Category Archives: The End of the Age

God Will Yet Glorify His Name… Again

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We have been talking about the increase in momentum in our world, and how there has been a great casting off of restraint that began in the 1960s.  It has reached the point where now they are redefining marriage.   Redefining the family.  What is next?  Christians who cry against it are considered a menace to society.  They are a threat to the new social order.  Why don’t those Christians get with the momentum and recognize that Christianity is antiquated and belongs in the museum of history?

Many Christians, of course, are doing just that.  The problem is those stubborn Christians who will not go with the flow.  So right here in North America we are beginning to see Christians being persecuted, and it will come to the place where to be a Christian in North America will cost you your job—and your liberty, and your life.  The enemies of Christ and his followers will not stop till they have eradicated His name—and and those who bear His name—from the earth.

What is God’s response to this?

 He that sitteth [enthroned] in the heavens shall laugh.  The Lord shall have them   in derision…. Yet have I set my king upon My holy hill of Zion (Ps. 2:6).

God has set His king upon His holy hill of Zion, and no forces in the universe can remove Him from there.  He is seated there ruling in the midst of His enemies, and will yet see all His enemies put under His feet.  In the meanwhile, things may look very bleak, but we must lean hard on the knowledge that Christ is on the throne, and that God will yet glorify His great and holy Name.

We must lean hard in this hour on the knowledge that God is a God of integrity.  God is a God of His word.  He has not forgotten His word.  What He begins He will finish.  He has begun a great eternal purpose “ which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Eph. 3:11).  In fact the word purposed there is better translated, accomplished.  It is that certain.  And so the eternal purpose He accomplished in Christ will yet be fully wrought out in the Heavens and in the earth.  God will have things His way.  He will glorify His great and mighty Name.

BUT, do we not realize that it is through the Church that God glorifies His Name?

 Unto Him be glory in the church in Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end (Eph. 3:21).

That would include this present generation, then.  This is very encouraging in a day when the glory of the Lord is not on the agenda of most churches here in the West.  Churches without number are preoccupied with their own programs.  They are content with the status quo—the way things are.  The glory of the Lord?  Who is burdened for that?

God is, and He will yet glorify His great and holy Name.  He has done it before.

When God’s people Israel for the most part would not receive His glory—His Son—and thus, as Paul put it, judged themselves unworthy of eternal life, God opened the door to the Gentiles—and in doing so enlarged His purposes exponentially.  This was in accordance with His promise to Abraham, and also the result of an oath He had sworn to Moses long ago. When Israel of old refused to enter the promised land in the days of Moses, God threatened that He would wipe them out and start afresh with another people out of the loins of Moses.  That humble man would have none of it and pled with God to forgive His people.  “Okay,” God said, “I have pardoned according to your word.  But as truly as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord” (See Num. 14:11-21).  This began in the day when He turned to the Gentiles (Acts 13:46).  And what an hour that was!

However, only a blind man could say that this has come to any degree of fullness.  In fact the churches of the Gentiles, at least in the West, are now largely in a state of apostasy.  In this hour it is not the Jews, but Christians who have settled for less than the glory of the Lord.  And so the parable of the marriage supper holds as true today as it did when Jesus used it to provoke the Jews.  A great king had made a marriage supper for his son, and those who were bidden spurned the invitation.  What was his reaction?  He commanded his servants to go quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and into the highways and hedges, “and compel them to come in that my house may be filled.  For I say unto you that none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper” (Lk. 14:16-14; Mt. 22:1-14).

No, you say, that’s already fulfilled, that applied only to the Jews.  Really?  What about Paul’s warning concerning  “the goodness and severity of God”?  He warned that Gentiles who had been grafted into the olive tree of Israel could yet find themselves cut off if they do not continue in His goodness (Rom. 11:17-22).

And so there comes an hour when God, who has stood all the day long with open arms calling to His people to come to this supper, only to be slighted again and again… suddenly He turns and brings to Himself multitudes who were not even looking for Him—the despised, the rejected, the forsaken… and also in this hour—mark my words—multitudes from among the newly “liberated” LGBT world—multitudes, mark my words—who will discover in Christ a salvation and liberty that transforms them to the depths of their being, and satisfies their greatest longings far beyond anything they thought possible.  And He will give them all He offered those who would not come to Him when He called.  And more.

I Will Raise It Up

God has promised His Son that of all He has given Him He should lose nothing, but “raise it up in the last day” (Jn. 6:39).  What is this about?

“Of all that the Father has given Me I should lose nothing…”  Why does He prophesy that?  It’s because the truths that were vibrant, alive, in the days of the early church apparently died, were lost, throughout what are called the Dark Ages.  Then we saw the beginnings of the resurrection of truth in the days of the Reformation (although even through the Dark Ages there was always a small remnant that walked in revealed truth).  However, the reformers built denominations around the truth God had revealed to them, as did their contemporaries the Anabaptists.  The same thing has happened again and again through the history of the Church.  When God wanted to continue the reviving, the resurrection, of truth, His people chronically failed Him, would not move forward with Him into further truth.  And so God had to raise up a new people who would embrace the further truth, till they, in turn, would build a new denomination around this truth instead of going even further with God when He wanted to lead them further.  This has happened chronically throughout the history of the church.  This is what accounts for the system of denominations the world knows as Christianity.  It is a testimony of the failure of God’s people to flow in the river of God, and instead set up their denominational cisterns to contain their little puddle of truth, and further truth was lost to them—along with the glory of the Lord.  Truth is a river, not a puddle.  God’s desire is that we get into His river, and continue to flow all the way back to where the river came from—God Himself.

What does God do, then, with all this lost truth?  He gathers it all up in a last day, and raises it up from the dead, and gives it to a people who are not a people.  I pray with all my heart, and tears in my eyes, that I may be one of them.

