Castles in the air
First posted: September 12, 2004
If you have been reading our recent articles, you will have noticed that we have been studying on what the Lord says about the coming spiritual Revival through Isaiah chapters 31 and 32. This article will first study the spiritual principles behind a truly lasting kingdom and a truly lasting crown, and we then see how these principles apply to Isaiah 32:13-14.
In the book of Proverbs, the Lord declares the following:
"In the multitude of people is the king’s honour: but in the want of people is the destruction of the prince." (Proverbs 14:28)
Notice that this verse indicates a connection between kings and people. The word translated as "honour" here is the Hebrew word hadarah, which means "adornment, splendor", and is derived from the word hadar meaning almost the same thing. The word hadar appears at the end of the following passage, translated as "honour":
"4What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? 5For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour" (Psalm 8:4-5)
Notice that "honor" is associated here with the concept of a "crown". This means that, according to Proverbs 14:28, the support of "a multitude of people" acts as a crown of honor for a king. This is why earthly kings are so interested in gaining the following of more and more people, and this is why so many pastors (who see their respective congregations through the lens of an earthly kingdom) are so obsessed with the numerical growth of the congregation. The larger the church, the greater the honor for the "reigning pastor".
The second part of Proverbs 14:28, however, declares a principle that earthly kings, including most pastors, rarely grow to understand. The word translated as "want" in this verse is the Hebrew word ephess, which literally means "end, ceasing, termination". The word ephess, therefore, points to the concept of "temporality", as opposed to "eternity", since temporal things come to an end, while eternal things endure forever. This means that the second part of Proverbs 14:28 could be read as "the temporality of people is the destruction of the prince".
The word translated as "destruction" in Proverbs 14:28 is the Hebrew word mechittah, which is derived from the word chattath meaning "to be shattered or broken". This means that mechittah has the connotation of destruction by "shattering into many pieces", which points to destruction by crumbling or disintegration. As we shared in our previous article, the Girgashite spirits of earthliness are spirits that get people to focus on earthly temporality, and as such, condemn people to "division" or "disintegration", in the same way that a temporary human body disintegrates upon death (Genesis 3:17-19).
The word translated as "prince" at the end of Proverbs 14:28 is the Hebrew word razown, which means "potentate, ruler", and is derived from razan, which means "to be weighty, to be commanding", implying that razown has the connotation of a ruler who rules by virtue of his imposing or commanding presence. Notice, then, that the beginning of Proverbs 14:28 speaks of a "king's crown" while the end of the verse speaks of an "imposing ruler's disintegration". Why? Because God is trying to lay out an important principle on leadership: a king's crown is the "multitude of people" who support him, but, if that multitude is made up of "temporal people" who support him on the basis of temporal interests, that king's spiritual authority will eventually wane away into authority based on human imposition, and his once mighty kingdom will eventually be disintegrated by the One and Only Eternal God, because that kingdom was based on a ground support of temporality, and temporality always crumbles in the presence of Eternity:
"14That thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukeable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ: 15Which in his times he shall shew, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords; 16Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen." (1 Timothy 6:14-16)
As the passage above declares, man, in his mortal state, is incapable of seeing the Only Immortal One (v16), showing how temporality always disintegrates in the presence of Eternity. Notice also that the passage above ends by declaring that God, the King of Kings, has eternal honor, which means that God's crown of honor never crumbles or disintegrates, because He never bases His Kingdom on a multitude of people who are focused on temporal interests and needs.
After Jesus fed a "multitude of people" by miraculously multiplying 5 loaves of barley and 2 fishes, the multitude wanted to make Him king:
"When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone" (John 6:15)
If Jesus Christ is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, why did He reject the people's efforts to make him "king"? Because that "groundswell" of support was just that: "ground-swell"; in other words, it was a swelling of earthliness that saw Jesus as a fruitful source of material blessings:
"26Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled. 27Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed." (John 6:26-27)
Jesus told them not to labor for the food that "perishes" (i.e.- temporary things), but to labor instead for the "food" that endures unto "everlasting life" (i.e.- the Eternity of God). If Jesus had accepted the people's efforts to make him "king", He would have had a "crown" of honor and splendor that would have lasted Him for a few years, but which eventually would have withered away when confronted by the Father's Eternity, as Proverbs 14:28 declares. Why? Because He would have had the multitudinous support of temporal people, i.e.- people whose focus in life was the attaining of temporary blessings, not the attaining of eternal blessings.
