We read in 1 Peter 1:1-2:
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.
There is really a great deal of information in each verse in the Bible and with each word of the Bible, especially if we approach the Bible in the way in which God would have us to approach His Word, which is to get out a concordance and to check out each word to see where else it is used in the Bible. This turns Bible study into a work, really, into a chore, and this is not easy. It is difficult to study the Bible and to try to discover what God has written in His Word. I say “try” because, normally and naturally, mankind cannot understand the Bible.
The Bible tells us in Romans 3:11, “There is none that understandeth.” Understand what? There is none that understands what God is telling us in the Word. There is nobody, of themselves, who has any understanding of the Scriptures. This was the case even with the disciples. Even after being with Jesus for some length of time, Christ would say something to them and they would not understand.
For example, He mentioned to them, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees,” and the disciples reasoned amongst themselves, “It is because we have taken no bread.” Maybe they thought that they should be careful of the bread that the Pharisees and the Sadducees gave to them. Maybe they feared it could be defiled or poisoned or worse. Then Christ explained to them, “How is it that ye do not understand?” These were the disciples, the true believers, and they did not understand spiritual things. Not even a true believer will, unless God opens up our understanding.
This is why we need to pray. We can compare Scripture with Scripture all day long and check out everything else in the Bible; but if we are not praying for wisdom and for guidance, we are really not going to come to the truth of what God has said.
I mentioned before that the word “elect” from 1 Peter 1:2 is actually supposed to be in verse one, and it comes before the word “strangers.” 1 Peter 1:1 says:
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the [elect] strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,
1 Peter 1:2 is where this word is found in the King James Bible:
Elect according to the foreknowledge of God…
But the word “elect” is not in verse 2. Anybody can see this in an Interlinear Bible. In Jay P. Green’s Interlinear Bible, he recognized this and he translates verse 1 with the word “elect” and verse 2 without it.
The translators might have done this due to word order or maybe they were just trying to help individuals understand what 1 Peter 1:2 is saying:
…according to the foreknowledge of God…
They brought this word down to verse 2, when it really should not be there. 1 Peter 1:2 should just start with:
According to the foreknowledge of God the Father…
So 1 Peter 1:1 does say:
…to the [elect] strangers…
Let us just take a look at a few verses that have this Greek word “elect.” Actually, in 1 Peter 1:1, it is eklektos; it is plural.
In Matthew 20:16, it says:
So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.
“Chosen” is the same word. It is “elect.”
God is actually saying quite a bit in this verse. He is laying out the whole Gospel program, as He says:
…many be called…
The Word of God, the Gospel, goes into all of the world. Everyone who hears it is being called. A lot of people respond to this call by entering into the churches, or they do something else to come under the hearing of the Word of God for a period of time.
So this call goes out to every single human being, but then it goes on to say:
…but few chosen.
These are also called. These are the elect people who are amongst those out there in the world who are called. God has only chosen few to salvation, and we know that God did all of this before He began the world. He predestinated individuals to salvation, as we read in Ephesians 1:4-5:
According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,
What God did is actually rather plainly laid out. Many churches and many pastors do not want to accept this. They do not like the idea that this is all said and done and that God already did all of the work.
We know that Jesus actually already saved His people from before the foundation of the world, because this is when He was the Lamb slain. He died before the foundation of the world, and He did not just die for anyone. He died for certain individuals, these elect people who were chosen by God. Their sins were laid on Christ before the world began.
God knowing everything, of course, knew that He would create the world, that sin would enter in, that every generation would come, and that He would have His people amongst each generation until the end; and so He knew everyone whom He would save and He knew all of their sins and He placed them on Christ before the foundation of the world. He paid for them and died for them, every single sin, and then He rose from the dead Himself. At that point, He was called the “Son of God.” At that point, He also created the world. He created the world as the Son, as “the first begotten of the dead.”
