“Is having a pastor or leader in church denominationalism?”

One day I found the following words quoted in a Facebook post:

I dont believe a fellowship can be healthy without headship. An animal with two or more heads will soon or later create a ‘beast’ of confusion. A church ought to have one person who can lead, teach, or guide, either as a pastor or an elder. When the pulpit is left open to different ministers, be assured that the flock won’t be grounded on the rock. That will also open room for ambitious people who will bring up all sorts of ideas…

It was a quote of my words. As always happens on Social Media, different people began to express their views over the statement. One comment caught my attention:

No one should lead the Church except the Holy Spirit (John 16:13). That definition above is only fitting for [an] organisation and denomination. Believers who wanted to be led by people instead of the Lord have a spirit of denominationalism. The reason why Nicolaitism exists today is because of this thinking that a pastor should be the leader…you cannot find that in the word of God.

It is strange how simple things can easily be misunderstood and blown out of context. I had to give a little more explanation to show how scriptures can easily be misapplied. The following was my response:

With all due respect to everyone on this thread, kindly allow me to submit this (especially that this is about words quoted from me). Its a lengthy text, but kindly take time to read.

Whenever a discussion or question veers from context and winds up into a play on semantics, confusion begins where there should be none. And whenever a response to a question is out of context, it may present something TRUE but yet not the TRUTH!

Consider the matter at hand here, that to say “ a church ought to have one person who can lead, teach or guide, either as a pastor or an elder” is an error, and that “no one should lead the church except the Holy Spirit (Joh.16:13).” Really? What is to lead? When a church has a leader is that really Nicolaitanism? That is not only blowing things out of context but out of proportion.

To “lead” is to guide, rule, or to be followed by people. Another term often used in place of “lead” in the English language is “head.” Now, much as we live in a time of carnal men leading churches through pride or selfish reasons, we must not lose sight of the fact that leadership is rooted in the Scripture. I know of a church in my country which has no pastor; they don’t have one person to guide the assembly on doctrine or conduct. Everyone is free to minister. As expected, the church always suffers from breakaways and strange doctrines.

Consider what Hebrews 13:7 says:  “Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.” Another translation puts it this way: “Remember your leaders who have spoken to you the word of God; and considering the issue of their conversation, imitate their faith” (DBV). Compare this verse with 1 Timothy 3:4-5.

Firstly, was the writer of Hebrews encouraging Nicolaitanism by stating that preachers were rulers in the house of God? Ofcourse a carnal person can blow the verse out of proportion and make himself a pope in a congregation. Well, “spiritual things are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor.2:14) and I want to believe I am speaking to spiritual people who will understand my words in their context. Note that the Greek term for the phrase “rule over you” in Hebrews 13:7 is “hegeomai” and it means to “lead” or “command with authority.” If one has ever experienced sitting under a true anointed ministry – I have – they will know that truly God-called men rule the house of God with the authority of God’s Word! (1 Tim.4:11-16). And ofcourse spiritual people are able to discern when such a man veers off into pride and ceases to rule by God’s authority.

Secondly, what does the writer of Hebrews mean when he says “whose faith follow”? What is the term used to describe a person followed by other people? Leader, right? Did not Paul say “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ” (1 Cor.11:1). So, will a carnal mind be in order to say, “Paul was wrong, we need to follow Christ, not him!” Such is always the result of failing to grasp words within their context.

Consider this: the Lord Jesus taught that we should call no man on earth “father” (Mat.23:9).  Was Paul in error to write believers at Corinth, saying: “I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you. For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel” (1 Cor.4:14-15)? Here Paul was admonishing a church that although there were many preachers who may have visited the assembly to exhort or instruct in faith, it was him specifically who begat them in the gospel! A person who would only dwell on semantics and miss the context of words can accuse Paul of error – “We are sons of God, not your sons!” or “We get born again by the Holy Spirit; its not you who begat us!” On the other extreme end again, a proud person can misapply this scripture to justify their egoistic ambitions. But to those with ears to hear what the Spirit says to the churches, they have the discernment to know when a man’s rulership in the house of God has ceased to be one of the Word, but of his carnal ambitions. Shalom.

