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2011 A.D.:  The Church of Antioch....A Very Big Deal!

  There is a lot in the Bible that hides itself.  The keys to salvation are found in what is said simply and openly - in the teachings of the Gospels.  But there are a lot of allegorical things placed within the Bible's pages.  Types, pre-figurements...they sometimes seem to be everywhere.  They are not the key point (I don't think so, anyway) but they were planted there for us to see, try to see, or at least ponder.  I think they were, anyway. 

  People have seen them, thought they saw them, or tried to see them since the early days.  They are really too much for us to fully grasp, though.  They are deep, and they are slippery.  God may give some people very thorough understanding of them, but as for me, I'll think that I see something, I'll get curious, I'll start looking at it and praying about it, and ususally I just end up being amazed at God, that he can make scripture be so deep and complex.  Most of the time I only put a part of it together. 

  I've been thinking about Antioch a lot lately.  And it's been very intriguing, but mainly it is just giving me a mental beating as I try to figure out why so very many important things seem to tie in to Antioch, and to guess what they may relate to.  But one thing I'm deciding quickly....I somehow have overlooked for many years that Antioch is a very big deal.  I think that maybe Antioch has a profound importance that I had missed earlier. 

  Take, for instance, the words that Christ spoke to the Apostle Peter.  On at least two different occasions Jesus seemed to make it clear that Peter had a very important role to play among the other Apostles. 

  1)  After Peter told Jesus, in front of the other Apostles, that he believed Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of the Living God, Jesus said that Peter would be 'the rock' upon which His church was built.  "And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it." Matthew 16: 13 - 18   (the word Peter means Rock.  The foot notes in some Bibles say Peter it means broken up rock, or small rock.)

  So, Jesus told Peter that He would found His church on him, it seems. 

  Peter is credited with being the founder of the church of Rome.  Peter's tomb apparently is beneath St. Peter's Basilica, so in that manner, St. Peter's Basilica is 'founded on Peter'. 

  Peter is sometimes called Rome's first 'Bishop', or 'Pope', if you will.  (Pope means Papa)  But, that is disputed.  He was a giant figure in the church of Rome, without doubt.  But some early writers thought that Peter had never actually been the Bishop of that church at all. Only an important figure and leader.  Obviously Peter would have had tremendous stature among any group that had never actually met Jesus, and among those who had, as well.  But some early writers thought they knew the name of the first Bishop of Rome, and it was not Peter.

   But.....Peter seems to have been the undisputed first 'Bishop' of the church of Antioch, perhaps as early as 34 A.D., which is only a few years after Jesus's crucifixion - four or five yearws after it, perhaps.  For about 7 years, some sources say, Peter lead that church in Antioch.

    After being resurrected, Jesus told Peter to:  "Feed my lambs." , then "Take care of my sheep.", then "Feed my sheep.", in the Gospel of John, Chapter 21.  The 'sheep', or 'lambs' (in other words, Christians) at Antioch were without dispute among those that Peter shepherded.  So, Antioch was founded and then led by Peter, the person Jesus said that He would build His church upon.  True, Peter later went to Rome, and worked there also.  But, he may never have been the founder of the Roman church.  It is disputed, at least.  Antioch - not disputed.  Rome - later, and somewhat disputed.

  Simon of Cyrene:  when Jesus was trying to drag his own cross up- the hill so they could crucify him, his whipped and beaten body gave out on him.  The Romans compelled a man coming in from the country side - a certain Simon of Cyrene - to help him. 

  Mark 15:21 "A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross." 

 Simon was so affected by the experience, and by whatever passed between him and Jesus, that he became a Christian.  And he was listed as one of the earlier leaders of the church of Antioch.  He and his sons both worked there for Christ, early writings say.

  So, the man that Jesus said would be the human foundation for His church seems to have founded and shepherded the Antioch church. 

  And the only man known to have carried Jesus's cross - a dark complected person from Cyrene, a nation in North Africa at that time - was an early leader at the Antioch church.

  So, what else marks Antioch as a special church?  Well, it was the first place where the followers of Jesus were labeled as 'Christians', the Bible says.  People were first called Christians at the Antioch church!  That's a sure and certain mark of be the first group verbally tagged with Jesus's name! 

  Acts 12: 25,26.  "Then Barnabus went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch.  So for a whole year Barnabus and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people.  The Christians were called Christians first at Antioch." 

It was apparently meant as a derogatory remark, a snide appelation by non-Christians, but we Christians wear the name proudly anyway.

  In the Book of Acts chapter 6, there was a group chosen by the Apostles - seven good men, called 'the seven', who were charged with managing the day to day affairs of the early church, such as ensuring the fair distribution of food to the widows - and one of them named Nicholas was from Antioch, and some guess that he might have been the first convert from Antioch.

  This Nicolas was also an early leader at Antioch, some early writers said.  A native son of the city of Antioch, who had converted to Judaism, then, later converted to Christianity. 

  So, the early Antioch church was loaded with heavy hitters from the foundation of Christianity.  Peter, Nicolas, Cyrus of Cyrene and his sons, and they were the first group called Christians....but there's more.

