By Eric C. Wheeler
Jesus said that Jerusalem, along with its Temple, was condemned because it “did not recognize the time of its visitation” (Luke 19:44). Sadly, many people don’t realize what this Scripture is truly saying. Many people don’t realize that Jerusalem is a prophetic type of the Church (Christianity) and its entire religious system. Regarding this church system, Jesus said that “not one stone will be left upon another”, but rather every stone that man’s hands have incorrectly placed in God’s Temple as a monument to his own glory will be cast down (Matt. 24:1-2). Have we never read this in the Scriptures? For it says, “Take heed how you build on this foundation [Jesus Christ]… For if any man builds on this foundation with gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be exposed for what it is… It will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each man’s work, of what sort it is” (I Cor. 3:10-13). And again, it says, “In building the Temple, only stones that were finished at the quarry were used, so that no hammer, or chisel, or any iron tool of man was heard being used at the Temple site while it was being built.” (I Kings 6:7).
Do we not understand what these things mean? For God has already shown us by destroying the physical Temple twice that temples and churches mean nothing to Him. He has made it clear from the Scriptures that He does not dwell in temples and churches made “by human hands”, that is, by human efforts (Acts 7:48)!
God is going to tear down every church building, every pew, every organization, every religious hierarchy, every ministry, and every pulpit that man has deceitfully and falsely established in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ! Have we never read in the Scriptures, “The Stone which the builders rejected and threw away has become the Cornerstone”? (Matt. 21:42). “And whoever falls on this Stone will be broken; but on whoever it falls, it will grind him to powder” (Matt. 21:44). The Scriptures say that the chief priests and Pharisees heard Jesus say this and knew that He was speaking about them (Matt. 21:45). So why is it that the religious leaders in the Christian churches today don’t realize that these words in the Bible are actually prophesies against them as well? It is because Jesus said, “If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes… [There will not be] in you one stone left upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation [the time of God’s coming to you].” (Luke 19:41-44).
The people of Jerusalem did not recognize God coming to them in Jesus when He “suddenly came to His Temple” during the first century (Mal. 3:1). Just as the prophets had foretold, His people weren’t spiritually ready for Him, and so they didn’t recognize Him when He came, and therefore, they esteemed Him lightly (Isa. 53:2-3; Mal. 3:2; John 1:10-11; Acts 3:17-18). These things will happen again very shortly. Jesus will come again unto His Temple [the Church] in the form and shape of a man (that is, as “a son of man”) and again they will not listen to Him. He will come to them again in Spirit in and through His earthly servants (I Peter 1:11). For Jesus said: “Behold, I am sending you prophets and wise men and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will persecute from city to city. That on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the Temple and the altar.” (Matt. 23:34-35). In preparation for this persecution and rejection, He instructed and warned His servants: “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep among wolves…Beware of men; for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues [churches]…Whosoever receives you, receives Me. And whosoever rejects you, rejects Me” (Matt. 10:16-17, 40; Luke 10:16; John 13:20).
Since the beginning, God has been sending “prophets, wise men, and teachers” to His people, yet they have not been receiving them. Instead, they have been mistreating them, rejecting them, mocking them, beating them, and in some cases, murdering them. They have been hiring impostors in their place, and gathering to themselves their own appointed teachers to satisfy their itching ears because they would rather hear nice stories and fables (like the stories of Easter and Christmas) instead of the piercing and convicting truths of God’s Word.
Please don’t get me wrong. I am not against church leadership. In fact, I myself am charged by God with being a servant among His flock. The Scriptures themselves show that God Himself appointed leaders among His people “for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry and for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:11-12). But what I am saying is that those same leaders, as well as the people, must be aware and mindful of the whole counsel of God. For it was Jesus who said that the scribes and Pharisees sat in Moses’ seat (Matt. 23:1-2). In stating this, Jesus declared that the scribes and Pharisees had been given spiritual authority by God, and therefore, the people should obey them (Matt. 23:3). But He also warned the people to not follow their evil examples or false doctrines (Matt. 23:3; Matt. 16:11-12). He told the people that they were full of hypocrisy, deceit, pride, envy and pretentiousness. They were spiritually blind, self-righteous, ambitious, and greedy. Jesus said that these leaders were headed for hell and that they were even hindering the people from entering the Kingdom of God (Matt. 23:13, 15, 33).
The point is that Jesus said that some of these same leaders that God had put in charge of His House have betrayed Him! Notice these words of Jesus: “There was a certain landowner who planted a vineyard and set a hedge around it, dug a winepress in it and built a tower. And he leased it to vinedressers and went into a far country. Now when vintage-time drew near, he sent his servants to the vinedressers, that they might receive its fruit. And the vinedressers took his servants, beat one, killed one, and stoned another. Again he sent other servants, more than the first, and they did likewise to them. Then last of all he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son’. But when the vinedressers saw the son, they said among themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.’ And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and killed him.” (Matt. 21:33-39).
Did you notice that? Jesus said that the vinedressers that God had put in charge of His vineyard have turned on Him! Notice further. Jesus said, “Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will He do to those vinedressers?” (Matt. 21:40). Notice that it is yet speaking of a future event! Jesus hasn’t returned yet. Just like their spiritual counterparts – the Pharisees and Sadducees – some of the religious leaders today are going to be ground to powder and completely dismantled for not “recognizing the time of their visitation” (Matt. 21:43-44; Luke 19:44). For Jesus warned, “Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die. For I have not found your works perfect before God. Remember therefore how you have received and heard. Hold fast and repent. For if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you.” (Rev. 3:2-3). And again, He warned the Church leaders to be faithful to Him and to “be like men who wait for their master, when he will return from the wedding, that when he comes and knocks they may open to him immediately… Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing [being vigilant and faithful] when he comes. Truly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all that he has. But if that servant says in his heart, ‘My master is delaying his coming,’ and begins to beat [lord over] the menservants and maidservants, and to eat and drink and be drunk [satisfying and serving himself], the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not aware, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the unbelievers.” (Luke 12:36-46).
Many people don’t know it, but the Bible says that only those who are looking for Him to come will Christ appear a second time (Heb. 9:28). The Bible never uses the phrase “the Second Coming of Christ”. It is never mentioned anywhere! The only reference to Christ coming a “second time” is mentioned in Heb. 9:28 where it says that He “will appear a second time for salvation to those who look for Him”. He is not going to appear to those a second time who don’t look for Him. They didn’t recognize Him the first time, so why should He appear to them a second? Even Jesus said that: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! Behold, your house is left to you desolate. For I say to you, you will see Me no more until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’” (Matt. 23:37-39). In other words, “Until you stop rejecting those whom I send to you, you will not see Me anymore!”
It takes humility and spiritual vigilance to recognize a true servant and messenger of the Lord. Notice what Jesus said to the Pharisees and Sadducees: “If any man desires to do His will (God’s pleasure), he will know – have the needed illumination to recognize, and can tell for himself – whether the teaching is from God, or whether I am speaking from Myself and of My own accord and on My own authority. He who speaks on his own authority seeks to win honor for himself – he whose teaching originates with himself seeks his own glory. But he who seeks the glory and is eager for the honor of him who sent him, he is true; and there is no unrighteousness or falsehood or deception in him.” (John 7:17-18 Amplified Version). The Pharisees and Sadducees were proud, self-righteous, and power-hungry. Because their hearts were not humble and right before God, they were not able to recognize or receive God’s coming to them in the form of Jesus Christ. They not only mistreated and rejected everyone that God had sent to them, but even killed the very Heir Himself, in order to seize and steal His inheritance (Matt. 21:38). The entire Church temple system is still doing that today. They have taken over Christendom and cast out the Chief Cornerstone – Jesus Christ – all over again! I tell you the truth, God is going to do the same thing to “Jerusalem and the Temple” today that He did to it two-thousand years ago in 70 A.D. He is going to utterly judge and destroy it because it didn’t discern the time of His visitation!
