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Kingdom Mysteries
Retaining Sin

by haRold Smith
a citizen of the Commonwealth
(Ephesians 2:12)

"And Yeshua said to them, To you has been given the secret of the Kingdom of YHVH, but for those outside everything is in parables, so that 'they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand, lest they should turn and be forgiven'." Mark 4:11-12 (quoting Isaiah 6:9-10)

"…and I assign to you, just as My Father assigned to me, a Kingdom, that you may eat and drink at my table in My Kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel." Luke 22:29-30

"Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were for fear of the Jewish leaders, Yeshua appeared and stood in their midst, and said to them, 'Shalom be with you.' When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Messiah. So Yeshua said to them again, 'Shalom to you! JUST AS the Father has sent Me, EVEN SO I am sending you.' And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, 'Receive ruach hakodesh (the spirit of holiness). If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained' ." John 20:19-23

The last article, Just As-Even So (click on highlighted words to view content), explored how those who embrace the Life of Yeshua become echad (Hebrew for "one") with YHVH in the same manner as Yeshua. Now, we will look a bit deeper into just what that actually means. Since the words above were given to the followers of Yeshua, let us begin this article by examining what scripture has to say about terms for describing a follower of the Messiah. The most common terms used in the NT are, "disciple(s)" and "believer(s)". The term "disciple(s)" is used approximately 250 times to describe those who trust in Yeshua. Yeshua uses the term 14 times to describe those who were following him. The term "believer(s)" is used approximately 12 times - yet, Yeshua never uses the terms "believer" or "believers" in reference to his disciples. This is so because He knew how easy it would be for a person to simply say they "believe" in him and, yet, not keep His Words. So He used the term "disciple". A disciple is one who follows, embraces and imitates the behavior of his Master (Matthew 10:24-25, Luke 9:23, Luke 14:27). Many have been taught to believe that simply conforming to the "Christian" religion fulfills this description; but, as we shall see, the word "Christian" was first given to Hebrew followers of Yeshua by Gentiles as a derogatory remark. It was not embraced as a positive label until the second century when it was first used by Justin Martyr as a title of honor. The term, christianos (translated "Christian"), is derived from the Greek word christos (English, "Christ") which is the translation occurring already in the Septuagint (the ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures) of the Hebrew mashiach (English, "Messiah") with both carrying a meaning of "anointed". However, the term "Christian" is only used 3 times in the NT and it is never used by Yeshua in reference to his followers - nor is the term used (and thus not approved) amongst his followers. On this basis alone, we have arrived at what those who follow Yeshua should be known as - His "disciples". The Greek transliteration behind the English term "disciple" is mathetes, and it simply means, "a learner" or "a pupil". As noted, the term "Christian" is not used even among the disciples of Yeshua to describe one another. So, let's take a very brief look at those three scriptural instances where it is used:

1) "...and when he had found him (Saul), he brought him to Antioch. And for an entire year they met with the assembly and taught considerable numbers; and the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch" (Acts 11:26). What this verse makes clear is that the term "Christian" was not used among the disciples, but rather it was used about them from those who were not disciples. Antioch was an ancient Greek city on the eastern side of the Orontes River; thus, it was pagan Greeks who first overlaid the name of the Hebrew Messiah of Israel with the Greek name of Christ and His followers became Christ-ians. 2) "Agrippa replied to Paul, 'In a short time you will persuade me to become a Christian'." (Acts 26:28). Here, the term was used by King Agrippa, who was examining Paul in a legal sense. Again, it was not used by the disciples in reference to other disciples. The tone of Agrippa's words were in the form of a sarcastic or derogatory question, which would make the term "Christian" a term of derision used by the world towards those claiming to follow the Messiah of Israel. 3) "...but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name." Finally, here in 1Peter 4:16, Peter is saying if you are to suffer and people label you with the term "Christian" in association with this suffering, then suffer the derision gracefully. What is clear in the context of the passage surrounding this verse is that the term "Christian" is used by non-disciples in their persecutions against the disciples - hardly an endorsement to the followers of Yeshua to throw away the term He used for them (disciple) in favor of a new term created by the world and simply referenced by Peter (Christian). So, then, what is the Hebrew heritage of a disciple that Yeshua refers to?

