The Spine Of Biblical Prophecy

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Part 2 of 6: Where Are We In Bible Prophecy?

By Derek Prince

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Bible prophecy reveals much concerning the end of the age. The "secret things" remain hidden, but it is our responsibility to study and to act on the "revealed things." This assures our preservation and ultimate victory.

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Tonight Ruth and I are going to make a proclamation from Psalm 94:12–13, taken from the New King James, with slight variations. Psalm 94, and I chose this because I believe it really applies to the message that God has given me for tonight.

“Blessed is the man whom you instruct, O Lord, and teach out of your law; that you may give him relief from the days of adversity until the pit is dug for the wicked.”

Do you realize that God is digging a pit for the wicked? You don’t want to fall into that pit, do you? You want to be amongst those who are preserved by the grace of God. The condition stated there is that you let God instruct you and teach you out of His law. That’s what I’m seeking to do tonight. We’re going to say it once more and the third time we’ll give you the privilege. Do you think you can learn it well enough to say it with us? I think you can, you’re an intelligent lot. This is just for us alone, then the third time is for you.

“Blessed is the man whom you instruct, O Lord, and teach out of your law; that you may give him relief from the days of adversity until the pit is dug for the wicked.”

Now will you make up your mind you’re going to be that man or that woman here tonight? You’re going to let God instruct you and teach you, that He may keep you safe in the midst of the judgments that are coming on the earth. Are you ready?

“Blessed is the man whom you instruct, O Lord, and teach out of your law; that you may give him relief from the days of adversity until the pit is dug for the wicked.”

I have been associated with the Pentecostal movement for 51 years and I could say basically I think I’ve seen everything. I’ve actually never seen anybody hanging from the chandeliers but short of that, I think I’ve seen it all. I thank God for the Pentecostal movement because I owe to them my knowledge of the new birth, of the baptism in the Holy Spirit and of divine healing. But there was a period in the Pentecostal movement when you went to church and you parked your car in the parking lot you could safely leave your mind in the car because you wouldn’t need it in the church. Thank God those days are over and we do need our minds in church. Jesus said the first and the great commandment is “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, thy soul, thy mind and thy strength.” So, your mind has got a part to play in your love for God. Tonight you’re going to need your mind. Take the fetters off, be alert, concentrate and cooperate with me because I’m going to bring you a message which I could easily take a week to deliver. But, I’m going to seek to go through it in this one evening.

Yesterday we spoke about a certain prophet spoken of in Deuteronomy 18:18–19, where God said to Moses:

“I will raise up for them [that’s Israel] a prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. It shall be that whosoever will not hear my words which he speaks in my name, I will require it of him.”

The New Testament identifies that prophet like Moses as Jesus. I did produce a little book once, which isn’t here, called A Prophet Like Moses, in which I pointed out more than twenty specific ways in which Jesus was like Moses. But we’ll not go into that. I merely want to point out to you that God says if you don’t hear the words that that prophet speaks to you, God is going to require it of you. In other words, it’s not an option, it’s important for your spiritual well being.

Many years ago, in fact, I know what it was because I know where I was. In 1948 I read some words by a Jewish believer of that period whose name was Meyer Coleman. He was a member of the Executive Council of the Assemblies of God in the United States. I discovered that words spoken in the Holy Spirit never die. All I read was this, that if you want to understand Biblical prophecy, it’s like having the portions of a skeleton in front of you and being given the task of assembling them correctly. He said if you want to do that, there’s on part of the skeleton that you must begin with, and that is the spine. If you put the spine in place you’ll soon be able to assemble the other parts of the skeleton around it. What I’m going to speak to you tonight, I’m going to deal with the theme of the spine of Biblical prophecy. If you can get this right then you can go on to study other prophecies and have something to fit them into. This spine is the prophetic discourse that Jesus gave on the Mount of Olives in the last week of His earthly ministry. It’s so important that it’s recorded in three gospels: in Matthew 24, in Mark 13 and in Luke 21. All three versions differ slightly. To me it’s as if, for instance, there were here tonight three television cameras, all recording my message, but each one of them from a specific viewpoint so that there would be a difference in the viewpoint. In order to understand all that Jesus had to say we need to put together the three chapters: Matthew 24, Make 13 and Luke 21. I’m not going to attempt that here tonight. Basically I’m going to focus on Matthew 24, but I’m going to take a few references from Luke 21.

We’ll turn now to Matthew 24, and if you have your Bible you’ll find it helpful to have it open. Also, if you have enough fingers you’ll find it helpful to keep a finger in Luke 21 because we’ll be going there from time to time. If that isn’t comfortable, just relax and take as much as you can get. Matthew 24 begins with a statement that Jesus made to His disciples. He was in the temple with them and they were apparently trying to impress Him with the tremendous building and artistic work of the temple. The temple was the pride of the Jewish nation, it was a masterpiece of construction, it was the center of their national life and it was the mark of their unique relationship with the one true God. So I imagine that the disciples expected Jesus to be very impressed, but He wasn’t. In fact, the reply that he made must have been like a blow in the solar plexus to them. If you aren’t familiar with Jewish thinking, I think you can hardly realize the impact this comment must have had on them. But in the light of the impact we understand the questions that they asked later. So I’ll read the first two verses:

“Then Jesus went out and departed from the temple, and His disciples came to Him to show Him the buildings of the temple. And Jesus said to them, ‘Do you not see all these things? Assuredly I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down.’”

