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We’re beginning once again with a proclamation from the Word of God. This one is taken from Daniel 2:20–22, and Daniel 4:34–35. What’s significant about the second part of the proclamation is it was made by King Nebuchadnezzar, a Gentile king who’d been an idolater and a persecutor of God’s people. But God had dealt with him such sovereignty and power that he came to a recognition of who the true God really is, and it’s expressed in these words. Daniel 2, beginning at verse 20:
“Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, for wisdom and might are His, and He changes the times and the seasons. He removes kings and raises up kings. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding. He reveals deep and secret things. He knows what is in the darkness and the light dwells with Him. For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom from generation to generation. All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing. He does according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth. No one can restrain his hand or say to him, ‘What have you done?’”
The passage that Ruth and I just quoted speaks about times and seasons. Times are one of the main themes of scripture. The scripture has a great deal to say about times. We are going to be dealing with a specific time in God’s prophetic program.
But just to look back for a moment, in the days of King David, when his kingdom was being established, it was said of the men of the tribe of Issachar that they had understanding of the times to know what Israel ought to do. If we don’t have understanding of the times as God reveals them to us, we probably will not know what to do.
And then in the New Testament, after Jesus had risen from the dead and was about to take His leave of His disciples, they said to him, “Will you at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons which God has put in His own authority.” Again we see that times and seasons are under the sovereign control of God.
But this evening I want to speak about another time which if referred to in scripture in Acts 3:19 and following. These are words that the Apostle Peter spoke to an assembled crowd of Jewish people in Jerusalem shortly after the day of Pentecost. I’m going to read from Acts 3:19 through 21.
“Repent, therefore, and be converted that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord...”
Notice again we have times, times of refreshing. And then it continues:
“...that He may send Jesus the Messiah, who was before appointed for you, whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began.”
Again notice times of restoration of all things. So Peter outlines very simply God’s program for closing this age. I believe that’s something that is of real practical concern for all of us.
But, it must be initiated by a response by the people of God. So Peter says repent, turn back to God. Then he says God will set in motion the process that will bring the Messiah back again. He says repent and be converted, or turn back to God, that your sins may be blotted out so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord. So repentance leads to refreshing. This is a principle that always works for God’s people. If we are in needs of times of refreshing it will be set in motion by times of repentance. To try to seek God’s refreshing without repentance is a waste of effort.
And then Peter goes on, and in this period, he says that God may send back Jesus the Messiah who was before appointed for you. Then he says whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things. When it says receive, I put in the word retain. So, heaven must retain Jesus the Messiah until the time of restoration of all things. In other words, Jesus will not come back until there is a period which is called times of restoration of all things.
So if you want to give a little outline, very simply, of God’s program to close this age, you can say it in English—it wouldn’t work in most other languages—in four words, each of which begins with the letters RE. And they are, in correct order, repentance, refreshing, restoration, and who can guess the fourth one? Return, that’s right. The return of who? The Messiah. So that’s God’s outline program to bring this age to a close. There are lots of things we don’t know but there are some things that God has revealed.
Let me give that order again. Repentance, refreshing, restoration and return.
Now, I believe this program of God really began to be initiated at the beginning of the present century and now we’re very close to the close of the present century. Someone has said the minute hand on God’s clock is the Jewish people. When you see what’s happening to the Jewish people, you know what the time is. Somebody else has said the minute hand is at about 11:58, two more minutes to midnight.
But my theme this evening is there is a double process of restoration taking place. God’s restoration always begins with His own people. They are the center of God’s purpose on earth. And as I understand it, according to the scripture, God has two peoples on earth to whom He has a special relationship. The first historically is Israel, the second is the church of Jesus Christ, the assembly, the ekklesia, the kayhayla.
Unfortunately, the enemy of our souls, Satan the liar, has done everything he can to confuse the issue. At present time in the professing Christian church the most appalling confusion prevails concerning the identity of Israel and the identity of the church. Because of this I was prompted last year to bring out a book which in England is called The Destiny of Israel and the Church. But that wasn’t a sufficiently dramatic title for America, so in America—it suggested too much thought, I think. You see, I’m bilingual, I’m British and American. I speak both languages and I understand both sets of people, to some extent, as far as they can be understood. In America, which is where we are, it’s title is Prophetic Destinies, but there are two little subtitles, Who is Israel? Who is the Church? The main theme of the book is to provide the basis for an answer to those questions.
The confusion about Israel is that theologians, God help them—and I want to say I’m not a theologian, I’m a teacher of the Bible. I don’t believe myself that God ever intended us to turn the Bible into a system. I don’t think any system adequately expresses the truth of the Bible. I’m content to teach what I find as God reveals it, and leave the unrevealed part to the Lord. There has been a system of theology which has prevailed probably for seventeen centuries which has said God has given up on Israel. They’ve proved unfaithful so God has reneged on His covenant and His commitments, and He’s transferred all of that from Israel to the church. And so, now where you read Israel you should supply the church.
I believe this is a source of endless confusion. In fact, I believe as long as people think that way they cannot ever have a clear picture of God’s program to close this age. I am simple minded and I’ve commented that basic truth is essentially simple. The truth is very simple: Israel is Israel and the church is the church.
