Rev Dr Edgar Mayer; Living Grace Toowoomba Church; Date: 01 April 2012

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Revelation 04 – Stern Preparations

 

In the Bible book of Revelation – the circumstances of the churches were not good. John – one of the leaders – wrote in Revelation 1:9: “I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering ... and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the [prison] island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.” Churches across the region were doing it tough. Someone by the name of Antipas even died because he had not renounced his faith in Jesus (Revelation 2:13). There was fear among the faithful (Revelation 2:10) which in turn made them absolutely desperate and passionate for a breakthrough in God. God had to come and do something. If Jesus was stronger than Satan, he had to step in and sort out right from wrong. He had to demonstrate the power of his kingdom here on earth.

This was the cry of the Christians and God heard them. One day – “out of the blue” – as he worshipped God – John had a vision of Jesus:

 

Revelation 1:10-18: On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet ... I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw  ... someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.

When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead ...

 

Jesus’ eyes were like blazing fire. There was a sharp sword coming out of his mouth. His face shone like the sun in all its brilliance and his voice was booming with power like the roar of many waterfalls. This was a powerful encounter which could only mean one thing: The breakthrough was coming and – sure enough – read the book of Revelation – this was the core message that Jesus entrusted to John. He would be comingsoon” (Revelation 1:1). The churches were right. He was indeedthe ruler of the kings of the earth” (Revelation 1:6).

In some respects, I feel that we are the same position as the churches in Revelation. We are not persecuted in the sense that anyone would throw us into jail for our faith or banish us to a prison island but – among many of us – there is also a growing desperation burning in our belly. We need to see a breakthrough – more of God – a demonstration of his glory that brings salvation to a lost people (in this city and nation). Toowoomba must see the truth. Our God reigns.

Last year, we had men from the Solomon Islands and Suzette Hattingh from Germany prophesy God’s promises over this church and – for us – (the same as in the book of Revelation) – the message was also that Jesus would be coming soon. It’s not that he is not already here – (he is) – but he would soon come with more of his glory. He would intensify his presence and power in our midst. Let me remind you of what we have heard:

 

[Suzette Hattingh on the 27th of November 2012:] ... [At some time during the message] May I ask this beautiful church? Do you understand that your breakthrough that God gives you and even greater breakthroughs that will come to this church. There will be a time that this church would be too small. There would be a time that people would come here and it will be open a house – and I prophesy to you – this place will open twenty-four hours ... There will come a time [hold it – be quiet – wait] there will be a time that God will open this house twenty-four hours. There will be a time that you see manifestations in this house you have never seen before. There will be times that things will happen in this house that you will even wonder can this be God. There will be a time that you will start removing these benches. There will be a time that people are just lying under the power of God for hours. There will be a time that people will be walking over that porch – over that threshold – and be healed instantly. There will be at time that deliverances will take place. There will be a time that God has a purpose for this place to move in the power and the anointing like you have never seen before. There will be a time that many and all of you will be involved in signs, wonders and miracles

... And I thank you for that anointing right now to flow, Lord, in this place. Make this house like the days of Wigglesworth. Let it be a consuming fire. Wow. And I release in Jesus’ name that deep travail and that passion for prayer and that passion for evangelism, Lord, take the glory in this house out to the streets in Jesus’ name and I thank you for that right now ...

 

As a church – we have received these words from God – we have come into an agreement with them – and now we keep stirring our hunger and expectations for the breakthrough to come. Let the glory of God rest on this place. Every time I read an account of a previous revival or outpouring of God’s glory in history something inside me starts burning and I love that fire – (I protect that fire) – because I take it as a promise from God. He put it there and it is nothing more than trusting what the Bible promises and what God – especially last year – for us – backed up with more personal prophecies through people like Suzette Hattingh. God is faithful and he will keep his word.

I have the sense that we still need to work hard at accepting God’s way of operation which includes signs and wonders, miracles – a life lived in the power of the Holy Spirit. We – I – have not grown up with this. There is still much to be done among us so that we have a renewed mind – an expectation to do the same – and even greater – works as Jesus himself who turned water into wine, walked on water, commanded storms to subside, multiplied food, provided money from the mouth of a fish, filled the nets of fishermen, healed the sick, drove out demons, resurrected the dead, and so on.

According to the Bible – Jesus performed that many miracles that only a fraction of them could actually be recorded in the Bible:

 

John 20:30: Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book.

 

John 21:25: Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.

 

Jesus had experienced so much but he promised us even more. This is what he said:

 

John 14:11-14: ... believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

.

Therefore, I try to imagine what else might happen here in our church. What would an outpouring of God’s glory look like? We already havegold dustand supernatural oil manifesting on fingertips. There are healings and victories over demons. People come to faith. Above all – God is speaking to us. We listen to him in our prayer meetings. There are prophetic words and preaching – words of conviction, direction and encouragement. We are not lost. We know where to go. All of this is very good but what else might happen in this church?

Suzette Hattingh talked about people lying on the floor for hours under the power of God. She talked about so many people coming that we would remove the seating in our church and never close the doors to the building. We would take the glory of God out of here into the streets of our city. Manifestations – signs and wonders – would happen that we had never seen before and we would even wonder whether they could possibly be from God.

What might this mean? Listen to what happens in some other places. Could this be in store for us?