So in a real way, everything is said and done. This is why Hebrews tells us that “the works were finished from the foundation of the world.” This is all guaranteed. God obligated Himself to save each one of these people, no matter where they were in the world and no matter what generation they were born into. He obligated Himself because He had already paid for their sin. This is why He is not willing that any of His elect “should perish, but that all should come to repentance,” every single one of them. This is how it has been over the course of history and up until May 21.
On May 21, what did God do? He saved all of the elect, all of the ones whom He had chosen. The vast majority of them were not saved until recently, during this almost 17-year period of the “latter rain.” The majority was not saved in past history. Some were, but God saved the best for last. He waited and waited and waited for the last few years of earth’s history, and I think especially for the last few days of earth’s history when the world heard, many of them for the first time, “Judgment Day – May 21.”
What did they hear? One big thing that they heard was that the door would shut. We are not saying anything new. We said this all the way up to May 21, “The door to Heaven will shut. There will be no more salvation.” We had some misconceptions about what all would take place on May 21, but we told people honestly and truthfully that when the day of judgment comes, the door to Heaven shuts.
A lot of people did not have any problem saying this before May 21 when they thought that they would not be here. But then after May 21, since we are still here, suddenly people do not like this idea that the door to Heaven is shut, that there is no more salvation.
It can only be I think that a little pride is getting in the way of some people and they think, “How can we be here and not have the task to bring the Gospel to the world in order that people become saved?” But we just have to trust the wisdom of God and that He knows better than we know, and He does. There is a very big purpose for His people to remain in order that the Gospel continue to go out.
Let us go over to 2 Timothy. We are still looking at the word “elect.” We read in 2 Timothy 2:8-10:
Remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead according to my gospel: Wherein I suffer trouble, as an evil doer, even unto bonds; but the word of God is not bound. Therefore I endure all things for the elect's sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.
Notice verse 9. This is the Apostle Paul whom Christ dramatically saved on the way to Damascus. He says that He suffered trouble “as an evil doer,” as someone who is a criminal, someone who is despised, someone who is a breaker of the law, “an evil doer”; and yet it was all for the Word’s sake, it was all for the Gospel’s sake. It was for Christ’s sake.
The people, especially the church authorities of that day and the leaders of national Israel, viewed him as an enemy. At the first opportunity, they would have pounced on him and jumped on him. Actually, many times they did. You can read 2 Corinthians to see the list of the things that Paul suffered.
Why did he suffer them? He suffered them for love, for the sake of Christ, to bring the Gospel to other people, to the Gentiles. But the Jews did not want this. They tried to stop him at every turn. They hindered the work of God, thinking that they were serving God, and they looked upon Paul as “an evil doer.”
Actually, in the words of the orator, Tertullus in the book of Acts, notice what he says. We read in Acts 24:1:
And after five days Ananias the high priest descended with the elders, and with a certain orator named Tertullus, who informed the governor against Paul.
Then we read in Acts 24:2-5:
And when he was called forth, Tertullus began to accuse him, saying, Seeing that by thee we enjoy great quietness, and that very worthy deeds are done unto this nation by thy providence, We accept it always, and in all places, most noble Felix, with all thankfulness. Notwithstanding, that I be not further tedious unto thee, I pray thee that thou wouldest hear us of thy clemency a few words. For we have found this man a pestilent fellow, and a mover of sedition among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes:
He found Paul to be a “pestilent fellow,” a troublemaker, someone who caused problems in the nation of Israel. They had things all worked out. They were the Pharisees. They were the masters and the teachers. This man came along and he taught contrary to their traditions. He taught contrary to what they believed the law of Moses said.
Does this sound familiar? For many years now, Family Radio and, in particular, Mr. Camping has been teaching the end of the church age, that the church age ended way back on May 21, 1988. May 21, 2011 was just the end of the judgment of God upon the churches and the transition into God’s judgment on all of the world.
How do you think that the churches have received this all of these years, especially since 2001? There has been this voice out there that has had a big platform and who has been telling the whole world that God left the church and that people were not to go to church anymore. This was because this was the command of God. God said, “Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out.” “Judaea” is a reference to the church.
