Today we are concerned with ‘end times’ almost to obsession. From countless pulpits across America the words resound “we are in the end of days”. The curiosity and concern for these last days was no different even when Christ was walking the earth. Christ’s disciples asked Him about signs to look for to signal the end times and when these things should be? Christ gave them no answer as to when, but he did answer quite fully the question as to what to look for.
Matthew 24:8-10 tells us “But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs. 9 Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. 10 At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. 11 Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. 12 Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved. 14 This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.” (NASB)
The use of the term ‘birth pangs’ here is a metaphor to tell us that these signs will usher in a ‘new creation’, the regeneration spoken of in Matthew 19. The ‘you’ here is you and I, all believers. Does this description of the beginnings of end times sound like something that you would be able to come through victorious? This is not something that everyone will come through victoriously. It says right there that many will fall away.
2 Timothy 3:1 reiterates the fact that in the end perilous times will come. The Merriam Webster definition of perilous includes synonyms such as grievous, hazardous, menacing and unhealthy.
It goes on in 2 Timothy 3:2 to describe in some detail the character and attributes of people in the last days: “ For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, 4 treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power”(NASB)
Sounds pretty familiar doesn’t it? Lovers of self and money; arrogant; disobedient to parents; malicious gossips; no self-control; haters of good; lovers of pleasure over God but “holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power” Man if that doesn’t describe the current climate of man I don’t know what does.
In Romans 8:36-37 it says this: “Just as it is written, “For Your sake we are killed all day long;
We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” [37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. “ (NKJ)
We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” [37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. “ (NKJ)
So, we are to claim victory and come out victorious, even in the face of death, but what does it mean to be more than a conqueror? In the majority of cases when one side enters a battle and comes out victorious, don’t they come out with more than they had when they went into the battle? They call that the ‘spoils of war’. And what will the spoils of war be for us that come out victorious? The Kingdom of heaven! Pretty good spoils. This is God’s provision for us and it applies to every single battle that we fight! When we have a terrible day at work we’re beaten down, tired and maybe even depressed or dejected – but we have come out victorious! We have gained the experience of having been there and surviving it! We know what to look for the next time we’re there. When we lose someone dear to us, a death in the family, we come out victorious and gain (or regain) the precious memories and sentiment of that person that had been shelved for a period of time. We know that they have taken possession of their stake in heaven! In every aspect of life, every battle we fight, when we overcome, we gain! We emerge more than conquerors! The ultimate battle is against Satan himself but with the help of Jesus we are more than conquerors and gain the Kingdom of Heaven!
How do we enter into this life of victory and fulfillment?
Living the Life of Victory
1 John 2:15-17 gives us instruction as how to start living victory in our lives. It says: “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”
This tells us that the first step in living a victorious life is to love God. Not only do we have to love God but we also have to not love the world or the things in the world! You can’t have one foot in heaven and the other on earth. You must live 100% the Kingdom life! Jesus said in Matthew 12:30 “You’re either for me or against me” There is no grey area, no 90% in and 10% out. With Jesus you cannot ride the fence - you’re either in or you’re out! The fleshly life and the Godly life are like oil and water, they do not mix.
1 John 2:16 goes on to say, “16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.”
John uses “the world” 10 times more than the other three Gospels. “The world” is everything not of God; it is the flesh, ungodliness, unrighteousness, wickedness. Everything and everyone that is not under God’s rule and authority are of the world.
1 John 2:17 says that “17 The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.”
Everything that is not of God (“the world”) is passing away. Everything that the unrighteous seek: money, fame, prideful things and love of self – these are all impermanent in nature and are on their way out. But the person who lives under the authority of God, who does His will, lives forever (in the Kingdom of Heaven). This is the key to coming out of tribulation victorious, to becoming more than conquerors! He who does the will of God lives eternally in heaven! When we align ourselves with the will of God we become as undefeatable as God is. This is the only key to living victoriously.
NOTE: I want to stop and point out that everybody lives forever. Who your Lord is determines where you will spend that eternity.
