July 29, 2003 ©Homer Kizer
The Apostle Paul & the Endtime Church
On the Road to Damascus, the man Saul of Tarsus, a Hellenistic Jew so strongly opposed to Christianity that he has taken personal responsibility for its destruction--his intention was to take captive every Christian he could find--literally wanted to murder every Jewish convert to Christianity that he could. He held coats when Stephen was stoned. He had listened to Stephen tell of Abraham moving to Judah (geographical Eden), but receiving it only as a promise, not a possession. He heard Stephen tell of circumcised Israel's captivity in Egypt. He heard the story of Moses retold. He was reminded that Israel had rejected Moses, that God turned away from Israel and handed them over to worship the host of heaven (Acts 7:42). He heard Stephen indict him and the other Israelites of being uncircumcised in heart and ears, and forever opposing the Holy Spirit. He heard Stephen conclude his defense saying, '"you are the ones who received the law as ordained by angels, and yet you have not kept it'" (v. 51 ).
Although he was filled with murderous rage against Christian converts, Saul of Tarsus had been ignoring pricks to his conscience, pricks telling him that the Jesus was, indeed, the Son of Man. In this sense, he was like (or is a type of) the greater Christian Church of today that ignores pricks to its collective conscience, pricks that would have it keeping the laws of God written on the hearts and minds of drawn disciples. In fact, Stephen's indictment of circumcised Israel is a valid indictment of greater spiritual Israel that has taken the majority of Christianity captive. And Saul was struck blind after a light from heaven flashed around him (Acts 9:1-9). It is here at this moment of initial blindness that we will momentarily leave Saul, who still wants to murder genuine disciples.
The Book of Acts is about much more than Saul's conversion to Christianity, his missionary work, and eventually, his journey to Rome. It is about the geographical or horizontal spread of Christianity from Jerusalem to Rome. And despite the unusualness of the claim, Acts presents the shadow of the endtime work of Christ. The narrative presented in the Book of Acts is, indeed, historically accurate. But those events that have been included in this narrative constitute the actual shadow of the events that will occur between sometime in our immediate future and the prophesied events that will occur halfway through seven years of Tribulation. Only, the reality of the shadow will be the vertical spread of Christianity from spiritual Jerusalem to the seat of the man of perdition. That is correct, Christianity will spread vertically into and across the supra-dimensional realm usually identified as heaven.
The Genesis account of creation (Gen 1:1-2:3) is the first biblical presentation of the plan of God. In typology, the events are twice removed from their reality--and the account serves as the argument, or abstract for Scripture. So the creation of man and women in the afternoon of the sixth day (1:27) is the type of bringing many heirs of the Elohim kind to glory. Elohim blessed the male and the female, and gave dominion to them over the beasts. They were to be like god to the animals, while the plants were to be their food. So, stepping up a level on the ladder of spiritual or mental hierarchy, animals become humanity without the spirit of God and plants become animals. Post Flood, animals become fit food for humanity (Gen 9:3). Prior to leaving the Ark humanity didn't eat animal flesh because of the level of typological shadowing these narrative events represent. The hierarchy represented on the Ark has Noah and the seven humans as the shadow of Christ with the angels of the seven churches in his hand (Rev 1:20). In this account, the seven pairs of clean or holy animals represent the seven churches (same verse) and the single pair of every species of unclean or common animals represent human beings who endured to the end of the age; all who endure to the end will be saved (Matt 24:13 & 10:22). Thus, in the Flood account, we find similar narrative distance as is found in the creation account.
But in Acts, the narrative distance has shrunk. Disciples with the spirit of God (Peter, John, others) form the shadows of fellowships of born again disciples. Physical Jerusalem becomes spiritual Jerusalem, a city with walls of living stones (1 Pet 2:4-5), a city that occupies theological territory, not geographical. And the vertical spread of Christianity is across the mental topology of humanity--this mental topography forms the plane on which the shadow of living beings and events in the spiritual realm is cast. It is in the spiritual realm the equivalent of what ground (i.e., geography) is for physical humans. It forms the topography over which Satan presently reigns as the god of this world, and the prince of the power of the air. And Satan's control of this topography is how he deceives the whole world (Rev 12:9).
The idea that the events detailed in the Book of Acts form the real shadows of endtime events in the spiritual realm seems like nonsense. Spread Christianity in the spiritual realm? Why would that be necessary? Surely, angels that didn't join with Satan are loyal to Christ; they are "Christian." Who else has life in the spiritual realm?
