This teaching includes a free sermon outline to download for personal use, message preparation or Bible study discussion.
The theme that I’m going to be dealing with in my teaching tonight, both in this first and in the second session, is the last days. That is, the period at the close of the present age, immediately prior to the coming back of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible has a great deal to say about the last days. I would say there are relatively few books in the Bible that do not refer to the last days in one way or another. And it’s a subject about which we need to know all that the Bible has to tell us, because the Bible indicates very clearly that we’re going to be exposed to extraordinary pressures and we’re going to be challenged with extraordinary opportunities. And, if we’re to take advantage of the opportunities and survive the pressures we need to have the knowledge that the word of God offers us.
People have problems about prophecy because there are some strange people who distort prophecy, abuse it, overemphasize it and come up with strange interpretations and exact dates and all sorts of things. In fact, you probably know that in 1988 there was a, quote, prophet in the United States who declared very specifically that the Lord Jesus Christ was coming back on a certain date in September. I suppose you realize He didn’t come back! Didn’t surprise me. It would have surprised me if He had. Then he said he’d made a miscalculation, He was coming back a year later. But still, He didn’t come.
Unfortunately, that kind of thing creates a prejudice in some people’s minds against prophecy. But that’s a mistake. You see, there’s hardly anything in the Bible that hasn’t been perverted or distorted by somebody. Even the message of the gospel has been twisted and perverted. So that’s no reason for refusing the truth because some people have perverted it. I believe myself that it’s urgently necessary that the church know what needs to be known and what can be known about the last days.
Another important principle in this respect is stated by Moses in Deuteronomy 29:29 where he says:
“The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong unto us and to our children, that we may do them.”
So there are two kinds of things: secret things that God doesn’t reveal and things that God has revealed that we may act on them. And the problem with the distorted versions of prophecy is usually this, they’re trying to discover the secret things and they’re not obeying the revealed things. And that’s one of Satan’s tricks to get us so interested in the things that we can’t know that we don’t obey the things we ought to know.
As we view what the Bible has to say about this period there are certain apparent contradictions because there are two sides to this time. There is the good side and the bad side. Like most things at present in the world, they’re partly good and partly bad. What happens is somehow Christians can’t enlarge their minds enough to see both sides of a truth so they tend to focus on one and ignore the other. And there are the people who only see the good side. But anyhow, at the end of one message a lady came up to me and she said, “But Brother Prince, doesn’t the Bible say that everything’s getting worse and worse?” And I said, “No, I don’t think it does. I think the Bible says some things are getting worse and some things are getting better. And, I’m one of the things getting better!” So I hope you can say the same.
Now let’s turn to a scripture that brings out this contract in Isaiah 60:1–3. This is addressed to Zion. And bear in mind Zion is primarily Jerusalem, the Jewish people. But I believe Zion is also used in scripture to denote all God’s covenant people and it includes the believing church of Jesus Christ. And it says here:
“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth and deep darkness the peoples, but the Lord will arise over you and His glory will be seen upon you. The nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.”
There you see a very clear contrast between light and darkness. Deep darkness is covering the peoples of the earth. And that I believe is true and going to become truer and truer. But in the midst of that deep darkness an ever increasing light and glory is going to shine upon the people of God so that the contrast between God’s people and the people of this world is going to become more and more pointed and decisive as time goes on.
This is not the first time in history there’s been this contrast between light and darkness. For instance, in the ninth plague that God brought on Egypt described in Exodus 10:21–23, we find that God sent darkness on the Egyptians but at the same time Israel who were dwelling in Egypt had complete light. Exodus 10:21–23:
“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Stretch out your hand toward heaven that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt—darkness which may even be felt.’”
Can you imagine darkness so deep that you can feel it?
“So Moses stretched out his hand toward heaven and there was thick darkness in all the land of Egypt three days. They did not see one another nor did anyone rise from his place. But all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings.”
So God can do that. He can plunge the world in darkness and at the same time have a brilliant light where His people are.
And also there’s a promise that God gave to Abraham in Genesis 15:5 which, I think, also throws light on this. It says:
“The Lord brought Abraham outside into the open [obviously at night] and said, ‘Look now toward heaven and count the stars—if you are able to number them.’ And then the Lord said to Abraham, ‘So shall your seed [or your descendants] be.’”
