The Fellowship of the Flames and of the Storm

Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel narrative of the life and ministry of Jesus as it was written and recorded by the apostle Matthew. More specifically, today’s passage is found in the fourteenth chapter of this New Testament book. When you come to the fourteenth chapter of the gospel narrative which was written by the apostle Matthew you will find a passage of Scripture that was directly linked and connected to the words we find in the eleventh chapter. If you turn and direct your attention to the words found in eleventh chapter you will find John the Baptist being imprisoned Herod, and how it would be there in prison he would hear of the mighty works which Jesus the Christ was working and performing in the earth. It is actually quite interesting to think about and consider the words which are found within the eleventh chapter of the gospel written by the apostle Matthew, for the words which we find in the chapter not only present us with John the Baptist effectively being removed from the public scene, but we also find him being imprisoned. What makes this even more intriguing is when you think about and consider the fact that it would be there in prison where John the Baptist would hear about the works which Christ performed while upon the earth. Imagine what it must have been like for John the Baptist to be there in prison and yet hearing about the wonderful and mighty works which Jesus was working and performing in the earth. It would be John the Baptist who would preach and declare that there was one coming after him of whom he was not worthy to unloose the latchet of his sandal. It was John the Baptist who would preach there was coming one who would indeed and truly baptize with fire and the Holy Ghost. John the Baptist would see Jesus walking and on two separate occasions would emphatically declare and proclaim Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Moreover, it would be John the Baptist who would undoubtedly see the heavens opened unto and before Jesus, would see the Spirit descending upon Him as a dove, and would also hear the voice of the Father declare concerning Jesus that this was His beloved Son in whom He was well pleased.

            As we come to the eleventh chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew we are brought face to face with this John—the one who baptized in the waters of the Jordan River and who preached concerning the kingdom of heaven—being cast into prison by Herod who was king of Judaea at that time. It is when we come to this particular passage of Scripture we are brought face to face with the tremendous truth that John the Baptist had baptized men and women in waters for repentance unto the remission of their sins, and yet what we read and what we find within this particular chapter is John the Baptist being imprisoned. Oh I can’t help but wonder what it must have been like for John the Baptist to have been seized, laid hold of and arrested by Herod’s guards—and not only arrested, but also cast into prison. Scripture is entirely and altogether unclear what it was like when John the Baptist was seized and arrested, however, later on within the gospels we are given a glimpse into the garden of Gethsemane where Judas Iscariot led an insurgent of guards to lay hold of, seize and arrest Jesus. It would be there in the place of intimacy, prayer and fellowship Judas would lead an insurgent of guards into the place of prayer that he might betray Jesus. Moreover, it would be there in the garden the guards whom Judas brought with him would lay hold of, seize and arrest Jesus. While we aren’t given a picture of what the arrest of John the Baptist looked like we are given a picture of what the arrest of Jesus looked like, and what the arrest of Jesus was like. I would dare say that what we see and what we find in each of the four gospels is a truly powerful picture of what it might have been like when John the Baptist was seized and laid hold of by those guards and men whom Herod had sent to arrest him. There is not a doubt in my mind that Herod might have sent his guards to arrest John while he was preaching, or perhaps while he was baptizing, or perhaps while he was even speaking unto those who had come unto him to be baptized concerning the kingdom of heaven.

            I sit here today thinking about and considering the words which are found in the fourteenth chapter of the gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew and I can’t help but be brought face to face with the fact that it is here where we learn and discover in greater detail the arrest of John the Baptist. We learn in the eleventh chapter of the gospel written by the apostle Matthew that John was imprisoned, and that it was there in prison where he would hear of the works of Jesus in the earth. Imagine what it must have been like for John the Baptist to be there in prison hearing about the works of Jesus and yet not being able to see them. Consider what it would have been like for John the Baptist to sit there in that dark prison cell hearing about the works of Jesus and yet not being visited by this Jesus who was His cousin and who he had perhaps spent a considerable amount of time playing with as they were growing up. I can’t help but think about what it must have been like for John the Baptist to be sitting there in the prison cell and not only hearing about the works which Jesus wrought and performed in the earth, but also knowing that Jesus had not come unto him in that prison. Was there perhaps some sort of expectation within the heart of John the Baptist that Jesus would somehow work a miracle of some sort that would bring him forth from prison, or was there perhaps some sort of expectation within the heart of John the Baptist that Jesus would indeed come unto him there in the prison to visit him. Oh I can’t help but think about what it must have been like for John the Baptist to be there in prison and to hear of the works of Christ and yet not be able to see those works. What must it have been like for John the Baptist to hear of the works of Christ there in that prison cell and yet not be able to witness and behold those works. We aren’t given any clue or indication what must have gone through the heart and mind of John the Baptist there in the prison, however, we do find that upon hearing of the works which Jesus wrought and performed in the earth John sent His disciples unto Jesus to inquire whether or not He was the Messiah, or if they should look for another.

