It should be obvious to anyone that the year 2020 has been, and continues to be, a year of trouble and uncertainty on many fronts. And it isn’t just the United States that is involved; the whole world has been affected in one way or another.
Early in the year we saw widespread reports of almost unprecedented locust swarms destroying every green thing in their path in many parts of Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. Reports used words like “terrifying” and “apocalyptic” to describe them as farmers helplessly watched their crops disappear.
But as terrible as the locust plagues have been this year, March saw the world’s attention shift to a virus pandemic that has relentlessly spread around the globe. As I write this the death toll from Covid-19 is approaching 700,000 globally and 160,000 in the U.S. with no end in sight. No doubt, by the time this is published those figures will be much higher.
“Expert” opinions on how to deal with it vary widely, to say the least. And it is interesting to me that for every expert opinion there seem to be facts “on the ground” that contradict that opinion, no matter which side of the argument is involved. I believe the devil is being allowed to sow fear, confusion, and division in the hearts of many. It seems that no one truly knows what to do.
And the economic fallout is still to be seen as millions have been laid off from jobs, many businesses have closed, and money to deal with it all is being invented out of thin air by the trillions of dollars.
And then we started to see demonstrations and riots following the death of George Floyd at the hands of some Minneapolis policemen. It was obvious to any reasonable American who saw the video of what had happened that it was terribly wrong, and that justice and change were needed – but that quickly wasn’t enough.
No doubt there are those who sincerely desire reform and change but it has become obvious that others with a very sinister agenda have jumped in to take advantage and have been busy stirring up hatred and violence ever since. They are part of groups who aren’t interested in merely addressing real needs and improving America, rather, they want to tear it apart, destroy it, and establish a society based on the ideas of Karl Marx. When I was young, we called them “communists.”
More than one from my generation has commented on how much 2020 reminds them of 1968. That year was perhaps the worst of the turbulent 1960s when we saw race riots, war protests, revolutionary movements, and great numbers of the younger generation in full out rebellion against what they called “the establishment.” They wanted to do whatever they wanted without the “shackles” of government, “old-fashioned” morality, or religion in any form.
Now, 52 years later, we are seeing the children and grandchildren of the 60s sprinkled throughout society, ready to tear America apart, renounce its history, and “cancel” any part of our culture with which they disagree at the moment. Statues are being torn down and loud voices call for “defunding the police.” We see images of Bibles and the American flag being publicly burned.
Not unsurprisingly, surveys indicate that a surprising number on all sides of the various issues expect civil war in our future. Whether that happens or not, it does indicate the depth of the feelings dividing the country.
However, my purpose in all this is not to add to all the commentary on the social and political issues that divide us. It is to look deeper and see at least a glimpse of what is really going on. The real issues are far deeper than merely social and political. They are spiritual. And there are people on all sides whose inspiration comes from a bad place.
Ever since the human race as a whole joined in Satan’s rebellion against God it has lived in spiritual blindness and under the “dominion of darkness.” Satan is called the “god of this age.” 2 Cor. 4:4, Col. 1:13, 1 John 5:19 and many other scriptures. When Satan offered Jesus the kingdoms of the world in return for worship, Jesus didn’t dispute his claim to them. They had, indeed, been given to him. Luke 4:5-8.
As Paul reminds us in Eph. 6:12, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
We catch a glimpse of this in the life of Daniel, a mighty prophet of God who lived in the Babylonian empire as well as that of the Medes and Persians. In Chapter 10, we find Daniel, fasting, seeking God for understanding of the things he was being shown. Finally, after 21 days, a shining, mighty angel arrived in answer to his prayer.
But the interesting thing is that this mighty angel of God had been hindered for those 21 days from coming to Daniel, being “resisted” by the “prince of the Persian kingdom.” Obviously, this was a demon prince and not a man. No man could resist an angel. Finally, another mighty angel, Michael, arrived, and the first angel broke through and brought God’s answer to the praying prophet.
