"Jesus or Peter? Your Choice in the Last Days"
Will you withstand the testing to come?
Will you be like Jesus or like Peter? This is perhaps an unsettling topic, for me as much as anyone else. As many will agree, we are heading fast into the Endtimes prophesied by Jesus and the prophets. Our determination now is vital, to make it through all that is to come.
I see a parallel between the events of today, and the events Jesus and the disciples passed through on that journey to the Cross. Let's first consider the testing of the Garden of Gethsemane.
What is the difference between Peter and Jesus in Gethsemane?
Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to the disciples, "Sit here while I go and pray over there." And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed. Then He said to them, "My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me."
He went a little further and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, "O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will."
Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter , "What! Could you not watch with Me one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak."
Again, a second time, He went away and prayed, saying, "O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done." And He came and found them asleep again, for their eyes were heavy.
So He left them, went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words. Then He came to His disciples and said to them, "Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going. See, My betrayer is at hand."
This passage introduces the three main points of my article, which I'll cover in reverse order:
- 1. The flesh is weak
- 2. We need to avoid "temptation"
- 3. We have to watch and pray.
ONE: The flesh is weak
The disciples could have prayed for Jesus, for themselves and for one another, but instead they fell asleep while waiting for the Lord to return. They were weary and under pressure, and nothing particular was happening in their world - even though momentous world-changing events were actually taking place on a spiritual level.
Astounding things were happening a few steps away, but the disciples drifted off to sleep because Jesus had withdrawn from them, in the darkness of the night. (Below, I liken this to the endtimes dryness and darkness, as this is another theme running through all the prophecies.)
The same danger hit the Israelites when they journeyed through the wilderness, and Moses went up the Mount of God. (Exodus 19) They waited what seemed like a reasonable time, but then as the days passed they lost hope of Moses ever returning.
The people grew restless and tired of waiting, thinking perhaps they'd been abandoned and now had to fend for themselves. Not only did they turn back to the old gods that they were more familiar with, but they decided to pass the time partying and fornicating. Yet not long since they had been so eager to obey God - how fickle is the flesh!
Peter answered and said to Him, "Even if all are made to stumble because of You, I will never be made to stumble." Jesus said to him, "Assuredly, I say to you that this night, before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times." Peter said to Him, "Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!" And so said all the disciples..
In their love and zeal, Peter - and all the other disciples - eagerly promised to follow Jesus even to death. We perhaps feel that we are strong enough never to deny the Lord, or doubt God, or be caught up in a false teaching. We should remind ourselves that the disciples thought so too, but in the end they all scattered and left Jesus to Himself.
What circumstance or pressures could sway you away from your absolute Christian commitment and faith? It would be good to consider them in advance. To those who over-eagerly says NOTHING could ever affect me, beware of being like Peter, or failing to take on board scriptures like these: "Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall" (1 Cor 10:12) and 2 Peter 3:17-18; and Rom 12:3-4
"For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith."
Peter, despite his good intentions, DID deny Jesus when his life was threatened. The others ran away. Jesus had warned them of it, but they would not believe - they did not WANT to believe. Like them, we want to deny the possibility of weakness. Yet at the last, they all ran away in fear.
Jesus answered them, "Do you now believe? Indeed the hour is coming, yes, has now come, that you will be scattered, each to his own, and will leave Me alone.
Then Jesus said to them, "All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night, for it is written: 'I will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.'
The disciples are the model of those who think they are ready to face trial, but are not.
These sleepy followers of Jesus truly adored their Master and had no intention of doing wrong. Their spirits were willing. But under trying circumstances their good intentions let them down.
Their flesh was weak. They had not prepared themselves in advance; they were heedless of danger; they preferred to rest and not be bothered; they thought "God will intervene; I don't need to worry - and even if things start to look bad, something will come along and rescue us all."
But on that awesome day, Jesus died on the Cross, the skies turned black, there was no miraculous rescue for their Messiah, and God appeared to have forsaken them all! THIS they didn't anticipate.
Why not? Hadn't Jesus warned them often enough?
However, their understanding of SCRIPTURE and rabbinic TEACHINGS was skewing their thinking, and they believed the Messiah was coming to overthrow the Roman occupation, set them free and establish a Jewish dominion on their behalf!
[See this study by Christian Think Tank.]
So every time they heard something to the contrary they had their hands over their ears saying lalalalalalalala!
It was all supposed to go so well! What could possibly take this divine Messiah away from them and plunge them into "defeat" instead? Failure was unthinkable!