So there was a promise that Abraham’s seed or descendants would be like the stars in number but also in another respect.
And then in Galatians 3, Paul, writing to Gentile Christians says:
“You are the seed of Abraham through faith in Jesus Christ.”
That promise applies to all true believers. And God showed me some years ago, which resulted in a very dramatic confrontation that I wasn’t anticipating—in fact, I was teaching in the last church I attempted to pastor, which was in Seattle, Washington. I’m really not called to be a pastor, I came to realize that. I think my congregation probably realized it before I did! But in those days you didn’t have any options. You were either a pastor or an evangelist. There wasn’t any other recognized position in the church. Talk about a prophet or an apostle, that was something from way, way back or, in the remote future.
Anyhow, I was speaking in this, quote, worship service and in those days really very few of us knew what worship was. We just sang hymns and praised the Lord and called it worship. We had no idea what real worship was. You’d be surprised how far we’ve come, really. I mean, we’ve got a long way to go but when I look back I’m staggered at how far we’ve come. You wouldn’t believe how ignorant we were. I was saved in 1941 and became a Pentecostal. I thank God for the Pentecostals for I owe them my salvation—everything I have. But oh, we were so ignorant, you couldn’t believe it. If they presented us with a demon on a plate we wouldn’t have known what it was.
As for fasting, I was preaching about fasting last night. When people heard that I fasted one day a week, I mean, they treated me like somebody who had come from Mars!
Anyhow, I was preaching—this is later, in 1963—in my church in Seattle, Washington. One day the Lord said to me, “Would you mind telling me whose church it is?” I said, “Lord, I hope it’s yours but I’m not too sure.” And the Spirit of God came on me and it was in the day when they were just making tape recordings with reel-to-reel recorders. There was a recording made so that’s how I know what I said because I heard it afterwards. My theme was no matter what the devil does, God has got the last word. I realized at a certain moment I got out of myself. I could recognize something came on me and I became very bold. I said it doesn’t matter what the devil does, God has the last word. And then a flood of illustrations came to my mind. I said Egypt had its magicians but God had His Moses. Baal had his prophets but God had His Elijah. And then I said when God wanted to show Abraham what his descendants would be like, He took them out on dark night and showed him the stars and said, “So shall your descendants be.” I said when all the other lights are shining you don’t even see the stars. But when every other light has gone out, the stars shine most brilliantly in the deepest darkness. And I said that’s how God’s people are going to be at the close of this age.
I learned then that there are certain message that the devil doesn’t want preached and that was probably number one on his list. I can’t go into the details of this story but if you want to get my series of tapes on deliverance and demonology, it’s recorded there. At that point the young lady who played the piano for the morning worship service who sat by herself on a bench in front of my left threw a violent, demonic fit, let out a piercing scream, slumped to the floor right in front of the pulpit and lay there writhing in a very unladylike way. And there I was confronted by it. I knew immediately I either had to prove what I was preaching or stop preaching it. And thank God, with the help of my dear first wife, we proved it. We cast the demon out of that lady in front of everybody. And there are good Pentecostal congregations. I mean, I’ve never seen people with such wide open eyes in my life! I can’t go into the details because I’ve got another message to preach. I never think about that truth about Abraham’s descendants without my mind going back to that incident. It was a turning point in my whole ministry.
Anyhow, what I want to emphasize is in darkness we can be brilliantly illuminating. And that’s our responsibility. The darker the world gets the more we need to shine and represent the Lord.
And then another aspect of this same principle of the intermingling of good and evil is found in the parable of the wheat and the tares which is familiar, I’m sure, to most of you. In Matthew 13 you remember the workers said to the owner of the field, “Shall we go out and pull up the tares?” And the owner said, “No. Don’t do that because you may pull up the wheat with them.” And this is what he said:
“Let both wheat and tares grow together until the harvest. And at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, ‘First gather the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.’”
And then it says in the interpretation, verse 38:
“The field is the world, the good seed are the sons of the kingdom, but the tares are the sons of the wicked one, Satan. The enemy who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels.”
So the sons of the kingdom and the sons of the wicked one are going to be coexisting side by side right up to the close of the age. And incidentally, God has not authorized us to discern who is who. It’s too difficult a job. Only the angels will be able to do it. But every one of us needs to be examining our own lives.
