"THE END OF DAYS:" BECOMING A "PLAYER" RATHER THAN A "MEMBER OF THE AUDIENCE"

January 16, 2000 by: S.R. Shearer

"But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.

"For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass:

"For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.

"But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed. (James 1:22-25)

INTRODUCTION

We are at the "End of the Age!" That is what our last newsletter - "The Caucasus Mountains, Gog, Magog, and Chevron Oil" - was all about. The process is unfolding right before our eyes exactly as the Bible said it would - and we are not talking here about the sometimes inane speculation that surrounded Y2K, but rather we have very specific reference to what the Scriptures say! What does that mean to you? Does it mean that you should run away and hide? God forbid!

Would it surprise you to find out that God has something very important for YOU to do? - something that has ETERNAL meaning and has nothing to do with buying a mountain cabin, storing up food, and hiding. There is a call on your life, indeed, on all of our lives - but the choice is ours as to whether or not we will answer that call. Oswald Chambers once wrote,

"We are in danger of forgetting that we cannot do what God does, and that God will not do what we can do. We cannot save ourselves nor sanctify ourselves, God does that; but God will not give us good habits, He will not give us character, He will not make us walk aright. We have to do all that ourselves, we have to work out (i.e., develop) the salvation God has worked in (us) ..."

PUTTING OFF FOR TOMORROW
WHAT WE SHOULD BE DOING TODAY

What Chambers was saying is that if we fail to take advantage of those opportunities now to "develop our salvation" [i.e., to bring it to maturity, to develop Christian character in ourselves, to have Christ's life actually worked out in us (Phil. 2:12)], then we will fail to do so when the end finally does come.

Many of us, nonetheless, continue to think that if God gives the call, we will somehow or other rise to the occasion. We imagine that we will be OK; sadly, however, the crisis (test) will only reveal what has already been developed in our lives as Christian character - it will not add anything new to us. If we have not risen to the occasion before in the little things of life - we will surely fail when the real test comes. All that a crisis (test) does is reveal what we are already made of. If we have yielded to temptation and weakness before in the little things, we will yield to temptation and weakness in the big things. If we are not in God's will in the things that are nearest to us, when the crisis (test) comes, instead of being revealed as prepared, we will be revealed as unready. A crisis reveals character that has already been formed - it does not in itself create new character.

OUR CHRISTIANITY IS GOING
TO BE PUT TO THE TEST

The Bible says that in the very near future our Christianity is going to be put to the test - that the time is coming in all of our lives that pretense will have to yield to reality; when what we are really made out of will be dragged out into the open for all to see, and we will be revealed for what we really are, either to honor or to dishonor. Indeed, the Bible warns:

"For there is nothing hid, which shall not be manifested (i.e., made plain); neither is anything kept secret, but that it should come abroad." (Mark 4:22)

If we have not "practiced the presence of God" in our lives, if we have not learned to yield ourselves to the leading of the Holy Spirit, if we have not taken the time to study the Word of God and know for sure what it really is all about, if we have not been living a sanctified life in the circumstances that we are presently in, if we have not been instant in prayer in the small things, then the crisis (test) will reveal all that!

If you say, "I have no time for prayer, I have no time 'to practice the presence of Christ', it's so impractical to yield to Christ in this or that business decision now - but when the time comes, I will do it," our answer to you, sadly, is "No you won't!"

Many people think of David as a man of faith, and that when he went out to face Goliath, he relied on that faith to get him through - and that certainly is true. But what so many Christians fail to see is that the faith David had was not a blind faith - it was a faith that had been developed. His faith was a developed faith - and it was in the strength of that developed faith that he went out to face Goliath. David had developed his faith years before as a youth tending his father's sheep on the "back side of the desert" - out of the way where no one could see. He had tested it against a lion and a bear - and he had prevailed. When he finally met Goliath, he was simply walking in the way he had been moving in all of his life. The path of faith he relied on when he faced Goliath was a well worn path - he knew it well. He was ready for Goliath. It was not blind faith that saw him through, it was developed faith. The story is recounted in First Samuel. The Bible says,