Persecution, trial and suffering just wasn't in their Endtimes Plan at all!
It was a sudden awakening to the truth. What they didn't want to know about, what they were totally unprepared for, was that a misinterpretation of scriptures had given them a false hope, and they were about to suffer a massive wakeup call!
The prophecies said that the Messiah would come as the divine king, the ruler of all, the mighty warrior, the leader of their nation, and their oppression and suffering would be brought to an abrupt end. He was invincible! He would overthrow his enemies and take the throne in supreme lordship of all. The Israelites would finally come into their inheritance, the land and the dominion. Everyone knew that!
Well, the prophecies were valid, but centuries of teaching had given them an interpretation that just wasn't right. We know now what they overlooked - and perhaps they too-eagerly overlooked whatever contradicted this glorious future vision. This is the flesh at work.
Things just wouldn't pan out as they believed! Sadly, the "collective wisdom" of their studies, discussions and age-old teachings, being of the flesh, was bound to be mistaken - yet it was powerfully attractive! It brought hope into their dark lives at a time of need. The flesh clings to such things, even though the spirit knows they are false.
How easy it is to believe something simply victorious and joyful, something that requires little watchfulness or endurance, something that does not need much biblical expertise, something that never pushes our faith out into the danger zone! How much easier to avoid the difficult and challenging questions that trouble our souls, and settle back into the age-old teachings that comfort and soothe. Victory! Security! Deliverance! That's what we'd like to see in the endtimes scriptures, but are we in line for a tremendous shaking instead?
Being shaken out of their beliefs was tough on the followers of Jesus. Now they not only had to adjust to the possibility of testing and tribulation in days to come, but also to the stark reality of their own misunderstanding of scripture. How embarrassing.
Almost ALL the apostles were to die a martyr's death under persecution! The early Christian Church was fiercely persecuted for three centuries after Jesus died. Yet in that Garden they were sound asleep as if nothing could ever bother them. How does this apply to Christians today?
I have to say that many are also resting on their laurels, assuming they will never suffer or be tested, because their view of scripture excludes them from anything remotely unpleasant! Prepare? Why bother? But maybe their understanding of scripture is skewed and mistaken, just as for the early disciples? (Footnote one)
Consider the attitude of Jesus
Jesus, on the other hand, was wide awake to the future. He is the model of all those who continue to trust and obey "even unto death" loving not their own lives, forsaking ALL, determined to cling to God even in dryness and darkness when all seems lost, and to the TRUTH no matter how shaken or threatened or fearful.
Did Jesus (in his humanity) fully UNDERSTAND the mystery of redemption at that moment? Was he completely SURE that God the Father would stand by him? Perhaps so - but even if not, he chose to OBEY regardless.
Did Jesus (in his humanity) consider other viable options? Was his mind hammered by demonic questions, pressuring him to wonder if he'd misunderstood the plan of salvation, or if he was giving himself up for nothing?
Would his loving Father really want him to be crucified? And even if he did, what if it was all in vain? What guarantee was there that mankind would understand the significance of his death, or want to benefit by his sacrifice?
In the end, although the battle was fierce, none of this really mattered because Jesus chose to YIELD to the Father's will, no matter what. He may have gone into prayer in "agony" but he came out steadfast, determined and strong in spirit.
Jesus faced up to his death with a natural fear and foreboding, and struggled in prayer, but exercised total obedience, "who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him" (Heb 5:7-9)
The flesh fails, but obedience triumphs
When everything seems bewildering and contrary to our faith; when prayer falters; when the longed-for release doesn't come; when everyone else urges us to "stop being stupid", and trusting in God seems like the most foolish thing to do - THAT is the moment to HANG ON and simply OBEY.
In the blackness of night when we cannot see; in the dryness and emptiness, in the silence, when God seems distant, and we cannot discern his voice, and things haven't gone according to plan - THIS is the Gethsemane moment when we have to come to terms with our own weakness, inability and fear!
It seems like we can endure anything, except unanswered prayer, and disappointed hopes. After the crucifixion took place, the disciples were "in fear of the Jews" and meeting behind closed doors. They drifted back to their old lives. Peter went back to fishing.
It seemed like it was all over - that Great Dream of Jewish Redemption. Yet the Redemption was taking place anyway, in a manner they had never imagined. Jesus left them, only to return in a far more glorious and powerful way. Their turmoil was just one step in a journey to victory. Further readjustments to their beliefs were needed later on too - such as accepting Gentiles, forsaking legalism, and giving up on the thought that Jesus would return as all-conquering King within a few months or years.
