This teaching includes a free sermon outline to download for personal use, message preparation or Bible study discussion.
God’s Program for the Close of the Age – Part 2
In our previous study in this series we began to deal with God’s special purpose for the close of this age. And we saw that the scripture promises a special intervention of God’s grace and power on behalf of his people at the close of this age. And we saw that according to Acts 3:19–21 there were to be four stages in this intervention and work of God on behalf of his people.
First, God’s people are to repent and turn back to God.
Secondly, there will be seasons of refreshing.
Thirdly, there will be a period of restoration.
And fourthly, we will have the return of Christ.
I pointed out also that this whole period of restoration is summated for us in the prophet Joel. And that the theme of Joel can be summed up in these three successive words: desolation, restoration and judgment. I pointed out also that the restoration of God’s people is double. There’s a restoration of God’s spiritual people, the church. And there’s a restoration of God’s natural people, Israel. And in the typology of Joel, I believe the church is typified by the vine, and Israel by the fig tree. Both were laid desolate and both are to be restored.
And I pointed out to you that in a very dramatic, wonderful way the restoration of Israel and the restoration of the church has been proceeding exactly parallel in time and I would say even in degree for the past seventy or eighty years. The more you analyze this, the more remarkable it is.
I pointed out also that within the church desolation was produced by an invading army of insects which I myself understand to represent demonic infiltration into every area of the church. That is, the penetration of evil spirits into every area of the inheritance of God’s people. I pointed out that restoration produces the driving out of these infiltrators, these insects, these demons.
Now in our present study I want to go into rather greater detail about what lies ahead for the church. I am not dealing with Israel and their restoration in this study at all. I’m dealing with the restoration of the church. And as you will see in your outline, I’m suggesting that there are to be four preparatory phases of preparation within the church for what God actually wants the church to do. And then there are three final objectives for the church to achieve before this age closes.
Let’s look first of all at the four preparatory phases of what God is doing. And as we do this I invite you to check mentally and see how far you feel we’ve moved along in these preparatory phases. With different persons it may be somewhat different. Some of you may feel you’ve hardly begun, others may feel, well, we’ve moved quite a long way.
Turning to Isaiah 59:19, the second part of the verse, we have a very wonderful and precious promise of God’s grace for his people.
“When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him.”(KJV)
Here is one of the most gracious promises of God. Just at the time God’s people need him most, just at the time the enemy is pressing hardest and moving in in every area, God says the Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against the enemy.
Now if we look at the situation in the United States I would say that any honest impartial Christian would have to acknowledge that in the past thirty or forty years the enemy has come in like a flood in this nation. In every major area of national life; in the church, in the seminaries, in the places of education, schools, the colleges, the universities, in political life, in social life, in moral and ethical standards, and even in law enforcement. In every area of this nation you could say, I believe without exaggeration, the enemy, the devil, the works of darkness have come in like a flood. That’s the way I view it. And in a certain sense I’m more objective than most Americans because I’m one of the newest Americans. I came to this country from outside, I knew nothing about America and I began to observe. And I became fascinated with what I saw. Extremely interesting and gripping. And I think in various ways I’m probably better able to form an objective view of what has been taking place than many who have grown up through it and have never viewed it from outside. At any rate, that’s my summation. Listening to Americans speak and viewing what I can of the situation as it was thirty or forty years ago, before the second world war, let’s say, and today, I would say you could sum it up in one phrase. The enemy has come in like a flood.
Now I’m not saying this from a negative viewpoint. My purpose this morning is not to emphasize what the devil is doing, the devil has enough advertisement and unfortunately, many of them are inside the church. But our function is to speak about God and what he is doing. To be positive and not negative. We have to acknowledge the fact, the enemy has come in like a flood but praise the Lord, this is the moment for divine intervention. The Spirit of the Lord is now lifting up the standard. I firmly believe this. I believe that there is a sovereign, divine intervention of God by the Holy Spirit, in the church of Jesus Christ in the United States and around the world. We are living in this time. This is one of the key verses of scripture to enable us to understand what is taking place at this moment. And it affects almost each and every one of us in a very vital and personal way. The Spirit of the Lord within the body of Jesus Christ is lifting up the standard. Now the Holy Spirit has only one standard to lift up. And that is not a doctrine, it is not a denomination, it is not an institution, it is a person. And the person is the Lord Jesus Christ. John 16:13–14 Jesus said:
“When he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth; for he shall not speak of himself, but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall, he speak, and he will show you things to come. He shall glorify me; for he shall receive of mine and show it unto you.” (KJV)
The supreme purpose of the Holy Spirit is to interpret and reveal the things of the Lord Jesus Christ in such a way as to glorify and magnify him. The only person whom the Holy Spirit will ever exalt or uplift is the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the standard that’s being uplifted by the Holy Spirit in the church today. If you want one simple statement that typifies this standard I would say you’d find it in Hebrews 13:8:
“Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever.” (KJV)
That’s what the Holy Spirit is saying to the church. Jesus Christ hasn’t changed. Nothing has been diminished from his glory, his faithfulness or his power. He was the savior from sin, he is the savior from sin. He was the healer of the body, he is the healer of the body. He was the baptizer in the Holy Spirit, he is the baptizer in the Holy Spirit. He was the head over all things to the church, he is the head over all things to the church. Nothing has changed in the position of Jesus Christ. But the Holy Spirit is enabling us to see and acknowledge it afresh.