Actually, all disciples who have been born again, or who have the spirit of God (two expressions with identical meaning) have actual life in the heavenly realm. That life is the Apostle Paul's pneuma (1 Thess 5:23). If these disciples have been baptized, judgment is upon them (1 Pet 4:17). And if these disciples leave the covenant into which they are placed when drawn by the Father (John 6:44, 65), the covenant by which Christ bears their sins (the meaning of grace), these disciples will have their sins returned to them when their judgment is revealed at Christ's return (1 Cor 4:5). These disciples will go into the lake of fire. They will have been murdered.
Presently, the greater Christian Church teaches disciples that they do not have to keep the laws of God, that doing so is legalism. Yet the laws of God are written on disciples' hearts and minds as a condition of the new covenant (Jer 31:33; Heb 8:10 & 10:16), a euphemistic but true expression for receiving the Holy Spirit. So if a person consciously breaks the laws of God, the person grieves the Holy Spirit. If the person refuses to live by the laws of God, the person rejects the Holy Spirit, which then leaves the disciple. The person has committed spiritual suicide, killing the life he or she had in the spiritual realm. No sacrifice remains for this person, who has committed the unpardonable sin.
But if a disciple who has fallen away still feels convicted to do right, the disciple still possesses spiritual life. This person is in grave spiritual danger if the person lives outside of the laws of God, but this person can return to God by repenting. All spiritual beings loyal to God will rejoice at his or her return.
Today, the greatest mission field is in the spiritual realm, where the heirs of God play among the thorns and thistles beyond the walls of spiritual Eden. Too many of these heirs have returned to nature, or gone native, so to speak. The tree of life only grows inside the laws of God, which are the walls of spiritual Eden. Yet, many heirs flee from the sight of these walls. Christ quoted Zechariah: "Then Jesus said to them, 'You will all become deserters because of me this night; for it is written, "I will strike the shepherd, / and the sheep of the flock will be scattered"'" (Matt 26:31), but the passage in Zechariah continues: "I will turn my hand against the little ones. / In the whole land, says the Lord, / two-thirds shall be cut off and perish, / and one-third shall be left alive" (13:7-8).
All of the heirs of God beyond the walls of Eden will perish when their judgment is revealed. This should not be. All of humanity that has never known God will receive their first chance to know God and to be ruled by Christ when they are resurrected in the great White Throne Judgment. But disciples who today and tomorrow know God by virtue of having received the Holy Spirit will not be resurrected in the great White Throne Judgment. They will either be resurrected to life, or to condemnation (John 5:29) at Christ's return, when their judgment is revealed. And in the parable of the pounds, seven of the ten servants who received knowledge of the mysteries of God (compare Matt 13:12 with Matt 25:29 & Luke 19:26) will be slain before him upon Christ's return (Luke 19:27), a number that closely agrees with Zechariah's two-thirds that will perish when the Shepherd turns His hand against the little ones. The servants in the parable of the pounds send a message to the nobleman, saying that they will not be ruled by him. They will not return to Eden; they will not climb back over the walls of the garden of God; they will not live within the laws of God. And when their judgment is revealed, they will find that they murdered the spiritual life they had in the heavenly realm. Lawlessness is a more certain means of committing suicide than is putting a shotgun barrel in one's mouth.
So, in the heavenly realm, a large body of spiritual juvenile delinquents roams around like street kids in San Palo. Every one of these juvenile delinquents have been drawn by the Father and called by Christ. Each has real spiritual life. And we are now ready to look at the Book of Acts.
Luke writes Acts as a continuation of his gospel (Acts 1:1-2). Although the evidence of history neither confirms or denies the events recorded in Acts, by faith disciples accept these events to be the actual record of what transpired within the early Church. But by the slenderness of the record, more events must necessarily have been excluded than were included. From the introduction of the Apostle Peter's epistles, we can conclude that extensive missionary work was done along the southern shores of the Black Sea. None of that missionary activity is recorded in the Book of Acts. Thus, based partially upon the extremely limited inclusion of spiritual activity, readers should suspect the Books of Acts serves another purpose than to be the definitive record of the early Church. Plus, readers should suspect the vertical application of the narrative when Peter speaks while empowered or being filled with the Holy Spirit--and by Stephen's face being like an angel's immediately prior to his martyrdom.
