From The Cross in the End-Times
An argument can be made that Christianity itself is based upon a violent and irreconcilable difference of opinion in first-century Jerusalem regarding the nature of the messiah. Christianity is born out of a lethally violent disagreement. Our salvation is based upon God’s working within a massively destabilizing first-century social upheaval and religious crisis of identity, truth, and right living. This crisis produced redemption and salvation for countless millions of new-covenant believers down through the twenty centuries leading up to our present time. All of the first-century early church participated fully in these events, according to their individual callings, abilities, and Holy Spirit empowerment.
God has shown us in the Bible that He is able to stand alongside us in the fiery furnace, in the lion’s den, and on the challenging road to evangelizing the Mediterranean world in the first century. As Spirit-led Christians, when faced with adversity, we do not fold up our tents and go home. Godly men and women in the Bible, and Spirit-led Christians today, do not back down in the face of a challenge.
In Mark 4:35-41, when the disciples finally wake up the sleeping Jesus, and rather pointedly ask Him whether or not He cares if they perish in the storm at sea, Jesus counters by saying “Why are ye so fearful? How is it that ye have no faith?” Jesus is the Almighty God and Creator of the universe. Jesus cannot perish in a small boat in peril of a strong storm on a lake.
The Christian church can follow Jesus anywhere, even into the dreaded tribulation for a few years if need be. Spirit-born Christians have the Holy Spirit residing inside them. Nothing on earth can overturn the Christian who is rooted and grounded in faith in Jesus Christ (Rev. 21:7). Luke 21:36 can be applied to any appropriate time during the seven-year tribulation. The fulfillment of Luke 21:36 does not have to occur before or at the beginning of Daniel’s seven-year tribulation period in order to be a blessing, a relief, and a hope-filled motivation for continued watchfulness.
The Holy Spirit, living within the Christian, is not afraid of the great tribulation. Jesus Christ securely enthroned in our hearts is not intimidated by Lucifer or the Antichrist. The Bible tells us from beginning to end that God has complete mastery over spiritual opposition. This is an extremely important concept to grasp as we approach the upcoming end-times events.
As Spirit-born Christians, if we find ourselves someday soon in the midst of Daniel’s end-times tribulation period, this means God pre-destined us for these times, and this also means we have the capacity through the power of the Holy Spirit and the mind of Christ to step up to the challenge at hand. If we find ourselves in the tribulation, Jesus Christ will be there with us.
The tribulation can therefore be alternately viewed as the opportunity for the “ordinary” Christian to become a great hero of the faith. Instead of something fearful to avoid, the Holy Spirit empowered participation for a period of time in the last great harvest of souls, amidst the tribulation, should be viewed as a privilege of inestimable value. To be chosen and called…to “be purified, and made white, and tested” according to Daniel 12:10, is no small thing in the grand expanse of the history of the saints of God.
To experience the total abandonment of self-interest and self-preservation, lost through the loving outreach component of the power of the Holy Spirit like Stephen experienced before the Sanhedrin (Acts 6:15), is to become Christ-like in the penultimate demonstration of character…the sacrifice of the cross. To overcome the “accuser of our brethren” by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of our testimony, and that we loved not our lives unto the death (Rev. 12:10-11), is something that will bring victorious closure to human redemptive history that would endure for an eternity.
For Holy Spirit filled and empowered Christians during the tribulation, “ye shall be as gods” (Gen 3:5) does actually come true for human beings, but in the narrowly right way in divine loving self-sacrifice as patterned for us by Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary. This unexpected outcome is to the eternal chagrin, consternation, and judgment of Lucifer the archangel who wanted to become god for all of the wrong reasons (Isa. 14:12-17; Rev 12:12). God is so imaginatively creative He can bring the destructive words of the temptation in the Garden of Eden back full-circle upon Lucifer’s own head. God pouring out His divine power and grace in demonstration of self-sacrificing Christ-like love through end-times Christians would place an emphatic period at the end of the final chapter in the long story of human redemptive history.
