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A Prophetic Death (Part A)

Cross Reference Radio / Pastor Rick Gaston
The Truth Network Radio
January 6, 2023 6:00 am

A Prophetic Death (Part A)

Cross Reference Radio / Pastor Rick Gaston

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January 6, 2023 6:00 am

Pastor Rick teaches from the book of the Acts

Renewing Your Mind
R.C. Sproul
A New Beginning
Greg Laurie

Jesus says to that church, I know your works, your tribulation and poverty, but you are rich, and I have known the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.

That's some heavy duty criticism. Anytime you suppress the truth of Jesus Christ with wrong motives, you're not being seeker friendly, you're being unfriendly. Christ is telling it like it is. We're in the book of Acts, chapter 12. We will take verses 1 through 5, a short section. The message is entitled, A Prophetic Death. It concerns itself with the death of James and almost the death of Peter.

And you just can't brush past the death of James to get through the chapter. Acts chapter 12, verses 1 through 5. Now about that time, Herod the king stretched out his hand to harass some of the church. Then he killed James, brother of John, with the sword. Because he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to seize Peter also. Now it was during the days of unleavened bread, so when they had arrested him, he put him in prison and delivered him to four squads of soldiers to keep him, intending to bring him before the people after Passover. Peter was therefore kept in prison, but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church. We're leaving Antioch.

We met with the Christians last session at the church in Antioch. And I think that if you look at, you know, when I came into ministry and I'd get books on pastoral sermons, I'd look at the table of contents and the titles of the sermons would dictate where I would go first. I learned that that wasn't a good idea. Maybe because I didn't see what the writer or the speaker saw when he made that title, and it was up to me to learn. If you put exciting titles on things, then of course you're going to attract people, but I would encourage you to just listen to the titles if this is a habit that you have of following what sounds exciting.

Listen to the title and learn. And the example that I'm giving is Antioch. It doesn't sound very exciting unless you know what took place there, and then it becomes a very big issue. And all Christians should know about the church in Antioch. Well, we're leaving that church for now and we return to Jerusalem. Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets.

Jesus said that. Jerusalem is going to fade now after this chapter as the center of Christian operations, and as it passes out of sight, Antioch, Ephesus, Corinth, other cities with other churches and many Gentiles coming into the church will begin to grab our attention. The coming outreaches to the Roman Empire, they will start at Antioch. The Holy Spirit will say, separate to me Barnabas and Saul for the work of ministry.

It will be a very exciting chapter 13. Well, anyway, that is tying us into where we are this morning. We are in Jerusalem in this section. Verse 1, now about that time Herod the king stretched out his hand to harass some of the church. It has been about 11 years since our Lord was crucified and risen and ascended to heaven.

That's where we are now. We can date this by the death of Herod that takes place in this chapter. Barnabas and Saul may have arrived from Antioch after the persecutions we're reading about here. When we left last chapter, they were heading towards Jerusalem. Well, when we get to the end of this chapter, they'll be leaving Jerusalem.

So, where do we place their visit? And it's likely after the events that we're considering this morning. Now Herod, whom we read about here in verse 1, the name means heroic. It's a compound Greek name. It means a hero or heroic. Nothing was heroic about any of the six Herod's we read about in the scripture except maybe from Satan's standpoint. The last one we read about, Agrippa II, he has got some flash of brilliance when he's listening to Paul preach to him.

You almost persuade me to be a Christian, he says, but there's no evidence that he ever turned to Christ. This Herod that we're reading about here in verse 1 is not the same Herod as in the days when Christ was born. That Herod the great monster had the children of Bethlehem, the boys two years old and under, killed because he felt they were a threat to his throne. He was a madman anyway.

He did other horrific things. And as I mentioned from Satan's perspective, the only thing, these men were heroic to Satan. This is that Herod the great monster's grandson. This Herod that we're reading here, he's the grandson. His uncle was the one that had John the Baptist beheaded. That Herod, Herod Antipas, is the only man in the scripture who Christ refused to answer. No one is ignored by Christ except in the sense that the Lord did not answer this man when that man questioned him and so he was ignored. He was ignored because he wasn't ignored, if you can understand the application of that paradox. This Herod the first is also a killer of the righteous as was his grandfather, as was his uncle.

