Rev Dr Edgar Mayer; Living Grace Toowoomba Church; Message: Jesus’ imminent return; Date: 15 Aug 2010
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The last book of the Bible ends the entire Bible with these words – Revelations 22:20: “ … [Jesus] says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus [answers the church].” Jesus is coming soon. However we live – whatever we do – in this life – is only for a season which can be cut short at any moment (even right now). Before we even get home, Jesus could return in the midst of our worship service and bring this world to an end. Would you want that? The Bible says – 2 Peter 3:10-13: “ . the day of the Lord will come … in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth.” Are you looking forward to the new?
One evangelist (Dwight L. Moody) counted 2,500 references to the coming of Jesus Christ in the Bible but – (to be honest) – in fourteen years of preaching I have not paid attention to any of them and I have had my reasons – (maybe imperfect human reasons but I have had reasons). When you are younger, you do not always want the world to end now. My mum told us children how she used to pray in her early twenties: “Jesus, please, do not come back before I get married.” And – in like manner – some of us may pray: “Jesus, please do not come back before the footy grand final. I have tickets and I want to be there.” “Jesus, I am invited to this really cool party next week. Please don’t come now.” I am not sure how valid all of these reasons are and I am not sure whether they have anything to do with preparing ourselves for Jesus’ return but – (it is true) – when you are younger (and – let’s include everyone – also when you are older) you do not always want the world to end now. [Maybe when you are a parent with a growing family and aging grand-parents you are far too busy with the daily pressures of life and setting everyone up so that there is not much time to worry too much about the coming end.]
Then – so far – many – (no: all) – of those Christians who expected the imminent return of Jesus Christ were proven wrong. For the last 2000 years Christians have expected the end of the world in their life time but here we are still. Even the first Lutheran pastor that came to Australia – Pastor Kavel – exposed himself and his congregation to ridicule. This is what happened (see http://www.thegermanclub.com.au/about-us/german-history-in-SA.php#Year1840s; Reprinted from the Sunday Mail, 9 October 1977; cf. Th. Hebart, English version edited by Hohs. J. Stolz, The United Evangelical Lutheran Church In Australia, North Adelaide: Lutheran Book Depot 1938, p59):
As Dr Harmstorf points out, the early German settlers were rural folk with a literal belief in the power of good and evil. The first group of Lutherans who arrived with Pastor Kavel in 1838 were of a strong pietistic bent, rejecting the world and worldly ways in favour of the life hereafter. They had a strong belief in the supernatural’, says Dr Harmstorf. ‘They placed great importance on visions and frequently acted on them.’
He recounts a popular story concerning a vision experienced by a member of Pastor Kavel’s congregation.
Someone had a vision that the Devil would descend on the Kaiserstuhl [the largest hill on the edge of the Barossa Valley] at midnight on a certain date. They thought it their duty to catch the Devil and lock him up so he could no longer cause trouble in the world. Led by Kavel, the parishioners went up the Kaiserstuhl with chains. They were going to bind the Devil and put him in gaol in Tanunda. ‘How long they waited in vain for Mephistopheles is not known but it is assumed he did not appear. Recorded evidence does exist for an even more apocalyptic vision and its deflating aftermath.’
A German traveller, Friedrich Gerstaecker, writing in the 1850s, describes the night when Pastor Kavel led his flock to a place outside Tanunda to await the end of the world. Kavel had seen the end of the world in a vision and wanted to be received into Heaven surrounded by nature and not among the debauchery and licentiousness which he believed existed in Tanunda. The nearest this pious party of Lutheran got to the end of the world was a violent downpour, which Gerstaecker says dampened their ardour somewhat for Kavel’s visions.
After one too many “false alarms” you tend to become wary of any new pronouncements that – surely now – this is going to be the end of the world. We do not know the day of Christ’s return (Matthew 24:36; Mark 13:32) and the Bible puts God’s sense of timing into perspective – 2 Peter 3:8-10: “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come … ” Okay – God is not slow in keeping his promise. Jesus will come soon. It is just that our human “soon” is not the same as God’s “soon”. “With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like a day.” [Also – considering our own personal life-span – we will meet Jesus soon in any case.]