The churches have been very much aware of this. Not only this, but while the churches were teaching all of the doctrines that they teach, like freewill salvation and that you can come walking right down the aisle and get yourself saved, Family Radio has been teaching the Biblical truth. People can walk down an aisle and they can think that they got themselves saved, but Family Radio has taught that nothing happened, that nothing happened to their souls in reality.
This and many other things, the ministry of Family Radio has been broadcasting into the world warning people about the teachings of the churches and congregations of the world. This has been a thorn in their side. Believe me, Mr. Camping has been a “pestilent fellow” and Family Radio has been a pestilent ministry. Anyone who listens to them could also be lumped together as pestilent individuals, because they are not accepting the authority that the churches believe has been handed down to them through the many centuries of the church age. They think that these individuals are rebelling against them.
Actually, the truth is that the churches are rebelling against God, while God’s people are very much in submission to the Word of God, the real authority. The only true authority is the Bible. It is not the church.
So, yes, this idea of being viewed as “an evil doer” is something that I think we have all been experiencing lately. What evil did we do? We told people about May 21. This was the evil thing that we supposedly did.
Leading up to May 21, all sorts of people were very hostile and angry because they had to see the billboards and they had to see the signs. It seemed that wherever they went, there was someone handing them a tract.
Why were they angry? They were angry because when they would read “Judgment Day – May 21,” this indicated that there is a Judge and that there are lawbreakers, because no one would be judged unless they broke the law.
So this was presented directly in plain view for all of the world. All of the world that could normally dismiss the Bible and God, like atheists or agnostics or other religions or nominal Christians, could no longer do this. Everyone could dismiss the true Gospel, because it was never really presented right before their eyes until this day, and this was making a lot of people upset, the churches especially. The churches said that this was not going to happen.
Maybe we will talk about these things a little later, but I would like to get into why it is, since the churches said that this would not happen, that in some small degree this did not happen, even though it did happen. There was a huge judgment on the whole world. It just was not visible; it was spiritual.
But why is it, since the churches were correct that a great earthquake did not occur, that apparently they are now correct about everything? The agnostics and the atheists and the Buddhists and the Muslims also said that this was not going to occur. This is actually what all of the unbelievers said. They all said that this was not going to take place.
So do we accept all of these religions now? Do we accept the atheist’s denial of God, because on one point, a minor point, a great earthquake did not happen physically? Does this somehow make everything correct that the churches and congregations are teaching? Were they correct because they predicted that there was not going to be a great earthquake on May 21?
Of course not. This did not make the atheists or the Hindus correct who might have thought the same thing. The churches feel vindicated and justified, “We told you.” But there is a lot more to this that we can maybe look at a little later.
What did happen on May 21? It was Judgment Day. We know that the door to Heaven shut. But was there a great earthquake? We can say spiritually that it sure seemed like the whole world was shook up. Many people were shook up about this. This could be a part of this, but I think that God tells us another part of what took place and what is in view with a spiritual earthquake. We will go to that passage in a minute. Before this, I would just like to remind us of some things.
Let us go to the last two verses of the Proverbs 5. We read in Proverbs 5:22-23:
His own iniquities shall take the wicked himself, and he shall be holden with the cords of his sins. He shall die without instruction; and in the greatness of his folly he shall go astray.
This is a description of every unsaved person. We all, of course, are sinners. Prior to salvation, this is our situation. God likens us to being bound, to being a prisoner. This is why Jesus said, “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” The Jews listening to Him said, “We be Abraham's seed, and were never in bondage to any man.” And no, they were not, not physically; but there are spiritual bonds and a spiritual prison.
What keeps an individual in that spiritual prison? This verse lets us know that a man is “holden with the cords of his sins.” They bind his hands. They bind his feet. They keep him in the world. They keep an individual under bondage and these individuals are very much happy to allow this. This is why the Bible speaks of the “pleasures of sin.”