In other words, this whole building is going to be totally destroyed. I don’t think we can imagine how shocked the disciples must have been. How could such a thing happen? I think in their minds they concluded that if that really was going to happen it would mark the close of the age. And so they asked two questions of Jesus related to this. Jesus and the disciples then went east from the temple area across the valley of the Kidron, and up onto the Mount of Olives. I imagine they sat in a place that’s very familiar to me, and they were actually able to look down on the buildings of the temple while He continued His discourse. We’re going to read verse 3:

“Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, ‘Tell us when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming, and of the end of the age?’”

You see, apparently they concluded that if the temple was to be destroyed it would mark the end of the age. They were wrong but that explains why they asked these questions. And notice they asked two questions. When will these things be? That is, the destruction of the temple. And, what will be the sign of your coming [your coming back], and of the end of the age? Jesus answered both questions but the answers recorded are not found in the same gospels. The answer to the first question, when will the destruction of the temple take place, is recorded in Luke 21. Keep your finger in Matthew 24 and turn to Luke 21. I’m not going to read all the introduction there but in verses 20–24 Jesus answers the question, when will the temple be destroyed?

Historically we know the answer is in 70 A.D.; that is, within less than one generation of the time when Jesus was speaking. This is what He says:

“But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near.”

So that’s the sign when the temple will be destroyed. This happened in 70 A.D. The Roman armies under Trojan laid siege to the city of Jerusalem and were preparing to attack it. Then Trojan was elected, or appointed, emperor of the Roman Empire and he had to go to Rome to take up his place. So, temporarily the siege was lifted, the Roman armies withdrew, but under Titus who was the son-in-law of Trojan, the armies returned, again laid siege and this time did not raise the siege until the whole city had been destroyed. Jesus said when you see Jerusalem surrounded with armies, know that its desolation is near.

Then He said:

“Let those in Judea flee to the mountains, let those who are in the midst of her depart, and let not those who are in the country enter her...”

That could not have been possible if it had not been that temporarily the siege was lifted. And so, those disciples of Jesus in Jerusalem who acknowledged Jesus as the prophet gave heed to His words, obeyed what He said, they seized the opportunity to escape out of Jerusalem and they went east of the Jordan to a place on the east side of the Jordan and found refuge there. In this way they saved their lives. I want to point out to you how important it is to give heed to the prophetic words of Jesus. Our lives may actually depend on it. I believe we’re coming into a period where that will be true again.

Then, as I’ve said, the Roman armies returned, they laid siege to the city and did not raise the siege until the whole city was destroyed and at least a million and a half Jews either perished or were sold into slavery throughout the Roman Empire. Jesus speaks about this in Luke 21:22:

“...for these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written my be fulfilled.”

Written where? Written in the Old Testament prophets. Jesus said now these prophecies are coming into fulfillment.

We won’t turn there but if you want one particular prophecy that contains an overall picture of this situation, you’ll find it in Leviticus 26. And notice, they are days of vengeance. Whose vengeance? God’s vengeance on a disobedient nation. It’s very important that we bear in mind that God does take vengeance when His time comes. He’s a God of mercy but He’s also a God of justice.

And then Jesus gave a warning:

“But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days; for there will be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people...”

What land? The land of Israel. Wrath upon this people, what people? The Jewish people. All those words were exactly fulfilled. Not metaphorically, remember, but exactly.

Then it says what will happen to the Jewish people, verse 24:

“...they will fall by the edge of the sword and be led away captive into all nations...”

And in the long run, they were led captive into at least one hundred nations.

“...and Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.”

You know what we mean by Gentiles? A lot of people don’t. It means those who are not Jews. Heathens are those who are not Christians but Gentiles are those who are not Jews. I’ve had this problem because in Germany and in other countries they only have one word for both and so you have to stop and explain. But in English we’re blessed with accurate words for both. But you have to know a Gentile is somebody who is not a Jew. Jesus says Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles. The word trampled indicates that it’s really out of divine order. Jerusalem is the capital of the Jewish nation, both then and now. For Gentiles to be dominating Jerusalem is an indication that things are not the way they ought to be. It doesn’t mean it they won’t happen but it happens because the Jewish people have missed their destiny.

It’s very interesting, as a matter of history, I’ve been associated with Jerusalem since 1942, and basically Jerusalem flourishes when it’s under Jewish control and languishes when it’s under Gentile control. You can trace that, more or less, through its history for nearly 2,000 years.

But, whenever it speaks about the judgment of God on the Jewish people and their scattering, you’ll always find in the Bible some word like until. It’s not permanent, it’s not forever, there will be an end. Here Jesus says until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. I understand the times of the Gentiles to mean the period in which Gentile nations are ruling where Israel should be ruling. And if so, they began with Nebuchadnezzar and the continued until when? Well, 1948 a Jewish state came into being after nearly 2,000 years. I was an eyewitness, I was there when it happened. It was a miracle. I say that without misusing words. About 700,000 Jews were surrounded by about 40 million Arabs, well armed and well equipped. And the Jews had virtually no military equipment. But, the state of Israel survived? Why? Because God intended it to survive. And what God intends will happen. That’s good news because it concerns us.

Then in 1967, one of the most crucial dates in this century, in the Six Day War the old city of Jerusalem which was the part that Jesus was familiar with was liberated by the Jews from Moslem domination. But, bear in mind the most significant and sacred spot in all of Jerusalem, the temple area, is still dominated by Moslems, by Arabs. So, it’s like the hands of the clock are just showing one minute before midnight but we haven’t come to midnight.