God shall yet gather up all that seems to have been lost by previous generations—and truths that are yet hidden in Him that none have ever walked in—and shall give it all together to a generation that shall glorify His name.  A people despised, the scum of the earth, a people who in and of themselves are nothing, a people who were not a people, a people brought in from the highways and hedges and compelled to come in to God’s feast… these are the ones who shall fill the places of those who first invited had spurned the invitation.  They shall see, and reveal, the glory of the Lord.  He shall pour out such grace upon them that they shall glorify His Name as fully as God glorified His Name in His Son.

 And it shall come to pass that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not My people, there shall they be called the sons of the living God (Rom. 9:26,   Hos. 1:10).

I tremble at this.  I want to be numbered among them.  I want my seat at the Kings’s table along with them…

…And I am encouraged to remember that, along with these, there are those throughout all generations who have responded to the King’s invitation in their day.  These too shall He raise up along with the truth He is raising up, and they shall enjoy it in the last day with that generation (Jn. 6:39-40).

Know this.  God’s word shall be fulfilled. All the failures of former days have only intensified what is about to break forth like the waters a dam backed up, backed up, backed up, till the pressure can no longer be contained, and suddenly it bursts.

God will yet again glorify His great and mighty name.

 

 

 

 

Keeping Pace At God’s Speed

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I wonder how many people there are out there in our world who are pretty sure that  God (if there is such a being) never does anything good or bad, and cannot be expected to do anything, so they can safely continue to rule Him out and build their world their own way; the planet is their own and their lives their own to do with as they see fit.

Let me pass along to those who think this way a little counsel.

I am now 68—not old by today’s standards—and in those 68 years I have seen the most dramatic acceleration of change the world has ever seen.

When I was a boy I heard something in church about the earth waxing old “as a garment,” and I used to wonder in what far-off time that would come to pass.  The earth growing old, getting worn out like an old set of clothes?  Maybe hundreds of years down the road, I thought.  It has come to pass in my generation.  The earth on many fronts is on its last legs because of the abuse it has suffered from the tenants who were put here to be its custodians.

I think also of the acceleration in technology.  I remember back in the 1950s when some of us neighbourhood kids went to visit a home several blocks away—people I barely knew—and we stood timidly in the doorway looking in at the bluish light of something called a television.  We looked at one another and marvelled.  It was not long before we had one in our own home.  Now television is an ancient thing.  In fact the technology revolution continues to antiquate things… sometimes you feel on almost a daily basis.  The latest in computer technology is ancient history the day after it hits the market.

I remember also the 1960s, and the sexual revolution when all the restraints of a moral society were being cast off to the accompaniment of music that had entered a new dimension.  I remember Woodstock, and LSD, and flower power.  “If you’re going to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair…”  The older generation was alarmed by it all.  What was the world coming to?  That was all pretty Victorian compared to now.  Now there has been such a casting off of restraint that they are redefining marriage.

This accords with Scripture, this casting off of restraint; we who know our Bible and our God knew this was coming somewhere down the road (2 Thes. 2:6,7, Ps. 2).  It  has come now—and is yet to come.  What an acceleration of moral licence has taken place in one generation.

Things that had not changed much for generations, even centuries… suddenly in one generation exponential changes in the world of man.

And yet it is not considered that the living God might have anything comparable by way of an acceleration of His purposes, and an exponential manifestation of His own power and glory.

“Oh but,” someone wants to comfort me, “Haven’t you heard about the wonderful new things happening in Christianity?  Third wave?  Emergence?   Convergence?”

Labour not to comfort me.  These are man’s attempts to prop up a dying church order.  For, by and large, institutional Christianity has become Ichabod—yes, even the big Charismatic churches where all the action is.  The glory has departed.  If we Christians cannot see this, the world around us isn’t blind.  In fact, the world around us is impatient to see us acknowledge humiliating defeat, and toss Christianity into the dustbin of history where it belongs.

I agree with them, actually—that is, as far as what has come to be called Christianity is concerned.  And I am not alone.  Many Christians these days are grieved to the quick by how deeply dishonouring the present system of denominational Christianity is to the living God, and cry to Him day and night because of it.  They are concerned for the glory of His Name.

God will not disappoint them.  God will yet glorify His great and mighty Name.

He has done it before.  He will do it again.

And He will do it at a breathtaking pace.

There is a time in the purposes of God when great patience, and long suffering, and long waiting, and relentless prayer, and persistent perseverance, and cries of, Oh Lord Jesus, how long, how long, till we shout the glad song, Christ returneth, Christ returneth…  all this is the lot of those who have been called to stay faithful and awake on their watch in the night.  God, it seems, is not moving, but we must learn to keep pace with Him in such times– He provides the grace to enable us to do so– and not run ahead of Him.

But then there comes an hour…

…An hour when the same God who takes forty long years in a wilderness to prepare a man who, by the time he is ready to do what God has in mind, has no interest in being God’s man of power anymore, for he knows he cannot do what God has in mind, and tells God He should find someone else… this same God uses that meek and broken man to deliver a captive people in a single night.

…An hour when after long centuries of waiting in which God has put it in the heart of certain of His chosen in all generations to “wait for the consolation of Israel,” suddenly the fullness of time arrives, and the Consolation of Israel has come!  With what result?  Straightway, immediately, forthwith (which are all English translations of the same Greek word) appears 40 times in Mark’s gospel alone.

…An hour when after much seeking, and heart searching, and attentive waiting, and great anticipation, “the day of Pentecost was fully come,” and “they were all with one accord in one place.”  What a deep, deep work had been accomplished in them.  “And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting” (Acts 2:2).  Oh, glorious hour!

…An hour when it is nigh impossible to keep pace with this God now, and not lag behind Him.  He moves suddenly, unexpectedly, swiftly, and we are hard pressed to keep up with Him, a time when “the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him that soweth seed” (Amos 9:13).

Can you figure that one out?  The reaper with his sickle is cutting down the ripe grain.  Suddenly he feels something hard against his heel.  He turns to look.  A plowshare!  The plowman cannot wait to plant the new grain for a further crop!

