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The prophecy of Joel 2:23-29 is the first of our two readings:
- Be glad then, ye children of Zion, and rejoice in the Lord your God: for He hath given you the former rain moderately, and He will cause to come down for you the rain, the former rain, and the latter rain in the first month.
- And the floors shall be full of wheat, and the fats shall overflow with wine and oil.
- And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten, the cankerworm, and the caterpiller, and the palmerworm, my great army which I sent among you.
- And ye shall eat in plenty, and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, that hath dealt wondrously with you: and My people shall never be ashamed.
- And ye shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the Lord your God, and none else: and my people shall never be ashamed.
- And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions:
- And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my Spirit.
Then with Pentecost comes the fulfillment of this precious promise of God, recorded in Acts 2:
- But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, “Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words:
- “For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day.
- “But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel;
- “ ‘ “And it shall come to pass in the last days,” saith God, “I will pour out of My Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:
- “ ‘ “And on My servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of My Spirit; and they shall prophesy.” ’ ”
- Acts 2:14-18 KJV
God made a wonderful, prophetic promise through His servant Joel, then fulfilled that promise at Pentecost, and He continues to fulfill this promise in us when we receive our true, personal Pentecost. Since it is this promise—and its fulfillment—which lays the basis for the supernatural character of New Testament Christianity, let us specially consider of the heart of that promise, in Joel 2:28—
And it shall come to pass afterward
that I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
your old men shall dream dreams,
your young men shall see visions.
Thank God we do not believe in a human religion; we believe in a God-given one! The truth that God has revealed to us is by direct inspiration, brought down from the Father by the Holy Spirit and for Jesus’ sake. There is a great difference between human religion, which can be quite moral and good, and true spiritual religion. In the old days people would talk about “getting religion,” but at the time it meant getting a real, vital spiritual experience. Either you were an infidel, or you had religion. There were a few professors of religion, of course, who had only human religion, and they were despised both by the infidels and by those who had genuine, warm, loving, Holy Ghost-inspired Christianity. Now human religion is marked by a very special omission—it has no supernatural character. Human religion is marked by its dumbness; that is, God doesn’t speak. Human religions, whatever they are, whether Mohammedism,2 or Buddhism, or Christianity, or Judaism, or something else, are marked by their dumbness because they are of human origin. As I have already stated, they can have a very significant amount of morality taught in them, such as keeping the Ten Commandments; and that applies to all religions that are generally moral religions. Nevertheless they are dumb.
Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:2, “Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led.” The idols are dumb. All heathen religions were dumb—their god didn’t speak. The priests spoke on behalf of their god, but that god didn’t speak. Elijah made it very clear in the story of the great sacrifice that was made by Elijah when he opposed the priests of Baal, as recorded in 1 Kings 18:22-30. Hear what Elijah says:
- Then said Elijah unto the people, “I, even I only, remain a prophet of our Lord but Baal’s prophets are four hundred and fifty men.
- Let them therefore give us two bullocks and let them choose one bullock for themselves and cut it in pieces and lay it on wood and put no fire under. I will dress the other bullock and lay it on wood and put no fire under:
- And call ye on the name of your gods and I will call on the name of the Lord [that is Jehovah]; and the god that answereth by fire, let him be God.” And all the people answered and said, “It is well spoken.”
- And Elijah said unto the prophets of Baal, “Choose you one bullock for yourselves, dress it first; ye are many; and call on the name of your gods, but put no fire under.”
- And they took the bullock which was given them, and they dressed it, and called on the name of Baal from morning even unto noon, saying, “O Baal, hear us.” But there was no voice nor any that answered. And they leaped upon the altar which was made.
- And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them, and said, “Cry aloud: he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he sleepeth, and must be awakened.”
- And they cried aloud and cut themselves after their manner with knives until the blood gushed out upon them.
- It came to pass, when midday was past, and they prophesied until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that there was neither voice, nor any to answer, nor any that regarded.”