Christ tells His disciples to remain in Jerusalem until they are baptized by the Holy Spirit. At least ten of the disciples have already received the Holy Spirit (John 20:22), so baptism or submersion in the Holy Spirit isn't receiving the Breath of God. Rather, it is an empowering [plesthesan] by the Breath of God. And when the empowering occurs, disciples "began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability" (Acts 2:4). The disciples waited in Jerusalem until they were filled with spiritual abilities received directly from the Breath of God that then filled the room and appeared as tongues of fire sitting on the disciples. And the actual act of empowering by the Breath of God causes the disciples to be heard by each circumcised Jew in his native language--this being heard in his native language is analogous to a spiritual Israelite hearing the voice of Christ (John 10:4, 16). Each Israelite will hear Christ's voice in his or her own language.
While empowered by the Holy Spirit, the Apostle Peter preached a sermon to the gathered assemblage of Jews who didn't understand what was occurring. Some thought that the disciples were drunk. Others were bewildered. They couldn't conceive a logical explanation, for they heard the disciples speaking about God's deeds of power (Acts 2:11). They certainly wouldn't have considered themselves to be the shadows of spiritual Israelites living outside the walls of spiritual Eden. Yet, when Jesus sent out His disciples the first time (that event also a type of His endtime ministry), He said, '"[I]t is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you…and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved"' (Matt 10:20, 22). What the empowered disciples spoke on that day of Pentecost was the Spirit of the Father speaking through them. The gospel that must to delivered to the world before the end can come (Matt 24:14) is the identical gospel as is delivered here (10:22) after Christ promises that the Spirit of the Father will speak through disciples. That gospel is, '"But the one who endures to the end will be saved'" (24:13). So the juxtaposition has first being empowered by the Spirit of the Father, then being persecuted and hated for the sake of Christ's name, and delivering the good news that the person who endures to the end will be saved, will be part of the first resurrection.
The gospel initially delivered by disciples is of Christ's mighty deeds (1 Pet 2:9), but at the end of the age, the message changes. The subject of Jesus' Olivet discourse is the sign of the end of the age and of His return. His audience is His disciples, not those who do not know Him. His disciples do not need to be told about His mighty deeds. Rather, they need warned not to mislead anyone (Matt 24:4 -- this verse is poorly translated in all English translations), and they need warned about what will happen to them at the end of the age (vv. 9-12). They also need to hear the good news that if they, as disciples, endure to the end, they will be saved. An absolute promise. And because this good-news promise must be preached to the world, then there will be disciples everywhere.
Note: the gospel message changes, going from one directed to those who do not know Christ to one that is specifically directed to those who know God.
Also note: the assemblage who heard Peter while empowered by the Holy Spirit were Jews. At this time, the gospel had not been preached to Gentiles. When Jesus sent His disciples out on an evangelizing tour (Matt 10:1-11:1), He sent them to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (10:6). They were not to go to Gentiles (v. 5). Only later will Gentiles receive the same empowerment by the Holy Spirit--only after Saul is converted through his experience on the road to Damascus. However, Philip first preaches to Gentiles in Samaria just prior to Saul's conversion. And this sequence of events is prophetically significant. All of humanity is spiritually liberated from bondage to sin 1260 days prior to Christ's return as the Messiah (Rev 11:15 & Dan 7:9-14, 25-27), when Satan is cast from heaven (Rev 12:9). Sin is lawlessness (1 John 3:4). Satan deceives the world through broadcasting lawlessness from the heavenly realm. Again, his broadcast effects the mental topography of humanity. As such, Satan is the mental (and spiritual) ruler of this world.
The physical nation of Israel was made a holy nation by the Sinai covenant (Exod 19:5-6). By that day of Pentecost, a memorial to when physical Israel was made a holy nation, when the disciples were baptized by fire, the physical nation of Israel was still the holy nation of God, but the covenant by which it was made holy was passing away. Spiritual Israel was to replace physical Israel as the holy nation of God (1 Pet 2:9). But when the Acts' narrative begins, circumcised Israel was still the shadow of spiritual Israel. Therefore, moving the narrative up one level on the scale of spiritual hierarchy, physical Israel become spiritual Israel, and Gentiles become physical Israelites…for a very long time, Christians have desired to convert Jews. But they, themselves, have been in spiritual bondage to the king of Babylon (Isa 14:3-21). It isn't reasonable to expect God to allow the spiritually enslaved Church to convert the people He, Himself, choose from all the peoples of the world. Only after the Church is liberated from spiritual bondage to Satan will God have Christians disciple physical Israelites. This is why in Acts, the conversion of Saul is closely followed by the baptism by fire of Cornelius. However, a few physical Israelites believe God even before the greater Church is liberated. These Israelites are converted by a fellowship gone out from spiritual Jerusalem, where disciples are taught to live within the laws of God.
