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God’s Program for the Close of the Age – Part 1
At present time in these studies we’re considering God’s purposes for the new race in Christ. We saw that, first of all, God’s primary purpose for the new race is that this new race in Christ, the new man, should accomplish the purposes for which the first race, the first Adam, was created; but which he failed to accomplish because of his sin and his disobedience. And then in the last study we saw that in addition, God’s purpose for the new race in Christ is to reverse the results produced by Adam’s fall. We’ll briefly review that and then move on to the present study which is “God’s Purposes [special purposes] for the Close of This Age.” The five respects in which the new race in Christ is to reverse the results of Adam’s fall are as follows:
First of all, the change in Adam’s nature is to be reversed and the believers are to become partakers of the divine nature, escaping corruption that is in the world through lust.
Secondly, the authority which Satan usurped from Adam has now been restored to Christ, and through him to the new race to be exercised by the new race on Christ’s behalf.
Thirdly, believers are delivered from the harassment and control of evil spirits and are given authority over evil spirits exercised in the name of Jesus.
Fourthly, the condition of vanity which came to creation through Adam’s fall will be restored, and creation will be delivered from this through what the Bible calls the manifestation of the glory of the sons of God, which is associated with the resurrection and God’s purposes and dispensations that follow the resurrection.
Fifthly, through Adam’s fall the Adamic race became identified with Satan in his guilt and in his rebellion. Through Christ’s redemption believers are identified with Christ in his righteousness and thus become the instruments to cast down Satan’s kingdom.
Now I want to deal in this study with certain special purposes of God which are coming to their climax in the age and in the days in which we live. In other words, the general purposes have certain special applications relating to the days in which we live which are very, very thrilling and very wonderful. If we can only grasp what God is seeking to reveal to us about our particular responsibilities as believers in Christ at the present time, it should surely thrill every one of us.
Let me begin by saying that many, many different passages of scripture clearly foretell that at the close of this present age there will be a special intervention of God in sovereign grace on behalf of his people. This will not be something that we’ve earned or comes because we deserve it, but it is simply a provision of God’s grace. And like everything that God offers in grace, it is to be received on the basis of faith and not of works. But God has declared that at the close of this age, as everything is coming to its climax, he will intervene in grace on behalf of his people and he will do a work of restoration which will bring the age to its climax. Let’s look in Acts 2:16 and following for this proclamation which is here given of God’s purpose for the close of the age to intervene. And I’ll read these verses, Acts 2:16–21 which were quoted by the apostle Peter in his great sermon on the day of Pentecost immediately after the descent of the Holy Spirit, and the first manifestation of the church of Jesus Christ publicly in its new power and authority. Peter says:
“But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; and it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke; The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come: And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (KJV)
Here is a proclamation by Almighty God as to what he will do. He says, In the last days I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh. Many of the promises of God’s word are conditional. In this sense that God says to the believer, if you will do so and so then I will do so and so. These we call conditional promises. Their fulfillment depends upon the believer meeting a certain condition. But here is what I call an unconditional promise. There are no prior conditions attached. God says, In the last days I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh. He does not say if the churches unite or the theologians concur, or the bishops permit because if he depended on any of those things we would have to wait forever. But God said at a certain point without your deserving it, without your meriting it, without your meeting prior conditions I will intervene on behalf of my people by pouring out my Spirit upon all flesh. And I believe that we are living in precisely those days.
It is clear that this prophecy, though it began to be fulfilled on the day of Pentecost, did not receive its final fulfillment because these words lead right up to the close of the age. It says for instance in verse 20, the sun shall be turned into darkness and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come. Which is the day of Christ’s return in glory and power. Quite clearly. So that this final outpouring of the Holy Spirit is to lead right into the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is completely illogical and unscriptural to suggest that it was exhausted on the day of Pentecost. In fact, what they saw on the day of Pentecost was only a little foretaste of what God has promised for the close of this age. The real fulfillment is to come immediately prior to the great and notable day of the Lord.
And it’s to be a universal outpouring upon all flesh. There was a great and wonderful move of the Holy Spirit in the early church, but it certainly did not reach all flesh. It did not reach every section of the human race. But God says at the close of this age, every section of the human race will experience this divine visitation by the Holy Spirit. And I, for my part, have become convinced that God means exactly what he says and he is doing and will do exactly what he says. That there will be no section of the human race that will be passed by in this final great visitation of the Holy Spirit.
In the last five or ten years we have seen God do wonderful things, but I still believe it is nothing more than a drop in the bucket in comparison with what God will do, possibly within the present decade, in fulfillment of what he has here declared. But we have to lay hold upon the fact that it’s not because of our merit, it’s not because of our righteousness, it’s God’s sovereign grace. We look back upon many centuries of the church struggling against darkness and ignorance and persecution, and we see God raising up wonderful men with stature and ability like Luther, Wesley and so on. We are no better than those men. In fact, possibly we are far inferior to them. But God is not doing this because we are better or because we are worse. He’s doing it because of his grace and his faithfulness. But bear in mind that we are answerable for the light that is available to us in our day. We cannot hide behind Luther or Wesley and say well, that’s what Luther believed or that’s what Wesley understood, because the light today is much greater in the church as a whole than it was in the days of Luther and Wesley. Though they may be much greater men, individually, than any of us.
