John Is Out, Christ Is In

John the Baptist

What are the signs of Christ’s ministry? From a prison cell, John the Baptizer asked the same question. Here’s what Jesus told him—and what I believe will happen someday.

John lands in prison

John did his ministry in the Galilean wilderness. He called people to repentance—a change of heart by turning away from dead religion and worldliness that was confirmed by public water baptism (Matt. 3:1-3).

But John paid the price when he denounced Herod Antipas. Antipas had divorced his wife Phasaelis and married a woman named Herodias, who was previously married to his brother Herod Philip I (Matt. 14:3-4).

Herod Antipas was a tetrarch (“ruler of a quarter”) of the kingdom he’d inherited from his father Herod the Great, who had years earlier ordered the massacre of all male infants in the vicinity of Bethlehem (Matt. 2:16-18).

In the fashion of his father, who disliked contention from the New Age movement (the Magi), Herod Antipas wouldn’t stand for it from the Religious Right (John the Baptizer). So he threw the prophet in prison (Luke 3:20).

Jesus raises a boy from the dead

One day when Jesus and His disciples reached the town of Nain, they met a funeral procession. Men were carrying out on a bier a widow’s only son.

Jesus stopped the procession and commanded the young man’s corpse to get up.

And he did.

The mourners were gripped with fear and said things like, “A great prophet has risen among us!” and “God has looked favorably on his people!” (Luke 7:11-17)

Without the help of radio, television, newspapers, email, Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, the astounding news spread throughout Judea. Even John heard about it in prison.

John questions Jesus

18 The disciples of John reported all these things to him. So John summoned two of his disciples
19 and sent them to the Lord to ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?”
–Luke 7:18-19 NRSV

John’s ministry was very different from Jesus’. Although John came in the spirit and power of Elijah (Luke 1:17), no miracles are recorded in his ministry.

John’s basic message was, “Change your heart and get your life right. Be born from above.” He did a lot of fasting, denouncing, and baptizing.

When Jesus arrived to be immersed, John declared, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” (John 1:29-30).

Jesus, however, came eating and drinking, feeding the multitudes, and changing water into wine. Religious leaders called Him a glutton and a drunkard (Matt. 11:19).

Perhaps John thought that, if his cousin really was the Christ, Jesus should have some other kind of ministry. Still stuck in prison, John apparently expected different results from the Messiah he had spent his life preparing people to receive (Matt. 3:1-3).

Jesus answers with evidence of anointed ministry

Since raising the widow’s son at Nain, Jesus was busy curing many people of diseases, illnesses, and evil spirits—even opening the eyes of the blind. John’s disciples met Him and relayed the Baptizer’s query.

22 And [Jesus] answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have good news brought to them.
23 And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.”
–Luke 7:22-23 NRSV

“Are you the Christ?”

Jesus did not answer John’s question directly. Instead, He told John’s emissaries to deliver an eyewitness account of the results of his ministry:

  • Blind eyes are opened.
  • Physically disabled people—paraplegics and quadriplegics—are walking again.
  • Lepers and those with skin diseases are cleansed and accepted back into society.
  • The deaf hear once more (or for the first time ever).
  • The dead are even coming back to life.
  • The poor get the good news delivered to their doorstep.

The theme of these supernormal deeds is freedom for captives. As John had preached deliverance from sin and false religion, his message was only to prepare people for greater freedom that would come through the ministry of Christ.

Unfortunately, Jesus’ good news would not set John free; he was beheaded in prison (Mark 6:17-29). Perhaps this is why Jesus told him not to be offended with Him.

John vs. Christ today

With the rise of the Religious Right in recent years, we’ve witnessed the militant exaltation of a narrow set of religious values (and an even narrower set of “family values”).

These views march lockstep with the condemnation of every class of people who do not conform to their constricted code of morality, one that is often hypocritical—like legislators campaigning on a ticket of family values and the sanctity of marriage while they have had multiple affairs and divorces.

The purity of John’s ministry, though harsh, is corrupted in today’s political right-wing religiosity.

Like the ministry of John the Baptizer, this contemporary hardline stance has served a purpose. Yet it will not last forever; it will fail to usher in a right-wing “kingdom of God.” One day soon, it will overstep its bounds, backfire, and find itself in prison.

What’s coming?

Many dispensationalist Christians—both evangelical and Pentecostal—believe that there will be a great persecution of the faithful before Christ returns to rapture them.

Indeed, the persecution will come.