"And David spake to the men that stood by him, saying ... Who is this uncircumcised Philistine (i.e., Goliath), that he should defy the armies of the living God? And when the words were heard which David spake, they rehearsed them before Saul: and he sent for him. And David said unto Saul, Thy servant kept his father's sheep, andthere came a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock: And I went out after him, and smote him, and delivered it out of his mouth: and when he arose against me, I caught him by his beard, and smote him, and slew him. Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear: and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them, seeing he hath defied the armies of the living God. David said moreover, The LORD that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine. And he took his staff in his hand, and chose him five smooth stones out of the brook, and put them in a shepherd's bag which he had, even in a scrip; and his sling was in his hand: and he drew near to the Philistine. And David put his hand in his bag, and took thence a stone, and slang it, and smote the Philistine in his forehead, that the stone sunk into his forehead; and he fell upon his face to the earth." (1 Sam. 17:26-51)

Let us develop our faith, therefore, while there is yet time - for soon our test will come, and our faith will be revealed for what it really is - again, either to our honor or to our dishonor.

BECOMING A "DOER" RATHER THAN A "SITTER"

Now pay close attention to what I am going to say: I say again, God has a call on YOUR life - just as surely as he had a call on David's life - and it involves much more than just sitting around with other people of "like-mind" and discussing the "ins and outs" of prophecy. This is what the next three articles are all about - getting you out of your seat (if you are still there) and making you a "man or woman of action" rather than just a "pew sitter." We are going to be spending a good deal of time in the Scriptures in order to do this, and we will be concerning ourselves with two questions:

  1. What is the "Tribulation" all about?
  2. Who are the "Two Witnesses?"

How you answer these questions will have an extremely profound impact on your life.

But first we need to underline the importance of seeing ourselves more than just "spectators" in the great events of the "Latter Days," and in doing so, we begin first with our place in the church; after all, what we are insofar as the church is concerned will determine in large degree what we do at the "end of the age." The questions then is, How do you see yourself insofar as the church is concerned? - do you see yourself merely as a "spectator" (a "pew sitter") or as a "participant?" Peculiarly, I Cor. 14:23, 26-33 reveals a lot regarding this matter:

"If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad ..?
"How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying.
"If any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret.
"But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God.
"Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge.
"If any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace.
"For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted.
"And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.
"For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints." (I Cor. 14:23, 26-33)

This is one of the few instances in the Bible where the "functioning" of the church is discussed; it is done in the context of the church's "meeting-life," but it applies generally to the functioning of the entire life of the church. Moreover, while the circumstances that surrounded Paul's discussion of this topic were admonitory, much can be gleaned from this passage. It sheds a great deal of light on the "functioning" of the so-called "Apostolic Church" or "early church."

EVERYONE IS CALLED TO FUNCTION

One of the first things which comes to mind in examining the meetings of the early church is the absence of "one-man rule." The meetings were not a "one-man show," but assemblies in which everyone was expected to participate - either by calling out a song (that is, after all, what the psalms were all about), by teaching, by testifying to God's goodness, etc. - and there is nothing to indicate from this passage (either by inference or direct statement) that Paul found anything amiss in any of this.

True, he speaks against the chaos and confusion of the meeting, but he evidently does not attribute this to the lack of "one-man rule;" instead he attributes it to the unbridled use of tongues in the meeting. And this is substantiated by the method which he suggests to end the confusion:

"... when you come together, some of you will have a psalm (a song), some will have a doctrine (a teaching), some will have a tongue, some will have a revelation, some will have an interpretation (and the clear indication here is that each is expected to share his song, interpretation, revelation, teaching or what not during the course of the meeting) ... If any one of you speak in an unknown tongue, let there be only two, or at most three, and that by course (i.e., one-by-one); and let someone interpret (each tongue) ... Let the prophets speak two or three (i.e., by course, that is to say, one-by-one) ... For ye may all prophesy (i.e., which in this case means "speak forth") one-by-one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted ..." (I Cor. 14:26-33)

Where is there here any evidence of a "one-man show?" There is none! The meetings of the early church were characterized by mutuality and cooperation under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. How different this is from the "one-man shows" and "one-man functioning" of today's Christianity.

MUTUAL HELP AND MUTUAL EDIFICATION

The "functioning" of the church should seek to emulate this; it should be based upon the twin principles of mutual help and mutual edification. But this is impossible when the "success" of the church's "functioning" is contingent upon just one "gifted" member (or even a few "gifted" members). Under such circumstances, how can there be any mutuality? - and how can the other members ever gain any experience in ministering the Word of God? We repeat, the "functioning" of the church should be conducted by the church - the whole church! The dependence of the church on one man for the success of its functioning (a kind of "functioning" in which church members are encouraged to become passive and indolent, always expecting to be helped, rather than seeking, in dependence upon the Holy Spirit, to be helpful to the other members) should be discouraged.