There was still another reason why I was not keen to preach on the imminent return of Jesus Christ. There are way too many Christians that opt out of making a living now and planning strategies for the future because they think that with Jesus’ return no provisions for old age need to be made and – (this is even more important) – no effort needs to be expended in redeeming and transforming our culture. For instance, Christians do not have to worry about the upcoming election because our country and the world will not go on for much longer anyway. This is wrong. Jesus never meant us to opt out from making a difference in this life and advancing the kingdom of God in his name. “The end is near” – this watchword – was not meant to slow us down but spur us on. We were to save as many souls as was possible – with a focused intensity – because the time was short – Romans 13:11-12: “And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed … put on the armour of light.” The hour has come for Christians to wake up from their slumber. Time is running out and – therefore – the Bible is spurning us on. However – and this is my observation – too many Christians do not respond to the wake-up call with busy passion. On the contrary – thinking that Jesus’ coming is very near – they stop what they are doing – at least they make no longer any long range plans – and settle for the end. They watch proceedings but are no longer players in world history.
Today though I do preach my first sermon on Jesus’ return and submit all my human objections to his better wisdom. I also feel that he is shifting something within me. He wants us to live with the sense that – any day now – he is about to return. Two weeks ago (2 August 2010) I had a dream where I was made aware of a time period that would last thirteen years and we were already two and a half years into this period. Then I had a note in my hand and I could read what was written on it: In nine and a half years Jesus Christ would return. I don’t know whether this means anything. I do not claim that this is prophetic. The Bible confirms that we will not know the day and hour of the end. You will also notice that when you add the two and a half years to the nine and a half years the sum total does not add up to thirteen years but twelve years. There is a missing year somewhere. Yet, when I told this dream to Tatjana (my wife), she immediately made reference to Sister Elpida’s message at Living Grace on the 27th June (two months ago). And when I shared the dream at our Friday Prayer Watch, Vicki made the same connection. Sister Elpida shared with us that another Sister had only recently been to Israel and on her last day in Israel – enjoying some free time at the Lake of Tiberias – a Jewish looking man came up to her – with curls and the kippah (skullcap) – and he said to her: “Sister, I have a message for you from God. Jesus – the Messiah – is coming back soon – within ten years. You have less than ten years.” The Sister responded with a rush of joy in her heart and she said: “I am receiving this message.” The man said: “Good for you.” And he quickly went away. Who was he? No one knew but Sister Elpida encouraged us here at Living Grace: Be prepared. Time is short. Jesus is coming soon.
Please understand. I am not advocating that we make too much of these occurrences. Who knows how reliable my dreams are and who knows the agenda of the Jewish-looking man in Israel? Our one true authority remains the Bible. It is only that sometimes testimonies of other people – and what we experience ourselves – lead us back to the Bible. It is as if God is giving us fresh eyes to see what has been in his Word all along.
In this regard – one more testimony has impacted me this year. I have been reading Jesse Duplantis’ book “Heaven. Close Encounters Of The God Kind” and I have seen the video of his live testimony. Twenty-two years ago – in 1988 – God took him on a trip to heaven for a specific purpose. He met Jesus and Jesus commissioned him to preach that he would return soon. I love reading such accounts but I was surprised that this kind of message was apparently so important to Jesus (when I had not preached about his return in fourteen years). Listen to the account (abbreviate and retell in your own words):
(Jesse Duplantis: Heaven. Close Encounters Of The God Kind, Tulsa: Harrison House 1996)
In this book I share some of the events that have happened to me personally in my relationship with God. I call them close encounters of the God kind. One of the events I share about in this book is my trip to heaven in 1988.
For a long time after it happened, I talked only a little about that trip until the Lord began releasing me to say some things. Sometimes people want to take an experience they hear like that and; because it’s so glorious, so totally awesome; run with it —concentrate on it. I loved and enjoyed my trip to heaven and believe you’ll be blessed reading about it. But what keeps us in relationship with the Lord is daily growing in the Word of God. Faith isn’t created by hearing about an experience someone has had with God; Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17) …
I pulled off my coat and knelt down beside the bed. As I did, the digital clock flipped over to show exactly one o’clock. I said, “God, what’s the matter? What’s wrong? What’s happening? What?”
Suddenly I felt a suction as if I was being pulled up out of the room. But I didn’t look back to see myself leaving my physical body, as some people have described. I heard a sound, Whoosh! And I was pulled up out of the room! I gasped, “Aaah....” I don’t know whether I was in my body or out of my body.
I did know I had left that room and I was zooming along at a phenomenal rate of speed, being carried in something like a cable car. It was a chariot without a horse, but not like one of those chariots we see in the movies—I was completely closed in. I could see through the windows that the chariot was racing along, but I had no idea how it was being operated.