We see nations, governments, religions, philosophies, etc., yet we need to see more clearly what lies behind these various aspects of life in this world. There is intelligence and very real power at work in human events. Sin-blinded men carry out the plans of wicked spirits operating under Satan’s direction. And there is supernatural power at work as they do.
Very real battles are being fought every day in the unseen realm between the forces of Satan and the forces of God. Satan ever seeks to banish God’s influence on planet earth and to attain total control.
All the while, God is faithfully carrying out an eternal purpose, conceived before there ever was a creation, gathering a family with whom He can share His love forever in a new creation totally free from Satan, sin, and death. And there is nothing Satan can do to stop Him! Satan may be the “god of this world,” but the one true God intervenes and overrules in the affairs of men as needed to carry out His will and to rescue His elect as He prepares them for a glorious destiny.
As we have said, Satan carries out his plans by inspiring and empowering men. And so, while we need to be aware of Satan’s role in current events, we also need to see the human side of the equation. He needs men who are aligned with his evil purposes. Some, indeed, are deceived, thinking they are doing good; others are so deceived that they willingly and consciously serve the devil.
But how does such deception happen? How is it that we see so many seemingly intelligent people in our day saying and doing such insane things? Does God not care? Are they merely ignorant and not responsible? Why are things as they are?
Perhaps the clearest scriptural answer is found in the latter half of Romans 1. Paul makes it clear that the problem is not one of ignorance but rather of willful rejection by lost men of what they do know of God. When that willful rejection reaches a certain point, God gives them over to the darkness they have chosen. They are lost, their destiny sealed. The result is total spiritual blindness and moral corruption of every sort. They have no defense against Satan’s influence and control.
We see exactly that condition in the account of Noah and the flood, a time Jesus specifically compared to the end of this present age (Matt. 24:37-39). In Gen 6:5, we read, “The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.”
God’s heart had been open to men – he had reached out for centuries “contending” with them – but they had so persistently rejected Him that they had no more capacity for God. In Gen. 6:3, He said, “My Spirit will not contend with humans forever ….” There comes a time when destinies are sealed and judgment certain.
I first became a part of the work at the Bible Tabernacle over 50 years ago. At that time, the church had just experienced an amazing divine visitation that included some very specific revelations concerning the end of the age. These revelations were received very cautiously, with much prayer, and with a clear witness, both of the Spirit, and of scripture. None of this had been sought or expected.
The revelation that is most relevant to this present time concerns the loosing of Satan, specifically, the last loosing of Satan before the end of all things. That may or may not harmonize with your theology, but it was very real, and, as I say, very cautiously received and confirmed in scripture.
Specifically, it was a revelation that Satan was being loosed at that very time. It is one thing to see something in scripture; it is another for the Lord to supernaturally announce that it is taking place. Think of the arrival of the Messiah. The Old Testament prophets had foretold it all – and yet there were several specific revelations to various ordinary people when the time actually came.
It is interesting that these revelations at the Bible Tabernacle took place in the late 1960s when all the upheavals in our society were happening. Something had changed. Something specific.
Did you know that as part of the outworking of His plan, God sometimes stands back and lets evil have its way? When Jesus was being arrested, he asked why they hadn’t arrested him earlier since he had been daily in the temple teaching. He then said, “But this is your hour—when darkness reigns.” Luke 22:53. God let Satan have his way, and of course, Satan, in the blindness of pride and ambition, walked into a trap and sealed his own ultimate defeat! 1 Cor. 2:6-8.
One example of evil seemingly being allowed to triumph is in the last part of Dan. 7:25 where the prophet tells of a wicked “king” to come in these words: “The holy people will be delivered into his hands for a time, times and half a time.”
We see the same theme in other places. In Dan. 12:10 we catch a little glimpse of things from God’s point of view: “Many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked. None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand.” I want to be one of the wise, don’t you?