In this book I have analyzed every place in the New Testament where the words Israel and Israelite occur, and there are 79. I have not found a single place where Israel is used differently in the New Testament from what it is in the Old. My personal opinion is that theory is not faithful to scripture, it’s an invention of theologians.
On the other hand, there’s almost equal confusion about the church. Perhaps greater confusion. For many people today the word church signifies a physical building, wood or stone or brick, and if they got beyond that totally false concept, then the church is a whole mass of different denominations all bearing specific labels, all claiming to be Christians. I believe the real truth is summed up in one sentence in Ephesians 1 where Paul says:
“God gave Jesus to be head over all things to the church which is His body.”
So the true church, the scriptural New Testament church is the body of Jesus. That means to say that it is related to Jesus as a body to a head. It is joined to Him with an organic union and all individual believers are members of that body, have a part in that body, and are members of one another. And by that definition I would say 90% of what is contemporarily called the church is not the church by scriptural standard. The Greek word for church in the New Testament is ekklesia which is used in secular language and occurs in the New Testament in this sense as an assembly. Essentially, a governmental assembly. The Hebrew word corresponding would be kayhayla. That’s what the church is, it’s God’s governmental assembly with Jesus as its head, here to rule the nations for God. But, only under the headship of Jesus.
What Peter is saying here is there is a time in God’s program when there’ll be what he calls the times of restoration of all things. Restoration I define this way, as putting things back in their right place and in their right condition. If something has been out of place, restoration puts it back in its place. If something has been in a wrong condition, restoration puts it back in the right condition. I believe the top of God’s list for restoration, the things He’s most intimately concerned in, are His people. I’ll say God has two peoples, Israel and the church. Restoration applies primarily, but not exclusively, to Israel and to the church. Restoration is the time when God puts those two peoples back in their right place.
For Israel, restoration is primarily, but not exclusively, geographical and political because God has only one right place for Israel which is the land which is now once again called the land of Israel. Putting Israel back, restoring Israel, requires putting the Jews back in their land. God gave that land to Abraham and to his descendants by an everlasting covenant 4,000 years ago. God has never changed, He’s never reneged on that covenant. One of the most significant facts about contemporary history is that God is fulfilling His covenant commitments to Abraham. Men may have forgotten the covenant, men may have ignored it, men may have set it aside, but God is faithful to His covenant. So, restoration for Israel primarily, or initially, is putting them back where they belong.
This, as I say, has essentially been taking place throughout the present 20th century. If you want a significant date you could choose 1897 as the first Zionist world conference which embraced the concept given by Theodore Hertzel that the Jews had to be returned to their land. Various governments bargained with them for alternative locations, including Uganda, but eventually the Jews turned that down.
Now, the restoration of Israel is not exclusively geographical because, and we’ll be looking at this in one of our later sessions, in Ezekiel 36 God gives detail by detail the stages of restoration and He speaks about their regathering, their cleansing, the taking away of the heart of stone and giving them a heart of flesh. He speaks about putting His Holy Spirit in them and then He says, “You will dwell in the land and you will be my people and I will be your God.” That’s the consummation of restoration. It’s not just geographical, it’s not just political but ultimately it’s a restoration of a relationship with God Himself. Anything else that takes place prior to that is merely a step in that ultimate direction. But the final purpose of God is to make Israel once again His own people united to Him in an eternal covenant. That’s God’s dealing with Israel in restoration.
For about 18 centuries or more, the Jewish people have by and large, for the most part with minimal exceptions, been outside the land of their inheritance but it was still their land. In Ezekiel 36 God calls it, speaking to Israel, “your land” whether they were in it or whether they were out of it. Because, once God has given a thing it remains the property of those people whether they are owning it or not. That’s the picture of Israel’s restoration very briefly.
Now I want to apply the same principles to the church, the true church. I want to suggest something which may shock some of you, basically I believe the church has been out of its spiritual inheritance in Christ for just about the same length of time as Israel has been out of their geographical inheritance. One point that I want to develop is there’s a very close parallel between the restoration of Israel and the restoration of the church. Actually, Israel, if you might say it, is in the natural, the church is in the spiritual. So it’s easier to see things in the natural. To see them in the spiritual you have to have spiritual discernment or insight. Basically I want to suggest to you that the restoration of the church to its spiritual inheritance in Christ has preceded parallel step by step with the restoration of Israel to their inheritance. Viewed this way, history has a meaning and the developments that have taken place this century all fit in to God’s eternal plan.
If you were to choose a date for the restoration of the church—and I mean, this is somewhat arbitrary—I believe the restoration of the church can only take place through the supernatural presence and power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the agent of restoration. So, if you just want to choose a date, you could take January 1, 1900, because at that time in a Bible school in Kansas a young woman in the school went to the heads of the school and said, “Please pray for me, I want to receive the Holy Spirit the same way they received it in the book of Acts.” The heads of the Bible school didn’t believe in that but to accommodate her they prayed for her, and she received it. She began to speak in tongues. And that, in a sense, was a breakthrough.
Then in 1904 there was what has been called the Azuza Street outpouring in Los Angeles. Then it preceded parallel.