Then I looked up. There stood another being. I realized that it was the blond-headed angel who had visited me in the bedroom that night in Jonesville, Louisiana. I asked, “Where are we going?” He smiled and said, “You have an appointment with the Lord God Jehovah.”
I felt the chariot slowing down; then it came to a stop. When the door opened, I experienced the shock of my life: I was in heaven!
Heaven must not be too far away. It didn’t seem as if I had gone out of our galaxy. Of course, I’m not an astronomer, so I really don’t know for sure.
As I stepped out of the chariot, everything I saw was so beautiful. I had always thought that when I went to heaven I would see only a city. But the first place I saw was Paradise; it hadn’t been destroyed. Paradise is a big place, completely surrounding the Holy City. It is like being on another planet.
I fell down on the ground and began praising God, saying, “Glory to God!” The angel also fell down, saying, “The Most High God Jehovah! Hosanna in the highest!” Together we just worshipped God.
I was so excited. I kept asking that angel, “Where am I? What am I doing here?” He said, “You have an appointment with the great God Jehovah. We must go to the city. You shall soon find out.”
As I stood to my feet, I saw light that I had never seen before in my life.
Looking around me, I realized that God has with Him in heaven some of the things He created on the earth. I was surrounded by lush, gorgeous valleys, lots of mountains and streams of water. I even saw snow, yet it wasn’t cold. I was amazed …
All of a sudden, the angel stopped our chariot and said, “Kneel. He’s here.” I felt weak then and fell to my knees. The angel handed me some fruit and said, “Eat this.” So I did. As Jesus walked toward me, those children ran up to Him. They sang praises to Him, and He just hugged them. As the kids sang, He rejoiced with them. To me, He looked like a shaft of light. He was so glorious!
He turned toward me, and I fell at His feet. I said, reverently, “Oh, God!” He said, “I’m here.” As I was kneeling down, I noticed Jesus’ feet looked like burnished brass. I thought there would be scars in His hands and feet. But it wasn’t like He had been cut and scarred. I could see the holes in His feet. They were so big—about the size of a nickel—that light was shining through them. I realized then just how big the nails were that had been pounded into His feet and hands at His crucifixion.
We don’t realize how much Jesus suffered on the cross. There are no adjectives to describe what He really went through.
He put His hand on my shoulder and said, “Jesse, stand to your feet.” I stood and looked at Him. There was a brilliance coming out of Him that seemed like waves of glory. The light was emanating from Him. His clothes were beautiful and looked like solid diamonds that were sparkling.
Jesus was taller than I thought He would be. I would guess Him to be from five feet eleven inches to six feet one inch. I thought at first His hair was white; but when He turned His head, I caught a glance and saw that it was light brown. When He looked at me, the glory of God was emanating from Him.
I said, “Jesus!” He said simply, “Do you like this place?” I said, “Yes, Sir.” The first thing I thought of doing was confessing my sins to Him. I said to Him, “I’m not the man I should be, I’ve made some mistakes.” When you get to heaven, all you want to do is repent! But He said, “You’re forgiven. I made a plan of redemption.”
“Then what am I doing here? Why are You doing this?” “I want you to go back and tell My people I’m coming.” “But they won’t believe me,” I said.
“They didn’t believe it for centuries, but I came, and I am coming again.” Then He put His hand on my shoulder. I’ll never forget it. He looked at me and said, “There are many things you shall see and learn here, but I have brought you here so that you will go tell My people I’m coming.”
I said, “They know that.” “No, they don’t know that. I brought you here so that you would go tell them I’m coming. Do you hear Me? I’m coming. Go tell them.” ...
While talking with Jesus, I could see the great compassion that He has for those who haven’t received Him as their Savior. He asked me to tell you that He’s coming again soon!
I guess that’s why I haven’t rested in my life. There was such an urgency in His Voice. We must know something is up. Jesus is coming soon! ...
David took me into a house—I don’t know who it belonged to. We walked into a beautiful foyer and by the wall in the corner I saw the Apostle Paul sitting with several men. I can’t tell you about the house because my eyes were on Paul. He and the men were discussing the Word of God. Paul was short! I noticed as he was sitting on the bench that his feet didn’t touch the ground. He looked up at us and said, “Jesse!”
I said, “He knows my name!”
Paul asked, “Jesse, what are they saying about my gospel?” (He still calls it his gospel.) I said, “Man, I preach everything you said. Everything! If you came back, you could get me for copyright infringement. I do, I preach everything you said. The Pauline epistles are wonderful!”