The will of God is the most powerful tool we have. In 1 John 5:14-15, God instructs us that if we pray according to the will of God that we can pray with all the confidence that whatever we’re praying for we already have!
“This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.”
That’s powerful brother! That if we align ourselves, if we make ourselves congruent with the will of God, we have everything we ask for! Do you know what it means in math to be congruent? I love this definition (and my step-Father would be so proud of me right now for using it). In geometry, two angles are congruent if they have “the same shape and size as the mirror image of the other.” They are exactly the mirror image of each other! We must be congruent with God’s will in order to be victorious through the battles we face each and every day in these end of days! But how? How do we know what the will of God is?
The Will of God
God’s will is in direct correlation to His purpose. I want to point out three major purposes of God that relate directly to His will.
1) Matthew 6:9-10 – “Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.”(KJ)
This is the supreme statement of God’s purpose, His will, that His Kingdom come on earth. First, notice that you are not alone; you have a Father, a Father who loves you more than you can ever imagine. You are a member of the most royal of families. As such you should have absolutely no feelings of inferiority, rejection or being unworthy in any way. Not only are you a member of the most royal family, you are the most precious member of that family. If you have any of these feelings, then you don’t know who you are. You have the most powerful Father in existence and you are His favorite!
Second, the number one objective of God is to have His Kingdom come on earth! This is exactly why He gave all authority over earth to Adam & Eve and told them to fill all the earth! To fill it with what, people? That too but the number one purpose was for them to fill the earth with the Glory of God! This is what we forfeited when Adam & Eve disobeyed God, His Glory! Romans 1:22 tells us “Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man…” Ever since we trashed the Glory on earth, God has been trying to get us to bring it back! So much so that He gave us this model for prayer instructing us to do His will on earth as it is in Heaven! This is the reason He sent Jesus, to bring the Kingdom to earth. We’re here as His servants to assist in that process. Isn’t that cool? Do you see how privileged you are? Do you understand how precious you are to Him, that God, the creator of ALL things, would want us to help Him? So then, this must be our first priority. This must take precedence over absolutely everything else in our lives, over making money, over our spouses and our children. Our first priority must be to become an instrument to bring God’s Kingdom to earth. Its number one on God’s list, therefore it must be number one on our list. In order to be in harmony with God we must follow His priorities, not our own agendas. If we align ourselves, if we make ourselves congruent with this one purpose we begin to flow in the will of God and we become unshakable, unsinkable and unstoppable!
Matthew 6:33 – “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” (NKJ)
This is rather direct. If our priority is to seek the Kingdom of God, to stay congruent with God’s will, then He will, in turn, give us everything we need to live. Notice it doesn’t say everything we want (i.e. ‘things’) but everything we need. The verse immediately prior to this one talks about bare necessities – food, water and clothing, what we need to survive. Also notice that this is to be our first priority, “seek first the Kingdom of God”. Its not the second or third thing on our list but the first! The first priority in your life must be to bring God’s Kingdom to earth? Why else are we here? Did you ever stop and think about that? Why didn’t God just snatch us up the moment we were saved? Because He wants us to proliferate His Kingdom here on earth! This is His will and when you align yourself with God’s will He takes responsibility for you. Did you get that? When you align yourself with God’s will He takes responsibility for you, He provides for you, He opens doors for you that would otherwise be closed. Romans 8:37, we become ‘more than conquerors’ when we align ourselves with God’s will – we end up with more than what we went in with.
Matthew 10:7-8 – “And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’”
This is the message of the Gospel. Did you know that, according to scripture, the Apostles never held a miracle service? That’s not to say that people weren’t healed. People were healed by Peter’s shadow, but they nowhere in scripture does it say anything about a meeting specifically to perform miracles or cast out demons or to have baptisms for that matter – those things just happened. Healing and deliverance services are a modern invention. There’s nothing wrong with them, but it is important to understand that this was not the approach of the Apostles. The Apostles simply preached that the Kingdom of heaven was at hand and you can join us if you’d like. Matthew 24:14 backs this approach up when it says “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.” The emphasis there isn’t on doing miracles, healings or speaking in tongues or even getting sins forgiven, although those are part of the benefit package that God has for us. The message is about the Kingdom and the King!
