In 1 Thess. 4:13-18, Paul speaks about how it will be when Christ returns. “We don’t want you to be uninformed about those who have slept in the Lord.”That refers to those who have died in Christ. Jesus died and rose again; and those who have died in Christ will also rise again. When Jesus returns, we who are alive will not be taken up ahead of those who died in Christ before us. They will arise from the graves. That will be the first resurrection. And we will be taken up together with them to meet the Lord. Unbelievers will not rise for another one thousand years. They will rise in the second resurrection.
Revelation 3:1-6 says: And to the angel of the church in Sardis write …… The messenger in Sardis was one who had built up a tremendous reputation before others as a spiritual man. But the Lord’s opinion of him was the exact opposite of that of his fellow-believers in Sardis. This shows how carnal and gullible most believers in Sardis were.
More than 90% of believers are unable to differentiate between a carnal preacher and a spiritual one. And more than 99% of believers are unable to distinguish between human-soul-power and Holy-Spirit-power. Most believers are impressed by the display and exercise of spiritual gifts and that is how they evaluate a preacher or an elder. And that is how they are deceived. God however looks at the heart. The messenger at Sardis may have had the gifts of the Spirit. But he was spiritually dead. This is a warning for all of us to take heed to:The opinion that 99% of our fellow-believers have about us can be 100% wrong! God’s opinion about us could be the exact opposite of their opinion. The same applies to a church. Others may consider a church to be “spiritually alive”. But God may know it to be spiritually dead. And vice-versa. Churches that God considers spiritually alive could be considered dead by undiscerning men.
In 1 Samuel Chapter 30, we see a few interesting things. David found himself in a difficult situation. When he and his men had gone to battle, the Amalekites had come and destroyed the city where the families of his people were staying and taken their families captive. The situation was so bad that all the men began to weep and also to blame David for their problems. They wanted to stone him to death (1 Sam. 30:6). And then we read these lovely words: “But David encouraged himself (and strengthened himself) in the Lord” (1 Sam. 30:6). What an example for us to follow, when even our friends turn against us.
Habakkuk is the story of a man who had questions but who made the journey from doubt to certainty. He starts with doubt, “O Lord, how long must I call for help before you will listen? I shout to you in vain; there is no answer. I cry, but no one comes to save” (Hab. 1:2). But he ends with certainty:“I will rejoice in the Lord. The Lord God is my strength; He will bring me safely over the mountains” (Hab. 3:19).
When Habakkuk saw the Lord, his heart was full of praise:“The Lord is in His holy temple, let all the earth be silent” (Hab.2:20) The conflict of his faith ended in the triumph of faith. He says, “Lord, I am silent before Your majesty. I have no more questions.” When Job saw the glory of God he also said, “Now I see You. I put my hand over my mouth” (Job. 42:5; 40:4,5). Job had no more questions once he saw the Lord. God will not answer all your 10,000 questions because if He did, you will then have 10,000 more questions! The answer (as in Job’s case and Habakkuk’s case) is to see the Lord Himself. The Lord is in His holy temple. Have you seen Him? Then your flesh will be silent before Him and you will have no more questions!
In Ezekiel 7:9, we see a title of the Lord that many people may not like to hear: ‘The Lord the Smiter,’ the One who punishes with judgement. In Ezekiel 8, the Lord showed Ezekiel the idolatry that was going on inside the temple which was why He had forsaken Judah. God gave Ezekiel an insight into the secret sins that were going on in the midst of God’s people. God will give a true prophet words, to expose the secret sins among His people that others do not know about.
In 1 Corinthians 14:24, 25, we read of a church-meeting where when people speak prophetically, a total stranger walks in and finds the secrets of his heart being revealed to him. And he falls on his face and acknowledges that God is in that meeting. This is how every church-meeting of ours should be. And all of us should covet to prophesy like that.
In the book of Daniel, we see the beginning of the movement of God’s people from Babylon to Jerusalem. This is a type of what we see today of God-fearing people moving out from compromising Christendom to God’s new covenant church, responding to God’s call that says, “Come out of Babylon, My people” (Rev.18:4).
That movement in ancient Babylon began with one uncompromising man – Daniel. He was concerned about God’s purposes and fasted and prayed for their fulfilment. The building of a pure church for God in any place usually begins with one man who has a burden of prayer before God that says, “Lord, I want a pure church in this place for You, and I am willing to pay any price for it”. You may have to carry that burden for a long time before you see its fulfilment. We have to carry this burden in our hearts, just like a mother carries a baby in her womb. That was how Daniel carried this burden.
The greatest battle that ever took place on this earth is not written about in any of the world’s history-books. It was on Calvary, when Jesus through His death defeated Satan, the prince of this world. One verse that you should never forget in your whole life is Hebrews 2:14,15. I am sure Satan would not like you to know this verse. No one likes to hear about his own defeat or failure, and Satan is no exception. Here is the verse: “Since then the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He (Jesus) Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death (His death on Calvary’s cross), He might destroy him who had the power of death that is the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.”
Ephesians is perhaps the most spiritual letter that Paul wrote, and that indicates that the church in Ephesus at that time was in a very spiritual state. It was a very good church. There was nothing there for Paul to correct. Ephesians deals with living a heavenly life on earth. A church and a Christian can fulfil their function on earth only if they are heavenly-minded. The more heavenly-minded you are, the more you can fulfil God’s purpose for you on earth. The more earthly-minded you are, the more useless you will be to fulfil God’s purposes on earth, even if you say you are going to heaven when you die. Your home can fulfil its function for God only if it is a heavenly-minded home. The Lord’s will for us is “that your days on earth may be like the days of heaven upon earth” (Deuteronomy 11:21 – KJV). This was not possible under the old covenant. But Ephesians tells us how we can live like that under the new covenant.
Let us consider two men who walked with God – Enoch and Noah.
In Genesis 5, we read the expression ‘and he died’ eight times. But right in the middle of that chapter, we read of one who did not die at all!! That was Enoch. He walked with God and God took him to heaven alive. That is a picture of resurrection life in the midst of death. Enoch was a man who lived in resurrection power, overcame death and was taken up to heaven – a picture of a godly church living in the midst of spiritual death, overcoming by resurrection power and finally being raptured.
In Ephesians 4:13, Apostle Paul says that we are to grow up gradually “to a mature man, to the fullness of the stature of Christ”. Our aim must be to grow ourselves and to help others to grow to this fullness. We must not remain babies “tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming” (Ephesians 4:14).
God allows us to be exposed to deception and false teaching so that we can grow in discernment. Our sense of discernment will not be developed otherwise. That’s why He allows so many deceivers and false prophets to move around in Christendom. Thus we will be able to discern the one whose spirit is not right from the one whose spirit is right. We don’t have to judge others. But we must discern. Then our spiritual senses will be exercised.