When Laws Are Changed & Voices Are Silenced

Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel narrative of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ as it was written and recorded by the apostle Matthew. More specifically, today’s passage is found in the first twenty-one verses of the twelfth chapter. AND THE OFFENSES CONTINUE! LET THE OFFENSES CONTINUE! THE OFFENSES DIDN’T STOP! WHY WOULD WE THINK THAT OFFENSES WOULD STOP? HOW ON EARTH WOULD WE THINK THAT JESUS WOULD AND COULD NOT OFFEND THOSE WHO WOULD HEAR HIM SPEAK AND THOSE WHO WOULD WITNESS HIS WORKS? When you begin reading with and from the ninth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew you will find the lifestyle, the words and the works of Jesus beginning to offend during those days and times in which He walked upon the earth. It is actually quite interesting that when Jesus first emerged on to the scene—at least from the standpoint of public ministry—He would do so preaching and calling men to “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” It would be in the fourth chapter—directly and immediately after Jesus had finished being tempted of the devil in the wilderness—that Jesus would begin preaching unto men instructing them to repent and declaring unto them that the kingdom of heaven was at hand. Directly following Jesus’ words to those whom He would preach unto we find Him calling, choosing and inviting two sets of brothers to walk with and follow Him. This is actually quite interesting, for more often than not when we think and speak about the kingdom of heaven we fail and even neglect to acknowledge the fact that the kingdom of heaven is manifested in our willingness to not only walk with and follow Jesus Christ, but also our ability to walk with and fellowship with those whom Jesus has called, and those who have made the decision to walk with and follow Him. It is truly something remarkable to read the fourth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew, for in the fourth chapter—not only do we find Jesus calling four men to walk with and follow Him as disciples, but we also find as a direct result of Jesus teaching their synagogues, preaching the kingdom of heaven, and healing all manner of sickness many multitudes and great crowds of people following Him.

            This reality and concept of great multitudes and crowds beginning to walk with and follow Jesus is the context and foundation for what we read and find in chapters five through seven of the same New Testament book, for if and when you begin reading the fifth chapter you will find that when Jesus saw the great crowd and multitude of people following Him, He called unto Himself His disciples, and when He was set down on a mountain He began to teach them. Within chapters five through seven we find Jesus teaching the disciples and followers concerning the kingdom of heaven—and not only concerning the kingdom of heaven, but also concerning the righteousness of the kingdom of heaven. If you take the time to read the words which are found in chapters five through seven you will find Jesus spent a considerable amount of time teaching and speaking about our relationship to others, and how our relationship to and with others is a direct result of the manifestation of the kingdom of heaven within our hearts and lives. You cannot read the words which are found in these chapters without encountering the awesome and incredible truth which Jesus expounded upon concerning the righteousness of the kingdom of heaven and its direct connection to our fellowship and walking with each other. The Sermon on the Mount must needs be read and understood in terms of our fellowship to and with each other—and not only those who we walk with as brothers and sisters, but also those whom we interact with in the world who might even be enemies. It’s interesting and worth noting that when reading the Sermon on the Mount you will find Jesus speaking concerning loving our enemies, blessing those who curse us, doing good unto those who hate us, and praying for those who despitefully use and persecute us. Oh how truly remarkable and astonishing it is to think about and consider just how necessary it is when reading the Sermon on the Mount to understand this reality and concept of relationship and fellowship to and with others.

            I sit here thinking about and considering the awesome and tremendous reality of what is found in the Sermon on the Mount and how not only did Jesus invite His disciples to forgive others that they might be forgiven by their heavenly Father who is in heaven, but Jesus also instructed them not to judge others lest they themselves be judged. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of just how incredibly strong and powerful this truly is, for it brings us face to face with two of the hardest things for us to do within our lives as disciples and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. If we are truly wiling to be honest with ourselves and with the Lord we must needs acknowledge and admit that it is more often than difficult—at times—to truly forgive those who have sinned and trespassed against us. Not only this, but there are times within our lives when it is incredibly difficult to allow ourselves to not get caught up in our own cynicism and cynical judgment of others—and only our cynical judgment of others, but also our self-righteous and hypocritical judgment of others. In all reality, I would dare say that when we think and speak about judgment we must needs realize and recognize that there are essentially two distinct elements to our judgment, for on the one hand there is the cynical form of judgment—that which has a hard time believing in the goodness of others and that which has a hard time trusting others—while on the other hand there is the self-righteous, hypocritical and proud judgment—that which actually judges others based on the sin we see (or think we see) within them while all the while choosing to ignore the sin, the iniquity, the wickedness, the transgression and the indiscretion that is found within our own hearts and lives. Oh that we would truly recognize and understand just how deadly and dangerous these two realities truly are within our hearts and lives, for if we allow ourselves to get caught up in other of these forms of judgment we find ourselves not fulfilling the royal law which was expressed and taught by the Lord Jesus Christ when speaking unto His disciples and those who walked with and followed Him. Oh how absolutely necessary and critical it is to recognize and understand that we have been called as the disciples and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ to guard and keep ourselves from both forms of judgment, for neither form of judgment is healthy for that one who truly professes to walk with and follow the Lord Jesus Christ.

