He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of John, do you love Me?" Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, "Do you love Me?" And he said to Him, "Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You." Jesus said to him, "Tend My sheep. Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to gird yourself, and walk wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to go." Now this He said, signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, "Follow Me!" Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them; the one who also had leaned back on His breast at the supper, and said, "Lord, who is the one who betrays You?" Peter therefore seeing him said to Jesus, "Lord, and what about this man?" Jesus said to him, "If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!" (John 21:17-22).
Peter was told by Jesus, at last, after all of his questions, "What is that to you? You follow Me!" Isn’t that what we are all told? We have at best a dim sense of even our own individual destinies. Some of us will remain until He comes; some of us will go to Him sooner and glorify God with our physical deaths. In between now and then, the details are the Lord’s details.
It is sufficient to know that we are to follow Jesus. He will lead us along the unique and perfect path that He chose for us before time began. And along that path He will never leave us or forsake us, even though there may be moments in lesser Gethsemanes and lesser Calvarys. There will be moments when the flesh is weak, even though the spirit wills. There will be moments of stumbling, but in order to purify and refine. But there will never be a moment when He leaves or forsakes us. Our trust of that even in the midst of discipline and the absence of all objective evidence of His presence is the measure of our trust in Him. It is this trust, it seems, that pleases Him most. It is the trust of Job sitting in the ashes. It is the trust of Abraham with the knife raised.
There will never be a moment during our lesser Calvary when we will need to cry out, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" We will never have to die that kind of death, because He died that death for us. He died with the sins of the world on Him. We will not. He became sin for us. The deaths that we are called to will be like that of Stephen, when he looked into heaven and saw Jesus standing at the right hand of the Father. There was no sense of being forsaken when Stephen was martyred. It is questionable that he even felt the stones. And then he fell asleep. Such will be the grace of God for those of us who will glorify Him with our deaths. When we stand in front of governors and kings of the antichrist system, we are told to not worry about what we will say because it will be given us. There will never be a moment when what comes to us is not from His hand for our ultimate good. All things work to the good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose. There will consequently never be a moment unworthy of rejoicing in and trusting in and thanking and praising Him, Who has promised to bring to completion in each of us that good work which He began.
Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
Whether we are chosen to glorify God with our deaths, or chosen to glorify Him by remaining until He comes, let us settle once and for all that we will follow Him. Where else will we go? He has the words of life.
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39).
To Follow Him, Keep Your Eyes on Him
It is so easy to take our eyes off what is essential and focus them on things of lesser importance. Our works and our ministries vie for our attention. The statement suggests the problem. It must not be our works and our ministries, but His. How often our business is not associated with His chosen works for us. The danger of focusing on anything other than our Savior is that we will find ourselves sinking beneath the waves.
That is the danger of the times ahead. Peter was doing fine until he took his eyes off Jesus and became concerned with the weather. We will do fine as we keep our attention focused on Jesus, whether we are in or out of the boat. There are many things in the days ahead that will scream for our attention, yet only one thing is important. Mary had it and so must we. Business in the kitchens of life is never as important as the thing which is primary, and that is to keep our focus on Jesus, to listen to what He says and to do it. The only business in the kitchen we should be doing is that business He tells us to do. The clamor of the world’s voices will always try to divert our attention from that voice which is primary. And it was Jesus that Martha was serving. It is the business of the ministry that will be the most subtle in diverting our eyes from that which is primary.
Peter had to learn that Jesus could be trusted, but Peter could not be. He had to be taken through painful experiences until he realized this. But it was the key to his freedom and the beginning of ministry in the power and authority of Jesus. He finally took his eyes off himself and focused on Jesus. He realized there was nothing good in Peter except Jesus Who lived in Him by faith.