While empowered by the Breath of God, the Apostle Peter explains what is occurring to the physical Israelites who gathered about because of the commotion. And if Peter's sermon is accepted at face value, Peter gets his facts wrong. Joel's prophecies have a time marker attached to them. Peter even cites this marker: '"And [God] will show portents in the heaven above / and signs in the earth below, / blood, and fire, and smoky mist. / The sun shall be turned to darkness / and the moon to blood, / before the coming of the Lord's great and glorious day. / Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved'" (Acts 2:19-21). So open salvation follows the heavenly portents that will occur during the first half of the Tribulation (Rev 8:7, 12; 9:2 & 6:21-14). This agrees with when spiritual Babylon falls and all of humanity is mentally liberated (11:15). All of humanity is called by God (18:4), when ordered to leave Babylon. So the heavenly signs precede open salvation. Therefore, either Peter misuses the prophecy, or Peter's sermon has another intended audience.
Unlike humanity in general, all of spiritual Israel can come to God today. They have already been drawn. And the evidence of that drawing is their willingness to leave the world. No one will leave the world and remain hostile to God. The world consists of those individuals who are hostile to God. So the greater Church will gather unto itself many more disciples prior to its liberation. In fact, physical Israel in Egyptian slavery is the shadow (used in the word's usual sense) of spiritual Israel in bondage to sin/Babylon. When Moses goes to Pharaoh to ask for Israel's release, Pharaoh complains that there are more Hebrews than Egyptians (Exod 5:5). We can, then, expect to see more than half of the world identifying itself as Christian prior to the greater Church's release from slavery at the second Passover, when all firstborns not covered by the blood of Christ will perish.
What Peter preaches on that day of Pentecost is true of spiritual Israel. All can and should come to God. All are likely to prophesy. In addition, Peter uses the time qualifier: In the last days (Acts 2:17). Accepting, then, that what Peter says pertains to the last days, or the time of the end, which began when the prophecies of Daniel could be understood--that understanding came spring 2002--Peter's sermon is actually delivered to an "up-scale" (spiritually) audience. Peter's sermon is directed to endtime spiritual Israelites, all holy men (and women) who are not part of the small fellowship with whom Christ has been working.
The Jews from all over the known world who heard Peter speak on that day of Pentecost knew of Jesus, and of His mighty deeds (Acts 2:22). Likewise, spiritual Israelites today know of Jesus, and of His mighty deeds. They, as the second Eve, desire to be with Jesus, their husband to be (Gen 3:16). And like the first Eve, they believed the serpent that they will not die (v. 4), that they have immortal souls.
Peter, after reminding the assemblage of Jews that they knew about Jesus, says, '"[T]his man, handed over to you according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of those outside the law'" (Acts 2:23). Indeed, concerning spiritual Israel (who forms the second Eve), Christ as the second Adam takes on the sins of drawn disciples, thereby reconciling them to God. Further, as the second Adam, Christ, in the role of the azazel goat has the on-going sins of the second Eve pronounced over Him. This is what grace means. No sin is imputed to disciples who remain within the laws of God--this doesn't mean that these disciples commit no sins.
This means that Christ bears these sins and will return them to Satan when Yom Kipporim becomes a spiritual reality if the disciple remains in covenant. Christ was killed because of lawlessness, and He toils among thorns and thistles today because of spiritual Israel's sins.
Empowerment by the Holy Spirit is necessary for the Book of Acts to be understood as the actual shadow in the spiritual realm of what will happen to endtime spiritual Israelites. Without this empowerment, what I write will sound like the rambling of a drunken man (Acts 2:13).
The greater Christian Church uses the epistles of Paul as their justification for not living within the walls of spiritual Eden. It isn't to Jesus that they turn to find the law abolished, for the greater Church agrees that Jesus taught a Dispensation of Law. Jesus said that the person who breaks and teaches others to break the least of the commandments will be called least in the kingdom of heaven (Matt 5:19). The least of the commandments is the Sabbath commandments, for it has disciples remember and keep holy a created thing, the Sabbath. So Jesus would have disciples keep the Sabbath. Therefore, to teach converts not to keep the Sabbath will cause a person to be called least in the kingdom of heaven. Notice, though, that the person will be in the kingdom, and not in the lake of fire, reserved for hypocrites.
