18. I Have A Dream: The Church In The Last Days
There are some parts of Scripture which are especially relevant to the
last days. They draw a picture of the latter day community and individuals
which must become our pattern. I have a dream, a vision of our community
along these lines. And there is no lack of evidence that through all our
personal and collective struggles, we are getting towards it.
Latter Day Preaching “In all the world”
The great commission bids us go into all the world with the Gospel; and
there is an evident connection with Mt. 24:14: " This Gospel of the
Kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations;
and then shall the end come" . This definitely suggests that
the great commission will be mightily obeyed in the last days. “Shall”
be preached is matched by Mark with “must be preached”. This
could be read as the Lord giving a command that the Gospel must be preached
to all the world as a witness in the last days. There are may other Biblical
implications that there will be an unprecedented spread of the Gospel
to the whole planet in the last days:
- Dan. 12:4 speaks of a time in the very last days when “many shall
run to and fro (an idiom often used concerning response to God's word:
Ps. 119:32,60; 147:15; Amos 8:11,12; Hab. 2:2; Jn. 8:37 RV; 2 Thess.
3:1 Gk.), and knowledge shall be increased...many shall be purified,
and made white (in baptism), and tried (in the tribulation)”. This increase
of knowledge of the Gospel is to be spread world-wide by many running
to and fro in the last days. The great commission will be fulfilled
then as never before.
- The parable of the marriage feast highlights the tragedy of
Jewish rejection of what could have been theirs. There will be an ever-increasingly
vigorous preaching campaign by the " servants" , seeing that
" they which were bidden were not worthy" (Matt. 22:8) - the
Greek implying not enough numerically. As a result of this
preaching, " the wedding was furnished ('filled' - numerically)
with guests" (Matt. 22:10). This indicates that in
some ways, God does work to a number. Once the required number of converts
is made, then the supper can begin. Their appeal being to " the
poor...maimed...halt and...blind" suggests that the marginal and
desperate within society will be those who respond- and this is happening
right now in the triumphant progress of preaching in our day. The servants
are sent " into the highways" (Matt. 22:9), the Greek meaning
'a market square'. This must be designed to recall the parable
of the labourers standing idle in the market place at the 11th. hour
(Matt. 20:6,7). The very short probation of those 11th.-hour
workers will match that of the latter-day converts. And again, it was
the old and weak who nobody wanted to hire.
- In the parable of the great supper, which is similar but not necessarily
the same as that of the marriage feast, the same point is made. The
servants going forth " at supper time" (Luke 14:17) fits more
naturally into the context of a preaching appeal just prior to the second
coming than to the first century. The " supper"
, i.e. the Kingdom (Luke 14:15; Matt. 22:2), is prepared, and at "
supper time" - 'Kingdom time' - the appeal is made.
" All things are now ready" (Luke 14:17) explains the unmistakeable
sense of urgency in the commissions given to the servants to preach.
This again indicates reference to an eleventh hour preaching campaign
just prior to the second coming. The 'decorum of the symbol'
suggests that the animals being killed for the meal would necessitate
a brief period of invitation immediately prior to the feast, rather
than them being on the table for 2,000 years.
- A careful reading of Mt. 10:16-39 reveals many links with the Olivet
prophecies concerning the latter day persecution of the saints; verses
17-21 are effectively quoted in Lk. 21:12-18. However, Mt. 10:16 prefaces
all this by saying that these tribulations will attend those who go
out preaching the Gospel in that latter day period. At this time, when
many " shall be offended" (spiritually stumble) and "
the love of many shall wax cold" for the truth (Mt. 24:10,11),
the " Gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached in all the world
for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come" (Mt.
24:14)- i.e. the full establishment of the Kingdom. At that time, "
What ye hear in the ear (in quiet halls at the moment), that preach
ye (then) upon the housetops" (Mt. 10:27). This seems to be giving
special encouragement to persevere in preaching during the last days.
