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Vengeance

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While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”  Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”  When he had said this, he fell asleep.  And Saul was there, giving approval to his death. [Acts 7.59-8.1]

If there is any person whose life illustrates God’s grace even as He avenges the blood of His servants, it has to be Saul of Tarsus, the zealous blood thirsty, religious zealot of his time, a pharisee of pharisees, as he called himself.  A man whose zeal for his religion drove him to persecute the disciples of the Way, imprisoning and even killing them, as he admitted, even confessed, “And when the blood of Your martyr Stephen was shed, I stood there giving my approval and guarding the clothes of those who were killing him,” [Acts 22.20] to Jesus.

If you would examine the way the Lord then dealt with Saul, you will see the terrifying justice of God’s vengeance, which is endeared with His grace throughout, and you will see the compensation to Stephen as it were.  For when Saul gave approval to Stephen’s martyrdom, the Lord could have raised Stephen up after his stoning, for after all Stephen was not beheaded like John the Baptist was.  However, when Stephen was not raised, the justice of God simply took Saul to replace Stephen.  Thus giving Jesus the right to encounter Saul on the road to Damascus and reveal to Saul the truth… as well as blinding him. [Acts 9.8] Now had Saul not repented, he would have remained blind – the first blow of God’s vengeance for Stephen.  Worse than being dead, Saul now lived in darkness… a blind pharisee, manifesting what Jesus said, “Blind pharisee!” [Matthew 23.26] However, as Saul fasted and prayed and no doubt repented of the agonising truth that would haunt him all the days of his life – that he had approved of the martyrdom of the Lord’s saints – his sight was restored.  However, the vengeance of the Lord did not stop there.

From then on Saul would become Paul the apostle, the greatness of whose ministry was matched only by the greatness of his physical sufferings, as he listed some of them:  Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one.  Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked… [2 Corinthians 11.24-25] and always under the duress of being in danger (eight times he listed them).  As such, Paul fulfilled these words of Jesus:  “He will do even greater things…” [John 14.12] in a most horrific way.  Whereas Jesus faced the lash twice, he faced it five times; whereas Jesus faced the rods once, he faced it three times; whereas Jesus’ boat was nearly sunk twice, Paul’s boats were sunk three times; and that which he approved on Stephen – stoning – he also faced.  As such, in it all you can see Paul may have been blessed as an apostle… but throughout his ministry, this constant flow of suffering was there.

And what was Stephen doing while Paul was being stoned, lashed, beaten and shipwrecked as he preached the gospel?  Stephen was waiting in the luxury of Heaven for the day when he and James and all the other martyrs would return with Jesus to reign in the millennium.

You see, Saul may have been predestined, as he wrote, to be a servant of Jesus in his role as Paul the apostle.  However, in approving the death of Stephen, the justice of God and the vengeance of God meant that Paul had to serve as an apostle doing that which was allocated to him and also that which should have been done by Stephen, and suffered physically and constantly while Stephen luxuriated in Heaven.  Sure, Paul will be returning with Jesus as well, for the justice of Jesus is such that He gave Paul the privilege of becoming a martyr as well that he may take part in the first resurrection.

All this happened to Saul who served God according to the measure of his faith, far more zealously than most.  And yes, God saw the purity and holiness of the motives of his heart, but the just vengeance of God also meant that Paul paid dearly for Stephen’s martyrdom… while thanks to Paul, Stephen had a short ministry and a quick death to go to Heaven to await the first resurrection.

Is this not a reversal of the parable of the workers in the vineyard?  The one who was called to work first did less work while the one who came in later had to truly bear the heat of the day, and yet both were paid the same because of the generosity of God.

Yes, elect, God is generous and His generosity extends even to His vengeance.  You only have to read of Paul’s life to see just how generous that vengeance is, and Paul all the while, through all that suffering, still had to praise and worship God.

If that is the magnitude of God’s vengeance on a man like Saul, then consider the magnitude of God’s vengeance on lesser men.  Men who would kill, torture and imprison the saints of the Lord for much baser motives.  Indeed, many of those who have martyred and killed the saints of the Lord through the centuries were not privileged to have a Damascus encounter with Jesus.  Rather, if you follow the lives of those who have murdered the saints through the centuries because of greed for money, power, position or jealousy, they have lived their natural lives rather well, living in luxury even, and have been praised by men.  Some even amassed massive fortunes of money, gold and slaves.  But rarely do you read of them ever meeting Jesus as Saul did.  Indeed, most have lived such a blessed life free from suffering, which is common to men, that they have been deluded into thinking that God approved their actions.  Thus fulfilling these words of Jesus:  “…in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God.” [John 16.2] And Jesus told us the reason why:  “They will do such things because they have not known the Father or Me,” [John 16.3] so that these people thought (believed) they were doing a service for God, but did not know that God is the Father and the Son.