Then Jesus goes on, and this is very important, immediately after that statement in Luke 21:25:

“There will be signs in the sun, in the moon, in the stars, and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring, men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming on the earth; for the powers of heaven will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.”

In other words, the liberation of Jerusalem from Gentile domination is very close to the return of the Lord in glory. It’s one of the great indications that we are very near to the time of the Lord’s return.

That’s the answer to question number one, when will these things happen. Jesus gave a clear, specific, prophetic answer which has been fully vindicated by subsequent history.

Now we’ll go back to Matthew 24 and we’ll look at the next question, what will be the sign of your coming [back] and of the end of the age? In the words that follow, Jesus gave them a number of signs, plural. But it’s several verses before we come to the sign. Jesus did give a specific answer to a specific question, what will be the sign of your coming back?

First of all, in verses 4 and 5, Jesus warns His disciples [that means you and me today, if we are disciples] against being deceived. And if you study the revelation of scripture concerning the end times, the period in which we are living, the greatest single danger that threatens us is deception. Anybody who is not in guard against being deceived in my opinion is certain to be deceived because the warnings against deception are more frequent than any other warning.

“Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ [the Messiah], and will deceive many.’”

You need to bear in mind, if you don’t know it, that Christ is from the Greek word, cristos, which corresponds to the Hebrew word, meshiach, Messiah. So whether we say Messiah or Christ we’re saying “the anointed one.” I find lots of Christians don’t know that, and most Jews have no idea whatever that when we say Jesus Christ we’re saying Jesus the Messiah.

Now, again the words of Jesus have been accurately fulfilled. Since that time about forty false messiahs have come to the Jewish people, and all of them have been received by some of them. One of the most famous was Bar Kochbah in the year 130, who raised up a rebellion against the Roman armies, was ultimately defeated and killed. There was also Sabbatot Spee in the 17th century who claimed to be a messiah, led hundreds of thousands of Jewish people to the area of Palestine, was taken by the Arabs and converted to Islam. But, I mean, hundreds of thousands of people had put their faith in him as messiah. That was in the year 1666. And at that time people believed that somehow this was a magical year, this number 1666 was going to indicate that something very exciting and special was going to happen.

Nowadays there’s a kind of similar tradition or attitude toward the year 2000. I think we need to be cautious because I don’t believe God counts by the Gregorian calendar. He has His own calendar which is in the Bible and He has never departed from it. So, praise God for the concept of bringing the gospel everywhere and everyone by the year 2000, but for me there’s nothing magical in the year 2000.

In the answer that Jesus gives there is a key word which we need to pick out and it’s the word then, which occurs nine times in the original text. In other words, what we are presented with is a series of developments that follow one after the other. Then, then and then. We’ll go on with Matthew 24:6:

“You will hear of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not troubled, for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.”

Jesus said throughout this age certain things will regularly take place, there will be wars and rumors of wars. And, His words have been exactly fulfilled. But He said don’t take those as being necessarily an indication that the age is about to end.

Then in verse 7 He moves on to something different which He calls the birth pangs. I just want to point out that in Luke 21:9–10 there’s a break in the discourse which is very important. So if you compare Luke 21:9–10, Jesus said:

“But when you hear of wars and commotions, do not be terrified, for these things must come to pass first, but the end will not come immediately.”

That’s the same teaching. But this text adds:

“Then He said to them, ‘Nation will rise against nation...”

In other words, there’s a break between Matthew 24:6 and Matthew 24:7. Verse 7, as you will see, leads us into the period of the birth pangs. I’ll read the words and then comment on them.

“For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famine, pestilences and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginnings of sorrows [labor pains or birth pangs].”

So the labor pains begin in Matthew 24:7. If there are labor pains, there’s going to be something born. What is going to be born? My answer is the kingdom of God on earth. But, it will not come without a birth. The kingdom of God never comes without a birth. Jesus says unless an individual is born again he cannot see or enter the kingdom of God. What is true of the individual is true of the whole world. It will take a birth to bring the kingdom of God to earth. It’s not going to be organized, it’s not going to come as a political process, it’s going to come by a sovereign intervention of God corresponding to a birth. But we all know that before a birth takes place there are labor pains, or birth pangs.

I’ve never been involved in this experience but one understands that it’s not enjoyable. It’s a time of pressure, of pain, and a time when one could say, “Get me out of this, let’s come to the end of it.” But, people tolerate it because they want the baby. Understand? If you want a baby you have to go through birth pangs, there’s no other way.

So, here we’re faced with the question, do we want the baby? In other words, do we want the kingdom of God to come on earth? If we do, let’s be realistic and say we’ll endure the birth pangs because it cannot come any other way.

Jesus lists the birth pangs:

“Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, there will be famines, pestilences and earthquakes in various places.”

Now, some texts don’t put in pestilences but the word is found in the corresponding version in Luke 21. So, it’s there. What are the birth pangs? Nation rising against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. I would say great world wars. And one of the significant things about the 20th century is it’s the first time we ever used the phrase “world war.” In this century there have been two world wars, one in 1914 and one in 1939. I have survived both of them. But before this century you couldn’t have a world war because the means of communication and travel did not make it possible. Humanity has to come to a certain condition worldwide before you can have a world war. I think one of the most significant features of our century is world war. Never was that phrase used in any previous century.

