Through Prison Bars
All references NASB unless otherwise stated
We all live in a sin‑sick world, trapped by invisible forces beyond our control. In many ways we are no different than those who are incarcerated behind bars in a prison house. In the stores and shopping we see the long sad faces on those who pass by, many, who have no hope except a bleak outlook. Those of us who know and love the Lord want to reach out and comfort these downtrodden.
We find comfort in the words written by David in the 23rd Psalm where he says "The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for You are with me."
Like sheep we have mob instincts, fears, timidity, stubbornness, and yes even stupidity. Yet in spite all these adverse characteristics, Christ chooses to call us by name, and makes us his own delight!
I want to share with you a mental picture which I’m sure will never leave your mind. It is a picture of all the peoples of the world trapped in this death condition, which we will represent by the sheep. It is a pathetic picture of people the world over begging to be released from their condition. It is a picture of the sheep under the management of the shepherd Satan!
Have you ever driven by a farm and looked through the fence to see sheep that were weak, and infested with disease and parasites? These would be the ones metaphorically who would be under the control of Satan. On the other field you would see sheep that were healthy and happy. Then you might ask yourself the question, where do I fit in? The sickly ones are under the care of the adversary, and the healthy under the loving care of our Lord!
Yet we know the picture doesn’t stop there. For we know that the lost and ill‑cared for sheep will be redeemed. This is confirmed for us in chapter one of the book of Revelation, verses 17 & 18. The Apostle John is confirming this to us. "When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man. And He placed His right hand upon me, saying, ‘Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and Hades.’"
This condition of imprisonment started many years ago in the garden of Eden. We read in Gen.2.15‑17, the words of God which set this in motion that which would result in ultimate death, for the entire human family. It is important to note that these commandments were given directly to father Adam, starting with verse 15, "The LORD God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, ‘From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die.’"
And as we know that a day with the Lord is as a thousand years, as David says so eloquently in Psalms 90.4. After partaking of the tree with his wife Eve, the punishment went into effect, for we know Adam lived for a period of 930 years and died. Just short of the one day of the Lord!
This started the cascade of sin and death and imprisonment of the human family until this very day. In reference to this tragedy, the Apostle Paul gives us hope with this scripture found in 1 Corinthians 15.22 (NKJV), we quote, "For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive." In regard to this comparison we again reference chapter 15 starting with verse 45, "So also it is written, "The first man, Adam, became a living soul." The last Adam became a life‑giving spirit. However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual. The first man is from the earth, earthy; the second man is from heaven". So here we have the clear picture of Christ as the Redeemer of father Adam. In doing so He cancelled the debt incurred by Adam’s disobedience!
The result of this great blessing will be that ultimately all, will be released from this prison house of death, which will occur in the millennium. In the 35th chapter of Isaiah we read of this yet future blessing. Envision in your mind this picture of the world of mankind under the loving care of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, the Righteous! The good Shepherd. "The wilderness and the desert will be glad, and the Arabah will rejoice and blossom; like the crocus it will blossom profusely and shout of joy." Then we read from verse 5 of the blessings to be showered down on mankind under the care of the Great Shepherd! Verses 5 and 6, "Then the eyes of the blind will be opened and the ears of the deaf will be unstopped. Then the lame will leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute (dumb) will shout for joy." And the assurance will be given that no harm will come to any as we read in verses 9 and 10, "No lion will be there, nor will any vicious beast go up on it; these will not be found there. But the redeemed will walk there, and the ransomed of the LORD will return and come with joyful shouting to Zion, with everlasting joy upon their heads, And sorrow and sighing will flee away."
This is why Jesus taught us to pray, "Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth, as it is done in heaven."
The conditions in this house of death are intolerable! Yet sadly today there are many who have little or no faith to call upon. These are they, who are still trapped under the tutelage of Satan whether they know it or not! The power of the adversary is as rampant today as it was in the days of old. We are beginning to witness the rise of satanic meetings all over the earth. Truly men are becoming more lovers of pleasure, than lovers of God. These statements of the Apostle Paul are becoming more prevalent today than ever before! 2 Timothy chapter 3 verses 1 through 4. "But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant." We see these things all around us today. The news coverage is covered by stories of wealthy people flaunting their wealth in the face of the poor and downtrodden! These are the methods of the Devil. "Disobedient to parents. ungrateful, unholy" Recently a television story was recounting two teenage boys murdering their parents to obtain their inheritance, "unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self‑control, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God."