            The more you read the words which are found within this New Testament gospel the more you will find Jesus’ interaction with those whom we interacted with, for while in the fourth chapter we find Jesus healing the great multitude and crowds of people, and while in the fifth, sixth and seventh chapters we find Jesus teaching the multitude, we find beginning with and in the eighth chapter a personal, an individual and intimate element of the public ministry of Jesus the Christ. The seventh chapter ends and concludes with the crowd and multitude which heard Jesus teach and speak marveling at His teaching and His words for He did not teach them as the scribes and Pharisees did, but as one who had authority. As the eighth chapter begins and opens we continue to find great crowds and multitudes walking with and following Jesus, however, we begin to notice something happening within and in the midst of the crowds. It is when you come to the eighth chapter of this New Testament gospel where you begin seeing individuals with their own needs making their way and pressing through the crowds that they might finally arrive at Jesus. If and as you read the words which are found in the eighth chapter of this New Testament gospel narrative you will find that there was a leper who not only dared overcome the condition of his flesh—namely, that as a leper he would not only be unclean according to the Law of Moses, and unclean in the eyes of the religious leaders, but would also have to cry out in the hearing of all those he came in contact with that he was unclean—but also dared overcome the crowds. Within the eighth chapter we find the leper overcoming his condition as a leper and overcoming the crowds that he might make his way unto Jesus, while within the same chapter we also find the Roman centurion overcoming his own individual condition of being a Roman—and by very nature a Gentile, a heathen, and one who might very well have been considered unclean in the sight of the Jews—as well as overcoming the crowds that he might petition the Lord concerning his servant who lie at home sick of the palsy and grievously tormented.

            It is truly astonishing when reading the words which are found within the eighth chapter that while it was indeed true that more often than not we find and see Jesus in the midst of, at the helm of, and at the front of great crowds and multitudes who would walk with and follow Him, we also find this personal and this individual element to His ministry. It was indeed true that Jesus would heal all manner of sickness and disease, and it was indeed true that Jesus would heal all those who would come unto Him, it was also true that Jesus was able to be approached by the individual who was hurting and the individual who was in need. There is within the gospel narratives a strong and powerful picture of those who would dare have the courage, the strength and the bravery to not only overcome their own condition, but also to overcome the crowds that they might come unto Jesus. There is within the eighth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew a strong and powerful picture of those who each had their own need, and those who each had their own suffering, hurt, and reason for making their way unto Jesus. Perhaps what I so love about the words which are found in the eighth chapter of the gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew is that not only was Jesus willing to touch that unclean place within the life of that one who was a leper, but Jesus was also willing to go to that place with that one who would have been considered unclean according to the Jews, their Law and their tradition. Within the eighth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by Matthew we find Jesus not only demonstrating His willingness to touch those unclean places within our hearts and lives, but also go to those unclean places within our lives that He might not only bring healing, but also cleansing. In the case of the leper Jesus was willing to touch that place and that area which was unclean that He might bring cleansing, while in the case of the Roman centurion Jesus was willing to walk with him who was unclean and go unto that place which was unclean that He might bring healing to his servant. What is truly powerful about the words which are found in the eighth chapter is that when Jesus heard the words which were spoken by the Roman centurion he praised him for his great faith—and not only praised him for his great faith, but also turned to the crowd which was with Him and declared that He had not found so great faith in all Israel.

            The New Testament gospel narrative which was written by the apostle Matthew is truly astonishing and remarkable when you think about and consider it, for when you come to the ninth chapter of this gospel narrative you will find that the Jesus who taught in synagogues, the Jesus who preached the gospel concerning the kingdom, and the Jesus who healed all manner of sickness and disease beginning to offend, anger and upset the religious system of that day. When and as you come to the ninth chapter of this New Testament gospel you will find the narrative of Jesus coming unto His own city after passing over the sea from the region of the Gergesenes where He had just drive out the unclean spirits which possessed two men in that place. Upon coming unto His own city we find certain of those present in the city who would bring unto Jesus that one who was sick with the palsy lying on a bed. What makes this narrative so incredibly captivating is when you not only again find the mention of faith, but directly linked and connected to that faith you will find Jesus responding to the man who was sick with the palsy by not only calling him “son,” and not only encouraging him to “be of good cheer,” but also declaring unto him that his sins were forgiven. It would be this comment and statement that this man’s sins were forgiven that would cause the scribes which were present there to grow offended with Jesus—and not only offended with Jesus, but to also grumble and murmur within and among themselves concerning this man blaspheming. The scribes which were present there on this day would accuse Jesus of blaspheming, for only the living and eternal God could forgive sins. For Jesus to make such a statement to this man concerning his sins being forgiven would be entirely and altogether offensive unto the scribes, for they could not understand how this man could indeed declare unto one that their sins would be forgiven.

            We must needs realize and understand that which is found in the ninth chapter of this gospel narrative, for what we find in this gospel narrative is a strong and powerful picture of this same Jesus who healed the sick, this same Jesus who cast out unclean spirits, this same Jesus who caused the blind to see, the deaf to hear, the lame to walk, and the dead to be raised again beginning to anger, upset and offend the religious system and establishment of that day. What makes this thought and idea all the more remarkable and astonishing when you think about it is when you consider the words which are found in the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle John. It is when you come to the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle John that you will find Jesus not only angering, upsetting and offending the scribes and the Pharisees—beginning with His actions in the Temple when He overturned the tables of money, drove out the money changers, as well as all that was bought and sold in the Temple—but also angering and upsetting the Jews themselves. It would be in the fifth chapter of this New Testament gospel narrative that you will find Jesus beginning to anger and offend the Jews when He healed the man at the pool of Bethesda who had the infirmity within his physical flesh for thirty and eight years. Oh it would not be the fact that Jesus healed this man that would so anger and upset the Jews, but rather that Jesus had chosen to do so on the Sabbath. It is absolutely and necessary that we recognize and understand this, for as you read and study the gospel narratives you will find that one of the greatest sources of the offense Jesus would cause and create within His public life and ministry was His apparent and alleged violation of the laws, the traditions, and those rules and systems that had been implemented and put into place. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this, for it will help us to truly understand the words which we find when we come to the twelfth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew. Suffice it to say that what we find and what we see within the ninth chapter of this gospel narrative is a Jesus who would offend the scribes because He dared declare unto one that their sins had been forgiven them—something which the scribes not only found blasphemous, but also offensive in their hearts and minds.