The words Jesus uses are particularly significant at the present time. He says nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. Let’s take kingdom against kingdom first and say, as I understand it, this means political wars, wars that are fought to establish an empire, a dominion, some kind of political set up. But what about nation against nation? To me this is extremely significant today because the Greek word for nation is ethnos, from which we get the word ethnic. Jesus says there will be ethnic war. We just look across the world today and what do we see? In place after place after place, ethnic war. Yugoslavia is one particular example but far from being the only one. There are ethnic conflicts within nations. Take particularly the United States, there are many different ethnic groups which find it very hard to live in peace side by side. In other words, the expression of ethnicity is a particular feature of the close of this age.

And then it says there will be famine, and they estimate 40 million people perish every year as a result of malnutrition and starvation. Famines and pestilences, and pestilence always follows famine because the physical resistance of humanity is broken down by starvation. And then it says earthquakes in various places. Statistically, the number of earthquakes is steadily increasing in the days in which we live.

Then Jesus says all these are the beginning of sorrows. They’re not the end, they’re not the birth, but they’re the indication that the birth is soon coming.

Then we have the first then in verse 9:

“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation, and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake.”

There’s an important question here, to whom is Jesus referring when he says you? I’ll answer you in what is not good grammar, you is us. It refers to Christians. Have you adjusted your thinking to that? You might say in Britain it isn’t happening, or in the United States. But in many parts of the world this is already happening. In China, it’s happening in the Soviet Union, it’s happening in Muslim nations and other places. Jesus says it’s going to happen worldwide. I want to read that again.

“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation, and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake.”

This is Christians, people who are hated for the sake of the name of the Lord Jesus.

And then in verse 10, the second then:

“And then many will be offended and will betray one another and will hate one another.”

Many who? Many Christians. They’ll give up their faith because the pressures are too great. And in order to save their own lives they will betray their fellow believers. Again, there are many, many examples of this in nations such as China and what was the Soviet Union and in other places. It is happening. I believe it’s going to happen on a larger scale.

Verse 11:

“Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many.”

I believe that is happening. My personal opinion is that the church is riddled with false prophets. The tragic thing is most of God’s people can’t discern between the true and the false. But apart from that, every cult is the product of a false prophet. And there are more cults in the world than we can count. And again, it really behooves us to heed the warning of Jesus, take care that no one deceives you. That’s not an idle warning, it’s very, very urgent.

Then in verse 12:

“Because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.”

For those of you who are somewhat younger than I am, this may not be so obvious. But I grew up in this nation in Britain between two world wars. Britain was essentially a law abiding nation. People respected law. People were basically honest. You could trust people with your money, you could leave the door of your house unlocked; all that has changed, is that true? Changed to an amazing degree. One of the prime problems of the day is lawlessness. I believe that it’s impossible for the police to control it. The police can control it when the attitude of the people is against lawlessness. But when the attitude of the people tolerates and even endorses lawlessness, it’s vain to expect the police to deal with the situation, they can’t.

It says because lawlessness will abound, the love of many—the Greek word there is agape, which is normally used of Christian love. The love of many Christians will grow cold. Brothers and sisters, we need to bear that in mind. In an atmosphere of lawlessness it’s very easy for our love to grow cold. But, we have been warned.

And then Jesus says in verse 13:

“But he who endures to the end shall be saved.”

The Greek is more specific, it says “he who has endured to the end shall be saved.” So you’re saved now but if you want to stay saved, what do you have to do? To endure, that’s right. Jesus said in Luke 21:19:

“In your patience possess your souls.”

But, that’s not a very clear translation. By your endurance, purchase your souls. That’s the price you have to pay for the salvation of your soul. Endurance. As I say, you’re saved now. Will you be saved ten years from now, if there are ten years left, which is questionable? It depends on whether you have endured. He who has endured to the end, he will be saved.

Jesus has given many signs but He has not given the sign. But in verse 14 He gives the specific sign. The question was what will be the sign of the end of the age? Verse 14 gives a specific answer.

“And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then [and that’s then number three] the end will come.”

What is the sign that the end will come? The preaching of the gospel of the kingdom, not some watered down human version, but the preaching of the gospel of the kingdom in all the world as a witness to all the nations. So we know what it will take to bring the age to a close. We’re not left in doubt, we’re not left to wonder, we have the answer.

Keep your finger in Matthew and, if you can find it, turn to 2 Peter 3:11–12. Let me just take one passage.

“Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved...”

That’s basically everything that we consider to be permanent and stable will be dissolved.

“...what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness...”

It’s a very important question. What kind of people should we be? And then Peter gives part of the answer. He says:

“...looking for an hastening the coming of the day of God.”

I pointed out yesterday that in Hebrews 9:28 it says Jesus will return with salvation for those who eagerly await His coming. That’s the looking for part. But here Peter goes further and he says hastening the coming of the day of God. How can we hasten the coming of the day of God? The answer is very simple, by proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom in all nations.

If you want the baby to be born, you’ll do anything you can to hasten the birth. There’s one thing we can all be involved in doing, which is proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom to all nations. When we do that we are hastening the coming of the day of God. But if we fail to do that we’re not hastening it, we’re delaying it. That’s a fearful responsibility. I venture to say that everyone here this evening is one or other of those two categories. You’re either hastening it or you’re delaying it. What do you have to do to delay it? The answer is do nothing, that’s all.

