It happened just before the Tribulation began. When it did begin, tens of thousands of Christians were brutally martyred. But it wasn't the attack from outside the Church that would be the cause of the greatest devastation. What made this devastation so glaring was the contrast between how the original local church was characterised compared with its condition just before the Tribulation began. This crisis in Jerusalem produced a dramatic response of Biblical proportions that literally averted an eternal catastrophe!
And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need..
The church in Jerusalem is like a lot of Christians. It started out in a blaze of glory. Its conversion was marked by a dramatic turn of events. The Holy Spirit came upon them and turned their lives around - they came alive spiritually. They experienced the supernatural - prayers were instantly answered. This first local church loved to meet together - as often as they could. In fact, they saw their meeting together as a powerful evangelistic witness - and it worked: the Lord added 'daily' to their number those who were being saved. They loved to spend time in God's Word - alone, but especially together (Acts 2:42). They loved to pray - and most especially loved to pray together. They loved to eat - but it wasn't about the food, it was about the time together with others over the meal. When they saw a need, they all chipped in gladly and sacrificially. They were all givers. But then something tragic began to happen that reversed nearly all that had begun.
I suspect the sad change coincided as the next generation emerged. They had heard their parents talk about the supernatural fire, the wind from heaven, the miracles, the preaching that led 3,000 people to immediately turn to Christ. They heard what happened then but never really heard what should be happening now - which was not what happened then. They stopped loving God's Word. They stopped meeting together as regularly as they used to and thus the power derived from their worship, prayer, instruction together began to wane. They stopped giving - and coincidently, they had less. Their less provoked the Apostle to the Gentiles to take up an offering among the Asian churches for these believers in Jerusalem.
For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make some contribution for the poor among the saints at Jerusalem ... that I may be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints
Romans 15:26, 31
It often happens. People once converted to Christ delight in the joy of their new birth and experience the thrill of spiritual ecstasy that can only come from receiving the Father's forgiveness. The early days of their newly converted life are marked by enthusiasm for fellowship, prayer, worship, teaching, witnessing, generosity, hospitality - together. But then the Enemy musters his reserves and begins to wage his war of distraction. He rarely launches a full-on assault (except where he knows that this is all it all it will take to distract some). He has injuriously learned by experience that when The Blood-Bought suffer greatly they supplicate greatly to their Limitlessly Loving Saviour - and are ironically strengthened against him. He has found that true believers become stronger believers as a result of suffering. But he is ever on the lookout for those who claim to be believers yet look to get out of their suffering (rather than the true believer who looks to what they can get out of their suffering). Accordingly, he is compelled by pragmatism to modify his strategy against most of the true believers by using degrees of ordinariness to work his insidious goal of compromise. He uses the ordinary distractions of life to lure the believer back from being fully devoted to their Soul's Delight.
Parents can be lured back by the distraction of their children. Men can be lured back by the distraction of a woman. Businessmen can be lured back by the distraction of finances. Girls can be lured back by the attention of a boy. Pastors can be lured back by the seductive satisfaction of busyness. The weary can be lured back by the wooing of amusement. However it happened, it worked. The first indication of the early success of his mission to lure the believer back was their increasing isolation from the church community. This is what began to happen in the Jerusalem Church in the first century. The Apostle Peter gave the early believers a solemn warning about how the Enemy attempts to prey on the isolated sheep like a like picking off the stragglers.
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. First Peter 5:8
What established the First Church, their "one another"ness, their togetherness, their "in one accord"ness, which put fuel on the fires of their devotion to Christ through prayer, worship, teaching, fellowship, and evangelism, predictably waned as they were duped by the ordinary distractions of the Enemy. With most of the damage done by around 63AD, there remained only the serious true believers who refused to isolate themselves or compromise their devotion to Christ. The Enemy knew that his pathetic splinters of ordinariness could not distract these devoted ones. He discovered that the seeds of legalism sown years before were now getting some traction and robbing the believers of their delight in God. But still they gathered. Still they prayed. Still they searched the Scriptures. There was only one thing left for the Enemy to do. And it began in 64AD. But before it began the Seated Sovereign One breathed His fiery Word into the soul of an unnamed servant of Christ - and the Epistle to these Hebrews was written.
Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high
Jesus reminded the Jerusalem believers that devotion to Him was not a matter of mere religious devotion - as if religious ceremonies and rituals were ever the basis of drawing God and man together! "Together". That's the fruit of a soul devoted to God. The believer who is transformed from death to life by the radiance of Christ is drawn to the God who is eternally together. As we dramatically see in Acts 2, the result is that person who prizes "me", "I", "my" begins to extol "you", "us", "our". When Jesus taught people to pray it may be missed by most that the first word of this model prayer for His followers is, "Our..."
Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.
...Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.
Romans 12:10, 16
Devotion to Christ is always evidenced by one-anotherness. And the Enemy knows it well! His primary strategy to undermine the believer's devotion to Christ is predictably simple: separate and isolate them from other believers. He will commonly use distractions, weariness, and offence to disconnect a believer from those whom God has ordained for His grace to be transmitted to them through. Thus, after the nameless writer to these Hebrews has finished explaining how everything in the ceremonial law was a shadow and type of Christ and His atoning work, he then pastorally conveys not only The Sovereign One's word for them - but the Sovereign One's heart for them. In a burst of three of the most pastoral and important verses in the New Testament The Sovereign One's servant uses all three words that the Holy Spirit loves to shape the believer with: us, together, we. If you get the chance, take a few minutes to hear and consider what our Sovereign Father is saying sweetly to His children.
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
¶ For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins,
If you feel dry, then maybe it's time to come back to the well. If you feel less love for God, then maybe it's time to love being together more. If aspects of your life are getting too difficult, then you might have an "I" problem that needs a "we" solution. If you have neglected your daily time in God's Word, then it's little wonder that devotion to Christ no longer enthralls and satisfies you. If you have stopped taking time to surrender in prayer daily and to intercede for others, then it's going to be difficult for you to motivated to join your brothers and sisters in weekly prayer.
Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
The Epistle to the Hebrews was delivered to the Jerusalem Church around 63AD. In 64AD all Hell broke loose. Caesar Nero began to wage a war against the Church that led to tens of thousands of Christ followers being brutally martyred. Two years after this war began, Nero ordered that Jerusalem be destroyed. By 70AD this mission was accomplished and the Church in Jerusalem was no more. But the blood of the martyrs has become the seeds of the Church that has sprouted and spread around the world and down through the ages to the present day. And if we can impart a passion, love and devotion for The Radiance of God to the next generation, then we will see what God can do through us as as the Church celebrates being together.