When the church believes in certain victory, blessing and release, and instead is plunged into loss and turmoil and doubt, two things can happen:
- a reorientation decision leading to submission to the will of God, despite natural fear and confusion (The JESUS option)
- a stubborn entrenchment approach to carry on regardless, leading to failure and shame (The PETER option)
This is really just the same as flesh versus spirit! I'm sure Jesus was just as exhausted and stressed as Peter, in that Garden, but in his case the spirit prevailed over the flesh. For us this means we have to fight our natural inclinations for safety and ease, even in biblical interpretation, and let the Holy Spirit prevail in all our thinking and planning for the Endtimes.
The same walk as Jesus, to the Cross
We learn from the above that our own journey to be with God is similar to that of Jesus and the disciples. It is enough for the servant to be like his Master! (Matt 10:24-26). In Gethsemane the Master endured an agony of testing; on the Cross the Master endured pain and ridicule and separation from God - all for us!
Yet now some will say: HE did it FOR us, so we don't ever have to suffer or be tested! Really? Tell that to the apostles. Tell that to the millions who have suffered and died for Christ through the ages. Tell that to the Christians in Muslim countries right now.
WE, in these last ages, in the West, have "had it good" and had it easy for so long that we think it's normal. This ease and wealth and freedom from persecution is a short-lived and abnormal situation for the Church, if you look through the pages of our history. it certainly isn't the normal situation for Christians in non-christian countries!
A time of testing
The time just before the return of Jesus for his Bride is a testing time, when darkness prevails, and it is difficult to maintain our usual stand for God, difficult to see, perceive or grasp anything. It's at that time we are more prone to "falling into temptation". What does this actually mean for Christians in the last days?
TWO: What is the 'testing' we need to avoid?
Jesus referred to some forms of behaviour that come about through the "sleepiness" of the flesh:
"But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man."
When there's a long waiting time to endure, (as is suggested by many parables of the End) people tend to grow careless. Jesus mentioned "carousing" - which we call "partying" - and drunkenness; but also "the cares of life", just the daily grind and worries, and the busyness of finding a living, as things that could trip us up.
In a similar passage he also mentions the "cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things" as choking the word and making us unfruitful. (Mark 4:19).
Dare I say that none of us are exempt from all these temptations (although I've always joked that I wouldn't mind being tested by the "riches" sometimes!).
1 Tim 6:6-10
Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
Having access to all manner of "things" is a real snare these days - food galore, the latest phone, the best TV, a vast choice of entertainment - never has there been a time when the pressure to buy, buy, buy has been chipping away at our resolve all day long. We can't move for adverts! Even Christians refuse to be seen without this year's clothes and shoes and an expensive hairdo.
Now, eating out isn't enough - there are faddy restaurants with themes, some of them bizarre and ridiculous like eating out of miniature toilets! (Sign of the times: ten bizarre restaurants).
Being clothed isn't enough - there is a new range of clothes for every season. [Media attention was focused on Kate Middleton, Prince William's bride, for "wearing the same dress on more than one occasion" Imagine the horror!!]
Admiring a clever painting isn't enough - unimaginable sums of money now change hands for an empty canvas, an invisible statue and even sculptures of human faeces! (You think I'm joking? I wish I were!)
We don't buy a gadget just once, we have to update it regularly. Nothing lasts. We buy just to throw away and buy again. Our houses are always being extended, improved, redecorated. We don't buy glasses just because our eyesight changed - now we have to buy them every year regardless, just to keep up with the fashion!
One is never enough! We are told that we need several, of different varieties and different sizes. and "buy two, get a third for free" - but I only needed one! The amount that we waste and throw away is disgraceful, yet the pressure is there, and we give in because it seems normal and even good.
But what about if we had to do without? In days to come our "desire for things" will be a testing ground. I pray we'll not hear the words of the Lord to Laodicea -
"Because you say, 'I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing' -- and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked -- I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.
Carousing? Surely not!
On the one hand, plenty and abundance is a testing condition for Christians, but the opposite is also true. If the blessings of plenty are suddenly removed, and if self-indulgence is checked, then the test is: who will continue to love and serve the Lord in want and danger?
In the wilderness, the Israelites all came willingly at first, and were overjoyed to leave Egypt - until they discovered there was no partying, no enjoyment, no meat and veg, no pure water on tap, no plan or way forward except following the glory cloud day by day... then when the going got tough, they reverted to their flesh and to the world, and to their idols.