In their veins flowed that noxious blood of royal murderers. He stretched out his hand to harass some from the church it tells us. That Greek word for harass really means to hurt and to injure. When we think of the word harass, we don't necessarily or we're not so quick to think of actually injuring somebody in the sense that he's killing people.

But that's what it means. The old King James says that he vexed, he began to vex the church, very poetic. Just as the Gentiles are coming into the church, into Christianity, Satan attacks from without. And he attacks the leadership of the church here in Jerusalem.

That's who is targeted, the apostles. There were more people involved in the killing of James than just Herod of course because it tells us that this pleased the Jews. Not all the Jews. In fact, James was a Jew. So we have to always make sure and be careful that when we tell the facts about the unrighteous Jews that we're not slandering the Jewish people. I don't know how any Christian could think that they could be against the Jewish people. The Bible makes it very clear you walking through a minefield blindfolded. You told Abraham straight out, anybody mess with your offspring, I'm going to get them. And so we're very mindful of that but we could also extend that to any people.

We would not want to be biased against any people simply because of their race. Well coming back to this, this persecution that is breaking out, this fresh persecution breaking out in Jerusalem, it finds its parallel in a Gentile city, the Gentile city of Smyrna. We read about that city in the book of Revelation. Some 60 years later, Jesus addresses the seven churches in that region of the world. Asia Minor, it was known then, today it's in Turkey.

We know it as Turkey, it's always been there. Revelation chapter 2 verses 9 and 10. Jesus says to that church, I know your works, your tribulation and poverty, but you are rich. And I have known the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.

That's some heavy duty criticism. Anytime you suppress the truth of Jesus Christ with wrong motives, you're not being seeker friendly, you're being unfriendly. Christ is telling it like it is. He is saying to the church in Smyrna, you're being persecuted by those who claim they're Jews but they have nothing to do with Yahweh. Everything they're doing is against Yahweh.

They are anti-Christ. And it wasn't just the Jews, he continues, and here in Smyrna it was the Jews allying themselves with the Gentiles to persecute that church and Christ continues, do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Christ has a different perspective on suffering, doesn't he? How do you not fear the things you're going to suffer?

And he just kind of, you know, don't worry about that. Well, he continues, indeed the devil is about to throw some of you into prison. That you may be tested and you will have tribulation ten days.

Be faithful until death and I will give you the crown of life. It is up to us to line up with the meanings of Christ and his perspective on suffering and death and life. We line up with him, not with our feelings.

It is our faith that dictates to us how we are to look at things. This animosity between some of Christodom and the Jews throughout the ages is Satan's doing. You know, the Crusaders, what started the Crusaders off was of course the Islamic aggression.

They were conquering and taking Christian cities and villages and the Constantinople, I don't remember the Emperor's name, it's on the tip of my tongue. Anyway, he sends to Rome and he rallies the Europeans and in the emblem of the cross they head to the promised land to take Jerusalem back. Well, when they get to Jerusalem they slaughter the Muslims and the Jews.

They did that in war but it continued this animosity that exists to this day in many circles and it shouldn't be. This is Satan's work and there are many Christians that of course know better. Do people even know what it is they are rejecting when they reject Jesus Christ?

When Herod is rising up against the Christians here in Jerusalem, though his is more political than anything, but when the Jewish people were rising against those who were saying, hey, Christ is our Messiah. Do they really, do they understand what they are rejecting? This is important to us too because today there are the Christ haters that don't even know why they hate Christ. You ask them, why are you so much against Christianity?