Now, in an ancient army, the standardbearer was a key person because every group of soldiers was trained to identify their own particular standard. And in ancient times they had various standards such as soldiers do in modern armies today.
For instance I was associated for about two years with a group of British soldiers in the North African desert that were known as the desert rats. And they were really quite famous. As a matter of fact, there was a TV program about them. That was their standard. And believe me, they were extremely proud of that standard. That little gerboa, that desert rat that they had in white on their left sleeve. And it meant a great deal to those men. It became a very distinguished and honorable standard in those circles.
And so it was in ancient armies. Maybe their standard would be an eagle, a leopard, a bear, something else. But every group of soldiers was trained to recognize and acknowledge and respect their own standard. And if at any time that group of soldiers was being overrun by the enemy and scattered and was in danger of total defeat, the commander in chief would order the standardbearer to go to some elevated piece of ground where he could be seen from all directions to lift up that standard. And when that standard was lifted up, then all the soldiers that acknowledged that standard were trained to regroup around it. And this is exactly what is happening in the church.
Let me show you in Isaiah 10:18 the opposite side of the standardbearer. Now this we don’t need to go into but it describes the total defeat of the invading Assyrian army that had come against Judah and Jerusalem. The defeat is by the intervention of God in a supernatural way and the defeat is summed up in Isaiah 10:18, the latter part of the verse.
“...and they shall be as when a standardbearer fainteth.”(KJV)
You see, when the standardbearer faints, and does not have the strength to lift up the standard, then there is nothing for anybody to rally around. And discouragement and defeat are almost inevitable. But praise God, the standardbearer of God’s people is the Holy Spirit. And with him there is no fainting, there is no weakness. He doesn’t sleep and he doesn’t slumber. And at God’s appointed hour the great commander in chief says to the standardbearer, Lift up the standard. And only those people are gathering around that standard that acknowledge it to be their standard. And the standard that’s being lifted up today is not the Presbyterian church, nor the Methodist church, nor the Baptist church, nor the Assemblies of God, nor some particular outstanding evangelist or preacher. It’s the Lord Jesus Christ. And there is a great searching and dividing taking place amongst the people of God because some people say, well, that’s my standard. Above all, my loyalty is to Jesus Christ. I’m a Christian first and a Baptist second. A Christian first and a Presbyterian second. But others are saying I’m a Baptist first and a Christian second. I’m a Presbyterian first and a Christian second. And therefore, there’s coming a tremendous dividing and sorting out amongst the people of God. And the only people that are going to gather are those whose primary loyalty is to the Lord Jesus Christ. And what has been amazing me for the past five or ten years is to see the sorting out process. Many, many people that I thought would be right at the foot of that standard are far away. And many who I never dreamt would show any interest in the Lord Jesus Christ are standing right at the foot of the standard. This is what’s going on. If you can understand this verse and apply it, it interprets for you what is taking place in the church today. It’s divine intervention. It’s the Holy Spirit lifting up the standard, the Lord Jesus Christ. And God’s defeated, discouraged, scattered people are getting fresh hope and vision. They say, I’m going to rally around that standard. That’s where I belong, that’s where you’ll find me. You see, God has no other rally point for his people. Just let me show you in Genesis 49:10. Genesis 49:10. And this is a prophecy of the Messiah, that he is to come from the tribe of Judah. And most commentators agree that Shiloh is a name of the Messiah. The one to whom it belongs it means in Hebrew.
“The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet [or a ruler’s staff from between his feet], until Shiloh come [until he come to whom it belongs], and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.” (KJV)
This is the secret. God is not going to gather his people around the denomination, or an institution, or a doctrine, or a man, or a movement. There’s only one focal point for the gathering of God’s people and that is the Lord Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the one to whom it belongs. The one whose right it is. The one who’s the foundation, the one who’s the head. The one of whom it was said, His hands laid the foundation of this house, and his hands also shall finish it. This is the picture. The first great move, the regathering of God’s people around the person of the Lord Jesus Christ lifted up afresh by the Holy Spirit.