Will the endtimes Church do this?
How many would carry on in the dryness, without their music, fellowship, dancing, singing, hot preaching, exciting events. And some have taken it further - if not actual sexual sin then spiritualised sexual feelings, and if not actual drugs and alcohol then a spiritualised form of those things.
How many go to churches for the "warm fuzzy" and think THAT is godly; but if it's removed and they have to carry on in blind faith, having nothing - how many would continue?
Selfish, indulgent, worldly Christians are looking for pleasure and fun! They think there is no wrong in doing just as they please, copying the world, even if it's sinful. Has "doing church" become a kind of spiritual drug that people can't do without?
Then when they are hindered in their enjoyment, or it's removed from them for any reason, they fume and condemn, and turn aside.
But this is the TESTING that comes when we need correction. The uncaring and unwary stumble into this test without even perceiving it. Self-indulgence, enjoyment, fun - these don't feel like a test at the time, but remove them and we see who is really for the Lord. Surely this is an act of mercy, to prepare our hearts and minds, and get us to forsake anything of the flesh.
it's also a process of filtration, to remove the tares from the wheat, and demonstrate once and for all who really belongs to the Body of Christ. If the love of God is just a flesh-pleasing feeling, take that pleasure away and many will abandon God and move on to something better. It certainly will happen!
The scripture does say: the love of MANY will grow cold - yes, MANY!
Knowing human nature, the devil has got all the bases covered, because he's set up a viable alternative for such a time as this. He's introduced a wonderful, exciting 'holy-ghost' buzz for people to indulge in, getting their fix from meetings and preachers, without needing to pay heed to their behaviour at all. They are asleep!
Now you can go to a meeting and "toke the spirit" and "have a date with jesus" or anything else that pleases your flesh, without a care in the world. Far from "watching and praying to avoid temptation" in the last days, they have actually denied the last days completely, believing they are praising their way to global dominion.
Therefore, to what extent does this passage apply to some Christians today? I would say - to a larger extent than we care to admit.
1 Cor 10:1-11
Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that ALL our fathers were under the cloud (led by the Holy Spirit), ALL passed through the sea (passed from death to life), ALL were baptized into Moses (their Head and Leader = Jesus Christ) in the cloud (spiritual baptism) and in the sea (water baptism), ALL ate the same spiritual food (the body of Christ), and ALL drank the same spiritual drink (the blood of Christ). For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ. BUT (despite their being symbolic of believers in the Church) with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.
Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted. And do not become idolaters as were some of them. As it is written, "The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play." Nor let us commit sexual immorality, as some of them did, and in one day twenty-three thousand fell; nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents; nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer.
Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.
OH, but this isn't for us, some will say. WE don't "lust after evil things" (oh no?) WE don't idolise things and people, WE don't commit sexual immorality. (Why then is this written "for OUR admonition"?) WE don't complain and moan, WE don't put God to the test.
Putting God to the test
What does "putting God to the test" actually mean? Surely it's asking God to prove himself in a visible and tangible way, when his very existence and his written word ought to be enough? Can you walk in faith without experiences? Do you need the "glory cloud", the "gold dust" the "miracles", the "falling in the spirit" to experience God's presence? If God does nothing that you can hear, see, touch or experience with your senses, will you still follow him?
Breathing in the Glory Cloud: http://www.thequickenedword.com/rhema/BREATHINGINHISGLORYCLOUD.HTML
In times of ease and plenty we assume God is blessing us, but when hard times come - as they will - it's a different matter:
"Hard times seem to offer strong evidence that God is not on our side. We are tempted to charge God with neglect and even hostility. If God wants me to trust Him, maybe He had better start by improving the way He directs the course of my life." [source] This is putting God to the test.
Temptation comes to us all
The power of deception is far greater than we give it credit for. We cannot combat it, nor any other spiritual onslaught, by human powers alone. In the case of the Great Delusion of the last days, that is even more the case, since it's sent (allowed) by God himself.
This delusion, we are informed, will certainly befall any who "did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness" (2 Thess 2:12). These are the unbelievers, for sure. But will it test worldly believers also? Perhaps I'm wrong in thinking the endtimes delusion would affect a Christian at ALL. But since nearly everything else does, why not?
For those who are now objecting that this Delusion can only come after the Rapture, and that it is only for the fallen world and apostate Israel, I urge you to reconsider. I have laid out this argument elsewhere, but it's relevant to this article anyway.
