the Confessing Church of Christ in This Darkening Hour: Mark Dankof on Tribulation, Remnant, and Martyrdom for the LMS-USA 2017

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Jesus Christ, the Logos, speaks to the Apostle John in exile on Patmos regarding the Church of Smyrna in Asia Minor: Revelation 2: 8-11.

And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write:  ‘The words of the First and the Last, who died and came to life.  I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich), and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a Synagogue of Satan.  Do not fear what you are about to suffer.  Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you in prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation.  Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.  He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.  The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.”

Jesus Christ speaks to the Apostle John on Patmos (Revelation 2: 8-11)

(Pastor Mark Dankof’s presentation to the LMS-USA national conference in Wisconsin chronicled here is a condensed and edited version of his remarks delivered on June 9th, 2017. This presentation was preceded by previous lectures in the last two (2) decades, including Creeds and Confessions as Liturgy; The Famine, The Watchman, and The Remnant; The Chosen People of God:  Who are They?; and The Hands of Time and The Appearance of Logos.)

———————-

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The Logo of the LMS-USA and the Pillars of Luther’s Reformation: Christ Alone, Faith Alone, Grace Alone, Scripture Alone.

 

     We have been privileged today to have two (2) fine presentations by Pastor Erickson and Pastor Spears. Pastor Erickson’s summation on The Early Church and the Need for Continuing Reform is an excellent overview of centuries of church history from Pentecost to the Protestant Reformation.  I especially value his repristination of a list of ancient heresies similar to my own presentation in Indianapolis in 1996, since those challenges to orthodox Biblical and Creedal theology continue to reappear in various forms and guises over time, especially in this 21st century milieu of heresy and apostasy in which the Remnant Confessing Church of Christ finds itself, especially in a post-Christian Western World which includes our own United States.

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Pastor Ralph Spears of Indianapolis, Indiana presents a paper on the Reformers and the Martyrs at the LMS-USA Conference in 2017.

     Pastor Spears’ presentation of The Reformers underscores the character of key figures in the 16th century and their traits which mirror Biblical reformers throughout redemptive history.  As he reminds us there, “Reformers are people of faith who lived and were willing to ‘lay down their lives for their conviction of faith.'” We will shortly see how the theme of Martyrdom in both of these fine discussions appears again in what I am about to share with the faithful people of Christ Lutheran Church in Chetek, Wisconsin from John’s Apocalypse (Revelation 2: 8-11).

     Let me say at the outset that we will not be discussing the dreadful developments in the Lutheran Church specifically and the American Church generally which have been sufficiently covered in previous conferences.  I will simply state again that in my lifetime, as American culture and life continues its precipitous downturn into the bottomless abyss, our own denominational tradition and affiliation has degenerated into an absurd dialectic between the apostate universalists, higher critical cynics, and Cultural Marxists on the left, and a compendium of isolationists and sectarians on the right for whom the use of the term evangelical is tragi-comic.  In the left-right dialectic in American Lutheranism today, rampant institutional political power struggles and pathology on both ends of the spectrum are strikingly identical.  The proclamation of the Gospel and Biblical teaching and instruction often seem but an afterthought, where everyday ministry to those starved for the Word, proclamation of forgiveness of sin in Jesus Christ and His love to all who believe, historic worship, and evangelical outreach and vision, are all too often lost in the shuffle of business-as-usual.  Jeremiah described this very sort of scene in the 6th century B. C. context of disaster which had befallen Jerusalem and ancient Judah as the Babylonian Exile and Temple Destruction unfolded:  “Her gates have sunk into the ground; He has ruined and broken her bars; her kings and princes are among the nations; the law is no more, and her prophets find no vision from the Lord.” (Lamentations 2: 9)

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Pastor Mark Dankof, whose presentation on the Church of Smyrna in John’s Apocalypse instructs a segment of the Believing Remnant of the Confessing Church of Christ at the LMS-USA national conference.

     If this looks increasingly like the unfolding and impending state of the American Empire and Church it should.  The hour is increasingly late (Matthew 24).

     Where does all of this leave the Believing Remnant of the Confessing Church of Christ?  Put more directly this afternoon, where does this leave you and I as a part of such a fellowship and movement?  Where is God in all of this for you and me?  Where are his promises?  Where is hope for the present and the future? How does he provide for the Remnant when none of the present circumstances in history are favorable to our sustenance and survival?

     It is these questions to which we shall now turn.  The key prototypical Confessing Church for our purposes today is the Church of Smyrna in Asia Minor during John’s exile on Patmos courtesy of the edict of Emperor Domitian of Rome (AD 81-96). As already read, our text is Revelation 2: 8-11.