When Jesus rejected the crown of temporal splendor that the people were offering Him, they rewarded Him by giving Him a crown of thorns later on:
"Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them, Behold the man!" (John 19:5)
This is typical of mankind, my friend. If you want to rise through the ranks quickly, all you have to do is "give the people what they want", use them as pawns in your self-glorification scheme, and dispose of them when they are no longer useful to you. If you refuse to give the people what they want, and "stubbornly" insist on giving them what God wants to give them, you will slowly find that those who were so willing to support you when they saw "benefit" in you will turn on you and seek to destroy you.
Psalm 33 declares the following:
"16There is no king saved by the multitude of an host: a mighty man is not delivered by much strength. 17An horse is a vain thing for safety: neither shall he deliver any by his great strength. 18Behold, the eye of the LORD is upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy; 19To deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine. 20Our soul waiteth for the LORD: he is our help and our shield. 21For our heart shall rejoice in him, because we have trusted in his holy name. 22Let thy mercy, O LORD, be upon us, according as we hope in thee." (Psalm 33:16-22)
Notice that verse 18 above speaks of those who fear the Lord and "hope in His mercy". The "mercy of God" is probably one of the most misused and misunderstood concepts in the Body of Christ. When people say, "God is merciful", they visualize a grandfatherly figure up in Heaven who can't wait to "bless" His children with "goodies". They fail to realize, however, that God's mercies are always justice-based; God does not extend mercies outside of the context of righteousness and judgments, as the following verse illustrate:
"He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy." (Proverbs 28:13)
Notice that the verse above speaks of God extending His mercy out to those who confess and abandon their sins. In other words, God is willing and ready to extend His mercy to those who accept His judgments. If God confronts you with a judgment (or "verdict") that declares that what you are doing is "sin", and you reject His judgment by declaring it as "good" and "acceptable", you are not a candidate for God's mercy; on the contrary, you become a candidate for His wrath:
"4Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? 5But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; 6Who will render to every man according to his deeds: 7To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: 8But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, 9Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile" (Romans 2:4-9)
[When the passage above says "the Jew first" in verse 9, it means that God's wrath is reserved first for those who know God's laws, i.e.- His people. This means that those who see the wrath of God first are the believers in the Church, for His judgments must begin in the House of God (1 Peter 4:17), and those who know what is good and do not practice it are held accountable first (James 4:17).]
God does, in a sense, show mercy to the unrighteous, as Matthew 5:44-48 and Luke 6:35-37 show, but it is a mercy that pays the price that righteousness demands, so that the unrighteous may enter into righteousness. This is what the Lord Jesus did when He died for us. He paid the price that God's Holy Righteousness required so that we might have a door of access into the Righteousness of God. Jesus' death on the cross did not guarantee an automatic "free pass" into Heaven for all of mankind. Despite the Lord's sacrifice, no man or woman can be saved from hell if he or she refuses to accept God's judgment on him or her as "a sinful human being that deserves to be sent to hell". When God does an act of mercy for the sake of an unrighteous person, His purpose is to present that person with a door of opportunity into a life of Justice and Righteousness. God never performs mercy that reinforces the sinful behavior of a person, and His mercy ceases on those who go past "the point of no return", i.e.- those who have chosen never to repent from their sin. Once the door closes, all mercy ceases:
"13In the selfsame day entered Noah, and Shem, and Ham, and Japheth, the sons of Noah, and Noah’s wife, and the three wives of his sons with them, into the ark; 14They, and every beast after his kind, and all the cattle after their kind, and every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind, and every fowl after his kind, every bird of every sort. 15And they went in unto Noah into the ark, two and two of all flesh, wherein is the breath of life. 16And they that went in, went in male and female of all flesh, as God had commanded him: and the LORD shut him in." (Genesis 7:13-16)
Many people (both believers and unbelievers) think that they can decide when they will repent, without realizing that the opportunities for repentance are established by God and God alone:
"14What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. 15For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. 16So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy. 17For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. 18Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth." (Romans 9:14-18)