See, the difference between wheat and tares is they both look alike until you examine the fruit. The wheat has fruit, the tares doesn’t. That’s going to be the dividing line between real Christians and professing Christians. But, they’re going to continue side by side right up to the close of the age.
And another interesting fact is that the same climate that ripens the wheat also ripens the tares. And that’s happening. Good is ripening and evil is ripening. And you see, climatically you can’t separate them. If you want the wheat ripened you’ve got to let the tares ripen. You can’t arrange it so that the sun only shines on the wheat and not on the tares.
And that’s true in the world today. The good are ripening and the bad are ripening. I first came to New Zealand in 1967. It was a paradise, it was a peaceful, tranquil nation. Law abiding, harmonious—and I just fell in love with it. I’ve been in love with New Zealand ever since. But I don’t have to tell you it’s a very different nation today, is that right? What’s happening in New Zealand? The wheat is ripening, the tares are ripening. You say, “God, we don’t want the tares.” But God says if you want the wheat to ripen you’ve got to be prepared for the tares to ripen too.
How would you describe the climate that permits both to ripen? I just offer you a suggestion. One key word, permissiveness. You see, almost anything goes today. In the world or in the church. The restraints and restrictions are being taken off so everybody’s real nature is beginning to show. That’s the process.
Let’s look at one other scripture along the same line in Revelation 22, the last chapter of the Bible. Another picture of the scene just after the close of the age. Revelation 22, beginning at verse 10, reading 10, 11 and 12.
“And he said to me [I think that’s the angel that brought the revelation to John], ‘Do not seal the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is at hand.’ Then he said, ‘He who is unjust let him be unjust still; he who is filthy let him be filthy still; he who is righteous let him be righteous still; and he who is holy let him be holy still.’”
And one version says it this way:
“He who is righteous let him be still more righteous; he who is holy still more holy; but he who is unrighteous still more unrighteous; and he who is filthy still more filthy.”
Now it surprised me when I discovered that the Bible said that. But that’s what it is, it’s the process of ripening the wheat and the tares. And it’s almost as if God says to the wicked, “Go on. Live it up. Show your real nature because you don’t have much longer.”
You see, we have a problem with wickedness and evil. I mean, it’s not a problem that I can resolve but there are some facts. Even the wicked serve God’s purposes. Did you know that? Did you know that Satan is one of God’s most useful instruments? Did you realize that? He does a whole lot of useful jobs for God, including testing you and me. And the Bible says rejoice when you’re tested. But in Proverbs 16:4 it says:
“The Lord has made all things for Himself. Yes, even the wicked, for the day of doom [or evil].”
So the wicked are there according to God’s plan. God’s truth is going to be demonstrated both in the righteous and in the wicked.
So that’s a little introduction to our theme. The thought that I want to bring out is light, darkness; good, evil; wheat, tares—side by side. Not some simplistic process by which everything good flourishes and everything evil is abolished. We’d all like it that way—provided we’re quite sure we’re not one of the tares—but it’s not going to be that way. And it’s going to be complex. We’re going to have to be very vigilant. Many of the scriptures that relate to this period, the word that they emphasize is watch. Or, in the modern versions, be alert, be vigilant. In Mark 13, which is the chapter that Jesus deals with the period before the end of the age, the word watch occurs four times. Jesus says at the end of it, “What I say to you, my disciples, I say to all. Watch. Stay awake. Be vigilant. Don’t be caught off your guard. Don’t take things for granted.”
Now I’d like to turn to a chapter in 2 Timothy, chapter 3, which mainly focuses on this period. I really want to just work through it systematically without dwelling too long on any part of it and try to pick out the salient features. It begins with a statement:
“But know this, that in the last days [that’s the time we’re talking about, in the last days] perilous times will come.”