There is a connection here with Mt. 24:17, which advises those upon
the housetops to go with Christ at the time of his coming. This implies
that at the moment of Christ's coming there will be zealous " upon
the housetops" preaching by the faithful. And when the number of
the elect is made up, then the Lord comes. The Lord is to remain at
the Father’s right hand until all His enemies are placed under His feet-
and those enemies are those who are the unconverted (Mt. 22:44; Eph.
2:12,16,17; 4:18; Col. 1:21).
- Before every 'coming' of the Lord there has been a period of persecution
and zealous preaching: Noah preached righteousness before the flood,
as Lot probably tried to before the Lord's coming down in judgment on
Sodom (would God have wrought such wholesale destruction without giving
the people a chance to repent? Cp. Nineveh and Jonah). The schools of
the prophets preached from the street corners and temple steps to warn
of the coming of the day of the Lord at the hand of the Babylonians
and Assyrians. And of course the dramatic coming of the Lord in judgment
upon Israel in AD70, was heralded by Paul and his committed band of
zealots staging the greatest preaching campaigns this world has seen.
- Dan. 11:32,33 speaks of how in the time of the end " The people
that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits...instruct
- Paul speaks of his preaching as being like a priest bringing the
offerings of the Gentile converts as an acceptable sacrifice to Jerusalem
(Rom. 15:16). This is very much the language of the prophets concerning
the Messianic Kingdom- as if to imply that the Kingdom is brought about
by our successful preaching? Hence it is in keeping with this to think
that there would be a burst of conversions to herald in the Kingdom.
- The dragon/ beast made war with the seed of the woman " which
keep the commandments (word) of God, and have the testimony (i.e. preaching)
of Jesus" (Rev. 12:17); it was because of " the word of their
testimony (i.e. preaching) (that) they loved not their lives unto the
death" (12:11), and then Rev. 12 goes on to describe how
this final witness amidst tribulation is resolved by the coming of Jesus
and the establishment of the Kingdom.
- Joel 2:32 seems to prophesy of multitudes calling upon the name of
the Lord in the ‘last days’. The preliminary fulfillment of this in
Acts 2:21 must surely be repeated in the ultimate ‘last days’. And it
may be that it is multitudes of Diaspora Jews who respond, as it was
in Acts 2…
- All the trees of the world will be clapping their hands when Jesus
returns (1 Chron. 16:33 etc.). Yet trees are symbolic of Gentile nations.
There will be, therefore, a remnant everywhere looking out for the Lord’s
- Further evidence that some from all nations must be acceptably in
Christ before His return is found by considering the account of the
" hauling in" of the fish nets in Jn. 21:6,11. It is the same
word as in Jn. 12:32: " When I am lifted up from the earth [in
death], I shall draw all men unto myself" . The nets were
not torn [schizein] in that there must be no division amongst
true preachers of the Gospel who all teach the same basic Gospel- contrast
this with how John frequently mentions the schizein which occurred
amongst those who would not fully accept the Lord's message (Jn. 7:43;
9:16; 10:19). The 153 fish caught in the net may refer to 153 being
the total number of species of fish recognized by the Greek zoologists.
The Lord's cross will draw all men- i.e. men from all nations- unto
Himself through our preaching, through our undivided drawing in of the
nets. The drawing in of nets is used by the Lord elsewhere as a figure
for His return and judgment- only when they are all drawn in can the
bad fish be cast away. So the conclusion has to be faced: there must
be fish caught in the net, i.e. Men and women who have responded to
the true Gospel, amongst " all men" , every species of humanity,
before the Lord's return. If we are convicted that we teach the true
Gospel, then it follows that there must be true Christian communities
amongst " all men" before the Lord returns; and thus His return
will be hastened by our establishment of those groups. When the Gospel
goes into all the world, then shall the end come.