In Acts 17:6, When Paul and Silas went to Thessalonica the crowds gathered looking for Paul, and when they couldn’t find them they dragged Jason and some others before the city authorities and said “These men (Paul and his crew) who have turned the world upside down have come here also” I ask you, would people say the same thing about us? Are we ‘turning the world upside down’ or are we afraid to step on toes when preaching the Gospel? It goes on to say that “Jason (a new believer) has harbored them, and these are all acting contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying there is another king—Jesus.” Again, it doesn’t say that these men (Paul et al) were preaching forgiveness of sin or healing or deliverance, they were preaching about another Kingdom and another King, Jesus. This is what upset the local rulers, a Kingdom and a King contrary to that of Caesar’s rule. This is the Gospel of the Kingdom; there is another Kingdom coming and with it comes another King greater than any other King that has ever ruled – greater than a thousand Caesars, greater than Barack Obama, greater than any ruler of any earthly land - and His name is Jesus! You can join or you can be left out – but you can’t stop it from coming because it is the Kingdom of God and His will is being done in its coming!
Now, when they preached this message, people got healed, demons were driven out, but they never had a miracle service solely for those purposes. The Apostles preached the coming Kingdom of Jesus Christ and in preaching that message there was such power behind it that no cancer could remain, no demon could reside, the blind got sight and the deaf heard! The Apostles preached a coming King who will reign in righteousness and power like no other – and with Him comes healing! Healing of wars, healing of financial problems, healing of diseases, healing of demonic spirits and the healing of all humanity! With Him comes the peace of Jerusalem!
2) We must commit ourselves to the very last command that Christ gave His disciples, the Great Commission! In Matthew 28:19-20 Jesus gives His final order to the troops to “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.”
First off Jesus states that He has been given ALL authority, not some authority, not partial authority, but ALL authority. So He states His position straight away – there is no one with higher authority than I. How would a soldier react to a General who makes that statement? He would listen intently and do exactly what He said. He said to go and make disciples of some nations, right? No, ALL nations. That’s everyone, everywhere, under every cardboard box and on every park bench, right? Right. Well, we’re 19 centuries into this thing and we still haven’t reached them all. Also notice that Jesus didn’t say “Go and make church members”. He said “Go and make disciples”. In the church today we have a tremendous number of church members. Some churches report 20 -25,000 members. But there are very, very few disciples in that number. A disciple is one who has laid down his life for Jesus, not just showing up on Sunday for two hours out of his life. A disciple lives for Jesus, is under the authority of none other than Jesus and would lay down his life for Jesus without hesitation. That’s also the definition of a soldier. I hear that label being thrown around a lot too. You’re not a soldier if you’re thinking about self-preservation. Jesus said, in Luke 14:33, that unless we forsake ALL that we have we cannot be His disciple. There’s that word again – all. Unless you give up everything for Jesus you can’t call yourself a disciple – period. In Luke 14:26, Jesus includes family in this; spouse, children, brothers and sisters - all that we hold dear in the natural world. You may be a follower of Christ, but you’re not a disciple if you’re not willing to give all up to Him.. And if you call yourself a disciple without that commitment, then you’re a hypocrite and you need to repent. If you refer to yourself as a disciple or soldier, but aren’t displaying the character and attributes of a laid down life, then you are shaming Jesus. The overall problem there is disobedience. If Jesus said that in order to be His disciple you have to forsake all, then you have to forsake all. Anything less is disobedience - you’ve gone AWOL.