Somebody once pointed this out to me and I believe it can help you. There’s a direct relationship between the brightness of the sun and the maturing of the crops for harvest. The nearer the crops come to maturity, the brighter the light of the sun becomes. And you cannot reverse this. It would be destructive. If you shine a June sun on March crops, it will wither them, destroy them. But if you shine a March sun on June crops, it will not ripen them. In other words, the nearer we come to the harvest, the brighter the light becomes. And we are answerable for the light in which we live.
I am tired of hearing Christians hide behind Luther and Wesley and great men of the past and say, well, that’s what they believed and that’s good enough for me, because God will not hold you accountable for the light that Luther had; God will hold you accountable for the light that’s available to you in your day. Jesus said to whom much is given, of him shall much also be required. And in our day, more light and power are available to the church of Jesus Christ generally than in any age since the apostolic age. And you and I have got to live as men and women that are accountable for the light made available by God’s grace at the close of this age.
Now this divine intervention of God at the close of this age is further spoken of in Acts 3 in a very, very significant passage which I’d like to turn to. Acts 3:19–21. We don’t need to take the context, though the words are again spoken by Peter. He said, and he was speaking to God’s people at his time:
“Repent thee therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord: and he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.” (KJV)
As I point out in the outline, this gives a revelation of four stages which will bring the present age to its close. The stages as stated there in your outline are as follows:
First, God’s people repent and turn back to God.
Second, there are seasons of refreshing.
Thirdly, there are times of restoration.
And fourthly, we have the return of Christ.
Let’s take a little while to look at this in greater detail. Before God can ever send a major visitation of divine grace, one thing is always needed and that is the repentance of God’s people. You see, the barrier to God’s working is never in the unbelievers. The barrier to God’s working is always in the believers. If God can get his way in the church he can get his way anywhere. The great slogan of Evan Roberts in the great Welsh revival that swept Wales and moved the world in l904 was this: “Bend the church and bow the world.” The problem is not bowing the world, it’s bending the church. If God can get his way with his people, he can get his way anywhere. But if God’s people do not yield to him, then God has no channel through which he can reach the people that are not God’s. And so any major intervention of God in any period must begin with God’s people getting right with him.
You see, this is illustrated by the first coming of Jesus Christ. Jesus had a forerunner, divinely appointed and sent before him named John the Baptist to prepare the way of his coming. And the message of John the Baptist could be summed up in one word. Repent. And until the hearts of God’s people had been prepared by the message of John the Baptist, the Messiah could not be revealed to God’s people. Not was not, but could not be revealed. John had to come first to prepare the hearts of the people by the call to repentance. And then at God’s appointed hour, for the first time, Jesus the Messiah was revealed in human flesh.
Now I believe this is exactly parallel. Is there an appointed hour known to God the Father for the return of Jesus Christ? I believe there is. It’s not known to the Son, it’s not known to the angels, but Jesus says there is an hour known to my Father only. So there is a fixed time when Jesus will return. But, before Jesus can return, the hearts of God’s people must be prepared in repentance. But this is exactly parallel to the first coming of Jesus. There was an exactly fixed hour. Jesus said the time is fulfilled. And Paul said in the fullness of the time, God sent forth his son. There was an absolutely appointed hour. Yet, Jesus could not come until God’s people had been prepared by the message of repentance.
You see, predestination and foreknowledge are involved. God says it cannot happen until you repent, but he knows when we will repent. And so, Jesus could not come the first time until God’s people had been called back to him in repentance, and Jesus will not be able to come the second time until God’s people have been called back to him in repentance. Yet the time is known to God. But for you and me the important point is not the exact time. The important point is that God is calling his people to repentance. Repent ye therefore, be converted, turn back to God, [that’s what it means] that your sins may be blotted out. You see, it’s the sins of God’s people that stand between God and his way in the world.
Isaiah said in Isaiah 59:1, it’s your sins which have separated between you and your God. It’s your iniquities which have hid his face from you. The Lord’s arm is not shortened that it cannot save. His ear is not heavy that he cannot hear. But the sins of my people prevent me hearing and prevent me stretching forth my arm.
2Chronicles 7:14, God says:
“If my people, which are called by my name shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sins, and will heal their land.” (KJV)
It’s the sins of God’s people that keep our land from being healed. We are responsible for the condition of the unbeliever. It’s not the beatnik, it’s not the hippie, it’s not the alcoholic that God has the problems with. It’s God’s people that are his problem. They always have been. Judgment must begin at the house of God. And this is the message of the close of this age. If God’s people will repent and turn back to him, get right with him, and I must add right with one another which is the great problem in modern Christianity, then there will come seasons of refreshing.
