By Samuel Clough
The Unique Relationship of Jewish and African Peoples at the End of the Age
When we speak of the black community we must clearly include all black believers, both those in Africa and those throughout the earth due to the African diaspora. The call to the black community to take leadership in the prayer movement is a global call because of the immensity of their role at the end of the age.
Many leaders are feeling a prophetic urgency that the black community must take a place of primary leadership in the prayer movement and this prophetic urgency must not be seen as a prophetic whisper, but as a prophetic shout due to the urgency of the hour. It is critical that we understand that this is not a good idea or another man-made attempt at reconciliation. This is a critical issue and there will be massive repercussions in the years ahead based on how we respond to the prompting of the Holy Spirit
The prayer movement at the end of the age will be from intimacy, with music, and for the harvest. The Lord has placed a unique gift and divine authority on the black community relating to music and to worship. At the end of the age the prayer movement will be in the context of worship and this unique gift is specifically designed to build the house of prayer.
From the end of the earth we have heard songs… – Isaiah 24:16 NKJV
We must respond both in the place of intercession and in action. While action is necessary, intercession is more necessary. We fail to intercede over this issue because we fail to understand how truly critical it is. Man-made attempts at superficially uniting the races have caused many to ignore the call to unity. We must understand that, in this hour, the call for black leadership in the prayer movement is not a fad, a trend, or another man-made attempt at reconciliation, it is a critical once we understand the prophetic context that we are living in and the context in which the events at the end of the age will unfold.
While we are going to primarily consider the eschatological issues surrounding black leadership in the prayer movement, we must be clear that the Lord strong desires racial unity in the church. The racial separation in the church is a serious concern before the Lord regardless of the eschatological implications we will examine. The conflict between Jew and gentile is the origin of all racism, and from the beginning, the church was intended to be a miraculous demonstration of unity between the Jew and Gentile.
Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! – Psalm 133:1 NKJV
…where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all. – Colossians 3:11 NKJV
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. – Galatians 3:28 NKJV
One of the greatest blights on the church is the initial racial divide that occurred as the gentile community of believers outgrew the Jewish community of believers and began separating from them and persecuting them as early as the 3rd century. This racism had profound implications for the church. This separation is felt to this day in Jewish distrust of the very people that carry their own Scriptures. Beyond the blindness spoken of in the Scriptures, there is a resistance to Christians due to their experience of racism.
Even Christian theology suffered tremendously from this divide as the gentile church divorced itself from the Jewish context of the Scripture and sought to synthesize the Scriptures with other philosophical ideas. In light of our past, While we want to examine the eschatological issues that surround black leadership in the prayer movement, we must acknowledge that the Lord truly desires unity in His church and our separation grieves His heart.
The Purpose of the Prayer Movement
Because we are considering the prayer movement specifically, we must understand why the prayer movement is exploding at this particular time in history. The prayer movement does serve the purpose of unifying the church, laboring for revival, and demonstrating the worth of Jesus; however, those are not the only reasons for the unique night and day prayer movement that is spreading rapidly throughout the earth. Without understanding the full context of the prayer movement, we will not have vision or strength to continue.
A primary purpose for the night and day prayer movement is the crisis that will fall on Israel at the end of the age. The Scripture is very clear that night and day prayer will precede the end of the age. This contending prayer movement is both Jesus’ global welcoming party and will also be required for the events that befall Israel at the end of the age. See Psalms 96:1-13; 98:1-9; Isaiah 30:19; 24:14-16; 52:8; Zephaniah 2:1-3; Zechariah 12:10; Luke 18-8; Revelation 5:8; 8:3-5; 22:17.
The Scripture is particularly clear that night and day prayer exists for God’s purposes in Jerusalem. Isaiah 62 is very clear about the connection of day and night prayer with the urgency in God’s heart to see all His purposes regarding Israel and Jerusalem come to pass:
For Zion’s sake I will not hold My peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until her righteousness goes forth as brightness, and her salvation as a lamp that burns…I have set watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem [for the cause of Jerusalem]; they shall never hold their peace day or night. You who make mention of the LORD, do not keep silent, and give Him no rest till He establishes and till He makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth. – Isaiah 62:1;6-7 NKJV
Contending day and night prayer, which includes day and night worship and singing is a part of the end of the age. As the earth groans, so too the people of God will corporately groan in faith for His appearing.
The Significance of Israel and the Coming Crisis
Not only is night and day prayer significant for Jesus’ appearing, it is required because of the magnitude of the events that are going to befall Israel, and the entire globe, at the end of the age. Much of the church has little or no awareness of the magnitude of the trouble that is coming for Israel. Many assume that Israel’s troubles are mostly over because they are back in the land. The reality is that Israel’s troubles are only about to escalate. The terrors of the day ahead should cause us to have difficulty speaking about these things without weeping.
