Planet Earth is on a collision course with God! The rulership of the earth is changing hands. As God draws near, the earth will experience “unmistakable signs” that alert the whole world that the time is near. We live in those days even now.
“Both the Old and New Testament give clues concerning the last days and, as those times get nearer, the clues become plainer.” Alexander Fraser
The new Jerusalem – that Jesus is even now preparing for us – will come down out of heaven and descend over Israel and bring God the Father Himself back to the planet!
And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them. (Rev 21:2-3)
Jesus spoke about unmistakable signs that will come about before this happens. He spoke clearly about how the whole of creation – which presently longs for redemption – will transition from “this present age” to “the age to come”, which will move us into the Second Coming and then into Eternity.
SIGN #1 Someone is Having a Baby!
Think “Birth Pangs” for a New Earth! Once started they won’t stop until there is a birth. These will come at the end of this present age. They are called birth pangs not “death pangs” because the emphasis is on what’s coming — the New Heaven and the New Earth and New Jerusalem. (Mtt 24/ Rev 21)
Here is a complete list of the “Birth Pangs” that Jesus spoke of in the Gospels. (Mtt 24; Mk 13; Lk 21)
1. wars and rumors of wars
2. nation will rise against nation / kingdom against kingdom
5. terrors (“fearful events” NIV)
6. great signs from heaven
8. they will deliver you to tribulation and will kill you
9. you will be hated by all nations because of My name
10. many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another
11. many false prophets will arise and will mislead many
12. lawlessness is increased
13. most people’s love will grow cold
14. gospel must first be preached to all the nations
SIGN #2 Worthy is the Lamb Who was slain
Whatever dreadful things may happen on earth, they are all within God’s plan and under His sovereign control. God will only release pain and suffering upon His creation with Someone who has equally suffered – Jesus Christ, the Lamb Who was slain.
In Revelation 5, we see God the Father, seated on His throne in Heaven, and in His right hand is a scroll sealed with 7 seals. No one in heaven, on earth or even under the earth was found worthy to open the scroll. This sets John weeping greatly…. but then an elder announces that there is One worthy! Please note that it is the Lamb Who was slain, not the Lion of Judah, who is found worthy to open the scroll and to break the seals. As these seals are broken off the scroll, the hard labor birth pangs begin.
The scroll is the “Title Deed of Earth” and will transition this present age into the age to come. God is reclaiming His creation and will eventually restore the kingdom back to Israel. When the seals are broken off and the scroll opened the contents reveal another set of judgments: 7 trumpets and 7 bowels of wrath to be poured out on the earth.
SIGN #3 Prayers of all the Saints
Amazingly, the “prayers of all the saints” will assist in releasing the judgments that will come to earth. In many respects our prayers are like the engine that drive the judgments to completion.
This is documented in Rev 8:3-5.
Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all the saints, on the golden altar before the throne. The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of the saints, went up before God from the angel’s hand. Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and hurled it on the earth; and there came peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning and an earthquake. (Rev. 8:3-5)
Finally at judgment of the 7th bowl of wrath, the last of 21 consecutive judgments, a loud voice comes out of the temple from the throne in heaven as declares: “It is done!” (Rev 16:17) The earth is wiped clean of all evil and all that which are stumbling blocks and those who commit lawlessness are gathered out of the kingdom and thrown into the furnace of fire. (Mtt 13: 41)
SIGN #4 The Beast from the Sea
So much of the end times scenario is had for us to imagine in affluent and comfortable 21st Century America. We don’t really know what evil looks like or feels like. We can’t hardly imagine that a national / world leader who will come to power that the book of Revelation can only describe as a “beast”. He will make the whole world worship him at the cost of losing their lives.
And they worshiped the dragon because he gave his authority to the beast ; and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast, and who is able to wage war with him?” (Rev 13:4)
When Daniel described this same beast he spoke of him in the following terms:
The fourth beast will be a fourth kingdom on the earth, which will be different from all the other kingdoms and will devour the whole earth and tread it down and crush it… He will speak out against the Most High and wear down the saints of the Highest One, and he will intend to make alterations in times and in law ; and they will be given into his hand for a time, times, and half a time [42 months]. Daniel 7:23, 25
SIGN #5 The Jews had it Right (just the wrong timing)
One of the great tragedies of human history is that the people of Israel, the Jews, knew instinctively that the Messiah would set up His Kingdom on this earth, sitting on David’s Royal Throne in Jerusalem. Remember the 11 disciples on the Mt. of Olives, on the outskirts of Jerusalem, just (seconds) before Jesus ascended to His Father:
So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6)
Even the thief on the cross, dying next to Jesus, also understood this:
And he was saying, “Jesus, remember me when You come [again] in Your kingdom!” (Luke 23:42)
The same may be said of the two disciples along the road to Emmaus, who were unknowingly speaking with Jesus:
”But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. (Luke 24:21)
The Jews had such preconceived ideas of the Messiah’s reign that when Jesus did come the First Time they could not recognize Him. “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand”, so Jesus spoke to them in parables so that they might gradually open up to realize that their “messianic hopes” were false and misplaced.