Doing nothing is not normally considered a sin. But in Matthew 25, the next chapter of Matthew, Jesus speaks about three kinds of people who were all totally rejected by God. The first kind were the five foolish virgins who didn’t take oil. The second was the unfaithful servant who buried his talent. The third kind of people were the goat nations that didn’t show love to the Jews. I asked myself once what was there in common to all these people that caused them to be rejected. I found a simple answer. What did they do? Nothing. That’s all you have to do to be rejected, is to do nothing. It’s very clear. There’s not just one example, there are three different examples.

I pray tonight that those of you who hear me will take a decision to commit yourself in some way to the proclaiming of the gospel of the kingdom to all nations. That doesn’t mean you have to be a missionary, a preacher or an evangelist. You can be an intercessor, you can give of your finance. There are many different ways. But, if you’re not involved at all, I believe you are in danger of being rejected. The words of God are so clear. We are not saved to serve ourselves, we’re saved to serve the Lord and the people to whom the Lord sends us.

In 1958, I never can pass this passage without saying this, I was working as a principal of a college for training African teachers in Kenya. My aim was to win my students to the Lord. I was successful, hardly a student ever left the college who hadn’t been saved and baptized in the Holy Spirit. But one day my car needed service so I drove seven miles into the local town, Kisumu, and took my car to the service station. I had a list in my pocket of all the things that I needed to do, because I was very busy. But as I walked out of the service station I felt the Lord said to me, “Not only does your car need oiling and greasing, you need oiling and greasing.” So I abandoned my program for the day, walked down to the shore of Lake Victoria which is just a few steps away from Kisumu, sat down in a most beautiful place looking out across the tranquil waters of the lake, pulled my pocket New Testament out of my pocket and opened up without any specific intention of reading anything. My eyes fell on Matthew 24:14, “This gospel of the kingdom...” It was as if those words were just emblazoned across the sky in letters of gold, and reflected in the waters of the lake. I had the impression God said to me, “This is priority number one for my people.” I thought over what I was doing and I said, “Lord, I’m seeking to serve you and I’m helping people. But if my life is not fully in line with your priority I ask you to change me and to change my life.” It took twenty years for God to fully answer that prayer. But in 1978 when Ruth and I were married, God thrust us into a ministry that we didn’t plan, which is now virtually reaching all nations with the Word of God. We supply teaching material to leaders in more than 120 nations. My radio broadcast, which incidentally can be heard at this moment in this particular town, is now in ten languages and reaches virtually every continent on earth. My books and my cassettes and my video cassettes have reached most nations on earth. I don’t say that to boast. My purpose is to encourage you to believe that if you align your life with God’s purposes, He will see that you come into line. You won’t have the same ministry that I have but He has a way and He has a plan for you. It will be a tragedy if you came to the end of your Christian life and looked back over it and said really, I’ve wasted most of my time. I’ve been busy with things that were not essential and not important. I’ve been serving myself rather than the Lord and the people of the Lord.

We have a little slogan in our ministry which I think is rather a good one, it’s called “reaching the unreached and teaching the untaught.” I’m glad for it. I think it’s the marvelous grace of God that He has led us into it because I believe it’s fully in line with the revealed purposes of God for His people. I want to leave that with you as something you can meditate on.

Now we’re going to go back to Matthew 24. From verse 14 to verse 15 there is a dramatic change because verse 14 speaks of all nations and all the world, and verse 15 and following narrows the focus to a tiny little piece of territory at the east end of the Mediterranean, the land of Israel and the city of Jerusalem. So there’s a dramatic change in this point in God’s focus. Keep your finger there and let me direct you to Romans 11:25–26. These words are written to Gentile believers like most of us. Paul says:

“For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery...”

And almost every time Paul says “I wish you wouldn’t be ignorant,” we find that God’s people still are ignorant today. It’s remarkable.

“I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion [or conceited].”

Now, what’s the mystery?

“That hardening in part has happened to Israel...”

What’s the next word? Do you see what I said? Always there’s that word.

“...until the full number of the Gentiles have come in...”

So it’s not forever but it’s until God has gathered in all the nations that He has chosen and appointed for salvation. Then it says:

“...and so all Israel will be saved.”

In other words, there’s a time when the focus is going to move from all the nations back to that one little people and that one little piece of territory, Israel. And here it is in Matthew 24. It’s very clear.

“Therefore, when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place...”

Now I’ll offer you my opinion. The holy place is the temple area, the most holy place on earth. And whatever the abomination of desolation is, I believe it’s something that indicates the antichrist has taken over and established his claim to be god and demanded worship. Jesus says when that happens, look out. And the words He uses are amazingly dramatic. We come to the next then, then number four, verse 16:

“...then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains...”

All right? Get out. If you’re in that part which is called Judea, which is mistakenly called the West Bank. You don’t find that phrase in the Bible.

“...let him who is on the housetop not come down to take anything out of his house...”

You know that in that part of the world many of the houses have flat roofs and they have outside staircases that lead directly up to the roof. Jesus says if you’re on the roof, and whatever it is happens, just go straight down the outside staircase and run off, don’t even try to go inside your house. There are hardly any ways that He could express more dramatically the need for urgency.

Verse 18:

“...let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes...”

All right. Somebody is out in the field in his shirtsleeves, working. He doesn’t have time to go back to his house and get his jacket, he just has to take off running.

“...but woe to those who are pregnant and to those with nursing babies in those days!”

The reason is obvious. It’s hard enough to flee when you’re not pregnant or you don’t have a nursing baby. But it will be even more difficult for those.