The greater Christian Church turns to the epistles of Paul to find a Dispensation of Grace and the lawlessness associated with that Dispensation. Those who practice lawlessness badly misread Paul--but Paul, himself, serves as the shadow of the greater Christian Church that teaches a Dispensation of Grace. They have killed many genuine disciples, many more than Saul ever hoped to kill when he was filled with murder. All drawn disciples who leave the covenant by which the laws of God were written on their hearts and minds, and die while outside of the covenant will be resurrected to condemnation. They have no excuse for ignoring the laws of God that were made a part of them. All they had to do was believe Jesus, who said, '"Very truly, I tell you, anyone who hears my words and believes him who sent me has eternal life, and does not come under judgment, but has passed from death to life'" (John 5:24). Hearing Jesus' words, though, will have a person keeping and teaching others to keep the least of the commandments (Matt 5:17-19).
There is no legitimate spiritual doctrine known as the Dispensation of Grace, especially not as that Dispensation is taught. Grace isn't a doctrine, but is Christ bearing all the sins of those disciples who hear His words and believe the Father. Christ is not, today, bearing the sins of the world. He only bears the sins of those individuals who are in covenant with Him and the Father. And He will return the sins of a disciple who dies outside of that covenant to the disciple when the disciple's judgment is revealed in the resurrection to condemnation. Disciples who are resurrected to life will meet Christ in the air when He returns. They have jobs to do. They don't experience additional judgment, for they are being judged today (1 Pet 4:17).
Grace is Christ taking upon Himself a disciple's sins. He won't die a second time, so He doesn't pay the death penalty for those sins. His death covered a disciple's sins prior to the disciple accepting Christ's sacrifice; His shed blood reconciles a sinful disciple to the Father, who can abide no sin. After that reconciliation, any sin by a disciple will separate the disciple from the Father, but no sin will even be imputed to the disciple because, by covenant agreement, Christ bears all of those sins. This is the reality of Justification. But the death penalty for those sins still must be paid even though Christ carries those sins in an analogous relationship to the High Priest reading the sins of Israel over the azazel goat. Christ will give the sins of the disciple who is resurrected to life to Satan when the reality of Yom Kipporim occurs after He returns as the Messiah and before He establishes His Millennium reign. However, before Yom Kipporim is a reality, disciples who are resurrected to condemnation will receive back the sins Christ has been bearing for them. They will be cast into the lake of fire, where the beast and the false prophet were cast alive (Rev 19:20). Satan will be bound for a thousand years because the Father still has more work for Satan to do. Then following Satan's seduction of humanity at the end of the Millennium, Satan will, himself, die, thereby paying the penalty for his sins and for those who he caused to sin. Fire will come out of his belly and he will be ashes under the feet of the saints (Ezek 28:18-19). Thus, the death penalty for the sins that Christ bears by covenant will be paid.
In both the spiritual realm and on earth, the ten plagues that occurred to ancient Egypt will occur to spiritual Babylon. The scales on Saul's eyes when he was struck blind represents the spiritual blindness of the greater Christian Church, and is the shadow of the physical darkness that will engulf the world (Rev 8:12). But when the tenth plague, the slaughter of firstborns at the second Passover, occurs, spiritual Israel will leave spiritual Babylon with a high hand. Although the euphoria will not last long, the greater Christian Church will have been mentally liberated, and will proceed to do the same kind of work that Paul did in relationship to the work of the other disciples that is recorded in the Book of Acts. This newly liberated Church is persecuted, but will be the visible face of Christianity that most of the world sees. And it will go to spiritual Rome/Babylon where other prophecies reveal what will happen.
Today, empowerment by the Holy Spirit can be seen in the writings and teachings of The Philadelphia Church, which will forever remain a work of little strength but great love.
Spiritual Jerusalem is the theological capital of Eden, where many fellowships live within the laws of God. Jerusalem's walls form the place of safety for spiritual Israelites. (Physical Israelites require a physical place of safety, that being Mount Zion.) And Nehemiah as the shadow of the angel of the Church in Philadelphia required that a tithe of the Israelites who left Babylon live within the walls of Jerusalem so that the city wouldn't be empty. Today, spiritual Jerusalem has few inhabitants. Come, join us before persecution in the Tribulation compels your arrival. We'll leave the light on.
