FROM JUDGMENT TO RESTORATION
Published by Covenant Ministries Inc
FROM JUDGMENT TO RESTORATION
The Church has begun to feel the effects of a judgmental shaking for “the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of the things that are made, that the things which cannot e shaken may remain.” Heb 12:27. The things that have been initiated by man, and glorify man, will not survive the shaking. Only the things of the Spirit will remain, for they cannot be shaken.
To precipitate this shaking, God has withdrawn His restraining hand on the power of Antichrist, to bring the hidden apostasies that have plagued the Church out in the open. Far from being against God’s will, Antichrist’s attack on the Church, commonly referred to as the battle of Armageddon, is actually initiated by God Himself.
This is not a military battle with
the armies of the world under the control of Antichrist surrounding
God has actually initiated this confrontation so that,
(i) The Church may be refined and restored. Restoration, as its name implies, means to restore to its original state - in this case the pattern of the early Church.
(ii) Antichrist and all his deceptions may be brought out in the open and destroyed by the light of truth.
This book deals with these issues by outlining,
The present state of the Church and its need of restoring.
A revelation of Antichrist and his operation in the Church.
The pattern of the early Church.
The nature of God’s judgment on the Church.
The restoration of the Church.
THE PRESENCE OF THE
WHY THE CHURCH NEEDS RESTORING
RESTORATION OF THE CHURCH CONFIRMED BY THE PROPHETS
THE RESTORATION OF
THE NATURE OF RESTORATION
GOD’ PATTERN – THE EARLY CHURCH
THE MINISTRY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
THE CHURCH AND CHURCHES
LEADERSHIP IN THE CHURCH
RESTORATION OF CHRIST’S AUTHORITY
AUTHORITY AND OBEDIENCE
THE PATH FOF THE CROSS
THE ROLES OF MEN AND WOMEN IN THE CHURCH
RESTORATION THROUGH UNMASKING AND DETHRONING ANTICHRIST
HUMANISM 666 AND THE NEW AGE
FROM JUDGMENT TO RESTORATION
JUDGMENT BEFORE RESTORATION
THE FINAL CONFLICT
THE PRESENCE OF THE SPIRIT OF ANTICHRIST IN THE CHURCH
THE PRESENCE OF ANTICHRIST IN THE CHURCH
The real identity of Antichrist is a critical issue
for the Christian church. Many believers down through the centuries have
imagined Antichrist to be a world figure of unimaginable evil who will suddenly
appear on the world scene at the close of the age. Accordingly, it is said that
this person will gain awesome
It is largely bec
The apostle was not referring to an event due to occur at some time in the future. Instead he was warning these first century Christians that the enemy who had been prophesied to come (‘which you have heard was coming’), was already in their midst (‘even now many … have come’).
WHO IS ANTICHRIST?
John lists three identities whose influence was already evident in the New Testament church - "the Antichrist," "the spirit of the Antichrist," and "many antichrists." Who then are these three identities?
The bible uses several names when describing this identity and his evolution through spiritual history. From reading and comparing Revelation 13, where he is called "the first beast," and Daniel 7, where he is called "another horn, a little one," it is possible to chart his progress and development. Antichrist is present from the very emergence of the Babylonian empire, throughout the Persian, Greek, and Roman empires, to the Papacy of Rome, from where his influence has contaminated all of denominational Christendom.
In studying these wide-ranging biblical references, it becomes apparent that Antichrist cannot be a physical man, subject to the law of mortality. Instead he is a spiritual entity, a lieutenant of Satan, whose presence has been recorded at different times over several thousand years. Revelation 17:11 uses a range of tenses to describe him as "the beast that was, and is not, is himself also the eighth, and is of the seven, and is going to perdition."
The task of the spiritual entity called "the Antichrist"
is to impose false religious
"the SPIRIT of the ANTICHRIST"
Once again the apostle John is referring to a
spiritual entity. He warned that "every spirit that does not confess
that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the
spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and now is
already in the world." (1 John 4:3). The "spirit of the
Antichrist" is called "another [or second] beast" in
Revelation 13, and has been given power and
Through his deceptions, the spirit of Antichrist brings believers into unknowing worship of Antichrist through acceptance of those things he has introduced into the church. Those captivated by his influence have imparted to them a deceiving spirit - a "spirit of the Antichrist" - which does not of itself rob them of their salvation, but greatly impedes their spiritual progress.
After declaring in his letter that "even now many antichrists have come" (verse 18), John goes on to say, "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us." (verse 19). It is clear from these two verses that in using the phrase "many antichrists," the apostle is actually referring to people who were once members of their Christian fellowship. However, these same people had at some stage allowed themselves to be completely overtaken by "the spirit of the Antichrist," becoming his manifest vessels of deceit and destruction.
There have been "many antichrists"
throughout the history of the church, and there may well be one who gains much
When the apostle P
WHY HAS ANTICHRIST’S PRESENCE ESCAPED ATTENTION?
The success of Antichrist in eluding detection by the church has much to do with the nature of his deception. We can gain greater insight into this by considering the elements of his name.
The prefix ‘anti’ has two root meanings. The first of these is ‘against’ or ‘opposed to,’ which is the most commonly accepted definition. The second rendering, less common but equally valid, is ‘instead of.’ The joining together of these two produces the composite meaning of being ‘opposed to’ by being ‘instead of.’
In other words, Antichrist opposes Christ by seeking to replace Christ. He does this through a process of counterfeit designed to undermine the Lord’s position in the church.
This is part of an overall stratagem by the powers of darkness to undo the righteous works of God. At some time in spiritual history it became apparent to Satan that he could not destroy the church by physical persecution alone. He has therefore contrived to create a counterfeit to deceive the saints - a counterfeit trinity - and through them, a counterfeit church.
THE COUNTERFEIT TRINITY
Scripture declares the existence of a Holy Trinity. For example, Jesus commanded us to baptize "… in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit ..." (Matthew 28:19).
Scripture also declares the existence of a False Trinity. "I saw three unclean spirits coming out of the mouth of the dragon (Satan), out of the mouth of the beast (Antichrist), and out of the mouth of the false prophet (or spirit of the Antichrist)." (Revelation 16:1). The members of the Satanic Trinity are continually striving to undermine and subvert the positions of their opposite numbers in the Holy Trinity.
GOD has been counterfeited by SATAN
Satan has always coveted the worship due to God from all of His creation. It was he who said in his heart "I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars [or ‘angels’] of God;... I will be like the Most High." (Isaiah 14:13-14). To this end, Satan has diverted worship away from God in several ways and directed it towards himself.
Through Idolatrous Worship
The essence of idolatry is the worship of those things
that are created, rather than worship of the Creator Himself. By l
Through Occultist Practice
The nature of occult is submission to something or someone concealed in mystery and secrecy. To be involved in any occultist practice - whether it is consulting astrologists and horoscopes, submitting to hypnotism, divining water or metals, being initiated into sorcery and Satanism, dabbling in spiritualism and ouija boards, wearing lucky charms, or listening to heavy music - is to worship the demon spirits behind those activities, and so worship Satan himself.
Through New Age Philosophies
Eastern Mysticism promotes the belief that man has within himself vast reservoirs of power, which only need to be unlocked and released for him to have all that he desires. The ultimate delusion is, "You are gods" (Ps 82:6) - and its origin lies in him who would be God. This age old ploy to replace God by man comes from Satan, and so to accept humanistic philosophies and engage in New Age practices is to honor Satan from whom they originated.
CHRIST has been counterfeited by ANTICHRIST
By Usurping Christ's Headship
This is a serious business. The Scriptures make it absolutely clear that God the Father "raised [Jesus] from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all." (Ephesians 1:20-23).
Despite Christ having God-given
gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists,
and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the
work of ministry, for the edifying of the body..." (Ephesians
4:11-12). However Christ's gifts of leaders to His body have been ignored and
replaced by 'ministers of religion' with worldly academic qualifications. Local
churches, which should be
By Preaching Another Christ
The apostle P
The church has lost her "testimony of Jesus
Christ." (Revelation 12:17). Too often the pulpit presents a false
vision of the Lord. His commandments are liberalized and His holiness demeaned.
Sceptics cast doubt on His virgin birth, His sinlessness,
His miracles, and His resurrection. The Word of God says "Now
salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His
Christ have come ..." (Revelation 12:10). But this is denied,
or projected forward to a supposed millenium reign
sometime in the future. Just as P
By Practicing Lawlessness
Jesus forewarned His followers that "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but [only] he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!" (Matthew 7:21-23).
Prophesying, deliverance and the performance of
miracles all have a sound basis in Scripture and in the practice of the New
Testament church. Nevertheless, only Jesus has God’s
By A Crossless Christianity
Paul wrote "…we preach Christ crucified .." (1 Corinthians 1:23). The cross of Christ should be the focal point of all belief, all teaching and preaching, and all ministry. Now however, it is possible to attend church services for months on end, listening to moralistic sermons on social issues or extravagant promises of unlimited blessings, and never hear the cross mentioned. The failure to teach the power of the blood of the cross has left the church vulnerable to spiritual attack and unable to cast down Satan's strongholds. And the failure to teach the training and discipline of the cross has left church leaders anchorless and unable to resist the wiles of Antichrist.
The HOLY SPIRIT has been counterfeited by the SPIRIT OF ANTICHRIST
In Worshipping Another Spirit
The Holy Spirit is Christ's representative here on
earth. Jesus told His disciples that the Holy Spirit would not act on His own
initiative, or speak on His own
The Holy Spirit therefore always honors Christ’s position
as head of the church, only moving and speaking as Christ directs Him. But now,
While the first apostles were completely reliant upon the Holy Spirit in their ministries, it was Jesus Christ who remained the focal point of their preaching and teaching. "And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs." (Mark 16:20).
In Ignoring The Holy Spirit
The early Christians were continually receptive to the leading of the Holy Spirit. As a consequence they were intimately connected with the Lord, receiving His directions, and His commissioning and anointing through His Spirit. In contrast, conventional denominational churches have little communication with the Holy Spirit, relegating Him to an impersonal ‘it,’ who has been guardedly read about, but kept at a distance.
The Holy Spirit has been pushed into the background
ANTICHRIST HAS CREATED A FALSE RELIGION
Antichrist has spawned a great many false religions over the centuries - all of which deny the divinity of Christ and the saving power of His cross. However in this case we are looking at an all-embracing religion - one which affects everyone on earth. It does not have a doctrinal basis. Nor does it involve the conscious worship of a spiritual entity.
This religion is far more expansive than the worship
of false deities or involvement in false doctrines bec
Through the pursuit of wealth and possessions, through ambition and lust for power, and by the constant seduction of the intellect and senses, mankind is enticed into its net. Sport, sex, fashion, entertainment and the arts, are all used to entice him. So pervasive is this world religion that man has come to believe its elements are evidence of his social evolution.
Few realize that there is a corrupt spiritual force behind this system, or that it is imposed by the spirit of the Antichrist to bring man into bondage. An angel had to open the apostle John’s spiritual eyes before he could recognise its source and widespread influence. "Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and talked with me, saying to me, ‘Come, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters [a symbol of the nations], with whom the kings of the earth committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth were made drunk with the wine of her fornication." (Revelation 17:1-2).
Most of mankind has been c
ANTICHRIST HAS CREATED A FALSE CHURCH
Just as the Holy Spirit is the instrument used by God in creating a church that is the image of Jesus Christ, likewise the spirit of Antichrist is used by Satan to create a false church in the image of Antichrist.
In the seventeenth chapter of Revelation, the apostle John was given a vision of the false church. "So [the angel] carried [John] away in the Spirit into the wilderness. And [he] saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast which was full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns." (Revelation 17:3).
Here the false church is symbolically presented as a
woman (the Harlot), riding a beast (Antichrist). The apostle was told the "seven
heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits."(v7). The heads
have a double significance. As the "seven mountains," they are
a readily recognizable reference to the ‘seven hills’ of
The "seven mountains" are also referred to as "seven heads." These seven heads have alternative significance in subsequent verses. They are said to be "seven kings [or world empires]. Five have fallen, one is [the Roman Empire was in existence at the time of John’s writing], and the other has not yet come... And the beast that was, and is not, is himself also the eighth, and is of the seven, and is going to perdition." (Revelation 17:10-11). The beast, or Antichrist, is identified with the eighth kingdom, which emerges out of and has its origins in the preceding seven. In this way the beast is again linked to the Papacy of Rome, on which the false church, or Harlot, sits.
The Roman Catholic Church is Antichrist’s fully
emerged expression of the false church. The Papacy, or
NAMES describing the CHARACTER of the HARLOT
Further insight into the nature of the false church, or Harlot, is gained by studying her composite name. John tells us that "on her forehead a name was written:
THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS
AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH." (Revelation 17:5)
She is called ‘
The list of unscriptural doctrines and pagan practices
that have been introduced into the Roman Catholic Church from ancient
The Harlot is also called ‘Mystery.’ Like all the ancient pagan religions, Roman Catholicism enshrouded herself in a cloak of mystery. The ‘secrets of the faith’ were withheld from all but those who were initiated into them, creating a void between those who ‘knew’ (called the clergy) and those who did not ‘know’ (the laity). All but the initiated elite were discouraged from reading the Bible; services were conducted in a foreign language and according to a rigid liturgy; while all interpretation and religious teaching remained the preserve of the priesthood.
However it would be wrong to assume that the Roman Catholic Church is the only expression of the Harlot, or false church. True, she is Antichrist’s masterpiece - with a vast membership encompassing the globe, enormous wealth in physical assets, and a politically influential pontiff who claims headship over all Christendom. But she is also ‘the Mother of Harlots’ and her apostasy is found in every denominational church.
When the Reformers left the Catholic Church, they did
not fully divest themselves of the taint of the Harlot. Evidence of this is
found in their continued adherence to the distinction between clergy and laity;
unscriptural appointment and recognition of church leaders; undue reverence
towards buildings, furnishings, vestments, liturgy, and tradition; and preoccupation
with ceaseless ‘good works’ to sustain and maintain man-made programs and
institutions. The garments of humanism and worldliness are just as comfortable
in the environment of the ‘reformed churches’ as they ever were in
THE WHEAT AND THE TARES
The institutional church is so overcome by the mark of humanism that she is not even aware of the foul apostasy in her midst. This is not really surprising if we recall Christ’s likening of the counterfeit to tares growing amongst wheat. He said "The kingdom of heaven is like a man [Christ] who sowed good seed in his field; but while men [the church] slept, his enemy [Antichrist] came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way." (Matthew 13:24-25).
Tares look so much like wheat that it is not until just before harvest that the black grains of the tares appear and the weed is clearly identified. Similarly it is not until the time of harvest at the end of the age that Antichrist and his deception will be finally revealed to all. "For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed." (2 Thessalonians 2:7-8).
In Jesus’ parable, the owner of the field told his servants not to pull up the tares before harvest in case they also damaged the wheat. Just as the wheat and the tares growing together in the same field are so nearly identical as to be difficult to tell apart, so too the doctrines of Christ and the tares of apostasy coexist in the church. The Lord in His wisdom has therefore decreed that both remain together until the end of the age, lest in the process of casting out the tares of apostasy we damage some of the wheat.
But then, at the time of harvest, the Lord Himself will separate the tares from the wheat. It is His work. "The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire." (Matthew 13:41-42).
It is already possible to discern the black grain of the tares appearing and the darkness of apostasy spreading throughout the church. Already the bundling together of the tares is taking place, as those under the power of Antichrist band together in rejection of the call to holiness and total surrender to Christ and His cross. And right now the world-wide ‘ecumenical’ movement gathers momentum, pursuing its ultimate goal of ‘uniting’ all denominations under the skirts of Mary ‘the queen of heaven’ and the pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church.
THE CHURCH HAS BEEN OVERCOME BY ANTICHRIST
It is conventional wisdom to minimize Antichrist’s
influence in the Christian church, and those who sound a warning are frequently
ridiculed. Nevertheless the Bible books of Daniel and Revelation contain clear
prophecies that the saints (i.e. the church) would be subject to an all out ass
The prophet Daniel writes that he "was watching; and the other horn [ie Antichrist] was making war against the saints, and prevailing against them ... He shall speak pompous words against the Most High, shall persecute the saints of the Most High, and shall attempt to change times and law. Then the saints shall be given into his hand for a time and times and half a time." (Daniel 7:21-25).
The apostle John writes that he "saw a beast [i.e. Antichrist] rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns ... And he was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and he was given authority to continue for forty-two months ... And it was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them." (Revelation 13:1, 5, 7).
The symbolic period of time mentioned in both
references is 3.5 years, and is variously rendered in the Bible by the
derivatives ‘a time and times and half a time’ (or 1+2+1/2=3and1/2), or ‘forty-two
months’ or ‘one thousand two hundred and sixty days’. It always
signifies a period of tribulation for God’s people at the hands of false
COME OUT OF HER MY PEOPLE
We are entering into a climactic time in spiritual history. The Christian church is about to suffer a purging judgment in preparation for her restoration. The ‘two witnesses’, (who are the Word of God and the Spirit of Prophecy), are now standing ‘on their feet’ to sound God’s warning. (Revelation 11:3-11). "Come out of her [i.e. ‘Come out of the Harlot or false church], My people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues. For her sins have reached to heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities." (Revelation 18:4-5).
Having failed to destroy the church with physical persecution, Satan has embarked on a strategy of deception. He has created a counterfeit church which preaches "another Jesus" by the working of "a different spirit". (2 Corinthians 11:4). Satan’s strategy has been so successful that the saints have been overcome and the church brought into bondage by the spirit of Antichrist.
Nevertheless the Scriptures are adamant that the church will be restored and that Christ the Lord will return to "a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle ... holy and without blemish." (Ephesians 5:27). The following chapters are directed towards examining this process of restoration as revealed in the Word.
RESTORATION OF THE CHURCH
CONFIRMED BY THE PROPHETS
"But these things which God foretold by the mouth of all His prophets, that the Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. Repent therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, who heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, of which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began." [Acts 3:18-21].
The Key Bible Reading records part of an address given
by the apostle Peter to a large crowd in
INTERPRETING RESTORATION PROPHECIES
Many of the Old Testament prophesies of restoration are addressed directly to ‘Israel’, ‘Jacob’, ‘Mount Zion’, ‘Judah’, or ‘Jerusalem’. The question then arises as to whether these terms, and therefore the whole prophecy that follows, should be interpreted literally or in a figurative sense. In other words, do the prophecies relate only to the Old Testament Israelites, or are they also relevant to the Christian church.
A strictly literal interpretation is appropriate in those circumstances where the language used in the prophecy is obviously not figurative. This is the case where the prophecy refers to detail that has one clear and specific historical application.
For example, in the following prophecy the prophet Jeremiah refers to particular commercial procedures and then links them to specific geographical areas. These details had a particular and immediate relevance to the Jews in Babylonian captivity. For these people, resumption of normal business activities in their homeland must have seemed impossible, but the specific details of its application are included to convince them otherwise.
"For thus says the LORD: ‘Just
as I have brought all this great calamity on this people, so I will bring on
them all the good that I have promised them. And fields will be bought in this
land of which you say, "It is desolate, without man or beast; it has been
given into the hand of the [Babylonians]." Men will buy fields for
money, sign deeds and seal them, and take witnesses, in the land of Benjamin,
in the places around Jerusalem, in the cities of Judah, in the cities of the
mountains, in the cities of the lowland, and in the cities of the South; for
I will c
In addition, any strictly literal interpretation of Old Testament prophecy must not contradict truths and principles presented in the New Testament. In this context it is useful to look at two examples which ignore this premise.
(1) Many interpret the various Old Testament
prophecies concerning a future Messianic kingdom on earth in a literal manner.
They visualise the nation of
But Jesus said to Pilate "My kingdom is not of
this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My
servants would fight [like soldiers], so that I should not be delivered [up]
to the Jews;" (John 18:36). Christ’s kingdom, which is manifest
here and now through the true church, is a spiritual kingdom. To expect a
physical rather than a spiritual kingdom is to fall into the same error that
ensnared most of the Jewish people at the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry. They
rejected Jesus bec
(2) Similarly, a strictly literal interpretation of the prophet Ezekiel’s vision of a restored temple and sacrifices leads many people to expect the temple in Jerusalem to be restored, with the ‘church’ officiating at all of its rituals and offerings. However such a view is rejected by New Testament teaching.
"For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect ... For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins … [but] we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." [Hebrews 10:1-4].
The clear New Testament teaching is that by Christ’s
perfect sacrifice, we have been redeemed, made righteous, and sanctified
forever, to the end that we stand before God "holy and blameless and
above reproach in His sight." [
THE HOLY SPIRIT IS OUR INTERPRETER
Even when following these guidelines, the most
appropriate method of interpreting prophecy is not always clear. There are some
prophecies for example, that are addressed to
The crux of the matter is this - "no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit." (1 Peter 1:20-21). As a result we must continually look to the Holy Spirit as our ultimate guide to the interpretation of Scripture. This need for the direction of the Holy Spirit is even more critical in those cases where we adopt a figurative interpretation of prophecy. While this approach often opens the door to new depths of spiritual revelation, it can also have the effect of exposing us to the danger of deception.
