Fire and sword, p.1
Fire and Sword, page 1
To Timothy, My Dear Son
“Rise Up and Walk”
“Why Do You Persecute Me?”
Peter in Prison
Paul’s Second Journey
Back to Jerusalem
Books by D. Brian Shafer
Chronicles of the Host: Exile of Lucifer
Chronicles of the Host 2: Unholy Empire
Chronicles of the Host 3: Rising Darkness
Chronicles of the Host 4: Final Confrontation
Chronicles of the Host 5: Fire and Sword
AVAILABLE FROM DESTINY IMAGE PUBLISHERS
CHRONICLES OF THE HOST 5
FIRE AND SWORD
D. BRIAN SHAFER
© Copyright 2009 – D. Brian Shafer
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Many thanks go out for the completion of this book. To the many fans of the series who continually badgered me about a fifth book—thank you! To my church—Waco First Assembly of God—for putting up with my writer’s temperament. To my family—Lori, my beautiful wife who never gets enough credit for my success; Kiersten, my beautiful and artistic daughter who is growing up too fast; Breelin, my other daughter who is a joy in our hearts; and Ethan, who always keeps things lively, and noisy, around the house—I love you all. Thank you for letting me bury myself from time to time to get the writing done!
P.S. Did we ever make it to Disney World?
TO TIMOTHY, MY DEAR SON …
Paul’s Cell, Rome, A.D. 67
Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ…
The inked stylus stopped scratching on the parchment. For a moment or two the writer sat as if he were a statue, hunched over a little table. The lamp barely gave enough light for him to see his own hand, much less the tablet on which he now wrote what would probably be his last letter. He rubbed his tired eyes and smiled to himself.
How many times had he defended his authority? In the past it seemed much more important to him personally. He remembered the many arguments on whether or not he was a legitimate leader of the Church—an apostle or a pretender. But God, in His grace, had firmly established him as a leader of the Church and a voice to the Gentile world. Thus he, Paul, one-time persecutor of Christians, was now writing as its lead apostle. He smiled as he considered that his final letter still proclaimed this authority.
…by the will of God, according to the promise of life in Christ Jesus.
He set aside the parchment that had been provided for him by some friends in Rome. Thankfully he had found favor with the warden of the prison, who allowed these little luxuries in so dreary a place. He had been imprisoned in this city once before—some six years previous. But he understood that this would be his final arrest. He had been tried by Nero’s court and found guilty of professing his belief in Christ. It would now be his final privilege to die for those beliefs.
He looked at the unfinished letter and thought of his young friend in the ministry. Timothy was like a son to him, and he had raised him up to lead the church in Ephesus. As this would most likely be his final word of instruction and encouragement for the young pastor, he found himself in a melancholy mood. Tears welled up in Paul’s eyes as he looked at his final testament.
What form should his final exhortation take? How could he sum up the burden he felt for the church—an especially poignant burden made painfully more acute because of his imprisonment? He had written to churches before while imprisoned. The last time he was imprisoned in Rome he was able to communicate a sense of joy that his imprisonment had affected the household of Caesar with the good news of the Lord! He also had the confidence that the churches—particularly the church at Philippi—were remaining steadfast and the work of the Gospel was progressing.
This time was different. He felt much more disconnected. He had been abandoned by former partners in the ministry. He was not allowed the access to people that had been accorded him in his previous arrest. His prison cell was a far cry from the house he had been allowed to rent when he was under arrest in Caesarea. This was more of a pit with stone walls—cold, dim, and damp, always damp. And, of course, the death sentence was upon him. Yet he maintained an inner strength—the joy of knowing that he had fought a good fight and that the Kingdom of God was everywhere advancing.
Paul rubbed his hand. It was bothering him again, an old pain from an injury he had received years before. He set the stylus down and massaged the painful fingers. Was it from the stoning at Iconium? Or was it the beating he took at Philippi when the Lord delivered the girl who predicted the future? He laughed aloud. He had so many marks on his body that he had lost track of where the scars and wounds were received. He took up the stylus and considered the wounds as badges of honor. The light flickered in his little lamp, growing dimmer by the minute. He smiled and continued writing.
To Timothy, my dear son, I bid you grace, peace, and mercy from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord …
“Grace, peace, and mercy?” sneered a voice. “Is that really what he wrote, Beziel? How bitterly ironic!”
