Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end (Heb. 3:12-14)
Dear saints of the Most High God, it is not an overstatement, by any measure, to suggest that so much of the letter to the Hebrews is spirit-touching-bone exhortation pointed straight at us here in the waning hours of this age. Our prayer in the spirit in this hour is that all of you will be heeding this admonition, and actively encouraging one another in the spirit as these dark days advance, and the hope of what lies ahead for all of us draws palpably near.
For the many in this dispensation, as with those delivered out of Egypt, have already fallen away from the faith once delivered and the author and finisher of the faith. The many who name the name of Christ with their lips have perhaps already angered the Lord with an “evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God”; and the “deceitfulness of sin” has borne its rotten fruit. “The soul who sins”, declares the Lord – “will die” (Eze. 18:4), “and whatever is not from faith is sin.” (Rom.14:23).
Unbelief is no minor thing to our God, and to be hardened in this hour to such things can be deathly serious. Which ever way you choose to take it, Hebrews is a book of forceful precedents and warnings, and to ignore such gracious admonition by the Holy Spirit pertaining to entering into the fullness of salvation can only prove fatal. Hyperbole? Overstatement? We do not think so, brethren.
For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it. For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just penalty, how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? (Heb. 2:1-3)
Here in a nutshell is a divine principle being conveyed throughout this epistle, that – “every transgression and disobedience received a just penalty, how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?”. This proved true first to the angels and then to the nation of Israel coming out of Egypt into the land of promise. If it was true for them, and the Lord does not change (1 Sam. 15:29; Mal. 3:6; James 1:17), then it stands that this principle applies to us also.
Therefore, just as the Holy Spirit says,
“TODAY IF YOU HEAR HIS VOICE,
DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS AS WHEN THEY PROVOKED ME,
AS IN THE DAY OF TRIAL IN THE WILDERNESS,
WHERE YOUR FATHERS TRIED Me BY TESTING Me,
AND SAW MY WORKS FOR FORTY YEARS.
“THEREFORE I WAS ANGRY WITH THIS GENERATION,
AND SAID, ‘THEY ALWAYS GO ASTRAY IN THEIR HEART,
AND THEY DID NOT KNOW MY WAYS’;
AS I SWORE IN MY WRATH,
‘THEY SHALL NOT ENTER MY REST.’ (Heb. 3:7-11)
There is indeed a faith that comes forward and claims the covering of the Lamb’s blood as gift from the God of Grace. Yet salvation is so much more than this, and it is not so great a salvation until we have entered into the fullness of the divine purpose; until we have entered in to possess the land and the fullness of His testimony. The faith deemed worthy to receive the gift, to be delivered from death in Egypt, must lead on to a faith large enough to withstand the rigors of the wilderness and entrance into all of His precious promises. Salvation entails both a gift and prize, and only faith can ensure that we receive both, as intended by the Lord. If the example of the angels who fell, and ancient Israel who forfeited the prize, is not compelling enough for us, then perhaps we too will fall in this wilderness.
“Take care brethren” indeed! For the time of either entering or not entering His Rest is imminent, and the many will not, having already gone astray in their heart. And do not allow yourself to be misled, fellow Christian, for this promised rest is not merely going to heaven or eternal life, but involves something far more profound and specific than that. Study the Word carefully, let the Spirit alone teach you, and you will discover the wondrous and sobering truth that the “land” and “rest” out ahead of us in this dispensation is nothing short of entrance into His millennial kingdom of glory. Praise God for His gifts, but also for the glorious prize that await those who are deemed worthy to attain it!
The precedent set before us here reminds us that all of Israel was covered under the paschal blood, that they all passed through the sea of death and deliverance, they all came into the wilderness as led by the pillar of fire and the cloud, and they all received the law by the Law Giver Himself, then stood on the cusp of the land of rest and promise. It was theirs to be had. All that was needed was the enduring faith and obedience to advance and possess it. They were redeemed by the gracious gift of the Lord, but the reward that lay ahead (the land of promise), required enduring faithfulness and obedience. We know this most certainly because that generation did not actually possess it, though in every soteriological (pertaining to salvation) sense, they were a saved and redeemed people.