Herod’s Temple Destroyed
It is interesting to note that the Temple that Jesus was addressing during His day was “Herod’s Temple” which King Herod had built upon the “Second Temple” site. Herod’s Temple was actually the “newly-renovated and enlarged” Second Temple that God had originally commanded the Jews to build after they returned from their exile in Babylon around 516 B.C. They had built the Second Temple on the same site that the First Temple, called “Solomon’s Temple”, had originally stood some seventy years earlier. The Babylonians had destroyed the First Temple in 586 B.C. just as God had prophesied through His prophet Jeremiah. Seventy years later the Jews returned from their Babylonian captivity and began to rebuild the Temple (now referred to as the “Second Temple”) under the leadership of Zerubbabel according to God’s command (Ezra 5:1 – 6:22). In comparison to the First Temple, the Second Temple was much smaller, more humble and unimpressive (Hag. 2:3). Some of the Jews despised that fact. So in order to gain their favor, King Herod, some six-hundred years later, beginning in 20 B.C., partially tore down their Second Temple in order to re-build it and enlarge it. Using his political power and prestige, Roman building methods, and worldly money and resources, King Herod embellished and adorned the Temple, making it much bigger and more beautiful and appealing. However, the Second Temple, now called “Herod’s Temple”, never had the Ark of the Covenant or the Presence of God (“Shekinah”) dwelling within it. It was built by “human hands” – meaning, it was built using man’s tools, man’s efforts, man’s resources, and man’s ingenuity. It was built for man’s glory – and not God’s. It was built to impress men, to appease the people, to reveal Herod’s power and fame, and to appear righteous and holy unto men. It was considered the “Pride of Jerusalem”, and clearly the Jews – the people of God – put their trust in it. They put their trust in an institution instead of in God alone. And God was going to soon “visit” that institution in and through the personage of Jesus Christ!
Herod’s Temple was built upon the very foundation that God had originally chosen and laid – on the very site that the First and Second Temple of God had been built. In an attempt to please men, and to make a holy institution of God more attractive and appealing to not only the Jews, but to the whole world, the wicked King Herod came in and “built upon” the very foundation that God had laid. By using man’s methods and carnal adornments, He made it very impressive indeed! Even the disciples of Jesus were impressed by its stately décor and royal splendor (Mark 13:1-2; Luke 21:5-6). But Jesus warned them to not be deceived by it because “the days will come in which not one stone will be left upon another that shall not be thrown down” (Luke 21:6). Upon hearing this shocking statement by Jesus as they were touring the Temple buildings, the disciples asked Him, saying, “Teacher, when will these things be? And what sign will there be when these things are about to take place?” Jesus then answered them, saying, “Take heed that you not be deceived. For many will come in My name, saying that I am indeed the Christ. But do not follow after them! For they will deceive many.” (Matt. 24:1-5; Luke 21:5-8). Notice that all of these end-time prophecies of Jesus were given in direct relationship to and in direct reference to the Temple – that is, Herod’s Temple – that was built upon the original foundation that God had laid!
Who Was Herod?
King Herod, also known as Herod the Great, was the wicked vassal king of the Roman Empire who ruled over Judea and Galilee beginning in 40 B.C. He was brutal, politically-minded, greedy, and ambitious, and as such, was able to persuade the Roman authorities to appoint him “King of the Jews”. With Rome’s backing, he conquered Jerusalem in 37 B.C., executed the Jewish leaders, and imposed Roman rule on the Jewish people using brute military force. Because of his cruelty, his Jewish subjects hated him. But to appease them and gain their favor, Herod re-built their Temple, enlarged it, and had one-thousand of their priests trained as masons to build the inner part of the Temple which only the Jewish priests were allowed to enter. Herod began construction on the Temple in 20 B.C., but the massive building project was not officially completed until many years later in 64 A.D. However, the main part of the Temple construction was finished by Jesus’ day some forty-six years after its commencement (John 2:20). Just six years after its completion though, the Temple was completely destroyed in 70 A.D. by the Roman armies just as Jesus had predicted that it would be. Before its destruction, the Temple was the pride of the Jews, and was considered a fitting tribute to the remarkable architectural skills of King Herod. It was so impressive and dear to the Jews, that the Bible records that some of them even took solemn oaths by it (Matt. 23:16).
This was the same building structure that Jesus had prophetically stated would be completely dismantled “stone by stone”. Remember that it was originally an institution that had been ordained and commissioned by God (II Sam. 7:13; I Kings 5:5; 6:11-13; 8:17-19). It was a holy place that Jesus had called His Father’s House (John 2:16). It was referred to and described by the prophets as the House of God (Jer. 7:2-4; Ezek. 8:14-16; Hag. 1:7-15). And it originally had the very Presence and Glory of God (“Shekinah”) dwelling within it! Herod’s Temple was the very same place that Jesus lamented in tears would be cast down – stone by stone! But why? Because it had become completely polluted by men, and as such, didn’t recognize “the time of its visitation” by God through the person of Jesus Christ! Remember, Jesus came to Jerusalem and the Temple in a human body (flesh and blood) – as a “son of man”, and they didn’t recognize God in Him. Therefore, God destroyed them forty years later. Notice Jesus’ own words: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate. For I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’… Do you not see all these things [the Temple buildings]? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another that shall not be thrown down.” (Matt. 23:37-39 through 24:2). And again, it says, “Now as Jesus drew near, He saw the city [Jerusalem] and wept over it, saying, ‘If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation.’ Then He went into the Temple and began to drive out those who bought and sold in it, saying to them, ‘It is written, “My House shall be a house of prayer”, but you have made it a “den of thieves” (Luke 19:41-46). Notice that! Not only had the people of Jerusalem not discerned the very Presence of God in their midst in the form and person of Jesus (that is, they did not recognize their “day of visitation”), but they had also made the very Temple of God – the Church – a place of business – “a house of merchandise” (John 2:16)!
These are the very same reasons that Scripture tells us that God destroyed the First Temple (Solomon’s Temple) in 586 B.C.! Many people don’t realize it, but Jesus was actually quoting the prophet Jeremiah when He used the phrase “den of thieves” in referring to what the people had turned the Temple into. Notice what Jeremiah had said some six-hundred years earlier in regards to the First Temple – the House of God:
“The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying, ‘Stand in the gate of the Lord’s House, and proclaim there this word, and say, ‘Hear the word of the Lord, all you of Judah who enter in at these gates to worship the Lord!’ Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: “Amend your ways and your doings, and I will cause you to dwell in this place. Do not trust in these lying words, saying, ‘The Temple of the Lord, the Temple of the Lord, the Lord’s Temple is this [therefore God would never destroy it!]’… Behold, you trust in lying words that cannot profit. Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, burn incense to Baal, and walk after other gods whom you do not know, and then come and stand before Me in this House which is called by My name, and say, ‘We are delivered [safe] to do all these abominations’? Has this House, which is called by My name, become a den of thieves in your eyes? Behold, I, even I, have seen it, says the Lord. But go now to My place which was in Shiloh, where I set My name at the first, and see what I did to it because of the wickedness of My people Israel. And now, because you have done all these works, says the Lord, and I spoke to you, rising up early and speaking, but you did not hear, and I called you, but you did not answer, therefore I will do to the House which is called by My name, in which you trust, and to this place which I gave to you and your fathers, as I have done to Shiloh. And I will cast you out of My sight, as I have cast out all your brethren – the whole posterity of Ephraim. … Do you not see what they do in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? …They pour out drink offerings to other gods, that they may provoke Me to anger.… Therefore thus says the Lord God: “Behold, My anger and My fury will be poured out on this place – on man and on beast, on the trees of the field and on the fruit of the ground. And it will burn and not be quenched.” Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: ‘Since the day that your fathers came out of the land of Egypt until this day, I have even sent to you all My servants the prophets, daily rising up early and sending them. Yet they did not obey Me or incline their ear, but stiffened their neck. They did worse than their fathers. Therefore you shall speak all these words to them, but they will not obey you. You shall also call to them, but they will not answer you. … For the children of Judah have done evil in My sight,” says the Lord. “They have set their abominations in the House which is called by My name, to pollute it. … Therefore behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord, “when it will no more be called Tophet, or the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, but the Valley of Slaughter; for they will bury in Tophet until there is no room. The corpses of this people will be food for the birds of the heaven and for the beasts of the earth. And no one will frighten them away. Then I will cause to cease from the cities of Judah and from the streets of Jerusalem the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride. For the land shall be desolate.” (Jer. 7:1-34).
