Apocalyptic dualism, a Second Temple Judaism concept, divides the entire cosmos into two categories, namely that of good and evil, light and dark. Those who choose to be on the side of light have given their full allegiance to God while everyone else, consciously or not, have given their allegiance to Satan (1). C.S. Lewis creatively captured this conflict when he wrote that “There is no neutral ground in the universe: every square inch, every split second is claimed by God and counterclaimed by Satan” (2).
Much of this thought can be found in Jesus’ own teachings. Jesus’ conviction that he was the last prophet before the imminent end of the world enabled him to equate allegiance to himself with allegiance to God. Similarly, much like other apocalyptic sects of his day (such as the Qumran community), Jesus believed that his brand of Judaism was the only brand that could save the people of Yahweh from the coming destruction and judgment. It was a war between the forces of good and evil that was reflected on Earth as a battle between Israel and the gentile nations.
Christian scholar Stark believes that this “black and white perspective is understandable given the character of the times. Apocalyptic Jews considered themselves to be soldiers (some violent, others nonviolent) in a time of war” (3). God’s agents in combat with Satan reflected the political-economic situation in which the people’s lives were out of their own control and under hostile and/or alien control (4).
As expected during war it would be necessary to draw sharp dividing lines between the sides in the conflict, which was the logic behind apocalyptic sects’ claim that failure to join their particular cause was synonymous with treason. Essentially, only the narrow road led to life whereas the wide road led to destruction. This conviction was clearly espoused by Jesus, thus why he called his followers to celibacy (Matt. 19:12), and expected them to leave their families behind (Matt. 19:29). Stark continues:
“Those who were unwilling to abandon the concerns of everyday existence were unfit for engagement in the final battle before the end. In the mindset that predominates in wartime, those unwilling to make such severe sacrifices are cowards at best, collaborators at worst. Moreover, the consequences for cowards and collaborators are the same. To be “ashamed” of Jesus and his demand to carry the cross – the demand to participate in the revolution even if it meant a revolutionary’s death – is to be stand condemned when the Son of Man comes (Mark 8:34-38)” (5).
1. Stark, T. 2011. The Human Faces of God: What Scripture Reveals when it Gets God Wrong (and why Inerrancy Tries to Hide It). Location 7293 (Amazon Kindle)
2. C.S. Lewis quoted by Vaughn Allen in The War is Real (1994). p. 30.
3. Stark, T. ibid. Location 7299 (Amazon Kindle)
4. Horsley, R. 1989. Sociology and the Jesus Movement. p. 98.
5. Stark, T. ibid. Location 7309 (Amazon Kindle)