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Pastor Tylan Dalrymple of Christ Lutheran Church in Chetek, Wisconsin and the Subscriptional Clergy Roster of the LMS-USA.

     It is noteworthy that the exile of the Apostle was due to his refusal to acquiesce to the demands of the Roman Emperor that Domitian be venerated and worshiped as the virtual incarnation of God on earth.  Put slightly differently, John understood what was Caesar’s, and what belongs to Christ alone.  For that faith and confessional witness, he found himself in the Roman penal colony on Patmos, an island 4×8 miles in the Aegean Sea, 50 miles southwest of Turkey.  It is identically noteworthy that Smyrna (modern Izmir) was closely aligned with the Roman Empire and had a large, active, and hostile Jewish population in open hostility to the Gospel (see Romans 2: 28-29; Matthew 26: 57-27:44; Revelation 3:9 to the Church of Philadelphia). Confessing faith and witness in this context often led to incarceration and/or death.

     My counsel and admonition to all of us who are Remnant Believers today:  It is not hyperbole to understand and acknowledge the evidence of increasing hostility to the Gospel in a post-Christian America and Western World in the 21st century, accompanied by lawlessness, decadence, perversion, blasphemy, violence, deception and societal disintegration on a breathtaking scale.  The Satanic forces in play are reminiscent of those between 81-96 A. D. during the reign of Domitian.  The challenge to us is the same challenge posited to the Church of Smyrna, but so are the reassuring provisions of God to His people that underscore His sovereign control of events in history, and His love of those who are faithful.  The key point is this:  God’s people are entering what is eschatologically the most dangerous period in all of linear time and redemptive history (Heilsgeschichte).  We must be prepared for any contingency thrust upon us by Satan and the world.  But nothing can separate the believer from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8: 31-39).

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Martin Luther: We are Justified by God Through Christ Alone, Faith Alone, Scripture Alone. (Pastoral Library: Christ Lutheran Church of Chetek, Wisconsin)

     Let me emphasize four (4) points from the Apocalpyse in today’s conversation about the assurances of God to the Israel of God, the Confessing Church of Christ, throughout time.

     The first (1) is this:  God provides for His people through select individuals who accomplish the Lord’s purposes for those purchased with the Blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ. Pastor Spears’ presentation and overview illustrated some key people throughout history who carried out God’s directives to provide for and nurture those otherwise in isolation and despair in a hostile world.  Look at the way in which the Word of the Lord during the persecution of believers during Domitian’s reign continues to be proclaimed through the selection of the Apostle John (Revelation 1: 1-3) on Patmos to reveal mysteries and reassure the People of God.  Tellingly, John states in 1:9 that, “I John, your brother and partner in the tribulation, and the kingdom, and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus.”

(Ἐγὼ Ἰωάννης ὁ ἀδελφὸς ὑμῶν καὶ συνκοινωνὸς ἐν τῇ θλίψει καὶ βασιλείᾳ καὶ ὑπομονῇ ἐν Ἰησοῦ
ἐγενόμην ἐν τῇ νήσῳ τῇ καλουμένῃ Πάτμῳ διὰ τὸν λόγον τοῦ Θεοῦ καὶ τὴν μαρτυρίαν Ἰησοῦ.)

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John on Patmos Pens The Apocalypse: Exiled Because of Resistance to the Emperor Worship Cultus of Domitian (A. D. 81-96).

     How much plainer can it be? Although we have no living Apostles or inspired writers of Scripture in our midst today, God continues to provide brothers and partners in the trials and tribulations of our lives as believers in this darkening age and world.  These brothers and partners are also ours not simply in trials and tribulations, but in the Kingdom of God both present and future.  Just look around this classroom. I recognize people here who joined me in the uphill fight to preserve the Biblical faith in our tradition over 30 years ago.  Among those in that category, I’m unbelievably the youngest one of the 4 still left and who still perseveres alongside these men.  Because of their faithfulness to the Gospel and their enduring friendships with me, I’ve been encouraged to continue when the temptation to give it up in these last 3 decades intensified.  Because I continued by the grace and provision of God alone, I’ve come to know many of the rest of you who have attended these conferences for 22 years now.  We are brothers and sisters in the trials and tribulations present and future.  Can we be any more blessed than this?

     Mysteriously, we possess the Kingdom of  God now, and yet not completely until the return of the Lord.  And how we presently possess the inspired, inerrant, inscripturated Word of God of the Prophets and Apostles, including John right now in our midst, assuring us of blessings present and future through Christ! This empowers God’s humble people, such as all of us gathered here in Wisconsin today, to rejoice in the midst of sorrow, to be confident in the midst of unspeakable trials and discouragements, and to have the faith which comes only from the Holy Spirit of God. Forget the numbers game of the Church Growth Movement in America.  Jettison the “Health, Wealth, and Prosperity” philosophies of the televangelists and the worship fads of an American Church that looks more like the world of sin, the flesh, and Satan with each passing week.  Embrace the joy of the Biblical Gospel, worship in continuity with the Confessing Church of Christ of the Ages, read and take to heart the Lutheran Confessions and what they affirm about sin and salvation only in Christ.  And be confident that God has not forgotten his Remnant People wherever they may be, as He has numbered the very hairs on our heads and has our names written in the Book of Life.