 

David Herzog: Glory Invasion, Shippensburg: Destiny Image 2007, p32-33: We are also witnessing people receive instant weight loss during our meetings. One man in Tennessee lost 70 pounds in one service after receiving a word of knowledge. In Las Vegas during the first night of meetings, about 20 women lost weight equal to five dress sizes ... When we counted all the offerings given by believers during the outreach, we ran short of what we needed to pay for the crusade expenses. The Lord told me to tell the counters to keep counting. As they did, the bills suddenly multiplied ... We have seen this miracle many times over ... Some even find money in their pockets and purses immediately after placing an offering in the basket. Others have discovered thousands of dollars in their bank account that was not there before ... In our meetings we are seeing more and more bald people receive instant hair growth. A lady in Prescott, Arizona, received hair growth while we were all watching ... We have also seen people with white hair have their hair turned to its original hair colour ...  

 

David Herzog: Glory Invasion, Shippensburg: Destiny Image 2007, p52: During a revival we held in Paris, France, in 1998 that lasted six months, we witnessed levitations or being lifted off the ground ... a 15-year-old girl in the back of the room slipped into deep travail and intercession for souls. While she was weeping she was suddenly lifted up 13 centimeters off the ground and then she flipped over, still in the air for a few more seconds, and then slowly came down ... [In 2010, I met a man in PNG who told me that God had lifted him into the air. I also know that Heidi Baker shared an experience like that.] ...

 

Frank Bartleman: Azusa Street, New Kensington: Whitaker House 1982, p53-54: Friday 15, at Azusa, the Spirit dropped the “heavenly chorus” into my soul. I found myself suddenly joining the rest who had received this supernatural gift. It was a spontaneous manifestation and rapture no earthly tongue can describe ... No one could understand this gift of song but those who had it. It was indeed a “new song” in The Spirit (Psalm 40:30, for example). When I first heard it i n the meetings, a great hunger entered my soul to receive it. I felt it would express my pent-up feelings.

I had not yet spoken in tongues, but the “new song” captured me. It was a gift from God of high order. No one had preached it. The Lord had sovereignly bestowed it ... It was exercised as the Spirit moved the possessors, either in solo fashion or by the company. It was sometimes without words, other times in tongues. The effect was wonderful on the people. It brought a heavenly atmosphere, as though the angels themselves were present and joining us ...

 

How would we receive such kind of miracles? Some of us would be happy and others would be sceptical. I think – (and this is just my view) – we are still in a stage where we are not quite comfortable with God doing too many things that are out of the ordinary. We are now used to thegold dustbut a new miracle would again require an adjustment. For us – there is still work to be done in getting our thinking aligned with God but – not discounting any of these miracle testimonies – not putting down anything that might happen in this church – we want the glory to pin us down and refresh us – (otherwise we cannot do God’s work) – not taking anything away from high expectations and excitement – the book of Revelation blows our mind with an even greater glory revival.

We may dream about our own little community and imagine that God will intensify his glory among us – for amazing worship services and mission work that is flowing from this place – but, in the book of Revelation, Jesus was coming for more than a local church. He was coming to unseat all of the political and spiritual powers of an empire – the ruling empire of the time – the Roman Empire – that spanned cities and countries across the continents of Europe, Asia and Africa. A similar revival in our time would mean that God would unseat all of the political and spiritual powers of the Western world. Imagine that God would remove by force ungodly governments, the powers that control the stock market, film productions and secular world-views. Imagine that God would clear the way again for his Word to be heard even in our nation.

In the book of Revelation, seven small churches in Asia Minor – a region in modern Turkey – were promised that Jesus was coming for a complete makeover of an empire. This is amazing.

 

Revelation 17:1-18: One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the punishment of the great prostitute, who sits on many waters. With her the kings of the earth committed adultery and the inhabitants of the earth were intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries.” Then the angel carried me away in the Spirit into a desert. There I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names and had seven heads and ten horns ...

When I saw her, I was greatly astonished. Then the angel said to me: “Why are you astonished? I will explain to you the mystery of the woman and of the beast she rides, which has the seven heads and ten horns. The beast, which you saw, ... will ... go to his destruction ... The seven heads are seven hills on which the woman sits. They are also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; but when he does come, he must remain for a little while. The beast ... is an eighth king. He belongs to the seven and is going to his destruction ... ”

Then the angel said to me, “The waters you saw, where the prostitute sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations and languages. The beast and the ten horns you saw will hate the prostitute. They will bring her to ruin and leave her naked; they will eat her flesh and burn her with fire. For God has put it into their hearts to accomplish his purpose by agreeing to give the beast their power to rule, until God’s words are fulfilled. The woman you saw is the great city that rules over the kings of the earth.”

 

Without going into details – this Bible passage predicts the destruction of a scarlet beast which – in the imagery of Revelation – represents the Roman Empire with its kings. [The seven heads also stand for seven hills which identify Rome because Rome was the capital city that was known to be built on seven hills.] Then, the prostitute that is riding the beast is also a global power which is also heading for destruction. She is thegreat city that rules over the kings of the earth” – where she sits “are peoples, multitudes, nations and languages” – but – when Jesus comes – she will also – like the beast – like the ruling empire of the day – be destroyed.

Are we ready for that kind of coming? Are we ready for that kind of glory which Jesus is going to bring to his name and his Father’s name? Friends – stir your passion, expand your vision, prepare to impact the culture of nations and watch something that is going to be far bigger than any local church. New miracles at Living Grace will be great – they belong to God’s people and their work – we need them and we enjoy them – but watch how God will deal with entire nations. If the book of Revelation is a guide – and God did promise that he is the same today as he was yesterday (cf. Hebrews 13:8) – the first chapter of Revelation declares God as the one “who is, and who was, and who is to come” (Revelation 1:4) – there is a consistency about him – therefore: Jesus – who is doing the Father’s will – is going to come with something amazing – power, glory, righteousness and victory for his people. Keep burning for him. Prepare yourself for this kind of his coming. Jesus will be there soon.