When the wedding is “furnished with guests” as a result
of the final appeal to absolutely all men, ‘all you can see /
perceive’, then the wedding starts (Mt. 22:9,10 Gk.). “Furnished”
translates pletho, which carries the sense of being filled
up. When the full number of guests are seated, when a certain
number of true converts to the Kingdom feast have been made, then
the King comes in, and the wedding starts. This is what imbues
our latter day witness with such a sense of urgency. Every baptism
could be the last.
The great commission of Mt. 28 has evident reference to Dan. 7:14,
where the Son of Man is given authority and power over all so that
people of all nations, races and languages should serve Him. We must remind
ourselves that out of the 5,000 or so languages in the world, the vast
majority have no true Christian representatives; and only about half of
them have the Bible in their own language. And as of the year 2001, only
12% of the world have English as a first or second language; yet the majority
of our community are English speaking. If, as indeed we believe, we alone
preach the True Gospel...then we have a long way to go in fulfilling this.
Either that, or the scope of God’s acceptance of men from all these languages
and nations over time and over space today is far wider than we as a community
have thought. However, I personally am driven instead to understand that
the Truth must be taken into literally all the world by our community
in these last days. Rev. 5:9 presents us with the picture of men
and women redeemed from every kindred [tribe / clan], tongue
[glossa- language], people [a group of people not necessarily
of the same ethnicity] and nation [ethnos- ethnic group, lit.
‘those of the same customs’]. This means that, e.g., not only redeemed
‘Yugoslavs’ will stand before the throne in the end; but Macedonians,
Serbs, Croats, Slovenes, Montenegrans, Bosnians...every ethnic group,
with every custom, will have representatives who will have believed the
Truth and been saved. This idea is confirmed by considering how 70 bullocks
had to be sacrificed at the feast of ingathering (Num. 29), prophetic
as it was of the final ingathering of the redeemed. But 70 is the number
of all Gentile nations found in Gen. 10. And it is written: “When he separated
the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number
of the children of Israel” (Dt. 32:8). A total of 70 went down with Jacob
into Egypt; and thus 70 seems an appropriate number to connect with the
entire Gentile world. My point is, representatives of all of
them will be finally ingathered. It could be that this conversion of all
men occurs during the final tribulation (Rev. 14:6); but it seems to me
that the context demands that people from every nation etc. are already
redeemed in Christ and await His return.
It seems highly doubtful to me that over the past 2,000 years, the Truth
has been taken to every ethnos, tribe, clan, custom and language, especially
in Africa and Asia. So it follows that only once we have done
it in our generation will this come true. The brethren in those parts
especially have work to do yet, it seems to me. And we should all support
them as best we can. I have a real belief that given the current rate
of progress in preaching, the current generation could witness
literally world-wide representation of Christians believing true, sound
Biblical doctrine- if we all do our bit. And it seems
no accident that representatives from so many nations can be preached
to in cities like London, New York, Sydney…where the Truth has been so
long established. It is very difficult for me to reproduce in writing
the kind of picture I have in my mind. But it is a thrilling and all consuming,
Witnessing In Who We Are
And so the great commission, with which all the Gospel records conclude
[yes, John’s too- if you look for it!], ought to be the mission statement
for the true ecclesia. This is the objective of the community of believers.
And it is now being marvellously obeyed by so many. We must carry on with
our commission regardless of whether others in the community fall away,
press on even when our closest friends in the Lord lay fallen in their
tracks- through all the casualties, all the losses, the discouragements,
we will carry on, from victory unto victory. For God’s prophecies of the
latter days foretell our ultimate success. And so much success has and
does attend the sustained efforts to spread the word that so many are
making. Now this may not mean that you personally are converting people;
but looking at the wider picture world-wide, this is what is happening.
The Truth is spreading as never before. And to those involved in this
world-wide movement of witness and success in it, there is an excitement
akin to that in the early chapters of the Acts.