Alas! For that day is great, so that none is like it; and it is the time of Jacob’s trouble… – Jeremiah 30:7 NKJV
Jeremiah 30-31 describes the time of Jacob’s trouble, an unparalleled time of difficulty and suffering for Israel. Many assume this is past, when a careful study of Scripture reveals that the most terrifying days of Jewish suffering are in front of us. Jewish suffering will not only affect Israel, but it will become an issue throughout the entire earth. The issue of Jerusalem will affect the entire earth as the Jews are persecuted and driven throughout the nations of the earth. Throughout the earth Jews will be on the run and in hiding. What was seen in Nazi Germany was a graphic illustration of what is coming again as the end-time scenario unfolds.
And it shall happen in that day that I will make Jerusalem a very heavy stone for all peoples… – Zechariah 12:3 NKJV
In the hour of their greatest suffering, God will be looking at the gentiles, the “wild olive branches that have been grafted in to the natural olive tree” to make provision for and suffer with the Jewish people in order to display His own unending love for Israel.
I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles…For if you were cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, who are natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree? – Romans 11:11,25 NKJV
The Preparation of a People that Can Endure Crisis
As the hour of trial for the entire earth approaches, the church must be prepared to endure crisis and pressure unlike any point in human history.
For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened. – Matthew 24:21-22 NKJV
Since the prayer movement exists specifically for this time of great tribulation, and the many decades leading up to this time as the pressure begins to build, the Lord will prepare a people for this hour of suffering that are capable of enduring with strength. Particularly in the preceding centuries, people of African descent throughout the earth have endured great suffering and great trial. Because of this suffering, they have a unique history that the entire church is going to need in the hour of suffering to come.
Amazingly, the history of the African people contains unique parallels to the story of Joseph. Like Joseph they have endured persecution, slavery, and being cast aside as a people group. Yet, like Joseph, in the moment of national crisis there are significant consequences if they do not rise and take their place of leadership on behalf of others to prepare for and endure the crisis.
If the church is going to be prepared to endure the hour of suffering, it is critical that the black community take a significant leadership role to begin to prepare the church at large to endure the type of suffering that the black community has experienced over the last several centuries. The entire community of believers around the earth will soon experience the suffering that they endured simply because of skin color.
At the end of the age, this racism will come to its zenith and we must understand that the root of all racism is the divide between Jew and gentile. However, persecution will not be limited only to those that are Jewish by blood though they will take the brunt of the suffering. Those who join themselves to Jacob in that hour will endure the suffering as well. The African people have uniquely experienced the suffering that comes from racism on a global level and therefore have a great understanding of the suffering that will come as anti-Semitism reaches its height in all of history.
Believers of all backgrounds, who join themselves to the Jewish people in this hour of suffering, will begin to experience the full weight of suffering that comes from racism. In this hour, believers of African ancestry have been uniquely prepared to lead the church with strength. Because they have borne the weight of suffering rooted in racism, they will be equipped to lead the entire church as it comes under the weight of racial suffering through faithfulness to the Jew.
This is the hour for the black community to give the entire church strength to endure the persecution that is coming. If they do not their place of leadership the entire church will be unequipped for the eschatological suffering that is coming.
We are bear responsibility to see these things come to pass. There is a call to black believers to receive the love and warmth of other areas of the church who are genuinely repentant towards the history of racism that has existed in many countries of the earth and was effected by many of their ancestors. Just as Jesus forgave those who persecuted Him, so too the black community must forgive so that they can take their rightful place of leadership across the entire church.
There is also a clear call to non-black believers to have genuine love and sympathy for the suffering that the black community has endured. There is a tendency for non-black believers to over simplify the suffering endured by the black community and the issues it has subsequently faced because of centuries of slavery. This over simplification creates a barrier that prevents the black community from coming into their place of leadership over the entire church. Love must become the preeminent value of non-black believers towards their black brothers and sisters.
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become a sounding brass or a clanging cymbal…Though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing…the greatest of these is love. – I Corinthians 13:1,3,13 NKJV
The African Witness to the Jews at the End of the Age
Even as the black community is called to strengthen the entire community of believers at the end of the age, they are also uniquely called to minister to the Jew in the hour of suffering and trial. The African history of diaspora, suffering, and slavery has uniquely prepared the black community to minister to Jews in flight at the end of the age. Their shared history of suffering will enable them to minister to the Jews in a unique way.
It is critical that the black community does not see its suffering only through an Afrocentric lens. Yes, God cares about the unique suffering the black community has endured, but the black community must see their own suffering as a unique preparation that allows them to minister at the end of the age in the way that others cannot. (This, of course, in no way justifies the suffering perpetrated on the African people, but rather it is God’s glorious redemption of the wickedness they have endured.)
