“In that you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter’s clay and partly of iron, it will be a divided kingdom; but it will have in it the toughness of iron, inasmuch as you saw the iron mixed with common clay.” (Daniel 2:41, NASB)
“Let no one in any way deceive you, for it [Jesus' return] will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction…” (2 Thess. 2:3, NASB)
Many Christians believe that the return of Jesus Christ to this earth, His Second Coming, is near. Signs in the Arab World point to this, as the Arab World is experiencing a “divided kingdom” condition predicted by the book of Daniel. What we are living through right now in Syria, Libya and Egypt has been on the prophetic time table for over 2500 years!!
King Nebuchadnezzar (who ruled from 605-562 B.C.) foresaw in his dream a great statute that depicts the world empires until the time of Jesus’ Second Coming. Daniel interprets the dream and informs the King that his dream has to do with “the latter days”. “[God] has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will take place in the latter days.” (Dan. 2:28)
At the bottom of the statue, which leads us on to the close of this present age, the fourth kingdom (Roman Empire) – depicted as legs of iron – would morph into another kingdom, a “feet and toes” kingdom of clay and iron, strong and brittle.
“Some of the kingdom will be strong and part of it will be brittle. And in that you saw the iron mixed with common clay, they will combine with one another in the seed of men; but they will not adhere to one another, even as iron does not combine with pottery.” (Dan. 2: 42-43)
The Stone, which came out of heaven, that crushes the statue and turns it into powder, is Jesus at His Second Coming, therefore we know that this “divided kingdom” setting within the Roman Empire is still future.
We also have signs in natural world of apostasy, of the “increasing of lawlessness” (Matt. 24:12), that will set the stage for “the man of lawlessness”(2 Thess. 2:3). Remember now, that this must happen BEFORE Jesus’ return. Whatever you make make of the moral conditions of the world today, I think most people are afraid and sickened by the senseless, mass shootings and rise of lawlessness and outright wickedness.
Since God has already predicted that this lawlessness will increase “in the latter days”, one can make the conclusion that He is allowing lawlessness to increase on the earth to bring about a judgment to test the hearts of the people. Jesus said that “Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.” (Mtt 24:12-13)
In the Old Testament we read of a similar time when God brought judgment to this earth, He used a man, the King of Assyria. God allowed, what He called “the rod of Mine anger” to judge and chastise Israel at the hands of King Sennacherib and his Assyrian armies.
Sennacherib thought it was his own own strength and might that had brought him victories, not realizing that God used him as a “tool” to inflict punishment on a guilty nation, His chosen nation, Israel. In one night Sennacherib lost his ENTIRE army of 185,000 soldiers and later he too was murdered at the hands of his own sons. (Isaiah 36-37)
“O Assyria, the rod of My anger, the staff in their hand is My indignation. I will send him against a godless nation, and against the people of My wrath will I give him a charge, to take the spoil, and to take the prey, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets.” (Isa 10:5-6)
Lawlessness will increase on the earth in the Last Days and God will see whose hearts are hot or cold towards Him. In other versions of the Bible “the apostasy” (Holman) is called “a falling away” (KJV) or simply “the rebellion” (NIV/NRSV). In any case, it is a time of testing and chastisement BEFORE the return of Christ that will reveal to all who is part of the Bride and who is not.
Most Christians are looking for the arrival of the Antichrist, but very few are looking for “the apostasy” that must come first. The arrival of the Antichrist cannot occur until sufficient apostasy has happened in the world. The Antichrist, who is the ultimate of liars, cannot abide in a world where the truth of God’s word is taught. This is why the Bible says that the apostasy will come first and then the Antichrist will be revealed. (Matt Slick)
“Exodus II” — How the first Exodus prefigures the deliverance of God’s people at the end of this age.
The LORD said to Moses, “When you go back to Egypt see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders which I have put in your power; but I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go. Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the LORD, “Israel is My son, My firstborn.” So I said to you, ‘Let My son go that he may serve Me’; but you have refused to let him go. Behold, I will kill your son, your firstborn.”’” (Ex. 4:21-23)
There will come a day, called in Scripture “the day of the Lord”, when God will again deliver His children from the hands of a mighty oppressor, with an incredible display of wonders in the sky and on the earth.
1. In Egypt, God released 10 plagues through the uplifted staff of His servant Moses upon the Pharaoh and the people of Egypt that allowed for His chosen, firstborn son, Israel, to flee their oppressors and enter in to the Promised Land.