There are many Christians who aren't that much in love with the truth that they'd let it spoil their lives! So when a supremely reasonable and attractive suggestion comes along, it may just seem acceptable - even though it twists the scriptures.
Wouldn't it be 'good' to solve the world's economic and energy problems? Wouldn't it be lovely to end all wars and forge mankind into a united, peace-loving, law-abiding body? What's so wrong with love and tolerance? Why should we have to go through "the endtimes" to save the world when it could be achieved without trouble or harm? (Already the doctrine is spreading that it's the WICKED who are "taken" not the believers, leaving the victorious CHURCH on earth to rule over the New Age! Why worry then about watching and waiting?)
The answer is: "In the world you WILL have tribulation!" In the Garden, Jesus pleaded with his friends to keep watch and "pray that you may not enter into temptation", or the "hour of testing". In his template for prayer, Jesus also said we should daily pray to avoid temptation.
The words used are "tribulation" [Gk thlipsis] which means a pressing, pressure, anguish, worry and stress, and "temptation" [Gk: peirasmos] which is really a trial or testing to prove a thing, whether good or evil. BOTH of these will come to any Christian; how we face up to them and handle them is the important thing.
The right way: Jesus not Peter
Jesus in Gethsemane did not close his eyes to the truth, nor did he refuse to pay the price of world redemption. No doubt he was offered the "easy way out" at that time, as well as his time of temptation in the wilderness, but on both occasions he refused to budge.
I don't think any of us should assume we cannot be tempted or caused to doubt. Under extreme stress, or just under the influence of a very skillful liar, we can ALL succumb to doubt. How can we be SURE of what we believe? Have we REALLY got it right? (Will we also come under psychological pressure? See this footnote)
Things that might shake some:
- unanswered prayer
- seeing others prosper in the world while you suffer
- pressure to conform to society or other people
- fear of loneliness and rejection
- being persuaded that Christians should love everyone and not fall out
- pressure from friends and family
- powerful preaching from popular ministers or media
- ridicule and finger-pointing
- convincing arguments against the bible and God
- thinking you might be wrong in your beliefs unknowingly
- people saying you are judgemental and out of touch
- guilt, convincing you that you must be unworthy
- spiritual "experiences" voices or prophecies, apparently from God
- the overwhelming numbers going another direction
- fears about the future
- thinking peace, love and goodness must be from God
- being persuaded that tolerance and unity must be good things
How can any Christian, faced with this, stand firm and not waver? In our heads we cannot, but God is greater than our heads! The remedy for doubt is NOT to THINK, but to BELIEVE AND PRAY. The mind may be shaken but the enlightened spirit can still stand firm.
God exists outside of our minds and thoughts; he is a FIXED POINT that is greater far than all our feelings and fears! We have the written word to run to, and we have the Holy Spirit to reveal to us the true will of God. He WILL NOT let us go! We have to trust his word, and walk on in the darkness step by step.
And the way to avoid testing is to "watch and pray".
Three: The Need for Watchfulness
We have seen the failings of Peter and the disciples in Gethsemane, and read that watchfulness and prayer are the remedy. In other scriptures this readiness for the Master's return is emphasised:
"Let your waist be girded and your lamps burning; and you yourselves be like men who wait for their master, when he will return from the wedding, that when he comes and knocks they may open to him immediately. Blessed are those servants whom the master, when he comes, will find watching.
If your "waist is girded" it means you have your apron on! You are ready to serve. You haven't slipped into your pyjamas because you want to take a nap before the Master comes home.
And if your "lamp is burning" it means you are expecting the return of the Lord hourly, not assuming it's going to be an all-nighter. And even if it is, you go on watching.
And if he should come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them [watchful and ready], blessed are those servants. (Luke 12:38-39)
The Third Watch
The Jewish day began at 6:00 a.m. and finished at 6:00 p.m. The night watch began at 6:00 p.m. and ended at 6:00 a.m. The night watch was broken up into four time periods of three hours each. Thus the "second watch of the night" was from around 9pm to midnight, and the "third watch" was midnight to cockcrow (around 3am depending on the time of year.)
It's interesting how many times MIDNIGHT is associated with the Coming of the Lord! The middle of the NIGHT. We know of the "midnight cry" that went out: "the Bridegroom is coming", but also there is the parable of the watchful servant, above.