“If this is how the Most High pays off His greatest apostle, then what hope have any of them?” asked another. “First He takes his freedom—then He takes his head!”
“Nero will make quick work of them all,” agreed the other.
The angel watching vigil over Paul remained steadfast, but alert to the dark spirits who had been sent to harass Paul’s mind in his last days on earth. The angel watching Paul scratching away had been assigned to him from the very start—even before his conversion to the Lord’s side. And now, having followed Paul throughout his marvelous ministry around the Roman world, he would stand with him to his last breath at the end of a Roman blade.
“You there, Serus,”
Serus ignored the two dark figures.
“We shall report back to our master that Paul is writing his final letter,” said Garras, a spirit of despair who had been assigned to vex Paul’s mind. “Once this man is gone—along with Peter and the rest of them—the whole movement will lose its way. That is the way of humans!”
“Humans, yes,” Serus said, unable to let the challenge go answered. “But that is not the way of the Most High.”
“Yes, well, it is humans who are left to carry on the miserable work,” Garras snorted. “As soon as the leaders and the others who knew Jesus are gone, the movement will disappear like all things human.”
Serus ignored them.
“Let’s leave him to his wretched thoughts,” Beziel said. “Won’t be long until all that is left of him is a few pitiful letters!”
Garras and Beziel laughed and vanished. Serus turned back to Paul, who continued to write. After a moment or two, Paul sat back and closed his eyes. They burned. His eyes had been a source of discomfort for years now, affecting not only his sight but his writing. He scrawled more often than wrote. He set the stylus down again and moved to his cot. Serus placed a hand upon the apostle’s shoulder. Paul looked up, thanking the Lord for His peace.
Lying down on the lice-ridden mattress, which consisted of straw stuffed in a very thin cloth, Paul tried to relax for a few minutes. But even as he contemplated what he might say in this farewell to Timothy, he couldn’t help but think of the incredible events that had led him to this very moment. His mind drifted back some 35 years and began to replay those early days…days of which he was not proud…but days that set him on an unalterable collision course with the greatest destiny—one he never could have imagined. Who would have thought that Saul of Tarsus would one day appear before the emperor himself as Paul, apostle of God?
The sounds of other prisoners echoed through the damp air. Some men cried aloud; some cursed; some spoke as if they were out of their mind—but mostly, the sounds that reverberated were of men shuffling around in their cells, chains rattling, as they contemplated their final days on earth. Paul looked up at the opening in the ceiling—a small window in the floor above through which his food and certain communication was passed. He could hear his keeper shuffling on the floor above him, speaking to someone in muffled conversation.
Paul had learned long ago that his happiness was not a matter of circumstances—that true strength lies in the ability to rejoice in the Lord in all things. In fact, he had written to the church at Philippi that this was the secret he had learned from the Lord about remaining content. He laughed to himself as he thought about the Philippians and the letter he had written to them—that was another letter he had written while imprisoned.
“Paul! You have a visitor,” called out the familiar voice of Camius, the jailer.
Paul looked up to see the face of the only man who remained loyal to him—or so it seemed. The figure moved down the narrow stairs that hugged the wall. A rush of joy filled Paul as he smiled wanly at the good man who had accompanied him on so much of his ministry throughout the Roman world.
“Luke,” Paul greeted.
The door above shut.
“Thank you, Camius!” Luke called up.
“You’re welcome in as much as this man will soon be dead,” said Camius gruffly. He was a man of about 50 who had been working at the prisons for the past 26 years—ever since he himself had served time in Paul’s very cell. Camius stopped and turned.
“Do you…need anything else, Paul?” he asked, this time with a hint of compassion. “More oil or…”
“No, Camius, my friend,” said Paul. “My brother Luke lights up this cell for me. But thank you, and may the Lord bless you!”
“Don’t bless me with your God!” cried Camius. “See what trouble He has brought upon you and the others.”
Luke and Paul laughed.
“Bless you anyway,” called Paul. He coughed.
Since he was a regular visitor, Luke no longer had to go through the formalities of answering lots of questions—the prison guards simply let him in. After all, what did it matter if a condemned man received his friends? Luke carried with him a small sack from which he produced a few small luxuries for Paul, including a fresh cloak to help guard against the constant dampness. Paul coughed again—a long, deeply seated cough.
For a moment or two they exchanged cordial greetings. Luke updated Paul on his latest appeal—no new intelligence there—as well as other reports from the empire. Paul enjoyed his frequent visits with this kind physician. As for Luke, he was concerned that Paul seemed physically much more taxed these days—a strange blend of being both weary and at peace. How like the man!