These are the ones who are trapped in the web of Satan’s lies, and the chains of his control, these are the unseen forces that control the masses of man. Unseen by the natural man for they have not the spiritual understanding to realize from whence it all comes. These are they who run our governments, our schools, the supposed houses of worship. Not knowing, that it is God, who is allowing these forces to control until all has accomplished His purposes of reconciliation for man.
Yes, all are trapped in this prison house of death, except for the saints of God, who is allowing them this experience, in order that they may become the Kings and priests to help mankind back up the Highway of Holiness spoken of by the prophet Isaiah (ch.35), during this coming millennium.
The eyes of His saints are open to the purposes of God and His plans for His wayward children in the world. We are reassured again by the words of the Apostle Paul in the book of Romans 8, "Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death."
The majority of mankind is not aware where this evil influence comes from. Their eyes have been blinded. This is explained to us in the 4th chapter of 2 Corinthians from verse 1, as the Apostle Paul walks us through this understanding. As we read these scriptures, let us thank our heavenly Father that we are not like those who have no hope! "Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we received mercy, we do not lose heart, but we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God."
Paul continues in his exhortation of the purpose. He says "we have this treasure in earthen vessels". (v.7) Brethren we were like the world, until this glorious light of truth shined into our lives because of the mercy of God! Otherwise we would be in this prison house of death with no hope!
I’m sure at some point in each of our lives we asked the question, "Why me Lord?" who am I that should deserve this honour? This honour of being co‑workers with OUR Lord and saviour, to help guide and direct all of those of mankind, back to realize the wonderful mercy and love of our heavenly Father. To even judge angels who have gone astray.1 Cor.6.2‑3. What an honour! We who are nothing more than a lump of clay fashioned in the likeness of a man. And yet the creator said of His creation that He loved us when we were yet sinners! We have this confirmation in Romans chapter 5 starting with verse 6, "For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteousness man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us".
A beautiful picture of maintaining your faith even under adverse conditions is recorded for us in Acts the 16th chapter. Here the Apostle Paul and Silas were imprisoned for Paul calling an evil spirit out of a local woman who was being used as a profit for her masters. It was about midnight in the prison and Paul and Silas were praying and singing, all the while their feet were in the stocks. Suddenly there was an earthquake, where the foundations of the prison were shaken to the foundation. All the doors of the prison were opened, and all of the prisoners’ chains were opened! What a beautiful time for an escape for all but the apostle Paul and Silas. When the jailer was awakened from his sleep, he realized that if the prisoners escaped, his life would be taken!
When our lives are controlled by our heavenly Father, we act not like the world, as we consider others and their welfare. The jailer was about to kill himself when Paul cried out with a loud voice, "Do not harm yourself, for we are all here!"
Brethren we should take note of this act of Paul, for what resulted later would bring another to the Lord Jesus Christ! The jailer spoke to Paul saying, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" Paul’s answer to him was simple, but profound. Verse 31, and they said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household!" We have this opportunity in like manner, like the Apostle, to witness to those who are trapped in this prison house. We are beacons of light to this sin darkened world.
How often have you witnessed to those who reply, why that’s too good to be true! But it is true. And if the Lord chooses to open their eyes of understanding, then they too will experience the joy we have, as footstep followers of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ!
We have full assurance these things will happen. We would like to close with thoughts that are contained in Revelation 21. We will select certain verses to make this promise come alive for all those who are in this prison house and looking through the bars of this prison house of sadness. The Apostle starts off so eloquently with his encouragement. Verse one, "I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away." Here he is saying all evil will no longer be. Then he explains why, "And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband." Then these beautiful words which we all cling to, "And He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and...there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away". The doors of this prison house will be swing wide open like the prison where Paul and Silas were held.
Today in the world according to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are over 10.2 million persons incarcerated over the face of the earth. And if this wasn’t bad enough, according to the report 95% of the world’s population have major health problems! Geneva, October 4, (2001) "One in four people in the world will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives. Around 450 million people currently suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill‑health and disability worldwide!" (WHO) We pray for thy kingdom to come, thy will be done on this earth as it is done in heaven.
All would seem hopeless at this point, but the story is far from being told. In 1 Cor.2.9–10 we quote the words of our Creator, "But just as it is written, "things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, All that God has prepared for those who love Him." For to us God has revealed them through the spirit; for the spirit searches all things, even the depths of God." In the apostle John’s gospel, he says it all with these few words. "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall (should) not perish, but have eternal life, For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might (should) be saved through Him".