In Acts 16:25-27, Paul and Silas were freed from prison by an earthquake at midnight; and the Israelites in Egypt were freed from bondage by the angel of the Lord at midnight (Ex 12:29-30). Also see Job 34:20 and Psalm 119:62
This all suggests that we have to wait for the return and rescue of the Lord for longer than we would wish, AND that many hours of that watching and waiting take place at NIGHT (symbolically, when insight, activity, alertness, right thinking, zeal and all usual daily attributes are dimmed. Also at night we are more vulnerable, especially when asleep.)
In darkness self-preservation governs our thinking more than normal. Darkness persuades us to sleep; darkness removes our keen sense of anticipation; normal business is impossible.
In the night we slack off, and hunker down, and rely on what we already have instead of actively seeking fresh insight or provisions. When this happens, will you have enough?
- Are you sure you cannot be swayed by doubt?
- What influences you most? Friends? Family? Spouse? Pastor? Circumstances? Needs? Or GOD?
- Are you putting God and his word first in your life - or other people and other things?
- Have you rooted out anything that contradicts God's will and plan for your life?
- Are your worldly pleasures and enjoyments so important to you that you couldn't give them up?
- Do you close your mind to the idea of suffering or want?
- Are you living in the moment and not caring about the future?
- Your Lord is whatever you spend most time and money on, and whatever you think about and prize most.
- Your god is whatever you cannot let go of, in a crisis
Watch and Wait
This pattern of alertness versus sleepiness is seen in many endtimes warnings. For example, the sleepiness of the ten bridesmaids (Matt 25), the sleepiness of the disciples trying to wait with Jesus in Gethsemane, and the servant waiting for his master to return.
ALL of these events took place in the DARKNESS, when waiting seems long and wearisome. Yet we are expected to watch and pray, or the consequences could be dire:
"But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is. 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. 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 -- lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping. And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!"
Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God. Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you.
"But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man."
"Let your waist be girded and your lamps burning; and you yourselves be like men who wait for their master, when he will return from the wedding, that when he comes and knocks they may open to him immediately. Blessed are those servants whom the master, when he comes, will find watching. Assuredly, I say to you that he will gird himself and have them sit down to eat, and will come and serve them. And if he should come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants.
But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect."
Then Peter said to Him, "Lord, do You speak this parable only to us, or to all people?"
Peter, just like us, needed to know to whom Jesus was speaking. So Lord, is this warning for the fallen world, or is it for followers of Jesus, he asks. Surely, Peter thinks, WE are exempted from this, because, after all, we've accepted you as Messiah; WE are not the careless, unready ones who are in danger of missing the moment?"
Is this for us?
Jesus gives the answer in Mark 13 where he says "what I say to YOU, I say to ALL - WATCH!". In Luke 12 the answer is in the form of another parabel but the meaning is equally obvious. Jesus is speaking to HIS SERVANTS! That is, these warnings were given for US.
Some would like to kid themselves that all the hard sayings and warnings are for the world or the Jews, but are WE not the servants of God? (1 Cor 4:1-3) "Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God" and are WE not also promised a share in the heavenly rulership of Jesus, as his Bride? For sharing his "throne" there (Rev 3:21) is to share in his rule. (1 Cor 6:2-4) "Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, things that pertain to this life?"
Therefore, the warnings to WATCH, and avoid carelessness are given to Christians, too!
(Luke 12:41 continued...) And the Lord said, "WHO then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his master will make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of food in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all that he has.
But if that servant says in his heart, 'My master is delaying his coming,' and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and be drunk, the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in two (footnote three) and appoint him his portion with the unbelievers.
And that servant who knew his master's will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.
In all these verses we are urged to be READY, to be WATCHFUL, to be PRAYING and to avoid selfish, careless and hedonistic behaviour that would take our eyes off God. We are to "prepare yourselves" - and so it was in the story of the ten maidens who went out to meet the Bridegroom.
Do you have oil? Do you have a sword?
In the story of the ten maidens in Matthew 25, at that moment when the call went out "arise, the Bridegroom is coming, awake, let's GO" five of them were still not prepared.
Notice, they ALL fell asleep (like the disciples) BUT there was a difference between them. They ALL had "oil in their lamps" but only half of them had thought ahead sufficiently to have prepared oil in their VESSELS too. Five had prepared themselves. Five had not.
In daylight or dusk, the oil in the lamp may be sufficient for all, but during the hours of darkness and lack, the oil in the vessels is also needed.
Buy a sword
In a similar way, the disciples were urged to prepare themselves by buying swords. This seems odd to us. While they had Jesus with them, during the days of His ministry, they did not have swords for self-protection. Indeed, they were commanded NOT to carry them.
