Just as the spring rain falls on the freshly ploughed field breaking up the clods of earth, and just as only through death a grain of seed manages to transmit the power of life into a plant that will come into being, in the same way phenomena occur as well as the light that came from on high, through the Word that became flesh. He came to us as the rain that blesses the dry land, “like the spring rains that water the earth” (Hosea 6:3). He fully gave of Himself and was pierced for our sins and He died for us, and through His resurrection He completely defeated death and He gave us eternal life. “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” (John 12:24).
The destinies of all forms of life are in His hands. The past, present and future for all of us was, and will remain, permanently conditioned by His plans which He revealed to His servants, His prophets. Thus “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son.” (Hebrews 1:1,2).
The prophetic authority of the Holy Scriptures, confirmed at a later time through historic events, is not based on human teachings, but is the direct result of experiences which people had with God. Thus God revealed Himself, communicating His plans to those He had predestined to become His spokespersons.
In the first part of the book, the idea is to show the communication methods which God generally used in revealing His mysteries about how we exist, and especially about our salvation.
The second part of the book presents the influences of demonic spirits on the human race, climaxing with the yielding of the will, confused minds and with the annihilation of the human race’s conscience. In this deplorable situation, people were caught in the devil’s prison and held in the dark, without the possibility of release.
God’s Son came to destroy the works of the devil and to release the captives from prison, to give light to those who have lived in darkness: “I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, to open the eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.” (Isaiah 42:6,7).
Today the Saviour continues to save people, snatching them from the chains of sin in which they were bound and giving them complete freedom combined with a rich life.
The third part of the book presents the spiritual poverty of those who allow themselves to be carried along by any new teaching, without allowing themselves to be guided by the Light of the Word revealed by Jesus Christ.
When this type of person strays, it can be very costly. Because they don’t search the Scriptures, they permanently oscillate between a lie and the truth, between Light and darkness, between Life and death, turning away more and more from the One who has called them to salvation.
The purpose which the majority have, being alienated from God?s will, does not allow them to discern reality, becoming the testing ground for all unidentified influences. The cure for this category is for them to renounce their chosen ways, before it is too late, and to return to God, who does not tire of forgiving.
The book presents many instances from the author?s life, following which he felt lead by God to testify about them, carefully describing them for everybody?s benefit in the order in which they were revealed to him.
This discovery, developed along the three plans mentioned, consists of God’s reply about the recognition of true prophets and the search for false prophets.
What is described in the following pages is meaningful and contains the reason for God?s special intervention, which is our clarification of this subject.
THE FIRST EXPERIENCE AT THE BIBLE STUDY
One Saturday evening, the faithful from the community were present at a time of fellowship. The elder was developing the subject from Matthew 7:21: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven.”
During this blessed time of sharing, while he was speaking from God’s Word, three strangers from Sebes entered the House of Prayer. They were two men, accompanied by a young and very beautiful woman. The first of the men, about forty years old, was short and less attractive. The second one was young, handsome and very daring. At first sight it could have seemed, by his looks, that the younger one was the woman’s husband, while the older man could have been a brother or relative of the younger couple.
Looking carefully at them in this moment, the elder felt a shocking repulsion to them. Their agitated looks and screwed up faces made him come down from the pulpit to suggest something to them. In the following moments he approached them and whispered to them: “You are guests here. Please listen quietly to the Word of the Lord and do not disturb the service. At the end of the programme, after the time of teaching, we will have the pleasure of meeting you and you can tell us why you are visiting us.”
At the conclusion of the teaching time, the elder announced the completion of the programme, saying to all: “Dear brothers and sisters, honoured friends, by the Lord’s grace, this evening’s service has finished. The congregation is free. Those who are not in a hurry can remain a few minutes to get to know our guests.”
After most had left, about twenty remained in the House of Prayer. The guests were invited to make themselves known and to explain their visit. It wouldn’t have been a correct attitude at all for the hosts, if they could not have justified the necessity.
The first of the guests who introduced himself was the younger man, with an abundance of audacity. Agitated because he wasn?t offered the opportunity to manifest his gifts before the congregation during the service, he presented his authority and mission, speaking on behalf of his colleagues: “We are the vessels of the Lord and we are authorised to go out to do the Lord’s work, in all Churches, everywhere.”
The shrill voice of the prophetess was heard, “We are sent by the Lord”.
The lean and short man, having a quieter nature, didn’t feel the need to introduce himself, because the vessels of the Lord and already adequately done so for him.
After the guests had finished introducing themselves and the mission for which they were authorised, the elder thought that he needed to organise lodgings for them and he asked: “Do you know someone here? Do you have relatives here? I would like to organise lodgings for you.” Speaking to the prophetess he asked: “Which one is your husband”?
Intimidated and feeling obliged to reply, the prophetess pointed to the lean and short man, introducing him, “He is my husband”. “But what relationship do you have with the younger brother” Is he a close relative”? “No”, replied the prophetess, “he is a brother in the Lord who ” lives with us?.
“Why have you come to visit us?? ?Oh, to see what the Lord will say to you.? ?Be our guests!? replied the elder, giving them the freedom to enquire of the Lord.
They knelt down, and an avalanche of rebukes and warnings began: ?The soul of the man who is opposing the Holy Spirit, I, the Lord, say to you; when you hear the sound of my steps over the paving stones, your punishment is near. Because you have scorned my servants, you will be punished by the division of the Church; today, even today, today, says the Lord.?
Every threatening word was accompanied by some unintelligible words which poured out between whistling, physical shaking and shivering which became more and more insistent. When the prophet was pronouncing his threats in an unknown tongue, the prophetess was interpreting them liberally; sometimes, for five unknown syllables which the prophet was saying, the interpretation could contain a number of threats, as she was prompted by the spirit which was guiding her.
To eliminate any confusion, the prophetess chose to make an explanation: ?Listen Pastor, because you were ordained by man?s choice and not through My Spirit, I will spit you out of my mouth!? She then spoke to the faithful who had remained in the House of Prayer and said: ?And you who believe in My actions, in this night I will overwhelm you with the gifts, I will pour out my Spirit on you, you will do greater miracles that the apostles and you will be a living Church!?
In the following moments the mysteries of the prophecy were unravelled; the guests were invited to the Church by a dissenter at odds with God and Christian morals. These guests wanted to put the Church in order, accusing and blaming brother Florian, who?d become Pastor of the Church, that he is against the works of the Holy Spirit. In that period, elder Ionel had a greater understanding for those with the gifts, sympathising with them for their boldness which was lacking in wisdom. He nursed a hope that the people would mature and would renounce the disturbance they were causing in the Lord?s house.
