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Tape No. B-4328Page
The title of this message is “The White Horse of the Gospel.” And you may not have any clear idea of what that is or what I’m going to talk about. But I trust that before I’ve finished you’ll understand why I’ve chosen that title. I want to begin with two scriptures from 2Peter. The first is found in chapter 1, verse 19 where he says:
“We have the prophetic word of God made more sure, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place.”
I just want to point out to you that Peter tells us we need to give heed to the prophetic truths of scripture because they are a light shining in a dark place. And we need that light. There’s not one of us that does not need the light of prophetic scripture in our lives. And if we don’t give heed we’re depriving ourselves of something that’s of tremendous value and importance for all of us. This message that I’m bringing is designed to help you to give heed to the prophetic word.
And then in the same second epistle of Peter, chapter 3 and verse 12, Peter is warning us what our attitude should be toward the coming of the Lord and he just uses two phrases there at the beginning of verse 12:
“Looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God.”
Now, the Old King James Version said hastening unto but this version and all the modern versions say hastening the coming of the day of God. So not really should we be expecting it but we should be hastening its coming. I believe I will show you very clearly in this message how every one of us can play a part in hastening the coming of the day of God. Not just expecting it but bringing it nearer.
I’m going to turn to a passage in Matthew 24 which is, I believe, the greatest single specimen of prophetic truth in the Bible. We need to bear in mind that Jesus is a prophet. A lot of us are not used to that. We talk about Him as shepherd, savior and Lord, teacher and many other beautiful titles. But one of His most important titles is a prophet. The Hebrew people have given the world a wonderful list of prophets to whom we owe the revelation which has never come through any other nation by any other means. But the greatest of all the Hebrew prophets is Jesus. And if we don’t recognize Him and respond to Him as prophet we’re missing a very, very important part of what God has provided for us through Jesus.
A lot of people find prophetic truth difficult to put together. And I understand that. Let me offer you a simple picture. I have to admit I’m not a doctor. I was in the British Army Medical Corps and I am a nursing orderly class 2if that means anything. But I’m certainly not a medical expert. Suppose you’re presented with an assembly of the bones of a human body and you were told to put them together in the right relationship. Where would you begin? Personally, I believe there would be only one logical place to begin and that would be with the spine. If you can find the spine and put the spine together, then it’s relatively easy to fit in the main limbs—the legs, the arms—to put on the head. But if you begin with the left leg you’d probably have endless problem in fitting the other pieces in. This is a little parable.
I believe in seeking to understand prophetic truth we need to begin with the spine. If we could put the spine in place it will be much easier to relate the other parts of prophetic truth. As I understand it, the spine, to use this metaphor, is the discourse that Jesus gave on the Mount of Olives just a few days before His crucifixion. And this discourse is so important that it’s recorded in three gospels. In Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21. And as I’ve said before, you could view this as three video cameras simultaneously viewing a preacher. Each of them records the message but each of them records it from a particular point of view. That’s how it is with these.
Now we’re going to look in Matthew 24. We do not have time in this session to go to the other chapters so we’ll only begin to unfold the spine. Let’s turn now to Matthew 24 and I’m going to work through about the first two thirds of the chapter, God helping me. I would love to be able to go through all of it but it would take longer than is available. So we’re turning to Matthew 24 and we read the first three verses, to begin with. Jesus and the disciples had been in the temple. And they were leaving the temple and they were going to go across the Brook Kidron eastward up the Mount of Olives to one of their favorite places on top of the Mount of Olives. I lived on top of the Mount of Olives about a quarter of a mile from this place for one year, in my final year in the British Army in that place. So this is particularly vivid to me. Every time I think about it I see the whole scene in my mind’s eye.
As they went out of the temple the disciples were trying to impress Jesus with the tremendous buildings of the temple. The temple that had been enlarged and beautified by Herod the great for 46 years was regarded as one of the great wonders of the ancient world. And it was the pride and joy of all religious Jews. It was the symbol of their national identity as God’s people, the people of Jehovah. It set them apart from all other nations and it was a source of pride, I would say, to them. And they wanted to impress Jesus so this is what happened. Verses 1 and 2:
“Jesus went out and departed from the temple, and His disciples came to Him to show Him the buildings of the temple.”
