I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! ... Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division!From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided: father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother... (Luke 12:49-53)
Every year at Christmas time more than two billion people celebrate the coming of this mysterious man called Jesus, but hardly anyone has a clue about why he came. Christmas carols play in the marketplaces, "Peace on Earth, good will toward men," the merchants get richer, families and friends exchange gifts, polite parties pass the time, and life goes on as usual. Where's the fire?
He came to kindle a fire that would light up this dark world with a demonstration of the life of God in a people who are completely at peace with one another while the world around them is in utter turmoil. It would be an electrifying, stimulating, shocking phenomenon that would cause division and controversy in every place where it spread. It would be like the fire that consumed Elijah's sacrifice on Mount Carmel, making a clear distinction between those who serve God and those who don't. Ultimately, it would bring about the end of the age.
Well, there was such a fire once, a long, long time ago. The Bible records that the first followers of this man, whom they called,1 "turned the world upside down."2 He kindled a fire of love in them that caused all sorts of people from different classes and cultures to live together, sharing all their possessions in common3 and forming one brand new culture.4 It was said of them that there were no poor among them -- they loved one another to the extent that the rich gave up their riches to provide for their poor brothers. It was said of them that they had one heart and soul.
The fire started in Jerusalem, and at first onlookers were amazed at the wonderful things that were happening -- the obvious love and care the disciples had for one another, and the zeal with which they spoke about their Master Yahshua. But soon the tide of public opinion turned as the ranks of this new social order increased and its emerging culture stood in sharp contrast to the status quo. Sometimes their message tore families apart when only one or two members of a family responded, being cut to the heart by what they heard, and receiving the faith to walk away from their old life. Their obedience to the Master's command to give up all their possessions5 scandalized their friends and relatives, and the religious leaders. The Master had said it would be this way.6 He had also said the watching world would hate His followers just as it had hated Him.7
Soon the fire spread beyond Jerusalem to other Mediterranean cities like Thessalonica, forming more communities just like the first,8 and with the same result -- persecution. Their simple and sincere life of faith was a threat to the established religious leaders, who exclaimed, "These men who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here..."9 The apostle Paul was even chased from city to city as men tried to prevent others from hearing and believing his message. They were afraid for men to be free and gnashed their teeth at Messiah's claim that they were the ones in bondage. The controversy surrounding these communities spread as far as Rome, where the apostle Paul encountered Jews primed and ready to hear his radical message: "We want to hear what your views are, for we know that people everywhere are talking against this sect."10
Sadly though, that fire went out. They lost their first love.11 Compromise crept in and they stopped living the way they did at first.12 Somehow they lost sight of the vision they began with, of bringing the kingdom of God to earth, and began setting their minds on earthly things, indulging their appetites.13 Eventually the faithful ones died out and all that remained was a form of godliness without the original fire of self-sacrificing love.14 The firstborn church15 became like Esau of old, who forsook his birthright to satisfy his appetite.16 He, and they, could not regain what they lost, no matter how hard they tried.17 Countless attempts at renewal, revival, and reformation over the centuries have utterly failed to reproduce the life of love and unity that they had in the beginning. The Christian churches of today bear absolutely no resemblance to the first communities.
What then? Did the Son of God come in vain? Everyone remembers that he prayed, "Father, Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven."18 How will that prayer be fulfilled, and how will that kingdom be established on earth, since the ashes of that initial fire have long ago grown cold? Can that fire be rekindled?
Just as there was a second physical son, Jacob, who longed for the birthright that meant so little to Esau, so there must be a spiritual Jacob to obtain the inheritance that Christianity, the spiritual Esau, forsook long ago. It is amazing to see that the holy prophets of old spoke of these things:
It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth. (Isaiah 49:6)
There is a secret hidden in these and other prophecies concerning the days we are living in, and the years that lie ahead.