Now the second phase, as I understand it, is God’s people being delivered from the invading army of insects that destroy their inheritance. In other words, deliverance from demons to put it in very simple, blunt language. This is what is also taking place. There is a tremendous move within the church, and I venture to predict in the next ten years it’s going to accelerate and gain ground tremendously where the ministry of deliverance, the discernment of evil spirits is going to be restored so that the insects that have fastened upon the inheritance of God’s people, eaten away at the very root of their joy and their peace and their liberty will be driven out. You see, the result of invasion by these insects is summed up in Joel 1:12 at the end:
“...joy is withered away from the sons of men.” (KJV)
These demons, the fear and frustration, and defeat and poverty, and sickness and infirmity, and despair and suicide, and resentment and hatred, and rebellion; they gnaw away at the joy of God’s people. And God’s people become external observers of standards and customs that are imposed by their church. They’ve got it all in theory, but not in experience. They sing hymns about joy and peace, and look so worried and miserable you wonder how they could ever bring those words out. And really, the more you have in doctrine, the greater your frustration if you don’t have it in experience.
See, there’s no one so frustrated as full gospel people that aren’t living in the full gospel. People that don’t profess the full gospel are much less frustrated. You’ll find this for instance among young people in Pentecostal circles. Let me say it frankly without criticizing anybody. You don’t find a more frustrated rebellious, dissatisfied group of young people than in many Pentecostal churches. Why? Because they hear the full gospel but they don’t see it. You say well what do you mean by that? I mean simply this: They go to church on Sunday, the preacher preaches God heals the sick. But on Monday morning mother has a migraine headache and what does she do? She phones the doctor and starts living on tranquilizers. You see? And the little boy there says, well, if it works on Sunday why doesn’t it work on Monday. If it works in the church, why doesn’t it work at home. Let’s see it. And I’ll tell you, I’ve had personal firsthand experience of many young people who have lost their faith in the full gospel because they heard it in a message and never saw it lived in experience. But the secret underlying influence are the demons. And of course, who’s so slow to be delivered from demons is the one whose doctrine doesn’t permit him to acknowledge that they could even be there. Remarkable!
I went to a Roman Catholic group with Don Basham once. We had two meetings with them. They asked us about deliverance, we taught them, we prayed with them. The whole group has now accepted this ministry and message and they say it’s a normal part of our experience. We find most Christians need deliverance. Had we gone to an established Pentecostal denomination with that message they’d have probably had a meeting of the general council to decide if this was heresy. There you are.
Now let’s look at the picture of the army going out. Joel 2:25:
“And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten, the cankerworm, and the caterpillar, and the palmerworm, my great army which I sent among you.” (KJV)
God sent an invading army of demons because of the rebelliousness, stubbornness, disobedience and self will of the church. That’s God’s judgment, is to turn his disobedient children over to the enemy. God says, now see who treats you better, I or the devil. And when God’s people have had a few seasons in the hand of the devil they say, Lord, I’d like to come back to you. If they’ve got any sense.
Then the great promise of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit comes in Joel 2:28:
“And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh...” (KJV)
The various results of the outpouring follow in the following verses and it is summed up in verse 32:
“It shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be delivered...”
The outpoured Spirit makes is possible for the believers to receive deliverance from the invading army. If you want another little picture of the same in the Old Testament, turn to the prophet Obadiah for a moment. I wonder if some of you have ever heard a message preached from Obadiah. Obadiah the 17th verse, you don’t have to name the chapter because he doesn’t have more than one chapter. And you find here in the 17th verse the most beautiful, succinct summary of what is going on. And remember as we read about Zion, this is one of the scripture’s names for God’s people, both natural and spiritual. As far as I understand it, Israel is never used of God’s spiritual people, the church. But Zion is a word that’s used of both.
“But upon Mount Zion shall be deliverance, and there shall be holiness; and the house of Jacob shall possess their possessions.” (KJV)
Now there’s an order you cannot reverse. The first thing before God’s people can possess their possessions, get back into their inheritance, is deliverance. First of all get the insects out. Secondly there’s got to be holiness. Say what you will, God is a holy God, the Bible is his holy word, the Spirit of God is a holy spirit and God’s people are called to live holy lives. And there is no inheritance in Christ for the unholy. Scripture says that they may receive inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith in me. That’s what Jesus told the apostle Paul. And there is no inheritance for the unholy or the unsanctified. The unclean shall not walk in the highway of the Lord. There’s got to be deliverance, there’s got to be holiness. The majority of charismatic people in my personal judgment don’t take God nearly seriously enough. For many it is still a kind of alternative to the cocktail party. But God is a holy God and he has not varied his requirements for holiness from age to age or generation to generation. Everything in the scripture tells us that to approach God we’ve got to learn lessons of holiness.
