I began a musing a few days ago with the title, ‘The Church in the Last Days.” I am writing at the request of a number of people and I confess that I got stuck. I have never had much facility or confidence in my writing, so getting stuck is not unusual for me and I simply have to wait for clarity and quickening. However, this morning I was again ‘daisy picking’ in the Book of the Revelation. Actually, how can I say about the last book of the Bible that I am ‘daisy picking’! It demands reverence. A going down on our face, a sobering of the heart mingled with a great gladness of worship and thanksgiving that the Lord is working.
I have had a kind of love affair with that book from earliest days fifty years ago. I have never had much interest in the various interpretations that people often seem to get fascinated by. The beasts, the purple clothed woman Babylon and so on have never gripped my interest unduly. It has been the sights of heaven, of the Throne, of God and the Lamb, of the worship and the elders and living creatures. Oh, the holiness, the calmness, the wondrous control of God upon the throne! An atmosphere to breathe, that place from which the Holy Spirit is day by day poured out into our hearts A place for us to dwell with God and hear the sounds of silence filled with the “Holy, Holy, Holy of the living creatures and the songs of the redeemed. Toward the end of this little article I shall get to a single aspect and theme in that Revelation book so I ask you to persevere as I move through some serious matters which concern us all and mention Boris Johnson en route and what is to come in the tightening of governmental controls and the attempts to silence and annihilate the church. These controls are subtly being brought in. Even today for instance one of the internet giants said that they will no longer allow any posts that promote LGBT conversion therapy. We must face the fact that the media and movie- land are packed with the antichrist spirit.
There will be a number of aspects to my attempt to write about the ‘church in the last days’ so this will grow into a series I think. I may appear to slide over the surface of what are incredibly serious matters, but hopefully some of us will be helped and provoked to ponder deeply as to whether we are awake to what is happening.
THE BEGINNING OF THE END
These are exciting and challenging days in which to live. I am hearing from people from various nations telling me that they are being slowly but definitely awakened to their personal dullness, to the fact that something momentous is happening and they want to be fitted to face what is to come. They desire to be true ‘sons of the kingdom’. That phrase comes from the mouth of the Lord Jesus, Matthew 13:24-30 & 36-43. It is found in one of His parables. It concerns one field and the owner who planted good seed in it. An enemy sowed another seed in the same field and in a few sentences the Lord Jesus captures the spiritual processes of history in parabolic form. He explains its meaning to His disciples. They were apparently bemused by it and wanted to know what He was trying to teach them. For me, this parable has been a kind of ‘controlling text’ as I continue to reflect on the processes taking place in history. There are two kinds of seed. Very, very different, one is genuine and the other a deceptive seed that has no substance and value. Two kingdoms are in view, Jesus says, and two kinds of sons. The seed the Owner planted are, “The sons of the kingdom,” so Jesus explains, and the tares, “the sons of the wicked one.” They became recognisable early on but both were allowed to grow together unto harvest. I suspect that we are at the beginning of the end and can affirm that fact by the increasing growth of the devils sons in world affairs. The full ear of the false is coming more clearly into sight, globally now, the horrible worthless weed is coming to its fruitfulness. What used to be more local and national is becoming international and global. I am sorry to glide over the surface of these things somewhat but to discern the sinister powers at work in the hearts of proud men and women in high places, in commerce, in governments, in the United Nations, in the universities and in the media is vital. It is vile, dressed up in subtle ways as though it was of true worth. It is an empty show, nothing more, and destined for the burning. Thus we can consign the pretentious political, commercial, educational constructions of man to the fire. The tares, the false kingdom the pride of man is attempting to build is coming to its shameful harvest. Remember, the field is the world, so Jesus explained. It is not the Mediterranean, or the Americas, or Europe, or Asia, it is the world. Thus, society is developing its vain attempt to be a ‘global village’ in which it arrogantly aims to become a harmonious whole under the headship of a pseudo christ or christs. What a lie it all is but few seem to have eyes to see.
Yet, in the midst of all the grandiose presumption the good seed are also to come to their harvest. The sons of the kingdom, those who dwell gladly under the rule of the Lord Jesus Christ are to come to maturity, the church of God and of Christ becoming ripe and ready for the reaping into God’s garner. Is the church ready? Certainly not the flashy church often dressed up in the world’s finery and attempting to flourish by the worlds methodologies and techniques. That church and those content to dwell therein is not ready. No, there is much that must be sifted out, discarded in the practices that have been allowed to flourish these last forty years or so. There must be a return to the gospel of God. A great pruning by the Father must come and it shall. There shall be good fruit growing on the Vine when the branches are cut back. And God’s pruning knife will most certainly include the increase of hostility from the sons of the wicked one in high places, governments, decrees that attempt to prevent God’s people meeting and speaking on moral issues and speaking of Christ Jesus the Lord of all and the only Saviour.