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30 years together in joint fellowship and proclamation of the Gospel in the Lutheran Church since 1987: Pastor John Erickson, Pastor Ralph Spears, Pastor Donald Thorson, and Pastor Mark Dankof (L to R).

     The second truism (2) is this:  God works through select groups of remnant believers throughout the trials and tribulatons of His people in the midst of hostile societies, natural disasters, wars and rumors of war, and upswings in Satanic activity throughout human history.  When we look for a select group of remnant believers in the past to serve as a prototype to be emulated by faithful Christians today in the midst of the perils of the 21st century, we need look no further than the Church of Smyrna.  What characterized this Confessing Church in the all seeing eyes and all knowing mind of our Lord Jesus Christ?  He states that, “I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich), and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a Synagogue of Satan.”  (Revelation 2:9)

(Οἶδά σου τὴν θλῖψιν καὶ τὴν πτωχείαν ἀλλὰ πλούσιος εἶ καὶ τὴν βλασφημίαν ἐκ τῶν λεγόντων
Ἰουδαίους εἶναι ἑαυτούς καὶ οὐκ εἰσίν ἀλλὰ συναγωγὴ τοῦ Σατανᾶ.)

     The characteristics of the Confessing Church of Smyrna are thus clearly discernable, as are the characteristics of the Remnant in historical and eschatological times of political, cultural, moral, economic, and theological disturbances which seek to devour those who are Christ’s and Christ’s alone.  There was and will be tribulation (θλῖψιν)There was and will be slander (βλασφημίαν) against God’s people until the end of linear time and redemptive history.  These slanders emanating from the Synagogue of Satan (συναγωγὴ τοῦ Σατανᾶ) are to be understood as a phenomenon manifested in both the 1st century and the 21st (see Romans 2: 28-29 and Dr. E. Michael Jones’ The Jewish Revolutionary Spirit and its Impact in World History for the enumeration of the context of Revelation 2:9).  

     And yet with all of these sobering facts and developments, the Lord reminds the Church of Smyrna, and our gathering here today, that we are yet rich (ἀλλὰ πλούσιος εἶ )The world cannot know this richness, because it cannot know Jesus.  The world cannot know this richness, which can only be revealed by the Holy Spirit of God to the believer (I Corinthians 12:3).  Only the believer can possess all that is contained in this spiritual richness, juxtaposed in this case with worldly richness, and understand that tribulation, slander, and economic poverty cannot separate he or she from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8: 31-39).  This is the faith that leads to eternal life. This is the faith that remains when Emperors and Empires fade away in the twilight of time and space, be it the Babylonian version, the Medo-Persian version, the Greek version, the Roman version, or the American version as the years pass in this 21st Century.

     And make no mistake.  There is no doctrine of American exceptionalism here to the Biblical principles that have governed Empires and Nations from Genesis to Revelation to the present.

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St. Polycarp of Smyrna, rejecting Emperor Worship and the Synagogue of Satan (Revelation 2:9) for Faith in Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ Only, Forever and Ever.

     The third truism (3) is this:  The Remnant Confessing Church that is poor but rich, sets a foundation for many fruits to be made manifest in the future glorification of God and the proclamation of His kingdom in Christ.  In the case of the Church of Smyrna of the 1st century, its foundation produced the 2nd century Bishop of Smyrna, Polycarp (A. D. 69-155).  He is regarded as one of the 3 chief Apostolic Fathers in history, along with Clement of Rome and Ignatius of Antioch.  It is no accident or coincidence of history that the name Polycarp literally means, “much fruit.” A disciple of the Apostle John, and ordained by him as a Bishop, we must turn to 3 primary sources for information about this embodiment of witness to the Crucified and Risen Christ whose life and death continue to resonate now, even as I speak.  These 3 sources are 1) The Martyrdom of Polycarp, a circular letter composed by the Church of Smyrna and distributed to the churches of Pontus; 2) Irenaeus’ Against Heresies, which I first encountered in my first year of theological study in California almost 40 years ago; and Polycarp’s Letter to the Philippians.

     Let’s cut to the chase here.  If the issues of Emperor Worship and oppression of the Christian in the 21st century Western World’s Central States increasingly looks like the ideological matrix that exiled John to Patmos and executed Polycarp, can we envision ourselves having to make the ultimate choice of Christ or Caesar, Christ or Antichrist, under penalty of death for an evangelical confession and proclamation of faith?

