Preaching The Gospel

Friday, October 31, 2008

Getting Ready for the End of All Things

Getting Ready for the End of All Things
By David Wilkerson

In his first letter to the church, Peter speaks of the last
days. He states bluntly: "The end of all things is at
hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer. And
above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for
charity shall cover the multitude of sins" (1 Peter 4:7-8).

Peter also mentions the last days in his second epistle.
Moreover, in that letter he refers to his own limited time
on earth. He tells the church, "Shortly I must put off my
tabernacle" (2 Peter 1:14). He's saying, in other words,
"God has shown me my time on earth is short."

Peter knew the Lord would soon take him home. Yet before
that would happen, the Holy Spirit gave this disciple a
word for the church about the very end of days. And so, in
Peter's second epistle we read the last words of a dying
shepherd to the believers in his charge.

This godly man was fully aware the world would never
believe his message about the end times. Clearly, Peter's
message was meant for the New Testament church, both in the
time he wrote it and for every succeeding generation of
believers. It is a message of warning, as Peter prophesies
the following:

"There shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall
bring in damnable heresies... And many shall follow their
pernicious ways... And through covetousness shall they with
feigned words make merchandise of you....

"There shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after
their own lusts, 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 the creation....
(They will) walk after the flesh in the lust of
uncleanness, and despise government [the laws of the land].
Presumptuous are they, self-willed, they are not afraid to
speak evil of dignities... .

"But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night;
in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great
noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the
earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned

"Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what
manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation
and godliness, looking for and hasting unto the coming of
the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be
dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?"
(2 Peter 2:1-3, 10; 3:3-4, 10-12).

As Christians, we believe God's Word about the times to
come. And we receive Spirit-directed warnings from God's
holy watchmen today. Indeed, we see the handwriting on the

Still, an important question arises for every Christian
today, as it must have arisen for believers in Peter's day.

The question that arises for many Christians is, "How do we
prepare for the tumultuous events to come?"

I think it is normal to want to know how we'll survive the
frightful times to come. When the storm hits, destroying
all roots of recovery, what will we do about jobs, housing,
food, clothing? As a grandfather, I am concerned about the
future of my children and grandchildren, wondering, "How
will they make it through the times to come?" I believe
this is a legitimate concern for any follower of Jesus.

Amazingly, Peter gives no advice about physical or
financial preparations. He says nothing about where to put
our money to safeguard it, nothing about how to face a
housing crisis, nothing about how to survive global warming
or inflation. Peter simply does not go there. Why?

I believe it is because Peter had already experienced
poverty, and through it all he had experienced God's
faithfulness. As Peter literally followed in Christ's
footsteps, he lived with no money. In order to eat, the
disciples had to pick corn from the farmers' fields. At one
point, when they needed money, Jesus instructed Peter to
look inside the mouth of a fish, where he found a coin.

Peter knew what it meant to sleep under the stars, with no
bed or pillow. He followed Jesus without a job or any means
of support. He owned a single change of clothes and one
pair of sandals. In short, Peter had to rely on God's
provision every day for his needs. And day after day, Peter
saw those needs met faithfully.

Now, in his message about the end times, Peter focuses not
on having needs met but on the importance of preparing our
hearts. Thus, he says, "Seeing then that all these things
shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be
in all holy conversation and godliness... ?" (2 Peter 3:11).

In the face of all that is to come, Peter zeros in on
character issues.

The apostle is asking us, in essence, "What is in your
heart in these last days? Who are you becoming as the end
times approach? You already know God will take care of your
physical needs. But are you preparing yourself
spiritually? "

If this sounds unusual to you, consider what Jesus had to
say about preparing for the last days. He also left us very
little advice about physical preparations for end-time
upheaval. Like Peter, Jesus warned of tumultuous times to
come: wars, rumors of wars, ethnic and tribal conflicts,
famines, earthquakes, persecution, floods of iniquity that
would cause the love of many to grow cold. He also
predicted that armies would march on Jerusalem to wreak
awful destruction, razing the temple to the ground.

