Preached by Dr. Gene Scott on April 20, 1980
Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers,
walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise
of his coming?. . . But the day of the Lord will come . . .
2nd Peter 3:3-10
THE APOSTLE PETER WROTE TO SAINTS scattered throughout Asia who were enduring all manner of persecutions. Ignorant onlookers accused them of cannibalism because when they kept the Lord’s Supper, they would say, “this is My body and this is My blood.” Christians would greet one another with a holy kiss, and the onlookers used that as a basis for accusations of gross immorality. Christians became a scapegoat for the ills throughout the Roman Empire and they were persecuted in ways that you and I have never experienced or even imagined.
Peter wrote to them and told them how they ought to act under pressure. He said, “you are children of a heavenly Father. You have a heritage that is different than the world around you, so you ought to act like it. Instead of crying to get out of your problems, you ought to exhibit a relationship that is the proof of your testimony in the midst of your problems.” He said, “You are citizens in an alien land, for your true citizenship is in heaven. Don’t cry so much about what you are denied down here on earth. Act as though the hope you talk about is real, because we have a hope that the world does not have.” Peter said, “You are pilgrims on a journey and you are going somewhere. Keep that in focus and quit complaining about the fact that your current camping place is not as pleasant as you think it should be, because this world is really not your home.” All of that finally leads to an admonition in 2nd Peter 3 that they should “be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour.”
So often God’s word is preached with stained-glass tones. Some people think that when they pray they have to change the sound of their voice and talk in an odd manner. But sometimes we listen with stained-glass ears, and what we hear in church is light years removed from the reality of our lives. That is why I keep asking you to put flesh and blood on God’s people as they are described in His book. God did not intend these truths to be as mysterious as some would make them. The Incarnation was God’s word and revelation moving into a tent of ordinary flesh, walking ordinary streets, and intending to be understood by ordinary men.
If you were a part of one of those churches in Asia, you would not have to be mystical to understand what Peter was saying. I am sure that Peter would have known that you were having problems. He just wanted to shake you up and then straighten you out by saying, “Sure you have problems, but in the midst of your problems, take another look at what your faith is supposed to mean. You are different. You have a grip on something. You have seen a light that many people in this world have not seen, having been blinded by the darkness of this world.” We ought to tune in on his admonition because we are also ordinary people facing many pressures, and in the mind of the world we are seen as crazy enough to believe in eternal things. In the mind of the world, we are crazy enough to go around acting like we have a private audience, an unseen Master who is the Creator of the world, but still walks with us. We are crazy enough to act like the bank of heaven is a safer place to invest than any earthly bank, and we are like people swimming upstream in the world.
Jesus said, “If ye were of the world, the world would love his own.” The Greek word He uses for “word” is cosmos. It does not refer to the world in a sense of geography, mountains or trees. Jesus was talking about the world frame, the way in which the world looks at things. We are surrounded by that frame of reference. We are in the world but we are not of the world. We have changed our frame of reference. Jesus said that if you were of the world, the world would love you, “but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore, the world hateth you.” So do not be too shocked at the things that happen as a result of your commitment to God. But in the midst of those problems, Peter exhorts us to “be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour.” That really says it all. We read in Hebrews 1 that “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners, spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son.”
Peter goes on to say, “Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts. . .” The King James Version uses the word “lust,” and we normally limit that word to the moral frame to describe a specific kind of burning desire. But the Greek word simply means any desire. Let’s read it again the way it was meant: “In the last days there shall come scoffers, walking after their own desires,” following their own wants. That means he could even be describing people within the church. He said there shall come people saying, “Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water in the water: whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: but the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word,” God’s word of promise, “are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish. . .” God is waiting because of His mercy. He is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”
Then Peter uses an expression that is understood throughout the whole Bible: “the day of the Lord.” Peter did not originate this expression; it crops out again and again in both the Old and New Testaments. Having said all he has just said, taking note of the scoffers, taking note of God’s longsuffering mercy, taking note of the fact that God does not count days the way we do, he says, “But the day of the Lord will come.”