The single occurrence of the Hebrew word for disciple, talmid, is found in 1Chronicles 25:8 where it is translated as the English "scholar". However, the root of talmid is found in lamad, meaning "to learn, teach, exercise in" and lamad is used a total of 86 times in the Tanakh (OT). In Isaiah 8:16, Isaiah uses a lamad derivative, limmuwd, describing "my disciples"; in Isaiah 50:4 as a relationship characterized by an educational process accentuating speaking and listening and again in Isaiah 54:13 to specify the "disciples" of YHVH - indicating that limmuwd could be disciples of both YHVH and a human master at the same time. The most eloquent illustration of a rabbi and talmid relationship, however, is found in the interaction between Elijah and Elisha.

"And it came to pass, when YHVH would take up Elijah into heaven by a whirlwind that Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal. And Elijah said unto Elisha, Tarry here, I pray you; for YHVH has sent me to Bethel. And Elisha said unto him, As YHVH lives, and as your soul lives, I will not leave you ."
2Kings 2:1-2

the mantle

...the passing of the mantle
1st and 2nd Kings interweaves two themes. It continues the history of the breakdown of the Davidic Kingdom after its division in 1Kings 12 into the northern Kingdom of Israel (ten tribes) and the southern Kingdom of Judah (two tribes). It records their history up to the Assyrian captivity of Israel (2Kings 17) and the later Babylonian captivity of Judah (2Kings 24). Entwined throughout the first ten chapters set in the Northern Kingdom, we find the story of the final works of the Prophet Elijah, his ascension into heaven and the many miracles of his disciple, Elisha, after he had received the mantle of his master. Their relationship is a classic Hebrew depiction of a rabbi and his talmid. It begins when Elijah chooses Elisha as his disciple by casting his "mantle" upon him (1Kings 19:19).

Elisha's devotion to his master is strongly emphasized in the triple repetition of his vow, "As YHVH lives, and as your soul lives, I will not leave you" (2Kings 2:2-6) - this is the commitment of a follower. The blessing that Elisha craved in asking for a double portion of the spirit of his master when Elijah was about to be taken from him (2Kings 2:9) was not to be twice as great - but to have the portion of the first-born son. In a Hebrew family, the first-born son inherited a double portion of his father's property, twice as much as each of the other sons. Elisha asked to have the prophetic office and with it the power of the Sprit to enable him to fulfill it. In this last scene we sometimes almost have to wonder whether we are in the Old Testament or the New. We have an elevated master, a waiting disciple and a subsequent delivery of power (Acts 1:8). The Hebrew apostle Sha'ul (Paul) in his letters to both Timothy and Titus, addressing them both as "my own son" (1Timothy 1:2, Titus 1:4), exemplifies the Hebrew perspective of the relationship of the disciple as the "son" of his teacher. The same thing is seen when Elisha cried, "My father, my father!" as he watched Elijah depart (2Kings 2:12). As he left, Elijah's mantle literally fell to Elisha who then carried on his master's prophetic ministry and did even greater miracles - thus the reference for Yeshua's comment of John 14:12.

The idea of following, therefore, defines the Hebrew Master/Disciple relationship. In keeping with this Hebrew perspective, Yeshua is addressed as a Hebrew rhabbi (translated as the English "rabbi" or "master") approximately 15 times in the Messianic Writings. Yeshua typically called his disciples by saying "Follow me." Therefore, remembering that the Hebrew mashiach (which in English became Messiah) means "anointed" and looking beyond the arcane use of christianos, derived from the Greek word christos (Eng. "Christ") which also means "anointed"; we can see in 1Peter 4:16 (already explored above) a deeper understanding of what bearing the mantle of the Anointed One means - the followers of the Anointed One become anointed ones in their own right. When Yeshua appeared in that room with His disciples, the first thing He said to those present was that just as His Father had sent Him, even so was He sending them - with the power to remit and retain sin. Remember that what had so incited the Pharisees was Yeshua's ability to "forgive sin" - something they believed only the Father was able to do. Yet here, Yeshua was saying that He was granting His disciples the same authority He had been given. Just as with Elijah and Elisha, He was passing His mantle to His followers, His disciples - those who followed Him in their behavior. So, then, we have to ask ourselves, what does it mean to "remit" and "retain" sin? Most confuse what Yeshua is saying here by likening it to what He said in Matthew 6:14-15 - but, in that passage, He speaks only of what the Father will do as a result of how we behave toward others. In John 20, there is no mention of what the Father does - only what authority has been given the followers of Yeshua to enact. And what authority is that?

