There will always be those who doubt the Word of God and seek to take away the authority and power given to believers. In Acts 4:1-3, The Sadducees, who did not believe in the resurrection from the dead, took Peter and John and put them in jail for preaching the gospel of Jesus at the temple. The Sadducees were backed by the priests and the captain of the temple, which were those who thought they possessed the power.
Acts 4:3-1, Now as they spoke to the people, the priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees came upon them, being greatly disturbed that they taught the people and preached in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they laid hands on them, and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. (NKJV)
Even though Peter and John were thrown in jail, they had already preached to a great multitude and 5000 people were saved. Acts 4:4, However, many of those who heard the word believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand. (NKJV)
How did these 5000 people become saved? First, they witnessed a miracle and then they heard the gospel of Jesus. In Acts 3, Peter and John went to the temple to pray. There was a man there who was crippled since birth and could not walk. Every day the man was carried to the gate of the temple where he would beg. In Greek, he would literally ask for alms, which is mercy or pity; charity. This man, who could perish without the help of God‘s people, was at the gate of the temple every day, hoping for God’s people to help him. A faithful servant of God should feel a desire to help those in need of charity. A comparable word to the hope of this crippled person is found in Isaiah 38:18,
For Sheol cannot thank You,
Death cannot praise You;
Those who go down to the pit cannot hope for Your truth. (NKJV)
Sheol is the underworld, hell, where once a person descends to hell after death, the person is there, tortured until the time of the great white throne judgment where the person will face God and will be told every reason why the person ended up in hell, finally being cast into the lake of fire for eternity (Revelation 20:11-15).
There is only One Person whose soul and spirit went to hell for an extended period of time and whose soul and spirit entered His body again after three days, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, whom God raised from the dead after three days into Jesus‘ new glorified body, the same type of body an overcomer will receive at our rapture or our resurrection (Matthew 28).
In hell, a person cannot worship God, or thank Him. Before Jesus descended into Sheol, everyone who died went there, either on the side that was peaceful or on the side that is torturous (Luke 17:19-30). Jesus brought those persons out of Sheol who did not belong there so they could be with Him in heaven. We will not be in heaven for eternity, as many think, overcomers will be on earth for 1000 years reigning with Christ (Revelation 20:16). Following the 1000 years and the war of Gog and Magog, is the great white throne judgment, then, while that is happening in heaven, God forges a new earth with fire and the New Jerusalem descends to earth from heaven (Revelation 21:1-2). This is where overcomers will live for eternity with God, on earth in the Holy City, but the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars will be in the lake of fire, the second death (Revelation 21:7-8). The New Jerusalem is what Jesus has been preparing for overcomers (John 14:3).
Death cannot praise God. The Hebrew word is halal (Strong’s Hebrew 1984), but only occurs one time in the Bible in this variation, in Isaiah 38:18, and actually means TO SHINE. Jesus said the phrase OUTER DARKNESS three times and it is the only three times it is mentioned in the Bible. Twice Jesus said the phrase in a parable (Matthew 22:13 and Matthew 25:30), and one time Jesus said the phrase in a conversation.
In Matthew 8, Jesus had just come down from giving the sermon on the mount. People were astonished at His teaching because He taught as one with authority, and not as the scribes (Matthew 7:28-29). A leper came and worshipped Jesus saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” Here, the Greek word for worship only occurs four times in this form (Matthew 8:2, 9:18, 15:25, 18:26), and can mean to bow down before, kneel down in front of or even lay on the ground prostrated before Jesus. Jesus heals the leper and later a centurion asked Jesus to heal a servant of his. This Roman centurion had 100 men under his authority and understood the authority of Jesus.
Jesus said He would go and heal the centurion’s servant, but the centurion said he was not worthy for Jesus to be under his roof and said he knew Jesus could heal his servant just by speaking the word. This amount of faith amazed Jesus. The servant was miles away from where Jesus and the centurion were talking. Interesting that we can actually amaze Jesus with our faith. Jesus replied by saying, “Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, even in Israel!” (Matthew 8:10)
Jesus goes on to say, “And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 8:11) The Greek word for sit down (Strong’s Greek 347), in this form, only occurs twice, both times it is used by Jesus in conversation and it literally means to share the banquet. What banquet is Jesus talking about?