That subject is my subject today. In a previous message, we spoke of the Resurrection, the basis of our faith and the promises of God being fulfilled when He brought forth His Son from the tomb. To those who look for signs to convince them that God exists, Jesus said that the only sign God has promised is the Resurrection. But there are some signs that precede “the day of the Lord.”
In the latter chapters of the synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Jesus began to speak concerning His second coming and He said two things. First, He said that nobody knows the hour of His coming. Not long ago a noted evangelist predicted the Lord’s return, and said it was supposed to happen on a specific day just this last week. He set an exact date and time, and said that if the Lord did not come at 8 O’clock on that morning, He would come at 11 O’clock that night. It sounds humorous, but many people throughout history have made the mistake of trying to pinpoint the date. In the early church records, James, the brother of Jesus, is said to have made that mistake. No less a giant in theology than St. Augustine made the mistake of attempting to set the date. Throughout church history, there have been calendar-makers and date-setters who have persuaded people to gather in white garments on housetops and wait for the Lord’s return. Why won’t people let themselves be ruled by the simplicity of God’s word? Jesus said, “No man knoweth the hour, save the Father.”
Second, Jesus let it be known that there would be a sequence of signs. He would describe a future event, and then say, “When you see this happen, the end is not yet.” Then He would name another event, and say, “after this the end shall come.” Then He said that when you see certain things happening, you can know that “it is near, even at the doors.” The confusion in interpretation about the day of the Lord concerns the word it. You can know when “it is even at the doors.” You can follow a sequence of signs that will bring you, not to the hour, not to the ability to set the date, but to a point where you could say “it is at the doors.” But what is the it?
To rightly interpret the word of God concerning the day of the Lord, you must first understand a basic principle of prophecy in God’s book. God will often encapsulate a series of great events into a single prophetic utterance. Then as time goes by, the prophecy will “unwind” itself in greater detail and the original prophecy may be fulfilled in many ways before its ultimate fulfillment. All prophecy in Scripture is encapsulated in Genesis 3:15. After man had fallen, God dealt with man and cursed the serpent. God then capsulized the conflict of the ages. He said that the seed or offspring of the woman will bruise the head of the serpent, and the serpent will bruise the heel of the seed of the woman. The one sentence encapsulates the whole conflict and the way in which God would redeem man and restore him to right relationship with God.
The fulfillment of the original capsule of prophecy may take many shapes. God’s Spirit moved into Mary’s womb, to tent in human flesh and come forth as Jesus of Nazareth. One of those reciprocal fulfillments occurred when Jesus was bruised at Calvary. The serpent truly bruised the heel of the seed of the woman when Jesus was wounded for our transgressions. But Jesus also bruised the head of that serpent, as He snatched the keys of death, hell and the grave out of Satan’s hand.
One of the reasons why the Jews did not recognize Jesus in His first coming was they made the mistake of failing to understand that God capsulized many separate events into the one phrase, “the day of the Lord.” They understood a concept of the day of the Lord from their study of the prophets. The day of the Lord was described in the apocryphal book of Enoch, where the Lord is shown as coming with thousands of His saints to set up His kingdom, with His chosen ones to rule and reign with Him. The book of Daniel also speaks of the day of the Lord, and it depicts the Lord coming on clouds of glory to set up His kingdom. Isaiah’s prophecy of the Suffering Servant Messiah was also a part of the day of the Lord, but God’s people ignored it because it was not desirable to them.
In Isaiah’s prophecies, the Messiah does not come as the Son of man on clouds of glory to set up a kingdom. Rather, the Messiah is spoken of as one with no “comeliness,” having nothing of beauty in His appearance to make men look upon Him with approval. He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities, and the chastisement of our peace was laid upon Him. He came as a man of sorrows acquainted with grief. All of that was a part of the day of the Lord.