It so happened that brother Florian was absent from the Church that evening, being in another locality. That evening, the prophetess and prophet had no way of knowing that brother Florian, about whom they had the information that he didn?t believe in the work of the Holy Spirit, was not present at the Church. Thus all the warnings that should have been thrown at brother Florian, in accordance with the information that they had from the dissident, they levelled at Ionel, having the mistaken belief that he was brother Florian. It was late and after finishing the service, the dissident Felician, who had invited them to the Church, invited them to stay at his home with the intention of spending the whole night in prayer.
A small number of recently converted believers, who were hearing for the first time such a prophecy, full of threats, overcome by their curiosity, expressed their desire to go to the prayer meeting. The promises made exceeded all expectations. Who wouldn?t have wanted to do greater miracles than the apostles were able to do? It merited a night in prayer, or even more, for such an achievement.
Because it was late, the elder considered that it was no longer necessary to keep the visitors, thinking that the following day they would meet with the Church and they could discuss in detail any mistakes made. Anyhow, he said to himself, a fire in the hay is easily put out. There was no need to worry.
Sometimes a lesson learned through experience is more useful that one learned through theory, without practical support.
Ionel?s wife, who was also present at the meeting, and was shocked by the number of promises made, as well as because of feminine curiosity, expressed her desire to go to the prayer meeting. ?Even better, agreed the elder. It is useful for us to know what happens there.?
The prayer meeting took place in the home of the dissident, with shouts and a hellish noise. Having between them a spiritual connection that was more than appeared on the surface, when the prophet or the prophetess uttered their threats, speaking in tongues was put in second place by the interpretation of tongues.
Immediately he launched into a terrible threat against sister Nuti, Ionel?s wife: ?Woman, I have given you a trumpet and instead of sounding it, you have hung it up on a nail and it has rusted. I, the Lord, order you to take this rusted trumpet and to sound it with all your might; if you do not submit and if you do not obey my voice, I, the Lord, will strike you down and you will be punished even now with madness, says the Lord!? Uneasy because of the threatening prophecy and tired by the persistent shouting, Nuti began to suffer with a terrible headache.
At about 2 A.M. she decided to go home. The prayer meeting went on until Sunday morning without having any evidence of miracles or the receiving any gift, not even the smallest among all those promised that such open-handedness and so eagerly awaited.
Before nine o?clock in the morning, the prophetess was at the Church. At that time the elder was also in the House of Prayer. Wanting to exercise her authority, the prophetess went up to the elder and harshly said to him: ?Hear the word of the Lord. I will not answer for what will happen in this Church; I am sorry that I have come here. If I didn?t love you, I would have left this night. Why have you stopped the work of the Lord in the Church?? ?Listen, my dear?, replied the elder, ?you have told me that you will not be responsible for what will happen in this Church. That is very normal. For here, in this Church, you have not been given any ministry. If you have not ploughed this field and if you have not sown the good seed, striving to weed it at the right times, how can you have the pretend to reap the crop? Listen to what I am telling you, for I speak to you in the name of the Truth, which you have recklessly crushed. Your prophecies have proved to be lies, because the Lord has not given you this ministry, but you prophesy by your own daring, living in the deception of sin. Something is whispering to me that you are not faithful to your husband whose name you bear, trying to cover your deeds and to save your face. God, who knows you well, will repay you for your acts. Neither in the Church in which you are registered can you be responsible and even less in the other churches in the country. How many charismatic groups have you in your locality?? ?Three,? replied the prophetess. A community divided in three parts. ?How many members are there in all?? ?About fifteen?, said the prophetess, lowering her eyes, creating for the first time the impression that she was feeling deeply ashamed. ?Are there prophets in all three groups? If you are truly the Lord?s prophets, what is the reason for the division?? The young and beautiful prophetess couldn?t find a response. In closing the discussion, Ionel added: ?If you want to remain today for the service, from our point of view, you are free to do so. If you want to remain, please stay quietly. Think seriously about the fact that God has taught you a lesson, making you ashamed, but He has given you the possibility to wake up and to recognise that you?ve strayed, because not one of your promises which you made so liberally has been fulfilled. After several months Ionel heard that because of extramarital unfaithfulness, the prophetess and the prophet involved, were excluded from the Church.
He later heard from the church?s supervisor that this prophetess had disturbed many Churches in the country, before being disciplined because for her sins. ?Many will say to Me on that day: ? Lord, Lord, didn?t we prophesy in Your Name? ?? This bitter experience later led to a great blessing from the Lord.
After the visit of these guests, the elder wondered about holding a Bible study about prophecy, in order to maintain unity among the members. It wasn?t a simple issue, nor an easy one, because the idea was spreading everywhere that such a study about controlling false prophets could be a sin against the Holy Spirit, which would have irreparable results for those who sinned by holding such a study. Only through a special revelation and through confirmation from the Lord could the confusion be eliminated from such a thorny problem, which on the one hand sought to eliminate the false, but also to recognise the divine truth according to Scripture.
This delicate situation is mentioned in the Saviour?s words in Matthew?s Gospel 12:31-32: ?And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.? Men can be tempted to misinterpret this truth in their minds, so that, in the fear that they might sin against the Holy Spirit, they are disposed to accept all human misdeeds, including the works of the devil, without having the courage to verify them in the light of Scripture. If we try to humanly judge the things of God and to doubt their value, the risk exists of an undesirable, grave result. If we judge in a godly manner, through the light of Scripture and guided by the Holy Spirit, the things of God can be easily seen in comparison to those of the devil and those of mankind which are done with daring and without thought or in their unwise zeal.
From that moment, this preoccupation became a priority for Ionel, and he felt the need to seek God?s guidance. He came to an agreement with his wife, agreeing to pray together in a very deliberate way for God?s guidance. The issue at hand was if there was truly a need for such a Bible study, and if it was possible to get the desired result of maintaining unity in the church, strengthening the faith of the members in the true ways of the Lord and increasing their vigilance in finding and controlling false prophets and spiritual inaccuracies.