And the treader of grapes is stained with the blood of the grapes that a moment ago the sower of seed had put in the ground of the vineyard.

Talk about acceleration!

Beloved, if there has been all this acceleration among the children of men in a single generation, do you not think the living God might have something even more spectacular—and surprising—in store?  On behalf of His own glorious Name?

 For He will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth (Rom. 9:28).

If we believe this, let us not be among those who are taken by surprise when He moves.

 Be ye therefore ready also, for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not.

Let us believe, and with loins girded up, be ready to keep pace with Him.  He will provide the grace to enable us to do so.

More next time.

Keep The Feast Of Tabernacles

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A few days ago I had not spent the necessary time waiting, seeking, praying, till I had the assurance of the Presence of the Lord in my heart before venturing into my day. And so I suffered most of the day with a troubled heart.  Yes, I know, foolish me.  At the same time I know it’s not always foolishness; these are increasingly difficult days; we are up against Egypt and Babylon—a world system built from the ground up to shut God out.  But when I could endure it no longer I finally found a quiet place and bowed my head and opened my heart to my Lord.  I am so thankful for His mercy.  It was not long before His Presence seeped into my heart and washed out the troubles.  And He began to speak to me.  Oh, the preciousness of hearing His Voice again!  I am sure He could hear mine—the troubled bleating of one of His sheep who had temporarily lost his way.  But as soon as I heard the Voice of my Shepherd I had my bearings again; I knew where I was, and where I was going—that is, where I was being led.

Oh the assurance, the comfort, of His Voice!  And instead of the troubles I found these words in my heart—“Keep the feast of tabernacles.”  I knew immediately this was a reminder, for it was a word He had spoken into my heart many years ago.

When the children of Israel returned from their Babylonian captivity in the days of Nehemiah they discovered in the book of the law that they were to keep the feast of tabernacles—Succoth, or Booths—in the seventh month.  This is something they could not do in the land of their captivity; it was to be kept in their own land in the place God designated.

Three times in a year shall all thy males appear before the LORD thy God in the place which he shall choose; in the feast of unleavened bread, and in the feast of weeks, and in the feast of tabernacles: and they shall not appear before the LORD empty (Dt. 16:16).

That’s a promise—that they would not appear before Him empty—and the place was of course Jerusalem, the city God had chosen for His temple, His dwelling place.  And so here in Nehemiah we find the children of Israel who have returned from the Babylonian captivity gathering together in Jerusalem in the seventh month.

Let’s quickly review the events.  On the first day of the month—the day of the sounding of trumpets that initiates the feast of tabernacles (Lev. 23:24)—Nehemiah read from the book of the law, and the Levites with him “gave the sense” (Neh. 8:8).  That is, they caused the people to understand what was written.  This is the true significance of the feast of trumpets—the sounding forth of the word of the Lord in a way that opens the understanding to what is hidden in the letter of precept and prophecy.

It’s interesting to note, by the way, that when Nehemiah gives the names of the Levites who are standing with him, six are on his right and seven on his left, making fourteen altogether.  In other words, as a friend pointed out to me once, Nehemiah himself was not in the centre here.  Who was in the centre, then?  It’s a beautiful picture of corporate leadership in the church, in which no one man, but Christ Himself, is always to be in the centre.

There is much in this passage and we can’t cover it all here.  For one thing, there is no mention of the Day of Atonement, which is the very heart of the feast of tabernacles.  Not that they bypassed this day—as many have done in our day.  This is what accounts for the great uncleanness in much of the present-day feasting in the Charismatic realm.  People have wanted to keep the Feast without keeping the Fast (as the Day of Atonement was called.)  But to celebrate the feast of tabernacles without first keeping the fast of the Day of Atonement is a recipe for deception.  Without being broken before the Lord in great repentance and sorrow at the foot of the Cross…  without apprehending His atonement for sin… without His cleansing… no wonder the feasting of our day is so unholy and shallow and full of all manner of uncleanness and carnality. “Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep,” cries James.  “Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to heaviness” (Jas. 4:9).

This is what happened in Nehemiah’s day; there was great repentance when the people discovered what God called for in His Law.  The people mourned.  God’s reaction to their mourning?  He rejoiced to see it!  (In our day the reverse is true: the carnal rejoicing fills Him with sorrow.)  But then God in turn told the people to dry their tears and make His joy their own.  Don’t weep any further, He told them, “For the joy of the LORD is your strength” (Neh. 8:10).

And so in accordance with the newly-discovered Law, the people now went forth “unto the mount,” and gathered branches:

…olive branches, and pine (wild olive) branches, and myrtle branches, and palm branches, and branches of thick trees, to make booths, as it is written.
So the people went forth, and brought them, and made themselves booths, every one upon the roof of his house, and in their courts, and in the courts of the house of God, and in the street of the water gate, and in the street of the gate of Ephraim.
And all the congregation of them that were come again out of the captivity made booths, and sat under the booths: for since the days of Joshua the son of Nun unto that day had not the children of Israel done so.  And there was very great gladness (Neh. 8:15-17).

I believe we have here a beautiful prophetic picture that is fulfilled in the city of God, the bride of Christ, the church.  With the help of the Holy Spirit we lift up our eyes from this Old Testament passage and see in the day of Christ the people of God gathered together as one.  They have come together from all places where they have been scattered among the denominations, have come together in the new Jerusalem the city of God to keep the longed-for feast, the great feast, the feast of tabernacles.  They are one in the Spirit with no doctrinal or denominational divisions.  They are dwelling together in unity, and their Lord is dwelling with them.  Not that they are all together in one huge building; they are dwelling in booths—little arbours of branches entwined together.  Succoth in fact comes from a root meaning “to entwine.”  It is a beautiful picture of the humble little fellowships the Lord has in mind for His people in the City of God.  A few “branches” are knit together in love, their lives are intertwined with one another… and with the life of the Man “whose name is The Branch” (Zech. 6:12).  He Himself is dwelling with them.  He is their tabernacle, and they are His tabernacle.