Now the word times is used twice in the King James but they are different words. This is a season like the spring or the fall. We’ll have a beautiful spiritual spring season of renewing and refreshing. You know how beautiful it is in spring when everything begins to turn green and life comes back. Well, God’s people can have a spring season of refreshing if they’ll only turn away from their sin and their stubbornness and their rebellion, their wrong attitudes and relationships, get right with God. God says I have seasons of refreshing that I’ll send to you.
These seasons of refreshing will lead into another phase which is the time or the period of the restitution of all things. And this is spoken of in verse 21, the times, but it means period, it’s not the same word as seasons. The period of restitution of all things. I prefer to say restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began. Notice this climax of the age has been prophesied by every prophet that God ever had in the world. It’s the climax of all God’s dealings. It’s the theme of all prophecy.
Now I do not mean by this anything to do with what is called ultimate reconciliation. I want to say this in order to avoid misunderstanding. I do not believe that Satan and the fallen angels and the demons and the unrepentant wicked dead will ever be reconciled to God. There’s not a word in scripture to suggest that. I’m talking about something that happens in this age with people alive here on earth. Restoration of all things.
Now the word restore, as I understand it, means this: To put things back in their right place and their right condition. That’s how I understand restoration. This word is used in Matthew 17:11 and it’s again used in connection with the close of the age. And it’s used in regard to the ministry of Elijah. Jesus said:
“Elijah truly shall first come, and restore all things.” (KJV)
But prior to the second coming of the Lord Jesus, Elijah will come, restore all things. All things shall be put back into their place.
Now he said if you can receive it, John the Baptist was Elijah. He was Elijah for my first coming, but for my second coming there’s still an Elijah to come who has to restore, put everything back in place. This is the message of the hour; it’s the message of restoration. Putting God’s people back in their right place and in their right condition. And this is going to climax. Turn back now to Acts 3, it’s going to climax with God sending again Jesus Christ, whom heaven must receive, and by implication, retain, until this period of restoration of all things. So we have an absolutely fixed outline of God’s program for closing this age. Of course, the time factors are hidden in the knowledge of God, they’re not revealed to us. But there are four phases that are related in this order: The repentance of God’s people; seasons of refreshing; the restoration of all things, the putting back of all things in their right place and condition; and then in connection with this final period, the return of Jesus Christ. This is God’s outline for the close of the age. It’s very clear. Not only is it clearly stated, but it’s also supported by all the major principles of scripture.
Now in speaking about this on the day of Pentecost, Peter quoted the prophet Joel. He said this is that which is spoken by the prophet Joel. And it is Joel who has the real outline of the close of this age. These same events are foretold by many prophets, but it’s Joel who has the outline. And I would like to offer you this outline of the prophet Joel. This is one that I have frequently used, probably some of you have heard me use it before.
The message of Joel, or the revelation of Joel falls into three successive phases: Desolation, restoration and judgment. The prophecy opens with the scene of total desolation, so complete that the scripture says it was never seen before and will never be seen again. It affects every area of the inheritance of God’s people.
Then in the second chapter there’s the promise of restoration.
And in the third chapter we have the warning of God’s judgment on those who reject restoration.
Now it’s not my purpose to deal with the judgment of those who reject, but I want to deal with the aspect of desolation and then with the aspect of restoration. Let’s turn to Joel 1 and read verses 4–12 rather rapidly.
“That which the palmerworm hath left hath the locust eaten; and that which the locust hath left hath the cankerworm eaten; and that which the cankerworm hath left hath the caterpillar eaten. [Four invading insects: the palmerworm, the locust, the cankerworm and the caterpillar.] Awake ye drunkards and weep; and howl, all ye drinkers of wine, because of the new wine; for it is cut off from your mouth. For a nation is come up upon my land, strong and without number, whose teeth are the teeth of a lion, and he hath the cheek teeth of a great lion. He hath laid my vine waste, and barked my fig tree; he hath made it clean bare, and cast it away; the branches thereof are made white. Lament like a virgin girded with sackcloth for the husband of her youth. The meat offering and the drink offering is cut off from the house of the Lord; the priests, the Lord’s ministers, mourn. The field is wasted, the land mourneth; for the corn is wasted; the new wine is dried up, the oil languisheth. [Total desolation] Be ye ashamed, O ye husbandmen; howl, O ye vinedressers, for the wheat and for the barley; because the harvest of the field is perished. The vine is dried up, and the fig tree languisheth; the pomegranate tree, the palm tree also, and the apple tree, even all the trees of the field, are withered; because joy is withered away from the sons of men.”(KJV)
That’s the total desolation of the inheritance of God’s people.
