Josh. 1:7 π Prov. 8:13 π Isa. 9:7 π Jer. 29:5-6 π Jer. 29:8-9 π Hag. 1:4 π Hag. 1:14 π Hag. 2:1-5 π Mt. 7:22-23 π Mt. 7:23 π Mt. 16:18 π Lk. 6:46 π Lk. 6:49 π Lk. 12:4-5 π Lk. 12:42 π Jn. 13:14 π Jn. 15:14 π Acts 2:47 π Rom. 3:18 π Rom. 11:19-21 π 1 Cor. 3:12 π 2 Cor. 6:14 π 2 Cor. 10:4-6 π 2 Cor. 10:5-6 π Eph. 1:22 π Eph. 4:16 π Eph. 6:12 π Col. 1:18 π 2 Tim. 2:23-26 π Heb. 12:8 π 1 Jn. 1:9 π 1 Jn. 4:18 π Rev. 1:17 π Rev. 3:5 π Rev. 20:15
In the seventh month, on the twenty-first day of the month, the word of the
LORDcame by Haggai the prophet, saying: "Speak now to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Jduah, and to Joshua the son of Johozadak, the high priest, and to the remnant of the people, saying: 'Who is left among you who saw this temple in its former glory? And how do you see it now? In comparison with it, is this not in your eyes as nothing? Yet now be strong, Zerubbabel,' says the LORD; 'and be strong, Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest; and be strong, all you people of the land,' says the LORD, 'and work; for I am with you,' says the LORDof hosts. 'According to the word that I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt, so My Spirit remains among you; do not fear!'" ( Hag. 2:1-5; top )
Four weeks before this day, the Lord had spoken through the prophet Haggai, encouraging and stirring up the spirit of the people to obey the command of the Lord to rebuild His temple in Jerusalem. ( Hag. 1:14 ) This command was preceded (by a time span of three additional weeks) by a rebuke from the Lord that they had built for themselves luxurious paneled houses while His temple lay in ruins. ( Hag. 1:4; top ) Now, it would seem that the people are discouraged because either the work is not progressing as some think it should or, even if the work is completed, the temple will be nothing compared to Solomon's temple.
God's word to the people contains several elements that we (who are co-laboring with God to build His spiritual temple, house, body, kingdom and family) would do well to apply to our own lives and work. First is His admonition to be strong. This is similar to His word to Joshua - "Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go." ( Josh. 1:7; top ) Though this verse has been hijacked by elements of the false prosperity "gospel," the real context is that Joshua and the people were going to war - only as they and their leader Joshua remained faithful to the Lord's commands would they enjoy victory (as is borne out by the history of Joshua's campaigns). In war, those who do not prosper tend to die and that rather quickly. Prospering, to Joshua in the face of war, meant more than an increase of wealth, comfort and ease. It meant simple survival for him and his people.
We too are faced with war - but we are not fighting human beings but rather spiritual beings ( Eph. 6:12 ) and the weapons given to us by God are mighty and entirely capable of "pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled." ( 2 Cor. 10:4-6; top )
Our weapons are so powerful that Paul writes: "But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will." ( 2 Tim. 2:23-26; top ) Our weapons from God are so power that they can change people's lives and even eternal destinies!
In the day of Haggai's prophecies, the remnant of Israel had been released from Babylon. In Babylon, through the prophet Jeremiah, the Lord had instructed them to build houses, dwell in them and raise families in them. ( Jer. 29:5-6 ) But He also warned them that the prophets and diviners in Babylon were not speaking the words of the Lord but rather lies. ( Jer. 29:8-9; top ) Upon their return to Jerusalem, however, the command of the Lord has changed from "Build your own houses" to "Build My house."
As those who in their pursuit of God have exited the "church" (that institutionalized worldly counterfeit system that usurps the place of true assembly in Christ), few realize just how deep the false teachings and practices of the "church" have been ingrained into the very core of our thinking. Many "time bombs" (of false theology, false notions about God, Christ or His Spirit, false precepts about relating to and with one another, etc.) have been cleverly and carefully concealed within the folds of our preconceived and half submerged thoughts and beliefs. Taken as a whole, these lies, errors and misbeliefs constitute the "church" paradigm - the belief that the institutional, sectarian, Nicolaitan clergy system men commonly call "church" is just as it should be, even in the eyes of God. But whether one subscribes to the "church" paradigm in whole or merely clings to only one element of it, it acts as a place of concealment from which the demonic, the evil spirit beings we fight against, can instigate fleshly (carnal) or divisive strategies against any who dare to pursue the will of God, first, individually and second, corporately.