Why do you suppose that Yahshua chose twelve men as his closest disciples? The Bible records that he spent the whole night in prayer before choosing these apostles,19 so clearly it was a carefully considered plan and not an arbitrary whim. He knew that the prophecy in Isaiah 49:6 was for him to fulfill -- the restoration of the twelve tribes of Jacob. They would not necessarily be the physical descendents of the original twelve sons of Jacob, but they would be twelve spiritual tribes, people united by a spiritual bond of love in order to fulfill the purpose that the physical twelve tribes failed to fulfill. They were to be a living demonstration of what the God of Israel is like, spanning several generations. That life would be a light to the nations so that His salvation could reach the ends of the earth, as Isaiah prophesied.20
The apostles in the first century also understood this as their commission, and their fire burned long enough to establish twelve tribes, according to the testimony of the apostle Paul before King Agrippa, "This is the promise our twelve tribes are hoping to see fulfilled as they earnestly serve God day and night. O king, it is because of this hope that the Jews are accusing me."21 But as mentioned before, the fire of that vibrant tribal life was extinguished, one community at a time.22 What should have grown to full stature23 as the spiritual house of Jacob became instead the spiritual house of Esau, also known as Edom.24
The apostle Paul describes this transformation with a different analogy -- that of a pure virgin betrothed to Messiah, who is led astray by those who alter the message, making it more appealing to the senses, just as the serpent deceived Eve.25 The end result of this deception is described in Revelation 17:1-6 -- the pure virgin became a harlot, also known as Babylon the Great. This transition was like the fall of old Israel from its glory as a unified nation of twelve tribes under King David to a divided kingdom fraught with treachery and every kind of unfaithfulness, as Isaiah described:
How the faithful city has become a harlot! It was full of justice; righteousness lodged in it, but now murderers. (Isaiah 1:21)
As old Israel fell, so did the first church, as the book of Revelation describes:
Fallen, fallen, is Babylon the great! She has become a dwelling place of demons, a prison for every foul spirit, and a cage for every unclean and hateful bird! (Revelation 18:2)
The fate of this harlot is chillingly described later in the chapter -- she is burned with fire in one hour.26 It is in this judgment that the two analogies -- Esau and the Harlot -- come together in the prophecy of Obadiah:
...the house of Jacob will possess its inheritance. The house of Jacob will be a fire and ... the house of Esau will be stubble, and they will set it on fire and consume it. There will be no survivors from the house of Esau. (Obadiah 1:17-18)
Fortunately this fiery judgment of the fallen-away religious system is still a ways off, awaiting the emergence of the spiritual "house of Jacob" that will take hold of the inheritance. This is what the prophet Amos spoke of:
In that day I will restore David's fallen tent. I will repair its broken places, restore its ruins, and build it as it used to be, so that they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations that bear my name," declares the LORD, who will do these things. (Amos 9:11-12)
So what is David's fallen tent? What is it that must be restored from its ruins and built as it used to be? The years of King David's reign were Israel's most glorious, when all twelve tribes were united under one righteous ruler, a man after God's own heart.27 From that time on Israel's Messianic hope was for a ruler like David who would restore Israel's glory as a twelve-tribed nation. This is what the angel Gabriel spoke when Yahshua was conceived in the womb of the virgin Miriam:28
And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Yahshua. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David; and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and his kingdom will have no end. (Luke 1:31-33)
Of course this is speaking ultimately of the coming age after Messiah returns and establishes his millennial reign in Jerusalem, but first there must be a holy nation29 worthy of his return, as a bridegroom coming for his bride.30 That bride is a spiritual nation of twelve tribes31 living together in unity.
The fire that our Master Yahshua brought to the earth 2000 years ago is now being re-kindled in the hearts of faithful men, women, and children, gathering them together in twelve tribes, in twelve different regions of the earth. This is the ultimate fulfillment of Isaiah 49:6 -- the restoration of the tribes of Jacob, so that the light of the life of God can reach the ends of the earth. The warmth and radiance of this fire, expressed in its love and unity, and its very unique culture, will draw the sincere ones out of Edom32 (Christianity) and the nations at large so that they will not share in his (her) judgment:33
Come out of her, my people, so that you will not participate in her sins and receive of her plagues. (Revelation 18:4)
So whether you find yourself in "Edom" or anywhere else in the desperate loneliness of this cold, dark world, we warmly invite you to come into the firelight and hear the message that can kindle a fire in your heart, too.