Notice that these are the very same themes and sentiments that Jesus expressed to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and its Temple during His day as well. He said that their house would be left “desolate” (Matt. 23:38). According to the prophet Jeremiah, God destroyed the First Temple and Jerusalem because it had become polluted and corrupt through false teaching, idolatry, and sin, and because the people had turned His House into a place of business –“a den of thieves”. They had clearly disregarded and rejected God’s continual warnings and “visits” to them through His prophets, and had become callous towards God, not discerning the “time of His judgment” upon them. They didn’t fear God, nor honor Him, or even regard the fact that His very Presence and Glory [the Shekinah] had been in their midst. Therefore, the Presence and Glory of God left the place altogether. The prophet Ezekiel, a contemporary of Jeremiah, described the departure of the Glory of God from the First Temple and from Jerusalem just prior to its destruction and judgment in 586 B.C. (see Ezek. 10:1-22; 11:22-25). Similarly, the “Presence and Glory of God” (in the form and person of Jesus Christ) left the Second Temple just prior to its destruction as well, when Jesus declared to the inhabitants of first-century Jerusalem and to its Temple, “You will see My face no more until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’” (Matt. 23:39).
Before its destruction in 586 B.C., Jerusalem and its First Temple were given a number of ominous prophetic signs and wonders by the prophet Ezekiel warning them of the impending doom that had been determined upon them. This is in accordance with what God had promised: “Surely the Lord God does nothing, unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7). But the people didn’t listen to Ezekiel, and like Jeremiah, he too, was mocked and laughed at, cast out, and scorned. The false priests and teachers (the religious leaders) had deceived the people and persuaded them that everything was spiritually fine within Jerusalem and its Temple, and convinced the people that they were safe and were physically and spiritually alright.
Along these same lines, it is interesting to note that similar supernatural “signs and warnings” were also given to the inhabitants of first-century Jerusalem just prior to its destruction as well, and that false preachers and teachers were also deceiving the people then into believing that they were physically and spiritually okay too. Josephus, who was a first-century Jewish historian who recorded first-hand the capture and destruction of Jerusalem and Herod’s Temple, described in shocking detail the supernatural warnings and events that took place in Jerusalem just prior to its destruction in 70 A.D. In reading Josephus’ narrative, notice that he mentions that the people were spiritually blind to their impending doom because of their false teachers and ministers. Josephus writes:
“Impostors and false prophets deluded the pitiable people, who, as if moonstruck, blind, and senseless, paid no attention to God’s clear portents and warnings of the approaching desolation. A star stood over the city like a sword, and a comet that lasted for a year. Then, prior to the war, when the people had gathered for the Feast of Unleavened Bread, on the eighth of Xanthicus (probably April 8, 65 or 66 A.D.) at 3 a.m., a light shined on the Temple and the altar so brightly that it seemed to be midday, and this lasted for a half hour. To the inexperienced this seemed a good omen, but the sacred scribes gave the true interpretation. During the same Feast a cow brought for sacrifice by the high priest gave birth to a lamb in the middle of the Temple, and at midnight the eastern gate of the inner sanctuary opened itself – a gate of bronze fastened by iron bars and secured by long bolts so massive that twenty men were required to shut it each evening. Not long after the Feast, on the twenty-first of Artemisius (approximately May 21), a demonic apparition of incredible size was seen. It would have seemed a fairy tale had it not been attested by eyewitnesses and followed by disasters that corresponded to the omens. Before sunset there appeared in the sky over the whole land chariots and armed forces speeding through the clouds and surrounding the cities. And at the Feast of Pentecost, when the priests entered the Temple at night for their usual ceremonies, they heard a disturbance, a loud crash, and then a thunderous cry, ‘Let us leave this place!’
Something even more alarming took place four years before the war, during a time of peace and prosperity. A common peasant, Jesus son of Ananias, came to the Feast of Tabernacles, stood in the Temple courts, and suddenly shouted: ‘A voice from the east, a voice from the west, a voice from the four winds, a voice against Jerusalem and the Temple, a voice against the bridegrooms and brides, a voice against all the people!’ Night and day he went through the narrow streets with this cry. Some of the prominent townspeople, enraged at these ominous words, seized the fellow and lashed him savagely. However, he uttered not a word in his own defense but persisted in shouting the same thing. The authorities, assuming correctly that the man’s conduct was inspired by something supernatural, brought him before the Roman governor (Albinus). There, though he was scourged to the bone, he uttered no plea for mercy and shed no tear, but straining his voice to the utmost, he wailed with each blow, ‘Woe! Woe to Jerusalem!’” [Josephus, Jewish War 6.288-304].
Judgment on the House of God
The Apostle Peter wrote that the time has come for judgment to begin at the House of God (I Peter 4:17). But what does that mean? And how will He judge us? It is evident from the Scriptures that God will judge His House – the Church – the Temple of God (I Cor. 3:16-17; Eph. 2:19-22), in the same manner and way in which He judged His people and His House (the Temple) previously. The Scripture says that He “is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb. 13:8). God does not change (Mal. 3:6). Therefore, His standards of righteousness and His expectations of us don’t either. Sadly though, we see the Church today – His Holy Temple – has fallen into the same polluted apostasy that has gone on before us. The Church has become a business again. It has become “a house of merchandise”. Christendom has become a wealthy corporation, with managers, board rooms, marketing departments, and sales staff. Each church fellowship “competes” with its neighboring church fellowships in order to attract more potential visitors and “tithe-paying clients” to its locale. Every church building dresses-up its store-front marquee with catch-phrases designed to advertise why its “spiritual wares” are more necessary and superior to the next guy’s. Just like commercial malls, many churches decorate their “stores” with religious trappings and wrappings (like Nativity scenes, cute monikers, attractive lights, coffee houses, choirs, and bands) designed to arouse the attentions and affections of “spiritual children” who are ever looking to satisfy their continual lusts and sensual desires for materialism, pleasure, and the next fulfilling “high”.
The “Temple peddlers” are all peddling their wares in the Temple again; their “Christian” books, CDs, and DVDs, all clearly lining the lobbies and coffee tables of our hallowed church halls; many of them convincing themselves that it is “acceptable” since they are considered “worship materials” that are specifically used to help others in their worship toward God. Don’t we know that this is the same lie that those who sold doves in the Temple said, along with the money changers, right before Jesus overturned their tables? They justified their evil consciences by convincing themselves that they were only helping and aiding others in their worship of God! They claimed that they were only providing a service to the people because the people needed to buy doves in order to sacrifice them in their worship toward God in accordance with the Law of Moses. But Jesus clearly saw through their hypocrisy and called them all “thieves and robbers” who were wickedly merchandising His Father’s House! I wonder if some of them too back then also put “suggested donation price tags” on their items, like they do today, in order to cheat the government out of its due taxes. Perhaps, Caesar’s accountants were a little more astute than ours are today – I don’t know.
So-called ministers and pastors (business managers) cowardly edit the true and only pure Word of God to remove its inherent sting and delete its pertinent call for repentance. Just as the servants of God had long foretold, the people of God have again “heaped to themselves teachers that satisfy their own itching ears”, and pastors who fill their insatiable bellies with lies, smooth words, and comfortable messages. Prosperity sermons are bountiful and plenteous. The people are complacent and fat. They have become dull of hearing, and their eyes have been dimmed. The false preachers again proclaim, “Peace, peace” to the people (Ezek. 13:1-16; I Thes. 5:2-3) while the Sword of the Lord draws near and the judgment of the Almighty hovers very closely over our heads and over our church buildings.