Some in their zeal to exit the "church" have failed to recognize that they have only brought some of the more subtle (and therefore more dangerous) elements of the "church" with them. Some have started home "churches" thinking that the smaller circle of "fellowship" would exclude the abominable counterfeit from their midst. Others have rejected the Nicolaitan "Senior Pastor" only to replace him, usurped authority intact, with an "Apostle" or "Bishop" or "Prophet" or some other self-acclaimed title. Others simply withdraw into a small circle of "like-minded" folks who simply confirm one another in their own opinions and errors - and these groups seem to often have a penchant for preaching against lawlessness even as they do whatever is right in their own eyes!
As we encounter and confront these errors of our time, we are to be strong - but not the strength of overbearing and drowning out the voices that oppose the truth of Christ and His kingdom. Rather it is the unshakeable truth of His kingdom that gives us our firmness of conviction. Like the gentled horse, we do not forsake the strength given us by the Creator. Rather, like a bridled and well-trained horse we use our strength in the direction we are to go. Rather than having our strength dissipated by losing our temper or entering into foolish and ignorant disputes, we await the timing and leading of the Lord to bring forth "meat in due season" ( Lk. 12:42; top ) in the hopes that the lies so many have believed will be exposed and forsaken. Unfortunately, many "church"-ites (in or out of the "church") are very emotionally attached to their favorite "church" lies and many will choose the lie rather than the truth - just as the vast majority of Israelites chose to remain in Babylon rather than obey the word of the Lord to return to Jerusalem and rebuild His house.
In the early stages of building, it is easy to become discouraged over the many delays and changes which become necessary as the planning stage gives way to the practical realities of construction. A board cut too short here requires a compensation there - a mis-shaped rock requires a replacement or a filler. The delays and changes seem endless. Add to that a comparison of the tiny remnant's meager resources with Solomon's vast wealth in building the first temple and you have a fine recipe for discouragement.
There is no man alive today who saw the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the first followers of Christ in the book of Acts. There is no one alive today who can say with absolute, eyewitness certainty what exactly the Lord did to add "to the ekklesia (assembly) daily those who were being saved." ( Acts 2:47; top ) - and this has left us at the mercy of conflicting theologians, historians, scholars and teachers and tempted us to doubt, mistrust and even leave the simple leading of the Spirit of truth in our pursuit of truth. As the Lord graciously re-grants so-called "lost" revelations of how it was, we have glimpses and insights but God must remain the Architect and Constructor (Finisher) of all aspects of our faith.
Nor can we compare these initial stages of rebuilding His temple with the mighty outpouring in the book of Acts and not see a marked difference. No one who has ventured onto the internet, and experienced all the differing "theological" opinions held by such a vast horde of bickering and contentious people, can find anything resembling "one accord." But whenever and however we start to build with inappropriate materials ( 1 Cor. 3:12 ) or to build as is right in our own eyes ( Mt. 7:22-23; top ), everyone loses.
It is probable that some of the old timers within the tiny remnant of Jerusalem around Haggai were spouting off that the efforts under Zerubbabel were producing what amounted to nothing in comparison to Solomon's temple. But God commands the people to be strong and to continue to build. And to counter the effect of the discouragements the people are experiencing, the Lord gives the people some very strong words of encouragement.
First, He says, "Be strong and continue the work because I am with you" and reminds them that since He covenanted with Israel to bring them out of Egypt, so His Spirit remains among them. His covenant, His presence among them, was the source of the strength they would need to obey God and rebuild the temple.
There is a monstrously subtle distortion being taught among many who have left the "church," a distortion that is spoken in various forms but comes to the same conclusion. The gist of this teaching is that because God loves us and has adopted us, we are now free to do pretty much as we like and we can do nothing to remove ourselves from God's family. Various Scriptures are pulled into play to support these ideas but underlying the whole of it is an idea that comes across as, "I'm only human and I could never send my own children to hell for eternity so therefore God, who is love incarnate, could never do such a thing either." This is reverse thinking. God is as He is - not as we think He is and not as we may want Him to be. He is something above and beyond human nature and comprehension and He is quite capable of doing things in a righteous manner that no limited, finite human could ever do without committing some sin or error. If God in His infinite, impartial sense of justice decides that, in the end, some individual's claims to following Christ and God were outweighed by their lawlessness (doing what was right in their own eyes), then He will very rightly and wisely and fairly and justly command them to depart from Him. ( Mt. 7:23 ) Everyone whose name is not found in the Lamb's Book of Life experiences the second death which is the eternal lake of fire ( Rev. 20:15 ) - and names of people who once followed Christ can be blotted out, removed from that book. ( Rev. 3:5 ) Paul warned Gentiles of his day that those who boasted that branches (Jews) had been broken off so that they (the Gentiles) could be grafted into the Vine (Jesus) should fear that their own unbelief might cause them to be broken off as well! ( Rom. 11:19-21; top )
Christ is to be given a kingdom of which there is no end to His rule. ( Isa. 9:7 ) One cannot have a kingdom without a king. One cannot have order and corporate unity where everyone does whatever he wishes. Even Paul in a passage we have already examined in this study, wrote that every thought was to be brought into obedience to Christ and that the people of Christ were to exercise corporate discipline against those people who disobeyed Christ. ( 2 Cor. 10:5-6 ) Men have erred because they had set themselves into false positions of usurped authority and then punished people (in various ways ranging from outright oppression and violent persecution to subtle snobbery and ostracism) in the name of Christ for those people's disobedience to their own traditions of men and teachings of demons which their particular sect (denomination) followed. But all this does not negate Christ's right to rule His people, to be Head over all things to His ekklesia. ( Eph. 1:22 , Col. 1:18; top ) Those who remove this authority from Christ (by their teachings and practices - not in reality) have only set themselves up as their own king and will reap their own rewards.
