Enduring to the End
A great need for each one of us in the church at this time is that we understand and experience and daily dwell under the wings of the Father’s unconditional love. He passionately loves and desires each one of us to come into intimacy with Him. And in that embrace, He will carry us through the times ahead. It is vital that we understand that the things that are coming upon the church at the end of the this age are an outworking of God’s love for His church and His desire to conform her into a bride without spot or wrinkle.
Great tribulation as Jesus defined in Matthew 24 is not God’s wrath. God’s wrath will follow great tribulation. Great tribulation is designed to purify the church. Jesus identifies the events of great tribulation as “birth pains.” The events leading up to great tribulation He describes as the “beginning of birth pains.” In Revelation 7, we read of a great multitude emerging from great tribulation having washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. This is a birthing into the maturity of a bride without spot or wrinkle. This is the birthing that Jesus was talking about. We must understand that great tribulation is redemptive and has nothing to do with God’s wrath. Great tribulation is discipline, not wrath, and God only disciplines those He loves.
We see in the letter to the church at Thyatira that those who do not repent are told they will be thrown into great tribulation. And all the churches will know that He searches minds and hearts and gives to each what their deeds deserve. The sinners in Thyatira were not thrown into hell or God’s wrath, they were thrown into great tribulation. If they endure the process of great tribulation and repent of their sins, they will be brought forth as a bride. If they do not endure, then they will be among those who Jesus said would fall away. We must understand down to the core of our being that this process is an outworking of God’s uncompromising holiness and His love for His church. If we do not, we may find ourselves in the middle of great tribulation thinking it is God’s wrath and our faith may be shaken. We may be tempted to think that God hates us when in fact the opposite is true --- He loves us.
I am not trying to downplay the seriousness and severity of great tribulation. It may well involve the loss of our lives. But we must understand that tribulation and wrath are two entirely different things.
Jesus’ comments in His letter to the church at Thyatira indicate that our destiny in the great tribulation will depend on the condition of our hearts and minds and on our deeds. Those who have much to repent of will be “thrown into great tribulation.” But what about those who have applied the promises of God to their lives and have escaped the corruption of this world to live holy and set-aside lives? Will they also experience great tribulation? Scripture suggests that we will experience tribulation to the extent necessary to purify us into a bride without spot or wrinkle. In other words, we can take our medicine now or take it later. Notice that a man-child company in Revelation 12 gets snatched up before the onslaught of great tribulation. I believe these are the first fruits of the harvest of the saints who are again seen at the beginning of Revelation 14. Notice their characteristics. They have purified themselves and made their garments white in the blood of the Lamb. They seem to need no further purification in the fires of great tribulation. Much as I dislike the casual escapism of the current pre-tribulation rapture teaching, I have to be true to Scripture and say that a first fruits company does seem to rise above the need to be purified by great tribulation and are removed from the earth before the start in Revelation 12. This is not the first resurrection, because these are not resurrected ones. They are “snatched up” ones, perhaps like Enoch, who walked with God. Once again we are brought back to the priority of intimacy.
God wants to deepen our trust toward Him in these days. He wants to reveal to us His unconditional love for each one of us who are called by His name. He wants to draw us near in relationship that the fires of His consuming love might burn the sin from our lives.
God isn’t speaking to me these days much about the war in Iraq or about the antichrist or about terrorism. He is only speaking to me about His unconditional love. Realizing this love, we will then love Him in return. And we will not be hesitant to get into His presence. And in His presence, He will perform that work in us which must be done before we can be a bride without spot or wrinkle and before we can be the testimony on earth at the end of this age that He desires. The saints overcome the evil one by the blood of the Lamb, their testimony, and by loving not their lives unto death.
Jesus said to seek first the Kingdom of God. That priority is also expressed in other verses as the need to constantly abide in Him. And that translates into the ability to be fruitful for the Kingdom of God. No branch can produce fruit unless it is attached to the vine. Heidi Baker, a missionary to Mozambique, is fond of saying, “All fruitfulness flows from intimacy.”
Jesus told us that we would be hearing of wars and rumors of wars and that we should see to it that we are not afraid. There is only one way to get into that place of being unafraid. And that is to dwell in the intimacy of the Father’s embrace, under those wings which He offers to cover us with. And in that place of intimacy --- and only in that place --- will we be vessels through which His unconditional love can flow to a dying world around us. And this gospel of His unconditional love will be preached to the entire world, and then the end will come. It is to that end that we are called to endure and to be fruitful in the enduring. Set all things aside for the priority of getting into the Father’s embrace.