New Wine for New Wineskins July 2019

By , July 1, 2019 6:12 am
Dè an uair a tha e?
The title of this month’s New Wine for New Wineskins is simply a question in Gaelic, “What time is it?”

Have you ever been in a situation where you have been so busy working on something that when someone has come to you and said, “Do you know what time it is?” you have had to reply that you have no idea.  All you know is that the time has passed and that it must be getting near to winding up time.

Or have you ever worked with someone who is a “clock-watcher” who kept reminding you every few minutes what the time was, and who was obviously more interested in how long it was to finishing time than they were in getting the work done?

Acts 1: 4 – 11

4 And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,” He said, “you have heard from Me; 5 for John truly baptised with water, but you shall be baptised with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” 6 Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. 8 But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” 9 Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. 10 And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, 11 who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.”
We are to be busy working – not watching the clock!  All we need to know is that Jesus’ return is nearer now than when we first believed!  It is getting closer to finishing time!

Romans 13: 11

11 And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.

The weapons of mass distraction that the enemy employs are really weapons of mass destruction, because he comes to steal, kill and ultimately to destroy.  How much resources of time, talent, and treasure do you think are diverted from the work of the kingdom to the study of end-time prophecy?  Especially considering that – according to our Lord Jesus Christ – this is something that we have not been given authority or responsibility for.  Do you think that maybe it is a strategy of mass distraction that the enemy of our souls hopes will result in mass destruction of many of the precious lives for whose salvation Jesus has already paid?

I have listened to and read a fair bit of the teaching from many of the multi-faceted angles on the end-time scenario and to be honest all of the conflicting views can actually be very plausible.  But is the fact that we have been given no authority over the time of the end the reason why there is so little actual revelation of truth in regard to this subject?  Personally, I think so.

There are those who advocate a last-days remnant and there are those who proclaim an
end-time harvest of greater proportions than anything ever witnessed before.  I definitely know which of these two options I choose to believe for.

And then there is question of the seven-year tribulation period.  Will there actually be one, and if so will the church be around during this period or not?  Or will the church have been raptured (caught up) before this time?  Is this rapture – if it happens – going to be pre-trib, post-trib, or the relatively new option of mid-trib?  Or as one preacher liked to say – pan-trib – it will all pan out in the end!

Next there is the question of the millenium.  Is this is a literal thousand years or not?  If it is a literal thousand year period, then is the final judgement pre-millenial or post-millenial? It is not uncommon in end-time prophecy circles to hear someone refer to themselves as a “pre-tribulation pre-millenialist ” meaning that their eschatological beliefs are centred on pre-tribulation pre-millenialism.  But then you know what “isms ” cause?  That’s right – schisms!  And so there are several other combinations of “isms ” that are adhered to by good people who are equally sure that theirs is the right interpretation of Bible prophecy.

There is even a whole systematic theology known as “dispensationalism” that has probably impacted the belief systems of most of us to some extent through teaching we have heard or books we have read.

That is why we need to do what Jesus said and dig down deep through all of the “stuff” in order to clearly hear what he says and to build our lives – our house – on that solid foundation.

I have heard people argue that the study of end-time prophecy is just so “fascinating”.  Do you know what the origins of the word “fascinate” are?  It originally meant “to bewitch or put under a spell”.  Listen to one dictionary definition – (esp. of a snake) deprive (a person or animal) of the ability to resist or escape by the power of a look or gaze: e.g. the serpent fascinates its prey. Does that sound like a powerful distraction to anyone?  I have to admit that there have been times when I have been fascinated and distracted!

2 Corinthians 11: 1 – 4

1 Oh, that you would bear with me in a little folly—and indeed you do bear with me. 2 For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. 3 But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. 4 For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted—you may well put up with it!

A couple of simple tests that I like to apply to all teaching that I hear these days – regardless of how plausible or fascinating it may appear superficially – are: Does this teaching inspire faith or fear?  Is there hope for all people in this message, or are some people already written off or excluded?

In Acts 1: 6 – 11 it is clear that the disciples are still thinking politically, whereas Jesus is speaking to them about the kingdom of God – the kingdom of heaven.  Jesus will return!  But we are not to be limited to being sky-gazers – we are to focus on the commission we have been given!

Matthew 24: 45 – 46

45 “Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his master made ruler over his household, to give them food in due season? 46 Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing.

It would seem that if we want to be blessed – to stay blessed to be a blessing – that it is important that we keep our eye on the ball and remember that we are here to reach the world with the good news of the kingdom – that salvation, healing, and deliverance have been provided for all!

Jesus gave us one simple and absolute requirement that must be met before the end, one that reaffirms the importance of our commitment to fulfilling the commission we have been given without distraction.

Matthew 24: 14

14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.

We cannot know when that requirement has been fully met, but it has been committed to us to ensure that it is met, and then the end will come!