“Die and we will burry you!” (Remembering Brother John Mark Louse)

The man was in the field and got bitten by a poisonous snake. He rushed to brother John Mark to be prayed for. Brother John Mark called on the Lord to heal the man. But with time the fever was worsening and he could feel death approaching. His strength was leaving him and he had to crawl to the room where Brother John Mark was, to be prayed for again. “I am dying, pray for me again” he pleaded. “I already prayed” Brother John Mark angrily answered: “You can die and we will bury you!” Upon hearing this strange response the man stood up from his knees and walked away. He got healed and did not die.

This testimony was both strange and funny; when he shared the testimony the church was filled with both amazement and laughter. But  the testimony reminded us of a profound lesson: It is clear that healing was already granted and could only manifest when it was received by faith. Many times we cannot see the manifestation of God’s promises because we live by what we see, feel or smell. But a believer ought to live by what God’s Word declares, not by what he sees or feels (2 Cor.5:7). The Lord Jesus said, “What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them” (Mar.11:24). Amen.

How to receive Healing? (Remembering Brother John Mark Louse)

At the end of his sermon a long prayer-line formed. There were different cases: some serious and others usual ailments. But for all the people, brother John Mark would put few drops of oil from a small bottle onto his finger,  and then smear it on a person’s head as he spoke very few words of prayer.

Next in line was a very sick girl who had been brought to the meeting by her relatives. Her legs were swollen and she had difficulties breathing. My wife was sitting next to her in the church. She felt sorry for her as she could not sit in one place.She was in pain and kept fidgeting. The problem was with her liver. It was swollen and had enlarged. Before brother John Mark could pray for her someone signaled to me to explain the serious condition of the girl. I wisphered to brother John Mark explaining the problem. “Oh, that one is very simple!” exclaimed brother John Mark as he put oil on her and spoke the same words he had said in prayer on all the other patients.

At the end of the line, I noticed the family of the young girl still waiting. They requested for a private prayer session where he could say a longer prayer (perhaps what they considered a more serious prayer). But brother John Mark answered: “No, we have already prayed they just need to believe.” Well, the following Sunday we received news that the girl had been healed and was playing. Two years after the incidence she was still in good health.

When I think about this testimony I remember the words of brother Branham when he said he had seen prostitutes coming to the prayer line and instantly get healed and yet someone saintly would never get healed. Why is it so? because a believer may spoil themsleves into trying to work somerighteousness inorder to earn themselves healing, and an unbeliever on the other hand, may come merely believing in God’s grace!

Some Christians think healing comes by long prayers or fastings, and others think they have to live righteously inorder for healing to manifest. It is not so. Healing is only a  result of faith, not fasting or living rightously. Fasting is good. Living right should be the life of a believer, but never allow the Devil or your carnal mind to deceive you into thinking that you can buy healing from God by some works of righetousness, prayer or fasting. Here is what brother Branham said concerning this:

Healing is based upon faith, not upon how righteous you are, how good you are, how much you keep the commandments, or whatever it is. It’s based solemnly upon faith. ‘All things are possible to them that believe!‘ It’s not based upon how good you are. I’ve seen prostitutes come to the platform and be instantly healed and a sainted woman cross the platform and miss it. Sure, its based upon faith – ‘if thou canst believe’ – not upon righteousness. (Questions and Answers, August 23, 1964).

May the Lord bless and keep you.

Cancelled Funeral (Remembering Bro. John Mark Louse)

He was far away from his home, attending a convention where he was preaching the Word.

One day whilst waiting for another service he sat down resting on a sofa when someone  came, informing him that something bad had happened at his home but all was well. After speaking the person disappeared. “It was then I realised that the fellow was an angel” brother John Mark narrated.

It was when he returned home when Sister Louse, his wife, explained what happened. Their young daughter had died, and women had started crying over her passing. However, brother John Mark explained, Sister Louse is also a woman of faith and usually prays for people when I am not around. In faith she decided to remain alone in the room where the dead child lay and she prayed earnestly to God. The child came back to life and there was no funeral!