“The pastors have been bought and paid for”, says the Lord. “Whoever a man looks to, to put food on his table, owns him – whether that be man, or whether that be God! The ministry has defiled themselves. They have sold themselves to corporate boards and oversight committees, and have sold out to one another. Am I not the Lord?” says God. “Where is your fear toward Me? Can I not save? Can I not provide for My own? Do you not rather answer to Me?” says the Holy One of Israel. “Why do you place yourselves under man? You are therefore afraid to speak the truth, for you fear man and are owned by him! Did I, Jesus, fear any man while I was on earth? Is it not written about Me, ‘Teacher, we know that You are true, and that You teach the way of God in truth; nor do You care about anyone, for You do not regard the person of men’ (Matt. 22:16)? Why then do you ministers fear men? Why do you not rather fear Me?” says the Lord. “You speak lies, and not My truth. You teach men to honor other men and not Me! You speak words that flatter and mislead, and smooth things of comfort which deceive. You have not spoken right things; things which pierce the heart and convict My people of their sins. You have not taught My people to fear Me; to humble themselves and to seek My face. Instead you tell them meaningless stories about Me, and things which have no life! I am God”, says the Lord, “and I Am holy. You have profaned My name and defiled My House! The people have become dull of hearing, and have polluted My Sanctuary with their idolatry and fornication. They have sought after money, and numbers, and recognition, and not brokenness and truth. They have desired fame and position, and not humility. They do not know Me”, says the Lord, “but have followed after vanity and falsehood. Learn of Me”, says God, “for My ways are not your ways, and My thoughts are not your thoughts. Put your trust in Me, and I will deliver you as a father delivers his own son whom he loves and who serves him” (Mal. 3:17). “Call on Me and repent while I yet can be found,” says the Lord God.
Jesus’ First Visit
Before Jesus “suddenly” appeared on the scene and “visited” His Temple during the first century, John the Baptist went before Him preaching the message of repentance to the people of God (the Church) – just as the prophet Malachi had predicted: “Behold I send My messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His Temple, even the Messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight. Behold, He is coming, says the Lord of Hosts. But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears?” (Mal. 3:1-2). When John the Baptist was preaching in the wilderness, he turned to the religious leaders that had come to see him and said to them, “Brood of vipers! Who has warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth fruit that is consistent with repentance!” (Matt. 3:7-8). Notice that John the Baptist knew by the Spirit of God that the church leaders weren’t right with God! He called them a bunch of snakes! Curiously, Jesus also called them the same thing when He arrived (Matt. 23:33). John told them that they had better repent because God was coming very soon to them – to visit His Temple – which they had been put in charge of (Matt. 3:7-12; Matt. 23:1-3). And notice, God did “visit” them soon after that – but not in the way that they were expecting Him to come! He came to them in the form of a “son of man” – that is, in human flesh – as Jesus – but they didn’t recognize Him as God. He didn’t come to them as the powerful, conquering, supernatural King that they were expecting; but rather, as a lowly, humble, human carpenter. They rejected Him because of His “human packaging” (John 1:11-14)! I tell you the truth – this is how God is going to come unto His Church again. He is going to visit His Temple in the flesh and blood human form of someone that they will not expect or accept. And Jesus warned that when you reject those that He sends – you are really rejecting Him (Luke 10:16)!
Remember how God “visited” Sodom and Gomorrah before their divine judgment and complete destruction? God came to them as “men” clothed in human flesh! Notice this in the Scriptures: Abraham “looked up from his tent and saw three men”, and he immediately ran to them and bowed himself down (Gen. 18:1-3). He knew who they were! And likewise, Abraham’s nephew, Lot, did the exact same thing when he saw the two angels approaching the city of Sodom later that evening coming towards him in the form of two men (Gen. 19:1). Like Abraham, Lot knew who they were! Both Abraham and Lot spiritually recognized these men as being more than just “mere men”. Isn’t it interesting though how the evil inhabitants of the city didn’t spiritually recognize them or know who they were? For they wickedly said to Lot, “Bring the men out to us that we may know them [carnally – after the flesh]!” (Gen. 19:5). Obviously, they didn’t spiritually recognize them or know them in the Spirit! They only wanted to know them according to the flesh – that is, carnally. Consequently, they all died! Jesus said the same thing to the Jews of His day: “He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him…But I know you, that you do not have the love of God in you. I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me…You know neither Me nor My Father. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also…You are from beneath; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins…If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works of Abraham. But now you seek to kill Me, a man who has told you the truth which I heard from God. Abraham did not do this… If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me. Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word… He who is of God hears God’s words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God…If I honor Myself, My honor is nothing. It is My Father who honors Me, of whom you say that He is your God. Yet you have not known Him, but I know Him. And if I say, ‘I do not know Him,’ I shall be a liar like you; but I do know Him and keep His word. Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad…I know My sheep, and am known by My own…But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” (John 5:23, 42-43; 8:19, 23-24, 39-40, 42-43, 47, 54-56; 10:14, 26-27). The point is that those who truly know God will spiritually know and recognize those that He sends to them – just like Abraham and Lot did!
Although the Temple was still standing in John the Baptist’s day, and there were certainly high priests in place during the days of his preaching, why then does the Scripture say that “the word of God came to John [the Baptist] the son of Zacharias in the wilderness” instead of to the high priests who were serving at the Temple in Jerusalem (Luke 3:2)? Why was it necessary for the word of God to be given out in the wilderness, instead of at the Temple where one might think that it should have been given and received? The obvious answer is that the Temple and the temple priests weren’t right with God, and weren’t spiritually in the right heart condition to receive Him! They weren’t humble and teachable, and they trusted in themselves that they were righteous (Luke 18:9; 16:14-15). They trusted in the fact that they were “sons of Abraham” and therefore didn’t need to repent or be corrected (Matt. 3:8-10). They simply didn’t need to be “saved” or need a “Savior” – that is, they didn’t need Jesus – the incarnate Word of God to save them. And so, forty years later, they all perished, along with their Temple!
Unfortunately, spiritually-speaking, things haven’t changed much in two-thousand years. Still today, when messengers are sent by God to tell the modern-day church leaders to repent, they immediately reject them, and cast them out, claiming that they have a demon or are mentally-ill. That is exactly what they did and said about John the Baptist and Jesus too (Matt. 11:18; 21:32; Mark 3:21-22).
This is the problem with modern-day Christendom! For the most part, the religious leaders, the clergymen, the pastors and elders, and ministers and teachers, serving in the Temple of God (the Church) think that they are genuinely right with God, and as such, feel that they are correctly teaching the things of God and rightly serving in His Temple. Meanwhile, they have no idea that God is actually speaking to a number of “nobodies” out in the surrounding “wildernesses” apart from their beautiful church buildings. The “word of God” (who is really Christ Himself) is actually coming down upon these relatively obscure individuals out in the wilderness once again, apart from the Temple system, and preparing them for the coming of the Messiah. All the while, the modern-day Pharisees and Sadducees and priests are busy serving in the Temple totally oblivious to the fact that Jesus is growing-up in obscurity right under their noses. But in due time, when He comes of age, He will enter into their “Temple courts” and begin preaching and teaching and freeing the people once again. Afterall, isn’t this exactly what happened the first time? Jesus lived in relative obscurity until He was thirty-years old, and then He returned to Galilee from the wilderness “in the power of the Spirit and news of Him went out through all the surrounding region. And He taught in their synagogues [churches] being glorified by all” (Luke 4:14-15). And soon after His manifestation from the wilderness of obscurity, He boldly informed the people who were sitting in the pews of His hometown church of Nazareth that they were the ones who were spiritually “poor, blind, captive, and oppressed”, and that “a prophet is only without honor among His own people”. Upon hearing these indicting words, the church people became angry with Him, rushed Him, and cast Him out of their church and city (Luke 4:16-29)! These things will be done again. For it is written: “Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things are fulfilled.” (Matt. 24:34). And again, it is written: “These things I have spoken to you that you should not be made to stumble. They will put you out of the synagogues [churches]; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service. And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father or Me.” (John 16:1-3).