            It is actually quite intriguing and astonishing to read the words which are found in the eleventh chapter of this gospel narrative, for not only do we find John the Baptist sitting in a prison cell, but we also find him sitting in a prison cell hearing about the works of Christ. It would be in response to his own condition—coupled together with hearing about the works of Christ in the earth—that John the Baptist would send His disciples to Jesus to inquire and ask if He was indeed the Messiah. Oh what it must have been like for John the Baptist to be there in that dark and damp prison cell wondering what would lie ahead and in store for him knowing that he himself had declared how he must decrease that Christ must increase in the earth. Did John the Baptist perhaps have it in his mind that he would be able to minister together with Jesus in the midst of the earth—if not side by side with Jesus, at least at the same time as Jesus. Is it possible that John the Baptist thought and considered that Jesus would indeed preach and minister among those present during that time and how he would minister together with Jesus—or at least be partners together with Him in the declaration and ministry of the kingdom in the midst of the earth. John the Baptist would be preaching and baptizing, and Jesus would be preaching, teaching and working miracles. We know from Scripture that there is no indication that John the Baptist worked miracles during his time of public ministry in the region of Judaea and in the wilderness of Judaea, and yet here was Jesus Christ stepping on to the scene working great wonders and miracles in the midst of the earth. Here was Jesus the Christ coming unto the earth and stepping on to the scene working great and mighty miracles which John the Baptist would hear while he was in prison. There is a part of me that can’t help but wonder if John the Baptist perhaps had a desire to see, witness and behold the miracles which Jesus wrought in the earth, or perhaps thought and had in his heart and mind being able to minister side by side together with Jesus. Perhaps John the Baptist even had a certain expectation within himself that Jesus would have come and visited him there in that prison cell.

            We aren’t really given any insight or glimpse into the expectation John the Baptist had while he was still moving throughout Judaea as a free man, nor even what his expectation must have been like there in that prison cell. What we learn from reading Scripture is that John the Baptist was there in prison hearing about the works of Christ without actually seeing the works of Christ, and wondering if this man was indeed the Christ or if they ought to look for another. Scripture is quite remarkable in that the apostle Matthew writes and records how Jesus would instruct the disciples of John to go back to him and report how the blind received their sight, how the dear were receiving their hearing, how the lame were walking, how the lepers were being cleansed, how the dead were being raised, and how the poor had the gospel preached unto them. In the gospel narrative written by the beloved physician Luke we find him actually recording and recounting how Jesus would perform some of these miracles in the sight of those disciples whom John the Baptist would send unto Him, and how not only would He sent them back with the declaration that the blind saw, the deaf received their hearing, the lame walked, the dead were raised, and the poor had the gospel preached to them, but he would also work those miracles before them in their sight. These disciples of John the Baptist would return unto John there in prison having seen and witnessed the works and miracles of Christ firsthand and would speak of those works in the hearing of John. Oh I can’t help but wonder what it was like for John the Baptist to hear the report which those two disciples had brought back to him—almost like the report which Joshua and Caleb brought back from the Promised Land when they declared that although there were giants in the land they were able to defeat and overcome the giants, and were able to take the land. What was it like for John the Baptist to hear the words and report of those two disciples who spoke to him of the works which Christ wrought in the earth—almost like the two spies who entered into the city of Jericho to spy it out whom Rahab hid upon her roof from the guards and men of the city. Not only this, but I wonder what thoughts went through the mind of John upon hearing of these works, and what emotions he must have felt and experienced as a direct result of hearing this report—almost like the children of Israel who received report from Joshua and Caleb who brought back a good report of the land.

            Taking a step back here I can’t help but consider the language that is found in the eleventh chapter of the gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew and Jesus’ words to John the Baptist concerning those who were not offended in Him. John had sent two of his disciples unto Jesus to inquire whether or not He was the Messiah or if they should look for another, and when they returned they would do so having not only seen those works firsthand, but having been instructed by Jesus to speak of those works which they had both seen and heard. I can’t help but see and picture those disciples as they returned unto the prison—perhaps in awe, wonder and amazement at what they had seen and heard—and emphatically declared and proclaimed unto John the Baptist that which they had both seen and heard. Oh I really can’t get over and escape this reality and concept of these two disciples returning unto John the Baptist—even returning unto him there in that prison cell—and speaking of him concerning the works which Jesus the Christ had wrought and was performing in the midst of the earth. What’s more, is that Jesus’ words concerning those who were not offended in Him providing us with a tremendous context for what we find in the Old Testament book of Numbers when a total of twelve spies returned from the Promised Land, and how ten of those twelve spies brought back a negative report regarding the land. Ten of the twelve spies blasphemed and spoke against the land into which the LORD was going to bring them into, and as a direct result of their negative report they would incite doubt, fear, anxiety, terror and dread within the hearts of the people. Not only this, but I would even dare say that the report of these ten spies produced something even greater than any of this within the hearts of the people—namely, an offense with God.