In the face of this terrible upheaval, Jesus says little
about how to survive the times. He doesn't speak about how
to prepare for the loss of a home or job or the crashing of
the economy. Rather, he instructs us, "Take no thought,
saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or,
Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For all these things do
the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that
ye have need of all these things" (Matthew 6:31-32).

Peter echoes Jesus' words when he says, "The end of all
things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto
prayer" (1 Peter 4:7). In short, he says, "Here is basic
instruction for preparing for the end times: Be
soberminded. And stay calm, no matter what happens. There
is no need to panic. Instead, take it all to prayer."

Right now, many Christians are in panic mode. People who
have testified all their lives that God is their keeper are
now scrambling in fear as the storm clouds gather. Peter is
saying to them, very simply, "Bring all your natural
feelings under the control of faith."

Next, Peter tells us to bring everything to God in prayer:
"Watch unto prayer" (4:7). Only by seeking the Lord will we
be able to control our anxieties about the times. According
to Peter, the blacker things become the more we should walk
in the peace and rest of the Holy Spirit.

Right now the secular world is desperate to find calm in
the chaos. According to the Wall Street Journal, corporate
leaders and others in high-stress jobs are turning to yoga,
mantras, Chinese chants. As Christians, we have a God who
promises to keep us in perfect peace, if we will fix our
minds on Christ above anything happening in the world.

Peter tells us we should be
concerned with one thing
above all others in these times.

What should our one focus be? We find it in the next verse,
the final exhortation of this dying apostle. Peter writes:
"Above all things have fervent charity among yourselves:
for charity shall cover the multitude of sins" (1 Peter

Peter's summation is, "If you want to know what survival is
all about - to see how God is leading his people through
these times - then show unconditional love to your brothers
and sisters. That has everything to do with the future of
the church of Christ."

Here, Peter says, is our most important concern. In light
of the great mercy God has shown each of us - in light of
his unconditional forgiveness toward our past sins, his
compassionate longsuffering toward us - we are to reach out
with mercy to those who have sinned against us. And we are
to forgive them as if they had never committed those sins.

You may be wondering, "What does forgiveness have to do
with the end times?"

Perhaps you feel let down by the promise implied in the
title of this message, "Getting Ready for the End of All

Maybe as you read the title you thought, "Great, Pastor
Dave is going to show us specifics about how to survive the
troubling times." Already I'm halfway through my message,
and yet you may feel you haven't received any specifics
from me.

This was the feeling of a Christian who wrote to our
ministry recently. He said, "You have faithfully warned us
about the economic holocaust you see coming. I believe you
are a righteous man. But surely the same Spirit of God who
showed you these things to come will show you how we are to
survive. A good God wouldn't warn us and then not tell us
what to do to make it through the storm. Please, give us a

Another Christian wrote, "I feel cheated. I asked you for
financial advice about where to invest my money and how to
save my family when the economy goes into a depression. You
told me to go to prayer and ask the Holy Spirit for
direction. It was the same old theological copout. I need
specific answers."

Beloved, what I am sharing here is the Lord's specific word
on the subject. Peter was surely a godly man, and through
him the Holy Spirit shows us exactly what God says about
how to face these last days. Peter is telling us very
clearly, "Here is the main issue, your most important
preparation: Get your heart ready. If this matter isn't
dealt with, all other preparations are in vain. At the end
of all things, stay calm. And stay on your knees. Above all
else, practice unceasing mercy and love toward your
brothers and sisters. Forgive and cover their sins."
"Charity shall cover the multitude of sins" (1 Peter 4:8).

In this last verse, we are commanded to "cover" those sins
committed against us - meaning, we are not to expose the
sins of others. "As every man hath received the gift, even
so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of
the manifold grace of God" (4:10). Who has hurt or wounded
you? Who has spread gossip about you? According to Jesus,
if you do not forgive and cover that sin, you are like the
man who was forgiven a great debt but later choked a man
who owed him a few dollars.

Let me give you a glimpse into
why this issue of forgiveness
is so important in these times.

