...the Shout of the Last Hour
I JUST CAN'T SEEM TO GET AWAY from writing about the power of God's grace--especially as we approach the last days. I believe this is right, for it is only through grace that we can stand till the last hour.
The final celebration of the ages will not take place because of our ability to hold out through the darkness. Nor will it be a celebration in honor of powerful leaders who have taken the church forward. Nor will it be a celebration extolling those who have held right doctrine and religious practice. There will not even be an awards banquet for those who have brought souls into the Kingdom. The only celebration of the final day will be in honor of God's grace.
Strangely enough, as told before, I first began seeing the power of this end-time grace in Zech 4:7. Who art thou, O great mountain? before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain: and he shall bring forth the headstone thereof with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it. Prophetically, this points to the completion of the temple, the dwelling place of God in the earth. And, we know that His final temple will not be a building made of stones.
In the revelation God gave Paul there was no mention of a Temple made with stones. Rather, he saw the temple in three dimensions made of living Stones, the lives of human beings.
(1) The individual believer--I Cor 6:19 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you...
(2) A local fellowship of believers--I Cor 3:16 Know ye not that ye are the temple of God....
(3) The church universal--Eph 2:20,21-... Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord.
Paul saw no further revelation regarding the Temple. The final dwelling place of God will be in the lives of His people in all the earth.
At this temple's completion there will be shoutings. The Hebrew word the Prophet used here means the noises of devastation, like that of a storm with its wind, lightning, and thunder. These are celebrations of God's power from the natural heavens. Note Ps 77:1--The voice of thy thunder was in the heaven; the lightnings lightened the world: the earth trembled and shook. These will become mere whispers in comparison with the shoutings that will celebrate the completion of God's work in His Temple as the rapturous noise from every quarter of the earth ascends to extol His grace. Indeed, the lightnings and the thunder of the last day will be the shouts of saints rejoicing in the devastation of Satan's work and the triumph of God's grace in the lives of us all.
PAUL POINTS US TO this celebration of God's grace. Actually, his Epistle to the Ephesians is a celebration, in word, of God's grace revealed in Christ Jesus. (You remember how in an earlier edition we told of grace reigning in Ephesians?) Paul tells of Jesus as the One in Whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace--Eph 1:7. Redemption, from the Greek apolútrosis, means deliverance from bondage upon payment of a ransom. Riches is from ploútos which means opulent wealth. In the Redemption grace abounds toward us with an opulence that confounds the strength of every bondage.
Ephesians points us on to a celebration of grace that, we believe, will come at the end of the age. Just as we hear of a redemption yet to be realized (Rom 8:23), there is a release of grace yet to be known in it fullness.
In that first long and wonderful sentence opening the Epistle, Eph 1:3-14, Paul used a word that is similar in meaning to shoutings of Zechariah's prophecy. It's translated praise and is from the New Testament Greek word épainon. It means a celebration of honor, an applause, a commendation. Running through this Ephesian passage is the little Greek word eis ("to, into" or "unto"). Like a directional arrow it points time and again to épainon. It's as though Paul is saying, "Keep on moving through all that grace is doing in your life, for there is coming a release of grace upon you, and through you, like you have never known. At the final day you will join in the glorious celebration of this grace."
Look at these three statements in Ephesians. Mark them in your Bible so they can stand out to you in Paul's overall statement. Eph 1:6--To the praise of the glory of His grace... Eph 1:12--to the praise of His glory... Eph 1:14--unto the praise of His glory. Each of these statements in the Greek begins with that word eis. The arrow of revelation keeps pointing onward and onward toward the outburst of praise that will close this age.
The word glory in the above verses is from dóxa which means the bestowal of splendid and magnificent honor upon someone who is high in government. In verse 6 it is the grace of God that receives this splendid honor.
Grace is from the Greek cháris. It means the beautiful favor God extends to us in our greatest need. When we have nothing to place in His loving hand except our bruised and helpless soul, we find His grace.
When the Day of the Lord bursts bright over the end-time darkness, an applause will come from all who have discovered the riches of God's grace. Its sound will reach through the universe. It will silence the song of the morning stars, bring to shame the noise of thunder, and bring to stillness the anthem of the angels. That noise will thrill the heart of every ransomed soul who knows that God's work of salvation has found its completion.
RECENTLY on an early Sunday morning, I walked over toward the ministry center, feeling a little bewildered and tired. Ministry to others had been increasing. Now, I was drained and feeling in need of ministry myself. Yet, I knew we faced another day of giving to others. Not knowing just how or what to pray. I began praying in the spirit. as I frequently do. Quietly, the Lord began speaking to me. He said He was going to move here and that it would be a movement of His grace. He said what we are seeing now is only the sprinkling of rain in comparison with the floods that are coming. I knew He was speaking to me of what He is about to do in every place where hungry and seeking souls are waiting on Him.
