By Pastor Mitch Horton | January 2005 | Posted in • Archives | (0) Comments
In the next few issues, I want to address a subject that is of great importance to us all. Our world is rapidly changing as it is being prepared by God’s predestined plan for the second return of the Lord Jesus Christ. Many do not feel the urgency of the hour. But God wants us to have understanding of the times in which we live, much like the sons of Issachar in the Old Testament “who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do.” (2 Chronicles 12:32)
The words of Jesus concerning the world conditions just prior to His return are being fulfilled right before us! “But when you hear of wars and commotions, do not be terrified; for these things must come to pass first, but the end will not come immediately.Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be great earthquakes in various places, and famines and pestilences; and there will be fearful sights and great signs from heaven.And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on earth distress of nations, with perplexity, in the sea and waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them from fear and expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.” (Luke 21: 9-11; 25-28)
The Tsunami the world experienced on December 26, 2004, is nothing to be compared with the devastation that is coming to this planet during the “tribulation” years just prior to Jesus’ return. (See Revelation 6-19) Large earthquakes that move islands and remove them, earthquakes that displace mountains and land masses are mentioned as coming to the world in our future. (See Revelation 6: 12-17; Revelation 16: 17-21) Billions of people will die and nature will rage during this time of future world judgment. It is written, it will happen, and we must prepare, for we are living in pre-tribulation times.
“We must realize that God is a God of justice and judgment as well as a God of love and mercy.”
We must realize that God is a God of justice and judgment as well as a God of love and mercy. All sin has been judged on the cross for believers. “It’s appointed unto men once to die and after this the judgment. (Hebrews 9:27) A person who dies without Jesus faces judgment for all misdeeds. Our forgiveness and cleansing from sin in Christ is based on Jesus paying the legal penalty that God’s justice demanded of us because of our sin. Without His payment for our sin, we are doomed to an eternity in a place called hell, where Jesus said the worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched. (See Mark 9: 44, 46) Yes, God loves us, but His justice must also be satisfied because of our sin.
I mention this because the coming time of tribulation is a time of judgment on the earth. We have been living in the church age (or the age of God’s grace being poured out on humanity) for 2000 years or so now. God’s judgment is not seen now the way it was in Old Testament times. Judgment has in our age been superseded by grace. But in the days to come, during what we call the tribulation, God will begin to deal with the earth in judgments toward sin, towards the unbelief of His covenant people Israel, and towards the nations that seek to hinder His purposes for Israel. Revelation 6 through chapter 19 gives a detailed description of this most difficult time period. To say it again, God has been using us the church as His instrument to minister to the world His word through His grace and love. But during this period called the tribulation, the church will be gone. (Raptured! See 2 Thessalonians 2: 1-8) He will begin dealing with the earth in judgment, much like He did during the Old Testament period. I If you read Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21, and 2 Timothy 3:1-5, you will clearly see that the time we live in fits a pattern found just prior to the tribulation.
Christians should see this time as a time for preparation: preparation for the harvest of souls for the kingdom of God, and preparation for the rapture of the church. The rapture could happen at any moment since there are no biblical prophecies to be fulfilled before its commencement. So we should live as though we could meet Jesus a minute from now, and plan as though we’ll be here another 100 years. That is, keep going in life, but keep the perspective that things could change in a moment’s notice! “For this world in its present form is passing away.” (1 Corinthians 7:31)
The Lord recently began to show me that just before either a period of revival or judgment, He visited His people with a season of repentance and preparation.
God told Israel through the prophet Isaiah to “break up their fallow ground.” (Hosea 10:12) That is, for God to restore them to a place of fellowship and usefulness, they must deal with the unproductive areas of their lives. They had been walking in idolatry and disobedience, and the challenge was for them to come back to their “first love” with the Lord.
“Christians should see this time as a time for preparation: preparation for the harvest of souls for the kingdom of God, and preparation for the rapture of the church.”
In the days of the prophet Joel, God’s people were in a backslidden state, and judgment was at hand. In chapters one and two of Joel, God encourages the people through the prophet to “consecrate a fast, call a sacred assembly.and cry out to the Lord.” (Joel 1: 14) The Lord tells them to “Turn to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.” He tells them to “Rend your hearts and not your garments; return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful.” (Joel 2: 12-13) Here God tells them to repent before judgment comes.
We often quote Joel 2:28, where Joel prophecies a move of the Holy Spirit just prior to the second coming of Christ. “And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and daughters shall prophecy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions.” But when we read this, we need to keep it within the context of the whole of Joel chapter two. Before you read of the outpouring of the Spirit, you first of all read of God’s summons to repentance! The move of the Holy Spirit will cost us something! We must be willing to change our ways, and become ruthless with sin in our lives!
In Amos 6: 1-8, God gives a warning to those “who are at ease in Zion.” In Amos’ day, judgment was about to fall on the disobedience of God’s Old Covenant people. Amos’ day was a day of luxury and blessing. The people were “at ease;” life was enjoyable. They were lying on beds of ivory, eating fine food, enjoying the talent of gifted musicians that played like David. Life was good. (See Amos 6: 4-6) They were so taken up with the present that they were not aware of the judgment and hard times that were coming. And Amos warned them to repent. Could this also be said of believers in America in our day?
In the days just before Jesus began His ministry, John the Baptist preached a message of repentance to God’s people. He did that because repentance prepares God’s people for a fresh move of the Holy Spirit. And God is speaking repentance to His people today.
Jesus perhaps said it best when He said that new wine must be put in new wineskins. (Matthew 9:17) That is, for a fresh move of the Holy Spirit (new wine), we must prepare ourselves (we are the wineskins) to be able to contain and carry the fresh manifestation of the Spirit. Repentance prepares us to respond to God in a way that He is able to use us more fully.
I’ll talk more fully about repentance in my next newsletter. I want to encourage you to ask yourself, am I seeking FIRST the kingdom of God in my life (Matthew 6:33), or am I living life to the full and simply adding God to what I’m doing? We’re living in serious times. The rapture could come at any moment. I call these pre-tribulation days. Are you living in such a way that God can use you to help bring in the harvest of souls He longs for in our day? (See James 5: 7) It’s time now for us to examine ourselves and prepare for a changing world!
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