The third aspect of this promise: The house of Jacob shall possess their possessions. You see, it’s one thing to have possessions, it’s another thing to possess. Look at natural Israel. Legally they’ve owned that land in God’s sight for more than two thousand years. But for most of that time they haven’t even been near it. They’ve had possessions but they didn’t possess. And exactly the same is true of the Christian church. Legally in Christ we’ve had everything all along. But we haven’t possessed it. Some people say I got it all when I was converted. And my answer is, Brother, if you got it all, let’s see it all. Don’t just tell us, demonstrate. You did get it all in Christ legally, the moment you were converted. But most people don’t get it experientially except the hard way, step by step and battle by battle. If you turn to the book of Joshua, right at the beginning of the book of Joshua God said to Joshua, Take my people into the inheritance which I have given. Verse 3. And they hadn’t put one foot on the ground, but it was their legally. They had to take it by warfare experientially. They had the legal claim, they had to assert that claim in the face of the opposition, the enemy.
It is precisely the same with Christians. The moment we’re born again through faith in Christ, become children of God, legally all is ours. But experientially, very often, very little. Now I’ve often said this but I’ll say it once more. If Joshua and the children of Israel had been fundamentalists when God said I’ve given it to them, they would have folded their arms and stood on the east bank of Jordan and said praise the Lord, it’s all ours. We got it all. And the Canaanites would have laughed in their faces. If they had been Pentecostals, they would have crossed the river Jordan to the west bank, folded their arms and said praise God, we’ve got it all. And the Canaanites would have still laughed. You don’t have more than you have. You have just precisely what you’ve got. It’s one thing to believe in divine healing, it’s another thing to be healthy.
I don’t know whether you ever go to these health food stores, but I notice I heard Bob Mumford say the other day that the trouble about people in health food stores is they look so unhealthy. It’s usually a withered thin old crone with a rasping voice hopping around pulling jars down from the shelf. Well you say if this is health food why doesn’t it work? And the outsider says the same to the church. If you’ve got joy and peace, where is it? If you’ve got victory and power, let’s see it. And they’ve got a legitimate right to say that. But we can possess our inheritance if we go God’s way. Deliverance, holiness and then possess our possessions.
Now we’ve got to go on. The third phase of preparation is God’s people are being re-equipped. We’ll look at Acts 2 as a text though we can take many. Acts 2:17–18:
“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.” (KJV)
When the Holy Spirit is poured out, God’s people begin to have something to use, to exercise and to demonstrate. The gifts of the Spirit are restored. The gifts of visions, the gifts of revelation, the gifts of power, the ministry of prophesy are restored. God’s people are beginning to get again the tools that are needed to reap the harvest. It’s ridiculous to send forth reapers into the harvest field without a sickle, without a tool, without anything to sharpen their blades with. How can they do it? And through the baptism in the Holy Spirit, God’s intention is to restore to his people the gifts of the Holy Spirit which are the tools that are needed for doing the work. As has been said before, the gifts of the Spirit are not toys, they are tools. They’re not playthings, they’re essential to do the work that has to be done. Look again for a moment in Romans 15 just to see how Paul viewed these things. Romans 15:18–19, Paul says:
“For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ hath not wrought by me, to make the Gentiles obedient, by word and deed, through mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God; so that from Jerusalem, and round about unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.” (KJV)
It is my firm conviction that the stubborn, rebellious, unbelieving heart of man will never be brought into full subjection to the gospel of Jesus Christ without the demonstration of supernatural power. And I can claim to have had a good many opportunities to test this. You can get a conformity, you can get an acceptance of doctrine, you can get church membership, but it takes the supernatural power of God demonstrated to make men and women really obedient. One miracle will make some people tremble.
We had a man come to our house the other day, said my wife and sister Doreen are here, he really was an unbeliever I think. He was trying to be a believer. But when the Lord lengthened one leg and stretched it beyond the other and then caused the other one to grow out, he started to dance around, you see. Something hit that man with a demonstration of the power of God that never would have come to him by intellectual reasoning. This I believe. The miraculous is necessary, it’s not optional. Paul could not have said, “I fully preach the gospel” if he hadn’t demonstrated the power of God. See what he says in 1Corinthians 1:7–8:
“I thank God [verse 4, verse 7] that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall confirm you unto the end...” (KJV)
See? The theory that the gifts are to be withdrawn from the church wasn’t in the mind of the apostle Paul, that is very evident. Because he thanked God for these Christians, that they were going to be lacking in no gift until the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, that God was going to confirm them in the exercise of the gifts unto the end. And that’s exactly how it’s going to be. And then in the 2nd chapter of 1Corinthians, Paul says in verses 1–5:
“And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.” (KJV)
And this is the choice. Are we going to put our faith in the wisdom of men? Are we going to believe a man because he was trained in a seminary, because he has three degrees after his name, because he can quote Greek and Hebrew? Or are we going to put our faith in God and his supernatural power? Those that put their faith in man’s education and learning never have a solid foundation for their faith. Those that have tasted the power of God by personal experience, verifying his word, know whom they have believed. I’ve seen this, I’m not going to take time to speak about it, I’ve seen it again and again. Real faith must be based on the supernatural power of God. The intellectual approach in the last resort will always undermine the faith of God’s people. That’s precisely what’s happening in the church today. Many of these intellectually trained professors and seminarians are perfectly sincere, but as Billy Graham said, it’s possible to be sincere and sincerely wrong. God hasn’t asked the ministers of the church of Jesus Christ to decide whether Jesus was born of a virgin. He just told us. It’s not our job. We’re not to sit in judgment on the word of God, we’re to demonstrate it. The gospel is not a set of theories, it’s the remedy for human need. When humanity sees their need met through the gospel, they’ll respect it.