What they don’t understand is that some will have earned it for all of them by making themselves a stench in the nostrils of everyone else in the world through self-righteous rejection of outsiders. The tide will suddenly turn, and they will find themselves in the minority.

(I’m not talking about those who are truly meek and loving like Christ. I’m referring to those who take part in a churchianity that seeks to impose their views on everyone else through political manipulation and governmental legislation. I’m talking about false religion that rejects the marginalized and cares not for widows and orphans [James 1:27].)

The Kingdom of God does not come riding the beast of politics and prejudice. Bible faith will never be established by burning the Koran or hatefully protesting LGBTQ people.

Soon, those Americans who want to unfairly enjoy financial and societal benefits for themselves while denying them to all those outside their religious comfort zone will find these roles reversed.

When the ministry of John is fulfilled in this present age, it will be decapitated so that the ministry of Christ may come forth to heal and deliver those who have been damaged and rejected by God’s self-appointed “chosen few.”Jesus healing a blind man

Militant religious conservatives will languish in a prison of misunderstanding and betrayal while the Spirit of Christ is poured out on those they sought to socially marginalize and politically squash for so long. As Jesus told John, please don’t be offended.

To the “outsiders,” Jesus’ flock of another sheep pen (John 10:16), the Lord says:

6 “I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness;
   I will take hold of your hand.
   I will keep you and will make you
   to be a covenant for the people
   and a light for the Gentiles,
7 to open eyes that are blind,
   to free captives from prison
   and to release from the dungeon
   those who sit in darkness.
8 “I am the LORD; that is my name!
   I will not yield my glory to another
   or my praise to idols.
9 See, the former things have taken place,
   and new things I declare;
   before they spring into being
   I announce them to you.”
–Isaiah 42:6-9 NIV

Jesus, Crowned with Many Crowns

Jesus

Sweet visitations of the Holy Spirit came to me early in 2015, and I want to tell you about one vision I experienced the morning of March 18, 2015.

Vision of Jesus on his heavenly throne

I was listening to some worship music (Darlene Zschech, “Worthy Is the Lamb”), and the tangible presence of the Holy Spirit came upon me.

I saw myself ascending to the throne room, and beheld Jesus glorified on his heavenly throne. I bowed at his feet, weeping and worshiping and adoring him. There were so many, many, many gathered around him doing the same.

We crowned him with many crowns, and I saw crown after crown—many thousands of crowns—coming from the worshipers, flowing to him and being placed on his head, which was brighter than lightning, brighter that the noonday sun, and being taken in and absorbed, and him growing brighter and more glorious. He ascended high into the heavens, with rays of light flowing down upon us all and over the entire earth.

Later, as I typed this vision and listened to the song again, the holy Presence and weeping came upon me again, and I began to clap and speak in tongues. The interpretation follows.

Interpretation of tongues about coming up higher, the glory

For yea, the Lord says, I am calling you up higher. I’m calling you into the heavenlies. I’m calling you to come up and to be where I am. I’m calling you forth in the Spirit and to step into the Spirit.

I will provide that which you need to be a catalyst for you to step into the Spirit, to launch yourself into the heavenlies, that you might be with me where I am, that you might enter the realm of miracles, that you might enter the realm of signs and wonders, and that you might enter the realm of angels and of the glory of the Lord.

For I desire to reveal my glory unto you in this day and in this hour, and it shall come forth shining as the sun, and it shall come forth and it shall bestow upon you gifts and graces that only have been promised you before by the words of my mouth. And I will surely make good on all my promises to you. I will pour my Spirit through you.

I will anoint you to do the things that I have called you to do. I will anoint you to call in the lost, I will anoint you to speak forth my plan and my purpose, I will anoint you to be my spokesman, to be my prophet, to be my mouthpiece in this day and in this hour.

Here and there, I will take you. Here and there, I will speak through you. Here and there, I will bring them, and I will bring them so that they may sit in your presence and hear from me, says the Lord, for I have a glory to share with you; I have a glory to share through you; I have a glory to share among you, that you might walk in my presence and my power.

And I’m drawing those unto myself. I’m drawing you and I’m drawing those unto myself that you might together come and be that body that I have equipped you to be and to be members of the fold that I have called you to, over which the banner rises, “Accepted in the Beloved.” The banner over you is love.

I’m calling you, says the Lord. Will you not come up higher? Come up higher and rest in me, and you shall find your refreshing, and you shall find the power that you need to fulfill your calling in me, says the Lord.