So Paul says to Timothy just be quite sure about one thing. The close of the age is going to be a very difficult time. Interestingly, in the translation I’m reading from, in the margin they use the phrase “times of stress” will come. That’s interesting because up till World War II nobody ever talked about stress. You could go to a doctor ten times and he wouldn’t even think of mentioning stress. Nowadays it’s hard to get out of a doctor’s office without being told about stress. Isn’t that true? I don’t think the doctors are wrong. What I think is happening is something that was predicted in scripture is working true in history. Undoubtedly, I know that Ruth and I ourselves, we both have a tremendous battle with stress. And let me share a little secret with you which we discovered. This is by the way but there’s no extra charge. If you get out update—and if you should want it, it’s number 56, we just made it. This is not a plug for the update but we deal with our experience with stress. Ruth had a sister in the Lord, a minister’s wife, close to us who had been going through about three years of continuing sickness and problems. And every time she went to see a doctor the doctor said stress. She said, “Doctor, don’t talk to me about stress. I’m a Christian, I don’t have stress.” But one night the Lord visited her for about two hours and He talked to her about stress and He said stress is a person and 90% of my people have it. In other words, it’s an evil spiritual person. When you realize it’s a person it’s totally different.
Well, this sister went back to the church where her husband was ministering and gave this testimony. So she said, “How many of you—and this is a good Charismatic church—how many of you feel you need to be released from stress?” And, 90% of the people came forward immediately. So the Lord’s estimate was exactly right.
And one very strong Christian came forward and the sister felt he’s coming to help me. She said, “Are you going to help me in the ministry?” He said, “No, I’ve come for help.”
So, in this update we relate how we dealt with stress. It’s just over a year ago now and our lives have been different. So, times of stress are here but God has an answer. I’m not going to go into that tonight, I just want to point out to you that it’s a true statement. There will be times of stress.
Now, what’s the source of the problem? Where is the root of the problem? The answer is in human nature. Human beings are the source of the problem. It’s not nuclear fission, it’s not the atom bomb. It’s not even AIDS. It all proceeds out of corruption in the heart of humanity. And one thing that I saw in this connection is corruption is irreversible, in any area. You take fruit that’s begun to spoil. You can put it in the refrigerator and slow down the corruption but you cannot reverse the corruption. The same is true in human nature. Sin has corrupted all of us and this corruption of humanity is progressive, it’s getting worse and worse and worse. And, there is no way to reverse the process. And God is more wise than to try. Do you know what He does? He begins something totally new. If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation. He doesn’t patch up the old. I say religion is like putting the fruit in the refrigerator. It keeps it from getting bad so quickly but it doesn’t change the process.
And so here we have a picture of the progression of corruption at the end of this age. I believe it’s logical. I believe, in a certain sense, it’s scientific. It has to be this way. There’s no way of changing it. We have to relate to that situation.
And so, Paul goes on. After he’s spoken about the perilous times he says:
“For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money...”
And there are actually eighteen marks of moral degeneration that Paul lists. As I read them I would like to ask you to think how many of them are conspicuous in our contemporary culture. I would observe that being now almost 75 years old, I’ve lived a comparatively long while, and I can remember when the world was a different place. I grew up in Britain between the two world wars and if anybody had told me in, say, 1935 what Britain would be like in 1985, I don’t think I could have believed it. The British have got a lot of faults but essentially they were a law abiding nation. There was order, law was respected, the police were respected, people paid their bills. I remember people who sold newspapers would leave the newspapers probably outside the pub while they went inside, and they trusted people to take a paper and pay. And nobody just stole. And if somebody broke into a car and stole a lady’s handbag, it was headline news across the nation.
Now, I know most of you can’t remember those days. I think one of the problems with people in this generation is you don’t realize how different it is from how it used to be. Well, let me read the list.
“Men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God...”
It’s interesting to see how the list begins and ends. And it begins with the things that people love and ends with the things that people love. You see, the things we love really dictate our conduct. So the first thing in the list is lovers of self, lovers of money; and the last thing on the list is lovers of pleasure. How well do those three words describe our culture today? Love of self, love of money, love of pleasure.
And interestingly, the words that follow and the words that precede at the end all indicate some form of pride. Let me show you. At the beginning, lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers. And at the end, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God.
And then you say those are not the kind of people that go to church. Wrong. They are. Paul’s specific. He says in the next verse:
“...of all these people, having a form of godliness but denying its power.”
And I can assure you from the Greek text the word that Paul uses for godliness he would never use of any pagan religion. He could only use it of a religion that acknowledges the true God. So, these people have a form of godliness. Outwardly they want to be considered righteous believing people.
And then Paul adds a very useful word. He says:
“From such, turn away.”