Important but Secondary Issues
We have talked much about restoration of the vision of the Church and the call of the Church, but these are secondary issues. They are issues of doctrine and ministry. They are often issues of being busy in the kitchen. Giving up our lives will never be possible if we take our eyes off Jesus. Stephen gazed into heaven and saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God. Therefore, he could receive the stones. We must be gazing into heaven when our stones come. We must be gazing into heaven when the edict comes to take the mark of the beast or forfeit our lives and the lives of our families. We must have our eyes on Jesus or we will be seduced by the false security the world offers when our times of testing come. The many who will fall away and those whose love will grow cold will fail to endure because their eyes were not on Jesus.
The timing and nature of end-time events are secondary issues. They are important, however, in that they have the potential to cause us to stumble and take our eyes off Jesus. But that makes them very important. Therefore, it is necessary that we understand as much about them as God would have us understand. The study of these events must not be an end in itself, but a means of revealing stumbling blocks that could cause us to lose sight of the larger issue at hand. And that issue is that these events are birth pains preceding our births into the likeness of Jesus.
These things I have spoken to you, that you may be kept from stumbling . . . But these things I have spoken to you, that when their hour comes, you may remember that I told you of them (John 16:1,4).
Jesus is saying that the very reason we have been given these prophetic details of what lies ahead for the Church is so that we will not stumble when these things come. Otherwise we would have no need to know. There are many things we don’t know. The voices of the seven thunders are concealed. But Jesus has told us what we need to know so that we will not stumble.
Stumbling Blocks at the End of the Age
And another angel, a third one, followed them, saying with a loud voice, "If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives a mark on his forehead or upon his hand, he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; and they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name." Here is the perseverance of the saints who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus. And I heard a voice from heaven, saying, "Write, ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!’ " "Yes," says the Spirit, "that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them" (Revelation 14:9-13).
A time is coming at the end of the age during the great tribulation when those who die in the Lord and rest from their labors will be considered blessed. These are times that Christians alive at the end of the age will experience. There is no option in dealing with the mark of the beast; the only correct choice is to refuse it.
Those who follow the course of monetary transactions and the trend toward a cashless society can see that the course is being charted by evil. The criminal element is dictating the precautions and safeguards and the inevitable march to a debit card that cannot be lost or stolen, even though it is all coming as an angel of light. National news magazines are forecasting a time when micro-chips presently being used on "smart cards" will be implanted under the skin. The mark of the beast is the inevitable destination for the course of monetary transaction. All universal product code markings on purchase items are now bordered left and right and divided in the middle by two narrow vertical lines which are the coded six. The number of the beast is already on almost all marketable products, including Christian books. Take a look at the next Christian book that you buy --- maybe this book. On the back is coded a six-six-six in the universal product code. That is how subtle and unnoticed and yet pervasive this thing is. Automated check out lines at grocery stores using the bar code system are in the news. Ring it up and pay it automatically with your debit card. But what if someone steals your card? Hey, just implant the data chip under your skin. It makes perfect sense. It’s going to be logical and convenient and safe . . . and eventually mandatory upon threat of death.
Refusal of the mark of the beast will mean the end of buying and selling for those without it. Without the mark, it will no longer be possible to go to a store and buy food and clothing. Public transportation, gasoline, medical care, utilities, and the basic essentials that we routinely purchase and take for granted may no longer be available. I’m looking forward to those days. Hey, let’s get it on! Our Lord is coming back!
To refuse the mark will require the trust of the Hebrew children as they entered the fiery furnace and Daniel as he entered the lion’s den. It will require the trust of Moses as he took the nation of Israel into the desert without food or water.
These need not and must not be times of anxiety. It is written that we are to cast all of our anxiety on Him. Our Heavenly Father is trustworthy. He has already demonstrated that He knows how to preserve a nation in the midst of a barren desert by raining manna from heaven and issuing water from a rock. He has demonstrated that the container of oil and of flour need not fail. He has demonstrated that He can shelter His people from plague and famine and wild beasts and fiery furnaces. These evidences of God’s faithfulness are provided for the benefit of us upon whom the end of the age has come. He has never failed anyone who put their trust in Him.