Now in this prophecy of Joel there are two particular trees which are in the forefront of the prophecy. One is the vine, the other is the fig tree. And without going into a lot of background research, let me just state briefly my opinion. I accept the vine as a type of picture of the church, the fig tree as a picture of Israel. God has two peoples in the earth. One is a natural people, by natural descent, that’s Israel. The other is a spiritual people by spiritual rebirth, that is the church. But each of them is God’s people. The church typified by the vine, Israel typified by the fig tree.
Now you’ll notice that in this picture given in Joel, these two trees are in the forefront of desolation and in the forefront of restoration alike. Look for instance for a moment in Joel 1:7.
He hath laid my vine waste and barked by fig tree.
Those are the first two trees presented there in the forefront of the desolation. Notice that the fig tree has been barked. That means its bark has been stripped off. And I’ve been told by people who know more about trees than I do, which isn’t too much, that most of the vessels that carry the nourishment from the roots into the branches of the tree are in the bark. If you cut off the bark you sever the connecting vessels that carry the nourishment up so that the upper branches necessarily must wither because they’re not receiving any nourishment. This is the picture of the desolation. There’s no nourishment, there’s no life reaching up into the branches, they’re just bare and withered and the trunk is white and barkless and it’s a most desolate miserable picture. That’s the fig tree, Israel. And the vine also has been laid waste.
Then we find again at the beginning of verse 12 the same two trees. “The vine is dried up and the fig tree languisheth.” Then there are various other trees also mentioned but they’re mentioned secondarily. Primarily the emphasis is on the vine and on the fig tree.
Notice another thing in the 10th verse of chapter 1, you find certain particular things specified. The corn, the new wine, and the oil. And you’ll find this is again, one of the main themes. I believe so far as the church is concerned, God’s spiritual people, the corn is the word of God, the oil is Holy Spirit, and the new wine is the joy. We should have the strength of the word, the anointing of the Holy Spirit and then that joy which is typified by the new wine. But all have been dried up. There’s no knowledge of the word, there’s no anointing of the Spirit, and there’s no joy. In fact, the great outward mark of desolation is summed up at the end of verse 12, “joy is withered away from the sons of men.” Joyless people are powerless people, ineffective people. Nehemiah 8:10 says, “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” Without joy, God’s people have no strength. But the joy is built up out of the strength of the corn and the anointing of the oil; the word and the Spirit.
Then notice that all this has been brought about by this invading army of insects. Verse 4, the palmerworm, the locust, the cankerworm and the caterpillar. And elsewhere God speaks about “my great army which I have sent among you.” So that the desolation is caused by an invading horde of insects.
Now let me pause here for a moment and tell you what I understand by the insects. I understand the insects in the church to be the demons. And I’ll tell you how I arrived at this conclusion very briefly. It’s not news to some of you that the Lord led my wife and me into a ministry of dealing with evil spirits. We didn’t seek this ministry, we were led into it very specifically and definitely about seven years ago. And it became in many ways a very shocking experience. When we really began to see the truth about the condition of the church it was almost unbearable. And in particular, I remember being in a service in a Pentecostal church, and a good one, one of the better Pentecostal churches in this nation. I was speaking at a convention over Labor Day and I was the last speaker in the evening service and there were about four or five hundred people in the church. It was packed, it could hold no more. And at the invitation of the pastor I spoke on this question of evil spirits and deliverance from evil spirits. In fact, I believe this was the very church where that woman stood up and defied me that I mentioned in the previous study. And at the end of my message I asked those people how many of them believed that they needed deliverance from evil spirits. And by the estimate of the other preachers on the platform, they said at least seventy-five percent of the people raised their hand at one appeal. That’s three out of every four. And we had a fantastic service because the aisles were crammed, there was no way to get to people, you just had to minister en masse. Many received deliverance.
However, this really created a problem in my mind. Because I knew that on a whole it was a good church, there were many denominational people as well as Pentecostal. But I thought to myself, could it possibly be true that in a church of that kind, the cream of God’s people as we know them, today in the earth, as far as I know them, three out of four need deliverance from evil spirits? And I didn’t tell them they needed deliverance. They told me. They put their hands up. I thought to myself, am I going astray? Am I going off? Am I being misled? Is there something wrong? And I more or less said within myself, God, if you don’t show me that this is in line with your word, I don’t know that I’m going to go on doing it. I didn’t say that, but I thought it.
Well then my wife and I went to Britain and God speaks to me in rather unexpected places. We were sitting in a restaurant waiting for our meal to come and God began to answer my question. He did not speak to me audibly but it was just like having a dialogue in my mind with the Lord. And I was turning this question over in my mind, could it really be that three out of every four persons in the church need deliverance from evil spirits? And I’m not insisting on a certain specific ratio or percentage. And the Lord spoke to me this way, he said, “Now wait a minute. Haven’t you preached many times on Joel?”
I said, “Yes, Lord.”
And he said, “You’ve said the theme of Joel is desolation, restoration and then judgment?”