Returning to Saul on the road to Damascus: Saul wants to take captive and kill every Christian that he can. He is not yet the Apostle Paul, the apostle sent to the Gentile Church (Gal 2:9). James, Peter and John were acknowledged pillars in the Church, which is collectively the temple of God. Today, the equivalent to James, Peter and John will be the saints of the Church in Philadelphia (Rev 3:12)--and it is these three senior Apostles who, at Jerusalem, recognize that grace has been given to Paul. They will extend the right hand of fellowship to Paul and Barnabas.
How can Saul take Christians captive and kill them? When Jesus sent out His disciples early in His ministry, again a type of endtime disciples being sent out, He warned them not to fear those who can kill only a person's soma, or body, but to fear Him who can kill soma and psuche in gehenna (Matt 10:28), or the lake of fire. Whereas Paul will later identify disciples as tripart (psuche, pneuma & soma), Jesus recognizes only two parts in His instructions to His disciples who have not yet received the Holy Spirit (or pneuma), so Jesus assigns to His disciples' physical breath (life) the characteristic of spiritual life. Therefore, by context, the two breakdowns (Jesus' and Paul's) of what constitutes a person can be reconciled. A disciple born from above consists of psuche (physical breath), pneuma (spiritual breath) and soma (his or her body). This disciple isn't to fear those who can kill only his or her psuche and soma, but to fear God who can send the person's pneuma into the lake of fire along with the person's psuche and soma, indicating that the person will be resurrected physically in the resurrection to condemnation (John 5:29).
If Saul could only take a person's soma captive, he wasn't to be feared. He could not take captive the part of a Christian that separated the born again disciple from those who are part of the world, nor could he kill the spiritual life that this born again disciple had. He was, frankly, spiritually impotent.
But Saul is the actual shadow cast in the heavenly realm of the great body of believers who call themselves Jews [spiritual Israelites] but are not. Disciples in spiritual Jerusalem see Saul on the road to Damascus as the '"one who formerly was persecuting us'" (Gal 1:23) prior to his mental liberation--and because, through typology, the Book of Acts becomes prophetic, revealing the reality of events through the narrative of the reality's shadow, these endtime disciples see the moment of the greater Christian Church's mental liberation. This moment of liberation is the reality of the second Passover when firstborns are again slain, thereby causing the world to truly hate disciples for Christ's name's sake. The greater Church will be lead into the wilderness where it will learn the ways of God just as Saul went to Arabia (Gal 1:17) and physical Israel went into the wilderness of Sin. And it is in the wilderness where Christ will reveal the Sabbath and the necessity to keep the laws of God to the greater Church. Of course, those in spiritual Jerusalem and in Eden (i.e., the theological territory outside of spiritual Jerusalem but still inside the laws of God) were doing the work of God prior to Saul's conversion and will continue to do that work after Saul's conversion. But Saul/Paul goes to the Gentiles while the headquarters church goes to the cities of the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
If Saul truly wanted to take captive and kill Christians as Satan would like to do (Rev 12:4, 13, 17), then Saul was going about it the wrong way. By stoning Stephen, all that was accomplished was securing the assurance that Stephen would be resurrected among the firstfruits at Christ's return. Once the disciple's soma is killed, the disciple cannot sin and lose salvation. The disciple is not aware of the passage of time, which is, again, a created object restricted to these four unfurling dimensions. Time doesn't exist in the spiritual realm; hence, there is no passage of time. And with Stephen's martyrdom, Stephen's name, which had already been written in the Book of Life, cannot be blotted out. Saul lost to Christ. Stephen won.
So, if we wanted to help Saul take disciples captive and to help him kill those who refuse to give up their faith, how would we go about the task? And there is really only one way: we must get disciples to walk away from grace.
Jesus said not to be surprised when resurrection to life and resurrection to condemnation occurs (John 5:29). All disciples will be in one or the other resurrection. And the criteria determining in which resurrection the disciple appears is, according to Jesus, the disciple's words: '"I tell you, on the day of judgment you will have to give an account for every careless word you utter; for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned'" (Matt 12:36-37). The disciple can be forgiven every sin and blasphemy, except blasphemy against the Breath of God, which gives the disciple life in the spiritual realm (v. 31). The disciple can mock Christ, but not the Breath that gives him or her everlasting life (v. 32). If the person doesn't value the life he or she has in the spiritual realm enough to honor it, then that life will be taken from the person.