After the first day of prayer and fasting with his wife, Ionel received a reply from the Lord during the night, in a vision with symbolic meanings. In this vision he was shown a building with a very large room. In the interior there were a lot of objects that were destroyed: valuable furniture, all sorts of valuable household items, which were crushed beneath a mound of debris. The prophetess appeared in this vision. She was inside the building and continued to prophesy, threatening those who didn?t agree with her convictions. This terrible image mirrored the state of the community if the prophetess would be allowed to continue to prophesy in the Church. The elder dejectedly approached the prophetess and said: ?Please stop! Look at these ruins, they are the result of your insolent prophecies, which are not from the Lord.? At that moment the prophetess angrily arose from her knees and, unleashing all evil, began to hit him, continuing to threaten in the Lord?s name. Amazed by the aggressiveness of the prophetess, the elder felt a great internal strength and said with authority: ?I asked you politely and you didn?t obey, now I order you, in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, to no longer prophesy, and to leave our Church?. The prophetess immediately arose from her knees, left the building and headed for the house of the dissident who had invited her to the Church. In the following moments, from the air, he heard a strong, clear voice. It was the voice of the Lord: ?Your prophets, o Israel, are like jackals among ruins.? (Ezekiel 14:4).Jackals are a kind of wild dog which hide behind the ruins of deserted houses and feed on the leftover food which they find in the rubbish. Chapter 13 in Ezekiel is entirely about false prophets who prophesy out their own imaginations and from the daring of their hearts. Even the visions which they have are deceptive. It is recommended that you read with great attention Ezekiel 13:1-23.
On the second day of fasting with his wife, Ionel received a second reply with symbolic meanings from the Lord. He saw a huge mass; it was a machine that was making an infernal noise. It was placed near the ruin of a tower, which looked similar to a medieval construction. The people were saying among themselves that this machine must rebuild the tower, replacing the labour of hundred?s of thousands of men. This tower would represent the watchtower of Old Testament prophecy.
The dissident?s house, where the prayer meeting was held, appeared in the vision. The weeds which grew around the building were as high as the eaves, hindering the light from entering. The shouting from inside the building could be heard from a great distance, creating the impression of an amoral situation. When the machine was put in motion, Ionel saw with amazement that it was working idly, not achieving anything, contrary to what the people believed. Suddenly from the space around, God?s voice could be heard again: ?This is false prophecy from the last days, making a lot of noise, but useless.?
Thus, on the third consecutive night he received from the Lord the resolution of the issue in a miraculous way. This time he saw an open field where there was a network of high tension power lines. The supporting pylons were huge, and were made of metal. The elements were made from solid porcelain, and the weight of the wires made them hang like elastic ropes with a large resistance. On the upper part of the pylons were the positive energy wires, through which power and light were transmitted. These conducting wires represented the communication system established by God through revelation, inspiration and illumination through the Holy Spirit. Lower down, among the positive wires, was another series of conducting wires, which produced disastrous accidents by short-circuiting. These wires represented the evil system, through which Lucifer, the bearer of the killing light, tries to imitate God?s works through the medium of witches, fortune-tellers, magicians, and astrologers of all types, who studied the occult and obtained knowledge and information about people through various methods and practises, using them in ways that are not permitted by God.
In the lower part of the network was another series of wires which were suspended, creating the impression that an enormous power energy was being transmitted through them. These wires were not made with the metallic wire that made it possible to transmit the electrical current, but were made from a non-conductive material. This lower level represented what people do through their own improvised means, from the daring of their spirits, without having any direct influence from God or from Lucifer. They limit themselves to some psychological actions, which they have perfected, in many cases, unknowingly. These people confused emotions generated my different non-Biblical methods that are pagan in origin, with the power and gifts of the Holy Spirit.
In this lower category are included many types of Christians.
Some of these, through a lack of Scriptural knowledge, from the way in which they were wrongly indoctrinated, truly believe that these emotional occurrences which create a predisposition to certain visions or to prophesy, are from God, even when they prove to have no actual content. God has a lot of patience for this category of believers, who are sincere, yet are like children in their Scriptural knowledge, waiting for them to become more mature. Apostle Paul, in 1 Corinthians 13:11, tells us the following: ?When I was a child, I talked like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.?
Some others are people who consistently provoke such psychological tensions, such as, for example, insistence on the use of and repetition of certain formulae which are not part of the fundamental Pentecostal doctrine, such as: ?The blood, the blood; wash me, wash me; baptise me, baptise me? and others through the teaching of dissident groups. By shouting these formulae continually, the people eventually lose control of their emotions, and they begin to mumble indistinct syllables. Then they say a few words that have no sense, they begin to prophesy and to create the impression that it is an interpretation of the tongue, accompanied by the knowledge of, and the uncovering of the sins which some of the believers continue to commit with an incorrect attitude to the vow they had made to God in the moment when they became Christians. As a result of these psychological processes that go to the extreme, in such a state of tension, they can also have visions that are without content. ?Their visions are false and their divinations a lie. They say, ?The Lord declares,? when the Lord has not sent them; yet they expect their words to be fulfilled. Have you not seen false visions and uttered lying divinations when you say, ?The Lord declares,? though I have not spoken?? (Ezekiel 14:6,7).
To create this psychological effect, through the repetition of certain formulae which cannot be proven from Scripture, instead of persistent prayer, in many cases they also use songs which repeat certain formulae. The psychological effect is the same, but they manifest differently. In such cases, the people who were caught in the whirl of emotions, lose control and begin to clap their hands involuntarily to the rhythm of the noisy tunes, followed by dancing, leaping and uncontrolled actions of the participants, who sometimes follow the leader?s example giving the impression that they have undertaken sensual dancing borrowed from the pagans. Such practises cannot be linked to the Holy Spirit, neither to the pious conduct of a Christian, nor to spirituality nor to the Church.
This type of psychological effect, if it is inflamed and guided with ability to an excessive point, has the gift to heal people of their imagined illnesses, if they are gullible and are easily influenced. This category of people fall easily to the floor if they are simply touched, or if the half-godlike leader simply blows on them. This method is a combination of oriental practises, such as Hinduism and has no link at all with the Holy Bible, with the Holy Spirit, or with the salvation of people, but rather has a financial goal.
The organisers, by using such practises and ignoring Scripture, are not hindered in obtaining success in the winning of an uninformed public, even if they are appealing to the lowest types of practices in the exploitation of the gullible, promising them physical healing and material prosperity; they do not put a priority on conversion and the necessity of the salvation of the soul. They use Jesus? name, compromising God?s honour by violating Biblical principles.
Most of the cases of healing and so-called baptisms in the Holy Spirit obtained by these methods proved to be without spiritual value, because the lives and attitudes of these people toward God remain the same as before, not producing a true conversion. In these conditions, the pretension that they are using the gifts represent nothing more than a simple, damaging aberration.
New birth cannot be obtained through artificial, psychologically induced events, but only by the Word of God and through sanctification by the Holy Spirit. It is even possible for good, faithful people to be caught up in these practices, people who sincerely believe in what they are doing, without being conscious of the error in which they are living.