But when we actually submit to the King and to His kingdom which is in our midst, we can draw on His strength to accomplish His purpose - to build up His people. Paul wrote that the body grows and is built up in love when every member of Christ's body takes what it gets from Christ and uses it as He enables and directs them. ( Eph. 4:16 ) "Christians" have failed to accomplish what Christ intended (especially during the "church's" Babylonian captivity) because the people were divided into an active classification (the clergy) and a passive classification (the laity) and neither were required to strictly obey the Head, Christ Jesus. Wherever we disregard the covenant that God has made with His people, we have no right to expect the rewards and benefits of His covenant. For example, Jesus promised that the gates of Hell (the fortifications and prison facilities of the realms of death and darkness) would not prevail over His ekklesia. ( Mt. 16:18; top ) But whether we are actually a true member of His ekklesia (a corporate entity) is, in part, up to us - and whether we (as individuals) overcome the schemes and bondages of death and darkness is also, in part, up to us. Otherwise all those instructions and promises for those who overcome are mere foolishness since (as this pernicious error assures as) we can really do pretty much as we please because even should we fail to overcome, there is no way God would or could ever remove us from His family. As good as this teaching tries to sound in our carnal ears, it is simply error. Disinheritance - where one is removed from all ties to one's family - is as much an option for God as it is for any human patriarch. Pruning limbs from the vine is as much an option for God as it is for any gardener.
It remains a paradox that we need to fear the Lord - that is, we need to reverence, respect and carefully obey everything he commands - yet it is also true that perfected love removes all fear. ( 1 Jn. 4:18 ) Those who would reduce the fear of the Lord to simply respecting Him have found a "theological" and intellectual way to remove the fear of God from before their eyes. ( Rom. 3:18 ) The fear of the Lord is to hate all evil ( Prov. 8:13; top ) - hating evil, all the selfish and self-centered ways that seem right in our own eyes, is not a common trait found today among many of those who name the name of Christ.
When God commands us to not be afraid, He is commanding us to not be afraid of those who oppose the work of rebuilding His house - no matter what title ("pastor," "elder," "apostle," "deacon," "prophet," whatever) they have attached to their name. Jesus said, "And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!" ( Lk. 12:4-5 ) But never - as many of today's religious writings that purport to help us "understand God better" do - are we to let go of the fear, the reverence, the awe, the ever-clearer sense of the transcendent majesty of the Lord. Even John, one of Jesus' closest disciples and friends, fell at Jesus' feet "as one dead" when he first experienced a personal, deep and real experience and revelation of the risen nature of the Christ. ( Rev. 1:17 ) Those who have only a sense that they and Jesus are chums, pals and buds have hooked into a false gospel. Yes, we are to be His friends but we are His true friends only if we do whatever He commands us! ( Jn. 15:14 ) Jesus must, in actuality, be our Teacher (Guide, Mentor, Rabbi, Guru) and Lord (Master, King, Absolute Ruler - Jn. 13:14 ) and calling Him "Lord" without actually doing as He commands is an exercise in futility. ( Lk. 6:46 , 49; top )
Anything less than complete submission and absolute obedience to the personal leading of the Spirit of Christ and God will bring every true son of God toward corrective discipline. ( Heb. 12:8 ) Here we see both the goodness and severity of God laid simultaneously before us - every error, flaw, failure and disobedience in our lives is cleansed away by our confession of our sins to God ( 1 Jn. 1:9; top ) and our inability to recognize and confess our sins merely means that God will continue to implement corrective discipline until we come to repentance and thus enter into a deeper life with Him. This process is a lengthy one and the patience, gentleness and grace of God are as abundant as our time on earth permits. But the one who persistently rejects this discipline and wooing of God's Spirit, though he may be greatly praised, followed and admired by men, very well may one day be rejected for obeying his own lawlessness, doing what was right in his own eyes, and disobeying righteousness, what was right in God's eyes.
It is an unfolding truth that, in the architectural plans of God's end-time temple (His people), righteousness and lawlessness have nothing in common. ( 2 Cor. 6:14; top )
Let he who has ears hear.
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