Personally, I want to be a preacher who declares the whole counsel of God – who, like Paul (Acts 20), can say that I have kept back nothing that is helpful to you but have proclaimed it to you publicly and from house to house.

The prophecy contained in Isaiah 61 regarding “the day of God’s vengeance” will be fulfilled when this day of God’s favour – the day when the free favours of God profusely abound to the point of extravagant excess – is over.  And so, it is my duty to make that clear even though my primary function is to continue to announce the good news of this day of favour.  In fact, part of the good news is that the day of vengeance is coming because there is a devil and his hordes that require to be removed from the scene once and for all and forever!

And so, there are things regarding the end times that I can’t say categorically will happen in the way that they are sometimes taught by end-time prophecy teachers, but there are some things that I can tell you with certainty, and so that is what I want to do.

I can tell without a shadow of a doubt that Jesus will return!  And I can also tell you – directly from Scripture – certain other truths in regard to the Father’s will concerning the time of the end.

I have three points that I would like to make in relation to this subject.

FATHER’S PATIENCE

2 Peter 3: 1 – 9

1 Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle (in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder), 2 that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Saviour, 3 knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, 4 and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” 5 For this they wilfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, 6 by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. 7 But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. 8 But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is long-suffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

There was an incident several years ago through which I experienced extraordinary pain.  Not physical pain, although it almost felt physical in some way.  It was an intense emotional pain that was attached to a great sense of loss.

Back then I drive a school bus.  I had been doing the same run for about fifteen years and for the first twelve years or so the first passengers on the bus had been one or more of my own children as I began my run from outside our house.  Initially they were traveling the twenty miles to school in Stornoway, but after they left school I also had at least one of my children travel with me to their place of employment if it was on the route.

Over the years there were often challenging moments as I revved the engine, sounded the horn, and waited for one or more of my offspring to finally emerge through the front door.  A bus driver is responsible to follow a timetable and so it is necessary to begin his run at the right time, and so over and over again I warned my children that if they were not on the bus on time then I would have to leave them behind.  However, I gave them space to repent and allowed them to stretch my patience and through it all learned something of the painful meaning of longsuffering.  I would have false starts where I would take off slowly up the road, only to reverse back and wait outside the door, or I would stop at the first bend and let them run and catch up (which probably just wasted more time, to be honest).

However, one day as I waited for Anna (our youngest and the only one still living at home at that time) to join me on the bus for the 3-mile journey to her workplace, and after a few hoots of the horn (my bus at that time had a very loud horn not unlike a trumpet) and a moment by moment rising of my blood pressure, I finally did what I had never done before and actually left without her.  I kept looking in the mirrors to see if she had come through the door, but there was no sign of her.

And so, as I drove what had just become a very long and lonely road between Dalbeg and Shawbost I started to feel this awful emotional pain and sense of loss.  I could hardly believe that I had actually done what I had been warning my children for so many years that I was one day going to have to do unless they got their act together.  I kept thinking about how Anna was feeling right then as all kinds of thoughts about possible scenarios assaulted my mind. Did she feel abandoned?  Would it scar her for life?  Would it damage our relationship?  And no, I am not a drama queen!

But If I had been driving a school bus for all these years just so I could learn something from that one experience then it would have been worth it.  One thing I decided through the pain I felt was that I would never do what I did again.  I then began to hear from the Holy Spirit.

I believe that what I had experienced was a tiny, minute, infinitesimally small measure of what God feels when the judgement of which he has been warning people for years finally has to be carried out.

When judgement comes it will be because there is no other way, there is nothing else that can be done, and all other means to bring people to repentance have been exhausted.  As the Lord said to me many years ago, if love doesn’t work we shouldn’t look for another way because there isn’t one.

I saw that when God destroyed all flesh on the earth with the flood it was because there was just no other option.

Genesis 6:  5 – 7, 11 – 13

5 Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6 And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. 7 So the Lord said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them”…….11 The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. 12 So God looked upon the earth, and indeed it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. 13 And God said to Noah, “The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth is filled with violence through them; and behold, I will destroy them with the earth…

Continually evil thoughts lead to continually evil words that lead to continually evil actions that result in continually evil character that ultimately ends in a destiny of destruction.  Even so, God’s patience had Noah – the one man he found who could still hear from him – preaching righteousness for one hundred and twenty years before the judgement was unleashed.  The word of God is clear that he takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 33: 11).

Can we even begin to imagine what it was like for the God who is good, whose love endures forever, and whose faithfulness continues through all generations, the God who has such awesome plans for the man he had created in his own image, to watch the flood take them all out?  I realised that day on the bus that it was so hard for him that he said he would never do it again!