In extreme cases, a large number of pseudo-Christians, charlatans, can be caught by these practices, which work through fraud and wring large financial profits through the exploitation of people of good faith.
Coming back to the symbolic image which was represented by the high tension power network, the elder received not only the solution from God, but also the commandment to renounce and to put aside the wires that were installed in a fantastic way, with the aim of producing confusion and accidents.
Thus, in the following moments he felt duty bound to fulfil the mission and at the same time the need to pray to God. ?Merciful Father, how will I manage to dismantle and classify these wires? Because the non-conductive wires which were installed in the lower part of the network and which represent the psychological effects on the people are not a problem for me. I believe that I will be able to dismantle them easily. What worries me is the dismantling of the evil conducting wires; these have not been disconnected from the power source, they are still under high tension.? ?Don?t worry?, was God?s reply, specifying: ?These wires that conduct evil energy have no power over My children?. ?Lord, I don?t understand electrical things, I don?t know where to start to work.? ?Begin to work from the beginning of the network and don?t be afraid of anything, because I will advise you how to work.?
Rejoicing in the promises made by God?s voice, and without any idea of how God would teach him, he went to the beginning of the network. The huge installations, together with the generators at the beginning of the network for the evil energy, through their huge dimensions which created the impression that they are resistant and active, so that disconnecting them could not occur without risking unpleasant consequences as a result.
He looked at them with amazement and in the following moments he felt an internal strength and he decided to begin to work. Climbing up a huge ladder, he managed to reach the command board to which the network was connected. Where to put his hand? What are the rules that must be respected to avoid danger? He immediately saw a clear image of a shining sheet metal plate on which many groups of Biblical texts were written, beginning with Genesis and ending with Revelation.
Each group of Biblical texts referred to a category of work, being classified according to a predefined order, beginning with God?s works, followed by the imitations and the Devil?s works and at the end, by the man-made imitations through the medium of psychological effects.
This shining metal sheet which contained the words of Scripture, represented the basic technical book through which, by respecting the regulations mentioned, and without any difficulty, he could begin tracking down not only the conductive wires, but also the false sources of energy which produce confusion and accidents. The regulations of the classification and disconnection of the wires under tension had to be followed strictly. In order to avoid a short-circuit, every component had to be disconnected in such a way as to avoid contact with the others. This manoeuvre referred to the fact that many of the believers of good faith could be shocked by the work at hand, not being able to understand it, being aimed at the full recognition of the gifts of the Holy Spirit and eliminating false ones, which in recent times had multiplied enormously.
In the end, after a lot of meticulous work and with a lot of satisfaction, following the technical book, Holy Scripture, he managed to track down the connections that were the cause of accidents, classifying them suitably, in the light of Biblical truth. This extraordinary experience was the third response from God, which followed those three days of prayer and fasting. In the following weeks he gained sufficient experience to be able to hold teaching sessions with the Church about the subject of prophecy mentioned in the work presented here. Ionel decided to announce that he would hold Bible studies not only in the Churches in the country, but would even write a book which would cover the topic of PROPHECY, in accordance with what God had revealed to him.
Many of the faithful believers, hearing about his intention to write such a book, in which he would state the hard facts, expressed their concern that this book could bring general prejudice to the charismatic movement and especially to the Pentecostal Churches. The question was: ?what will the Baptists and other Protestants say if they discover the lack of experience in which we?ve lived such a long time, under an incorrect interpretation and practice of Biblical teaching?
This worry did not, however, have spiritual value. He who hides behind his mistakes does not grow.
In writing this book, the author does not wish to offend the pure sentiments of those of good faith, who were lead into error through a lack of teaching. If we examine ourselves and recognise our mistakes, the Lord will show us a much better way. The aim of this work is to help us to understand the Scriptures, which are so poorly known by the majority of believers. Throughout this book, a line is drawn between prophecies which are from God and those which are false, which come from unidentified sources through less informed Christians. It doesn?t go against any of the works of the Lord and their practical application, which remain valid, according to the Scriptures, but is only against those practices which bring such a lot of distress in Christian communities.
Most Charismatics of these days brag. They prepare glowing reports with the names of converts and the faithful who claim to have been baptised with the Holy Spirit and lay out in the open a host of positive aspects, without recognising the defeats and lack of experience determined by not taking into account the Biblical truth.
After 35 years pastoral experience, the author of this work no longer has the need to fear the childish blunders of some enthusiastic, pre-school Charismatics, who indulge in so called gifts and compromise God?s honour. If in the near future things do not find an urgent redirection in the light of Scripture, not only enthusiastic Charismatics, but even Baptists, Brethren or any other Protestant denominations in ?opposition?, will follow on from those who have lost control, they will be tempted by other issues which arouse their interest and they will hide behind a pious mask.
Seen and analysed from a wider perspective, they can produce the same damage in our Christian Churches.
All successes of the moment that are obtained by artificial psychological means, all errors and straying combined with the most embarrassing defeats, don?t have the power to abolish the truth that is based on Scripture, through which it is revealed to us that God is the same, yesterday, today and for ever. He reveals Himself to whom He desires and has mercy on those on whom He wishes. His works remain valid and active for all generations regardless of the attitudes of the theologians, or of their doctrinal convictions.
Prophecy as it is presented in this book contains the result of an experience with God, through which the author, conscious of his responsibilities, feels indebted to tell things as they are, without any human prejudice, under the strict guidance of the Holy Spirit, and for the use of many.
THE FIRST DIVINE DISCOVERIES
The first revelations in a state of waiting
The first experiences which people had with God, from the beginning of time, marked the beginning of a new spiritual life for them.
Beginning with the age of the Patriarchs, there were special people who had the blessed privilege of knowing God on the path of revelation.
What can we understand by the word revelation? Revelation is the direct path of communication between man and God. Revelation can be used by God by choosing certain people with whom He directly communicates, revealing plans about themselves as well as about the needs of others. Thus, if we read the books of the Bible beginning in Genesis, the first book in the Old Testament and ending with the Revelation of John, the last book of the New Testament, finished at the end of the first Christian era, we will see that the whole Bible is based on the truth which was revealed, being spoken directly from God.
Reading them attentively, we arrive at the inevitable conclusion that the true authors of the books couldn?t be Moses, nor the prophets, or the favourite apostles of the Saviour, but God Himself who worked together with the Son and the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20-21). It is recommended that you read the texts. It follows then, that the people were nothing more than the medium which was used by God to fulfil His aim.