Now they expected Him to express tremendous admiration but He said something totally other than what they expected.
“Jesus said to them, ‘Do you see all these things? Assuredly I say to you not one stone shall be left here upon another that shall not be thrown down.’”
Now if He had struck them a blow in the solar plexus it would have caused much less of a shock. The thought that this glorious temple was to be totally destroyed to the place where not one stone would be left upon another absolutely threatened their whole outlook on life. They couldn’t comprehend that such a thing could happen.
And then they assumed that if it were to happen it would mark the end of the age. So they waited until they got out of the temple and up the Mount of Olives and then they came to Jesus with their questions. And that’s in 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 [the destruction of the temple] and what will be the sign of your coming, and of the end of the age?’”
You see, they assumed that if the temple would be destroyed the end of the age would come. Historically they were completely wrong. The prophecy of Jesus about the temple was exactly fulfilled in the year 70 AD, just one generation from that time. It was as Jesus said, the Roman armies captured Jerusalem and destroyed the temple; not one stone was left upon another. The age did not end. The age has not yet ended. So, there are two questions that the disciples didn’t fully separate. One is what will be the sign of the destruction of the temple, the other will be what will be the sign of your coming back and of the end of the age.
Now, Jesus actually in this discourse answered both questions. The answer to the question what will be the sign of the impending destruction of the temple is given in Luke 21. And Jesus says there when you see Jerusalem surrounded with armies, then know that the destruction of it is near. Again, this was exactly fulfilled in 70 AD. It’s not possible to give all the details but just let me say Jesus was a true prophet. Everything He predicted came to pass.
But the question what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age is most clearly answered in Matthew 24. So, we’re going to concentrate on that second question and we’re going to look for the answer in Matthew 24. The second question, let me repeat it, what will be thesign of your coming back and of the end of the age? And I want to tell you in advance Jesus gave a clear, specific answer to that question.
Now we’ll look at what He says and we’re looking now in verses 4–6.
“Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Take heed that no one deceives you.’”
Almost everywhere in the Bible, especially in the New Testament, when it speaks about the return of the Lord and the end of the age there is a warning against being deceived. It’s extremely important to bear that in mind because there’s going to be many, many satanic forces at work at the close of the age seeking to deceive God’s people. And I’m sorry to say that in the course of my life I have seen many Christians deceived and go into error. So every one of us needs to be on our guard. Jesus said take heed to yourselves that no one deceives you. And then He says:
“For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many.”
Now, Christ is the Greek form of the Hebrew word Messiah. And for Jewish people the word is Messiah. So Jesus said many will come saying, “I am the Messiah,” and will deceive many. Again, Jesus is a true prophet. The Jewish encyclopedia, that doesn’t recognize Jesus as Messiah, lists about 40 false messiahs who’ve come to the Jewish people since the time of Jesus. Perhaps the most famous was called Bar Kochba who led the rebellion against Rome in 132 AD. I’m simply pointing out that history objectively testifies to the fact that Jesus was a true prophet. He said many false messiahs will come; they have come and they’ve deceived many.
And then He gives another warning. Don’t jump to a conclusion immediately that the end is near when you see trouble. In verse 6 He says:
“And 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.”
It’s not right at hand. And this has been true of this age. Ever since the time of the apostles to the present time the history of the human race is a history of wars and troubles. I don’t believe there’s been a single century from them till now that there have not been wars. But Jesus said that in itself is not a sign that my return is close at hand.
Having said that He then goes on to what I believe are the primary signs, the earliest signs in verses 7 and 8. He said:
“For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines, pestilences and earthquakes in various places.”
Then He says in connection with that:
“All these are the beginning of sorrows.”
But all the modern translations say birth pangs or labor pangs. So, when we come to verse 7 Jesus said that marks the beginning of the labor pangs. The labor pangs of what? The labor pangs of a new age. The labor pangs that will bring to birth the kingdom of God on earth.