Well, they may tell you about what churches have done, what they've seen Christians do, because they've never met Christ, they've only met people who claim to have met Christ. So our testimony is a vital part of serving the Lord Jesus. He's just singing the song, while on others thou art calling, do not pass me by. And what the songwriter is saying is, Lord, I see you calling other people to serve you, I want to serve you too. If you're sitting on the shore of Galilee and you see Christ call Peter and Andrew but he doesn't call you, well I want to be called too. I know that I wanted to be called, when I felt called into the pastorate, I wanted to be put to work. And the Lord took years to pull it off, they were painful years but they were very important. Anyway, why do people reject Jesus Christ?

Well, let's make sure we give them a good reason if they're going to continue on that line, that they understand if we have a chance to tell them just who it is they are rejecting. And this was the work of the church then and it is the work of the church now, one facet of it. Verse 2, then he killed James the brother of John with the sword. No heroics, no explanation points on this, just the stern recital of the grim fact. He killed James, that's the fact. They killed a son of thunder, beheaded for Christ, that's what it means why they killed him with the sword.

They did not stab him or slice him, they chopped off his head. James the apostle died a prophetic death. Christ told both he and his brother in front of their mother that they were going to drink a cup.

That was quite unpleasant. This is when their mom came to Christ and said, can you have it so that my boys, my sons, sit on your right hand and your left hand? And I don't know if they were saying, mom, you know, or if they were like, yeah, that's right. But I know the other apostles are like, what?

Where's my mom to come and do this? And Christ, you could imagine the look on his face and be like, oh gosh, I've got to clean this one up. But Jesus answered and said, you do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? They said to him, we are able. So he said to them, you will indeed drink my cup and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with. All right, Christ said, let's put it out there. Can you handle this? Yeah, we can. Well, you are.

And here it is. Here James is drinking the cup of death in the service of God, in the service of the Father, in the likeness of Christ. What about John? Well, you know, historians tell us, because of some of the writers not too far removed from the events, tell us that John died of old age in Ephesus after being persecuted and exiled to Patmos, the island where he penned the revelation of Jesus Christ. But we're not 100 percent sure.

Relatively reliable, but it's not scripture. But he still suffered. I mean, who would want to be in their 90s, exiled on the Isle of Patmos? And John was. They both had to endure. Not only that, they had to watch their beloved co-apostles suffer and die. Barring Jesus, James was the first. In other words, Judas was really the first apostle of Jesus Christ to die. But Judas was, of course, defrocked. He was no longer part of the apostolic band. That means James, when he died, was the first apostle of Jesus Christ, legitimately still an apostle. And he heads out to heaven as a martyr and the others will follow. He is the only apostle whose death is recorded in the New Testament. Again, barring Judas. However, the Lord promised Peter that he was going to die a martyr's death too.

So you could, I would include that. I would say we know for sure of the New Testament telling us about two apostles of Jesus Christ who were martyred to death. A martyr does not have to die and suffer. And, of course, the word martyr means witness. They were witnesses who suffered for Christ. This death, again, fulfills the prophecy of Jesus about they will drink the cup that he is about to drink.

He was referring to, of course, his death. God let Herod kill James. Because God at this time had more use for James' head on the chopping block than he had for him behind the pulpit.

The time had come. And there was a time when it came even for our Lord. When his life was more useful to the Father on the cross.

No longer on the shores of Galilee. Jesus was eager to meet this appointment. John's Gospel chapter 12, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains alone.

But if it dies, it produces much fruit. Then he went on to say in verse 32 of John 12, If I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all peoples to myself. And that's a grand invitation.

That drawing is an invitation. Included in this is how Jesus, when Luke talks about Jesus set his face in the Hebrew tying into Isaiah like a flint. He was determined to get to Jerusalem so they could crucify him. And he could save sinners from the judgment to come. The evidence suggests that James was at this time the most brilliant leader in the church. You say, what evidence suggests that? I don't know, but it sounds very good, doesn't it?

No, I have my opinion on it. This son of thunder was singled out to be the first one. And of course he was singled out by the Lord. The Lord knew this was going to happen and he used it. We don't hear of the voice of James in Scripture as we do of Andrew and Peter and John. Yes, we hear him say, shall we call fire down? He was very zealous for Jesus, he and his brother. They rejected you, Lord.