How can a disciple, with his or her words, commit blasphemy against the Holy Spirit? One way would be to deny that the person has actual life in the spiritual realm. This person's life in the heavenly realm will be neither hot nor cold, because this person thinks he or she is merely begotten and is still a fetus in God's womb, not an actual heir of the Father. This person will believe that he or she is spiritually rich, but the person looks only physically upon the person's knowledge. This person doesn't truly see him- or herself as Christ and the Father do. And this person is in danger of being spurned out of the resurrection to life. So one way for Saul to take a genuine disciple captive and endanger his or her pneuma is to get the disciple to deny that he or she has, while still flesh, real life in the spiritual realm.
Another way would be for Saul to capture and kill disciples to convince a disciple to go to spiritual sleep. The disciple in the parables of the talents and of the pounds who hid the talent or pound (i.e., knowledge of the mysteries of God -- Matt 13:12) and did nothing with it is in grave danger of being cast into outer darkness (Matt 25:30). This disciple might well be part of the fellowship at Sardis.
Nicolaitans at Pergamum and Ephesus are servants of Christ who say, My master is delayed, and begin to beat his fellow slaves while eating and drinking with the drunkards (Matt 24:48-51). So Saul could take and kill disciples by convincing them to not feed and nourish those of the household of God (vv. 45-47).
But by far the easiest way for Saul to take captive and kill born again disciples would be for him to get these disciples to deny the Holy Spirit by saying that they do not have to observe the laws of God written on their hearts and minds through receiving the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, '"Not everyone who says to me, "Lord, Lord," will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day [when judgment is revealed at Christ's coming -- 1 Cor 4:5] many will say to me, "Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?" Then I will declare to them, "I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoer"'" (Matt 7:21-23 emphasis added). What is the Father's will? Jesus said, Whoever believes in me believes not in me but in him who sent me.…The one who rejects me and does not receive my word has a judge; on the last day the word I have spoken will serve as judge, for I have not spoken on my own, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment about what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I speak, therefore, I speak just as the Father has told me. (John 12:44, 48-50). Jesus said, ""If you love me, you will keep my commandments'" (John 14:15), and He said, '"They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love who love me will be loved by my Father.…Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our homes with them. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me'" (vv. 21, 23-24).
Those who love Christ keep the commandments that He spoke from atop Mt. Sinai. Circumcised Israel never knew the Father/Theon. They only knew Theos, the Logos for Elohim. So if Saul wanted to truly capture and kill genuine disciples, he would convince disciples that keeping the commandments was legalism. He would have disciples ignore the laws of God written on their hearts and minds as a condition of the new covenant. He would have disciples place their faith in the mighty deeds they were doing in Christ's name--just as the rich young ruler could not get rid of his wealth, which was the physical proof of his righteousness (Mal 3:10), when Jesus offered him discipleship, the greater Church believes its mighty deeds are proof of its righteousness. And it is, indeed, doing mighty works in the name of Jesus…the power is in the name, not in the righteousness of the one using that name.
Only a person who has been taken captive by the spiritual king of Babylon would think that disciples do not have to keep the commandments. The overwhelming evidence of Scripture is that disciples are to live by the Word of God, which YHWH spoke from atop of Sinai (Exod 19:5), and which endtime disciples keep (Rev 3:10). Satan comes after endtime disciples who keep the commandments (Rev 12:17 & 14:12); he doesn't worry about those who don't, for they are his mental slaves.
The conclusion of the matter is that in no prior period than now has the greater Christian Church thought that it didn't have to keep the commandments of God. Saul wasn't then on the scene. But is he now--and in the immediate future, the reality for which he is the shadow will come after commandment-keeping disciples in fury, bent upon taking them captive and killing them. What this reality doesn't realize is that on the road to Damascus, the greater Christian Church will meet the Son of Man up close and personal. All firstborns not covered by the blood of Christ will be slain. This means that if these disciples do not take the Passover as Jesus did, they will experience the slaughter of their firstborns (and of themselves if they are firstborns). Will that ever be scales falling from their eyes!
It isn't Peter, James or John that go to spiritual Babylon/Rome and confront the man of perdition, but the greater Christian Church that was liberated on the road to Damascus. We, in spiritual Jerusalem, will pray for you, for prophecy reveals how the matter will conclude.