One day as we sat in the living room with my family and talking about prayer, brother John Mark said this important thing: “For me, its not everything that I have to pray and fast over; some things I just refuse and reject them. You can refuse the works of the Devil and  believe that no harm will come on you!

Brother John Mark often complaigned about how many Christians are defeated because of their lack of faith. During his visit we had arranged for him to pray for one sick lady. He prayed for her but nothing happened. Later on she asked to be prayed for again but angrily he answered “I already prayed but its now upto you to believe and receive what God has already given“.  It was after this incident that we sent brother John Mark to Zimbabwe. After about two or three weeks when he returned, he told me the dream he had over the lady before he had travelled to Zimbabwe. “In the dream I saw her looking very weak. She is very weak in faith!

I am working to get more details on names, dates, and places of these testimonies and so we may keep updating and revising the text as more details come through. I hope you find the testimonies refreshing and a blessing.

“If you don’t have a message get out of the pulpit!” (Remembering brother John Mark Louse)

From Zambia brother John Mark Louse travelled to Kenya. Brother Kimani Njogukim of Kenya shared the following testimony with me.

By brother Kimani Njogukim (Kenya)

Brother John Mark was a real man of faith who never guessed on his relationship with God. From visiting Zambia he came to Kenya. He told me about how one day he was invited to attend a convention in Kampala. A white brother from America was among the ministers. The American brother stood up to preach and said,  “I don’t have a message of my own, I am here to tell you what our prophet said.”  This statement irritated brother John Mark so much that he stood up and directly faced the American preacher telling him, “If you don’t have a message get out of the pulpit!” You can imagine the reactions of other ministers. 

There are many ministers who think they are humble when they say, “I have no message of my own but only what the prophet proclaimed”. Well, that is not humility but foolishness. Such preachers may have faith in the prophet, or even in the Lord Jesus but yet dont realise that they lack the most important thing – having the faith of the Lord Jesus! “I am crucified with Christ” Paul wrote, “nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Gal.2:20).

Remembering brother John Mark: A ‘faith-full’ life and the healing of my wife

Brother John Mark’s everyday lifestyle was characterised by faith. Faith was not a religious sentiment but his everyday reality. One day I took a long walk with him, going to trading places and moving around the various avenues of the place where I stay. On our way back, walking to home, we reached a point where two roads merged forming a “V” shape, and I jokingly asked brother John Mark: “If you were dropped here at night and you were all alone, show me if you can remember where our house is!” Surprisingly brother John Mark did not answer me jokingly. He said: “I can’t be lost. If that were to happen, the Lord will send me an angel to lead me to your house.”

During this time when brother John Mark visited us, my wife, Norah, was expecting Terry. It was a troublesome pregnancy. She was getting dehydrated as she always vomited about every hour or so. This problem went on into the third month of the pregnancy. Before brother John Mark came she had been admitted for medical attention. Her condition had worried and stressed me up.

One evening brother John Mark explained saying, Even if others would take such problems to be a normal pregnancy problem, you ought to have the faith to ask the Lord to take it away. He then testified to us of how his wife also use to vomit and would go in problems with earlier pregnancies but when he sought the Lord and prayed for her, it ceased. Brother John Mark then prayed for Sister Norah, asking the Lord to stop the vomiting problem. It was a simple prayer but a miracle happened. As he prayed, sister Norah felt a strange movement in her womb and she never vomited again from that moment!

Read the Call and Ministry of John Mark Louse here.

Jesus healed Toothache! (Remembering brother John Mark Louse)

When I invited brother John Mark Louse to Zambia, we arranged a series of meetings which involved travels to and from various places in the country. Each time he waited for other trips he lodged at my home. The total number of days he spent with my family was somewhere between four to five weeks.

The moments we spent with that humble apostle of faith will forever be remembered. Every evening my family would gather in the living room for some time of fellowship and testimonies before going to sleep. One day my wife was curious to know more about how the Lord Jesus looked when He first appeared to brother John Mark Louse (read the testimony on Prophetic Revelation website). Brother John Mark then narrated an incident when he had a terrible toothache.