And now we come to an amazing thing. He says:

“Pray that your flight may not be in winter, or on the Sabbath.”

You see, the prophetic scriptures set limits to what we can pray. The natural response will be let’s pray we don’t have to flee. But Jesus says that’s not an option. You’re going to have to flee but you can pray that you won’t have to flee in winter or on the Sabbath day. You see how important it is that we know the prophetic scriptures? Because, many, many Christians are praying for things that are outside the limits. They can’t happen because God’s Word says they will not happen.

I heard about a preacher who said if we all pray hard enough maybe the battle of Armageddon will not take place. That’s just plain stupid. The Bible says it will take place. It’s futile to pray that it won’t. But, within the limits which God has set we can pray the right prayer and not the wrong prayer. In these limits the right prayer is pray that we don’t have to flee—this is the Jewish people, mind you—in winter. Of course, winter is pretty tough. Nor on the Sabbath day. Why not on the Sabbath day? I lived in what was then Palestine under the British mandate. It wouldn’t have made any difference whether it was Saturday or Sunday. But today it would because under the Jewish rule the Sabbath is a special day and most people don’t travel on the Sabbath. And so, a large number of people suddenly traveling on the Sabbath would become very conspicuous. That carries a lot of implications. In other words, Jesus assumes that at this time Israel will have been restored as a state and the rule of the Sabbath will be in force.

Let’s go on. Verse 21, and this is the fifth then, and it’s a very solemn then.

“For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor shall ever be.”

Then at that point is coming what Bible commentators call the great tribulation, a period of anguish and suffering such as is without parallel in previous human history, and will never be paralleled again.

Those of us who lived through the Holocaust need to pause and consider what can ever happen that will be far worse than the Holocaust, when six million Jews plus many others perished in the most horrible circumstances. But, in Jeremiah 30, the prophet predicts the regathering of Israel. In verse 3 he says:

“For behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, that I will bring back from captivity [or from exile] my people Israel and Judah. I will cause them to return to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall possess it.”

How many do you know what land it is that God gave to the forefathers of Israel? There’s only one land, you don’t have to be a theologian to know. God says specifically, “I will cause them to return to that land and they shall possess it.”

Now, there is a preacher who is a friend of mine in this country who once remarked that the restoration of Israel to their land cannot be from God because if it were from God there would be peace. He didn’t know his Bible. Because, look at the words that follow. Verse 5:

“For thus says the Lord, we have heard a voice of trembling, of fear and not of peace. Ask now and see whether a man is ever in labor with child. So why do I see every man with his hands on his loins like a woman in labor, and all faces turn pale?”

God says there’ll be a time of such anguish that men will behave like women in childbirth. He’s not talking about peace. Something has got to happen before peace comes. The birth has got to take place.

But, verse 7 says:

“Alas, for that day is great so that none is like it, and it is the time of Jacob’s trouble but he shall be saved out of it.”

There’s a difference between being saved from it and saved out of it. A lot of us would like to be saved from something but we won’t be. But we can be saved out of it, do you understand?

In Romans 2:9 Paul says there’s a certain order of tribulation, to the Jew first and then to the Gentile. So when tribulation comes on the Jews first we know it’s going to come on all other nations.

And in Revelation 7 there’s a picture of those who come out of the great tribulation from all peoples and nations and tongues and languages. They have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb and made them white. They are praising God in eternity forever and ever.

Now we’re going back to Matthew 24:23, the sixth then.

“Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look here is the Christ [or the Messiah],’ do not believe it.”

In times of trouble people always begin to look for a messiah. It’s a fact of human history. But Jesus says be careful you don’t get deceived.

Verse 24:

“For false Christs and false prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders, so as to deceive, is possible, even the elect [the chosen ones].”

But though they show great signs and wonders, they are false. One of the great dangers in the Charismatic movement is that we will automatically assume that anyone who produces signs and wonders has a message from God. It isn’t necessarily true. Satan can produce signs and wonders. False prophets and false messiahs can produce signs and wonders. We have to check against the Word of God. We have to check their fruit. Jesus said by their fruit you will know them, not by their signs and their wonders. You see how relevant all of this is? I hope you can see that.

Verse 25, Jesus says;

“See, I’ve told you before.”

In other words, when it happens you can’t say to the Lord, “Lord, you didn’t warn me,” because He says, “I have warned you.”

Verse 26:

“Therefore, if they say to you, ‘Look, He is in the desert,’ do not go out, or ‘Look, He is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it.”

In other words, no secret coming of the Lord.

“For wherever the carcass is, there the vultures will be gathered together.”

How many of you have seen vultures? You don’t see them much in Britain. If you’ve been in the Middle East or Africa you may. Vultures are very significant. I remember seeing them, first of all, in the desert of Egypt. There’s this cloudless blue sky and this little speck appears there and it’s a vulture hovering. After a little while another vulture joins and they begin to circle and every time they’re coming lower and lower. There may be four or five or six vultures circling down and they’re coming lower down. When you see that, what do you know? That something is dying down there. Jesus said when you see all the vultures you’ll know that there’s a carcass there. I believe it’s the carcass of our present civilization. It’s dying. And the vultures, every kind of evil, creed, cult and force, are circling around. Jesus says that shows you death is near.

Verse 29, this is very important, immediately after the tribulation of those days:

“The sun will be darkened, the moon will not give its light, the stars will fall from heaven, the powers of the heavens will be shaken.”

In other words, something cosmic is going to happen, something that shakes not merely earth but the cosmos.