If you have your finger in Matthew 24, keep it there but turn to Matthew 19 for a moment. Matthew 19:28. Jesus says to His disciples:
“Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration when the Son of man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”
That will be the period when Christ’s kingdom is visibly established on earth. And He calls it the regeneration. Regeneration is a word for rebirth. So the establishment of Christ’s kingdom on earth will come through a birth. Actually, the New Testament makes it clear that the kingdom of God never comes except by a birth whether it’s for an individual or for the whole human race. Jesus said no one can see or enter the kingdom of God unless he’s been born again, unless he’s been regenerated.
But here He’s speaking about regeneration of the whole earth, which will bring forth the establishment of the kingdom of God on earth. So when we go back to Matthew 24:8 He says these are the beginnings of labor pains that will bring forth the birth of the kingdom of God on earth. This is obviously a comparison to natural human birth. We all know that when a baby is due to be born the labor pains begin. And that’s an indication that the birth is close at hand. And generally speaking, the closer the birth the more frequent and the more intense the labor pains until the birth takes place. So Jesus is saying when you see these things, in verse 7, that’s the beginning of the birth pangs. And from then on the pangs will become more frequent, closer together, more intense, until the birth takes place. And basically, once the labor pains have started there’s no way to reverse the process; it’s got to go on until the birth takes place. So here is the picture of what is going to come on the earth. There is a birth coming and it’s going to be preceded by birth pangs that will convulse the whole world and all nations. No section of the earth will ultimately be left unaffected by these birth pangs.
But the good news for us is out of the birth pangs will come the establishment of God’s kingdom on earth. Which is, if you pray the Lord’s prayer, that’s what you’re praying for. You may not be aware but the Lord’s prayer, we pray thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth. What are we praying for? We’re praying for the coming of the kingdom of God on earth. Which means we’re praying for a birth because it can only come by a birth.
Now let’s look at the initial labor pains. Verse 7:
“Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines, pestilences and earthquakes in various places.”
So the first major birth pang is nation at war against nation, kingdom against kingdom. I would say that you could say it would be major international wars, not just small scale wars. One of the significant things about this century is that we have had two world wars. Never before in human history was there such a thing as a world war. There couldn’t have been because the means of travel and communication were not sufficient for the whole world to be engulfed in a war at one time. But twice, and I was born in the first world war and I lived through the second, twice in this century we have had world wars. We’ve had to coin the phrase because it didn’t exist before. And I would say to you my personal opinion, World War I from 1914–1918 was the beginning of the birth pangs. And since then they have been increasing and intensifying. World War II was far more destructive than World War I, involved far more nations and also exhibited horrors that were never associated with World War I. The main horror being what is called the holocaust in which six million Jews were horribly killed and probably more than six million others, many of them Christians. Since that time Stalin has been responsible for the death of—nobody can estimate the number of millions that have perished under Stalin. And under Mao Tse Tung, he himself estimated that he was responsible for the death of 60 million persons. This is something that did not happen in previous generations. It is all part of the birth pangs.
Now the other associated events in verse 7 are earthquakes, pestilences or plague diseases, and famines. It’s outside the scope of this message but every one of those things has increased dramatically in this century. The record of earthquakes is more intense and more frequent. Famine is now a major part of human experience. It’s a terrible thought but a quarter of a million babies die every week of famine. That’s 13 million babies. That’s only part of the picture of famine. There are whole areas of Africa that are being absolutely devastated by famine. And wherever there’s famine you find disease because famine breaks down the capacity of the human body to resist sickness.
We’re now going to go on, I’m not going to dwell on this. In the next few verses Jesus repeats the word “then” several times. In other words, once this process of the birth pangs begins then various things are going to follow quickly. And most of these things concern us as Christians. 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.”
Let me ask you a simple question. Who is you? You is us, isn’t it? That’s not good grammar but it’s the truth. You is us.
Now, the particular congregation here probably has not experienced much of that but let’s bear in mind that in major areas of the earth and in some of the largest nations on earth this is already happening. It’s not going to happen. If we’ve been spared we can be grateful to God but let’s not be ignorant of the fact that it’s a major feature of the present international situation.
And then in verse 10:
“And then many will be offended, will betray one another, will hate one another.”