Human efforts to create a better world are rife with failure and shortcomings. The narrative stories of faith in the Bible are the only sure examples of success having eternal benefits. When God joint-ventures with us in an adventure of faith we have the potential for large results on an unimaginable scale.
God has to initiate drastically enhanced worldwide circumstances one last time to attempt to break through the stubborn rejection of faith in Jesus Christ as Savior. For many people adversity is the only thing that brings focus to our shortcomings that leads to seeking heartfelt repentance toward God. We therefore need God to set-up the precisely targeted conditions on earth whereby the task of salvation is completed and the church becomes the light of the world. We need God’s divine help to finish the job at the end of the ages.
The end-time great tribulation is not about what we would like or prefer. It is about God closing out the human story of redemption in the highest and best way possible according to the extremely tight specifications of the final journey of faith patterned for us in the narrative stories of faith recorded in the Bible. It is about Immanuel…God with us…in the penultimate resolution in the pursuit of truth designed to benefit the people of God for all eternity. It is the closing chapter of the story beginning with Abraham so long ago, of trusting God and letting go in a set of circumstances that divide truth from error in a way that is incomprehensible to the horizontally conventional world of skeptical unbelief.
The example of Paul aptly closes out this book. In Acts 21, Paul is journeying toward Jerusalem for the last time. Along the way, Holy Spirit inspired Christians forewarn Paul that he will face persecution, imprisonment, and possibly physical harm in Jerusalem (Acts 20:22-24, 21:10-14). Paul is arrested in the temple, beaten by the populace, rescued by a Roman guard, almost interrogated by scourging, in danger of being “pulled to pieces” in the Sanhedrin, and threatened with death through an ambush of forty men lying in wait, having taken a vow not to eat until they have killed Paul. Yet in Acts 23:11, just before Paul learns of the plot to kill him and he is moved to Caesarea for safety, Jesus appears to Paul in the night and says: “Be of good cheer, Paul; for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome.”
Jesus amazingly and counter to all worldly conventional thinking encourages Paul to “be of good cheer” in the midst of deadly opposition and the most unsettling of worldly events. Paul goes on to witness before the Roman governor Felix, and King Agrippa and Bernice in Caesarea. Paul then appeals to Caesar for a hearing in Rome, survives a shipwreck in route to Rome as a prisoner, writes his remaining four “pastoral” New Testament epistles, and is finally martyred by the Emperor Nero in Rome.
Is this example of the Apostle Paul the true foreglimpse of the selfless divine love that can go forward in the face of enormous opposition to accomplish the task of salvation for others through the enabling power of the “latter rain” of Holy Ghost evangelical fire? Is a fully engaged Christian church on earth during some portion of the great tribulation the difficult but privileged calling that will define for all time the true nature and person of Jesus Christ the King of glory? Is our blessed hope of Titus 2:13 the unbreakable assurance of Jesus with us come what may?
God supplies Holy Spirit faith, power, and boldness when we need it (Dan. 3:16-18; Acts 4:8). The world wants to sweep the issues of sin, repentance, and our decision regarding Jesus Christ under the rug. People want to be distracted from these issues by the everyday concerns of the world. But the upheaval of the end-times brings these issues to the surface in the same lethally unwelcome way that forced the crucifixion of Jesus Christ in the first century.
The cross element patterned for us in the journeys of faith recorded throughout the Bible, deserves our closest examination as we approach an understanding of upcoming end-times biblical prophecy. A commendable bias of including the cross and the resurrection in our interpretation of scripture should become part of the knowledge, wisdom, and understanding we bring to our Christian worldview as end-times events begin to come into clear focus.
The cross in the end-times…of God brilliantly displacing our worldly conventional thinking with life-scripts beyond our imagination…is a huge issue. God validating and authenticating His character and faithfulness is best discovered and demonstrated through the creative details of a God-composed adventure of faith. The Cross in the End-Times is as large as any other issue at the close of human redemptive history. The cross fully applied to our lives creates the most space for God to effectively work out His highest ways.
“Therefore be ye also ready; for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh” (Mt. 24:44).