PERFORMANCE vs. REAL LIFE

True, "one-man shows" (especially as they pertain to the meeting-life of the church) often have a "better flow" and "polish" to them - but more often than not, it is the same kind of "flow" and "elegance" (refinement, dignity, grace) that one can expect to see in a performance on Broadway or in a Hollywood movie. Stagecraft and "special effects" are what count there; but stagecraft and "special effects" are "pretendings" (i.e., pretense). They're not real. They don't produce life. What they produce are good performances. But they certainly don't build up the saints. What they create in the saints is an "audience mentality" - i.e., passivity and listlessness; they don't (indeed, they can't) create living, active, vigorous members of the body of Christ anymore than a performance at the theater can be expected to create actors from the audience. The fact is, a "good" audience in the theater or at the movies is one that will remain silent and listen, not one whose members jump up from their seats and join the actors on stage.

Once a church's meetings (or any of the functions of the church) are reduced to a "performance" and dependence on "stagecraft" and "special effects," it's only natural that an atmosphere will develop in the church where only the most "gifted" saints will dare to "function." Those who are not so "gifted" (i.e., eloquent, articulate, persuasive, charismatic) will be encouraged to remain silent; after all, when such saints minister, they detract from the "show's" "professionalism" and flow (elegance). Indeed, the meetings of the church become "performances" and "productions" in which only the most "qualified" can hope to participate. The fact is, when such an atmosphere is generated, the "normal" saints become too embarrassed to even open their mouths, let alone "try out" or "audition" for "better parts" in light of the "professionalism" of the more gifted "actors" - kind of like the embarrassment an actor at a high school play in some small mid-western town would feel trying to audition for a part in competition with Madonna or Tom Cruise.

"Functioning" for the normal Christian in this kind of a situation means working as a "stage-handler" - i.e., moving the stage sets around, helping the actors with their makeup, taking tickets at the box office, cleaning up after the performance, etc., and this is precisely why so many in today's evangelical church are weak and passive. They have no opportunity to exercise themselves spiritually in the functioning of the church. Each member's responsibility for the success of the church has been lost sight of, and passivity has hindered the spiritual development of the individual members. We must get away from the idea that the smooth functioning of the church is dependent upon one or two people. Such thinking is carnal in the worst sense of that word - everything for the "outward man;" nothing for the "inner man." God deliver us from this kind of church-life, from this kind of meeting-life.

We must remember that a scriptural church does not consist of an active and a passive group of brothers and sisters, the former controlling the latter, and the latter simply submitting to their control, or the former bearing all the burden while the latter settles down in ease to enjoy the benefit of the leaders' labors. "That the members ... should care for one another" is God's purpose for His church (I Cor. 12:24). Now that we have seen how important it is for each of us to see ourselves as "players" rather than "spectators," we turn to the meat of what lies before us. We begin first with the question -

WHAT IS THE "TRIBULATION" ALL ABOUT?

In the main, the "tribulation" is about judgment! - and in conjunction with this, it's about the church and Israel (more about Israel in upcoming articles), specifically the church as it is being prepared as a PARTICIPANT in this great drama - but being prepared not quite in the way you have understood in the past, and most especially not in the way people like Bennie Hinn, Chuck Colson, D. James Kennedy, R.J. Rushdooney, Gary North, Pat Robertson, Tim LaHaye, etc. conceive.

The church as a participant? - yes, the church as a participant! It's for this reason that we have taken such great care in urging you to begin conceiving of yourselves no longer as "pew sitters," but as "doers."

I tell you the truth when I say that it is you - the so-called "little people" that God has chosen in these "Last Days." The Bible says:

"For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:
"But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;
"And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: (I Cor. 1:26-28)

Believe me when I say, the hope of the church no longer rests with its "establishment leaders." As we said in the Antipas Papers, "Establishment Christianity" (in our case, "establishment evangelicalism") has seldom been changed by well-known theologians and well-paid pastors. Such people - sadly - are all too often merely the slavish sycophants and flunkies of the institutions to which they belong. Rather, when Christianity has been changed, it's been forced to do so by concerned and persistent minorities of "little people." The history of Christianity has been profoundly altered by these "Little People:" Luther - at the time, an unknown monk - nailing his thesis to the door of the Cathedral at Wittenburg; John Nelson Darby's persistent teachings in the face of an establishment Protestantism which derided and condemned his teachings as the blather of a relatively uneducated, na� (which he was not), etc. Such people were revolutionaries in the truest meaning of the word - they were not people easily awed by the establishment - and, moreover, they were people with whom today's evangelical establishment would probably feel very uncomfortable. Well did Jesus say of the religious establishment of His day:

"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous,
"And say, 'If we had been {living} in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partners with them in {shedding} the blood of the prophets.'
"Consequently you bear witness against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets.
"Fill up then the measure {of the guilt} of your fathers.
"You serpents, you brood of vipers, how shall you escape the sentence of hell?
"Therefore, behold, I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city,
"That upon you may fall {the guilt of} all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. [Matt. 23:29-35 (NASB)]

And these words apply with as much force to the religious establishment of our day as they did when they were first uttered by Christ against the religious establishment of His day almost 2,000 years ago. Things haven't changed all that much! If there is any hope - and there is - that hope rests not in our establishment leaders, but in the "little people - people like you! After all, who were Peter, John, James, Andrew, etc. - if not the "little people" of their day? None of them were a part of the religious establishment - not one of them! Indeed, the establishment figures of that day were astonished by them, perceiving that they were uneducated men of no consequence:

"Now when they (i.e., the establishment figures of the day) saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marveled ..." (Acts 4:13)

Yes, the hope of the church now rests with people like you - and Antipas Ministries, more than anything else, is a call to you to take action. We urge you to study this matter carefully - to compare "Scripture with Scripture" and "see if what follows is not true." [Much of the material below was taken from the Antipas Papers - again, we urge you - if you have not already done so - to order a copy for yourselves - and for those of you who have not already settled the question of the "timing" of the rapture in your minds, we urge you to study carefully our material on this subject which you can find in the Antipas Papers/Chapter IV.

JUDGMENT

The word, "Judgment," conjures up fantasies of old, bent, black robed figures glowering down with solemn, pitiless faces from lofty heights; cavernous halls with high ceilings and polished marble floors; echoing footsteps and hushed whisperings. It is a word around which swirls vague feelings of sorrow and distress, dread and foreboding, alarm and fright. And always, there is about the word a gloomy and oppressive pallor; a dull, aching sense of impending doom.

The Scriptures anticipate a day of coming judgment - one that will make men's hearts stop beating in fear and their blood run cold with terror. The Bible refers to it over 150 times in both the Old and New Testaments. In the Old Testament, the Psalmist writes:

"... for He cometh [this Judge, who flies on the wings of the wind with fire in His eyes and darkness under His feet; whose pavilion round about Him is dark waters and thick clouds (Psalm 18:8-12)], for He cometh to judge the earth: He shall judge the world with [pure] righteousness, and the people with [absolute] truth." (Psalm 96:13).

And in the New Testament, Paul exclaims:

"... He hath appointed a day in which He will judge the world..." (Acts 17:31).

In the vernacular, or common language of the people, this day of horror has been referred to as Judgment Day - and perhaps even more to the point, as Doomsday. Its anticipation has always struck fear in the hearts of men and women. Indeed, so great has been man's dread of Judgment Day that in the year 999 a paralyzing terror gripped all of Europe in anticipation of the turn of the Millennium. It was commonly believed by prince and peasant alike that Judgment Day was New Years Day, 1000 A.D. The ordinary cares of life were given up. The land was left untilled. Houses and buildings of every type were allowed to fall into disrepair. Throngs of common people slept in the porches and in the shadows of holy buildings and churches. Kings and emperors begged to be admitted to monasteries. A wild and uncontrollable dread and sense of foreboding seized the entire continent.

And make no mistakes about it, that same terror is still alive (in the year 2000) - lurking just beneath our Twenty-First Century veneer of sophistication and science. It comes to us when we are alone - at night; it's in our music, our movies, our art. It is a phantom that defies the scientist's efforts to dislodge it, and the psychologist's attempts to explain it away.

JUDGMENT: THE ACT OF
DECLARING SOMETHING'S WORTH

But beyond our fears, beyond our foreboding, what does the word "judgment" really mean? Judgment is the act of DECLARING the worth of something, of ANNOUNCING its value. We do it every day, in countless ways. When we shop, we make judgments as to which foods are best for us, which coats are warmer for the winter, what car is best suited for our needs, where we should live, the house we should live in - all these decisions are or will be products of a judgment we have made or will make. And all these judgments [which have been manifested or DECLARED in our purchases] were preceded by some form or process of TESTING. True, the testing may have only occurred in our minds at a very rudimentary level, but it occurred nonetheless. The judgments or decisions [which is another word for judgment] that were made as to which products to purchase were the results of that testing. A JUDGMENT IS ALWAYS PRECEDED BY SOME FORM OF TESTING.