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Polycarp of Smyrna (69-155).

     The subject of martyrdom came up in a systematic theology course I was taking in suburban Chicago years ago under Dr. Paul D. Feinberg at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.  The question of Martyrdom for the Faith was under intense scrutiny and examination one particular day and lecture.  I can’t say to anyone that I thought I was brave enough then–or now–to follow in the footsteps of Polycarp or any of the other martyrs for Christ.  I will say to all of us here what Dr. Feinberg told me then in response to my questions and doubts about being able to cling to the Lord and witness to the truth under penalty of the ultimate sanction.  He said that we should never ask for the dying grace of God before we actually need it (Matthew 24: 9-14).  If or when we face contemporary versions of the Sanhedrin with its demands for recantation and capitulation, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit of God will give us the thoughts and the words to say when we are not capable of otherwise standing up to those who seek our very lives (Mark 13: 9-11; Luke 21: 12-15).

     Polycarp understood this; the Lord was faithful to him in his ultimate hour of need.  In the case of the former’s death, we read that:

In the Martyrdom, Polycarp is recorded as saying on the day of his death, “Eighty and six years I have served Him, and He has done me no wrong”, which could indicate that he was then eighty-six years old or that he may have lived eighty-six years after his conversion. Polycarp goes on to say “How then can I blaspheme my King and Savior? You threaten me with a fire that burns for a season, and after a little while is quenched; but you are ignorant of the fire of everlasting punishment that is prepared for the wicked.”

Polycarp was burned at the stake and was pierced with a spear for refusing to burn incense to the Roman Emperor. On his farewell, he said “I bless you Father for judging me worthy of this hour, so that in the company of the martyrs I may share the cup of Christ.”

     These words have haunted me at night for almost 40 years since first reading them late one evening in a dormitory room on the highest peak in Berkeley, California that overlooked the Pacific Ocean and the Golden Gate Bridge of San Francisco.  It was an irenic visual scene I enjoyed for almost a year.  But my night thoughts about the Apostle John and Polycarp of Smyrna were anything but irenic.  Would I really ever have what it took to confess the faith under their circumstances? 

     I don’t recall having read this sort of thing recently in any of Joel Osteen’s books I have perused at Barnes and Noble (laughter).  I couldn’t find a single thing on Polycarp when I checked several of their stores around San Antonio either.  His witness runs counter to everything I see in contemporary American “culture,” which like its ancient Roman counterpart is increasingly evil and antithetical to the Gospel.  But if we follow John’s witness on Patmos, and the subsequent witness of the 2nd century Bishop of Smyrna, we will experience the fruits of the endurance (ὑπομένω) that God promises His people in their darkest hours, and in the darkening skies of the present historical horizon (Matthew 24:13).

     Finally, there is the fourth truism (4) bequeathed to the Church of Smyrna by the Lord.  It is also your promise and mine :  “Be faithful unto death and I will give thee the Crown of Life” (Revelation 2: 10).

(γίνου πιστὸς ἄχρι θανάτου καὶ δώσω σοι τὸν στέφανον τῆς ζωῆς.)

     It is this foundation alone which gives us peace, the peace (εἰρήνη) which only the Lord gives and which the world and its Prince with his targeted tribulations and attacks can never know (John 16:33). We are guaranteed to experience these trials and tribulations, and an intensification of such in the context of the approaching eschatological signs of the end of the age.  But Jesus assures us he has overcome the world, an assurance He gives to the disciples just before experiencing the most agonizing death in all of history, a death to be followed by the evidence of his overcoming of sin and the world in the reality of the Empty Tomb.

     Take heart today my friends. Be encouraged. As deception, wars and rumors of wars, famines, earthquakes, persecutions and martyrdoms of believers, apostasy, evil, and lovelessness continue their present upswing (Matthew 24) leading to the appearance of the Antichrist in history, we will “overcome and will not be hurt at all by the second death” (Revelation 2:11).

     We have gathered again in Wisconsin today to reaffirm the truths of God to His people in Christ, and to rejoice that as orthodox Lutheran Christians, we are but a small slice of the Confessing Church in history and presently, focusing only on the things of the Lord in Word and Sacrament and our love for one another, even in the midst of a nation and a world that increasingly does not know Him and which is coming to despise who and what we are.  We must be discerning about the truth and the hour.  We must be ready.  And together, we shall be.

(Ὁ νικῶν οὐ μὴ ἀδικηθῇ ἐκ τοῦ θανάτου τοῦ δευτέρου.)

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The Island of Patmos in a peaceful Aegean Sunset.