If Psalm 33:18 quoted above is not referring to the "Santa-Claus mercy" that most Christians believe in, what type of mercy is it referring to? From the context of the passage, it can be inferred that it refers to the mercy that God extends on a person who has chosen to stand in God's convictions and judgments, even at the price of losing the support of man. If you are the type of believer who gives up a conviction received from God when you lose the support of the pastor and brethren at your congregation, you are a person who fears man more than God. If you think that the validity of a principle is determined by the number of people who support it, you are operating on the earthly dogma that says, "the more that are on my side, the safer I will be". This is why verses 16 and 17 of Psalm 33 start by declaring that no multitude of support can save a king from God's judgments. In verse 18, the Lord then declares that He has His eyes on those who fear Him more than man, and who hope in the mercy of His salvation from the hand of man. When Jesus was being crucified, He placed His hope in a God who would set Him free from Sheol and vindicate Him in the eyes of His enemies:
"26Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope: 27Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. 28Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; thou shalt make me full of joy with thy countenance." (Acts 2:26-28)
Even though His enemies rejoiced when He died, their joy was only temporary, because the One who eventually prevailed was Jesus Christ. Herod's temple was eventually destroyed, and the whole Pharisaic and Levitical structure that His enemies so strongly relied upon was disintegrated by God. Now, the term "Pharisee" is seen as an insult, not as a compliment, as was the case during Jesus' days. The entire system of Levitical sacrifices was destroyed by God; even the practicing Orthodox Jews of today are unable to perform the animal sacrifices demanded by the Mosaic Law because they have no temple or Levitical priests to go to. On the other hand, the name "Jesus" has become the most sounded name in human history. Human history has been divided into B.C. (Before Christ) and A.D. (Anno Domini, in Latin, meaning, "Year of the Lord"). Look who is laughing now?!!
"1Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? 2The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying, 3Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. 4He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. 5Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure. 6Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion." (Psalm 2:1-6)
After Jesus gave the multitude a sermon that they were not interested in hearing in John chapter 6, Jesus was abandoned by all of them and left to stand alone. The few that remained (with the exception of Judas) did so because they were after eternal things, not after temporary acceptance:
"66From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. 67Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? 68Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. 69And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God. 70Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil? 71 He spake of Judas Iscariot the son of Simon: for he it was that should betray him, being one of the twelve." (John 6:66-71)
The mercy of Psalm 33:18, therefore, refers to God's vindication of those who are willing to pay the price of abiding in God's judgments, even at the price of losing all human support. If you hate loneliness more than you hate unrighteousness, this mercy is not for you.
If the wrong foundation for a kingdom is the support of a "multitude of people", what is the right foundation? The answer to this is found in the following passage:
"Take away the wicked from before the king, and his throne shall be established in righteousness." (Proverbs 25:5)
"8But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. 9Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows. 10And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands: 11They shall perish; but thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment; 12And as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail." (Hebrews 1:8-12)
As can be seen from these passages, the right foundation for a kingdom is righteousness, which means abiding by what is true and right, not by what is pleasing to the greatest number of people. Most politicians are driven by the idea of saying to the people what they want to hear. Their campaigns elaborate "focus group" studies to determine what issues or slogans will draw greater support for their candidates, instead of elaborating a set of policies and principles based on what is right and just, and then "letting the chips fall where they may". When you abide by what is right and just, you may not be popular; you might even get killed (figuratively and sometimes literally)!! But the harvest of your sacrifice will always yield eternal rewards, and, sooner or later, your righteousness will be made evident by God to the eyes of all those who derided and scorned you.