            As you continue reading within the ninth chapter of this gospel narrative you will find that Jesus didn’t merely anger, upset and offend the scribes, but He would also anger, upset and offend the Pharisees. In fact—almost immediately after Jesus angered, upset and offended the scribes we find Him doing so to the Pharisees. Upon continuing to read the ninth chapter you will find Jesus finding one by the name of Levi whose name was also Matthew sitting at the receipt of custom and both calling and inviting him to walk with and follow Him. Here we have Jesus showing up at this man’s “place of work” and calling and inviting him to walk with and follow Him. Here we find Jesus showing up to that place where Matthew would have undoubtedly worked for and on behalf of the Romans to collect those taxes which were imposed upon the Jewish people by Rome. What we find within this passage of Scripture, however, is not only Jesus showing up at the place of work for this tax collector, but we also find Jesus calling this tax collector to walk with and follow Him. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this, for during those days tax collectors were marginalized and ostracized by the Jews because they were essentially working for and on behalf of the Romans to collect taxes from their own people. Not only this, but tax collectors were known as being ruthless, cunning and deceitful as there would be those who would abuse their role and would impose greater taxes from the people that they might line their own pockets. Such would be evident and manifested within and through the account of Zacchaeus who when speaking unto Jesus in his own house would emphatically declare that he would restore four-fold whatever he wrongly took from those whom he had collected taxes from, and those whom he had abused while serving in that capacity and role.

            The second passage found within the ninth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew is one that is truly remarkable, for not only do we find Jesus calling this tax collector to walk with and follow Him as one of His disciples, but we also find Jesus going under the roof of this tax collector. It would be there under the roof of this tax collector we find things starting to heat up surrounding Jesus and the religious system and leaders of that day. Upon continuing to read the words which are found within this passage of Scripture you will find many publicans and sinners coming unto Jesus into that house—and not only coming unto Jesus within the house, but Jesus eating, drinking and fellowshipping with them. It is truly remarkable and astonishing to read the words which are found within this passage of Scripture, for within it we find Jesus angering, upsetting and offending the scribes and the Pharisees simply because He chose to fellowship with publicans and sinners. It is clear from the words which we find within this passage of Scripture that the Pharisees looked down upon, judged and criticized both publicans and sinners during those days. In their own self-righteousness, in their own legalism, and in their own hypocrisy the Pharisees would judge, criticize and condemn the publicans and sinners—and now we not only find them judging, criticizing and condemning the publicans and sinners, but we also find them criticizing and judging Jesus Himself for entertaining and fellowshipping with them. Pause for a moment and think about just how truly incredible and astonishing this is, for not only did the scribes and Pharisees judge, criticize and condemn publicans and sinners in their own self-righteousness, hypocrisy and legalism, but now we find them extending and expanding that judgment against and upon Jesus the Christ. It is truly something worth thinking about and considering the words which are found within this passage of Scripture, for the words we find within this passage essentially demonstrate two distinct and two forms of judgment and criticism—not only judgment and criticism of the publicans and sinners themselves, but also that judgment and criticism of Jesus Himself for entertaining and fellowship with them.

            JUDGMENT AND CRITICISM! ANGER AND OFFENSE! Oh we must not ignore the words which are found within these verses, for within these verses we are not only brought face to face with the anger and offense of the Pharisees, but we are brought face to face with the judgment and criticism of the Pharisees. What’s more, is that we are not only brought face to face with the judgment and criticism of the publicans and sinners by the Pharisees, but we also find this judgment extending and expanding beyond simply the publicans and sinners, and actually making its way to Jesus. We must needs realize and recognize this strong and powerful reality, for through the words and thoughts which the Pharisees spoke unto Jesus’ disciples we see their judgment in full swing and in full measure, for not only would their judgment of the publicans and sinners themselves be evident and manifested, but so also would their judgment of Jesus Himself be evident and manifested. Within the ninth chapter of the gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew we find Jesus entering into the house of one who was himself a publican, and one who was himself a sinner, and yet who had been called by Jesus to walk with and follow Him. Not only this, but it would be there within that house we find many publicans and sinners coming in and sitting down with Jesus and His disciples. The apostle Matthew would record and recount the event by describing how “many” publicans and sinners would come into the house and sit down to meat with Jesus and His disciples, and how the Pharisees took great offense to this act by Jesus the Christ. The Pharisees were so repulsed, so angered and so offended by Jesus’ actions that they actually said and spoke unto His disciples asking them why their Master ate with publicans and sinners. Oh it is absolutely necessary that we recognize and understand this, for in response to their offense Jesus would declare unto the Pharisees that those who be whole need not a physician, but those that are sick. It would be in this particular passage of Scripture Jesus would also instruct the Pharisees to go and learn what it means when it was written “I will have mercy, and not sacrifice.” Not only this, but Jesus would also declare unto them that He did not come to call the righteous—or perhaps those who thought they were righteous in their own eyes—but sinners to repentance.