There are Nicodemuses Among Them
A while back, when God was showing me these things, He spoke to me about Nicodemus. According to the Bible, Nicodemus was a leading Pharisee, “a ruler of the Jews” and a member of the Sanhedrin which was the highest ruling Jewish tribunal and religious council at the time. As Scripture reveals, Nicodemus “came to Jesus by night” (John 3:1-2). In other words, he came to Jesus in secret and not openly for fear of his fellow Jews. Obviously, Nicodemus was led to Jesus by a certain level of genuine personal conviction, albeit coupled with a big amount of fear of what others might think. He approached Jesus with convicting apprehension as well as with curious respect: “Rabbi [Teacher],” he said, “We know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” (John 3:2). In saying this, Nicodemus was admitting that the Jewish religious leaders couldn’t quite figure out how Jesus came on the scene apart from their establishment (that is, apart from the Temple system), and yet, do the miraculous things that He was doing. Furthermore, how was He going to fit in with them? What was His purpose for coming? Obviously He was sent to them by God, but why, and for what purpose? These were some of Nicodemus’ thoughts as well as the thoughts of some of the Jewish leadership. That is why Nicodemus came to Jesus in the first place – to find out whom He really was and why He had arrived on the spiritual scene.
To Nicodemus’ surprise, Jesus immediately informed him that he needed to be re-born (John 3:3)! In other words, Jesus told Nicodemus that he needed to be completely re-created, torn-down, changed, converted and rebuilt! Everything that had made him into who and what he was – his Jewish upbringing and education, rabbinic school training, Temple worship, Law-keeping, Sanhedrin membership, etc (i.e., his whole life) needed to be renounced and completely buried in water (through baptism). In addition to doing this, he then needed to be re-born in and through the Spirit of God by believing in Christ Jesus. Of himself, Nicodemus had only earned death – not eternal life! All of his church attendance, Temple worship, scholarly training, personal sacrifices, tithes and offerings, and Law-keeping, had only earned him one thing – that is, death! “For by the works of the Law shall no flesh be justified, but by faith in Jesus Christ.” (Gal. 2:16). This is what Nicodemus and all of the Jews didn’t realize and had to learn. But unfortunately, Nicodemus was caught in the “system” – the system of worship that had become an institution in his life. He had become enslaved, and was now in bondage to a religious system that was spiritually suppressing him. This system, called “the Temple”, had subtly, and unknowingly, become “God” to him. As a consequence, he began to blindly follow and serve it, instead of the true living God. It had deceived him into thinking that he was right with God, and that he was headed for the Kingdom of heaven. This system’s leaders had unintentionally placed a strangle-hold on him through their wrong teachings and false doctrines. He was made a captive through religious deception and fear. He was controlled and oppressed by superstition and spiritual ignorance. In his heart he was made to feel that he couldn’t question anything or explore “new truth” lest he consider himself, or be considered by others, as rebellious and insubordinate. He was trapped and unable to listen to that “still small voice” that often called out to him. Since his earliest recollections and childhood, the rabbis’ traditions, teachings and interpretations were infallible and needed to be strictly enforced and obeyed without question. To his conscience, all interpretations and teachings, and all divine revelations, needed to be accompanied by religious credentials and/or have rabbinic approval. Unbeknownst to him, he had become a prisoner to a religious system that had permeated his mind and captivated his faith. To him, free speech and free thought needed to be quickly squelched and reigned-in. Anything outside of the Temple belief system and its ordination and promotion were to be considered heresy and rebellion towards God, as well as a denial of the pure and only faith of the Hebrew fathers. This was Nicodemus’ life – and his spiritual position. And such was the life and belief of every sincere, God-fearing, Jew of the first century. But now that Jesus had come on the scene, Nicodemus, along with many others, was finding himself trapped between two conflicting worlds.
When Jesus entered Nicodemus’ world with His miracles and His divine words of truth, it must have threatened Nicodemus’ faith and shattered his religious paradigm completely. Nicodemus must have quietly thought to himself, ‘How can this man do such miracles and say such things? Who gave Him this spiritual authority? Where did He receive His anointing to teach and to preach? Surely not from the High Priest at the Temple – for I’ve never seen this man in church (Temple) before. Who is He really?’ This is why Nicodemus came to Jesus by night. He couldn’t reconcile Jesus’ miraculous ministry in his mind with his Jewish religious world – his “Temple system”. This is the “Temple system” that I have been writing about throughout this article. It is the “system” that permeates all of Christianity today. It is going to be dealt with and destroyed in the coming months and years in the lives of millions. God is going to call many people out of it. And like the Scriptures foretell, many people are going to completely leave the “Temple” and its synagogues (churches) and begin to follow Jesus!
Why did the Jewish religious leaders of the first century hate Jesus? It is clear. It is because He was taking away their numbers by freeing the people from their religious captivity by preaching the truth. He was exposing the religious leaders for what they were. He was de-posturing and de-powering the influence that the Temple had over their spiritual lives, thereby hurting the institution and its leaders financially and politically. And most of all, He was demanding that everybody repent and humble themselves before God, especially those who were in charge. No wonder they killed Him! And if we were really honest with ourselves, we would have to acknowledge that any true minister and servant of God living today would be found doing and saying the same things that Jesus was doing and saying during His days on earth. For Jesus said: “The servant is not greater than his Master; but it is enough that the servant be like his Master.” (Matt. 10:24-25). And again, He said, “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher.” (Luke 6:40).
At first, Nicodemus came to Jesus privately, but as he grew in faith, he overcame his fear of the Temple system and its agents (the religious leaders and authorities). Notice at the end of the Book of John that it states that Nicodemus came openly with Joseph of Arimathea to take down the body of Jesus from the cross, prepare it for burial, and put it into a tomb (John 19:39-42). Notice that Nicodemus was no longer afraid, ashamed, or intimidated to openly live out his faith in Christ! Curiously though, Joseph of Arimathea was, for it says that “Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews asked Pontius Pilate for the body of Jesus” (John 19:38). Nicodemus had obviously grown in faith since first meeting Jesus privately, and this spiritual growth and maturity had completely eradicated the importance of the “Temple” in his life. He was no longer afraid of what others thought. He had overcome the “fear of man” in his life. He could now let his “light” shine. That is, Jesus, who is “the Light that lights every man” (John 1:4-9) could now shine brightly through him. Instead of going to the Temple, Nicodemus had now become the Temple. For it is written: “Do you not know that you are the Temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (I Cor. 3:16). Likewise today, instead of going to Church, we Christians need to become the Church!
About a year and a half ago, the Lord woke me up one night and spoke to me, saying, “I will send you [My servants] into the middle of the Temple courts again.” I was puzzled by this statement, and so I sat up, and said, “What, Lord?” He immediately showed me in my mind’s eye the following verses in the Bible: “Then the high priest rose up, and all those who were with him (which is the sect of the Sadducees), and they were filled with indignation, and laid their hands on the apostles and put them in the common prison. But at night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, ‘Go, stand in the Temple and speak to the people all the words of this life.’ And when they heard that, they entered the Temple early in the morning and taught…Then one came and told the high priest, the captain of the Temple, and the chief priests, saying, ‘Look, the men whom you put in prison are standing in the Temple and teaching the people!’…When they heard this, they were furious and took counsel to kill them” (Acts 5:17-33). As I began to realize what the Lord was actually telling me – that He is intending to send His servants and messengers into Christendom – directly into the Christian churches with this message, I began to protest, saying, “But no, Lord! They will beat us and hit us.” The Lord replied, “Yes, they will.” As I sat there pondering this fateful persecution, I immediately (and foolishly) thought about my nose, and how I had just paid a lot of money to have it fixed. (I broke it in a basketball game a couple of years ago). Concerned, I asked God about it, saying, “Lord, are they going to hit my nose?” He said, “Yes, but they will not be allowed to break it or any of your bones for that matter – for it is written: ‘Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all. He guards all his bones; not one of them is broken.’” (Psa. 34:19-20). I then asked, “Oh Lord, why are You going to do this? Why are You going to send Your servants right into the middle of the fire, the hotbed of persecution – right smack dab into the middle of Christianity and its churches?” He said, “Because there are many Nicodemuses among them.” At the time that He said this to me I did not understand what He meant, and so I completely kept this word to myself. I didn’t tell anyone about it.