And as somebody who has been in the ministry many years, my version would be don’t waste your time on people like that. There are other people that are much better to invest in. I wonder across our western world how much time pastors are spending on people who are not worth investing in. Whereas, if we would lift up our eyes, there are people in other places that are just waiting for the first time to hear the truth. On such people, Paul says, don’t waste your time.
Now, what does it mean to deny the power of godliness? I think the list makes it clear. The root problem is love of self. Out of that all the other problems come. And selfishness is again a number one mark of our culture. They estimate that the average number of people in a household in the United States today is 1.7 people. Less than 2 people in the average household. Why? Because people can’t live together. They can’t get on together. What’s the root problem? Selfishness. Somebody said we just passed through the “me” generation. It would be interesting to see what follows. Maybe it’ll be better.
Listen carefully. If the root problem is selfishness, and people who want a form of godliness but are not acknowledging it’s power in their lives, what will their root problem be? Tell me. Selfishness. See, anything that doesn’t deal with selfishness is a form of godliness lacking power. Because, self is the root of all the other problems.
Now, could it be that a lot of us churchgoers are basically very selfish people? We tow the line about certain forms of behavior, we probably draw the line at drunkenness or open immorality—although there’s a lot of unconfessed immorality in the church today. But let me show you this. Just to have been delivered from gross sins like alcoholism or a problem like nicotine or drugs, doesn’t necessarily deliver you from selfishness at all. You may just be a little more sensible than a lot of other selfish people but your life is still centered in you and what will God do for me and what will I get out of this. And as I understand scripture, those people are written off. They may be good churchgoers, they may be Charismatic, they may be evangelical, they may be Catholic. But, they’re written off by the word of God as people who have a form of godliness but are not experiencing its power to deal with the root in their own lives. Could that apply to some of us? Brothers and sisters, could that be true in you? You’re a churchgoer, you’re there every Sunday morning, you perhaps turn up for the weekly Bible study. But, your life centers in me and my and what’s good for me and what will I get out of this.
Somebody said to me the other day, an unbeliever, he said, “You Christians. Instead of trying to get people to church you need to ask yourselves why we don’t want to go to church.” And he said by implication, “It’s because of what we see in the church.” That’s the picture of the last days. It’s not a lot of completely non-religious people, it’s a picture of a lot of religious people who’ve never been delivered from selfishness.
Let me ask you, what are you really living for at this moment, what is the center and focus of your life? Is it me, myself and I? When did you last make a real sacrifice for the good of someone else that cost you something? Does your religion cost you anything? We must move on but I sense the Holy Spirit is here right now putting His finger on a lot of selfish areas in people’s lives.
Jesus told His disciples 19 centuries ago to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. And still nearly 2,000 years later about half the world has never heard the gospel once. Is it because it’s not possible to do it? No. With the means of communication we have in the world today it is possible to do it—but it demands sacrifice. Sacrifice of time, sacrifice of strength and maybe sacrifice of your life or your health. There are a lot of very unhealthy places on earth which have never heard the gospel. One of the reasons they’ve never heard the gospel is because they’re unhealthy and people don’t like to go there. I think it was Brother Andrew who said Jesus said go into all the world and go to every nation but He didn’t say anything about coming back! He didn’t say go on the condition you’d be certain to come back. He said go.
Brothers and sisters, I’ll tell you, if you want a recipe for unhappiness, be selfish. If you want a recipe for frustration and unfulfillment, focus on yourself. We must go on.
The next picture, and we won’t dwell on it, is in verses 6 and 7. Unscrupulous teachers making money out of gullible women. Does that happen in the western world? Dear Lord, does it happen! Paul says:
“From this sort are those who creep into households and make captives gullible women, loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
There are some people who’ve got such interesting doctrines, so complicated and so highfalutin that you never understand them. But, you’re always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.
When I became a Pentecostal, one thing was inconceivable—that Pentecostals could ever be rich. I mean, the moment you became a Pentecostal you said good bye to any kind of prospect of wealth. That was, as I say, nearly 50 years ago. I never could believe that preaching the gospel could be a way of making money. But I’ve discovered from experience and reading the Bible that there are a lot of warnings in the Bible about people who use the gospel to get money out of people. Anybody who can get 1 person healed out of 300 can make money out of it, people are so desperate for healing. You announce a Bible study on sacrifice, you get 50 people. You say we’re going to pray for the sick, you’ll get 500. That in itself is an aspect of selfishness—“I’ll go tot he meeting if I can get something out of it.”