            Pause for a moment and think about this particular reality, and how when the twelve spies returned from the land of Canaan—even returning from the land of Canaan carrying fruit from the land—there were ten spies from among them who sowed doubt and fear within the hearts of the children of Israel. Not only this, but I am absolutely and completely convinced that more than simply sowing doubt and fear within the hearts of the children of Israel these ten spies sowed and produced something much greater than that within their hearts—namely, offense with God. If you read and consider the words which are found within the Old Testament book of Numbers you will find the children of Israel murmuring and complaining against Moses and against Aaron, and complaining how they had brought them out of the land of Egypt and into the wilderness to perish at the hands of their enemies. Not only this, but you will find the children of Israel blaspheming, complaining and murmuring against the LORD their God who had brought them up out of the land of Egypt. At that moment and during that time in the plains of Moab we find the children of Israel becoming offended with God—and not only becoming offended with God, but actually grumbling and speaking against Him. Oh we dare not miss and lose sight of just how incredibly strong and powerful this is, for that offense was so intense and so prevalent within their hearts and souls that it would actually cause them to seek to raise up for and among themselves one who would lead them back unto the land of Egypt. Of course we know that the LORD would grow and become angry with the children of Israel and would not only declare that they would wander in the wilderness for forty years, but also how all those twenty years of age and older would perish in the wilderness unto that entire first generation had fallen in the wilderness. Moreover, the LORD would declare unto the children of Israel that their sons and their daughters whom they thought and believed would be a prey for the inhabitants of the land would enter into the land which they despised, profaned, blasphemed and abhorred. It is absolutely necessary that we recognize and understand this, for the children of Israel allowed themselves to grow and become offended with God. There in the wilderness on the other side of the land of Canaan the children of Israel would grow and become offended with the LORD their God—this even after seeing the fruit of the land, and this even after hearing the report of Joshua and Caleb which was spoken in their hearing.

            There is not a doubt in my mind that although Joshua and Caleb attempted to speak out against this offense within their heart, and although Joshua and Caleb tried correcting this doubt and fear within their hearts—the children of Israel continued to murmur, grumble and complain in the sight and presence of the living God. Not only this, but that offense was so strong and so severe that they actually thought that the LORD their God had brought them into the wilderness to kill them and desired that they return to Egypt. It is necessary that we recognize and pay close attention to this particular reality, for the words which we find in this particular narrative lends a tremendous amount of insight into the report which the disciples of John the Baptist brought back to him. Much like Caleb and Joshua would bring back a report of the land that was meant to instill faith, confidence and trust within the heart of the children of Israel, so also would the disciples of John the Baptist bring back report concerning the works which Jesus would perform in the midst of the earth. The disciples of John would come unto him there in prison and would bring a powerful witness, a powerful report, a powerful testimony—even fruit of and fruit from the ministry of Christ itself—concerning that which was taking place in and during those days. Stop and think about the fact that essentially what Jesus did with these two disciples was send them back with fruit from the Promised Land—that which they both saw and heard within His presence—as well as a witness, a testimony and report concerning the works which Jesus performed during those days. How truly remarkable and powerful it is to read these words and to consider the fact that not only did Jesus send these disciples back unto John with a powerful witness and testimony concerning that which was taking place during those days, but He also sent them back with powerful fruit from the land—the fruit of the works which He had performed among them as they came and entered into His presence.

            I would dare say that the offense which John the Baptist could have had within his heart might very well have been present on several different fronts. John could have been offended in and by Christ because He heard of the works which He was performing in the earth and yet could not see them. John the Baptist could have been offended in and by Christ because he heard of the works of Christ, and yet Jesus never came to visit him there in prison. John could have been offended in Christ much like the children of Israel were offended with God—even after seeing and beholding the fruit from the land of Canaan, and even after hearing the report of Caleb and Joshua. In that moment when John heard of the works which Jesus had performed—this not in the hearing and sight of His disciples—he would be forced to make a decision whether or not he would be offended in and by Christ. Moreover, John the Baptist could have been offended in and by Christ because of the very fact that he was imprisoned. Perhaps there was the expectation that John the Baptist would minister side by side together with Jesus the Christ, or would at least be a partner together during those days preaching concerning the kingdom of heaven. Here was Jesus working miracles, signs and wonders in the midst of the earth while John was sitting in prison having been imprisoned by Herod the king of Judaea during that time. What’s more, is that John the Baptist might very well have been offended with and by Jesus—and even against Herod and Herodias themselves—because it was Herod who had arrested and cast him into prison. We aren’t entirely and altogether clear as to how and why John the Baptist would have been offended with Jesus, however, I am absolutely and completely convinced that in that moment when his disciples returned with fruit from the land, as well as a testimony and witness of what was taking place there in the land, he would be forced with the decision whether or not he would be offended with the Lord Jesus Christ, or whether or not he would continue believing in and trusting him. In that moment John the Baptist would have to choose and decide within his heart and soul whether or not he would believe in the person of Jesus, or whether he would allow himself to grow offended in, with and by Him.

            The eleventh chapter of the gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew is actually quite powerful when you think about and consider it, for within it we not only find John the Baptist imprisoned, but we also find him imprisoned, as well as hearing His disciples declare unto him that those who were not offended in, with and by Jesus were truly blessed. John the Baptist had to make a choice and decision whether or not he was offended with Christ, and/or whether or not he would remain offended with and by Jesus. He had heard of the works of Christ which were being performed during those days, and now he was hearing about those works from the mouths of two of his disciples, and yet in addition to the report and witness of those works came a powerful exhortation, admonishment and encouragement concerning not being offended in, and not being offended by the Lord Jesus Christ. We have great need to pay close and careful attention to this particular statement which was spoken by the Lord Jesus Christ unto John, for it strikes at the very heart of what we think and what we feel when we experience tribulation, or when we experience persecution, or when we experience affliction and suffering because of the Word of God. When we experience suffering and persecution for and because of the Word of God within our lives we are faced with and are forced to make a decision whether or not we are going to be offended with, by and in Christ, or whether we are going to live our lives and keep our hearts absent any type of offense. For John the Baptist he was forced to make a decision within his heart whether or not he would remain offended with, by and in Christ, or whether or not he would hear of the works which Jesus had performed during those days and remain steadfast and endure during those days. Oh with this being said I can’t help but think about the words which are found in the tenth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew, as well as the words which are found in the twenty-fourth chapter of this gospel:

            “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; and ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: BUT HE THAT ENDURETH TO THE END SHALL BE SAVED. But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come. The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord. It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household? Fear them not therefore: for there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known. What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops. And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:16-28).