Since eternal life, as Jesus defined it, is “…that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent,” [John 17.3] then their service has not earned them eternal life.  For all their murderous zeal in killing those who believed and practised the faith differently to them, these murderers never came to know that the only true God is the Father of Jesus Christ.  And so the horror of the truth of these words of Jesus awaits them:  “But I will show you whom you should fear:  Fear Him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell.” [Luke 12.5] And these words of the psalmist carry their warning to chill every soul that is confident of its righteousness before God:  Surely You place them on slippery ground; You cast them down to ruin.  How suddenly are they destroyed, completely swept away by terrors!  As a dream when one awakes, so when You arise, O Lord, You will despise them as fantasies. [Psalm 73.18-20]

And so this is His justice and His vengeance… beginning with Caiaphas the high priest who led the plot to murder Him.  For when Jesus arose from the dead and walked this Earth for 40 days, He never visited Caiaphas nor any of the members of the Sanhedrin whom He spent so much time talking to before His death.  Indeed, the Lord did not even give them the conviction to repent when the soldiers told them what happened on resurrection morning, but left them in the hardness of their hearts to concoct the lie that the body of Jesus was stolen by the disciples.  And so He has continued to do so to all who commit murder in His Name.  The truth is this:  Those who are killed because they refused to cast aside their faith, their revelation of God, the word of God they had received, and their testimony, will receive a far better reward than those who murdered and killed, imprisoned and tortured in His Name.

If Saul of Tarsus was blinded because he killed in the Name of God of Israel who commanded that blasphemers be stoned to death, that is, Saul was blinded for obeying the Law, then how much more a worse fate awaits those who kill in the Name of Jesus Christ?  For the Lord Jesus never ever commanded that those who do not believe in Him are to be killed, nor did He permit James and John to call down fire from Heaven on those who opposed Him, nor did He allow Peter to attack again with the sword.

What fate?  Better to heed the warning than to find out, reader.  For those who draw the sword will die by the sword.  Do not share in the fate of popes, cardinals, bishops, priests, crusaders, conquistadors and colonisers who have ordered the torture and massacre of those who held onto the word of God they had received and their testimony by honouring them.  For if you do, you will be filled to the full measure of the punishment of their sins.  As Jesus said, “Woe to you, because you build tombs for the prophets, and it was your forefathers who killed them.  So you testify that you approve of what your forefathers did; they killed the prophets, and you build their tombs.  Because of this, God in His wisdom said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and others they will persecute.’  Therefore this generation will be held responsible for the blood of all the prophets…” [Luke 11.47-50] as He warned the pharisees.  And so it is for all who love and honour their yeast… joining orders, organisations and even denominations that participated in the slaughter of those who have received the word of God… and held onto their testimony.  For it is this yeast that spread through the Kingdom of Heaven and gave rise to the Mystery, Babylon the Great, the Mother of Prostitutes and of the Abominations of the Earth.  The prostitute that bore daughters like her – prostitutes whose children do not know the Father whom Jesus came to reveal, but only God whom they serve according to their vile imaginations.

So it is time to heed this warning, which God in His grace gave John the beloved to issue:  “Come out of her, My people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues…” [Revelation 18.4] for indeed, the time of vengeance has come.  For these are the days of distress unequalled since the creation of the world when God will avenge the blood of His prophets and saints and all who have been killed on the Earth because of her.  For it is the yeast of the pharisees that gave rise to the Mother of Prostitutes that took away the power of the Kingdom of God, which comes through those who are sons of God.  However, since believers were no longer raised in the churches to come to know their Father, the power was lost.  And without the power, the church could no longer prevent the abominations that followed.  Worse still, those worshippers of the prostitute began to perpetrate the abominations as she raised up her kings and gave them power.

However, for anyone who sought to know and understand God by obeying His command to listen to His Son, will come to know God has set aside a time of vengeance when He will avenge for the life and death of His saints.  And in His grace and mercy, He has raised up the elect to sound the warning.  No, it is not a warning of repentance of sins to those who have never heard the gospel of Jesus Christ.  No, the warning is to those who have laid down and bedded with the prostitute and her daughters, and have approved of their murderous ways, even building tombs to honour the saints and prophets she has slain, and joining such religious orders that glorify the slaughter of the whole population, all in the Name of Christ.  This is the warning:  “Come out of her, My people…” A warning not to those who have yet to hear the good news of the Kingdom of God, but a warning to those who have opposed the Kingdom of God from within.

As for God’s horrible vengeance?  Consider the life of the apostle Paul and its suffering.  And for God’s final word on all who plotted and executed the murder of His Son and His brothers and sisters… just put yourself in the place of Caiaphas at the moment of his death as he came before the throne to receive his judgment and reward – he saw the Man he murdered seating on the throne of God.  You would be wise to ask Caiaphas what words of wisdom he has for you now.

Yes, God’s vengeance is perfect as He is perfect and merciful as He is merciful… but it is better not to receive it.

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