            What makes the words which are found in the opening passages of the ninth chapter so incredibly powerful is when you come to the eleventh chapter of the gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew. It is when you come to the eleventh chapter of this gospel you find the apostle Matthew writing how after Jesus had made an end of commanding His disciples, He departed to teach and preach in their cities. It would be at this time that not only would John the Baptist be in prison, but it would also be around and about this time John would hear of the works of Christ which He had wrought and performed among men within the earth. It’s actually something remarkable and unique to read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture, for Scripture records and reveals how it would be in prison John the Baptist would hear of the works of Christ, and it would be as a direct result of hearing about the works of Christ John the Baptist would send two of His disciples unto Jesus—and not only sending them unto Jesus, but sent to ask Him a very specific question. The question which John the Baptist wanted to ask Jesus was whether or not He was that One who was to come, or should they look for another. Oh there is not a doubt in my mind that there in prison—not only was John quite possible struggling with doubt, but he might very well have also been struggling with being offended in and by Christ. There was John the Baptist sitting in prison hearing about the works of Christ in the earth, and it would hearing those works which Jesus the Christ wrought and performed in the earth John would send two of His disciples unto Jesus the Christ to inquire whether or not He was that One who was to come, or if they needed to look for another. It would be in response to the inquiry of John the Baptist through His two disciples that Jesus would answer and speak unto them, saying, “Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see: The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.” It is this last statement Jesus made that is actually quite astounding and interesting, for it would essentially be by, with and through these words Jesus would speak directly to the heart of that which John the Baptist was truly thinking and feeling within himself—namely, doubt concerning, and quite possibly offense with the Messiah.

            Concerning the imprisonment of John the Baptist we will later find in this gospel narrative that the whole reason he was imprisoned was because he dared speak out against the immorality and adultery of Herod and Herodias. Oh I find it absolutely and incredibly intriguing to think about and consider the fact that John the Baptist wasn’t imprisoned for preaching concerning the kingdom of heaven, nor was John the Baptist imprisoned for baptizing men and women in the waters of the Jordan. John the Baptist wasn’t imprisoned because He called the scribes and Pharisees who came unto his baptism a brood of vipers and then asked them who warned them to flee the coming wrath. John the Baptist wasn’t imprisoned for calling the scribes and Pharisees to bring forth fruits meet for repentance and then declaring unto them that the axe was already at the root of the tree. Nowhere in the gospel narratives will you find John the Baptist imprisoned because he dared preach righteousness and call men and women to repent for their sins, their iniquity and transgression. You cannot read anywhere in the gospel narratives John the Baptist being imprisoned, nor even targeted by those which were present during those days because of his message concerning the kingdom of heaven, nor his message concerning repentance for sins. John the Baptist would be that voice crying out in the wilderness preparing and making ready a people for the coming of the Lord, and yet there would not be any of these statements and declarations that would cause John the Baptist to be targeted and imprisoned. When we find John the Baptist imprisoned we find him imprisoned because his stance on righteousness and holiness, and his preaching against sin would ultimately and eventually make its way to Herod who was king at that time. It would be during those days John the Baptist would rebuke Herod as he declared unto him that it was not lawful for him to have Herodias his brother’s wife as his own wife. It would be John Mark who would write and declare concerning this particular truth that Herodias would be angered, outraged, incensed and offended with John the Baptist, and would have a quarrel with and against him as a direct result of this outcry concerning their iniquity, their immorality, and their adultery.

            The more you read and consider the words which are found concerning John the Baptist and his imprisonment the more you will find that he was imprisoned simply because he dared speak out against the sin and the corruption that was found within the government during that time. John the Baptist would dare rebuke and call out the sin, the iniquity and the wickedness that was present surrounding the throne in Judaea, and it would that preaching and rebuke that would cause Herodias to have a quarrel and offense with John the Baptist. Undoubtedly Herodias would put pressure on Herod to imprison John, and she would have even had him immediately killed were it not for the fact that Herod feared the people and believed John the Baptist to be a prophet and a just and holy man. We must needs recognize and understand this, for not only did Herodias want to imprison John the Baptist because he dared preach and cry out against the wickedness, the iniquity, the immorality and the sin within her life, but she would have also had him killed, destroyed, eradicated and completely removed from the picture. How incredibly important it is for us to realize and recognize this—particularly and especially when we consider the events which are taking place within our nation, within our culture and within our society—for the sole reason John the Baptist was imprisoned, and the sole reason his life was marked for death by Herodias was because he dared speak out against the corruption, the wickedness, the sin, and the adultery that surrounded the king and what I guess you could also call the queen. What makes this even more astonishing and captivating is when you think about this similar reality being manifested generations earlier during the days of that man in whose spirit it was said that John the Baptist would come. It would be during the days of Elijah when Ahab and Jezebel would be king and queen over the northern kingdom of Israel, and Elijah would cry out against the wickedness of the king and the queen. What’s more, is that Ahab would even refer to Elijah as his enemy and adversary because of those words which he would preach and speak against him. Eventually and ultimately as a result of a confrontation and showdown atop mount Carmel in the midst of the land—not only would fire come down from heaven, and not would the LORD once more send rain upon the earth, but so also would Elijah call for the slaughtering of the prophets of Baal, which were essentially those which were appointed by the queen herself.