We have over 100 ethnic groups attending Times Square
Church. Christ has unified the many races and ethnic groups
here in brotherly love. The sign above our church doors
reads, "The Church That Love Is Building," and that love is

I realize this racial unity makes our church a target
marked by hell. In a world of racial hatred and tribal
upheaval, God has blessed us with a powerful testimony.
Simply put, Jesus is the source that breaks down every
barrier, including that of race.

Several times in our church's history, we have felt the
fury of demonic forces coming against our loving unity in
Christ. And there is no greater weapon used by hell than
the unforgiveness of fellow believers.

You may say, "But I'm not holding onto any grudges. I don't
have any bitterness toward anyone. I only have pure love
for my brothers and sisters. When someone sins against me,
I never expose their iniquity. So, I don't see how Peter's
admonition applies to me. What does he have to say to me
about preparing for the end times?"

The truth is Peter's message here has everything to do with
the future of the church of Jesus Christ. You see, God is
preparing his church for a latter-day outpouring of his
Spirit. According to the prophets, the Holy Spirit will
come in a great wave upon the earth, filling God's people
with joy when the world is in upheaval. This won't happen,
however, in a church where people hold grudges and wounds
are left unresolved.

Peter is asking us, "Do you want to be ready for what's
coming? Do you want to be fully prepared when all things
are being shaken? Then make sure you have nothing in your
heart that hinders the flow of God's Spirit. Something
wonderful is just ahead. Make sure you are not left out of

What is this last-day outpouring of the Holy Spirit all

The prophets - from Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel down to
the minor prophets - reveal that in the last days God's
Spirit will once again fall on a prepared people. This
event is referred to as the "harvest rain." It is promised
to be greater even than the "former rain," which was the
Spirit's mighty outpouring at Pentecost.

This prophecy of a last rain refers to two rains that
occurred annually in Israel. Israel's seasons were opposite
to ours today. The former (or first) rain came in the fall,
watering the newly planted crops. This typifies what
happened at Pentecost, when the "first rain" fell in a
great outpouring of God's Spirit. That rain watered the
seed of the Word, and it grew and spread to become the
worldwide church we see today.

Israel's "last rain" came in the spring, ripening the crops
just before harvest. Zechariah refers to this last rain, an
outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the last days: "Ask ye of
the Lord rain in the time of the latter rain; so the Lord
shall make bright clouds, and give them showers of rain, to
every one grass in the field" (Zechariah 10:1).

Moses said there simply could be no harvest without another
rain. The Lord said to Israel through him, "If ye shall
hearken diligently unto my commandments. ..I will give you the
rain of your land in his due season, the first rain and the
latter rain, that thou mayest gather in thy corn, and thy
wine, and thine oil" (Deuteronomy 11:13-14).

Finally, Joel gives us a vibrant picture of what it looks
like when this harvest rain comes:

"Fear not, O land; be glad and rejoice; for the Lord will
do great things. Be not afraid, ye beasts of the field: for
the pastures of the wilderness do spring, for the tree
beareth her fruit, the fig tree and the vine do yield their
strength. Be glad then, ye children of Zion, and rejoice in
the Lord your God: for he hath given you the former rain
moderately, and he will cause to come down for you the
rain, the former rain, and the latter rain in the first

"And the floors shall be full of wheat, and the fats shall
overflow with wine and oil. And I will restore to you the
years that the locust hath eaten, the cankerworm, and the
caterpillar, and the palmerworm, my great army which I sent
among you. And ye shall eat in plenty, and be satisfied,
and praise the name of the Lord your God, that hath dealt
wondrously with you: and my people shall never be ashamed.
And ye shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and
that I am the Lord your God, and none else: and my people
shall never be ashamed" (Joel 2:21-27).

Joel is saying, in effect, "Wake up, church! Look around
you. What you see happening has been prophesied. It is
beginning to rain, and the Lord has made the clouds bright
and full of water. The Spirit is preparing all things for
the last great harvest."

Satan knows about this final
rain to come and the glorious
harvest that will follow it.