The black community will only find full healing from the suffering they have endured as they see the incredible gift they now have that will be required at the end of the age. Though there are real issues within the black community that all believers should labor for, the black community themselves cannot allow their own suffering to cause them to lose sight of their call which extends fall beyond their own community.
A primary tool of the enemy at the end of the age will be to make the black community entirely self focused so that they cannot give their unique gift to the Jew and the church at the end of the age. The enemy knows how significant their role is to be and this is why he consistently wars against them coming into true freedom and releasing the power of their history of suffering to the church and, in a coming hour, to Jews in flight.
It also cannot be overlooked that both the African people and the Jewish people are known as a musical people. Isaiah 24:14-16 is very clear that, at the end of the age, amidst all the destruction songs will be heard from the ends of the earth.
From the end of the earth we have heard songs… – Isaiah 24:16 NKJV
As Jews are persecuted throughout the earth, the Lord will cause them to be sheltered by gentile believers who will be singing the very songs of Zion throughout the nations of the earth. In the very hour when the Jews feel least like singing, they will be sheltered by a singing people singing their own songs from the Scripture. This global singing will be a primary witness of Jesus to the Jews at the end of the age. The black community has a unique gift and anointing for song and for music. Not only does the Lord intend to use this gift to fill the earth with prayer and worship in preparation for the Lord’s return, He also intends to use it to minister to the Jews at the end of the age.
We must always be clear that no one knows the day or the hour of Jesus return, but the Scripture is also clear that we will know the signs of the times as the end approaches. It is unbiblical to act as though we should not anticipate the end of the age or even watch for specific, biblical signs that the end is drawing near. The clear tone of Jesus’ and Paul’s writings is that we are actually in error when we do not recognize the times and seasons.
When you see all these things, know that it is near-at the doors! – Matthew 24:33 NKJV
Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. Matthew 24:42 NKJV
Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near. – Luke 21:28
The Pharisees…came, and testing Him asked that He would show them a sign from heaven…Hypocrites! You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times. – Matthew 16:1-4 NKJV
Concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you…But you, brethren, are not in darkness so that this Day should overtake you as a thief…Therefore…let us watch. – 1 Thessalonians. 5:1-6 NKJV
Virtually all of the church recognizes the significance of Israel’s return to the land beginning in 1948 and their occupation of Jerusalem in 1967. After 2,000 years of absence from the land, this was a stunning development that shows us very clearly that we have entered a different prophetic season on God’s timetable. While most of the church recognizes there is great significance to the state of Israel, most of the church is still ignorant of the fact that the current state of Israel is not the full fulfillment of God’s promises to Israel and a great suffering exists between what exists now and what God will establish at Jesus’ return.
As we have already noted, the time of Jacob’s trouble (Jeremiah 30-31) is still future and almost no one is preparing for it. History did not crescendo during World War II. It is building to a crescendo.
The current state of Israel will not endure as it is and the Jewish people will experience another disastrous season of suffering that both the holocaust and the previous diaspora were precursors to. While the understanding of Israel’s future suffering has been considered by many to be a fringe idea in the last few decades, not only is the church now growing in understanding of the coming crisis but the actual events that must come before the crisis are beginning to occur with frightening speed.
In the last twelve months, virtually every Arab state around Israel has become embroiled in revolution. While these revolutions are often presented as movements for democracy in the western media, everyone knows that the end of these revolutions will always be a strict Islamic government. The phrase “Arab spring is becoming Sharia fall” is an apt description of what is happening.
Both of Israel’s great allies in the region have suddenly shifted course in the last year. Turkey has gone from a quiet presence in the region that allied itself with U.S. interests to become very vocal against the state of Israel. Egypt, a close ally of Israel, now exists without a real government and, barring miraculous intervention from the Lord, is set to transition to an aggressive Islamic government. Protests in the nation have included calls for a military march on Israel and an attack against the Israeli embassy.
Other surrounding nations are also rapidly positioning themselves to participate in an attack against Israel. Iran has been very clear about its intentions to wipe Israel out of the land. The Palestinians have repeatedly refused moderate land swap proposals and are instead pushing for an internationally recognized state that will be one step to their plan of annihilating Israel. Palestinians have been very clear about their refusal to recognize Israel as a legitimate nation.
Smaller Arabic nations surrounding Israel are all in the midst of turbulence and revolution. As the dust settles in each nation, it will be the radical Muslims who will be in charge of each nation. The current turbulence in the Middle East is very clearly setting up a situation where Israel is surrounded with a hostility that is far more overt than what it has experienced in the last 20 years.
When Israel begins to be overrun by Arabic nations and Jews again flee into the nations of the earth, most of the church who will have no understanding of what is happening will retreat into fear and confusion. Many will even lose their faith and fall away entirely because of unbiblical ideas they had about Israel and the end of the age.