Well, I don’t need to tell most of you that there are some people that have made a lot of money out of preaching the gospel. Is that known? And they’re basically in this category, they exploit gullible women. I hope there are no gullible women here tonight.
Now we come to the next aspect of the last days which is very, very conspicuous. And I suppose almost anybody who’s lived 30 or 40 years would agree. It’s a proliferation of the occult in every form. And it’s not that the occult is now something practiced in secret, it’s flaunted openly. It’s taught on major television programs at peak viewing hours. It’s passionate. The previous president of the United States had a wife who was controlled by a fortune teller. And basically, according to the reports, most of his decisions were influenced by his wife’s input from the fortune teller. Now that’s happened in the United States before. It happened, as a matter of fact, partly with Abraham Lincoln. But it wasn’t public. People didn’t flaunt it. But today it’s not something to be ashamed of, it’s just something to be rather excited about. I’ve found the latest guru, shaman. What would you say in this country? Tohunga, is that the word? They’re very respectable now. And, some of them make large sums of money. This is what Paul says in verse 8 and following:
“As Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so did these also resist the truth—men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith. But they will progress no further for their folly will be manifest to all, as their also was.”
Now you may not know who Jannes and Jambres were. But Jewish tradition states that they were the names of the two Egyptian magicians who opposed Moses and Aaron. If you go back to Exodus 7 and following, you’ll find that God equipped Moses with three supernatural signs to attest His message. God has never sent a prophet with a message without a supernatural sign. Never. The first one was that he was to put his hand in his bosom, pulled it out, it was leprous. He put it in again, pulled it out, it was perfectly healed. You might say what’s the use of that? Well, I tell you one thing, it attracts attention! If you can do that you’ll always get an audience. I’m not quite sure. One thing I think God was showing Moses was He is the Lord of life and death because leprosy is living death.
The next thing startled Moses. Moses said, “I can’t go to Egypt, I’ve got nothing.” And typically God said, “What have you got in your hand?” Moses said, “Just my shepherd’s rod, that’s all.” The Lord said, “Throw it down on the ground.” And when it hit the ground it became a snake. And Moses fled from his own rod. He didn’t realize what power he had in his hand. A lot of Christians are like that. We just say, “God, I don’t have anything.” God says, “What’s that? Throw it on the ground and see what happens.”
Then God said to Moses, “Pick it up by the tail.” I don’t think you have snakes here in New Zealand, do you? But anybody who is familiar with snakes knows you never pick a snake up by the tail. I suppose Moses rather gingerly reached out and caught this snake and it became a rod in his hand. So the Lord said that’s all you need. And He said if you have any further problems, just bear in mind that you can turn water into blood! This is serious, I’m not inventing anything, it’s all there.
So there came a showdown. Moses took Aaron his brother with him. Aaron was his spokesman and they said to Pharaoh, “The Lord God of the Hebrews has sent us here to let His people go.” “How do I know?” That’s a reasonable question. “How do I know you had an interview with God?” So the Lord said, “Throw the rod down.” And it became a snake. Well, you would have thought Pharaoh would have been impressed. I would have been. Pharaoh said, “Hold on a moment. I’ll see what my magicians can do.” That’s Jannes and Jambres. So they came with their rods and Pharaoh said, “This is what Moses did, what can you do?” They said, “We can do the same.” Without a moment’s doubt they threw their rods down, they became snakes. Do you believe that?
Let me tell you, not all supernatural signs are from God. There’s a lot of supernatural power that doesn’t come from God. However, there was an exciting end to the story, you know that. Moses’ snake ate up the snakes of the Egyptians. And I don’t know whether you’ve ever pictured the scene but those two magicians left without their rods! And Moses’ rod was thicker and stronger than it had been when he started.