The fourth stage of the preparatory phases for God’s people we can put in Ezekiel 37:7–10. Now this is the vision in the valley of dry bones. The prophecy of the restoration and regathering of God’s people, Israel. Now I’m perfectly aware this applies to Israel. I want to say that every sentence of it applies literally to Israel and will be literally fulfilled without one jot or one tittle going unfulfilled. But I believe it is also a picture of the regathering of the scattered members of Christ’s body, the church. And I believe in the sight of God, in a certain sense, the church has been like Israel; just dry bones scattered around, unconnected, unattached, without knowing their place, without knowing their function in the body. And God said to Ezekiel, can these bones live? And Ezekiel said thou knowest, I couldn’t tell you. And I marvel at the grace of God. He could have done it all without Ezekiel but he said, Ezekiel, I want you to prophesy, and when you prophesy things will start to happen. That’s just like the Lord, he invites us to share. And so it says in verse 7:
“So I prophesied as I was commanded: and as I prophesied, there was a noise, [or possibly a thundering] and behold a shaking [or an earthquake which I think is more probable. A thundering and an earthquake.], and the bones came together, bone to his bone. And when I beheld, lo, the sinews and the flesh came up upon them, and the skin covered them above: but there was no breath in them. Then said he unto me, Prophesy unto the wind, prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind, [or to the spirit or to the breath, same word in Hebrew] thus saith the Lord God; come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live. So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army.” (KJV)
No longer a lot of scattered bones but an army. And this is what God is bringing forth out of the scattered bones. Now there’s a shaking, there’s a rumbling, there’s a disturbance. Some people are saying don’t rock the boat. But when there’s an earthquake, you can’t help if the boat gets rocked. There’s no way to stop rocking the boat. God has created thunder and an earthquake to shake his people out of their complacency, they’re beginning to move, bones are coming to bones. And some people are saying, well, now I’m losing my liberty. See? I used to be there, free on my own, I could do what I liked. But now I’ve got joined to this bone and it’s got a very knobbly end here and the next thing that happened is the ligaments are coming up and I’m being tied to this person and I’m not free any longer. Well you’ve just got the option. Do you want to lie around like a loose bone or do you want to be fitted into the body. Because when you’re fitted into the body you’re going to be tied with ligaments, flesh is going to come up upon you, and you’re going to lose your independence. Not your liberties, but your independence.
Now this is exactly where we are in this particular area without naming it because of the tape at this moment. Some people think, brother, don’t put me under bondage. Don’t tell me what to do. I’m free. You are. To lie around like a bone. If that’s what you want, if that’s your ambition, stay free. But if you want to get into the body, you’ve got to be regrouped, you’ve got to be brought together with that bone over there that you thought you never could come together with. And then there’s going to be a bond put around you, a ligament, you’re going to be fitted into a joint and into a socket. And only those that are willing will experience this. This is where a lot of people are dropping out because they’ve got the wrong idea of what liberty is. Liberty is not independence. Liberty is being moved by the Spirit of God to do what God wants, and you want what God wants. That’s true liberty. And you see, this is what is happening. I say frankly, people that were close to me in ministry and service ten years ago are remote from me today. And people whom I thought I would never have fellowship with, that I could never entertain, are growing closer and closer because we are being regrouped. Notice this is different from being regathered. We gathered as a mass around the foot of the standard. But now we are being sorted out into groups for action. See, no one ever got anything accomplished without a team and discipline. Whether it’s a fire brigade or a baseball team. Whatever it is, no one ever got action successfully accomplished without order and discipline and submission. And it’s never going to happen in the church and this is where some bones are just going to drop out. Well you be a splendid individualist in your isolation but remember, you’ll just be a bone. If you want to be in the body you’ve got to be regrouped, you’ve got to be fitted together.
Let’s look in 1Corinthians 12 for a moment, we can’t read all the verses that are given. But notice this, and the principle is very clear. Verse 12:
“For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, and one body; so also is Christ. [verse 14] The body is not one member, but many. [verse 15] If the foot shall say, because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? [and then we read a little further, verse 21] The eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee; nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.” (KJV)
We need one another. We cannot do without one another. We must be rightly related to one another. There must be a fitting together. This is precisely what is beginning to happen. And this is the final preparatory phase. Ephesians 4:16, if you want to look is a picture of the body when it’s being regrouped. Just notice that, Ephesians 4:16, speaking about Christ as the head:
“From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.” (KJV)
Notice it’s the body that edifies the body, if you analyze that verse. And that happens when every part is in the right place, properly fitted together with the other parts, and properly fulfilling its function. And it’s held together with joints and bands. No joints, no bands; no body. Just members. This is where we are right now.