He smiled at me. I wanted to talk to him for a long time. He is still a teacher, and I sensed that Paul knew of deeper revelations that we will enjoy learning once we are in heaven. I was attracted to Paul’s knowledge. He’s still explaining and teaching others about God.
I said to Paul, “You were caught up in the third heaven. I read in the Scriptures that you were caught up.” I was thinking of 2 Corinthians 12:2: I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven.
“Just like you,” he interrupted. “Yeah, this is a wonderful place!” I said. Paul agreed saying, “I spent my whole life to be here.” I had so much to say to him. I told him, “I think you are the greatest intellectual mind that was ever drawn to Christianity.” “Thank you,” he said. “The Lord has been gracious to me.”
He was so humble! His humility ministered to me. I guess if I had a hero in the Scripture, it would be the Apostle Paul. He kept the faith in spite of great afflictions. He was born into a family of prominence; he was conscientious of social law and was a Pharisee in the tribe of Benjamin. He was climbing an ambitious ladder, but when he met Jesus, he went as high as a man can climb. He kept the faith, fought a good fight and finished the race. I am also determined to fight a good fight like Paul. I want it to be said of me, “He kept the faith.” And I have done that. I don’t say that arrogantly because we all can make a decision and set ourselves on a course to do something we’ve determined to do.
I said to Paul, “You went through great persecution.” “Yes,” he answered, “but I kept the faith. I focused my life on faith. That’s how you get things done.”
The next statement he made is one I have used in sermons. He said, “Our affliction is but for a moment. People have made it a lifetime. Change it back to a moment.”
I get goose bumps when I think about that! It’s a moment, not a lifetime. “Change it back to a moment,” he told me. I have used Paul’s statement in seminars and people compliment me for the message, but that word didn’t come from me. It came from Paul. Look at how Paul said it in 2 Corinthians 4:17,18: For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.
Paul continued to speak to me, “Change it back to a moment, Jesse.” Then he whispered, “Change it back to a moment. Don’t leave it a lifetime. I’ve kept the faith, and that’s how it’s done. And it worked.”
I’ll never forget Paul’s words for as long as I live. All the troubles I have had since that trip to heaven in 1988 just roll off my back. Then he smiled at me and said, “Never change the message because of the hearers. Speak what God gives you.”
I wrote those words down when I came back so that I wouldn’t forget what he said to me. I was able to speak with him awhile longer before David and the angel told me to keep moving toward our appointment. I will share more of what Paul said to me in a later chapter. David seemed to want to let me take my time, but the angel kept reminding me that I had more places I needed to go …
I was still lying on my face and getting weaker. In that mass of energy and power I could see God, Jehovah—His feet—sitting. There is a huge platform in front of the Throne like a stage. It seemed level to me, but actually it was raised. Everything in heaven is raised. The topography of the land goes up toward the Throne. Then out of that massive energy of Light and love and power I saw Jesus come in human form. There He was, like I had seen Him in Paradise. What seemed to be millions of people at the Throne of God fell down before Him.
For the first time in my life, I could understand the Trinity in physical terms. Jesus came out of the cloud and the power of the Father. Jesus literally came out of the very existence of Jehovah God, and when He did, the people shouted. Jesus and the Father were One, yet They were Two. He was in the Father and the Father was in Him. He was at the right hand of God. When He came out of that power, He was in human form—something we could touch.
All my life as a minister, I thought of Jesus as a teacher, a mild-mannered, calm person. When He came out onto the platform of that Throne, I could hear a sound from the Father, Whoosh! Whoosh! It was the sound of power! The Jesus I heard that day was not a teacher, even though obviously He can teach; He was a dynamic preacher.
I had always thought of Jesus as being a quiet teacher, but He was full of power and preached with authority. All the people there were listening. Jesus preached with great emotion. I could see that He was torn with compassion for those who were still on earth.
Jesus preached of His coming to earth. He said, “I am going to get My Body, and My Body shall reside in this place that My Father has created for us all.” There was a stirring among the people, and they began shouting and praising God.
He began to shout: “I’m going to get your brothers! I’m going to get your sisters! I’m going to get your family! I’m bringing them back to this place to live with Me forever and ever!” He was a preacher full of victory, shouting and hollering! He was excited, and the people were screaming and hollering, too.
As He preached, people—even though they were in new celestial bodies—fell under the power of God. Even in heavenly bodies they fell under God’s power!
Then I heard Jehovah’s Voice, saying, “I am well-pleased.”
I was lying on the floor, trying to take in all that was happening. It was the most amazing, powerful experience I have ever gone through.