"7And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth; 8I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name. 9Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee. 10Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth. 11Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown. 12Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name. 13He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches." (Revelation 3:7-13)
The "open door" that verse 8 above refers to speaks of God's mercy opening a door of vindication to those who have been "jailed" by men for abiding in God's judgments, as was the case when God set Joseph free from the prison in Egypt where he was sent for not wanting to commit adultery with Potiphar's wife:
"17And she spake unto him according to these words, saying, The Hebrew servant, which thou hast brought unto us, came in unto me to mock me: 18And it came to pass, as I lifted up my voice and cried, that he left his garment with me, and fled out. 19And it came to pass, when his master heard the words of his wife, which she spake unto him, saying, After this manner did thy servant to me; that his wrath was kindled. 20And Joseph’s master took him, and put him into the prison, a place where the king’s prisoners were bound: and he was there in the prison. 21But the LORD was with Joseph, and shewed him mercy, and gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison." (Genesis 39:17-21)
"42And Pharaoh took off his ring from his hand, and put it upon Joseph’s hand, and arrayed him in vestures of fine linen, and put a gold chain about his neck; 43And he made him to ride in the second chariot which he had; and they cried before him, Bow the knee: and he made him ruler over all the land of Egypt. 44And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, I am Pharaoh, and without thee shall no man lift up his hand or foot in all the land of Egypt. 45And Pharaoh called Joseph’s name Zaphnathpaaneah; and he gave him to wife Asenath the daughter of Potipherah priest of On. And Joseph went out over all the land of Egypt." (Genesis 41:42-45)
Proverbs 25:5 quoted at the top of this section declares that a throne must be established in righteousness, which implies the execution of God's judgments, as the following passage shows:
"7But the LORD shall endure for ever: he hath prepared his throne for judgment. 8And he shall judge the world in righteousness, he shall minister judgment to the people in uprightness. 9The LORD also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. 10And they that know thy name will put their trust in thee: for thou, LORD, hast not forsaken them that seek thee." (Psalm 9:7-10)
[The "oppressed" that verse 9 refers to are those who are oppressed by man for speaking God's judgments]
"8But he refused, and said unto his master’s wife, Behold, my master wotteth not what is with me in the house, and he hath committed all that he hath to my hand; 9There is none greater in this house than I; neither hath he kept back any thing from me but thee, because thou art his wife: how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?" (Genesis 39:8-9)
Notice that Joseph did not give Potiphar's wife a "diplomatic" answer like, "my Hebrew cultural background does not allow me to sleep with the boss's wife on weekdays and on national holidays" or "you are very pretty, Mrs. Potiphar, but I am afraid Mr. Potiphar is coming back in 10 minutes and might catch us in the act". Joseph gave no excuses; he simply went ahead and called the woman's suggestion a "great wickedness" and a "sin against God" (v9). Abiding in God's righteousness implies the declaration of judgments, and those judgments are not well-received by those who want to abide in sin and iniquity.
When Stephen was surrounded by evil men who hated him for being used by God, Stephen said the following to them:
"51Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye. 52Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers: 53Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it." (Acts 7:51-53)
Notice how Stephen buttered them up with kind, evangelical words such as "stiffnecked", "uncircumcised in heart and ears", "prophet persecutors", "traitors", and "murderers". Most of today's believers would have rebuked Stephen for speaking like that. They would have said that the proper thing to do at that moment was to "show the love of Jesus". Unfortunately, most believers today don't realize that the "love of Jesus" does not mean dressing up like those eastern-religion followers from the 60s and going around town waving the peace sign at everyone, smiling as if we had a sedative overdose and singing the Beatles song that goes "All we need is love, love is all we need". Jesus (whose love we are supposedly trying to emulate) did not go around acting like that. Jesus was a prophet who, in His love, confronted people's iniquity. As you may remember, He once called a Canaanite woman a "dog", and she was at the time trying to get Jesus to heal her possessed daughter (Matthew 15:26)!! The Pharisees got their share of loving words from Jesus such as "hypocrites", "fools", "extortionists", "whited sepulchers", "prophet-killers", "snakes", "damned", and "hell-bound men" (Matthew 23:13,17, 25, 27, 31, 33). You might also recall that, at one time, Jesus said the following "kind" words to His dear "mommy":
"Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come" (John 2:4)
At another opportunity, he uttered the following "kind" and "loving" words as a desperate father begged Him to heal His possessed son, appealing to Jesus' mercy:
"15Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is lunatick, and sore vexed: for ofttimes he falleth into the fire, and oft into the water. 16And I brought him to thy disciples, and they could not cure him. 17Then Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him hither to me." (Matthew 17:15-17)
The Jesus of "love, peace, and mutual understanding" that today's matriarchal Church promotes is the same Jesus (at least historically) who said the following:
"49I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I, if it be already kindled? 50But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished! 51Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division: 52For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three. 53The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law." (Luke 12:49-53)
[The "3 against 2" and "2 against 3" reference in verse 52 refers to the conflict between the 3 "male" ministries and the 2 "female" ministries, as we have described them in a previous article. The 2 "female" ministries have for centuries worked to keep the Church dominated under their matriarchy by preventing the manifestation of the male-ministry anointings in the Body of Christ.]