This antipathy and animosity is here already, the thin end of the wedge has already been utilised and many have not noticed it. Communism and the fascism of the twentieth century has been a dry run, a warning in the period of modernity. The repression of the truth, the imprisonment of Christians in Russia, Romania and other eastern block countries along with the evil powers of communists in China are lessons for the church, they were the beginning of sorrows and now we are facing the wickedness and antichrist spirit as it works in even more subtle ways in what people are calling the post-modern age.
THE VIRUS AND THE LAW
I have been so glad that the Lord has seen fit to allow this virus to emerge and provoke a whole welter of responses. He gave a warning shot against the proud pretensions manifested in the pursuit of a materialistic paradise, the never ending pathway to prosperity in 2001 in New York. As always with God’s workings there was demonstrated both judgment and mercy that tragic September day. Subsequently, for a few weeks people began to pray and then slowly forgot and returned to their acquisitive pursuits. And it is so today. Can God, the owner of the field be inactive in the face of the systematic removal of His moral law so graciously given. Man was made for God, to know Him and not for idols, the work of their own hands. Instead of the beauty of holiness, the degradation of licentiousness legislated by the immoral decrees of governments is what we are witnessing. God will not sit still, though He will permit the sad, deceitful fruit of mankind’s hubris make a desert of souls and society. Drugs, inappropriate behaviour between men and women. The pride of the notion that a person can choose their own sexuality, some of the folly of self centred humanity legalised. Communism attempted to do that and failed and reinvented itself as socialism and liberalism, purposely promoting immoral lifestyles in order to undermine true family. Left wing ideology is working and we see the desert emerging in the souls enslaved to the media, the TV, Youtube and sport and the list could go on. Enslavement is the right word and look at the weed the devil has sown coming to its empty fulness!
At this point, God has allowed the idols to be struck a little. Sport closed down, the economy shattered for a while, perhaps this is the greatest hit, the engine of the economy that shall never recover to its former states. The pathway for the sons of the wicked one is increasingly manifest. They shall come to their fruit. Church be warned! Sons of God’s kingdom be ready to stand forth and resist the enslavement to the powers of darkness dressed up as angels of light which pretend to save!
Let me focus on an example of what is growing up in our day. I am writing from the United Kingdom. Which, by the way is displaying quite clearly that it is far from united just as the United States is displaying that lie also. As the virus emerged in the UK the Parliament got moving. Some would say, too slowly. As you would expect, they began to make decrees, social distancing for example. Had you ever thought that those two words could go together? To be social means a drawing together, not a separating of distance. But, that is just a small example of what we are in danger of swallowing without much serious thought. Let us concentrate on the church, with the ‘thin end of the wedge.’ The way the church is being subtly conditioned to an obedience to those should have no voice within her. Who’s church is it? Does it belong to Boris Johnson and his scientific advisers and fellow politicians? Where do their spheres of responsibility begin and end is a serious question we should ask.
The church is God’s house, not the United Kingdom’s house, or the Parliaments house. We were told we could not meet by those who are not of God’s house. They gave a command, a law! The church is not under their jurisdiction. By the way, at this point I should definitely affirm to those of us belonging to God’s house, we are to be respectful towards and pray for those who have government in their hands. Remember that. We are not to be blasé in any way. Who would want to be a politician in these days indeed? At this point in the UK the lockdown restrictions are being eased and so a new decree came from the Parliament. Now the churches can meet, beginning July 5th. They must be socially distanced. The congregation should be no more than thirty people. I could not help noticing that the government did nothing serious to disrupt the Black Lives Matter demonstrations gathering in their hundred and thousands, no law and only a pleading for no violence and a ‘kowtowing’ to the noisy voices that promote a spurious social conscience. Yes, all typical of the double speak which we are consistently being treated in these days.
Another instruction concerning church gatherings was that there were to be no refreshments served, communion would be virtually impossible, the cup and the bread. There was to be no singing! Thus Boris commanded the churches. But is he head of the house? These are the questions we should be asking. Has he gone beyond his brief? When does the church say respectfully, “No Boris, the Lord has commanded us to assemble ourselves together regularly and to share in communion too, whenever we can. Hebrews 10:25, we must not neglect that and do not tell us that Zoom meetings are just as good.” They may be a little stop gap help but nothing more. Besides, it is only a matter of time before the media engines will ban those who speak the word of God. The thought police will see to that. God ’s house is God’s house and that is that. Among His gifts are fellowship, communion times and singing! We are under His loving command to gather, to commune, to sing. Just focus on singing for instance, 1 Corinthians 14:26, is pretty clear!