“Another letter?” said Luke, indicating the tablet on the little table.
“I’m writing to Timothy one more time,” Paul said. “But the lamp is so weak, and my eyes are as well…”
“Ah, that reminds me!” Luke said, smiling. He reached into his kit and pulled several oil vials out.
Paul took them and set them next to his lamp. Luke also had a medicine vial with an herbal mixture for Paul’s cough—and there was bread and fruit from some of Paul’s friends in Rome who wanted to give something but were afraid to be seen visiting him in prison. Paul tried to share the meal with Luke, but Luke refused.
“Timothy is doing well in Ephesus,” Luke commented. “The church is blessed there.” He looked at Paul. “He had a great teacher.”
Paul laughed, finishing off the coarse bread.
“The Lord is his teacher,” Paul said. “And, yes, he is a great pastor. I want to encourage him one more time. He was heartbroken when we parted last. I think that when he saw me arrested it became very real to him.”
“Perhaps your time is not yet,” said Luke. “Perhaps your appeal will…”
“Not this time, my friend,” said Paul, shaking his head. “I have fought the best fight a man can. And now I am ready.” He sat back in the chair and closed his eyes for a minute.
“I have been thinking about my life,” Paul continued. “Since organizing my thoughts for this final letter I have thought of God’s grace in bringing me here. Just as you have detailed the events of our Lord’s life in your writings. We have been through much together, my brother.”
Luke nodded his head. “I have begun writing a new record of those events,” he said. “From the notes I kept of our journey together. The story of our Lord’s Church must be remembered. I am dedicating these to Theophilus as well.”
Paul smiled. “Theophilus is a good man,” he said. “And not without influence in Rome. He is indeed most excellent.”
“Quite an encourager,” agreed Luke. “He supported my first rendering of our Lord’s life. And now he will support the record of the Lord’s Church—its birth, its spread throughout the empire. He is a good and noble Roman. Such a work of grace!”
Paul agreed. “And where does your account begin?” he asked. “I have thought of my own dramatic encounter with the Lord that began my incredible trek of grace. The years fly by in the face of it all.”
He looked at Luke, whose face was reflecting the bit of light from the lamp.
“I cannot help but contemplate my life as I write this letter to my son in the spirit, Timothy,” Paul said. “But where shall your record begin?” He looked poignantly at his surroundings as the sound of a man crying pierced the chilly evening. He smiled at Luke. “And where shall it end?”
Luke considered for a moment. Had it really been 35 years? As Paul said, the time had flown by. History had been made. And surely the Church of Jesus Christ would continue writing its story long after he and Paul were gone. Where does one begin the story of the birth of God’s Church? Where did it all start? He then expressed to Paul tha
Chronicles of the Host
Most Gracious Eternal Sovereign of the Universe,
I have attempted, in the previous four volumes of these writings, to include as many of the pertinent details as possible in bringing to You, as You commanded, a thorough and faithful history. Thus these Chronicles of the Host have brought us from the early times before the Rebellion to the prophesied culmination of the Resurrection of Your Great Son. May Your Name be forever glorified! Permit me then, O King, to continue these chronicles so they may serve witness forever of Your grace and greatness in Your creation.
As was foretold, the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world did indeed emerge in the woman’s Seed to bring liberty to all who might call upon His name. After the terrible ordeal at Calvary, the Most High Father and the Most High Son were reunited again as one—and all of Heaven shouted with joyous celebration. Even so, the end was far from over—in fact, we were soon to discover that we were merely at a new beginning—a new chapter of an old war…against an ancient adversary…with an ancient grudge.
Not only were the hopes of men realized in the Christ’s death and resurrection, but the hopes of our dark foe were forever compromised. Lucifer realized that he had indeed lost the fight to stop the Seed of the Woman from rising up and fulfilling its awful edict—and now a greater peril awaited him—the complete and final crushing of the serpent’s head.
Thus like a wounded animal and just as deadly, Lucifer reorganized and readied his legions for a very new war. His followers, scorned and disgraced, defeated yet defiant, remained hopeful that somehow their leader would craft a strategy that would bring the war to a satisfactory conclusion. He had little hope to offer, though they relished in the Son’s departure if even for a season. But His promise to return one day for a final resolution hung over them all like a death knell.
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