In the coming Exodus, God will again release “great judgments” (Ex 7:4), plagues and terrors, upon the oppressors, the antichrist and his 10 nation federation, that will allow the people of God to be delivered and enter into their Promised Land, the Heavenly City, the New Jerusalem.
The similarities of the plagues of Egypt and the plagues of the Last Days (Rev. 6-19) are incredible: water turned into blood, hail, darkness, pestilence, loathsome and malignant sores, locusts and frogs.
2. In the first Exodus, God used two men to deliver Israel, Moses and Aaron:
Then the LORD said to Moses, “See, I make you as God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet.” (Ex 7:1)
In the second Exodus, at the end of this age, God will send two witnesses who will release His plagues and judgments and set the stage for the coming of the King of kings:
“And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1260 days, clothed in sackcloth… These have the power to shut up the sky, so that rain will not fall during the days of their prophesying; and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood, and to strike the earth with every plague, as often as they desire.” (Rev 11)
3. At a strategic point in the first Exodus battle, Pharaoh and his armies “chased after the sons of Israel” (Ex 14:8) to the edge of the Red Sea. The sons of Israel became “very frightened” and cried out to the Lord.
Then the LORD said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to Me? Tell the sons of Israel to go forward. As for you, lift up your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, and the sons of Israel shall go through the midst of the sea on dry land.” (Ex 14:15-16)
At a strategic point in the future, during the “second Exodus” battle, antichrist and his armies will invade Jerusalem and take the city captive, the people of God in a desperate situation.
For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city will be captured, the houses plundered, the women ravished and half of the city exiled, but the rest of the people will not be cut off from the city. (Zech 14:2)
Most people have been taught that there is a coming battle of Armageddon, but this is inaccurate. The plain of Armageddon will be the “staging area” for a vast army, gathered by the Lord and by Satan, to decide, once and for all, the future of Jerusalem.
Psalm 83, speaks to these circumstances:
They make shrewd plans against Your people,
And conspire together against Your treasured ones.
They have said, “Come, and let us wipe them out as a nation,
That the name of Israel be remembered no more.” (Psalm 83:3-4)
Yet, just like the Red Sea standing like a closed door before the chosen of Israel, the city of Jerusalem, captured and plundered by the “End Time Pharaoh”, will ITSELF divide in two so that the people of God can be delivered!
You must read it for yourself because otherwise you won’t believe me:
“Then the LORD will go forth and fight against those nations, as when He fights on a day of battle. In that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which is in front of Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives will be split in its middle from east to west by a very large valley, so that half of the mountain will move toward the north and the other half toward the south. You will flee by the valley of My mountains, for the valley of the mountains will reach to Azel; yes, you will flee just as you fled before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the LORD, my God, will come, and all the holy ones with Him!” (Zech 14)
4. It is interesting to note that God, after the 3rd plague, protected His chosen people by setting them apart from His judgments. Previously, the children of Israel were (one must suppose) impacted by the plagues: river of blood, frogs and insects.
“But on that day I will set apart the land of Goshen, where My people are living, so that no swarms of flies will be there, in order that you may know that I, the LORD, am in the midst of the land. I will put a division between My people and your people.” (Ex 8:22-23)
At the end of this age, as God pours out His plagues and judgments on the earth, the people who have not chosen the mark of the beast will be protected. God will again “set apart” His chosen people and “put a division” between the righteous and the unrighteous.
At this time, the redeemed will rise to meet Him in the air, along with the dead in Christ (I Thess. 4). Jesus, the King, the “nobleman who went to a distant country to receive a kingdom for himself, and then return” (Luke 19) comes back to this earth to rule and reign and rid the planet of evil. After 1000 years, He “hands over the kingdom to the God and Father” so His Father can, once again, walk on earth and then the end will come. (I Cor. 15)
When one looks into the NT practice of baptism you see an urgency that is sadly lacking in the western church. In Phillip’s case, we see that in his preaching the Gospel to the Ethiopian eunuch, it was inherent that the subject of water baptism came up! Hence, as the eunuch came into contact with the Holy Spirit in New Life, there was an instantaneous thirst for water (pardon the pun).
As they went along the road they came to some water; and the eunuch said, “Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?” And Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” And he ordered the chariot to stop; and they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch, and he baptized him. (Acts 8:36-38)
Nothing prevented the eunuch from being instantly baptized in water as long as he believed and confessed that Jesus was Lord of his life. Evidently, “hardwired” into Philip’s Gospel message was water baptism — to a much higher degree, I believe, than we know today!
