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Back On The Chain Gang
while back, I saw another one of those uncomfortable film sequences where we see the stereotypical two escaped convicts, chained together, sloshing through a hot, Southern swamp. This is a classic image, as the black and white stripes on their now filthy (and wet) prison uniforms cling to the con’s sweaty bodies, while they frantically wade through gator infested waters with a coterie of cops and hound dogs in hot pursuit.
In what has also become a movie cliché, one of the convicts is out of shape, and unable to keep up. In this commonplace storyline, the weak willed convict tires quickly, and wants to surrender. Because of the hardships of freedom, even the prison looks good to him, and he resists continuing the escape. The other escapee desperately wants freedom, but the almost-corpse he is chained to continues to sap his drive and energy.
The weaker undisciplined prisoner will ultimately be bitten by a viper and die, or he’ll break a leg or some other requisite limb, and become so incapacitated that his counterpart is severely hampered — even as he seeks to drag his usually unconscious, and heavy counterpart, to freedom.
All of this imagery reminds me of the New Testament concept of how a person who has been born again in Jesus Christ becomes a new man who is free from sin. Unfortunately, as we all know, our old nature, that carnal body of sin, is frequently handcuffed to our new man, so we continue to drag him along with us on the heavenly road to glory.
In such a setting, the corrupt warden and his compromised guards, represent the Devil as he seeks to return us to our former role as a slave to sin. Indeed, the Old Testament Scriptures actually utilized this very model in forecasting at least a part of the role of the Saviour who was to come. Seven centuries before Jesus was born as a human being, through Isaiah the prophet, God the Father addressed Jesus, and promised He would release us from bondage:
“I the Lord have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles; To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house.” — Isaiah 42:6, 7
Building Bricks For Pharaoh
Although Christians routinely connect the Passover-Exodus account prophetically to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the emphasis is usually placed on the pattern of being under the blood when the destroyer passes over. The reader will remember Moses instructed the Israelites to daub the blood of a sacrificial lamb in 3 parts (representing the trinity) on the lintel, and side doorposts of their houses. So too John the Baptist identifies Jesus in the role of the ultimate sacrifice when he declares
“Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” — John 1:29
It is self evident the sacrifice, and the escape from the prison of “Egypt” occurs during a tribulational cycle in which the powers of evil are struck down, even as the righteous are preserved in the midst of the turmoil. Of course, a focus on the blood sacrifice is crucial to understanding a price had to be paid for our iniquities. However, we tend to forget the Israelites were basicalprisoners, mired in the bondage of Pharaoh’s ungodly building programs.
As Moses became the vessel of God who brought the captives out of Egypt, we see another parallel to the pair of escapees from the chain gang. It seems that even after witnessing the magnificent power of God, and being delivered from the grinding burden of slavery, certain of the Israelites continued to look back fondly to the days of their subservience to the Antichrist figure of their Pharaonic warden:
“And the mixed multitude that was among them fell a lusting: and the children of Israel also wept again, and said, Who shall give us flesh to eat? We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlick….” — Numbers 11:4, 5
In other words, they continued to drag along their appetites for the more pleasant physical aspects of their degrading existence in Egypt — the oppressive nation functioning as a clear metaphor of the bondage of sin. How ironic that many Christians still look back to the pleasures enjoyed by our pre-Christian selves when we were led about by our desire for iniquitous things!
Break The Chains That Bind
In this regard, we might make the analogy that Christ has indeed opened the prison doors, but we frequently choose to walk right back in to our former cell by choice. The Apostle Peter addressed this strange course change when he wrote
“…if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning.” — II Peter 2:20
In the parable of the two prisoners seeking to escape the clutches of their former taskmaster and his Luciferian celestial penitentiary, an element is missing from the real life parallel of a Born Again Believer who is chained to the old man of his wicked former nature. Even as the good continues to drag the bad along the escape route that is the narrow way, the missing component, the one that will release the Born Again Spirit man from the bondage of his carnal man, is found in the book of Revelation:
“These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth....” — Revelation 3:7
If I may mix metaphors for just a moment, this tells us that Jesus has the key to unlock the shackles, so the Spiritual man can become completely free of his sinful double — the one who keeps wistfully looking back at Egypt, instead of rejoicing in his present freedom.
This New Covenant truth repeatedly tells us that Jesus Christ Himself is the key that opens the doors of our captivity, and He has not only delivered us from the dungeon of our devilish desires, He has conquered Hell and Death on our behalf.
The Bondage Of The Law
The Apostle Paul saw this great escape only too well when he encountered those who desired to return the believers to a reliance upon the lifeless legalism of the Old Covenant. After escaping the ungodly laws of Pharaoh, God initiated righteous laws of His own to govern the unruly Israelites. In Old Testament times, strict compliance to the rigid laws of God had became so burdensome that Israel forgot these laws were designed by God to keep them from destroying themselves. Paul likened the law to rules that are needed for children, but since we’re no longer children, he further stated that
“…when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” — Galatians 4:4
Because the Kingdom of God is in the realm of the Spirit, and God is a Spirit, we have become a form of the temple in heaven that He inhabits. He has received us into His heavenly kingdom through Christ by faith in Him. However, many insist that we must now re-integrate the physical, rigid Old Covenant laws of Israel into Christ’s New Covenant Spiritual kingdom. Under the guise of getting back to our “Hebrew roots,” many “believers” seek to convince us we must place ourselves back under the bondage of the Old Covenant. When these “Messianic Jews” put forth this fraud in his day, Paul likened their legalism to the physical temple in Jerusalem:
“For it is written, that Abraham had two sons [picture the two prisoners], the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman [Ishmael] was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman [Isaac] was by promise.
“Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from mount Sinai [where the law of Moses was given], which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar [Hagar]. For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.” — Galatians 4:22-26
Paul is saying that since we have been Born Again to become the Spiritual temple of God, we now inhabit that New Jerusalem which is in heaven, so we should not desire to rebuild the old corrupt temple in physical Jerusalem — which will bring us back into the bondage of ritual and legalism. Furthermore, those who try to convince us to go back to observing the law are exactly analogous to the prisoner who wants his chain gang partner to surrender, and go back to prison!
Worse yet, many have become convinced that returning to the prison house is the only Godly course of action, and they surrender — in spite of the fact that they’ve had the “key of David” — Jesus Christ — available to free them all along!
The Prince Who Set Not The Captives Free
Following this same line of thought, the Scriptures tell us this will be one of the primary characteristics of Antichrist — a return to reliance upon the elements of rigidity found in religion. In Isaiah, we see a portrait of the infernal abode of the bottomless pit when Satan is scheduled to arrive, and it is most illustrative:
“Hell from beneath is moved for thee to meet thee at thy coming: They that see thee shall narrowly look upon thee, and consider thee, saying, Is this the man that made the earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms; That made the world as a wilderness, and destroyed the cities thereof; that opened not the house of his prisoners?” — Isaiah 14:9, 16, 17
We note the sharp distinction between the Devil and Jesus — the former, like his emissaries Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar, Caesar, et al who refuse to open the house of their prisoners — even as Jesus Christ is the only one who holds the key of David that unlocks the prison doors to set any and all the captives free.
Open the lock of your heart and let JESUS liberate your soul, for “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:36).
-- James Lloyd
Multitudes In The Valley Of Decision
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