It goes on to say in Matthew 28:19, “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” Water baptism is a commitment to discipleship. Likewise, if a person isn’t prepared to follow the authority of Christ, if they aren’t ready to make a commitment to discipleship, then they shouldn’t be baptized. In the New Testament, water baptism is as critical a step in salvation as baptism in the Holy Spirit! The pattern established in the New Testament by Christ was to repent, be water baptized as soon as possible and be baptized in the Holy Spirit, or the baptism in Christ, as John the Baptist put it in Mark 1:8, when he directly said, “I indeed baptized you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit” (KJ) In the original Greek, the word ‘with’ there is more accurately translated as “into” (Strong’s G1519), so the baptism in the Holy Spirit, which according to this scripture is given by Jesus Himself, is actually the baptism into Jesus Christ. I really like The Message version here, it says “I’m baptizing you here in the river, turning your old life in for a kingdom life. His baptism—a holy baptism by the Holy Spirit—will change you from the inside out.” The baptism in water is symbolic, when we go under the water it symbolizes being buried with Christ. When we come up out of the water it symbolizes being resurrected with Christ – but this baptism is symbolic. When we receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit, we are actually submersed into Christ and His spirit is activated in us. We all receive the Holy Spirit at salvation but He is not activated in us until we receive the baptism into Jesus Christ, the baptism in the Holy Spirit.
This is not to diminish water baptism in any way. It is a required step in salvation. Jesus said in Mark 16:16, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved” You see, believing is not enough. You must also be baptized to be saved. This is why churches that have alter calls every week and may have many people come forward to accept Jesus, but don’t hold water baptisms for those people are only doing half the job, according to the words of Christ. According to the words that came out of the mouth of Jesus, unless you have been water baptized, by submersion, you’re salvation is not complete. I specifically say baptized by submersion because in every single instance of baptism mentioned in the New Testament was by total submersion. In the original Koine Greek the original word is ‘batizo’, meaning “to immerse, to submerge; to cleanse by dipping or submerging” Baptism, by its inherent definition, is an act of immersion in water. Simple logic says that we need submersion in baptism. If the symbology of baptism is that of being buried and resurrected with Christ, how can one be buried symbolically without being submersed? Likewise, you can’t be resurrected from a sprinkling. You can only be resurrected from an immersion. When John the Baptist baptized Jesus it says “And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water” (KJ) How can you come up out of the water if you weren’t in the water? Baptism by sprinkling or by pouring is an oxymoron, something that is self-contradictory.
Another thing, because it is a stipulation to being saved, water baptism is absolutely urgent! In Acts 16 when Paul and Silas were jailed in Philippi and the earthquake came and the jailer and his family were all saved, it says “immediately he and all his family were baptized.” Keep in mind that this was late in the night but they didn’t even wait until dawn to be baptized. When Philip met the eunuch on the road to Gaza, he preached to him about Jesus and the eunuch was saved. When they came upon a pool of water the eunuch said “Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?” Philip didn’t tell the eunuch he had to attend a baptism class or any other pre-requisite, he jumped off the chariot or carriage and they both went into the water and Philip baptized him. Simple and immediate. Water baptism should follow salvation as soon as possible – and only after salvation. Baptizing unsaved people has no affect on them being saved whatsoever. This is why sprinkling or any other form of baptism on infants is a waste of time as far as salvation is concerned. Baptism must follow salvation, it is not a precursor to salvation. Baptism is useless without repentance. If you do it that way all you end up with is a soggy sinner instead of a saved disciple.
In the New Testament, both baptisms are required; in water and in the Holy Spirit. Every single disciple of Christ received both water baptism and the baptism in the Holy Spirit, everyone with no exception. Who are we to change that which Jesus established? It’s ridiculous isn’t it? At Pentecost when the unbelievers asked what they should do, Peter replied repent, be baptized and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Everyone knows the end result, there were 3,000 people saved that day – but there were also 3,000 baptisms in both water and the Holy Spirit that same day! Can you imagine baptizing 3,000 people in a day? It must have taken hours even with all the disciples doing the baptizing.
Getting back to Matthew 28:20 it says “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you” Do you notice the order here? Make the people disciples, baptize them and then the teach them everything I have taught you. The teaching doesn’t begin until after baptism. Once they have committed themselves to discipleship, through baptism, then the training of Jesus begins, not before. The established pattern was not to waste time teaching uncommitted converts. If they’re not committed the training is a waste, are you with me? Every church should have a baptismal tank or pool available each and every Sunday morning! If you don’t, don’t waste your time giving an altar call! If you’re going to only do half the job why start at all? That’s unbiblical!