God took the capsule of prophecy in Genesis 3 and unfolded it into a sequence of events recorded in Daniel, Zechariah, Isaiah, Enoch, Hosea, Haggai, Amos, Joel and all the prophets. All of those prophesied events were a part of the day of the Lord. What is the day of the Lord? It is whatever achieves the Lord’s purposes. Whatever the Lord does to enter into history to bring about His purpose, that is the day of the Lord.
You have to look at the whole book not only to fit the parts together, but to give them a sequence. That is why Peter said, “No prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.” No prophecy of the Scripture is to be taken by itself and given an independent private interpretation, but the whole book must be rightly fitted together. Paul says we are to study to show ourselves approved, workmen that need not be ashamed, as we communicate God’s word. The day of the Lord is many things, and many things in sequence.
The Jewish theologians in Jesus’ day picked what they liked to focus on, and the result was that they missed the Messiah in their midst. They overlooked Isaiah, which showed that a part of the day of the Lord included the Incarnation, the fulfillment of the law, and Christ’s sacrifice fulfilling His role as the Kinsman Redeemer and Suffering Servant. They skipped past Isaiah because they could not conceive of the Messiah becoming a lowly servant who humbled Himself unto death.
God must have a sense of humor. When the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in the Qumran caves, it was the greatest archaeological find of this generation. Which scroll was best preserved? It was the Isaiah scroll. After the Six-Day War, East Jerusalem was in Israel’s hands for the first time in decades. They started digging near the Western Wall to find the ancient stones from the original Temple of Solomon. Suddenly a big rock was uncovered with an inscription on it. What was inscribed on the stone? It was a passage from Isaiah. It is as though God was saying, “Why didn’t you pay attention to Isaiah? If you had studied Isaiah, you would not have missed My Son when He came!”
There are many events that are a part of the day of the Lord, but more confusion seems to surround the “second coming” than anything else. The confusion results from the tendency to take the capsulized prophecy and reduce it down to one event. There will be a second coming. The first coming was when Jesus came as the Suffering Servant, moved into a tent and rose again to rule. Jesus said, “I am going to go away, but I will come again, and receive you unto Myself.” That is the basis for the belief in a second coming. But the second coming is not one event. It is a whole sequence of events, and when we understand that, we can rightly interpret the signs.
If you read through the whole Bible, you will find references to events related to Christ’s coming again that have not yet occurred. The expression “coming again” might be a better way to say it than “second coming,” because it embraces all of those yet unfulfilled intrusions of God through His Son into history. One of those events is called a “meeting in the air.” This is often called the “rapture” of the church. It is a catching away, like what happened to Philip in the book of Acts. After Philip baptized the Ethiopian eunuch on the road to the Gaza Strip, the Scripture says he was “caught away” to Jerusalem. Paul talked about a hope for the church, when the Lord will suddenly split the heavens and “we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air.” That is one part of the day of the Lord.
Zechariah 14 describes another event yet to come. The Lord’s feet will touch the Mount of Olives, which will split in half and a great valley will be formed in the middle. The valley will provide a way of escape for the Jews who are under great persecution. It will also become the way for the river of life that will flow out of the temple, as prophesied by Ezekiel. Ezekiel saw a river flowing out of the throne of God and down through a great valley. It will go all the way down to the Dead Sea and sweeten the whole sea. Presently there is no way for Ezekiel’s prophecies to be fulfilled, because the Mount of Olives stands in the way between Jerusalem, Mount Zion, and the river Jordan that flows into the Dead Sea. Yet the Lord’s touching down and the formation of the great valley are also part of the second coming.
John said that the “spirit of antichrist” was at work in the land in his day. “Antichrist” means “substitute deliverer,” one who will come and put himself in the place of Christ. The book of Revelation says there will also be a false prophet who will work miracles before the Antichrist and will gain the mind of
“the very elect.” Paul said in 2nd Thessalonians that God will send a strong delusion to those who follow the miracle workers who join with the false christ. This earthly ruler will come to power through the help of a false church. Paul says that a “man of sin,” called “the son of perdition,” will come to power. The book of Revelation says that when he comes to power, no one will be able to buy or sell without his mark in either their hand or their forehead. That is an inevitable part of the last days when the man of sin will be revealed.