People do not view the things that they are doing as actual bondage, as shackles that are keeping them in a dungeon, spiritually speaking; but God does. People just think that they love to drink and that they love to smoke and that they love to do this and that they love to do that; and they cannot imagine living life without many of these things.
Of course, this is the deceitfulness of sin that makes it all look good; when, in actuality, all it is is something to tie you up and to keep you in place until sin accomplishes its final end, which is death. The Bible tells us, “The wages of sin is death,” and sin brings this on.
This is like what we read in Romans 5:21:
That as sin hath reigned unto death…
This word for “reign” is the same word where we read that “the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.”
Sin reigns. It rules in the sinner’s life, keeping that individual spiritually in bonds, up until a certain point. In death, they are free. They do not have to go after their sin anymore, because they are done. It accomplished its purpose. It finished its job.
But until then, spiritually, how God views every individual in the world – like every individual in the freest country in the world, America, where we are getting ready to celebrate the Fourth of July, Independence Day – as masses of people who are in bondage. Masses of people are spiritually kept in the dungeon.
Look at 2 Timothy 2:24. God is speaking to the true believers and says:
And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle…
He must be gentle in bringing the Gospel.
This is done because of what we read in 2 Timothy 2:26:
And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.
This is like being on your iPod night and day and surfing the Internet. This is like doing everything that you want to do, as you drink in the sins of this world and fulfill the lusts of your flesh.
To the individual, they just want more of this. But in reality, they are a captive, they are a slave and a servant of sin, and there is a slave master. This is how God views this. The slave master is Satan. They are taken captive at his will, because “he is a liar, and the father of it.”
You are believing the lie that you cannot live without these things, that you need these things. You are all onboard and fully going along with accepting the lie and living your life as though this is all that you want to do. You believe that all you need to do is to just continue going after things that you know are wrong according to the Word of God; but still, this is what you want to do.
The fact is and the truth is that you want to do these things because of what we read in these verses. You cannot do anything else. You need to be set free. You need to be delivered.
Look at Isaiah 61:1-2:
The spirit of the Lord JEHOVAH is upon me; because JEHOVAH hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of JEHOVAH, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn;
Here God is indicating that the Gospel is a proclamation of liberty. We are actually in a Jubilee period here in the sense that Christ, who is the essence of the Jubilee, came to set the captives free by the work that He did before the foundation of the world. The only thing left, since all of the works were finished, was to apply this work, to apply the Word of God to each one of God’s elect at the proper time, and to redeem them, which always happens in an elect person’s life.
At this point, this now has happened. This is accomplished. This also is finished. This also is done. This also reverts back to May 21. That was the last day of the “latter rain.” We cannot bring in fruit if we do not have rain. The rain stopped falling on May 21. The door shut. This was the significance of May 21, the 17th day of the 2nd month. Christ is the Door, so the door to Heaven closed; and yet we know that there are tens of millions of people, maybe more, we expect about 200 million, whom God saved. These are His elect whose names are written in the “Lamb's book of life.”
Through most of history, maybe a handful of million became saved. We do not know the exact numbers. But now at the end when the population hit around 7 billion, God determined to save a “great multitude” that Revelation 7 tells us “came out of great tribulation.” The great tribulation ended on May 21, too. This was the last day, the 8400th day; so this “great multitude” does not come out of the five months. They came out of the great tribulation.
Look at it this way. In the world now, we have all of these former captives, all of these former prisoners of Satan who had been in the kingdom of darkness. Now they have been translated out of the kingdom of darkness and into the Kingdom of God’s Dear Son, except many of them may not know this. Maybe they were in Tanzania and someone walked by and handed them a tract prior to May 21.
Salvation always takes the Word of God, and so God used His Word and saved that person. Since then, they have just been going about their business as usual. Of course, this is going to be made known. They are going to have some problems rather quickly, because those cords of iniquity are no longer shackling them and binding them.