Verse 30, the next then, the seventh then.

“Then the sign of the Son of man will appear in heaven, [and the eighth then] then all the tribes of the earth will mourn and they will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.”

That’s the climax, that’s what we’ve been building up to. But notice when it will happen, immediately after the tribulation. In other words, the main event that precedes the return of Jesus is the tribulation. That’s why I said I don’t believe the church is going to take the world over and present it to Jesus. On the contrary, I think the situation in the world will be worse than it has ever been in human history. That’s the moment at which Jesus will come. That’s why we need endurance, because we’re going to have something to endure.

When you travel in an airplane and the sign comes on “fasten seat belt,” what does that tell you? There’s going to be turbulence. All these scriptures are like one big sign that says “fasten your seat belts.” And, take your stand, “Lord, I’m not going to give up, I’m not going to give way, no matter what happens. I will not deny you. I will not renounce my faith. If necessary, I’ll purchase the salvation of my soul by my endurance. But, my soul is precious, I will not sacrifice it to any other concern.” I’ve never succeeded getting through Matthew 24 in one session, I’ve tried many times, I’ve never yet succeeded. I think we’re going to have to leave it.

But, I want to take you to two things in Luke 21 which directly relate to that. Luke 21. Incidentally, are you happy that Jesus is coming back? Well, just notify your faith. I realize that I’ve said some things that shock some people. Shall I say something? If it shocked you, you needed to be shocked. Christianity is not a Sunday School picnic. It’s a battle, a struggle for life and death. Praise God, we can win.

We’ve got a proclamation, it’s time we made it. Don’t get discouraged, don’t get downhearted, we’re on the winning side as long as we don’t switch sides. We’re going to say 1 Corinthians 15:57–58:

“But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, we are steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that our labor is not in vain in the Lord.”

Would you like to say that? I think it would do you good to stand up for a minute, you’ve been sitting a long while. You’ll understand in the text it says “you do these things,” but because it’s our proclamation, we say “we do them.” I’ll tell you, there have been times in the last year or two when I felt like anything but being steadfast and immovable. But then I said it and I said it again, and after a while I realized I can be steadfast and immovable. But what changed me was my proclamation. I think you have to say it after.

“But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, we are steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that our labor is not in vain in the Lord.”

Praise God. I think I can finish. I just want to turn in closing to Luke 21 and just point out what should be our response to this message. Luke 21:28:

“Now when these things [which is all that I’ve been talking about in Matthew 24] begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads because your redemption draws near.”

In other words, don’t become discouraged, don’t become fearful. Look up because redemption is on the way. Admittedly, the birth pangs are painful but the baby is going to be born a healthy baby. Amen. How many of you husbands here know what it was when your wife first went into labor? Did you go to the doctor and say, “Doctor, something terrible is happening to my wife, will you stop it?” No. Why not? Because you wanted the baby. You see, this weeds out the people who want the baby and the people who don’t want the baby. The people who are not really interested in the baby will get discouraged and fearful. But, the people who want the baby will get excited and happy. So this is a way to check on your own spiritual condition.

Now we come into the parable of the fig tree, and with this I’m going to close.

“Jesus spoke to them a parable, ‘Look at the fig tree and all the trees. When they are already budding you see and know for yourselves that summer is now near.’”

Now here in Britain we understand that, but I first taught this truth in Kenya in East Africa where they have virtually no winter and virtually no spring. I had to explain to them carefully we have a winter. And, in winter the trees lose their leaves. And if you’re not knowledgeable about trees, basically all the trees look alike—at least to me they do. But, there comes a time when little green buds begin to appear on the trees and the branches become tender and then the leaves appear. And when the leaves appear, all the trees look different, you can tell the difference between an oak and a maple. What’s the distinguishing mark? The leave. All right. Jesus uses this parable to explain the situation. He says:

“...when they are already budding you see and know for yourselves that summer is now near. So you likewise, when you see these things appearing, know that the kingdom of God is near.”

Listen, if you live in Britain and you see these little green buds coming out, you don’t have to go to the university to find out what’s going to happen next. You don’t even have to go to the church. Jesus said you see and know for yourself. Just learn, take note. It might be that the church would misinform you. It might be in the university they never heard about the coming of the Lord. But He said you have got the information. So, don’t rely on somebody else’s opinion, see and know for yourselves.

There’s just one thing I want to say, He says look at the fig tree and all the trees. Many Bible commentators believe that the fig tree is a picture of Israel. So, in 1948 the fig tree put on its leaves. Please note it did not put on its fruit. It’s unreasonable to expect fruit from a tree before it has leaves. A lot of people say the Jews are not yet converted. That’s true but they’ve put on their leaves. And if they’ve put on leaves we can believe fruit is going to follow, and there’s much evidence today in Israel that it is following.

But Jesus said look at the fig tree and all the trees. It’s particularly vivid to me because of the years I spent in East Africa. You see, I discovered that to get my students interested in the Bible I had to show to them it was up to date. And at that time around about 1960 there was one Swahili word that was on everybody’s lips in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda. It was uhuru. Do you know what uhuru means? It means freedom, independence. They were so excited. I said to my students, “Listen, God has an order. In 1948 the fig tree put on its leaves. Now all the trees all over the earth are putting on their leaves.” This is the reaction against colonialism. It’s the force of nationalism. In Africa alone, at least fifty new nations have emerged since 1948. What did they say? They said, “We are a people of our own. We have our own culture, we dress a certain way, we use our own language, we want to be our own people. We don’t want to be ruled by somebody with another colored skin.” What’s that? The trees putting on their leaves. See, it has been exactly fulfilled from 1948 until this time. Jesus said you watch the trees because when they are putting on their leaves you know summer is near. And, summer is the harvest time. I’m saying to you tonight the harvest time is near.