We’re looking at a parallel process of restoration of Israel on the one hand, the church on the other.
In Psalm 102 the psalmist had a prophetic revelation, I believe, of this period. Psalm 102 begins with the psalmist in a mood of deep despair. He feels totally set aside, he feels life isn’t worth living and he’s in deep misery. Then he does something which is very advisable for people who are suffering from depression, and if you are in that condition I want to suggest this to you. He looks away from himself to the Lord, and when he does that there’s a complete change of emphasis and tone. He says in verse 12 of Psalm 102:
“But you, O Lord, shall endure forever, and the remembrance of your name to all generations. You will arise and have mercy on Zion...”
Now Zion is primarily Jerusalem and the Jewish people. But I think it is legitimate to give it also a secondary spiritual application to the true church, not to “the” church, but the true church. In Hebrews 12 it says that in the heavenly Jerusalem, the heavenly Zion, is the assembly of the church who are enrolled in heaven. So, if you’ll follow with me along that understanding then we’re talking about a time when God will arise and have mercy on his covenant peoples.
Then the psalmist continues:
“...for the time to favor her, yes, the set time has come.”
This is prophetic preview but it refers, I believe, to the period in which we are living. The word “set time” in Hebrew is moev which is the word used for all the set festivals of Israel like the Passover, Shavuot, Yom Kippur and so on.
So, as I understand it, God has a prophetic calendar and there is a set time on His calendar where the restoration of His people becomes His number one priority.
We talk about being intercessors. In Isaiah 62 the prophet speaks about those who are set on the walls of Jerusalem to pray night and day for Jerusalem.
Many, many years ago—I’m embarrassed to think how long ago, but I’ll tell you it was 1946—the then Secretary of the Hebrew University was kind enough to give me some personal, private lessons in Hebrew. Because of that I soon learned that the Hebrew word for a secretary is maskir. Maskir actually means someone who reminds. So, a secretary is someone who reminds. In other words, she keeps her boss’ calendar and she reminds the boss, “The foreman of the works is coming tomorrow morning at ten, and remember the next day is your wife’s birthday, remember to buy her some flowers.” That’s the kind of job of a secretary. And so, God says in Isaiah 62:
“I have set maskirim [secretaries] on the wall of Jerusalem who will not give me any peace, day or night, until I restore Jerusalem.”
I want to challenge those of you who are called to intercession. Remember, your job is to remind your boss of what’s on His calendar! You point to Psalm 102:13 and you say:
“For the set time to favor Zion has come...”
And in that verse there are two words, mercy and favor. What I want to point out to you is neither mercy nor favor can ever be earned. Anything you can earn is not mercy and not favor. So what God is doing for His people is not what we have earned, it proceeds out of God’s favor which in the New Testament is usually translated grace. So what we’re talking about is the grace of God. It’s not something we have deserved, it’s not something we can deserve, it’s something that God has decided to do.
You see, that’s what really matters. Let me tell you, in the spiritual life the key to success is to find out what God has decided to do and do it with Him. Don’t try to get God to change His plans because He won’t. You can go ahead with your own plans but they won’t work. The only plan that will work is God’s plan.
I’m reminded of the fact that this past September Ruth and I were ministering in a very interesting church in the center of London called Kensington Temple. It’s an unusual church, it has 5,000 members, which is a large church for Britain at the present time. And one of the unusual things about it is 57% of the members are Africans. You see, the center of London is a mixing pot of all nations and you’ll see probably more people with black or brown skin than you’ll see with “white” skins. Most of us really don’t have white skins. I spent five years in East Africa training them to be teachers and they used to call themselves black and me white. I said, actually, you’d have to look a long way for anywhere in my body that really is white. But let’s accept the title.
Anyhow, Ruth and I were ministering and it was a glorious time because it was like being back in Africa. I mean, people got excited, they enjoyed their salvation. They weren’t behaving in a typically British way. In the middle of it on the platform Ruth came over to me and she said, “I believe I have a word from the Lord.” I said, “Okay by me, but talk to the pastor.” She went and talked to the pastor, the pastor said okay and she went ahead. She started with a most dramatic and authoritative statement. I’ve never heard her speak with such authority. It was God speaking and He said this, “I have decided to visit London.” Glory to God! I lived seven years of my life in London, it was probably the hardest place I’ve ever ministered in. But God has decided to visit London. I just share that with you because you need to know it. If God visits London the whole world will feel the impact because London touches every nation on earth.
I just use that as an illustration of how important it is to find out what God has decided to do and do it with Him. Jesus is the head of the church and one of the functions of the head is to take the initiative. In the true church the initiative always proceeds from Jesus. When people initiate things on their own they never work. The only thing that works is that which Jesus has initiated. One of our continuing and ongoing prayers for Ruth and me is, “Lord, let us be in what you have initiated, let us not initiate anything of ourselves.” We have proved in experience over the past dozen years that it works.
Now we’re going back to Psalm 102:14:
“For your servants take pleasure in her stones and show favor to her dust.”
That’s a mark of the servants of the Lord. They take pleasure in the stones of Jerusalem. So, any servant of the Lord who doesn’t lacks one of the distinctive marks.