Let’s remember that on the day of Pentecost, on that same day, 3000 souls were baptized in water. If there were 50 believers (of the 120) doing the baptisms, then they each baptized about 60 people that day… and thus the early church was birthed and their DNA established.
Repent – Believe – Be baptized and Receive
Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:38)
And Jesus said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned. (Mark 16:15-16)
The western church has been strong on repentance and believing for centuries. Unfortunately, we have been much weaker on baptism and receiving the Holy Spirit. I think it did not help too much that Luther and Calvin – not to mention the Catholic Church – continued infant baptism and persecuted to the death those who stood for “believer’s baptism” such as the Swiss Brethren (Anabaptists).
The modern church does have a healthy theology on “believer’s baptism” but is poor on the practice end. It seems that many new believers are left-on-their-own to find their way to baptism. It doesn’t appear to have the urgency, “hardwiredness” or the universality of the NT practice.
For me, a classic example of the these three — urgency, “hardwiredness”, universality — is the midnight baptism of the jailer in Acts 16.
Paul and Silas were thrown into prison for preaching the Gospel in Philippi. Around midnight, as they sang hymns and prayed, the doors to the prison flew open and everyone’s chains fell off. The jailer, running into this scene of all his prisoners standing about free, was about to kill himself! But Paul, however, stopped his suicide attempt and preached Jesus Christ to the jailer and his whole family!
Here is were it gets real interesting, and quite the opposite to the modern church:
And he [the jailer] took them [Paul and Silas] that very hour of the night and washed their wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his household. (16:33)
Pausing just long enough to administer healing to the wounds of the two battered and beaten apostles, the jailer followed the New Testament model and practice and, along with his household, immediately “got wet”! At 1 or 2 in the morning, he did not need, apparently, a new believer’s class, but he qualified as per the apostolic instruction!
“Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” (Acts 16:31)
Nothing can be clearer in my mind that this is the way of the early church. This was the way of the apostles on the day of Pentecost. This was the experience of Paul. When the scales fell off his eyes, the Bible says “he rose and was baptized” (9:18) Later, Paul would teach and preach this same experience throughout the Roman Empire. It was a part of what he called “my ways”.
For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, who is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, and he will remind you of my ways which are in Christ, just as I teach everywhere in every church. (1 Cor. 4:17)
In other texts Paul called them “the teachings” (2 Thess 2:15) or “the traditions” (1 Cor 11:2). In order to return to the apostolic traditions “just as [Paul] delivered them”, which I believe should always be our desire, we must hold carefully and faithfully to the matter of immediate and urgent water baptism!
One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all. (Eph. 4: 5-6)
I am not too sure how many Christian people around the globe are aware of the huge “paradigm shift” moment going on in missions today. It has to do with the task of alleviating poverty. The oft used picture of more than a billion people, 20% of the world’s population, living on less than $1 a day is heartbreaking and tragic. Yet for all our attempts and aid and dollars thrown at the problem, our track record at actually “alleviating poverty” is not very good.
Thank God that there are voices “crying out in thee wilderness” for change!!
Maybe you have heard (or read) some of them:
~ When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor and Yourself (Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert)
~ Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help And How to Reverse It (Robert D. Lupton)
~ The Spiritual Danger of Doing Good (Peter Greer)
~ We Are Not the Hero: A Missionary’s Guide to Sharing Christ, Not a Culture of Dependency (Jean Johnson)
To come back to my topic, let’s take a look now at how the apostle Paul, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, “helped” in a place of tremendous need and dead-end poverty!
A vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing and appealing to him, and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” When he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them. (Acts 16:9-10)
As you might remember Paul, Silas and Timothy were earlier “forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia”. Moreover, as they were trying to go into Bithynia (modern-day greater Istanbul) but “the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them”. What an adventure! Finally, they found themselves in Troas. While waiting in Troas, a vision appeared to Paul of a man in Macedonia who was “crying out” to Paul for help. The Greek sense of the word help is “to run and meet an urgent distress-call”.
The first thing Paul “ran to do” was to preach the gospel to them! He preached by the river at a “place of prayer” for women and saw the first European convert, Lydia, her heart “opened by the Lord”. She and her household were baptized and from there sprang the first house church of Europe. Later, the jailer and his household were added to the small band!
With that the apostolic band up and left for other places… 2 households for Jesus!