OLD TESTAMENT PROPHECIES OF RESTORATION
In the Key Bible Reading, Peter asserts that God’s
promise of restoration had been "spoken by the mouth of all His holy
prophets since the world began." The following Old Testament prophecy
given by Haggai is one such example. Although the Book of Haggai has a clear
application to the Jewish people of the time (who were engaged in the physical
The prophet writes "For thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘Once more (it is a little while) I will shake heaven and earth, the sea and dry land; and I will shake all nations, and they shall come to the Desire of All Nations [a reference to Christ the Lord], and I will fill this temple with glory,’ says the LORD of hosts. ‘The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, says the LORD of hosts. ‘The glory of this latter temple shall be greater than the former,’ says the LORD of hosts. ‘And in this place I will give peace,’ says the LORD of hosts." (Haggai 2:6-7).
Part of this prophecy is quoted by the
There are a number of other examples of restoration prophecy in the Old Testament which have an application "in the latter days". The following selection has been drawn from the prophets Isaiah, and Joel. Each excerpt is notable for its use of figurative language, as well as elements within which are yet to be fulfilled. In each case the prophecies look forward to a risen and ruling Christ who reclaims His dwelling-place in absolute holiness.
"Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it." (Isaiah 2:2).
"Arise, shine; for your light
has come! And the glory of the LORD is risen upon you. For behold, the
darkness shall cover the earth, and deep darkness the people; but the LORD will
arise over you, and His glory will be seen upon you ... The glory of
Lebanon shall come to you, the cypress, the pine, and the box tree together, to
"The LORD also will roar from
RESTORATION CONFIRMED IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
The apostle Peter confirms the continuing validity of the Old Testament prophecies on restoration in his address in the Key Bible Reading. He also outlines various stages that need to take place on the path to restoration.
First his audience was charged to "Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out…" In this Peter was assuming that an individual’s repentance would automatically result in personal salvation and forgiveness of sins.
Once a person is saved, he becomes a member of the church. Peter’s subsequent remarks therefore relate to the body of believers. In this context he goes on to say "so that times of refreshing [or revivals] may come from the presence of the Lord, and that [God] may send Jesus Christ ... whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things…" In other words, Peter’s prophecy is of a series of refreshings or revivals throughout church history, which are followed by Christ’s intervention at the end of the age when ‘all things’ will be restored to the church.
Peter’s prophecy of a restored church was confirmed by
CHURCH IS PROPHETICALLY LINKED WITH
In order to understand why we can apply many of the
Old Testament prophecies to the church, it is necessary to see
To the Romans he wrote, "For they are not all
And similarly to the Galations, "And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." (Galatians 3:29).
In God’s eyes, not all who are Jews by birth are
counted as Abraham’s ‘true children.’ Instead, only those who believe God and
walk by faith can legitimately claim that position. So while many Old Testament
prophecies of restoration are addressed to
The Jews were God’s covenant people and experienced His providential care. Nevertheless a consistent pattern of rebellious behaviour developed. Periods of blessing and prosperity were inevitably followed by backsliding and idolatry involving the false gods of surrounding nations. This in turn precipitated God’s awesome judgment through the removal of the hedge of His divine protection, resulting in their captivity or exile. It was not until after a period of hardship that they were brought around to repentance and then restored to freedom in their homeland.
This pattern of behaviour was repeated continually throughout Jewish history - first blessing, then backsliding, followed by judgment, repentance, and eventual restoration. God’s prophets were sent time and time again to admonish the people and warn them of impending judgment, but finally their hearts became so hardened that they were incapable of further repentance. This had the effect of removing them from the covenantal care and protection of their heavenly Father.
God turned away from physical
The temptation for us is to dissociate ourselves from the behaviour of our Jewish forefathers. After all, we tend to think of them as those who lived under the old covenant, whereas we have been filled with the Spirit and walk by the life of Jesus in a different dispensation. And so we convince ourselves that we could never conform to their backsliding and idolatrous ways.
The apostle P
THE PARALLEL OF
There is a strong parallel between the history of
Now, at the close of the age, the church is just as
far away as
"They have forsaken the LORD,
they have provoked to anger the Holy One of
Your country is desolate, your
cities are burned with fire; strangers devour your land in your presence; and
it is desolate, as overthrown by strangers. So the d
God’s love is immutable. Both
Many people doubt that the Christian church will be
restored in this dispensation. However Peter said that her restoration has been
foretold by all of the Old Testament prophets. P
Biblical prophecy indicates that both
THE RESTORATION OF
AND THEN SPIRITUAL RESTORATION
EZEKIEL'S PROPHECIES OF RESTORATION
Chapters 36 to 39 of the Book of Ezekiel contain
prophecies concerning the restoration of
Verse 24 of Ezekiel 36 speaks of the Jew’s physical
restoration to the
Verses 25 to 27 then go on to declare God's promise of
a subsequent spiritual restoration. "Then [ie
after being physically restored to their land] I will sprinkle clean water
on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and
from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within
you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart
of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and c
Verse 28 looks forward to a time when this latter portion of the prophecy will be completely fulfilled. "Then [ie when their spiritual restoration has been accomplished] you shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; you shall be My people, and I will be your God." This land, "the land that I gave to your fathers," is not the physical land, but the land of their spiritual inheritance in Jesus Christ.
In a similar way Abraham dwelt in the physical land of his inheritance "as in a foreign country." He waited for a spiritual land "whose builder and maker is God," although he did not experience it in his own lifetime. "By faith [Abraham] sojourned in the [physical] land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he waited for the city which has [spiritual] foundations, whose builder and maker is God." (Hebrews 11:9-10).
The thirty seventh chapter of Ezekiel also speaks of a
physical restoration, which is then followed by a spiritual restoration. The
prophet was taken "in the Spirit of the LORD" to a valley
"full of bones." There he was told that "these bones are
the whole house of
Ezekiel was firstly commanded to prophesy regarding the people's restoration to their physical land. "Prophesy to these bones, and say to them, 'O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD!'" ...So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and suddenly a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to bone. Indeed, as I looked, the sinews and the flesh came upon them, and the skin covered them over; but there was no breath in them." (verses 4,7-8).
Then Ezekiel was commanded to prophesy of their spiritual restoration. "'Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, "Thus says the Lord GOD: 'Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they might live.'"' So I prophesied as He commanded me, and breath came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great army." (Verses 9-10). Without the Spirit or "breath" of regeneration the Jews were a nation dead in their sins, but after receiving Him they were described as standing up on their feet, "an exceedingly great army."
The last half of Chapter 37 goes on to describe a
process of unification which is to occur after the nation
The prophet was then instructed to say "Thus says the Lord GOD: 'Surely I will take the children of Israel from among the nations, wherever they have gone, and will gather them from every side and bring them into their own land; and I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king over them all;" (verses 21-22).
This prophecy is yet to be fulfilled. The northern
"[T]hey shall no longer be two nations, nor shall they ever be divided into two kingdoms again ... David My servant [Jesus] shall be king over them, and they shall all have one shepherd; they shall also walk in My judgments and observe My Statutes, and do them ... My tabernacle also shall be with them; indeed I will be their God, and they shall be My people." (Verses 22, 24,27).
Chapters 38 and 39
The thirty eighth and thirty ninth chapters of Ezekiel address Israel as being united and one with the church - which is to say they address spiritual Israel. These two chapters describe an all-out attack on the church by the confederates of Antichrist, which is to take place at the close of the age.
The forces of Antichrist confronting the church at that time are symbolically portrayed as "Gog, of the land of Magog," who is allied with "Persia, Ethiopia, and Libya" as well as "Gomer and all its troops; the house of Togarmah from the far north and all its troops - and many people…" (Ezekiel 38:2, 5, 6).
There is a corresponding account of the prophecy of Antichrist's attack on the church in the Book of Revelation, where we are told that "Satan ... will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle, whose number is as the sand of the sea." (Revelation 20:7-8).
Far from being out of His divine will, this attack is
actually brought on by Almighty God. His purpose is to ensure that Antichrist
and his allies are defeated and destroyed forever. Through the prophet Ezekiel,
God says, "You will come up against My people
It is at this time that the church, or spiritual
When this process is finally completed, God promises
to restore "the whole house of
SPIRITUAL RESTORATION THROUGH TRIBULATION
We can conclude from this study of Ezekiel's
"'As I live,' says the Lord
GOD, 'surely with a mighty hand, with an outstretched arm, and with fury poured
out, I will rule over you. I will bring you out from the peoples and
gather you out of the countries where you are scattered, with a mighty hand,
with an outstretched arm, and with fury poured out. And I will bring you
into the wilderness of the peoples, and there I will plead My
case with you face to face. Just as I pleaded My
case with your fathers in the wilderness of the
"Therefore, behold, I will allure her,
Will bring her into the wilderness,
And speak comfort to her.
I will give her her vineyards from there,
Hebrew name "Achor" has the literal
meaning of 'trouble ' or 'troubling.' The "
"And I will pour on the house
of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and
supplication; then they will look on Me whom they have
pierced; they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for
Him as one grieves for a first-born. In that day there shall be a great
mourning in Jerusalem, like the mourning at Hadad Rimmon in the plain of Megiddo [when the good King Josiah was
killed in battle (2 Chronicles 35:20-25)]. And the land shall mourn, every
family by itself [in universal mourning]: the family of the house of
David by itself, [including those of royal lineage] and their wives by
themselves; the family of the house of Nathan by itself [signifying the
prophets], and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Levi by
itself [representing the priesthood], and their wives by themselves; the
family of Shimei by itself [Shimei
cursed David so he stands for everyman - from the highest to the lowest], and
their wives by themselves; all the families that remain, every family by
itself, and their wives by themselves. In that day a fountain shall be opened
for the house of David and for the inhabitants of
This passage presents a picture of the whole nation in a state of mourning and repentance - a condition which is then followed by an outpouring of God's grace and acceptance. It is just as Ezekiel's prophecy declares: "Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean;" As Israel accepts the anointed Word of God through His prophets at the end of the age, so He will open up the fountain of His forgiveness and cleansing for her.
WHAT DEGREE WILL
Some people believe that the whole nation of
The apostle P
"And if some of the branches
were broken off [representing
those Jews who rejected Christ], and you, being a wild olive tree [ie not a Jew by birth], were grafted in among them [that
remain], and with them became a partaker of the root and fatness of the
olive tree [that is their true spiritual inheritance], do not boast
against the branches [that were cut off.] ... Bec
The natural branches of the good olive tree who were
broken off are those Jews who were removed from their true spiritual
inheritance through unbelief. But P
Again we see hope for the restoration of the Jewish nation to their spiritual inheritance, but that hope rests on their discontinuing in unbelief. First the Gentile nations are given a full and complete opportunity to accept the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour. And when this time has elapsed, God has promised to perform a mighty work to soften Jewish hearts to repentance, so that they too are grafted into Christ and His New Covenant.
This question is answered by P
And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob;
For this is My covenant with them,
When I take away their sins.'" (Romans 11:26-27).
have concluded that these words indicate that all the Jewish people - or even
every human being - will be saved. This is not correct. It is important to
The apostle's declaration that "all
In other words the Jewish people are promised
salvation on the same basis as everyone else - by their faith in the Deliverer
There is no promise of unconditional salvation for the Jews. Instead we see a consistent promise that God the Father will institute a mighty sovereign work towards convicting them to repentance, and all who believe will be saved.
The restoration of
God has brought
Under the mighty dealing hand of God "...they will look on [Jesus] whom they have pierced [and] they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son.." In response to their repentant hearts, God will open for Israel "...a fountain...for sin and for uncleanness.." and "whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved." (Joel 2:32 & Acts 2:21).
The next chapter deals with the nature of restoration in an overall sense.
THE NATURE OF RESTORATION
In the Key Bible Reading in Chapter 2, the first part of Peter's address was directed to the people in the crowd as individuals. The apostle said "Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out..."
The second part of his speech was related to all those who believe, which is the church as a whole - "(Repent)...so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, of which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began."
Peter lists three key elements in the process of restoration. They are:
(1) "Repent...that your sins may be blotted out"
(2) "…that times [Gk 'kairos' meaning 'special occasions'] of refreshing may come…"
(3) "…until the times [Gk 'chronos' meaning 'a season' or 'space of time'] of restoration of all things.."
1. REPENT THEREFORE
The apostle's first command was to "Repent…" Repentance is fundamental to all that follows. It was crucial that each individual, and therefore the church as a whole, repent and turn to God. The fulfilment of the two subsequent promises depended on that initial foundation of repentance.
Repentance is a subject often misunderstood by Christians. There is a tendency to think of it as a feeling of remorse. However repentance is much more than an emotion. The real meaning of the word is to 'turn around' or to 'change direction.' Repentance therefore involves an act of the human will which results in departing from a wayward path and turning to the right ways of God. If there is no action taken to remove the sin then there has been no genuine repentance.
Repentance in the Old Testament
God's first requirement of His wayward children has always been repentance. The Old Testament prophets consistently warned the Israelites to repent of their rebellious ways and return to their Father God. For example, "Then Samuel spoke to all the house of Israel, saying, 'If you return to the LORD with all your hearts, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths from among you, and prepare your hearts for the LORD, and serve Him only; and He will deliver you from the hand of the Philistines." (1 Samuel 7:3).
The prophet Samuel's
instruction to the errant house of
Repentance in the Preparation for the Lord's First Coming
When John the Baptist came in the spirit of Elijah to prepare the way for our Lord's First Coming, his message was, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!" and "Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance." (Matthew 3:2, 8).
This pattern will be repeated at the close of the age when God the Father "send[s] Jesus Christ ... whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things..." The same prophetic spirit that rested on John the Baptist to prepare the way for the Lord's First Coming, will return to prepare the way for His Second Coming.
Repentance in the Preparation for the Lord's Second Coming
After Jesus' transfiguration on the mountain, the three disciples who were with Him asked, "Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?" (Matthew 17:10). They were referring to a passage from the prophet Malachi which says, "Behold, I [God] will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD." (Malachi 4:5).
Jesus answered their question with the words, "'Elijah truly is coming first and will restore all things [which is a statement made in the future tense]. But I say to you that Elijah has come already [a statement in the past tense], and they did not know him but did to him whatever they wished...' Then the disciples understood that He spoke to them of John the Baptist." (Matthew 17:11-12, 13).
The Lord is describing two separate occurrences here.
He speaks of John the Baptist's ministry in the past tense bec
It is the premise of this book that "the times of restoration of all things" are drawing near. The Lord is investing His end-time servants with the prophetic spirit of Elijah, and commissioning them to prepare the way for His Second Coming. The task for these end of the age prophets is to "restore all things," and so their primary message is identical to that of John the Baptist - "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."
The prophets of the Old Testament obediently declared
the sinfulness and idolatry of rebellious
2. TIMES OF REFRESHING
The history of the church reveals a number of "times [or special occasions] of refreshing" that have "come from the presence of the Lord." These are occasions when the Holy Spirit has fallen upon a parched church and breathed new life into her. Conviction to repentance, resurgence of forgotten truths, and the flame of revival have all been experienced.
The world-wide tide of charismatic renewal that has occurred during this century is one example of this. As one of the most profound movements of the Holy Spirit in the whole of the church age, this wave of anointing has brought spiritual revival to an ailing body. Nevertheless it is important to see the difference between revival and restoration.
Many Christians would appear to believe that restoration consists of nothing more than breathing new life into the old and corrupt structure. Their view is that the church will be restored to its former glory by a surge of Holy Spirit power and the reinstatement of 'the gifts of the Spirit.' This is not so. The revival of the power of the Holy Spirit within the church is an indispensable part of the process of restoration, but it is not restoration in itself.
3. RESTORATION OF ALL THINGS
Restoration, as the name suggests, is the act of
bringing something back in accordance with its original pattern. If we are to
understand God's perfect will for the church, then we must study its structure
and working at the beginning of its history. Bec
The history of the early church is recorded in the
Book of Acts and P
The state of the church today is vastly different to
that of the early church. Her present condition of spiritual decay and
lawlessness is in pointed contrast to her portrayal in the New Testament. This
corruption of the church has occurred bec
Jesus warned us that it would be imprudent to put new wine into old wineskins. Restoration which involved pouring new life into the old corrupt structure would be doing just that. Before restoration can properly take place, the old structure must be stripped away. This means the breaking down and removal of all that has been the invention of man, so that the purity of the original pattern may be restored.
Old Testament prophecies assert that God will shake
heaven and earth to remove the defilement of all that is initiated and
constructed by human effort. These prophecies are confirmed in the New
Testament. For example the
All the corrupt works and lawless ministries of man
will be cast down by this shaking. Only the true works of Christ - those which
have been inspired and empowered by the Holy Spirit - will remain, bec
The apostle Peter outlines three stages in the process
of restoration. They are repentance, times of refreshing (or revival), and the
restoration of all things. There have been periods of backsliding and gross
idolatry, followed by genuine repentance and times of revival, in the history
We can take comfort in the continuing thread of prophecy that indicates that the restoration of all things will occur at the end of this age. However we should also be aware that this will not take place until the existing contaminated structure is exposed and swept away.
In the next few chapters we will examine the pattern of the early church and determine the extent of our deviation from the original God-given design.
THE MINISTRY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
THE LORDSHIP OF JESUS CHRIST
In declaring that Jesus Christ is Lord, it should be
acknowledged that Almighty God the Father is above all
This was not always so. We read in Philippians that before Jesus came to earth as a man, He was "…in the form of God, [and] did not consider it robbery to be equal with God…" (Philippians 2:6). However, in order that God's purposes in redeeming mankind might be fulfilled, Jesus "made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross." (Philippians 2:7-8).
During His earthly ministry Jesus was God's
bondservant, never acting on His own initiative, but always moving in perfect
obedience to the will of the Father. He did only those things that He saw His
Father doing. He told His disciples, "…the Son can do nothing of
Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also
does in like manner." (John 5:19). Similarly, He only spoke those
words that His Father commanded Him to speak. "For I have not spoken
on My own
As a result of Jesus being proclaimed Lord, "All
THE SENDING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
Before He departed from their midst, Jesus promised His disciples that they would not be completely cut off from His presence. Instead He would send another to be His representative, to guide them and help them in the work that He set before them. Jesus told them, ".. I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you for ever, even the [Holy] Spirit of truth..." (John 14:16).
The central task of the Holy Spirit is to testify to the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus said, "…when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me." (John 15:26). In other words, when the disciples proclaimed what Jesus accomplished through the cross, the Holy Spirit would confirm their words by testifying to Jesus in living power.
THE HOLY SPIRIT HONOURS THE LORDSHIP OF JESUS
Just as God the Father sent Jesus to be His
representative on earth, so too Jesus has sent the Holy Spirit to be His
representative in the church. And just as Christ did and said nothing on
Jesus told His disciples that,"…when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you." (John 16:13-14).
This unassertive role of the Holy Spirit is reflected
in the following account of the young church in action. "Therefore they
[the apostles P
It was the Lord who granted "signs and wonders to be done by their hands." He did this by directing the Holy Spirit to accompany the apostles' teaching with miracles and healings. Nowhere is the Holy Spirit seen to be taking the initiative. Even in those passages which state that "the Spirit said" (such as Acts 8.29), it is the Lord who issues the directive as "head over all things to the church." (Ephesians 1:22).
THE OPERATION OF THE HOLY SPIRIT IN THE EARLY CHURCH
In the SELECTION and ANOINTING of LEADERS
It is apparent from the accounts of the early church
in operation that believers continually sought the will of their Lord, and it
was He who then spoke to them through the Holy Spirit. A clear example of
this is provided at
A group of prophets and teachers belonging to the
church of that city had gathered together for prayer and fasting. "As
they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, 'Now
separate for Me Barnabas and S
Note that it was as they ministered "to the Lord" that the Holy Spirit spoke to them. To minister to the Lord is to prayerfully wait on Him - to seek His direction. In response to their waiting on Him, the Lord then made His will known to them through the Holy Spirit.
In a similar way, it was through the direction of the Holy Spirit that elders were recognised and appointed. Paul told the elders of the church at Ephesus to "…take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers .." (Acts 2:28).
However to put this into its right perspective, we should remember that it was Christ who gave the gifts of leadership to His church in the first place. "And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers [or 'those who minister as elders']...for the edifying of the body of Christ .." (Ephesians 4:11-12).
In the experience of the early church therefore, the preparation and anointing of leaders was initiated by Christ the Lord and executed through the power of the Holy Spirit.
In RECEIVING the LORD'S DIRECTION
The Lord directed the ministries of the apostles by speaking to them through the Holy Spirit. For example, "While Peter thought about the vision, the Spirit said to him, 'Behold, three men are seeking you. Arise therefore, go down and go with them, doubting nothing; for I [the Lord] have sent them.'" (Acts 10:19-20).