I couldn’t look at Jehovah’s face, but I could look at Jesus. You see, the heart of God is the Father; the face of the Father is unveiled by the Son, Jesus; the Voice of God is heard through the Holy Ghost; the Hand of God is laid open through the Church.
As Jesus was preaching, I saw Him turn around several times and look into that massive light. But I realized that I couldn’t do that. I had to keep looking down, but I could look up long enough to see glimpses of what was around me, and I could see Jesus’ face. I could hardly bear the Father’s power. Jesus would look back at the Father, sometimes just looking over His shoulder, as if they didn’t want to be separated even by sight very long. I could sense the love of God in Jesus, and I could see the affection and love flowing back and forth between the Father and the Son. I had never before seen love like that. It seemed magnetic.
Jesus would walk in and out of the power, the fire, that massive amount of energy. When Jesus walked back into the energy, as He got closer, I would have to put my head down again, because I couldn’t handle the Light. But that form of a Man as He walked toward that energy would transform back into Spirit.
I understood how the Trinity are Three, yet They are One. Still lying on the floor, I turned my head toward that angel and asked, “Where’s the Holy Spirit?” “He is on the earth,” he said. Of course! Later when I thought back to the incident, I felt so stupid to have asked such a dumb question at the Throne of God. I’m still embarrassed about it ...
As we were going down that street of the prophets, all of a sudden I heard that familiar Voice saying, “Jesse.” I turned around. It was Jesus.
I said, “That was a great message. It was wonderful.” He was gleaming as He said, “It is a true message. That’s why you were sent here. You are to tell My people.” I said, “They won’t believe me.” His Voice was firm, “You just tell them. When they think it not, so shall I come.” Then He said firmly, “Go tell My people I’m coming.”
My destiny was for this lesson. I thought, That’s it? That’s why He brought me here? I was disappointed to learn that my trip to heaven was for this lesson. I thought I was going to learn something nobody had ever heard. My purpose for going to heaven was to hear Jesus say that He’s coming back for us, and I am to tell others.
I must have had unbelief written all over my face. I said, “Lord, they know that.” And He became stern with me and raised His Voice as He said, “No, they don’t! You go tell them I’m coming.”
Paul wrote to us concerning the return of Christ in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 (NIV): Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words.
The intensity of His love for us was evident in His face and Voice. When I looked into His eyes, I understood the importance of what He was saying. At that instant, I knew His coming is the greatest thing we can wait for. The message that Jesus is coming soon is the greatest news we can share! ...
Jesus had just revealed His heart’s desire to me. He asked me to tell others that He’s coming back to earth. He was filled with compassion and was waiting for me to respond to Him.
I said, “Lord, I’ll do everything I know to do. I love You with all of my being. But I’ve made some mistakes in my life.” He said, “I don’t know that you did. I washed them away. You’re free.” “Thank You!” I said.
I saw tears well up in His eyes as He made the next statement to me. He said, “The worst day of My life is yet to come.” Then suddenly the Father was speaking through the Lord Jesus Christ—God—was sharing with His creation. He said, “You know that Scripture where I said I will wipe away all tears in heaven?”
“You know, Lord, I’ve never truly understood that,” I replied. I knew that John spoke of God’s plan to remove all tears in Revelation 21:1-5: And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.
Now Jesus was explaining this mystery to me saying, “Those include the tears in My eyes, Jesse. On that great Judgment Day, I will have to tell some of the creation I love to depart from Me. I dread that day. I dread it! I dread it!”
He had tears in His eyes when He was saying this. It touched my heart. We always focus on God wiping tears from our eyes. We do not understand the love that God has for us. I wanted to reach out to Him and comfort Him, so I put my hand on the Lord. I didn’t know what else to do. I could tell that Jesus was hurting.
There were other times in Scripture that we knew Jesus cried. When He wept for Jerusalem he could change the situation. We saw His tears for Lazarus, but He raised Lazarus from the dead. We saw His tears at the crucifixion, but He changed that memory with His resurrection. But once the judgment comes, He can’t change it. His Word will be final. When He has to turn man away, His most prized possession, He can’t change it back. He dreads that day.
Then He said, “Jesse, it’s final. I can’t change it. Tears flowed from My eyes the day My creation, Adam, fell. But I knew I would send Myself. I had a chance to touch people. But that day is coming, and it’s final. Once it’s said, I can’t change it. I have to wipe the tears from My eyes.”
The Lord was firm with me, “Tell them I’m coming, Jesse.” I said, “Lord, when are You coming back?” He didn’t answer me directly but He said, “Everyone looks for the signs when they ought to look for My witness.”