Paul said that even in his day, the man of sin was working. He said that there will be a falling away of God’s people, and that there is a restraining force holding back the full revelation of the man of sin. The Bible uses the Old English word let, saying, “he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. And then shall that Wicked be revealed.” In King James’ day, the word let meant “to restrain” and the word carried over into the early days of tennis language. If you hit the ball and it struck the net and was restrained, you would say “let ball.” Today “to let” means “to allow or turn loose,” but in King James’ day it meant “to restrain or hold back.” Paul says that the man of sin cannot be revealed until that which restrains is taken out of the way.
Theologians have debated whether this restrained force is the Holy Spirit or the church. I do not see what difference it makes, but I believe it is not the Holy Spirit because the Holy Spirit will still be on this earth in the presence of the last two prophets, as described in Revelation 11. But the restraining force could be either the Holy Spirit or the church, because when the church is caught away, it is caught away by the power of the Spirit. So when we take into account all the related Scriptures in their context, we see a definite sequence of events as they must unfold: there is a meeting in the air, there is a touching down, and there is a removal of some restraining force that keeps Antichrist from coming to power.
In Revelation 19, John says, “I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself . . . And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.”
John says in verse 19, “And I saw the beast,” the Antichrist, already having come to power, “and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army. And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him,” by which the elect were deceived. “And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven, Come and gather yourselves together unto the supper of the great God.”
At that time, the Antichrist has already been revealed. The false prophet has deceived the people until they believe a delusion and accept the false christ. The kings of the earth have gathered together with him, and then the King of kings comes to put him down. That is another event in the sequence of events: there will be a meeting in the air, a touching down, a removal of a restraining force that keeps Antichrist from being revealed, and then Antichrist will be in power when the King of kings will come with the saints to put him down. John goes on to describe the final battle when the Lord comes to establish His kingdom and to execute judgment upon the beast, the false prophet, and the kings who have stood with him.
Part of the second coming includes a removal of what keeps Antichrist from coming to power. Part of the second coming includes the Lord executing judgment on Antichrist after he has already been revealed. Part of the second coming includes “the supper of the great God” where the flesh of those who are slain in the battle of Armageddon will be feasted upon by the birds. I know that sounds crude, but the justice of the Lord will come.
John speaks of another feast called “the marriage supper of the Lamb.” Throughout the Bible, God speaks of His people using marriage similes. In Genesis 24, Abraham, as a type of God the Father, sends his servant Eliezer, who is a type of the Holy Spirit, to find a bride for his son Isaac, who typifies Christ. Eliezer finds Rebekah, who typifies the church. Laden with gifts, she makes the long journey on a camel to join with a bridegroom she has never seen with her natural eyes. The book of Ruth also gives a picture of marriage as a type of Christ and the church in the story of Ruth and Boaz. Throughout God’s book, the church is seen as the wife betrothed to the Bridegroom, which is Christ.
The beast will already be in power and the angels will be pouring out their vials of God’s wrath upon the earth when the Lord comes on a white horse with the saints. The saints represent those who have voluntarily given their bodies to the Lord as His instrument of revelation. They are clothed in white linen, the type of what is given to sinning saints by God’s grace. The saints in this picture do not typify the present citizens of heaven. They typify those whom the Lord has already redeemed.
Now when you look at each prophetic event, you can see that some of them could happen simultaneously. The Lord could appear en route to touching down. He could catch the church up en route to coming to put down Antichrist. But there is a period assigned when that last son of perdition, that man of sin called the beast, called Antichrist, actually comes to power and establishes his rule. That is the time when no one can buy or sell without the mark of his number in their right hand or on their forehead. It is during this time that those designated in God’s book will finally recognize the true Messiah and under great tribulation will give up their lives rather than bow to Antichrist.