But, how to make this earth-shattering witness? As the concrete
of our generation’s “progress” has hardened, people are desperately looking
to other people. And time and again, the faithful witness of
the Christ-life lived out in our flesh has brought people to Him. Behind
the placid masks of the faces we see every day in the streets, there lies
a world of twisting souls, living with frustration and the fear of failure
and meaninglessness. And they turn to the likes of ourselves for some
way of escape, if they see in us a difference. By simply listening
to people first of all, we come to see the cracks underneath the masks.
On one hand, people are like frightened animals who will dart away at
the first sign of intrusion into their privacy. On the other hand, they
so want to open up and listen and be lead. We must move conversations
from the general mindless chatter to the more intimate issues of hopes
and fears, yours and theirs. Again, the credibility of our lives will
encourage them in this. They must sense in us the same heart / mind that
beat and throbbed in Jesus Christ; that same earnest concern for people
and their salvation, to God’s glory. As our members travel in total hundreds
of thousands of kilometres to meet each other, struggling together with
the stark and actual problems they face in common, a witness is made by
our unity. There is no ‘organization’, no membership dues…and yet this
body of people show by their transformed lives that they are something
super-human; they are the body of Jesus on earth. The message and person
of the real Christ becomes intelligible as it is seen focused in specific
lives, whose transformation is the ultimate verification that we really
do ‘have the truth’. The true propositions which we teach are confirmed
in the language of living experience which flows from us.
The acceptance of the teaching of Jesus produced a response in a person’s
relationships with other people (Jn. 1:12; Mt. 7:15; 11:2; 12:33; 25:31;
Lk. 10:29-37). No true Christian is a secret believer; the light burns
before the eyes of others. Ours isn’t just a religion like anyone else’s;
it is real, creative life. There is congruence between belief
and action, an honest admission of our humanity, just as there was then,
and this yet further compels a response in those who see it. Paul could
tell the Philippians to think on whatever things were true, honest,
just, pure etc.; and then boldly say that “Those things [which he has
just listed] which ye hath both learned, and received, and heard, and
seen in me, these things do” (Phil. 4:8,9 RV). What they had learnt and
heard from Paul, they had seen in him. He was the word which he preached
made flesh, after the pattern of his Lord. Paul could speak of “my ways
which be in Christ, as I teach every where in every church” (1 Cor. 4:17).
His ways, his life, his person, was what he taught- there was congruence
between his teaching and himself. And this congruence was consistent-
in every place and in every ecclesia, be it in Corinth, Jerusalem or Rome,
Paul the person was reflected in the teaching of Paul. The lack of congruence
between the message and the life is what is turning people away from the
true church in these last days; and yet the opposite is true now as never
before. Congruence between life and teaching, to the point that they are
one and the same, is powerfully attractive, especially in these days of
shallowness of personality, playing out of roles and other forms
of hypocrisy. This was why people believed in Jesus. Jn. 8:30,31 records
how He spoke about how the Father was with Him, “that I am he”, with full
reference to the Yahweh Name. “As he spake these words, many believed
on him”, as He spoke the words, it was evident that they were more than
words, they were an expression of the truth that was in this Man.
People are tired of words, of language…which in any case doesn’t convey
as well as we may think any lasting impression. People need to see what
we believe lived out. They need to see, e.g., that our understanding of
the representative nature of Jesus issues forth in our praying and in
our feeling for this man “whom having not seen ye love”. And perhaps this
is why it can be observed that Jesus almost never “went out of his way”
to help people but rather walked along and helped the people He met in
Israel’s deliverance from Egypt is in many ways a type of our redemption
at the time of the Lord’s return. The focus of the Passover feast
was the lamb, and this should be the centre of our thinking in these
last days. Some very intense Hebrew words are used to describe
their association of themselves with it: " Draw out (‘seize’)
and take you a lamb...strike ('lay the hand on', a word used about
rape) the lintel...with the blood" (Ex. 12:21,22). And the
run-up to Passover was to feature a business-like searching of the
house for leaven (Ex. 12:19), reflecting the close self-examination
which we should undertake individually and ecclesially (" your
houses" ) in this prelude to the Passover-coming of our Lord.