Israel was to commemorate this feast annually as a reminder of the day they came out of Egypt.

Ye shall dwell in booths seven days… that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God (Lev. 23:42,43).

When they came out of Egypt this was actually the name of their first encampment in the wilderness—Succoth, or Booths (Ex. 12:37, Num. 33.5).  They had left all behind; the little booth of branches was all they had now.  In the same breath, nothing else had a hold on them either!  They were no longer slaves, they were free!  Their God had liberated them from the iron furnace, from Egyptian bondage, from the servitude of building Pharaoh’s treasure cities.  They had left all the security of Egypt behind them for a flimsy booth of branches… and their God!

And so here in the days of Nehemiah the people are keeping the feast of tabernacles once again.  Do you see them—multitudes of rejoicing people camping in these little arbours of branches?  Wherever you look, there they are—in the streets of Jerusalem and in the courts of the house of the Lord and on the rooftops of their houses…  They are detached from it all—from their homes, their possessions, their jobs, their troubles, their cares, their fears….  Oh, but what about this, Lord?  What about that?  No, He says, you just keep the feast of tabernacles.  I’ll look after all that.

You touch the beauty of it and suddenly your breath catches in your throat.  There is a secret here.  A shelter of branches, so insecure, so weak… yet you are touching immeasurable strength and provision.  A flimsy shelter of branches…  and you are canopied under the eternal God.  The branches intertwined with one another speak of the corporate relationship, the individual branches themselves of the abiding relationship.  It’s a picture of the Christ-life, really, which we are to know both individually and corporately, the beautiful life of Christ Himself, the Life of the ages, which was with the Father and was manifested to us, the Life that is more than meat and raiment, the life that is free from the bondage of sin… and from the shackles of this present evil world, the life that is free from all the things that the Gentiles seek, “free from corroding care,” free to walk with God and worship Him in Spirit and in truth—at all times and in all circumstances.

It is the life free from the troubles and entanglements and cares of this world even while we are yet in the midst of them, the Life into which we ourselves have been immersed because of the Holy Spirit.  We become mingled with one another, and with the Son of God Himself.  Jesus promised this would be the result of the sending forth of His Spirit, saying, “At that day ye shall know that I am in My Father, and ye in Me, and I in you” (Jn. 14:20).  (Note well the plural here: “at that day ye shall know… ye in me, and I in you…”  If Christ is in me and in my brother as well, there can be no more division between us than there is between Father and Son.)

This, of course, is something that was inaugurated at Pentecost; Jesus had in mind the sending of the Spirit when He said this.  “At that day ye shall know…”  But Pentecost is “the earnest of the Spirit,” the pledge, the guarantee, that is given us assuring a redemption, a great fullness yet to come (Eph. 1:13,14; 4:30).  Pentecost is the feast of firstfruits (Ex. 23:16).  There is a greater harvest yet to come—“the feast of ingathering, which is in the end of the year.”  The feast of tabernacles.  So Paul (I believe referring to the pentecostal baptism) speaks of having “the firstfruits of the Spirit” (Rom. 8:23).  This is the guarantee of a great harvest yet to come, a festival of unbridled joy when the purposes of God in Christ and the church have come to ultimate fullness.

Nehemiah says that this feast had not been celebrated with such joy since the days when the Israelites first took the land in the days of Joshua—an interval of something like nine hundred years.  There were times in the days of the kings when it was observed, but apparently nothing like this.  I wonder if this, too, isn’t prophetic of the church.  Passover we know, and Pentecost we know.  Where is the feast of Tabernacles?  Yes I agree, the truths of the feast of tabernacles have been applicable to the whole church age; all through the history of the church there have been those who kept aspects of this feast… in a measure.  But I believe that now we are entering a time of fullness, and we are going to see a mighty outpouring of the Spirit, and we are going to see our Great Shepherd move His mighty arm and gather His lambs to His bosom and deliver them from all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day.  I believe we are going to see these little “booths” of the feast of tabernacles springing up all over the land.  It is the City of God coming down out of Heaven from God.  The New Jerusalem.  And a great Voice says:

Behold the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them… (Rev. 21:3).

He will tabernacle with them, the original says.  It’s the same word John used when he said, “The word was made flesh, and dwelt (tabernacled) among us…” (Jn. 1:14).   But God dwelling in His Son… this was in anticipation of the day when He would tabernacle not just in the one Man, but in a whole City of men—the bride of Christ, the New Jerusalem, the church.  Oh, the wonder of it all!  How our God has longed with great longings to keep this feast!

This is why some Christians these days are feeling they have outgrown their clothes, as it were.  The way they have done church for so long just doesn’t fit anymore.  Something in their heart is longing for more room.  It’s causing great alarm among those who consider this a threat to the old order and want it preserved.  But what is happening is of God.  He has something so much larger for His people—and for Himself.  That’s why some are being drawn to become intertwined with a few others in these little “booths.”  Didn’t I just say, larger?  How is this larger—little booths?  Gathering in a little booth like this seems very small when most are flocking to the mega-churches of our day.

But mark my words; these little booths are going to multiply.  These little booths by the thousands in the streets of the City of God all over the land—this is the only vessel large enough, compatible enough, to contain the glory of the Lord.

This Ark Can Go Through Fire

We’ve been talking about the great flood of Noah’s day and the ark he built, and how that is a figure of the atonement of Christ on Calvary.  We saw that Peter likened the flood to a great baptism, and the ark to God’s salvation in that baptism.  Peter said that the Christian’s baptism in water is “a like figure” (1 Pt. 4.21).  Water baptism is itself a figure that cannot accomplish what the real baptism can—the cleansing of the conscience.

This does not mean we should not be baptized in water, as some have taught (the early Quakers and the Salvation Army, for instance).  The early Quakers taught that as a mere outward ordinance water baptism wasn’t necessary.  I can understand their stand on this; the church of their day had become totally seized up with the formalism of outward ordinances.  But Paul, after that experience on the Damascus Road, was baptized in water.  And in other places in The Acts we find that the apostles who baptized people in the Holy Spirit also baptized them in water.  And so we do this also. It’s a step of obedience that shows our commitment to submit to the true baptism—baptism into Christ—all our days.