Let’s be practical for a moment. How can you prepare yourself for the coming of Jesus who is going to intensify his presence and establish his rule? This is where we are in for a surprise. Jesus appeared to John on Patmos – the prison island – when he and all the churches were doing it tough. They were suffering and even mourning the loss of life. Now – imagine that you were John. Imagine that you were in chains, separated from your loved ones, isolated and stuck in prison somewhere – then Jesus appears to you – how would you expect him to come to you? I would want him to commiserate with me. I would want an arm around my shoulder – some nice and gentle words – a cup of tea and a biscuit. I would want respite from patient endurance.

However, Jesus did not pay John a pastoral visit. The whole experience was encouraging but – at the same time – increased – not decreased – the pressure on John and the churches. Jesus was so loud – his voice like a trumpet and rushing waterfalls – so glorious – brilliant as the sun – so scary – eyes like blazing fire and a sharp sword coming out of his mouth – that John fell down at Jesus’ feet like a dead man – full of fear and without any strength. He immediately relearned an important lesson: Don’t fear those that put you in prison – don’t fear those that make you suffer and cut you down with words – fear him who isthe ruler of the kings of the earth”. Jesus had said earlier – Luke 12:4-5: “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.” [Revelation 14:7: “ ... Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgement has come.”]

Jesus also touched John and said to him – Revelation 1:17-18: “Do not be afraid ... ” but by then he had made his point. He was more fearsome than his enemies and he said – Revelation 1:17-18: “ ... I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.”

John was suffering on the island of Patmos and the churches were also suffering. Jesus promised them that he would be coming soon – a breakthrough was coming – his glory and righteousness – but an early vision of Jesus scared John – put the fear of God in him – prepared him with an overwhelming experience – and then – before Jesus would move and pour down his presence on the empire of the time – he communicated seven personal letters to the seven churches in John’s care to prepare them for what was coming and these letters – like the vision that John received – were also not pastoral in nature – not meek and mild and nice – not spelling out soft words like “oh, poor congregation” and “deary me”.

Instead of promising easy love, Jesus threatened judgement. The churches were suffering; therefore waiting for the promised coming of Jesus in an outpouring of his glory – they were desperate for relief – but – far from throwing a pity party – this was now the time to exercise discipline and sort out problems in the camp. This was now the time of reckoning with Jesus the judge. This was not the time for making excuses for sin – [saying, “I work so hard – I suffer so much – that a little sin will not matter”] – but demand holiness.

I read to you the first of the seven letters to the churches and you will get the flavour of Jesus’ attitude:

 

Revelation 2:1-7: To the ... church in Ephesus write: ... I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.

Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your [from my presence] ... But you have this in your favour: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate ...

 

This letter from Jesus is plain scary. Who among us can handle these words? Who can stand before him? These Christians in Ephesus were working hard, persevered, expelled wickedness from their midst, discerned whether leaders were of God or not, endured hardship and did not grow weary but Jesus was still not happy and threatened them with condemnation – removing them from his presence – because they no longer loved him with passion like they did in the beginning. Thefirst lovehad grown cold.

Wow! What was Jesus doing here? He promised to come soon but then threatened that his coming to them – the revival that they had been waiting for – would not bring joy to them but remove them from God. What is going here? We sample a few more verses from Jesus’ letters to the churches:

 

Revelation 2:14-16: Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: There are some among you who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin so that they ate food sacrificed to idols and committed sexual immorality. Likewise, you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.

 

[The sword that was coming out of Jesus’ mouth in the vision of John threatened to strike down the church first before Jesus would deal with wicked governments. Jesus would be coming soon but unless there was repentance, the outcome would not be pleasant for the church.]

 

Revelation 2:20-23: Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.

 

[Jesus had been giving them time to repent but he is coming and judgement is coming with him.]

 

Revelation 3:1-3: To the ... church in Sardis write: ... I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God ... But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.

 

Revelation 3:15-19: I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.  You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent.

 

[Jesus again threatened horrific judgement. He would be spitting them out of his mouth. This is how dangerous his coming would be but – at the same time – he assured them that he loved them because those whom Jesus loves, he rebukes.]

 

Why would the book of Revelation which prophesied the coming of Jesus in power and glory to sort out governments and nations – prophesying a glorious future – begin with these seven stern letters to seven churches? There is no other way to prepare forrevival”. There is no other way to prepare for an intensifying of God’s presence because he is holy and the closer his holiness comes to you, the more his holiness is going to confront whatever is unclean and disobedient in you (cf. Acts 5:1-11; compare with 1 Samuel 2:1-17,22; 3:1-3 and the delayed judgement in a season of lesser glory). [This is also why demons manifested in the presence of Jesus.] The church may be suffering already but this is no excuse for dropping God’s standards. If you want him – more of him – you must be obedient to him – commit to holiness. Otherwise, there are consequences. When Jesus comes, he will not just deal with the wickedness of the world but also with us – in fact, he will deal with us first. The Bible says – 1 Peter 4:17: “For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?”

Jesus wrote seven stern letters to the churches but he did not write them in anger but love. Those whom he loves, he rebukes so that they have a chance to repent and enjoy his coming. Are you taking this on board? Are we willing and do we know now how to get ready for what is coming? What kind of letter would Jesus write to Living Grace?