We need to distinguish between the ordinary kind of tribulation and the Great Tribulation, when the wrath of God is poured out. The word “tribulation” comes from the Latin word tribulum, which is used to describe a rod that crushes the chaff from the wheat. Jesus said, “In the world ye shall have tribulation.” It is the lot of the Christian to be under persecution from a world that rejects Jesus Christ.
You will always have tribulation. There are some people who believe that the church must go through the Great Tribulation, and they will cite examples of saints who have suffered terrible persecution. They will say, “What about a Chinese Christian like Watchman Nee?” He suffered extreme persecution analogous to the extreme persecution under Caligula, Nero and other Roman emperors. Christians have been persecuted all over this world. That is the lot of a Christian. But that is not the wrath of God called the Great Tribulation. The Great Tribulation does not come from the world, it comes from the hand of God through His angels, as they pour out the vials of God’s wrath like the wrath He poured out on Egypt. God’s word says of His saints, His bride, that He has “not appointed us to wrath.” We are not appointed to the wrath of the Great Tribulation. We are appointed to tribulation. Jesus said, “The servant is not above his Master. They persecuted and hated Me without a cause, so they will hate you without a cause.” That is tribulum. But we need to separate the wrath of God, that Great Tribulation, from the normal persecution that comes upon all the saints.
What about the sequence of signs? The prophetic chapters of the synoptic Gospels are primarily focused on the people who rejected Christ, His own brethren, The Jewish people. The book of Romans refers to them as the old olive tree out of the stock of Abraham. We are called the “wild olive branch” that has been grafted on by faith when Jesus “came unto his own, and his own received him not.” Paul speaks to the Gentiles in Romans 11 and he cautions them, saying, “Don’t get carried away and make the mistake that the Jews made of presuming on your privileges. If God could perform the miracle of grafting a wild olive branch onto the trunk of Abraham’s descendants and make you the seed of Abraham by spiritual engraftation, how much more can He take the old original stock and re-graft it back on? The day of the Gentiles is now the day of grace, but God is not finished with the Jewish people.”
The bride of Christ will be caught away before the vials of God’s wrath are emptied. There will be a final “beast” personified as a ruler of earthly government. And there must be either three-and-a-half or seven years between the time of the beast’s appearance and the time it is put down. In those few years in between, the wrath of God will be poured out.
What are those signs that Jesus talked about? And what is the it? The appearing, the removal of that which restrains before the man of sin can be revealed, and the marriage supper of the Lamb are all signs. Jesus was speaking to a people who would reject Him. His own brethren would miss these events just as they missed His first coming. They will only be brought to their senses after they have accepted a false messiah and have seen their mistake as the wrath of God is poured out. Many of them will put their faith in Him as they undergo suffering during the Great Tribulation. Then God will come, not as the Suffering Servant, but as King of kings and Lord of lords to set up His kingdom and usher in the millennial reign.
The Lord’s brethren who rejected Him will “flee to the mountains” and cry for the mountains to hide them. We will be gone before then. Jesus told His brethren, who could read the signs of the weather but failed to discern the signs of the times, that there would be a sequence of signs that point to the end. All the signs point to that event, and they all have to be fulfilled before the final event occurs. Over 1,900 years ago, the author of the Hebrews letter warned Christians, saying, “unto those that look for him will he appear the second time.” Peter warned them that the Lord will come. Stay expectant! The parable of the ten virgins warns us to keep oil in our lamps. More than 1,900 years have gone by. That is why there are scoffers who say, “Where is the promise of his coming?”
You cannot gamble on the signs and say, “This one hasn’t happened yet, so that gives me a little more time to keep going my own way.” God does not give you that luxury. While no man knows the hour, you can know when it is “even at the doors.” But if so many signs on the historical calendar have been fulfilled, then whatever yet remains to be fulfilled could be compressed by the hand of God into a time span anywhere from three-and-a-half to seven years. If that is even at the door, then how much closer must the uncertain event be? God in His wisdom keeps the timing of that one event uncertain. You cannot count on predicting the date and hour of that event. That is why it is sheer folly to listen to someone who sets an exact date and time of the Lord’s return.