Yes, it is plain Boris has gone beyond his brief, his motive good no doubt but should not God’s people be first listening to their Head, the Lord Jesus? What is He saying to us in these days? To my knowledge no prelate or church leader in England has informed Boris about the limits of his jurisdiction. Perhaps some have, I do not know.
SINGING A MAIN POINT?
Of course I do not think that singing in church gatherings is an essential point but I know that in such matters deeper issues are brought to light. Often the greater is manifested in the lesser. So let us focus on singing and see if the Lord can lead us into a better understanding so that we are ready for the difficult days that lie ahead. I confess that when I heard that congregational singing was not allowed I was quite glad, but only momentarily. Yes, on the one hand I was relieved that we would not have to suffer the overbearing noise and manipulation of much that is called ‘praise and worship’ as it has developed in the churches over the last forty years. It may be there is a gracious blessing in the Lord allowing the band to be silenced for a while, though for some it will be a cause of much sorrow, addicted as our world has become to music in background. To others it may be an opportunity for reconsideration that may lead to churches getting back to scriptural ways. For instance, apparently, singing by one person and behind a perspex screen is permitted by Boris. That is, in fact, a little nearer to what the Paul encouraged when he wrote, ‘if each one of you has a psalm, 1 Corinthians 14:26.” Now please do not think that I am picking points, I am not, but I do know that God uses world events and circumstances as His pruning shears sometimes, to bring us back to the simplicities of being the church as He intended. His desire is to purge away that which cannot be part of the life of the church in the last days. There will be no room for bands and loud music then. But there will be singing both individual and corporate for sure. The whole shall be much simpler though. The willingness to find the simplicity in Christ in the midst is vital. To get rid of the paraphernalia will be essential in days when the opposition increases even to the pitch of persecution and the church shall meet in houses sometimes in fear of their lives. Such shall surely come in years to come. Into the church we have allowed in and counted essential a lot that will be forced to be discarded. Even in our own little church it takes at least half an hour to get the paraphernalia up and running. I think it would be quite wonderful to hear someone sing a song that God had quickened to their heart, a hymn, a chorus, something of substance that edifies.
Their voice may not be the best, but that is not the main thing. Tunes and voices are helps, helps to the words, it is those that are to be heard. The melody is to be a carrier of the words of truth being sung. I am also quite certain that such songs brought forth by the Spirit would be joined by other voices in the meeting, spirit resonating with spirit and all with the Spirit and thus praise would rise without the need for any subtle manipulation by musicians. Maybe we should thank Boris for helping us to see things a little clearer!
AS IN HEAVEN, SO ON EARTH
As I write these things I am both serious and playful. Aware that we have been living in the midst of noise as never before. It is almost inevitable that the churches will become like the world around them and the world deafens itself with noise. It is a fact that noise deafens words. The louder things become, the less you hear the words. The more insensitive you become to substance and what is of value and the more captivated and mesmerised by the mood evoked. Those who are immature almost inevitably, for a while, take on the mould of the world. The churches have got noisy, reverence has been in short supply, a spirit that waits upon God is rare to find. Conversation and coffee is more to the fore instead of gathering in quietness unto God so that what comes forth is born of humble looking unto Him. May the Lord bring again those occasions when those who gather unto the Lord in that humility of heart will experience such a rise of holy sound that it will become a shout such as was heard when Jericho’s walls fell down! The sound of singing in the Spirit, the unity of voices rising to the heavens and the awareness that Jesus is the song leader, Hebrews 2:12.
“Should a church not be a little microcosm of heaven upon earth? A window through which people can look and see heavenly life displayed, here upon earth?
Such singing, such a holy atmosphere will be experienced in the life of the church of the last days. There shall be the gain of Christ in the midst by His Spirit, a wonderful compensations for the losses that are certain to take place in the lives of those who endure faithfully to the end. Though, in some of these churches of the last days there will be five, or fifty gathered, or sometimes even five hundred, there shall be days of heaven upon earth. Do we not hunger and thirst for the answer to the prayer Jesus encouraged his disciples to pray. “Pray like this,” He said, “Matthew 6:8-13. “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth it is in heaven.” Should a church not be a little microcosm of heaven upon earth? A window through which people can look and see heavenly life displayed, here upon earth? We have to say, that frequently, the church has not been such a window. But in the last days there shall be a great shining, the Bride of Christ shall make herself ready, Revelation 19:7. She shall be helped to become that beautiful bride by the ministrations of her husband Christ, Ephesians 5:25-27. All shall be through the multiplied ways of gifts and ministries by which He shall wash and nourish her. The church of the last days will be in the great fruitfulness that comes from intimate union with Christ, sustained in the secret places, by miraculous provision and His great care. Though poor, she shall be rich, though rejected she shall be given wings as an eagle, she shall flourish in hard times.