I said, “Yes.”
“And didn’t you say that the desolation affected every area of the inheritance of God’s people?”
I said, “Yes, Lord.”
“And didn’t you say [and I’ll come to this in a moment in my study, I’m a little ahead], but didn’t you say that there were two trees, the vine and the fig tree? The vine represented the church, the fig tree represented Israel?”
I said, “Yes, Lord.”
Then he said, “Did you ever stop to consider what caused the desolation?”
And I said, “No, Lord, but I’ve got it right now. It was an invading army of insects.”
And if I understand the voice of the Lord all right, he said, “My people have been systematically invaded by the forces of the enemy. It is not an accident. It is part of a systematic strategism of Satan to invade every area of the church from the pulpit to the pew, it has been invaded by evil spirits. And one major result of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit will be the driving out of the evil spirits.” And when I saw that, for me, it clicked. I don’t dictate that to anybody else, but I then saw that this was in complete accord with the revelation of God’s word and it was one of the major features prophesied in relation to the process of restoration is driving out the invading army.
You see, Satan has a fifth column in the church. Let’s not talk about Israel for a moment, let’s just talk about the church. Do you know the origin of the word fifth column? Very interesting. It first was used in the Spanish Civil War in l936 when the Spaniards were fighting one another for political reasons inside their own country, Spain. And a certain Spanish general was besieging a certain Spanish city. And a second general came up to him and said now, general, what is your plan to capture this city? And the first general said, I have four columns advancing against the city, one from the north, one from the south, one from the east and one from the west. Then he paused and said but it’s my fifth column that I’m expecting to capture the city from. And the second general said and where is your fifth column? And the first general said inside the city. Because you see, they were all Spaniards, they couldn’t recognize any traitors because they spoke the same language, they have the same facial expressions and everything. That’s the origin of the word fifth column which is become a major feature of many types of political activity and warfare since.
And this is the truth about God’s people. If we ever are overcome by Satan, it’s never from without. We cannot be defeated from without. The only way that Satan can defeat each of us individually, or the group of us collectively, is with his fifth column. You see, Jesus said concerning Satan in John’s gospel, the prince of this world cometh and hath nothing in me. And because he had nothing in Jesus, he could not overcome Jesus.
Now 1John 4:17 says as he is, so are we in this world. It is possible for you and me by the grace of God to be in that place where we can say, Satan has nothing in me. And if Satan has nothing in me, he cannot overcome me. There is no means by which he can do it. But if Satan has a fifth column in me, then I’m always in danger of being defeated. And if Satan has a fifth column in the church, the church is always in danger of being defeated and it can never administer total defeat to Satan. Satan is clever enough to realize that as long as he can keep his fifth column in the church, the church cannot do what God has designed the church to do which is cast down Satan’s kingdom. So here in a certain sense is the real point at issue.
Now I would say today, on the basis of experience, about the number of Christians that need deliverance from evil spirits [and this is not the subject of my message], at least as many Christians need deliverance from evil spirits as need healing from sickness. And I would say probably more. No Christian needs to be sick as I understand the scripture, no Christian needs to be under the power of evil spirits. But as the church is at the moment, many Christians are sick and I would say even more need deliverance from evil spirits. Now this is not a disgrace, it’s just a statement of objective fact. This is how it is. The church, over the centuries, has been systematically infiltrated.
I once said to a man, you know, it’s a strange thing. On every church board you find Satan has got at least one representative and he put him there on purpose. And the man gave me such a look because he was just struggling with a church board in which that was his situation.
This is not a haphazard situation. It’s the result of Satanic strategy. He has infiltrated every area of the church; with erroneous doctrine, with wrong living, with bad relationships, with hidden sin. He has sought to paralyze the church from being able to fulfill its function which is to bring him down. And God, in his wisdom, foreknew and foreshowed us that until the fifth column was driven out, the church would never fulfill its God appointed function. Now this is really the crux of everything at the present moment, is the driving out of the fifth column.
Now let’s look at the picture of restoration. We seen the picture of desolation and notice that desolation is caused primarily by spiritual forces, the evil spirits. Notice also that restoration is caused by spiritual force which is the Spirit of God. It is spirit against spirit. In measure, as the Spirit of God moves back into the church, in that measure the evil spirits must yield and give up their position. The restoration is foreshown in Joel 2. Let us look in verse 19. Well, we better look in verse 18, speaking about the time when God’s people have come to the place where they cannot do anything without divine intervention. Where they’re cast upon the mercy of God and the grace of God, it says in verse 18:
“Then will the Lord be jealous for his land, and pity for his people [or will have mercy on his people]. Yea, the Lord will answer and say unto his people, Behold, I will send you corn, and wine, and oil, [notice the three things? The word, the Spirit and your joy will come back.] and ye shall be satisfied therewith...” (KJV)
How many of God’s people are satisfied today? Very, very few. Satisfied means to have everything in abundance. 2Corinthians 9:8:
“And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work.” (KJV)
That’s what it is to be satisfied. It’s to abound. God’s people today are a dissatisfied, discontented, needy group of people. But when God moves in with the corn, the wine and the oil, God’s people will become satisfied.