This helped me. I think I was under the Impression--and burden of thought--that I must yet do something to win the movement of His Spirit and the fresh release of His grace. Isn't it strange how we pick burdens back up when He has removed them from us? If He's going to move here by His Spirit, and It will be an expression of His grace, then all I can do is be here, pliable and yielded. The grace that He pours out will keep me from being worn out in the ministry.
IN THE LIGHT OF ALL THIS, the Lord is drawing us back to Luke 14:16-24 which we considered in another MASCHIL. Every time I've addressed a group of people recently, the revelation of this parable from Jesus has continued unfolding. Even now, I feel its impact, but with the knowledge that we still know what it says only in part. The power and glory of the parable extends so far beyond anything we can imagine that we can only suppose what it means for the last hour. But, as we continue beholding it, we do see in it something of the reason behind the grand celebration at the end. In it we can see the greatest revelation of God's grace ever known as it reaches everywhere to every destitute soul.
For you who aren't familiar with the word of Luke 14:16-24, go now and review it. Take note of the characters in the story. There is a certain man who is called the master of the house. Who can this be but our Father? He makes a great supper which we have found is "the last meal of the day." He sends His servant, who is indeed a "bond-servant," to call them that were bidden, "the called ones." Doesn't this mean that the last hour call will come first to the church?
With excuse, the called ones decline. Their widespread refusal causes the master to become angry. On observing this in the Greek, we find orgistheís, an Aorist Passive Participle which speaks of an action that has come to its completion. The refusal of the called ones provokes the master's anger--or better, His wrath--so that it reaches a fullness. Can we understand that the wrath of God will become full because of a condition that exists among those who have claimed to be His Own? Don't we have a further glimpse of this in something Peter said? For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God... I Pet 4:17.
After the called ones refuse his invitation, the attention of the master turns outside his house. Here we see that expression of overflowing grace. He sends His bond-servant to fetch the least likely ones to adorn the table of his feast. This points to the Holy Spirit's last-hour reach through God's humble servants as they go out into the streets and lanes and highways and hedges. They bring in the most lowly and destitute people on earth to sit at the banquet table spread with heaven's delectable feast. Not one of those to whom the invitation is now extended can recompense the master of the house. All the feast is an extension of his grace.
Every day I've returned to the Luke 14 parable to consider again the ones who receive the final call. I don't want to forget who they are. Every time I see one of them I want to remember this: they are targeted for God's grace. They are the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind.
WHEN THE CALL FIRST WENT to the called ones, the feast had already been prepared. It was made ready for those in the house. Everything served in it, however, would satisfy the hunger of the destitute company outside.
Because this feast was first offered to the called ones, the strong impression has been coming to us that there are in the church multitudes as destitute as those on the outside. The trouble is they know it not. Their destitution is spiritual. Lovingly, and with a compassion many in the church have never dreamed of receiving, God is offering healing and deliverance in His house. This is part of His last hour grace.
Take note of the words of Jesus to the lukewarm Laodicean church of Rev 3:14-22. Many believe that ancient congregation foreshadowed the church of the last days. Some things Jesus said in this passage reveal the true condition of the called ones of Luke 14 who refused to accept the master's invitation.
In Rev 3 we find the Lord saying,
15 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.
16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.
17 Because thou sayest, I am rich (Greek ploúsios--"wealthy, abounding in glory, distinguished"), and increased with goods (peploúteka--brought to the place of being abundantly furnished with goods, both material and spiritual), and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched (talaíporos--distressed and harried, afflicted with trouble and inner turmoil), and miserable (eleeinós--something to be pitied and in need of mercy), and poor (ptochós---having no more than a beggar; the same word used in LK 14:21 to describe those on the streets), and blind (tuphlós--unable to see; another of the words from Lk 14 describing the destitute of the streets), and naked (gumnós--without proper or sufficient clothing; like the wrongly clad guest at the wedding feast of Mt 22:12).
The saddest thing about these discovered by the Lord is that they are not aware of their condition. His piercing eye alone can uncover the true condition of souls like these. Yet, what grace He offers! He says, "If you will open the door, I will come in and sup with you"--Rev 3:20.
GOD'S GRACE REACHES to every human need there is. Because of our limitation in this article, the best we can do is tell of its reach to the poor. But remember; it reaches also the maimed, the halt, and the blind.
Greater than financial poverty or material poverty is spiritual poverty. This is everywhere rampant, even in the church. But we can discover it for there are some marks that betray its presence. If we can see these in ourselves, we can better discern where we are spiritually and partake of the grace God offers. The betraying marks of spiritual poverty are anger, low self esteem, fear, resentment, hopelessness, anxiety, and depression. All or any of these are likely to have taken lodging in us if we are spiritually poor. God's grace can break the power of any of them.
