One of the verses in the NT that has intrigued me is Luke 18:28&29.
Peter said to him, “We have left all we had to follow you!” “I tell you the truth,” Jesus said to them, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life.”
So the deal is, ‘Follow God and receive plenty of everything (health, wealth etc I presume). At least that is what purveyors of ‘prosperity theology’ would have us believe. This along with 3 John 2, are there favorite verses.
And yet, did Jesus really imply that He would lavish us with material blessings if we followed Him? I am curious, because church history seems to suggest otherwise.
Let us look at what happened to the disciples to whom Jesus spoke these verses directly. All except one (John), died martyrs and there are no indications that any of them were prosperous at all. Quite the contrary, most of them were constantly under threat and risking their lives. So my guess is that in their preaching they focussed on salvation rather than ‘prosperity’ (two very different things!). So what did the apostles receive ‘many times as much’?
Moving on, up until the 4th century AD, people who called on the Lord were constantly on the run from their persecutors. Until AD 313, being a Christian was a crime, punishable by death. It was only in AD 313, with the proclamation of the Edict of Milan by Emperor Constantine, that Christians could finally live without being fear of being killed for their faith. So what did Christians up until AD 313 receive ‘many times as much’? I am guessing that not many of them accumulated much wealth. Tough to do that when you not sure whether you will live to see another day.
Such examples abound throughout history, even to the present day. Of course, today, in many societies, Christianity has become far more respectable than it was in those early days. You will not be killed for claiming to be a follower of Christ, especially if propserity is the core of your gospel message.
So what did Jesus really mean when he said ‘receive many times as much in this age‘? What are we to recieve? I am curious.