I understood Him to mean that we are looking at the signs of the times as the return of the Lord. He wants us to look at the witness of Who He is, the Person of Jesus Christ.
I realized that He didn’t know when He was coming in terms of the day and year. But I see that His coming is not just His return, it is the witness of Who He is. When He said in the gospels that His kingdom was not of this world, He was trying to get the people to see the witness of Who He is and not just understand the signs that pointed to Him as the Messiah. I felt that He was saying our eyes should be on Him, Jesus, instead of on the great tribulation period.
But as His Body, we are in disobedience by fighting each other. We’re not coming together with the witness of Who He is. Satan’s greatest ally is our division in the Body of Christ. I think Jesus wants us, the Church, to be looking more at Who He is instead of focusing on our differences.
If the Body of Christ, the Church, would begin to reveal Who Christ is, and lift Him—the Person of Jesus Christ—up for the world to see, people will be drawn to Him. I think we can delay His coming by waiting for a sign before we act on His Word instead of showing the witness of Who He is to a world of lost and dying people ...
I said, “I’ll do anything for You. I know that may be a rash statement; Peter said it. But as far as I know, I would do anything for You.” He smiled at me and said, “I chose you. No one else wanted you, and I need you, Jesse.” I said, “Okay. I’ll tell every soul I meet that You’re coming.” He said, “I brought you here for this.”
Then He said, “Now you must go back.” “I would like to stay here,” I said. “You shall be here for eternity,” He said. Then He looked at David and the angel. “David, Jesse likes mountains. Take him by way of the mountains.” He looked at me and smiled, and I noticed His features again. I couldn’t tell what color His eyes were, but they looked like pools of love. He said, “I’ll see you soon. One day we’ll never part. It will be forever, and sooner than you think.” ...
That chariot began to accelerate. I heard its power—Whoosh! Within seconds of leaving Paradise, I was back in my room and in the same position as when I had left at 1:00 p.m. In my mind, everything seemed to go so fast. I thought I had been gone for about thirty minutes, but it was 6:15 p.m. when I looked at the clock again. I had been in heaven five hours and fifteen minutes!
Someone was supposed to pick me up for church at 6:45 p.m., so I dressed in a hurry. I was still befuddled and I thought, I’m not saying anything about this. People will think I’m crazy.
The man who had been picking me up every night for those meetings was usually a talker. But this time while driving to church, he didn’t say a word; he just kept looking at me. I thought, Did I say something to offend him?
When we got there, the service had already started. They were singing, so I walked up to the front of the church. People began pointing their fingers at me, saying, “Look at Brother Jesse. He’s shining.” There was a light on my face. I had been in the presence of the glory of God.
When I walked to the platform, the pastor just backed up. I was going to sit in the little pew, but he motioned for me to come. I said to them, “I have been in the presence of God.” But they thought I meant I had been praying.
Knowing they didn’t understand, I explained, “No, I’m not talking about praying; I’m talking about being in God’s physical presence.”
I had been to heaven!
I didn’t even preach that night. I didn’t say anything, but people began falling under the power of God’s Spirit! There was ministry throughout the auditorium without me saying any more.
The trip to heaven was so special to me, I have never wanted anyone to try to analyze or evaluate it. Some people may think that I would tell the story to make money from selling the book. I would use the money for the gospel anyway. But this story is a part of me. It changed me. I now realize I didn’t see heaven just for me. The stories will help other people, too.
I can still hear Paul’s voice saying, “Change it back to a moment. Change it back to a moment.” He wanted me to remind you that our afflictions and hardships are not for a lifetime. They are just for a moment compared to eternity. He said:
For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God. For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. 2 Corinthians 4:15-17
Verse 17 is the one that has been taken out of context for centuries. Paul said, Our light affliction, which is but for a moment. Our affliction is for a moment. Not a lifetime. If you’re not careful, the church will make your moment become a lifetime. There’s a vast difference between a moment and a lifetime.
Religion has caused the Body of Christ great pain through this verse. The first thing I was told after I got saved and went to church was, “It’s gonna be rough all the days of your life, Jesse. The devil’s gonna stomp you and beat you, but he who endures till the end shall be saved.”
They took a moment of hassle and made it a lifetime. You don’t have to wait a lifetime to be healed! By His stripes you were healed. (1 Peter 2:24.) Many people have frustrated God’s grace by taking a moment and stretching it into a lifetime.