And we are yet going to discover that baptism into Christ, the baptism of the cross, the baptism of the Holy Spirit and fire—all this along with water baptism is really only “one baptism”—is going to make us invulnerable to the fires of the Day of the Lord.  This is our “ark.”

Peter has much to say about Noah and the flood as something that foreshadows the present dispensation and what is before us now—the fires of the Day of the Lord.  And he says that in the last days there would be scoffers walking after their own lusts and saying:

Where is the promise of His coming?  For since the fathers fell asleep all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation (2 Pt. 3.4).

George Warnock points out in one of his writings (Chain Reaction in Realms of the Spirit) that we are well past that time now.  Men are no longer saying that all things continue the same.  How could they?  Things have accelerated dramatically the last few decades.  What with the AIDS epidemic, and 9/11, and devastating earthquakes and tsunamis, and peace and order disintegrating on every hand… no one says any more that things continue the same.  More and more the words of the scoffers are hollow in their mouths when they ridicule the words of the Lord.

Peter reminds them (and us) that it was the word of the Lord that sustained the old world (the world before the flood, 2 Pt. 3.5).  It was the word of the Lord that had created the heavens of old, and the earth.  It was the word of the Lord that on the third day had caused the dry land to appear out of the water (Gen. 1.9).  Even during the time when the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah while the ark was being prepared, the word of the Lord continued to sustain that world.

But then the day… and the hour… and the minute came… and by the same word of the Lord the windows of heaven were opened and all the fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the world was deluged with water, and perished (2 Pt. 3.6).

It is only the word of God that continues to sustain our present world (Heb. 1.3, 11.3).  Only the word of the Lord.  Not yet, He says.  Not yet.  Not yet.  The longsuffering God who waited in the days of Noah is waiting again in our day.  He is longsuffering toward us not willing that any should perish but that all come to repentance (2 Pt. 3.9).  And so we account that His longsuffering is with a view to salvation (2 Pt. 3.15).  It’s not because He is slack on the job and doesn’t care about this sin-torn world.  He hates iniquity far deeper than we.  But the work of the Holy Spirit in God’s people is not finished yet.  The Ark is not quite ready yet.

But when it is finally ready?  He will speak.  There will be fire.

But the heavens and the earth which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition (destruction) of ungodly men” (2 Pt. 3.7).

What the ark was in prophetic type back in the days of Noah it is in reality now.  Back then those in the ark became the beginnings of a new creation.  All else was destroyed.  Noah was the “eighth person” (2 Pt. 2.5).  “Eight souls were saved by water” (1 Pt. 3.20).  Eight in Scripture is the number that signifies a new beginning.  It is the same now.  God has a new beginning in mind—a new creation.  Its beginnings are already in the Ark.  For “if any man be in Christ he is a new creature…” (2 Cor. 5.17).

And only what is in the Ark Christ Jesus is going to survive the fires of the day of the Lord.

All else will not make it through.  “The earth and all the works that are therein shall be burned up” (2 Pt. 3.10).  Wickedness shall not rise up the second time.  We will all be glad.  For out of it will come a new creation, a new heaven and a new earth in which dwelleth righteousness—that is, in which righteousness is not an unwelcome unwanted stranger, but is at home (2 Pt. 3.13).

I long for that Day.  Surely we understand that this is not about some kind of vengeful God wreaking wrath on innocent victims.  It’s about a God of love who is pained more deeply than we can comprehend with the evil that has engulfed His world.  That’s what motivated Him back in Noah’s day.  He hated the iniquity.  He hated the violence.  He put a stop to it.

What He has in mind as a result of the fires of the day of the Lord is a world in which righteousness is at home.  He is a God who loves righteousness, and hates iniquity.  Do you and I also love righteousness and hate iniquity?  Are we like Him ourselves?  Just as Noah built the ark and in doing so condemned the world, we can hasten the coming of the Day of Fire by our own “ark building”—our holy and godly lives—as we mentioned last time.

Therefore, since all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness,
Looking for and hastening the coming of the Day of God… (2 Pt. 3.11, 12, NKJV).

We can hasten that day!

And we can be found in Christ in that day—in the Ark, that is, when everything around us is going up in smoke.

Wherefore, beloved, seeing ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of Him in peace, without spot, and blameless (2 Pt. 3.14).

There is only one Place in this universe where anyone can be found of Him in peace, without spot, and blameless.  That is in Christ.  In the Ark.

Beloved, there are many who mock these Bible stories, and scoff at them– at the word of the Lord.  Let us see to it that we ourselves are not mockers and scoffers.  Let us take these things seriously.  Let us get out of Sodom.  Let us get into the Ark.  I remember as a young man how I myself used to heap scorn upon such fairy tales, and the naive people who believed them.  But I remember the night I was converted.  It still stands out in my memory how I suddenly saw that the story of Noah and the ark was actually true.  It was not a fairy tale.  It was true!  It actually happened!  What a change had taken place in this I-know-better mind of mine!

And so I say… let us take God seriously, just as Noah did, who being “warned of God of things not seen as yet,” by faith built that ark and entered it.  Let us give diligence to do the same.  God means business.  Judgment is at the door.  This has been so impressed upon my spirit of late.  How little we understand God—that He is a God who exercises not only lovingkindness, but also “justice and righteousness in the earth” (Jer. 9.24).  How terribly people have presumed upon His goodness and lovingkindness and longsuffering and patience and grace.  But when His hour comes He is going to show His undiluted hatred for unrighteousness and iniquity.  It has caused Him such deep pain to see what iniquity has caused in His earth.