TRIBULATION

This brings us to the matter of the Tribulation. The word, "Tribulation," means test. It is derived from the Latin word, Tribulum, which means to press and subject to stress as in a test. But the word means more - it means to SEVERELY test, to press to the point of ANGUISH - much as a test pilot tests an experimental plane and presses it to its very limits of toleration.

The Roman word, Tribune, is also derived from the Latin word Tribulum. A Tribune in ancient Rome was a magistrate or judge appointed to hear civil and criminal proceedings. It is the word from which our modern English word, "Tribunal," is derived - which means a seat of judgment. In all these instances, the word Tribulum [from which, once again, the English word "Tribulation" is derived] had a legal sense attached to it. It meant [in the sense that is appropriate here] pressure and stress applied to an object in order to test it.

This is the exact sense that the translators of the King James version of the Bible were trying to convey when they translated the Greek word, Thlipsis, as Tribulation in Revelation 7:14. As with the Latin word, Tribulum, the Greek word, Thlipsis, means pressure and stress applied to an object for the purpose of testing.

It is this sense, then, of the word, "Tribulation," which the translators of the King James version of the Bible wished to convey to the readers - A TIME OF TESTING!! This is substantiated by Revelation 3:10 when Jesus referred to the Tribulation as "the hour of testing."

WITNESSES

It goes without saying that in any test the presence of witnesses is paramount. They are required to OBSERVE and RECORD the results of the test. These observations and recordings, carefully compiled and documented, are then used as the basis of later JUDGMENTS [or decisions].

In a criminal case in a court of law, the judgment of the judge is preceded by a test of the evidence which has been compiled against the accused. It is on the basis of this test that the judge will make his decision as to the guilt or innocence of the accused. The process is known as a trial - which really means test. Once again, throughout the entire proceeding, WITNESSES are called forth to give evidence as to the guilt or innocence of the accused. These witnesses are people who saw or who can give FIRSTHAND accounts [or TESTIMONY] as to the guilt or innocence of the accused. Hearsay or second and third-hand evidence [gossip] is not admissible as evidence. The witnesses can introduce into evidence only that which they saw on a FIRSTHAND basis. In other words, they had to be present themselves when the alleged crime was committed.

THE CHURCH IN THE TRIBULATION

The Tribulation, then, is humanity's trial, its test before its Maker - a time of great separation, disunion, division, and parting. And the Church will be a part of this immense process.

Oh, you're surprised that the Church will be a part of this process? Well, be assured, dear Christian, your salvation is secure - it is not in question! Nothing can pluck you out of the Father's hand. Paul writes:

"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
"For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,
"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 8:35,38-39)

Why, then, is the Church to be a part of this process? If this process has nothing to do with our salvation, then why are we to be involved? The answer is twofold. The paramount reason is that the church is to be subpoenaed as a "witness" against this world and its present world-ruler or Kosmokrator - a subject which we will discuss at great length in the next chapter - Chapter XII. There is, however, a second reason - one which is almost as important as the first, and one which is absolutely vital to the accomplishment of the first - for if the church is to testify against the world and the things of this world, it is necessary that it be shown to be not a part of the world - that it be once and for all separated from the world. And because of this separation (or "manifestation"), just and seeking men everywhere will be drawn to Christianity and the Lord Jesus Christ, producing even in such a time, the "Great Harvest of the Lamb.* This is what all creation is waiting for. Paul writes:

"For [even the whole] creation ... waits expectantly and longs earnestly for God's sons [the Church] to be made known - waits for the REVEALING, the DISCLOSURE of their sonship." (Romans 8:19, Zondervan, the Amplified Bible )

[*There is a frightening corollary to this: Revelation 3:9 says, "Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews (meaning "Christians" in this context), and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee." Obviously, when Christ says "Synagogue of Satan" here, he has reference to so-called "Christians" in the "false church," because the whole text is addressed to the "churches:" the context makes this quite clear. Thus, those who have persecuted the church - even those who in doing so thought they were "doing service for Christ" (Luke 21:12) will be forced to humble themselves before those they had previously persecuted "in the name of Christ."]