So as they are living out their lives and probably trying to do the same things that they have always done, they are going to be troubled in mind now. They are going to have more of a conscience, because God has given them a new spirit. These people are now saved.
Another way of putting this is that Christ, the Good Shepherd who seeks out His lost sheep, has found the last one. All of the sheep are gathered. They are all in the fold. This is why it is time to feed the sheep. We do not have to go chase the sheep anymore. We do not have to seek them out anymore like we did as God gave us the commission, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel,” as it says, “For many are called, but few are chosen.” This has already been done and it is a finished fact.
I think we will find some encouragement if we turn to Acts 16. Interestingly enough, Acts 16 speaks of two of the regions that we find in 1 Peter 1:1:
…to the [elect] strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,
In Acts 16, Paul and some of the other disciples wanted to go to Asia, but the Holy Ghost forbid them to go there. Then they also were about to go to Bithynia.
We read in Acts 16:7:
After they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not.
God is in complete control and He did not want the Gospel, at that point in time, to go into those areas. The next thing we find is that there is a man of Macedonia who is saying, “Come over into Macedonia, and help us.” This was the open door and this was where they were to go.
So Paul goes to the chief city of Macedonia, which is Philippi. From this, we have the letter to the Philippians; these are those people. Paul and the disciples believed that this was the will of God, as we read in Acts 16:10:
And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavoured to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them.
This is what they do. They go to Macedonia. They go into Philippi. Then they get thrown into prison, because there was a woman who was possessed and who was following them around.
We read in Acts 16:16-19:
And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying: The same followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are the servants of the most high God, which show unto us the way of salvation. And this did she many days. But Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out the same hour. And when her masters saw that the hope of their gains was gone, they caught Paul and Silas, and drew them into the marketplace unto the rulers,
Then the magistrates agree with their fellow townspeople and they basically send Paul and Silas to prison. Not only this, but they first whip them and then charge the jailer to keep them safely.
Then we read in Acts 16:23-24:
And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely: Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks.
So they were taken into the most secure part of the prison. Then they also shackled their feet. They put bands on their feet. The Philippian jailer did not want these prisoners to get away. This is because as we read the Bible, it seems that it was a very serious thing to have the charge of keeping prisoners. If they escaped, sometimes the jailer’s life would be taken in their place. We find some examples of this. I think it was Herod who put to death some guards who allowed a prisoner to escape, and so this jailer is trying to make sure that these prisoners did not go anywhere.
We can understand that Paul and these disciples were made very secure in this prison. Nothing was going to free them, and yet it is interesting what we read in Acts 16:25:
And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.
It was midnight. What does midnight normally typify in the Bible? What does midnight relate to? It relates to judgment. What time of the day was it when God sent the plague of the death of the firstborn into Egypt? It was midnight.
When that plague went through Egypt and all of the firstborn of the Egyptians died, this accomplished two things. It was through the act of slaying the firstborn of the people of Egypt that God delivered His people. As all of the firstborn of Egypt were dying, this was the last plague. Egypt was decimated. It was in ruins. The greatest country in all the world with the strongest power on earth was brought to its knees as God brought plague upon plague upon the Egyptians. The final plague was the death of the firstborn.
It was not long after this that Pharaoh gets up and immediately tells Moses and Aaron, “Get thee out, and all the people that follow thee.” Then they “spoiled the Egyptians.” The Bible tells us, “And the LORD gave the people favour in the sight of the Egyptians.” They gave them “jewels of silver, and jewels of gold.” It was as though they had won the battle, because they did through God.
So this was at midnight, even though the Israelites did not leave until the next day; but it was at that time that they were delivered. It was just a matter of getting out of there, which would take some time because there were over 600,000 men. God did not even count the women and children, and so there were quite a number of Jews who were in Egypt.
Here in Acts 16, it is also midnight and Paul and Silas are praying and singing praises unto God. We can understand this and relate this to the Gospel, because prayer has everything to do with the Gospel, and music or singing in the Bible can be related to sharing the Word of God. The Psalms are songs and they are the Word of God.