 

We may also consider the “toughness” of the following testimony and the judging nature of God’s presence:

 

Loren Cunningham: Making Jesus Lord, Seattle: YWAM Publishing, 1988, p11-14: ... The last thing I remembered was glancing sleepily at my wife, Darlene, who was driving our Volkswagen van ... I’d driven all night and, around 6am, given the wheel to Darlene ... The last few weeks had wrung everything out of me. We’d just come from a meeting with the head of our denomination. Because of my choice to start an interdenominational mission, I chose to give up my ministerial status with the church. It was a tough choice ...

There was something else, too. A short time before, I had turned down my aunt’s offer to join her in a multi-million dollar business. That, too, would have conflicted with what God was telling me to do ...

So I had burned all my bridges behind me ... I’d laid down both my chance for a bright financial future and the prospects of a successful career in the church. I’d given up everything to follow the Lord’s call to pioneer an international mission. It was just Darlene and me now. There was almost nothing left to give up.

... I startled from sleep, to find myself rolling around violently inside the van, tossed like a wad of paper. With a sickening crunch of metal and glass, the van was rolling, from its side to its top, to its other side down the highway while my head and body slammed painfully against the inside walls.

Suddenly I was flung out of a side window as far as my waist. The pavement came rushing up at my face, while the van continued to roll on top of me. Knowing I’d be crushed, I slapped my hands against the pavement and pushed myself back inside.

Then  everything went black. I must have regained consciousness only seconds later, for I was outside the van and clouds of dust were just settling around me, revealing the bleakest, most barren desert I had ever seen. Not a house or tree in sight. Struggling, I sat up in a daze. Nothing looked familiar. Something warm and wet began running down my head. I reached up to wipe it away and my fingers came down covered with blood. My head ached, and I couldn’t make sense of what I was doing sitting in this wreckage.

To my left lay the crushed heap that was our van. Scattered around me were all the things we owned – suitcases were strewn about, some broken open, with shirts, underwear and socks laying in the dirt.

For one frozen minute I tried to think. What had happened? ... My heart lurched. Frantically, I scrambled to my knees. Where was Darlene? Then I saw her – unmoving. She lay face down under a heavy suitcase a few yards away.

“Darlene!” I screamed her name, crawling towards her. There was a brick in my stomach. Lifting the suitcase off of her, I saw that a gash had opened her heard in the back. Gently, I turned her over. She was not breathing. Her eyes were wide open. Unseeing. Fixed.

Cradling her bruised, bloody head in my lap, I rocked her. She’s gone! Tears ran down my cheeks. I thought I had lost so much when I gave up my aunt’s business offer and my ministerial credentials. But now, in a moment’s time everything was lost – our van was totalled, our belongings were scattered in the dust of the desert, and the one person who mattered most to me was dead.

I looked around wildly at the wreckage. It seemed to symbolize our life. All was gone. Gusts of wind blew stinging needles of sand in my face.

What happened next on that desolate stretch of desert road defies all reason. There, with not a living thing around me for miles, a voice spoke my name aloud. “Loren!” I looked around. Then I knew. Even though I had never heard His voice with my ears before, I recognized it as the voice of God.

“Yes, Lord?” I responded, my voice choked with emotion. “Loren, will you still serve me?” Why did he have to ask me? There was nothing else left in my life but Him. Through tears I looked into the clear desert sky and answered. “Yes, Lord, I’ll serve you. I have nothing left except my life … and you can have that, too.”

In a moment, the Lord spoke a second time. “Pray for Darlene.” Until I heard those words, I hadn’t even thought of praying. I thought she was dead. But I began to pray with all my might. To my astonishment, she drew a rattly-sounding breath. She was fighting to breathe, still unconscious.

Other things began to happen ... In a little over an hour, we were in an ambulance ... As I sat beside Darlene in the ambulance, God spoke to me for the third time, this time inside my mind. He said that Darlene was going to be okay. As soon as those words flashed into my mind, she opened her eyes, rolled her head slightly on the gurney and smiled at me …

Later, there was astounding news. Darlene and I found out that at the same hour as our accident, a group of ladies were gathered in a Los Angeles suburb for their Thursday morning prayer meeting. One woman who knew of us and our work had told the group she believed they were to pray for Loren and Darlene Cunningham. They started to intercede. That same morning, in northern California, a friend named Berniece Coff Siegel felt she was not to eat lunch, but to spend the time praying for us instead ...

[Before Jesus would say any words of comfort, he confronted Loren Cunningham with a commitment to serve him. This was tough but the necessary preparation for his coming in one of the biggest mission organizations which Loren would build and lead (Youth With A Mission).]

 

Frank Bartleman: Azusa Street, New Kensington: Whitaker House 1982, p52: The false was sifted out from the real by the Spirit of God. The Word of God itself decided absolutely all issues. The hearts of the people, both in act and motive, were searched to the very bottom. It was no joke to become one of that company. No man “durst ... join himself to them” (Acts 5:13) unless he meant business. It meant a dying out and cleaning up process in those days to receive the baptism. We had a “tarrying room” upstairs for those especially seeking God for the Holy Spirit baptism, though many got it in the main assembly room also. In fact, they often got it in their seats in those days.