Others in ministry received similar direction from the
Lord through the Holy Spirit. When the evangelist Philip saw the Ethiopian on
the road to Gaza, "the Spirit said to [him], 'Go near and
overtake this chariot.' So Philip ran to him..." (Acts
8:29-30). And when P
In INTERPRETING DOCTRINE
In matters of doctrine the early Christians sought the will of their Lord through the Holy Spirit. When asked to address a question presented by the church at Antioch, the apostles and elders at Jerusalem answered with the words, "For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: .." (Acts 15:28).
An important part of the Holy Spirit's ministry is to lead in the discernment of truth. The apostle John encouraged the young church to seek discernment from the Spirit who was within them. "…you have an anointing from the Holy One [Jesus Christ], and you [therefore] know all things ...the anointing [Holy Spirit] which you have received from Him [Jesus Christ] abides in you... the same anointing [Holy Spirit] teaches you concerning all things, and is true .." (1 John 2:20-27).
In PROPHETIC REVELATION
Just as Jesus had promised to His disciples, the Holy
Spirit told the church of "things to come." (John 16:13). For
example, a visiting prophet to the church at
Another example is found during P
In ANSWERING their ACCUSERS
Whenever the apostles were confronted with hostile opposition, the Holy Spirit gave them words to speak. Jesus advised them, "…when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you." (Matt 10:19-20).
Peter and John experienced personal fulfilment of this promise after their arrest in the temple porch for preaching in the name of Jesus. The Jewish religious leaders were confounded as the Holy Spirit gave Peter words to answer them. "Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marvelled." (Acts 4:13).
In the GIFTS of the SPIRIT
Just before His ascension into heaven, Jesus instructed His followers to "…tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high." (Luke 24:49). Later, as they waited on God in obedience to Christ's command, "…they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance." (Acts 2:4).
This promise of the Spirit coming upon them with power
was not limited to the early church or the city of
The apostle Paul subsequently taught the Corinthian church that "…the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all.." (1 Cor 12:7). This understanding is confirmed by the apostle Peter who counselled, "As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God." (1 Pet 4:10). In other words, each believer received at least one gift of the Spirit for ministering to others in the church.
The result of being "endued with power from on high" was soon apparent in the life of the early church. The author of Acts records that "…with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all." (Acts 4:33). It is clear that "through the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were done among the people." (Acts 5:12).
It is also clear that the exercise of this "great
power" and "great grace" was not restricted to the
original apostles, as some have since claimed. For example, "Philip
(who was a deacon) went down to the city of
Note that this account illustrates the proper order in lawful ministry. First Philip "preached Christ to them." Then the Holy Spirit testified to Christ with accompanying miracles.
HONOURING THE HOLY SPIRIT
Jesus warned those who rejected Him, "that all should honour the Son just as they honour the Father. He who does not honour the Son does not honour the Father who sent Him." (John 5:23).It follows that all who do not honour the Holy Spirit, do not honour the Lord Jesus Christ who sent Him.
We honour the Holy Spirit by
accepting His position as representative of Christ's headship and
THE SPIRITUAL GROUND OF THE CHURCH
The spiritual ground of the church is the foundation
on which she stands. It is what gives her legitimate status as the true church.
The spiritual ground required before a body of believers can be rightly called
part of that church, is that they honour the Lordship
of Jesus Christ as their Head. This is achieved by honouring
The spiritual ground of the early church was solid. The overall picture presented in the Book of Acts is one of the Lord directing the operation of His church, through the Holy Spirit dwelling in her midst. As those first Christians obediently followed the directions of the Holy Spirit, they were in fact obeying their Lord. As a result, the early church was a faithful expression of Christ's life and fullness.
The spiritual ground of the church is removed when members
disregard the Holy Spirit as the Lord's representative, thereby replacing the
headship of Christ with the
GROUNDLESS STATE OF THE
In general terms, the present-day church has lost its spiritual ground. Far too much is initiated by man, without referring to the Lord and seeking His directive will through the Holy Spirit. In this respect the 'church' has little to differentiate it from any other worldly institution.
This has not occurred through deliberate disobedience. Rather it has come about through the spirit of Antichrist gradually permeating the church with his mark of humanism. Over the centuries believers have lost their dependence on the Holy Spirit to guide them into an intimate and ongoing relationship with their Saviour. They have little sense of Christ’s abiding presence, or of His commissioning and anointing of their ministries by the Holy Spirit.
Instead they have taken upon themselves the burden of
doing the Lord’s work, and consequently there is so much of man’s initiation in
the church today. The
In the same way that Jesus was God's representative on
earth, so the Holy Spirit is Christ's representative in the church. And just as
Jesus always honoured the
If we as the church desire to honour
the headship of the Lord Jesus Christ, then we must honour
the Holy Spirit as His representative in our midst. The modern church has to a
large extent forfeited its spiritual ground in Christ, by ignoring the Holy
Spirit and allowing Antichrist to usurp the position of headship by def
In the next chapter we will consider the New Testament pattern for correctly dividing the church as a whole (singular) into constituent churches (plural).
THE CHURCH AND CHURCHES
The bible refers to the church in a manner that
suggests that it has two forms. First of all it speaks of ‘the church’ as a
single entity. For example, the apostle P
The bible also speaks of ‘churches’ in the plural
form. In his letter to the Romans P
By referring to churches in the plural, P
Each city or town had its own local church, and the
geographical boundary of these localities determined the extent of the church.
The bible speaks of "the church that was at
There is no biblical record of any other name attached
to a church than that of the city in which it was located. When referring to
these churches generally from now on, we will use the commonly accepted term,
In the modern context of large cities, it is useful to determine what constitutes a `locality.’ In practice, each city is divided into convenient suburbs, which may be further divided into smaller administrative districts. Each one of these administrative districts provides suitable grounds for a local church. The general principle is that the universal church can only be divided into smaller churches on the basis of what comprises an effective and practical geographical area.
In some cases the apostle P
This way of defining churches was confirmed by Christ
when He addressed "the seven churches which are in [the province
AUTONOMY OF THE
It was never God’s intention for local churches to be
split into denominations, or be controlled by national or international
organizations. In the original pattern, each local church was self governing.
Each one had its own character, and was responsible for its own progress and
The independent character of the local church provided
a necessary safeguard against heresy or apostasy on a large scale. Nevertheless
it did not remove their obligation to conform to the same spiritual precepts
that applied to the universal church. For example, local churches had to submit
This principle was stressed by P
There was a uniformity in Christ’s commands to all the
churches. God said, "I am the LORD, I do not change," so
naturally Christ could never give a command to one church that contradicted one
given to another church. Local churches were independent in character, but
interdependent in body life. If one church was in need, then the rest were
expected to succor it. For example P
CHURCHES IN A HOUSE
We have already observed that the New Testament church was not divided on any other grounds than that of locality. It follows logically that just as local churches were not grouped into units larger than locality, neither were they subdivided into smaller units.
While there is scriptural mention of house meetings taking place, these home fellowships did not constitute a church in themselves. Rather they comprised a part of the local church, and each group was therefore under the supervision of their local church eldership.
The situation in the church in
At that time Jerusalem was by far the largest church, it
had the greatest number of members, and consequently the greatest number of
house meetings. Nevertheless the bible always refers to the church in
WHAT ABOUT "THE CHURCH THAT IS IN THEIR HOUSE"?
On four occasions the bible actually mentions "the
church that is in their [or his or your] house." (Rom 16:5, 1
This terminology is in fact the result of historical
circumstance rather than a matter of doctrine. The first letter to the
Corinthians was written from
DIVISION BY DOCTRINE OR DENOMINATIONALISM
At the present time the church has been subdivided
into several denominational ‘churches,’ each one promoting doctrinal variations
unique to itself. P
"Now I say this, that each of
you says, ‘I am of P
The undeniable truth of P
Our behaving like ‘mere men,’ or men of the
world, has had drastic consequences. We have ignored P
WILL DENOMINATIONALISM SURVIVE?
Denominationalism is not of God’s initiation. The bible warns us that Antichrist will set up a false religious system so much like the real thing that it will "deceive, if possible, even the elect." [Mk 13:22]. The image and number of the beast in Revelation 13 is the image of man, or humanism. It is the worship of things created "rather than the Creator." [Rom 1:25]. The one clearly identifiable feature of the false church is that its accent is on man. Most denominations have their origins in the teachings of one person, and each has instituted practices, doctrines, orders, and liturgies invented by man.
By comparison, the true church was established by
Jesus Christ "on the foundation [supplied by] the apostles and
prophets" as they were led by the Holy Spirit. In all teaching and
preaching, and in all ministry, the accent was on "Jesus Christ, and
Him crucified." Bec
In reality the denominational system has been imposed
on the church by the spirit of Antichrist. Much of what now exists has been the
invention of man - the worldly organization, the professional clergy, the set
forms of worship, the idolatrous trappings, the hierarchical control, and the
overall promotion of the works and ministries of man. Its doctrinal prejudices
have introduced harsh divisions, suspicion, and lack of love to the body of
Christ. It has stifled the power of the Holy Spirit, and negated the Lord’s
At first it might appear unreasonable to suggest that the denominational system be dismantled. After all, largely through the efforts of the denominational churches the whole world has been evangelized, and the name of Jesus Christ has to a degree been upheld throughout the centuries. Whilst it is true that much has been accomplished under the denominational system, we cannot ignore the gross apostasy propagated in its midst, and the damage it has done to the name of Jesus.
We are reminded that the bible prophesies a time of horrendous shaking, which will result in "the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made [by man], that the things which cannot be shaken may remain." [Heb 12:27]. The "things that are made," which are the things initiated by man, will be removed by the shaking. Only those things in the church which have been initiated by the Spirit will remain, for they cannot be shaken. We are also reminded that Jesus will return to a "glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that it should by holy and without blemish." [Ephes 5:27]. In the light of these prophecies, we should expect that the Lord will do a mighty work that will remove the denominational barriers that so corrupt His Church.
THE RESURGENCE OF HOME FELLOWSHIPS
Church buildings as such were not a part of the early
church. At the start Christians met in houses or convenient meeting places. The
earliest church buildings were houses that were converted to create more space.
It was not until the fourth century when Christianity was legitimized by the
One of the most significant movements of the Holy
Spirit over the past decades has been the resurgence of home fellowships. This
movement erupted in
The pressing need at that time of exciting and rapid growth, was to discern exactly what the Holy Spirit was doing. It is not surprising that such a dynamic move of the Spirit was violently opposed by the powers of darkness. In a climate of uncertainty, it was decided that home fellowships needed a ‘covering’ to protect them from falling into error. Certain people were appointed as apostles to have guardianship over groups of home fellowships. These groups gradually formed into two main factions, each presenting an independent interpretation of doctrine. The obvious danger was that this represented a return to the sectarianism of the denominational system.
This situation resulted from a common misunderstanding concerning the principle of spiritual ‘covering,’ which dictated that every person or group must be under the oversight of a more mature Christian. This produced a hierarchical type of oversight in which individual ministries were supervised by the pastor, and groups of churches by regional bishops or apostles, who in turn were governed by an overall leader.
The principle of covering is correct, but it must be the covering that the Lord has appointed. Christ has stipulated that the oversight of the local church is the responsibility of a team of elders, appointed from their midst. Apostles have oversight over their own ministries, but once the local church has been established, oversight is transferred to the local elders. From that point it is the elders who provide the ‘covering’ over local churches.
The home fellowship movement remains a valid work of the Holy Spirit. People are being called to "Come out of her [i.e. the ‘harlot’ or false church], lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues. For her sins have reached to heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities." [Rev 18:4-5].
In many cases the spirit of Antichrist has so thoroughly contaminated individual churches that apostasy predominates. In this climate the work and power of the Holy Spirit has been completely stifled. God is about to pour out His judgment on these errant churches, and prior to this happening He is calling earnest Christians to "come out". They are not being called out to form another denomination. Instead they are being called out as part of the Holy Spirit’s work in restoring the church to its original pattern.
The bible recognizes only two forms of the church.
They are the
Local churches were
Denominational churches are the invention of man, and
have done much to c
Home fellowships are scriptural, and there is a resurgence of home fellowships occurring in local churches as people respond to God’s personal command to "Come out of her My People."
In the next chapter we will look at the pattern of leadership in the early church.
LEADERSHIP IN THE CHURCH
"And He [Christ] Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;" (Ephesians 4:11-13).
MINISTERIAL LEADERS ARE A GIFT FROM CHRIST TO HIS CHURCH
A close examination of the Key Bible Reading reveals that Christ Himself has undertaken to provide prepared and anointed leaders for the church. The four basic leadership positions mentioned are APOSTLES, PROPHETS, EVANGELISTS, and PASTORS AND TEACHERS. These leaders are given to the church by Christ "for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying [or building up] of the body of Christ..."
The last two titles, "pastors and
teachers" are combined bec
In practical terms, it is the office of the ELDERS
that has the most immediate relevance for the normal operation of the
In the bible, certain Greek words associated with eldership have been translated in different passages with alternative English meanings. For example:
The Greek word 'presbuteros' has been translated in English as "elders" or alternatively as "the presbytery."
Similarly, 'episkopos' (Greek) has been translated "overseers" or "bishops"
And 'poimen' (Greek) has been translated "shepherds" or "pastors."
An important key to understanding the nature of eldership is to recognise that these alternative English words (elders or presbytery), (overseers or bishops), and (shepherds or pastors) are interchangeable.
However it should also be noted that the English words "elders," "overseers," and "shepherds," are preferable to the older terms of "presbytery," "bishops," and "pastors." The meanings of the former are more clearly understood whereas the latter have been corrupted by centuries of denominational misuse. For many people in the church a 'presbytery' is the house the parish priest lives in, a 'bishop' is the regional ruler of many churches, and a 'pastor' is the paid minister in charge of one church. There is no scriptural warranty for any of these misconceptions.
The three words ‘elders,’ ‘overseers,’ and
‘shepherds,’ are interrelated in the New Testament bec
And similarly when P
To put it simply, "elders" refers to
the group of people who hold the office of eldership, "overseers" refers
ELDERS should be TEACHERS
In the list of leadership positions presented in
Ephesians 4, elders are given the dual title of "pastors [ie 'shepherds'] and teachers." In
outlining the necessary qualifications of an elder to Timothy, P
Similarly, in instructing Titus to "appoint elders in every city," Paul writes "For a bishop [i.e. 'overseer'] must be blameless, as a steward of God, ...holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able to, by sound doctrine [literally 'by sound teaching'], both to exhort and convict those who contradict." (Tit 1:5, 7, 9).
The attribute of teaching is so desirable in an elder
The ELDERS are SHEPHERDS
While the elders have the responsibility of watching over the spiritual life of the whole local church, they are also required to provide for the spiritual progress and well-being of each individual member of the body. The writer of Hebrews encourages the saints to "Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account." (Heb 13:17).
Elders must be prepared to discipline, exhort,
encourage, or admonish, in the wisdom and love of the Lord. This may be
extremely arduous, so P
A natural part of the shepherding function is to 'tend the sick' and minister in healing. James asks "Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up." (Ja 5:14-15).
When the Lord heals in these cases, He is not so much
responding to the faith of the elders, as He is upholding them in their
obedient use of the
The ELDERS are OVERSEERS
The two primary roles or functions of an elder are shepherding (which includes teaching) and oversight. Of these the most critical resonsibility is that of oversight.
The Bible always refers to the elders (plural) of a local church. This plurality of elders is a necessary safeguard against heretical teaching, or a church being directed down a wrong path by one dominant leader. For this reason it is unscriptural for a single 'pastor' or 'minister' to be appointed as the head of a local church. The current concept of a 'pastor' being an academically qualified clergyman, who is employed to preach to and govern over a particular church, has its origins in man rather than God.
The conventional practice of a 'pastor' ministering to
the needs of the whole congregation is also unscriptural. The biblical record
shows that it is God's will for each member of the body of Christ to minister
to the needs of others. In describing the body-life of the church, P
Elders are required to exercise oversight over the work of the church, but this does not mean that they then do the work on behalf of the brethren. Rather their responsibility is to provide oversight over the church body as its members minister to the needs of one another.
ELDERS are SPIRITUAL WATCHMEN
In keeping with their duty as overseers, elders were also charged with the responsibility of being spiritual watchmen.
In his final address to the elders of the Ephesian
There is an obvious need for the local church to have
the covering oversight of anointed elders. Throughout the New Testament the
warning is sounded to "Test all things..." (1 Thess 5:21). For
example, the apostle John c
The role of elders as spiritual watchmen over the
church has almost completely disappeared. This explains why the church has so
easily fallen prey to the deceptions of Antichrist. Real eldership provides a
protective covering over the flock, bec
ELDERS should be SPIRITUAL WARRIORS
As watchmen over the flock, it is critically important
that elders are in a position to wield their spiritual
Cities are vulnerable to this type of attack by the
power of the enemy bec
The Lord upholds the positions of
The Lord will not fall short in upholding the
OVERSIGHT of WORSHIP
At one stage P
Disorderly speaking in tongues is only one example of charismatic lawlessness needing to be contained within a local church situation . The responsibility for maintaining an orderly atmosphere in church meetings rests on the shoulders of the elders.
OVERSIGHT of MINISTRIES
The charge given to Christ’s leaders in the Key Bible Reading is to "...equip the saints for the work of ministry..." Elders are therefore responsible for recognising and anointing emerging ministries within the local church, and then providing them with a covering of oversight.
Paul’s first letter to Timothy provides an illustration of this principle, when he writes "Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery [i.e. eldership]." (1 Tim 4:14).
In addition to recognising and encouraging those ministries that emerge from the fellowship, elders should also provide avenues for their operation, and ongoing supervision and support.
The SELECTION of ELDERS
In the early church, apostles selected elders as part
of their ministry of establishing new churches. P
He wrote, "A bishop [ie overseer] then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behaviour, hospitable, able to teach; not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous; one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence ... not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil. Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he should fall into reproach and the snare of the devil." (1 Tim 3:2-4, 6-7, and similarly Tit 1:8-9).
These first apostles chose elders under the guidance
of the Holy Spirit. This was acknowledged by P
Whereas man tends to choose according to personal reputation or professional standing in the community, the Lord knows what is in man. "For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." (1 Sam 16:7). The Holy Spirit is the only reliable guide in selecting those who are elders approved by Christ.
The selection and role of elders in the modern church
bears little resemblance to the New Testament pattern. In the current age it is
common for elders to be elected by a popular vote involving the whole
congregation. Their tenure of office is usually limited to a period of three
years, rather than the life-long commitment required from their early church
counterparts. In reality their ministry has been minimised
to a nominal position - stripped of
This study of eldership over the last few pages is
sufficient for us to grasp the critical importance of the role of elders to the
spiritual well-being of the local church. Elders are the Lord’s designated
overseers and therefore vital channels for the exercise of His
The words ‘apostle’ and ‘missionary’ both have the same meaning, and that is ‘the sent one.’ The apostle’s ministry is basically the same as that of the missionary, in that they are both sent out from a home base to found and establish new churches.
Of the four offices of spiritual leadership mentioned
in the Key Bible Reading, that of apostle is deemed to be the most important in
regard to the universal church (or church as a whole). P
Apostles are considered to be the most important bec
Paul also held a unique position in establishing the
early church, firstly as "an apostle to the Gentiles" (Rom
11:13), and secondly because he received revelation directly from Christ. "But
I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which
was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man,
nor was I t
After having his doctrine proved by the apostles in
The apostle P
He told the Ephesian believers that their local church had "been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner-stone, in whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord…" (Eph 2:20-21).
A WIDER BODY of APOSTLES
The record in the Book of Acts and the Letters of P
In other references there are suggestions of an even wider body of unnamed apostles. For example Paul greets "Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me." in Romans 16:7. And in 2 Corinthians 8:24 he says "...if our brethren are inquired about, they are messengers [literally ‘apostles] of the churches, the glory of Christ."
These other less well-known apostles were also selected, anointed, and sent out to do the missionary work of founding and establishing new churches. They too are the apostles of the Key Bible Reading - gifts of the Lord to His church.
The EQUIPPING of APOSTLES
The great scope of work involved in founding and
establishing new churches meant that apostles needed to be fully prepared and
equipped in a wide range of ministry functions. For example, P
We know too that he prophesied concerning events to
occur at the end of the age, he healed the sick, he cast out demons,
and he raised the dead. Of his own ministry P
In addition he gathered around him an effective support team of fellow apostles, prophets, evangelists, teachers, preachers, and other helpers. He then directed those ministries into various infant churches to assist in their establishment.
At first glance it might appear that P
The apostle is saying that as his self-life is put to death, so the life of Jesus is manifest through him, and it is this life that flows out to bless those around him. "So then death is working in us, but life in you." (2 Cor 4:12).