The anger of spiritual poverty cripples a person and makes the response to life's problems painful. In spiritual poverty, there is no faith for trials. In spiritual poverty there is no understanding for the confusing things of life. In spiritual poverty there is no peace when destruction or sickness knock at the door.
Sometimes in spiritual poverty, the self-esteem of a person plummets. He or she is left with so poor an idea of personal value that life--and purpose--are thrown to the wind.
Trials do come but the healing power of the Lord lavished in His grace releases any soul bound in poverty to discover God's provision. And more, it can release that soul to a liberality that sees to the needs of others.
Recently, we discovered the Holy Spirit is pulling back the spiritual covers behind which many of us hide. The marks of poverty are rampant. But the gracious work of the Spirit is ready to deliver and heal. He is far more powerful than any of poverty's strongholds. For my own testimony, I'm finding God's grace anew. It is changing the direction of my life. It is lifting me out of my self-centeredness. It is healing my poor self-esteem. It is bringing me to a place of knowing I am worthy to receive all Christ offers me. It is causing me to know I am loved unconditionally by my Heavenly Father, and is releasing me to genuinely love others. Thus, I am set free from anger, and fear, and resentment. Grace is replacing hopelessness with a confidence that abides. It is healing my anxiety and depression and replacing them with trust and praise. It is qualifying me to partake in the great celebration of the last hour.
PAUL WAS A BOND-SERVANT in the House of God. He ministered the grace of God like those who were sent out in the streets in the Luke 14 parable. After ministering in Macedonia, Paul made an unusual statement about the grace of God released in the churches there. It had delivered the people out of their poverty. Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit ("we want you to know") of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia; how that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality--II Cor 8:1,2.
The grace of God bestowed on those Macedonian people released joy and liberality in them. Out of their poverty they began giving. Instead of being bound by their affliction, they were released to consider the needs of others and give to them. Thus, they cleared the way for a continuing flow of grace--both into them and through them to others.
Paul so ministered grace that the churches of Macedonia partook of it. Even in their trial of affliction, grace worked to bring them joy. Mingled with the bitterness of their deep poverty, grace then released the miracle of liberality.
Absolutely nothing heals the blight of poverty--both material and spiritual--like giving to others, whether their need be financial, spiritual, emotional, or mental. When we share what we have, we can only be enriched. When we teach what we know, we can only grow in knowledge. When we open ourselves to the emotional need of another and care, we can only find strength in our own emotions--provided we are partaking of the feast of grace proffered us in Christ Jesus.
THERE IS ANOTHER BEAUTIFUL STORY that shows the power of God's grace to deliver from poverty. I think we made reference to it before, but let's see it again. Its revelation grows as we grow. There is much instruction in it regarding the last hour feast from the Lord and the grace of God that will be released in it. In I Kings 17 Elijah is like the bond servant of Luke 14. They were both commissioned by their Master to go into the streets. Elijah ministered to a destitute widow, one of the poor, and opened the way for her to partake of the abundance of God's grace.
I Kings 17
8 And the word of the LORD came unto him (Elijah), saying,
9 Arise, get thee to Zarephath (a hot burning desert place), which belongeth to Zidon, and dwell there (where your creature comforts will be tested and only grace can enable you to stand): behold, I have commanded a widow woman (the least likely prospect) there to sustain thee.
10 So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, behold, the widow woman was there gathering of sticks (a sign of her poverty): and he called to her, and said, Fetch me, I pray thee, a little water in a vessel, that l may drink.
11 And as she was going to fetch it, he called to her, and said, Bring me, I pray thee, a morsel of bread in thine hand. (The first step toward releasing the woman from her poverty was the Prophet's call for her to become taken with the need of another.)
12 And she said, As the LORD thy God liveth, I have not a cake, but an handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse: and, behold, I am gathering two sticks, that I may go in and dress it for me and my son, that we may eat it, and die. (The condition of herself and her household was hopeless. Her confession was negative. She saw nothing ahead but death, which she would welcome for it would release her from her poverty.)
13 And Elijah said unto her, Fear not; go and do as thou hast said: but make me thereof a little cake first, and bring it unto me, and after make for thee and for thy son. (What seemed the height of selfishness on the part of the Prophet, actually drew her out of her self-centeredness, one of the blights of poverty. The Prophet released in her one of the principles of God's Kingdom, that of seeing to the needs of others. This opens a soul to abounding grace.)
14 For thus saith the LORD God of Israel, The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the LORD sendeth rain upon the earth. (We see here the power of God's word as it was released through the Prophet. It took on creative proportions as it entered the dire circumstance of the widow. A feast is available to those who will hear the Word of the Lord and submit to its creative power.)
15 And she went and did according to the saying of Elijah: and she, and he, and her house, did eat many days. (The Word of the Lord released out of the heavens, submission to that Word--and the grace that comes with it--will remove the blight both of spiritual and material poverty. These are components for the last days, served up in the most generous feast ever set out on the earth.)
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