A DIVINE PRISON
“God strategically imprisons some His servants in order to prepare them for His purposes.
The apostle Paul was imprisoned by God, and in his case it was a literal civic prison. It’s interesting to note that he never gave the Romans the credit for his capture. Never once did he say, “I’m a Roman prisoner”.
In his letter to the Ephesians, he used three phrases to describe himself: “I, Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus” [3v1]; “the prisoner of the Lord” [4v1]; “I am an ambassador in chains” [6v20].Paul clearly understood that even though the Romans had arrested him, it was God who had planned his imprisonment, and as such he insisted that he was God’s prisoner.
Many who are imprisoned by God do not find themselves in a literal prison cell, however. Some are imprisoned by circumstances, by financial constraints, by physical infirmity, by family limitations, and so forth.
The common denominator is limitation and restriction, along with an absolute helplessness to change anything, or a divine mandate to do nothing to initiate change. The shackles may not be literal iron chains, but they are just as real. The initial pain when first restricted by God is seen in the cry of these verses:
Why is light given to a man whose way is hidden, and whom God has hedged in? [Job 3:23].
You have put away my acquaintances far from me; You have made me an abomination to them; I am shut up, and I cannot get out [Psalm 88:8].
He has hedged me in so that I cannot get out; He has made m6y chain heavy. Even when I cry and shout, He shuts out my prayer. He has blocked my ways with hewn stone; He has made my paths crooked [Lamentations 3:7-9].
The length of the incarceration varies with each instance. On one occasion, Peter was in prison for only a few hours before an angel released him [Acts 5:18-19]. Another time, Peter was in jail for a few days before the angel delivered him [Acts 12:4-10]. It seems as though John the Baptist was imprisoned for several weeks before his decapitation. During his first imprisonment, Paul was a prisoner for well over two years.
God’s affection for His prisoners is clearly seen in Scripture. They are honored with these crowning words: “of whom the world was not worthy” [Hebrews 11:38].
Most of God’s prisoners in the biblical record were released at some point in time, and their incarceration and subsequent release are fill with meaning and kingdom purpose.
Occasionally, some of God’s prisoners are killed. For example, Paul was killed during his second imprisonment. John the Baptist was killed in prison. But when we study God’s prisoners in the Bible, and how He deals with them, there is one category of prisoner that is glaringly absent: God never leaves a prisoner to rot in jail until his death. Some are martyred, and the rest are eventually released unto God’s purposes.
This is comforting for God’s prisoners, to know that God intends one of two options for them: martyrdom or release.
The Church at Smyrna :
Jesus spoke some very sobering words to the believers in Smyrna, “Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” [Revelation 2:10].
Even though the devil is the one who throws into prison, the Lord is behind it, and purposely allows it to happen. This is why we don’t have to fear the things we suffer. The Lord oversees our suffering from beginning to end, and after ten days He will deliver us.
Interestingly enough, the number ten is associated elsewhere in Scripture with testing and trials [Job 19:3; Daniel 1:12]. In saying the believers of Smyrna will be tested for ten days, the Lord is preparing them for a season of suffering, but He’s also telling them it won’t last forever. In fact, in the scheme of things, it will be a comparatively short period of time. When you’re in prison, it can feel like it’s lasting an eternity, but the Lord assures us that the time of imprisonment is measured, and it will come to an end in the Lord’s purposes.”
– from: The Fire of Delayed Answers : Bob Sorge.