We cannot know if these events are months, years, or decades away, but it is very clear that the Middle East is rapidly transforming to the point where the future suffering of Israel is no longer just an idea, but a reality.
Very little remains, except for the actual military invasion, to set up the final scenario of Jewish suffering. This is no longer just a theological or eschatological idea for us to wrestle debate-it is reality on our evening news.
At this point, it only takes one nation to pull the trigger and a unified Arab coalition in the region could easily unite in military action against Israel. When we understand the reality of our condition, we should tremble at the lack of understanding and, even great, the lack of day and night intercession for the issue of Jerusalem.
In addition, it should fill our hearts with urgency for black believers to take their place in the prayer movement. It is the enemy’s scheme that black believers do not come into their place so that Israel will not be ministered to as the Lord intends in the final suffering. The black church and the Jewish predicament at the end of the age are intertwined and this is why the enemy wages such war against black believers coming into a place of leadership in a unified praying church at the end of the age. If he can prevent black believers from standing in their place and strengthening the church and ministering to the Jews at the end of the age, then he can affect far more damage in his rage against the church and the Jewish people.
The issue of black leadership in the prayer movement then is not just an issue of racial unity, which is extremely precious to the Lord, but it has great eschatological significance. The consequences of black believers not coming into the fullness of their destiny are massive. The scenario in the Middle East should make us tremble with urgency. The events of the end, though they may take decades to unfold, are upon us and yet black believers have still not been brought into their full place of leadership at the end of the age.
The situation is not accidental, nor is it isolated. Let us labor with sobriety to see the black community come into their fullness and to see other believers recognize the awesome responsibility that believers of African descent have in the events of the end of the age. Let us labor with great love to see the fullness of God’s calling for black believers come to pass.
If we do not give ourselves to intercession and to action, whether we are of African descent or not, to see that the black community is established in her place of leadership we are ignorant of the times in which we live and lack understanding of how our actions now will have massive repercussions as the end of the age unfolds with greater intensity.
If you are not familiar with this issue, I would like to encourage you to prayerfully read through both The Holocaust: Where was God? by Art Katz and The Controversy of Zion and the Time of Jacob’s Trouble by Dalton Lifsey.
Posted in 1 Corinthians, 1 Thessalonians, Eschatology, Intercession, Isaiah, Israel, Jacob's Trouble, Luke, Persecution, Prayer Movement, Psalms, Romans, Significant Posts, The Coming Crisis, Zecharaiah, Zephaniah | Tagged African, black community, Eschatology, holocaust, Israel, Jacob's trouble, prayer movement, suffering | 1 Response
By Samuel Clough
It is like a man going to a far country, who left his house and gave authority to his servants, and to each his work, and commanded the doorkeeper to watch. 35 Watch therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming—in the evening, at midnight, at the crowing of the rooster, or in the morning— 36 lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping. 37 And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch! – Mark 13:34-37 NKJV
Many in the church have become both weary and wary of eschatology due to false predictions and unbiblical approaches. While we must resist unbiblical ideas or unbiblical predictions about the day of the Lord’s return, we cannot lose sight of the fact that believers are an eschatological people. Jesus is incredibly clear in His discourse in Mark 13 that He expects us to be eagerly watching for His return. Mark concludes Jesus’ description of the events that will preceded His coming with this very clear command. While many have completely focused on Jesus’ remark that only the Father knows the hour of His return, they have completely missed that fact that His entire discourse is designed to command us to have clarity and understanding as we see the times and seasons shift towards His coming.
Mark specifically concludes Jesus’ discourse with a parable where Jesus instructs us to be like gatekeepers watching for the coming of the Son of man. Jesus warns us to never stop watching because we do not know at what hour He may come. Taken in context, Jesus clearly expects that we should be able to perceive the times and seasons when He is coming. He exhorts us to remain vigilant on our watch but that is not because He wants us to be prepared for a secret rapture event, it is because He wants us to recognize the times and seasons and to be fully prepared for His coming. He expects that, as we see certain events unfold, that we prepare ourselves, and others, for His coming.
Far from being an exhortation concerning a secret event, the urgency in Jesus’ words is that His coming will not take us by surprise. He intends us to be watching so intently that we do perceive the season of His coming as we watch events unfold. Jesus is burdened knowing that the human heart quickly grows dull and that is why there is such urgency in His voice through this entire passage exhorting us to keep watch lest His coming catch us by surprise. He intends us to be aware of the times and seasons so that we may be a witness in the midst of eschatalogical events. In fact, this is Jesus’ strategy to fulfill Matthew 24:14.