If the Israelites had praised God in the desert instead of grumbling, their passage to the promised land would have been much quicker. If we should find ourselves three days in the desert without water, let’s choose to praise God rather than grumble. Pray that we would all have the grace of strength to stand before Him and not deny Him.
Will I find Faith on Earth?
Many will fall away. These are not unbelievers, for unbelievers cannot fall away. These are believers who have fallen away from their trust, their faith, and their hope. The love of most will grow cold. Jesus questioned whether He would find faith on the earth when He returns. We have not concerned ourselves with what the end of this age is going to be like for those remaining on earth. We are going to have to live in the peace and rest of His presence when a thousand fall on one side of us and ten thousand fall on the other.
There are reasons why Scripture includes the passage that thousands will fall at our left and right but the plague will not touch us. The fourth seal and the sixth trumpet provide for the death of one-half of the earth’s population during a time when the majority of the Church of Jesus Christ alive at the end of the age will be living on earth (as opposed to having been raptured to heaven).
We are not promised escape from the midst of destruction, but we are promised protection through it. We must mature in our understanding of what God is going to do at the end of this age and how it relates to His Church. This can be the time of our greatest witness, or it can be the time of our love growing cold and of our falling away.
These are basic theological issues between the Creator and His created that have nothing to do with religion but have everything to do with relationship. It will be necessary that our holy fear of God be greater than our fear of man. The reality of His faithfulness must be greater to us than the reality of their guns and guillotines. Man can only kill the body but God can destroy both body and soul. These are times we will not survive without an ultimate abandonment to God that reserves nothing for self and its provision. The birthing described at the end of this age is the birthing of Jesus within those who have allowed the flesh and all things of self to be put to death in favor of His life.
A Brief Y2K Testimony
Being an engineer, my natural mind was whirring and ready to get well prepared for great tribulation or Y2K, whichever came first. I carried a can of Dinty Moore beef stew around in my van for almost ten years and it didn’t spoil, so I thought, "Ahaa! I have found the great tribulation staple." I began saving two-liter plastic soda bottles and was about to begin stockpiling rice, etc. But one morning while reading the reassuring promises in the Psalms, I felt led to ask the Lord if it would please Him if I did nothing. I immediately felt His presence and pleasure. So I did nothing. I didn’t fill my tank up with gas. I purposely did not lift a finger or set aside one teaspoon of provision. And nothing happened as we all know.
I shared what I sensed the Lord was telling me with a few people, but I was never sure what to tell anyone else to do. I know the Lord told me to do nothing. But I couldn’t say if that applied to anyone else. I couldn’t say whether Y2K was going to be a non-problem or whether it was going to result in a global meltdown. I didn’t know. But I know that He told me to do nothing. And I had peace and rest. When January First rolled around, I was as surprised as anyone that nothing happened. Okay, so what’s the moral of the story?
The moral of the story is, "Who cares what’s going to happen --- Jesus is Lord!" And if you seek Him, He will tell you what to do. Maybe for the great tribulation He will tell you to store food. Maybe He will tell you to do nothing. Do whatever He says! The greatest provision we have is Jesus! And He talks to us if we talk to Him! Who cares if the planet is going to melt down. Jesus is Lord! Read the Psalms. He says He’s going to take care of us! Ask Him what He wants you to do and then do it in the full rest and peace of being in His will. Praise the Lord! Follow Him!
These are Times to Exercise Faith
These are the times to exercise faith for the days ahead. It is perhaps a time for discarding things rather than storing up. He alone is our gold and silver and our sustenance. Perhaps we should seek God about beginning to eliminate some of those things from our lives that we have always considered essential. If God is our protector, do we need life and health insurance? Do we need fire and theft and flood and hurricane insurance for our houses if angels are guarding the four corners of the property? Do we need our savings accounts, our retirement plans, our stocks and bonds, and our safety deposit boxes filled with gold coins? Do we need stored food? Saints, we had better not need them, for many of these things will be useless in the day of testing. If we cannot get along without these things now, will we be able to get along without them then? All of these things in which we presently put our trust will be of no use when the time of testing comes. For the time of testing is designed to remove all props which we count on for support. Only Jesus is worthy of our trust and support, and He alone must be our foundation in that day, for all other foundations will crumble. The more props we remove now, the easier it will be to stand in faith when all props are removed.