Not surprisingly, in the light of this, Passover night was to be
" a night of watching" (Ex. 12:42 RV mg.), strongly suggesting
" watching in prayer" (Eph. 6:18; 1 Pet. 4:7;
2 Cor. 11:27?). Similarly those who are found " watching"
at the Lord's midnight coming (cp. that of the Passover angel) will
be found acceptable (Lk. 12:37). The picture of Israel in their
family units huddled together around the Lamb, desperately focusing
their attention on that saving blood, watching and praying, examining
themselves- this is us, right now. For there can be no serious doubt
that the second coming is almost upon our generation. The run up
to the final tribulation will provoke a " praying always, that
ye may be accounted worthy...to stand before the Son of man"
(Lk. 21:36). Perhaps this intense latter day praying of the faithful
is what Rev. 8:1 refers to, in speaking of "silence in heaven"
when the seventh seal was opened- for this is one of Revelation's
continual allusions to the temple service: "In the Temple,
when the incense was offered, the people retired from the court
and prostrated themselves in silent prayer" (1).
In these last days the times are tough now spiritually, getting
tougher. Only " for the elects sake those days shall be shortened"
and we will be saved by the second coming. Thus 2 Pet. 3:12,15 reminds
us that by our prayers and spiritual development, the days before
the second coming will be shortened. If they were not, even the
elect would lose their faith (Mt. 24:22)- showing how those of us
who are alive at Christ's coming will barely survive the
spiritual traumas of the last days. The virgins were sleeping when
they should have been watching; and Peter says that the righteous
in the last generation (see context) will scarcely be saved
(1 Pet. 4:18).
" The Lord...is longsuffering to us-ward" of the last days.
This longsuffering of Jesus suggests the parable of the persistent widow,
whose continued requests should match our prayers for the second coming
(the vengeance of our adversaries which she requested will only come then).
" Though he bear long" (s.w. 'longsuffering') with us, "
God shall avenge His own elect, which cry day and night unto Him"
(Lk. 18:7). The " us" whom Peter refers to as experiencing the
Lord's longsuffering ('bearing long') are therefore to be equated with
" the elect" in their fervent prayers for the second coming.
The days being shortened- a strong idea in 2 Peter 3- for the elect's
sake therefore refers to the hastening of the second coming on account
of the elect's prayers (Mt. 24:22). In view of the later references to
Matt. 24, it is not unreasonable to think that Peter is consciously alluding
to Mt. 24:22 concerning the shortening of the days for the sake of the
elect's prayers, through his allusion to the parable of the persistent
widow of Lk.18:7.
Despite the power of prayer in bringing about the Lord's return in vengeance,
Lk. 18:9-14 continues in this same context to warn that despite this:
- Perhaps the Lord won't find such faith in prayer when he returns
- Many will pray but be so sure of their own righteousness that their
prayers are hindered
- The disciples will tend to despise the little ones in the ecclesia.
May we not give way to these latter day temptations!
There is a triple emphasis on Israel praying to God in the lead up to
Christ's birth (Luke 1:10,13; 2:37). We have seen from
Joel 2:17 and many other passages that the remnant will likewise devote
themselves to prayer in the last days, as will spiritual Israel.
The foolish virgins realize the need for prayer all too late; they knocked
on the door with great zeal, asking for it to be opened; seeking but not
finding. Knocking is sometimes used as a figure for prayer (Mt. 7:7).
The basis for these foolish virgins is surely in Prov. 1:28,29: "
Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer...they shall not find
me: for that they hated knowledge" . Having a laid back attitude
to developing a real knowledge of the Lord through the oil of the word
is therefore effectively hating knowledge. As we see the Lord’s coming
approaching, our daily reading according to the Companion ought
to be a bare minimum. There must be a feeling of and for those
things of which we read, and a holding of them in the heart through the
course of each day.
