PLEASE GIVE SERIOUS THOUGHT AND CONSIDERATION TO THIS MESSAGE
In 1967, at the outset of the Charismatic movement, God gave a clear prophetic word for the days ahead. It was a word that caused one to tingle with excitement, that made faith leap to new heights, and caused spiritual vision to see new horizons. It spoke of God’s last great harvest before the return of His Son, and was a clear call for action. It spoke of God’s own plan for these end days, His desire for all nations, and the coming of the Kingdom of God. It spoke of the necessity for deep and committed preparation through trials, hardships, perplexities, and refinements as the daily life for all those who saw the meaning of the vision, and desired to be part of its outworking.
But the word also spoke of a great ‘dullness and lack of perception’ within God’s people, a blinkered vision that saw but a very limited part of God’s purposes in Christ. It spoke of believers who related to God only for their own needs, for salvation, daily bread, health and strength, family life, and church life, who effectively brought God into orbit around themselves instead of seeing themselves within the whole plan of God. Many were saying ‘Give us this day our daily bread’ BEFORE they got to the words ‘Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.’
And the word was clear as to the source of the error. Many were relating the Gospel to the flesh, and to this life, to human relationships, the interplay between family, friends and brethren, rather than to the GOAL of the Gospel in RESURRECTION. The church on this earth was never intended to be an end in itself, but a vehicle to convey believers into the higher life, to share with the King of Glory the government of the world from the heavenly dimension. Though surrounded with ‘a great cloud of witnesses’ those whose ‘spirits are made perfect’ through sufferings, the church was no longer able to see that this was the great truth contained in Jesus’ teachings, that He came to DIE and to be RAISED AGAIN, and that all who desired to be with Him would have to ‘take up their cross and follow Him’.
The word showed clearly that the glories would not flow forth from the flesh. Those who reaped the last harvest would not be men but angels. ‘Flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God.’ Hence the cloud of witnesses would return to the earth in resurrection, to be joined by those who would be changed into their new bodies IN THESE DAYS, and together (as now equal to the angels) they wQuld be the reapers of the harvest. No other way would be allowed, according to the word of the Lord.
In many types and by many figures the word of the Lord in 1967 spoke of obedience to the way of the cross, urging thechurch of God to see and understand that it was the only instrument in God’s hands to bring His servants into the Kingdom. The way of the cross, by the fellowship of Christy s sufferings and conformity to His death, was to be the only route to the fulfilment and outworking of God’s promise. And those who would taste of this death, and having suffered the torments of this hell, would be given Jesus’ own promise that ‘the gates of Hades will not prevail against them’:- resurrection (or change into the new body) was assured.
Furthermore the word was insistent that this process could only be an individual one. ‘Each one must come as that one alone, not as a group, and the favour of the Lord will be upon them.’ ‘And I deal with you individually in this, as I take you down into death – – – that I may bring you to the place of resurrection.’ It was clear that the meaning of this fellowship, and this conformity, related to this life, culminating in being changed into the new body when God’s training was complete. This was to be God’s own great work, and by it He would be glorified.
But what have the years since 1967 shown? No better summary can be found than Dr Andrew Walker’s new book,“Restoring the Kingdom.” The author presents the architects and the theology of the charismatics, the house-church groups, and the restorationists. It is clear that they are busy founding God’s kingdom here and now, on this earth, rather than in accordance with the teaching of Jesus in the Gospels. They speak of massive increases in the size of the global church (which they believe to be ‘the Kingdom’) and it is their intention to present it to the King when He comes again. But their ‘kingdom’ is earth-based, it is not the Kingdom of Heaven – even though Jesus’ words to Pilate were clear enough, ‘My Kingdom is not of this world.’ Here is the mounting evidence of the blindness, the dullness, the lack of perception, spoken of prophetically in 1967. And incredibly, the original words of prophecy were given to the very men who since that time have been the ones most vigorously to promote the earthly-based kingdom.
But what of the “Baptism of the Holy Spirit” and the “Gifts of the Spirit”? What was the purpose of these gifts in the early church? Three distinct functions are manifest.
(a) As an authentication of God’s own authority upon the new work, in each and every place where the Gospel was preached;
(b) As signs of the near coming of the Kingdom of God;
(c) As the inner strength of God to believers to enable them to identify with the sufferings of the Lord and Master.
All three of these purposes were related to the offer of the Kingdom in those days. But the Jews rejected the call of God, and as a nation they did not repent, and the Gentiles failed to understand the fullness of the vision vouchsafed to them until in the end ‘all those in Asia’ turned away from Paul. The outcome was the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D.70, and the withdrawal of the offer of the Kingdom to that generation.
How about today? The gifts and baptism of the Holy Spirit have been made available in abundance again. But the church at large appears not to have grasped the significance of what God is doing. Whereas quite the majority see the outpouring as a return to the glories of the early church, a ‘restoration’ of what then obtained, clearly the truth lies in the fact that GOD IS ONCE AGAIN OFFERING THE KINGDOM TO HIS CHURCH, and He expects all believers to sit up and take notice of this ‘new work’. Instead of looking back to Pentecost, we are urged to consider the typical significance of Tabernacles, the ‘last great harvest’ of the Jewish year. To many, the gifts of the Holy Spirit have been seen as aids to the growth and worship of the local church, rather than as signs of the nearness of the Kingdom. And healing has been seen as a sort of National Health Service for sick Christians, as an on-going process, rather than again as signs, which should produce repentance. Jesus said that if the miracles He performed had been done in Sodom, the people of that city would have repented in sackcloth and ashes. THAT is what the Lord was looking for then, and He is again now. However, what do we see? When healing takes place, there is praise and thanksgiving, when it does not, there is perplexity, all because the purpose of the gifts is not understood.
But God will not be mocked. What He has set His hand to do, this He will achieve. He has set a day in which He will judge the world (i.e. rule it) by the Man Christ Jesus, and that day is very near. He has called for His church to repent and follow the vision of the cross through into resurrection. The church may have lost the vision, but a remnant has found it, and they have been keeping it safe within their own hearts, as those who find real treasure hidden in a field, and they have been paying very high prices to ensure that they obtain it. In due course God will give it to them. And God has spoken of multitudes in the valley of decision, far too many to count, followed by a magnificent harvest to the Lord. The remnant will be the reapers. Those who have followed another vision, and another interpretation of God’s ways, will stand and stare in amazement, choked up with embarrassment and anguish. This is a very sad fact to contemplate, but is wholly Scriptural. It is also sadly true that many will try to enter the Kingdom in that day, believing that they have a right to be there, but only to find that the doors are shut. And when the ‘way of the cross’ dawns in the minds of the many who chose rather to go on the broad way, ‘they will seek death and will not find it’ because the Kidron Valley will be shut. The way of the cross will be complete. ‘That which is lacking of the afflictions of Christ in the flesh’ will finally be made up, and God will have obtained that which He sought. The Kingdom of God will then be made manifest to all men. The Millennium will begin. ‘The Kingdom will be given to the people of the saints of the Most High.’ Judgment will become strong in the earth, and the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness. And the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of God, as the waters cover the sea.
But – the door has not yet been closed, even though the time is very short.