Note here my friends that, although they were indisputably His ransomed people, purchased at such a price and precious to Him, the Lord was provoked to anger by their unbelief. Their persistent unwillingness to take Him at His word, and to advance in obedience to that word – the “hardening of their hearts” – not only resulted in them not being able to claim the inheritance of the land, but it also elicited the heated anger of the very God who redeemed them with the precious blood of His Son.
For who provoked Him when they had heard? Indeed, did not all those who came out of Egypt led by Moses? And with whom was He angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who were disobedient? So we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief. (Heb. 3:16-19)
Note this sobering passage in Ezekiel, in reference to the exile’s worthiness to repossess the land of Israel –
Then the word of the LORD came to me saying, “Son of man, they who live in these waste places in the land of Israel are saying, ‘Abraham was only one, yet he possessed the land; so to us who are many the land has been given as a possession.’ “Therefore say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, “You eat meat with the blood in it, lift up your eyes to your idols as you shed blood. Should you then possess the land? “You rely on your sword, you commit abominations and each of you defiles his neighbor’s wife. Should you then possess the land?”’ “Thus you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, “As I live, surely those who are in the waste places will fall by the sword, and whoever is in the open field I will give to the beasts to be devoured, and those who are in the strongholds and in the caves will die of pestilence. “I will make the land a desolation and a waste, and the pride of her power will cease; and the mountains of Israel will be desolate so that no one will pass through. “Then they will know that I am the LORD, when I make the land a desolation and a waste because of all their abominations which they have committed.” (Ezek. 33:24-29)
Unbelief, willful defiance, rejecting the word of admonition and exhortation given through His prophets – these will prove fatal for any generation of the Lord’s people hoping to enter into the fullness of His salvation.
The Faith that Follows
As the New Testament makes unmistakably clear, the promise stands before us today brethren, and the requirements and the stakes are as high as they ever were. We are exhorted and encouraged to learn the tragic lesson from those redeemed out of Egypt (sin and the world), and to be careful not to let our hearts become hardened with unbelief and the deceitfulness of sin that accompanies it. The Scriptures offer even greater insight into what actually provoked the wrath of Jehovah against that wilderness generation, as they came to Kadesh-barnea and stood on the precipice of the destiny that the Lord had determined for them –
Yet you were not willing to go up, but rebelled against the command of the LORD your God; and you grumbled in your tents and said, ‘Because the LORD hates us, He has brought us out of the land of Egypt to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites to destroy us. ‘Where can we go up? Our brethren have made our hearts melt, saying, “The people are bigger and taller than we; the cities are large and fortified to heaven. And besides, we saw the sons of the Anakim there.”’ “Then I said to you, ‘Do not be shocked, nor fear them. ‘The LORD your God who goes before you will Himself fight on your behalf, just as He did for you in Egypt before your eyes, and in the wilderness where you saw how the LORD your God carried you, just as a man carries his son, in all the way which you have walked until you came to this place.’ “But for all this, you did not trust the LORD your God, who goes before you on your way, to seek out a place for you to encamp, in fire by night and cloud by day, to show you the way in which you should go. (Deut. 1:26-33)
Now as Joshua and Caleb encouraged the people to advance, to trust the Lord in the face of impossible and overwhelming opposition (the giants or “Anakim in the land” – see Deut. 9:2, Num. 13), I also want to encourage and embolden you, to look only to the Lord of All Victory, and to trust Him alone to clear the path before us and to bring us all the way home. Only if we endure to the end, with full assurance, faith, confidence, hope and trust in the Lord alone, will we ultimately partake of the kingdom blessings bound up in Christ Jesus, the King of Glory! (Heb. 3:14). We are to emulate Joshua and Caleb, not the many who scoffed at and challenged the Lord –
Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, “We should by all means go up and take possession of it, for we will surely overcome it.” (Num. 13:30)
Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, of those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes; and they spoke to all the congregation of the sons of Israel, saying, “The land which we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land. “If the LORD is pleased with us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us—a land which flows with milk and honey. “Only do not rebel against the LORD; and do not fear the people of the land, for they will be our prey. Their protection has been removed from them, and the LORD is with us; do not fear them.” (Num. 14:6-9)
“We shall by all means possess it!” We will surely overcome it” – this is the confidence we need in this dread hour saints of the Lord, and we will surely have it if we go to Him who grants us all things in His Omnipotent and Faithful Son! Notice again what Caleb said 45 years after this –
“I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the LORD sent me from Kadesh-barnea to spy out the land, and I brought word back to him as it was in my heart. “Nevertheless my brethren who went up with me made the heart of the people melt with fear; but I followed the LORD my God fully.” (Josh. 14:7-8)
“But I followed the Lord my God fully”. Oh brethren, can we genuinely say that in this hour? Can we honestly confess that we are following the Lord our God fully here at the end of this age; that we have a faith that follows? Are we placing our trust in Him alone, as the only One who can save us, and bring us victoriously into His soon-coming kingdom? What was it that Joshua and Caleb saw; what was it that they possessed, that everyone else in Israel did not? This is a question that is so very important for us in this hour, dear brethren. Pray the Lord will reveal this to us, and help us to enter into the spiritual reality of it.
Is the Lord pleased with us then? Do we truly and ultimately trust Him with all that we are? Will we advance forward against seemingly impossible enemies (the world, the flesh, the devil, fear of the present circumstances and what lay ahead perhaps) such that He alone, in all His strength and glory can give us the victory. Do we, as Joshua and Caleb, behold the Lord in all His irresistible power and glory and provision, or do we see only the giants in the land, and the Hittites and Amalekites? Do we hold fast to His promise that we “can do all thing through Christ who strengthens you” (Phil. 4:13)? Or are we plagued with doubts, divided thoughts, other priorities and plans perhaps? Is the Lord growing grander in our eyes, or smaller, in the face of seemingly impossible conditions and our own weakness in the flesh?
Please remember my friends that immediately prior to the people of Israel rejecting the encouraging report of Joshua and Caleb, their wayward hearts had already drifted back to Egypt (the world), and they had rejected the Lord’s heavenly provision (manna) and direction (Holy Spirit). The rebellion that was rooted in the will and in the heart, was practically complete prior to the spies returning with their report. It was inevitable by this time that they would not take the Lord at His word, or be exhorted to advance and receive the promised inheritance and rest; that which the Scriptures call – so great a salvation. The ultimate end of salvation is to enter fully into the eternal purpose of God; this is what Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians conveys; this is where all beginnings must end!
How Bad is it Really?
Is your heart melting with fear as so much of what our generation has known and trusted in this modern, push-button world is crumbling all around us? Oh it is dreadfully bad out there my friends, far worse than the political and financial elites, and the mainstream media are letting on. The blood letting in the global, greed-driven economy, by all accounts has only just begun. Massive corporations are imploding and entire industries are being shed; millions upon millions are losing their jobs, their livelihoods, health care insurance, nest eggs, homes and any sense of hope in the western dream of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
The daily torrent of news and events washing over people is increasingly apocalyptic in both tone and content. Hundreds of thousands of jobs being shed every month here in the U.S. alone. The inevitability of continued failures, scandals, and bankruptcies in century-old companies persists. Even many nation-size states, like New York and California, appear to be on the brink of utter financial ruin. Folks, the sheer scope and scale of this current crisis sets it apart from anything history has ever presented the human condition. It is systemic in nature, not merely cyclical, as many crises in the past to which it is compared. Its root cause and impetus is as old as the devil himself – pride, greed, covetousness, rebellion, selfishness, licentiousness, scoffing at the revealed wisdom of God, an independent spirit, humanism; in short – the full-bore, unrestrained manifestation of the Adamic flesh in all of its ugliness and corruption.
