Wednesday, August 26, 2009

"After the Suffering of Those Days" 8-26-09

Good morning, Lord Jesus. I look to You and listen for the leading of Your Spirit. I want to hear what the Spirit is saying to me and to Your Church. ... "Immediately after the suffering of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of heaven will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He will send out His angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see all these things, you know that He is near, at the very gates" (Matthew 24:29-33). To understand the coming sequence of end time events, to recognize the season of Your second coming, You told us to look to You and Your Word. "Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away (v. 24:35). It seems to me too many of us are too quick to look to their favorite Bible teacher or book series or turn to their own wishful thinking, without first turning to You and Your Word for the answers to our questions about end times. Lord, give us the grace of humility and obedience to seek You, to search Your Word, and to listen to hear what the Spirit is saying to the Church in this hour for our generation. In recent church history of the past hundred and fifty years or so, a new idea has been taught that Christians will not have to endure tribulation on the earth before Your second coming. But Your own words tell us that we will and warn us to be prepared. You clearly taught that it was "immediately after the suffering of those days" that we would see You return, "coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory." What "suffering" were You talking about? All the "suffering" You speak of in the twenty-eight verses before You teach us in verse twenty-nine that it's "immediately after the suffering of those days" that we will see You coming in glory (v. 24:1-28). It will include -- according to Your Word and not wishful thinking or mistaken teaching -- false messiahs, wars and rumors of wars, famines, earthquakes, persecution, martyrdom, lawlessness, the abomination of desolation in the temple prophesied by Daniel, and all that You specifically indentified as the signs of the fig tree we would see in order to recognize the season of Your second coming. During that time, "many will fall away" and "the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved" (v. 24:10-13). So we must be preparing now to endure then, instead of wishfully thinking we'll be raptured out of this world any moment before "the suffering of those days" that You told us would come. It's in the midst of that "great suffering" that we will be a people prepared, a holy people and glorious Bride preparing the way of the Lord for the coming of the King (v. 24:21). We will be light and salt in the earth, standing firmly in the faith, so that through us, the "good news of the Kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the world, as a testimony to all nations; and then the end will come" (v. 24:14). This is the great "harvest" at "the end of the age" that will follow the great awakening of Your people who have grown into maturity in Christ (Matthew 13:36-43; 2 Corinthians 9:10). I believe it's Your Holy Spirit moving in my spirit with such conviction that we are to do our part in our generation to prepare the way of the Lord -- in our own hearts first and then in all the earth -- for the coming of our King and the fulfillment of Your Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. "Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her, in order to make her holy by cleansing her with the washing of water by the word, so as to present the Church to Himself in splendor, without a spot or wrinkle or anything of the kind -- yes, so that she may be holy and without blemish" (Ephesians 5:25-27). "Let us rejoice and exult and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His Bride has made herself ready" (Revelation 19:7). So our focus in these end times and last days, in this season of "the beginning of birth pangs" should be on preparing for Your coming instead of wishing and worrying about our going (Matthew 24:8). "When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:8) Will You find a people prepared, a holy Bride moving in the power of God teaching the things You taught, doing the things You did, in the power that You had as You promised and commanded? (John 14:12) Or will we still be trying to interpret the Scriptures in some way to somehow say that we will not have to endure any suffering or tribulation in this broken, fallen world being kindled for the fire of Your Spirit and the glory of Your coming? (Luke 12:49) When the day comes that You return in glory for Your glorious Bride, we will not have to endure the "bowls of God's wrath" poured out upon the earth (Revelation 16:1 and 6:12-17). "For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with Him" (1 Thessalonians 5:9-10). It is "Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath that is coming" (1 Thessalonians 1:10). But we will, according to Your Word, endure "great suffering" and much tribulation as Your faithful witnesses to the love of God and peace of Christ that only You can give and that You long for all to have. "We must through many tribulations enter the Kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22, NKJV). So we must be prepared, by Your grace, to endure to the end. I believe this is a season of acceleration, to both prepare and to grow into maturity. Darkness is growing into full maturity to cover the face of the earth, but so is the Light of the glory of Your presence arising upon Your people in the midst of the darkness (Isaiah 60:1-3). There will soon come a day when You return in glory for Your glorious Bride: "For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel's call and with the sound of God's trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encouraged one another with these words" (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18). This will be the day of great rapture for God's people on the earth and, at the same time, the day of great destruction and God's wrath for the agents of the evil one -- both "the great and terrible day of the Lord" (Malachi 4:5). It's only in the light of the glory of Your coming, that the earthly agent of the evil one, the anti-Christ, is confronted and destroyed. His presence on the earth, his rebellion against God, and his persecution of the Church must come first, according to Your Word. "As to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to Him, we beg you, brothers and sisters, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed.... Let no one deceive you in any way; for that day will not come unless the rebellion comes first and the lawless one is revealed, the one destined for destruction. He opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, declaring himself to be God.... And then the lawless one will be removed, whom the Lord Jesus will destroy with the breath of His mouth, annihilating him by the manifestation of His coming" (2 Thessalonians 2:1-8). But by God's grace, we will "stand firm and hold fast" through the darkness that will come and the persecution and tribulation that we will endure, all for sake of Christ who suffered in His love for us to live forever with Him (2 Thessalonians 2:15). Christians have suffered terrible tribulation and great suffering for the sake of their faith since the beginning. Are we to be any different? Does God love us any more or less than these? As You both encouraged and warned Your first disciples, so You both encourage and warn us: "These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world" (John 16:33, NKJV). Thank You, Jesus. "The Spirit and the Bride say, 'Come.' And let everyone who hears say, 'Come.' And let everyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift... The One who testifies to these things says, 'Sure I Am coming soon.' Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!" (Revelation 22:17-20). In Jesus' name I pray, Amen. Be encouraged today! In the Love of Jesus, Tommy Hays Friends, I know many do not share my understanding of Scripture about the sequence of events in the end times, but I do believe we must use our days now to wisely prepare in our hearts and in the earth for the coming of the Lord. 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