The King James version translates it in this way:

"For the earnest expectation of the ...[creation] waiteth for the MANIFESTATION of the sons of God." (Romans 8:19)

And the NASB version translates it this way:

"For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the REVEALING of the sons of God." (Romans 8:19)

In this Paul is saying that the whole universe is waiting for something to happen insofar as the Church is concerned. It is waiting for the church to be "REVEALED," "DISCLOSED," "MANIFESTED."

These are interesting words that Paul has chosen to use with regard to the Church. In a back-handed way, what Paul is really saying is that the Church has been hidden and obscured in this present dispensation [age].

What? But hasn't the Church always been with us? Can't we see it all about us? In the hundreds and thousands of church buildings that seem sometimes to all but surround us? In the proliferation of a now almost countless number of Christian TV and radio stations? In the new manifestation of Christian political power in such organizations as the Christian Coalition, the Traditional Values Coalition, Christian Voice, etc.

But do all these church buildings, all this Christian activity, all these people claiming to be Christian and born-again really represent the Church? If they do, then God help us. Was the Thirty Years War - which made the streets of Europe run red with blood four hundred years ago - really a Christian activity? What about the Inquisition? What about the bloody war that rages even now in Ireland in the name of the Church? What about the Papacy? What about Jim Jones and the Jonestown Suicides? What about all this?

Andrew Miller, the well-known and godly Church historian, wrote in the last century:

"We must always bear in mind when reading what is called a history of the Church, that from the days of the apostles until now, there have been TWO DISTINCT and widely different classes of persons in the professing Church: the merely nominal, and the real - the true, and the false. This was predicted: "For I know this," says the apostle, "that after my departure [death] shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them." (Acts 20) His second Epistle [letter] to Timothy is also full of warnings ... as to the various forms of evil which were then but too plainly manifest ... "... Some historians have not taken into account this sad mixture of evil vessels with the good - of true Christians and false. They have not themselves been spiritual-minded men. Hence they have rather made it their chief object to record the many unchristian and wicked ways of mere professors [those who said they were Christians, but were not]. They have dwelt at great length, and with great minuteness, on the heresies that have troubled the Church - on the abuses that have disgraced it. Much rather would we endeavor to trace, all down through the long dark pages of history, the SILVER LINE OF GOD'S GRACE IN TRUE CHRISTIANS; though at times the alloy so predominates that the pure ore is scarcely perceptible. "[But] God has never left us without witness. He has had His loved and cherished, though HIDDEN ones, in all ages and in all places. No eye but His could see the seven thousand in Israel who had not bowed their knees to the image of Baal, in the days of Ahab and Jezebel. And tens of thousands, we doubt not, even from the darkest days of Christianity, will be found at last in the "Glorious Church," which Christ will present to Himself, on the long-looked-for day of His nuptial glory ..." 1

THE PARABLE OF THE WHEAT AND THE
TARES: A PARABLE OF THE TRIBULATION

Jesus himself, speaking in a prophetic parable concerning this condition of the Church, said:

"The kingdom of heaven [the Church] may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field.
"But while men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares also among the wheat, and went away.
"And the slaves of the landowner came and said to him, Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?
"And he said to them, An enemy has done this! And the slaves said to him, Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?
"But he said, No; lest while you are gathering up the tares, you may root up the wheat with them.
"Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn.
"Then He left the multitudes, and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him, saying, Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field.
"And He answered and said, The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one;
"And the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels.
"Therefore just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age.
"And will cast them into the furnace of fire; in that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
"Then THE RIGHTEOUS WILL SHINE FORTH AS THE SUN in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear." (Matthew 13:24-30; 36-43)

Now in connection with the parable above, it is interesting to note how the harvest was carried out in the ancient world and how the wheat [the good seed] was separated from the tares and the chaff [the bad seed]. BOTH WERE HARVESTED TOGETHER! Then through a process of winnowing, the wheat was separated from the tares and the chaff. The process of winnowing was accomplished in this manner: first, the harvest was crushed and spread out on a large floor; then workers took shovels and threw the harvest into the air by the shovel-full. The tares and chaff, being lighter than the kernels of wheat, were blown away by the wind, usually into another bin, while the kernels of wheat, being heavier, fell again to the threshing floor. In this way the wheat was separated from the tares and the chaff. The chaff and tares, being good for nothing, were then gathered together and burned, while the wheat was gathered together, bundled and stored in the barn.