The entire world, its people and populations, all of the nations, bound and blind in sin under the Pharaoh of this age, reaping the whirlwind of 6,000 years of contemptuous rebellion against the Creator and Author of Life. All of its systems and assumptions, ideas and philosophies, everything that it represents, stands in utter contempt of, and opposition to the Living God, who has every right to judge and destroy it in His infinite wisdom and righteousness.
What we are beholding brethren, before our very eyes, is nothing short of the whole world reaping what it has sown, and coming to the violent and inevitable end of itself. All is imploding from the sheer weight of the lies upon which it is founded – that man can live independently of his Creator; that he can find his own way, that he can solve the inevitable problems caused by his own sin and rebellion; that the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and that which is “pleasing to the eye” can ever be sanctioned or blessed by God; that man can reject the Savior of the world with divine impunity.
America, for example, fancies itself a Christian nation with a God-ordained and blessed beginning. Church buildings or holy monuments on practically every corner in every community. Public prayers by political notables accompany important events and times of crisis. The invoking of the name of Jesus Christ and familiar Scripture passages is common-place. People uttering “God bless you” almost without comprehending what they are saying or how God’s blessings are actually derived. Numberless prayers being floated into the ether, for every manner of personal endorsement, deliverance, blessing and sentiment. Yet for all of this, consider the absolutely godless and wicked testimony that this so-called God-ordained nation has delivered to all the world – one of unbridled greed and corruption at the highest levels, a political system founded upon and fueled by lies and hypocrisy, and an imperial ambition that rivals and surpasses that of any godless empire that has ever existed.
Is This the End Then?
Like many of you brethren, I am wondering if this current state of things is actually the end or even the beginning of the end, such as I understand it from the prophetic Scriptures. Although I am generally reluctant to make emphatic statements about such matters, I definitely believe the state of the world is very much positioned such that many of the pivotal events associated with the end of the age and the starting of Daniel’s final week are squarely in place.
Israel is in the land in a condition of blindness and unbelief (the fig tree has started to bring forth leaves – but not fruit), and we are told by the Lord Himself that the generation that lives to see this will not pass away. The unification of the nations of the world, as demonstrated by the cascading impact of the current financial and banking crisis, seems to be very much complete. And this unity is very much a greed-driven and man-glorifying unity under the current god of this age.
And as bad as things truly are, there does not appear to be any new ideas or direction forward. The best and the brightest in the spheres of economics and government are apparently mystified, not knowing the best course of action, or any certain solution (other than to perpetuate their own hold on power, of course). It was, in truth, their failed ideas and lack of foresight and wisdom that brought us to this current situation in the first place.
All has been tried it seems. All has failed. And perhaps the American experiment of broad, representative democracy and unrestrained capitalism (leading to the so-called American Dream) is man’s last hoorah for human ingenuity and self-government. In many respects, it has been the utter failure of the American system that has brought down all of the other nations that have willfully attached themselves to this empty dream. The iniquity of the “Canaanites” is almost full, and the sword of judgment in the Lord’s hand is ready to strike.
As a student of recent history, my sense is that we are entering (or perhaps have already entered) a time of uncertainty, instability, and despair on the part of the working classes that we have not truly seen in the modern sense since the period between the wars. By carefully analyzing the 1930s, we gain a great deal of insight into what will likely occur in the immediate future. And if that period is any guide, we know that what inevitability follows, as men blindly look to any potential deliverance and hope, is extremism, despotism, nationalism, xenophobia, the surrender of civil liberties, and ultimately the rise of pragmatic and charismatic leaders empowered by the spirit and agenda of anti-christ.