Would you like to take your lifetime of misery and change it back to a moment of light affliction? A radical and energetic conviction changes a lifetime back into a moment. It requires one small word. One word. The devil’s afraid of it. Every government in the world is afraid of it. People are afraid of it.
It’s called, “NO!” Communism threatened, “We’ll hold you.” Russia stood up and said, “NO!” Foundations start to crack when you tell the devil, “No!” Jesus didn’t just tell Satan, “No!” He went further and said, Get thee behind me (Luke 4:8). In other words, “Get back; you make the landscape disgusting.”
I think when Jesus died on the cross, Satan and his followers were rejoicing at their victory. All the while Jesus whispered, “It ain’t over till it’s over!” (author’s paraphrase.) Now, whenever something tries to discourage me, I hear those words, “Change it back to a moment.”
When the doctors said I was dealing with a sickness, I heard, “Change it back to a moment.” When I was frustrated with details in our television ministry, I heard Paul say, “Change it back to a moment.”
As soon as my attitude changed, God spoke to me and told me what to do with the ministry. The frustration fled. So I am compelled to do whatever I have to do to help you understand that Good News of heaven.
The message from heaven is, “The struggles in this life are only temporary, they are only a moment compared to eternity. Don’t let it last a lifetime! Change it back to a moment.”
This is a radical testimony and I am impacted by many features in Jesse Duplantis’ experience: 1) We will experience that we are forgiven. When Jesse first met Jesus, he immediately wanted to go over his sin again. The shame was still with him but Jesus assured him: “You are forgiven. I made a plan of redemption.” After some time in heaven Jesse was still unsure of whether he belonged in this holy place and he said to Jesus: “I’ve made some mistakes in my life.” But Jesus answered: “I don’t know that you did. I washed them away. You’re free.” How wonderful is this! Just imagine: Jesus forgives you and then no longer even knows what you have done. The power of forgiveness – through what he has done on the cross – is that strong.
And then – with the power of forgiveness in our life – Jesus can and does make use of us. We get promoted so much higher than we deserve. Jesse said to Jesus: “I’ll do anything for You. I know that may be a rash statement; Peter said it. But as far as I know, I would do anything for You.” Jesus smiled at him and said, “I chose you. No one else wanted you, and I need you, Jesse.” He said, “Okay. I’ll tell every soul I meet that You’re coming.” Jesus said, “I brought you here for this.” Just imagine: No one else may want you either but Jesus does. He says that he needs you. He has a job for you. Tell them that he is coming.
2) Jesus was not a mild-mannered and clam preacher but – apparently – he was a preacher full of victory, shouting and hollering! (And the people were screaming and hollering too.) He preached from his heart with great emotion: “I am going to get My Body, and My Body shall reside in this place that My Father has created for us all.” Then Jesus began to shout: “I’m going to get your brothers! I’m going to get your sisters! I’m going to get your family! I’m bringing them back to this place to live with Me forever and ever!” Imagine the intensity of Jesus.
3) Jesse Duplantis was so disappointed with the task of preaching the message of Jesus’ return because he didn’t think that it was anything special (and I can relate to him because I myself did not even preach on this for fourteen years): “My destiny was for this lesson. I thought, That’s it? That’s why He brought me here? I was disappointed to learn that my trip to heaven was for this lesson. I thought I was going to learn something nobody had ever heard. My purpose for going to heaven was to hear Jesus say that He’s coming back for us, and I am to tell others.
I must have had unbelief written all over my face. I said, ‘Lord, they know that.’ And He became stern with me and raised His Voice as He said, ‘No, they don’t! You go tell them I’m coming.’
Yet, then Jesse looked again at Jesus and saw how he was so intense with love for us. It was evident in his face and voice. He shared: “When I looked into His eyes, I understood the importance of what He was saying. At that instant, I knew His coming is the greatest thing we can wait for. The message that Jesus is coming soon is the greatest news we can share!”
4) Jesus said that the day of his return would be the worst day of his life. The tears that will be wiped away on that day would also include his own because his heart will break for those that will be condemned to hell on Judgement Day. He said to Jesse: “I dread that day. I dread it! I dread it!” He had tears in his eyes when he was saying these words. It touched Jesse’s heart and it may now touch our own. We do not understand the love that God has for us. Jesus was hurting. Then he said: “Jesse, it’s final. I can’t change it. Tears flowed from My eyes the day My creation, Adam, fell. But I knew I would send Myself. I had a chance to touch people. But that day is coming, and it’s final. Once it’s said, I can’t change it. I have to wipe the tears from My eyes. Tell them I’m coming, Jesse.”