I and others have written about Rev. 20 in some detail but consider for a moment what the final loosing of Satan beginning in verse 7 results in. He immediately sets out to deceive the nations of the earth and to gather them together for battle, and that battle is against “the camp of God’s people.” If you want to know what the binding was about, look at the loosing.
The entire passage is full of symbolic language, but it pictures very real events that I believe are unfolding as I write this. Remember, Satan’s ambition has always been to rule over humanity, with God pushed aside, out of the picture. Up to this point this ambition has been thwarted time and time again, but now, just before the end, he is being allowed to pursue his dream. God is standing back, and it will appear for a time as though Satan has won – just before his final and ultimate defeat!
Even in Old Testament days we see God interfering with Satan’s plans, causing nations to rise and fall according to His eternal plan. But nothing compares to the victory that was won for us at the cross by our Savior! Col. 2:15 speaks of Christ as “…having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.”
Remember the occasion when Jesus was accused of casting out demons by being in “league with the devil”? After pointing out that a divided kingdom cannot stand, He said, “In fact, no one can enter a strong man’s house without first tying him up. Then he can plunder the strong man’s house.” Mark 3:27.
Remember, also, the words of Jesus in John 12:31 – “Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out.” The victory of the cross and the resurrection opened a mighty door of deliverance for everyone willing to bow to the gospel in surrender.
For almost 2000 years, Satan’s attempts to finally unite the world under his wicked leadership against God have been thwarted in order that the gospel might invade and conquer, calling forth a people for God’s eternal kingdom. The “strong man” was bound. The loosing at the end represents a period of time in which there is unprecedented deception leading to final wrath and judgment for this present world.
In 2 Thess. 2 we see this same truth: a time referred to as “the rebellion”; “powerful delusion” sent by God upon men who “refused to love the truth”; all of this ended by Jesus Christ at his coming. Again, these things have been dealt with in greater detail elsewhere, but the theme is clear: a final rebellion, great deception, the coming of Jesus to finally crush the rebellion and gather his people.
One of the themes we increasingly hear in our day is that of “globalism.” Many influential people believe that man’s only hope is to “get together” in a global society with a world government and they are actively working toward that end. What many of them do not understand is the real inspiration behind that goal. It is simply an expression of Satan’s ultimate ambition to rule over planet earth free from God’s influence. And God is allowing him to pursue it – for a season.
At present, there is a sense in the air that Satan is increasingly angry and impatient to see his dream come to pass. Do you not see that spirit at work in 2020? A global government cannot happen without the current world order being torn down. Exactly how and when that will play out, I do not know, but it will play out. Here is a Wall Street Journal quote just today: “The world is entering a transformative era. Prepare for more chaos and instability.”
In the midst of all this, God has a people He is preparing for eternity. When compared with earth’s population, or even the number of professing Christians, they are, at best, a remnant, each one known by Him and loved. What does He have to say to His own in such an hour?
Certainly, high on the list would be the exhortation we see repeatedly given to God’s people throughout scripture: Don’t be afraid. Perhaps Satan’s greatest weapon in gaining control is fear. Think of the words of Jesus in Luke 21:26 – “People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken.” People readily give up freedom in return for a sense of security and stability.
It is not our job to fix the world, but it is our job to persevere in the midst of its brokenness until God says, “Enough.” We know how the story ends! No matter how things may look, God is on the throne and His purposes are being worked out.
In Heb, 13:5-6, the writer quotes from Deut. 31:6 and Psalm 118:6-7 – “’Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?’”
One scripture that came to me as concerns about the virus became everyone’s focus was Psalm 46. Verses 1-3 read, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.” That sounds serious to me! And yet in God we have no cause to fear.
In verse 10 the psalmist continues, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” And He will!
It is very easy with so many unsettling things happening around us to have our eyes too much on those things. Jesus gives us an important word in Luke 21:28 – “When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” The closer we get to the end, the more important it will be to stay connected to the Lord, never to lose sight of things from His point of view. Instead of being paralyzed by fear, we will find strength and wisdom from above. He reigns.