This, I believe will be the environment into which the beasts (anti-christ and false prophet) and the ten kings who join him will emerge and assume fascist-like control over the peoples of the world. They will have apparent answers to the seemingly impossible conditions under which humanity will find itself. They will offer hope to the many (although it will be based on a lie), and the lost (spiritually unregenerate humanity) and unwatchful (born again but caught up in the life of the world) will be willing to forsake all else (even the living God) to enter into this hope.
Fixing Our Eyes on Jesus
Dear brethren, I am firm believer in the physical translation of the saints (both the dead and the living) prior to the commencement of Daniel’s 70th momentous week. Yet nowhere in Scripture are we exhorted to look to this singular event as the hope of our calling in this present dispensation. We are, however, admonished to look to the One who has “passed through the heavens” before us (Hebrews 4:14), and to “draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (verse 16). Further, we are exhorted –
Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Heb. 12:1-2)
For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Heb. 12:13)
Dear friends, I would be dishonest to suggest that there are not times when I do in fact take my eyes off my faithful Lord and High Priest and “grow weary and lose heart.” I need this exhortation (and the mercy that follows when we stumble) no less than any one. I also need your love and prayers more than any one, as I know how hard-hearted and faithless I am at the best of times. I know how hard it is not to fixate on the happenings and conditions that surround us in this world. These are certainly dark and difficult days in which we live, and although we know how things will ultimately turn, the immediate impact of daily life under such conditions can be hard to bear.
My sense is that conditions where we live and work will get much, much worse, and that, in addition to our prayers, we will need to actively demonstrate that brotherly love for one another that the Lord said would identify us as His own (see Acts 4:32-37 for a glimpse of what this looks like).
A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. (John 13:34-35)
The fact of the matter is that we do not know specifically when the Lord will come for His own, and snatch us away to Himself. Things could get a great deal worse before this happens, and as much as we need to be looking to the Lord and to be encouraged by the hope of His Appearing, we also need to be caring for one another with true brotherly love until He comes. We need each other now, little ones, and we will need each other more as the days advance and the temptation to get distracted, deceived or discouraged increases.
I will close this message with some encouraging and confidence-inspiring words reminding us that the Lord is in complete command over all things. His plans are set and His Word cannot fail. He is forever faithful to fulfill His promises on behalf of those who love Him and are willing to take Him unconditionally at His Word. And although (to our eyes and emotions) it may not seem like it at times in this difficult hour, He has not abandoned us, nor has His love failed or faltered. By His very nature He can never leave us nor forsake us! And He won’t!
Forever, O LORD, Your word is settled in heaven.
Your faithfulness continues throughout all generations; You established the earth, and it stands.
They stand this day according to Your ordinances,
For all things are Your servants. (Psalm 119:89-91)
Gracious and Loving Father, I pray for all those reading these words, that they might be encouraged to believe the good report of the promised rest that lies out ahead of all those who will believe and advance in obedience. Grant us such faith Oh Lord, such as Joshua and Caleb possessed, and help us to look only to the Faithful One, and the absolute certainty of the victory that You have promised. Help us to endure, dear Father, such that we might win the prize and enter into Your precious rest!
And Father, on a very practical level, as many of Your little ones are suffering the loss of jobs and livelihood, help us not to look to the world for relief and assistance, but to one another and to You. As ambassadors of the Kingdom to this present world Father, we know that our sustenance comes from You alone Lord, and that we are not to look to governments and nations in this world to provide for our bodily well-being. Grant us the faith and love to make this so, and that we would not worry about the loss of worldly things, or the spoiling of our goods, or our place and prominence in this world.
Please Father, make the connections necessary in this scattered wilderness such that those who have might meet the needs of those who do not. For all things belong to You dear Father, and we are Yours too, having been bought with the precious blood of Your Beloved and Perfect Son. It is in His Name we pray. Amen.