Many who? Christians, that’s right. They will find the price too high to pay. They will give up their faith and to save themselves they will betray their fellow believers. Again, this has happened. Soviet Russia, China, other nations. It’s all part of the contemporary scene. And we haven’t come to the end of it yet.
“Then many false prophets will rise up, and deceive many.”
It’s very difficult to count the number of false prophets that have risen up in this century. But reliable estimates are that at least 10,000 false cults have arisen in the 20th century. And basically, they’re arising almost every day somewhere on earth. Interestingly enough, Ruth and I have been in Jerusalem. Last year in the middle of the summer beautifully printed notices were posted up on the main streets of Jerusalem saying that the messiah would be on the Mount of Olives the following Sunday morning. We were to go out and meet him. I don’t think many people went out but somebody had put those notices up.
And then it says in verse 12:
“Because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.”
The love of many who? The Greek word is agape, it’s the word used primarily for Christian love. We need to be on our guards that we’re not infected by the spirit of lawlessness to the point where it kills our love. So these are words of solemn warning for us as Christians.
You see how important it is that we should identify the time in which we’re living. Because here are things we have to take into account and guard ourselves against.
And then it says in verse 13:
“But he who endures to the end shall be saved.”
Actually, the Greek says he who has endured to the end. When will you be saved? When you have endured. That doesn’t mean you’re not saved now but it means to stay saved you’re going to have to endure. I think it’s important that all of us know that.
As I have meditated on these truths I have become very ready to pray the closing sentences of the Lord’s prayer. “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” I say to myself how much could I stand? And I say, “Lord, you know how much I can stand. Don’t take me into a test that’s too great for me.” I believe that’s the meaning of that prayer. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
Now, all that we’ve been looking at there up till now are birth pangs and they’re signs, plural. But they are not thesign. And Jesus was asked what will be thesign. Now, verse 14 is the answer to that question. It’s one of the most important verses in the Bible for us at this time. Verse 14 says:
“This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end shall come.”
When will the end come? After this gospel of the kingdom has been preached in all the world as a witness to all nations. So what is thesign? Not just signs but thesign that the end is at hand? When what? This gospel of the kingdom has been preached in all the world as a witness to all nations.
I’d like to say Matthew 24:14 is the verse that motivates our ministry. I don’t think there’s a day passes we don’t think about it, quote it and check on ourselves. Let me ask you this question. Whose responsibility will it be to preach the gospel of the kingdom to all nations? You can answer in one simple short word. Ours, that’s right.
Now you can understand how we can hasten the coming of the day of God. How can we hasten it? By doing the job quickly. By not delaying. By going out, by working, praying, giving, in order that this gospel of the kingdom may be proclaimed in all the world as a witness to all the nations.
Now, if we don’t do that when we could do it, we are not hastening the coming of the day but we are delaying the coming of the day. This is a fearful responsibility that rests upon us. Actually, we really have no neutrality. We’re either going to be those who hasten it or those who delay it. I personally believe that the coming of the Lord Jesus and the establishment of His kingdom on earth is the only hope for the world. I don’t believe that humanity is going to be able to deal with the problems of war and disease and famine with our resources. We’ve got so many scientific resources today but the fact of the matter is there are more hungry people and more poor people on earth than there have ever been before. If that’s how far we’ve come in 19 centuries, God help the world if it’s going to be done by the church. It isn’t our business to do that. We have a responsibility always to help the weak, the poor and the suffering but we cannot solve the problems. The only one who can solve it is Jesus by establishing His kingdom. So it’s not our business to solve the problem, it’s our business to bring the solution which is the coming of the Lord Jesus.
You see, a lot of people today talk about the social gospel. They say we have a responsibility to feed the hungry, clothe the naked. That’s perfectly true but it’s not the solution. If we’re really concerned about the hungry and the naked and the sick, we’ll be concerned about the coming of the kingdom of God. Because, that’s God’s ultimate total solution to that problem.