I first went to Jerusalem in 1942 when it was still under the British mandate, and my most permanent physical impression was two things, stones and dust. I mean, you see Jerusalem today, you have very little idea of what it was like in 1942. The mark of God’s people is they favor the stones and take pleasure in her dust.
Now, when you turn to the church in this parallel, I would say there’s a lot of stones and dust in the church. But don’t let’s be critical, let’s believe God that He favors the stones and the dust of the church. He’s not going to leave it that way but it’s easy to be critical. When I was saved, born again and filled with the Holy Spirit I was a member of the Anglican Church. I very quickly saw all the faults of the Anglican Church, which are not very good to see. I became somewhat critical. But later on I realized being critical and negative doesn’t accomplish anything. God has now given me a real love for my old church. In fact, in Jerusalem, rather to our surprise, Ruth and I find ourselves members of the Anglican Church, Christ Church, inside the walls of the old city. We love it there. I don’t mind a little liturgy, provided there’s liberty. In fact, I think a lot of Pentecostals have their own liturgy but it isn’t written! If there is to be one I think it’s better to have it printed, but I don’t believe in staying inside.
Then it says in verse 15:
“...so the nations shall fear the name of the Lord and all the kings of the earth your glory.”
What is God’s motive in restoring His people? It’s to bring glory to His name. It’s to challenge the nations of the earth with the reality that God is God and the Bible is His Word, and God’s covenants stand forever.
Then there’s a beautiful scripture, verse 16, which says:
“For the Lord shall build up Zion. He shall appear in His glory.”
The Old King James version said “when the Lord shall build up Zion He shall appear in His glory.” What is one great sign that the Lord is getting ready to appear in glory? It is that He is rebuilding Zion. That’s the minute hand on the clock which tells us just about how near we are to midnight.
Then it says in verse 17:
“He shall regard the prayer of the destitute and shall not despise their prayer.”
Probably some of you are familiar with the fact that what’s called in Jerusalem the Western Wall, the western foundation of the temple area which is the most sacred spot on earth to which Jews have access at the present time, Jewish people go by the hundreds and write their prayer requests, roll them up and insert them in the cracks in the stones. I was there on a rather windy day once and the wind had blown quite a number of these little pieces of paper out of their cracks but there were a lot that were still there. I said to myself rather cynically, “There’s a lot of prayers that haven’t been answered.” I felt the Lord said this to my spirit, “There is a day coming when a lot of prayers will be answered in a very short time.” I’ve laid hold of that. There is a day coming, it’s the day when the Lord appears in His glory.
Then verse 18 says:
“This [that I’ve been reading] will be written for the generation to come, that a people yet to be created may praise the Lord.”
So the psalmist was made aware that what he was writing was not for his own time but it was for the set time when God was going to restore Zion. I believe we’re that generation. It was written for us. This is humbling and dramatic.
But notice what it says, that a people yet to be created may praise the Lord. As I look back over church history and my own early experience, my conclusion is this, God’s people have been so slack for so many centuries to praise the Lord that God is going to have to create a people for one specific purpose, to praise Him. Amen.
So now that’s a little picture of the time of restoration of all things, Israel being put back in their land, the church being put back in their spiritual inheritance. Frankly, if you read the book of Acts and then in the light of that look at the contemporary church in most places, with some exceptions, it’s hard to see any relationship between the two. The book of Acts is our inheritance but, alas, for many, many centuries most of the church have been far away from their spiritual inheritance in Jesus Christ. But the good news is not only is God restoring Israel but He’s also restoring the church. I want to remind you we deserve it no more than Israel. It’s God’s grace, it’s His mercy, it’s his favor, whether it’s Jews or non Jews. I’m happy to receive the free grace and mercy of God without even trying to earn it.
You know what I’ve noticed with many religious people is they feel they have to earn God’s grace and the result is they never experience it. Because, you can’t earn God’s grace. Grace is free. There’s a little couplet that always comes to my mind which says “How sovereign, wonderful and free the love of God for sinful me.” God’s love is sovereign, wonderful and free. It cannot be earned.
We have a lot of people in the contemporary movement who are always claiming things. Well, there’s something to be said for some of that but there’s one thing you can’t claim, it’s God’s love. You’ll never deserve it, all you can do is believe and receive. One of our proclamations that Ruth and I make is from 1 John 4:16—do you want to come up and say it, prove you really know it? It’s not long. We are so taken up with this proclamation:
“We have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.”
Now the question that I’m asking you tonight is have you known and believed the love that God has for you? Because, there’s no other way to receive it but by believing. God said to Israel in Jeremiah 31:
“I have loved you with an everlasting love, and in lovingkindness I have drawn you to myself.”
I look back on my own experience and I say there’s only one explanation for what God did for Derek Prince, He loved me. He still loves me and He’s going to love me forever. His love is inexhaustible, it’s unsearchable, it’s unfathomable. You just have to believe it. I want to tell you, the enemy of your soul will do everything he can to keep you from believing in the love of God. I want to say I believe in the love of God. I believe God loves me. Would you like to say that together with me? Raise your right hand and say, “I believe that God loves me.” Amen! Thank you, Lord.