Lord, let your word come to pass quickly.

The Nullifying Power of Tradition

Nullifying Power of tradition

Jesus came first for his own people. For thousands of years his coming had been destined, prepared, foretold. No other nation had prophecies concerning the Messiah like Israel did; no other nation had the Scriptures of truth as Israel did.

Why, then, when Jesus arrived on the scene, did the religious leaders not recognize him as their Savior and Deliverer?

When Jesus finally came in the power of signs and wonders as never before seen, his own people rejected him. Why? Mark tells us.

1 The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus and
2 saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were “unclean,” that is, unwashed.
3 (The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders.
4 When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles.)
5 So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with ‘unclean’ hands?”
–MARK 7:1–5 NIV

The Pharisees diligently studied the Scriptures (John 5:39). But they also kept their own traditions.

There’s nothing wrong with tradition per se, but observing human rules had become more important to them than obeying in love and faith the simple word of God. They chose their traditions over what God had originally said. Jesus told them, “‘You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions” (v. 8 NIV).

Just as no one can serve two masters, no one can hold on to two things at once. Unless a tradition is based accurately on God’s word, we cannot observe it and still honor God’s commands.

God honors His word, not human tradition or interpretation of that word. When tradition and the word diverge, we cannot follow both!

God’s word is powerful, but Jesus told the religious leaders something astonishing:

[Y]ou are nullifying and making void and of no effect [the authority of] the Word of God through your tradition, which you [in turn] hand on. And many things of this kind you are doing.”
–MARK 7:13 AMPC

Jesus said that the all-powerful word of God is…

  • Nullified—cancelled, zeroed out
  • Made void—empty
  • Made of no effect—rendered powerless

…because of tradition.

This nullifying power refers not only to the written Scriptures, but the prophetic word revealed to our hearts or to the corporate church by the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God’” (Matt. 4:4 NKJV).

If elevating tradition as primary makes God’s revealed word ineffective, then obviously the word is supposed to have an effect—it was designed to do something, to change things.

Hebrews 4:12 says the word of God is “quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword” (KJV), but tradition makes it more like a butter knife. As powerful as God’s word is, it is rendered powerless if not honored over tradition.

If how you interpret any portion of Scripture bring no practical effect to bless you, change you, or make you more like Christ, that interpretation is worthless. Perhaps its power has been nullified by tradition.

Paul advises on this matter:

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.
–Colossians 2:8 NIV

Paul warned Timothy to beware those who hold to a “form of godliness but deny its power”:

They may pretend to have a respect for God, but in reality they want nothing to do with God’s power. Stay away from people like these!
–2 Timothy 3:5 TPT

Because the Jewish religious leaders of Jesus’ time chose their traditions over Jesus, the Word made flesh, their Messiah’s coming availed them nothing.

How could Jesus benefit them if they did not acknowledge him for who he was? Because they rejected him, they received the consequences—desolation (Luke 13:35). It’s no wonder Jesus wept over Jerusalem (Luke 19:41-44).

Today, the Church also substitutes tradition for the word written or revealed. We hold to doctrinal positions and denominational rules and procedures. But do we obey the simple statements of Scripture?

Do we hear and heed the prophetic Spirit that would apply the Scriptures to our present situation? Do our worship gatherings even allow the Spirit to speak through prophecy? (1 Cor. 14:1,4,24-25,29-31,39).

Paul explains how he presented the gospel:

4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power,
5 so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.
–1 Corinthians 2:4-5 NIV

Many religious traditions are fine. But when they replace and nullify God’s word, we must decide which we will follow.

The true gospel is attended by the Spirit’s power. Let’s not deny it, but embrace and promote it, for this gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Rom. 1:16).

Filled with Joy and the Holy Spirit

Joy in the Holy Spirit

Joy often accompanies the Holy Spirit in the NT. We see this as a fulfillment of prophecy in Jesus’ ministry that serves as a pattern for the charismatic, prophetic church.

Two Times Seventy Were Commissioned

Twice in Scripture, God’s prophetic leader commissioned seventy others to aid with the work of the Kingdom.

Moses asked God for help in leading God’s people. God answered by sending the prophetic anointing of the Spirit upon seventy elders.

25 Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke with him, and he took some of the power of the Spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders. When the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied—but did not do so again. …
29 …Moses replied, “…I wish that ALL the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!
–Numbers 11:25,29 NIV

Moses’ commission was attended by a prophetic anointing from the Spirit of God, foreshadowing Pentecost.