About a week later though, I met a man who was hired to found and pastor a new “start-up church” in the area. Apparently, he was entrusted with this task by a large corporate church that wanted to expand its membership into the surrounding areas. I had never met this man before, but out-of-the-blue he called me on the phone and we agreed to meet. Apparently, he had gotten my phone number from a neighbor who “for some reason” felt that we needed to talk. I did not know why I “had to” meet him, but the Spirit assured me that I had to, so I agreed to meet him for lunch at a nearby restaurant. After explaining his situation to me regarding his “church employer”, I noticed some uneasiness in his demeanor. I asked him about it. He immediately explained to me, in an exasperated tone with tears, that he “felt like Nicodemus in the Bible!” I was astounded at his choice of words because I hadn’t said anything to him about my earlier discussion with the Lord. He said that he felt “caught between two worlds” and “stuck between two allegiances”. He went on to explain that the “parent church” that had hired him expected him to preach and teach the things that they had instructed him and hired him to do. He said that they were only interested in “building numbers” and increasing their membership. He didn’t feel that they wanted him to particularly focus on brokenness, judgment, sin, and repentance, but rather on “lighter, more appealing subjects”. In his conscience, he felt that he was supposed to preach what God had been giving him which obviously was going to offend most people and turn them away, instead of drawing them to their fellowship. He wept as he confessed this to me, asking me what to do. I then told him what the Lord gave me to tell him: “No man can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and mammon [riches].” (Matt. 6:24). I continued: “The Lord says that ‘Whosoever you rely on to put food on your table owns you – whether that be God or whether that be man.’ God expects you to serve Him and to put your trust in Him only. You are not to point the people to an institution of man, but rather, you are to point them to God! Do this, and God will bless you. Depart from this word and everything that you build-up in man and for man will come to nothing and be destroyed. For it is written, ‘Blessed is the man who built his house upon the Rock [the words of Jesus]; for when the rains descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat down on that house, it did not fall, for it was founded upon the Rock. But to the man that hears these sayings of Mine’ says God, ‘and doesn’t do them, I will liken him unto a foolish man who built his house on the sand; and when the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, it fell. And great was its fall!’” (Matt. 7:24-27). Upon hearing this, the man lowered his head, wept, and quietly walked away. I never saw him again. I did hear recently though, through a mutual friend, that the “start-up church” completely disintegrated a year later and that it all came to nothing. This little church no longer exists, and apparently, its parent church is now “falling apart at the seams” as well. It is being rocked by scandal, division, dissention, charges of sexual misconduct among the ministry, and financial misdealing. Seemingly, its days are numbered too. God means what He says.
During the time of the Herods, the ruling family of Palestine, there existed a group of Jews who became known as the Herodians. These were Jews who supported the dynasty of Herod, and therefore the rule of Rome. They are mentioned twice in the New Testament as joining forces with the Pharisees in plotting to discredit and destroy Jesus (Mark 3:6; 12:13). Because their true allegiance was to Rome, and not to God, their faith was really in vain therefore. They were more about religious pretense than true worship. Sadly, there are many “Herodians” among us today. As time goes on and things become more spiritually clear and visible, these “Herodians” will begin to vehemently oppose Christ and try to discredit and destroy Him again.
A Herodian is anyone who calls himself a believer – a Christian – and yet is “in bed” politically with this world. As we have seen before, no man can serve two masters; either he will love [adhere to] the one, and hate the other, or he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. A person cannot have divided loyalties – otherwise there really is no loyalty to either side! This is the problem with Christians and churches who get involved with this world’s politics. A person cannot truly have “dual citizenship” and “dual allegiance” especially when you have two opposing nations (or kingdoms) involved. The Bible clearly states this: “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (Jam. 4:4). “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (I John 2:15).
Jesus clearly stated that He was not a citizen of any earthly nation, but rather a citizen of the heavenly Kingdom only. He boldly declared to the Roman procurator, Pontius Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My Kingdom is not from here…And you would have no power over Me if it were not given to you from above.” (John 18:36; 19:11). If Jesus stated that He wasn’t a member or citizen of any earthly nation or kingdom, then why do some of His bondservants claim to be? The reason is that some of His people haven’t really left this world in their hearts and truly become “pilgrims and sojourners” on this earth! They have become content and entangled with the “cares, riches, and pleasures of this life” (Luke 8:14), and consequently, have taken up permanent residency in a strange land. This is the exact definition of a Herodian. According to The New Strong’s Concordance of the Bible, a Herodian is “a Hellenizing Jew”! That is, he (or she) is a Jew who has become acclimated to his non-Jewish surroundings and is content living like a pagan Greek (a non-Jew) in a land that is not his own. His daily affections and attentions are focused on the country and world in which he now lives, and he no longer desires to return to his homeland. In his heart, he has decided to become a citizen of his host nation, and no longer considers himself a foreigner living in a strange land. In his goal to “not stand out” or be considered “an outsider and stranger”, he becomes involved in the politics of his host country, aligning himself with the political party which best supports his views and agenda. In order to take advantage of all the benefits made available to him, the Herodian politically plays “both sides”. He professes his Christianity in order to take advantage of government tax-breaks, appear righteous to others, and appease his own conscience; while at the same time, proclaiming his patriotism in order to befriend society, be accepted, have political voice, and wield temporal power. Like the Herodians of Jesus’ day, the modern-day Herodians swear allegiance to both God and country (“Rome”). Obviously, they believe that there is no inherent conflict between these two opposing kingdoms.
As Christians, do we really think that if Jesus were here today He would be interested in whether or not Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton wins the Democratic nomination? Would He really care whether or not a Republican or a Democrat is in the White House? Do we really believe that while Jesus was on earth He was concerned with whether or not Tiberius or Caligula was the emperor in Rome? Did Jesus make sure to cast His vote for the particular senator which best supported and represented His moral ideas and convictions? To Jesus, was Pontius Pilate the “better candidate” for governor because he supported capital punishment, than King Herod was who obviously supported killing babies? As Christians, these questions and observations should seem ridiculous! So why then do so many Christians today – supposedly being the “followers of Christ” – make similar statements and political observations? It is because they have not truly separated themselves from this world and its politics! Notice what the Scripture says about those who truly follow after God – they don’t have any earthly citizenship or national allegiance: “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. And truly, if they had been mindful of the country from which they had come out of, they would have had opportunity to return. But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.” (Heb. 11:13-16). This is how Jesus lived! He desired the “heavenly country and city” which was prepared for Him by God. He yearned for it and looked for it constantly (Matt. 6:10), not any earthly government or kingdom. He was not about reforming this world or its governments. He didn’t threaten to boycott or vote out of office any ruler who didn’t agree with Him or keep His commandments. While He was here He knew that this world is destined to end and its kingdoms to be broken into pieces (Dan. 2:44). Therefore His heart was not entangled with the affairs and concerns of this world or its politics. He knew that God was in charge, and that His Father would put into power those that He wanted in power and would remove from power those that He wanted removed according to His purposes and according to His divine plan (Dan. 2:21; 4:17, 25, 32).
Make no mistake – the Herodians were, and are, enemies of God. They represent all the church denominations, and pastors, and church councils and boards, and individuals that have one foot in the Church and one foot in this world’s politics. Jesus said that if you truly belonged to Him, then the world would hate you, for the world loves its own. But it hates outsiders and foreigners – that is, it hates Christians (John 15:18-19; 17:14; I John 3:13)! If you are a Christian, then you need to completely come out of this world and put your citizenship and allegiance in the Kingdom of heaven only (II Cor. 6:17). For even the Apostle Paul lamented in his day that some of the so-called “Christians” were not truly putting their allegiance in the Kingdom of heaven, but rather in the things of this world. He wrote to the Church: “Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern. For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame – who set their mind on earthly things. For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.” (Phil. 3:17-21).
