Given for the Saints at Medicalodge, Neosho, MO, May 15, 2005
"But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of stress" (II Tim. 3:1).
Clearly, many people, Christian and non Christian alike are experiencing stress today. In fact, I doubt if there has ever been a day on planet earth where someone, somewhere was not experiencing some sort of stress. When something catastrophic happens, like the tsunami in Asia last winter, the floods on the west coast, famine and drought wherever they occur, rising interest rates, or falling stock prices, doomsday prophets always arise and predict that the end of the world is nigh; Armageddon is about to begin. When we were in Israel, standing on top of the mountain of Megiddo, overlooking the Jazreel Valley, we were assured by our guide that this is the very location which the book of Revelation refers to as Armageddon (Probably stands for Har-magiddo "the mountain of Megiddo." NIV study note), the site where the final battle between good and evil is said to be waged. There are TV shows and movies about the end of days right now, including, "Revelations" (TV show), and "The Kingdom of Heaven," (movie). When I commented to Lenny that Hollywood apparently thinks that the end of the world is near, he remarked, "Well, the demons were the first to recognize Jesus." Whatever they really believe, television producers, movie makers and book authors know that eschatology sells, and the more horrific and imminent the end time scenario, the more money they will make. They never seem to be bothered about misquoting the bible, or mixing up the references and time lines to suit their agendas. It makes for a good "hang onto your seat and scream" horror show, but has little to do with Life in the Spirit, where all is well, all is peaceful, and all is under the control of our loving heavenly Father.
When the Spirit laid the title, "The last days," on my heart, I began to run the references, and found myself back among the Old Testament prophets and the Book of Revelation. In the New Testament, you will also remember that on the Day of Pentecost, the Apostle Peter quoted the prophet Joel, in this well known passage: "'And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; yea, and on my menservants and my maidservants in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy" (Joel 2: 28-29; Acts 2:17-18). Doomsday prophets tend to push everything out into the future, but Peter was referring to that exact moment in time, when the Apostles were speaking in tongues to the multitudes from every nation gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Pentecost. Each person present heard them speak in his own language, and some were asking what it meant. Others made fun of them saying, "They've had too much wine" (Vs. 8. This gives the lie to those Fundamentalists who insist that wine in the bible was just grape juice. A glass of Welch's never caused this behavior). Peter refuted the idea that they were "in their cups," saying, "These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It's only nine in the morning! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel" (Acts 2:15-16). This is one proof that this Day of Pentecost was in "the last days" (50 days after the resurrection of Christ).
Another scriptural proof that "the last days" began with the resurrection of Christ and continues today is found in Heb. 1:1-2: "In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but IN THESE LAST DAYS he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe." In religion's iron grip, still today, some think that God speaks only through pastors, priests, popes, and bibles, but the elect, the sons of God, know the truth: He speaks to our hearts and we follow Him because we hear His voice (John 10:4,27). Make no mistake. We ARE in the last days, and have been for almost 2,000 years. Some do not recognize this truth, another example of the religious mind failing to rightly divide the word of God, which includes, but is not limited to the bible, since Jesus IS the Word of God (John 1:1). Scaring the flock with threats of being left behind in the rapture, tribulation, Armageddon, hell fire and damnation is a cheap but effective trick to get members to attend services, and give, give, give.
In last week's writing (See link at end), we noted that the bible makes excellent use of metaphors (word pictures), symbols (using a literal object, like a cup of wine to depict a spiritual concept, God's judgment, in this case), and hyperbole (poetic exaggeration) to make the writer's point. The Old Testament was written in Hebrew by Jews who used symbolic language to convey their meaning. We in the West are more literal and analytical, and if we're not guided by the Spirit, we can come up with some unfounded conclusions, such as making Armageddon a literal future battle where God mops up on the kings of the earth and their armies. When you stand on Mount Megiddo and look out over the Jazreel Valley, you quickly realize that it is not large enough for the Israeli army, let alone the armies of all the kings of the earth, which some believe will be there on that day.
Let me give you some background on the location itself, thanks to our Israeli guide Yossi. Megiddo dominated a mountain pass on the Via Maris, or Way of the Sea (Mediterranean), a route which went from Egypt to Mesopotamia. This pass "runs northeast through the hill country from the plain of Sharon to the Valley of Jazreel." It was the most convenient way for traders and armies to get from Egypt, along the Great Sea, to the interior of what we now call the Middle East, without traversing the mountains. Throughout the ages, Megiddo was rebuilt over 20 times, each on the ruins of the previous site. Solomon fortified the city, which had a tunnel to a spring outside the walls, where they could get water during a siege. Archeological excavations are called a "Tel," and while in Israel, we visited Tel Megiddo and got the history of the site. Many battles were fought there; it was the place where Judah's good king Josiah died in battle against Pharaoh Neco II in 609 B.C. (II Kings 23:29; II Chron. 35:20-22).
We noted last week that the Apostle John used symbols in the Book of Revelation which the Jewish Christians were familiar with, and the battle at Megiddo (Armageddon) is another example of this (Rev. 16:16). When I was meditating on this often misunderstood subject, it came to me that John used Armageddon as a metaphor, a word picture of the confrontation between good and evil which has happened all throughout the history of mankind, corporately and individually. In the beginning, Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and sin entered the world. There, it looked for a moment, like the devil had won, and throughout the bible's many accounts of the activities of men and women, it often looked like evil had won. Sadly, some Christians today give Satan so much glory and power that the logical conclusion from their clucking and twitting around is that they doubt who will win, God or Satan. Don't fall for that lie from the pit. There was NEVER any doubt about who is the victor, or what happened to the snake in the garden, who became the great dragon of Revelation 12:9: "The great dragon was hurled down, that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him." This is symbolic language to emphasize that the power of evil has no authority or power against the power and authority of Almighty God.