Genesis 9: 8 – 17

8 Then God spoke to Noah and to his sons with him, saying: 9 “And as for Me, behold, I establish My covenant with you and with your descendants after you, 10 and with every living creature that is with you: the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you, of all that go out of the ark, every beast of the earth. 11 Thus I establish My covenant with you: Never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood; never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” 12 And God said: “This is the sign of the covenant which I make between Me and you, and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: 13 I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth. 14 It shall be, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the rainbow shall be seen in the cloud; 15 and I will remember My covenant which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16 The rainbow shall be in the cloud, and I will look on it to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” 17 And God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant which I have established between Me and all flesh that is on the earth.”

When the LORD said to Samuel to tell King Saul to destroy the Amalekites (1 Samuel 15: 3) – to destroy all that they had including men, women, infants, nursing children, oxen, sheep, camels, and donkeys – and to spare none it had to be because he knew that there was no other way.

Remember when the LORD told Abraham (Genesis 15: 16) that the iniquity (sin) of the Amorites was not yet full and complete?  God is long-suffering and patient and he never releases judgement if there is any other option.

I believe that the flood was so painful for the LORD that he promised never to employ that means of judgement ever again.  He has also made it so easy for all people to be saved, and given so much time for men to receive his salvation that there is no excuse for anyone to miss it and have to experience the judgement of fire.

That morning back at our house Anna’s cry was apparently, “It’s only one minute past the time! ”  But when it is time one minute late is too late even though you got away with it before!  There was an old hymn we used to sing called “Be In Time”! (And no, it wasn’t an exhortation for tambourine players or hand-clappers).  The chorus says:

Be in time! Be in time! While the voice of Jesus calls you, Be in time!  If in sin you longer wait, You may find no open gate,  And your cry be just too late: Be in time!

You might think it’s a little overly dramatic but it is actually completely accurate.

We need to be thankful for the Father’s patience and focus on our commission to preach the gospel of the kingdom that reveals the goodness of God and leads men to repentance!

The second truth that I can confidently share with you regarding the end-time is:

FATHER’S PROVISION

1 Corinthians 15: 51 – 53

51 Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”

At the Cross provision was made for our spirit, soul, and body to be transformed.

We are triune beings – we are a spirit, we have a soul, and we live in a body.

When we were born again (born from above) our spirit man was resurrected and changed from death to life, our soul is being changed as we are transformed by the renewing of our minds, and our body will be changed.  This earth suit that has been tainted by sin and is subject to decay and the effects of ageing will be transformed into a glorious body.

Philippians 3: 20 – 21

20 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.

Yes, we have the blessing of full authority to resist sickness and disease while still in this earth suit but a glorious body sounds like good news to me.

The third and final end-time truth that I can categorically share with you is:

FATHER’S PURPOSE

1 Thessalonians 4: 13 – 18

13 …I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. 15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.

The reality is that whether there is a pre-trib, mid-trib, or post-trib rapture and whether it is pre-millenial or post-millenial or any other configuration, the Father’s ultimate purpose will be fulfilled, which is to have his people with him always.  Father’s perfect will is for nobody who is made in his image to miss the purpose of their life which is to live in eternal fellowship and relationship with him.  We can comfort one another with these words.  Nobody who wants to be there will miss it.

Ephesians 1: 3 – 14

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, 5 having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved. 7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace 8 which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, 9 having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, 10 that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him. 11 In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, 12 that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory. 13 In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.

Obviously, I am in no way trying to demonise prophecy teachers here but one thing I believe is that the enemy deliberately attacks many who are called to be evangelists and diverts them with this distraction.  Men and women who are called and commissioned to bring in multitudes of the lost can then be caught up more in judgement than mercy and end up switching more people off than turning them on.  I remember one guy who was a well-known prophecy teacher saying many times that he just wanted to be an evangelist (and you could tell that was his gifting) but that he felt he needed to do the prophecy stuff instead.  Some of what he said was valid but other stuff had proved to be nothing more than conjecture and could have influenced people to make bad choices out of fear rather than faith.

We have one message – the word and ministry of reconciliation – the message of God’s love, mercy, and grace.  If it doesn’t work there is no other way!  Judgement must come and so there will be a fulfilment of everything foretold in 2 Peter 3.  That is why we need to hear the exhortation in verses 10 – 18.

10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. 11 Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, 12 looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? 13 Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. 14 Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless; 15 and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation—as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, 16 as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures. 17 You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; 18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.

Dè an uair a tha e? What time is it?

It is time to thank our Father for his patience, his provision, and his purpose and to recommit our lives to reaching out with the word and ministry of reconciliation so that the Father’s perfect will is fulfilled and that none of our generation perish, but all come to experience and enjoy the fullness of the life that Jesus came to provide for all.  We can be sure that He doesn’t want anyone left behind!

The LORD is good, his love endures forever, and his faithfulness continues through all generations!

AMEN!

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