            ”Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be no troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. BUT HE THAT SHALL ENDURE UNTO THE END, THE SAME SHALL BE SAVED. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come” (Matthew 24:4-14).

            Please notice that in both of these passages we find Jesus instructing His disciples concerning the affliction, the persecution, the suffering and the opposition they would experience. Not only this, but you find Jesus preparing His disciples for persecution, for suffering, for affliction and for opposition. What’s more, is that you will also find Jesus preparing His disciples to be hated of all nations for His name’s sake. Jesus made it very clear that because iniquity shall abound the love of many will grow cold, and that there will be a great temptation to be offended in Christ and to turn back and walk no more with Him. It is absolutely necessary that we pay close attention to the words which are found within this passage of Scripture, for what we find in the eleventh chapter of the gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew is John the Baptist being instructed and encouraged to not be offended in Christ. What we must needs realize and understand by, with and through these words is that Jesus was not only declaring unto John that he was experiencing tribulation and suffering for the sake of the word, but also that he was to endure unto the end. Despite the fact that John the Baptist had been imprisoned by Herod he would not only be faced with the decision whether or not he would remain unoffended, but he would also have to make the decision whether or not he would endure unto the end. It’s actually quite interesting to think about and consider the fact that John the Baptist would essentially be the first one in the kingdom who would experience suffering, tribulation and persecution for the word of the kingdom—and not only this, but he would experience it because he dared speak out against the corruption, the wickedness and the immorality that surrounded the throne in the land of Judaea. While in the eleventh chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative we find and read of John the Baptist being imprisoned—it isn’t until we come to the fourteenth chapter where we actually see and behold the reason for that imprisonment. John the Baptist was indeed imprisoned because he dared speak out against the adultery and immorality of Herod and Herodias as he would declare unto Herod that it was not lawful for him to have his brother Philip’s wife.

            I sit here today thinking about and considering this strong and stark contrast between John the Baptist making the declaration concerning that which was not lawful, and the scribes and the Pharisees making the statement and declaration concerning that which was not lawful. It’s truly remarkable and astonishing to think about and consider the fact that John the Baptist declared unto Herod that it was not lawful for him to have his brother Philip’s wife, and as a direct result of this he was cast into prison at the request and at the behest of Herodias who had a quarrel against him. The scribes and the Pharisees would also make the statements concerning that which was lawful during those days and during those times—specifically in reference to their traditions, their rules, and that which they had passed down throughout the generations from their creation during the four hundred silent years. It’s actually worth noting that it would be during those four hundred silent years when not only would the scribes, the Pharisees, the Sadducees and the like be formed and created, but it would also be during those four hundred years of silence man’s voice would start to become the loudest voice concerning the Law and concerning that which the LORD God required. It’s truly worth noticing that when God was silent during those four centuries man would provide their own interpretation and understanding on the Law and the prophets. It would be man’s interpretation and understanding of the Law and the prophets which was created during those four centuries of silence from God which Jesus would come to correct, rebuke, and even indict. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this, for it calls and draws our attention to the truly dangerous truth that when God is silent we dare not and ought not seek to speak for and on His behalf. What’s more, is there is a great and tremendous danger when God is silent to begin providing our own interpretation and our own understanding on that which He has spoken—even through the Law and the prophets. Essentially, it might very well be said of the scribes and the Pharisees that although they were in the seat of Moses and were essentially teachers of the Law—they were neither sent, nor were they ordained and appointed by the living God. Oh we must needs realize and understand this, for the scribes and Pharisees held on to traditions which were formed and created as a direct result of an understanding that was produced during a period when God was silent.

            The more I think about the narrative which was written about John the Baptist the more I can’t help but get the strong sense that not only was Jesus inviting and instructing John not to be offended in and with Him, but Jesus was also inviting Him to endure until the end. There is not a doubt in my mind that Jesus knew John would never leave that prison, and there is not a doubt in my mind that Jesus knew John would ultimately be beheaded, and the words He sent back to him were intended on inviting him to endure unto the end. Just as Joseph endured unto the end in the pit, and just as Joseph endured unto the end in the prison, so also would John needed to endure unto the end. Just as Jeremiah would endure in the pit, and just as Jeremiah would endure in the prison, so also would John the Baptist need to endure unto the end. Just as Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego would need to endure unto the end in the furnace of fire, so also would John need to endure unto the end. Just as Daniel needed to endure unto the end in the den of lions, so also would John need to endure to the end. What is so incredibly unique and powerful about this narrative is that essentially John the Baptist was the first within the kingdom of heaven would experience imprisonment and suffering for righteousness and for the kingdom, and he would be the first who would not only be invited to not be offended in Christ, but also the first to endure unto the end. It is actually quite remarkable to read and hear Jesus’ words which He spoke unto the disciples of John and send back unto him there in prison, for Jesus’ words weren’t merely encouraging and admonishing John the Baptist to not be offended in and be him, but they were also intended on encouraging John to endure unto the end. It’s almost as if Jesus is declaring unto John that He knows and is aware of his presence there in prison, and is instructing him to endure unto the end. It’s almost as if Jesus is inviting John the not only choose to guard himself against offense, but in guarding himself from and against offense he was also guaranteeing that he would be one who would endure into the end.