All of my life, I have heard people preach about signs such as wars, rumors of war, men crying “peace” and finding no answer, earthquakes in diverse places, the elements turning into upheaval and men running to and fro in the streets. Those things have been with us so long they have never impressed me much, but there are some signs that are staggering.
I used to preach on prophecy decades ago and it was exciting because the events had not happened yet. Now I preach the same truths and I sound like I am reciting boring history because it has already happened. In Ezekiel 36, God said to the prophet, “son of man, prophesy unto the mountains of Israel,” and he unfolds the promise of the gathering of His people and the rebuilding of Israel.
God’s people had been carried eastward into Babylon and Assyria. But Ezekiel speaks of a scattering that had not yet occurred, a future time when God’s people would be scattered to all nations. When the people shouted, “Give us Barabbas,” and said of Jesus, “His blood be on us and our children,” little did they know that within 40 years Titus’ hordes would come down from Rome and besiege Jerusalem. The city would be destroyed and the great dispersion would take place. We know of the history of the horrible persecutions of the Jews. There was the great purging in Russia where one-third was destined to die, one-third was to be assimilated, and another third was to be driven out of the land. We all know the history of Nazi Germany.
But God also said that there would come a time when He would put a stop to it. Regardless of your political views, God said in Ezekiel 34, “Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out. As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day.” Isaiah 43 says, “I will say to the north, Give up; and to the south, Keep not back: bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth.” Passage after passage speak of God gathering His people and bringing them from the four corners of the earth: from east, west, north and south. But when Ezekiel wrote and when Isaiah wrote, God’s people had never been in bondage to the north, south, and west. The cannon was closed before that ever happened. They were not dispersed in all directions until after the time of Christ.
Isaiah in amazement says, “Shall a nation be born in a day?” In another passage, he says, “who are these that fly as a cloud, and as the doves to their windows?” I believe that these are pictures in ancient prophecy of the “flying boxcars” coming out of Yemen to bring the people into Israel. In miraculous form, Ezekiel then prophesies that the land, which had always been desolate, will begin to blossom again. Now all of that is history.
As the First World War closed and the Ottoman Empire broke into its parts, the British mandate gave control of the area to the British government. The historians said that it was only an accident of history that Dr. Chaim Weizmann and Lord Rothschild gained influential posts where they could influence Lord Balfour to issue the declaration that, for the first time in 1,900 years, opened that land to the return of the Jews.
There were five successive waves of the people moving into that land. Opponents of a Jewish state tried to stop them by arguing for restrictions based on complicated formulas like the “economic absorptive capacity” of the land, but nothing would keep them from coming in. Yes, there are political problems in that region, but God said, “I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out.” We have seen the fulfillment of what Isaiah said in amazement, “Shall a nation be born in a day?” Yet Israel had to be restored before the end could come. We have seen a nation born in a day when hardheaded President Truman recognized Israel in 1948 and the people poured into the land. God’s word said that had to happen before the end came.
Ezekiel also prophesied that the world balance of power had to take a three-pronged shape. When I was in college, no one believed that the East would play a prominent part in the world balance of power. I remember the debates about foreign policy during the Second World War, and the fight between MacArthur and Truman. The policy that carried us through two wars was “Europe first,” because until there was atomic warfare, every war was essentially a production war. Whoever controlled Europe controlled three-fourths of the productive capacity of the world. We fought a defensive battle in the Pacific, which is why MacArthur fretted. But the plan was to get the European front under control first, and then mop up the Pacific, which was considered of lesser importance. Again, no one believed that the East would become prominent in the world balance of power, but God’s word described it and it is now history.
In Ezekiel 38, after prophesying the restoration of Israel, the prophet was told by God, “Son of man, set thy face against Gog, the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy against him.” These are names of geographic regions. They describe areas currently occupied by Russia. If these are the last days, then Russia is the nation, because it is occupying the same place. God says to them, “I will turn thee back, and put hooks into thy jaws, and I will bring thee forth, and all thine army,” to establish that He is in control.