The Spirit worked very deeply in the tarrying room. An unquiet spirit or a thoughtless talker was immediately reproved by the Spirit. We were on holy ground (Exodus 3:5). This atmosphere was unbearable to those with a carnal spirit. They generally gave this room a wide berth unless they had been thoroughly subdued and burned out. Only honest seekers sought it, those who really meant business with God ...

 

Frank Bartleman: Azusa Street, New Kensington: Whitaker House 1982, p58-59: Someone might be speaking. Suddenly the Spirit would fall upon the congregation. God himself would give the altar call. Men would fall all over the house, like the slain in battle, or rush for the altar en masse to seek God. The scene often resembled a forest of fallen trees. Such a scene cannot be imitated ... And the preacher knew when to quit. When God spoke, we all obeyed. It seemed a fearful thing to hinder or grieve the Spirit. The whole place was steeped in prayer. God was in his holy temple. It was for man to keep silent. The Shekinah glory rested there. In fact, some claim to have seen the glory by night over the building. I do not doubt it. I have stopped more than once within two blocks of the place and prayed for strength before I dared to go on. The presence of the Lord was so real.

Presumptuous men would sometimes come among us. Especially preachers who would try to spread their opinions. But their efforts were short-lived. The breath would be taken from them. Their minds would wander, their brains reel. Things would turn black before their eyes. They could not go on. I never saw one get by with it in those days. They were up against God. No one cut them off; we simply prayed – the Holy Spirit did the rest. We wanted the Spirit to control. He wound them up in short order. They were carried out dead, spiritually speaking. They generally bit the dust in humility, going through the process we had all gone through. In other words, they died out, and came to see themselves in all their weakness. Then, in childlike humility and confession, they were taken up by God and transformed through the mighty baptism in the Spirit. The “old man” (Romans 6:6) died with all his pride, arrogance, and good works ...

 

I may also add the observation that we must never lose sight of good works and their importance. While I mentioned earlier that we need a renewing of the mind for more miracles and allowing God to operate in supernatural ways through signs and wonder – healings and prophetic words – Jesus clarified to the churches that his fundamental demand is for obedience and faithfulness – loving him before anything else. Obedience is the gateway for his rewards which outstrip even the best spiritual gifts – Revelation 3:21: “To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne.”

[Jesus was coming soon but his coming was of a kind that also brought judgement. Previously, he had performed miracles without judging those that were rejecting him (cf. Luke 9:51-56) but the season was going to change soon and Jesus would no longer delay the consequences of opposing him (Luke 19:41-44). He would soon establish his rule with righteous judgements. We may be used to hearing about Jesus’ “soft” comings – (we often seem to preach grace without judgement) – (we remember the miracle worker before he came to Jerusalem) – but God insists on “harvesting” what he has “sown” in love. Seasons come when Jesus is going to judge people’s response to him.]

Jesus promised John that he would be coming soon and he showed him how his coming would unseat the ruling empire of the world – the scarlet “beast” with seven heads and ten horns – andthe city that rules over the kings of the earth”. Jesus would establish his reign. The churches would experience a breakthrough of victory. There was even a promise of a thousand years of glory – thousand years of ruling and reigning with Christ (Revelation 20:1-6).

Only – as the book of Revelation unfolds – the coming of Jesus commenced with a confusing season of conflicting messages. On the one hand – Jesus was dealing with his enemies but – on the other hand – his enemies never persecuted the church as hard as then. The season of breakthrough against God’s enemies was – at the same time – the season of the most intense suffering of Christians at their hands. Let me give you a few Bible verses from Revelation:

 

Revelation 9:13-21: The sixth angel sounded his trumpet, and I heard a voice coming from the four horns of the golden altar that is before God. It said to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, “Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.” And the four angels who had been kept ready for this very hour and day and month and year were released to kill a third of mankind. The number of the mounted troops was twice ten thousand times ten thousand. I heard their number.

The horses and riders I saw in my vision looked like this: Their breastplates were fiery red, dark blue, and yellow as sulphur. The heads of the horses resembled the heads of lions, and out of their mouths came fire, smoke and sulphur. A third of mankind was killed by the three plagues of fire, smoke and sulphur that came out of their mouths. The power of the horses was in their mouths and in their tails; for their tails were like snakes, having heads with which they inflict injury.

The rest of mankind who were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands; they did not stop worshiping demons, and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood—idols that cannot see or hear or walk. Nor did they repent of their murders, their magic arts, their sexual immorality or their thefts.

 

Revelation 13:1-7: ... And I saw a beast coming out of the sea. It had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on its horns, and on each head a blasphemous name ... It was given power to wage war against God’s holy people and to conquer them. And it was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation.

 

Revelation 16:1-6: Then I heard a loud voice from the temple saying to the seven angels, “Go, pour out the seven [last] bowls of God’s wrath on the earth.” The first angel went and poured out his bowl on the land, and ugly, festering sores broke out on the people who had the mark of the beast and worshiped its image. The second angel poured out his bowl on the sea, and it turned into blood like that of a dead person, and every living thing in the sea died. The third angel poured out his bowl on the rivers and springs of water, and they became blood. Then I heard the angel in charge of the waters say: “You are just in these judgments, O Holy One, you who are and who were; for they have shed the blood of your holy people and your prophets, and you have given them blood to drink as they deserve.”

 

Revelation 17:1-18: One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came ... the angel carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness. There I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names and had seven heads and ten horns ... I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of God’s holy people, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus ... The ten horns ... are ten kings who ... have one purpose and will give their power and authority to the beast. They will wage war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will triumph over them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings—and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers ... The woman you saw is the great city that rules over the kings of the earth.