            With these words being said it is absolutely necessary that we recognize and understand how offense is one of the greatest dangers and detriments to our being able to endure unto the end. I am absolutely and completely convinced that one of the greatest threats to our endurance—and not only our endurance, but also our patience—is indeed offense and becoming offended in and with the LORD God and His Christ. It is absolutely necessary that we read the words which are written and recorded in this particular passage of Scripture, for even when speaking unto the disciples during the Olivet discourse, and even when calling the twelve disciples unto Himself as He sent them out, Jesus cautioned them against being offended. What’s more, is that twice Jesus would emphatically declare and proclaim unto His disciples that those who endured unto the end would be saved. This is incredibly important—particularly and especially when you consider the narrative that is found in the prophetic book of Daniel. It is when you come to the seventh chapter of the prophetic book of Daniel that you not only read and see how the antichrist will make war with and make war against the saints, but will also prevail against them for a season. Not only this, but within this passage of Scripture we also find and read of the antichrist seeking to wear out and wear down the saints of God until that time comes when he is destroyed and his body given the eternal and everlasting flame. These words must be carefully considered and understood in light of that which is found in the thirteenth chapter of the prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ. It is within the thirteenth chapter of this prophetic book we find the apostle John writing the vision which he saw concerning the beast which rose from the sea, as well as the second beast which emerged from the earth. It would be these two beings who would carry out and continue the war of the dragon—a war which began in heaven and yet would continue within and upon the earth. Consider if you will the following words which are found in the twelfth chapter of the prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ, the thirteenth chapter of the prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ, as well as the words which are found in the seventh chapter of the prophetic book of Daniel. These words are absolutely critical to and for our understanding of just how important our patient endurance is, and how those who endure unto the end can and shall be saved:

            “And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. Therefore rejoice ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! For the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time. And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child. And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for atime, and times, and a half a time, from the face of the serpent. And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood. And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth. AND THE DRAGON WAS WROTH WITH THE WOMAN, AND WENT TO MAKE WAR WITH THE REMNANT OF HER SEED, WHICH KEEP THE COMMANDMENTS OF GOOD, AND HAVE THE TESTIMONY OF JESUS CHRIST” (Revelation 12:7-17).

            “And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crownds, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy. And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority. And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beats. And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? Who is able to make war with him? And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great tings and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months. And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven. AND IT WAS GIVEN UNTO HIM TO MAKE WAR WITH THE SAINTS, AND TO OVERCOME THEM: AND POWER WAS GIVEN HIM OVER ALL KINDREDS, AND TONGUES, AND NATIONS. And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. If any man have an ear, let him hear. He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity: he that killeth with sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints” (Revelation 13:1-10).

            “And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon. And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men, and deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beasts; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live. And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed. And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: and that no man might by or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six” (Revelation 13:11-18).

            “These great beasts, which are four, are four kings, which shall arise out of the earth. But the saints of the most High shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever. Then I would know the truth of the fourth beast, which was diverse from all the others, exceeding dreadful, whose teeth were of iron, and his nails of brass; which devoured, brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with his feet; and of the ten horns that were in his head, and of the other which came up, and before whom three fell; even of that horn that had eyes, and a mouth that spake very great things, whose look was more stout than his fellows. I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them; until the aNcient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the most High; and the time came that the saints possess the kingdom. Thus he said, The fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon earth, which shall be diverse from all kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, and shall tread it down, and break it in pieces. And the ten horns out of this kingdom are ten kings that shall arise: and another shall rise after them; and he shall be diverse from the first, and he shall subdue three kings. And he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time. But the judgment shall sit, and they shall take away his dominion. To consume and to destroy it unto the end. And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him. Hitherto is the end of the matter. As for me Daniel, my cogitations much troubled me, and my countenance changed in me: but I kept the matter in my heart” (Daniel 7:17-28).

            It is absolutely necessary that we read and pay close attention to the words which are found within these passages of Scripture, for the words which are found within these passages of Scripture should paint a very clear and powerful picture of that which can and that which will happen in the last days. We must needs make absolutely no mistake about it, for in the last days there will arise a being and individual who will not only make war with and war against the saints, but will also seek to wear the saints out. The prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus brings us face to face with the truth that when the dragon and his angels could not prevail in their war against Michael and his angels which were in heaven they would bring that war to the earth. That war which would be present within and upon the earth would be one that would not only be against the woman who brought forth the man child who would rule over the nations, but would also be against the seed of the woman. Upon reading the words which are found within these passages of Scripture we are brought face to face with the awesome and incredible truth that there will indeed be a war against the saints, and that there is and there will be a great need for the saints of the most High to have endurance—and not simply endurance, but patient endurance during these days of unprecedented darkness and chaos. We must needs realize and understand that what we find in the eleventh chapter of the New Testament gospel written by the apostle Matthew is not merely Jesus instructing John the Baptist not to be offended in Him, but also that John the Baptist would patiently endure unto the end. What’s more, is that perhaps one of the most captivating truths surrounding this reality is that we don’t know what that “end” can and will look like, and we don’t know when “the end” will actually take place. We would like to think that we somehow have a handle on when that end can and will take place, and yet the truth of the matter is that we simply do not know.