Now let’s look at a picture, a glorious picture in scripture of God’s people after restoration. Turn to Isaiah 60. This follows, of course, very closely on after Isaiah 59:19, the promise of regathering. And I’m going to read verses 1 through 5. We will not dwell on them. I can preach about two sermons on these two verses alone, but this is just an outline.
“Arise, shine, for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the peoples: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee. And the Gentiles [nations] shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising. Lift up thine eyes round about, and see: all they gather themselves together, they come to thee: thy sons shall come from far, and thy daughters shall be nursed at thy side. Then thou shalt see, and flow together, and thine heart shall fear, and be enlarged; because the abundance of the sea shall be converted unto thee, the forces [but better, the wealth] of the Gentiles [the nations] shall come unto thee.”(KJV)
This is what God is purposing to do. And you have a choice. You can look at the negative or you can look at the positive. The negative is darkness shall cover the earth and gross darkness the people. That is manifestly true and it’s going to become increasingly true the nearer we come to the close of this age. If you’re one of these negative minded people, all you’ll be able to speak about is what the devil is doing, how bad things are getting, they’re getting worse and worse, there’s going to be a great falling away... That’s all true but it’s not the whole truth. The other part of the truth is arise, shine, for thy light is come. And when the darkness covers the earth and gross darkness the people, that’s when the true people of God are going to shine forth with a light and a glory that the world has never seen on them before. And then nations are going to come to thy light and kings to the brightness of thy rising. And I believe this. I believe in the next decade also we shall see whole nations turn to the Lord Jesus Christ by the supernatural moving of the Spirit of God. With their leaders! There’s one thing very sure, there are no political leaders today who have got the answer to their problems. And if a group would come forth and say and demonstrate, we have the answer, they would have presidents and kings and prime ministers waiting at their doors for the answers. And I believe this is what the scripture says will happen. Nations shall come to thy light and kings to the brightness of thy rising. How many American presidents have consulted Jeanne Dixon? I don’t know, maybe two or three. Not to criticize Jeanne Dixon, but what a bankruptcy of the Christian church in America that the presidents have to go to a fortune teller.
Now I’m not saying this to belittle her, it’s just an indication of the desperate searching for some kind of guidance that goes above the level of natural reasoning and knowledge in the hearts of rulers and leaders. King George the 6th of Britain was prayed for by William Brannon. Just a little preacher from some small town in the United States, but the head of the Great British Empire sent for him because he had something that the doctors didn’t have. And friends, let people see that God heals cancer and tumors and blind eyes, and the wealthiest and the most famous in the land will be waiting in the line. When the light shines, they’ll come.
The church is going to be surprised. Verse 4, Lift up thine eyes round about and see. All they gather themselves and come to thee. Verse 5, then thou shall see and flow together. That’s what’s happening to the church, they’re flowing together. Because God is moving by his grace. And their hearts shall fear, and I can understand that. Sometimes when God gives me a little glimpse of what he intends to do I really get afraid. And be enlarged. You know there’s one thing that religious people need? It’s need to have their heart enlarged. You know the grave problem with religious people is small mindedness. God bless me and my son John, us four, no more, Amen, Acts 2:4. We need to have our heart enlarged.
And then the abundance of the sea shall be converted unto thee, and the wealth of the nations shall come to thee. You know what I started praying since the beginning of l970 or a little on in l970? I’ve been praying for the wealth of the United States to be converted to the purposes of God in this decade. And I’ll tell you, you’re going to see it. I believe it. I believe God gave me that prayer and I’ve prayed it in the name of Jesus, and the Bible says if I ask anything in his name, he will do it. So I’m serving notice on you. You notice, in the next ten years. God raised up this nation for a purpose of his own. It has a destiny. It has unique privileges, unique potentialities, unique opportunities. Why leave them all in the hand of the devil? God says in Haggai, the silver is mine, the gold is mine, the glory of this latter house shall be greater than the glory of the former house. When you ask him for silver and gold, you’re not stealing. The devil stole it. If he has it it doesn’t belong to him. It belongs to God. What is it to be used for? Glorifying the house of God which is the true church of Jesus Christ. And that is coming.
Turn to Malachi for a moment. Or let’s look at Songs 6 for a moment. Song of Solomon 6:10, here’s another glimpse of the true church emerging from the darkness of night.
“Who is she [the world has never seen anyone quite like this] that looketh forth as the morning, [after the night] fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners?” (KJV)
That’s how the church is going to appear at the close of this age. With the beauty of the moon reflecting the sun, Jesus. But with the righteousness of the son, Jesus Christ. And terrible to all the forces of darkness as an army with banners. That’s what God is bringing his body together that they should be an exceeding great army. Equipped for war and for the fulfillment of God’s purposes.