Daniel, in chapter 11, is enabled to foretell many things in Israel’s future as various kings were to rise and fall around them. He tells of one particularly wicked king to come who would not only conquer them but who would totally desecrate the temple. He would also use flattery to corrupt those who had not been faithful to God.
But – and it is a powerful “but” – Daniel speaks of others in these words: “… the people who know their God will firmly resist him.” Dan 11:32. In the Hebrew it simply says, they will “do” or “take action,” – very simple language. Many would be easily compromised. No doubt, many would cower in fear. But others would be strong in their faith and be able to do whatever it was God had for them to do.
There is a critical lesson in this prophecy: when did these people come to know their God? Did they wait until all this evil happened and then say, “I’d better get to know God”? Of course not! They already knew Him. They were ready.
Did not Jesus repeatedly speak of the need to “be ready” concerning his coming and the events leading up to it? The only time to be ready for something is before it happens. Once a crisis happens it is too late to “get ready.”
Think of Noah. The testimony of scripture was that he was a righteous man in his generation and that he walked faithfully with God. And that was the case before God warned him about what was coming.
That is what God is looking for in our day as well. Are we “sleep-walking” through life, presuming that our professed faith will be enough? Many professing Christians will fall, making it evident that their profession was an empty one. The time to be sure is now. God is looking for people who will faithfully walk with Him through sunshine and storm, their focus on eternal things.
Consider Paul’s words in 1 Thess. 5: he first warns that terrible sudden destruction will come upon a totally unprepared world. But he follows that truth with these words in verses 4-6: “But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober.” Read for yourself the rest of his encouraging words in verses 7-10.
Closely related to this, for those of us in America, is the unprecedented period of relative prosperity and ease this nation has experienced since World War II. Yes, there have been problems and challenges but overall, the “American way of life” has been regarded by most of us as “normal.” It is all we have known.
How easy is it to give in to “normalcy bias,” the idea that while problems may come, things will always get back to “normal.” Will they? That is not the picture we find in scripture. The “American way of life” has seen much of professing Christianity sink into deep apostacy while the remnant quickly return to slumber when each “crisis” seems to be over.
How often have we sung, “This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through”? Do we live as though that is true? We are living for a short time in a temporary world, being prepared for that which is eternal. In Phil. 3:17-20, Paul draws a contrast between those whose “mind is set on earthly things,” and those whose “citizenship is in heaven.” Whatever happens here, the reality of our true citizenship must dominate our thoughts and actions.
We referred earlier to Paul’s words in Eph. 6:12 about who the real enemy is. The whole passage, verses 10-20, is worth noting. I’m so glad he begins with the admonition to “be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power”! I certainly don’t have any power in myself. But we have all we need in God’s provision through Christ.
And we need that full provision, described as the “full armor of God,” in order to take our stand against Satan’s power. And so we see that provision, pictured as various pieces of armor, including truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation, the word of God.” Satan has no answer to one who will stand fast in that “armor.”
But there is another part of that warfare that is often overlooked. Paul continues in verse 16, “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” God means for His people to be involved in the outworking of His purposes and the chief way that happens is when we pray – in the Spirit.
That means that His Spirit helps us to know what to pray for and empowers those prayers. Remember Rom 8:26-27 – “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.”
Recently I re-read a short booklet on prayer written by Bro. Andrew and one of his associates, Al Janssen. One particular thing jumped out at me in one of the chapters. The writer said that he went out of his way to watch the news of current events! I’ve heard many warn against that because it can easily be discouraging. We are basically listening to reports of all the terrible things Satan is doing.
But the reason he did that was not to wallow in discouragement and self-pity but rather to intervene in prayer. Each report gave him something to pray about, prayers for people involved in difficult circumstances, for leaders, for God’s people, for God’s kingdom purposes to prevail. That is part of the battle. It is far too easy to throw up our hands at all the things happening and just wait for Jesus to come and rescue us.