One day the toothache so much troubled him that he could not rest or sleep from the pain. It was at night but he had to go out to look for medical help. If my memory serves me right, the clinic was either closed or they didnt find a dentist. After returning home, as he lay in bed, the Lord Jesus appeared on the side of the bed where he lay his head. The Lord touched him on the side of the cheek where the pain was. It was at that moment that the pain stopped, and he talked about how wonderful the touch the felt. “I didnt want the Lord to go. I wanted his hand to be on me forever!”

Brother John Mark later slept and upon waking up found himself alone. The Lord wasnt there but that was the end of the toothache. If I have the time, I hope in the next few days, to share other testimonies brother John Mark shared when he stayed with us at home.

In Christ, Andrew Phiri.

Read about the Call and Ministry of John Mark Louse here.

Garnishing Tombs

They mastered the words of Moses. They recited the Law and the Prophets. They dressed religiously and sat in prominent places of the synagogues. They were consulted on matters of doctrine. These were the Pharisees, Teachers of the Law, and Scribes. They fasted regularly and gave tithes of their increase. Surely, they were righteous but only that righteous!

The righteousness of the Pharisees and scribes only went as far as observing letters of Scripture and norms; they could not go beyond to recognise and partake of the fulfilment (spirit or life) of the Scripture! And, like the Lord Jesus Christ warned us, “except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Mat.5:20).

We should ask ourselves: Have we been able to perceive and partake of the fulfilment (or revelation) of Scripture in our day? See, God’s Word is like a seed; after being planted, there was time for the little shoot to sprout off the ground, and later the manifestation of the stem with its branches and leaves. Now, although the present look of the plant could be branches or leaves, those features were actually always there but could not be seen by the eye because they were hidden in the seed. Only when the seed was put in the right place (soil) and there were right conditions of air, light, and moisture, did growth begin, and features previously hidden from sight became revealed! Now, likewise, “The seed is the Word of God” (Luk.8:11) and we ought to be able to discern the present truth (manifestation) of its life in our day!

Through time the Seed of the Word has been ‘growing’ and those with eyes have been able to perceive and get established in its revelation, the “present truth” (1 Pet.1:12). On the other hand are people who only hold to the physical appearance of the seed, failing to reconcile the seemingly strange forms of the stem, branches, and leaves that proceeded from the seed! In looking at the seed (letters), they fail to see (reconcile its appearance with) the manifestation of its life (the stem, branches, and leaves)! Thus, “they seeing see not, and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand” (Mat.13:13). That is exactly what happened when one day the Lord rode into Jerusalem on a donkey.

A strange Prophecy

One day a Hebrew prophet, Zechariah, gave a very strange prophecy: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy king cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass” (Zec.9:9). How would a person coming with the “salvation” of Israel, a nation which had been subdued by mighty kingdoms, be lowly and riding on a donkey? At the time of the prophecy of Zechariah the nation was under that mighty empire of Medo-Persia. To think of Israel getting delivered by a lowly man riding on a donkey was unthinkable! Well, a year passed and the prophecy did not fulfil. Two years passed and nothing had happened. Fifty years, and then a hundred years, still nothing! The prophecy had been given at the time of the Persian Empire, but new empires had risen and fallen – Greece then Rome – and the prophecy had not yet fulfilled! It was at the time of that cruel Roman Empire, about 500 years since the prophecy had been given, that the prophecy got fulfilled, albeit in a way that people didn’t notice. Yes, God had not forgotten about the Salvation King and He had also not forgotten to prepare the donkey that was to carry the king. The seed of prophecy was only waiting for its right place, time, and conditions to manifest the life of the Word!

That Donkey!

It may have been just one of the animals the family owned in that small village near the Mount of Olives. It was a good and healthy donkey. That day it was tied. The owner may have tied it for what seemed to be the usual thing done to animals when we want to restrict their movements. However, unknown to the owner, it was now time for the five hundred year old prophecy to get fulfilled and that donkey had been prepared for the same purpose! No man had rode on it because it had been kept for a day and hour the Lord would use it to enter Jerusalem in fulfilling Zechariah 9:9 but Daniel 9:25.