The most tangible proof is the fact that in the content of these messages, as opposed to other literature, the problem of existence is tackled, beginning with the origin of all things, the unfolding of phenomena in space and time, ending with the finality of all forms of life, which in turn is directed conforming to the initial plan. Because of these blessed springs we hear that all that is around us, in all that is seen and unseen by man, is the product of creation, brought about by a spiritual, infinite Being who revealed Himself. Through the messages sent from God through the agency of these people, we have heard that we are not alone in this universe. Our existence is not limited by the present, between birth and death, but passing over this threshold, the final aim for which God created us is that we will live in eternity, together with the spiritual beings which were created and whose form of existence isn?t subject to the laws of material tried and known by man.
It needs to be mentioned that these spokesmen of the Word of God not only had intellectual and moral integrity, but they were known as special people by their spiritual life and at the same time, they were favoured with a double respect and credibility. Thus, by what Moses told us, we hear that the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Holy Trinity, was present even at the foundation of the world.
In the first book of the Bible, in Genesis 1:2 we read ?Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters?. Through this it is revealed to us that the Spirit of God, a Being with God was a direct force through which all things were created according to the original plan. Thus God the Father was the initiator and the beneficiary of the creation plan. God the Word, or the Son, was the architect through whom the plans were made according to the aim, while God the Holy Spirit was the actual craftsman who gave form to all creation in accordance with the plan in order to fulfil God?s plan.
At the creation of man, when God said: ?Let us make man in Our image?, the Holy Spirit was present. After man fell in sin and was ejected from the Garden of Eden, he lost contact with God. The Holy Spirit found the way to exoneration through the discoveries which were brought to the following generations so that they could find God again. The Biblical reference for this is found in Genesis 4:26: ?Seth also had a son and he named him Enosh. At that time men began to call on the name of the Lord.? We can see through this that the Holy Spirit, surpassing the boundaries of the act of creation, fulfilled His permanent mission of putting people in relation with God. In the text before us, He put into people?s conscience the desire to worship and adore as a sign of recognition to God. Under the influence of the work of the Holy Spirit, it was revealed to people not only that God exists, but also the way they must serve Him, rejoicing in fellowship with Him.
In Genesis 5: 22-24, the Bible tells us about Enoch who walked with God three hundred years and he had sons and daughters. Enoch lived three hundred and sixty five years, after which God took him. This walk with God didn?t represent anything except a steady fellowship which Enoch permanently maintained, seeking the light and teaching which he received from the Holy Spirit. His life was an example, after which he was taken to heaven, as a reward from God.
Also in Genesis, chapter 6:13, we are told that after the number of people on earth had multiplied, they began to become estranged from God. The Holy Spirit revealed to Noah the will of the Creator and He empowered him to become a preacher of the truth, to warn people of God?s punishment through a flood. Later God revealed Himself, advising him to build a boat through which he could be saved together with his whole family. The Holy Spirit?s work becomes evident in the experiences of the human race over the generations, as often as God wanted to reveal His plan to them, when they were at a crossroad in history.
In the patriarchal era, the Holy Spirit was evident, successfully linking people with God on different levels. In the Old Testament we read about several people who achieved remarkable acts through their attitude and consecration in their service to God. Thus, about Melchizedek and Job we hear that, through the sincerity and devotion that they proved in their ministry, they rejoiced in God?s respect, in an ancient era of history and they became God?s spokespersons, for the salvation of men. If we continue to read, in Genesis 14:18 we hear about Melchizedek: ?Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High?. Although Melchizedek?s priesthood was special in comparison to that of Levi?s priests from a later period, the higher spiritual level at which this category of people lived is revealed to us through God?s recognition of this.
Another testimony which God makes about special people, enlightened and enriched with a spiritual life, we find in Job 2:3: ?The Lord said to Satan, ?Have you considered my servant Job? There is no-one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incite me against him to ruin him without any reason.? ? Until now the Holy Spirit was not known by men as He has become known in our days. He was poured out through a promise and He inspired people, to whom He uncovered the truth about God even in those far away times.
We can find the same motives as a result of the guidance of the Holy Spirit, in the experiences of the patriarch Abraham, who lived two millennia before us. In a pagan, idolatrous world, under the influence of an ancient culture, living in the city of Ur, in the northern part of the Persian Gulf, Abraham managed to know the truth only through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. In the end, he was tested by God who had revealed Himself directly to him. Thus, in Genesis 12:1-3 we read, ?The Lord had said to Abram, ?Leave your country, your people and your father?s household and go to the land I will show you .I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you?.? In Genesis 15:1, the Lord revealed Himself again to Abraham, saying: ?Do not be afraid Abram, I am your shield, your very great reward.?
From the above it shows that our parent, Abraham, because of his faith and diligence in knowing the truth, received the testimony from the Lord, who blessed him and recognised him as a friend and His spokesperson. Thus he could see God?s glory, hear God?s voice and to talk with Him. Here we see an incredible phenomenon, which was, however, a real one, undeniably true.
During the conversations that God held with Abraham, in Genesis 15:13-14 in is revealed to us: ?Then the Lord said to him, ?Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years? and afterward they will come out with great possessions?.? This revelation was made in Abraham?s time about two thousand years before the Christian era. Today people no longer doubt the fact that the Israeli tribes were slaves in Egypt for over four hundred years. If it was the simple hallucination of an old man, the value of this could no longer be confirmed. If the Israeli people were formed through the unification of those twelve tribes only after their release from Egypt, the interval of time between Abraham and the release of the Israelites from Egypt is greater than half a millennia. How marvellously our God works in the fulfilment of His promises!
The experiences of Abraham that followed in chapter 18 of Genesis, as well as the meeting of with the angels at the oak tree in Mamre, his intercession for the people of Sodom, having in mind Lot?s family, the destruction of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by those two angels, confirm once again that God does nothing in His plan without first letting His servants, the prophets know.
Genesis 18:17 says, ?Then the Lord said, ?shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do?? ? In verse 22 of the same chapter, it is mentioned, ?The men (talking about those two angels) turned away and went toward Sodom, but Abraham remained standing before the Lord.? If the first revelation made to Abraham was confirmed by history only after an interval of five hundred years, the second about the destruction of Sodom occurred quickly, on the following day (Genesis 19:19-25). If we are able to believe what Scripture tells us or if we have reservations about the truthfulness of the information, it remains our problem; it is certain, and proved, that Sodom and Gomorrah were lost through a terrifying disaster, approximately two thousand years before the Christian era, thus, in Abraham?s time, sinking and leaving in their wake the Dead Sea as a testimony, into which the River Jordan flows today.