I grew up in Plantation, Fl. A suburb of Ft. Lauderdale. My parents were both mentored by Derek Prince and had a home church every week, sometimes twice weekly, in our home. This was at a time when Derek lived in Ft. Lauderdale. Jim Croft was there along with Mahesh Chavda, Bob Mumford, Don Basham and even Lonny Frisbee for a short time. They were all in my living room at the same time on many occasions. And I saw things that were impressive to say the least; radical deliverances from demonic spirits, healings of all kinds, incredible salvations. My parents were both high school teachers at the time and would invite young people to our house for Bible study, etc. and they were saved in droves. There would be kids all over the house, in the living room, the family room, the kitchen – they were everywhere. The cars would be parked up and down the street in front of the house. What was put into place in our home followed exactly the pattern that Jesus established with His disciples. Once saved, they were taken almost immediately into our swimming pool and baptized. Then they were dried off and brought to my step-father, who was a master at leading people into the baptism in the Holy Spirit. It was a Holy Ghost assembly line like none I’ve ever seen since. The entire process, from salvation to Holy Spirit baptism took no more than 30 minutes. It was an incredible environment to be mentored in and I hold to it to this day because it is what is spelled out in scripture, in the very words of our Savior, Jesus Christ. How can that be improved upon or altered in any way, I don’t know.
3) God wants a people for His Kingdom. Look at Revelation 7:9-10 “After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; 10 and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”
In this passage, John is being shown that in heaven there are people from every nation, every people, every tribe and every tongue. This is the fulfillment of the command that Jesus gave to His disciples and therefore to us: “make disciples of all the nations”. Jesus will not return until this command has been fulfilled. There must be at least one representative from every nation, people, tribe and tongue. God the Father will honor His Son Jesus and will support Him and uphold all His commands because of the sacrifice that He made on the cross. So, our job as disciples isn’t completed until we have reached every nation, every people, every tribe and every tongue.
The concept of God’s people is stated in Titus 2:11-14, “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, 12 teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, 13 looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.” (NKJ)
This is what God wants and is waiting for, “His own special people.” Jesus wants a bride to share His throne with Him and this is the main purpose of God, to have a people from nation, people, tribe and tongue. A Holy people, a purified people, a righteous people who has been purified from self-will, self-ambition and self-will.
1 John 3:1-3 states this very idea well, “See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. 2 Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. 3 And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” (NASB)
The character of those that are truly waiting for the King to return is that they are purifying themselves, striving for the perfection that we will only have in heaven, that when we see Him, we will be like Him.
There is only one benchmark for purity – Jesus Christ. People say all the time “I am so looking forward to the coming of Jesus” But what are they doing in preparation for His coming? Unless you are purifying yourself and striving to become more like Christ to the point that you resemble Him, He won’t even know you when He comes. This is the evidence of every person who sincerely seeks God and is in wait for His return - “everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure”
How then do we purify ourselves? Peter tells us in 1 Peter 1:22, “Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart” We purify ourselves through obeying the truth with the goal of loving our brothers and sisters in Christ. Where is the truth found? In God’s word. It pretty much always comes back to that doesn’t it? The mark of purity is sincerely loving the people of God. Is that easy? Nope, not always. God has some peculiar children – and not all are easy to love, that’s for sure.
In closing, the three purposes of God with which we need to align ourselves are:
1) The coming of His Kingdom on earth
2) Proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all nations, people, tribes and tongues
3) Preparing a people for the Kingdom
Paul sums up our challenge to these purposes of God in 2 Timothy 2:10, “Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect (the chosen ones), that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.” One of Derek Princes expressions was ‘when you see the word ‘therefore’ in scripture be careful to find out what its ‘there fore’ and this is no different. If we act based on our love for people and their salvation, we will endure all persecution, all trials, all adversity for our Lord – whatever it takes for God’s chosen ones. That’s our mission.
God bless you.