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The New Testament talks about saints. Most of the NT passages where that word occurs, refer to the people who received the Holy Spirit in the first century. The record of their doings abruptly ends, some time after the middle of the first century, as if they simply disappeared. Have you ever wondered what happened to them?
This article proceeds to show, from the Bible, what Jesus and his apostles said in regard to what was to happen to those people.
For some people, this matter regarding the saints may be a “tough” subject for study. The reason for this is that when one realises what happened to the saints, one may be forced to re-evaluate one’s own standing.
Also: In connection with this particular subject, some people might find it difficult to understand or accept a number of clear things in the Bible, because they have been subjected to certain dogmas. Among them are the originally Catholic “true church” dogma and the originally Baptist (Millerite) dogma which talks about “church eras”. The article raa012.htm with its appendix has some notes on the “true church” dogma; the article raa032.htm sorts out the dogma regarding “church eras”.
The Bible contains a number of still unfulfilled prophecies. But, many prophecies have already been fulfilled.
Let us consider Matthew 24 which records how Jesus spoke to his disciples and said that their generation would not pass away (die), before certain things happened.
Matthew 24:31 And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. 32 Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near: 33 So likewise you, when you [a] shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. 34 Truly I say to you, [a] This generation [a] shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled. 35 Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. (AKJV, note signs added)
a Verses 33 and 34 make clear the timing connected to those things. Here, it is important to accept the fact that the word “you” in those verses refers to those whom Jesus was addressing – people of the first century – and that the phrase “this generation” indeed refers to their generation and age.
Regarding the above-quoted Matthew 24:31–35: We can certainly trust that Jesus meant what he said, and that what he said, then also happened.
Verse 21 mentions a great suffering. When and where was it to be?
Matthew 24:21 For at that time there will be great suffering, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. (NRSV)
A casual reader might come to think that that verse refers to what we today view as “end time”. But, let us note whom Jesus was talking to, and where. The great suffering which he referred to, was something that then happened to people of those days, in Judea. For instance verse 16 makes it clear that Jesus was talking with a local perspective, regarding events that were to take place in Judea.
And, what happened? Well, the records of history tell us that around year 70, there was a horrible, incredible slaughter in the land of Israel. Some have estimated that the Roman army killed around three million Jews, at that time. It could be that if that slaughter had not been stopped, not a Jew in that land would have survived. That must be what Matthew 24:22 refers to – “and except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved” (AKJV).
Later, there have been other horrible slaughters, in other parts of the word. But again, and this is regarding Matthew 24:21, Jesus was not telling his disciples about what was to happen at some much later time in some other part of the world. He told them about a time of great suffering and slaughter which was about to come in that land, the land of Israel. And again, that was regarding things and events in their own day and age.
Certain scriptures indicate that even in what we today view as “end time”, there may be certain similar events. But, the above-quoted passages refer to things and events in the first century.
Here, it is natural to ask the question, what about others, such as people of our day? No worry, because it appears that God is planning to save virtually all of mankind and not only the first-fruits group of the first century. There are some notes on this matter, later in this article.
Here – as always – it is important to read the Bible in an objective manner. When one reads the New Testament and sees such words as “you”, “your”, “we”, “us” or “our”, one must keep in mind that they refer to those who were being addressed, in the first century.
Take 1 Corinthians 15. It records something the apostle Paul wrote to the saints in Corinth, in regard to what was about to happen to them. During their life-time, in the first century. Let us read verses 51 and 52.
1 Corinthians 15:51 Listen, I will tell you a mystery! We will not all die, but we will all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. (NRSV)
Consider this: Who is “we” in that passage, and what is the timing?
Yes, that “we” was the apostle together with those people. And, regarding the timing: The things regarding which Paul wrote to those people, were to take place during their own lifetime, in the first century.
So, just as Matthew 24, even 1 Corinthians 15 tells us what then happened to the saints.
A note: There are many kinds of dogmas regarding “end time trumpets”. But, the above-quoted verse 52 does not refer to any event or trump that would be related to what we today view as “end time”. The trump which Paul mentioned in that passage, was sounded in the first century. The same applies to 1 Thessalonians 4:16. – For more on the different prophetic trumps, of God and of angels, see the article rta052.htm. Among other things, it considers what Paul meant when he wrote to the saints about a “last” trump or blast.
Please read this scripture-quote slowly and with care, noting who were being addressed and what the timing was.
1 Thessalonians 4:13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died. 15 For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have died. 16 For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words. (NRSV)
That is something the apostle Paul wrote to the saints in Thessalonica, regarding things that were to happen to them, soon after he had written that letter.
Even that passage tells us what happened to the saints, when they vanished from the scene, some time after the middle of the first century.