So the prisoners heard Paul and Silas. Remember that Paul and Silas got whipped. They received stripes, many stripes. They were thrown into the innermost part of the prison. It was probably dank and dirty. The rest of the prisoners were there in their misery. They had no hope and they had no expectation of anything. But they heard these two men, men who should have been weeping, and they heard them singing and praising God.
We can just imagine how loud this sounded and how every ear in that prison would have been tuned in to these two individuals. These prisoners probably started out asking, “What is wrong with them?” But there was nothing else for these prisoners to listen to. They did not have television in the prisons at that time, and so they had nothing to do but listen to these men. Incredibly, at midnight, in the middle of the night, they are singing and they are praying, and this is all praise to God.
It goes on to say in Acts 16:26:
And suddenly there was a great earthquake…
There was a megas seismos. We hear these words today, right? We hear of mega-deals, which is a big deal, a great deal. And the instrument that is used to measure earthquakes is called a seismograph, which comes directly from this word. An earthquake is a seismos.
We also read of a megas seismos if we go to Revelation 6. We read in Revelation 6:12:
And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood;
This continues and it can be shown to relate to Matthew 24:29:
Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken:
So in Revelation 6:12, we find the same two words, megas seismos, that we have in Acts 16.
Go to Revelation 16:18:
And there were voices, and thunders, and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such as was not since men were upon the earth, so mighty an earthquake, and so great.
These are the same two words: megas seismos.
We looked at this. We looked at Revelation 6. We looked into the Gospel accounts. We read that when Christ was on the cross, there was an earthquake and “many bodies of the saints which slept arose” after His resurrection.
In Matthew 28:2, we read:
And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it.
So we saw how God identified May 21 with an earthquake. But then we made a wrong assumption, because we thought that this would be literal and physical.
I think that we can be forgiven this, because we do not understand anything unless God shows us. The disciples were told repeatedly, “The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again”; but they did not understand. They had no idea, no clue. It was not until later that God opened up their understanding and they realized this. It was not until then that they understood, even though this was a fairly straightforward statement of Christ.
So we have to keep in mind that the whole Bible is the Word of God. It is a mystery. It is parabolic in the sense that God hides truth throughout. If it is not God’s good pleasure and if He wants to withhold any truth, He can.
I do not feel guilty. I have said this before. I do not have the slightest twinge of guilt over saying that there would be a physical earthquake. I feel very mistaken; but I am now learning, and so I realize why. But I do not feel guilt.
If we want to go back further, I do not feel guilt over teaching eternal damnation. I do not feel any guilt about this or about other doctrines that we have now learned are not true.
Why do I not feel any guilt? This is because, in all good conscience, I thought that this was what the Bible taught; and so I taught it. But during these last few years, God has opened our eyes to understand that there is no place called “hell.” There is not going to be an eternal damnation in a place called “hell” for people; because once a person dies, that is it; they are gone; they are done; they are annihilated.
By the way, we read in 2 Timothy 1:3:
I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers with pure conscience…
This is speaking of Paul. Did Paul have a “pure conscience”? I know that God, in salvation, purges the conscience of the one whom He saves of sin, in the sense that it is all gone. But Paul is saying that he had a “pure conscience.”
Look at Acts 23:1:
And Paul, earnestly beholding the council, said, Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day.
He lived “in all good conscience,” but he was the one who was on the way to Damascus to persecute the Christians, “haling men and women committed them to prison,” and “compelled them to blaspheme.” He was the man standing there when they were stoning Stephen and watching their coats. After all, you would not want someone’s coat to be stolen when they are doing such a good work for God in stoning this supposed heretic. We are talking about the Apostle Paul, and yet he says that he had “lived in all good conscience.”
Look at Acts 24:16:
And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void [without] offence toward God, and toward men.