Now I want to turn to the book of Joel, if you know where that is. And let me tell you, the minor prophets are minor in length but not in content. Don’t ignore them because they’re just a lot of little books at the end of the Old Testament because they contain jewels of revelation and truth. I want to turn to Joel 1 and just make some comments on the message of Joel. Joel is a prophet of the end time because when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Day of Pentecost, Peter stood up and what prophet did he quote? Joel, that’s right. He said in the last days God will pour out His Spirit. Joel is essentially a prophet for the end time.
Now, the theme of Joel as I understand it is in three stages: desolation, restoration and judgment. In the forefront of the message there are two what I call typical trees, trees that are types, they’re real trees. But they also stand for something. One is the fig tree, the other is the vine. Many, many Bible commentators have accepted the fig tree as a picture of the Jewish people. When the fig tree buds you know the summer is near. The vine was a picture that Jesus Himself used of His true believing people. He said, “I am the vine, you are the branches.” So, with your indulgence I’m going to take these two trees, the fig tree and the vine, as types or pictures. The fig tree of Israel, the vine of the church.
The prophet opens with a scene of almost total desolation and it says in chapter 1, verse 6:
“For a nation has come up against my land, strong and without number. His teeth are the teeth of a lion and he has the fangs of a fierce lion. He has laid waste my vine and ruined [or stripped of the bark] the fig tree. He has stripped it bare and thrown it away, its branches are made white.”
I’m not a horticulturist but I’ve been told the vessels that carry the sap up into the tree from the earth are in the bark. So, if you strip the bark off you’ve deprived it of its source of life. The fig tree has been deprived of its source of life and the vine has been stripped bare.
Then it goes on to say in the next verses:
“Lament like a virgin girded with sackcloth for the husband of her youth.”
This is just a comment but you will hear people say that the word that’s used of a virgin in Isaiah 7:9, “a virgin shall be with child,” it’s not the normal Hebrew word for virgin. That’s perfectly true, it’s almar which means a young woman just come to the age of sexual maturity. But the normal word in Hebrew for a virgin is bethular. But it’s interesting here that the word used is bethular, and Joel says lament like a virgin, a bethular, for the husband of her youth. So had Isaiah used the word bethular, the critics would have said, “There you are, a bethular can have a husband.” You see? So God is smarter than His critics!
“Lament like a virgin girded with sackcloth for the husband of her youth. The grain offering and the drink offering have been cut off from the house of the Lord. The priests mourn who minister to the Lord. The field is wasted, the land mourns, for the grain is ruined, the new wine is dried up, the oil fails.”
There are three basic supplies of God for His people: the grain, the new wine, the oil. They have all been cut off.
Symbolically I think grain represent a source of strength, wine represents joy and oil represents the anointing of the Holy Spirit. All three have been cut off.
Then it goes on in verse 12 of that first chapter:
“The vine has dried up, the fig tree has withered, the pomegranate tree, the palm tree also, and the apple tree. All the trees of the field are withered; surely joy has withered away from the sons of men.”
If you turn to Luke 21 for just a moment, Jesus gave a parable to indicate when the age would be coming to its close. It says in Luke 21:29:
“He spoke a parable to them, ‘Look at the fig tree and all the trees.’”
Now if the fig tree be Israel, what are all the trees? All the other nations. Jesus said:
“When they are already budding you see and know for yourselves that summer is now near.”
That’s true even in this climate. There isn’t so much of Spring but at least you know there is a time when leaves become green and trees put on new leaves. You know that summer is near. In Israel or countries like Britain or in the north of America it’s very, very true.
“So you likewise, when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near.”
I tell people, listen, if you want to know when summer is at hand you can go out and look at the foliage. You don’t have to go to the university to find out. You don’t have to go to a synagogue to find out. You don’t have to go to a church. They might misinform you but nature will give you the correct answer. So, if you want to know the meaning of the time in which we live, don’t necessarily ask a theologian. He may be a theological unbeliever. Don’t ask even the rabbi, he may not be able either. But turn to the evidence that Jesus gave; which is, the fig tree and all the trees.
One of the exciting things that I’ve witnessed firsthand, generally speaking, colonialism has become a dirty word in our generation. It started more or less at the end of World War II. Nation after nation demanded release from colonial domination. Basically, the first nation to do so was the fig tree, Israel, in 1948. And interestingly enough, a whole lot of other nations, especially in Africa, have followed the pattern of Israel. They said, “You succeeded. Show us how to do it.”
So, the parable that Jesus gave is very relevant to the days in which we live.
Also, Jesus said the fig tree and all the trees. That is, all the nations.
Now, if you were to sum up some of the main features of the last 50 or 60 years, one of them would be the emergence of countless new nations. In Africa alone there are about 50 new nations since World War II, and I lived in East Africa at the time when independence was on its way. The key word in Swahili was uhuru, which means independence, liberty. Essentially, those nations—Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania—were saying, “We are people of our own. We have our own language, we have our own culture, we have our own customs. We want to do things our way. We don’t want to be dictated to by an alien power.” That was the real motivation. This spread to Asia and interestingly enough, it’s now very conspicuous in what was the former Soviet Union. Nation after nation is saying, “We’re a nation on our own. We’re Czechs, we’re not Slovaks. Don’t call us Slovaks.” So there’s a Czech state and there’s Slovakia. Probably the most potent political force in Eastern Europe at this time is the force of independence, nationalism. Exactly what Jesus said.