In Matthew 22:2-3, Jesus says, “The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son, and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding, and they were not willing to come.” (NKJV) Here, Jesus is referring to His own people, the Jews, who had many prophets over a long period of time, give prophecies that there would be a Messiah. The certain king is God and his son is Jesus, the Messiah. His servants are the Old Testament prophets. God always gives each person a choice, first a choice to believe and second a choice to obey and do the will of God. This banquet is the marriage supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:7-10).
The other time Jesus said the phrase SIT DOWN is Luke 13:29-30, “They will come from the east and the west, from the north and the south, and sit down [to share the banquet] in the kingdom of God. And indeed there are last who will be first and there are first will be last.” (NKJV) This could be referring to life during the millennial reign. There will be overcomers in glorified bodies. There will also be normal humans repopulating the earth, humans who need to eat. Ezekiel had a vision of the temple in the millennium, where there were animal sacrifices (Ezekiel 40:39-41) and grain offerings (Ezekiel 45:13-14). Could these sacrifices and offerings be for banquets? Jesus will be King during His 1000 year reign, but God does not come down to dwell with people until after the great white throne judgement.
The last is referring to Christians and Messianic Jews who came to know God through Jesus after Jesus‘ resurrection and during the Church Age, which we are now in, otherwise known as the Last Days. The first is referring to Jews during the Church Age who do not believe Jesus is the Messiah, those still living under the first part of the Covenant with Abraham who are waiting on the Messiah to appear. Here, the first is specifically referring to the 144,000 Messianic Jews who will be raptured halfway through tribulation after hearing the gospel of Yeshua from the two witnesses and it can also be referring to the Jewish remnant who will flee to Petra when the antichrist takes over Jerusalem and the abomination of desolation is seen during the Great Tribulation, when the Jewish remnant remembers the words of Jesus in Matthew 24:15-21,
“Therefore when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place” (whoever reads, let him understand), “then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house. And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes. But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath. For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be.” (NKJV)
Matthew 24:14 is the end of the Church Age, the Last Days we are now living in before the rapture of Jesus’ Church, both the first and the last will be at the marriage supper of the Lamb and will be among those reigning with Jesus for 1000 years. Jesus said in Matthew 24:14, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.” (NKJV)
Jesus also talked about the first and the last in Matthew 19:27-30, Then Peter answered and said to Him, “See, we have left all and followed You. Therefore what shall we have?” So Jesus said to them, “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” (NKJV)
Earlier, in Matthew 19, a young man approached Jesus with a question. Matthew 19:16-17, Now behold, one came and said to Him, “Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” So He said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.” (NKJV)
Good teacher, from Matthew 19:16, is a variation from the traditional text and most translations leave out the word Good, but it is found in most translations in Mark’s account in Mark 10:17, where the young man knelt before Jesus, a variation of worship. The young man using the word Good and kneeling before Jesus seems to indicate the young man recognized Jesus as God and may have believed Jesus to be God, but the young man could not do the will of God.
The young man asked Jesus what good thing shall he do that he may have eternal life. Jesus responded with a question, asking the young man, “Why do you call Me good?” Literally translated it means, “Why do you ask Me about what is good?” Jesus then says, “No one is good but One, that is, God,” which can also be translated as “There is One who is good.” Jesus continued by telling the young man if he wants to enter eternal life, he must keep the commandments. The man asked Jesus which ones and Jesus begins telling him which commandments to keep, but Jesus leaves out the first four Commandments from Exodus 20, “You shall have no other gods before me (Exodus 20:3). “You shall not make for yourself a carved image” (Exodus 20:4). “You should not take the name of the Lord your God in vain” (Exodus 20:7). “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8).
The young man replied that he has kept all the commandments from the time he was a child, and he could not understand what he was still missing. Jesus knew the young man was very wealthy and had broken and would continue to break the first two commandments by having money as a god before God and also having money as a carved image. The third commandment, “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain,” (Exodus 20:7) the word phrase IN VAIN (Strong’s Hebrew 7723) is a noun, and literally means
“You shall not take God’s name in evil.”
“You shall not take God’s name in idolatry.”
“You shall not take God’s name in uselessness.”
The word take (Strong’s Hebrew 5375) is a verb and can mean to lift, to carry, to take.
“You shall not lift up God’s name in idolatry.”
“You shall not lift up God’s name in uselessness.”
“You shall not lift up God’s name in evil.”
“You shall not carry God’s name in idolatry.”
“You shall not carry God’s name in uselessness.”
“You shall not carry God’s name in evil.”