For the generations that have passed without seeing His return, Jesus’ burden is that they live in urgency because He knows that it is impossible to live rightly in this age without eagerly and constantly watching for His return. Jesus’ words especially carry weight for those who will find caught up in the actual experience of these cataclysmic events. Mark recorded just verses earlier that those days will be so filled with anguish that God has to shorten them for the sake of the saints (Mark 13:20), therefore Jesus is so burdened for that generation that He especially wants them watching carefully so that they will be like a gatekeeper protecting the servants by watching carefully for the Master’s return.
So few are watching for His return day and night like a gatekeeper, yet Mark tells us here that Jesus was releasing this command like a cry to all. The intensity in Jesus’ voice in Mark 13:37 (NKJV) is shocking, “And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!” In other words, Jesus did not give this message once or just to a few people, but He was crying out to all. He was crying out to all who would listen to watch. Jesus cried out to all to watch, because living in a posture of looking for the signs of His coming is not option, but required. Just as He preached repentance to all, so too He instructed all to watch. He knew that a posture of watchfulness was the only thing that would keep their hearts prepared.
Right now we see believers of all kinds preparing and focusing on taking the gospel to every nation and even every people group. Knowing God’s jealousy for His Son’s name, this obviously pleases His heart immensely. In the midst of all all the valuable preparations for the final wave of missionary activity across the earth, my heart is burdened concerning whether or not we are also watching like gatekeepers and preparing for the very crises Jesus warned us about because this crises are inseparable from the fulfillment of the task of world evangelism.
Matthew’s parallel account of Jesus’ teaching on the end times specifically positions massive shakings before the promise of the gospel going to every people group. In other words, completion of the task of world evangelism takes place in the context of political and geological shakings so intense that Jesus concludes them by saying that God shortens those days specifically so that the saints will actually survive (Mark 13:20).
While there is a lot of excitement and anticipation, and rightly so, concerning new church planting and missions movements, it is disturbing that there is also little preparation for the intensity of the days when the gospel reaches the ends of the earth. God has so orchestrated the plan of history that the pressure of the last days and the evangelization of the earth are parallel events running together in partnership. The crisis of the last days is one of the primary mechanisms that causes the gospel to spread to every people group on the earth. This is a staggering and terrifying reality.
We must prepare our heart for the pressures of that day so that we can stand. Jesus Himself cried out, “Watch!” To put it simply, to be doing missions, ministry, or laboring in the marketplace without an eschatological urgency is simply foolish. In all of our excitement regarding the spread of the gospel we must remember that Jesus warned that the earth has never seen the kind of tribulation or anguish it will see in that day (Mark 13:19). Think of whatever you see as the most horrible period of pressure or persecution and then consider the weight of Jesus’ words. There has never been a day like the day that is coming and that day will come in the context of global proclamation of Jesus.
It is exciting and terrifying all in the same moment. It means we are living in one of the most exciting, and yet also the most difficult, periods in human history. We must be preparing. We must understand that this is the reason for the prayer rooms that are springing up across the earth. Many believers are excited a the amazing proliferation of prayer rooms that we are seeing as the prayer movement increases, but we also must have clarity on why the Lord is raising up the prayer movement at this time.
There is a very specific strategy in the Lord’s heart for raising up the prayer movement. He knows the pressure that is coming so He is beginning now to build a praying people. Small, weak prayer rooms all around the earth are incubators where the Lord is seeking to grow and develop believers that will be able to endure the pressure and lead others in the moment of crisis. It is critical that we understand the prayer movement from this perspective. If we do not, our prayer rooms will not have the razor sharp focus the Lord desires for them.
The last days, world evangelization, and the prayer movement are bound together like a three-fold cord. You cannot separate them. You also cannot properly understand any of them without the others. God, in His manifold wisdom, has bound these three together. Both the increase of prayer rooms and the possibility of completing the task of world evangelization in the next generation are both eschatological realities. We must see them as such and embrace this reality lest we risk being found like the virgins running out of oil as the midnight hour approached.
By Samuel Clough
Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, And to offsprings, referring to many, but referring to one, And to your offspring, who is Christ. – Galatians 3:16
Abraham only received a part of his promise in his son Isaac. In other words, Isaac was the fulfillment of a promise of descendants, but Isaac was not the promised descendent. There was another descendant that would come from Abraham. Abraham is such a towering figure of faith because, even in receiving Isaac, he had to continue to look forward to promises that his eyes never saw before death.
We are caught in a similar predicament. We receive the Holy Spirit both as a fulfillment of the promise and as a downpayment of the promise to come. We are given the very real gift of the Holy Spirit and yet the Scripture is also very clear that there is a much greater fulfillment coming. This is what causes Paul to use words such as “down payment,” “earnest money,” and “deposit” to describe our present experience of the Holy Spirit.