I have a good conscience concerning the doctrines that I taught that were wrong. But once we have learned them and once God has opened the Scriptures and has shown us the truth and we continue to teach contrary, then this is a different matter. However, when we have been taught something new and we make a correction, we can look at Paul, who was speaking for the believers and who was recognizing his limitations in his ability to understand the Word of God.
Paul realized that if God had not opened up his eyes, he would have continued on that road to Damascus, he would have continued “haling men and women,” and he would have continued being the Pharisee that he was. This did not happen, but only because God stopped him and opened his eyes; and only God can do this. Paul even says in 1 Timothy, “I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.” He did these things “ignorantly.” He had no right understanding.
Going back to Acts 16, let us look at this earthquake. We read in Acts 16:26:
And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one's bands were loosed.
So there was a “great earthquake,” megas seismos, and verse 25 says that it was “at midnight,” which represents a time of judgment. Not only this, but this is a weird earthquake. It is a strange earthquake, because it seems to be limited to this prison. We do not find any catastrophe spoken of in this chapter. We do not find all kinds of people dying. We actually do not read of anyone dying. This earthquake does not even seem to bring down the prison walls or the prison building itself. It is a great earthquake that is isolated to a prison within the city of Philippi.
We would have to say this because the next day the rulers who had Paul and Silas beaten sent sergeants to get them out of the prison and to get them out of the city. Then Paul said, “They have beaten us openly uncondemned, being Romans, and have cast us into prison; and now do they thrust us out privily? nay verily; but let them come themselves and fetch us out.”
So the activity that was going on was like any other normal day for the magistrates. After all, would you be thinking about loosing these two prisoners if the whole city had just collapsed due to a great earthquake? No; they would not even be on your mind.
This was an isolated earthquake that hit one building where God’s people were, Paul and Silas, and it loosed the foundations of the prison, as we read, “the foundations of the prison were shaken.” It did not bring down the ceiling or the walls. All that this earthquake did and the only thing that it did was to loose the prison doors, which all sprung open, and the bands that were on their feet or on their hands were also loosed.
Wherever they were being kept, there was this great earthquake that was isolated to one building that accomplished some very particular things, very unusual and strange things. All of the prison gates and doors were opened.
We are saying that God saved all of His elect on May 21, and He did. Therefore, we can absolutely know that God likens sinners to captives and prisoners. He definitely does. We could have read more verses where God likens sinners to prisoners and captives.
We know that during the last part of the great tribulation, for that almost 17-year period, God saved a “great multitude.” By the end of that great tribulation, and the 8400th day was May 21, all of that “great multitude” were saved. There are also other verses, like “the number of the army of the horsemen” and so forth in Revelation, that really give us evidence that it was ultimately 200 million whom God saved, with the vast majority of them on or prior to May 21.
So all of those prisoners had their dungeon doors opened, their bands taken off, and they are free. They are free. Christ came to take “captivity captive.” They are now servants of Christ, servants of the Lord, “prisoners of hope,” prisoners of God Himself; but they are no longer prisoners to sin, Satan, or anything else other than Christ. They are all free.
This is all the result of an action of God when He brought a great earthquake, and I think that we can now understand this. On May 21, there was a great earthquake all over the world. Finally, all of the prisoners have been set free.
Notice Acts 16:27:
And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep…
So this was a physical earthquake. There was a great shaking of that prison, but this is painting a spiritual picture. It continues:
…and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled.
Again, it was a very serious thing to have the charge of prisoners. This keeper is probably thinking, “Oh boy, if they kill the jailer because one escapes, what are they going to do to me when they have all escaped?” He might have even been tortured, and so he had decided to kill himself because, obviously, all of the prisoners are gone. He supposed that they had all left and that they were not there anymore. If you were a prisoner, would you not escape if you could?
It is really strange that Paul says in Acts 16:28:
But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here.
Are we not, though? We are still here. The prison has been opened, yes; the captives are free, and all of the prisoners are still here. We did not go anywhere. The Philippian jailer is not to worry. We are still with him, because that was not God’s plan that we go.