Likewise, Jesus dispatched seventy of His followers to “‘Heal the sick who are there and tell them, “The kingdom of God is near you”’” (Luke 10:9 NIV).

1 After this the Lord appointed seventy others, and sent them before Him, by twos, to go to every town or place which He Himself intended to visit.
2 And He addressed them thus: “The harvest is abundant, but the reapers are few: therefore entreat the Owner of the harvest to send out more reapers into His fields. And now go.”
–Luke 10:1-2 WEY

Upon returning from their mission, they reported good news.

17 The Seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in Your name.”
18 He said to them, … 20 “[D]on’t rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
21 In that same hour He rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth…”
–Luke 10:17-18a,20-21a HCSB

One thing that definitely makes Jesus happy is when the devil is defeated and demons are cast out (see Acts 10:38).

But this is no mere circumstantial joy. Verse 21 says, “Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit.”

Rejoicing in the Holy Spirit

“Rejoice” is the Greek work egalliasato. In the Septuagint OT, it is “usually found in the Psalms and the prophetic portions of the Prophets, and it denotes spiritual exultation that issues forth in praise to God for his mighty acts” (Robert P. Menzies, Speaking in Tongues [CPT Press, 2016], 24). This word appears in the Messianic Psalm 16.

9 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure,
10 because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay.
11 You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
–Psalm 16:9-11 NIV

The Hebrew word for “rejoice,” gîl, means “to spin round, under the influence of emotion” (Strong’s H1523). This is Spirit-inspired ecstasy.

Did Jesus Speak in Tongues?

Luke 10:21 says, “Jesus rejoiced in the Spirit AND said…” (NKJV). Menzies indicates that two types of speech may be indicated here. This same “and” construction is used in Luke 13:12: Jesus “called her forward AND said to her, ‘Woman,…’” (NIV), the conjunction separating two distinct actions (Menzies, 49).

The verb [“rejoiced,” agalliaō], linked as it is to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, may imply glossolalia; while the phrase, “and he said”…, introduces the intelligible words of praise described in the narrative. (Menzies, 49; emphasis mine)

“Rejoicing” (egalliasato) and declaring the acts of God “is particularly striking in Luke-Acts” (Menzies, 25). We see it in the joyful praise of the impregnated Virgin Mary, who prophesies at the overshadowing of the Spirit (Luke 1:47). Jesus in Luke 10:21. And David in Acts 2:26.

In Lk 1.47 and 10.21 the verb is specifically linked to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and in Acts 2.25-30 David is described as a prophet. This verb, then, was for Luke a particularly appropriate way of describing prophetic activity. (Menzies, 25; emphasis mine)

In his Pentecost sermon, Peter refers to Psalm 16 where David the prophet says, “Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices” (Acts 2:26 NIV). This association of “tongue” and “rejoicing” occurs six times in Luke-Acts (Luke 1:64; Acts 2:4,11,26; 10:46; 19:6).

The Jews of Peter’s day would have understood his quoting of Psalm 16 as referring to the Messiah. In Luke 10:21, we see its fulfillment when Jesus, inspired by the Spirit with joy, proclaims inspired thanks and praise to the Father.

If Jesus did not speak in tongues, His experience is very close to it. In the context of Peter’s Pentecost sermon and what had just happened to the tongues-speaking disciples that day, “my tongue rejoices” could very well refer to Jesus speaking in tongues.

“You will fill me with joy in your presence”—the Greek word prosōpon (Strong’s G4383). This word is used in Peter’s next sermon: “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19 NKJV).

Peter’s reference to Psalm 16 also refers to Jesus’ exaltation in heaven, but when compared with Acts 3:19, it points toward earthly charismatic expression when the refreshing presence of the Holy Spirit falls.

The filling of the Holy Spirit results in joy and prophetic utterance about the mighty works of God.

Jesus, Our Pattern

Jesus’ experience in Luke 10:21 is repeated at Pentecost and becomes the pattern for the Spirit-baptized Church. Joy accompanies the presence of the Spirit.

  • “And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 13:52 NIV).
  • “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17 NIV).
  • “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 15:13 NIV).
  • “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (Gal. 5:22-23 NIV).
  • “You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit” (1 Thess. 1:6 NIV).

Let us follow the example of Jesus, fulfilling His prophetic commission to destroy the works of the devil, being filled with the Holy Spirit and declaring God’s works. Then we will bear the fruit of Christ’s joy.