The one essential qualification for an apostle is not a multitude of ‘the gifts of the Spirit,’ but a nature purged from the power of the flesh, so that Jesus is able to work His sovereign will and power through him. Those who have not undergone this preparation are not true apostles, but rather false apostles who seek their own glory.
The APPOINTMENT of APOSTLES
In Chapter 5, we examined the selection of P
This reading indicates the essential nature of
Thus prepared, they were selected by the Holy Spirit - who then made His choice known to the church through a group of mature Christians as they waited on the Lord. Following this they were prayed over with the laying on of hands, and then sent out to fulfill their commission. It should be noted that each step of this divine pattern must be honoured if the Lord’s headship over His church is to be maintained.
The MINISTRY of the APOSTLE
The basic ministry of the apostle, as outlined in the Book of Acts, is the founding of new churches. The New Testament apostles embarked on missionary journeys under the direction of the Holy Spirit, starting a church in one locality, and then moving on to another.
On their first missionary journey, P
On their return journey to
Although the basic commission of the apostles was to found new churches, in general terms they were sent out to do "...the work to which I [the Holy Spirit] have called them." (Acts 13:2). In the case of the apostles ministering to the early church, this work was wide-ranging. It included preaching the gospel, teaching in synagogues, healing the sick, distributing the gifts of the Spirit by the laying on of hands, settling matters of doctrine, and strengthening the souls of the saints.
These examples can serve as a guide to us in determining the function of an apostle. However we cannot limit the full scope of an apostle’s work to them. The essential nature of the apostolic office is separation from the local church, in order to fulfil a commission that is initiated and directed by the Holy Spirit.
RELINQUISHING the HEADSHIP to LOCAL ELDERS
The scriptural record makes it evident that even though the apostles were sent out to found and establish new churches, they were not responsible for the individual oversight of those churches after they had been fully established. Instead this ongoing task was delivered into the hands of the elders, who they had appointed for this purpose.
The principle of relinquishment is illustrated in P
The apostles were responsible for the work of their own ministries in different places, but after the foundation of each church had been carefully laid, then its oversight was entrusted to the local elders.
The Key Bible Reading tells us that "He [Christ] Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists,..." Before discussing the Lord’s gift of prophets to His church, it is necessary to recognise the distinction between ‘the gift of prophecy’ and ‘the office of prophet.’
The gift of prophecy is listed among the nine basic
gifts of the Spirit mentioned in P
The gift of prophecy is used to speak a work of
exhortation from the Spirit to an individual, or to edify a whole assembly. P
By comparison, Christ’s gift of "some prophets" in the Key Bible Reading is a reference to the office of prophet. The ministry of ‘the prophet’ involves the use of the word of God in preaching or teaching under the anointing of the Holy Spirit. The purpose of this ministry is to reveal what God is doing now, and what He is going to do in the times to come - "Surely the Lord GOD does nothing, unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets." (Amos 3:7).
The ROLE of the PROPHET at the CLOSE of the AGE
Jesus was referring directly to the office of prophet when He told His disciples that Elijah would return at the close of the age. The disciples had asked him, "Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?" (Matt 17:10). The background to their question is found in an Old Testament prophecy from the Book of Malachi - "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD." (Mal 4:5).
Jesus answered their question by saying to them, "Elijah truly is coming first and will restore all things." (Matt 17:11). The Lord was not suggesting that Elijah the man would return to earth in a physical sense. Rather he was using Elijah, who was the first major prophet, as a symbol of the role or office of prophet. Christ is promising here that the anointed office of prophet would be reinstated to prepare the way for His second coming (just as it had been manifested in the person of John the Baptist to prepare for His first coming).
In the end-time, the ministry of ‘the prophet’ will be directed towards exposing the apostasies of ‘the church,’ and warning of the judgment that is to about to fall. This prophetic warning, and the purging judgments to follow, are integral parts of the restoration process.
The basic ministry of the evangelist is to preach the
gospel to the unsaved. This involves the evangelist travelling beyond the
boundaries of the local church. It is written of "Philip the
evangelist," who was one of the seven original deacons in the church
The evangelistic gift is not dependent upon the
eloquence of man, but rather the anointing presence of the Holy Spirit. When
the evangelist speaks and preaches, the whole
On the day of Pentecost Peter proclaimed the gospel to
a previously hostile crowd of Jews and proselytes. But by the end of his
address, the convicting power of the Holy Spirit was clearly manifest. Peter
finished by saying, "‘Therefore let all the house of
They were cut to the heart bec
Although the gift of evangelist is a ministry to the unsaved, this does not mean its operation should be restricted to distant or overseas ‘mission-fields.’ In fact Christ’s gift of the evangelist should also be evident in the local church, reaching out to ‘the lost’ in the surrounding community.
The office of deacon is not specifically mentioned in the Key Bible Reading. Nevertheless the Book of Acts records that deacons were selected by the congregation to undertake the various tasks of administration and organisation. These tasks were part of the normal day-to-day practical operation of the church.
"Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, ‘It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business..." (Acts 6:2-3).
The words "seek out from among you" suggest that deacons were nominated by the whole congregation. The subsequent phrase "whom we may appoint" implies that the elders ratified these nominations, and then commissioned the deacons with the usual practice of anointing with prayer and laying on of hands.
There is also sufficient evidence to indicate that the office of deacon was open to women. For example the apostle Paul wrote, "I commend to you Phoebe our sister, who is a servant of the church in Cenchrea..." (Rom 16:1). The word "servant" is translated from the Greek ‘diakonos,’ which is translated as ‘deacon’ in other parts of the New Testament. "Pheobe our sister" was therefore engaged in the Lord’s service, performing the many tasks allotted to deacons.
The Lord has undertaken to provide gifts of prepared and anointed leaders to His church. They are apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor/teachers, or elders.
Elders have the responsibility for oversight and
shepherding of the local church. Bec
The ministry of the apostle is deemed to be the most
important to the church as a whole, bec
Evangelists have a commission to travel beyond the boundaries of the local church to preach the gospel to the unsaved.
The ministry of the prophet involves the use of the word of God, under the anointing of the Holy Spirit, to reveal God’s purposes. Reinstatement of the prophetic ministry to the end-time church is critical to the process of unmasking the deceptions of Antichrist and restoring Christ’s headship over His church.
In the following chapters we will explore the nature
RESTORATION OF CHRIST’S AUTHORITY
RESTORATION OF SPIRITUAL AUTHORITY
AUTHORITY AND OBEDIENCE
Ephesians 1:15,16,18,19,20-23 "Therefore I [P
THE NATURE OF SPIRITUAL AUTHORITY
In explaining the nature of spiritual
The Greek word translated as ‘
In contrast the Greek word translated ‘power’ in this reading is ‘dunamis,’ which means to have the inherent strength or actual ability to bring about a desired purpose.
A modern illustration of these two different meanings
is provided by the roles of a road transport driver and a traffic officer. A
road transport has inherent strength and so its driver has direct or ‘dunamis’ power at his disposal to perform his task.
While a traffic officer has insufficient physical power to stop a road
transport, he does have delegated or ‘exousia’
This distinction between the two Greek words is not always made clear in English translations. For example the Authorised or King James Version renders the above reading as, "Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you." In order to discern the true meaning of the word translated as ‘power’ in the King James Version, it is necessary to be aware of which Greek word is actually being translated - whether ‘exousia’ or ‘dunamis.’
WE HAVE BEEN GIVEN THE AUTHORITY TO USE JESUS’ NAME
When the statement in Luke’s gospel is correctly
translated, it becomes clear that Christ has not given us direct or ‘dunamis’ power to overcome the power of Satan. Instead
He has entrusted us to wield the
"Therefore God also has highly
exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the
name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth,
and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus
Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Key Bible
We are entitled to exercise the
However it is important to see that our
Jesus said, "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing." (John 15:4-5).
Before we can wield the
Satan understands the real basis of our
A CHAIN OF AUTHORITY
God is the supreme head of all
An example of such ‘a chain of
The case of the centurion who sought healing for his
servant provides a more detailed example of a chain of
When the centurion said, "For I also am
a man under
He knew what it was like to be under
The centurion was also acknowledging Christ’s position
in a chain of
And so it was. "Then Jesus said to the centurion, ‘Go your way; and as you have believed, so let it be done for you.’ And his servant was healed that same hour." (Matt 8:13).
AUTHORITY IS INEFFECTIVE WITHOUT OBEDIENCE
Obedience is the key to successful operation of a
Jesus commanded as the Father directed Him, and His
Father verified those commands by doing the works that fulfilled His words.
Similarly, if we use the
Now compare the operation of a chain of
Notice that Jesus is addressing those who consider themselves to be Christians. They had "prophesied," "cast out demons," and "done many wonders," and all in the name of Jesus. But one thing was missing. They had in effect denied the sovereign Lordship of Christ by failing to seek, and then be obedient to His will. Instead they had presumed that works initiated by their flesh would meet with His approval.
The Lord’s condemnation of their presumption is severe. It does not matter that ‘prophecy,’ ‘deliverance,’ and ‘miracles,’ appear worthy ministries in themselves. The point is that they have used His name to do their works. So He disowns them and their works. "I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!"
God the Father is the supreme head of all
God is invincible, and no one can withstand His
purposes. Despite this fact, it is necessary to recognize that His
In order to appreciate how disobedience has diminished
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE FALL
A direct consequence of ‘the fall’ is that in choosing
to obey Satan rather than God, Adam and Eve unwittingly gave Satan a legal
right to contest God’s
God gave man a clear command in the Garden of Eden. "And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, ‘From every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat the fruit of it you shall surely die.’" (Gen 2:16-17).
Satan, in the guise of a serpent, then seized the opportunity to entice Eve to disobey God. "And the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’" (Gen 3:4-5).
Eve had a clear choice. She could obey God, or she could obey Satan. She chose to eat the forbidden fruit, and Adam consented to join her in disobedience.
In this crucial episode which decided the fate of
mankind, Adam and Eve represented mankind. At issue here was whether man would
consent to obey God his Creator, or use his free will to rebel and submit to
Satan. The tragic outcome is that when given a clear choice, man chose to obey
Satan rather than God. And bec
As a result of his continuing disobedience of God’s
will, man in his unredeemed state is subject to Satan’s
RESTORATION OF GOD’S AUTHORITY
The CENTRAL ISSUE of RESTORATION
Many Christians see ‘restoration’ in terms of
restoring the power of the Holy Spirit to the church. Consequently there has
been an emphasis on seeking manifestations of the Holy Spirit in fellowship
meetings. This preoccupation with the acquisition of spiritual power has more
often resulted in an explosion of lawlessness, than in any real restoration of
Up until this point, the teaching of this book has focused on restoring the organizational and leadership attributes of the local church, in accordance with the pattern provided in the New Testament. But while these structural elements enable the church to function efficiently, they are still not the key component of ‘restoration.’
The ultimate purpose of restoration is to restore the
We can understand the critical importance of Christ’s
headship over the His church more clearly by extending our view to the eternal
age to come, when only the church remains. Christ has already confirmed His
complete and total obedience to God the Father, "to the point of death,
even the death of the cross." So it follows that restoring Christ’s
headship of the church is actually restoring to God His
Of course God has, and will always have, ultimate
Knowing the end from the beginning, God the Father
purposed even before the foundations of the world to restore His sovereign
The OBEDIENCE of the SON
Since obedience is at the heart of all true
God’s requirement was that Christ should redeem
mankind back to Himself. The Scriptures say of Christ that "...by Him
[i.e. Christ] all things were created that are in heaven and that are on
earth ... All things were created through Him and for Him." (
Jesus stood before the judgment seat of God as the representative of all mankind. He received their sentence and bore the fullness of their punishment until the very last demand of justice had been met. The mocking abuse, the beatings and scourging, the agonizing death on the cross, were all the price of restoring man’s right relationship with God.
But before He could be mankind’s atoning sacrifice, Christ had first to be a perfect expression of obedience and righteousness, witnessed by man and God, and all in Satan’s kingdom. It was only then that He could truly be "a lamb without blemish and without spot," (1 Pe 1:19), to be presented as a guilt offering for the sins of mankind.
The cost of Christ’s obedience is beyond human understanding. We can only catch a glimpse of it as we contemplate the words in the first Key Bible Reading.
God the Son relinquished His position of equality with God the Father. He let go "...the glory which [He] had with [God] before the world was." (John 17:5). And He "made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a servant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross."
Even before He took upon Himself the mantle of human flesh, Jesus knew the enormity of the sufferings that awaited Him. As the time of His crucifixion drew near He prayed, "Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour. ‘Father, glorify Your name.’" (John 12:27-28).
We read of His acute agony of soul in the garden of
Gethsemane when, knowing the enormity of the physical suffering that faced Him
and the anguish of separation from God, He prayed "O My Father, if it
is possible, let this cup pass from Me..."
(Matt 26:39). But then, bec
The perfect obedience of Jesus to the will of God the father is reflected in His parting prayer. On His last night He prayed, "I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do ... I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world ... I have given them the words which You have given Me ... While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name. Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and none of them is lost except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled ... As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world ... And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which you loved Me may be in them, and I in them." (John 17:4, 6, 8, 12, 18, 26).
Finally, as Jesus hung on the cross, "knowing that all things were now accomplished ... He said, ‘It is finished!’ And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit." (John 19:28, 30). His task of redeeming mankind was complete - a perfect work done in perfect obedience.
By accomplishing His perfect work, Christ has laid the
foundation for re-establishing God’s
The call to obedience, and the subsequent re-establishment of Christ’s authority as head of His church, is all too relevant in the current climate of ‘charismatic renewal’. The obsessive quest for spiritual power, and unrestrained zeal to perform miraculous deeds in the name of Jesus, have opened the door to ‘charismatic lawlessness.’
There is a catch-phrase that is currently popular in pentecostal and charismatic groups. It is, ‘The 1990’s, the decade of the last great harvest.’ This reflects the yearning of many earnest Christians to be involved in ‘a latter rain’ revival, with a deluge of Holy Spirit power precipitating a huge harvest of souls.
However desirable such a revival might be, the reality
is that the Holy Spirit will not fall in a climate of lawlessness. Before the
‘latter rain’ can fall, Christ’s
POSSESSING THE GATES OF THE ENEMY
In stressing the need for absolute obedience in
For example, the Angel of the LORD told Abraham, "By
Myself I have sworn, says the LORD, bec
The ‘gate’ is a symbol of
In the reading above, the Hebrew word ‘yarash’ means to take possession of something after
dispossessing the previous occupants. In our case ‘the previous occupant’ is
Satan, who gained his position of
Christ partook of our nature of flesh so that, "...through
death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the
devil..." (Heb 2:14 NASB). Having dispossessed Satan of his
In the Garden of Eden, God chose to honor man’s free
will by allowing him to choose who he would obey. Bec
Even before the creation of mankind, God (who knew the
end from the beginning) chose to restore His
However during the long centuries of the church age,
The central issue of the restoration of the church is
therefore the restoration of Christ’s headship, which will ultimately have the
effect of restoring the
THE PATH OF THE CROSS
THE ANGUISH OF DISOBEDIENCE
The struggle to walk on the path of obedience is full
of anguish and heartache for those who have not received teaching about the
"path of the cross." P
It seems almost inevitable that as new Christians we start on our spiritual pilgrimage by attempting to live up to the standards of God’s law in our own strength. We attempt to overcome the inherent corruption of our human nature with determination and perseverance. Time and again we set out to overcome this or that flaw, but fail abysmally.
Many people become resigned to accepting this as the normal Christian walk. Knowing what is right, they try to live up to it, and when they fail, they pray for forgiveness--time and time again. While it is true that "the blood of Jesus Christ" continually "cleanses us from all sin" (1 John 1:7), this is still a mediocre walk of continuing failures.
It seems that we as Christians must come to an end of ourselves, before we can be brought by the Spirit to see the impossibility of taming our natures through our own personal effort.
In his letter to the Roman Christians, P
Paul concludes, "…with the mind [ie with my reasoning and determination] I myself [in my heart] serve [or choose to honour] the [whole moral] law of God, but [the reality is that] with the flesh [I honour instead] the law of sin." (Rom 7:25).
Before proceeding any further, it is important to establish the difference between the terms ‘sin’ and ‘sins.’ In the context of this study, SIN is the nature or character of sin. In general terms, it is that which opposes God. It is out of the nature of SIN that individual SINS are conceived and committed.
Now let us go back and look more deeply into P
In summing up our experience as Christians, we find
that our renewed spirits approve and even delight in the moral precepts of
God’s law. But despite this, we continually fall short in obedience. P
The important thing to note here is that P
The ORIGIN of the LAW of SIN
The power or law of sin is an implantation of Satan imposed on man as a result of the Fall.
The prophet Jeremiah tells us that God "...search[es] the heart, [and] test[s] the mind,
even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his
doings." (Jer 17:10). When tested in the
Garden of Eden, man chose to obey Satan rather than God. Since sin is that
which opposes God, and man chose sin rather than obedience, he received "according
to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings." Satan, who is the
epitome of sin or opposition to God, was granted the
What Constitutes the OLD MAN?
The "old man" is all that we were before our salvation and regeneration in Christ. Characteristics associated with the "old man" are:
(1) A spirit that is virtually dead to the spiritual things of God. Part of the salvation process is the regeneration of our spirits.
(2) A carnal nature with fleshly desires that entice
us to commit sins. In Colossians, P
(3) A power, or law of sin, which imposes further
pressure on our carnal natures, compelling us to commit sins. In Romans, P
(4) The old man is held captive by the spirit of the world. It is by the operation of the power of sin over fallen mankind that Satan has become "…the ruler of this world.." (Jo 12:31, 14:30, 16:11).
(5) The old man is under the curse of the broken Law, the end result of which is eternal damnation.
In the following verse (which is the first verse of
Chapter 8) P
To walk "according to the flesh" is to try and overcome the legacy of sin from fallen man by our own will power and effort; by trying to earn our salvation; by trying to tame our sin-controlled fleshly natures, and so on. To walk "according to the Spirit" is to receive and walk in the light of the victory of Christ’s cross. This walk of victory is called ‘the path of the cross.’
THE PATH OF THE CROSS
"And you, being dead in your
trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together
with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting
of requirements [as
in a bill of debt] that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has
taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross." (
VICTORY over our FLESHLY NATURE and the POWER of SIN
In this study, the primary emphasis is in dealing with (1) the carnal nature of flesh, and (2) the power or law of sin.
Even though Jesus has taken away Satan’s legal
Since we were not created to live a life of continuous
and unending failures, God has ordained a method, or pathway, by which we may
overcome both our carnal natures and the law of sin in our members, and thereby
live a victorious life. This pathway, generally referred to as ‘the path of the
cross,’ is outlined in Chapter 6 of P
The first ten verses of this chapter describe how we
as Christians have been brought into a vital union with Jesus Christ and
His experience on the cross. When Jesus submitted Himself to the penalty of the
cross, He was more than a representative of mankind. In God’s eyes He was
‘corporate man,’ incorporating within Himself and His experience, the whole of
mankind. That is why P
"Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin." (Rom 6:3-6).
UNION with CHRIST in HIS DEATH
God’s solution to our untameable
fleshly nature under the power of sin (called here "our old man"
and "the body of sin"), is to incorporate it in Christ’s death
on the cross. Everything to do with the old man--the carnal nature held captive
by the power of sin and the spirit of the world and subject to the curse of the
law--was included in Christ’s death on the cross. And bec
We are to reckon that we, including our carnal nature, are crucified with Christ. "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." (Gal 2:20 KJV).
DEAD TO THE WORLD
We are crucified to the world—"...by [‘our Lord Jesus Christ’] the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world..." (Gal 6:14).
DEAD TO THE LAW
We are crucified to the Law—"But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by..." (Rom 7:6).
DEAD TO SIN
Our RIGHTEOUSNESS in HIM
We receive additional light on Christ dealing with our sin by studying a key verse in 2 Corinthians: "He [God] made Him [Jesus] who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." (2 Co 5:21 NASB).
This verse begins by emphasising Christ’s sinless nature: He "who knew no sin." This is followed by the statement that God made Jesus "to be sin." In ‘Vincent’s Word Studies of the New Testament,’ the words "to be sin," are explained as follows; "Not a sin offering, nor a sinner, but the representative of sin. On Him, representatively, fell the collective consequence of sin..." (vol3, p321).
The fact that God made Christ "to be sin" does not imply that Christ’s own nature underwent corruption. Mankind’s sin was laid upon Him as a burden, but it was not incorporated into His sinless nature. Whilst He Himself remained perfectly sinless, as the representative of sin He bore the full responsibility for the power of sin that had been laid on mankind at the Fall.
And having taken upon Himself this identification with sin, He was then required to bear all of its evil consequences. This involved all the curses of the broken law--sickness, pain, infirmity, poverty, rejection, separation from God, and finally, death. Now that Christ has already borne God’s judgment and the penalty of sin on behalf of mankind, we as Christians are no longer required to bear it.