That’s typical of human religion. The god of human religion never answers. But with true and genuine Christianity, such as is taught in the Bible and is manifested by the indwelling Holy Spirit, we have a God who answers.
Now there is one significant thing about this tremendous sacrifice that Elijah called for when all the people had backslidden. Elijah said to the people, “Now the God that answers, let Him be the God.” All the people said, “Yes, that’s right. We accept that: let Him be the God who answers.” And God answered Elijah by fire. Now, it’s important to carefully note the steps in which such an offering was prepared. Always the wood was put in order, then the victim, the sacrifice, was put on the wood, and then the fire was applied. It was exactly that way with Abraham when he was called to offer his son Isaac. They took the wood and put it on the altar that Abraham had made; then he bound his son and put him on the wood on the altar. Abraham was going to sacrifice his son, and then apply the fire; but God called from heaven.
The order is important! First, the sacrifice goes on the altar, and then God sends the fire. Just so, consecration must always come before the fire of the baptism in the Holy Ghost. God will not send the fire on an unconsecrated person. You can seek the baptism for this or that or the other, but unless you are wholly given to the Lord your God, unless you are willing to give yourself wholly to Him, you will have false fire that has been manufactured by someone else, and it won’t stand the test. All God’s fire will stand the test. Every true baptism in the Holy Ghost will stand any test that human beings or the devil apply to it, and it will last. It is impossible to put God out. But there must be a full consecration.
Now, are you consecrated? Or have you been calling for a fire that won’t come down because you are not on the altar? It is only to those on the altar that the fire comes down. And when you are really on the altar and call upon God, the fire will come down. The apostles and the disciples waited at Pentecost until God sent the fire down. The true fire can’t be manufactured; in most cases today a worked-up, man-made false fire is what we force upon people. We are to teach our people that God will baptize everyone who comes to Him; but you have to come wholly and put yourself wholly on the altar, and then you will get the genuine thing. Our God answers by fire. In human religion there is no answering.
What I am saying is that the test of real Christianity is its supernatural character. If there is no supernatural character with Christianity, it is not Christianity at all; it is just a philosophical conception which you call Christianity. It may match up with scripture. You may be correct in your doctrine. But if God doesn’t attend it with fire, with answers, with a supernatural character, then it is not real Christianity at all.
As Samuel Wesley lay dying on April 25, 1735, he said to his son John, the famous John Wesley, “The inward witness, son, the inward witness, this is the proof, the strongest proof of Christianity.” David says in Psalm 115:4-8, about idols:
- Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands.
- They have mouths, but they speak not; eyes have they, but they see not;
- They have ears, but they hear not; noses have they, but they smell not.
- They have hands, but they handle not; feet have they, but they walk not: neither speak they through their throat.
- They that make them are like unto them; so is everyone that trusteth in them.
A non-supernatural Christianity is as dead as you are, and you are as dead as it is. Praise God for the vital supernatural character of real and genuine Bible Christianity!
Now the devil copies God’s supernatural, because the devil also is spirit. “God is spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). So the devil copies God, for the devil seeks worship, too. The ambition of the devil is to get everyone to worship him; and that was one of the vital tests that came to Jesus. One of the great temptations was that the devil said to Jesus, “Fall down and worship me, and I will give you all the kingdoms of this world.” The devil imitates God, and seeks to be worshiped. He is “the god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4), that is to say, the god of the worldly of this world. He is a substitute for God. He seeks to replace God, so he seeks worship. So with his followers, there is also a supernatural manifestation. Wherever you find the occult (which is devil worship), there are always manifestations of the supernatural. In spiritualism there are manifestations of the supernatural, but they always lead away from God. No spiritualism leads to God. No dealing with evil spirits, obviously, can lead to God. No dealing with so-called mediums, those who have contact with discarnate3 entities, as they call them, will ever lead to God. It always leads away from God, and God has put it on record in the Scripture that all occult involvement is an abomination to Him. But there are supernatural manifestations in spiritualism. Bodies are manifested, made of ectoplasm4 drawn from the medium’s nature. Flowers appear which some claim can be handled, but they melt away after the séance is over. All these things are supernatural manifestations that attend demon worship, Satan worship—they are the supernatural of the evil one. In our present day, of course, we are being challenged very much by the occult, by the demonic, and many millions are following the demonic because they have found no satisfaction in the Church. In the Church we offer them words; we don’t offer them deeds. We tell them to submit to this or that or the other truth, but there is no supernatural manifestation to back it up. That is why God in these days is manifesting Himself in what people call the charismatic renewal. And that is why millions have joined the charismatic renewal, because at last they are seeing God manifest Himself. “The God who answers, let Him be God”; and we say, “Amen.” The Apostles recognized the necessity of this when after Pentecost they prayed,
“Grant unto Thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak Thy word, by stretching forth Thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of Thy holy Child Jesus.”