If you were to count up around the earth, I think you could find at least 100 nations where this is the driving, motivating, political force. Jesus said look at the fig tree and all the trees, because when they begin to show signs of summer you know the kingdom of God is near. He said see for yourselves, don’t depend on second hand testimony.
Now I want to move on to the picture of restoration which is found in Joel 2. I’ll only read from verse 21:
“Fear not, O land, be glad and rejoice, for the Lord has done marvelous things [has done great things]. Do not be afraid, you beasts of the field, for the open pastures are springing up and the tree bears it fruit. The fig tree and the vine yield their strength.”
You’ll notice in the forefront of restoration are the same two trees that were in the forefront of desolation, the fig tree and the vine. Taking the symbolism which I am suggesting, that means Israel and the church. Restoration is affecting both simultaneously.
Then it goes on:
“Be glad then, you children of Zion, and rejoice in the Lord your God, for He’s given you the former rain faithfully and He will cause the rain to come down for you, the former rain and the latter rain, in the first month.”
Which is by the Jewish calendar the Passover month, April. You see, rain is the thing that produces fruitfulness. Rain throughout the Bible is a picture of the Holy Spirit. So, the Lord is saying it’s the Holy Spirit that will bring new life and restoration.
Then it goes on:
“The threshing floor shall be full of wheat, and the vats shall overflow with new wine and oil.”
Notice the three great basic staples, the wheat, the wine and the oil are being restored. I believe that’s the period in which we are living.
To look only at the church for a moment, it was the beginning of the move of the Holy Spirit in supernatural power, in visible supernatural demonstration that initiated the process of restoration.
One of the things that we need to bear in mind is that God’s order, and I’m going to repeat the words I used before, are repentance, refreshing, restoration and return. In the 1960’s, to take only one experience, the church in the United States experienced a tremendous refreshing. How many of you can remember that? How many of you were saved about 1970–72? Just put your hand up. That’s an amazing number of people. And many of them were Jewish. It’s the first time that I think the Holy Spirit moved among a significant number of Jewish people at the same time. It was the beginning of the fig tree putting on visible, spiritual fruit.
One of our problems in the Charismatic movement, and I tell people I don’t think the Charismatic movement is any longer a movement because it isn’t moving! I’ve been part of it since 1963. But one of our problems is we have misunderstood the purpose of God because refreshing is merely a stage toward restoration. But a lot of Charismatics have said, “Isn’t this wonderful! We can be happy, we can clap our hands, we can sing new choruses. We feel wonderful. So, that’s it.” It’s not. Refreshing is given for the sake of restoration. People who merely enjoy refreshing but do not go on to restoration are missing the whole purpose of God. Restoration is a tough business. It requires hard work, sacrifice, prayer, faith.
Let me give you just one more picture from the Old Testament, Leviticus 25, about the trumpet of the Jubilee. You know what I’m talking about, the 50th year. It says in verse 8:
“You shall count seven sabbaths of years for yourself [that’s seven times seven years which is 49], and the time of the seven sabbaths of years shall be to you forty-nine years. Then you shall cause the trumpet of the Jubilee to sound on the tenth day of the seventh month, on the Day of Atonement. You shall make the trumpet to sound throughout all your land, and you shall consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout all the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, and each of you shall return to his possession, and each of you shall return to his family.”
That I believe is what God is aiming for, a time when each returns to his possessions and each finds his place again in the family. What a difference American history would be for the past fifty years if America had had a period like that. Think of all the scattered, broken families that never have a time of returning to their possession and to their families. But, your possession is your possession whether you’re in it or not. And what God is seeking to do for both Israel and the church is to bring us back into our possession. I believe the trumpet of the Jubilee, spiritually speaking, has sounded, and God said it’s time for everyone to get back to his possessions.
Now, in the prophet Obadiah, which is so short that it doesn’t have any chapters, there is a wonderful verse that speaks about this. It’s Obadiah 17, and it says:
“But on Mount Zion there shall be deliverance and there shall be holiness. The house of Jacob shall possess their possessions.”
You see, they’re the possessions of the house of Jacob whether they possess them or not. But God wants them back in their possession.
But, there are two things needed and this is totally true for the church. There has to be deliverance and there has to be holiness. Without that restoration will not be complete. You see, there’s a parallel between the agents of desolation. In each case, for Israel and for the church, it was an invading army of insects. Look in Joel. In each case the root cause was unbelief and disobedience that exposed Israel to the invading army, but precisely the same causes produced a similar result in the church. The church slid into unbelief and disobedience, carnality and every form of sin, and lost its inheritance. For the church to come back it’s going to require the two things that Obadiah specified, which are, deliverance and holiness. Israel was invaded by locusts, the church has been invaded by demons. Whether this is a popular theme or not, it happens to be true that if we want restoration we have to get rid of the demons. There’s deliverance, then holiness, and then possessing our possessions.
You see, I believe myself that the most important emphasis for the church today is holiness, which has almost been forgotten. Holiness requires deliverance because demons contaminate, they defile, they inhibit us from the free flow of God’s holiness. So, the pathway is deliverance, holiness, and we shall possess our possessions.