A note: Some have claimed that “Paul had his timings wrong”. But, he only echoed what Jesus had said. He had been taught by Jesus, and he was filled with the Holy Spirit and thus led and inspired by God. Verse 15 shows that he wrote those things “by the word of the Lord”. He knew what he was talking about, and was not in any way “misled” in regard to the timing of those events.
Regarding what applies to others, such as people of our day – there are some notes on that matter, later in this article.
Keep in mind that these things were written to and regarding the saints, those who received the Holy Spirit in the first century.
Colossians 3:2 Keep your mind on the higher things, not on the things of earth. 3 For your life on earth is done, and you have a secret life with Christ in God. 4 At the coming of Christ who is our life, you will be seen with him in glory. (BBE)
1 Thessalonians 1:10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath that is coming. (NRSV)
James 5:7 Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. 8 You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. (NRSV)
Verse 8, “the coming of the Lord is near”. Again, keep in mind that that was written to the saints, people of the first century.
As you can see, the saints were waiting for Jesus to come for them.
A note: Some Catholic stories claim that the apostle John wrote the book of Revelation late in the first century, or early in the second century. (In those stories, the year of John’s supposed death has been given various dates, between the years 89 and 120 CE.) But, it is obvious that when Jesus came for his own, some time after the middle of the first century, even John was taken away. Some others date the writing of the book of Revelation to the middle of the first century.
As you read the below-quoted passage, keep in mind that it was written and directed to people of the apostle John’s own day and age.
Revelation 1:1 The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place; he made it known by sending his angel to his servant John (NRSV, highlighting added)
“Soon” was the word. Not “2000 years later” but “soon”. Likewise, Revelation 3:11, and 22:6, 7 and 12 and 20 say “soon” (NRSV). That is, during the lifetime of the people whom Jesus had John write that letter to. In the first century.
And again, later in this article there are some notes on what applies to others, such as people of our day.
Some of the things which John saw in the visions that are recorded in the book of Revelation, had already happened when he wrote that book. Also, that book contains even prophecies which have not been fulfilled yet. But, the above-mentioned passages refer to things that were imminent and were to take place soon. In the first century.
Please keep in mind that we, people of the 21st century, are not mentioned in the Scriptures other than indirectly, in regard to still future events.
Some churches which spread modified copies of the old Baptist (Millerite) “church eras” dogma, might claim that Revelation 1–3 refers to people of our day, but it is not so. The article raa032.htm sorts out that matter.
In one of his letters, the apostle John wrote to some saints:
1 John 2:28 And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he is revealed we may have confidence and not be put to shame before him at his coming. (NRSV)
“We may have confidence” – in that phrase, the word “we” refers to John and those he wrote that letter to. People of the first century.
Consider even this passage, where John made the imminence of those things clear:
1 John 2:18 Children, it is the last hour! [b] As you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists [c] have come. From this we know that it is the last hour. (NRSV, note signs added)
b “It is the last hour” – John was not talking about the last moments of the existence of this planet or anything like that. He was merely telling those people that the “signs of the times” which they had heard about, were now seen. From that, they could know that it was the “last hour” – that Jesus was soon coming for them.
c Regarding the “antichrists” whom John mentioned – “so now many antichrists have come” – that was regarding things and persons in the days when John wrote that letter, in the first century. John never mentioned any “antichrist” for our day and age. The popular dogmas regarding “the Antichrist” have very little to do with what the Bible says. The article roa021.htm has more on this.
The story about the saints fleeing to Pella (year 70 CE) appears to be of Catholic origin, not to be relied on. We simply do not know whether they went to that place. What we do know, by reading the numerous New Testament passages which show what was to happen to them, is that they were to be taken away, to Heaven. That is where their “place of safety” was. – The articles rba043.htm and rxa103.htm have some notes on what the Scriptures say about Heaven.
There is a popularly used phrase and concept, “the early church”. It is important to understand that that phrase does not refer to the saints or their fellowships. Instead, it refers to a religion which arose some time after the saints had been taken away.
One of the very first “apostolic fathers” – that is, figures in Catholic stories – is called Ignatius, “bishop of Antioch”. Catholic stories have Ignatius die around year 107 CE, but it is an open question whether he ever existed in real life, or whether he is merely an invented figure in Catholic writings which were produced at some later time. In all likelihood, the latter. Read on:
Numerous letters (“epistles”) have been attributed to Ignatius. Fifteen of the so-called “Ignatian letters” have been an object of debate, in regard to which of them should be viewed as “genuine” and which as “pseudo-Ignatius”. It is clear that most of those letters have been written at some later time. Probably all of them – again, it may be that Ignatius is a totally fictitious person. It could also be that he was a real person of some time in history, however one who has then been “built up” in later writings. The Catholic Church simply needs an “Ignatius”, for the purpose of creating an illusion that there is some kind of “continuity” from the saints, to the Catholic Church. (There is no such continuity or connection, of course.)