And the answer to prayer was immediate:
When they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.
We have a bold utterance when God confirms the word with signs following, because it means that at last we have gotten back into real, true, supernatural Christianity.
The other is philosophy, not Christianity. Philosophy is not attended with new birth; but true supernatural Christianity is always attended with an individual, supernatural experience where God Himself comes and dwells in the person, and where God Himself can do signs and wonders. The supernatural character of Christianity is its only and greatest attestation in this world.
The supernatural character of Christianity, matched with the pure life of the person who has it, are the two great testimonies which Peter mentioned shortly after Pentecost, when he testified that the man was healed at the Beautiful Gate of the temple through God’s power and holiness, not through Peter’s or John’s power or holiness.5 Holiness and power, the character of the life and the manifestation of God through the life in its supernatural way, are the true manifestations of genuine Christianity.
You will know genuine Christianity by its supernatural character; it is attested by that character. Do you realize that no Hebrew in ancient days would have recognized an anointing of the Spirit unless there had been a supernatural manifestation? Every time in the Old Testament where you find the Holy Spirit coming down and clothing a person with His might and power, when the power of the Spirit comes upon that person he always prophesies or works miracles. You cannot find an instance where it is not so. God gave the person visions or prophecies or miracles in every case. Numbers 11:25 says, “The Lord came down in a cloud and took of the Spirit that was upon Moses, and gave it unto the seventy elders. And it came to pass that when the Spirit rested upon them, they prophesied and did not cease.” In the Old Covenant, the Spirit rested upon people; He did not dwell in people. Under the New Covenant the Holy Spirit dwells in people. God Himself dwells in us! Under the Old Covenant, He rested upon people to manifest Himself.
Here is another instance: When King Saul was anointed to be king, as he went from Samuel God gave him another heart, and he met a company of prophets. When the company of prophets met him and the Spirit of God came upon him, Saul prophesied, as recorded in 1 Samuel 10:10. In every case there is a wonderful significance of God speaking through the lips of a human being in a supernatural way. We belong to a supernatural religion. And we must attest it; we must say so. We must not deny the supernatural character of our Christianity. Our Christianity is not true Christianity unless it is attested by God when He answers by fire upon our hearts and through our lips.
What is the significance, then, of the prophecy in Joel? Let’s compare it with the experience of the seventy elders and Moses. It is the same Holy Spirit outpouring, just with different people. Now look at the difference in the people. The Holy Spirit came upon the seventy elders, all older, responsible men, princes of their tribes, picked out for their virtue, their sobriety, their honesty, and their experience. But what is God saying in Joel? “It shall come to pass that afterwards I shall pour out My Spirit on all flesh, upon your sons and your daughters, upon the servants and the handmaidens. Your young men shall prophesy.” Do you see the difference? The promise is that the Holy Spirit will be poured out not only on the princes of the congregation, not only on the elders of the community, not only on the elders in the church, in the assembly; no, the Holy Spirit is to be poured out upon everyone, young and old, men and women. As Peter made so clear at Pentecost, “The promise is to you and to your children, and to all that are afar off [that is, the Gentiles], even to as many as the Lord our God shall call” (Acts 2:39). And God calls everyone. “Come unto me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). “God so loved the world that whosoever believes in Him should not perish” (John 3:16).