Now, who knew anything important about that donkey? To begin with, it wasn’t a horse but a mere donkey! It wasn’t from a city but a village! It may have been angry for being tied, and hence not being able to explore life as it desired. But all that was for a purpose, for soon it would be loosed and experience an honour it had never had before – men and women lying clothes where it would tread for carrying the Lord! Oh, if a child of God can only know that present bondages or troubles are not unto destruction but for glory! Even when our loved one (a believer in the faith) has died, let’s not despair;  in Isaiah we read that, “The righteous perisheth, and no man layeth it to heart: and merciful men are taken away, none considering that the righteous is taken away from the evil to come. He shall enter into peace: they shall rest in their beds, each one walking in his uprightness” (Isa.57:1-2).

False Expectations

People waited for the Messiah with their own carnal expectations. When they read Daniel’s prophecies they expected a great person to arise and crush the mighty Roman Empire. They knew the written prophecies but did not have a heart and eyes to discern the ways of God. They had man-made religious systems from where teachers of the Law were orained. They thought the messiah would arise from their established systems. Could they not look back into history and see how Moses and other prophets were called?

At no time in history has God ever raised a prophet who conformed to established religious systems. Such systems are often filled with people who are too dead to recognise the living Word of God. When the Lord Jesus came, the religious leaders of the day rejected him by quoting past prophets. One day they rebuked a man who was testifying to them about a miracle, telling him: “Thou art his disciple; but we are Moses’ disciples” (Joh.9:28). But who was this Moses they claimed to believe? What did he experience in his ministry? What kind of people followed and believed in him? Was it people of the sort of Pharisees?

Revering Prophets of Old

The teachers of the Law revered Moses and recited his words. They rejected Jesus with Moses’ quotes! But if only they could look closer they would have realised that Jesus was the living manifestation of what Moses pointed to. And if they could look back they would have realised that the same spirit that rejected Moses was actually operating in them. In Numbers chapter 14 we read that “all the congregation lifted up their voice, and cried; and the people wept that night”. That was an entire congregation crying out. If truth is in numbers then surely these people were right! But what were the people crying about? Verse two and four continues: “And all the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron: and the whole congregation said unto them, Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt! or would God we had died in this wilderness!… And they said one to another, Let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt.” How would a people murmur against Moses, that great prophet? Well, a prophet may look great because he is no more and we can read him on pages of paper. It is important to know that whenever the Word manifests, it does so in simplicity. Is it not strange that when Joshua and Caleb saw the rebellion of the people and spoke out against their disobedience to God, the people threatened to stone them – “But all the congregation bade stone them with stones” (Num.14:10). Here we notice the people’s violence against faithful disciples of Moses, Joshua and Caleb! Surely, Joshua stood for what Moses truly believed. And so, if they could not accept Moses, they wouldn’t definitely accept Joshua! Isn’t that what has happened to today’s Joshuaic ministry – people have fought and rejected what it stands for because they actually reject what Moses’ ministry truly stood for! They can try to quote words of Branham but their actions are contrary to what he actually taught – Back to the Word!

That day when the Lord rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, Luke 19:37 records that “the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen. Saying, Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest.” The Spirit of God was working among these people, making them proclaim Jesus King and hence fulfil Zechariah 9:9. This was much to the annoyance of religious leaders who heard the praise as “noise” and not fulfilment of prophecy (v.39-40). These are the people who decorated and revered tombs of prophets of old but yet denied the Spirit that now worked in their present day!

As the Lord Jesus moved closer to Jerusalem and saw the city he wept: “he beheld the city, and wept over it, Saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes. For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation” (v.41-44).