Just as Abraham received Isaac as a testimony that the promised Son would come forth, we must also receive the Holy Spirit as a testimony that the promised Son will return. Just as Abraham was tested on the promise that a Son would come forth that would give him an inheritance in every nation (Gen 12), we are given the Holy Spirit as a testimony that God will fulfill His promise and resurrect our entire body. Abraham had to wander Canaan as a witness looking for the kingdom the Son would establish. In the same way, believers are spread into every part of the earth, as nomads of heart, waiting for the promised Son to fulfill that inheritance.
Given the low place eschatology, and a solid, real eschatological hope presently has among God’s people, can we honestly say we have the faith of Abraham? Abraham had to trust that God would raise up a Seed to bring blessing to the nations from a barren womb. We are being asked to watch, wait, deny ourselves, and live soberly in anticipation of that promised Seed returning, judging the earth, and bringing restoration to creation. The resurrection of creation is no less a miracle than what Abraham carried in his heart. If we are not living constantly in an eschatological perspective, making decisions with the literal day of the Lord in view, are we living as Abraham did?
Our faith is to be just as active, rugged, and absolute as Abraham’s was. Many of us may be “coasting” feeling like we are living in the fulfillment of what Abraham ached and longed for, but the reality is that living the Christian life as God intended it will require a faith as demanding as Abraham’s. If he could speak, Abraham would be urging us to live with a heart that is just as uncomfortable with the present as his own way. He would be pleading with us to live longing for the second appearance of Messiah as strongly as he longed for the first.
Abraham’s longing caused him to wander with no real home looking for a city that God built. In other words, his heart was so set on a future city that he refused to settled in any of the contemporary cities. He would rather wander uncomfortably to maintain a longing for a future city then to settled in a city and risk losing the ache and the longing. I wonder sometimes if we give credence to the coming city, but dull the ache in our heart by being too settled in the cities of our time.
Abraham received Isaac in joy, but even this child of promise caused his heart to long for the appearance of the ultimate seed that could fulfill all the promises. Do we receive the Holy Spirit with all the joy and eagerness that Abraham embraced Isaac with and then long from the depths of our heart to see the fulfillment of the promises with the Holy Spirit points us to or are we content with what we have now?
We must acknowledge that It is to our shame that we have so little interest in the Holy Spirit. It is as shameful for us as it would have been for Abraham to not embrace the baby Isaac. However, for those that eagerly receive from the Spirit, do we allow the Spirit to do His full work of causing us to long for the appearing of the promise? Abraham was called to sacrifice his son Isaac on a hill so that he would know the ultimate promise was not Isaac, but something greater.
So too, the Holy Spirit desires that we receive all that He will give us, but He longs to point us to something more than we have in this age. He wants to cause our hearts to ache that we might receive something greater in the physical return of Jesus to the planet and the resurrection of our entire being by the Holy Spirit. Abraham did receive Isaac back, but he also crossed over into a confidence that God would fulfill all His promises no matter what happened to Abraham. The willingness to sacrifice Isaac was not just an issue of Isaac, it actually changed Abraham’s heart and joined it to God’s promise in a new way. Like Abraham, we need to have our hearts bonded to God’s promises.
Again, do not make the mistake of despising what God has given now, but do not make the critical mistake of losing sight of the ultimate promise that is coming. What is given now is given unto inspiring faith to believe that God will do all that He has promised. In other words, the Holy Spirit and eschatology are inseparably linked.
The clear evidence of this is found in Acts 2. The Holy Spirit so filled Peter with faith, enabling him to believe that God would do all that He had promised, that Peter immediately connected the gift of the Holy Spirit with Joel 2. Since that time, whenever there is an unusual outpouring of the Holy Spirit one of the primary results is a sudden urgency with regard to the return of the Lord. Believers suddenly feel the nearness of His return and it becomes an integral part of their proclamation.
What this also means is that when believers give testimony to the Holy Spirit but have little or no real interest in the return of the Lord, in the sense that it alters the way that they live, that something is lacking in their experience of the Spirit. Perhaps God is asking many of us to sacrifice our present enjoyment of the Holy Spirit, as Abraham did Isaac, that we might no longer consider what we enjoy now to be the fulfillment but that, like Abraham, we might exercise faith in looking for a greater fulfillment. The heart transformation that would come from such a sacrifice is real and substantial.
The issue is not to lay aside our experience of the Holy Spirit. God forbid we should ever do that! The issue is that our present enjoyment of the Holy Spirit must not be an end in itself, but rather we must sacrifice our present satisfaction that we might allow the Holy Spirit to transform us into pilgrims like Abraham. If He is given full control, He will do this work. So long as we are content with just a little of the Holy Spirit now, we are like Abraham refusing to sacrifice Isaac. We are like little children so enamored with our present gift, that we have no faith for a future promise that God is calling us to.