As we have shared in a previous article, God's love seeks to unite us to Him (Romans 8:35), but no two things can really be seamlessly "united" unless they share the same nature, and, believe you me, God is not about to adapt His Holy and Righteous nature to man's sin and iniquity just to be united with us. Man may see the Church as a patchwork, but God sure ain't out to make no patchwork quilt! He wants a seamless cloth where we blend into Him in the same way that a crystal-clear glass of water blends into a crystal-clear river when it is poured into it:
"Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took his garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part; and also his coat: now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout." (John 19:23)
"And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb." (Revelation 22:1)
[God's degree of tolerance for the water in this river is not 99.9999%. It's 100%! That percentage is unreachable through human effort and can only be attained as we die to self and allow God's judgments to mold us into His likeness. No amount of gooey, make-me-feel-good, humanistic love will ever be able to do this. What is impossible for man is possible for God (Matthew 19:26)!!!]
He wants to be One with us, and He is willing to pay a great redeeming price in love for us, but He is never, ever, going to change His spiritual laws and judgments just to have communion with us. This means that God's love automatically makes it necessary that pruning judgments be applied on our lives so that we may be molded into His likeness and may be made One with Him for eternity:
"1I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. 2Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. 3Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. 4Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. 5I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. 6If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned." (John 15:1-6)
To truly abide in Him is to abide in His judgments, and if we love others in the true love of Jesus, we will find it necessary to release God's judgments into their lives so that they may be molded into the likeness of God. If the other person is so hard-headed that he or she is unwilling to repent, God's judgments will at least act as a quarantine that will prevent the other person's spiritual leprosy from spreading and infecting others.
All we need is love, but it is not the sentimentalist, wishy-washy, soap-opera "love" that the world and the Church preach. It is the love that releases life-transforming judgments into our own lives and the lives of others.
At the top of the previous section, we spoke of how Stephen softened up his audience with "kind" and "loving" words, and, as many of you may know, his audience gladly "returned the love":
"54When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth. 55But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, 56And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God. 57Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, 58And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul. 59And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. 60And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep." (Acts 7:54-60)
Notice that God describes Stephen as a man "full of the Holy Spirit" (v55), so this is not a case of an "overzealous fanatic" who just could not keep his mouth shut! In verse 60, this man, who was full of the Holy Spirit, shouts a phrase out with a loud voice, a phrase whose slight mistranslation has led to its misinterpretation for centuries. The phrase "lay not this sin to their charge" was translated from the following Greek words:
Rebuilding the phrase from the original Greek, we get, "do not establish this sin on them". In no other verse of the New Testament is the word histemi ever translated as "lay". An overwhelming amount of time, it is translated as "stand", "set", or "establish". This mistranslation of histemi, and the artificial addition of the word "charge" by the King James translators completely changed the meaning of the phrase. The reason why the translators have messed up this verse is because they can't quite understand how the word "establish" makes sense in the phrase, and, instead of simply translating it as such and allowing the reader to discern its meaning in the Spirit, they have added their own personal interpretation to this verse (and to many other verses), thereby polluting the original sense intended by the Spirit of God.