However, during and after the arrest of Jesus something changed. Now, they were not only allowed to carry swords, they were commanded to do so!
And He said to them, "When I sent you without money bag, knapsack, and sandals, did you lack anything?" So they said, "Nothing." Then He said to them, "But now, he who has a money bag, let him take it, and likewise a knapsack; and he who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one. For I say to you that this which is written must still be accomplished in Me: 'And He was numbered with the transgressors.' For the things concerning Me have an end."
You see how the emphasis of wielding the sword changed from relying totally on Jesus, to having to make provision for themselves. This is exactly the same situation as the oil in the lamps/oil in the vessels.
We know that the SWORD is symbolic of the WORD that we wield against our enemy. Under normal circumstances we rely on the Lord to fight our battles and inspire us with scripture. Perhaps some rely on their Pastor or another person to lead them. In the daylight of normality, even immature or worldly Christians can get by without great peril. However, in the darkness and testing times and dryness to come, we will need all the faith God provides AND a good measure of ability in the FLESH to use the scripture correctly against all the wiles of the devil!
The oil in our lamps is symbolic of the Holy Spirit illuminating our "inward man" or inner spirit; but the word "vessel" is always used in scripture to denote the earthly or outward man. (1 Peter 3:7)
We need reliance on the sword that Jesus wields on our behalf, but to make it through to the End, in the darkness of "night" that Jesus predicted, we also need to have "worked out our own salvation with fear and trembling" (Phil 2:12-13) to such an extent that we are capable of wisely and efficiently wielding the sword for ourselves.
We need to be wise and mature, like the five maidens who wondered if the waiting might be long, or that darkness might fall before the Bridegroom arrived, and who made provision for it in advance.
The Night Cometh
Jesus said we should keep working while it is day, but "night comes when no man can work". During that time, Jesus says, we are not able to carry on our normal activity; we are not hearing instructions to go there, do that. We are still in service, but idle. THAT is the most difficult thing to do, keep waiting, stay alert, when there seems nothing to do. (As Peter discovered.)
Here is the testing time for believers. Will we be able to keep going on the "oil in our lamps" and afterwards have the "oil in our vessels" until he comes for us?
- Will our anchor hold in the storms of life?
- Will we discover we have "built a house on sand" when the hurricane comes?
- Will our love, obedience, trust in God hold true, even without anything in life to base it on?
- Is the word of God sufficient, even when it appears to be contradicted by almost everything around?
- Are we moved more by human emotions like aesthetic pleasure or happiness than by the will of God?
- Will we still love God in the dryness? In the darkness?
The "darkness" of this coming night is synonymous with 'inactivity' or dryness. Darkness reduces our ability to SEE things clearly. Dryness is the time when we feel God is distant or that he isn't answering our prayers, and at that time we are tempted to fill the gaps with others things, perhaps self-reliance or distracting pursuits.
When Jesus was crucified, there was darkness over the land. During that time Jesus experienced his most terrible moment, separation from the Father. Darkness and Dryness went hand in hand - as they will do for us in the last days.
Darkness made the disciples sleep as we know; it also caused the Israelites to FEAR God instead of fellowship with him on the Mount, like Moses.
Now all the people witnessed the thunderings, the lightning flashes, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood afar off. Then they said to Moses,"You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die." And Moses said to the people,"Do not fear; for God has come to test you, and that His fear may be before you, so that you may not sin." So the people stood afar off, but Moses drew near the thick darkness where God was.
Does God dwell in darkness? It seems a strange thing for us to grasp. But "Clouds and darkness surround Him"(Ps 97:2) and "He made darkness canopies around Him" (2 Sam 22:12) and "He made darkness His secret place; His canopy around Him was dark waters, and thick clouds of the skies".(Ps 18:11). So (like Jesus) will we find God in the darkness to come, or (like Peter) will we just quake in fear and foreboding and let THAT drive us away from the Lord?
Once again we have a Jesus/Peter decision: Those who continue to believe, even in the darkness of bewilderment and fear, boldly say:
Do not rejoice over me, my enemy;
When I fall, I will arise;
When I sit in darkness ,
The LORD will be a light to me.
For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth,
And deep darkness the people;
But the LORD will arise over you,
And His glory will be seen upon you.
But for those people - equally God's servants - who "desire the day of the Lord" heedlessly, and merely for purposes of self-preservation, or self-glorification, he says:
Woe to you who desire the day of the LORD!
For what good is the day of the LORD to you?
It will be darkness, and not light.