How did the Jews become ignorant of the time of their visitation? Why did they spend time garnishing the tombs of old prophets but yet failing to recognise the present prophetic ministry? Simply because, although they had faith in the prophets, they did not have the faith of the prophets! By not having the faith of the prophets they were not truly children of the prophets but actually children of those that killed the prophets – “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous,And say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell? Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord. ” (Mat.23:29-39)

70 AD – Jerusalem Destroyed

In 70 AD the words of the Lord got fulfilled when Jerusalem, because of the rebellion of Jews against the Roman Empire, was surrounded by armies of Rome under Prince Titus. The city was razed to the ground and lay desolate, dispersing the Jews. However, after many years later on (about 300 years after the death and resurrection of Jesus) Rome embraced Christianity and erected a temple on the site of the tomb where the Lord was laid to rest before His resurrection. It’s a huge and beautiful structure that attracts tourists from all over the world. It is called the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

Do the people who garnish this structure, to maintain it for the many tourists who visit it, have the faith of Jesus Christ? Are the many people who visit it truly disciples of Christ? Will the world, which so much cherishes the tomb of Christ, recognise the sign of the Messiah sent to this generation? Did people have eyes to recognise the Star-Messenger who was sent to the Laodicean Church Age, the forerunner of the Second Coming of Christ? Did they hear and understand his Message?

Download PDF copy of this Message: Garnishing Tombs

Beware of Backsliding

Each revival in history ends up with three kinds of people: (1) truly converted believers who persist on, (2) the backslidden – those who after a while lose their first zeal and remain cold and formal, and (3) those who reject (or betray) the Truth they had first believed.

The most dangerous situation of these three is the backslidden condition. The backslider treads on middle ground. He is neither hot nor cold. He or she partly identifies with things of God and also things of the world. The backslider wants to serve both God and Mammon! But, like the Lord Jesus said, “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Mat.6:24). So, the backslider’s heart actually leans towards evil but only wants to use God for safety or a public appearance.

A backslider prays together with believers. He also raises his voice in prayer and in singing praises but his mind is actually on business. His mind is on watching soccer. His mind asks, What time will the church service end? His mind is comforted by the presence of backsliders in church so that he is able to say, “it’s a problem other believers also face.” See, like the Scripture says, “the backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways” (Pro.14:14). Dearly beloved, the hour is late and we ought to be wise, “understanding what the will of the Lord is” (Eph.5:17).

Now, to those who think they are the strong and not the backsliders, take heed for Satan also seeks after you – “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor.10:12). Indeed, there are many believers who think they are still standing when they actually fell from the first love and zeal they had.  Like the Spirit admonished the church at Ephesus, these words apply to many believers: “Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent” (Rev.2:4-5).

But, how shall one know that they are in danger of backsliding? How shall one know that they have already fallen from the First Love? Well, the condition of a backslidden believer develops gradually.

Symptoms of Backsliding

We can guard against the condition of backsliding when we know the symptoms:

Loss of the “Joy of the Lord”

Believers have joy in their heart that comes from being in prayer and fellowship. They look forward to another prayer meeting, another Bible Study, another time to meet and encourage one another with a person of like-faith. When a believer is in prayer, there is this joy in their heart that gives them strength (Neh.8:10). However, when one backslides they lose that Joy, and with the loss of the Joy, one has no strength to resist evil. It is for this reason that David when repenting of his sin cried saying, “Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit” (Psa.51:12). Oh, how we need that Joy to keep us going in this troubled world

Comfort in the Congregation of the Dead

When a person backslides, fellowship with spiritual people is replaced with company with carnal people. The person is continuously found with people who have no revelation of Truth; His new friends are people who see nothing wrong with listening to worldly music, with taking a beer, with chilling out at a party, and all such vanities of the world. In his or her early days of hanging out with such people, the ‘believer’ tries to hide his true beliefs for fear of looking odd. But with time he slowly blends in and begins to do things that were once nowhere close to his lifestyle. That’s the way of a backslider, he finds himself in the congregation of the dead because he himself has died spiritually! Like the Scripture admonished, “The man that wandereth out of the way of understanding shall remain in the congregation of the dead” (Pro.21:16).

Indifferent attitude towards spiritual things

A backslidden person is not committed towards spiritual activities. When there is a prayer and fasting programme, he or she is never bothered to attend. The backslider is always busy with a certain appointment, event, business, or work. A backslider is ‘another face’ in church – he or she is not a pillar that can be relied on. Backsliders don’t share burdens of the church or the ministry. They are simply not involved in visiting that brother or sister who was announced to be sick at home or admitted at a hospital. In their mind, that ‘work’ is for certain committed people in church. A backslider is not bothered by the Scripture which says, “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ” (Gal.6:2).