The phrase "do not establish this sin on them" makes more sense if we consider the only other verse in the New Testament, besides Acts 7:60, that has both of the words histemi and hamartia:
"And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins" (Hebrews 10:11)
[histemi was translated as "standeth" and hamartia as "sins"]
This verse speaks of how an Old Covenant priest would stand between God and man and act as an intermediary for the sins of man, not being able to take away the sins permanently, because a better covenant would come later on that would permanently remove the sins:
"But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises" (Hebrews 8:6)
"And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel" (Hebrews 12:24)
The Lord Jesus acted as the mediator of the New Covenant by breaking down the middle wall of sin that separated us from God:
"14For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; 15Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace" (Ephesians 2:14-15)
By combining all of the above, we can say that the phrase "do not establish (or fix) this sin on them" means, "do not allow this sin that they are committing to act as a permanent wall of separation between You and them". Stephen was asking God to take a sledgehammer and pound on that wall of sin until it collapsed. Stephen was not asking God to pretend like these men had done nothing wrong; that would be asking God to deny Himself, because He is True and Righteous in His nature. As a result of Stephen's shouted prayer, Saul of Tarsus, who was a consenting witness to the murder (Acts 8:1), was later on confronted by God on the road to Damascus (Acts chapter 9). As you may know, when Saul encountered Jesus, he did not see a flower-carrying Jesus offering him "love" and "understanding"; he encountered a Jesus who blinded him and struck him down to the ground, confronting him with the words, "it is hard for you to kick against the pricks" (Acts 9:5). This phrase was a proverbial expression used to portray the image of a field ox that would kick back at the very prod that the herdsman would use to "prod" it along. In other words, Jesus told Saul that he was acting like a "stubborn ox". After this encounter with the loving Jesus, Saul was blind and was made to fast for three days until Hananiah prayed over him (Acts 9:9-19). God sure did answer Stephen's shouted prayer. He took a sledgehammer and pounded Saul's stubborn hard-headedness to pieces, and a mighty servant of God was born that day.
When Stephen prayed to God in Acts 7:60, he did it with a "loud voice"; the Greek word translated as "loud" here is megas (which literally means "large" or "big"). Notice that it does not say the following:
Stephen then put on an adorable teddy-bear face, put his hands together under his chin in a pious pose, and whispered, in an ever so soft and gentle voice, "Jesus, pretend like you saw nothing"
Stephen's prayer in Acts 7:60 was a prayer for judgment. He knew that he was not making any new friends with all of the harsh things he said between verses 51 and 60; he understood that those words could cost him his life, but he was more fearful of God than of man, and he decided to abide in truth and righteousness. He wanted those men to have a true encounter with God and be saved, and he knew that, for this to happen, they had to be confronted with God's judgment word. His sacrificial death served as spiritual seed that would later lead to the birth of a mighty man of God, the apostle Paul.
The name Stephen literally means "crowned". The prophetic reason for this can be found when considering the following passage, written by the same Paul whose ministry was birthed out of Stephen's death:
"6For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. 7I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: 8Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing." (2 Timothy 4:6-8)
The crown of righteousness is given to those who speak the word that God tells them to speak, not the word that will make them the most popular. Notice that verse 8 refers to the Lord as the "Righteous Judge". God has been, is, and forever will be a God of Justice and Judgment. Pastors may try to shut their ears and pretend as if the God of Justice and Judgment is a "being" that belongs in the Old-Testament past. Boy, will they be surprised when the Righteous Judge Yeshua appears before them (v8) and they meet Him face to face!!!
