The Scriptures convey most vividly the idea that those begotten of God by His Spirit represent nothing less than the corporate manifestation of Jesus Christ on the earth. As His “body” we are inseparably joined to Him in more than principle, agreement or religious allegory, but in origin, life and purpose. The Father, in choosing to create a new spiritual man in place of Adam, has formed both the head and body in His beloved Son, Jesus Christ.
Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually. (1 Cor. 12:27)
And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. (Eph 1:22-23)
For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. (Eph 5:23)
As the Lord’s de facto body on the earth, we are to manifest His presence and purpose in both our individual lives and the corporate life of the “ecclesia”. If we are to cast any shadow at all it is only to be His shadow. If we are to represent or reflect any kind of wisdom or purpose whatsoever, then it is to be His wisdom. If we are to proclaim and embody any message, then it must be His message. Having been bought at such a price, we are no longer our own, coming and going and living as we please unto ourselves. We are intrinsically joined unto Him that we might fulfill the Father’s eternal purpose in manifesting and magnifying His Son throughout His creation. In choosing to propagate and advance His divine essence throughout the universe, He has graciously called upon a tiny remnant of puny, mortal creatures to share in His work.
Although the Head is currently seated in heaven with the Father, His ministry and witness continues in this present age through His Body – the Ecclesia (or “called out” ones) of the Living God. And it is should also be expected that the world (and the current ruler of this world) – that is opposed to God and all His plans and purposes in Christ – would respond to His Body in precisely the same way as it responded to Him… with bitter contempt, hatred and murderous intent.
“If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you.” (John 15:18)
I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. (John 17:14)
And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved. (Matt 10:22)
Dear saints – all of this is presented, by way of introduction, that we might present our immediate topic, which is – the tribulation and testing of the saints. Now this is important stuff here my friends, for I fear a fraud has been perpetrated upon God’s people by many who have taught them to expect something other than what our Lord received in this world. Both the Scriptures and the Spirit suggest otherwise however, as we shall see.
Now there are concepts seldom mentioned today by many Christians, and they are these – rejection, isolation, suffering, tribulation, trial, persecution, loss, peril, distress, opposition, affliction, martyrdom. Perhaps there is this general sense that these unsavory topics are no longer relevant or applicable to the sophisticated and pragmatic church of today – those who believe kingdom blessings can come in advance of the kingdom itself and the King. The whole issue of suffering for the glory of God and His Christ has become one of the many unmentionables in the modern church – bad for business one might suggest.
This, of course flies in the face of our Lord’s consistent message that the ill manner in which the world treated the Head would logically be applied to the Body, which represents the perpetuation of His presence and ministry on the earth. This also runs counter to the violent manner in which most of the Lord’s holy prophets and apostles were treated. Consider Hebrews 11, for example, which grimly catalogs the fate of so many faithful saints of old –
Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented- of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth. (Heb 11:35-38)
And why should we who serve the Lord today expect anything less? In Second Timothy we are assured that “all who desire to live godly in Christ will suffer persecution”. Not some, not a few, but “all”. Why? Again, because of the deep-seated and loathing hatred of the ruler of this world to all things “in and of God”. The idea expressed is that anti-christian and predatorial forces are literally hunting down all that threaten their very survival and vitality. Elsewhere the Scriptures convey the image of the devil as a roaring lion seeking to devour all who would oppose his earthly dominion. Our Lord prayed to the Father that His sheep would not be removed from the earth, but preserved from this lion seeking to devour them. And Satan essentially employs two means whereby to neutralize opposition – to tempt them into rejecting God’s true revelation in His Son, or if they refuse, destroying them.
My friends, this current gospel of an easy and painless testimony in this world is clearly not from heaven but from somewhere else. The body that is legitimized by the world and does in fact experience this kind of relative ease and safety is truly not attached to the Head that is the Lamb of God. The entire message of both testaments is that a colossal war is underway in which the spiritual forces of evil are pitted violently against God and His faithful ones. This world is and has never been worthy of those who are true, pure, holy, righteous and faithful to He who saved them out if it. It seeks only to devour and destroy them, and (listen carefully saints) the wonder of it all is that YES – our loving God actually permits the righteous to be physically persecuted and even slain. He doesn’t always deliver His children from the wrath of the rulers of this world. Even today in many parts of the world, there are many genuine children of God, who hold the testimony of Jesus and represent His manifest Body on the earth, who are being poured out as a shining sacrifice to the glory of God. The prophetic scriptures indicate that this will become worldwide once evil is more universally unleashed, and the murderous wrath of the beast and his minions is released against the testimony of the Lamb.