  Saul (soon to be the Apostle Paul) was a Jew travelling with soldiers to Damascus so that he could find, imprison, and perhaps execute followers of Jesus in that city as he had in Jerusalem.  He was zealous in this undertaking because, as a Jew, he was particularly protective of God's good name.  He felt this new sect, the followers of the one called Jesus, were dangerous and misguided, and needed to be stopped, and the Jewish Sanhedren was backing him.

  But on the way to Damascus, Jesus appeared to Paul and changed his life forever.  The light was so blinding when Jesus spoke that Paul was left blinded.  He was taken to Damascus to the house of a man named Judas, on Straight Street, to recover, but his sight had not returned after the first three days of being there in seclusion. 

  Jesus spoke to a Christian in Damascus named Ananias.  (Ananias strangely seems to mean either 'from Jehova' or 'liar', so I found when I looked it up), and Jesus told Ananias to go to this street called Straight, and to lay hands on Saul, and give him the Holy Spirit, and to also restore his sight.  (Acts chapter 9) Ananias was reluctant, having heard of Paul, but Jesus reassured him.  He also gave a vision to Saul where in a man named Ananias would come and restore Saul's sight.  Ananias went, found Paul at Judas' house, and laid hands on Paul.  Something like scales fell off of Saul's eyes.  His sight was restored.  Within days, he was testifying of Jesus.

  It's strange that Ananias's name can mean liar.  Satan is the 'liar and the father of lies'.  When he had Eve and Adam eat the forbidden fruit, their eyes were opened.  God wouldn't let them eat from the 'tree of life' after that - the tree with the fruit that could make you live forever.  That tree is like Jesus, in that respect.  So, weirdly, when innocent Adam and Eve ate from the snake's tree, they learned about evil.  They received eyes that saw what the snake could see.  But, when Saul received the laying on of hands from Ananias, and the Holy Spirit, something like scales fell off of his eyes.  Snakes have scales fall off of their eyes, when they shed their skin.  Saul had just lost his 'snake eyes'.  He had traded in the old covenant for the new.  He quit eating from the tree of 'the knowledge of good and evil', and began eating from 'the tree of life', and the snake's scales fell off of his eyes! 

  Due to there being many earthquakes in Antioch, the buildings are a little unsafe there.  So, the office for the 'Bishop' of Antioch has long ago been moved to Damascus.  It just so happens to be on, of all places, Straight Street.  The same street as Saul was taken to.  And that same Saul became the Apostle Paul, the greatest of the Apostolic evangelists of the early Christian church.  He received the Holy Spirit on the same street where the Bishop of the Church of Antioch is now housed. 

  What else?  If you look at any map of the Mediterranean, you can find the Island of Cyprus, and from above, or on a map of the Mediterranean, it looks like a hand with a pointing finger, and the finger sure looks like it is pointing at Antioch.  It really does!  But I won't ask anyone to agree with that one.

  And in 1054 A.D., there was a schism between Rome and the Eastern part of the Christian church.  The churches of Antioch, Alexandria, Jerusalem, and Constantinople broke away from Romes attempts to extend her power, and be acknowledged as the Church of Churches, so to speak. 

  This whole scenario is not unlike Jacob fleeing from Laban.  Jacob with his 4 wives (wives and handmaids) and his many sons fled from Laban, but was overtaken.  But, God warned Laban to do no harm to Jacob, so they made a pact to keep a respectful distance from one another.  They even left markers.  That is kind of how things turned out between Jacob and Laban.  And I do think that Jacob is a type or a foreshadowing of the Christian church.  Laban may be a type of the Roman Catholic church, but that part I'm not as certain of.

  Jacob not only gained wives while working for Laban, but he gained many flock animals.  One of the ways he did this was by putting branches with stripes into the water when the sheep came to drink.  (He was receiving the striped sheep as his pay at that time.  When the sheep mated near the water holes with the striped branches in them, more of the lambs were born with stripes, so Jacob got paid more.)  To me, this seems to be a true story, yes, but also a way of pointing out that when people moved by the Holy Spirit (symbolized by the water) see the stripes that the 'righteous branch' (Jesus) bore for us, it causes people to want to convert to Christianity, and bear their own 'lashes from the whip' for Jesus, as Jesus bore lashes for them.  

  The church of Antioch might be more in the good favor of Jesus than I ever realized.  Straight Street??  Christians are supposed to walk the 'straight and narrow' path. Antioch's leader is to be found on the street called Straight?  I mean, it doesn't have to mean anything, but it's interesting.  The first church founded by Peter, and he may have never been the actual leader or founder of the Roman church?  That might bear consideration also. 

  Are the four Eastern churches to be compared with Jacob's four women - two who were his wives, received from Laban, his relative? Two more who were handmaids of Jacob's wives, but also mothers of Jacob's children? 

  Maybe that's too much speculation.  But as for Antioch, I'm starting to realize that I better give it additional consideration as possibly being Jesus's favored church, or one of his most favored, anyway, if any churches are.  There are a few things that hint that the Church of Antioch enjoys a very special degree of favor.  




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