In the letter to the Philippians, the apostle Paul wrote the following:
"Therefore, my brethren dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved" (Philippians 4:1)
Acts chapter 16 describes how Paul and Silas were harshly beaten and cast into prison so that the church at Philippi could be born. As we saw through Proverbs 14:28 at the beginning of this article, the multitude of people is the king's crown, and Paul saw the believers at Philippi as his "joy and crown". Even though we spoke of this as a negative thing when applied to earthly kings, it is not a negative thing when the "multitude of people" are not birthed out of telling them what they want to hear but rather by abiding in God's truth and judgments. The church of Philippi was born as Paul and Silas were willing to suffer and pay a price for it. They understood that Philippi was a city that had sold itself to Hittite spirits of divination and purposelessness. Just like Hosea when he bought his wife back for 15 pieces of silver and 1.5 homers of barley (Hosea 3:2) -- after she had, of her own volition, become another man's slave -- Paul and Silas knew that there was a redeeming price that Righteousness required in order for Philippi to be truly restored.
Earthly kings fabricate temporary crowns by sweet-talking people into liking them, even at the price of their own convictions. Righteous kings make for themselves eternal crowns by abiding in righteousness and judgments until God's righteousness is manifested in the lives of others. The "sweet-talking" way gets you a "multitude of people" very quickly while the "judgments" way tends to take much longer. However, the sweet-talking crown is eventually pounded to pieces by God while the judgments crown abides forever.
As we have shared in previous articles, of all 5 ministries, the one most naturally prone to twist the true Gospel of God in order to please people is the pastoral ministry. Pastors, by their very nature, are obsessed with "counting sheep". This is why carnal pastors measure the success of their ministries (i.e.- their "crown" size) by the number of members in their respective congregations. The Lord, therefore, leaves a warning for pastors (i.e.- "shepherds") who are out to make a "quick crown":
"1The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: 2Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; 3Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. 4And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away." (1 Peter 5:4)
[Notice that both 2 Timothy 4:6-8 quoted above and this passage speak of crowns and of the appearing of the Lord Jesus at the same time]
Since the Lord Jesus did not take the easy way out and decided to "birth" us by preaching and living a Gospel of Justice and Judgment, those of us who abide in that true Gospel and are willing to suffer with Him are His "crown and joy":
"1For Zion’s sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth. 2And the Gentiles shall see thy righteousness, and all kings thy glory: and thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of the LORD shall name. 3Thou shalt also be a crown of glory in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of thy God. 4Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken; neither shall thy land any more be termed Desolate: but thou shalt be called Hephzibah, and thy land Beulah: for the LORD delighteth in thee, and thy land shall be married. 5For as a young man marrieth a virgin, so shall thy sons marry thee: and as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee." (Isaiah 62:1-5)
[Notice that, when prophesying about the latter-day Church, verse 2 does not say, "the Gentiles shall see thy kindness and sin-condoning mercy"; it says that the Gentiles, i.e.- the nations, shall see the Church's righteousness]
And just as we are His crown when we abide in His justice and judgments, He will be our crown as well:
"5In that day shall the LORD of hosts be for a crown of glory, and for a diadem of beauty, unto the residue of his people, 6And for a spirit of judgment to him that sitteth in judgment, and for strength to them that turn the battle to the gate." (Isaiah 28:5-6)
[Those referred to in verse 6 who battle at the gate are those who fight spiritually to keep iniquity out of the House of God by executing judgments. As we have said before, trials in the ancient cities were held at the city gates.]
In Isaiah 32, the Lord declares the following:
"13Upon the land of my people shall come up thorns and briers; yea, upon all the houses of joy in the joyous city: 14Because the palaces shall be forsaken; the multitude of the city shall be left; the forts and towers shall be for dens for ever, a joy of wild asses, a pasture of flocks;" (Isaiah 32:13-14)
The word that was translated as "forts" in verse 14 is the Hebrew word ophel, which can be translated as "hill" and comes the word aphal that means "to lift, to swell up". Notice, therefore, how this literally speaks of the "ground-swell of support" that we studied earlier in this article. The passage above, therefore, is declaring that the Lord will curse all houses, i.e.- all congregations, that rejoice in the multitude of their people, where that multitude was produced by telling them what they wanted to hear. God will curse the earthly kingdoms that pastors have established inside His Church, and He will cause their palaces to be forsaken (v14).