The devil knows what is written in God's Word. And he is
determined to hinder the great harvest he knows is coming.
He has unleashed a furious attack on the church, using
every weapon he can to remove the peace of God's people.
Indeed, many Christians have been overwhelmed by the
darkness now covering the earth, all set in motion by the
fury of Satan's activity.

The gloom and fear hovering over every nation has left
people feeling helpless. Here in America, courts have made
laws that glory in perversions, all against the will of the
people. And it chips away at the righteous soul. The result
is hopelessness and stress, weakening the spirit and even
causing physical sickness.

In God's house, sin has been downgraded and hell discarded.
The Episcopal Church is splitting apart over gay
marriages. Meanwhile, evangelicals - those who are the
supposed torchbearers of God's Word - are becoming more
focused on earth than on heaven, placing their energies in
movements that are not Christ-centered.

I hear godly people today asking, "Have we sinned away the
day of grace? Will our generation go out being known only
for dysfunctional families and dead, dry churches? Will we
wither away as Israel did in the Old Testament?"

Not so, according to the prophets! God will arise amid the
darkness and begin to rain down his Spirit upon his latter

In Haggai's day, God's people
were downcast because they
focused completely on the past.

The Israelites in Haggai's day were discouraged over the
new temple they were building. That work seemed so
insignificant compared to the magnificence of the former
temple. As they reflected on all of God's past glories,
they wept with despair at the modest house before them.
Haggai asked the people, "Who is left among you that saw
this house in her first glory? And how do ye see it now? Is
it not in your eyes in comparison of it as nothing?"
(Haggai 2:3).

Beloved, the same question applies today. You may recall
great revivals of the past, where the Spirit fell
powerfully with multitudes saved. Tell me, do you see the
life of the church today as nothing compared to those past
times? Maybe you're discouraged over how much God's house
has withered in power and witness during your lifetime.

I tell you, the word God gave Haggai for his church is
meant for us today: "My spirit remaineth among you... The
glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the
former, saith the Lord of hosts: and in this place will I
give peace" (2:5, 9).

Peter had been present when the "former rain" fell at

At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit fell upon a prepared people
who "were all with one accord [of one mind]" (Acts 2:1).
So, what is meant that the people were of "one accord," one
mind? Simply put, mercy was flowing through them. Let me

Consider those who were on the scene at Pentecost, people
we revere today as church fathers. Some of these men had
sinned grievously against the Lord and against their
brethren. They all had to be forgiven, their sins covered,
or the church never would have moved forward with the work
the Spirit was about to do.

Consider Peter. He had blasphemed horribly, wounding Jesus
as well as the other disciples. That church body forgave
Peter, and they covered him so his past would never be held
against him. Consider also James and John, the "sons of
thunder." They too had sinned grievously, offending their
fellow disciples when they professed to be greater than the
rest. They also were forgiven and covered.

In truth, anyone present that day might have said, "Hold
it, Peter. Who made you the leader here? You denied
Christ." No one did that, because their hearts had been
prepared through mercy. And they were ready to receive the
Spirit when he came in the great outpouring at Pentecost.

Beloved, this is why Peter's focus in his epistles is on
the issues of the heart. He knew firsthand all these things
had to be cast out and forgiven, lest the Spirit's work be
hindered by any flesh. The same is true for Christ's church
today, we who are to receive his mighty harvest rain. Will
we hinder that work of the Spirit, by failing to forgive?
Or will we be prepared by allowing mercy to flow through us
to others?

As the hour approaches, I do not want anything in my heart
to hinder God's work. He is preparing his people to receive
his latter rain. And I am determined to continue doing just
as Peter has instructed: "Be sober. Take everything to
prayer. Show mercy to all." I urge you to do the same. Pray
for rain in this time of God's latter house!

I leave you with this powerful final image: "Upon the cloud
one sat like unto the Son of man, having on his head a
golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle. And another
angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to
him that sat on the cloud, Thrust in thy sickle, and reap:
for the time is come for thee to reap; for the harvest of
the earth is ripe" (Revelation 14:14-15). So it is!

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