I personally believe it’s unrealistic to think that humanity will solve those problems without the Lord. Some people could say you’re a visionary. You believe that the Lord is coming back and He’ll establish His kingdom. I do. But, I don’t believe that I’m unrealistic. I believe it’s unrealistic to think it can happen any other way. I’m convinced the record of history proves me right up to this time. I don’t see such a radical change in human selfishness and meanness that it’s going to affect a total change of the whole condition of the human race.
Now, we go on a little bit further in Matthew 24 and then I want to give some applications. It’s very interesting, there’s a tremendous amount of hiatus between verse 14 and verse 15. Verse 14, the focus is on all nations. Verse 15, the focus is on a tiny little part of the earth’s surface which is Judea and the city of Jerusalem. I can’t go into this in great detail, I’ll just read it.
“Therefore, when you see the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION which was spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (whoever reads let him understand)...”
As I understand it, in that context the holy place must be the temple area in Jerusalem. There is no other place that would correspond to that description. So we’re now talking about Jerusalem. Not about London or New York or even Singapore, but about Jerusalem.
“... then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains...”
Now we’re talking about Judea. You know where Judea is. It’s not called the West Bank, it’s called Judea, which is the Biblical name for it. We’re talking about a very tiny little area of the earth’s surface at the east end of the Mediterranean, and that’s the ultimate focus of God’s dealings with humanity in this age. That’s why it’s a scene of continual conflict and uproar. Because, all the spiritual forces of good and evil are ultimately going to find their final expression in that one tiny little part.
Then Jesus says:
“... then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains...”
When this particular sign occurs in Jerusalem. Now, it could be many things. I personally believe it will be something that the antichrist will place in the temple area claiming worship. And at that point the Jews are going to be confronted with a fearful crisis. Are they going to worship a man which is contrary to their whole background, or are they going to endure the persecution which will come if they refuse to worship? And is this going to lead them to recognize the true Messiah whom up till now they have not recognized? Here God is dealing with the Jewish people. I have to say—I’m not Jewish, my wife is—I think God is the only one who can deal with the Jewish people.
Then Jesus says in verse 17:
“... let him who is on the housetop not come down to take anything out of his house...”
This is tremendous urgency because in that part of the world the houses have flat roofs and very often there’s an outside staircase up to the roof that doesn’t go through the house. So Jesus says if this thing happens and you have to flee and you’re on the roof, don’t come down into the house, just come down the outside staircase and take off. There’s hardly any way He could be more urgent.
Then He says:
“... let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes.”
All right. You’re out in the field working, this happens. Don’t go back to get your coat, it’ll be too late. You’ve got to take off immediately.
Then He says:
“But woe to those who are pregnant and those with nursing babies in those days!”
It’s going to be very tough for everybody but particularly for pregnant women and nursing mothers.
And then He says something very significant. He says:
“Pray that your flight may not be in winter, or on the Sabbath...”
A lot of us would say we’ll pray that we won’t have to flee. But that’s not scriptural. Jesus says you’re going to have to flee. The only thing you can pray about is the time of year and the day in which you’re going to flee. I think this is a tremendously important principle because I think the prophetic scripture sets limits to what we can pray about. If God has said something is going to happen, it’s going to happen. It’s futile to pray that it won’t happen. But within the limits that God has set we can pray for the thing to happen the way that will be best.
Why did He say pray that your flight may not be on the Sabbath? Let me give you my personal background. See, I was living in that country when it was still under the British mandate, when the British were governing. It wouldn’t have made any difference if you fled on a Saturday or any day of the week. But since the Jewish state has been set up the Jews have insisted on the religious observance of the Sabbath. Consequently, people don’t travel—at least in the Jerusalem area—on the Sabbath. And any large group of people suddenly moving on the Sabbath would become extremely conspicuous. So Jesus says pray it won’t happen on the Sabbath.
You see, these scriptures make it absolutely clear that Jesus envisaged the restoration of the Jewish state in that area before the age closes. There is no other way to explain these scriptures. Since 1948 that situation has existed. That’s one of the greatest indications that we’re very near the close of the age. Somebody has said the Jews are the minute hand on God’s clock. And the minute hand is about two minutes away from midnight.
Then Jesus says:
“... for then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until now, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened.”
So at this period humanity is going to know a period of suffering such as humanity has never known and never will know again.