God is looking forward, let us not look back. We must take all that has been given, not despising any of His present gifts, but we must also keep pressing forward looking for the “Day of the Lord” which will be the fulfillment of the promises regarding the Seed. God is looking to see if there are any men who consider His promise worthy actually rearranging their lives around it. He is looking for saints that believe His word, in spite of all opposition, and are looking forward to the complete fulfillment of the promise first given in the garden. Anything less is not following in our Father Abraham’s footsteps.
By Samuel Clough
It has been very encouraging to my heart to see more and more people studying the book of Revelation studying it to find the revelation of Jesus (Revelation 1:1) and to prepare their hearts to both boldly declare the gospel and endure persecution. Because of this, I plan to share some ideas on how to study the book of Revelation in a very practical way in a future post. The book is full of very practical information with regard to what the Lord ultimately sees as important in our lives and in preparing our hearts for coming storms and for the coming storm.
As a mentioned recently in praying the Bible, taking specific promises and warnings from a passage of Scripture and praying them can help us to really root the Scripture in our hearts. It also helps us to develop a more clear picture of exactly what the Lord is saying to us in a passage. At the bottom of this post is a link you can use to download a document on praying the book of Revelation. For those that are frightened of the book of Revelation, take a few minutes and read it. You will be amazed at how practical this is. I am finding a lot of material in the book for prayer.
The book of Revelation is filled with a lot of sobering material for devotional prayer. There are very specific admonitions that will keep us from disaster in the faith and there are very specific exhortations concerning weighty rewards that are available. I fear what it might cost our hearts to neglect the critical issues that Jesus addresses in this book.
By Samuel Clough
…For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. – Revelation 19:10b (ESV)
I’ll admit up front that this post is long, but the topic is critical and the full consideration of it is has profound implications for how we interpret Scripture and therefore how we live.
Revelation 19:10 is an absolutely critical passage containing a massive, hidden gem. I’ll admit up front that we all know that Scripture repeatedly provides us with multiple meanings from a single passage. However, what follows is a critical, and I might argue the primary, meaning that is often lost on readers and has significant repercussions for the way you interpret Scripture. In short, Revelation 19:10 unlocks all prophecy by providing the key that is necessary to rightly interpret the prophetic Scriptures. Now let’s examine that key.
Given just how much of the Bible is dedicated to the writings of the prophets and how much of our theology is based on the proclamation of the prophets, understanding this key rightly has massive implications for how we read and understand the Bible. Once you grasp the key of Rev 19:10, you can better navigate the entire Scriptures and especially the Old Testament prophets. The lack of the application of this key has caused many to be confused as they read the Old Testament and also caused the development of faulty hermeneutics that allegorize passages that are intended to be literal. Let’s break down Revelation 19:10 then and find the critical key contained within it.
I want to focus on the final sentence of the verse. The verse says, depending on your version, that the testimony (or witness) of Jesus is the spirit (or essence) of prophecy. So we have the spirit, or essence, of all prophecy being connected to the witness of testimony of Jesus. So then at the root of prophecy you will find the declaration of Jesus and a testimony of Jesus. Prophecy, by nature, is a forward looking gift. We also know from I Corinthians 13 that prophecy will cease at the end of the age when Jesus comes. Therefore, the witness of Jesus given by the spirit of prophecy is forward looking but only necessary before the end of the age. In other words, it exists only to give testimony of Jesus in this age.
Therefore so long as prophecy exists, there must be a testimony of Jesus still to be given. Implied in that is that for prophecy to cease, the testimony of Jesus contained within prophecy, must no longer be necessary. In other words, in our current age which is filled with darkness, we have need of prophecy to point us forwards to a testimony of Jesus that is yet future, but when we enter an age of light we will no longer need prophecy as a testimony to Jesus. Now we know that the majesty and mystery of Jesus will be proclaimed for all eternity. Therefore prophecy is aiming at a specific testimony of Jesus that is desperately needed in this age, but not in the age to come.
The one thing that marks the age to come above all else is that Jesus will physically reign in Jerusalem. The present age and the age to come are separated by many things, but the one primary thing is that presently we await Jesus’ return from the heavens whereas in the age to come He will be openly reigning over the whole earth from a throne in Jerusalem. So then prophecy gives a needed witness of Jesus until Jesus Himself is reigning on the earth bringing “that which is perfect” and eliminating the need for prophecy as we know it.
From that we can clearly say that the spirit of prophecy is aiming towards the installation of Jesus as King over the Earth at the end of the age. After that event occurs, prophecy is no longer needed. But why is the spirit of prophecy necessary in this age? It is because men’s hearts and minds are blind to the judgment to come and to the reality of Jesus’ rule. They are as mockers in Noah’s day (Matthew 24:37-38) and it requires the spirit of prophecy to confront the cloud of deception on the earth with the bold declaration that Messiah is coming.