Of course, I am making reference to the rapture that we thought would happen on May 21 that did not happen. A physical earthquake did not happen and a physical rising of the dead from the ground or the resurrection did not happen, but this does not mean that, spiritually, all kinds of things were not going on. It was Judgment Day and it is a horrible judgment to have the door to Heaven shut; and this is one part of this.
Another big part of the result of the earthquake on May 21 is that God saved all of His people. He saved them all. And it is also significant that not only did Paul and Silas remain in the prison, but also all of those who had their prison doors opened. What was going on with them? We would understand that they were probably justly and rightly in prison, but they did not try to escape either. They remained there, too.
I guess a similar picture is Lazarus when he was raised from the dead. He comes forth as Jesus said, “Lazarus, come forth,” and he comes out of the tomb in his graveclothes. He is still wrapped head to toe. He does not know any better. It takes Jesus to tell the disciples, “Loose him, and let him go.” Those graveclothes were for dead people and Lazarus was no longer dead.
So here are many prisoners who are still in their prison. Remember the cords of iniquity. It is our own iniquity that wraps us about. This is why we are saying that there a lot of people out there who are God’s sheep who do not even know this. They have been living in this prison their whole life. Every time they tried those bars, they were fast and secure. Whenever they tried to put down that sin or this sin, they went right back to it. They finally just gave up.
Have you ever met someone like this? I know smokers like this who have tried and tried. Then at one point, they just get so disgruntled and sick of trying that they decide that they just cannot do it and are not going to bother trying any longer, “I am just going to keep smoking.” I know people like this. They cannot imagine life without it. They feel that they have given it their best shot and that they are hooked.
I think that God is now illustrating for us that there is a whole world of people out there, tens of millions of people, who may still be in their sins. They do not realize that if they just tried that bar, that if they just tried to do things God’s way, that if they just tried to walk in the Spirit and turn from sin, they just might find that they can do this now, because the power of sin has been broken. They have been delivered. They were a captive, but Christ has set them free. They can now walk in the commandments of God and do His will.
Let us read verse 28 again. We read in Acts 16:28-29:
But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here. Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas,
Why is the keeper trembling? Remember what we read in Philippians 2:12. It says:
Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.
I do not think that there is a better description of these 153 days than right here. “Work out your own salvation,” because you have been saved, and work this out “with fear and trembling.”
As a result of that earthquake and as a result of all of the prison doors being opened and as a result of all of the prisoners remaining, the Philippian jailer is able to go to God. He is coming into Paul, but he is going to God trembling.
If the prisoners had fled and if he had come into the prison and the gates were opened and the prisoners were gone, he would have just killed himself. Historically, this is what he would have done. He would not have been trembling, as he now is.
So I think that God is letting us know that we have a purpose. We serve a purpose here. We are just going through what God moved Paul to say in Philippians 1:21-24:
For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not. For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.
This is why we are here. This is the exact reason; even though, yes, it would have been far better when May 21 came and we all went up. I would agree with you. That would have been far better, but God’s wisdom is wiser than our wisdom. He had a purpose, which was for us to remain for the sake of the elect.
We read this passage in 2 Timothy 2 earlier where Paul was viewed as though “an evil doer, even unto bonds.” It says again in 2 Timothy 2:9-10:
Wherein I suffer trouble, as an evil doer, even unto bonds; but the word of God is not bound. Therefore I endure all things for the elect's sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.
So prior to May 21, was that a bowl of cherries? No; that was tough. It was difficult to bring the Gospel to the world and have so many people scoffing and ridiculing. But we did not care. We had a commission from God to be a watchman, to bring this message to the people of the world, because we knew that He was going to save all of these individuals; and He did.
So we rightly understood that we were to endure any suffering, even though it was relatively minor, for the elect’s sake in order that they be saved. But this has not changed at all. We now suffer for the elect’s sake, because they were saved. We now have to still minister to these people.
Let us stop here.