The young man knelt before Jesus, a form of worship, and obeyed some of the Commandments, but the man did not know God well enough to even realize what he was missing, which were all the Commandments about God!
Jesus then replied to the young man when he asked Jesus what he still lacked. Matthew 19:21, Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” (NKJV)
Here, the young man was given the choice to obey and do the will of God. It is obvious he already chose to believe in God, but just believing in God is not enough. A person has to give up their worldly chains and submit to God‘s will to truly be free. The word perfect in this variation only appears three times and it actually means complete (Strong’s Greek 5046). The first time it appears is in Matthew 5:48, during the sermon on the mount, where Jesus teaches us to love our enemies.
Jesus says, in Matthew 5:44-47, “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so?” (NKJV)
Jesus said by us doing this we will be complete, just as our Father in heaven is complete. The last time this word appears is James 3:1-2, My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment. For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body. (NKJV) Here, perfect means mature in a complete way.
Given the choice between following God‘s will or doing his own will, the young man made a decision. Matthew 19:22-26, But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” When His disciples heard it, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (NKJV)
The only time Jesus said the phrase OUTER DARKNESS in a conversation is Matthew 8:12, Jesus having just talked about the marriage supper of the Lamb in Matthew 8:11. Jesus said, “But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (NKJV) Jesus was saying that many Gentiles will come to believe in Him and will become overcomers and will be dining at the marriage supper of the Lamb, while many of his own people, the Jews, will not be at the marriage supper of the Lamb because Jesus said, in John 14:6-7, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him.” (NKJV)
Jesus healed the Roman centurion’s servant in Matthew 8:13, Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go your way; and as you have believed, so let it be done for you.” And his servant was healed that same hour. (NKJV)
We are called to life, not death, but it has to be a choice we make. By not choosing life, a person is choosing death, and death cannot praise God (Isaiah 38:18). To praise God here means to shine, so, since death cannot shine for God, death is apart from God in the outer darkness, while life can praise God and is with God in the light. Jesus said, while speaking to the Pharisees, in John 8:12, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” (NKJV)
While Jesus was teaching in the temple, He said, in John 8:23-24, “You are from beneath; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.” (NKJV)
During the sermon on the mount, Jesus said, in Matthew 5:14-18, “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot [smallest Hebrew letter] or one tittle [ smallest Hebrew stroke] will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.” (NKJV)
Those who go down to the pit cannot hope for Your truth (Isaiah 38:18), which means they cannot ask for mercy, pity or charity. Once a person is in hell, the person’s soul and spirit are tortured in pain and misery, with no hope of escape, while eternally separated from God in the outer darkness. Here, truth means faithfulness (Strong’s Hebrew 571). As long as a person is still alive on earth, Jesus is faithful to show mercy, pity and charity to anyone who calls on His name. The exact same word for truth, meaning faithfulness, is found in the next verse Isaiah 38:19, The living, the living man, he shall praise You, As I do this day; The father shall make known Your truth to the children. (NKJV)
The lifelong crippled man begging in Acts 3, saw Peter and John about to go into the temple and he asked him for alms, so Peter said, “Look at us,” and the man gave them his attention, expecting money. Peter told the man they had no money but he did have something to give him. Peter said, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk,” and Peter took the man by the hand and lifted him up and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. So the man leaped up, stood and walked into the temple with them, leaping and praising God.
All the people knew who this man was and they knew he could not walk before, everyone seen him laying at the temple gate, begging every day. The people marveled in amazement at his healing, staring at Peter and John like they had superpowers. Peter noticed everyone was looking at him and John and Peter knew the people thought he and John had some kind of superpowers.
So when Peter saw it, he responded to the people: “Men of Israel, why do you marvel at this? Or why look so intently at us, as though by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified His Servant Jesus, whom you delivered up and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let Him go. But you denied the Holy One and the Just, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and killed the Prince of life, whom God raised from the dead, of which we are witnesses. And His name, through faith in His name, has made this man strong, whom you see and know. Yes, the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all.
“Yet now, brethren, I know that you did it in ignorance, as did also your rulers. But those things which God foretold by the mouth of all His prophets, that the Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began. For Moses truly said to the fathers, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren. Him you shall hear in all things, whatever He says to you.
And it shall be that every soul who will not hear that Prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.’ Yes, and all the prophets, from Samuel and those who follow, as many as have spoken, have also foretold these days. You are sons of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’ To you first, God, having raised up His Servant Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from your iniquities.”
Acts 3:12-26 (NKJV)