No longer bothered by doing things scripturally right

A true believer is like the virtuous woman of Proverbs 31:27 who “looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.” It is important here to note that a church environment can influence people to backslide. A true church should look carefully into the ways of her household – are things done scripturally correct? Are people dressing modestly, in a manner that is pleasing to God? Is there casualness towards worldly behaviour? Is there alertness to remove any leaven that is found among believers? (1 Cor.5:6-7). Just like a church can become indifferent towards sinfulness, a backslidden believer gradually gets unbothered by habits which he or she once resented. The backslider is no longer much bothered by what the Scripture says on certain of his conducts or behaviour.

It is my prayer that you walk faithfully before the Lord.  “Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man” (Luk.21:36).

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The Tenth Persecution, 303 AD

Diocletian was born in 240 BC and grew up during the Third Century Crisis, a period when the Roman empire was very unstable and on the verge of collapse because of power struggles and ineffective rulers. Young Diocletian joined the military and rose through the top ranks.

Rise of Diocletian

It was around 282 BC when a division of Roman soldiers (i.e. a legion)  had proclaimed their commander, Carus, as the new emperor. Emperor Carus liked Diocletian and elevated him to the highest ranks.

Emperor Carus only ruled for about a year and (like was explained earlier) was killed by a lightening. His sons  – Numerian and Carinus – succeeded him. They only ruled for a very short period of time. Numerian died of an illness (most likely a result of being poisoned). Carinus was in conflict with Diocletian. A battle between Carinus and Diocletian ensued. Carinus was unpopular and most of his men defected to Diocletian’s side. Carinus got killed by his own soldiers and the armies of both the western and eastern empire rallied behind Diocletian and proclaimed him emperor.

Emperor Diocletian became determined to completely put to an end the instability that characterized the empire. There were two main challenges for Diocletian to overcome: the internal struggles for power in the empire, and the horde of barbarian tribes (especially from the eastern side of the empire) which kept attempting to attack and destroy Rome. Diocletian was set to protect the empire from collapsing through various reforms.

Diocletian established himself as a powerful dictator who could never be challenged. He de-politicized the army and ensured total allegiance to his authority.

Noticing that the empire faced immense danger of Persian invasions on its eastern borders, he realized that the empire was too vast to be governed from one central point, Rome.  In 285 AD he divided the empire into two halves – the western half to be ruled by a lesser emperor (addressed by the title Caesar) and himself (a senior emperor addressed by the title Augustus[1]) to rule over the eastern half of the empire. With these developments, Rome ceased to be the capital of the empire;  the Western Empire was ruled from Milan ( a city in northern Italy), and the Eastern Empire from Nicomedia (now Izmir in Turkey)

In 293 AD another change was made: each half of the empire would have both an Augustus and a Caesar so that the whole empire now had four rulers. This system became known as the Tetrarchy (i.e. “government by four people”). During the Tetrarchy, Emperor Diocletian was Augustus of the eastern half of the empire and watched over Thrace, Asia, and Egypt. Galerius as Ceaser under Diocletian watched over Illyria, the Danubian provinces, and Achaea. Emperor Maximian was Augustus of the western empire and watched over Italy, Sicily, and Africa. Constantius was Ceaser serving under Maximian and ruled over Gaul, Spain, and Britain.

The tetrarchy was an effective system of administration which made the presence of imperial authority felt throughout the empire.

Now, Diocletian is much known for two things – first, the great organization (administration) he established in the empire and second, the terrible, worst, and last persecution he caused upon Christians.

Beginning of Christian Persecution

Sometime in the year 299 AD there was an  important ceremony of sacrifices in Antioch which was officiated by emperors. Performing the ritual were  haruspices. Haruspices were diviners in the religion of Rome and used to read entrails of sacrificed animals in order to predict the future. At the special event of 299 AD they failed to read the omen of the entrails and accused the Christians to be causers of the failure. The emperors ordered people to offer sacrifices to purify the place. The order was extended to all men serving in the army; everyone was required to offer a sacrifice or he would be dismissed.