“I will make you no more a reproach among the heathen.” (KJV)
You will no longer be a laughing stock. The world will no longer look at you and say they’re out of date, they’re irrelevant, they’re unnecessary, they have nothing to offer us.
“But I will remove far off from you the northern army, [the invading army. We’ll go onto verse 21 now because part of this is only a literal application to the land of Israel.] Fear not, O Land...”
You see, when God moves in, God’s people stop fearing. As I was saying, really you cannot be what God desires you to be until you’re free from fear. That we being delivered from fear of our enemies shall serve him in holiness and righteousness before him all the days of our life.
“Fear not, O Land, be glad and rejoice; for the Lord will do great things. Be not afraid, ye beasts of the field; for the pastures of the wilderness do spring, for the tree beareth her fruit, the fig tree and the vine do yield their strength.”(KJV)
Notice right in the forefront of restoration, the same two trees, the fig tree and the vine. Going on reading:
“Be glad then, ye children of Zion, and rejoice in the Lord your God; for he hath given you the former rain moderately, and he will cause to come down for you the rain, the former rain, and the latter rain in the first month.” (KJV)
Now we are clearly shown a little later on in this chapter that the rain is a type of the Holy Spirit. It’s in verse 28. It’s referred to the Holy Spirit. Notice that God gives the rain. This is one of the great statements of scripture. Man cannot manufacture rain, he can’t control rain, it’s not at his disposal, it’s under the sovereign control of God. And God has promised his people that he will give them rain. And he’ll give it to them in two main phases. The former rain at the beginning of the winter season, the latter rain at the close of the winter season. This is God’s provision, and we’ll see later in this study or in the next one, that the rain is given for the sake of the harvest.
But notice at the moment that this promise that as we receive the former rain at Pentecost, so at the close of this age we will receive the latter rain, the universal, worldwide outpouring of the Holy Spirit, which we’ve already seen prophesied in Acts 2. And the result will be restoration of God’s people. Reading on:
“And the floors shall be full of wheat, [that’s corn] and the vats shall overflow with wine and oil. [Notice again the corn, the wine and the oil.] And I will restore to you [that’s the key word, I will restore to you] the years that the locust hath eaten, the cankerworm, and the caterpillar and the palmerworm...” (KJV)
The four great different types of invading insects. You know, I used to think that it only said I will drive them out. But it says more than that. It says I will restore you the years which they have eaten. That is something tremendous. God made this real to me in praying for a woman in the city of Birmingham, Alabama last year. We were having a service where God was lengthening people’s legs and I was telling the people, get the package deal, don’t just get your leg lengthened, but when that happens, get everything. And a woman came up and she was partly crippled, partly paralyzed. She had some disease that was breaking down the bones and she couldn’t smile. She literally couldn’t smile. Her face was partly paralyzed with a color of parchment and about as miserable as anybody could look. And she started to tell me all the things that were wrong with her and I said just stop because I can’t remember it. So I said we’ll see what God will do. And I prayed for her, I cannot say whether I had faith or didn’t have faith. And I stepped back and we stood and watched that woman for the next ten minutes be totally renewed. Her skin changed, apparently her bone structure must have been repaired. She became able to smile, she lifted her hips, she moved her hands, she did everything. And a lady that was standing there who knew her and had come with her said you look just like you used to look ten years ago. And in ten minutes, God blotted out ten years of suffering and sickness and tragedy.
Now that’s what God means when he says I will restore to you the years which the locust and all the rest of those insects have eaten. It’s not just getting rid of them. That’s wonderful, but it’s undoing the work that they did.
And notice verse 25, God says, my great army which I send amongst you. See? God permitted Satan to invade the church because the church deserved it. Disobedience, and particularly stubbornness, will always open the way for the invasion of demons. Stubbornness it says, in 1Samuel 15:23, is as iniquity and idolatry. If there is one word that describes the church today it is stubborn. People want to do what they want to do regardless of what God says in his word. They’ll obey God if it suits them. Saul was like that, King Saul. He was sent off to fulfill a mission on behalf of the Lord, to blot out the Amalekites, to leave nothing alive that breathed, but he spared the king and the best of the sheep and oxen. He came back and said to Samuel, blessed be the Lord thy God, I have fulfilled the commandment of the Lord. And Samuel said, if you’ve fulfilled the commandment of the Lord, why are the sheep bleating and why are the oxen lowing. Because dead sheep don’t bleat and dead oxen don’t low. Oh, Saul said, I spared the best as a sacrifice for the Lord your God.