It will be as though a man fled from a lion,
And a bear met him!
Or as though he went into the house,
Leaned his hand on the wall,
And a serpent bit him!
Is not the day of the LORD darkness, and not light?
Is it not very dark, with no brightness in it?
Here, God is saying that we should EXPECT the darkness, yet not be afraid. We may be IN the darkness but we are not OF the darkness, IF we watch and pray.
1 Thess 5:1-11
But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, "Peace and safety!" then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape.
But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness.
Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation.
For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him.
POSTSCRIPT: Just as I was writing this, two Christian friends sent me an email, neither of them knowing what I was working on. They both included web links. One was titled "Fiery Ordeal" : "Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. (1 Peter 4:12-14) and the other was "Untested Faith" (please see). Thank you Lord!
(One) Incorrect interpretations of the endtimes scriptures: This subject I know will offend and anger many sound Christians and it's not my intention to be provocative. Yet, should I hold back from telling the truth? I once assumed I thoroughly understood biblical prophecy and had the entire scheme laid out correctly, just as so many fine Evangelicals had taught. But God challenged me to explain my wonderfully satisfying scheme entirely from the scriptures, afresh, without help from books or teachers or my own untested assumptions. It was perhaps the greatest challenge in my Christian walk thus far to have faced up to the facts: the conventional endtimes teaching is incorrect. The plain meaning of scripture simply doesn't support it! It took a lot of courage to face this, and my flesh dragged me in the opposite direction, yet could I deny God's leading in such an important doctrine? I now believe we will see the antichrist arise [before his actual reign begins]; I believe we will be raptured from total disaster at the last moment before the three-and-a-half years of the antichrist rulership, and before God's WRATH. I don't believe "The Tribulation" lasts a full seven years (nowhere does the bible say so) nor does that term describe the reign of antichrist, but is a much shorter period before that time. I will not continue as there is too much to say in a short space. However, I urge all Christians to do as I did - go to the plain word of God with prayer, with determination to be open to God's leading, and with the honesty to interpret scripture NOT in the light of your fleshy desires, but in the courage of God's inspiration only!
(Two) Personally, I think OUR testing and persecution could take a more subtle form in this latter day. Possibly the devil has learned that physical violence achieves little, and that martyrs only strengthen the Church. As well as that, open and obvious forms of threat and attack do not gel with the supposed all-inclusive peace-loving nature of the new world order, so something else has to take its place - maybe intense propaganda, mental manipulation, fears of being ridiculed and rejected, and seemingly unanswerable questioning of biblical doctrines.
If the endtimes delusion appears to be reasonable and "good" and everyone is commending it, it may be hard for some to stand outside the crowd and go on being "pig-headed" and "living in the past". If there is supposedly PROOF that mankind has been misled in worshipping Jesus of Nazareth and that a NEW and BETTER inclusive faith system has superceded it, could we be won over in time? If going along with the new plan means being accepted, and not having to suffer, as well as being hopeful about the survival of the earth and mankind instead of continuing to hold to "negative and doom-laded prophecies of the endtimes", then might that not sound very appealing, even to the Church? After all, many in the churches already preach similar things.
(Three) This phrase "cut him in two" sounds very harsh and unlike our Master. The Greek word is [Strong's Number NT:1371] dichotomeo (dee-khot-om-eh'-o); meaning to bisect, and by extension to flog severely: We get our word "dichotomy" from this word. Clearly this did not imply death, since the sinner is "apportioned a place with unbelievers" - in this case, he would be left behind in the Rapture I believe. Thus, the punishment is not one performed by the Master but unwittingly self-inflicted! This Greek phrase could simply mean a severe flogging (symbol of a hurtful rejection we could suppose) or perhaps this is separation, and we could see that there are TWO bodies of people, the saved and the unsaved. To be cut off from one body and joined to the other is the worst fate a believer could face! All because he lost sight of the return of the Lord and fell back into sin. This "wicked servant" was once joined to the Body of Christ but now that Body has departed, effectively cutting him into two. There is still time for him to repent however, to survive the reign of the antichrist, or be martyred, and return to his rightful place.
© 2013 Tricia Tillin-Booth. All rights reserved. Birthpangs Website: http://www.birthpangs.org/ This document is the property of its author and is not to be displayed on other websites, redistributed, sold, reprinted, or reproduced in printed in any other format without permission. Websites may link to this article, if they provide proper title and author information. One copy may be downloaded, stored and/or printed for personal research. All spelling and phraseology is UK English.