Anything that we consider essential or a support other than the faithfulness of God is an idol and will be stripped in the day of testing. Otherwise it would not really be a day of testing. The day of testing will reveal where we put our trust. That will be the point of the test. Ridding oneself of idols now will be easier than ridding oneself of idols then. It may even preclude the necessity of going through that time of testing. There is provision for avoiding the final crucible if the purifying fires of prior lesser crucibles have been embraced and allowed to do their work.
Be on guard, that your hearts may not be weighted down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of life, and that day come on you suddenly like a trap; for it will come upon all those who dwell on the face of the earth. But keep on the alert at all times, praying in order that you may have strength [be accounted worthy, KJV] to escape all these things that are about to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man (Luke 21:34-36).
The better translation of strength is "to be accounted worthy." But whether it is strength or worthiness, it will be His strength and worthiness in us, vessels of clay trusting in the hand of the Heavenly Potter to do His perfect work in His perfect time. The absence of worries of life implies total trust. Those who are anxious and worried evidence unbelief which if not burned away by the fires of purification. will preclude entry into the Holy City and result in burning by that other fire.
Hoarding is Death
These must not be times of hoarding what little we might have left. It was only as the widow gave up her last oil and flour that it was multiplied and found sufficient until the days of famine were over. It was only as the lad gave up his few fish and loaves that they could be multiplied by Jesus to feed the multitudes.
We must give it all up before it will be multiplied. Whether we should be stocking our shelves or not, I do not know. But I do know that we must be prepared to give it all up when the needy knock at our door. It was the two small copper coins given by the widow at the temple that received the commendation of Jesus, for she had given it all, not just that which was surplus.
Hoarding is death. The lesson I have learned from hoarding is that the thing hoarded will never be adequate. It will spoil or be taken from the one hoarding so that no benefit will result from trying to hold onto it. That which you try to keep you will lose. It is a Kingdom principle. Secondly, the one with whom you would have shared it will not benefit from your provision, and you will have lost your reward. And thirdly, God will not be glorified in the process. This, for me, has been one of the hardest lessons to learn. I have not learned it well yet.
"Father, I confess my unbelief and my lack of trust in this area. I ask that You would cleanse me of this unrighteousness and give me the spirit of the poor widow who parted joyfully with her last copper coins."
The Meek will Inherit
I have recently been attending meetings of those who have chosen to take an assertive stance in resisting the coming New World Order. Survival supplies, weaponry, self-sufficient communities, etc., are discussed. All of this is done in the assurance of being in the will of the Lord. I question whether the spirit of this is in the meek spirit of Jesus. It seems more often to be the assertive and self-reliant spirit of man. Are these the meek that will inherit the earth? Dare we take on the spirit of the lion while we are still called to walk in the spirit of the Lamb? How literal must we take the proverb to lean not on our own understanding? How literal must we take the following Scriptures?
If anyone is destined for captivity, to captivity he goes; if anyone kills with the sword, with the sword he must be killed. Here is the perseverance and the faith of the saints (Revelation 13:10).
Jesus therefore said to Peter, "Put the sword into the sheath; the cup which the Father has given Me, shall I not drink it?" (John 18:11).
When they came to arrest Jesus, Jesus restored the ear that Peter impulsively cut off. I have heard saints state in public teaching that if someone came to their front door and threatened their family, they would defend their family with an assault rifle. Is that what Jesus would do? We’ve got to respond in the Spirit at those times rather than in the flesh.