Should we kill him? Christ said, no. That's not how we do it. And they had to learn this transition from Old Testament to New Testament as we Christians do. I mean, we look at the justice exercise in the Old Testament and sometimes we think to ourselves, boy, that'd be nice to see some of that right now. But now is the age of grace and saving souls and not executing justice within the nation of Israel, or of course we want our government to do such things.

Anyway, that's a whole other topic. Coming back to James, this brilliant leader in the church, we don't hear his voice as we do theirs. However, this quiet man was not overlooked by Jesus.

So much so that Christ put him in the inner circle. There were three apostles that Christ drew closer to him than the others. For his reasons that are really not disclosed to us, and I'm sure he left one of them in charge of the group as he would move around with these three.

The three times we read about this is at the raising of Jairus' daughter. You know, Christ came and said, she's not dead, and they all mocked him, and so he had to put the faithless out. The unbelief had to leave the room. He got them all out, except James, John, and Peter. And then at the Mount of Transfiguration, there again, we expect to see Peter, we expect to see John, we have their writings, we know what characters they were, but there is James. This is not the same James that wrote the letter of James that comes after the letter to the Hebrews in our New Testament. This is the brother of John, the apostle, who wrote the Gospel of John, the letters of John, the revelation of Jesus Christ. And then in the Garden of Gethsemane, as Christ is about to go to the cross, there again is this James, Peter, and John.

So he's in this inner circle, and I mean, how did he get there? How come he is there and we don't hear from him? Well, again, this quiet man was not overlooked by Christ, and he was careful to place him there.

His death must have rocked the church severely, and we know that, because we see their response when they go after Peter. We see the church's response. But you might look at this and say, well, why do bad things happen to good people? Well, the short answer is this world is cursed. We're in the age of the cursed world.

James could have protested. I can't believe this is happening to me. I walked with the Christ. I was part of the inner circle. I was one of his students, a leader in the church. He did no such thing. But we would expect a carnal reply like the response to such a beheading, bad things happen to good people, to identify those who believe no matter what. That's the story of Habakkuk, the literal prophet, about three chapters in the prophecy of Habakkuk. He didn't like what God was showing him. And he told the Lord, I don't care for this.

And then he said, I'll stand my watch and see how he will respond to me. And in the end, we see how Habakkuk responds to what God was showing him. God was saying, listen, I'm going to judge the Jewish people for their sin. And then we hear Habakkuk say, we could be out of food.

We could die no matter what's coming. Oh, sing the praises to the Lord. In fact, it is a mini-Psalm in his little prophecy.

Bad things happen to good people. It costs to belong to the body of Christ. Whatever and whenever, whatever causes that persecution and whenever the church is harassed and made to feel pain, whether it is on the larger scale of an assembly or an individual scale, it costs to serve Christ. Matthew 5, verse 12, rejoice, be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Well, here's James.

James heard that. He listened to this Sermon on the Mount. And now he's part of the Sermon on the Mount and happy to be so. Execution by sword in Israel is linked to a judgment against those who lead people away from Yahweh to false beliefs. Deuteronomy 13, 12 through 15. You know, if you had a village there in Israel and that village had decided they were going to worship idols in a false way, they would worship God, that village was to be judged by the sword. And there's probably that implication here that he worships Messiah and that's not our Messiah and the Jews, the unrighteous Jews, would have liked that to belong to Christ and his church.

It costs something. You've been listening to Cross Reference Radio, the daily radio ministry of Pastor Rick Gaston of Calvary Chapel in Mechanicsville, Virginia. As we mentioned at the beginning of today's broadcast, today's teaching is available free of charge at our website. Simply visit That's We'd also like to encourage you to subscribe to the Cross Reference Radio podcast. Subscribing ensures that you stay current with all the latest teachings from Pastor Rick. You can subscribe at or simply search for Cross Reference Radio in your favorite podcast app. Tune in next time as Pastor Rick continues teaching through the book of Acts, right here on Cross Reference Radio.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-01-06 07:19:18 / 2023-01-06 07:28:32 / 9

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