The PARADOX of OUR DEATH to SIN
In his letter to the Romans, Paul states that "our
old man was crucified with Him [i.e. Christ]." When He died,
our "old man," or "body of sin,’’ was taken to
death in Him. But a few verses later, P
Here we have a paradox. Firstly we are told that God destroyed our body of sin by the power of the cross, but then we are commanded not to let sin reign in us. This means in effect that it is still in us. The fact is that the law of sin inherited from Adam, and our nature of fleshly appetites and lusts, both remain active in us--until they are conquered by the application of the cross of Jesus.
Before our conversion, we were held captive by the power of sin. Acting on our carnal nature, it compelled us to sin. The law of sin in our members brought us in to sin over and over again, and we were powerless to withstand its persistent demands.
But when Christ accepted upon Himself the full weight of God’s punishment for the sin of mankind, Satan’s legal right to imprison us under the power of sin was removed. This was made evident to some degree at our conversion, when the desire to sin habitually was removed from us, and replaced with a yearning to live righteously before God.
And now, bec
UNION with CHRIST in His RESURRECTION
At the same time that he declares our death in Jesus
Note that the "also shall be" is not predictive future in relationship with time, but a logical consequence of fulfilling the previous conditions. That is, IF we willingly partake of union with Him in His death, then we shall be united with Him in His resurrection, and therefore partakers of His risen life. So we now have the divine life of Jesus planted in us, and it is through this life that we establish our personal victory over sin.
PUTTING ON--and PUTTING OFF
To "put off" is to make a conscious
decision to reject the demands of sinful flesh, and testify to the death of the
"old man" through the cross of Jesus. The reality of our
Christian walk is that when the sin nature is ‘put off,’ Christ is enthroned in
our hearts. If we revert to yielding to the demands of sinful flesh, then
Christ is dethroned and our old man occupies His place. This need not happen,
In regard to the command to "put on the Lord
Jesus Christ," the Greek word ‘enduo,’
which is translated here as "put on," has the additional
meaning to ‘array’ or to ‘clothe, in the sense of ‘sinking into a garment.’
Not only do we believe that we are ‘clothed’ with Christ, but we also agree to
allow our own lives to be submerged or hidden in Christ. "For you died,
and your life is hidden with Christ in God." (
His presence and life are in us, and encompassing us
in all our circumstances. From now on we are to do all things "according
to His working which works in [us] mightily." (
The question arises: How often is it necessary to "put off the old man" and to "put on the Lord Jesus Christ"? It is important to recognize that man is not entirely released from the curse of the Fall--even by the cross. The flesh never fully retires or relinquishes its demand to be satisfied. In this respect it constantly opposes the Spirit. "I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish." (Gal 5:16-17). Both the flesh and the Spirit "lust" after, or desire to take possession of man’s heart. Therefore they are "contrary," or constantly opposed to one another.
The TESTIMONY of the SPIRIT
In the eighth chapter of Romans, P
The catalyst which c
THE DEEPER WORK OF THE CROSS
The path of the cross we have described should be the normal walk of all Christians. However there is another dimension to the path of the cross which is more penetrating and profound. And that is to put our carnal nature to death permanently, which requires a much deeper work by the Holy Spirit. This deeper work takes place on a pathway of suffering and refinement. It involves the Holy Spirit progressively purging out the old nature and replacing it with the very nature of Christ.
Suffering is the necessary catalyst required to break down the stronghold of flesh. The apostle Peter wrote, "Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God". (1 Peter 4:1-2).
Drinking Christ’s cup of suffering is not a popular teaching. In fact few Christians embark on this deeper path of the cross, requiring as it does our complete submission to the Holy Spirit’s cleansing and purifying work in us. This means being prepared to have the old nature stripped away by the purging of suffering, so that it can be replaced by the nature of Christ.
In his letter to the Philippians, P
Even though these attributes were admired by
traditional Jews, P
In saying that he wants to be "conformed to [Christ’s]
He continues, "Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press towards the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." (Phil 3:12-14).
Who shall tread on this deeper path of the cross? P
THE PURPOSE OF THE DEEPER PATH OF THE CROSS
The basis of all fruitfulness in ministry is resurrection life. This resurrection life must by definition be preceded by death. Jesus said, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless an ear of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much fruit." (John 12:24).
The old nature is destroyed through suffering, so that it can be replaced by the life of Jesus. The deeper work of the cross releases the new nature of Christ, which then ministers spiritual life to the rest of the church. When the "old man" has been dealt with to such a degree that it has lost its power and ‘dies’, the life of Jesus may flow freely in ministry without any interference from fleshly intrusion. The Lord is able to use such a person to minister His life to the church, producing "much fruit."
THE PREPARATION OF GOD’S ANOINTED MINISTERS
The Lord’s preparation of spiritual leaders is a completely different process to that which is used to prepare worldly leaders. In the world, the prospective executive is equipped with intellectual skills, academic qualifications, and self confidence. On the other hand, the Lord’s preparation of leaders involves the stripping away of all such independence and self assurance, leaving in its place an absolute reliance on Him. Thus prepared, the Lord’s servants "have no confidence in the flesh." They turn continually to the Lord, doing all things in the strength and ability that He supplies.
Of the two methods of preparation described, the
worldly one is the most frequently chosen in the twentieth century church. Prospective
ministers attend a bible college and receive tuition enabling them to preach
fluently. With commendable effort they pass the required examinations and
receive recognized qualifications, which in turn
OBEDIENCE IS FULFILLED THROUGH THE LORD JESUS CHRIST
Jesus Christ was, and will always be, perfect in obedience. When we allow His life to reign in us, we become partakers of His obedience. The obedience of Christ becomes a spontaneous part of our experience. But since our sinful nature is naturally opposed to the Spirit of Christ, obedience is negated when our flesh is not put to death by the power of the cross--hence the importance of the path of the cross.
OBEDIENCE in the CHURCH
At one time P
"For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled." (2 Cor 10:4-6).
Two things stand out in this reading. The first is the
Due to his perseverance on the path of the cross,
Christ could trust him with such
The second thing highlighted is the possibility of the
church as a whole being brought into obedience to the truth. The purpose of P
The Greek word ‘hupakoe,’
translated ‘obedience,’ means ‘to obey what is heard,’ or ‘to be obedient
(to Christ) in their listening.’ P
An essential part in the restoring of Christ’s
Without knowledge about the path of the cross, it is
almost impossible to be obedient to God’s moral precepts. This is bec
Effectively our ‘old man’ was laid on Jesus and taken to death on the cross. The path of the cross is one of walking in the light of our union with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection, and by faith receiving the full measure of the blessings He procured for us by the cross.
This involves appropriating the death of our ‘old man,’ and receiving and walking in the power of the risen life of Jesus already implanted within us. When our life is replaced by the life of Jesus, His obedience is manifested through us, and He is able to use us to minister His life to the church.
Obedience is crucial to the operation of the Lord’s
In the next chapter we will examine the Lord’s
THE ROLES OF MEN AND WOMEN IN THE CHURCH
1 Corinthians 11:3-5, 7-12
"But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head
of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. Every man praying or
prophesying, having his head covered, dishonours his
head [who is Christ]. But every woman who prays or prophesies with her
head uncovered dishonours her head [who is her
husband]…For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, since he is the image
and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. For man is not from
woman, but woman from man. Nor was man created for the woman, but woman
for the man. For this reason the woman ought to have a symbol of
THE AUTHORITY OF THE SCRIPTURES
To be really worthwhile, any study on this contentious
topic needs to rest on the assumption that all Scripture is God’s word, as
directed to His servants by the Holy Spirit Scripture
THE DIVINE ORDER OF CREATION
The Scriptural record in Genesis shows that man was
created before woman. "And the LORD God formed man [Adam] of
the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and
man [Adam] became a living being." (Gen 2:7). In God’s
divine order of things, those who are brought into being first, generally have
EVE was FORMED to be ADAM’s HELP MEET
Next in the divine order, God created woman to be man’s ‘help meet.’ "And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him." (Gen 2:18 KJV The word "help" means ‘to aid,’ or ‘to supply that which an individual cannot supply for himself.’ It is used frequently of God in His capacity of supplying the needs of Israel, so it is clearly not a demeaning position. The word "meet" comes from a Hebrew word meaning ‘opposite.’ Literally, it is ‘according to the opposite of him,’ meaning that her attributes are ‘the opposite’ of his As man’s helpmate, her attributes complement his by providing all that is missing in his makeup, but still needed for humanity to function as God intended. Together their attributes complete each other, so that together, they form an effective and harmonious partnership in the Lord In Christian ministry, a unified ‘husband and wife’ team is also to be highly commended. It is common for the ‘spiritual gifts’ of one to dovetail with the other, bringing balance and completeness to spiritual discernment. In those cases where the headship of the husband is honoured by the wife, and the husband is in turn truly submitted to Christ’s headship, such a ministry has the full sanction and blessing of the Lord.
EVE’S POSITION IN THE FALL
It is significant that in the course of the Fall, God’s divine order was reversed. In the Garden
of Eden it was Eve, typifying ‘woman,’ who took the initiative and
headship. Without the covering of Adam’s
The APPARENT INCONSISTENCY of GENESIS 1:26
In Genesis 1:26, "…God said, ‘Let Us make man
[or ‘mankind’] in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have
dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the
cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the
earth." The phrase "in Our
image," does not refer to physical resemblance, nor does it suggest
that man has been given the mantle of deity. Instead it refers to man
being created with a spirit, and secondly, as having dominion over all earthly
creatures. God, who created all things and therefore had dominion over
all things, said first, "Let Us make man in Our image,"
and then, "let them have dominion over…all the earth.."
In other words, God delegated His
GOD’s ORIGINAL DECREE Applies To ALL HISTORICAL AGES
The main argument used against applying the biblical
principle of male leadership, asserts that modern society is totally different
to the form of society prevailing at the time of the New Testament
church. It is claimed that social customs have changed radically since
then, and that almost every human society in the world now recognizes ‘equal
rights for women’ in their national constitutions. This is considered
sufficient justification to vary the divine order. However
the Bible itself testifies to a different conclusion. For instance, both
THE CONSISTENCY OF MALE HEADSHIP THROUGHOUT THE BIBLE
The POSITION of MEN and WOMEN in the OLD TESTAMENT
In the Old Testament period,
The POSITION of MEN and WOMEN in the NEW TESTAMENT
Jesus does not Himself provide us with a direct
teaching about male leadership, and so we are left to draw our conclusions from
His own position and from His subsequent actions. First of
all, Christ was God incarnate as a male. Secondly, He chose twelve male
disciples, and the people He sent out were all males. Thirdly, the
ongoing apostles and elders were all male. Finally, He chided His own
mother for using her maternal
Nevertheless, women played a prominent part in His
life and ministry. Both Elizabeth and Mary were used by God to
prophetically announce the forthcoming births of their sons, John and
Jesus. And whereas the Pharisees would never be publicly associated with
women, Jesus was nearly always accompanied by a group of female disciples who
ministered to His needs and received from His ministry. Jesus treated
women with the utmost courtesy and respect throughout His earthly
life--forgiving the woman c
THE CONTROVERSIAL TEACHINGS OF PAUL
In his letters to the young churches, P
(1) 1 Corinthians 11:3-16 "The Head of Woman is Man"
The Key Bible Reading begins by presenting a clear-cut
Submission to Authority Provides a Covering
Man’s Acceptance of the Responsibilities of Headship
Whilst women were instructed to cover their heads (in
order to convey their submission to their husband’s
"…since he is the image and glory of
God;" When Paul said that man should not cover his head
because he "is the image and glory of God," he was referring to men
as males, not mankind in general. Man as a male is in God’s image bec
"Every man praying or prophesying,
having his head covered, dishonours his
Ephesians 5:22-33 "The Husband is Head of the Wife"
This passage reads in part, "Wives, submit to
your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife,
as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Saviour
of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let
the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your
wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her...So
husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his
wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes
and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church...’ For this reason a man
shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall
become one flesh’... let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as
himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband."
God has ordained that the husband is Christ's delegated
We can take
comfort in the fact that, aligned with the promise of the restoration of the
prophetic ministry at the close of the age, there is also a promise of the
restoration of parental
(3) Galatians 3:26-29 "There is neither Male nor Female"
"For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptised into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus." Some use this passage to assert that men and women are equal, and should therefore have equivalent roles of headship. However this passage refers to mankind’s vertical relationship with God, and not the horizontal relationship between men and women. In relation to God, both men and women are entirely equal. They have exactly the same potential for spiritual maturity, and identical rights to draw near to God’s throne. We are "...all sons of God..." in that sense-- both men and women are "...prepared as a bride adorned for her husband..." in order to become "the bride, the Lamb’s wife." (Rev 21:2,9). Man’s headship over woman is not a matter of he being superior and she being inferior. In fact, according to the Lord, to be placed in a position of headship is to be assigned the task of a servant. In Christ’s realm, headship means to be held responsible, and therefore accountable for those who are under your charge. Husbands must love their wives "...just as [or in the same manner as] Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her." (Eph 5:25). Of His own ministry, Jesus said that "...the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve..." (Mat 20:28).
(4) 1 Tim 2:11-15 "Let a Woman Learn in Silence"
"Let a woman learn in
silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach
or to have
"Let a woman learn in silence with all submission." The
context in which this is written is shown by the preceding verses, where P
"I do not permit a woman to
teach or to have authority over a man". The Greek word for
"For Adam was formed first,
"Adam was not deceived, but
the woman being deceived, fell into transgression." The Greek word ‘apatao’ which is translated here as ‘deceived,’
is rendered "beguiled" in the Authorised
"Nevertheless she will be
saved in child-bearing" The role of mother and home-maker--i.e. being
responsible for the care and nurture of godly children--has divine approval,
for it exercises the essence of womanhood. If a woman accepts this primary
role in her heart, she will be saved from grasping at false
(5) 1 Corinthians 14:34-37 "Let Your Women Keep Silent in the Churches"
"Let your women keep silent
in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be
submissive, as the law also says. And if they want to learn something, let
them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak
in church. Or did the word of God come originally from you? Or was it you
only that it reached? If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or
spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I write to you are the
commandments of the Lord." P
In order to be consistent, we should associate P
THE MINISTRY AND POSITION OF WOMEN IN THE CHURCH
Having studied the derivation of male leadership from
the divine order of God’s creation, to its expression in the Old Testament
patriarchal society, and onto its clear enunciation in Paul’s teachings, it is
now time to examine its practical operation in the
church. At first it may appear that women should have
little or no part in the work of the church. But such a conclusion would
be based on a misunderstanding of the essence of Paul's commands - that women are to maintain an attitude of submission, and
minister under authority. To "be in silence" is
to have a quiet disposition. To "keep silent" is to not
speak in a manner which dishonours her husband.
This is in keeping with P
As we have already noted, it was acceptable in the New
Testament church for women to pray or prophesy in church, provided that they
did so under the covering of submission of an appropriate male.
Confirmation of this principle is found in the household of Philip the
evangelist, who "had four virgin d
After studying the scriptural record of the early
church, we may reasonably conclude that all ministries are open to women, save
that of headship. There is no scriptural warranty for a woman to fill the
office of elder, or for a woman to have oversight over a
church. The current movement, which demands the right of
women to assume positions of
From the divine order of creation, and His subsequent address to Eve after the Fall, God has ordained that "the head of the woman is the man." (KJV). This decree has been honoured, firstly, throughout the Old Testament; secondly, in the way that Jesus has been manifested to us; and thirdly, in the teaching of the apostles Women submitting to male headship is not a matter of inferiority and superiority, but of differing roles and functions. In our relationship with God, there is no difference in spiritual value between male and female, God has decreed that in the church, and in the home, man is to exercise headship. The wife is to submit to her husband and honour him "just as" the Church is to obey and revere the Lord Jesus Christ. And the husband is to love and care for his wife "just as" Christ loves and cares for the church. In Christian service, every ministry save that of headship (such as being an elder) is open to women. The evidence of the early church in action shows that women played a prominent part in the life of the church. In the next chapter we will examine the intrusion of the New Age movement, and the increasing tide of humanism which has already enveloped many parts of the professing church.
RESTORATION THROUGH UNMASKING
AND DETHRONING ANTICHRIST
HUMANISM - 666 AND THE NEW AGE
THE SEAL OF GOD -- OR THE MARK OF THE BEAST
The bible refers to two types of seals or marks, which are described as being ‘engraved’ on the hand or forehead. One originates from God, and the other from Satan. Although they are invisible to man, they clearly indicate to the spirit world the state of a person’s heart toward God.
The SEAL of GOD
The first reference to man receiving a seal from God
on their hand or forehead, is seen in a ritual feast initiated by God in the
time of Moses. When initiating this ceremony, to commemorate the
deliverance of the children of
This ceremonial feast was initiated by God to engrave
a lasting impression on His children. It became a memorial sign that it
was God who had brought their fathers out of
Those who bear the seal of God on their foreheads have
a heart attitude which acknowledges that God is their Father. As
"Jehovah Jireh" He is the source of all
their provision, protection, and deliverance. Bec
There is another picture of those bearing the seal of God in the Book of Revelation. Here its recipients stand with the Lamb, "having His Father’s name [the seal of His ownership] written on their foreheads." (Rev 14:1). They are described as "virgins" [or those separated to God], "…who follow the Lamb wherever He goes." (Rev 14:4). Being totally consecrated to the Lord, they are always available for His work.
The MARK of the BEAST
In contrast, the Book of Revelation also describes the "mark of the beast" (i.e. the mark of the ‘second beast’ or ‘spirit of antichrist’), and how it is received.
Before studying this passage however, it is important
to appreciate how closely Antichrist is associated with trade and commerce, or
the process of ‘buying and selling.’ The Seventeenth and Eighteenth
chapters of the Book of Revelation are devoted to the disclosure of the "the
great Harlot," the false religion of Antichrist, and the fall of "
Before outlining the judgment of
Idolatry is the worship of created things, rather than God the Creator. This is the essence of ‘the mark of the beast.’ Antichrist entices man to covet material things and to direct all of his efforts towards acquiring them. In this way the very acts of buying and selling become tainted with idolatry, or the mark of the beast. The reading shows that mankind in a world-wide sense has been intoxicated by the heat and passion of the Harlot’s idolatry.
The judgment of ‘
God’s final judgment of Antichrist’s world-system will be swift and conclusive. "The merchants of these things, who became rich by her, will stand at a distance for fear of her torment, weeping and wailing, and saying, 'Alas, alas, that great city that was clothed in fine linen, purple, and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls! For in one hour such great riches came to nothing.’" (Rev 18:15-17).
These passages reveal that Antichrist has used the process of trade and commerce, or ‘buying and selling,’ to bring "all the nations," or all mankind, under the spell of idolatry. We must recognise that there is a power, or spirit of antichrist, associated with ‘buying and selling’ which so easily contaminates, or even captivates, those who give themselves to it. With this background firmly in mind, we can now begin to study the chief passage in Revelation concerning ‘the mark of the beast.’
The MARK in REVELATION
13:16-18 "And he c
A detailed examination of individual word meanings and particular phrases in this reading will help us to gain a deeper insight into its overall meaning:
"And he" - The second beast or spirit of antichrist. "causeth" - Creates a condition, or conditions everyone. "all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond," - This is an universal all - everyone is included. "to receive" - Literally, "that he might give them." "a mark" - Just as slaves were branded with their owners’ name or symbol, so this is an equivalent spiritual brand of ownership. Those having the mark of the beast may not have been aware of being brought under his control, but they are in servitude to him none the less. "in their right hand," - Influencing the main thrust of all their doing. "or in their foreheads;" - Influencing the trend of their thinking.
"And that no man might buy or sell [except] he that had the mark, or the name…or the number of his name." In many bible versions, translators have inserted additional words to the original single Greek word ‘ekho’ (meaning ‘to have’). These additions have the misleading effect of changing the phrase to mean that no one may buy or sell without first having the beast’s name or number ‘engraved’ on their right hand or forehead. For example, the words in brackets have been added in the following translations: KJV: "no man might buy or sell save (he that) had the mark..." NASB: "no one should be able to buy or to sell, except (the one who) has the mark..." NKJV: "and that no one may buy or sell except (one who) has the mark"
As well as the translation being more accurate if the added words are left out, it also allows us to view the reading from another point of view.
WITH THE ADDED WORDS, the translation reads, "And that no man might buy or sell, except (he that) had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name." In this rendering a person cannot buy or sell unless he has first received the mark.
WITHOUT THE ADDED WORDS, the translation reads, "And that no man might buy or sell, except having the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name." In this case having the mark is not necessarily a pre-condition to buying and selling. It can also be viewed as a result of buying and selling. Antichrist’s aim is to condition all people through the process of buying and selling, to the end that "no man might buy or sell except having the mark."
In other words, the everyday process of buying and selling is used by the spirit of antichrist to bind people into idolatry of material possessions. That he has been largely successful is verified in Revelation 18:3 - "For all the nations" have become intoxicated with the heat and passion of the Harlot’s idolatry.