Remember the people of whom Daniel wrote. They were people of “action” in spite of the terrible things that were happening because they “knew their God.” Satan is certainly advancing his plans, but God’s purposes are unfolding as well – and he means for us to “stay tuned” and involved as He leads and enables.
One of the greatest needs among the true remnant of God’s people is unity, both on a local level, and in general. Satan has succeeded in greatly weakening the Church, through the apostacy of those whose profession is false, but also by attacking the unity of those who truly know God.
Jesus prayed in John 17 in very specific terms for the unity of those who believed the message of the disciples. It should be obvious that He meant true belief and not merely religious profession.
In Philippians, chapter 2, Paul emphasizes this need in clear language. In verses 2-4 he exhorts his readers (and us) to be “like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”
He then uses Christ Himself as the ultimate example of leaving heaven’s glory to become a servant, laying down his life for us. The result was glory for Him and salvation for us!
One sad thing we observe in this age of the internet is online discussions and debates involving professing Christians, arguing heatedly, often about very peripheral issues. I am aware that many of these are merely “professing Christians” and not genuine, but Satan surely loves to provoke such debate.
I have many clear convictions about various doctrinal issues, but I am determined never to allow those to come between me and another genuine believer. I am also aware that, at best, I know in part, and I desire to always be open to greater light. I have often been around brethren that I know differ with me greatly on certain issues but I have no interest in “fighting” about them.
If we are born of the same Spirit, we need to receive – and serve – one another as Christ has received us. He can straighten out anything that truly needs to be straightened out. And it is certain that, in one way or another, WE are the ones that need straightening out!
We need to recognize Satan’s interest in provoking disunity in the Body of Christ wherever he can and humbly seek for the grace to pursue unity with our brothers and sisters. What kind of witness is it to a dying world if we can’t love and receive one another?
God can unmask people inspired by deceiving spirits as needed but we need to, “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” Eph. 4:2-3.
In Philippians 2, Paul continues in verses 14-16, “Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, ‘children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.’ Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life.”
It is not our programs, our eloquence, our entertaining gatherings, that will convince those who still have a capacity for God. It is simply Christ in us, expressing the very life of God as we love each other and demonstrate a contrast with a world sinking into greater and greater darkness. That doesn’t always involve “preaching,” but it always involves the way we live.
We live in an hour of unprecedented darkness and deception and the Word warns us that those conditions will only intensify as the end draws near. Surely God’s people need to be touch with Him. Merely maintaining religious tradition will not do. We need the active leadership of the only true Head of the Church, our Savior, Jesus Christ.
For many, their “faith” refers to a fixed doctrinal tradition that claims to accurately reflect what the scriptures teach, according to scholars and teachers who have gone before. So, keeping “the faith” simply means rigidly and blindly following that tradition – and often fighting with those who disagree.
The truth is that none of us knows it all or has a perfect understanding of every scriptural issue. Ultimately, truth is not a rigid set of ideas but a Person! His name is Jesus. He said, “I am … the truth,” in John 14:6. He is the One who has promised never to leave us but to be with us to the end of the age.
He will never fail those who look to Him from their hearts. He can show us what we need to know at any given time. He revealed Himself to Noah when the need arose. He sent angels to get Lot out of Sodom before its destruction. Both are pictures of the end of this present age.
Prov. 4:18 says, “The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day.” Scripture is indeed complete but the understanding we need to navigate the unfolding situation on planet earth is a progressive thing. We will never leave the Bible behind, but we need the Author if we are to correctly understand and apply it to current needs. Darkness is getting darker, but God’s light is “shining ever brighter.”
God has a purpose in allowing things to be as they are. Nothing is beyond His control. His focus is on all He is doing in His people through these things. Remember His word to Daniel: “Many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked. None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand.” Dan. 12:10.And, with that understanding we can: refuse to give in to fear; lift up our heads; know our God and be ready for action; stay “awake” and ready; pray as God enables; walk in unity and let our light shine; and walk in God’s light until He calls the last of His children home. It won’t be long!