The plain and simple testimony of Scripture is that God nowhere promises us deliverance “from” persecution, but deliverance “through” it, and victory “over and above” it. All spiritual growth and maturity requires and meets some form of resistance, as Peter assumed in his prayer –
But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. (1 Pet 5:10)
Resistance quickens our faith, bringing it to life, maturing it, and deepening it into obedience. Hebrews 5 tells us that our Lord “learned obedience by the things which he suffered.”
Brethren – it may be worth repeating that this world is not our world. We are merely traveling through on our way to a better place. And if we are truly bearing the testimony of Jesus Christ in our lives and example, then we represent a spotlight shining on all that is false and unclean in this world. As such we represent a significant threat to all those (both human and otherwise) who profit and gain from the present state of evil. Rest assured that all wickedness in high places will hate us and seek our destruction, for the very reasons it hated our Master. As His body, we bear His truth and His testimony – and the world cannot bear it, and must come against us in the only way it knows – with malice and violence.
Herein, in a nutshell, is the very reason we are in the world – as a righteous testimony against it. We are witnesses of the Most High God who is poised to judge this present world with righteous judgment and fierce wrath. Our very testimony will play a large part in the Lord’s “case” against this world and all those who support and serve it.
For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thess 5:9)
No we are not subject to God’s wrath or the execution of His judgment on this world, but neither are we greater than our Master (John 15:20), and all throughout the Bible we are conditioned to expect violence and affliction at the hands of the devil and all who represent him. It is Satan’s murderous wrath that constitutes the real physical (and it can only ever be a physical threat, affecting the body and soul) threat to the saints. Through so many forms of threat, tribulation, torment, accusation, violence, loss and deprivation against the body of Christ, Satan seeks always to reduce Jesus Christ, to stamp Him out in some form or another.
Yet here is the wonder and the power of the testimony of the saints, in demonstration of a wisdom that renders even the angels awestruck – that when violence and even murder comes against the sheep, the Shepherd is not thereby reduced, but increased and magnified ever to an even greater degree. His glory shines even brighter in the testimony of the slain, whose righteous blood the world is not worthy.
The same Loving God who has numbered the very hairs on our head, and who encourages and sustains us through much testing, trial, and tribulation at the hands of evil in high places, is forever with us and in us, strengthening and fortifying us in Himself. Recall, dear saints, that remarkable fourth figure in Nebuchadnezzar’s fiery furnace, looking very much like the Son of God, and preserving His own in the midst of the oven. No, my friends, we are not, nor ever shall be alone to endure this world’s fiery wrath and indignation. The Body and the Head are one.
Why then do we love this world so, and grip it so tightly, when all that it is and represents is opposed to the Holy One we serve? When it scorned and crucified the only pure and perfect thing that ever entered it? Why do we seek its acceptance and legitimacy, even its love when our Lord commanded us to follow Him out of this world, to bear His cross, and to die to this world and its ways, to its illegitimate wisdom and purpose? If the Head was not of this world, then must not this also be true of the body? Why then do we seek to align ourselves with all that this world represents in its opposition to God – its politics, its systems, its institutions and even its false, small “c” christianity?
Our Lord’s claim on us is an ultimate one, and neither the gates of Hades nor Death, nor the god of this world can ultimately deprive us of what we have been given in Christ. But let us not reduce this assurance to mere physical survival of the body or the preservation of our place in this world. It is the spirit that is inviolable to the gates of Hades and the one who holds its key. And this alone marks the source of our sanctified and prophetic testimony before every false and unholy thing.
The wisdom of this world and its god is to protect, preserve and increase itself by force if necessary. If it cannot convince or otherwise claim something for itself, it will endeavor to destroy it. It is the way of “get”! And into this world, the Lord has inserted us to demonstrate another kind of wisdom, adverse and opposed to all that it represents – the way of “give”. Hereby we are oil mixed with water, day dividing night, and salt separating sugar. Only we know that love cannot exist apart from truth, and ours is a message of truth (that the Lord’s soon-coming kingdom will ultimately supplant the kingdom of men and devils) that the world cannot possibly bear, for it exposes it, and draws out all that is hidden. Ours is a testimony that cannot, and will not, conform to the world’s precepts and ways, and yet blind conformity is what it is all about. This is why it hated our Lord and continues to resist all those who live in Him, right up until the very last day, when God Himself will remove His faithful ones before executing His fierce wrath on this evil world.