How does all of this strike you? The testimony of Jesse Duplantis may sound fantastic and some of us may think that it is implausible. He may not be our favourite preacher but his testimony may stir us up to take another look at the testimony of the Bible – our one true authority – where another man – the apostle John – had much the same experience as Jesse. I for one believe Jesse’s witness. Such encounters with God and visitations of heaven are happening to Christians (e.g.: Ezekiel, Paul, John). However – to be clear – again – it is not of the utmost importance that we believe the words of Jesse Duplantis but that we believe the Bible and the Bible shares with us a similar encounter.
This is what the apostle John wrote after he was taken up to heaven where he spoke to people and angels and encountered Jesus – Revelations 22:1-21 (JB Phillips Translation):
“Then he showed me the river of the water of life, sparkling like crystal as it flowed from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the middle of the street of the city and on either bank of the river grew the tree of life, bearing twelve fruits, a different kind for each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
Nothing that has cursed mankind shall exist any longer; the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be within the city. His servants shall worship him; they shall see his face, and his name will be upon their foreheads. Night shall be no more; they have no more need for either lamplight or sunlight, for the Lord God will shed his light upon them and they shall reign as kings for timeless ages …
Then the angel said to me, ‘These words are true and to be trusted, for the Lord God, who inspired the prophets, has sent his angel to show his servants what must shortly happen.’
‘See, I come quickly! Happy is the man who pays heed to the words of the prophecy in this book.’
It is I, John, who have heard and seen these things … Then the angel added, ‘Do not seal up the words of the prophecy in this book, for the time of their fulfillment is near … ’
[Jesus said:] ‘See, I come quickly! I carry my reward with me, and repay every man according to his deeds. I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the Beginning and the End. Happy are those who wash their robes, for they have the right to the tree of life and the freedom of the gates of the city. Shut out from the city shall be the depraved, the sorcerers, the impure, the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices a lie! I, Jesus, have sent my angel to you with this testimony for the Churches. I am both the root and stock of David, and the bright star of the morning!’
The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ Let everyone who hears this also say, ‘Come!’ Let the thirsty man come, and let everyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift …
[Jesus] says, ‘Yes, I am coming very quickly!’ ‘Amen, come Lord Jesus!’ …
Jesus is coming very quickly. This morning answer the passion of Jesus Christ and believe his words. He is coming soon. Wake up in the morning and know that he is coming. Join in with the Spirit and the bride (that is: the church) and say: “Come! Come Lord Jesus!” This is exciting. The end will come and we will be in a place where every thirst is quenched. “Nothing that has cursed mankind shall exist any longer.” You will experience forgiveness like never before. Therefore, above all other excitements in your life, become excited about what is ahead of us.
Jesus loves you. He doesn’t want anyone to be unprepared. Therefore, the Bible finishes with this urgent message of Jesus: “See, I come quickly! I carry my reward with me, and repay every man according to his deeds … Happy are those who wash their robes, for they have the right to the tree of life and the freedom of the gates of the city. Shut out from the city shall be the depraved, the sorcerers, the impure, the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices a lie!” [The angel in heaven told the apostle John: “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy [your experience in heaven], for the time of their fulfillment is near.”]
Jesus does not want anyone to be unprepared but we have only a short time left to make preparations. Therefore, if you are not yet a Christian, now is the time to repent and believe in Jesus Christ. Now is the time to surrender your life to him. Now is the time to trust in the power of his forgiveness. The day will come soon when Jesus himself will have tears in his eyes because some of his creations will be judged and lost forever. He told John (and remember with how much emotion Jesus shared this with Jesse Duplantis) that “shut out from the city shall be the depraved, the sorcerers, the impure, the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices a lie”. For Jesus the day of his return will be a day of victory and utter joy for those that love him but at the same time it will also be the worst day of his life because of the judgement that is coming. Jesus does not want anyone to be unprepared. This morning – don’t leave before dealing with God – prepare yourself. Prepare others.
If so far in your Christian life you have not paid much attention to the return of Jesus Christ (and I myself haven’t), then this morning begin to live with fresh revelation. Our whole existence is shaped by these words: “Yes, I [Jesus] am coming quickly!” “Amen, come Lord Jesus!” “I am coming soon.” “Yes, please do!” This is the most important message. Live with the awareness of Jesus’ imminent return and everything else in your life will fall into place. Can we answer Jesus together as a church? He is saying to us: “Yes, I am coming quickly.” We answer: “Amen, come Lord Jesus!” Amen.