Look also in Malachi 4, the last chapter of the Old Testament. And when we’re in the 4th chapter of Malachi, we’re right at the close of this age. Bear that in mind. Everything in this 4th chapter relates to the close of the age. And the first verse speaks about the day of God’s judgment:
“The day cometh that shall burn as an oven; [and the second verse is a promise to God’s people] But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall. And ye shall tread down the wicked...” (KJV)
I believe that that is a promise for these days. I believe at the end of the long, long night of apostasy and unbelief the Sun of righteousness, Jesus Christ, is going to rise with healing in his wings. I predict a tremendous revival of healing within the body of Christ in this decade. You see, these are the two great products of the gospel: righteousness and healing. Deliverance from sin and deliverance from sickness. And to God’s people that fear his name that are humble, reverent, attentive and obedient, at the close of this age the Sun of righteousness is going to rise with healing in his wings and God’s people are going to go forth and trample underfeet the forces of the enemy. Romans 16:20 has got a beautiful promise in that relation. Romans 16:20:
“And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly.” (KJV)
That has still got to be fulfilled. And it was written to believers in Jesus Christ. The healing is not going to be just the healing of individual physical bodies though that is wonderful enough, but it’s going to be the healing of the collective body of Jesus Christ as well. And if you want one beautiful promise of that, turn to Isaiah 30:26 which is directly in line with the Sun of righteousness arising with healing in his wings. We will not linger on it but let me share it with you. It’s such a beautiful promise. Isaiah 30:26:
“Moreover the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun shall be sevenfold, as the light of seven days, in the day that the Lord bindeth up the breach of his people, and healeth the stroke of their wound.” (KJV)
There’s a day of God’s healing for the breach of his people and the stroke of their wounds. And it’s going to be a day of extreme brightness and glory when the Sun of righteousness arises with healing in his wings.
Now let’s look, and we’ll have to do it rather rapidly, at the final objectives. And I have named three. I will specify them briefly then look at them in detail for a few moments.
The first one is the ingathering of the last great harvest.
The second one is the preparation of the church as bride for the bridegroom, Jesus Christ.
The third one is the restraining and final casting down of Satan’s kingdom.
Let’s look at them now in order. In Deuteronomy 11:14 you’ll find a principle which is stated there and follows all through the word that in God’s provision, the rain is always related to the harvest. Rain is given for the sake of harvest. And so God says to his people before he brought them into the promised land, he says now, if you’ll be willing and obedient, serve me and obey my word I’ll see that the rain never fails and the harvest never fails. And this is how it is said in verse 14:
“That I will give you the rain of your land in his due season, the first rain and the latter rain...”
And that goes all through scripture, the first rain at the beginning of the winter, the last rain at the end of the winter immediately prior to the final processes of harvest.
“That thou mayest gather in [that’s the harvest] thy corn, thy wine, thy oil.” (KJV)
You remember last week we saw how these were the three aspects of restoration within God’s people. The corn of the word, the wine of joy and the oil of the Holy Spirit. This also runs as a theme through all scripture. But notice the rain is given that the harvest may be gathered in. Now the rain we know is a type of the outpoured Spirit. Why is the Spirit of God poured out upon the people? That the harvest may be gathered in. Jeremiah 5:24. Jeremiah 5:23–24:
“But this people hath a revolting and a rebellious heart; they are revolted and gone. Neither say they in their heart, let us now fear the Lord our God, that giveth rain, both the former and the latter, in his season; he reserveth unto us the appointed weeks of the harvest.” (KJV)
One thing I’ll point out to you, it’s a mark of a revolting and of a rebellious heart to fail to see that God is giving rain. And this is found in many areas of the church today. The people that will not acknowledge that God is giving rain and pouring out his Holy Spirit have a revolting and a rebellious heart. But the scripture says in spite of that, God in his faithfulness will give the rain in his season, the former and the latter rain. Why? Because he has reserved the appointed weeks of the harvest. Because God has kept his hand over that period of the close of the age where the earth’s harvest must be reaped in, it cannot be reaped in until both the former and the latter rain have been poured out. James 5:7–8 carries the same truth again. James 5:7–8:
“Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman [the farmer] waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts; for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.”
The farmer cannot gather in the harvest until he has received both the early and the latter rain. But immediately after the latter rain, the next item on the agenda is the gathering in of the harvest. Now I believe the harvest is a specific period in God’s dispensational dealings with his people. Just as specific as the Passover was a type of Calvary, as Pentecost and the Old Covenant was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost in the New, the third great feast that every Jewish male had to go up to Jerusalem for every year, the feast of harvest, is going to have as definite a counterpart in the church age as the other two great feasts had. And it will be at the close of this age, it will be the last great harvest of souls gathered in, all around the earth. And this is what God is working towards in the pouring out of the rain. It’s not given for spiritual self-indulgence, it’s not given to create little bless me clubs up and down the country, prophesying at one another and enjoying revelations, it’s given to equip and send forth workmen into the harvest to reap the last harvest of the earth.