Come all the world, come sinner thou,
The arms of love are open now.
[From Charles Wesley’s hymn Come, Sinners, to the Gospel Feast]
God’s promise is to everyone. God is willing to give His Holy Spirit to everyone. So there is to be a general outpouring. Moses forecasted it in Numbers 11:29. A young man had come to Moses and reported that two of the elders not present with Moses were prophesying in the camp. Nevertheless, the Spirit had come upon them. Joshua’s response to the young man’s report was, “My lord Moses, forbid them.” But Moses countered with a notable statement: “Would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets!” There was no jealousy with Moses. He was willing to share his experience with everyone. Moses foresaw that the time was coming when all God’s people could be prophets. Moses himself was a great prophet;6 in the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, which were written by Moses, there are some tremendous prophecies. His prophecy over the twelve tribes of Israel may be read in Deuteronomy 33. And it is this same Moses, the Lord’s prophet, who said, “I wish that every one of God’s people were prophets.” So God is reiterating that prophecy through Joel when He says, “It shall come to pass that I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh” (Joel 2:28). The baptism in the Holy Ghost is not a privilege for a few people. It is a necessity for every one of God’s children. The baptism in the Holy Ghost is not something you have to wait and seek for if you feel like it. Without it you are not really in the stream of true, supernaturally endowed Christians. You are a moralist; you are not, unless the Holy Ghost indwells you, really born of God and in the Church at all. You are outside the Church. So it is a great necessity.
I am not saying that special manifestations of the Spirit are a necessity. Some say such a thing, and that is an error. I am saying that the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, that true Holy Ghost baptism, transforms you into a supernatural person, God-endowed, so you have the ability to prophesy. Every one of God’s children is a prophet. Every one. As Moses said, “Would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets.” As Joel said, “Upon all flesh.” All flesh. Paul confirms it in 1 Corinthians 14:31: “You may all prophesy one by one.” And I say to you, “You may all prophesy one by one.” Why don’t you do it? When was the last time that God gave you a prophetic word? When was the last time that God gave you an utterance of the Holy Ghost? When was the last time that God gave you a revelation, the revelation of a doctrine, the revelation of a word from Himself? “You may all prophesy one by one.” How it transforms a congregation when we recognize, not that we should all be prophesying at once (God forbid!), for it must be one by one; but that every one of us is free before the Lord to be taken up by His Spirit, to give out an inspirational word that has been revealed by the Most High. Wouldn’t you like to belong to an assembly like that? Wouldn’t you like to belong to such a congregation where God can choose anyone and use them? Well, you do, if you only realized it. You must put it into practice. Oh, the need! “The promise is to you and to your children and to all that are afar off.” And so we find that God gave the Holy Ghost to Jews and Gentiles, in order to prove that the Holy Ghost is for everyone. God has said that He will give every one of us a supernatural character.
“Your young men shall see visions.” Young men, when was the last time that you had a vision? “Your older men shall dream dreams.” If you are an older person, when was the last time that God gave you a dream that was significant? I don’t mean a dream that comes “through the multitude of business,7 or from undigested cheese that you ate before you went to bed. I mean what Daniel calls “visions of your head upon your bed” (Daniel 2:28). This is the promise of God, the supernatural character of the Christianity that we now enjoy.
Have you ever investigated what a vision is? A vision is prophecy, only in a picture form. Now God can give prophecy in various ways. Prophecy is an inspired utterance revealed to you by the Most High. Prophecy is not preaching. Prophecy is not, as so many believe, a sermon that is prepared in a study, with a concordance and a dozen commentaries. That’s how millions of ministers prepare their message for Sunday. There are vast numbers of books on homiletics, vast numbers of books on Biblical exegesis, and vast numbers of books that give sermon illustrations, especially funny ones to keep the congregation awake. There are vast numbers of Bible dictionaries and preachers’ commentaries. I am not saying they are wrong. I am only saying it is completely unnecessary when you have the baptism in the Holy Ghost. But preaching is not prophesying. Preaching has to be inspirational, of course. But, oh, the difference when you are truly baptized in the Holy Ghost and God opens His word to you in secret! How different that is from that awful slogging process of trying to dip out something new, and finally falling back on Spurgeon’s Sermons. In England they use a lot of Spurgeon’s sermons, and then dish them up again. I even heard a limerick that was supposed to have been penned by a great dignitary of the Church of England (of the sort who don’t like the Baptists, of whom Spurgeon was one of the chief):
There once was a Baptist named Spurgie,
Who greatly disliked our liturgy.