Now, what I want to point out is Paul says just as the magicians resisted Moses, the practitioners of the occult are going to resist the message of the gospel in the last days. Is that true? It’s true. And I want to tell you there’s a practical lesson. The victory is not going to be settled by theology, it’s not going to be a dispute between theologians. It’s going to be a demonstration of power. Paul says the kingdom of God is not in word but in power. That’s what we’ve got to have to win the battle, we’ve got to have supernatural power over all the power of the enemy. Jesus said to His disciples, “See, I am giving you authority over all the power of the enemy.” He didn’t say the enemy had no power but He said I’ll give you authority that is greater than the power of the enemy.
And if anything is conspicuously true, this is. That, today all over the earth in country after country, practitioners of the occult are rising up and challenging the church.
And then one further statement in verse 13 of the same chapter:
“...but evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.”
Now that translation is followed by most versions but I happen to have access to the original Greek. And the word that’s translated impostors is literally enchanters. And enchanters were magicians, they were people that used enchantment in order to cast spells on people and bring them under their power. So once again we have this emphasis on the occult. See? It’s one of the distinguishing features of the last days. We better be familiar with it because we’re going to encounter it.
I was in a meeting in York, England and I was having a real hard time breaking through. I was getting the people to make confessions about Jesus Christ the Son of God. And, there were a couple women somewhere in the back to the right, their lips didn’t move. And normally I would have not said anything about it because I try to be polite. After all, I’m still British by background! After you, sir. But something in me rose up so I said to those two ladies, “Why are you not repeating this confession?” And they looked at me, they thought it over, they got up and walked out. Do you know what they were? They were witches. They were there to bind the meeting. God showed me I had to get them out of the meeting before the purposes of God could be fulfilled. We need to be aware of these things.
And then we come to what’s going to happen to Christians. Paul says in verse 10–11:
“But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, persecutions, afflictions...”
And then he lists all of them where they happened. And then he says, praise God:
“...out of them all the Lord delivered me.”
And then he says in verse 12:
“Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution...”
That’s a very clear warning specifically emphasized in the last days. We must expect to meet persecution and opposition. It’s in the agenda. Are you ready? Does that shock you? Has anybody ever told you that in your church?
And then we get the remedy and this is where we’re going to close. It’s important that you grasp this. The chapter ends with the remedy, the safeguard.
“But as for you, continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them [his grandmother and mother], and that from childhood you have known the holy scriptures which are able to make you wise to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.”
Where is our strength? What is the one thing we can rely on, the thing that can never change, the thing that Satan can never defeat? The scriptures, the written word of God.
And then Paul ends with this tremendous statement:
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for direction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
That’s the answer. We have to know the teaching of scripture. And Paul says all scripture is needed. That’s not just a few passages from the New Testament, that’s books like Ezra and Nehemiah and Job and the minor prophets. You need them. If you’re going to be thoroughly equipped for every good work, you need all scripture. It’s all true, it’s all inspired and it’s the one thing that Satan cannot defeat. It’s the word of God. Don’t hide behind the word of God. Faith is the shield, the word of God is the sword. The sword isn’t used to defend you, it’s used to attack. A great man of God of a previous generation, the pastor of the People’s Church in Toronto, Ontario said this, “No defense, no attack. I don’t defend, I just proclaim the word of God.” I’ve learned that in my ministry. Don’t get sidetracked, don’t run after the devil’s rabbits, as somebody said. Stick to the word of God, proclaim it, keep Jesus central, keep the cross in the middle. Don’t get sidetracked into minor issues. Preach salvation, preach the blood of Jesus, preach the power of the Holy Spirit, preach the truth of God’s prophetic word, preach that Jesus Christ is coming back again. How many churches emphasize that today? That’s the blessed hope of the Christian. There’s our strength, there’s our security, there’s our answer. And millions of Christians today are being enticed away from the absolute total authority and truth of the word of God. Let’s not follow that deceptive pattern, let’s hold on to God’s word.
Could we pray for a moment and ask God to make us faithful to His word? Just very briefly.
Lord, tonight I feel you’ve led me to challenge your people and to call your people back to a simple, positive faith in the written word of God and in Jesus who is the personal word of God. And tonight, Lord, we ask you to clear out of our minds and lives irrelevancies, secondary issues; and help us to come back to the foundation and to build on that. And Lord, I’ve spoken tonight about selfishness as the root problem. We ask you to deal with selfishness in our lives. Pull out that root, Lord, that we may be able to produce that good fruit that comes from the gospel and the word of God. For your name’s sake, Lord, we pray. Amen.