As well as being brought under the mark of ‘bondage to idolatry’ of physical things, man may also receive other attributes associated with the beast’s name and number - "that no man might buy or sell, except having the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name."
"or the name of the beast," - Receiving the properties associated with the beast’s name or character, in particular the self-centred independence which opposes the rule of Christ in our lives.
"or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man;" - The phrase "the number of a man" may also be translated "the number of man." In biblical numerology, the number of man is 6.
"and his number is Six hundred threescore and six." - Or 666. When a number is tripled, its symbolic meaning is taken to its fullest extent. So 666 denotes the fullest extent of man’s endeavours, or HUMANISM. This is the belief that man in himself has the capacity to meet all of his own needs, and to solve all of the world’s problems, without needing God. It is the blasphemous attitude that asserts man’s independence from God, promoting instead a complete reliance on the power of human effort.
In conclusion, we can draw on each of the individual explanations above, and bring them together to form an ‘amplified’ rendering of the passage as a whole: "And the spirit of antichrist conditions all people, both small and great, rich and poor, servants and masters, so that he might give them a mark in their right hand, influencing all that they do, and in their foreheads, influencing their way of thinking, to the intent that no one might buy or sell except having, and thereby being influenced by the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. Let he who understands work out the meaning of the number of the beast: for it is the number of man. And his number is 666, or independence from God."
Whereas God first used a festal ceremony to ‘engrave’ His name "Jehovah Jireh" on the minds and hearts of His children, Antichrist uses the mundane functions of buying and selling to lure mankind into idolatry and humanism. This everyday process is used by the spirit of antichrist to condition man into believing that the source of all his provision is through his own efforts. It operates as a perpetual reminder to man that his financial security is determined by his own individual intellect and industry, rather than in the blessing of his heavenly Father.
Because of this age-old strategy, God warned the Israelites, "Beware that you do not forget the LORD your God…lest--when you have eaten and are full, and have built beautiful houses and dwell in them…and your silver and your gold are multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied; when your heart is lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God…then you say in your heart, 'My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth.'" (Deut 8:11, 12, 13-14,17).
ALL Have Been CONDITIONED to RECEIVE the MARK
Jesus’ warning in Revelation about the mark of the beast is not just directed to Christians at the close of the age. Antichrist has targeted the church during the whole 20 centuries of her existence, and mankind in all ages has been conditioned to receive the implanted mark.
In the Seventeenth Century the Dutch East India Company had a motto: "Jesus is good, but trade is better." This is just one illustration of how the potent power associated with buying and selling has been used by Antichrist to turn man’s heart away from God.
It also explains why those engaged in trade and
commerce have been particularly singled out in God’s judgment of "
It is important to see that the spirit of antichrist "...conditions all...so that he might give them a mark…" All people of all ages, "both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave," have been conditioned through the process of buying and selling. Before our redemption in Christ, all of us to some degree were tainted by the mark of Antichrist.
The apostle P
But even though we have all been contaminated by the mark of the beast, the bible indicates clearly that it is possible to be set free from its influence. "And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire: and them that had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God." (Rev 15:2 KJV).
These overcomers standing on the sea of glass had not escaped being contaminated by the influence of the mark of the beast at some stage in their past. But since then they had "...gotten the victory over the beast...his image...his mark, and…the number of his name.." Their victory is demonstrated by their nearness to God, actually standing on the sea of glass mingled with fire which separates man from God.
Jesus’ warning in the Book of Revelation is not a declaration that at some time in the future we shall not be able to buy or sell without an identifying mark tattooed on our hand. Nor, as some have stated, is it an ultimatum that if we accept the mark on our hand we will lose our salvation. This sort of interpretation has prompted one writer to present a list of possible measures for Christians to take in order to avoid receiving the mark. Here are a few of his suggestions.
"Get out of debt." "Get rid of credit cards." "Own your own land." "Own your own home." "Have your own source of heat, light, and electricity." "Have your own food and water source and storage." "Be able to make your own clothes." "Have a means of travel without fuel (horse, bicycle, boat, etc)." "Have a supply of basic medicines." "Have a way to pay taxes." "Have a supply of gold and silver and extra tools and seeds for bartering."
Some people may consider these measures to be wise
Christ’s warning is not against receiving a worldly identifying mark, but against being brought into bondage to idolatry. The real danger is not one of being forced to receive a physical or electronic brand, but one of embracing the humanistic spirit of independence and self-sufficiency which is promoted by the spirit of antichrist.
THE NEW AGE MOVEMENT
The ‘mark of the beast’ and the New Age Movement have a common basis in humanism. They both reflect Antichrist’s endeavour to entrench mankind in humanism, thereby replacing God’s control over all things with that of man, and ultimately of Satan himself.
The New Age Movement is a broad-based network of social, spiritual, and political movements, which share common aims of perfecting man and society through a new found spiritual awareness. Its adherents comprise professional, business, religious, and activist groups, as well as independent spiritual leaders with their followers. Their sphere of influence has extended into science, medicine, education, religion, politics, sport, commerce, and most social sciences.
Collectively these groups have promoted feminist, ecological, spiritual, and human-potential issues. But despite their common aims of self-advancement and the creation of a utopian state of peace and harmony, the New Age Movement has no universal creed, no central organisation, and no single world leader. As an ideology, its concepts are shadowy, constantly shifting, and almost indefinable. Its presence in society therefore goes unnoticed by most people.
And yet the consistency of humanistic philosophy and
ideals propounded by its adherents, despite them having no apparent leader or
The BASIS of NEW AGE PHILOSOPHY
New Agers pride themselves on having an enlightened view of the nature of creation. They believe the universe and everything in existence is one essential reality without distinctions - a single organic whole without independent parts. They argue that even though objects and persons maintain a distinctiveness, they are interdependent on the unified whole.
In other words, God is not a personality, but a cosmic force that is in all, and makes up all. Everything that exists is therefore an extension of God.
This means Man is an extension of God, and has within himself an untapped reservoir of divine energy. All he needs to be enlightened is to adopt a new consciousness that allows him to see himself in tune with the cosmic energies of the universe. This, or so the argument goes, will enable him to release the energy within himself to accomplish all that his mind can perceive and personalise. Ultimately he will himself become a god.
Man is inherently good according to this view, and
categories of moral good and evil are transcended by a cosmic
consciousness. Experience is the final
Man is encouraged to set aside the limitations of Western thought and methodology, and turn to the mystical experiences of the East. Various mystic inducing techniques like yoga, martial arts, visualisation, hypnosis, etc., are practiced to attain cosmic consciousness.
The salvation of the world will therefore be achieved by mankind (rather than God) as it gives birth to the New Age, harnessing the cosmic powers of the universe to create a new utopian state of peace, order, and well being. Bringing this about will necessitate the establishment of a unified or one world government, and an all-encompassing one world church.
PRACTICES and TECHNIQUES associated with the NEW AGE MOVEMENT
Basically New Age adherents share the common belief that man’s salvation is through his own enlightenment, which then enables him to harmonise with the energy forces of the universe. The techniques expounded by New Age teachers therefore aim at releasing the hidden powers within oneself, and melding them with the spiritual energies of the universe. Some New Age practices and the techniques associated with them are listed below.
New Age philosophy is a blend of Western humanism, and Eastern mysticism. Most New Age experiences have their roots in Eastern mysticism, following the phenomenal growth in interest in Eastern religions this century by Western societies. This interest has been intensified by the strongly held misconception that all religions have the potential to lead men to God. And it has occurred despite the fact that Eastern religions deny the personality of God, the divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrificial death for the sins of mankind, and the existence of the Holy Spirit. In reality, most Eastern religions are little more than programs of self-enlightenment, based on meditation techniques and incorporating some bodily exercises such as yoga and martial arts.
The preoccupation with mystic experience has resulted in a widespread experimentation with occultist practices. These include things like tarot card reading, astrology, divination, pyramid power, seances, sorcery, witchcraft, shamanism, necromancy, out of the body experiences, and altered states of consciousness.
The use of controlled imagining, based on the belief that anything that the mind can visualise as having been personally attained in the imagination, can be achieved in reality. In other words, anything that the mind can believe, it can achieve. We as individuals have unlimited potential, the only limiting factor being faith in ourselves. Some Christians have adopted visualisation as a new faith technique.
A channeller is one who acts as a spirit medium or point of contact between any one person and a ‘spirit-guide.’ The fact is that a spirit-guide is a demon spirit, who supplies ‘infallible’ information and direction that is supposedly beyond our human capacity to supply. Many influential and intellectually gifted members of society have become so indoctrinated and hoodwinked by their experiences of channelling, that they are reluctant to make any important decisions without first consulting their spirit guide.
An alternative system of Health Care which supposedly assists individuals to harmonise body, mind, and spirit. Some of the many practices under the banner of ‘Alternate Medicine’ are acupuncture, hypnosis, iridology, naturopathy, colour therapy, psychic healing, homeopathy, and bio-feedback.
Other ideas linked with the New Age Movement include obsession with Extra-terrestrial Life, ancient Mythology and Legends, and the Green Movement’s worship of Mother Earth.
INFILTRATION of NEW AGE PHILOSOPHIES into the CHURCH
The Church has been penetrated by New Age philosophies
to a far greater degree than we might first imagine. This has occurred
In charismatic circles, the success of a church is largely equated with the degree of ‘power’ it exhibits, and the spiritual maturity of individuals by the number of their ‘spiritual’ experiences. As a consequence there has been an idolatrous hungering for spiritual power and experiences. This has produced fertile ground for the intrusion of pseudo-spiritual practices such as visualisation, positive thinking, positive confession, false faith teaching incorporating the deification of man, prosperity ‘hundredfold’ teaching, hypnotism, rebirthing, calling down the Spirit without reference to Jesus or His cross, and mass hypnosis practiced in some "Toronto Blessing" meetings.
The result is just as P
SUMMARY OF CHAPTER
The bible describes two types of seals or marks - the seal of God, and the mark of the beast. The seal of God designates a recognition and heartfelt acceptance of the fact that God is Jehovah Jireh, - He who provides for our every need.
The mark of the beast is implanted in us as we are conditioned through the process of buying and selling to idolise and covet material things, and to believe that our provision is through our own industry and effort. Through the mark of the beast we are indoctrinated into the philosophy of humanism, which asserts that man is capable of solving his and the world’s problems without reference to God.
The New Age Movement is a spiritual movement whose controlling agent is the second beast, or the spirit of antichrist. New Age ideology is a mixture of Western humanism, and Eastern mysticism. It declares that God is an impersonal force, in all, and comprising all; that Man is a god, with an untapped reservoir of divine power within himself; and that through enlightenment this divine power can be released to create a utopian state of peace and order; which will in turn usher in the birth of the New Age.
Before the church can be restored, it must be purged of all apostasy. Exposing the influence of Antichrist and the operation of his spirit in the church is a necessary part of the process. The next chapter will be devoted to summarising this work.
"It was granted to him [Antichrist] to make
war with the saints and to overcome them. And
THEY DID NOT RECEIVE THE LOVE OF THE TRUTH
Both Daniel and Revelation declare that God, for His own purposes, allows Antichrist to make war on the saints, and that the saints are overcome. The reason why the saints are deceived by the counterfeits of the spirit of antichrist and overcome, is "…because they did not receive the love of the truth…"
"The coming of the lawless one
is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying
wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish,
The love of the truth is an attribute of the Holy Spirit,
who is the Spirit of Truth. The Holy Spirit will always impart truth to
those who seek it earnestly--to all those who have received His love of the
truth in their hearts. But to those who have rejected the love of the
truth, the Holy Spirit is silent, and they inevitably fall prey to the
deceptions of the spirit of antichrist. Even in the early
church there were some who chose to reject the love of the truth and go their
own way. Paul charged Timothy to, take heed and "Preach the
word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke,
exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they
will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires,
The fact that the church in general has been largely overcome by Antichrist’s deceptions, is an indication of the lack of "the love of the truth" amongst professing Christians. They have forsaken sound doctrine for the pursuit of what pleases "their ears" and delights their souls, or self-lives.
The end result has been that the spirit of antichrist has found fertile ground within the church, and has been able to substitute the purity of the doctrine of Christ with a lying counterfeit. The prophetic statement in the Key Bible reading, that "[i]t was granted to [Antichrist] to make war with the saints and to overcome them," has already been fulfilled.
EXPOSING THE SPIRIT OF ANTICHRIST IN THE CHURCH
The first requirement in restoring the church is to expose the presence of the spirit of antichrist in her midst. Paul writes that, "...the lawless one [or Antichrist] will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume [or take away] with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming." (2 Thess 2:8). Antichrist and his corrupting spirit in the church will be revealed and removed by "the breath of [the Lord’s] mouth," as it is spoken by His prophets and teachers. To this point in the book, we have endeavored to expose Antichrist’s attack on the church in the following areas.
CREATION of a COUNTERFEIT CHURCH with a FALSE SPIRIT
Antichrist has created a false church which is governed by man. The Holy Spirit has been substituted by a false spirit--the spirit of antichrist--which has permeated all of the church’s activities. Local churches have been replaced by denominational churches, which have a worldly system of leadership.
DENIGRATION of CHRIST’S AUTHORITY as HEAD of the CHURCH
This, the main thrust of Antichrist’s attack on the church, has been directed through several fronts.
An Attack on the Holy Spirit.
position of the Holy Spirit as Christ’s representative in the church has been
negated to a large degree, and much of His ministry to the church has
disappeared. Counterfeit manifestations have c
Replacement of the Lord’s Leaders with Worldly Alternatives.
Lord’s gift to the church of apostles, prophets, evangelists, and shepherds and
teachers, has been replaced by professional clergymen. The
An Attack on Male Leadership
The Intrusion of Humanism.
The spirit of antichrist has conditioned all of mankind through the process of buying and selling, in order that they might be given the ‘mark’ of humanistic independence from God. Those things initiated by man, such as institutions, programs, customs, doctrines, etc, have taken precedence over the things of God. Humanistic philosophy has also penetrated the church in many areas. For example, the Faith Movement’s "you are gods," prosperity teaching, positive confession, visualization, etc. An idolatrous seeking after spiritual experiences and power, has opened the door to false miracles and lying signs and wonders. A pragmatic approach of ‘if it works it must be right,’ has replaced doctrinal integrity.
Lawlessness in the Church.
Those who have been contaminated by "the image of the beast" (who is "the lawless one"), have embraced the lawless works of the flesh. They have replaced waiting on the Lord and submission to His initiation of ministry, with their own restless and impatient zeal to perform ‘good works.’
Disclosure must precede judgment. Prior to His judgment falling, God has always warned His people through the voice of His prophets. "Surely the Lord GOD does nothing, unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets." (Amos 3:7). The end-time judgment of the church is no exception. Even now the ministry of the prophet is being restored, and the apostasies that have plagued the church are beginning to be exposed.
The "two witnesses," who prophesied "clothed in sackcloth" and whose "dead bodies" lay "in the street of the great city," are now receiving the "breath of life from God" and standing "on their feet." (Rev 11:3, 8, 11).
To those who heed the warning to, "Come out of
her, My people, lest you share in her sins, and lest
you receive of her plagues," God has promised that He "will be
a shelter for His people, and the strength of the children of
But those who harden their hearts in rebellion will bear the full brunt of the judgmental plagues falling on the church. God’s desire is that all may repent, either through heeding the warning, or through facing hard judgment. Without repentance, and the refining and preparation of an obedient remnant, there can be no restoration of the church.
FROM JUDGMENT TO RESTORATION
JUDGMENT BEFORE RESTORATION
"For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?" [1 Peter 4:17].
Shortly after Pentecost, Peter inferred that the
prophecies of the "restoration of all things" that had been "spoken
by the mouth of all [God’s] holy prophets," would have their
fulfilment in the church (i.e. amongst those who repented and had their sins "blotted
“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved
the church and gave Himself up for her, So that He might sanctify her,
having cleansed her by the washing of water with the Word, that
He might present the church to Himself in glorious splendour,
without spot or wrinkle or any such things [that she might be holy and f
The church has already been cleansed. Each
Christian is made clean at conversion by their acceptance of the word of the
gospel. That is why Christ could say to His disciples, "You are
already clean bec
Having already cleansed the church, Jesus will now "sanctify
her," to make her "holy and without blemish,"
before He returns to claim her as His bride. Through salvation, the
church is already sanctified, or ‘set apart’ to God. This is confirmed in
the manner in which P
But the Ephesians reading speaks of a further work—one
of purification, which involves being separated from the world and the
flesh. In this respect P
In order to accomplish this, the Lord must expel the
corruption from the church’s midst, just as He cleansed the
As well as speaking about the eventual restoration of the church, "all of [God's] holy prophets" warn of His children facing prior judgments and refining as a preparation for that restoration. According to the prophets, refinement of the church is an essential part of the restoration process. For example, Malachi warns of a future purging judgment to purify the house of God.
"'Behold, I send My messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me. And
the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple, even the
Messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight. Behold, He is coming,’
says the LORD of hosts. But who can endure the day of His coming?
And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire
and like l
Although this prophecy seems to be addressed to "
The messenger who "will prepare the way before" the Lord, is a clear reference to the prophetic spirit of Elijah, which rested on John the Baptist. It was John the Baptist who prepared the way for the Lord’s first coming, when Christ came as "...the Messenger of the covenant.."
However, as we have already seen, the same prophetic spirit of Elijah will return to prepare the way for the Lord's second coming. And this time Christ will come as "a refiner's fire…as a refiner and a purifier of silver." He "will purify the sons of Levi, [He has "made us kings and priests unto God" Rev 1:6 KJV] and purge them as gold and silver..."
Although the prophecy has an obvious application to the Lord's first coming, when the church was cleansed "with the washing of water by the word," there remains a more complete fulfillment of it at the close of the age. Malachi himself confirms the second appearance of the prophetic spirit of Elijah in the fourth chapter of his book. But this time the spirit of prophecy is preparing the way of the Lord when He comes again to restore all things. "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD." (Mal 4:5). It is at this time that He will "come [in]to His temple [i.e. not visibly]," and "sit as a refiner and a purifier."
JUDGMENTS OUTLINED BY ISAIAH
The second to the fifth chapters of Isaiah outline a
series of judgments which are applicable to both
Chapter 2 commences with the statement, "Now it shall come to pass in the latter days [or literally ‘the latter end of days’]…" The phrase "in that day" is then interspersed among the judgments prophesied throughout the next four chapters (Isa 2:11, 2:17, 2:20, 3:07, 3:18, 4:01, 4:02, and 5:30.) In the twelfth verse of Chapter 2, "that day" is called "the day of the LORD of hosts," with the eleventh and seventeenth verses declaring that "the LORD alone shall be exalted in that day." And in the nineteenth and twenty-first verses of Chapter 2, it is associated with the final refining work of the Lord, "when He arises to shake the earth mightily".
Even though the prophet Isaiah’s revelation is
introduced by the statement, "The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning
We will now use the prophecies from these four chapters of Isaiah as a framework for further study of the judgments and restoration which are predicted to take place "in the latter days."
THE NATURE OF GOD'S JUDGMENTS
A GIGANTIC SHAKING
In general terms, the judgments which are to fall on the church, and subsequently the whole world, are likened to a gigantic shaking. This shaking is prophesied to occur at the close of the age, and its purpose is to bring about "the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made [by man], that the things which cannot be shaken [i.e. the work of the Holy Spirit] may remain." (Heb 12:27).
All the ministries that have been initiated by man will have to face God's judgmental shaking. All that is proud, self-seeking, and self-exalting, will be bowed down. All that gives glory to man rather than God will be abased. All institutions, organizations, or ministries, which do not have their foundations and their strength in the Lord, will fall prey to the shaking. All the workings of the church will be tested by the the Lord’s shaking, and only that which is of Him will remain intact.
"The lofty looks of man shall
be humbled, the h
The REMOVAL of the HEDGE of PROTECTION
In the story of Job, Satan protested to God, "Have You not made a hedge [of protection] around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side?" (Job 1:10). Such is the normal care and protection afforded by God to all His children. But as part of the gigantic shaking, this hedge of protection will be removed from the church.
In Isaiah's prophecy in Chapter 5, God likens
When the hedge of protection surrounding the church is taken away, God's providential care and covering will have been removed. The exposed church will then be subject to attack from outside forces, and even from enemies within its own ranks. "[B]riers and thorns," or agents of deceit and deception, will spring up within its midst. Its cherished walls of tradition and doctrine will "break down" and all the proud outward show will be "trampled down." The pleasant rain of spiritual light and truth will be withdrawn, and the church will be confounded in a climate of spiritual darkness.