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses (2 Corinthians 10:3-4).
So make up your minds not to prepare beforehand to defend yourselves; for I will give you utterance and wisdom which none of your opponents will be able to resist or refute. But you will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death, and you will be hated by all on account of My name. Yet not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives (Luke 21:14-19).
"So make up your minds not to prepare beforehand to defend yourselves." This is in the context of verbal defense, but might it be general in application? No one could touch Jesus until it was His time. It wasn’t that He was a master of self-defense; it was that His Heavenly Father was His defense. So it will be with each of us. If we try to influence that time in our own strength, we will have missed the point of total trust in our Heavenly Father Who only brings to our doorsteps what ultimately is good for us. I’m not preaching against assault rifles and storing up food, for I don’t know what the Holy Spirit may tell you to do. I am preaching against doing anything without the leading of the Holy Spirit. May these words be a trumpet in your spirit that causes you to seek Him more aggressively, not necessarily to plan to defend yourselves more aggressively. I will not presume to know what He may tell you to do. Jesus demonstrated activism in the temple by turning over the tables and pacifism in Gethsemane by going meekly. If we are not listening obediently to the Holy Spirit, we will confuse the times. We must not rely on what we think or feel. Total abandonment and trust and obedience to the Holy Spirit is the only right course of action in all situations. There is coming a time when many of us will be asked to lay down our lives in the Spirit of the Lamb. If we respond in the wrong spirit, we will have missed the calling of God.
There will be a time for vengeance, but that vengeance is God’s. When Jesus returns as the Lion of Judah, the winepress of God’s wrath will be trampled. Until that time, we are counseled to walk this earth as lambs . . . wise as serpents, but gentle as doves. That counsel has never been revoked. It is no longer an eye for an eye. We are in a new covenant defined by the beatitudes. It is the wisdom of the cross that will overcome Satan, not our militancy.
Daniel in Babylon . . . an End-times Message to the Church
There was no better testimony in Babylon to the glory of God than that of Daniel and his three friends. We are also called to be a testimony in Babylon at the end of the age. Jesus says to us, "Come out of her, My people." I suggest that no one ever came more out of Babylon than did Daniel and his three friends, even though they lived most of their lives in her midst. Our physical location does not determine whether or not we have "come out of Babylon." Our unswerving devotion to our God and His Kingdom principles and the integrity with which we live our daily lives will determine whether or not we have come out of Babylon. These things will also determine whether our testimony in the midst of Babylon is of any value.
Jesus did not raise His voice in the streets or picket Rome and Caesar. His weapons were not carnal. He let His light shine forth in the midst of Caesar’s Rome which released the power of the Holy Spirit to change lives from the inside out. Morality cannot be legislated. We should know that by now. Men’s ways will not gain the victory. Jesus changed people by the wisdom of the cross. And when the knock on our door comes and we are told to worship our golden statue in the form of the image of the beast, we must refuse just like Daniel and his friends refused. There is a line not to cross. And we will trust God to rescue us from the fiery furnace or the lion’s den or to allow us to lay down our lives for His redemptive purposes. It shouldn’t matter to us one way or the other. Surrender to Babylon and live. Or let them kill you because they see the testimony of Jesus in you, not because you met them at the door with a sword, or bombed their headquarters, or holed up in the mountains in defiance.
The two witnesses who walk this earth representing the Church in peak power and authority during the last three and one-half years of this age do not respond to their enemies with rifle fire but with holy fire from out of their mouths. Did Peter do any differently when Ananias and Sapphira dropped dead? Our strength will not be found in our arsenals, but in God’s authority and power. There are no details on how the two witnesses die other than they are overcome at the end of their ministry. Their time had come to glorify the Father by their deaths. It was their cup to drink. It may have initially been bitter, but three and one-half days later it became very sweet. May it be the same for us at the end of our times of ministry.
"May we so glorify You, Father, with our lives and with our deaths."