The Night of Death

A lot of the songs were written after the sun went down. And I like storms, I like to stay up during a storm. I get very meditative sometimes, and this one phrase was going through my head: ‘Work while the day lasts, because the night of death cometh when no man can work.’ I don’t recall where I heard it. I like preaching, I hear a lot of preaching, and I probably just heard it somewhere. Maybe it’s in Psalms, it beats me. But it wouldn’t let me go. I was, like, what does that phrase mean? But it was at the forefront of my mind, for a long period of time, and I think a lot of that is instilled into this record.” ~Bob Dylan (1997)1

After the sun went down, night fell, and the light of the world was no more. The Messiah’s words, “no man can work,” rang true in Bob Dylan’s mind. These remarkable words caused him to wonder. It is so significant that he wondered because his wondering helps others wonder. There’s a shortage of wonder in the world today. But one thing you don’t have to wonder about is where what you heard came from. The Son of Man said it.

We must work the works of Him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” (John 9:4-5)

Most people read John 9:4-5 just as they read the rest of the Bible — it’s informative, curious certainly, but far away... At least Dylan had the sense to know that these momentous words applied to the world he lived in. Had “the night of death” come to his life? Was it the time “when no man can work”? It’s a thought that haunts him still, as he told the Rolling Stones in 2012: “Me, I was born in 1941 – that's the year they bombed Pearl Harbor. Well, I been living in a world of darkness ever since.

Yahshua’s words about nightfall were not warning of the end of the age, as the preachers words, “the night of death,” implied. No, Yahshua warned of the end of the Holy Spirit’s illumination on the earth. No man could work the works of God once night fell, once the churches had no light. Why? One by one they all abandoned their first love... then Yahshua, the Savior, was no longer embodied in His people. Love had no home. His last act was to blow out the candles...

But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. (Revelation 2:4-5)

It was 1,900 years ago when our Master “was no longer in the world,” and night fell. John 9:4-5 began to be fulfilled that long ago. The “light of the world” shining in the first churches was love. Because of love they obeyed the One they loved.2 Because of love, He had commanded them to give up all their possessions. Radical demand, radical life... but it’s why, in the beginning, in the first light...

All who believed were together and had all things in common.” (Acts 2:44)

It was more than a commune; they were one!

Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. (Acts 4:32)

They loved each other so much that there were “no needy among them.” Whoever had gave to those who didn’t have.3 It was true communism, a true community of goods, just like a loving husband and wife share. And they all shared for the same reason: because of love. They were covenanted together; they loved one another. No one could deny it.

Ask yourself whether that light from heaven still shines today. Ask whether it has shone “among all who believe” for a long, long time. Meditate on these things and you will see that Yahshua was a true prophet. It’s right there: His warning that “night is coming,’’ when the light of love, which is His life among men, was extinguished and “no one can work.” When that light shone, those who believed in Him gathered together and all came ready and willing to share. It wasn’t just one preacher doing all the talking. It’s amazing how different things look in the darkness than they do in the light! How long has it been darkness? As long as it has been that everyone could not speak freely in church. It was not so in the beginning, when the light shone:

But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you. What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up. (1 Corinthians 14:24-26)

It’s only in this darkness that someone could show up at a building to listen to one man ramble on, week after week, and think that matched up to Paul’s instructions to the churches. They gathered in a circle back then,4in living rooms. They could see one another’s faces. Gathering in large masses of people, where you can only see the back of the person’s head in front of you, doesn’t come from the Bible.

Those walking in the light of His word laid their swords down and gave up their positions of influence in the world. They trusted Him to defend and deliver them. Their kingdom was His kingdom, which was not yet “of this world”:

Yahshua answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” (John 18:36)

Great darkness fell over the church after love left. As the centuries passed, it grew darker. Foremost in responsibility was the Christian emperor, Constantine. He conquered “by the sign of the cross,” and Christians have been waging war ever since. With him Messiah’s kingdom became “of this world.” Christians could now “fight for God and country,” as though the Savior never said, “Those who live by the sword will die by the sword.”5 Desperately wanting to believe their wars are just, they ignore the Scriptures that tell them what they are almost always fighting for.

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. (James 4:1-5)

In the darkness that fell, “giving up everything to become His disciple”6was magically transformed into its opposite. The more wealth and riches one acquired in life, the greater God’s blessing was upon you. The essence of fellowship, “having all things in common,” became, in the dark of night, “fellowship hour” over coffee and doughnuts. What happens in the night is a parody of what happens in the light.

Treating the brother who won’t repent “like a tax collector”7 became torture, banishment, and death. They don’t call it the “Dark Ages” for nothing. The years of nightfall parallel the years of silence in the churches. One man speaking is silence to God.8 It all began early in the second century. That’s when Messiah stopped being head over the house the apostles built, but it continued to call itself by His name.9

Yes, night still lies heavy on the earth, that’s obvious. But we live in a day when a candle has been lit. It’s just a little flicker, but it’s the beginning of something very old being restored. People are gathering who have freedom of speech. They do because they have committed themselves to one another. You listen to those you are covenanted with. You share all things in common with them. And you live with them, too. It’s all one.

His people have laid down the sword. They look forward to His kingdom coming. They are living now as though He were already here. He is Love. He is among us. Come and see that the “Night is over, the real light is already shining.” It’s one of our anthems, and it’s not just words. We’ve found a hope that does not disappoint.10

  • 1. Jon Pareles, “A Wiser Voice Blowin’ In the Autumn Wind” — interview of Bob Dylan in the New York Times, September 28, 1997.
  • 2. Read John 14:15, 21, and 23 and see.
  • 3. Acts 4:34-37
  • 4. Mark 3:34-35
  • 5. Matthew 26:52
  • 6. Luke 14:31-33
  • 7. Matthew 18:15-18
  • 8. 1 Peter 4:11
  • 9. Hebrews 3:6, where confidence means all outspokenness, frankness, and freedom of speech.
  • 10. Romans 5:5

The Twelve Tribes is a confederation of twelve self-governing tribes, composed of self-governing communities. We are disciples of the Son of God whose name in Hebrew is Yahshua. We follow the pattern of the early church in Acts 2:44 and 4:32, truly believing everything that is written in the Old and New Covenants of the Bible, and sharing all things in common.

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