But soon, and very soon, Jesus will come back and restore the Kingdom to Israel. He will come back riding on a white horse with His armies. He will “eat and drink” at His table in His Kingdom in Jerusalem with the Twelve, who will sit at His throne and judge the twelve tribes of Israel. (Luke 22:30)
Yours for the return of the King,
On the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit fell upon (clothed) 120 men, women and children in the Upper Room. Suddenly, and without warning, a noise came like a violent rushing wind that filled the whole house. Right after this manifestation of the Spirit, the book of Acts tell us that “there appeared to them tongues as of fire” which rested on each of them. Before the sun set on that day 3000 baptized believers were added to the church.
Jesus was introducing His Spirit to the church and it rocked the world as mankind knew it! Thus was the first church in earth born!
“Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He [Jesus] has poured forth this which you both see and hear.” Acts 2:33
People could “see and hear” the outpouring: wind, fire, tongues, worship and fruit!
Many watching that day thought that the 120 were simply “drunk on cheap wine”, even though it was only 9 a.m. They did not see an outpouring of the Holy Spirit! Others were “amazed and astonished” and pierced to the heart. They knew that behind the obvious physical manifestations that the invisible hand of God was at work. ”Brothers, what must we do to be saved,” they cried out!
No one can really argue that God is NOT a wonderful, powerful, supernatural God! Really, there is pretty much universal acceptance that God can be “Other-Worldly” and move in mysterious ways. The problem occurs when He so chooses to pour out His Holy Spirit in these days… amongst our friends, co-workers and children. Fire, shaking, laughing, electricity, rocking, etc. It is so much easier to believe in a Jesus who does such wonderful, mysterious things in the past and we can keep them at arm’s length today.
Why Would God Do That?!?!
I remember the first time I ever saw someone “manifesting” a spiritual manifestation.
Maria and I and our new born daughter, Patricia, were living in Budapest, Hungary in 1990. We were set to host a YWAM conference in Budapest with about 1000 attendees from different east European countries. We had invited a group of Vineyard pastors from the USA to lead the meetings. One day, as we gathered for prayer before the conference, one of the Vineyard pastors said his thumb was “twitching” and that he felt it meant that God wanted to do “so and so”. My immediate reaction was “WHAT the … ?!?” but I respected these men’s integrity and passion for Jesus so I “went along” with it.
A few years later I found myself at the first Catch the Fire Conference in Toronto, Canada in 1994. We were living in Boston at that time and I went with a two pastors and a friend. I experienced there much of what the 120 experienced that day in Jerusalem so long ago… wind, fire, shaking, laughter and drunkenness.
Fast Forward to 2009
This November (11.11.09) in Kansas City, the IHOP-U (International House of Prayer University) campus experienced a powerful awakening sparked by an outpouring of the Holy Spirit, with many of the same unusual manifestation. My (now twenty year old) daughter found herself right in the midst of a Student Awakening at the IHOP-U. Like father, like daughter… I guess!!
Now, just last week (12.31.09) a group of about 20 young people from our local area, including my two oldest sons, came back fired up from experiencing this awakening themselves at IHOP. Many were touched by the Spirit as Jesus poured out that which was both “seen and heard” by men. Laughter, shaking, fire, crying, shouting… Like father, like sons!
Jesus once again introducing the Holy Spirit to the world!
History Repeats Itself
Although much of the early church and church history bears witness to multiple outpourings down through the centuries, it is often the first choice of many of us to be skeptical, if not cynical. But manifestations of the Holy Spirit have been experienced by countless thousands throughout the ages.
”Time will fail me if I tell of” the powerful manifestations of the Holy Spirit as experienced by Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield in the Great Awakening in USA or the holy laughter that fell on John and Charles Wesley in Great Britain. On one day in Germany in 1727 a revival broke out so strong among Count Zinzendorf and the Moravian refugees living with him that they ever after called it “The Golden Summer.” Many Moravian missionaries were sent overseas as a result of that outpouring.