When I think of what was involved in World War II, particularly in the Holocaust, I have to say I shudder to think of what could happen worldwide that could be worse than the Holocaust. But, it’s coming. The New Testament calls this the great tribulation and refers to it in the book of Revelation, we will not turn there.
Then there come further warnings against being deceived.
“Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the messiah,’ or ‘There,’ do not believe him. For false messiahs and false prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders so as to deceive, if possible, even the elect.”
So here’s going to be a period of tremendous religious deception. And bear in mind that a person may show miraculous signs and yet not be a true prophet. These are false prophets but they will show miraculous signs and wonders. The only ultimate test is scripture and their fruit.
I can see the faces of some of you, you’re shocked. Well, I have to tell you it’s time you were shocked because you’ve been living in a dream world. You’ve not been face to face with reality and reality is right face to face with you.
Going on, Jesus says:
“See, I have told you before.”
What’s the good of Him telling us before if we don’t listen?
“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. For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of man be.”
So Jesus said it’s not going to be something that’s going to happen in a corner. You won’t have to go out to meet Him, look for Him in some obscure place. When He comes the whole earth is going to be illuminated with His glory. Every eye will see him. The scripture says that.
Then Jesus makes this rather cryptic remark:
“Wherever the carcass is, the vultures will be gathered together.”
Do you have vultures in this part of the world? You don’t know what they are. Well, it takes a long while to explain but they’re birds of prey that feed on things that are dead. And, for instance, in the Middle East, particularly say in Egypt, you’ll see a little dot appear in the sky, hover there. And then another dot and another dot. They’re vultures. And then they’ll begin to circle lower and lower and more and more vultures will gather. When you see that you know something. There’s something dying down there. And even before it’s fully dead they will fasten on the carcass and feed on it.
So Jesus said when you see all these things coming together and more and more of them, and they’re coming lower and lower, and nearer and nearer, that’s it. That’s just a little parable.
Now, we’ve got to go on further. Two more verses.
“Immediately after the tribulation of those days THE SUN WILL BE DARKENED, AND THE MOON WILL NOT GIVE ITS LIGHT, THE STARS WILL FALL from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken...”
Notice the next thing after this period of tribulation, very immediately, is tremendous signs in the whole solar system. And the next thing after that is what? The coming of the Lord. And this is stated in verse 30:
“... then the sign of the Son of man will appear in heaven, and 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.”
So there is the answer. What will thesign? This gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed in all the world as a witness to all the nations. Immediately after that the focus will transfer to this little piece of earth at the east end of the Mediterranean, to the Jewish people, to the city of Jerusalem. Certain things will take place there, a period of tribulation will be ushered in which will ultimately affect the whole earth. For Paul says in Romans 2, tribulation is to the Jew first and also to the Gentile. Whatever comes on the Jews is ultimately going to come on the Gentiles. That’s what makes for me the Holocaust so significant. Because we who are not Jewish cannot stand back and say there you are, but it doesn’t affect us. Sooner or later it will touch us, and worse.
And immediately after that tribulation there’ll be the final signs which will be in the solar system, and then the visible return of the Lord Jesus in power and glory.
That’s a little outline. I could take hours to fill in the details but I don’t have time. I think it’s appropriate that I don’t.
Now I just want to give you two pictures from Revelation to close this message with. Revelation 14:14–20. This is what I call the two harvests. Jesus said the harvest is the end of the age. In other words, the age is going to end with harvest. In this passage we have two harvests, one immediately following the other. The first is the harvest of grain, the second is the harvest of grapes. In Israel this is the order in which they come. They gather in the grain harvest. The last harvest to be gathered in is the grape harvest. The grain harvest is a picture of the ingathering of souls into the kingdom of God. And, it’s the outcome of the proclaiming of the gospel of the kingdom to all nations. Immediately following that is the harvest of grapes which is called the harvest of the grapes of wrath. This is the harvest of judgment. And the thing that I want to emphasize as we come to the close of this age is God will extend mercy to all nations in the offer of the gospel in one quick, I believe, brief opportunity. And then after mercy there will come judgment on those who have refused mercy. So this is the order, now let’s look at the picture. Revelation 14:14:
“I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and on the cloud sat one like the son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and on his hand a sharp sickle. And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to Him who sat on the cloud, ‘Thrust in your sickle and reap, for the time has come for you to reap, for the harvest of the earth is ripe [or dry].’ So He who sat on the cloud thrust in His sickle on the earth; and the earth was reaped.”