But his sermons are fine,
I use them as mine,
And so do the rest of the clergy!
But you couldn’t call that inspiration, could you? So sermon preparation is entirely different from receiving from the Lord an inspirational word which wasn’t even thought of until waiting on the Lord and loving Him while worshiping Him in spirit and in truth. Prophecy is a message directly from the Lord in the language known to the people who are listening to to the speaker. That’s what happened at Pentecost—it was all prophecy. The people heard in their own tongue; that’s prophecy. Because of the large number of Jews who came from various places, God let them hear the prophecy as a most wonderful, glorious, supernatural manifestation. God enabled some of these one hundred and twenty present at Pentecost, whoever they were, to speak out the words of God, in praises to Him, in the actual tongue of a number of the people who were listening. The tongues are recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, chapter 2. It was prophecy, because there was no interpretation; and God says wherever a message in tongues is given, there must be an interpretation. There was no interpretation at Pentecost, because the people understood what was being said. “We do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God” (Acts 2:11). So prophecy can be either in your language or in another language; but if it’s in another language, that’s an added miracle. It’s all inspired by God.
In the church God occasionally gives someone a message in a tongue which no one understands. God has said that when that happens, He will provide an interpreter. So there should be those among us whom we recognize as interpreters. We don’t make them so, but God has made them so. God is able both to give a message in a tongue that the speaker doesn’t know, and also to give someone the interpretation of that tongue, though he or she doesn’t know the language which is being spoken. The interpretation (I speak from experience) wells up in you. You just know what that person is speaking about. You don’t know the language. It is not a translation; it is an interpretation. But you do know what God is saying to His people, and you give it forth as inspirationally as the person who gave the new tongue. The new tongue is another form of prophecy. So prophecy can be either in the language of the people, or it can be in another language that has to be interpreted, or it can be given in the form of a picture—a vision. It’s a prophecy just the same.
Let’s take a look at visions. Joel says, “Your young men shall see visions.” And the picture that the young man, or the young woman, or the older person, sees, is given by God. As they see that vision and give it out, God will honor that congregation again with an interpretation, “if there be…an interpreter, one among a thousand,” as Job makes clear.8 This is God’s wonderful way. Doesn’t this make us feel that God is near? And His visions are so absolutely marvelous. When God gives the vision, the detail is perfect. God opens the vision, often when we have been together in prayer, and then God gives the interpretation. Both are amazing, because when the vision is given out, we don’t know what it means; but then when the interpretation is given out, we understand, and the two fit together like two halves to make one glorious whole. Praise God for a church where the people believe in the supernatural character of Christianity!
Now a dream is entirely of the same origin, only it is given when a person is lying down; but it is the same thing as a vision. So do you see now that prophecy in your mother tongue, and prophecy in another tongue, and prophecy in a vision, and prophecy in a dream are all God teaching you His truth? Oh, that God would give many more of these gifts to His people, and attest the true supernatural character of the Christianity that we have come into and enjoy!