And what mighty force was it which drove him out? John states, "Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: "Now (indicates it is a present, not a future event) have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.." (Rev. 12:10-11). And we are still overcoming Satan's wiles by the the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony.
Before He ascended into heaven, Jesus assured His followers, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:18-19). If ALL power (KJV) and authority has been given Christ, what is left for Satan? Nothing at all, which is why the Apostle John stated that "They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony." We do not have to run around fighting the devil. Back in my spiritual "teenage years," when, as John the beloved put it, I learned that I had power over the evil one, and was able to overcome him (I John 2:14), I went around "casting, binding, and pleading the blood," casting the devil out of every place I thought him to be. I learned then, that if you want to fight him, he'll oblige you, but one happy day, I came across the scripture that said "Neither give place to the devil" (Eph. 4:27, KJV). In that breathtaking way the Spirit has of explaining a complicated subject in a flash, I saw it. I got it. The Light came on and cast out the darkness when I realized that all I had to do was give him no place; ignore him, in other words. From that day to this, the devil is NOT a player in my life. This truth is also inherent in James 4:7, "Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you." Submitting yourself to God means seeing Him as the only one with whom we have to do. Satan is at best, a messenger, as Paul put it: "To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me" (II Cor. 12:7).
Satan can ONLY do God's bidding, as in the case of Job, where he challenged God to reach out His hand and smite this perfect servant. Instead, God told Satan to reach out his hand, but He put limits on what the devil could do, and how much damage he could cause (Job 2:11-12). I resonate to John Gavazzoni's observation that in Satan's finest hour, when he crucified the Son of Glory, instead of ruining God's plan, in fact, the death of Christ brought salvation to the whole world. I also relate to Marvin Cope's conclusion that the entire bible can be summarized as the story of the prodigal son's fall into the pigpen and the Father welcoming him home when he came to himself. I remind the Saints at Medicalodge of the Apostle John's affirmation: "The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work" (I John 3:8). Either He failed or He succeeded. By the Spirit, we see that He did succeed; He is succeeding and He always will succeed. We in Christ have overcome the world, the flesh and the devil. So, let me be your angel (messenger) for the moment and say of Satan, "Fear not! For God is with you!"
In many ways, our own lives mirror the bible stories. We began as innocents, not knowing good from evil, but then we soon learned what was good and what was bad. Church doctrine and often our parents beat into us that we had to choose good from evil, and only if we did good would we be pleasing to God. As the bible shows from first to last, we couldn't do it. We couldn't avoid evil and choose to do only good. Trying to do right showed us what miserable failures we are in the righteous living department, leaving us depressed and in despair. Beating ourselves up didn't change anything, nor did countless altar calls for repentance, rededication of our lives to serve God, and more attempts to do good works. The Old Testament is a study in failure, if you look only at the human attempts to be in right standing with God. Throughout, however, we find God's grace revealed, and His power displayed.
The book of Ezekiel is a miserable account of the prophet's attempts to bring repentance to a wayward and sinful people, their rejection of God and of himself, and God's threats of punishment, i.e., taking them from the land He promised Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and scattering them among the nations, where they would suffer scorn, taunts and captivity. After 35 awful chapters recounting God's wrath spewing out from the prophet, comparing their conduct to a woman's monthly uncleanness (36:17), the Spirit of hope and thanksgiving breaks through when God has Ezekiel tell them that it is not for their sake that He will reverse the situation, but rather "for the sake of my holy name...I will show the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations.....then the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Sovereign Lord, when I show myself holy through you before their eyes" (Vs. 22-23). Here's what He promised to do: "'For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. You will live in the land I gave your forefathers; you will be my people, and I will be your God" (Ezek. 36:24-28). The subject of all these sentences is God! There is probably no better passage in the entire bible than this one to show that God is going to fulfill His covenant with Abraham Himself, because left to his own devices, man is incapable of keeping the law, being good, and serving God. Man's consistent failure is not the devil's fault, Paul says. Then whose is it? Here's the passage: "For GOD has consigned ALL men to disobedience, that he may have mercy upon ALL" (Rom. 11:32). God bears the ULTIMATE responsibility for everything, good and bad! Hallelujah!
Paul's declaration has set me free from all fear. I believe that the Battle of Armageddon, like the kingdom, is within us, something to be embraced, not feared, for God is and always has been the Victor in every battle, wherever it is fought, within or without. The One on the white horse, whose name is the Word of God, the King of kings and Lord of Lords, Jesus Christ the Lord, is victorious! The battle is won; the devil is defeated; and we have been invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb who was slain before the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8).
Father, we thank You that we need not walk in fear, because You have conquered all that would stand against Your authority for the sake of Your holy name. We join the kings of the earth in worshipping before Your throne, crying, "Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty, the Alpha and the Omega, the Father of all creation." You only will we serve. Make us instruments of Your peace, revealing Your glory to a defeated and hopeless world. In the Name above all Names, we ask it. Amen. Jan Antonsson
Jan and Lenny Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
The Kingdoms of This World
Gog and Magog, Final Battle
Heaven, Fact or Fable?
The Day of the Lord
That Beastly Bug
The Beast and the Elder Brother
A Mark of the Beast
The Glory Road
We always enjoy hearing from you!
This page was uploaded to the web on 05/12/05
by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister,
and last edited on 10/13/08.