Another testimony about the presence of the Holy Spirit in the lives of people we hear about in Genesis 49:10, a testimony which refers to the blessing given by Jacob to his son Judah, which became the messianic mainstay; ?The sceptre will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler?s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs, and the obedience of the nations is his.? Jacob?s words represented the message of inspiration of the Holy Spirit, uncovering the mystery of salvation through the word becoming flesh.
Our Saviour, Jesus Christ, in His earthly nature, was from the family of David, and through David from Judah, the son of Israel. This prophecy is confirmed to us through the message which we hear in the last book of the Bible, in Revelation 5:5; ?Then one of the elders said to me, ?Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals?.? After the lengthy slavery of the Israelites in Egypt, God raised up a man to whom it was revealed and who was empowered to become the one who freed the Israeli tribes whose suffering had reached its climax.
The great prophet and law giver ? Moses
A. Revelation in an atmosphere of vigil
The four hundred years of slavery of the Israelite tribes caused the situation to become extremely alarming and, at the same time, unsupportable. In the end, through the most drastic laws, the Egyptians took even the right to life from the Israelites, killing all male children at the moment of birth. At this time of complete suffering, Moses was born into an Israelite family of the tribe of Levi. His parents managed to hide him for three months. After this time, conscious of the fact that they could no longer protect him from the danger of being denounced, they agreed to use an ingenious method. Thus they entrusted Moses into the hands of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, in the custom of the patriarchs, which they could still maintain despite the harsh conditions in which they were living in the Egyptian slavery. It is not excluded that Moses? parents were very special people in comparison to the other Israelites who had forgotten the God of their parents, being taken in by the ideology of the Egyptians. This is, in fact, the fate of all national minorities who live among foreigners. Thus, after they had taken the decision imposed upon them by the extreme situation, Moses? parents prepared a basket made of reeds, they impregnated it with clay and tar, putting the baby in the shelter. When all was ready, his mother prepared the basket with the baby sheltered in it, and took it to the edge of the River Nile and placed it among the reeds. His sister Miriam watched the basket from a distance, to know what happened to the child.
What type of prayer, with what heart and passion did Moses? mother pray when she had to leave her son? Maybe we?ll never know what she said. What is certain though is the historic fact of the events that followed, that God took him into His protection, protecting him from ferocious fangs of the crocodiles which hide among the reeds, and also from the terrible influence of the oracles led by the Egyptian priests. Later the child was found by Pharaoh?s daughter, he was raised and taught in the regal palaces, becoming a prominent person. He studied the laws of the Medes and the Persians, he studied the origin and evolution of the universe of the Chaldean ? Babylonian empire and the nature sciences, having access to written sources. He studied and knew all the Egyptian sciences. Naturally it can be understood that he knew all the secrets of the pagan oracles and that he would have been familiar with ancient myths. None of this, however, could separate him from God when He revealed Himself. When circumstances forced him to leave Egypt, Moses escaped to Midian where he married the daughter of a Midian priest. There he lived a quiet life, tending the sheep flocks until the respectable age of 80 years, when God revealed Himself, through revelation, Moses being in a state of perfect vigil.
B. The burning bush
In Exodus 3:1-8, we read the following: ?1Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the desert and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. 3So Moses thought, ?I will go over and see this strange sight / why the bush does not burn up.?
4When the Lord saw he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, ?Moses! Moses!? And Moses said ,?Here I am?.
5Do not come any closer?, God said. Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.? 6Then He said, ?I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.? At this Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God. 7The Lord said, ?I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. 8So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey – the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites.
In verses 9-15 it says,
9 ? ?And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. 10So now, I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt?.
11But Moses said to God, ?Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt??
12And God said, ?I will be with you .And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.?
13Moses said to God, ?Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ?The God of your fathers has sent me to you,? and they ask me, ?What is His name?? Then what shall I tell them??
14God said to Moses, ?I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites. I AM has sent me to you?.
15God also said to Moses, ?Say to the Israelites, ?The Lord, the God of your fathers – the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob – has sent me to you.? This is my name forever, the name by which I am to be remembered from generation to generation?.?
At first sight, for those who allow themselves to critically analyse the text in Exodus, it can be considered a simple fantasy. But in comparison with other older texts, the tale is very clear and, at the same time, very precise, from the informative point of view. They appear in an impeccable logic and coherence. If in testing these springs we can accept or reject this history from Moses time, the problem remains ours personally. The truth which is evident from previous historical events, proves to us that Moses became the one that freed the children of Israel, united the twelve tribes, as well as giving them the laws after they came out of Egypt. Because of the miraculous things that God did through him, Moses became o personality of universal value.
Through this it is proved once again that people of the stature of Moses, who merit all our consideration, through their intellectual and moral qualities, could believe in the existence of the one God who revealed Himself, without being influenced ideologically by the conditions around them.
In conclusion, Moses is part of the group of major prophets, having the occasion to see God?s glory, to hear His voice and to speak with Him.
Holy Scripture, in what is found in the Old and New Testaments, tells us about other experiences though which other people had the privilege of meeting heavenly beings who revealed themselves, to see them with their own eyes and to be able to speak with them.
In our case we will try to analyse some of the more significant among them which have the endorsement of the heavenly authorities in equal measure and which, through their particular implication in the passage of time, have been proven worthy of an undeniable and credible recognition.
Let us look at another prophetic passage, analysing the content.
Isaiah in ministry
The prophet Isaiah was born into a remarkable family, which lived in Jerusalem. He had a privileged education. He lived seven hundred years before Christ. In the year in which King Uzziah died, the year 739, that is aged 31, in a vision, he saw the glory of God, together with the heavenly beings who surrounded His throne. Let us carefully follow the author?s message:
?1In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of His robe filled the temple. 2Above him were seraphs, each with six wings; With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. 3And they were calling to one another:
?Holy, holy, holy is the Lord almighty;
the whole earth is full of His glory.?
4At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.
5?Woe to me!? I cried. ?I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I have lived among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.?
6The one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7With it he touched my mouth and said, ?See, this has touched your lips, your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.?
8The I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ?Whom shall I send? And who will go for Us?? And I said, ?Here am I. Send me!?
9He said, ?Go and tell this people:
?Be ever hearing, but never understanding;
be ever seeing, but never perceiving?.? (Isaiah 6:1-9).
The way in which the symbolism is presented to us in this passage, can give us a distorted image about God?s glory which He revealed. From the lack of words used to describe the phenomena, trying to be as precise as possible in relating the message, the prophet had to just use comparisons, without assuming that we would understand literally.