(A note regarding the phrase “early church”: It can be good to know what the word “church” really means and refers to. The article rga062.htm explains that matter.)
The Catholics have produced a list of various “church fathers” – supposed “early members” of the Catholic Church which was established in the Roman emperor Constantine’s day. Those claimed Catholic “church fathers” are really of no interest; it is enough to note that the religion connected to “Ignatius” and other “church fathers”, is very different from what the saints practised. But still, let us consider one of them, Polycarp. Some have claimed that Polycarp was “a disciple of the apostle John”. But, Polycarp is said to have been born in year 69 – about the same time as when John vanished from this world (as was explained earlier in this article). So, how could Polycarp – in case such a man ever actually existed – have been “John’s disciple”?
In short: There is no “continuity”, from the saints (who were taken away), to any “church” or other religious organisation here on Earth.
The articles raa012.htm with its appendix has some notes on Matthew 16:18 and the (originally Catholic) “true church” dogma.
The article raa032.htm sorts out the old Baptist (Millerite) “church eras” dogma which some churches have copied and modified and then applied to themselves.
The article rta032.htm has some notes on first-fruits group of 144000 and the great multitude which are mentioned in the book of Revelation, and the difference between those two groups.
Some people, when they read this article, might ask, “Are there any historical records that support this?”
The answer is, both yes and no. Above all, there is the Bible, including the passages that are quoted in this article. Did Jesus, John, Paul and all the others, speak or write lies or nonsense? No. It is clear that they did not lie. It is also clear that they did not “err” but knew what they were talking about. In other words: The New Testament record of what Jesus and his apostles in clear language said, is all that is needed in the way of historical records, for those who want to know what happened to the saints.
But, some might still ask, “Why are there no historical records that would tell us about how the saints were taken away? After all, that must have been quite a dramatic event?”
Let us put it this way – had such historical records been allowed to remain in a commonly available form, the Catholic Church would have collapsed. Common knowledge of what happened to the saints – that they were taken away and that there is no continuity or link from them to the Catholic Church – would have caused all too many people to realise that the claims which that church has made regarding its origin, are nonsense. Read on:
The Roman Catholic Church and the Catholic Orthodox Church and their administrations controlled Europe (and at times even parts of the Middle East), for more than 1000 years. Also: Several of their pontiffs were at the same time emperors, ruling over large parts of Europe and even more. So, we can expect that if anyone ever wrote down something in regard to what really happened to the saints, then such records were either destroyed or carefully hid away, during those more than 1000 years of almost total Roman Catholic and Orthodox power and control.
In short, there is no reason to expect that there would today exist any commonly available historical records concerning what happened to the saints.
It is clear that when the New Testament talks about saints, that refers almost always to people who received the Holy Spirit in the first century and in some cases even earlier. They were a “first-fruits harvest” for God, here on Earth. But, there is more to God’s “harvest work”. It appears that God is planning to save virtually all of mankind and not only the first-fruits group of the first century.
Some aspects of that matter are discussed elsewhere at this site, such as in the articles rta032.htm and rba082.htm.
See also the “recommended reading” section, below.
Please tell others about this site. Please also link to it. The address to the table of contents page is biblepages.net/contents.htm
An explanation of the short names for the bible-translations that are quoted or mentioned at this site. → rsa092.htm
On the word “saint” and what it means and refers to, in the Bible. → rga032.htm
Are parousia and rapture biblical concepts? → rga052.htm
Matthew 16:18, “I will build my assembly, and the gates of hades shall not prevail against it”. What and where is the ekklêsia or assembly which Jesus said he would form? Is it an earthly religious organisation as some claim, or something else? → raa012.htm
“Church eras” – do they exist? Are there seven “eras of the church”, as some say – “Sardis era”, “Philadelphian era”, “Laodicean era” and so on? → raa032.htm
Who are the 144000 and the great multitude of Revelation 7? Also, who are the first-fruits or virgins of Revelation 14:1–4? → rta032.htm
On the different kinds of prophetic trumpets that are mentioned in the Bible – trumps of God, and those of the seven angels. Also: What did the apostle Paul mean and refer to when he wrote about a “last” trump or blast? → rta052.htm
What does the Bible say about the antichrist or antichrists? On the meaning of the words antichristos and pseudochristos in the Greek text of the New Testament. → roa021.htm
What does the Bible say about Heaven? Were the saints to go there? What about others? What does it look like, in Heaven? → rba043.htm
Hebrews 4:9, the sabbatismos or rest which the saints were to enter – a clarification of its actual nature. → rxa103.htm
The origin and meaning of the word “church”. → rga062.htm
On what the Bible says about the matter of resurrection. → rba082.htm
Table of contents – Key-word index – Search function – On the goal and purpose of this site
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