            When we read the words which are found in the fourteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew we discover the ultimate reason for John the Baptist being cast into prison—namely, because he dared speak out against the government and dared speak out against the corruption, the wickedness, the iniquity, the immorality, and the adultery that was present in the midst of that government. Oh there is not a doubt in my mind when reading the words which are found within the fourteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle John that we are brought face to face with a powerful picture of that which can and that which will take place in the coming days—and not only that which will take place in the coming days, but that which we have seen and are already seeing within the days and times in which we are living. We are witnessing the same manifestation which John the Baptist faced and experienced during his day and during his generation being manifested within our culture and society as men and women right now are being “cancelled” and are being “silenced” by mainstream media and by big tech companies. We have witnessed a tremendous assault on freedom of speech within recent days and weeks, and this is something we must needs pay close and careful attention to, for what we find in the narrative which was written by the apostle Matthew is a powerful description of one who dared speak out against the government and one who whose voice was attempted to be silenced as a direct result of that voice. WHEN VOICES ARE SILENCE AND MEN ARE IMPRISONED! You cannot read the words which are found within this particular narrative and not encounter and come face to face with the tremendous fact that what Jezebel sought to do unto Elijah during “the days of Elijah” Herodias and Herod were seeking to do unto John the Baptist during the days leading up to the manifestation of the Messiah. We don’t know for sure when John the Baptist spoke out against the Herod and Herodias, and we don’t know how these events unfolded, however, we do know that Herodias had a quarrel with and a quarrel against John the Baptist and would have had him instantaneously and immediately killed. Instead of killing John the Baptist Herod placed him in prison where he would remain until the time of his death.

            What so amazes and astonishes me about the words found in this passage of Scripture is that not only was John the Baptist imprisoned as a result of speaking out against the government of that day, but he would ultimately be beheaded and destroyed from the earth because the quarrel of Herodias never died, nor had it every gone away. If there is one thing this passage of Scripture points to and reveals it’s that the quarrel which was present within the heart and soul of Herodias continued to roar and rage within her until the opportune time came when she could capitalize on events that she might ultimately have John the Baptist put to death. There is not a doubt in my mind that Herodias continued plotting, scheming and conspiring against John the Baptist looking for ways to ultimately put him to death, and she finally realized the moment had come when Herod promised her daughter anything she asked for. What we find in the fourteenth chapter is a quarrel against the prophetic voice and a quarrel against the stance for righteousness, and a quarrel that never went away and always remained. It would be Herodias who would continue plotting and scheming—even with John sitting in prison—trying to figure out ways to destroy him and remove him from the picture. It’s actually interesting that Herodias sought to get rid of and destroy John the Baptist and succeeded, and the religious system and community sought to silence and destroy Jesus Christ. It was the spirit of Jezebel that sought to silence and destroy John the Baptist, and it was what put him in prison and would ultimately behead him when that opportune time actually manifested itself. WE must needs realize and understand that this spirit of Jezebel would indeed be working and would indeed be manifested in the midst of the earth that it might utterly and completely destroy the witness, the testimony and voice of John the Baptist.

            One thing I find so absolutely astounding about the narrative surrounding John the Baptist is he wasn’t imprisoned because he baptized men and women in the Jordan River. John the Baptist wasn’t imprisoned because he preached righteousness unto the people, nor even called on men and women to repent of their sins. John the Baptist wasn’t imprisoned when he called the scribes and Pharisees a brood of vipers and instructed them to bring forth fruit unto repentance. John the Baptist wasn’t even imprisoned solely because Herod wanted to put him in prison, but rather because of the quarrel that was found within the heart of Herodias. One might even say that Herod imprisoned John to try and appease Herodias thinking that if he imprisoned John he would satisfy her quarrel and satisfy her offense. The truth of the matter, however, is that it wasn’t enough for Herodias to have John imprisoned and removed from the picture. It wasn’t enough for Herodias to simply have John removed from the picture, for she sought and desired to have John the Baptist completely and utterly erased and removed from the equation. It’s actually quite astounding and amazing to think about and consider the fact that during those weeks and months John the Baptist was imprisoned, Herodias looked for and sought after ways to destroy and kill John the Baptist. Herodias entirely and altogether sought for ways to destroy John the Baptist once and for all, and that opportunity would ultimately and eventually manifest itself when her daughter pleased Herod. Herod would offer the daughter of Herodias anything she wanted, and because of the coercion and influence of her mother she ended up asking for the head of John the Baptist on a platter. Oh dear brother, oh dear sister—it is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand this truth and reality, for it draws and calls our attention to the awesome and incredible truth that John the Baptist was imprisoned simply and solely because he dared speak out against the wickedness, the corruption, the adultery and immorality that was found within the government. There is not a doubt in my mind that what we are witnessing within this generation and during these days is a truly powerful picture of that which took place during the days of John the Baptist, and how men and women who would dare speak out against the government, and how men and women would even dare speak out against corruption and wickedness will not only find themselves being cancelled, but also silenced, and ultimately removed from the equation and picture.