“And Samuel said, Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou has rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee from being king [over Israel].” (KJV)
Now the lesson is that Saul said he’d obeyed the voice of the Lord. I remember teaching this story in Africa to our African students. And we were teaching them so that they could teach primary school students Bible stories. So in order to avoid their merely teaching a story without any meaning to it, we would always teach them a spiritual truth that they had to teach with each story. And I remember having prepared my lesson and I was about three quarters of the way through it and I had gotten to this story of Saul’s commission from the Lord and how he had failed to obey.
I was walking to the blackboard and I said, now I will tell you the spiritual truth of this story. And it was one of those occasions where the Lord really spoke to me, I mean, not audibly. And the Lord said as I was on the way to the blackboard, wait a minute. I’ll tell you the spiritual truth to this story. And by the time I got to the blackboard, I had it and I wrote it up. Incomplete obedience is disobedience. And I’ve never been able to improve on that. Incomplete obedience is disobedience. If you only obey as much of God’s word as suits you, don’t claim to be obedient. And this is the condition of modern American Christians. Basically they’ll do as much of God’s word as suits them. And when it doesn’t suit them they say, Blessed be the Lord your God, I have kept the word of the Lord. And you know the answer of God? Because thou has rejected me, the word of the Lord he hath also rejected thee.
You see, there are two kingdoms at this stage in Israel’s history. The kingdom of Saul, the kingdom of David. The kingdom of David emerged out of the kingdom of Saul. The kingdom of Saul was rejected not because Saul sinned, because David sinned, he committed adultery, but God didn’t reject him. The kingdom of Saul was rejected because Saul rejected the word of the Lord. He made his own version of what God had said. And today in Christendom, there are two kingdoms. The kingdom of Saul and the kingdom of David. The kingdom of Saul is marked by the same sin that marked Saul; rejecting the word of the Lord. We’ll believe as much as appeals to our carnal mind, we’ll obey as much suits our church tradition and then we’ll claim to be believers and we claim to be obedient. But God says, because thou has rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee from being king over Israel. And if you study the career of Saul you’ll see him in three successive eras. And every one of them is contemporary.
First of all, he usurped an office that was not his. He offered sacrifice and he was not of the tribe of Levi and he had no right to do it. And for that, Samuel said, the Lord has rejected you.
Secondly, he rejected the word of the Lord. Not just committed a sin, but rejected the Lord’s word. He improved on the scripture, on the message of God through his prophets.
Thirdly, he went into spiritism, he consulted a witch.
And I venture to tell you, without the shadow of a doubt, that contemporary Christianity must go one or other of two ways, there is no third route. Many are going the route of Saul. They’re usurping a function that God hasn’t given them. Because God didn’t ask the ministers of the Christian church to decide whether Jesus was born of a virgin. He never asked them to make that decision. He simply told them that Jesus was born of a virgin. Those who sit in judgment on the word of God are usurping an office which God has not committed to them.
Secondly, as a result of this, they reject the word of the Lord because it pinpoints their guilt.
And because there must be some form of spiritual power in religion, and the Holy Spirit honors the word of God and obedience to the word of God, and will not honor the rebellious and the disobedient. And you’ll remember what Saul said when he went to the witch, he said, the Lord has forsaken me and he will not answer me. Neither by dreams or by visions or by prophesy nor by Urim or by Thummin. Therefore, he went to a Satanic source of supernatural power in the witch of Endor. And there is not the faintest shadow of doubt in my mind that contemporary Christianity is headed in the same direction. They have done, or are doing the same three things: usurping a function which is not theirs, rejecting the word of the Lord and seeking to mediums, clairvoyants, fortune tellers and so on. And again, without any sense seeking to be—I’m not making any personal issue of this. You have the most perfect example of this process in Bishop Pike. He is the most complete and clear delineation of a process which is going to affect the whole of rebellious Christendom.
But out of that kingdom is emerging another kingdom which is the kingdom of David. And just as Saul opposed and fought the emergence of David’s kingdom because he saw his rival coming forth. Without the faintest shadow of a doubt, whatever you would like to call it, institutional, ecclesiastical religion will fight the emergence of the true kingdom of God in the people that believe God and his word. This is the dividing line, it’s the attitude towards God’s word.
Now, this study has gone slightly different than the way that I have first anticipated. I trust it’s been the Lord’s way. Let me point out to you in closing this aspect of restoration which ties it in so perfectly with the age in which we live.