            SPEAKING OUT AGAINST THE KING AND QUEEN & DARING TO RISE UP AGAINST THOSE WHO WERE APPOINTED BY THE QUEEN HERSELF! Oh how tremendous this picture truly is when you take the time to think about and consider it, for what ultimately drove Jezebel to unleash her murderous threat against Elijah wasn’t that he had called fire down from heaven, nor even that he had prayed and sought the LORD for rain. Jezebel didn’t threaten the life of Elijah because he had called the people of Israel to choose between Baal and the one true and living God. According to Scripture, that which so incensed and outraged Jezebel and caused her to seek to destroy and kill Elijah was because he dared rise up against those whom she had appointed. What’s more, is that not only did Elijah rise up against them, but so also would Elijah call for them to be slaughtered and put to death there at Carmel after their failed attempt to incite their false god Baal to respond by fire from heaven. It is necessary that we realize and recognize this, for during the days of Elijah his life was a threat to Jezebel because he dared raise himself up according to the word of the LORD against those whom the queen had herself appointed, while during the days of John the Baptist we find his life being threatened by that one who moved and operated in the spirit of Jezebel because he dared raise himself up to speak out and speak against the corruption and wickedness that was found in what was the government of those days. RISING UP AGAINST THOSE APPOINTED BY THE GOVERNMENT, SPEAKING OUT AGAINST THOSE IN THE GOVERNMENT. This is truly something we must needs realize and understand—particularly and especially when we consider the words which are found in the twelfth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew—for what we find within these two narratives is the prophetic voice of the LORD being targeted and marked by the spirit of Jezebel for daring to rise up against those who had been appointed by the government, and for daring to rise up and speak against the sin, the iniquity, and the corruption that was found within the government.

            What we are witnessing right now within our nation and within this country is essentially history repeating itself on the shores and soil of this nation—this despite the fact that right now it is playing out in the realm of politics. Right now within our nation men and women are being marked by big tech companies, men and women are being marked by social media giants and oligarchs, men and women are being marked by big and mainstream media, and men and women are being marked by the left, and by the Democratic party. We have watched as social media company Parler has been forced off the two biggest app stores—Google Play Store and Apple App Store—as well as not only being shut down by Amazon Web Services, but also seeing their support and partnerships from and with other companies disintegrating before their very eyes. We are watching unfold before our eyes as voices within this nation—even those voices within the government itself—are being silenced and are being vehemently opposed by big tech, by mainstream media, by social media, and even by high ranking government officials. What we are witnessing right now in this country are those who would dare oppose the recent election and its results, and those who advocated for and supported Trump, and those who dared speak out against the far left, the Democratic party, and what is and has been known as “the Deep State” being targeted and marked for cancellation. One of the famous phrases right now is this “cancel culture” that seems to have gripped this nation as countless social media accounts have been suspended and deactivated because their rhetoric and speech somehow angers and offends those in power. This includes and is not even limited to the President of the United States, as social media giant Twitter has permanently banned him from its platform, while Facebook has suspended his account and ability to use its platform until after the election.

            Pause for a moment and think about how absolutely incredible, how incredibly toxic, and how incredibly poisonous this “cancel culture” truly is within our culture and society, as the voices of countless millions of Americans are being silenced, disregarded, cancelled, and the like. If the voice of the acting President of the United States can be silenced then what makes us think that our voices cannot and will not be silenced. In recent weeks we have watched and witnessed as the voice of the President has effectively been silenced within social media, we have watched as apps and accounts have been suspended and cancelled, and we have watched assaults and attacks even against such news outlets as Fox News. Oh I continue to believe within my heart that right now it is playing out on the political stage before and in front of this nation, however, there is coming a time within our nation—perhaps even very shortly when it will no longer be played out on the political stage and in the political arena but in the arena of religion. There is not a doubt in my mind that right now freedom of speech is being assaulted and attacked, and that we are very close to days when it is no longer freedom of speech that is being assaulted and attacked, but freedom of religion that can and will be assaulted and attacked. We would be incredibly naïve to think and consider—even for a moment—that what is now playing out in terms of freedom of speech as being directly linked and connected to this “cancel culture” and the agenda that is attempting to be set forth within this nation and country. What we are witnessing and beholding within this nation and country is a strong and powerful picture of a tremendous assault that is being played out on the political stage surrounding the topic and subject of politics, however, there is not a doubt in my mind that it is only a matter of time before we witness men and women beginning to have their social media accounts cancelled, deactivated, shut down, suspended, and the like because of their religious views. Right now what we are witnessing is this “cancel culture” taking place on the stage of allegiance and support to a political leader, however, I strongly believe that there is coming the point in time when it will no longer be about allegiance to a political leader, but rather allegiance to the Lord Jesus Christ.

            If you pay attention to that which is taking place in Middle Eastern countries, and if you are paying attention to that which is taking place within certain Asian countries you will find that there is already, and there has been a great persecution against those who profess allegiance to the Lord Jesus Christ. This is particularly and especially true as it pertains and relates to Islamic countries such as Syria, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Sudan, Somalia, and the like. Right now there are countries where it is considered conspiratorial and treasonous to either convert to Christianity, or even to profess allegiance to the Lord Jesus Christ. There are countries right now where men and women are being imprisoned, where men and women are being persecuted, where men and women are being tormented, where men and women are being beheaded, where men and women are being shot, and where men and women are being burned to death simply because of their allegiance to Christ. While I can never see this nation being an Islamic nation, I do, however, strongly believe that the same spirit of the Antichrist that is found within Islam can and will in fact be manifested and present within our nation, within our culture and our society. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of how incredibly possible this truly is, for there is not a doubt in my mind that what we are witnessing within this nation is the spirit of the antichrist and his agenda being manifested within this nation. I am absolutely and completely convinced that what we are witnessing and beholding within this nation is a powerful display and demonstration of the spirit of the antichrist, and it is entirely and altogether possible that the spirit of the antichrist can rise up against laws which were set in place that it might cancel, silence and destroy the voices of the prophets, and the testimony and witness of the Lord Jesus Christ. Consider if you will the following words which are found in the Old Testament prophetic book of Daniel:

            “…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 possessed the kingdom. Thus he said, The fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon the 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 his dominion 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 7:21-28).