Hierarchies in the Church – the Doctrine of the Nicolaitans
One of the main tenets of the Temple system that is condemned and is going to be destroyed is “church hierarchies” and “church government”. The practice of having and exercising authority over one another, like the unbelieving Gentiles, within the Church is forbidden in Scripture. Speaking to His disciples, Jesus said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles [the unbelievers] lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you. But whoever desires to become great among you, must be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, must be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Matt. 20:25-28). In this way, Jesus advocated “rulership” from bottom-up, instead of from top-down. He said that anybody who wanted to be in a rulership-type position within His Church (or Kingdom) must be on the “bottom” lifting others up by serving them, like He does us, instead of being the ones “on top” being served! Within the kingdoms of men (the earthly realm), the “lesser” serves the “greater”. But in the Kingdom of God (in the Godly realm), the “greater” serves the “lesser”. Jesus showed us this godly principle. He, being greater than all of us, emptied Himself of His royal God-head and came down to earth taking on the form of a servant, in order to serve us and lift us up (exalt us), so that we too might sit in heavenly places together with Him (Phil. 2:5-8; Eph. 2:6). He said that He came to set us an example that we likewise should follow – serving one another (John 13:13-17). The Apostle Paul said the same thing. He wrote: “For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all.” (I Cor. 9:19). This is true leadership. This is godly authority.
Take as an example, fathers and mothers. God gave fathers and mothers authority over their children. But is this authority given to parents in order for the children to serve the parents, or for the parents to serve the children? Obviously, it is given for the parents to serve (look after, guide, protect, provide for, and teach) their children – to bring them to maturity and adulthood. The same is true for the leadership that God instituted in the Church. Notice: “It was God who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up [lifted-up, exalted, edified] until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ, so that we will no longer be children.” (Eph. 4:11-14). Church leaders and elders are given authority by God to serve in the same manner that parents serve their children. They aren’t to lord over them, abuse them, provoke them unto wrath, or take from them. But instead, they are to lead, encourage, help, inspire, admonish, disciple, enable, comfort, and teach them.
With this in mind, the Bible gives us a principle that I think many church leaders don’t understand or aren’t willing to apply. The Apostle Paul, being careful not to become a burden or a stumbling block in any way to the Church members, said that “children ought not to lay up for the parents, but rather, the parents for the children” (II Cor. 12:14). Even though he clearly had the right by the Word of God to live off of the people that he ministered to (I Cor. 9:7-14), Paul chose not to exercise that right in order not to cause offense or to become a burden to them (I Cor. 9:15-18; II Thess. 3:7-9). He also didn’t want to give an occasion to the enemies of God to speak evil by imputing wicked motives to him implying that he was in the ministry for financial gain (I Pet. 5:2-3; I Thes. 5:22). Out of his great love for the people and his faithfulness to God, Paul took nothing from the people that he served; he only continually freely gave of himself to them. Isn’t this the same example that Jesus gave us as well? He took nothing from us, but gave us all things. He trusted God to provide everything for Him that He needed – and God faithfully did so (Matt. 10:9-10; 14:16-21; 17:27). Why then do ministers today not trust God to provide for them, and therefore, freely give to others as it has been freely given to them, expecting nothing in return (Matt. 10:8; Luke 6:35; 22:35)? Instead, a lot of professing Christian leaders today, not only live-off of the people they minister to, but financially “devour” them as well just as Jesus said (Matt. 23:14). They extort the people by using spiritual manipulation, twisting of Scriptures, fear, and guilt. They cause the people to serve them, and to work for them and their “spiritual” agendas, and lay heavy financial burdens and expectations upon them while they themselves are exempt from these burdens (Matt. 23:4). I tell you the truth, God is going to visit them in their wickedness, and expose them for what they are – “robbers and thieves” who have come to steal, kill, and destroy the Lord’s flock (John 10:8-10). Likewise, these modern-day Pharisees and Sadducees and “priests” all have their “building funds” that they require the people to support. I tell you the truth, the “Temple tax” in Jesus’ day was the exact same thing – and in due time, the Temple with its taxes and priests were all completely destroyed!
If the idea of “church hierarchies” and “church government” isn’t Biblical, then where did it come from and how did it assimilate itself into the New Testament Church? As many historical books and sources will easily confirm, the idea of church government and ecclesiastical hierarchies began to slowly creep into the church shortly after the deaths of the original apostles. Just as the Apostle Paul had predicted, evil men began to arise from within the Church to draw men away after themselves, thus making themselves rulers over them in order to live-off of them and to take from them. Paul prophesied to the leadership of the Church these very words: “For I know this that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves, men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves… I have coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel. Yes, you yourselves know that these hands [of mine] have provided for my [own] necessities, and for those who were with me. I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’”. (Acts 20:29-35).
Shortly after Paul’s death, the Apostle John, who was the last surviving apostle, was given a final revelation from God. It is recorded in prophetic detail in the Book of Revelation. In it, God revealed to John (and to the whole Church) that soon after the original Apostles’ demise the evil “doctrine of the Nicolaitans” was going to try and infiltrate the Church (Rev. 2:6); and that after a few centuries, sadly, it was going to successfully establish itself within the Church (Rev. 2:15). This “doctrine of the Nicolaitans” is the “clergy/laity” system that now permeates Christianity. Let me explain: The word “Nicolaitans” comes from two Greek words: Niko which means “to rule over” or “to conquer”; and laos which means “the people” or “the laity”. In other words, it means “ruling over the laity” or putting a class of people (clergy) in place to govern and rule over the common people – that is, the laity (the lay people). God says that He hates this wicked doctrine and practice (Rev. 2:15)! The Bible says that all of God’s people in the Church are priests (I Peter 2:9; Rev. 5:10), not just a select few. As was mentioned before, Jesus never intended for His people to “rule over each other” in this life (Matt. 20:25-26). He said that He alone was our Leader and our Teacher, and that we all are equal brethren (Matt. 23:8-10). We are all simply servants who are called to serve one another, and to lay down ourselves for one another, just as Jesus did for us setting us an example that we should follow (Gal. 5:13; Phil. 2:3-5; I John 3:16). This is what it means to be a Christian – a “follower of Jesus Christ”.
The idea of having a “clergy/laity” system (a caste system) within the Church is unbiblical and against Christ. It is therefore antichrist. We are called to serve one another and to lay ourselves down for each other just like Jesus did. We are not to rule over one another and have or seek religious preeminence over each other (Matt. 23:8-12). The Scriptures teach that in the last days the actual Antichrist himself will emerge out of a spirit and attitude of religious superiority. He will exalt himself above everyone else in the Church to the point that he will even feel that he himself is God. The Apostle Paul warned us that this “man of sin” and “son of perdition” – the Antichrist – will arise from within the Church system and that he “opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshipped, so that he sits as God in the Temple of God, showing himself that he is God” (II Thes. 2:3-4). The Bible clearly teaches that anything that exalts itself (or himself) above God or His Word is the spirit of antichrist. It is written in the Scriptures that God’s people shall have no other gods but Him, and Him only! To put any individual or group of individuals between God and His people is blasphemous and against Christ. Christ alone is the head of the Church (Eph. 5:23). There is no other mediator between God and men but Jesus Christ (I Tim. 2:5). Therefore, to have any other “mediators” or intermediates between God and His people is heretical and against the very work of Jesus Christ. It is therefore antichrist! It is Christ alone who makes intercession for us, not anyone else (Heb. 7:25). The self-appointed clergy members among us today need to get off of their “high-horses” and humble themselves before they get “lowered” by God. For Jesus Himself warned the religious leaders of His day that “The Stone which you builders have rejected has become the Head of the corner…and whoever falls on this Stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder.” (Matt. 21:42-44; Acts 4:11).