It is only in this way that the spirit of antichrist can be fully exposed. "For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains [the Holy Spirit] will do so until He is taken out of the way [so removing the hedge of protection]. And then the lawless one will be revealed…" (2 Thess 2:7-8). When the Holy Spirit’s restraining hand is taken away, the darkness and deception forged by the spirit of antichrist will become so obvious that all will be able to recognise it. It is in these circumstances that people will be challenged to repent, turning away from the darkness of Antichrist and towards the light of truth.
GOD’S GREAT ARMY
Who are the agents used by God to c
Joel evokes a startling picture of the horrific nature of their attack with highly symbolic language; "A fire devours before them, and behind them a fire burns…Surely nothing shall escape them…Before them the people writhe in pain; All faces are drained of color…The earth quakes before them, the heavens tremble; the sun and moon grow dark, and the stars diminish their brightness." (Joel 2:3, 6, 10).
Far from being out of God's will, these tormenting invaders are directly referred to by God as, "...My great army which I sent among you…The LORD gives voice before His army, for His camp is very great; for strong is the One who executes His word. For the day of the LORD is great and very terrible; who can endure it?" (Joel 2:25and11).
By removing the hedge of protection, God allows His idolatrous children to become oppressed by the spirits that have always been behind those things which have obsessed them. Now without restraint, "They [the demon spirits] run to and fro in the city, they run on the wall; they climb into the houses, they enter at the windows like a thief." (Joel 2:9).
SOME SPECIFIC JUDGEMENTS
The JUDGMENT of LEADERS
God has consistently held leaders accountable for the spiritual state of their people. Consequently it is the leaders who will be the first to encounter the judgment that is to fall on the church.
The Book of Isaiah declares that it is the leaders who
have led the people into error, and then pronounces God's coming judgment upon
them. "'As for My people, children are their oppressors, and
women rule over them. O My people! Those who lead you c
In the eighth and ninth chapters of Ezekiel, the
prophet describes how the Lord showed him a vision of the apostasy committed by
the leaders who were in charge of God's sanctuary. Then the Lord showed
Ezekiel how He would execute judgment on the city of
This prophecy has its counterpart in the Book of
Revelation, where the Lord's faithful are likewise ‘sealed’ on their foreheads,
and so set apart from the ensuing judgments. We may therefore assume,
that whilst there has already been partial fulfillments of this prophecy in the
various historical onsl
In Ezekiel’s prophecy, after sealing the righteous the Lord commands, "'Go after him through the city and kill [literally ‘strike’]; do not let your eye spare, nor have any pity. Utterly slay [or cast down] old and young men, maidens and little children and women; but do not come near anyone on whom is the mark; and begin at My sanctuary.’ So they began with the elders who were before the temple." (Ezek 9:5-6).
The people here are symbolic, and the language used is
figurative. Nevertheless the prophecy depicts a severe judgment falling
Among the leaders, those who are prophets are singled out for particular condemnation. The main task of the prophet is to be the Lord's faithful instrument, presenting uncompromising truth to turn the people from their wayward paths. When the prophetic office is functioning properly, the Lord's knowledge for the peoples’ circumstances (as delivered by His prophets), becomes an effective wall of protection from the powers of darkness.
In rebuking the false prophets of his day, Ezekiel
said, "You have not gone up into the gaps to build a wall for the house
We are reminded that our spiritual identity and
history have their roots in the Old Testament. We are spiritual
In many ways, the modern church faces the same dilemma
Prophets in general have prophesied that the church will not have to face tribulation. Instead they say she will be conveniently ‘raptured away’ before judgment falls. Prophecies of judgment, suffering, and refinement, are dismissed as negative. On the other hand, prophecies of "the latter rain" glory are loudly proclaimed. Few are the voices that cry "Repent!", or, "The Lord's judgment is at hand." As a consequence, liberality replaces morality and holiness, and unqualified ‘unity’ replaces separation from apostasy.
Hosea's warning is all too relevant: "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge." (Hosea 4:6). In God's eyes, church leaders are held accountable. Even now His judgment is falling. Leaders and their ministries who previously enjoyed worldwide acclaim, are now having their false foundations exposed. "The anger of the LORD will not turn back until He has executed and performed the intents of His heart. In the latter days you will understand it perfectly." (Jer 23:20).
The REMOVAL of the STOCK and the STORE
An important element of the restoration process is the removal from the church of all those worldly things that have captivated us in the past. Isaiah warns, "For behold, the Lord, the LORD of hosts, takes away from Jerusalem and from Judah the stock and the store, the whole supply of bread and the whole supply of water; the mighty man and the man of war, the judge and the prophet, and the diviner and the elder; the captain of fifty and the honorable man, the counselor and the skillful artisan, and the expert enchanter." (Isa 3:1-3).
"Stock" and "store" are translated "stay" and "staff" in the King James Version. "Stay" and "staff" are the masculine and feminine forms of the one Hebrew word for all kinds of support. Removing the stay and the staff does not mean the complete removal of the absolute essentials to life. But it does mean the removal of all those supports or props that people turn to and depend on for security, instead of being dependant on God.
The removal of "the stock and the store" foreshadows a significant collapse of the international economy, exposing mankind’s misguided reliance on ‘financial security.’ This new state of affairs will be in direct contrast to that which is portrayed by Isaiah. "Their land is also full of silver and gold, and there is no end to their treasures…" (2:7).
Life after the removal of all but the basic necessities of life, is dramatically portrayed by the vision of the black horse in Revelation. "So I looked, and behold, a black horse, and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand. And I heard a voice in the midst of the four living creatures saying, ‘A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not harm the oil and the wine.’" (Rev 6:5-6). "A quart of wheat…and three quarts of barley…" do not speak of starvation, but reduction to the basic needs supporting life. In order to break Antichrist’s control over us, God will remove all the non essential things that have cluttered our lives and captivated our hearts.
The reading from Isaiah 3 goes beyond God’s judgment of luxuries and unnecessary items of life. It also includes His judgment on a number of other props and supports that man has gathered around himself. In this category are all the notable figures in society to whom man turns for help, rather than relying on God.
"the mighty man," World leaders
will be unable and unwilling to lead the world out of its devastation.
"When a man takes hold of his brother in the house of his father, saying,
‘You have clothing [or ‘authority’]; you be our ruler, and let these ruins be
under your power,’ in that day he will protest, saying, ‘I cannot cure your
ills, for in my house is neither food nor clothing [i.e. ‘neither knowledge nor
"the man of war" Reliance on military strength will prove futile.
"the judge" The judicial system will prove unreliable in its judgments.
"the prophet" Highly acclaimed spiritual prophets will be exposed as false.
"the diviner" Occultist spirit guides, tarot cards, astrology charts etc. will all fail.
"the elder" Not biblical ‘elders,’ but trusted older persons to whom people go to for advice. They too will be as confused and perplexed as everyone else.
"the captain of fifty" Symbolizing
officialdom or bure
"the honorable man" The wisdom and skills of those who are exalted and held in high esteem will amount to nothing.
"the counselor" Consultants will have no answers. Their fields of expertise will not be appropriate.
"the skillful artisan" Those internationally acclaimed entertainers and artists who are idolized by the world will prove to be empty vessels.
"the expert enchanter" The skilled orator. Eloquence, or the ability to speak on any topic, will also be seen to be useless.
Turning to the world’s provision, or to the empty promises of the New Age Movement, will prove to be fruitless. In general terms, the cutting off of "the stay and the staff" represents the removal of all those things which turn man away from trusting in God as "Jehovah Jireh," (or ‘He who provides"). It is the removal of all the man-made supports, so that man is humbled, and his heart is turned back to God in repentance.
JUDGMENT of HEADSTRONG WOMEN
pronouncing judgment on the leaders of His people, the Lord singles out
militant feminists for special condemnation and judgment. "Moreover
the LORD says: 'Bec
The women to whom this prophecy is addressed, are
those who have rebelled against submission to God’s delegated
Figurative language is then used to describe their debasement. The manner of their humiliation will be that "the Lord will uncover their secret parts," which is a reference to their self centredness and their hidden sin. In other words, He will expose their true motives, and in doing so will also "uncover" the real spiritual entity behind the ‘Women's Movement’—the spirit of antichrist.
God’s consistent and uncompromising judgment on women
who seize illegitimate
In the New Testament account, the symbolic "Jezebel"
of Thyatira is to Christ and His church, what King Ahab's wife Jezebel was to
him and the nation
"Nevertheless [says the Lord,]
I have a few things against you, bec
The covenant relationship between God and His Old
Testament people was regarded as a marriage. Any transgression against
this covenant was therefore called harlotry, fornication, or adultery.
Christ uses the same symbolic language to condemn the spirit of Jezebel—a
spirit which rebelliously appropriates false
In the passage from Isaiah concerning God's judgment
of "the d
The statement of God’s judgment in this area begins, "In that day the LORD will take away the finery..." The results of this specific judgment are then represented by a number of striking contrasts: "And so it shall be:
Instead of a sweet smell there will be a stench [of exposed sin]; Instead of a sash, a rope [of servitude]; Instead of well-set hair, baldness [or debasement]; Instead of a rich robe, a girding of sackcloth [for mourning]; and branding instead of beauty… Her gates [or positions of leadership] shall lament and mourn, and she being desolate shall sit on the ground [in humility]." (Isa 3:24-26).
THE CULMINATION OF THE JUDGMENT OF THE CHURCH
Since "Righteousness and justice are the foundation of [God’s] throne," it is inevitable that apostasy in the church will be punished. The church must be judged, even before the rest of the world is judged. But whereas the judgment of those who have rejected God will lead to their damnation, the judgment of those in the church is directed to their refinement and sanctification.
In the twelfth and final chapter of the Book of Daniel, the prophet foretells of "...a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation, even to that time." (12:1b). This prophecy is applicable to the tribulation of the Jewish nation at the hands of the Romans, but it also has a further fulfillment in the tribulation of the church at the end of the age. Thankfully this proclamation of tribulation contains a sure promise of deliverance for God's faithful children. "And at that time your people shall be delivered, every one who is found written in the book." (12:1c).
In the vision Daniel saw, the question was asked, "How long shall the fulfillment of these wonders be?" (Dan 12:6). The answer given was, "that it shall be for a time, times, and half a time [i.e. three and a half years or the symbolic period for tribulation]; and when the power of the holy people has been completely shattered, all these things shall be finished." (Dan 12:7).
The prophet Daniel is telling us something very significant here. He is saying that the shattering of the natural or soulish power of "the holy people" (or carnal Christians), will mark the end of judgment. That is to say that when the power of flesh is finally broken, then judgment will cease and men will turn back in repentance to the Lord. "Many shall be purified, made white, and refined.." (Dan 12:10).
Daniel concludes, "Blessed, happy, fortunate, spiritually prosperous, and to be envied is he who waits expectantly and earnestly--who endures without wavering beyond the period of tribulation--" (Dan 12:11 Amp Bib). He who "endures" will reap the rewards associated with restoration.
In the biblical picture of God’s judgments "in the latter days," it is the church that is to be judged first. This is so that she may be refined and sanctified, prepared as a bride for the return of her husband.
Judgment of the church will be precipitated by the
removal of God’s hedge of protection, and a gigantic shaking of all
institutions will follow to test the
Specific aspects of God’s judgment will be directed towards church leaders and militant women, as well as the breaking of Antichrist’s control over mankind by the removal of the stock and the store.
These purging judgments will continue until the power of flesh is broken, and the church turns in repentance to enthrone Jesus Christ as her Head.
THE FINAL CONFLICT
Armageddon is the Greek name for the
"Then the sixth angel poured
out his bowl on the great river
"Now when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle, whose number is as the sand of the sea. They went up on the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them. The devil [Satan], who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast [Antichrist] and the false prophet [the spirit of antichrist] are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever." (Rev 20:7-10).
Whereas the Old Testament battles were physical in nature, the end time battle of Armageddon is a spiritual battle between Antichrist and the False Prophet, and Jesus Christ and His saints. It is a battle between light and darkness--the light of Jesus Christ against the darkness and deceptions of Antichrist. At stake are the souls of every individual person.
In the Great Tribulation of the Jews, the physical
Those INSIDE the CHURCH
The true church has already been infiltrated, just
like the field in Jesus’ parable of the wheat and the tares. The tares
are those in the worldly church who have rejected the Spirit of Truth, and have
In this following reading, the apostle P
The church is flooded with false ministries, false
doctrines, and heresies--E.g. the false ecumenism that promotes a universal
church under the power of
Lawlessness abounds and many are disillusioned as a
result. "And bec
The tide of humanism engulfs the church, promoting New
Age philosophies and practices. These false
Deceiving spirits incite pseudo-spiritual experiences with accompanying lying signs and wonders.
Those OUTSIDE the CHURCH
Constant enticement by the spirits of the world draws people into the lustful pursuit of material wealth and luxury, licentiousness and sexual perversion, drunkenness and drug abuse, and other uninhibited worldly ‘pleasures.’
Occultist practice becomes more prevalent and gains ‘respectability.’ Eastern religions gain increasing acceptance as a ‘valid’ approach to God. The growing number of competing sects creates a confusing religious climate.
HE WHO RESTRAINS IS TAKEN AWAY
In our first reading from Revelation (16:12-16), the
River Euphrates was dried up to make way for the kings from the east. In
a historical sense, the River Euphrates formed a natural barrier which
The following statement from the second Revelation reading (20:7-10), is also associated with this analogy: "Now when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations…" The "thousand years" is the period of the church age, during which time Satan’s power to deceive the nations has been bound, or limited, by the saints declaration of the truth of the gospel.
The removal of God’s restraining barrier in these two readings, corresponds with the opening of the pit in Revelation 9:1-11, when hordes of deceiving demon spirits are released to torment mankind; as well as the ‘death of the two witnesses’ in Revelation 11:7-10, when the voice of prophecy is silenced.
When "He who now restrains…is taken out of the way," the flood of spiritual darkness will renew Satan’s power to accuse the nations. The release of so much Satanic activity may not sit comfortably with our human understanding of a loving God. However it is absolutely necessary to remove all the restraints on Antichrist’s activities, so that he and his corrupt workings can be brought out into the open and fully exposed. This is "…the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth." (Rev 3:10).
In both of the bible readings at the start of this chapter, a flood of deceit and deception issue forth from spirits of Satan--initiating lying wonders and heretical doctrines which directly oppose "the testimony of Jesus Christ."(Rev 12:17).
Those who have loved darkness rather than the light of truth, will be drawn further into the darkness of Antichrist’s kingdom. The prophet Isaiah confirms that this will include much of the world’s population when he says, "For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and deep darkness the people…" (Isa 60:2).
Others who have been deceived by the subtlety of Antichrist’s counterfeits, will repent as the extent of his deceptions become apparent to them.
THE CHURCH WILL SUFFER PRIVATION
The ‘restoration’ prophet Zechariah provides us with another perspective on this last great conflict. So horrendous is the shaking of the church, and so devastating is its effect on nominal Christians, that not all will survive. Again, the language used in the prophecy is figurative: "Behold, the day of the LORD is coming, and your spoil will be divided in your midst [i.e. your wealth will become the plunder or booty of others]. For I will gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem [who is the church]; the city shall be taken, the houses rifled, and the women ravished. Half of the city shall go into captivity, but the remnant of the people shall not be cut off from the city." (Zech 14:1-2).
The picture presented here is one of calamitous
ruin. The church is overtaken by arduous trial and hardship. The
nations, or all those who are under Satan's controlling influence, are arrayed
When "the stock and the store" is
removed from worldly institutions they go into bankruptcy. Bec
Rebellious women, left 'uncovered' by their lack of
submission to Christ's
When contemplating such a time, we are to remember the Lord's exhortation to the saints who are facing the persecution of the Beast, or Antichrist. "If anyone has an ear, let him hear. He who leads into captivity shall go into captivity; he who kills with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and faith of the saints." (Rev 13:9-10).
The wicked must bear the fruit of their wickedness. On the other hand, the saints are called to "patience" and "faith." The Greek word ‘hupomone’ which is translated here as "patience," has within its meaning the twin elements of perseverance and endurance. Those who endure, or persevere, in the faith of the Lord will be "[b]lessed, happy, fortunate, [and] spiritually prosperous" in "...the times of restoration of all things.." (Dan 12:11 Amp & Acts 3:21).
ANTICHRIST’S CONTROL OVER MAN Is BROKEN
In this time of utter privation and apparent defeat, Antichrist is to be dealt a deadly blow. With the collapse of the world's economy, all that human endeavour devoted to accumulating wealth and possessions will be shown to have accomplished nothing. Worldly luxuries and pleasures will have been stripped away. And famous figures and international institutions that people once turned to will prove empty vessels, offering no wisdom or comfort.
In this climate, Antichrist’s weapon of using the process of buying and selling to hold mankind in bondage, will no longer have any force. Formerly, "...the kings of earth...and the inhabitants of the earth were made drunk with the wine of her fornication." (Rev17:2). But now Antichrist’s control over mankind is cut off.
People who were formerly engrossed in ‘getting’ and ‘achieving,’ are now confronted with the realisation that their lives to this point have been shallow and empty. For the very first time their hearts are opened to receive the path of the Lord Jesus Christ as an attainable as well as desirable alternative.
In what seems to be a picture of hopelessly irretrievable devastation, the Lord has in fact created the perfect climate for restoration. Those who were previously captivated by the pursuit of worldly goods and pleasures, are now be ready to turn to Him in repentance. It is a climate in which untold numbers of lost souls will be brought into the Lord's kingdom.
The task of leading these people back to the Lord, and restoring His church, is entrusted to a prepared and faithful remnant. Note that Zechariah’s prophecy said, "Half of the city shall go into captivity, but the remnant of the people shall not be cut off from the city." (14:2).
God's restoration army must be well
prepared. Even now there are many in readiness. They are as "polished
shaft[s]…in His quiver..." (Is 49:2). No strangers to privation
and suffering, they have already submitted to the ‘path of the cross’ and
experienced the refining discipline of the Holy Spirit. They have been t
When the Lord's glory re-enters the church, it will not accommodate the flesh. It will rest upon His prepared and refined remnant
End time prophets have a key role in this restoration army. The prophetic teaching ministry of "the two witnesses" is currently being restored to the church. God is revealing His purposes to these specially prepared vessels, who will ultimately have the responsibility of preparing the way for the destruction of the works of Antichrist, and the restoration of Christ’s church.
THE LORD WILL ENTER THE CONFLICT
In continuing with Zechariah's prophecy, we find that
after the initial devastation of the church, the Lord will intervene in the
conflict. "Then the LORD will go forth and fight against those
nations, as He fights in the day of battle. And in that day His feet
will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces
This intervention by the Lord into the affairs of the
church in its time of trouble, should not to be confused with His visible
second coming. At that time, "...the Lord Himself will descend
from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet
of God...Then we who are alive and remain shall be c
That visible advent will be so dramatic and spectacular, that no one will be able to miss it. Jesus said, "For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the [second] coming of the Son of Man be." (Matt 24:27).
FEET Will STAND On The
By comparison, Zechariah's account of the Lord's
intervention into the affairs of the church is described in the following
terms. "And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of
Olives, which faces
The statement, "...His feet will stand on the
We have an example of this in the case of God
'standing' on the rock of Horeb. "And
the Lord said to Moses, ‘Go on before the people, and take with you some of the
We have a similar example in Micah, where figurative
language is used to describe how God will intervene in judgment. "For
behold, the LORD is coming out of His place; He will come down and tread on
the high places of the earth. The mountains will melt under him, and
the valleys will split like wax before the fire, like waters poured down a
steep place. All this is for the transgression of Jacob and for the sins
of the house of
And when the prophet Ezekiel was describing the departure of the Lord’s glory from the temple, or the church, he wrote, "And the glory of the LORD went up from the midst of the city and stood on the mountain, which is on the east side of the city [ie the Mount of Olives]." (Ezek 11:23).
So when Zechariah says "...His feet will stand
This same event is described by Ezekiel in similar terms: "And the glory of the LORD came into the temple by way of the gate which faces toward the east [i.e. from the direction of the Mount of Olives]…And He said to me, ‘Son of man, this is the place of the soles of My feet, where I will dwell in the midst of the children of Israel forever." (Ezek 43:4, 7).
SEPARATION Of The WORKS Of CHRIST From The WORKS Of ANTICHRIST
In describing the nature of the Lord’s intervention,
Zechariah goes onto declare that "...the
In a geographical sense, the northern half of the
mountain is portrayed as moving towards the pagan nations who have been
traditionally hostile to Judah, such as the Babylonian Empire.
The two mountains that are thus formed, represent on the one hand the manifest works of Christ, and on the other the manifest works of Antichrist. Their separation into two separately identifiable mountains, indicates that the Lord will clearly distinguish the works of Antichrist from the true works of Christ.