            What I so love about the words which are found in the fourteenth chapter is that even though Herod had put John the Baptist to death, and even though John the Baptist was no longer present in the midst of the earth, we find Jesus the Christ continuing to perform signs, wonders and miracles. In fact, this is precisely how the fourteenth chapter begins, for there were those who thought that Jesus was John the Baptist resurrected from the dead. It is when we read and consider this narrative of John the Baptist being beheaded that we also see Jesus continuing to work great miracles in the midst of the earth. Not only this, but in the very next passage of Scripture we find the Lord Jesus Christ being followed on foot by a great multitude of people who would come out of the cities unto Him. Scripture reveals how Jesus—upon seeing the great multitude—was once more moved with compassion toward them and healed all their sick. This great multitude was together with Jesus—pretty much for the entire day—and when the day was far spent the disciples urged Jesus to send the crowds away that they might return unto their cities and buy for themselves food. I have to admit that Jesus’ words and response to the disciples is absolutely astounding and remarkable, for not only did Jesus not agree with the disciples, but Jesus also emphatically declared unto them that the crowds and multitudes need not depart. Moreover, Jesus would then instruct the disciples to give unto this crowd and unto this multitude something to eat. How absolutely incredible it is to think that not only did Jesus have compassion on the crowd and the multitude, and not only did Jesus heal all their sick, but even when the disciples suggested Jesus send the crowds away Jesus not only ordered them to sit down and experience rest, but He also fed them. Consider how when reading this passage of Scripture Jesus not only instructed the disciples to have the crowd sit in the grass and thus experience rest, but Jesus also fed them.

            If there is one thing I absolutely love when reading the words which are found within this passage of Scripture is that not only did Jesus instruct the disciples to have the crowd sit in the grass, but He also fed them with and fed them from the five loaves and two fish. Not only this, but we also read how Jesus fed the crowd and fed them to the full, thus satisfying each and every one of them. I love how the crowd of five thousand men—not including women and children—were not only fed, but fed to the full and completely satisfied. Moreover, we find that even after the crowd was completely filled and satisfied there were twelve baskets of fragments left over. The question I can’t help but wonder to myself is what happened to those twelve baskets of fragments went after the crowd had been healed, filled and dismissed. Did the disciples take these baskets of the fragments with them from this place and bring it to where they stayed together with Jesus? Were these baskets of the fragments given unto this young lad who offered these five loaves of bread and two fishes? Imagine this young lad bringing five loaves of bread and two fish with him to see Jesus and then not only ate from that which he had brought on this day, but also brought home those twelve baskets which were filled with the fragments. Imagine this young lad having these twelve baskets brought home to his family and the stunned and shocked look on their faces when they saw all these fragments of fish and bread. Imagine how long this young lad—perhaps even his family as well—could have lived off the fragments of this single encounter with Jesus. This young lad entered into the presence of Jesus with five loaves of bread and two fish, and yet it is very possible that he departed from His presence with twelve baskets filled with the fragments of those two fish and the five loaves of bread. Consider how this young lad could not only have left with the baskets of the fragments of the miracle, but also could have even provided for his own family with the leftovers and fragments of this encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ.

            As I bring this writing to a close I am absolutely and completely gripped and captivated with the fact that this particular passage brings us face to face with Jesus not only feeding a crowd of five thousand—not including women and children—but Jesus fed and filled them while also causing there to be twelve baskets full of fragments. When this miracle was altogether and entirely over—not only were the people themselves filled, but so also were twelve baskets filled with the fragments from that miracle. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of just how absolutely wonderful and fantastic this truly is when we take the time to think about it, for it calls and draws our attention to that which I am absolutely and completely convinced Jesus wants to do in this generation and at this particular point in time. I am absolutely and completely convinced that Jesus still desires to feed and fill all those who are hungry and all those who are tired and weary, and Jesus does not desire to send the crowds away. Although the disciples would have sent the crowds away Jesus declared unto them that the crowds did not need to leave, but that they needed only to sit down and rest. It would be there in that place of rest in the midst of the grass—“he maketh me to lie down in green pastures”—that Jesus would bless and break that which was offered and given unto Him that He might both fill and satisfy all those who were present on this particular day. Not only this, but we must also realize that while Jesus desired to feed and fill the crowds and multitudes He was also inviting the disciples to be participants in this miracle. Oh the crowd of the five thousand who were present on this day were recipients of the miracle, while the disciples were participants of the miracle. What’s more, is I would dare say the disciples were not only participants of the miracle, but might also have been recipients of the miracle as well. On the one hand they were recipients of the miracle as well as the crowd, and on the other hand they were participants of the miracle as they were the ones who distributed the broken fragments of the fish and the loaves.