In John 20:23, the Greek word translated as the English "remit" is aphiemi, which has as its primary definition "to send away" (the same Greek word used in Matthew 9:5 to describe what Yeshua said it means to forgive sin). The Greek word translated as the English "retain" in that verse is krateo whose primary meaning is "to take possession of". When you retain something, when you take possession of something - what does that mean? It means you keep it. The Father doesn't keep it - He is nowhere to be found in this directive. The followers of Yeshua keep it. If the disciples of Yeshua are sent in the same manner as the Master, the question arises - how did Yeshua deal with sin? In 1John 3:5 we are told that He took sin upon Himself and Hebrews 9:26 says He "put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself". Romans 6:23 and 1Corinthians 6:20 both tell us there is a price to be paid for sin. Yeshua paid that price for all who would embrace the Words of His Father. There is no record in the eyewitness accounts of any disciple being healed or delivered - those miracles were used as incentive to prod one truly seeking Truth to become a follower of haMashiach (the Messiah of Israel), a Gatekeeper of His Kingdom. The Power granted a follower of Yeshua is surrounded by a hedge of selflessness. When we seek to preserve our life in some manner, we are seeking to consume that Power on ourselves - the antithesis of what His Life exampled. Yeshua's disciples are sent in the same manner as He was - to take upon themselves the sin of those they encounter that healing might occur with the recipient of that healing following Yeshua as a result. In Isaiah 53:5 and 1Peter 2:24 it is revealed how healing occurs - because He bore our sin in His Body. Who comprises His Body? Is it not His disciples who bear the mantle of "anointed"? If His disciples are sent just as He has been sent, then, do they not have the same authority that He was sent with? How does all of this actually work?

My first encounter with this puzzlement occurred upon my arrival in Israel where I was confronted with a young woman who, like me, had volunteered to work for a non-profit organization. She had been involved in a traffic accident and, as a result, her back was causing her severe pain. I had just recently been exposed to the truth of John 20:23; so, as I laid my hands on her back while asking the Father for her healing, I had an innate knowing that her pain was being transferred from her to me - I was taking possession of it and her pain immediately subsided. The next day, however, I could not get out of bed because of an excruciating pain in my back. After a couple of days and a lot of over the counter pain killers, I was able to resume my activities in the office of the organization. Thereupon, I was confronted with another young lady who was obviously very sick with the flu. Once again in my naiveté, I laid hands on her, taking her sickness and she was immediately healed with all her symptoms disappearing. The next day, I awoke violently sick. I began to seek the Father for wisdom because, at this point, it was apparent that something wasn't right. When Yeshua healed and delivered, there is no record of His becoming disabled as a result of that healing. So, I backed off of laying hands on people until Spirit gave more understanding.

Kingdom Keys

"I give you the keys of the Kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."
Matthew 16:19 and Matthew 18:18
That understanding began to develop as more of the Life of Yeshua chronicled in the eyewitness accounts began to reveal themselves. In the same manner that (Light and darkness are incompatible, so it is with Life and death. The Power emanating from Yeshua that healed and delivered came from the inherent nature of the Virtue He had cultivated within Him. The reason He did not get sick was because the Light He manifested was the purest and most brilliant that can be found. While His Light was able to dissipate the darkness He took possession of, my light needed some more cultivation. However, that fact does not set aside His directive. He did not say "when you are able" - only that we should be willing to lay down our lives for our brethren as He did. To embrace the very Nature of Who YHVH is found in His Words (emphasis on verse one) gives us the "power" to become sons of the Most High as it says in John 1:12-14. The Greek word translated "power" in this verse is eksousia and means "power of choice". To become a son is not an automatic blessing. We must exercise the power given us IF His Words are to live within us "just as" those Words were actively living in the life of the Son. So, when my then 25 year old son arrived on my doorstep full of demons, I was given a choice of whether to participate in his deliverance - or not. I took Quinn in and immediately became frail in health. But, the Father began to open my eyes to what was happening between my son and I. The Light I had been cultivating since my time in Israel began to take effect on Quinn and, slowly, as he made choices to abide in Light in his own right - deliverance began to happen. I began to see the Truth in Acts 16:31, that if I allow the Light of YHVH within me to manifest and flourish, it affects everyone under my roof - without me having to say but a word.

Today, Quinn is like the man described in Mark 5:15 and, while he still has more road to travel, he is making proper choices to stay in Light - and my wounds are healing. This is what it means to be as He is - to become the Kingdom of YHVH in this present world.

"To Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a Kingdom, priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen."
Revelation 1:5-6
Please feel free to email me at While not claiming to have all the answers, it would be an honor to partake with you of what the Spirit is uncovering.