Joel prophesies how latter day Israel will be exhorted to howl in their
prayers, clothing themselves with sackcloth (Joel 1:13); exactly as Jeremiah
had pleaded with Israel in the last moments before the first Babylonian
onslaught: " Gird you with sackcloth, lament and howl" (Jer.
4:8). There will be a call to Israel to repent in the last days, and a
remnant will respond. This Elijah ministry [and maybe our present witness
to Jewry prepares the way for this?] must occur “before the coming of
the great and dreadful day of the Lord”. We could interpret the putting
forth of leaves on the fig tree as the signs of an initial repentance
and indication that real spiritual fruit is developing. This preaching
starts to produce some degree of response from Israel, and then "
all (is) fulfilled" in the full manifestation of Christ's Kingdom.
The parable says that as surely as Summer follows Spring, so those who
see the blossoming of the fig tree in the parable, will see the Kingdom.
Maybe this is to be taken literally; there may be a literal gap of a few
weeks/months (as between Spring and Summer) between the first signs of
Jewish repentance, and all being fulfilled. It may well be that the "
all" which will be fulfilled in Lk.21:32 is to be equated with "
the times of the Gentiles" being fulfilled (Lk.21:24). The Greek
kairos translated “times” is also translated “opportunity”; the
Gentiles’ opportunity to hear the Gospel is fast running out. And isn’t
it incredible that after years of fruitless trying, over 50 Israelis have
been baptized in the last 2 years! And so we ought to be witnessing “to
the Jew first” world-wide in our community, as well as supporting the
work of preaching in Israel itself. Paul makes the point that for the
sake of the tiny group of Jews who did still hold and practice the truth,
Israel would not suffer the judgments of Sodom in totality (Rom. 9:29
cp. Is. 1:9). This would indicate that there will also be a latter day
Jewish remnant which will stop the faithless Israel of today receiving
the judgment of permanent destruction.
The latter day “time of Jacob’s trouble” is based upon Jacob’s meeting
with Esau at Jabbok. Jacob's reliance on his own strength and subsequent
semi-faith in God's word of promise typifies the Jews of today; his time
of trouble truly humbled him, and his wrestling in prayer brought out
the great faith which he was potentially capable of, as the last days
will do for the Jews. Jacob's prayer is peculiarly apt to a repentant
Jewry: " O God of my father Abraham, and God of my father Isaac (going
back to their roots), the Lord which saidst unto me, Return unto thy country
(since 1948)...I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of
all the truth, which Thou hast shewed unto Thy servant; for with my staff
I passed over this Jordan (cp. the Atlantic, Mediterranean; the airways
of Eastern Europe; through the immigrant ports of Haifa, Tel Aviv...);
and now I am become two bands. Deliver me, I pray thee, from the hand
of my brother (cp. the Arabs), from the hand of Esau: for I fear him...and
Thou saidst, I will surely do thee good, and make thy seed as the sand
of the sea" (33:9-12). The reference to the Jewish fathers will be
the result of listening to the Elijah ministry, which will turn "
the heart of the children to their fathers" (Mal. 4:6). And this
message of ‘back to the promises, the Hope of Israel’ is exactly the message
we can take to the Jews in our communities today. My dream is that world-wide,
we will make this witness.
The days of Sodom are to be read as types of our last days. It is recorded
for our learning " that God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out
of the midst of the overthrow, when He overthrew the cities in the which
Lot dwelt" (Gen. 19:29). Thus in the type of the last days, the prayers
and loving spiritual concern of the faithful remnant really can have an
effect on the salvation of our weaker brethren. Note that Abraham's prayer
that Sodom would be saved if ten righteous were found there, was not answered;
but God knew the real spirit of his prayer, that Lot should be saved,
and that God's justice should be upheld in not destroying the righteous
with the wicked. It was this which God recognized and answered, even though
Abraham had not specifically verbalized those thoughts in prayer. Our
true spiritual love for our brethren, expressed in such intense prayer,
will likewise be heard in these last days.