Christ is Going to Visit His Temple Again Soon
The Bible says that in the last days, the Lord Jesus will expose the “lawless one” who is in the Temple of God, and that He will “overthrow him with the spirit of His mouth and destroy him with the brightness of His coming” (II Thes. 2:8). This verse clearly indicates that Jesus is going to again speak and preach to His people who are caught in the church system before judgment comes upon them. The Bible also tells us that “Elijah” will come again and “restore all things” in the Church before that “great and dreadful Day of the Lord” comes (Matt. 17:11; Mal. 4:5). We have seen how God “visited His Temple” the first time before it was destroyed. Through His preaching and teaching, Jesus exposed the “lawless ones” within the Church (His Temple) during the first century. He preached against the hypocrisy, the sin, the lies, the false doctrines and teachings, and the religious pretenses that permeated and enslaved His people. He called on all of them to repent and to change, and to receive the gift of His Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). Some of them hated Him for it, and cast Him out of their Temple, and killed Him. They also persecuted and murdered His servants and followers that He sent to them afterwards. And so forty years later, God swiftly destroyed His House (Jerusalem and the Temple) because they “didn’t recognize the time of their visitation” (Luke 19:44). As Jesus said – the very things that “made for their peace were hidden from their eyes” because their hearts were not right with God and they refused to repent or to be broken by Him (Luke 19:42-44; Matt. 21:32, 43-44). They didn’t recognize God among them in the person and flesh of Jesus or His followers. They didn’t realize the significance of Jesus’ prophetic name, Emmanuel – which literally meant “God with us” (Matt. 1:23). They didn’t discern the presence of the Holy Spirit (the Spirit of Christ) in His apostles or His servants. They didn’t understand what was happening in their very midst (Luke 23:34). They couldn’t spiritually see or discern. They didn’t know God, and therefore couldn’t recognize His Spirit when He came near to them. They only knew Him according to “the flesh” – according to what their human eyes could see and their human ears could hear (Matt. 13:14-15). They didn’t seek to know Him with their hearts. And consequently, like the people of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, God blinded them all and destroyed them because of it. Seeking to know God in the flesh (carnally), and not in the Spirit, only brings death. As Jesus said, “It is the Spirit that gives life; the flesh profits nothing” (John 6:63). Sadly, the Bible predicts that many in the last days are going to be allowed to believe a lie because they really don’t love the truth (II Thes. 2:9-12). Like the many that perished in the Temple at Jerusalem during the first century, unfortunately, there will be many more who will face the same judgment in the Church Temple system today. These are the ones that Paul described as “ever-learning, but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (II Tim. 3:7). Pretenders and schemers who serve God with their lips, but whose hearts are far from Him. People who seek to know Jesus according to the flesh, but not after the Spirit. These are the very ones that Jesus prophesied about, saying, “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you evildoers!” (Matt. 7:22-23).
This brings me to one final story that I must share that clearly and sadly demonstrates the current spiritual state of His Temple (the Church): About six years ago, a former neighbor of mine invited me and my family to attend a church service with his wife and kids at their local church. My wife and I agreed to go with them. Their non-denominational Christian church had a big beautiful building that seated around one-thousand people. This church building had very high ceilings, white stately walls, a gorgeous lobby, comfortable pews, and a very large pulpit area with big speakers and projection screens. The church’s “praise and worship band” had all of the latest sound and lighting equipment; the choir was decked-out in the best robes; and the ministry teams all wore their finest suits and Sunday dresses. The parishioner’s were all upper-middle class, professional-looking, people who had the nicest smiles and prettiest clothes. Truly, this church had the best of everything that money could buy. Everybody seemed happy and very relaxed and comfortable. As I sat there in one of the beautifully-decorated padded pews, listening to the joyous message and announcements that the Senior Pastor was giving, I suddenly fell into a vision. I didn’t realize it at first, until the vision was over, that I had actually had a vision. As I was experiencing it, I actually thought that it was truly happening in real life. When it was over, I was left sweating profusely and my pulse was racing, as my head was flooded with all kinds of unsettling thoughts and convictions. The following is a true account of what I experienced and saw in this vision as I sat there in this beautifully-decorated Christian church:
At the close of the announcements, the pastor turned towards me and said, “Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a special guest speaker here with us today. And we are so pleased that he and his family were able to join us. Please help me in welcoming Eric Wheeler and his family. Eric will be bringing us the message from the Lord today.” As everyone enthusiastically applauded, and smiled at me and my family, I walked up to the podium and acknowledged their gracious welcome. Before I could dive into my main message though, I announced to them that we first needed to take care of some “small church business”. To me, it was more like an “off-the-cuff item of business” that quickly needed to be done, so that I could really get into the “meat” of my sermon message that I had prepared for them. I informed everybody that we just needed to quickly get this “church business” out of the way. I assured them that it was really “no big deal” and that it could be done rather quickly – or so I thought. I asked the audience members sitting in the church how many of them owned or possessed at least two or more vehicles. Almost every hand in the church went up. “Good,” I said, “Because it has come to my attention that there are a few families among us that don’t have any vehicles at all or any means of transportation, and so those of us who have ‘extra’ should go ahead and part with ‘that extra’ and give to our brothers and sisters who are in need. After all, this is what John the Baptist told us that we should do – remember? He said that ‘he who has two coats, let him give to him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise.’ (Luke 3:11). So if you don’t mind, I am going to ask the ushers to come forward and take this brown paper bag that I have here, and to go through the aisles, and collect the set of keys that you have to the extra vehicle or vehicles, and we will see to it that they get properly distributed to those brethren among us that have need. By the way, if you have the title to the vehicle with you, please also drop it into the bag as well. If not, don’t worry, you can just mail it into the church offices, or bring it by later. We will see to it that it gets to its rightful new owner. Thank you so much for your help and generosity. I’m sure that these needy families are going to be very grateful for your help.”
As I finished saying this the place got very quiet and no one moved. They all looked at me as if they were waiting for me to deliver the punch line. When I realized that they thought I was kidding, I said with a little laugh, “I’m not joking! Seriously, there are poorer and less fortunate families among us who don’t have any cars at all. And most of us have at least two or three vehicles that we own. Therefore, we should be willing to help them out with our extra. Let’s go. Move it. We need to get on with the main message!” Nobody moved. All of the previous smiles that had greeted me had now turned to puzzlement and bewilderment, and then slowly into anger. People began to glare at me, as they began to realize that I was serious. The ushers and deacons were stunned. They didn’t know whether or not I wanted them to truly go in and out of the plush aisles of this beautiful church building collecting the extra car keys from these “wealthy” Christians who clearly by their own admission had excess to give.
By this time, the people were becoming angry with me as I pleaded with them that this was not a joke, and that this should be no “big deal” to them – after all I was only asking them to give out of their abundance! I wasn’t requiring them to sacrifice anything! They clearly had excess – and there definitely were brothers and sisters among us that didn’t have anything! Why then was this so spiritually hard for them? The longer I stood there looking at them, with not one of them offering up their extra car keys in help or in charitable donation, the angrier I got. The Spirit of the Lord came upon me and began to move His Spirit that dwells deep within me, causing me to burn with righteous indignation, and I exclaimed, “You hypocrites! How can you say that the love of God is in you, when you aren’t even willing to give out of your excess to your brother whom you clearly see has need? Is it not written that ‘whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and yet shuts up his bowels of compassion from him, how can the love of God dwell in him?’ (I John 3:17) You hypocrites and white-washed sepulchers! You sit here pretending to be Christians – playing church, serving God with your lips, and yet your hearts are removed far from Him. How dare you come before Him, and convince yourselves that you love Him! How can you claim to “love Him whom you have not seen, when you don’t even love your own flesh and blood that you can see?” (I John 4:20-21). You liars and snakes! God knows your wicked hearts! And He will come upon you in swift judgment for your hypocrisy and wickedness!”
At that moment, the deacons and elders rushed the stage gnashing their teeth in anger and disdain. The people pounded their fists in the air yelling threats and obscenities at me and my family – calling for our blood. They pushed us out the door and violently carried us into the parking lot…. It was at that moment that I woke up – the vision had ended. I can’t tell you how much my soul was troubled at what I had seen. I was truly humbled and deeply saddened by the Lord’s revelation. I knew at that moment that we are all so far from God and where we should be as His people and as His Church. God help us all to repent and to truly recognize our “time of visitation”! For God has warned us that if we aren’t spiritually vigilant and watching, and looking for Him, then He will “come upon us” in a way, and at a time, in which we don’t think or even realize (Rev. 3:3). Sadly, we know from the Bible that just like in the days of our forefathers, there will be many who will be spiritually blind to His visits. Ask yourself then, ‘Do I really love the Truth or am I really in love with a “Temple system” that claims to be true?’ As we have seen from the Scriptures – there is a big difference between the two!
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