Then there unfolds a confederacy: “Persia, Ethiopia, and Libya with them; all of them with shield and helmet: Gomer, and all his bands; the house of Togarmah of the north quarters, and all his bands: and many people with thee.” Persia represents Iraq and Iran of today. Iraq and Iran are going to be part of that northern confederacy. Ethiopia and Libya are named at a time when no one would have imagined that Libya would finance trouble all over the world against the United States. Gomer describes historic Germany, or at least a part of Germany, and her bands. “Togarmah of the north quarters” speaks of the area of ancient Turkey.
This confederacy of nations, headed up by the nation that occupies the area around Meshech and Tubal, will look upon the restored land of Israel and the people who have gathered out of many lands, and they will rise up “to take a spoil.” Long before anyone conceived of airplanes and missiles, Ezekiel said, “Thou shalt ascend and come like a storm, thou shalt be like a cloud to cover the land,” and they will come down offensively to take a spoil.
God does not give us all the exact details because He does not want people trying to figure out the days. I do not know whether all these things will happen simultaneously, but the world balance of power has to have this shape: a restored Israel, a Middle East focal point, and a northern confederacy with the nations I have just named headed by a land occupying what is now geographic Russia, ascending on the offensive.
Mediterranean nations are named and “the young lions thereof,” nations that sprang out of the Greek and Roman empires. They will suddenly get on the defensive and turn themselves eastward. Seeing the northern confederacy rise and come down on the Middle East, these western nations will defensively ask the question, “Art thou come to take a spoil?” And they will unite in resistance to the northern aggression.
When I was in school, I wanted to go into diplomatic service before I shifted over to philosophy. I studied geopolitics, and I wanted to specialize in the Middle East. My major professor told me, “The Bosporus and the Middle East are no longer the fulcrum of history. Their days are gone. Find an area that will always be important in world history so that your future in diplomatic service is ensured. The Middle East,” he said, “is not it.”
Daniel interpreted Nebuchadnezzar’s vision of the image that flowed from the head of gold to the toes of iron and clay. It is not a history of all world empires. It only describes the kingdoms that flow out from Babylon, to Medo-Persia, to the Greek and the Roman Empire, which is to be loosely reassembled in the last days, as represented by the iron and clay. That may be the Western group, but we know that Ezekiel 38 has the offspring of Mediterranean nations getting nervous and taking a defensive posture.
During the Great Tribulation and after the catching away, Revelation 16 says that the sixth angel poured out his vial to dry up the river Euphrates, “that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared.” If you cross the river Euphrates and march due west, you are headed right into the area that breaks into the plain of Megiddo, where the final conflagration will take place.
In addition to the political signs, there were certain technological developments that had to occur before the end. Revelation 11 speaks of two last prophets who will work miracles in the streets of Jerusalem. No one will be able to harm them, but then God will allow them to be slain. The world will hate those prophets so much that they will leave their dead bodies in the streets for days while the whole world views them. That could not happen until the invention of communication satellites.
The book of Revelation also speaks of a time when no one will be able to buy or sell without a number in their hand or their forehead. The fanatics who refused to take a social security number some time ago for fear they would be taking the mark of the beast were not far from being right. For decades, we have been conditioned to accept a number. We are now steps away from having the social security number being linked to our health insurance, mortgage, bank accounts and credit cards. Paper money is becoming obsolete, as payments are being made with a plastic card and processed by a computer.
All of this had to happen before the end could come. Now, wars and rumors of wars, earthquakes and pestilence and men running to and fro have been going on a long time while God has quietly unraveled the scroll of time. But for the first time in 1,900 years, I cannot find anything in God’s book yet to be fulfilled before the final end comes that God in His power could not compress into either three-and-a-half or seven years. If that be true, if we can say the end is even at the doors, then how much closer the appearing?