He is going to deal with it all.  The Day of Fire is dawning.  And just as the ark was the only way through “the stormy waters,” the Cross of Calvary is the only way through the fire—the fires of judgment of the Great Day of the Lord.  It is the mystery of the Cross.  What to some is certain destruction becomes for others their salvation—because of the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Get Into The Ark!

After I wrote last time about getting out of Sodom I read over the passage in Luke where Jesus talks about the days of the coming of the Son of man (Lk. 17.22-37).

Jesus said that the same day Noah entered into the ark, the flood came and destroyed them all.

And He said the same day Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all.

That is, all those who were carrying on “business as usual.”  This is the emphasis of Jesus’ warning in both scenarios.   The majority of people were going about the ordinary activities of everyday life when Noah and his family were entering the ark, and Lot and his family were getting out of Sodom.

God did not rain down destruction on Sodom till Lot and his family got out of Sodom.

He did not bring the flood upon the world of the ungodly till Noah and his family had entered into the ark.

But in both cases as soon as this was accomplished destruction followed swiftly—the same day.

“So shall it be also in the days of the Son of man,” Jesus warns.  “Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed (unveiled)” (Lk. 17.26,30).

…But reading this passage I noticed something I hadn’t seen before.  One involves getting out; the other entering in.

Getting out of Sodom is critical.  We must hasten our escape from Sodom at the peril of our lives.  But this is an emphasis that doesn’t give us the full picture of our need—nor of God’s wondrous provision of salvation in the day of judgment.  God had an ark for Noah and his family in the midst of great destruction.  He has an Ark for us today… and we must enter into that Ark.  What is this all about?

I think it’s very meaningful that God instructed Noah to pitch the ark within and without with pitch.  It’s the same word—kaphar—that is used for to make atonement.  It means simply to cover.  The same root is found in the word translated mercy seat in our English Bibles—kapporeth.   And this mercy seat, this Covering, is Christ Himself.

For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God
Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:
Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation (Gk. mercy seat, compare Heb. 9.5 where the same word is used) through faith in His blood… (Rom. 3.23-25).

So the ark typifies the atonement—God’s provision in Christ for sinners to be made righteous by faith, and thus saved from the wrath that is the inevitable desert of those who make a continual meal of ungodliness and refuse to push away from that table.

Peter bears witness to this view of the ark; he compares Noah’s flood to baptism, and the ark to God’s salvation in Christ.

…The longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is eight souls, were saved by water.
The like figure whereunto baptism doth now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:
Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and power being made subject unto Him (1 Pt. 3.20-22).

Peter likens the flood to a great baptism, and Noah’s ark to Christ’s salvation in that baptism.  He says God waited with much longsuffering in the days of Noah while the ark was being prepared.  “Wherein (that is to say, in the ark) few… were saved by water.”  Those in the ark were saved in that great “baptism” of the flood… because of the ark.

But then Peter continues, “the like figure whereunto baptism doth now save us…”  Baptism, says Peter, is itself a figure, a “corresponding figure,” as Greek scholar W.E. Vine defines the word.  What is water baptism a figure of, then?  It’s a figure of our participation in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Now note.  It is not baptism in water that saves us.  We are not saved by being baptized in water.  Water baptism is just a type, a figure, of the true baptism.  The true baptism, the real baptism, is baptism into Christ—into His death and resurrection.  This is where our salvation lies.  It is Christ who is our Ark of salvation.  It is Christ in whom the old man has been judged and totally done away with—crucified—and in whom the new man has come into being in resurrection life, a new man who is as righteous as God Himself.

And so we must be baptized into Christ in order to be saved from the wrath to come.  “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved” (Mk. 16.16).  This is not a reference to water baptism.  It’s talking about the baptism that saves us—baptism into Christ.  Water baptism attests to this.  The baptism of the Holy Spirit initiates it.  The baptism of the Cross fulfills it.  (Remember, Jesus spoke of His pending Cross a baptism, Lk. 12.50.)

And so the writer of Hebrews tells us that Noah by building the ark became heir of the righteousness that is of faith (Heb. 11.7).  Noah heard God, and acted upon what he heard.  Building the ark was Noah’s great work of faith.  This resulted in his salvation.

By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith (Heb. 11.7).

I think we see in this passage a prophetic glimpse of Jesus Christ, who in His death and resurrection was preparing an ark to the saving of His house—the household of faith.  Christ Himself is our Ark of salvation—which we enter when we are baptized into Him in the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  In that instant we are new creatures in Christ; in that instant we are in the true Ark of God—and have confidence that we will be preserved through every trial and judgment to come…

…As we continue to submit to this baptism and abide in this Ark from day to day.  Our Ark will see us through all the “stormy waters” with rejoicing… as we continue to work the work of faith, resting in Him, trusting in Him, and obeying Him.  Those who are doing this are secure in the Ark.

This is the thing the writer of Hebrews is emphasizing—the obedience unto which we are called, the obedience of faith… which becomes the ark of our own salvation, as Noah’s obedience became.  There is a work of faith by which we, too, build an “ark” and enter it.  Many there are who carry on day in and day out just as the people did in the days of Noah.  Others are building an ark.  How?  By hearing what God is saying, and obeying.  This becomes our ark of salvation.  Yes, Christ Himself is the Ark.  But this daily ark building becomes our statement of faith—that we believe Jesus Christ to be the Ark of our salvation, the only Ark that is able to see us through what we have to go through today… and what is coming tomorrow.  Our patient day-by-day “work” on this ark is our statement that we believe God concerning things not seen as yet.

By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house…

Noah believed God… and he built that ark.  The proof that we believe is that we are doing the same thing.

And those who are not doing this?  This is what accounts for the sense of urgency in this hour.  Many are not doing this.  Our Lord urges, “Build that ark, get into the ark!”  It’s possible to be baptized in water and still not be in the Ark.  It’s possible to receive the initial baptism of the Holy Spirit and still not be prepared for what is before us because we are not submitting to the daily baptism of the Cross Jesus spoke of.  It’s possible to neglect our salvation.  Yes, Jesus built that Ark for us on Calvary.  Only He can atone for sin.  But the proof that we believe this is shown in our daily walk of faith with Him—we are taking up our cross and following Him.  We are abiding in Him, and in His yoke.  We are resting in Him.  We are listening for His Voice and obeying Him.