Later in the early 1800’s, Peter Cartwright and the Cane Ridge revival broke out in Kentucky. They experienced a visitation from God that caused wide spread revival in the region. During those camp meetings people would fall out in the Spirit and find themselves covered with dirt and mud, “swooning” as they called it then.
The ministry of Charles Finney in the mid-1800’s is yet another example. Finney wrote that after he testified about his experience of being baptized in the Spirit, a normally serious elder of his church “fell into a most spasmodic laughter. It seemed as if it was impossible for him to keep from laughing from the very bottom of his heart.” (Finney, The Autobiography of Charles Finney)
All of these movements were full of manifestations of the power of God. Most of them were similar to today’s holy laughter, shaking, heat, falling, and the like. At Azusa Street in California in 1906 people would have to “step over” people laid out by the Spirit to even get in the front door. Jonathan Edwards’ wife, Susan, would be overcome by the Spirit and be out cold for 12 hours at a time.
You can be sure that each of these movements had their detractors – a.k.a. as the “cold water brigade”! Even your own most favorite movement/revival has had messy areas of controversy and conflict. These awakenings are not nearly so “neat and tidy” as we like to imagine. Remember, Jesus physically blew on His disciples so that they could receive the Holy Spirit. (John 20:22)
If you are in the “midst of a storm” right now, be excited, because you are in good company!
Why We Struggle with Manifestations?
God is very comfortable using the visible world – that which we can see, hear and feel – to express and even illustrate His spiritual Kingdom. He anoints our flesh and we then express His Spirit. Herein lies the risk of faith!
#1. A Spirit-filled life leads to being “beside ourselves” at times and that is often misunderstood by others just watching.
Paul had to convince the Corinthian church that when he was “beside himself” – as they probably derisively told him – it was nothing more than the Holy Spirit moving strongly on him. He calmly told that that it was “before the Lord” that he let himself drink in what God was pouring out. He was not putting himself on “show”. When he acted sanely, properly and in control it, then that was for the people.
Here is that verse in its context:
For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are of sound mind, it is for you. For the love of Christ controls us… Therefore, from now on, we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer. (2 Cor. 5:13-16)
We must also walk in this truth, that we are not to know each other any longer according to the flesh but only according to the spirit. This is hardest to walk out with those we know that best and we can easily fall into faulty and flawed judgment. WHY?? Because it takes faith to see the spirit.
It is so easy to do and just about guaranteed to happen because even Jesus offended people in His hometown and amongst his own household.
2. Overt manifestations can expose the spirit of religion.
There is no greater scene of this in the Bible than David and Michal (2 Sam 6). This is the famous scene were David is dancing “before the Lord with all his might” bringing the ark back to Jerusalem, wearing nothing but a linen ephod. His wife (watching from a distance behind the widow curtain) judges him and scorns his “passion for the Lord”. Even while David is returning to his own home to bless his household in the excitement and power of that moment, Michal despises him in her heart and accuses and questions David’s motives. Her heart was bitter and cutting.
Instead of receiving David’s blessing she receives God’s judgment: Michal’s womb was from that moment barren.
God will at times send us the “wind of the Spirit” to blow on us and, by that, separate those whose hearts are not right. It is a well-repeated saying but I use it again here for those for whom it might be new: “God will offend your mind to reveal what is in your heart.”
The Holy Spirit comes down to us like the wind. Wind can be a powerful force. There is also great variety in the wind. It may be a soft whisper gently rustling the leaves on the trees, or it may be a hurricane uprooting trees. I am adamant that we need wisdom and not just “heat without light” (to reuse a phrase from the outpouring in Edwards’ day) but I believe that we also need to be not SO cautious as to offend and quench the Holy Spirit as He “clothes us with power from on high” and makes visible the invisible heart of God!
One parting thought:
When we say that Jehovah God is the God of Abraham and Isaac remember that Isaac means “laughter”. Sarah laughed, after all, for she was 90 years old and Abraham nearly 100! Sometimes what is burning on God’s heart is simply uncontrollable laughter.
Sarah said, “God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me.” Gen 21:6
Yours in His Mighty Name,
For further reading on the experiences of A.W. Tozer, E.M. Bounds, A.B. Simpson, Praying John Hyde, Oswald Chambers, the Welsh revival of 1904 and Evan Roberts go to: http://www.allianceacademicreview.com/1998/AAR1998-6King.php