            MADE WAR WITH THE SAINTS, AND PREVAILED AGAINST THEM! SHALL WEAR OUT THE SAINTS OF THE MOST HIGH! THINK TO CHANGE TIMES AND LAWS! AND THEY SHALL BE GIVEN INTO HIS HAND UNTIL A TIME AND TIMES AND THE DIVIDING OF TIME! The words which are found within this particular passage is actually quite astonishing and intriguing—not only because they directly speak to and apply to what we have seen within our nation and country in recent years, but also serves as a powerful Segway into that which we find within the twelfth chapter of the gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew. I find it absolutely astonishing to read the words which are found in the prophetic book of Daniel, for the words which we find within this passage of Scripture not only speaks of the antichrist making war with the saints and prevailing against them, and not only does it speak about the antichrist wearing out the saints, but it also speaks about the antichrist seeking to change times and laws. Oh how we must needs witness and behold this, for in recent years—particularly and especially since the second half of last century we witnessed as laws within this nation were changed. Laws such as abortion and marriage were entirely and altogether changed, and even laws concerning prayer in school was changed. Over the past sixty years we have watched as laws concerning the sanctity of life and marriage have been changed—and this not even considering what we are witnessing right now within the present and current state of our nation. There is a lot of talk about freedom of speech, The Bill of Rights, the Constitution, and our rights and civil liberties within this nation, and yet I can’t help but get the strong sense within my heart and spirit that what we are witnessing and beholding is a powerful attempt to change laws within this country—laws which have granted us certain freedoms and liberties. Oh we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of just how incredibly prevalent this truly is, for I am absolutely and completely convinced that what we are witnessing and beholding is the spirit of antichrist at work on American soil seeking to change times and laws among us that the witness and testimony of Christ might be cancelled, and that the very name and mention of God might be driven out and removed from this nation. Oh dear reader—please pay careful and close attention to this truth and reality, for what we are witnessing within this nation and within this country is a powerful picture of the spirit of the antichrist rising up within this nation seeking to change laws that the name of God and the testimony of Christ might ultimately and eventually be driven out.

            I sit here today thinking about and considering the words which are written and found within these passages of Scripture and I can’t help but be absolutely and completely captivated with and by the fact that I firmly believe what we are witnessing within this nation and country is a strong and powerful attempt by and from the spirit of the antichrist to change laws that his own will and agenda might be imposed upon this nation. Here again, I feel the need to mention that what we are witnessing within this nation and country is taking place on the political stage, however, there have been glimpses of this changing of laws and the working of the spirit of the antichrist being manifested within this nation through those laws which have been passed concerning abortion, concerning same sex marriage, and concerning transgender rights. You cannot live within this nation and not be absolutely gripped and captivated with and by just how prevalent and powerful the spirit of the antichrist and his agenda has been within this nation as the laws which have been passed concerning these three realities—marriage, gender, and even life itself—have set a powerful pretext and context for laws to continue to be passed and changed within this country. Oh what would we do if legislature and laws began begin passed that prohibited and restricted free speech within this nation and country? What would we do if the civil liberties and freedoms we have enjoyed for so long within this nation and country begin to deteriorate and disintegrate within and before our very eyes? How would we respond if what we have known as the Constitution, what we have known as the Bill of rights, and what we have known as the laws which have governed our nation and country begin to be entirely and altogether disregarded—if not completely ignored and destroyed? We have already witnessed senators and congressmen and congresswomen boldly and emphatically declaring that our Constitution is under assault and attack, and we cannot and must not miss the tremendous importance of this, for there is a clear and present assault on our Constitution and the laws and rights, and there has been for quite some time.

            It is with this in mind that I feel it now appropriate to call and draw our attention to the words which we find in the twelfth chapter of this New Testament gospel narrative, for what we find within the twelfth chapter is a strong and powerful picture of Jesus angering, upsetting and offending the religious leaders and system of that day. As you read the words which are found within this passage you will find that it wasn’t merely Jesus who angered and offended the scribes and Pharisees, but it was also His disciples. What’s more, is at the very heart and center of what we find within this passage is the reality concerning the sabbath day, and those laws and traditions that surrounded the sabbath day. If you start reading the words which are found in the twelfth chapter of this gospel narrative you will find that the offense and quarrel first took place surrounding Jesus’ disciples and their picking the heads of grain off the wheat that they might eat it, while the very next passage shows this offense and quarrel continuing even more as Jesus would heal a man on the sabbath day. Within this passage of Scripture we find both Jesus and His disciples angering and offending the scribes and the Pharisees—and not only angering and offending them, but angering and offending them because of their laws and their traditions. This passage draws and calls our attention to the awesome and powerful truth that Jesus not only was and is Lord over the sabbath, but also that Jesus and His disciples would both anger, upset and offend the scribes and the Pharisees. Oh if there is one thing we must needs realize and understand when reading the words found within this passage of Scripture it’s that at the very heart and center of this offense and quarrel was not necessarily the day itself, but rather the laws and traditions which had been established—some of which had been established since the days of Moses and the children of Israel in the wilderness. Not only this, but we must needs realize and understand that the quarrel and offense that is found within this chapter also directly touches and is connected to the interpretation of that which was commanded in the Law of Moses and laws and traditions which were implemented and imposed as a result of that interpretation.