Oh, I forgot to mention this. I was telling you about my little dialogue with the Lord in a restaurant in London. And the Lord said to me my people have been systematically invaded by the forces of the enemy. And I said now I’ve got it. I mean I saw it in a whole, in a flash, I saw the whole situation. You know, when God speaks, you can see everything at once. Then the Lord went on to add a little bit more that I hadn’t even asked him for. He said, now you have preached that there’s a double restoration, the vine; the church and the fig tree; Israel. The vine, the church being restored to its spiritual inheritance in Christ. The fig tree, Israel being restored to their political inheritance in the land. I said yes Lord. And now I say, if I understand the voice of the Lord, I’m not dictating, but if I know the voice of the Lord he said to me, You can see how far away my people Israel have been from their God given inheritance in the land all these centuries. And I said yes Lord. And he said in my sight the church has been just as far away from its spiritual inheritance in Christ as Israel has from their political inheritance in the land. And I said I believe it. And I came to understand, I will not say God said this to me, I came to understand that there’s just as big a process, a revolution involved in getting the church back into its spiritual inheritance in Christ as there is in getting Israel back into their political inheritance in the land. And the two processes are proceeding exactly side by side. This is a fascinating thing. If you take them date by date, they work out as perfectly as it’s possible to do.
Before we take dates for a moment, let us turn to Luke 21 and I want to show you that Jesus referred to this process when he was predicting the events that would mark the close of this age. Luke 21:29–31. Having given this great prophetic picture of how the age would close, which is given in the preceding verses of Luke 21, he then summed it up in this little parable here, verses 29–31:
“And he spake to them a parable; Behold the fig tree and all the trees; when they now shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves that summer is now nigh at hand. So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand.” (KJV)
Now of course, this is a parable in the natural. At the end of winter the trees are bare without leaves, without buds. And then you see the little green buds begin to appear on the branches of the trees, and you know summer is coming. You don’t have to go to the public library, you don’t have to go to the university, you don’t even have to go to the preacher. Jesus said you see and know of your own selves. They might not have noticed it, but when you see it, you know summer is now nigh at hand.
However, I believe it takes us further than this. I believe that Jesus was deliberately referring to Joel 1:12 and I would like you to compare these two. That is, Luke 21:29 with Joel 1:12:
“Behold the fig tree, and all the trees.” (KJV)
What does Joel 1:12 say?
“The vine is dried up, and the fig tree languisheth; the pomegranate tree, the palm tree also, and the apple tree, even all the trees of the field...” (KJV)
You see, I believe Jesus was deliberately referring to Joel. The desolation that came affected the fig tree, Israel. It affected the vine, the church. It affected all nations. But at the close of this age, there’s a process of restoration. Now Jesus did not include the vine because that’s a spiritual restoration and is out of place in this particular type of prophecy given in Luke 21, but he included the political restoration of Israel, the fig tree and all the trees. What would be all the trees? All the other nations.
Now we were in Israel when Israel became a nation. The 15th of May, l948. We were there when it ceased to be under the British mandate and became a self—an independent nation on its own for the first time, for at least nineteen centuries. Actually, in a certain sense, more. We saw the termination of the British mandate, we saw the birth of the state of Israel.
Some years later we were in East Africa, we went out to East Africa as missionaries when it was British East Africa. And when we left, it was two independent nations with a third about to become independent. Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya. What is this? It’s all the trees putting on their leaves. You see, one of the greatest contemporary political phenomena is the resolution of all nations to throw off the yoke of Colonialism and Imperialism and be nations on their own. Within the continent of Africa since the close of World War II, nearly fifty new nations have emerged of which I have mentioned just three. What is that? It’s all the trees putting on their leaves. We were there in Kenya when it happened.
You see, what the Africans said was, we don’t want to be ruled by an alien race. We don’t want somebody to impose their language, their customs and all these things on us. We are people of our own. We want to wear our own clothing, use our own language and follow our own customs. And this which was said there has been said all around the world, whether you look at South America, Africa, or Asia. The same principle is at work. What is it? The trees putting on their leaves.
You see, in the wintertime, in an area where the trees lose their leaves, most trees look rather alike. To me, though I’m not an expert, there’s very little difference between one tree and another when they have no leaves on. But when they put their leaves on, then their distinguishing features become clear. And this is what the nations are saying. We are people of our own, we have our own customs, we have our own languages, we want to be ourselves. What’s that? Putting on their leaves. And the interesting thing is it says the fig tree first, and all the trees. You see, practically the first nation at the end of World War II to receive independence was Israel. And from then on, all the other nations around the earth that were under Colonialism are following suit. And the interesting thing is many of them are looking to Israel as a pattern. First of all for throwing off the yoke of Imperialism. And secondly, for how to develop an underdeveloped, primitive, struggling nation. As a matter of fact, the Israeli government has sent representatives to many of the new nations in Africa telling them how it’s done.
So you see how very, very accurate and complete this picture is, the fig tree and all the trees putting on their leaves. And if you want to look back in time, you can say in the last decade of the last century, the process began. Zionism came into being as an international force and the first great outpouring of the Holy Spirit publicly took place in Russia, Armenia, around about l870. l880. Then in the United States, l900, Topeka, Kansas. In l904, Los Angeles. In l906, Great Britain. l906 and ’07, Sweden, Norway, Denmark. And then all around the world the rain started to fall.
So this is the picture that we see, the process of restoration. The vine, the fig tree and all the trees.
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