The great commission is repeated in John’s Gospel but in more spiritual
language. The whole world is to know the Gospel because of the unity of
the believers (Jn. 17:18,21,23); and it follows that a situation will
arise in which the extraordinary nature of true Christian solidarity over
linguistic, ethnic, social and geographical lines will make a similar
arresting, compelling witness as it did in the first century. For the
great commission is to have special fulfilment in the last days. The Lord
had prophesied that His followers over time “shall become one flock” (Jn.
10:16 RV); they would be “perfected into one, that the world may know”
(Jn. 17:23 RV). He surely hoped this would have become true in the first
century. As the Gospel spreads world-wide in the last days, the unity
of the believers will become all the more comprehensive, and this will
of itself provoke yet more conversions. Indeed, this is already happening.
The solidarity between true Christians in Islamic or ethnically-divided
areas is producing more converts than any amount of press advertising.
It could have been like this in the first century- for Eph. 3:9 speaks
of how the unity of Jew and Gentile would “make all men see” the Gospel.
This is the urgency of Paul’s appeal for unity in Ephesians- he knew that
their unity was the intended witness to the world which the Lord had spoken
of as the means of the fulfilment of the great commission in Jn. 17:21-23.
But sadly, Jew and Gentile went their separate ways in the early church,
and the possibility of world-converting witness evaporated- to be granted
again in our last days. The unity between believers in your area ought
to be a startling, arresting testimony to the men and women around you-
rushing along in their lives, clutching all their petty jealousies and
distrusts of others.
Compare the following passages:
“I have set watchmen upon thy walls, O Jerusalem, which shall never
hold their peace day nor night: ye that make mention of the LORD, keep
not silence, And give him no rest, till he establish, and till
he make Jerusalem a praise in the earth” (Is. 62:6,7)
“Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and
love unto all the saints, Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention
of you in my prayers; That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father
of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the
knowledge of him” (Eph. 1:15-17).
The ideas of praying without ceasing and making mention occur in both
passages. Surely Paul had the Isaiah passage in mind. It seems that
he saw the ecclesia as the spiritual Zion. In the same way as Zion’s
watchmen were exhorted to pray for her without ceasing until the
Kingdom is established there, so Paul prayed for the spiritual growth
of his brethren. The implication is surely that once a certain level
of spirituality had been achieved, then the Lord will return to
establish His Kingdom. When the harvest is ripe, then the sickle
is put in. Jn. 17:23 speaks of how the church will “be perfected
into one” (RV), as if this process is ongoing and comes to a finality
at the Lord’s return. This is an urgent imperative to unity amongst
us- and yet as these [apparently] “last days” wear on, we become
increasingly disunited. This ought to be a true worry to
Of Knowledge Increased
There are distinct Biblical implications that the latter day generation
of God’s people will have their eyes opened to the understanding of God’s
word, especially the prophecies, in order to fortify them against the
pressures of the time of the end.
The repentance of Israel must be associated with an opening of their
eyes to God's word. There is no other way men can come to repentance.
Jer. 30:24 prophecies Jacob's final homecoming, and then comments: "
In the latter days (not now) ye shall consider (understand) it" .
Then Israel will consider and understand the words of their prophets.
" The Lord hath poured out upon (Israel) the spirit of deep sleep,
and hath closed your eyes (quoted in Rom. 11:8 concerning Israel's blindness
to Christ)...the vision of all (God's word) is become unto you as the
words of a book that is sealed...(but) in that day shall the (spiritually)
deaf hear the words of the book" (Is. 29:10,11,17,18). This will
be when the book is unsealed at " The time of the end"
(Dan. 12:4). We have shown elsewhere that Israel's minority repentance
must occur prior to the Lord's return. Therefore there must be an upsurge
in Biblical activity amongst those who will become the faithful remnant
in latter day Israel. This will be brought about by the Elijah prophet-
remembering that the Elijah prophet is framed in Malachi as a teacher
of God's word, not just an imparter of it. Likewise John, in the spirit
of Elijah, taught the people about the Lord's advent.