            WHEN JESUS OFFENDS THE LAW OF THE SYSTEM! WHEN JESUS OFFENDS THE TRADITIONS OF THE SYSTEM! WHEN JESUS’ DISCIPLES OFFEND THE LAW OF THE SYSTEM! WHEN JESUS’ DISCIPLES OFFEND THE TRADITIONS OF THE SYSTEM! I have to admit that the words which are presented before and unto us in the twelfth chapter of this gospel narrative is actually quite captivating and quite provocative—particularly and especially when you consider that which is taking place within our nation right now, and particularly when you think about that which I wrote and mentioned concerning the spirit and agenda of the antichrist. You cannot read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture without and apart from encountering and coming face to face with the strong and powerful truth that both Jesus and His disciples found themselves angering, upsetting and offending the scribes and the Pharisees—and not merely because of their actions, but because their actions appeared to directly violate the laws and the traditions of the scribes and the Pharisees. The scribes and the Pharisees weren’t upset with Jesus’ disciples picking the heads of grain off the wheat, but rather because they did so on the sabbath, and thereby transgressed and violated their laws and traditions. The scribes and the Pharisees weren’t upset with Jesus healing the man with the withered hand, but rather than He chose to deliberately and intentionally heal this man’s hand on the sabbath which they viewed as a violation of their laws and traditions. If there is one thing we must needs realize and understand when reading the words which are found in this passage of Scripture it’s that the scribes and Pharisees weren’t necessarily even offended because of the Law of Moses, but rather because of their own laws, their own traditions, and their own interpretation and understanding of the law. If you want to truly understand the words which are found within this passage of Scripture you must needs realize and understand that what so angered and offended the scribes and the Pharisees was this apparent and blatant disregard for their laws and their traditions. That which the scribes and Pharisees had implemented and established, and that which had been in place for years was being entirely and altogether disregarded by Jesus and His disciples.

            What we must needs realize and recognize and understand when reading the words which are found is that when you come to the fourteenth verse of this chapter we find that after Jesus had not only healed this man with the withered hand on the sabbath—thus showing an apparent disregard for their laws and traditions—the scribes and the Pharisees went out and held a council against Him how they might destroy Him. Oh dear brother, oh dear sister—please don’t miss and lose sight of what is found within this passage of Scripture, for what is found here is a strong and powerful picture of the system of that day conspiring against Jesus that they might destroy Him. The entire reason and purpose they sought to destroy Him was because He showed no regard for their laws and their traditions—and not only this, but also spoke out against their laws and traditions. It is absolutely necessary when reading the words which are found in this passage of Scripture that we understand the Pharisees weren’t only incensed and outraged with Jesus because He healed on the sabbath, and thus showed an apparent disregard for their laws and traditions, but they were incensed against Jesus because He would go on to rebuke them for their own faulty thinking and faulty assumptions about the living God. If there is one thing we must needs recognize and understand when reading the words which are found within these passages of Scripture it’s that Jesus didn’t merely heal on the sabbath day, and Jesus’ disciples didn’t merely pick the ears of the corn and began eating on the Sabbath day, but in both cases Jesus both rebuked and corrected their thinking. What’s more is that it would in response to the complaint the Pharisees tried lobbying against His disciples that Jesus would once more speak unto them from the prophets and concerning the declaration, “I will have mercy and not sacrifice.”

            If and as you read the words which are found within this passage of Scripture you won’t merely find Jesus’ disciples angering, incensing and outraging the Pharisees, but you will also find the second narrative surrounding the Pharisees’ attempt to trap and ensnare Him. As you read the words which are found in verses nine through thirteen of this passage of Scripture you will find Jesus entering in one of the synagogues, and it would be there in the midst of the synagogue the Pharisees would seek to entrap and ensnare Him—and not only this, but try and ensnare Him on and concerning the sabbath. On this particular sabbath Jesus would enter into the synagogue, and there would be a man whose hand was withered. The Pharisees wanting to find reasons to accuse Jesus asked Him—undoubtedly before and in the sight of all those who were present during these days whether or not it was lawful to heal on the sabbath. Oh please recognize and understand that which is written and found within these words, for essentially that which the Pharisees were asking Jesus was not whether or not it was lawful to heal, but whether or not it was lawful to heal on the sabbath. This question of whether or not it was lawful to heal on the sabbath had and contained at the very heart and crux of it is whether or not it was lawful for Jesus to follow and obey their laws, their rules and their traditions. We cannot and must not miss and lose sight of just how absolutely incredible this sense of entrapment and snare truly was concerning Jesus, for with their question they were really and ultimately asking Jesus whether or not it was lawful for Him to obey and follow the laws, the traditions and rules on the sabbath day. We must needs pay close and careful attention to this, for when they attempted and sought to ensnare and entrap Jesus they did so according to their own laws and traditions. This is eerily reminiscent of that which the principles and those in the administration did during the days of the prophet Daniel when they sought to accuse, condemn and find fault in him—not necessarily according to Medo-Persian law per say, but according to laws concerning his own God. The prefects and principles within the Medo-Persian government sought to find reason to accuse and condemn Daniel and so what they did was manipulate and coerce the king to passing a law that anyone who prayed to anyone other than him for a period of thirty days would be cast into the lion’s den.