I’ve been actively engaged in the ministry of deliverance for 30 years. I’ve encountered tremendous opposition. I think most people have forgotten about that now. But there was a time when Don Basham and I were officially characterized as heretics by the Assemblies of God because we were casting demons out of Christians. I always wondered what they expected us to do. Leave them in! Of course, that wasn’t the way they viewed it.
I just want to point out to you that this parallel is extremely illuminating. The more you go into it the more you see an understand your position.
I just want to go briefly through a series of parallels. First of all, as I’ve said, the cause of desolation for both Israel and the church was disobedience and the rejection of God’s word.
Secondly, the instrument of desolation was an invading army typified by locusts for Israel representing demons for the church.
Now let’s look at the motive for restoration. Why does God promise and grant restoration? I think one of the clearest statements is in Ezekiel 36, which we will be returning to later on in these meetings. In Ezekiel 36 God promises to bring Israel back into their own land, to gather them from all nations and bring them back into their own land. Then He says through His prophet in verses 23–23:
“Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord God, I do not do this for your sake, O house of Israel...’”
I’m not restoring you because you deserve it.
“‘...but for my holy name’s sake which you have profaned among the nations wherever you went. I will sanctify my great name which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst, and the nations shall know that I am the Lord,’ says the Lord God, ‘when I am hallowed [or sanctified] in you before their eyes.’”
So what is God’s motive? To restore the glory of His name. Don’t ever begin to think that you deserve it. None of us deserve it, we’re totally undeserving. But God in His sovereignty has decided to restore the honor of His name, and it will be demonstrated in what He does for us and in us. In other words, we, His two peoples, will become a demonstration of God’s faithfulness and holiness, wisdom and power, to all nations. That’s a pretty staggering assignment. I wonder if you’re taking that as seriously as you ought to.
This restoration is not for selfish indulgence, it’s not to promote human personalities. That, I believe, is an abomination in the sight of the Lord. And wherever men are raised up and take the place that belongs only to Jesus, God withdraws His blessing. That unfortunately is a problem that is extremely prevalent in the United States.
Then, as I’ve emphasized before but I want to say it again, restoration is a sovereign intervention of God. My definition of the word sovereign is this: God does what He wants, when He wants, the way He wants; and He asks no one’s permission. He doesn’t say when the churches agree or when the bishops consent or when the United Nations endorse it. He just says, “I’m going to do it.” He’s not waiting for anyone’s permission. He says again, the same chapter of Ezekiel, Ezekiel 36:24–30, that is seven verses. I counted in Hebrew and God says “I will” eighteen times in seven verses. He never gives any other reason except His will. We need to relate to God that way. We need to bow before His sovereignty.
In the church that I referred to in Jerusalem they have a very beautiful worship. I tell you something about old style churches, they have advantages because they have this high ceiling and stone walls, and worship just sounds really heavenly when it’s in the Spirit. One day they sang a hymn which is apparently a very popular new one, and the chorus. This chorus, I never heard it before, it simply gripped me. It still does today. It said:
“Here I am, wholly available. As for me, I will serve the Lord.”
That’s the way I feel. Here I am, wholly available. Lord, I make no conditions, no stipulations. I’m just available.
You see, a totally false concept of worship has crept into the Charismatic movement which makes worship a kind of entertainment. Worship and entertainment are totally opposite. I don’t believe entertainment is for God’s people, myself. Under the Old Covenant, Israel had a whole lot of singing and worship and playing and I think that’s one reason why the Jewish people are still so musically talented today. But it was not entertainment, they were all participating, there were no spectators. I’ve heard people say, “I go to that church because of the worship.” It’s like it’s a performance that’s put on for two hours every Sunday morning. That’s got nothing to do with worship. Worship is the total surrender of your being to Almighty God expressed in the acts of worship. Worship is not two hours on Sunday morning, it’s a lifestyle. If you don’t worship God in your bedroom, worshiping Him in church is just hypocrisy. You know what the word hypocrite means? In the Greek it means an actor. Hypocrisy is being an actor and there’s a lot of professional actors in the church today who can put on an act when it seems appropriate. That’s not what God is looking for.
I’m reminded of something that I had no intention of mentioning. In 1 Corinthians 6 Paul says something pretty frank. I don’t know whether you’ve noticed but the Bible is a frank book. Call a spade a spade and not an agricultural implement. In this chapter Paul says:
“He who is joined to a prostitute is one flesh. But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit.”
Now, it’s a shocking comparison but Paul did it deliberately. You can have the carnal fleshly union with a woman but the spiritual alternative is to be one spirit with God. Not one soul, not one body, because neither the soul nor the body can be united with God, only the spirit. That, I believe, is worship, being united in spirit with God. And as I understand it, that is the highest activity of which the human spirit is capable.
Let me say—I’m saying all sorts of things I didn’t plan but pray for worship leaders because they are probably number one on Satan’s hit list. A worship leader is someone who has the ability by the grace of God to bring us into the immediate presence of God. Therefore, Satan hates them. I love them. I basically love what Satan hates and hate what Satan loves.