The reference to "thorns" in verse 13 is a prophetic reference to what the Lord said to Saul in Acts 9:5 (which we studied above). This means that God will raise up many Stephens in these latter days who will preach a message of judgment and righteousness, and their figurative (and at times literal) stoning at the hands of those who hate such a message will serve as spiritual seed that will allow God to confront His hard-headed Church at the road to Damascus and make her understand that God's true Gospel is one of justice and judgment, and one of suffering for the sake of righteousness, not one of comfort and pleasure:
"15But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: 16For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake." (Acts 9:15-16)
The name "Damascus" literally means, "silent is the sackcloth weaver". As the following passage shows, "sackcloth" represents an attitude of repentance:
"21Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes." (Matthew 11:21)
Therefore, we can say that Damascus represents a Church where people are no longer repentant, since the "sackcloth weaver" is "silent" (i.e.- not working). Today's Church emphasizes "blessings" and "grace", and not true repentance and transformation.
Many years ago, there was a U.S. college basketball coach named Dean Smith who was famous, among other things, for his "4-corners defense". When his Tar Heels team had possession of the ball and was ahead on the scoreboard late in the game, they would form a large square with 4 players, one at each corner, and they would pass the ball around from one corner to the other, in an effort to kill off the remaining minutes of the game. Today's Church is playing the 4-corners defense. She thinks that she is ahead on the scoreboard and that all she has to do is to kill off the remaining years before the so-called "Rapture". The Church, however, does not realize that she is way behind on the scoreboard. Instead of seeing her as a victorious team that is waiting for the clock to run out, God sees the Church as a stubborn and self-centered mare that is going nowhere fast. Many believers around the world have no true understanding of God's prophetic purposes for these latter days. They don't understand that a powerful prophetic revival is about to take place, a revival that will transform the Church into a mighty army of believers that will manifest God's Glory on Earth, and a revival that will bring great judgments on the Church and on the Earth in general. These purifying judgments are already beginning to be unleashed by a prophetic remnant that longs to see God's judgments filling the Earth (Psalm 105:5-7, Isaiah 26:8-11) so that His purposes may be fulfilled.
The Church, not God, is the one given the responsibility to take back the spiritual atmosphere of this planet. Obviously, this "taking back" will not be done in our own human strength but as we allow the Glory and Holy presence of God to be manifested through us. Since the Church is not aware of her prophetic calling (because she has constantly killed her prophets), she has for centuries been aimlessly going around in circles as the people of Israel did in the desert for 38 years. Those 38 years are over, and we are now in the 2-year period during which God is raising up a new generation that is beginning to fight the Amorite kings Sihon, king of Heshbon, and Og, king of Bashan (Numbers 21:21-35). In a few short years, God's people will end their period in the desert and will begin to enter the Promised Land. During this time, believers throughout the Body of Christ will manifest a Power and a Glory as never before seen in human history. My eyes shall see the day when the Church of Christ will take back the spiritual atmosphere of this planet. You just wait and see. There is a powerful future for the Church and for you, my friend, if you abide in God's Gospel of Justice and Judgment. Those who buy into the "blessings gospel" will perish in the desert and never enter the Promised Land.
The "blessings gospel" has led to a whole bunch of "temporary castles" being built throughout the Body of Christ. Since they are not based on righteousness and judgment, they are ephemeral castles that will be pulverized by the sledgehammer of God and blown away by His wind. They are as castles built in the air. In 1985, a song sung by Tina Turner entitled, "We don't need another hero" came out. Even though this is a secular song, I have the Spirit's witness that this song was written under a powerful prophetic anointing, even if the author did not know the Lord at the time, so much so that we could write an entire article on how the lyrics of this song reflect powerful spiritual principles in Scripture. These lyrics are a very fitting prophetic figure of what is about to happen in the Body of Christ. We are about to be free from the covering of man, who has enslaved believers under a "thunderdome" where the voice of man roars and where the fear of man has prevailed over the fear of God. God is tired of man's arrogance, of man's constant effort to be an Amorite hero over His people, and He is about to overthrow those who have dared to leave His Church in spiritual ruins for the sake of some ephemeral material and emotional benefits. God's true love and compassion will then be manifested, and His Glory shall be seen in all the Earth.
Out of the ruins