That’s the harvest of grain. And the Greek says the harvest is not just ripe, it’s dry, it’s getting overripe. It has to be reaped instantly or it will be lost. And to me the picture of the casting in of the sickle and the reaping is of a tremendously rapid move of the Spirit of God that will sweep across the face of the earth and bring millions into the kingdom of God. The last great ingathering. And after that God will release His wrath.
So we have the next picture.
“Then another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, and he also had a sharp sickle. And another angel came out from the altar, who had power over fire, and he cried with a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle, saying, ‘Thrust in your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth, for her grapes are fully ripe.’”
Now, in the traditional Bible economy, when they gathered the grape harvest, in order to get the juice they would put the grapes in a stone sort of pit that was carved out called a vat. And then they would trample the grapes with their bare feet, squeeze the juice out and they had a little channel running to a lower pit where the grape juice was gathered. So the way to get the juice out of the grapes was to trample them underfoot. And this is the picture.
“So the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. And the winepress was trampled outside the city, and blood came out of the winepress up to the horses’ bridles, for one thousand six hundred furlongs [which is about one hundred and eighty-four miles].”
I could spend time commenting on that but I just want to emphasize we need to be aware, we need to tell people. Mercy is coming but it’s going to be followed by judgment. First the ingathering of the grain, then the ingathering of the grapes of wrath.
And then one final picture from Revelation, I have to move very quickly. Revelation 6, which I believe is a kind of outline of the various events and phases that will lead up to the close of this age. And the first part of it is the vision of four successive horsemen who ride out, who are symbolic, I believe, of things that are coming upon the earth. The first horseman rides a white horse. It says he goes out conquering and to conquer. Let’s leave him on one side for a moment. He’s the title of this message, the white horse.
The next horseman rides a red horse and carries a great sword. And the picture is one of bloodshed, war and civil war. It seems that the whole earth is going to be embroiled in various types of war and, I believe, civil war.
The next horseman rides a black horse and he carries in his hand a pair of scales. And he gives out a ration, a price, a certain amount of wheat for a day’s wages. Or, a certain amount of barley. It’s like the whole earth is now short of supplies; everybody is rationed. And the rations are not really adequate because you get for a day’s wages less than enough to feed your family with.
But in the midst of it the message also says don’t harm the oil and the wine. The oil and the wine are the food of the rich. So in the midst of general poverty and deprivation there will be a small element of wealthy people. I think this is clearly depicted in the book of Revelation. They say in the world today the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. I think that’s what Revelation is also depicting.
And after the black horse there’s a pale horse, and the rider on him is called Death. And there’s another horse that follows called Hades. And one fourth of the earth are victims of those horses.
Then the next scene is the martyrs of the Lord under the altar. Those who have died for their faith in Jesus, crying out to God, “How long, O Lord, before you avenge our blood on the people that dwell on the earth?” And the answer is there are yet more martyrs to give their lives before the end. Now most of us don’t like to envisage this but to me it’s extremely clear that multitudes of Christians will have to lay down their lives for their testimony of the Lord Jesus before the age closes.
And then finally, the final scene in Revelation 6 is the opening of heaven and the appearance of the Lord Jesus as the Lamb ready to bring judgment on the wicked. And all the unbelievers are crying out for mercy and saying to the rocks and to the mountains, “Hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne.” And a very unusual phrase is used, “Hide us from the wrath of the Lamb.” When you think of a lamb the last thing you ever think about a lamb is it being angry. But it’s like the picture says, even Jesus in all His gentleness and mercy will come to a point where it will be wrath that will be visited upon the disobedient.