Notice in Matthew 24, we’re going very quickly now, you’ll have to meditate on these things later yourself. This last great prophetic discourse of Jesus that unfolded the course of events for the close of the age was introduced in verse 3 by a question from his disciples. They came to him in verse 3 of Matthew 24 and said:
“Tell us, when shall these things be? And what shall be the sign of thy coming...” (KJV)
The sign of thy coming. Now you read on in Jesus’ answer from verses 5 onwards and you don’t find the answer to that question till verse 14. But in verse 14 it is answered.
“This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” (KJV)
That’s specific. That’s the specific answer to a specific question. What shall be the sign? The answer is this gospel of the kingdom, not some watered down half gospel, but the total gospel of the kingdom of God shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations, then shall the end come. That is the reaping of the last great harvest.
Now bear in mind that we are face to face with a tremendous population explosion, so that it’s frightening. The earth’s population is already over three billion and before we can turn around it’ll be four billion. Now this is not overlooked by God. Because it means this, listen carefully, that if the church will go through the preparatory phases that I’ve spoken about, become regrouped, re-equipped, ready to go forth, a church like that with the population of the world today, can go forth and within a period of five years [and this is just an estimate] more souls will be saved than have been saved in all the years since Jesus died and rose from the dead. I believe this is mathematically accurate. What will that be? It will be the harvest. And it’s not going to take a long time. It’s not months, it’s weeks of the harvest. Every farmer knows you either gather the harvest when it’s ripe or you lose it. But you do not postpone it. And that’s just where we’re headed now.
Let’s look at the other two objectives quickly. The preparation of the church as a bride to meet the bridegroom. Ephesians 5:25–27. This is taken from the picture of the marriage relationship between husband and wife, but applied to the church.
“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing, but that is should be holy and without blemish.” (KJV)
The Lord is not coming for a withered, wrinkled old crone, hobbling around on a stick. He’s coming for a holy, beautiful, active bride. And there’s not much time to change the crone into the bride, but God is at work. And this is the kind of church that Jesus is coming for. It’s very clear, he is not going to present himself anything less than the best. And one of the great functions of the Holy Spirit in the church is to make the church ready. The process that is to be used is the sanctifying and cleansing with the washing of water by the word. Christians that get baptized in the Holy Spirit but do not study the word and do not submit to the disciplines of the word cannot expect to be included in this company. It’s very, very clear. If they think they’re headed for it, they’re deceiving themselves.
Revelation 19:7–8 is the same truth brought out again.
“Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him [the Lamb]; for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready.” (KJV)
Not will be making herself ready, has made herself ready. This is what is happening in the church now. She is making herself ready. The true church is getting ready with all the expectations of a bride for the coming of the bridegroom. And if you think the kind of anticipation and excitement in the heart of a young lady as the day of the marriage approaches, and also the longing in the heart of the young man, you understand the relationship between the true church and Jesus Christ at the close of this age. His desire is towards his bride, and his bride’s desire is toward him. And nothing will ever be more important to either of them than the other. This is the church for which Jesus is coming.
2Corinthians 11:2 says that as Christians, we are espoused to the Lord. But the marriage is when the Lord comes. The period in between is the period of preparation from espousal to marriage.
And 1 John 3:3 says this:
“And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.” (KJV)
The real evidence that we have the hope of the coming of the Lord is that we are individually purified ourselves. How? With the washing of the water by the word. By hearing, receiving and obeying the word of God. By seeking and doing after his commandments and his precepts. He that hath my commandments and keepeth them Jesus said, he it is that loveth me. If you do not care to seek after the commandments of the Lord or you are not willing to obey them, you cannot be part of this company.
Finally there is the process of restraining and casting down Satan’s kingdom. 2Corinthians 10:4–5 the apostle Paul says that God has committed to us:
“The weapons ... but mighty through God to the pulling down of [Satan’s] strongholds, casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God...”
That’s the entire kingdom of Satan, is to be cast down by the spiritual weapons committed to the people of God.
Revelation 12:11 describing the actual casting down of Satan out of heaven, it says of God’s people on earth:
“They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony...” (KJV)
Those are spiritual weapons. The spiritual weapons to dethrone Satan are in the hands of God’s people. I’m not going to dwell on this now because this is going to be the theme of our closing study when we get there, is the spiritual weapons and what to do with them. I’m not going to speak in this series on gathering the harvest, I’m not going to speak about the preparation of the bride, but in due course, within the next study or two we’ll come to a specific study of the spiritual weapons committed to us and how they are to be exercised. For this is part of the responsibility of the church and we cannot fulfill the other tasks unless we learn how to use the weapons.