Going on with Ezekiel 36, at the end of the chapter after God has said “I will” eighteen times, it says in verse 37:
“Thus says the Lord God, ‘I will [and that’s yet one more time] also let the house of Israel inquire of me to do this for them.’”
So, God takes the initiative. He moves, we don’t deserve it, but at a certain point He requires a response. God says, “Now I’ve told you what to pray for, I expect you to pray for it.”
See, the kind of prayer that really accomplishes things is the prayer that God gives. Again, the initiative is with God. When it’s with God it succeeds. Paul says in Romans 8 we don’t know how to pray for what we ought. We’ve got two limitations. We don’t know what to pray for and if we know what to pray for we still don’t know how to pray for it. But he says the Spirit helps us in our need. The answer to how to pray is to let the Holy Spirit come to your help.
My first wife Lydia was a woman of prayer. She didn’t spend a lot of time on her knees, she did get on her knees, but she was praying all the time. She was praying when she washed diapers, when she stirred the soup. She was a woman of prayer. And when people asked her, “How do you pray?”, her answer—and it wouldn’t be everybody’s answer—“I just open my mouth and let the Lord fill it.” In other words, I don’t rehearse my prayers, I don’t have a premeditated pattern of prayer, I let the Holy Spirit move in and do it through me.
There’s a picture of the Bride of Christ in the Song of Solomon where she says, “I sleep but my heart wakes.” That’s an intercessor, that’s someone who is praying even while they’re asleep.
I used to say of my first wife, and it’s equally true of my second wife, you know the Buddhists have what they call a prayer wheel? When they want to pray they start turning their wheel. I say my wife is my prayer wheel. I preach, she prays. That’s not exhaustively true because I do pray also but I don’t have that total ability to turn loose and pray at any time. I got things pretty carefully categorized and I do the right thing at the right time.
So, I want to encourage those of you. This isn’t in my outline but I feel—if you’re an intercessor, yield to the Holy Spirit. Learn to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit. Let Him pray the prayer that God wants to hear. See, the real secret of intercession is letting God give it to you, then giving it back to God.
Now we just have a few moments left, I want to say four more things from this parallel between Israel and the church. The restoration of Israel in Ezekiel 37 is compared to the reuniting of bones into a body. You know that vision of the valley of dry bones. There are three successive phases. Number one, you just have the bones. Ezekiel prophesied, the bones begin to move, there’s a rattling noise, they come together into complete bodies and then the sinews and the flesh come up on them. But they’re still lifeless. Then God says to Ezekiel, “Prophesy once more. Prophesy to the breath, to the wind.” In Hebrew it’s ruach which is really the word spirit.
“Prophesy to the Spirit and say, ‘Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain that they may live.’”
The scripture says:
“When I prophesied they stood up on their feet an exceedingly great army.”
That’s God’s end, it’s an exceedingly great army. But He has to bring the scattered bones together before they can become an army. Then He has to breathe into them the supernatural presence and power of the Holy Spirit.
I want to say something else. At least there’s one person here who will support me—I think two because I think my wife will! I’m not committing her to that but the vision that Ezekiel had was of these dry bones in a big open expanse. The Lord said, “I will bring you up out of your graves and bring you into the land of Israel.” Forgive me but I think there are a lot of Jewish believers who’ve come up out of their graves but they’re still in the graveyard. Is that right? What’s the graveyard? The Diaspora. A Jew is not really fully alive until he’s back in his land. You can pray over that, question it, but I believe God gave it to me. I’m not Jewish, I’m exempt. But, I happen to live there and I’ll tell you, it’s not easy to live in Israel. If I wanted an easy life, Jerusalem wouldn’t be the place I’d choose. But, in a very special sense it’s the place where things happen, it’s the place from which God initiates action.
Then the restoration is also compared in Ezekiel 37 to the reuniting of two divided people, Israel and Judah. The picture is Ezekiel takes two sticks, writes the name of Judah and Ephraim on the sticks, holds them together in his hand and supernaturally they are joined into one stick. That is restoration. It’s the reuniting of a divided people.
I want to say to the church Jesus is not a polygamist. He’s coming back for one bride and it won’t be a Catholic bride and it won’t be a Protestant bride. It will be a bride of men and women who’ve given themselves without reservation to the Lordship of Jesus in their lives. I think denominational labels may remain but I trust they’ll be no more than labels. They won’t contain the real inner reality which is a person totally given over to the Lordship of Jesus.
And finally, and this is just a final thought, the cost of restoration. Restoration is not easy, it’s painful. You face loneliness, discouragement, hard work. Think of the pioneers of Israel who returned to a land of swamps and malaria and hostility. Many of them died before they’d been there long. That’s the cost of restoration.
And then today they are faced with ceaseless hostility from the surrounding nations. I just want to say I’m impartial, I’m not Jewish, I’m not Arab. But the idea that the Arabs will ever willingly make peace with Israel is a fantasy. It’s something they exploit with which to manipulate the United States. And any significant Arab leader that did make peace would follow the fate of Sadat. Assassination is a major political instrument amongst the Arab peoples.
So, How about it? Are we excited? Are we committed? Do we want to line up with God’s purposes and be part of what God is doing in the earth?