Such orders to offer sacrifices always put Christians in trouble. Christians soldiers would refuse to sacrifice, get accused of disobedience, and were killed. This time Emperor Diocletian decided to recall every Christian from serving in the army. However, Caesar Galerius was bent on influencing Diocletian to further exterminate Christians. Diocletian was at first reluctant to enforce such an extreme response to Christian’s exclusive lifestyles, but he later turned into an ugly monster that devised every possible tool and way to inflict pain on Christians.

After returning from Antioch, Diocletian was angry with Deacon Romanus, a  Christian leader who had been vocal against pagan sacrifices. He ordered that his tongue be pulled from his mouth. John Foxe tells the details of the torture of this saint: “he was scourged, put to the rack, his body torn with hooks, his flesh cut with knives, his face scarified, his teeth beaten from their sockets, and his hair plucked up by the roots. Soon after he was ordered to be strangled, November 17, A.D. 303.

On 24th February, 303 AD Diocletian issued The Edict Against the Christians which ordered the destruction of Scriptures and worship places of Christians, and further prohibited them from meeting for prayers.

A few days after the edict had been issued there was an inferno which gutted a portion of the imperial palace. Galerius blamed it on Christians. Even after an investigation into the matter did not find the causers of the fire, Christians had to bear the consequences: A Christian by the name Peter Cubicularius was stripped of his clothes and scourged. Salt and vinegar were poured into his wounds. After this excruciating experience he was slowly boiled over an open flame.  A terrible persecution thereafter ensued in which “no distinction was made of age or sex” writes John Foxe. “the name of Christian was so obnoxious to the pagans that all indiscriminately fell sacrifices to their opinions. Many houses were set on fire, and whole Christian families perished in the flames; and others had stones fastened about their necks, and being tied together were driven into the sea. The persecution became general in all the Roman provinces, but more particularly in the east; and as it lasted ten years, it is impossible to ascertain the numbers martyred, or to enumerate the various modes of martyrdom.

Cause of the Diocletian Persecution?

As to why the Diocletian Persecution occurred, Jean Cousin in Encyclopaedia Britannica wrote:

The reasons for this persecution are uncertain, but various explanations have been advanced: the possible influence of Galerius, a fanatic follower of the traditional Roman religion; the desire to restore complete unity, without tolerance of a foreign cult that was seen as separatist and of individuals who were forming a kind of state within the state; the influence of anti-Christian philosophers such as Porphyry and governors such as Hierocles on the scholarly class and on the imperial court; the fear of an alienation of rebellious armies from emperor worship; or perhaps the disturbances provoked by the Christians themselves, who were agitated by doctrinal controversies. At any rate, some or all of these factors led Diocletian to publish the four edicts of 303–304, promising all the while that he would not spill blood. His vow went unheeded, however, and the persecutions spread through the empire with an extreme violence that did not succeed in annihilating Christianity but caused the faith of the martyrs to blaze forth instead (Cousin, 2017).

But our Lord had clearly foretold saying, “Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me” (Joh.15:20-21). And as history has repeatedly shown, no amount of suppression or persecution can break the spirit of a people who believe. The flames of fire, or cruelty of a sword, can never vanquish the faith of a soul that is sincerely devoted to a cause. Amidst all the trials and cruelty the Christians suffered, God had not abandoned them. Satan, the master of political systems of this world, sought to destroy the saints but faith in God’s Word and the joy of the Lord gave them strength to press on. Prophecies, like the ones which came through the aging and last surviving apostle of Jesus, John, were a source of encouragement: “Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life”(Rev.2:10).

Indeed, when historians are listing failures of Diocletian, one thing that cannot go unmentioned is that despite his campaign against the Christians having been the largest and bloodiest, it not only failed to eliminate Christianity but was shortly followed by its increased popularity, and only about a decade later became the state religion of the empire. It was such a sharp and unpredictable swing in history.

[1] The first emperor of Rome was Augustus. After his death his name became the official title of emperors.