In our day, this is almost beyond believable! What, no schools, no hospitals, no start-up businesses, no English classes, no relief and development, no micro-enterprises?? No appeals back to Antioch for more workers, more aid? No demands for social justice?
“Poor Paul, he never heard about micro-finance…”
What I find most intriguing in this case in Philippi is that we later read in 2 Corinthians that this city was suffering under extreme poverty!
Now, brethren, we wish to make known to you the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia, that in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality. (2 Cor 8:1-2)
This poverty of the Macedonians is actually confirmed by secular history. “The Romans took most of their wealth when they conquered this former homeland of Alexander the Great.” (David Guzik)
Evidently Paul did not see the Macedonians as “poor and needy”! Actually, he later tries to “motivate” the richer Corinthians to give by their example of giving out of their deep poverty…
Can you imagine this same “apostolic method” of Paul’s being repeated today in areas of the deepest need and poverty? Sadly, I can’t! To be sure, Paul cared for the poor and needy and spent a large part of his life raising funds for the Jews in desperate conditions in Jerusalem…. Yet we never find him investing any strength or energy other than preaching the Gospel when he was on-the-ground among the nations!
My advice is to learn from the Spirit what He is saying to the churches! Put your ear to the ground and your eyes in one of the books mentioned above. Get rid of forever the “hero” mentality that is just the subtle reverse of “hedonism”.
“Hedonism and heroism (doing good) are brothers, not polar opposites. At their core, both are about wanting our own way.” (Peter Greer)
Take on a “low profile” as you think about the nations affected by poverty. Get off your “white horse” and ride on a donkey… Sound familiar?
Jean Johnson, whose book I suggest above, is a friend of ours that I highly recommend. She served as a career missionary for sixteen years in Cambodia in the areas of pioneer church planting, on-the-job leadership training, and oral strategies. Presently, she is a missionary with World Mission Associates, promoting church sustainability and multiplication. Jean holds a B.A. in cross-cultural communications from North Central University, Minneapolis, MN, where she had the opportunity to teach as a missionary-in-residence.
Jean will be with us in Chetek, WI on the weekend of October 18-21, speaking on the radio WWIB in Eau Claire, teaching at the Refuge and the Northwoods YWAM campus.
The other day I got a Pingback from my blog. If you don’t know what that means, it is when someone “out there” linked to one of my blogs and put it on his site! It is an interesting read how they chose to incorporate my article…
One thing that did catch my eye is his take on “professional Christianity” which he suggests is the pastoral system in the church –“Today it is a job description… lead pastor, associate pastor, children’s pastor, small-group pastor, pastor of worship, visitation pastor…you get the drift.”
I am using this same concept as well, except using it in the missionary field and the “professional missionary”. I believe that a shift is coming to the church which will involve an army of non-professional missionaries that will go out to the nations as a labor force that works side by side, hand in hand with the local community.
Here is a portion of his blog:
Today, “The Pastor” is the “professional Christian” who is charged with the duties of handling the affairs of the church. Unfortunately, most pastors make everyone else feel unqualified. Maybe not on purpose, but we give them such respect that we think they have a special pipeline to God that the rest of the sheep do not have. This causes dependency and does not require a man to “work out his own salvation” thus stunting his Spiritual growth.
“Even if the supply of men and funds from Western sources was unlimited and we could cover the whole globe with an army of millions of foreign missionaries and establish stations thickly all over the world, the method would speedily reveal its weakness, as it is already beginning to reveal it.
The mere fact that Christianity was propagated by such an army, established in foreign stations all over the world, would inevitably alienate the native populations, who would see in it the growth of the domination of a foreign people. They would see themselves robbed of their religious independence, and would more and more fear the loss of their social independence.
Foreigners can never successfully direct the propagation of any faith throughout a whole country. If the faith does not become naturalized and expand among the people by its own vital power, it exercises an alarming and hateful influence, and men fear and shun it as something alien. It is then obvious that no sound missionary policy can be based upon multiplication of missionaries and mission stations. A thousand thousand would not suffice; a dozen might be too many.”
Roland Allen The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church and the Causes that Hinder It (1927)
Perhaps it would be a fair definition to describe a prophet as a person, who has the perspicacity [discernment] to observe truths that are unfashionable, and the tactlessness to voice them. In this way the prophet greatly annoys whoever those people are that happen to be the contemporary ‘pillars of society’: because the prophet makes them feel uncomfortable, and rather less confident of their own wisdom and their own worth.”
Hubert J.B. Allen