 

How can the coming of Jesus be such bad news for Christians – at least in the beginning? John was already suffering on the prison island of Patmos but worse was to come. As Jesus would release plagues of destruction against his enemies – any demonized power – they would make life intolerable for Christians. How are we to understand this?

 It has happened before. The whole dynamic of Jesus’ coming in Revelation is already foreshadowed in the way God has come to the rescue of his people in Egypt. This is what happened in the past and played out again in the book of Revelation. [See attachment.]

The people of God were in slavery in Egypt. They were suffering – like John on the island of Patmos and the churches – but had heard their cries and was announcing a breakthrough of his glory:

 

Exodus 3:7-8: The LORD said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey ... ”

 

However – as soon as the rescue mission started – the suffering of God’s people increased. They were even more persecuted:

 

Exodus 5:1-9: Afterward Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘Let my people go, so that they may hold a festival to me in the wilderness.’” ... That same day Pharaoh gave this order to the slave drivers and overseers in charge of the people: “You are no longer to supply the people with straw for making bricks; let them go and gather their own straw. But require them to make the same number of bricks as before; don’t reduce the quota. They are lazy; that is why they are crying out, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to our God.’ Make the work harder for the people so that they keep working and pay no attention to lies.”

 

Exodus 14:3-31: “Pharaoh will think, ‘The Israelites are wandering around the land in confusion, hemmed in by the desert.’ And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them. But I will gain glory for myself through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD.” So the Israelites did this.

When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, Pharaoh and his officials changed their minds about them and said, “What have we done? We have let the Israelites go and have lost their services!” So he had his chariot made ready and took his army with him ...

As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the LORD ... Then the LORD said to Moses, “ ... Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground. I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them. And I will gain glory through Pharaoh and all his army, through his chariots and his horsemen. The Egyptians will know that I am the LORD when I gain glory through Pharaoh, his chariots and his horsemen.” ...

The water flowed back and covered the chariots and horsemen—the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed the Israelites into the sea. Not one of them survived. But the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left. That day the LORD saved Israel from the hands of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the shore. And when the Israelites saw the mighty hand of the LORD displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the LORD and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant.

 

As God comes to deal with his enemies and deliver his people, the breakthrough always comes with opposition – even opposition instigated by God – God would harden hearts – so that the breakthrough would bring even greater glory to him. Against all odds – against all the raging and frothing of Satan and his followers – God would prevail. There is none like him.

 

The people of Israel – just as God’s people in Revelation – would be spared from some of the plagues:

 

Exodus 8:22-23: ‘But on that day I will deal differently with the land of Goshen, where my people live; no swarms of flies will be there, so that you will know that I, the LORD, am in this land. I will make a distinction between my people and your people. This sign will occur tomorrow.’ See also Exodus 9:2-4, 11-12; 10:22-23 and 11:4-8.

 

Exodus 12:12-13: On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn of both people and animals, and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the LORD. The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.

 

Revelation 9:3-4: And out of the smoke locusts came down on the earth and were given power like that of scorpions of the earth. They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any plant or tree, but only those people who did not have the seal of God on their foreheads.

 

However – instead of the plagues and acts of judgement from God – there would be persecution and much suffering. In the letters to the churches – Jesus said – Revelation 2:10: “ ... Be faithful, even to the point of death ... ”

 

Once more – what this means for us is the need for thorough preparation. Jesus will come but his holiness will not only judge the wickedness of the world but also the wickedness of the church and his coming triggers a battle with his enemies who fight back by persecuting the church. Therefore – church – Christians here at Living Grace – take the preparation time seriously. Do not slacken off. Brace yourself. Be disciplined.

The letters to the churches may have sounded harsh to us – especially the first one – but no church will continue with hard work and perseverance when the passion for Jesus is no longer there. You will not maintain the habit of commitment – going to church, tithing money, helping your neighbour, pray and fast – when increased suffering and persecution are challenging your allegiance to Jesus. Unless you prepare for the coming of Jesus, you will not be able to face him or the opposition which he stirs up.

One last observation. We like the news of Jesus’ coming soon and the thoughts of revival. We look forward to new miracles, powerful encounters with the glory of God, waves of people being saved, righteous government and the transformation of our culture. We like to see great things but – in the book of Revelation – Jesus shifts the focus from this life to the next. Not everyone that remains faithful to him will see the victories of his glory in this life. Many will die in the persecution before the final breakthrough. But this is okay – also for you. Our real goal – and we may never lose sight of the promise – is the glory in eternal life. If we never ourselves see the fullness of a revived church and reformed country, we still give our all to Jesus. We give our lives – we don’t count the cost – it’s not about us but Jesus – and then others – maybe the next generation – (I trust that it will be sooner in our case) – will be around when thescarlet beastof our times is defeated.

This is important – among all the setbacks (such as opposition to the Holy Spirit and disunity). Live with eternity fixed on your heart and mind. Jesus hammered this point. He said to the churches:

 

Revelation 2:7: ... To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.

 

Revelation 2:11: ... He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death.

 

Revelation 2:17: ... To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.

 

Revelation 2:26-28: And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations—‘He shall rule them with a rod of iron; They shall be dashed to pieces like the potter’s vessels’—as I also have received from My Father; and I will give him the morning star.

 

Revelation 3:5: He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.

 

Revelation 3:12: He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name.

 

Revelation 3:21: To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.