            With all of this being said I would dare say that we need to find encouragement in the latter portion of the fourteenth chapter, for in the latter portion of the fourteenth chapter you will find Jesus instructing the disciples to enter into a ship and cross over to the other side while He Himself sent the crowds and the multitude away. It would be while the disciples were present in the midst of the sea in the ship that a great temptest and storm would rise up against them—and so much so that the ship would be tossed with the waves in the midst of the sea, for the wind was contrary. What I so absolutely love about this passage of Scripture is that even though the disciples were laboring and toiling in the midst of the storm—perhaps even feeling as though they were going nowhere, and even that they might perish in the midst of the sea—Jesus would come unto them in the midst of the storm and upon the sea. IN THE MIDST OF THE STORM AND UPON THE WAVES OF THE SEA! Oh how absolutely incredible it is to think about and consider that even though the disciples were being tossed to and fro by and because of the wind and the waves Jesus not only came walking unto them in the midst of the storm, but He would also invite Simon Peter to get out of the boat and walk to Him in the midst of the storm. Oh I continue to believe that Jesus would have loved to have had all twelve disciples standing there with Him in the midst of the seat. I can’t help but think about what it would have been like to truly have “a fellowship of the storm” as Jesus would have invited each of the disciples to step out of the boat and on to the water as they made their way unto Him. Of the twelve disciples, however, only Simon Peter would actually have the courage to step out of the boat and walk unto Jesus in the midst of the wind and the waves. I sit here today think about and considering how that which Jesus is calling and inviting His disciples and followers to do during these days and during this hour is to essentially be a fellowship of the storm—those who have the courage to get out of the ship and step on to the water and in the midst of the waves. Oh how I am absolutely and completely convinced that we have a great need in these days in which we are living to be those who can and will be willing to get out of the ship and get out of the comforts we have enjoyed and not only join Jesus upon the waters, but also walk with Him in the midst of the waters.

            I sit here tonight thinking about the fact that the disciples—even though they were being tossed to and fro in the midst of the wind and the waves and the storm were still in the relative safety of the ship. Jesus showed up walking in the midst of the storm and on the waters of the sea with the wind and the waves all around Him—the same wind and waves that were all around the disciples—and He invited Simon also called Peter to step out of the boat and come walking on the water unto Him. Simon Peter was willing and had the courage, the faith and the boldness to step out of the relative safety and shelter of the boat—and not only the shelter and safety of the boat, but also the comfort of the boat—that he might join Jesus out on the water in the midst of the sea. Oh I am absolutely and completely convinced that during these days in which we are living in Jesus is calling us to step out of the comfort and conveniences we have been enjoying—even in the midst of a storm—and is calling us to not only join Him in the midst of the sea, but also to stand firm and stand fast in the midst of the storm. There is not a doubt in my mind that we are being called to be men and women who can and will be a fellowship of the storm—those who are willing to step out of the comforts we have enjoyed that we might not only be with Jesus in the midst of the storm, but might also stand there as a fellowship of the storm. I am absolutely and completely convinced that we as the people of God have been called and are being called to step out of and step out from the comforts—perhaps even the freedoms, liberties, conveniences, and the like which we have enjoyed for quite some time—and to not only come unto Him in the midst of the storm. Oh the question we must needs ask ourselves is whether or not we are going to be men and women who will have the courage to step out of the comforts and conveniences we have enjoyed that we might join Jesus in the midst of the sea—and not only join Jesus in the midst of the sea, but also walk with Him in the midst of the storm as Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego walked with him in the midst of the fiery furnace. Oh that we would not only be men and women who are willing to be the fellowship of the fire, but also that we will be men and women who will be the fellowship of the storm.

Dear brother, dear sister—are you willing to step out of the ship and on to the waters of the sea that you might participate and become a fellowship of the storm together with Jesus? Dear brother and sister—are you willing to stand up for righteousness and stay true to your convictions and who your God is that you might become the fellowship of the fire? There is not a doubt in my mind that during these times we as the people of God are not only being called to be a fellowship of the storm, but are also called to be the fellowship of the fire—those who are willing to walk with Jesus in the midst of the fiery furnace, and those who are willing to walk with Jesus in the midst of the storm. The one difference between the disciples and the three Hebrews is that the disciples knew that Jesus was there in the midst of the sea—and Jesus even invited Simon to step out of the ship and to come unto Him walking upon the water. The three Hebrews did not know they would be delivered from the flames of the fiery furnace—and they certainly did not know that they would not only meet Jesus there in the midst of those flames, but would also walk with Him unbound in the midst of the flames. On the one hand the disciples felt as though their lives were in danger and peril, and Jesus came unto them walking in the midst of the storm. The three Hebrews knew what not bowing down to the golden image Nebuchadnezzar had set up would mean for them, and yet they still chose not to bow knowing full well what it would mean for them. There is not a doubt in my mind that what the Lord is looking for during these days and times is not only a fellowship of the storm—those who are willing to step out of the relative comfort and shelter of the ship and both walk with and join Jesus in the midst of the storm that is raging all around them. What’s more, is the Lord is looking for a fellowship of the fire—those who are willing to refuse to bow down to the idols, images, false gods, and those things the culture and society would have us bow down to knowing that it will mean we are cast into the fire. The Lord is looking for those who are willing to brave the fiery furnace that we might walk with and fellowship with Jesus there in the midst of the fire completely bound and unharmed by the flames of the furnace.

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