Decoding the symbols is not such a difficult problem, as it would at first seem. If the prophet is saying that he saw a high and exalted throne, and that the train of His robe filled the Temple, the Temple was filled with smoke, the live coal that one of the seraphs took with tongs from the altar and touched his lips, all these can be classed as metaphoric, signifying something totally different in comparison with what we could understand if we interpret the text.
In these conditions it could be believed that we will never be able to decipher the Prophets? messages. Yet things can be resolved much more easily, if we take into consideration other symbolic presentations in the Bible, which were told to us in other historic periods by several people to whom God?s glory was shown and described according to how each one perceived the event. Thus, although they lived in different historical periods, without knowing one another, not only did these authors not contradict each other in trying to describe God?s glory as they saw it, but they complemented each other. If Moses saw God?s glory in the midst of flames in a bush which was burning without being consumed, the prophet Ezekiel while in captivity in Babylon, seeing God?s glory, described it to us as ?a windstorm, ? an immense cloud with flashing lightning and surrounded by brilliant light. The centre of the fire looked like glowing metal ? (Ezekiel 1:4). What for Isaiah was smoke in the Temple of the Lord, for Ezekiel was an immense cloud. In 1 Kings the same phenomena was described to us. As the priests came out of the Holy Place, the cloud filled the Temple of the Lord. The priests could no longer perform their service, because of the cloud, as the glory of the Lord filled the His Temple (1 Kings 8:10,11).
If the mantle of His robe filled the Temple, it is not at all absurd that they meant a halo of light which poured out God?s presence for a prophet. The prophets managed to describe the Unseen One using metaphors, as if He would be unseen in reality in the shadow of the ?cloud?.
In Exodus 33:20-33 the reason why people cannot see God?s face is presented, but only the Lord?s glory shown in reality in the halo of bright light: ?But,? He said, ?you cannot see my face ,for no one may see Me and live.? Then the Lord said, ?There is a place near Me where you may stand on a rock. When My glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with My hand until I have passes by. Then I will move My hand and you will see My back, but My face must not be seen.?
This is one of the most eloquent examples through which we can understand that the same subject, the same image, can be described in different ways by one person from another using comparatively different terms, without distorting the truth.
The main cause was, in this case, that the Lord?s face cannot be seen by people, to whom only the right to see their effects from the rear is given.
We will refer at a later stage and in another context to the prophet Isaiah?s mission.
What results from the above, what is contained in chapter 6 of Isaiah, only aims to bring into evidence the possibility that man can see God?s glory, hear His voice, talk with Him, and to see His face.
So as not to too much into the book about the characteristics of the discovering the path of revelation while in a perfect state of vigilance, we will limit ourselves to trying to make a succinct analysis of other people in that state.
The prophet Jeremiah
Born about 650 B.C. in Anathoth, not far from Jerusalem, the prophet Jeremiah came from a family from the tribe of Levi and he was a prophet between the years 626 B.C. and 586 B.C., when events changed course in an unexpected way. The call to ministry of Jeremiah was made in the time of Josiah, son of Amon in the thirteenth year of his reign, 625 B.C. Let us follow the content of the message in Jeremiah 1:4-14:
4The word of the LORD came to me, saying, 5?Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.?
6?Ah, Sovereign LORD,? I said, ?I do not know how to speak; I am only a child.? 7But the LORD said to me, ?Do not say, ?I am only a child.? You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. 8Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,? declares the LORD.
9Then the LORD reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, ?Now, I have put my words in your mouth. 10See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.?
11The word of the LORD came to me: ?What do you see, Jeremiah??
?I see the branch of an almond tree,? I replied.
12The LORD said to me, ?You have seen correctly, for I am watching to see that my word is fulfilled. 13The word of the LORD came to me again: ?What do you see?? ?I see a boiling pot, tilting away from the north,? I answered. 14The LORD said to me, ?From the north disaster will be poured out on all who live in the land.
This model of a conversation with God became very familiar in the lives of the Old Testament prophets, so that for a sceptic the impression was created that such a thing could not be possible. Later historical events fully confirmed the truthfulness of these revelations which were fulfilled in the tiniest of details.
Consequently, as for the other prophets in the Old Testament, Jeremiah saw God?s glory come down from heaven in the form of a watchman or guard. He managed to hear His voice, to communicate with God through revelation, being in a perfect state of vigilance. The boiling pot tilting away from the north represented nothing more than the armies of Babylon rattling their arms, in preparation for the invasion of Jerusalem. In 586 B.C. the first Hebrews were deported to Babylon. After Jerusalem was crushed by the pagan armies of the Babylonian coalition, God?s words were proven to be fulfilled.
These images represented only some of the examples of analyses from the confusion of the experiences which were repeated over the generations. Thus, in special situations, God revealed Himself not only to the major prophets, but also to many righteous people who sincerely sought Him.
The general conclusion which comes out of the texts of Holy Scripture shows us that these various revelations of God are still valid today.
The prophet Daniel
In the same historical period, during the Babylonian captivity, the young Daniel was informed by the angel Gabriel about the birth of the Messiah.
The same angel who revealed himself to Daniel more 500 years before Christ?s birth, revealed himself to the priest Zechariah, telling of the birth of John the Baptist.
When Elizabeth was in the sixth month of her pregnancy, the same angel Gabriel, told Mary of the birth of our Saviour Jesus Christ (Daniel 9:21-27; Luke 1:5-25; Luke 1:26-38).
A MEETING WITH ANGELS
SHOWING GOD?S GLORY IN NEW TESTAMENT EXPERIENCES
REVELATIONS IN A STATE OF VIGILANCE
The Old Testament dispensation, beginning with the Law era, inclusive through the era of the prophets, closed with John the Baptist?s mission. He was predestined by God to be born to smooth the way of the Lord, preparing the bridge across the huge barrier between Judaism and Christianity.
If the Law and prophets were before John, this didn?t mean in the least that God had finished His work. Through the Word becoming flesh, through the birth of our Saviour, Jesus Christ, through the promises that they had made, the Law and the prophets were perfectly fulfilled. Thus, by dying in our place, the Saviour fulfilled the commandment given in the Law hich punished us in our old, sinful nature, but thr ugh His resurrection, by aith and through the Word, He made it possible for ur new nature to be born. This new nature, born through the Word of God, is no longer under the Law, or death, because death was under the Law, but this new nature now has life through faith in Jesus Christ, our Lord.
In order to be able to understand these truths, to be transmitted to the human race, at a cross road in time, God prepared a man.