The scripture says a son who sleeps in harvest causes his father shame. So, are you a son or a daughter sleeping in harvest? You haven’t seen the sign, you haven’t studied the scripture, you aren’t really aware of what’s taking place. Some of the most dramatic developments of human history are on the way and you’re going on with business as usual. Church every Sunday morning, Bible study every Wednesday. The church picnic at the best time of the year. Brothers and sisters, that’s not reality. The theme of this conference is reality. People who are living like that and call themselves Christians are out of touch with reality.

Last night some of you stood up and prayed that, said you’d be willing to be changed. I want to take you a step further tonight. I want to help you to line yourself up with God’s program. A preacher of the previous generation, an old time Pentecostal, said the secret of success in any generation is to find out what God is doing and do it with Him. It works.

So, if I’ve been able to show you out of scripture this evening what God is doing, do you want to line up with it? Are you willing to put your life at His disposal—without conditions. Not if I have a nice, safe job and a nice home to live in, if I can drive a certain kind of car, if people respect me. You know why we’re called Charismatics? Because we used to be fanatics and that was all wrong. Now we’re Charismatics, now that makes us respectable. But the fact of the matter is we haven’t changed. The people who really love God and serve Him with all their hearts will hardly ever be respectable.

Do you think God is impressed by the opinions of the world? If He is, He doesn’t indicate it. The man who prepared the way for Jesus, John the Baptist, was executed at the whim of a little half naked dancing girl who had his head brought on a charger and shown to all the people. God never did anything to vindicate John the Baptist.

And then just a little while later, Jesus, the Son of God, died in agony and shame on a cross, naked, despised. That was the last view that the world ever had of Jesus. God has never done anything to correct that impression. He only reveals Jesus, who He really is, to witnesses chosen beforehand. God isn’t impressed by the world.

I was preaching on an Easter Sunday a few years ago and I got to the text in Galatians 6:14:

“God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ by which the world is crucified to me and I to the world.”

And as I said those words I suddenly realized I could care less about what the world thinks.

There will be a day of adjustment. There was a missionary in China in the last century working with the China Inland Mission who was a gifted and educated man. Somebody said to him, “Listen, why are you here in relative poverty, not recognized, in a very hard and wearisome situation? Why?” His answer was, “Because I believe in the resurrection.” That makes a lot of difference. Do you really believe there’s going to be a resurrection of the righteous. Is it your desire and aim to be part of that resurrection? Paul said, “I press toward the mark for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Not that I’ve already attained, that I’m already perfect, but I want to take part in the resurrection.

Let me tell you as a matter of theology, heaven is not our destination. It’s a convenient and wonderful resting place, but our destination is resurrection. Because, when we go to heaven our spirit is there and our body is still moldering on earth. But Jesus died to redeem spirit, soul and body. His victory is not complete until it’s demonstrated in the resurrection when we’ll have a body like His. That’s my ambition. Thank God if I die and I’m in the Lord, I’ll go to heaven. But that’s not my stopping place. If by any means I might attain to the resurrection of the dead. By any means, whatever it costs, whatever I have to do. That’s where I want to end.

Some of you here have believed what I’ve said tonight but the truth of the matter is you’re not really committed to God’s priority. God’s priority is this gospel of the kingdom shall be proclaimed in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come. You can make the same response that I made in 1958. You can say honestly to God, “God, I realize that my life isn’t fully in line with your priorities but I’m willing to let you change me. I’m willing to put myself at your disposal and let you alter the circumstances of my life in such a way that your priorities are my priorities. I’m available to you.”

To me it’s almost incredible but Ruth and I worship in an Anglican church in Jerusalem now. When I think of all the unkind things I’ve said about Anglicans, I’m ashamed, I repent. It’s a beautiful church. We have some of the most beautiful worship there that I’ve ever had in any church. There’s one chorus, I can only know the first line, but it says “Here I am, wholly available.” Do you know that chorus? If you really want to say that to God, and please, don’t respond out of emotion or because other people are responding, I feel it wouldn’t be fair to you if I didn’t give you an opportunity to respond. So, if you’re willing to say to God in the light of what I’ve taught, “Here I am, wholly available,” that’s all you need to say.

Somebody said there’s only one kind of ability that God demands, availability. Would you for a moment just consider your life where you are. Are you satisfied? Are you fulfilling the purpose for which God saved you? Thank God for those that are and I’m sure there are many of you here, but if you’re not, why should you be left out?

If the Holy Spirit is stirring you and you really can empathize with what I’ve preached and you would like to indicate to God here tonight, “Here I am, wholly available. If you send me to Tanzania, I’ll go.” And mind you, there are a lot of worse places to go than Tanzania. Try Pakistan. Would you agree? Even Pakistan, even Azerbaijan. Who knows where? Or even some dull job in some office, working for a ministry that’s reaching out to the nations. Are you wholly available? If you are and you’ve never really indicated this to God until now, and you want to say it, then just stand to your feet where you are. Here I am, wholly available.

Oh, I look at your with excitement! I believe there’s going to be a great revival in Great Britain. I believe some of you could be instruments to bring that revival. Thank you, Lord.

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