Now it is important to note in this process, that the wheat itself is not being tested at all. Wheat is wheat!! Tares are tares!! There is nothing in this process which is meant to test the quality of the wheat. Neither is there anything in this process that the wheat is supposed to do. The wheat is required to do nothing. Works are not involved!! The wheat needs to do only one thing - be what it is inherently - wheat. The process is a SEPARATING PROCESS. It is not a process of works. The purpose of the entire process is quite simple: to separate, and by separating to MANIFEST or DISCLOSE, or REVEAL (Romans 8:19) the wheat from the tares and the chaff.

THE TRIBULATION AS A WINNOWING OF GOD

What we call today the Church is surely a mixture of wheat and tares - good seed and bad seed.

In a day when it has become so popular - even fashionable - to be referred to as "born-again" that political figures [whom the Bible calls the basest or lowest of people (Daniel 4:17)] refer to themselves as "born-again" to get votes, there certainly can be no doubt concerning this matter. Indeed, what can one say to all of this when even the owner of Hustler Magazine [one of the most notorious pornographic magazines in the country] refers to himself openly as "born-again."

Yes, there is a winnowing coming! John the Baptist, speaking prophetically, said of it:

"I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me (i.e., in the "end of days"*) is mightier than I ...
"His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly purge His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff [tares] with unquenchable fire." (Matthew 3:11-12)

[* The fact that this verse deals with the "end of days" is evident from the context: the verse speaks of Christ burning the chaff with unquenchable fire and gathering the wheat into the barn - things which have nothing to do with Christ's First Coming and which will occur only at His Second Coming.]

And how will He accomplish this winnowing? By the Tribulation! The Tribulation is to be the great winnowing of God spoken of by John the Baptist! And what will this winnowing accomplish? A great separation between those who truly love Christ and those who merely claim to love Him, but whose hearts are far away. This is the EXACT context in which John uttered his prophecy:

"Then Jerusalem [i.e., the entire Jewish religious community], all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to him [John]
"And were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins.
"But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, "Brood of vipers! Who has warned you to flee from the wrath to come?" (Matthew 3:5-7)

John the Baptist was a forerunner, a precursor to Jesus. His work was a work of separation - to separate the hypocrite from the believer, the wheat from the chaff, the Pharisees and the Sadducees from those in Israel who genuinely longed for the Messiah. So also with Jesus in the work of the Tribulation - to which John specifically pointed in this prophecy.

The work of tribulation is first and foremost a SEPARATING work. Specifically, it separates those who merely profess Christianity from those who truly believe. This is important. The work of tribulation - in the first instance - is a work directed not at separating the atheist from the believer, or the idolater from those who worship the one true God [idolaters and atheists are people who obviously and openly are not Christians], or any other such thing; but rather it is a work SPECIFICALLY directed at separating those who claim to be Christian [out of convention or advantage] from those who truly are. And this is precisely the work of tribulation in the Parable of the Sower. Concerning those who accept Christianity and profess it superficially for material advantage, Jesus had this to say:

"But he who received the seed [Gospel] on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy;
"Yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when TRIBULATION or PERSECUTION arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles (other translations say "wither away")." (Matthew 13:20-21)

TRIBULATION: A WORK OF
TRANSFORMATION IN THE BELIEVER'S HEART

Yes, tribulation SEPARATES, but there is another more sublime work of tribulation; and this work of tribulation is not a separating work, but a purifying work directed not at the hypocrite, but at the believer. This work elevates, ennobles, glorifies, and transforms the believer. Paul says:

"... but we also EXULT in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance;
"And perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope;
"And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us." (Romans 5:3-5)

Indeed, tribulation is the gate through which all true believers must pass into the kingdom of heaven; transformation is impossible without it. The Bible says:

"And when they had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch,
"Strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, 'We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God'." (Acts 14:21-22)

And again, the Bible - speaking of those saints who through the transforming power of the Holy Spirit [during the Great Tribulation] have been translated to the very throne of God - says:

"After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands ...
"Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, Who are these arrayed in white robes, and where did they come from?
"And I said to him, Sir, you know. So he said to me, THESE ARE THE ONES WHO COME OUT OF THE GREAT TRIBULATION, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." (Revelation 7:9,13-14)