In this way we too are building that ark, and are entering it, and are ready for what is about to descend on our world, confident that right in the midst of the fires of the Day of the Lord there is no more secure place in the universe.

Get Out Of Sodom!

I don’t watch TV but the other day on the Internet news they were plugging a new program called GCB.  When I discovered what the letters stand for it turned my stomach.  The words came upon my heart, “The Lord will destroy this place.”  That’s what the angels told Lot when they sought to press upon him the urgency of the hour.  Destruction was at the door.  He needed to get out of that place!

For we will destroy this place, because the cry of them is waxen great before the face of the LORD; and the LORD hath sent us to destroy it (Gen. 19.13).

There’s no doubt in my mind—hasn’t been for some time—that we live in Sodom.  Only the morally blind think otherwise.  This latest news just clinched it for me.  I understand that sordid lives make prime time entertainment here in Sodom.  Nothing new about that.    The new low of this latest offering on the idol altar of entertainment is that it’s about the so-called lives of so-called Christians.

Meaning that once again the beautiful holy name of Christ is trampled in the mire.

Don’t the men who put this kind of thing out have any fear?  Has God not said plain and clear that what He did to Sodom and Gomorrah was “an ensample to them that after should live ungodly?” (2 Pt. 2.6).  Yet you fly in the face of God, you people who are involved in this?  You continue to live ungodly?  I don’t know how the Lord is going to judge that area of the U.S. where they continue to spew out this vomit… but He is going to do it.  And I tremble to think of it.  It’s not without reason that David said, “Horror hath taken hold upon me because of the wicked that forsake Thy law” (Ps. 119.53).

…And what about us who live in the midst of all this day in and day out?

Lot, Peter tells us, was “vexed with the filthy conversation (conduct) of the wicked” (2 Pt. 2.7).  The words are stronger in the Greek.  Lot was worn down, oppressed, with the licentious lives of the lawless.

For that righteous man dwelling among them in seeing and hearing vexed (tormented) his righteous soul from day to day with their lawless deeds (2 Pt. 2.8).

Yet still Lot lingered—reluctant to leave.  His heart was entangled in Sodom.  The angels had to lay hold of him by the hand and pull him out, he and his family.  When finally they got them out, even then Lot’s wife looked back, still joined in her heart to the life she was leaving behind.

And she became a pillar of salt.

The story of Lot is, to me, one of the saddest in the Bible.  When it became necessary for him to part ways with Abraham he chose the well-watered plain of Sodom in spite of the fact that “the men of Sodom were wicked, and sinners before the LORD exceedingly” (Gen. 13.13).  It was prosperous there, and that appealed to him.  It seems he fit in quite well there.  He was even involved in their politics.  This is the implication of his sitting in the gate of Sodom (Gen. 19.1).  But from the look of it, Lot’s testimony apparently hadn’t created much conviction or conversion.  God had promised Abraham He would not destroy Sodom if He could find even ten righteous men there.

Do you look down on Lot for all this?  I think I have.  It kind of amazes me to read that Peter called him a righteous man.  But are not we Christians—whose righteousness consists of faith in Jesus—very much like Lot?  We too dwell in Sodom, and like Lot are vexed from day to day with what we see and hear.  That’s why I don’t watch TV.  It’s like looking for something clean in a garbage can.  A program you might think is okay… suddenly an unclean ad is in your face.

And now comes this GCB program.  It’s the Name of Christ in it that hit me so hard.  That hurt.  Oh, how the beautiful Name of Jesus Christ has been smeared on our day!  Why do these people put out this excrement?  I think maybe I know why.  It’s in vogue these days to put out programs the Christians will watch.  They know the Christians love to watch TV… and, ah, they’ve got money.  So the advertisers are calling for programs with a Christian theme now.  They’re realizing they’ve got to cater to the Christians if they want that money in their pockets.  So the story writers find a way to incorporate something Christian into the programs.  There’s big money in it.

And we are content enough to fork it out, it seems, not even realizing they’re mocking us.  Our eyes have been put out, like Samson, and we tread out the corn for the Philistines even as they mock us.  This new TV show brazenly mocks Christians.  What it amounts to is that Christ’s name is openly blasphemed.  For is it not His Name that is called upon us?  Are we not Christians—Christ-ones?

…But maybe there’s another reason—a harder one to acknowledge—why these people in the entertainment industry are putting out this kind of thing.  It’s what Malachi prophesied—that God would smear the excrement of His people over their own faces (Mal. 2.3).  There is hypocrisy among Christians.  And God is smearing it publicly to our shame now.  Seems it’s easy enough for Him to find those who love to do the smearing…

…And not quite as easy for Him to find those who feel the shame.  Many of us who love His Name feel the shame.  The reproaches of those who reproach Christ fall on us.  We cry to God for the abominations we see all around us (Ezek. 9.4).  Oh that more would join us!

God says, “My Name continually every day is blasphemed” (Isa. 52.5).  And it’s because of His own people that His Name is blasphemed.  “For the Name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you” (Rom. 2.24).  That’s how it was back then among the apostate Jews… and that’s how has become once again among the apostate Christians.  Many of us hang our heads because of this, and many more ought to be hanging their heads.

But notice what God says immediately after this statement about His Name being blasphemed every day because of His people.

Therefore My people shall know My Name; therefore they shall know in that Day that I am He that doth speak: behold it is I (Isa. 52.6).

I long for this and anticipate it—that He who is jealous for His Name is going to cause His Name to be revealed again, as He has promised.  Things may be very dismal just now, but we have great hope!  Jesus said:

I have made known unto them Thy Name, and WILL make it known… (Jn. 17.26).