 

An outpouring of God’s glory in Toowoomba would be so great but it will only be a stage on the way. We are all heading to another place and want to take as many as possible with us. Jesus died on the cross for our sins and then rose from the dead so that we can be with him in the eternal glory of heaven.

Listen to how he introduced himself to John and the churches:

 

Revelation 1:17-18: ... Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.

 

However – back to the prophetic promises of Jesus coming to our church – do you still want him to come? Are you willing to prepare yourself? Are you willing to remove sin from your life so that the holiness of God is not going to remove you from his presence? Are you willing to endure the backlash from God’s enemies when Jesus brings down their power? Are you willing to give your lives to this cause – for Jesus? Jesus will come soon and he will break through – in this life and – most importantly – in eternity.

I summarize some of the points of this message:

 

1. We have received prophecies that Jesus would be coming soon.

2. There is still much to be done in the renewing of our mind so that we are prepared for the glory of God and the supernatural realm of his presence. We need to learn more about miracles, signs and wonders, prophetic words and supernatural means of conversion.

3. In the book of Revelation, Jesus was coming for more than a local church.

4. In the book of Revelation – not downplaying our own need to learn more about miracles – Jesus was coming to unseat all of the political and spiritual powers of an empire.

5. Jesus prepared John and the churches by putting the fear of God in them – rather than the fear of their persecutors.

6. Jesus was not commiserating with the suffering churches but threatened judgement because his intensifying presence would not tolerate sin – especially not inside the church.

7. Jesus disciplines those whom he loves.

8. Obedience is the gateway for his eternal rewards which outstrip even the best spiritual gifts.

9. The season of breaking through against the enemies of God is also the season of persecution at their hands.

10. We need to prepare ourselves for the fight back of God’s enemies and guard our passion for Jesus.

11. Not everyone will see the final breakthrough in this life but this is okay because the ultimate goal is to be in the glory of God in heaven.

12. Jesus is alive for ever and ever and holds the keys to eternal life.

 

We get ready for what is coming. May Jesus not hold anything against us but find us prepared. Come, Jesus, come. Amen.

 

Attachment: The following excerpts demonstrates the intentional connection between the deliverance of God’s people from slavery in Egypt and the situation in the book of Revelation.

 

John Ben-Daniel: The Imagery of the Book of Revelation: The Identification and Importance of its Dominant Theme, p12-15 (http://www.newtorah.org/pdf/Imagery%20in%20the%20Book%20of%20Revelation.pdf, accessed on 23rd March 2012): This exodus theme in the book of Revelation regards allusions to the liberation of the Israelites from Egypt narrated in the book of Exodus. It includes the preparations leading up to the Israel’s Exodus and their subsequent wanderings in the desert, up to their entrance into the Promised Land. From the time of Deutero-Isaiah the Exodus account had become the model for expressing the eschatological liberation expected in the future, so the occurrence of this theme in the book of Revelation follows a very ancient tradition.

The first mention of the exodus theme in Revelation is in praise of Jesus Christ: “who loves us and freed us from his sins with his blood, and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be the glory and the might for ever and ever, amen” (Rev 1,5-6). Just as God freed the Israelites from Egypt and invited them to become “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Ex 19,6), so Christ, through the shedding of his blood, has freed us from sin and made us a kingdom and priests to God. This is the text’s first affirmation of the representation of the Christian life as a new exodus, not from Egypt, but from sin, in a way that combines the exodus theme of redemption with divine reconciliation and expiation of sin. Later in the text, Christ is portrayed as a Lamb (Rev 5,6), whose blood “bought people for God, from every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and made them a kingdom and priests for our God, and they shall reign on the earth” (5,9-10). There seems to be a parallel, here, between Christ the Lamb and the Passover lambs, whose blood preserved the Israelites from death on the first Passover night and helped bring about their departure from Egypt, so they could go on to become God’s Covenant people (cf. 1Cor 5:7). On reflection, however, the role of the first Passover lambs cannot be compared with the redemptive role of Christ. Nevertheless, the broader exodus theme of redeeming slaves or prisoners, in order to bring them close to God, is certainly present in this passage.

After a considerable pause, the next time we meet the exodus theme is in the descriptions of the judgment ‘plagues’ that follow the seven trumpets blasts (Rev 8–9) and bowl outpourings (Rev 16). Here there are several allusions to the plagues of Egypt that Moses announced. The 1st trumpet plague (8,7) recalls the plague of the hail (Ex 9,23-25; Wis 16,16-19); the 2nd plague (Rev 8,8-9) recalls the plague of blood (Ex 7,20-21); the 4th plague (Rev 8,12) recalls the plague of darkness (Ex 10,21-23); the 5th plague (Rev 9,1-11) recalls the plague of the locusts (Ex 10,12-15) and the intervention of the destroying angel (Ex 12,23); the death of a third of mankind (Rev 9,18) in the 6th plague (9,13-19) may allude to the death of the first-born (Ex 11,29-30) and the refusal of people to repent (Rev 9,20-21) recalls various passages of reflection and commentary on the plagues of Egypt (Wis 11–12).

The 7th trumpet leads into the outpouring of the 7 bowls (the 3rd woe; Rev 11,14-15), whose plagues are even more severe than those of the trumpet series. In the same way, however, some of the bowl plagues are described with partial allusions to the plagues of Egypt: the 1st and 5th bowl plagues (Rev 16,2.10-11) resemble the plague of boils (Ex 9,8-12); the 2nd and 3rd bowl plagues (Rev 16,3-4) evoke the turning of the River Nile into blood and the death of its fish (Ex 14-24); the 5th bowl plague speaks of darkness falling on the kingdom of the beast (16,10) and resembles the plague of darkness (Ex 10,21-29). Finally, after the 7th bowl there is a terrible plague of hail (Rev 16,21) that evokes the plague of hail and fire (Ex 9,13-35).