God has always worked this way. He did this, of course, in the Old Testament with Joseph, and with Daniel. They both had dreams. Joseph was a young man when he had dreams; Daniel was an old man when he had dreams. God can do what He likes! Others, like Zechariah and Ezekiel, had visions. Still others spoke direct words from God, like Isaiah. Yet whether dreams or visions or spoken utterances, all were prophetic messages from the Lord. Once God wrote an unknown tongue on a wall in Babylon—no one knew what the language was, but God had His interpreter there. The interpreter, Daniel, came in and translated the message into the Chaldee that the Babylonians knew—mene, tekel and pharsin—then explained what it meant—the interpretation. First he translated the unknown tongue into the three words of Chaldee; then he announced the God-given interpretation of what it meant.9 Usually the interpretation of a message in tongues is longer than the tongue, and God gives us an example of that here at Belshazzar’s feast. Are you seeing now what God has done, what He is doing, and what He is willing to do? In the New Testament we also find God moving in these ways. We find Agabus prophesying about a great famine that will come, and it came in the time of the Emperor Claudius.10 That is revealing or foretelling prophecy. Others prophesied in the assembly, as Paul said, not for foretelling, but forthtelling—to encourage the saints, and to edify, which means to build up. So that’s a great purpose of prophecy, too. Your inspired word can establish and build up the saints, and comfort the weary. Oh, the blessing of true God-given prophecy! And, oh, that God would give us more prophecy! Oh, that we might have much more of this true spiritual manifestation!
Too often today we are like the Pharisees—we believe in all the visions and prophecies in the Bible, but we don’t believe God does it today! That is exactly how the Pharisees were in the days of Jesus. They believed that God had given all these things to Israel to get them going and establish them, but now they had the Torah, so they no longer needed a direct word from God. Yet that was a complete untruth, because the Torah revealed that the time would come when God would pour out His Spirit upon all flesh, and they would prophesy. So the Pharisees were wrong. And we have those in the church today, and I am afraid they are in the majority, who say that now we have the Bible, so we have no further need of prophecy; yet it is the very Bible that tells us that God gives prophecy, and prophecy is one of those precious gifts of the Holy Spirit. God wants us all, being baptized in the Holy Ghost, to prophesy in some way, maybe through a tongue, maybe through a spoken word in English, maybe through a vision or a dream. But God wants us all to share in this precious gift.
Have you ever noticed that the very last book in the Bible is one great vision, or prophecy? What do you find in it? Prophecy forthtelling, and prophecy foretelling. A lot of the book of Revelation is to build up the saints in the present. Jesus’ admonition to the seven churches in Asia Minor is for that purpose. But a lot of Revelation is prophecy foretelling what is to come to pass in the future, from the time John wrote it. Much of Revelation is vision, prophecy in vision. Some of Revelation is in an unknown tongue; we haven’t been given the interpretation. When the seven thunders uttered their voices, John said that he was about to write, but God said not to write; so what they said is unknown to us. John wasn’t allowed to write it. So perhaps we shall never know; it was not God’s will that we should know. The book of Revelation is God’s closure to His great book, the Bible. It is a great book to establish the supernatural character of true Christianity.
Brothers and sisters, are you God’s prophets? Have you been baptized in the Holy Ghost? Then resident in you is that Almighty One, the Holy Spirit, who is the Author of prophecy. “Holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Peter 1:21), and holy men and women of God still speak as they are moved by the Holy Ghost. Ask God that you may fully enter into your ministry as members of the Body of Christ, into the true supernatural character of Christianity, and especially in the church in this precious gift of prophetic utterance and vision, for Jesus Christ’s sake. Amen.
Many thanks to Ann Gutteridge
(Percy Gutteridge’s daughter-in-law)
for the original transcription.
- Copyright held by Finest of the Wheat Teaching Fellowship, Inc. Edited and annotated by Jim Kerwin. Co-edited by Denise Kerwin. ↩
- Now commonly referred to as Islam. ↩
- Discarnate: incorporeal; without a physical body. ↩
- Ectoplasm: the “substance” which supposedly emanates from the body of a medium during a séance. ↩
- Acts 3, especially verse 12. ↩
- See Deuteronomy 18:15, 18; 34:10; John 1:45; Acts 3:22; Acts 7:37; and Acts 26:22. ↩
- The allusion is to Ecclesiastes 5:3a. ↩
- Job 33:23 ↩
- The story is related in Daniel 5. ↩
- Acts 11:28 ↩