TRIBULATION: GOD'S WAY OF
MANIFESTING HIS GLORY IN THE SAINTS

"There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job, and that man was BLAMELESS, UPRIGHT, fearing God, and turning away from evil.
"Now there was a day when the sons of God [angles] came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them.
"And the Lord said to Satan, 'From where do you come'? Then Satan answered the Lord and said, 'From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it'.
"And the Lord said to Satan, 'Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a BLAMELESS, UPRIGHT man, fearing God and turning away from evil'.
"Then Satan answered the Lord, 'Does Job fear God for nothing? [Why shouldn't he respect you since you take care of him so well?]
"'Hast Thou not made a hedge about him [haven't you put a wall around him to protect him from me?] and his house [his family] and all that he has, on every side? Thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land.
"'But put forth Thy hand now and touch all that he has; he will surely curse Thee to Thy face'." [but take away the wall and let me at him, and he will hate you]
"The Lord said to Satan, 'BEHOLD, ALL THAT HE HAS IS IN YOUR POWER ...'" (Job 1:1, 6-12)

Why does God allow his servants to suffer? Why does God allow Satan access to them? Why does God allow tribulation to enter their lives? Many in today's Church, of course, deny that God does - but this is obviously not what the Scriptures say. But these same people would retort that God only allows suffering when there is sin - and, apparently, this is what Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, Job's, friends said about Job during his sufferings: that Job was suffering because there was "hidden sin" in Job's life, and that this was the only reason that God would allow such suffering in one of his servants. But God was greatly angered by such thinking:

"And it came about after the Lord had spoken these words to Job, that the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite, 'My wrath is kindled against you and against your two friends, because you have not spoken of Me what is right as My servant Job has.
"'Now therefore, take for yourselves seven bulls and seven rams, and go to My servant Job, and offer up a burnt offering for yourselves, and My servant Job will pray for you. For I will accept him so that I may not do with you according to your folly, because you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has'." (Job 42:7-8)

GOD'S PURPOSE IN TRIBULATION: TO MANIFEST
& DISPLAY HIS OWN GLORY IN THE SAINTS

GOD WAS GLORIFIED IN JOB!! Satan had said that Job loved God only because of the "things" God bestowed upon him. What a terrible thing to say. It is the curse of wealth. How does a rich man ever know that he is truly loved? The sad truth is, he doesn't so long as he retains his wealth. But should he lose it, then he will find out. Great crowds of people followed Jesus so long as he fed them and healed them of their diseases. But when tribulation arose because of the Word He spoke, the crowds disappeared.

Oh, to be loved because of who you are, and not just because of the "things" you have! This is the love that God desires from those who follow Him. It is the love that Ruth gave to Naomi, and this even after Naomi had asked Ruth to depart from her because she [Naomi] had nothing further to give Ruth - she no longer possessed any "things" with which to "purchase" Ruth's love:

"And Ruth said, Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God:
"Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the LORD do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me." (Ruth 1:16-17)

The Lord is looking for such to follow Him - those that will follow after Him long after the "things" are gone, the crowds have left, the popularity faded; when the clothes are tattered and torn, there is no food on the table, and persecution rages all around. These are the disciples of Jesus - with such people one can repose trust and friendship, true love is here to be found!

These are the disciples who can say with the prophet Habakkuk:

"Though the fig tree may not blossom, Nor fruit be on the vines; Though the labor of the olive may fail, And the fields yield no food; Though the flock be cut off from the fold, And there be no heard in the stalls -
"YET I WILL REJOICE IN THE LORD, I WILL JOY IN THE GOD OF MY SALVATION." (Habakkuk 3:17-18)

It is in this kind of love that the TRUE Church will be "revealed," "disclosed," "manifested" (Romans 8:19)! It is this kind of love which will expose the hypocrites for what they really are. It is this kind of love which will separate the wheat from the tares. And it is only in tribulation that this love is truly revealed in all of its splendor and peerless beauty. In this, God's glory can find rest; in this the presence of God securely dwells.

RECAPITULATION

What, then, is the so-called "Tribulation" all about? The "Tribulation" will accomplish two things that are absolutely vital to God's Plan and Purpose in the Ages" - and that is,

  1. It will "winnow" the church, and by doing so, it will "manifest" or "reveal" the true saints of God, and -
  2. It will provide a venue in which God's judgment can be consummated.

The next question is, what precisely is the church's part in all this - a church that has been cleansed through great suffering and affliction? - and not just the church's part, but Israel's as well? That's what our next article is all about. As we develop these themes you will begin to grasp what a great part you have in all this if you will only open yourself up to it!!

God bless all of you S.R. Shearer
Antipas Ministries

FOOTNOTES
  1. Andrew Miller, Miller's Church History. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1964, pg. 265.

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