The birth of John the Baptist
Zechariah in the Temple – Luke 1:8-19
8Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, 9he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.
11Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13 But the angel said to him: ?Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John. 14He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth. 16Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. 17And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous?to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.?
18Zechariah asked the angel, ?How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.?
19The angel answered, ?I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news.
The events that followed abundantly proved the fulfilling of the promises. Even though he was born into a priestly family and he benefited from a privileged theological education, John the Baptist did not become a priest.
In about 7 B.C. he was called, authorized and sent by God to preach repentance and forgiveness of sins to the people, baptizing them in the River Jordan (Matthew 3:1/12; Luke 3:1-17). He testified to the people who came to him that he was not the Christ, but that One would come who is greater than him, whose sandals he was not fit to untie.
How wonderfully God works! The same angel who showed himself to Daniel during the Babylonian captivity, more than 500 years earlier, also showed himself to Zechariah in the temple, and after another 6 months to Mary, telling her the good news that she would give birth to the Saviour.
All these were fulfilled because God spoke and He revealed Himself to men who were in a perfect state of vigilance.
News of the birth of Jesus Christ.
26In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28The angel went to her and said, ?Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you.? 29Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30But the angel said to her, ?Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favour with God. 31You will be with child and give birth to a Son, and you are to give Him the name Jesus. 32He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David, 33and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever; His kingdom will never end.? (Luke 1:26-33)
The fulfilment of the promises made by the angel Gabriel was confirmed later through the glorious appearance to the shepherds in Bethlehem:
8And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, ?Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord. 12This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.?
13Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14?Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to men on whom His favour rests.?
Later, after John the Baptist had baptized a large crowd of people who were coming to him from many places, Jesus also came. At the moment of His baptism, The Holy Spirit came on Him in the form of a dove. And a voice was heard from heaven: ?You are my Son, whom I love; with You I am well pleased.? (Luke 3:22).
John made the following statement about Him: ?I would not have known Him, except that the One who sent me to baptize with water told me, ?The Man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is He who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.? I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.? (John 1:33-34).
If we could truly believe that Jesus was the Son of God, or if we doubt, the problem still remains ours personally; the historical truth absolutely confirms this fact.
During His mission, the Saviour took with Him the three disciples, going up on a mountain to pray. They were Peter, James and John.
29As He was praying, the appearance of His face changed, and His clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. 30Two men, Moses and Elijah, 31appeared in glorious splendour, talking with Jesus. They spoke about His departure, which He was about to bring to fulfilment at Jerusalem. 32Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw His glory and the two men standing with Him. 33As the men were leaving Jesus, Peter said to Him, ?Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters?one for You, one for Moses and one for Elijah.? (He did not know what he was saying.) 34While he was speaking, a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. 35A voice came from the cloud, saying, ?This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to Him.? (Luke9: 29-35)
This constituted one of the most meaningful revelations throughout the New Testament, before the Saviour?s death and resurrection.
Moses represented the Law, the man through whom God gave the Law to the Israelites. Elijah could be the representative of the prophets. Through this it was proved once again that Jesus didn?t disapprove of the Law of Moses and neither with the messages of the prophets, as He was accused of doing by the leaders of the Jewish people. God was addressing the disciples and He was directing them to obey His Son. He didn?t want to do anything else except to convince them of the truth of the Saviour?s teachings which had stirred up such a lot of opposition among the Jewish leaders.
After the death and resurrection of our Saviour, the revelations that people had while in a state of vigilance, continued with the same intensity. He showed Himself many times to the disciples over those forty days, and the Saviour gave them another testimony about the quality of His mission when He ascended to heaven. In Acts of the Apostles 1:9-11, we find the following written: After He said this, He was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid Him from their sight They were looking intently up into the sky as He was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. ?Men of Galilee,? they said, ?why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen Him go into heaven.?
Human commentary is useless. This was a revelation in a perfect state of vigilance which was seen and heard by all present and who we find later in the upper room, making up the nucleus of the first century Christian Church.
Revelation in the first Church.
After the Saviour?s ascension into heaven, the Christians of the first Church had the privilege of seeing Jesus again, but in another state than that in which they?d known Him when He was on the earth.
Thus the martyr Stephen, when he was stoned, before giving up his spirit, said the following words: ?look, I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God? (Acts 7:56). He showed Himself also to Saul on the road to Damascus. The Saviour who loved him did not take note of his rebellion, and didn?t take into account the hate which he?d shown to His disciples.
Later, testifying about his rebellious mind, the apostle Paul spoke to the priests in Jerusalem and said:
4?I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison, 5as also the high priest and all the Council can testify. I even obtained letters from them to their brothers in Damascus, and went there to bring these people as prisoners to Jerusalem to be punished.
6?About noon as I came near Damascus, suddenly a bright light from heaven flashed around me. 7I fell to the ground and heard a voice say to me, ?Saul! Saul! Why do you persecute Me?? 8?Who are you, Lord?? I asked. ??I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting,? He replied. 9My companions saw the light, but they did not understand the voice of him who was speaking to me.? ?What shall I do, Lord?? I asked.
10?Get up,? the Lord said, ?and go into Damascus. There you will be told all that you have been assigned to do.? 11My companions led me by the hand into Damascus, because the brilliance of the light had blinded me.
12?A man named Ananias came to see me. He was a devout observer of the law and highly respected by all the Jews living there. 13He stood beside me and said, ?Brother Saul, receive your sight!? And at that very moment I was able to see him. 14?Then he said: ?The God of our fathers has chosen you to know His will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from His mouth. 15You will be His witness to all men of what you have seen and heard. 16And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on His name.? (Acts 22:4-16).
Thus Saul, which means ?the great one? became Paul, which means ?the small one?. After he truly knew God, he became apostle to the gentiles, a giant of universal literature, not because he?d learned at Gamaliel?s feet but because he received Christ as his Lord and he testified about Him ardently, despite all the persecution which he had to endure, finishing by being martyred.
From Paul?s experience, three important facts are revealed to us, which are worthy of being remembered:
I. Jesus of Nazareth was not a traitor, as He was labelled by the Jewish leaders. He wasn?t stolen from the grave as it was rumoured by some. Being truly the Son of the exalted One, He rose from the dead, revealing Himself to Paul on the road to Damascus.
II. The quality which the Saviour has in the Father?s kingdom was seen by Saul in all His glory and Godly light.
III. The possibility that sinners have if they still possess a grain of sincerity in the depths of their consciences, that they can be saved, even if their attitude was one of opposition. Paul?s conversion is proof of this.