Understanding this, we could now re-write Revelation 19:10 in the following way: the Spirit of prophecy, or the root life and essence of it, is the full revelation of the Messiah ruling over the whole earth. Implied in that definition is the declaration of the events that will lead to the installation of the Messiah on the earth at the end of the age. Therefore, prophecy’s life consists, not merely in its present accuracy with regard to current events, but rather in whether or not it contains the essence of the eternal mystery of God’s glorious day of judgment whereby God installs the Messiah over the earth, judges all wickedness, and restores creation by the Messiah.
The prophets collectively refer to this event as the “Day of the Lord.” The spirit of prophecy then always contains, not just direction concerning the situation at hand, but a witness to the ultimate “Day of the Lord.” This is quickly illustrated by a brief examination of the prophetic Scriptures. Not only is this found in the prophets, but a careful reading of the New Testament will point out continual references to the day of the Lord showing its preeminence in the minds of the apostles.
Here is how the lack of this key has caused confusion among many in reading the Scriptures. In the Scriptures, the prophets may address a particular situation, leader, or dilemma but as you read the prophetic words you begin to notice that prophecies almost always include elements of language that seem to supersede or go beyond the issue at hand. The prophetic will address an event but then add climatic language, usually in the first person for God, describing an ultimate victory or destruction always accompanied by a Divine claim of personally visiting the planet and extreme events that accompany that appearing. The problem that some face is that the specific event being addressed is clearly understood, but the climatic language almost seems to be hyperbole when it is only considered in relation to the actual events that unfolded.
The language of the prophets then becomes confusing for many and, not understanding the spirit of prophecy, is interpreted as allegorical by others. The reality is that these prophecies are merely operating according to the spirit of prophecy which means that, at their core, they are always aiming at the ultimate revelation of the Messiah on the Day of the Lord. The exaggerated language or visual language that supersedes the issue at hand is not allegorical, but rather it is the prophet seeing that the moment at hand is merely a picture or a parable of actual events and an actual day to come.
In a moment or crisis, the prophet is also seeing the ultimate crisis of the end of the age. In a period of judgment, the prophet may erupt in terrifying language which is not out of character with the prophecy but rather is connecting the present prophecy with the ultimate judgment at the end of the age. The description of rulers and characters in the prophets accompanied by unusual language is serving to illustrate something concerning the Messiah or something that is anti-Messiah.
The reality is that the ultimate events of the end of the age which are the full revelation of Messiah, the ultimate judgment of all evil, and the permanent installment of the Messiah as the supreme ruler and representation of God on the earth, are intricately interwoven with every period of history. In the age to come we are going to see that all of history was an exact parable illustrating the human predicament and constantly foretelling the ultimate conclusion of the age. We are going to find that God was so kind and loving that virtually all the events of human history are illustrations of some facet of the drama concluding in the restoration of all things.
Once we understand this paradigm, we will see that the correct hermeneutic when interpreting the Scripture is far more literal than we thought it was. We read over the prophets thinking that their predictions refer only to events past and pass over the extreme language where the prophet sees a glimpse of the judgment at the end of the age in the midst of the present judgment. In reality, we were meant to consider the tragedy the prophet was confronting as a picture and then carefully consider the prophet’s language and prepare our hearts with trembling for the yet future day that the prophet was seeing.
Jesus Himself obviously communicated a literal hermeneutic to the apostles when He opened the Scriptures for them because when you read the New Testament you see the writers interpreting Old Testament passages that perhaps could be seen as allegorical or figurative before the appearance of Jesus, as literal. If you sift through the Old Testament references used by the apostles you will find them connecting all sorts of verses that we would not naturally consider to be literal and using them as literal prophecies of elements of Jesus and His life.
Amazingly you will find a tremendous amount of the apostles theology came from the Psalms, a book which we look at primarily as emotional and figurative. That alone should give us pause because the Psalms have far more to say about the ultimate events of the age and the installation of Messiah as a global ruler than they do of His first appearance as a redeemer.
Since we are approaching so many of these passages in hindsight after the Lord’s first appearing, we don’t seem to notice that, absent the knowledge of the first coming, we would not naturally interpret these passages as literal. This becomes especially terrifying when we consider the events of the second coming because most of our interpretation of the Day of the Lord and the ultimate events of the age is not literal.
We seem constantly in search of a code to explain the Scripture rather than wrestling with the Scriptures as a literal record of the events and issues of the age. The Angel’s declaration to John in Revelation 19:10 clearly directs us that the prophecy and events recorded in the Scriptures is critical for us since all true prophecy contains a witness to a great and terrible day that is yet future. It should radically affect the way we live when we realize with clarity that these prophecies are not hyperbole, nor merely symbolic, but literal declarations of a day to come.