As Christians, we ought to live in the knowledge that we have this hope that we will be caught away. I do not want to prey upon people’s emotions. There are some evangelistic preachers who would try to use a message about fulfilled prophecy to terrorize people to flee to the Kingdom before God splits the clouds. I suppose that it would be better to come in by fear than to not come in at all, but that is not the message that comes home to me. The more I study God’s book and His control over history, the more assurance I have of His care. Isaiah became so amazed as he looked at the record of God keeping His word and dealing with people that he stood back and said to God, “Verily thou art a God that hidest thyself.” God carries out His purposes in spite of man’s performance, including the performance of His people who ought to be faithful, as His purposes march to His final end.
As I look at the record and see God’s control, I ask myself, “If God keeps history in His hands, how much more will He keep us?” I may be His weakest vessel. I am a pastor who never denies the fact that I quit several times a week, at the end of the day. God’s promise is, “as thy days, so shall thy strength be,” though I am prone to forget it. But when you really think about it, when God has revealed in His word the way He takes care of history, why do we try to keep the reins of our life in our hands instead of turning them over to Him?
Taking care of you and me is a much smaller task for Him than moving nations around and setting the stage for His final coming. My whole sermon comes down to one promise: “God will not tempt you beyond what you are able.” His word says in the original Greek that He has worked out a specific way of escape for every temptation. If you think that you have a problem that God is not aware of, listen to His word today. God is not only aware of your problem, He has already worked out your escape. That is His word! You ought to put yourself in His hands, because if the end is at the door, how much closer His appearing?
I am not preaching a sermon that will make you want to turn handsprings; I am not preaching a sermon to meet some specific individual need. I just want the saints to wake up, as Peter wanted them to wake up. “The day of the Lord will come.” We are on the right side. The worse it gets, the more we ought to look up and say, “Our redemption draweth nigh.”
Reprinted with permission from Pastor Melissa Scott
For Those of You who are facing problems:
Dr. Scott used to preach a sermon on Psalm 84 at least once a year, sometimes when he was facing difficult circumstances himself. The message was that blessed men go through valleys (tough times), but the key word is “THROUGH.” God does eventually bring us out of the valley. During the last several years (and still today), I have taken a lot of comfort from verses 5 and 6, especially verse 6: “Who passing through the valley of Baca make it a well; the rain also filleth the pools.”
My Bible has a short explanation of the word “Baca.” It says “not a literal valley, but any place of tears.” We all have been in “places of tears,” for one reason or another.
I know people (some in prison) who have been enabled by God to make a spring for others with their own valley experience. God puts us in a circumstance of His will and gives us the capacity to make our life a spring for others. Because as a believer our faith sees beyond the circumstance, no matter how hopeless and seemingly endless that valley may be.
So why are there valleys? Why does a good God allow pain and tragedies to come our way? People who ask such questions need to study the Bible. All those questions are answered there. The prophet Jeremiah uses the purification of wine as an example, as to how God works on our soul. In Jeremiah He is speaking of people who settle in with a comfortable sense of “I’m okay, I don’t hurt anybody, I’m a nice person,” etc., but they are not aware of the dregs at the bottom of their self-life. “Moab hath been at ease from his youth, and he hath settled on his lees, and hath not been emptied from vessel to vessel, neither hath he gone into captivity: therefore his taste remained in him, and his scent is not changed.” Jeremiah 48:11 Dregs are the sediment at the bottom of the container of wine. As the wine is poured back and forth from one vessel to the other the dregs are left behind and discarded. The wine becomes more clear and pure the longer this is done. That’s an example as to what God does to us through sickness, loss of loved ones, loss of finances, and sometimes prison.
Peter says “”Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.” 1st Peter 4:12, 13. This does not mean that when some terrible sorrow comes into our life we are to jump with joy. Our flesh will rebel. Read Romans 7:15-25 and see that it is common to man for the flesh and the spirit to war against each other. But our spirit should rejoice that God is still dealing with us as His children and finding us worthy to be made more into the image of His Son. -Margaret
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