In these passages of Revelation, however, it is evident that the allusions to the ‘plagues of Egypt’, which made way for the exodus of the Israelites, are not taken in any order, neither in their entirety. Similarly, not all aspects of the trumpet and bowl plagues allude to the plagues of Egypt (e.g., Rev 9,13-19; 16,8-9; 16,12-16). The allusions are neither comprehensive nor systematic. In fact, the plagues of the trumpets and bowls appear to differ from the plagues of Egypt in almost every way. The use of exodus language to describe the trumpet and bowl plagues is most probably related to the fact that the greatest concentration of allusions to the exodus theme is found enclosed by these plagues (i.e., Rev 10–15). The use of exodus language to describe the judgment plagues signals the way these chapters should be understood: as an eschatological exodus recalling the ancient exodus pattern of biblical judgment and salvation—judgment on the worldly Egyptians and salvation for the faithful Israelites.

So moving on to these intervening chapters (Rev 10–15), we first encounter the exodus theme in the cloud, the column of smoke and in the ‘voices’ of the seven thunders described by the author in his meeting with the mighty angel (10,1-4). These phenomena all recall the ‘signs and portents’ that accompanied the theophany on Mt. Sinai (Ex 19,16-21).

The corollary to this is that the little open scroll in the hand of the angel is analogous to the ‘Word of God’ given to Moses in the form of the Torah (cf. Acts 7,38), thus identifying John, the author, as a ‘new Moses’ and the scroll he received and recorded as a new Torah. Furthermore, just as the revelation on Mt. Sinai involved Moses in the construction and consecration of a dwelling for God (Ex 25,8), so also John is given a cane ‘similar to a rod’ and is entrusted with an analogous task, that of measuring “the Sanctuary of God, the altar and those who are worshipping there” (Rev 11,1-2). With the prophetic ministry of Moses in the background, there is an obvious parallel between the ‘cane similar to a rod’ given to John and ‘the rod of God’ with which Moses performed his miracles (Ex 4,17.20). In this context, it is significant that many of the miracles performed by the two witnesses vividly recall those made by Moses (Rev 11,6). Significant, also, is the fact that these two witnesses are put to death “on the street of the great city which is spiritually called Sodom and Egypt, where indeed their Lord was crucified.” (11,8). At this point, the city where their Lord was crucified, once spiritually called Zion, becomes spiritually identified with Sodom and Egypt, two cities which the people of God had to leave in a hurry. Implied is an eschatological exodus of God’s people from Jerusalem (cf. Mt 24,15-21; Mk 13,14-19).

The eschatological exodus of God’s people from Jerusalem and elsewhere appears to be one of the main subjects of the next section, though it is described in a somewhat mystical way, by means of three signs that, at a certain time, are seen in heaven. The first sign is of a glorious woman who is about to give birth to the messiah (Rev 12,1-2) and the second sign is of a dragon, who is waiting to devour her child (12,3-4). On giving birth, the woman flees to a place prepared for her in the desert, where she will be nourished for a certain period and protected from the dragon (12,6.14). The entire account of the flight of this woman to the desert is described in terms taken from the exodus of the ancient Israelites: the dragon, which evokes Pharaoh or Egypt (cf. Isa 51,9; Ezek 29.3; 32,2), pursues the woman who was ‘given the two wings of the great eagle’ to fly to the desert, as were the ancient Israelites (Ex 19,4; Dt 32,11). She will also be nourished miraculously, as were the Israelites (manna, quails). The dragon’s pursuit of the woman evokes the pursuit of the Egyptian army (Ex 14), and her rescue ‘by the earth opening her mouth’ evokes their defeat (Ex 15,12). At this point, there is a link with the 144,000 men with the Lamb on Mt Zion, considered in the previous section as a messianic army, for “while their number leads us to consider them alongside the people of Rev 7, their preservation in a geographical location evokes the flight of the woman whom God welcomes and protects in the wilderness (Rev 12:6,14)”.

The third sign represents the divine judgments that bring an end to history (15,1.5-8; cf. 11,19). At the same time, the author sees the victorious martyrs in heaven singing ‘the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb’ (15,3-4)—a title that not only recalls the celebration of the Israelites after the defeat of Pharaoh’s army (cf. Ex 15), but it also suggests a correspondence between ‘the glassy sea mixed with fire’, on which they stand, with the Red Sea through which the Israelites passed on their way to redemption. The words of the original ‘song of Moses’ (Ex 15,1-2) are also reflected in the praise of salvation proclaimed by the martyrs in an earlier vision (Rev 7,9-17; esp. 7,10), after they pass through the great tribulation, washing and bleaching their robes in the blood of the Lamb.

After the bowl plagues, the exodus theme disappears from the text, in order to give way to other themes (messianic war; justice and judgment), but it reappears at the end of Revelation, in the attainment of the holy city (Rev 21-22), with the author eyeing this promised reward from a great and high mountain, as Moses glimpsed the Promised Land from the peak of Mt. Nebo (Dt 34,1-3).

From the short review presented above, it can be seen that the exodus theme is employed extensively in Revelation to describe the events leading up to the eschatological salvation of the people of God. Its greatest use is to be found in chapters 8–16.