“I have made known unto them Thy Name…”  He was speaking of His days in the earth when in the midst of all that apostasy and hypocrisy He went about making the Father’s Name known—in righteousness, and holiness, and love, and mercy, and forgiveness, and healing.  It was a time when Jehovah’s name was greatly blasphemed because of the apostasy of His people.  Suddenly here was One who was making that Name known!

And He says He will do it again!  He says, “I WILL make it known…”  He is speaking of the sending of the Holy Spirit, whom He says “the Father will send in My Name” (Jn. 14.26).  Jehovah’s Name will be vindicated again… through those in whom the Holy Spirit of Christ abides!  Again there will be much love and mercy and forgiveness revealed.

But for those despise this love and mercy and forgiveness…

Behold, the Name of the LORD cometh from far, burning with His anger, and the burden thereof is heavy: His lips are full of indignation, and His tongue as a devouring fire… (Isa. 30.27).

He is going to come in fire… with a burning word in the mouths of those who are jealous for His Name, and who are baptized in the Holy Ghost and fire.

And He is going to destroy this place—this Sodom and Gomorrah we live in—this licentious blasphemous “city,” and those in her who continually stick out their tongues at God.   Righteous Christian… get out of her!  Be not a partaker of her evil… or of her judgment.

How do we get out of her?   God knows how.  Trust God, and obey.  He knows how to deliver the godly out of the overthrow that is coming, at the same time meting out righteous judgment to those who thumb their noses at Him and consider this planet their own to do whatever they want in.

I tremble for what is before us.  I am grieved to the quick over the licentiousness and iniquity and blasphemy of our day.  How can God be feeling then?  Our God is a God of tremendous longsuffering and patience, and He is able to wait long—so long that most people think He has abandoned the planet.

But the God of longsuffering and patience is also a God who loves righteousness, and hates iniquity.  And He is going to put an end to it all.

Expectations For 2012

About this time of year the prophets take advantage of the opportunity to once again favour us with their annual forecasts.  If you think you might be detecting a flavour of cynicism here, I commend you on your discernment.  Over the years I have become very skeptical about much of this, especially the offerings that the popular Charismatic prophets put forth as they compete with one another in wooing the people.  I have observed that, a) most of the things they tell us will happen in the coming year do not happen; and, b) they rarely if ever prophesy the things that actually do happen.

We are not to despise prophesyings; my heart is open to hear a truly prophetic word.  But all too often we neglect to read the next verse in Paul’s exhortation.  Yes, he said, “Despise not prophesyings.”  But immediately following this he adds, “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good” (1 Thes. 5.20,21).  So, we are not to swallow whole all that the prophets set before us; we are to test what they say, prove what they say—and hold fast only that which is good.  How can we do this?  How can we discern the true from the false?  Only by drawing very close to the Lord ourselves and seeking to cultivate a hearing heart—the kind of hearing that comes only to the one who has offered his whole life to God on the altar of burnt sacrifice.

I don’t have a prophetic gifting myself.  But as one who seeks to steep his life in the word of God and stay awake on his watch, I believe I can say confidently that the coming year will continue to see great shakings—both in the world and in the church.  This is both a warning and a promise.  A warning, because those whose lives are not right with God dread the prospect of shakings.  A promise, because those who love Him anticipate the shakings.  They may not feel very capable in themselves to go through hard things.  But even so, they trust their God to bring them through, so they anticipate what is ahead.  For, the shakings mean that the faithful God is at work.  He has promised to shake all that can be shaken, and remove all that can be shaken, and bring in a Kingdom that cannot be shaken (Heb. 12.27-29).  God is a God of judgment, and His judgments are being released, as we have seen over the last few years.  To the haters of God this is deeply resented.  But, “Zion heard and was glad; and the daughters of Judah rejoiced because of Thy judgments, O LORD” (Ps. 97.8).

God needs no one to defend Him from His accusers—those who charge that the Christians’ God is a vindictive God, that His judgments are not just.  But let me remind you that the God of love is a God of righteousness.  He hates evil.  He is deeply pained with what evil has done in His world.  Yes, He is patient and longsuffering beyond our capacity to comprehend—so much so, that those whose rule of life is to do as they please assure themselves that God (if He even exists) obviously never interferes with this world of theirs.  But God is not going to endure evil forever.  He is going to roll up His sleeves, and when He is finished no evil will be found in this world of His.  None whatsoever.  He is going to deal with all evil—once and for all.  In fact at the Cross He already did that.  And He intends to bring the judgment of the Cross fully to bear upon the whole world.  For some this is bad news.

But for others, this is good news; it means our salvation.  What did the days of the flood mean to Noah and the ark?  It was the time of salvation for those in the ark.  And when judgments were being meted out on Egypt, it was because a great salvation was in the works.  There was darkness over Egypt so thick it could be felt.  But the children of Israel had light in their dwellings.

So is the Day of the Lord.  Some dread the sunup of this Day.  It means the end of their night of pleasure—the pleasure of self-will and sin, I mean.  “Behold, the day cometh that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the LORD of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch” (Mal. 4.1).  But for others—those who fear the Name of the Lord—the same Sun of righteousness arises with healing in His wings.  And they go forth leaping as calves let out of the stall.

And so, come what may, good things are before us.  Let us seek to nourish this sense of anticipation in one another.  Personally I look forward to the coming year.  Our world is shrouded in night—in thick darkness.  And I, little child that I am… I am afraid of the dark.  I don’t know how much longer I can endure any darkness.  But I have hope.  The night is far spent, the Day is at hand!  There is a beautiful passage in Job, in which God describes the coming of the morning as the dayspring taking hold of the ends of the earth and shaking the wicked out of it—like someone shaking the dust out of a carpet (Job 38.12,13).  That’s what I anticipate—the Sun of righteousness arising and shaking the darkness and wickedness out of the earth.  I am weary of wickedness, and of the darkness that has provided the wicked with a cloak.

And so when the shakings come—and they will surely come—let us remember Who it is that is housecleaning, and has hold of the end of the carpet.