Malachi's prophecy of the faithful remnant earnestly speaking to each
other about the word in preparation for the Lord's coming can be equally
applicable to spiritual Israel. The flagship verse concerning the opening
of our eyes to latter day prophecy must be Dan. 12:4,10: " Shut up
the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall
run to and fro (an idiom often used concerning response to God's word:
Ps. 119:32,60; 147:15; Amos 8:11,12; Hab. 2:2; 2 Thess. 3:1 Gk.), and
knowledge (of Daniel's prophecies) shall be increased...many shall be
purified, and made white, and tried (in the tribulation); but the wicked
shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise
shall understand" . This is all in the context of the Angel rejecting
Daniel's plea for insight into his own prophecies. All he was told was
that they would be fulfilled in the far distant future, but he was comforted
with the thought that the faithful at that time would understand.
Thus Dan. 12:4 LXX reads: " Seal the book until the time of its
accomplishment" - then it will be unsealed and the meaning
become apparent to our generation. " None of the wicked shall
understand; but the wise shall understand" suggests that this true
understanding of God’s word motivates the faithful remnant in holding
on to a righteous lifestyle in the morally chaotic latter day world. Time
and again Israel are condemned because their lack of understanding
of the prophecies led them into sinful behaviour (Dt. 32:29; Ps. 94:8;
There are a number of other hints outside Daniel that there will be a
progressive growth in Biblical understanding amongst the latter day faithful.
In the spirit of Daniel, Habakkuk was told that the full understanding
of his vision concerning the latter day judgment of Babylon was "
yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie"
, and at that time the one who reads and understands it will
" run" - using the same idiom as in Dan. 12;4 concerning the
latter day believers 'running' in response to their understanding of God's
word (Hab. 2:2,3). The Olivet prophecy repeatedly talks about 'seeing'
or (Gk.) understanding things and then acting upon this knowledge. The
English translation somewhat masks this. Thus Mt. 24:15 " Whoso readeth"
uses a Greek word which really means to recognize, distinguish- and he
who recognizes, understands, let him " understand" or, better,
meditate. Or again, " When ye shall see (Greek, to know,
perceive) the abomination that maketh desolate..." (Mt. 24:15). This
might suggest that the " abomination" isn't necessarily something
physical. The idea seems to be 'When you understand that the abomination
that makes desolate is in place, then...', rather than 'When you see (physically)
on the telly or in the newspaper an abomination in Jerusalem, then...do
something about it'. " When ye shall see (Gk. perceive, understand)
all these things, (then you will) know that it is near" (Mt. 24:33).
" Behold (same Greek: perceive, comprehend) the fig tree..."
(Lk. 21:29). The emphasis is undoubtedly on the need for understanding
of the signs, not just observing them.
And all over the world, people are turning to the Bible. Free advertising
of Bible Basics on the internet recently produced up to 700 replies
daily- from all over the planet [even Iraq!]. And brethren and
sisters, in the turmoil of the last days, are underlining and analyzing
Bible verses with a verve and urgent seeking for truth and living hope
and concrete guidance which the last days have brought us to.
Is It For Real?
Now, brethren, sisters. Is all I have written here merely a fantasy?
Just a heavily skewed way of looking at certain passages?
Or is this a realizable vision, reflecting the Biblical picture
of what we both should and will be about in His work in
this, the time of the end…? I wouldn’t have opened my heart to you
in this way unless I believed that this is all for real; that in
our praying, our preaching, our Bible study, our repentance, our
love…we, the last generation, must and will rise up to new heights,
making the dream come real.
(1) Hugh Schonfield, The Original New Testament: Revelation
(London: Firethorn Press, 1985) footnote on Rev. 8:1.