The CHURCH Will Be A SAFE HAVEN
Zechariah’s prophecy continues with a vivid account of the importance of the valley that separates the two mountains. The significance of this is brought out more clearly in "Young’s Literal Translation of the Holy Bible."
ye have fled to the valley of My mountains, For
join doth the valley of the mountains to Azal, And ye have fled as ye
fled before the shaking,
In the days of Uzziah king of Judah, And come in hath Jehovah my God, All holy ones are with Thee." (Zech 14:5).
commentators have suggested that this "very large valley" is
an escape route or tunnel for people fleeing from
The Lord will enter His church as a refiner and purifier. He will unmask the works of Antichrist, and purge out the apostasy, so that it will be fit for His glory to remain. Subsequently there will be a huge harvest of souls as countless thousands, even from the wilderness of the nations, flee from God’s judgmental wrath into the church.
We have observed in Zechariah 14 that when the presence of the Lord enters the church, "[t]hen the LORD will go forth and fight against those nations," or all those who oppose Him. This battle will be fought on two fronts, one on earth, and the other in heaven. Note that the following passage from the Book of Revelation mentions both "...the armies of heaven..." and "...the kings of the earth, and their armies.."
"Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS…And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army. Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone. And the rest were killed with the sword which proceeded from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse..." (Rev 19:11-16, 19-21).
In the battle in the heavens, the antagonists are Jesus Christ and His angels, and Antichrist and the dark powers of Satan supporting him. In the battle on earth the saints, "…and those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful," are opposed by those under the power of Antichrist. The Lord directs His army on earth, supplying them with the weapons they need to overcome the opposing spiritual darkness. These weapons are the blood of the Lamb, the word of God, and the sharp sword of the Spirit of truth that proceeds from His mouth.
The outcome of the warfare in the heavens is dependent
upon the progress of the conflict on earth. As the Lord’s army wields the
weapons of light and truth on earth, Antichrist’s hold over mankind becomes
weaker and weaker, and his spiritual
As commander of His restoration army, the Lord will unmask and destroy the works of Antichrist. "And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming." (2 Thess 2:8). Jesus Christ will be, "KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS."
Armageddon, the last climactic battle between Christ and Antichrist, is a spiritual battle between the darkness and deceptions of Antichrist, and the light and truth of Jesus Christ.
God will deliberately remove His restraints on Antichrist’s activities, so that they are exposed and brought out into the open for all to see. When the Lord enters the conflict, His servants will present light and truth. The light of Jesus Christ and the darkness of Antichrist will be clearly contrasted.
As Christ’s servants on earth wield the sword of
spiritual truth, Antichrist’s legal
During the progress of this battle, the Lord will provide a pathway for individual Christians to flee into the cleansed and restored church--into His sanctuary of perfect rest and the abiding presence of their Lord.
In previous chapters we have shown that the crux of
restoration is in returning to the pattern of the early New Testament church,
and that a key part of this process is the disclosure of all apostasy
introduced into the church by the spirit of Antichrist. Once the
falseness in the church’s midst has been exposed, the obvious next step will be
to cleanse her from all error--all heresy, all false teachings and false
doctrines, all false
The thirty-ninth chapter of the Book of Ezekiel presents us with a figurative account of this cleansing process. But first we will consider the prophet’s account of Antichrist’s defeat in the preceding chapter.
EZEKIEL Chapter 38
Both Ezekiel 38 and 39 provide a figurative portrayal of the last great battle between Antichrist and his confederacy, and Jesus Christ and His church. Ezekiel 38:2, 5, 6, list the church’s antagonists as "...Gog, of the land of Magog," together with "Persia, Ethiopia, and Libya…Gomer and all its troops; the house of Togarmah from the far north and all its troops--many people..."
Gog’s original kingdom was Magog, but then he acquired
Meshech and Tubal, and so his title became "…Gog, of the land of Magog,
the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal..." This barbaric horde
was apparently well known in Ezekiel’s time, and it subsequently became a
biblical type of the great anti-Christian confederacy that would ass
In Revelation 20:8, we are told that Satan "...will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle, whose number is as the sand of the sea." The "nations" mentioned here are more than those of Gog’s original confederacy. The phrases "...which are in the four corners of the earth..." and "...whose number is as the sand of the sea..." are used symbolically, to indicate the multi-directional and many pronged attack on the church.
Again we stress that this end-time conflict is a
spiritual battle between Christ and Antichrist. We should not expect to
see the physical armies of the world surrounding all the members of the true
church gathered together within the ancient walls of the city of
The church has already been attacked on many
fronts. Examples of this multi-faceted ass
The instruments that Antichrist will use in this final conflict with the church are all those people over whom he has gained a measure of control--both those in the world, and those in the apostate church. But the real opponents of the church will be the demon spirits through which he has gained that measure of control. "And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs coming out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty." [Rev 16:13-14).
The full ass
Already we can see the beginnings of the shaking of
the church, and of the world, that is prophesied throughout the bible.
Ezekiel’s prophecy declares, "Surely in that day there shall be a great
earthquake [literally ‘a great shaking’] in the land of Israel
[i.e. the church], so that the fish of the sea, the birds of the heavens,
the beasts of the field, all creeping things that creep on the earth, and all
men who are on the face of the earth [i.e. the whole world] shall shake
at My presence. The mountains [or exalted
As the church is being shaken in this manner, apostasies are being brought to the fore and exposed, and God’s judgments are being manifested. In many places Christians are coming out of the apostate church and finding shelter and nourishment in home fellowships. Others who have persisted in their involvement with Antichrist’s counterfeit spiritual experiences, are suffering spiritual oppression and deadness. And some who are without strong roots in the Lord have become disillusioned and left the church altogether.
All this must happen before the Lord enters into the
conflict to bring about restoration. But we can also be assured of the
faithfulness of God, who has promised to preserve a steadfast remnant to be the
Lord’s instruments of restoration. "For I will gather all the
nations to battle against
The vulnerability and defenselessness of the church in her present state is reflected in the way she is perceived by Antichrist. "You will say, 'I will go up against a land of unwalled villages; I will go to a peaceful people, who dwell safely, all of them dwelling without walls, and having neither bars nor gates'" (Ezek 38:11) Her watchmen--the prophets and elders--are asleep. No one is guarding her with saving truth.
Antichrist’s attack will be relentless. "You will ascend, coming like a storm, covering the land like a cloud, you and all your troops and many people with you." (Ezek 38:9). However his aggression will prove futile, and God’s name will be magnified by the inglorious manner of Antichrist’s defeat.
"'I will call for a sword against Gog throughout all My mountains, "…says the Lord GOD. ‘Every man’s sword will be against his brother. And I will bring him to judgment with pestilence and bloodshed; I will rain down on him, on his troops, and on the many peoples who are with him, flooding rain, great hailstones, fire, and brimstone [all symbols of judgment]. Thus I will magnify Myself and sanctify [or ‘set apart’] Myself, and I will be known in the eyes of many nations. Then they shall know that I am the LORD.’" (Ezek 38:21-23).
Note the specific nature of God’s judgment: "Every
man's sword will be against his brother." Antichrist’s
CLEANSING THE LAND
EZEKIEL Chapter 39
For emphasis, Chapter 39 begins by repeating God’s
prophetic announcement of Antichrist’s defeat. "'Behold, I am
against you, O Gog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal; and I will turn
you around and lead you on, bringing you up from the far north, and bring
you against the mountains of Israel. Then I will knock the bow out of
your left hand, and c
Antichrist will be unmasked and destroyed by the truth, when "..I [God] will make My holy name known in the midst of My people." Following this disclosure of the deceptions of Antichrist and his subsequent downfall, there will be a period of cleansing and purifying the land, or church, from all of his weapons of deception and error.
"'Then those who dwell in the
cities of Israel will go out and set on fire and burn the weapons, both the
shields and bucklers, the bows and arrows, the javelins and spears; and they
will make fires with them for seven years. They will not take wood from
the field nor cut down any from the forests, bec
"Then those who dwell in the
Those who have adopted false positions are to be
‘plundered’ and ‘pillaged,’ or stripped of their
At first the task of cleansing the church will be
every Christian’s responsibility. "'Indeed all the people of
the land will be burying them, and they will gain renown for it on the day
that I am glorified,’ says the Lord GOD." (Ezek 39:13). It will
involve earnest self examination, repentance, and deliverance from anything
taken on board in the past. This individual process will occupy a lesser
time than the overall cleansing of the church, but it will be thorough and
complete. "For seven months the house of
The longer process of cleansing and purifying the whole church will be entrusted to those with special commissions and anointings. "They will set apart men regularly employed, with the help of a search party, to pass through the land and bury those bodies remaining on the ground, in order to cleanse it. At the end of seven months they will make a search. The search party will pass through the land; and when anyone sees a man’s bone, he shall set up a marker by it, till the buriers have buried it..." (Ezek 39:14-15).
The Lord has already commissioned and anointed some of His servants to examine movements and ministries, exposing all that is in reality opposed to the doctrine of Christ. Elders, and their ministries of teaching and deliverance, will be increasingly used in the process of burying out of sight all that has intruded into the church through the spirit of Antichrist.
Those who resist or reject the cleansing of the church will be expelled from her midst. They are in fact singled out for judgment by the very spirits of darkness that they have embraced.
"And as for you, son of man, thus says the Lord GOD, ‘Speak to every sort of bird and to every beast of the field [symbolising demon spirits]: "Assemble yourselves and come; gather together from all sides to My sacrificial meal which I am sacrificing for you, a great sacrificial meal on the mountains of Israel, that you may eat flesh and drink blood. You shall eat the flesh of the mighty, drink the blood of the princes of the earth, of rams and lambs, of goats and bulls, all of them fatlings of Bashan [symbolising pride and exaltation of self]. You shall eat fat till you are full, and drink blood till you are drunk, at My sacrificial meal which I am sacrificing for you. You shall be filled at My table with horses and riders, with mighty men and with all the men of war,"’ says the Lord GOD." (Ezek 39:17-20). Especially singled out for "the supper of the great God" (Rev 19:17), are those ‘dignitaries’ who have wrongfully established themselves in exalted positions, and opposed the working of the true church.
Following this spiritual cleansing of the church, God will pour forth His mercy and grace, and restore to her those who had been taken captive by the spirit of Antichrist. "Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: ‘Now I will bring back the captives of Jacob, and have mercy on the whole house of Israel; and I will be jealous for My holy name--after they have borne their shame, and all their unfaithfulness in which they were unfaithful to Me, when they dwelt safely in their own land and no one made them afraid.’" (Ezek 39:25-26).
After the church has been cleansed and purified, the glory of the Lord will return to her midst. "I will set My glory among the nations; all the nations shall see My judgment which I have executed, and My hand which I have laid on them. So the house of Israel shall know that I am the LORD their God from that day forward…When I have brought them back from the peoples and gathered them out of their enemies’ lands, and I am hallowed in them in the sight of many nations…" (Ezek 39:21-22, 27).
THE LORD'S GLORY WILL RE-ENTER THE CHURCH
The ultimate result of the Lord’s intervention into
the final conflict, is the return of His glory into the temple (which is a type
of the church). Earlier on in the Book of Ezekiel, the prophet describes
the glory of the Lord departing from the temple, or church, and resting on the
Later, Ezekiel prophesies the glory of the Lord
returning from the
Zechariah prophesies that one outcome of the Lord
separating the works of Antichrist from the true works of Christ, and purging
out all that defiles, will be a pouring forth of the Spirit into the
world. "And in that day it shall be that living waters [which
is a picture of the Holy Spirit] shall flow from
This pouring forth of the Spirit is confirmed by the account of living waters flowing from the threshold of Ezekiel’s temple, (which is a figurative picture of the restored church). The prophet Ezekiel describes ever increasing rivers of living water flow out from the glory of the Lord to the surrounding nations, ‘healing’ all who are touched by it. As a result, multitudes of ‘fish,’ or lost souls, are harvested to the Lord.
"Then He brought me back to
the door of the temple; and there was water, flowing from under the threshold
of the temple toward the east...Then He said to me: ‘This water flows toward
the eastern region, goes down into the valley, and enters the sea. When
it reaches the sea, its waters are healed. And it shall be that every
living thing that moves, wherever the rivers go, will live. There
will be a very great multitude of fish, bec
From a strictly geographical perspective, the water symbolising the Holy Spirit flows out towards the Valley of
the Jordan River, and then into the
While even the most barren areas will receive spiritual life from this ‘healing’ ministry of the Holy Spirit, we are warned that those who stubbornly resist the Spirit will continue to stagnate and remain spiritually dead. "But its swamps and marshes will not be healed; they will be given over to salt."
In clear contrast, those who do receive the river
become healthy and fruitful. "Along the banks of the river…will
grow all kinds of trees used for food; their leaves will not wither, and their
fruit will not fail. They will bear fruit every month, bec
This same prophetic picture is reproduced in the New Testament book of Revelation, underlining its application and importance to the Christian church at the end of the age. The apostle John relates a vision of the restored church as "...the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride, adorned for her husband." (Rev 21:2). And at the end of his description of the beautiful city, he mentions a river "…of life.."
"And [the angel] showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations." (Rev 22:1-2).
MORE MANIFESTATIONS OF RESTORATION FROM THE SCRIPTURES
The FORMER and the LATTER RAIN
Using the analogy of the former rain and the latter rain, Joel prophesies that God will send forth His Spirit at the end of the age, precipitating a huge harvest.
"Be glad then, you children of
The "former rain" is the equivalent of the first rains of the season, which enable the crop to germinate and grow. Applying this to the church, the former rain of the Spirit fell on the early church at Pentecost. The "latter rain" is then necessary for the crop to fill out in ear before the harvest. In the history of the church, this ‘later rain’ represents the pouring out of the Spirit to produce a huge harvest of souls at the end of the age.
Joel’s picture is one of restoration, abundance, and satisfaction, in the church. God promises, "The threshing floors shall be full of wheat, and the vats shall overflow with new wine and oil. So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten..."
A HUGE HARVEST
Isaiah prophesies that not only the Gentiles, or those
outside of the church, will be saved. He also includes "your
sons" and "your d
The influx of new believers into the restored church will increase rapidly, but this will only occur in God’s time. "A little one shall become a thousand, and a small one a strong nation. I, the LORD, will hasten it in its time." (Isa 60:22).
LIGHT Will PREVAIL Over DARKNESS
Isaiah starkly contrasts the darkness of the
In a similar vein, the prophet Daniel described the restored and refined remnant as standing out like bright stars in a dark sky. "Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever." [Dan 12:3].
And Malachi vividly compares the fate of the righteous with those who persist in wickedness. "'For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, and all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble. And the day which is coming shall burn them up,’ says the LORD of hosts, ‘that will leave them neither root nor branch. But to you who fear My name the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings; and you shall go out and grow fat like stall-fed calves. You shall trample the wicked, for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day that I do this,’ says the LORD of hosts." (Mal 4:1-3).
REPENTANCE and SUBJECTION to AUTHORITY
When the truth is revealed, many in the apostate
church will repent and subject themselves to Christ’s delegated
The RESTORED CHURCH Will Have An ABUNDANCE Of All THINGS
Restoration prophecies make it plain that the restored church will be provided with all that is necessary to minister aid to the huge influx of saints.
"Then you shall see and become
radiant, and your heart shall swell with joy; bec
These pictures are not literal, but rather figurative expressions of the Lord’s provision. Paul told the Corinthian church that, "...God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work." (2 Cor 9:8). It was said of the early church, "[n]or was there anyone among them who lacked..." (Acts 4:34). We should not expect the restored church to have a huge store of accumulated wealth. But she will have "all sufficiency" and "an abundance" to minister to every need.
The PRESENCE of the LORD in HER MIDST will be HER LIGHT
Isaiah wrote that the presence of the Lord in the midst of the saints would be their light. "The sun shall no longer be your light by day, nor for brightness shall the moon give light to you; but the LORD will be to you an everlasting light, and your God your glory. Your sun shall no longer go down, nor shall your moon withdraw itself; for the LORD will be your everlasting light, and the days of your mourning [of not knowing the Lord] shall be ended." (Isa 60:19-20).
In speaking of the New Covenant, the
As the apostle John reports in his vision of the New Jerusalem, "…I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light. And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light…(there shall be no night there)." (Rev 21:22-24, 25).
‘HOLINESS to the LORD’
The Lord "...will sit as a refiner and a
purifier of silver; He will purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and
silver, that they may offer to the LORD an offering in righteousness."
(Mal 3:3). "And it shall come to pass that he who is left in
This refining work of the Lord will be so profound
that even the most mundane objects will be declared holy, or ‘set apart’ for
His work. "In that day ‘HOLINESS TO THE LORD’ shall be engraved
on the bells of the horses. The pots in the LORD’S house shall be like
the bowls before the altar. Yes, every pot in
PEACE JOY and ACCLAIM
"For thus says the LORD: ‘Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the Gentiles like a flowing stream.’" (Isa 66:12).
"Instead of your shame you shall have double honor, and instead of confusion they shall rejoice in their portion. Therefore in their land they shall possess double; everlasting joy shall be theirs…Their descendants shall be known among the Gentiles, and their offspring among the people. All who see them shall acknowledge them, that they are the posterity whom the LORD has blessed." (Isa 61:7-9).
The SAINTS Will Be ‘A CROWN Of GLORY’
"You shall also be a crown of glory in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God. You shall no longer be termed Forsaken, nor shall your land any more be termed Desolate; but you shall be called Hephzibah [literally ‘My Delight Is In Her’], and your land Beulah [literally ‘Married’]; for the LORD delights in you, and your land shall be married. For as a young man marries a virgin, so shall your sons marry you; and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you." (Isa 62:3-5).
After Antichrist and his confederacy have been defeated by the sword of the truth, the church will set about cleansing herself from all apostasy. There will be a zeal for purity and holiness, and consequently the work will continue until every last trace of the works of Antichrist is completely removed.
When the work of purification has been completed, the Lord’s glory will re-enter the church and His Spirit will flow out to the nations, precipitating a huge harvest of souls.
The restored church will receive overflowing abundance and manifold blessings from the presence of the Lord. She will know peace, joy, and acclaim, and the Lord will be her light. All things in her will be holy to the Lord, and the saints will be to their Lord "...a crown of glory..."
In his portrayal of God’s judgment, and the
restoration of the church at the end of the age, the prophet Joel described two
valleys. The first is the
"Let the nations be wakened,
and come up to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; for there I will sit to judge
all the surrounding nations. Put in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Come,
go down; for the winepress is full, the vats overflow-- for their wickedness is
great. Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day
of the LORD is near in the valley of decision. The sun and moon will grow
dark, and the stars will diminish their brightness. The LORD also will roar
The first mentioned valley is called "the
At one time during his reign, "the people of
King Jehoshaphat encouraged his subjects by speaking
in their midst, "Hear me, O Judah and
This theme of self destruction imposed by God on His enemies is repeated in many other bible passages, particularly those relating to the end time judgment. E.g.:
Zechariah 14 "...a great panic from the LORD will be among them. Everyone will seize the hand of his neighbor, and raise his hand against his neighbor's hand."
Isaiah 3:5 "The people will be oppressed, every one by another and every one by his neighbor."
Haggai 2:22 "I will overthrow the throne of kingdoms; I will destroy the strength of the Gentile kingdoms. I will overthrow the chariots and those who ride in them; the horses and their riders shall come down, every one by the sword of his brother."
Few doubt that God’s judgment will fall on "the Gentile kingdoms," or those in the world who have obstinately rejected His salvation. They are already on a course of self destruction, and at "the time of the dead, that they should be judged," God shall "destroy those who destroy the earth." [Revelation 11:18].
However, "since the time has come for judgment
to begin at the house of God," our main concern should be for those
entrenched in the counterfeit church, whose eyes are blinded to the foulness of
the apostasies in their midst. God’s purging judgment will fall on those who in
their blindness and ignorance have rejected the truth, and have persecuted
those in the true
Those who remain unrepentant will be separated from
the true church as the tares are from the wheat. "And it shall come to
pass that he who is left in
In Chapter 15, we saw that the figurative splitting of
By taking away His restraining hand, God is c
As the distinction between the mountain of the works
of Antichrist and the mountain of the true works of Christ is made evident,
every person will be confronted with the valley of decision. We will have a
clear choice of repenting and separating ourselves from all apostasy and
submitting to the
There will be no escaping from the "valley of
decision." Every person will be obliged to make a decision between
Christ and Antichrist. Compromise will be regarded as rebellion. One end of the
valley of decision leads to the
A Call to Repentance
How should we in the church respond when God’s judgment begins to be manifested? The prophet Joel expresses God’s will for the church when she is confronted with His end time judgment. It is a universal call to repentance and renewed consecration.
"Blow the trumpet (sound a warning) in
COME OUT OF HER MY PEOPLE
Through the voice of His prophets and teachers, God is unmasking the presence of the spirit of antichrist in the church, and issuing this warning: "Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues. For her sins have reached to heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities" [Rev 18:4-5].
Since repentance is only legitimate if it results in turning from our previous state to the will of the Lord, we are required to spiritually and physically separate ourselves from all activities involving the spirit of antichrist. "Therefore 'Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you.'" [2 Corinthians 6:17].