That’s the outline of the chapter. I want to go back to the first horse. This is my understanding. You could disagree with me and still go to heaven! It’s very vivid to me. It’s so vivid I can see it in my mind’s eye. What is the white horse that goes out conquering and to conquer? Well, in the Roman Empire it was the emperor himself who rode on a white horse. And this rider has a laurel wreath on his brow which is the insignia of a conqueror. It corresponds, actually, to the gold medal in the Olympic games today, the mark of the victor. So the white, I believe, speaks of purity. So here is a conqueror in purity who goes forth totally victorious. My understanding, this is Jesus in the gospel going out to all nations, going out victorious. I envisage a period when the gospel will go out with almost irresistible power and conviction. And, multitudes will be swept into the kingdom of God.
In fact, I believe that in a few years more people will be saved than have ever been saved since Jesus died and rose from the dead. You see, we see this together with the growth of the world population to five billion. Think of that sickle casting in in such a world population. Think of that horse riding out through nation after nation. And let me say because of where I am, I am personally convinced that Southeast Asia is going to experience this on a scale that none of you could imagine at this time. That’s my personal conviction.
But, my thought is this. The white horse has got to keep ahead of the red horse, the black horse and the pale horse. And that’s what I want to leave with you at the close of these sessions is a sense of urgency. We have no time to lose because the judgments of God are coming. But if we are diligent, if we’re industrious, if we’re fully committed we can just stay ahead of the destroying horses of judgment. They’re coming. No one can hold them back. The only thing we can do is keep ahead of them.
This is my personal conviction, it’s not just a theory. It’s what motivates me. It’s not something that I arrived at suddenly, it’s the result of years of meditating and studying the scriptures. And it’s not just a theory, it’s something that I’m willing to give my life for.
I’m aware that for many of you what I’ve been saying is new, unfamiliar, maybe a little frightening. But bear in mind we don’t have to be frightened. Jesus said, and we sang a chorus earlier, when you see these things don’t hide in a hole, lift up your heard. Because, they’re the sign that your redemption is near. Suppose a couple have prayed for years for a baby and the wife becomes pregnant. And ultimately the birth pangs begin. Does the husband phone the doctor and say, “Doctor, my wife is going through a terrible experience. Please come and stop these pains.” No. Why not? Because he wants the baby. And if we want the kingdom of God to be born on earth we’ve got to be prepared for the birth pangs. That’s really the thing that Jesus is communicating. The kingdom of God is coming but it’s coming through a process of birth with birth pangs.
Now I want to give this very brief but personal application. I am aware that some of you have kind of been shocked but nevertheless, remember that in a certain sense the destiny of the nations depends on the church. Because, thesign is something that only we can bring about. Politicians can’t do it, scientists can’t do it, military commanders can’t do it. There’s only one group of people that can preach the gospel, that’s the believers. It’s our privilege to be the turning point of human history. The destiny of the nations rests on the church of Jesus Christ.
Now, if you’ve never really been awakened to this but the Holy Spirit through the word of God has been speaking to you here this evening, and you would like to tell God, “God, I want to unite myself with your purpose. I want to commit myself to what you’re doing on the earth. I want to accept my responsibility as a Christian to play my part in bringing the gospel of the kingdom to all nations at this time.” I would like to ask you to do one thing because I want to pray for you and I want God to see you. If that’s your decision here tonight will you stand to your feet right where you are. It’s an important decision. God is going to see it. It doesn’t mean you’re going to have an easy life. I’m going to ask my wife to come up, we always pray together when people stand like this. Just let’s take a moment to pause and be quiet in the presence of the Lord. I’m not pressing anybody to stand. I realize many of you need time to make a decision. But I do believe and I can see the evidence that God has really made this real to some of you. So I’m going to pray for all of you that are standing here. If you want to receive the anointing of God and the blessing of God as I pray, would you just raise one hand to God?
“Lord Jesus Christ, you’re the Lord of the harvest. And we lift up to you now these who are willing to be reapers in your harvest. Willing to commit themselves to your purposes that will bring in the birth of your kingdom on the earth. Lord, lay your hand on every one who’s standing now and set them apart for yourself for this time in which we live. From this night onward move in their lives in such a way that they’ll come into the fullness of your purpose. In Jesus’ name we pray.”
And all God’s people said amen.