Most beloved saints – those in whom His very life and spirit abides – we all know the times in which we live, that forces are quickly marshaling to bring about the most wicked state of existence the world has ever known. If we are not being made ready now, then I fear many of us will not resist the dread powers to come! If our lamps are not topped up now, then how shall we fill them then? If we do not have a martyr’s faith, and a martyr’s love now, then from whom shall we get it when those days are upon us? If we have no root in ourselves now, then what shall keep us from being uprooted then? In the very name of Our Gracious Lord and King, I implore and exhort all who read these words to make yourselves ready while there is yet time.
All of our Lord’s words are rapidly quickening to life and meaning as we prepare our hearts as end-time pilgrims on this earth. Do we indeed love self, family or things more than Him, and how shall we respond when this world threatens to separate us from such? For this is all the devil can really do when you get right down to it, as evidenced by his vicious attack on Job. Indeed, with the Lord’s permission, he can separate us from the ones we love, from our physical existence, from our property certainly. Yet…
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written:
” For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”
Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35-39)
And so do we genuinely and deeply believe this, my brethren? Have we resolved this in our hearts and minds today, in anticipation of a world where we will certainly be marked and hunted like dogs? Where everything and everyone will be against us? When we will be scattered and alone, with only God and his promised provision?
Do we believe our Lord when He assures us that – ” In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer. I have overcome the world”? Do we actually comprehend what the Lord means when He says that judgment will begin with the house of God?
Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter. For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? (1 Peter 4:12-17)
There is first a refining, a strengthening, a testing, and a building up of patience amongst the saints that must occur before this world is judged. And whether you choose to believe it or not, the clear and certain message of God’s Holy Word is that this requires suffering and separation. And God has always used the devil and his world as an instrument of such. All of us must be separated from our idols – violently if necessary – before entering the Kingdom. And remember an idol can be any thing or anyone that we love or trust or turn to before the Living God who made us.
Dear saints – Our most precious Lord went meekly as a lamb to the slaughter in obedience to the Heavenly Father, suffering the ultimate separation for His Glory! We too, as the Lord’s manifest body on this earth, must we ready and willing and preparing now to experience the same thing for the Glory of our God! In this and anything else, there truly can be no greater or higher motivation, than that the God we serve and love will receive the Glory worthy of His Holy Name! This – and I believe the Lord affirms this – is where we must focus our hearts and devotion and prayers as end-time saints anticipating the days to come!
Oh Most Holy Father – Keep us from the lie that we can be made ready apart from loss or separation, that as servants we can expect anything less than that which befell our Master, that maturity can come in a box. Fortify the saints O’ Lord, in preparation for the testimony of your Purpose and Glory before a world that is rushing headlong into depravity and the incarnate rule of the evil one. Turn our hearts singularly to You and Your Son in these last days, and let us not be afraid or thwarted from our steadfast faith and trust in You alone, to help us to overcome whatever comes. Most Precious Father, we do indeed love Thee, and know that we can be and do all things in Christ Jesus who strengthens us! In His exalted name we pray, Amen.
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Please pray for us here at Living-Walk, that we would watch and see the Master at work, and understand what He would have us do. Please pray for the author especially, a blood-washed sinner, who needs to heed these words as much and even more than those that read them. Please pray that His will be done in our lives as we follow Him in patience and obedience, and that He would cleanse our hearts and hands and lips in this evil hour, as we submit to Him in all readiness, preparation and faith.
And a special message to all those, like Lot, who are entangled in the affairs at the gate – Come Out! For the iniquity of Sodom has become full, and the gates of this world are no place for citizens of the Kingdom of Our Lord! Come out of her politics and cultural debates, come out of her churches and counterfeit religious systems, come out of her temples where men reign over God’s people and Nicolaitism and Baalism is the order of the day! Come Out dear ones lest you share in her destruction at the hand of the Lord! His Sword is stretched out and why, why are you still at the gate, involved in movements and parties and agendas? Will you save it then? Will Sodom listen to you? Did it listen to Lot? Don’t be a fool and heed the warning of the Lord before it is too late! Remember Lot, who was scarcely saved! Remember his wife whose heart remained in this world! Come out I say! Come out to the safety of the Lord while there is yet time!
Your friend and brother in Christ Jesus,