            It is actually quite remarkable and astounding to consider the narrative which is found in the prophetic book of Daniel, for this same prophet to whom it was shown that the antichrist would seek to change laws and times would himself witness—not a law being changed, but a law being put in place that would essentially and effectively bar and ban anyone from praying to anyone but the king. Please do not miss and lose sight of just how absolutely incredible this truly is, for what we find in this pagan and heathen society and culture was a new law being implemented and put in place—even if it was only temporary for a period of thirty days—that would effectively prohibit anyone from praying to anyone other than the king. The principals and prefects knew that Daniel would most likely continue praying to the Lord his God, and so they would coerce the king into passing a law that would all but guarantee Daniel would be found guilty according to the law of the Medes and the Persians. Oh it is absolutely necessary that we pay close attention to this, for in the third chapter of the prophetic book of Daniel we find Nebuchadnezzar setting up a colossal image made of gold and demanded that whenever anyone hears the sound of music they would bow down and worship the image. In the case of Daniel we find a law that was actually passed and put in writing that effectively banned and barred anyone from praying to one other than the king of the Medes and the Persians. Oh we must recognize and pay close and careful attention to this, for what we find and read within these passages of Scripture is a powerful system that will not only seek to cause the people of God to bow down and worship that which is not God and threaten them with judgment as a result, but will also seek to impose and put laws in motion that will condemn and indict men and women of God—even in the court of law.

            I sit here today thinking about and considering all of this—particularly and especially concerning that which we find and read in the four gospel narratives—and what I find absolutely incredible is that not only did the Pharisees seek to condemn Jesus and His disciples according to their laws and traditions, but they would even seek to ensnare and entrap Jesus according to those laws and traditions. I absolutely love that as you read the gospel narratives you will find that regardless of how the scribes and Pharisees sought to ensnare and entrap Jesus He would also respond according to the kingdom of heaven and the word and will of the Father and would effectively and essentially rebuke and indict the religious system in the act. I am convinced we must needs recognize and pay attention to this, for not only did the scribes and Pharisees seek to accuse and condemn Jesus according to their laws and traditions, but they also sought to find reason to put Him to death and destroy Him. We find in the second portion of the twelfth chapter Jesus rebuking and correcting the line of thinking of the Pharisees—and not only this, but we also find Him healing the man with the withered hand. It would be immediately after this the Pharisees would go out and hold a council against Jesus how they might destroy Him. Oh I can’t help but read the narrative that is found within this passage and not only see the scribes and Pharisees seeking to ensnare and entrap Jesus according to their laws that they might accuse Him, but they would also hold a council against Him to destroy Him when He deliberately and intentionally chose to heal the man—and not only heal the man, but to do so on the sabbath which would have been viewed and perceived as a violation of their laws, their traditions and their statutes. This is incredibly important for us to think about, consider and recognize, for I am absolutely and completely convinced that we can and will see this reality being manifested within our own hearts and lives. I am absolutely and completely convinced that we can and will most certainly see this take place and be manifested within this nation as a direct result of laws which are already in place, and laws which will be put in place over the course of the next four years.

            As I bring this writing to a close I find it absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand the movement and operation of the spirit of the antichrist, and how the spirit of the antichrist has been manifested within this nation—not only in establishing new laws regarding abortion, gender and marriage, but also in seeking to change and alter laws that have been in place for years. I absolutely and firmly believe that we can and will see the spirit of the antichrist working together with the spirit of Jezebel within this nation—not only to change laws and seasons to drive out the witness of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ, but also to silence the prophetic voice of the body of Christ. Oh we must needs make ourselves ready and prepare ourselves for that which lies ahead of us in the coming days, for I am absolutely and completely convinced that what we will see and find in the coming days will be a demonstration and agenda of the spirit of the antichrist such as never before. Not only this, but I would also contend that what we are witnessing within these days is a powerful precursor and setting of the stage for the spirit of the antichrist, and how this nation could very well bend and bow to the will and agenda of the antichrist when he actually arrives and emerges within and upon the earth. There are those who would argue and contend that the antichrist is already here within this world and hasn’t yet been revealed and manifested on the world stage. Oh dear reader, oh dear brother, oh dear sister—I am absolutely and completely convinced that we must needs make ourselves ready and prepare ourselves for that which is coming in the days, weeks, months and years that are ahead of us. We must needs recognize and understand that we are presently in dark and dangerous days, and that the days are only going to get darker as time progresses.

I am absolutely and completely convinced that what we see and what we find within this particular passage of Scripture is not only a powerful picture of Jesus being accused and condemned because of allegedly violating the laws and traditions of the scribes and Pharisees, but also a powerful picture of what I believe can and will take place in the coming days. I firmly believe that in the coming days ahead we are going to see the disciples and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ being accused by those in positions of leadership—even positions of government—in order that there might be reason to condemn them. I firmly believe that what we can and will see in the coming days is a powerful move to entrap and ensnare the people of God—the disciples and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ—and doing so according to the laws which are either in place right now, or which will be in place in the coming days, weeks, months and years ahead. I firmly believe that the stage is being set for the spirit of antichrist and the spirit of jezebel to be working in full tandem and harmony in the coming days, and we as the people of God must make ourselves ready for it. I truly believe that what we are seeing is only the tip of the spear and the tip of the iceberg and glacier that is in front of us. We dare not, we cannot and must not be naïve and/or ignorant concerning what is presently taking place within our nation, and we must not be naïve and ignorant to the spirit of antichrist and the spirit of Jezebel that is going to be manifested within this nation in the coming days. We are going to enter into dark and dangerous days which are ahead and before us, and we must needs arm ourselves with discernment, wisdom and understanding—and not only with this, but also with a powerful knowledge of the Scriptures and what is found within the divine Word of God. We must needs commit ourselves to being men and women who not only know the Scriptures, but also men and women who know our God and who know Jesus who is our Christ and the ultimate source of our hope, our freedom, our deliverance, our courage, our strength, our confidence, our boldness, our faith, our character, our integrity, and all those elements that are so incredibly vital to our Christian faith.

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